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).

John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In

As a bookseller, I live for those moments when I discover a 9.5 out of 10 book.  I can count those books on the fingers of one hand.

To score 8 out of 10 in my own ranking, is to have created not only a believable narrative voice and/ or great lead character but to have furbished the narrative with a fantastic medley of minor characters who serve more function than simply propelling plot points.   Some authors would have us believe that plot is of no importance.  I have no scores for these authors because I never finish their rambling miasma of pretension.  Narrative is also important: as a reader I like to be able to see what an author imagined.

In short, an 8 out of 10 is a great book.

To put the scores in context, the last 9 out of 10 was China Mieville’s ‘The City and The City’ (and before that, the nearest scoring book was an 8.5: Chris Wooding’s ‘Retribution Falls’, marked down because I felt some back-story was a little over-explained and to be fair to Chris, this may have been the editor’s fault).
Now, I know this review for ‘Let the Right One In‘ appears quite a while after publication but what John Ajvide Lindqvist – and Ebba Segerberg, the translator of the English-language version – have achieved is nothing short of astonishing (and a question for Quercus, the UK publisher, why didn’t you guys use the Swedish book jacket design above?).

I didn’t watch either the original English-language or Hollywood remake films.  Having enjoyed the book so much, I will probably make an active effort to avoid them.  I also – thanks to the hype – didn’t read the book when it was first published in English, simply because I do not like having other people’s impressions affecting my interpretation and enjoyment of the story.

It’s fair to say that I am very particular about how a book should work.  It is not unusual for me to stop reading part-way through.  It may be that in a single moment, a character stops being believable or that knowing a particular area described by an author, I realise that they’ve simply looked at the place on a map or used a Lonely Planet guide to get local information.  The dialogue may have been poorly-edited or just been plain clunky.  The prose may be too rigidly precise.  It may not be at all functional.  The rhythm of the words in a sentence may jar and not suit a locale or character or the events portrayed, for example, long sentences during moments of action, short sentences in moments of contemplation.  Whatever.  If you wouldn’t be happy paying for a dentist to drill the wrong tooth, why pay for those ‘ouch‘ moments in a book?  Recycle it*.  The paper would be better deployed as a cardboard box.

To all appearances, Lindqvist’s story is ‘merely’ the reimagining of the vampire story.  If like me, you think that a whole generation of teenage girls are missing out because they believe that vampires can be ‘good’, then you know that to successfully reinvent – or at least, refresh – a genre is no mean feat even against such poor witless competition.  No, what Lindqvist has done has gone beyond Poppy Z. Brite’s ‘Lost Souls‘, for my money, the last great vampire novel.  Anne Rice’s novels were OK but they are not ‘classics’ let alone reinterpretations of this mythic character and genre.

Lindqvist has been able to accomplish this by not writing a vampire novel.  With me?  What he has done is ally the challenges of growing-up, of feeling unaccepted and unloved by society with the very intrusiveness and codified behaviour of a society that identifies and tries to normalise anything out of the norm, in this case, a vampire that looks like a twelve-year-old girl.

When we first meet Oskar, the narrator of ‘Let The Right One In’,, he is being treated so appallingly that we wonder what the adults must be thinking to notice his suffering.  He is so terrified of the abuse he endures daily that he has a sponge – a p*ssball – tucked into his pants so used has he become to the consequences of his terror.

In contrast with this, the horrific narrative of a serial killer on the hunt opens the novel.  It is an odd thing as a reader to discover that opposed in this way, we experience the terror of bullying as being just as great as the fear of imminent death.  There is not a single book I can think of that so thoroughly occupies the mind of a terrified teenager than this book.  The fear that Oskar experiences is in some parts of the book so all-consuming that I would be surprised if I was the only reader who had to put the book down and physically, look away.

