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Referendum U-turn for charities

Referendum U-turn for charities | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |
Watchdog gives green light to third sector to take part in independence debate

CHARITIES have been given the green light to campaign and take sides in the independence debate after their regulator backed down in a row over their involvement in the referendum.


Trustees have now received new advice that overturns previous draft guidance suggesting there were few circumstances in which charities could legitimately speak out on the issue of whether a Yes or No vote in September 2014 was desirable.


This had prompted criticism, by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), that debate was being stifled.


Now the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) says groups north of the Border can voice an opinion on Scotland’s future in the UK as long as they do not breach charity law. It also warns charities risk damaging their reputations if they overstep the rules.


Martin Sime, SCVO’s chief executive, said: “It is important third-sector organisations are able to get fully involved in the debate and this guidance from OSCR will help them to think about the issues, while adhering to the law.”


The volte-face follows criticism of the regulator’s draft guidance, which was published in May. Charity leaders branded it vague and confusing, and said it risked stifling crucial debates.


The SCVO said charities were able to judge risk for themselves and should be at the heart of the constitutional debate.


OSCR says its new advice was revised in response to feedback, but that it still made clear the issues charities should consider and the laws they must heed.


Campaigning activity, including offering a view on the poll’s outcome, must be in pursuit of a charity’s core purposes and must not be prohibited by its constitution, the guidance says.


OSCR chief executive David Robb said the new guidance reinforced the regulator’s position on general political campaigning but also considered the referendum specifically. He said: “For many charities, advocacy and campaigning is core business, and the referendum raises key questions on which charities will want a say.


“Our guidance aims to help charity trustees take part in the debate within the framework of charity law. On whether charities can advocate a Yes or No vote, our view is they may do so in pursuit of their charitable purposes.”


The Scottish Refugee Council’s chief executive, John Wilkes, said: “It is vital charities, often standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, are heard in the referendum debate.”


Jane-Claire Judson, national director at Diabetes UK, said: “The risk with an issue like the referendum is it is highly politicised and organisations may be nervous having these discussions. But another risk is not addressing it.”


Both Yes Scotland and Better Together welcomed the revised guidance, saying it was vital charities were heard in the referendum debate. NEW, better guidance from the regulator of Scotland’s charities about whether and how they can campaign in the independence referendum is greatly to be welcomed.


The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) sowed confusion and some anger in May by publishing opaque and largely risk-averse advice in draft format.


It has had a rethink and the results have been greeted with relief by representatives of Scotland’s charities.


Many of them have been wrestling with how best to reconcile their campaigning objectives with charity law which limits their ability to engage in political campaigning, as indeed have charities currently operating UK-wide.


In the context of the independence referendum, the rule that a voluntary organisation should not back political parties is clearly unhelpful. Is Better Together a party? Is supporting Yes Scotland equivalent to supporting the SNP? Clearly not, and one does not have to be highly imaginative to see that the referendum result will have a critical bearing on the work of charities, in a host of areas such as health, vulnerable children, the environment or the elderly.


The regulator says charities must still be sure that taking a stance will advance their own charitable goals.


But it adds that some charities may consider that one or other outcome of the referendum is likely to directly affect their ability to work towards those charitable purposes, either positively or negatively. If so, it says, they can come out for one side or other and indeed actively campaign for a particular outcome.


It is certainly possible to envisage one or more of the many major UK-wide charities, currently working on both sides of the Border, reaching the conclusion that they are better off with Better Together.

Similarly, although it has not taken sides, it is possible that an organisation such as the Scottish Refugee Council might decide an independent Scotland with its own immigration and asylum rules could be an appealing prospect.


This raises serious questions though. Who decides on a charity’s final position? Its chief executive or directors? The chairman or woman of a board of trustees? The membership? OSCR seems to suggest trustees should decide.


Scottish Environment Link is one charity that has appealed to both campaigns to explain how their desired outcome would be best for the environment. Parliamentary Officer Andy Myles says he would like to be able to advise members on how best to vote, if they want to prioritise issues such as conservation and biodiversity. He claims neither camp has yet replied. But this is exactly why this paper has called for a more sensible approach to charity involvement in the debate.


The narrow, politicised parameters of the debate so far have left whole swathes of the population of Scotland non-plussed and many avowing lack of interest.


If charities can help get answers from the key players, they can engage new voices in the discussion about Scotland’s future.


Many voters are looking for reasons still to help them choose, or to justify the direction in which they are leaning. The political campaigns have failed to reach them. It is time for charities to find their voice.

Gordon Smith's comment, July 29, 2013 4:05 AM
Very interesting, will we see a partisan division on the Charities - SNH Vs Shelter for example.
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Scotland trailing as London and south enjoy £10bn Olympic boom

Scotland trailing as London and south enjoy £10bn Olympic boom | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

LAST year’s London Olympics gave the UK economy a £10 billion boost and created thousands of jobs, exceeding the government’s hopes, according to a new study.


The report by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government department which promotes UK businesses, put contracts, sales and foreign investment in the last year down to the Games.

However, the claims were met with scepticism by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and CBI Scotland – and the Scottish Government pointed out that the bulk of the economic benefit was felt in London.

Scotland hosted only football matches during the Olympics. In addition, the Games also saw London receive extra lottery cash at the expense of other parts of the UK.


The UKTI report said strong progress had been made against all the commitments made by organisers, including an increase S c o t S m a n c o m m e n t It seems certain that Scotland, when the downward blip in summer tourist visitors in 2012 is added in, made a loss out of the Games. the contracts we were expecting, really didn’t materialise as much as I suspect many people were hoping for.”


