The currency of an independent Scotland

It’s a debate that always gets a little heated: unionists who understand that Scotland would be better off as an independent country are also intelligent enough to know the consequences of not letting Scotland keep Pound Sterling would only pose challenges to Scotland in the short-term*.

In this brilliant article, George Kerevan concisely outlines the four currency options available to Scotland.

In its current form, the euro has but weeks – maybe months – but won’t make it to Christmas, so let’s say that Scotland has three options on future currency given that before joining the euro under existing terms, there’s a two-year ‘proving’ period anyway.

Though it’s called The Bank of England, it is in fact The Bank of the United Kingdom which is to say, the central bank of the UK – independent of control by the government in Westminster – is 9.3% owned by Scottish taxpayers.  This is the reason why the current Scottish government insists it will be able to have a say on the board of The Bank of the England.  If Scotland is told by the Westminster government or by The Bank of England that it cannot use the Pound Sterling, we will be taking that 9.3% with us.  Yes, we will.  Whose oil do you think underwrites the value of ‘your’ central bank?  Still fancy negotiating?  Where do you think you’re going to park your subs?  Portsmouth?

Scotland holds a very strong hand though you would not know it from watching the BBC or reading any newspaper.  Yes, we do.  International law regulates the management of currencies as much as the ownership of natural resources.  Financial markets take care of the rest and as we’ve seen over the past four years… they go with the money.

* By forcing Scotland to either create her own currency, unionists acting out of spite risk capital flight north to Edinburgh where a central Scottish bank could set its own interest rates.  Given that the SNP are already known to want much lower rates of corporation tax (which I suspect is the main area of difference with the Scottish Greens), can you imagine how aggressively a modern Scotland would be drawing business from The City of London?

The very best option for unionists – and  England – is to encourage Scotland to keep Pound Sterling.  But this option is not the best for Scotland – certainly in the long-term.  The Bank of England would set interest rates and as guarantor of that currency, Scotland would not be able to offer lower, more competitive interest rates that would encourage business north to Edinburgh.  The more I watch Tories, Labour and Liberals alike spout nonsense in the Westminster parliament during ‘debates’ on Scotland, the more convinced I am that Jim Sillars may be right: let’s go for short-term pain, set-up our own currency and then watch the land south of our border struggle to make ends meet.

Most people desiring an independent Scotland, want to attain their political and economic independence within a framework that is best for both Scotland and England.  Alex Salmond has stated that his goal is for Scotland to be a friendly neighbour rather than a resentful tenant.  As with a lot of things in language, the clue is not only in the words themselves but in the gaps between – as with everything else, it’s the thought that counts.

Ed Milliband finally gets the point…

…sort of though to give him his due, he is trying.  Very trying.

In a speech was in the words of Juliette Jowit of The Guardian supposed to “chime with a summer of celebrations in which people around the UK are celebrating under different national flags: the union flag for the jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, and the cross of Saint George for Euro 2012”, Ed Milliband gave a keynote speech in which he said that if Scots vote for independence, they will not be British.  Aw, bless.

I really wish that Ed – and indeed the editors of The Guardian – would read the comments that follow the article.  English people are remarkably relaxed about the break-up of the political union of the UK.  This shouldn’t surprise them because in a previous article published by The Guardian surveying people’s attitudes to Britain not only do a mere 19% of Scots define themselves as British but far fewer English people than I expected, in fact, just 52%.

Ed – to repeat – this is about the break-up of the political union of the UK.  After Scottish independence, Scotland and England will still share a monarch and Scotland will still therefore be part of the UK.  It’s United Kingdom, Ed not ‘United Parliaments’ which is why, following assurances from the SNP, HRH is remarkably relaxed about the whole referendum.  You don’t need to be a politician to understand this.