In contrast, Oskar shows little fear of the vampire, Eli.  He intuits what his young friend may be quite early in the narrative and only once is given cause to fear his friend.  Strange that it is the vampire who understands Oskars childhood fears.  Stranger still that this malignant force of nature – and we are never allowed to forget that vampires are vicious killers  – is the one person who can show Oskar how to be strong.

I simply cannot say any more about the book without giving away vital plot-points or beautiful points of character development that must surely leave any aspiring author gaping in astonishment.  Lindqvist keeps the beating heart of the narrative going right up to the last page and crucially, without setting up the reader, leaves them not only wanting more but feeling satisfied.  Time spent reading this novel is time well-spent.  Not a word is wasted.  Not a drop.

* This is where physical books can trump an ebook every time: if the book is rubbish, you can throw it.  If the author’s work is particularly odious, you can rip it up.  Would you be able to enjoy the same release of pent-up argh with your Kindle/ ereader?

What’s the fuss about independence for Scotland anyway?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

I maybe got a little ahead of myself. There is no easy explanation for folk living in England (and I have tried with friends when I lived there). I’ve tried to make the pithy soundbite but as with everything worth working toward, the answers are a little more complex than that.

First, and at its simplest, the United Kingdom is just that: a unification of different kingdoms. (Notice I didn’t say two different kingdoms? Scotland is itself formed from several kingdoms which is why we have never had a ‘Queen of Scotland’ but instead a ‘Queen of Scots’).

What I’m saying is that England and Scotland (and Northern Ireland and Wales) are countries: not regions.  When I worked in England, it was strange to be talking to people who didn’t know this, who were further surprised to learn that the Scots have their own legal system, their own education and healthcare )among other things).

This feeds into the second point, namely the way that some folk use ‘English’ and ‘British’ interchangeably.  The English get their name from a tribe who came to England from what is now part of Holland.  The British, however, get their name from the islands where they live which are in turn named for the Celtic peoples who were living here when the Romans first rocked up. You can be Welsh-British, British-Welsh or just plain Welsh. The choice is yours. You can extend the Britishness further to include ethnic identity: Black-British, Asian-British and so on. These are just labels. British is a label. Made in Britain.

The label of British is always backed-up by another identity. The identity is what lends credibility to our being labelled British. This has a lot to do with Empire. Britain has always been ‘heterogeneous’. We don’t tell people that they can’t be English but must be British. Indeed, for many, the terms are interchangeable in a way that they are not in Scotland. Telling people what they are (and are not) is simply not the way we do things here. To deny a person’s identity is to do deny the unique place that our Empire has played in forming the nations that we are today and that’s the key: we are nations. Plural.

I remember as a child being made to stand for ‘the British national anthem’. I was a cub scout. Given what little I knew at the time, it felt like a betrayal. The music played was the same as for the English national anthem. ‘Flower of Scotland‘ was my anthem. I continued to stand because even as an 8 year-old boy, I knew that it would be disrespectful to my English friends to sit down, after all, you respect another nation’s song at a sports event, don’t you? Well, no.  When you’re Scottish and you hear the English anthem being played as ‘British’ and you’re in the company of fellow Scots, you shout, you boo, you sit down with arms crossed. It’s simply what we do because no-one has ever explained to us why it is that the British anthem is the same as the anthem that historically contained the lines:

“May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.”

Frankly, I think ‘God Save the King/ Queen‘ is a crashing bore anyway and almost as inspiring as a wet Sunday on an abandoned industrial estate. ‘Jerusalem‘ would make a better anthem for the English anthem: not only does Parry’s music make it a top tune if you enjoy singing but a good choir can really bring out passion, self-belief, inspiring imagery and not a feint whiff of superiority. Perfect then for an anthem.

Talk of anthems – and identity – is important.  If the British government was in Edinburgh, the Queen spoke with a Hamilton accent and the government in Scotland passed down laws that you felt were unfair, especially as the majority of people in England (or Wales or Northern Ireland) had not voted for the ruling party, wouldn’t you feel, you know, just a little bit p*ssed off? Wouldn’t it make your blood boil if rather than the anthem ‘Jerusalem’, you were made to stand to attention to a version of Scotland’s anthem that you knew had contained words similar to those above?

