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.


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 SNP is not the only pro-independence party in Scotland

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  It’s too easy to believe The Labour Party’s claim that it is the best party for representing working interests in Scotland, until you actually pay attention to the names on your ballot paper and then do a wee bit of reading.  You will have to read and most likely online, picking up scraps from comments like this one because you won’t find much mention of these parties outside of election time.  For the BBC and almost every other news media outlet, that in the referendum debate at least, the choice is Unionist vs SNP.

This is plain daft.  Just as there are multiple parties supporting Unionisim, there is more than one political party espousing independence.  The Scottish Greens have 2 MSPs and therefore take part in our national politics on an elected basis.

As John Macallion writes in this article, the struggle for a fair wage and good working conditions – the class struggle – has always been one of socialism and nationalism.  he writes: “The 1787 massacre of striking Calton weavers by British soldiers near what was then Glasgow is generally recognised as marking the beginning of an organised, effective Scottish labour movement.

How did The Labour Party get it so wrong in Scotland that they have ended up on the side of the millowners?  After all, the general strike of 1820 was united behind the slogan “Scotland Free or a Desert”.

Those who get most of their news online will have been surprised that on the evening of 14th March, the BBC Scotland team failed to report what was on the BBCnews website, namely that The Labour Party had officially lost its majority for the first time in over forty years.  Surprised?  The last time they visited, I made my parents watch the BBC news and then Channel 4’s news back-to-back.  The difference surprised them.  Channel 4 was showing news items that were genuinely ‘new’.

Does The Labour Party/ BBC really think it is fooling anyone?  Further instances of the BBC failing in its public duties such as this, this and this appear to be hardening voter’s intentions in favour of independence if recent polling figures are in any way accurate.  In short, of those polled with definite voting intentions, support for independence is up by 6% since May 2011.

In short, the long association between The Labour Party and the BBC – though undeclared – is actually starting to look like it is hobbling the Unionist cause.  A report on a recent poll by Age Scotland revealed that older people have lost trust not only with politicians but with the traditional print media they should be able to trust to conduct the referendum debate in an informative manner.

In reporting aspects of the referendum debate, the default mode of the BBC is to question SNP politicians and then cut back to studio for unedited comment from either a Labour politician or a journalist espousing the official Labour Party stance as with Newsnight Scotland last night.  In failing to seek the informed opinions of other pro-independence political parties, the BBC appears to be continuing to frame the SNP as a single-issue party which can be dismissed at the time of referendum and failing to report that there is a growing consensus within Scotland of the need for political change.

Fotunately, some voters in Scotland are already aware that they can vote for independence in 2014 without having to support the SNP, let alone be a party member.  Even if you’re a Labour/ LibDem/ Tory voter who cannot stand Alex Salmond – and a few have made their views known at my workplace – you can still vote for independence in the referendum.  Again, as a few at work intend to do.

Beyond the refendum and back in the land of ordinary elections, both the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party (2 MSPs) both support independence and a greater say for the Scottish people in Scottish affairs.  Did I mention The First Lady of Scottish politics, Margo Macdonald?  A former member of the SNP, she now sits in our parliament as an Independent (but remains pro-independence and despite the assumption that an SNP majority would stifle debate, has still been able to wring concessions from the Scottish government).

Next time you’re watching the news then, ask yourself this: where are the other voices of the modern Scotland in Scotland’s debate?

The 2014 referendum is far from decided

That’s right.  You can still have your say on what happens to Scotland’s referendum on independence.  If you click this link, you will be taken to a page with links that contain information on the consultation document presented by the SNP to The Scottish Parliament and you can comment upon itAccording to STV, 5,000 people have commented on the document so far.

If you remember the reporting at the time, you will watched on the BBC as Labour MSPs screamed: ‘What’s the date?’ while waving the consultation document at The First Minister, Alex Salmond.  Funnily enough, there is a schedule of dates within the document that provides ample time for all parties – Unionist or otherwise – to hold consultations of their own.  Did I find out about this consultation from the BBC?

If you guessed, ‘no’, it’s because ‘Aunty’ has been a bit remiss in impartially reporting the story.  I found out about the consultation from a customer in the bookshop where I work part-time.  She used to be a Labour Party member but had just handed back her party card.  Why?  Well, she works in The Scottish Parliament and it transpires that since the 2007 Holyrood elections, Labour MSPs have refused – along with their LibDem and Tory colleagues – to attend any meetings on Scottish constitutional affairs.  This is odd because last I checked, The Scottish Parliament must still co-ordinate its business with the UK Parliament in London.

It was from this same customer that I also learned something else – and well before I saw it posted on pro-independence websites.  The STUC – the Scottish Trades Union Congress – not only backs the SNP’s aims for the referendum but goes further: why not ask three questions on the ballot paper?  Does it not seem odd to anyone at Labour Party headquarters in London that the unions are backing the nationalist position in Scotland contrary to what Labour Party leaders north and south of the border are saying?

Questions, questions… have your say before The Scottish Parliament further debates the referendum in 2013.

How the available numbers work in favour of Scottish independence

[First published as ‘Why independence for Scotland is almost certain’ on my other blog]

It’s the nationalist’s referendum to lose. Senior Conservatives know this and as they know that Labour will be hobbled by the loss of 50 MPs voting in a parliament for which they have been given no mandate to vote on English/Welsh affairs, it’s plain to see why David Cameron has appointed a Thatcherite to advise him on Scotland (Andrew Dunlop previously advised Thatcher on deploying the poll tax a year earlier in Scotland than in England).

