Sunday, July 24, 2016
That logic has got Kenny into even more of a bind over the last few weeks, because the rest of the UK has only gone and voted for something that makes independence pretty likely. He knows that the Leave vote can't simply be ignored, so instead he's become an overnight enthusiast for the endless wonders of Brexit-Lite, and is currently tying himself up in knots trying to convince himself that there is a magic formula out there that will somehow get Nicola Sturgeon on board and avert Death/Independence.
"OK, OK, but if we stay in the single market and introduce an Australian-style points system that's particularly favourable to Scotland's needs, what does Sturgeon do then?"
You can't stay in the single market and introduce an Australian-style points system, Kenny. Oh, and freedom of movement is one of the Scottish Government's red lines anyway.
"Yeah, yeah, but if we stay in the single market, introduce an Australian-style points system AND throw in a free chocolate hobnob, Sturgeon has got nowhere left to go, yeah?"
It's all rather sweet. He shall henceforth be known as Kenny "Brexit or Bust" Farquharson.
Mind you, he maybe did have cause for some minor excitement yesterday, because it was reported that the EU may be considering allowing the UK an "emergency brake" on free movement of as long as seven or ten years, while remaining in the single market. That's the first indication that the EU is perhaps having second thoughts about making an example of the UK as a deterrent to others. The snag, though, is that Theresa May has a parliamentary majority of just 12 seats, and it's very hard to see how she's going to keep her government intact if she agrees to merely a temporary suspension of free movement, followed by a resumption of normal service thereafter. I doubt if that's a runner, unless May is the sort who would sacrifice her premiership in the national interest - and that's certainly not how she comes across.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
It is an understatement of some magnitude to say that the words of the ancient Chinese curse - ‘may you live in interesting times’ – are apposite today.
The EU referendum vote set the good ship ‘UK’ on an uncharted course and just for good measure has thrown the captain and his officers overboard. And if that wasn’t enough, fate determined to set the reserve captain and his motley crew fighting amongst themselves. Now a month from the referendum we have a new captain but no course and no compass. However, all is not disarray. The first mate of the northern part of the ship is showing worrying signs of leadership and competence and is threatening to launch the lifeboat; most horrifyingly of all she may have both charts and a compass for the voyage.
Seafaring analogies aside, the Unionist establishment are far from worried about any peril to their blessed Union from this turn of events. Quite the reverse in fact: the Unionist media in Scotland is cock-a-hoop with delight at the way that Theresa May’s first order of business was to come north and ‘sucker’ Nicola Sturgeon into participating fully in the forthcoming the Brexit negotiations. Their delight is grounded in the belief that Theresa May has killed any resurgent demand for independence with kindness. However, their view is underpinned by the logic that there is no possible way for Scotland to remain in both the British and European unions. Thus the logic goes: give the SNP the time and chance to propose the impossible and when they fail gracefully accept their capitulation to the inevitability of Brexit.
However, this type of thinking is what is known as an informal fallacy: specifically it is ‘argumentum ad ignorantiam’, or in English an ‘argument from ignorance’. You see, the Unionist’s delight at Theresa May’s political positioning putting Scotland in an impossible position is the measure of their ignorance. How delighted will they be if Nicola Sturgeon puts forward an arrangement that can see Scotland remaining in both the British and European unions? Not so delighted I suspect, and no doubt inclined to write off any such proposal as a crazy CyberNat/SNP fantasy. But there is a giant fly in that particular jar of ointment: you see the British Foreign Office negotiated and the British government approved the working template for just such an arrangement.
In 1984, the British and Chinese governments agreed the Sino-British Joint Declaration founded on the constitutional principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formulated by Deng Xiaoping (the Leader of the People's Republic of China). The imperative driving Deng’s thinking was the obvious difficulty in successfully reunifying Hong Kong’s advanced free wheeling capitalist economy with the mainland’s underdeveloped bureaucratic command led society. Deng’s suggested resolution to the problem was that there would be only one China, but distinct Chinese regions such as Hong Kong could retain their own capitalist economic and political systems, while the rest of China uses the socialist system. Under this principle, Hong Kong could continue to have its own political system, legal, economic and financial affairs, including external relations with foreign countries.
For those interested, the full text of the Sino-British Joint Declaration is available HERE. However, in mischievous spirit I shall use it to set forth a draft text of a possible Anglo-Scottish Joint Declaration that Nicola Sturgeon might put forward for Theresa May’s consideration.
• The national unity and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom shall be upheld and a Scottish Special Administrative Region (ScotSAR) shall be established.
• The ScotSAR will be directly under the authority of the Government of the United Kingdom (GovUK) but will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in defence affairs.