This is to get a little away from the core motivation for those people in Scotland who support independence (which is not the same thing as being a supporter of the SNP).  At it’s core, the drive for independence is about the demand for political change.

I’ve lived in England. I’ve worked, paid taxes and voted in England. I know that sensible people in England are embarrassed by the right-wing: the BNP, the English Defence League or UKIP. While across the UK, voters wonder what the LibDems stand for, in England, your left wing parties comprise the Greens, the Socialist Workers and The Labour Party.

In Scotland, The Labour Party is a party of the right.

Surprised? Well, outside of the chattering classes in London that form the Labour Party’s policy makers, voters in Scotland regard Labour with great suspicion thanks to the policies it pursued while in government in England. While in power at Westminster, it began the prcoess of renew the nuclear weapons based in Scotland, it began the privatisation of health care and schools (in England and Wales), it introduced tuition fees for students and did nothing to address the scandal of unelected parliamentary agents controlling policy. Let’s not mention the illegal wars in support of a right-wing government in the US (oops, my bad). In one crass act of recklessness, it voted to allow the merging of retail and investment banks and stripped away the regulatory measures that the previous Conservative government had actually strengthened.

Perhaps because the weather in Scotland has historically been so foul, we are very community-minded. This is how you survive when even your nation’s weather colludes with the landscape to try and kill you. This has made us very much like the Scandinavians: we are by nature, social democrats. Our left wing parties are the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish National Party. Notice how they all have Scottish in their name? It’s because these parties are based in Scotland and are focused on Scottish issues. All three parties are staunchly pro-independence.

In short, Unionism is an alien ideal or as Unionists in the most staunchly pro-independence part of Scotland discover very quickly, an English ideal.  Unionism is a way of keeping in check any Celtic aspirations that may bloom on the mainland of the British Isles and maintaining the illusion for Englihs voters that England subsidises Scotland.  It’s actually the other way around: think about it.  During times of such severe austerity that the government is withdrawing state support for schools, hospitals and other socially beneficial projects why would any government pass-up the opportunity to dispose of such a huge liability as the Scots are supposed to be on the UK Treasury?  Why instead do the Tories protest so loudly about the break-up of the Union?

This is why to declare yourself a Conservative in Scotland is to face the same social stigma that is reserved for Nick Griffin in England. As with the English, our eccentrics tend to come from the higher social classes and those with a bit of land to spare.  Most folk in Scotland don’t.  Look at where the support for independence is at its strongest: traditionally areas of unchallenged support for the Labour Party.

Working people in Scotland care. When we hear Ed Milliband speak of how he cares about the poor in Liverpool as much as the poor in Glasgow, we hear a graduate of Oxford telling us that there will be more charity coming our way from his wealthy friends in London. (We don’t want charity, Ed, we want what your party classified as ‘Top Secret’ in 1974). We ask ourselves what trade he’s worked in and there’s the rub: The Labour Party has become indistinguishable from the Conservatives in being led by a middle-class elite who have never experienced graft in their lives.

This is unfair on those Labour politicians who still work hard on behalf of the most underprivileged in both England and Scotland but while the BBC and others continue to broadcast English politics with the same importance – sometimes more – than our own, the perception that a remote London-based elite, out of touch with what we want as voters, is still firmly in control of Labour Party policy, we will continue to study the front bench of the Shadow Cabinet. In comparison with the second-tier of leadership here in Scotland, supposedly independent of party headquarters in London, Labour is left wanting because the dog is still wagging the tail.

And so the belief that Labour has betrayed the working people of Scotland and swung to the right persists. Kinnock was believable; Prescott would have been a shoe-in for working man as leader of the worker’s party but after John Smith, a poison entered what had been our political party. As a child, I can still remember Michael Foot taking part in CND marches. It seemed right. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown whipping on the replacement of Trident – and the submarines – with the collusion of Conservatives at a base not twenty miles from Glasgow city centre is wrong in so many ways.

