Posts Tagged ‘ indyref ’

It’s the jobs, stupid: how we’re going to win the referendum

Today’s Sunday Herald front page makes me almost deliriously happy. I’ve written about reindustrialisation several times now. I think it is the key message for the yes campaign.

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Basically, the Scottish people voted Labour while Labour protected Scottish jobs. The shift towards the SNP happened after Blair, and it wasn’t caused by nonexistent WMDs or dodgy dossiers. The Tories were the big enemy who took away the jobs, communities and hope of working people. Labour were meant to protect that, and they were meant to bring it back. Under Blair, they failed. When Gordon Brown turned out to be more of the same, a large chunk of Scotland gave up on Labour.

The SNP have a top-to-bottom plan already in progress to reindustrialise the country using our renewable potential (1/4 of Europe’s wind and tide, 1/10 of its waves). Yards like Nigg are reopening, creating thousands of jobs.

This works especially well because North Sea oil has made us world-leaders in marine engineering. We have the opportunity to be world-leaders in design, manufacture and deployment of deep-sea wind turbines.

The EU has an international plan to build a continental energy grid, to end dependency on Russian gas. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice senior SNP people often talk about energy security as a primary aim. They don’t mean Scotland’s, they mean Europe’s. We’re going to build massive undersea cables to the continent and power Germany’s factories.

Reindustrialisation makes sense from a right or left-wing perspective. It is good for Scottish business, the Scottish economy, and the Scottish working class all at once. It makes no sense, whatever your political persuasion, to remain tied to a political system that has been fully captured by the financial industry and their plan to make London the “capital of capitalism.”

That plan offers nothing for Scotland. The bedroom tax is a prime example – its aim seems to be to free up some liquidity in the London property market, which is acting as a store of value for the global elite. This is horrible for ordinary Londoners, but does make a sort of right-wing sense in that city. In Scotland, it does nothing but shunt disabled people from cheap social housing to expensive homelessness units, without benefiting a single Scottish business and at tremendous human cost.

Meanwhile we have to fight tooth and nail to have essential infrastructure like the Western Isles interconnector built, and are burdened by illogical National Grid energy transmission fees.

The people of Scotland are sick of mass unemployment, and they are sick of irrational, unaccountable policymaking. The credible offer of thousands of high-quality jobs will win this referendum.

The curious case of YouDecide2014 – Tories in ‘neutral’ clothing

UPDATE: I have now definitively linked the BuzzFeed article to the Scotland Office itself!

So there I was, minding my own business on twitter, when up pops a tweet by Ramsay Jones, “UK Government Special Advisor Scotland. Tweets my own views. Hopefully someone else’s later.”

His tweet linked to what was apparently a Buzzfeed article, “Scotland. The UK. 10 Myths. 10 Facts.”, which purported to explain “What would happen to Scotland if we became independent? From our global relationships to our oil revenues, this blog looks at the myths, and the realities, of the Scottish independence debate.”

Ramsay Jones @Ramsay59 - Sorting out the facts from the Indy fiction.The post had been retweeted by Rebecca Lefort, “Digital at @number10gov for a while (usually @bisgovuk). Ex @telegraph journo. Lover of coffee, badminton, feminism, dancing, comedy…. and much more!” I’m glad to see that in the modern world, one can claim to be a feminist whilst participating in a government that has conducted the biggest attack on women’s financial independence since the second world war, reducing the average woman’s disposable income by 10% through cuts alone.

On Ms Lefort’s twitter feed, I saw that she had also retweeted a tweet of the same article by Alex Stewart Aitken, “Government Communicator, Chairman of Westminster Wanderers FC and Arsenal fan”. Tory marketers seem to be huge fans of this BuzzFeed article! Rebecca liked it so much she retweeted it at least three times! Professional pride, perhaps?

So I read it (it didn’t take long, this is BuzzFeed after all!). An eagle-eyed reader will notice that it is “created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed’s editorial staff” – but this text is small (in the Tory comms team’s defence, this is Buzzfeed’s decision).

Scotland. The UK. 10 Myths. 10 Facts. What would happen to Scotland if we become independent? From our global relationships to our oil revenues, this blog looks at the myths, and realities, of the Scottish independence debate. YouDecide2014. Buzzfeed user. This post was created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed's editorial staff. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can post awesome lists and creations." Learn more or post your buzz!The article itself isn’t worth reading – it’s just a list of the usual scare stories presented as myth-busting FACTS: “Fact: Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have all made clear if we leave the UK we’ll also leave the UK pound. A currency union would not work for Scotland or the rest of the UK – it will not happen.”

At the very bottom of the article, it links to the UK government website.