• The ScotSAR will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. The laws currently in force in ScotSAR will remain basically unchanged.
• The Government of the ScotSAR will be composed of local inhabitants. The First Minister will be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally. British and foreign nationals previously working in the public and police services in the government departments of ScotSAR may remain in employment. British and other foreign nationals may also be employed to serve as advisers or hold certain public posts in government departments of the ScotSAR.
• The current social and economic systems in ScotSAR will remain unchanged, and so will the life-style. Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the ScotSAR. Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment will be protected by law.
• The ScotSAR will have the status of a free port and a separate customs territory. It can continue the current trade policy, including the four freedoms: goods, services, people and capital.
• The ScotSAR will be an independent financial centre with free flow of capital and a freely convertible ScotSAR currency. The ScotSAR may authorise designated banks to issue or continue to issue ScotSAR currency under statutory authority.
• The ScotSAR will have independent finances with its own budgets and final accounts, but reporting it to the GovUK. Additionally, GovUK will not levy taxes on ScotSAR, but the ScotSAR and GovUK will agree financial transfers one to another as required in respect of the use of defence facilities and mutual defence arrangements.
• The ScotSAR may establish mutually beneficial economic relations with the United Kingdom and other foreign countries.
• The name used for international relations will be ‘Scotland, UK’. In doing so it may maintain and develop diplomatic, economic and cultural relations and agreements with states, regions and relevant international organisations on its own account and it may issue ScotSAR passports for its citizens and local inhabitants. The ScotSAR may agree and implement international agreements to which the GovUK is not a party.
• The government of the ScotSAR is responsible for the maintenance of public order. GovUK military forces stationed in ScotSAR, for the purpose of defence shall not interfere in the internal affairs in the ScotSAR.
Of course this sort of arrangement should not be any obstacle to the Unionist establishment who a mere two years ago were offering ‘Devo SuperMax’, a ‘powerhouse parliament’ and ‘as near to federalism as is possible’. More than that, such a ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement would allow Theresa May (who is no doubt ‘respectful’ of Scotland) to avoid being the Prime Minister who lost the Union. However, I suspect that if Nicola Sturgeon were minded to make such a proposal, the Unionists will likely want to put a flea in her ear and tell her to ‘go home, be a good girl and eat her cereal’ - or rather they would if Scotland had no other option.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
The middle ground between "veto" and "locked in" that the unionist media are pretending doesn't exist
It can't have escaped your notice that the unionist media are trying to present Nicola Sturgeon with a false binary choice - either she has a 'veto' over Brexit, or she will be 'locked in' to an agreed UK negotiating stance by cunning Theresa May. You can see why they want that to be true, because either of those options would effectively preclude a second indyref. But in reality, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes - the UK government will consult, but won't offer a veto, and there is therefore no guarantee (or even any great likelihood) of the Scottish Government signing off on the UK's negotiating stance. Here is one possibility of what Sturgeon might say at the end of the consultation -
"As you know, I and other Scottish Government ministers have been taking part in extensive discussions with our UK counterparts over the forthcoming negotiations with the EU. Theresa May indicated to us that she would listen carefully to any suggestions we might have about ways of ensuring Scotland's interests are fully protected.
We made two substantive proposals. Firstly, that the UK should reconfigure itself as a decentralised confederal union to allow constituent nations like Scotland and Northern Ireland to stay in the EU, in line with how they voted in the referendum. I regret to say that Theresa May and David Davis rejected that suggestion out of hand. They reiterated that, in their view, "Brexit means Brexit, and when the UK leaves, Scotland must leave".
Our second, alternative proposal was that the UK as a whole should seek to remain in the European Economic Area on the same basis as Norway. This possibility is far from ideal, because it would still involve Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our will. But it would at least address our most serious concerns about Brexit, because Scotland would remain part of the Single Market, and our rights as European citizens, including the right to live and work in other EU countries, would be fully protected. We made clear during the discussions that this is the absolute minimum that would be acceptable to us.
Unfortunately, Theresa May and David Davis indicated that they would be rejecting even this. They felt that they had received a clear instruction from the electorate that free movement of people must end, and that they could not negotiate on that principle.
Let me be clear : I and the Scottish Government fully respect the mandate secured by the Leave campaign on June 23rd. But that mandate is not a UK mandate. It is an England and Wales mandate. Just as we respect that England and Wales mandate, so must the UK government respect the overwhelming Scottish mandate for Remain. For us, Remain means Remain.