When Glasgow City Council (and North Lanarkshire) comes under the full control of the SNP after the local elections in May, some in The Labour Party will wonder how this came to pass. The deep questions will never be answered. In producing answers to the questions, changes in policy would have to follow.  What voeters in Scotland currently see – and have tired of seeing – is the Labour Party opposition challenging the Scottish government over every policy introduced simply because Scotland’s largest social democratic party composed the bill. Johann Lamont may ostensibly be party leader in Scotland but we are not fooled and we know she is not the de facto leader which is perhaps why she should spend more time studying the boss who seems to pick his fights a little more carefully.

In Scotland, we still own our water company. Households in England pay 20% more for their water and the leakages have still not been fixed.

In Scotland, the NHS remains our NHS and fully under state control (and to be fair, The Labour Party in Scotland is also committed to keeping it this way).

In Scotland, students do not pay fees to further their education and help advance their place – and by extension – Scotland’s place in the world.  (The UK Treasury spend on Scotland’s universities was cut to try and strong-arm the Scottish government into charging fees.  That failed.  The Scottish government has simply taken the money from elsewhere but for those in England wondering why they have to pay to attend our universities when Scots students don’t, it’s because your English government made a decision to charge fees: why should Scottish taxpayers subsidise your education when English taxpayers are happy to see student’s families charged for the right to education?  If you want this changed, change your government…)

In Scotland, a failure to continue investing in renewable energy when we have nearly a quarter of Europe’s entire renewable energy potential around our shores would be a crime. In England (and let’s be honest, parts of Edinburgh), it is not uncommon to hear people dismiss these technologies as being for ‘hippies’ because climate change is a myth. Look at George Osborne’s dismissive disregard for what even technology analysts are calling ‘the future of energy security’. England is in a hurry to not only build new nuclear facilities but gas-powered stations too. Frankly, I wouldn’t be betting the ‘energy security’ cards on supply from Putin’s Russia.

Independence is a political debate about a political issue. What we are looking to break-up is not a historical partnership between two countries but the political union. There is no discussion (yet) on whether to keep the Queen as our Head of State. She is. What we are seeking instead is a clarification of principles through the democratic process and this can only be of benefit to people in England too.

Currently, English and Welsh MPs are barred from voting on issues that affect only Scotland.  However, despite SNP MPs refusing to vote on matters that affect only England, Wales and Norther Ireland, Scottish Labour MPs continue to wield their vote. If English voters are wondering why they do this when there is no direct mandate for them to do so then perhaps you ought to ask them, after all, England does not have a democratic assembly similar to the Scottish Parliament.

Independence would forever fix this insulting behaviour. Acting on conscience is about respect. Nationalism on Scotland is about just that: respect. The Act of Union (Scotland) of 1707 (England put their Act of Union into place in 1706) was not a popular measure. The people of Edinburgh tried to stop the signed bill leaving the city and it had to be escorted out of the country under armed guard. For over three hundred years, we’ve been chasing that damned scrap of paper, chasing so long that many Scots came to believe that we had not the means to make it as a nation on our own.

The people of Iceland have managed since independence and they not only have no oil, they have a population of less than a half-million. We are five million, more when counting our diaspora – and they are many – and we have many advantages to other smaller nations not the least of which is that we all speak English, the lingua franca of international commerce, science and politics.

I don’t fear independence. I fear stagnation. I fear having the tanks of the political right in England roll up on our lawns and tell us that we must be rid of those things which we still hold dear. The Acts of Union preserved our own legal system (courts, judges and laws), preserved too our own education system and now we have increasing control over healthcare, taxes, environmental issues, energy, land management, we are getting used to standing on our own feet.

