Saturday, October 15, 2011

ComRes poll : Independence backed both here and UK-wide

Many thanks to Marcia on the previous thread for alerting me to the new ComRes poll showing majorities in favour of Scottish independence both in Scotland and across the UK. Here are the full figures -

Scotland should be an independent country

(Scottish respondents)

Agree 49% (+11)
Disagree 37% (-9)

(UK respondents)

Agree 39% (+6)
Disagree 38% (-4)

It's not quite as good as it sounds, though, because of course the only salient figures are the Scottish ones, and they're based on a very small sample size. Information about how the UK as a whole feels about independence is a bit like the polls in days gone by showing that the world outside the US wouldn't have been daft enough to elect George W Bush as President - good to know, but tragically academic.

Nevertheless, this poll is another straw in the wind that lends further credence to the data from last month suggesting that support for independence is building. And Alan Cochrane will be fuming - ComRes inexplicably didn't use his preferred 'neutral' wording of "Scotland should be completely separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, cast adrift without food, shelter, or warmth..."

Poll : Should an independent Scotland join the EU or EFTA?

The last time I conducted a poll, it was on a subject that was bound to produce a North Korean-style result. But this one might attract more of a divergence of views. Realistically, I presume most nationalists who don't favour EU membership would want to join (or rejoin) EFTA instead, so those are the two choices. Membership of EFTA would almost certainly entail remaining within the European Economic Area, which would mean we'd still be subject to laws relating to the Single Market. However, we wouldn't be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, nor would we have a presence in any of the EU institutions, such as the Council of Ministers or the Parliament.

You'll find the voting form in the sidebar, and the poll closes tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Labour's constitutional conservatism in a nutshell?

It's hard to draw satisfaction from the inevitable conclusion of any fox hunt, so instead I'll turn my attention to the very interesting exchange that's been going on over at Better Nation in response to Pete Wishart's article urging Labour to embrace independence. In particular, this contribution from Labour blogger Aidan caught my eye -

"That’s the crux of this – no particular constitutional state is sustainable in the long term.

Scottish political history both before and after the union of the crowns and then the Act of Union has been one of constant flux, change, revolution, revolt, counter revolution and altering the balance of power between the people, the church and the crown(s).

The best results have come from considered changes which have occurred on a gradual time scale allowing time for review, reflection and revision. That’s what devolution offers."

What Aidan seems to be saying is that it's literally beyond the wit of man to comprehensively devise the best constitutional arrangements for Scotland right now - we instead have to rely on the 'wisdom of centuries' to know better than us, meaning we can never stray too far from the status quo. Any presumptions to the contrary could lead to disaster.

If that's in any way representative of Labour's instincts on the constitutional question, it's rather telling. Dare I suggest that if the arch-conservative theorist Edmund Burke was alive and living in Scotland, he'd find his spiritual home at John Smith House?

* * *

Also incredibly sad to see the thread start with Duncan Hothersall brazenly claiming that the SNP's civic nationalism is "fundamentalist anti-Englishness" in disguise, before hurriedly and unconvincingly 'clarifying' what he had meant in a subsequent comment -

"And I did not say the SNP was anti-English. My point was that they are careful to mask the anti-English sentiment that drives much of the support for nationalism. Of course the SNP as a party is not anti-English. But there is significant anti-Englishness in the ranks of their supporters."

Nice try, Duncan, but I cannot see any way of reconciling that 'clarification' with the words you originally used. A gentle reminder to unionists - you can try to slip in these false and offensive allegations of anti-English racism as casually as you like, but they'll never go unchallenged. Never.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is 'Glaswegian' a euphemism for 'non-Tory'?

I must admit I'm becoming slightly addicted to Tory Hoose. Maybe it's just the 'excitement' of the leadership election. A couple of observations in the report on the latest hustings (entitled, presumably without irony, 'Oh, What a Night') raised a smile -

"Second up was Ruth Davidson who, it’s fair to say, had a pretty bumpy ride due to a small contigent of hostile Glaswegians"

Note that it's not "hostile members of the audience", but "hostile Glaswegians". Are we supposed to infer that "Glaswegian" is convenient shorthand for "gatecrashing non-Tory oik"?

"Margaret did however slip up over a question asked about re-engaging the under 35’s within the party. Margaret’s response was a bit off the cuff when she spoke about modern studies students attending her launch and 3 or 4 younger members being in the audience. All very good points however the modern studies students can’t vote and there are hundreds of thousands of under 35’s across the country."

In exactly what sense were they "all very good points", then?

Elsewhere in 'the Hoose', we learn Murdo Fraser's top ten pledges to the party. This is number 3 -

"Bring back real debate and votes on policy at our Party Conferences"

That sounds eminently sensible, but I'm intrigued by the use of the word 'back'. When have Tory conferences north or south of the border ever featured meaningful debates or votes? Maybe he just means moving away from debates on motions such as -

"This conference is mesemerised by David's maaaaaahvellous leadership and hereby pledges itself not to fret about matters of state that are clearly in such maaaaaahvellous hands. And can we just say how maaaaaahvellous Samantha's hair is looking today..."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Captain Curran and the colonials

I'm utterly baffled by the strategic thinking behind Labour's unveiling of 'Team Scotland' under the dubious stewardship of Captain Curran. It may have escaped Ed Miliband's notice (in fact it almost certainly has, given that he's seemingly unaware of Ken Macintosh's name), but the Scottish Labour Party is about to get its first-ever proper leader, who under the new rules can be either an MP or MSP. So if a Westminster politician is going to be designated as the person to 'take the fight to the SNP', surely they should be standing in the contest for party leader, rather than appointed to a role that can only undermine the leader when he or she is finally elected?