On the issue of the political break-up, I would like to say that Alan Cumming (@Alancumming) performed a blinder on Question Time last night.  With the BBC’s habit of planting unionist stooges in the audience, it’s rare to finish watching this program feeling that what should have been said has been said and Alan’s timing was immaculate.  Right as the live program was drawing to a close, Alan not only landed a good ‘un on that numptie Melanie Phillips but then turned and asked Johann Lamont why with her social democratic beliefs was she siding with the Tories?  Brilliant.  See it again here: Question Time, 7th June 2012 at Inverness on iPlayer.

The oldest national flag in the world

Now, I didn’t know this but it turns out that the flag of St. Andrew, also known as Bratach nàiseanta na h-Alba or more simply The Saltire, is ‘the oldest flag in the world…’

Now, I didn’t believe the person who told me but they refined their remark to mean that Scotland’s flag has been in continuous use for the longest period of any flag in the world.  How did this conversation come about?  Well now…

Unionists are using the Diamond Jubilee as an excuse to wave their rag in our faces and given the wall-to-wall coverage by those who’ve taken to calling what was previously known as a ‘meritocratic democracy‘, a ‘constitutional monarchy‘, I’ve been wondering when my fellow Scots (and English Republicans) are going to get around to having their own little tea party.  It was rather cheering then to note that the bunting in Kinghorn is not coloured by the unionist rag but is formed of The Saltire.  I was talking about this phenomenon with a work colleague who argued that the bunting should be made from the flag of Union.

My argument was this: the royal family in England have their own flag, the Royal Standard (for which the Queen uses a slightly different version here than is seen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).  The Union flag was devised to celebrate political union (the Act of Settlement in which Scottish and ‘English’ being earlier), surely to show loyalty to what many in Scotland consider a foreign monarch, Unionist Scots should be offering their own national flag in support if they’re not going to wave the royal standard?  My colleague (correctly) pointed out that the Royal Standard is used to denote the Queen being in residence and I agreed: what better way to indicate her rule in all the parts of her kingdoms than to exceptionally have the Royal Standard flown across the territories?

We were both corrected by someone who had overheard us and who had some expertise in heraldry: the correct flag to be flown during jubilee celebrations was the respective national flag of each of the kingdoms .ie. flag of St. Andrew in Scotland, flag of St. Patrick in Northern Ireland, flag of England and the flag of Wales.  The wee village of Kinghorn had therefore got it correct*.

The current design of the Union rag dates from 1801 and is therefore not even as old as the Act of Union.  Perhaps the use of The Rag has become common only for propaganda/ TV purposes.  Just think of how those long view, pan-and-scan shots would look to the world’s media if they showed four different flags across the British Isles…. folks might even be given the idea that there were four countries taking part in the Jubilee.  While I could be asking how the UK got its name, I prefer to play the game of spotting which businesses here in Scotland are flying The Saltire and the Lion of Rampant of Scotland.

* When I thought about the conversation later, I realised that I’m actually glad that so many people got it wrong.  First, The Saltire remains something we can use post-independence without having to think about the last time it was waved enthusiastically.  Second, as supporters of independence, we get to see which businesses are no longer going to receive our custom.  Third, like the wearing of certain football colours, it makes it really easy to spot the numpties

The scores are in…

…and when I asked Rose to guess how many independently-organised Jubilee street parties were held in Scotland, she guessed to within 2*.

In England and Wales, there were 9,500 street parties.  In Scotland, there were just 40 not including the 20 organised by the Orange Order and funded by the Labour Party-controlled Glasgow City Council (which will come as a big surprise to traditionally the biggest block of Labour supporters, Glasgow’s Catholics).  Let me put some real number context in there for you…

For every street party in England, there was 0.004 street parties in Scotland or, one crisp at the bottom of the packet in Scotland left to go soggy in the gutter – OK, none because really, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t round up a figure like that to anything approaching parity.  How about we try something else?  There was one street party in England and Wales for every 6,000 people living there but in Scotland, there was one street party for every 125,000 people living here… Now, I’m not saying that we’re tight or anything but can you imagine the look on the face of the poor sod asked to make sandwiches?