Simply put, the mechanics of voting will come down to the peculiar borderland that lies between the scientific rigour of the statistics used so far and the emotional nature of belief.

Assuming that the polls presented through the mainstream news media (MNM) are not only honest outcomes but devoid of question bias, there appears to be consistent levels of support for independence at around 38%. Given that many who speak in favour of independence for Scotland face being called ‘racist’ and ‘scum’ to their faces or behind their backs by work colleagues**, neighbours and some family members and yet continue to adhere to the ideal of democratic liberty, it’s a fair bet that on the day of the referendum ALL of these people will turn out to vote.

Now let’s do the sums for the other side of the argument. If, for the sake of simplicity, we generously assume that no-one else among the currently undecided will be persuaded of the arguments in favour of independence in the next couple of years and that there are no voters claiming to be in favour of the status quo in return for a quiet life while yet hoping for independence, we are left with potentially 62% of the electorate voting in favour of no change at all.

A majority? Well, no.

To get that 62% to turn out to vote, the Unionists have to pitch a strong, positive case. We know from the outcome of the 2011 Holyrood elections that it is positive politics that most motivates people to go out and vote, regardless of the weather or the TV schedules. Unionist politicians have yet to make a cohesive case, sometimes even within their own parties (Johann and Ed, Ruth and David, we’re looking at you).

If, rather than contesting that 16/17 year olds should be allowed to take part in a referendum in a country where we reach the age of legal majority two years earlier than in England, if rather than contesting whether there should be one question or two on the ballot paper, if there had been no arguing over the date despite a clear manifesto commitment from the SNP to hold the referendum in the latter half of the parliamentary cycle, the Unionists had instead insisted on an amendment that sought compulsory voting for the entire electorate, the weight of numbers may have worked in their favour. They did not. Oops.

Mandatory or compulsory voting is applied in democratic nations across the world. It works. No-one can claim that they didn’t get a chance to have their say in Australia or Brazil, Ecuador or Luxembourg.

This is where things get to what Sir Alex Ferguson calls ‘squeaky bum time‘ for Unionists. The last referendum to be conducted in Scotland produced a turn-out of 50.7% (according to The Electoral Commission) and this was to decide whether the alternative vote should be used in Westminster elections, arguably an issue of as much importance to Scots who are Unionist but don’t vote Labour as the forthcoming independence referendum. Just over half. People knew what was stake – democracy itself because let’s face it, the current system only helps The Big Two – and yet nearly half the electorate did not turn out.

While there is no doubt that more voters are likely to turn out for the independence referendum, 38% represents a significant majority out of that 50.7% of voter turn-out (around 75% in favour). With 2,500 people joining the SNP in the first months of 2012, it is likely that the 38% of Scottish voters in favour of independence will grow in number.

We should be in no doubt that the closer we get to the day of the referendum, the more shrill will become the doom-laden myths, particularly in ‘trusted’ news sources like the BBC, leaving Scots with no room at all for complacency. However, there is light among the gloom of the MNM’s obsession with talking down our country and that is this number: to get back to parity with pro-independence voters, the Unionist parties are going to have to persuade 38% of voters to actually go out and vote ‘no’. Twice.

This will be no easy task for the Unionists. As we have already seen, the STUC has already backed the SNP’s stance on how the referendum should be formulated and presented to voters. Party affiliation can therefore be no guarantee of voter loyalty among the Unionist parties and it’s not one question for which they have to present a strong positive case but two. For the Unionists to win on both counts, they are effectively going to have to persuade nearly 30% more of the Scottish electorate to get off its arse and down to the polling stations (assuming the nationalist’s retain their 38% share of the vote).

With these figures, a committed 38% in support of independence need do just two things to be free: first, remember to check on the months leading up to the referendum that they have not magically ‘disappeared’ from the electoral role and second, actually turn up at their polling station on the anointed day.

(** Yup. Real nice walking in on someone describing you in these terms – despite my English accent and English grandparents – and just for the record, I’m not a member of the SNP as I reserve the right to change my mind. After all, I was a pro-devolution unionist before I worked in England but that’s another story).

Where are the book reviews?

In short, I will continue to post them here and on my other blog.

The reason for resurrecting a blog that had previously served as everything bookselling related (that I was personally interested in) is so that friends with links from other blogs can still point toward the book content.  Also, as my friends in England still look at this blog, I thought it would be a great place to answer those questions that folk outside Scotland may have about the independence referendum.  As is obvious to anyone who’s slightly informed about the debate, the BBC – the public broadcaster – is doing a very poor job of informing people in Scotland about developments.

While working in England, I was prompted by questions from work colleagues to research more about my own country.  The more I read, the more I despaired.  Why did I not know these things before?  On returning to Scotland – to be married, to come home, to take part – I’ve discovered that it’s not just me that knows so little about the true picture of Scotland.  Last week, I walked in on a colleague calling me ‘racist scum’ behind my back.  Embarrassed silence ensued.  Apparently, the desire for fully representative democracy is now ‘racist’, at least according to a Scot who has never lived outside Scotland.  For the record, two of my grandparents were English.  Not one but two ancestors were present at The Relief of Lucknow.  Also, Labour is not the only party to have an MSP from a non-white ethnic minority in The Scottish Parliament at HolyroodHumza Yousaf represents the SNP for Glasgow.

The idea that supporting Scottish independence is in any way racist will be the very first myth I’m going to lay to rest.

On this blog, I will not only continue to blog about Scotland but will continue to blog about books, my other passion.  I will also reblog items by others as I find things of interest.