As leader of the whole Scottish party in both Westminster and Holyrood, that person could then have been free to appoint a Shadow Cabinet encompassing members of both parliaments, just as SNP Westminster MPs used to be Shadow Cabinet members with responsibility for reserved matters. But, no, Labour have gone down the road of ghettoisation again, treating their Holyrood parliamentarians as second-grade country cousins. In what reality is it preferable for Margaret Curran to hold the meaningless role of Shadow Scottish Secretary, rather than a leader's position that could have led to her becoming First Minister? Why, in the reality in which she is only interested in a stepping-stone to advancement and preferment at Westminster, of course, rather than in holding a Scottish leadership role for its own sake. That tells us all we need to know about the priority accorded to Scotland by members of the Westminster PLP.

Oh, and by the way - regardless of her job title, Curran isn't the person to take the fight to the SNP anyway. She really isn't.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

EU taxation and representation

Over at Subrosa's blog, Oldrightie ponders the 'horrors' of an independent Scotland joining the EU -

"There is also the matter of North Sea oil in Scottish waters. I assume the claim to those still to be exhausted and quite large reserves will become part of the European piggy banks. Subject to being taxed and controlled for the benefit of all the EU States."

Well, as self-confessed 'assumptions' go, that's a pretty huge one, isn't it? The tax revenue goes straight into the United Kingdom coffers at present, and so an independent Scotland would become the beneficiary instead. Any change to that position would require a treaty, and by extension the consent of all member states, ie. if Scotland was independent by then, we could veto.

"Now here would lie an irony. The same devastation wrought on the fishing industry, visited on the oil business. Much to savour and look forward to, as an Independent EU State, dominated by majority voting by the European Federal bodies!"

A great many of us are certainly looking forward to the elected Scottish government actually having a direct vote in EU bodies, as opposed to our being 'represented' at UK level by Danny Alexander and Michael Moore, and at EU level by David Cameron and William Hague.

And on a point of pedantry, the title of Oldrightie's post is also misleading - there wouldn't be any Scottish euro notes if (and it's clearly now a big if) we were to join the single currency. Which would be a matter of regret, but there would of course be Scottish euro coins instead!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Admin : We can only call devolution a success if we make very sure we don't get any more of it

Our old friend Admin has continued his quest to become First Minister with an impassioned plea that he should hold as little power in that office as humanly possible -

"LABOUR must oppose moves to introduce so-called "Devo-Max", one of the key contenders for the Scottish leader's job has declared.

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has said Labour must reject the plans, under which nearly all public spending would be raised from tax revenue collected north of the Border.

Harris says that if the party backed the proposals - which he describes as Separation Lite" - it would effectively be admitting that devolution has "failed". He also warns that Labour supporters of the plan are wrong to think that it will neuter the nationalist cause.

"Supporting Separatism Lite just because the SNP beat us in May is the equivalent of lying still and hoping that the school bully will get bored of kicking you. And as we all know, the only way to see off a bully is to stand up to him," he argues."

This, of course, is a thinly modified form of the tired old language of the Tories from the pre-devolution era. Any transfer of power to Scotland within the UK is 'appeasement' and the 'break-up of the United Kingdom'. Well, that paranoid mentality worked a treat for Michael Forsyth and co, so I can see why Tom is so eager to follow in their footsteps.

It really is very hard to understand what all the sound and fury surrounding the Admin for First Minister campaign has been about if Tom is utterly determined to be the no change, do nothing candidate. It takes some doing to make Johann Lamont look radical, but he seems to have managed it.

And while I'm thinking of it, a question for Admin (to which I presume the answer will either be "Er" or "No") : You've said that if you win this contest, you'll stand for the Scottish Parliament in 2016. Given your new-found enthusiasm for devolution (if only, naturally, in the mystical perfection of its current limited form), can we presume you will also stand in 2016 if you lose this contest?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

British interest continues...

As far as I can recall (although maybe someone can think of an example to disprove this) the current Rugby World Cup in New Zealand marks the first time in two-and-a-half decades that there's been a really big sporting event in which a Home Nation other than England has progressed further than England itself. So this marks an intriguing test of the London media, especially the broadcast media. Will there be a consistency of approach with what happens when England are the last Home Nation standing? Will we, as usual, be breathlessly informed by ITV newsreaders that - in spite of a huge amount of evidence to the contrary - "the whole country" is at fever-pitch? It seems unlikely somehow.

Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, but the early signs are not terribly encouraging. Last night's headlines were all about England's failure, with Wales' success treated as something of an afterthought. I've yet to hear the dread phrase "at least there's still British interest in the competition", but I fear it may only be a matter of time...