It is now clear that, in spite of our best and most strenuous endeavours, there is no formula acceptable to both governments that can reconcile the two conflicting mandates. While we are grateful to the UK government for being true to their word and listening to our proposals, I'm afraid listening is not enough. As they do not feel able to compromise, I must tell you that we will be opposing the UK government's negotiating stance on Brexit. There will be no 'agreed UK negotiating position' that enjoys the support of the Scottish Government. We will instead intensify our preparations for an independence referendum, which is now inevitable, although we remain open-minded about the timing."
Monday, July 18, 2016
Labour members say Carry On Corbyn as incumbent leader opens up huge lead over both challengers in new YouGov poll
Owen Smith 34%
Angela Eagle 34%
There was a prophetic comment on Stormfront Lite on the day of the EU referendum, pointing out that if by any chance the polls were wrong and Leave won, the next few days would closely resemble the opening minutes of Channel 4's adaptation of A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin. That was a reference to what was likely to happen (and did happen) on the currency and stock markets, but of course it could just as easily have referred to the establishment's subsequent attempt to topple a democratically-elected left-wing Labour leader. In the story, the coup plotters stake everything on being able to force the leader out by putting overwhelming private pressure on him to resign - but he outwits them by simply submitting himself to a public election. Sound familiar? David Cameron's genuine incomprehension that Corbyn was hanging on ("but...but..the Westminster bubble has decided you must go! Why aren't you listening, man!") was deliciously similar to the fictional Cabinet Secretary's dumbfounded reaction to the prospect of an open election deciding the leader's fate. The real-life Labour plotters have invested all their time and energy in excitedly talking to each other about why the phrase "parliamentary democracy" is a spiffing good excuse for setting aside an election result, and have completely lost sight of the fact that, like it or not, it's the grassroots they need to convince of their case. Essentially they've made exactly the same mistake for a second year running. Mind you, in a parallel universe somewhere, Liz "four per cent" Kendall is Leader of the Opposition and is running rings round the Tories just by waffling on about "aspiration" all the time.
It was truly extraordinary to witness the ugly sense of entitlement on display from the plotters as they intervened on Corbyn during his speech on Trident today. One of them pompously 'announced' that the next Labour manifesto would support the retention of nuclear weapons, regardless of what the leader and the members might think. Normally it takes quite a mental effort to mildly criticise your own party leader on the floor of the House, but it seems all the inhibitions had completely melted away - a condescending "when are you going to do your homework?" tone was adopted as Corbyn was informed by jumped-up backbenchers that he was required to start setting out official party policy on Trident, rather than his own views (completely ignoring the fact that several previous Labour leaders have paid scant attention to the party's nominal policy on defence). They now seem to perceive their leader as an impostor, rather than the real thing. Kezia Dugdale's attacks on Corbyn can be seen as part of the same phenomenon - although some people have optimistically suggested that she's declaring her independence from London, the reality is that the branch office mentality is alive and well, and Dugdale is actually indicating her fealty towards what she assumes will very shortly be the new regime. But if Corbyn is re-elected (likely) and the PLP shies away from issuing the widely-touted UDI (possible), there's one obvious question : WHAT IS PLAN B, KEZIA? We might just end up with an estrangement between Scottish Labour and UK Labour by complete accident.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Gentle reminder for Theresa May : it's not actually possible for you to prevent Scotland exercising its right to self-determination on independence
1) Some (but not all) expert legal opinion states that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to hold a consultative referendum on independence, if the legislation is framed with great care. At the very least, there would be a fighting chance of overcoming any legal hurdles and getting a referendum held without any involvement from the UK government at all.
2) If that doesn't work, there is the option of an early Holyrood election, which could double as a de facto independence referendum if the pro-independence parties state in their manifestos that they are seeking an outright mandate for independence. The First Minister doesn't have the power to literally call an early election, but given the current parliamentary arithmetic it would be easy enough to bring one about, as long as the Greens were on board with the strategy. It would simply be a case of the Scottish Government resigning, and the SNP and Greens between them preventing an alternative government from being formed.
3) If the UK government refuses to accept a mandate for independence from either a consultative referendum or an early Holyrood election, there is then the nuclear option of the SNP withdrawing its MPs from Westminster, which would leave Scotland almost totally unrepresented in the UK parliament. Even the headbanger tendency in the London commentariat would come to acknowledge that the United Kingdom is not viable if one "partner" in the union has effectively withdrawn from the country's institutions. Perhaps there might be one last appeal to the Scottish people to turf the abstentionist SNP out at the next UK general election, but if that call went unheeded, the game would essentially be up.
Now, I'm not saying that any of the above is remotely desirable or likely. But the fact that the SNP have all these weapons in their armoury is a good reason for thinking that Theresa May is less likely to attempt to "block" a referendum than perhaps she even realises herself yet.