In other news, the British Nationalists led by Alistair Darling (remember him?) are looking for money to finance the ‘let’s keep having the Tory-LibDem government in Westminster tell us what to’ campaign.  They’ve promised to never use the word ‘no’ in their campaign and they won’t call themselves ‘unionists’ but given that the UKIP, English Defence League and BNP are all against Scottish independence, it seems that the former Labour Party chancellor has been wearing some stonking beer goggles.  How else to explain getting into bed with those nutters?

(*  Rose guessed 42 and laughed.  She was trying to be funny.)

Referendum: a definition

According to the Chambers Dictionary (11th edition) on my desk, a referendum is: “…the principle or practice of submitting a question directly to the vote of the entire electorate.”

I like this article in which Revd Stuart Campbell points this out while asking why unionist politicians insist on the SNP administration clarifying it’s policy position on everything from EU membership to the colour for the First Minister’s door at Bute House.

Meanwhile, Scottish voters await clarification on why, despite the Scottish government committing itself to renewable energy, the Coalition in London decided that everyone in the UK – including Scotland – must pay somewhere in the region of £200 extra per year on their electricity bills for new nuclear power stations when (a) the Scottish government has said none shall be built here because (b) with such a huge abundance of natural resources (tide and wind), the people of Scotland don’t need them.

In addition to an existing installed capacity of 1.3 Gigawatts (GW) of hydro-electric schemes (dams), Scotland has an estimated potential of 36.5 GW of wind and 7.5 GW of tidal power or, more simply, 25% of the estimated total capacity for the European Union, never mind the bonus of up to 14 GW of wave power potential or, 10% of EU capacity. (Source: RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland and FOE Scotland (February 2006) The Power of Scotland: Cutting Carbon with Scotland’s Renewable Energy. RSPB et al.)

In short: why stay in the Union?  Please clarify.

An independent constitution

One peculiar memory I have from childhood is being taken to watch the Queen open the new Thornton’s factory in Somercotes, Derbyshire.  I say ‘watching the Queen’ but the process involved merely watching a cavalcade of black limos hurtling past while the assembled schoolchildren waved Union flags.  I refused to hold a flag.  As someone who was known to enjoy country pursuits I was surprised that the Queen would attend the opening of a factory on the site of a bittern nest.  Yes, I must confess that I was a ‘twitcher’.  My dad did his best to confront the developers about this (but hey-ho, whisper it, Labour council *cough*.  Whispers again: you put the money in the grasping fingers).

Bitterns, it seems, are to remain as rare as dissenting voices in the Jubilee year, even in Scotland.  A curious thing last week.  A leaflet was dropped through the door listing a program of events for the Children’s Gala in June here in Kinghorn, only it wasn’t a celebration of summer or any of that.  No, bedecked in Union flags, the leaflet proclaimed a gala week celebrating the jubilee.  Wonderful.  Brainwash them while they’re young, they’ll vote unionist for life like their gormless, drooling parents.

Now me, I might have been born working class but I’m not servile.  The leaflet was ripped up put in the recycling bin.  The next morning, I found another item in the letterbox… a brown envelope.  This is for cash donations to the children’s gala and the best bit?  The envelope is numbered.  That’s right.  I’ve got envelope ’51 (spare)’.  Either the folks giving out/ collecting the envelopes aren’t trusted or the organisers are keeping dibs on who is giving what.

I love Kinghorn and it would be fair to say that my wife and I fell in love with the place almost as soon as we were off the train, never mind on first seeing the house where we now live.  We might have lived here for little over a year but we feel at home and so have tried to live here with a view to taking part.  However, though I contributed a donation last year, I will not be giving one this year.  A children’s gala should be just that: a street party for kids, by kids, about kids.

Here’s the point though: whenever I question the so-called divine right of kings or whether it is right that an unelected group should be pulling the world’s economies to the precipice using an equally unreformed parliament, I am invariably accused of being an SNP member.  There are some insults you can throw at me but that one is simply untrue.