This leads to one last big difference between nationalists and unionists: the constitution. England – and the UK – remains an elective dictatorship while it has no written constitution. Scotland will have a written constitution as soon as we vote in favour of independence. The original 2002 draft of the constitution can be read here if you’re in any doubt as to what independence would mean. At around 6,000 words, it’s less than most European countries but remains sufficiently thorough that no-one should be in any doubt that everything will still be functioning as normal on the morning of Monday 20th October 2014.

With independence, we are looking only for full control of our own finances, defence, natural resources and international affairs. We have come so far under devolution and only need to take a few more steps. We have achieved so much when devolution was supposed to stop the drive for independence stone dead and unlike other countries, that freedom will has been earned without a shot being fired, without a single bomb being detonated. Can you think of another nation that can say the same?

Better than this: independence for Scotland means independene for England too.  It means that people in England will be in a position to demand change too.  Why are there four unelected parliamentary agents in The Houses of Parliament deciding on what your MPs can and cannot debate, let alone vote on?  Why are people still doffing their caps to a privileged class of people who were simply born to their position?  Why do people in England remain ignorant of that malignant festering sore known as The City of London Corporation?

Where polling has been conducted, the majority of English voters would give Scotland independence so let me leave you with this thought: why does a Conservative government in London with just one MP in Scotland not insist on a UK-wide poll rather attempt to interfere in a Scottish referendum voted for by Scottish voters in which they have no mandate?

What is to be done about the Unionist bias in public broadcast services?

By which, I mean the BBC.

When Jabba the Huh? asked Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about how Scotland would have handled the bail-out of the banks during the economic crisis of 2007, you’d have been forgiven for expecting an answer that contained financial detail and a comparison with how other small nations actually had to deal with exactly that problem.

Unfortunately, Brian Taylor/ his editors/ BBC policy in general, determined that the headline to the interview – which lasts half-an-hour and which most people will not have time to watch in full – is posted on the BBC website should read: Sturgeon says an independent Scotland would have relied on UK for RBS bailout.

This is not what was said. At all.  Rather, the headline should have read: An independent Scotland would have worked with rUK on RBS bailout.

To paraphrase, the explanation given by Nicola Sturgeon included the real example of the Fortis Bank. It needed taxpayer bailout. It operates out of three countries: Belgium, Lumenbourg and the Netherlands. Politicians from the three countries met, agreed what would be a fair ratio for each to contribute and did so. Easy.

Here’s another example. This time from the UK. It’s no secret that the US Federal Reserve paid out $600bn to help in the bail-out of both RBS and HBOS. If US taxpayers felt more than a little cheated that they wee paying out for banks with headquarters in the UK, we can understand why. We are not talking small sums of money here. These negotiations would not have been easy but everyone acted together. Why? Because these banks have operations across many nations such is the nature of international finance from which – if we are to believe the economists – we all benefit.

The crucial question perhaps would have been: How much would an independent Scotland have had to pay? Well, at the time of its failure, RBS had its headquarters in Scotland. That does not mean that Scotland alone would have been expected to cough up the entire sum as the funds from the US demonstrate. 90% of RBS’ UK operations are in England. This means that Scotland would have paid 10% and England 90% of the sums involved for the UK share of operations.

The international nature of finance explains why Alastair Darling had to not only arrange to spend your money on bailing out so-called UK banks but financial institutions like AEG too – based in New York. The choice available to politicians at the time was bail-out all banks or bail-out none. Rather than having taxpayers go to pay for their groceries and finding that there’s no money to pay in theri accounts, politicians not unreasonably decided to use our money to protect our money. How they went about doing that – and may be expected to that again in the future – is a different debate that has as much to do with our continuing delusion of living in a representative democracy as it does with economics.

The crucial point is that the BBC is a public broadcaster. When reporting news or, in this case, broadcasting an interview as part of a commitment to detailed analysis of the news, the least that can be expected is that the story and the headline accurately reflect what was said. It is not only pro-union voters who pay licence fees. It is not only pro-independence voters who object to perceived bias in the BBC’s coverage of Scottish politics. There is a responsibility to explain the issues clearly – if not also succinctly – that voters who are as yet undecided may obtain the facts.