Get the facts at www.gov.uk/scottishreferendum

I then discovered a twitter account, @YouDecide2014. Its twitter bio was “The Scottish Referendum on 18th September 2014 is a massive decision that needs proper thought. You Decide is here to give you the facts ahead of the vote.” and its website was listed as the Scotland Office official website. It had tweeted the Buzzfeed article several times, as well as tweeting and retweeting a lot of stuff from the UK government – Foreign Office tweets, Scotland Office tweets, MOD tweets. It seemed very keen on David Cameron’s speeches.

Scottish Referendum @youdecide2014. We're here to provide you with the facts ahead of next year's massive decision around independence. #youdecide

So it appears that taxpayers’ money, via the Scotland Office, is being used to fund a twitter and BuzzFeed account run by the Tory comms team. These accounts pretend to be neutral purveyors of facts but are in fact highly partisan. With reports of a recent Better Together leaflet adopting the same strategy, we have to assume this is a new phase in the No campaign – realising that their brand is now utterly toxic, they are resorting to pretending to be other people.

UPDATE: a discussion on Reddit reveals that this article was shared by no less than the 10 Downing Street facebook account!

UPDATE 2: Scott Abel on facebook noticed it was even retweeted by the MOD!

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Labour have played the race card

“Yvette Cooper says an independent Scotland would need immigration rise of a million to fund pensions” screams the Daily Record headline. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, a member of the Labour leadership. Speaking in the traditionally Labour-supporting Record, Scotland’s second biggest-selling newspaper.

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This is simply incredible. At the end of a week when UKIP launched billboards claiming that European immigrants are coming for our jobs, one of the most senior members of the Labour shadow cabinet comes to Scotland and tells us we’ll be swamped with Poles if she doesn’t get her way. To add insult to injury she spins the actual number – just 24,000 immigrants a year from all sources including England – as a million, by adding up every year from now to 2051.

There have been Poles living in Scotland for centuries, Yvette. There’s a Polish club near my flat in Glasgow that was founded in 1954 because so many stayed here after we fought together against fascism. As long ago as 1650, there were 30,000 Scots living in Poland. We’re not scared of a few Poles.

I try to avoid demonising my political opponents. After the independence referendum, we’ll all have to get along, whichever way the vote goes. But this is unacceptable.

Not content with opposing free health and education, Labour ‘s leadership has now introduced race into Scottish politics. They are legitimising and wielding racist rhetoric in a country that hardly votes for the right wing parties.

Scottish Labour tried to tack left by supporting the public sector strikes in 2011, but came a cropper when Ed Miliband declared “These strikes are wrong!” (again… and again… and again). With tacking left ruled out by London, they are now tacking right. Hard right.

Surely every decent soul in Labour, and I know there are many, must be outraged. You can’t stay silent on this, guys – Yvette Cooper has consciously aped Nigel Farage’s dog-whistle race politics.

Brief thoughts on Britain

I keep hearing this weird argument that Scottish independence is not desirable because the real battle is between classes. Variations on this are that a yes vote has to be blindly nationalist, or that the working class of Scotland must not be divided from the working class of England – never mind that Unite the Union organise just fine in Ireland. I don’t buy it.Image

The battle between labour and capital will continue regardless of the borders of states. Neither a vote for yes or no moves us closer to a global democratic socialist society.

However, Britain is an almost unique state. It is an empire that has transitioned from direct rule of one quarter of the Earth’s surface to an immense system of financial piracy. Something like a third of the world’s bank deposits are held in London, crown dependencies, or various ex-colonies that function as a spider’s web, drawing capital to the City itself.

Britain is considerably more neoliberal than any continental country (except perhaps the Netherlands) for this reason. It is in the hands of spiv bankers.

There is no realistic plan on the table to change the nature of Britain.

Meanwhile the greater part of Scotland is an artificial desert, maintained that way to serve as a hunting estate for aristocrats and bankers alike. Its largest native language is widely regarded as “not talking properly”, an uncouth and uneducated language to use.

The working class of Scotland regard Scotland as a country. They have been taught that it is inferior, that they are inferior. That is all that ties them to Britain.

I’ll be voting to end the empire.

Six months to Yes – your country needs you

As of today there are just six months until Scotland votes on its independence. I believe Scotland can, should and must be independent, and I believe Scotland will vote Yes.

Six months is a long time, but it’s also quite a short time. It has been a year since the Scottish Government announced the date of the referendum. Two thirds of the campaign has already gone.

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By rights, we ought to win this. The arguments are overwhelming – Scotland is rich enough to be independent, Scotland would be more democratic if it was independent, and Scotland must escape the starvation agenda being imposed by the Westminster Tory government. Yes campaigners all know this, and on Facebook and Twitter it feels like we have already won the referendum.

But we could still lose the referendum. Not everyone is on Facebook and Twitter – almost half of Glaswegians, for example, don’t have broadband internet. Pensioners almost all vote, aren’t on the internet, and lean heavily towards No. Of course they do – to them, BBC TV and the Daily Mail are still major news sources. The polls still show No on course to win, for all that Yes is making slow and steady gains.