I am not an SNP member primarily because as James writes on the Better Nation blog, ‘Why is Scotland’s constitution off the agenda?‘, the SNP has not only devised a draft constitution but has written the monarchy into it.  Excuse me but I beg to f*ckin’ differ and would, given the opportunity, exercise my right to not go down on bended knee to someone whose position in life was secured by the opportunity of birth and not by the exercise of any real, quantifiable talent.

Any discussion of a nation’s future has to be framed around open-ended discussions about what people want because sometimes, you know, ordinary punters get it right.  Cameron’s Tories couldn’t even frame a coherent, competent vision for England – let alone Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – so he didn’t get a majority in a system designed to deliver just such a verdict but instead a coalition.  It’s because voters were not persuaded.

The most common objection to scrapping monarchy is the question: ‘You’d want a president?  Like Sarkozy?’  No.  I don’t.

Being chosen to be Head of State for however short a term (and it should be a short term, no-one should be allowed to get comfortable) should be regarded as a fine honour.  Why not then try something new and truly different?

We already seem comfortable with the use of an official office called ‘Makar‘, a poet chosen to create verse for occasions of state.  The word ‘makar’ means both maker and poet.  In a modern society such as Scotland’s, we also owe a debt to engineers, scientists, teachers and many, many others.  As we already have the party started, why not inaugurate the next year’s Makar on Hogmanay?  For one year, the chosen Makar will greet foreign VIPs off planes, will open parliamentary sessions and attend all the formal functions at which a monarch or president would normally be the guest?  Taxpayers foot the bill for travel expenses and so on but importantly, nothing else.  It is absolutely of critical importance that the role of Head of State is seen as one of honour and an experience which, though exhausting, would be cherished.  If nothing else, it would reflect our sense of humour and what a change for someone like Barack Obama to be greeted off the plane by someone like actress/ comedienne/ constitutional lobbyist Elaine C. Smith or novelist Alan Bissett (who’d be my choice for the first Makar of Scotland for this alone).

The mood of the nation

Council elections are in just a couple of days time across the UK.  Voters in England will no doubt be using their vote to comment – at least in part – on the coalition government at Westminster.  Voters in Scotland will effectively be doing the same.  Though we have our own government here in Scotland, many policy decisions that would best be taken in Edinburgh are in fact still taken by a foreign government with no mandate to govern here.

Not every voter is politically literate – though that situation does appear to be improving in Scotland – and could well tar the SNP administration in Edinburgh with the same brush that they would hope to tar the monarchical autocracy in London.  In such a situation, Labour should be able to make easy gains in Scotland – as easily as they hope in England?

While the British Propaganda Corporation makes hay about Donald Trump, the Leveson Inquiry and the Murdochs, Johann Lament – sorry, Lamont – wails across the chamber with minor complaints that have little to do with the lives of ordinary Scots.

Labour still doesn’t get it.  If recent polls show that the Labour strategy of moan, complain and moan some more is turning voters away, should the alternative strategy of deploying real world issues not have suggested itself as the subject of debate?

Scottish voters are known to vote for different parties depending on the election in which they are voting, choosing to support different parties in Westminster ‘elections’ than from those they support in Holyrood elections.  It is reasonable to assume then that Scots voters will be looking to comment on how well their local councils are providing services during a period of austerity imposed by a foreign government that reserves many policy decisions for which they have no mandate (there being more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, after all).

For its part, the SNP will be looking to consolidate recent electoral gains and seize control of Glasgow City Council from the numpties and make no mistake, the SNP is fuelled by serious intent as evidenced by their fielding even more candidates in these elections than at the last local elections – across Scotland.  Being able to seize the council of the largest city in Scotland will give the SNP the chance to prove to voters in Labour’s heartland that they better represent the interests of voters.

However you intend to vote, you may be left feeling that your interests will be overlooked in the months ahead.  You can, however, take part in a very different sort of poll being run by The University of Strathclyde.  It’s called The Mood of the Nation and takes just a couple of minutes.  The results will be announced on the Beeb (so if you are independence-minded, it’s an opportunity to give the unionist jobsworths at Aunty a good kick).