If, as this article points out the BBC is not only going to post fake headlines but when complaints are made (a) fail to acknowledge a mistake has been made and (b) cover-up this ‘mistake’ by manually changing the time-stamp on the story which automatically records any further edits, then questions should be asked.

Fortunately, one of the negotiated elements contained in the current draft of The Scotland Bill, is that the Scottish government will be able to have input on broadcast appointments .ie. BBC Scotland will no longer be able to ram its staff to the gills with unionist Labour Party supporters and thereby control the bias on the editorial controls.

However, I don’t think this change is necessary. Scottish taxpayers contribute 8.3% of UK revenues. It’s safe to assume that they also contribute around that share in TV license fees. Why then is Scotland’s share of BBC spend at less than 3%? How about we stop paying the license fee? If enough of us in Scotland did that, the BBC would have to take notice and so would the other broadcasters? With such comprehensive and unbiased reporting as this item, it’s a fair bet that our licence fee money could be better spent. Can you imagine Cathy, Krish or Jon laying into Mark Thompson (or Brian Taylor himself) about public value in public broadcast? That’s an interview I would pay to watch.

One other thing: Royal Bank of Scotland is not a Scottish bank.  It was, at the time of the bail-out, a public company with an FTSE listing.  Following the taxpayer bail-out, it retains a public listing but is to all purposes, a public asset while the UK Treasury maintains 83% ownership.  On a related note, The Bank of England is not an English bank and though made independent of direct government control in 1997 by the then Labour government at Westminster, it remains a public asset.  As a public asset, Scots tax payers own 8.3% of the total.  Bank of the UK, anyone?

Why I will never vote Labour

I briefly thought of calling this post, ‘Why the Labour Party is losing support in Scotland’ but as there more reasons than those listed below, I won’t presume to write on behalf of other Scottish voters.

Scotland and her voters were looking east to the Scandinavian countries for inspiration long before it became fashionable in England.  Those nations were, historically at least, our main trading partners before union.  Norway is a model of what we would like to be: an oil-rich nation with a similar-sized population to our own in a land that can be as rugged and sparse as ours.  The Scandinavian countries are social democracies (and despite the election of a right-wing government in Sweden, the Swedes haven’t taken to casting the babies out of their hospital beds as the Tories are planning for England).

The Labour Party likes it’s leaders posh.  We’ve noticed this.  The first working-class leader of Labour to get the keys to Number 10 was also a Scot, Ramsay MacDonald.  He was subsequently betrayed by his own party because he formed a National government with the opposition in an attempt to deal with issues of poverty.  More recent Scottish leaders of The Labour Party, John Smith, Tony Bliar and The Broon, were middle-class.  Why is it that The Labour Party doesn’t trust working-class leaders?  Is it because we have an innate distrust of Big Business and The City of London?  Surely, these are prerequisite qualities in anyone seeking to represent the best interests of ordinary working people.

Johann Lamont, get back in your box (and will you please learn how to debate without whining? Click, channel changed) because for all its claims to now be able to decide affairs for itself, The Labour Party in Scotland still takes its orders from that hero of the workers, Ed Milliband.  What trade was he in before he got into politics?  Ah, yes.  He went to Oxford where he got a degree in PPE: Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  The middle-class elite in The Labour Party appear to be so distrusting of the workers that it takes a deal over a meal at The Ivy (have you ever eaten there, reader?) to block John Prescott (a man who was infamously too shouty for the unions and who encouraged him to go into politics) from winning the leadership contest.

Like a lot of working-class folk in Scotland, I worked hard to pull myself out of a council-house future on benefits and got myself into university, despite the distractions provided by the junki wasters subsidised by state benefits living on the Knockinlaw Estate where my family lived at the time.  Heck, I even rose to a management position while work ing in the south-east of England but am I middle-class?  Nuh.  Perhaps because I’ve never had the means to take the rest of my family out of the council estate where they live, I refuse to forget where I’m from.

