I've just caught up with Councillor Alex Gallagher's latest "contribution to the debate" on independence over at Labour Hame. Some of his musings do give rise to a few intriguing questions, if he can spare the time...
"But they are sure that we must have referendum. Nae buts, nae mebbes, it’s the seasonal right of the Nat Triumphal that s/he must have a single/double/triple question consultation with the – it has to be said – largely uninterested populace.
Wait a wee minute. Aren’t we leaping ahead just a tiny wee bit? Do we really need it?"
D'you know, Alex, I seem to recall a time, not so long ago, when Labour told us that "we were getting ahead of ourselves" by seeking an independence referendum before winning a specific mandate for it. There now is an utterly unambiguous mandate for a referendum. If that is no longer the test for determining if a referendum is appropriate, just exactly what is? Whether Mr Alex Gallagher, Labour councillor for North Coast and Cumbraes, personally approves of it? Forgive our sniggers as you sheepishly admit the answer to that question is "yes".
"Nor have I heard any positive, comprehensive and coherent case made by any Nationalist from any wing of the party that would convince anyone, on mature reflection, that it is better for the people of Scotland that we sever our links with our neighbours"
Given that opinion polls consistently show a significant minority of the Scottish people are convinced by the arguments for independence (indeed there has sometimes been a plurality in favour), does that mean you are by definition branding every single one of those people "immature" and incapable of "reflection"? Once again, forgive our sniggers as you sheepishly admit the answer to that question is "yes".
"But that fact in itself doesn’t seem to me a sufficient argument for breaking the subsequent, and successful, union of these countries"
Don't we first have to establish whether it actually is "successful" or not, before we can take that as read? Once again, we appear to have something of a problem with benchmarks here, because it's only a matter of weeks since Councillor Gallagher informed us that if the majority of people rejected the notion that the union is "successful" by voting against its continuation in a referendum, that was neither here nor there - Scotland should be forced to remain in the union, because the minority of people "mature" enough to understand (snigger) are apparently the only ones entitled to adjudicate upon the question. I believe scientists would call this a falsifiability problem - how do we know if someone is sufficiently "mature"? Why, by checking if they agree with Mr Alex Gallagher, Labour councillor for North Coast and Cumbraes, of course.
"By that argument, the principalities of pre-Bismarck Germany or 18th century Italy should all be independent. Indeed, if once-upon-a-time difference was a case for independence, why not return to the borders of Pictland or Dalriada or any other of the ancient kingdoms?"
Alex, mate, deep breath here, and I will try to help you understand. You appear to be using the line "Scotland was once independent" as a muddled proxy for the argument that nationalists actually put forward - that Scotland is a nation and thus has the right to self-determination. Not that it must be independent because it once was, but that it has the right to choose for itself. The reason why the Scottish independence debate has absolutely no bearing on the future of the "principalities of pre-Bismarck Germany" is because we have no right to choose for them, and they have no right to choose for us. But if you want to pursue this logic, it certainly has rather profound implications - are you suggesting that we should never alter our income tax rates, without ensuring (by military force if necessary) that the new rates also apply in Peru? After all, how can we seriously argue that something is good for Scotland if we don't have the courage of our convictions by demanding that it must also be good for Peru, or Mongolia, or Equitorial Guinea? Actually, don't bother answering, Alex - the entire planet can see you're havering on this one. Moving on...
"What is the point of claiming sovereignty from the UK only to invest it in the EU? All the arguments about remoteness from decision making and the differences in culture (London’s too far away, the English don’t understand Scotland) just look silly when the idea is to replace London with Brussels and UK law makers with law makers from 27 other countries – including, incidentally, England. It’s frankly nuts."
Excellent, Alex - would you therefore confirm that you now support only pooling sovereignty with the rest of the UK to the far, far more limited extent that EU states pool sovereignty with each other? What do you mean, "no"? In that case, I'm slightly unclear as to what point you think you're making here. What do you mean, "er"?
"Meanwhile, on the real evidence in the real world, there are strong indications that an “independent” Scotland would have significant economic weaknesses as compared to its current position."
What, you mean like the real-world evidence in GERS that an independent Scotland would have a proportionately smaller deficit than the UK does at present?
"The collapse of the Scottish banks and Alex Salmond’s preferred Celtic Tiger model has laid bare (some would say threadbare) the paucity of the Nationalists’ economic analysis."
Given that the collapse of those "Scottish banks" occurred under the regulation laid down by the UK Labour government, doesn't it say rather more about the paucity of Gordon Brown's economic analysis?
"It’s likely that an “independent” Scotland would be weaker in defence and security terms as well"
Just when are the Russians planning to invade, Alex? Given that Labour is (or so Duncan Hothersall assures me) an "international movement", shouldn't you be doing something to warn those in an even "weaker" position to defend themselves, such as poor little Luxembourg?
"Better to pretend that their Scotland wouldn’t have a military or a defence posture or even a foreign policy, a ridiculous position but acceptable to the SNP, apparently."
Could you direct me to the relevant link on the SNP website, please, Alex? Certainly the first I've heard of any of this.
And, last but not least, here comes the biggie -
If you're so happy to post under your own name on Labour Hame and a variety of other websites, Councillor Alex, why are you so mysteriously bashful on your own blog?