I'm sure some of you will say that anything in the Herald that isn't a direct quote should be treated with caution, but even the public statements seem slightly different in tone suddenly. I listened to Nicola Sturgeon's interview on Reporting Scotland, and as far as I can recall she didn't make any reference at all to her objective of keeping Scotland in the EU, but simply affirmed the considerably vaguer goals of maintaining links with Europe and protecting Scotland's interests.
As it happens, the red lines are still extremely tough and are highly unlikely to be met, because we know that Theresa May is minded to prioritise ending the free movement of people, which in turn precludes continued membership of the single market. But I just hope there's no further slippage in the negotiating position. The Herald refers to the possibility of a "salvage" operation if efforts to retain meaningful ties fail, and for my part, let me say this : no, I do not think retaining the European Arrest Warrant (which is pretty much the worst thing about the EU) is anything like enough of a consolation prize to justify forgoing a second independence referendum.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Should the SNP's strategy be to dare the UK government to reject a realistic proposal for Scotland to remain in the UK?
1) With the help of the new body of experts, devise a plan that could at least theoretically lead to Scotland remaining in both the UK and EU. (It would probably have to go beyond federalism and involve the UK reinventing itself as a loose confederation of sovereign states - because to remain in the EU, Scotland will need at least some control over foreign policy.)
2) Present the proposal to the UK government on a take-it-or-leave-it basis : "You told the people of Scotland that voting No to independence would keep the country in the EU. This is the only way of honouring that promise. What's it to be?"
3) After the UK government rejects the proposal, beg them to change their minds. "Don't force us to leave the UK just to stay in the EU."
4) Once the proposal is rejected for a second time, point out that London has sabotaged any realistic chance of Scotland remaining in the UK, and call an independence referendum.
* * *
What a difference a year makes...
Westminster elite's message to Scottish MPs in 2015 -
"Aw-dah, AW-DAH! It is a DISCOURTESY to this House for honourable gentlemen and honourable ladies on the Scottish National Party benches to - AW-DAH! - to applaud points they agree with. They MUST LEARN to instead make deep moaning sounds as if they are simulating an orgy for an audio drama. AW-DAAAAAH! That's what NORMAL people do, and if it's good enough for us - AW-DAAAAAAAAAAH! - if it's good enough for us, it's good enough for the honourable gentlemen and honourable ladies on the Scottish National Party benches."
Westminster elite's message to Scottish MPs in 2016 -
"Aw-dah, AW-DAH! It is DISRESPECTFUL of honourable gentlemen and honourable ladies on the Scottish National Party benches to fail to applaud wildly in this House. Look, I'm doing it, Jeremy Hunt is doing it, even - AW-DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! - even Liz Kendall is doing it. You're just spoiling it for everyone."
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
If the lunatic new rules for Labour's leadership contest have been explained correctly, there are only two very narrow categories of people who will not be eligible to pay £25 and vote in the election -
1) People who have already paid to become full members of the Labour party over the last few months.
2) Members of other parties.
That's it. In theory, there is absolutely nothing to stop millions upon millions of Tory and UKIP voters from paying £25 and voting for Angela Eagle (unless they've left a trail of evidence of their political views on social media), and yet more than 100,000 full Labour members will be totally banned from taking part. It's very, very hard not to read this as a method of flushing out the people keenest on voting for Corbyn by fraudulently telling them that paying up and joining the party will make them eligible to vote - and then slapping a ban on them instead. Many of those people will have been £3 registered supporters from last year's contest who were warned that they would need to become full members to be sure of taking part again - and having taken that advice, they now find that they still can't vote, and are practically the only people in the UK not eligible to become a registered supporter this time around. 'Cynical' doesn't even begin to cover this stunt - it would have made Stalin blush.
The only consolation is that anyone who took the advice of the Murdoch press and joined Labour recently to vote against Corbyn will also be banned from participating - but by all accounts they are only a small minority of the new members.
In spite of the laughably blatant gerrymandering, Corbyn should still be the favourite to win. A closed shop based on the membership in February ought to favour someone who had a clear lead even among full members in the election last September. The recent YouGov poll gave him a 10% lead over Eagle among members - and remember that the fieldwork was conducted when all the momentum seemed to be against him. The mood music has got considerably better tonight.
And it's perfectly possible that the plotters may eventually look back on what happened today and conclude that they shot themselves in the foot. Any victory for Eagle is now going to be of questionable legitimacy - but if Corbyn wins, they'll have to live with the humiliation of knowing that they couldn't even win with the help of a crooked franchise.