Thursday, 21 August 2014

Scotland, the Movie


A Really Big Poll

Are the indyref opinion polls to be taken with a pinch of salt? Of course they are, like all opinion polls, not least the ones which failed to predict the overall majority which the pro-independence Scottish National Party won in the Scottish Parliament general election of 2011, without which we would not be having a Scottish independence referendum next month.
But how large a pinch of salt? Are there parts of the electorate that conventional opinion polling fails to reach? To answer this question let me direct you to the recently published results of a national canvassing sample conducted by the Radical Independence Campaign, with total returns of over 18,000, which appear to indicate that the No camp does not have the support of a crucial segment of the voting population:
"18,012 is an enormous sample size. Pollster companies usually poll 1,000 people. A certain subjectivity has to be accounted for, but we usually ask people their view and note it down before we engage in debate.
The canvass returns are of a specific demographic: RIC has targeted areas of low voter turn-out and deprivation as a result of Westminster austerity and privatization.
Many of the areas have been or still are Labour strongholds, especially on the West coast. Places like Greenock and Easterhouse that have always been Labour majorities have shown strong majorities for a Yes vote."
To read on click here.
If the Yes camp can get these voters to cast their ballot on September 18th, as seems likely to be the case, "another Scotland is possible". Voter participation of around 80% is expected for the referendum, which would make it the biggest poll in the history of Scotland.
"There is only so long that people can be taken for granted, and Westminster are way past their sell-by date. It is time to bring about radical social change, and we can do that through winning a Yes vote. We wanted our conferences to be more than talking shops. We wanted to bring the ideas for renewing our society to the doorstep. We have a long way to go, but the network of RIC groups all over Scotland are working hard to expose the hypocrisy of the Westminster politicians and the unbalanced UK economy that works only for the rich.
These results show that Another Scotland is Possible." (Radical Independence Campaign, August 19th 2014)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Budget Cuts if Vote Is 'No'
"Voters south of the border want a cut to Scottish annual public spending of almost £1,400 per person if there is a No vote [...]. If there is a No vote, voters in England by a margin of more than four to one - 56 per cent as opposed to 12 per cent - believe levels of public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the UK average. In 2012/13, public spending per capita in Scotland was £10,327 compared to the UK average of £8,940; meaning a proposed reduction of £1,387. This would imply a cut of more than 10 per cent in Scottish public expenditure. [...]
The findings, published today, are the result of an online Future of England survey of 3,695 adults undertaken in England in April by YouGov as part of constitutional research by the universities of Edinburgh and Cardiff. The researchers point out public opinion in England appears to go counter to the commitment of all three main UK parties to continue to fund Scotland through the Barnett Formula, which currently helps produce higher public spending levels north of the border. [...]
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: 'It is a real concern for a growing number of Scots that Scotland's budget is in Westminster's crosshairs and waiting to be slashed in the event of a No vote. Only last week, Canon Kenyon Wright, the chief architect of Scottish devolution, was warning that the Scottish Parliament will be 'undermined' and that cuts to the Barnett Formula will affect our NHS and social security in an act of 'revenge'.' He added: 'This poll will do little to put the minds of those worried Scots at ease.'" (The Herald, August 20th 2014)
Today's front-page Herald story appears to confirm that English public opinion is in favour of slashing Scotland's budget (and its representation at Westminster) if there is a No majority on September 18th. No reward after all for sticking with Blighty, then. Merely punishment for stepping out of line (at the same time as Northern Ireland is probably to be rewarded at Scotland's expense for being staunchly loyal).
The Scottish independence referendum is evidently more than a consultation, as the associated campaign is clearly transforming the political landscape. But it is not only changing Scotland by engaging unprecedentedly large numbers of voters in the decision-making process. It is bringing something to the surface in England, where a deeply prejudiced, ill-informed and resentfully irrational reaction to the admirably democratic debate on Scotland's constitutional future is setting in. What to do about it? You may well ask, as experience tells us that it is pointless to try reasoning with the man on the Clapham omnibus. You might as well talk to the cat or plead with it to accept a Scottish banknote.
It is, I venture to suggest, fanciful to imagine that the UK parliamentary union could long survive the ugly backlash which would hit Scotland after a No vote. It's over. Let it go.
"[...] the 1707 Treaty of Union is already over - it's dead. It was soundlessly blown up, like a Red Road tower block, at the moment in 1999 when Winnie Ewing said: 'The Scottish Parliament is hereby reconvened.' For the last 15 years, we have been living in an informal, low-rise, lower-case union, its ever-changing skyline made up by Westminster and Holyrood as they go along. The sweep of transformation - now become a torrent since the referendum campaign began - heads towards the completion of self-government. [...] The Yes side may well not win the vote in September. But it has already, overwhelmingly, won the campaign. In the long term, that may come to matter more." (Neal Ascherson, The Sunday Herald, July 6th 2014)
Scotland can apparently protect its legitimate national interests now only by restoring its national sovereignty and statehood. We should be grateful to the authors of the study reported in today's issue of the Herald for making this clear. Independence negotiations would conceivably be tough, but at least we would have leverage to make a success of them. By voting No we would leave ourselves at the mercy of those who do not have our best interests at heart and do not even understand us.
Vote Yes on September 18th.
UPDATE, August 22nd
"Demands for an English parliament are growing amid widespread resentment south of the border over Scottish-only 'freebies' such as prescription charges, UKIP has warned. It says a shift in the political balance of power is needed, even after a referendum No vote, to appease English concerns. A poll has suggested 54 per cent of English people believe it is time England had its own parliament. [...] 'The majority want a new English parliament dealing with English matters,' Mr Nuttall [UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall] said. 'It is plainly unfair that both Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on English-only legislation but English MPs can have no say in Scotland and Wales. There clearly needs to be a re-balancing of power – and sooner rather than later.'
Eddie Bone, from the Campaign for an English Parliament, said 'English resentment' was being openly expressed across the country on issues such as higher public spending in Scotland. 'If and when the Scots 'bottle it' on 18 September and vote No, they will see a stronger English voice because the people of England have had enough of Scottish self-indulgence,' he said.
Yes campaigners have already voiced concerns that Scotland's budget could be in Westminster's 'crosshairs' and face a reduction in the event of a No vote." (The Scotsman, August 22nd 2014)
Don't "bottle it". Vote Yes.