For the next six months, we have to work like we’ve never worked before. The case for Yes must be taken out into our communities. It must be inescapable. Our opponents control the news media and big business. We control the streets of Scotland. To win, we must be bold, proud, unafraid to put our views forward. We must knock on every door in the country and put our case directly to the people.

In twenty years time, we’ll be looking back on the few short months of summer 2014 and asking ourselves – what did I do? Win or lose, our children and grandchildren will want to know what roles we played. This is a chance – a fleeting chance – to etch our names into history, to change the future.

There are events happening up and down the country. Contact your local Yes group. Do it today. Volunteer to help with whatever they need, whatever you can do.

Come September there will be no hiding place. Your country needs you.

Scotland No More

I was only four years old in 1987, when the Proclaimers’ Letter From America stormed the UK charts, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I’ve never known its significance. In my adult life, the Proclaimers have always been the twee, geeky pair who wrote 500 Miles, the anthemic love song used to signal the end of a drunken night at the student union. I’d always assumed that Letter From America was just another love song, perhaps written for a girlfriend who moved abroad.

So I was quite surprised when it was quoted in parliament. As it turns out, Letter From America is an extremely clever, angry song.

The key is in the “No more” refrain. The first time we hear it, it goes like this:

Lochaber no more
Sutherland no more
Lewis no more
Skye no more

Lochaber No More is the name of a pipe tune, which Allan Ramsay set words to in 1724, turning it into the lament of a conscripted Highlander:

Farewell to Lochaber, farewell to my Jean
Where heartsome wi’ her I ha’e many days been
For Lochaber no more, we’ll maybe return
We’ll maybe return to Lochaber no more.

In 1883, John Watson Nicol created a painting of the same same, reframing it as a statement about the Highland Clearances, emigration to America, and a nation’s tremendous loss.

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In the peak years of emigration, 1904-1913 and 1921-1930, one fifth of Scotland’s working age population left, mostly for North America. This second wave came on top of the huge losses of the First World War. We still have the diary in my family of one family member who emigrated and eventually died, drunk, in a snow drift in Boston. The Proclaimers are acutely aware of this history:

Broke off from my work the other day
I spent the evening thinking about
All the blood that flowed away
Across the ocean to the second chance
I wonder how it got on when it reached the promised land?

It is the second refrain that shows the true genius of the song. Until that point, it could all be taken as referencing a past that is long gone, but the second refrain replaces the list of places cleared in the 19th century with places traumatically deindustrialised in the 20th:

Bathgate no more
Linwood no more
Methil no more
Irvine no more.

In tears yet? You should be.

Currency unions: an idiot’s guide

ku-xlargeThere’s a lot of talk of currency unions and so on lately in Scotland. What does it all mean? Here’s an idiot’s guide:

1. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can use pounds however they like, subject to local law of course.

2. The creation of new pounds is controlled, or at least guided, by the Bank of England and the government. A higher interest rate means fewer pounds are created, a lower interest rate means more pounds are created. Government borrowing also creates more pounds.

3. The value of the pound on the international market is higher if there are fewer pounds, and lower if there are more pounds – supply. It is also affected by demand, so if there are a lot of people wanting to invest in the Sterling area pounds will be worth more, and if investors pull their money out, like on Black Wednesday, the value of the pound falls.

4. That means that when you have a currency union, there has to be a deal on government borrowing, in order to manage the value of the currency collectively. Otherwise one party could ‘cheat’ by borrowing a lot – printing money – and taking the whole benefit of that but only a small share of the cost of it.

5. A more valuable pound is good in that pounds are worth more, but bad in that it makes imports cheaper and exports more expensive. So a more valuable pound is better for finance, property and so on, and worse for manufacturing.

6. Scotland faces a very serious challenge. We have bucketloads of oil. This can lead to what is called the Resource Curse. Money floods into a country chasing the oil, inflates the value of the currency, and manufacturing goes to the wall while property prices and finance boom. This is part of the story of early 80s Britain.

7. Oil rich countries like Norway or Qatar have sovereign wealth funds, “oil funds”. They put their oil money in the fund and move it out of the country as quick as possible, buying shares, property, premier league football teams and so on. That keeps the value of their currency low.

8. Scotland does not have an oil fund, and it will take time to get one set up, especially in a context where the oil industry is privately owned.

9. So, it is better for Scotland’s manufacturers if we can share our currency, at the very least until we have a functioning oil fund.

10. If London wants to keep its finance sector it needs the oil to keep the value of Sterling high. If you’re a Russian oligarch with holdings in London, you will panic and run at the first sign of Sterling’s value collapsing.

(UPDATE: some people have queried point 10. Wikipedia has oil and gas at 13.2% of UK exports, somewhere in the region of £40bn a year. Don’t forget the effect on the balance of trade of the UK having to import all the oil it currently uses domestically – back of the envelope about 3x the amount it exports.)

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