When living in England, I voted for whichever candidate was most likely to usurp the Tory candidate in my constituency.  You know what the Tories stand for: business, money and the greedy grubbing in the gack for it.  It’s like spotting pigs on a farm, simply listen for the squeals.  Squeal.  Yup, Tory.

Labour, however, can’t rely on the support of big business for its funding but that doesn’t stop it trying.  Remember thinking it curious when Mandelson came out with that quote in 1998 about being comfortable with the filthy rich?  Me too.  People get filthy rich in only one way: by treating others in a filthy manner.

As much as I’m averse to voting Labour, I live in hope and so like anyone else who’s been given a shift of shovelling rotten food into damp cardboard boxes in their supermarket job, I cheered when Labour won a landslide in 1997.  There might even have been a tear.  Oh joy, oh rapture.  The pigs have been nudged from the trough however temporarily.

Remember how temporary those cheers were?

One of Gordon Brown’s first actions on being made Chancellor in 1997, was to make the Bank of England independent of government control (hurrah?) and to have the regulation of the markets overseen by a new independent body, the Financial Services Authority (eh?).  Further still, he tore down the divisions between investment and retail banking that had stood for decades even under Tory governments (WTF?) and in so doing, laid the future ruination of the world’s economies just ten years later…  Even my dad predicted that would happen and he was working on the Glasgow buses at the time.

Lest it be forgotten, the reform of the NHS was not initiated by Andrew Lansley and the Tories but Labour in 2005.  Remember Primary Care Trusts and ‘patient choice’?  They’re not scheduled to be abolished until 31 March 2013.

How about bringing corporate investment into English primary and secondary schools (because having that sort of investment worked so well in the US, didn’t it?).  Yup, that would be Labour bringing the Neoliberal philosophy of PFI into the local state asset you most trusted to help your child out of poverty and funnily enough, Ed Milliband’s old school, Haverstock Comprehensive School, got a £21m rebuild in 2006… PFI, let’s see what results emerge from the laboratory, sorry, LabourTory initiative.

Student fees?  Blaming the Liberal Democrats for voting with the Tories to ensure that students from poorer backgrounds will struggle to get into universities in England and Wales?  Not so fast sunshine.  It was in 1998 that Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced tuition fees with the Teaching and Higher Education Act.  The Labour Party did not fare any better in Scotland either, introducing a £2,000 charge on graduation for students in 2000 which was only abolished in 2008 by the SNP administration.

I was visiting friends in the Midlands when on my return through London, I saw how the ordinary men, women and children who had had the courage to protest against an imminent and illegal war in Iraq were being treated by the police.  Shepherded one at a time past police with cameras who took their names and addresses, I decided I had had enough.  The number of people protesting was no longer the issue for me – and it was clearly a lot – but the way in which these law-abiding people were being treated was simply appalling.  Any notions that The Labour Party had respect for democracy were crushed but then hey, as a kid I’d seen how The Labour Party campaigned in Amber Valley.

Last but not least, nuclear power.  Remember in the good ol’ days when Labour leaders like Michael Foot marched with CND campaigners against nuclear proliferation?  Heck, even Ed’s mum, Marion Kozak was an early CND member.  Which idjit in the Labour government decided that not only should nuclear submarines remain based in Scotland within 20 miles of Glasgow city centre but that these weapons should be replaced at great expense to the tax-payer without public consultation in 2007?  Initial estimates of the bill are £3bn (and we know how the final bill on government contracts always matches the original estimates, don’t we?).  The last date to call a halt to this nonsense is 2016 – after the next UK general election and assuming that we haven’t voted for independence.

Just in case you have trouble visualising just how close nuclear weapons are parked to the most loyal outpost of Labour Party voters in Scotland, then have a look at this:

Image copyright Google Maps