Once upon a War


A hundred years ago a young woman, my maternal grandmother, whose four brothers were in various armed forces, there being a war on, as we have been remembering, kept a notebook in which she wrote out popular poems which were being circulated about the Great War at that time. An early one concerns the (not entirely) blind optimism of non-combatants witnessing the departure of Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen, who are depicted as going off to fight bravely for their country.

One cannot help noticing that their country is given not as Great Britain or the United Kingdom but as (you've guessed it) Scotland, and that the only individual referred to by name is not the king of England, for whom they were expected to offer up their lives as cannon fodder, but is on the contrary, improbable though it may seem to some, a certain hero of the wars of Scottish independence:
"We admire the kilted warriors
As they march along the street.
They're the pride of bonnie Scotland
And the bravest men we meet.
For the Gordons never falter
Though they stifle many a sigh
When they bid goodbye to loved ones
And go forth to do or die.
Wallace still is the Exemplar
Freedom's prize is as 'twas of yore.
Dauntless sons of Noble Scotia
God protect them we implore.
When this dreadful war is over
And the days of peace have come
Let us ne'er forget the Gordons
And the brave deeds they have done."
It seems not to have taken very long for verse of varying quality to appear that had been written by combatants, who had their own perspective, of course. I see in the notebook, which is full to overflowing, a poem said to have been composed by a Sergeant Bingham and a Private McLeod of the 2nd Seaforths in the trenches in France in March 1915. Again their country is given as Scotland, and I'll tell you right now that there is absolutely nothing at all along the lines of some corner of a foreign field being for ever England and that it finishes on a frankly down-to-earth note rather than an heroic one:
"Now here's a tip, don't let it slip.
Keep your head well down.
When you're in the trenches
Keep your napper down.
Bullets they are flying,
Nasty bits of lead.
It's all up with you, matey
If you stop one with your head.
Drills you through the temple,
Comes out of your crown.
If you want to see Old Scotland
Keep your napper down."
As this part of the poem does not really flow naturally from what precedes it, one may reasonably suspect that it is a tacked-on version of something which was a commonplace in the trenches, particularly as there is at least one English version that I am aware of, attributed to one Bill Graves:
"When you're in the trenches,
Keep your napper well down.
Bullets are a flying, nasty bits of lead,
It's all up with you chummy, if you stops 'em
with your head,
Drills you through to temple, comes out
of your crown;
If you want to see old Blighty,
Keep your bend well down."
At any rate, there are clearly two distinct versions, one Scottish and one English, rather than a single United Kingdom one, because, let's face it, the United Kingdom was never all that united. Remember the initial fraternizing scene in the film Joyeux Noël about the Christmas Truce of 1914:
"Guten Abend, Engländer!" says the German soldier as he approaches the British lines with an illuminated Christmas tree in his hand, as one does.
"Good evening, Germans," comes the reply in a totally non-English voice. "But we're not English. We're Scottish!"
Quite so. Time to give that nation a state, so that the world knows who we are and what we stand for. My grandmother would have voted for that, without a moment's hesitation. Naturally.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Scotland Yet



IndyRef Weekly Review 11


House of Lords
Boris Johnson
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