SNP sports and culture spokesman at Westminster Pete Wishart said: “The Olympics were supposed to bring opportunities for businesses all over the UK, but unfortunately it seems that firms in Scotland and other parts of the UK were an afterthought when lucrative contracts were awarded.”


Director of CBI Scotland Iain McMillan said: “It is true that it was a London event and most of the effects were felt in London, but there was some ripple effect.


“Certainly, none of our members complained about lack of opportunities to bid for contracts for the games.”


UKTI said the £9.9bn of economic benefit included £5.9bn of additional sales from Olympic- related activity such as business events held in Britain during the Games.


Meanwhile, Sir Keith Mills, deputy chairman of London 2012, was made knight grand cross of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen yesterday.

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Murray: I will declare my hand on independence

Murray: I will declare my hand on independence | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

The newly crowned Wimbledon champion yesterday said he would canvass opinion and could declare his stance ahead of the vote in September next year.


The 26-year-old Scot was speaking in the wake of his greatest triumph when he defeated Novak Djokovic, the world No.1, in straight sets on Centre Court.


"When the time is right I will probably say something about it," said Murray yesterday.


He added: "I'm going to get asked about it all the time. I will think about it, speak to some people and try to see what is best for the country."

Murray, if he declares his stance, would become the latest famous Scot to come out for or against on the issue.


Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already donated to the Better Together anti-independence campaign.


Hollywood actor Alan Cumming has always been a high-profile supporter of the Yes Scotland organisation, along with the actor Martin Compston.

Sean Connery is undoubtedly the SNP's best-known celebrity supporter, while Hollywood actor Brian Cox is another backer of independence.

Ewan McGregor, Billy Connolly, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and singer Sharleen Spiteri, of the band Texas, support the No campaign.


However, Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy faced online abuse earlier this year after saying that independence would weaken the British team and, with a lack of adequate facilities north of the Border, would create a challenge for Scotland's new national athletes.


Murray was also questioned on what his response would be to any offer of a knighthood to celebrate winning Olympic gold, the US Open and breaking a run of British failure in the men's singles that stretches back 77 years to the victory of Fred Perry.


"I don't really know. It is a nice thing to have or be offered. Just because everybody's waited such a long time for this, that's probably why it'll be suggested. I don't know if it merits that," he said.


Murray's return to Dunblane, his home town, is almost certain to be delayed beyond the summer.


"I do want to go back," said Murray, who was greeted by 15,000 people when he returned to the town in September after his victories at London 2012 and the US Open.


He said: "I'm not sure exactly when that will happen. I haven't had that much time to think or co-ordinate things.


"I want to go away on holiday and try to get some rest, because the last few weeks have been tough, pretty stressful for me.

"I will try and get a bit of time on holiday then I need to get back into training for the US stretch.


"But I would like to go back to Dunblane."

He also insisted that his growing celebrity would not sidetrack him from tennis.


"I don't really have any distractions," he said. "I'm not like addicted to going out or drinking or smoking. I don't do any of that sort of stuff. I enjoy being around my friends, I enjoy training. I enjoy being over in Miami.

"You see it a lot in other sports because with fame there comes a lot of distractions. But it comes down to the people you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with the right people you won't get yourself in those situations."


The world No.2 also revealed part of the pep talk given to him by Sir Alex during the tournament.


Murray said: "One of the things he said to me was just that one of the things he built his teams on was consistency and concentration. If you can concentrate throughout an entire match you'll gain that consistency.


"That was something I tried to do throughout the tournament. It is something I try to do but it kind of emphasises the point a bit more when someone like him says it to you."

Scotsfox's comment, July 9, 2013 1:06 PM
Great Tennis player but his opinion is of no interest to me whatsoever.
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Whilst Unionists are bleating on about Scotland and Europe they are busy preparing to leave it via London!

Whilst Unionists are bleating on about Scotland and Europe they are busy preparing to leave it via London! | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

BRITAIN came a step closer to getting a referendum on quitting Europe yesterday after legislation to allow the historic move was launched in Parliament.


Conservative MP James Wharton presented his European Union ( Referendum) Bill in the Commons to loud Tory cheers.

If the Bill becomes law it will be a major milestone for the Daily Express crusade to free Britain from the EU.


Having received its formal First Reading without debate, all eyes are now on July 5, when the Bill returns to the Commons for a crucial Second Reading.


Labour leader Ed Miliband is urging his MPs to stay away. Some will defy him and vote for the Bill to go on to its next stage of scrutiny. But Labour also believes the Lib Dems could kill it off.


It is a Private Members Bill – which traditionally fail due to lack of time and ministerial support. But this one has more chance than usual because it was originally drafted by Downing Street and has the Prime Minister’s backing.


If passed, the Bill would write into law the Prime Minister’s promise to hold an in- out vote by the end of 2017.


At Question Time in the Commons yesterday David Cameron declared: “I would urge all colleagues to come to the House on 5 July and vote for this Bill.”


Mr Cameron later said that quitting the EU would stop Britain having to “compromise” and would let us set up free trade deals. During his Commons report on the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, he said: “Of course, if Britain wanted to leave the EU we could.


“Then we could make trade deals with every country in the world and that is a path open to us.


“The argument I would make is that as part of the EU, the world’s largest single market, you have the opportunity to drive some quite good deals.

“Clearly, you sometimes have to make compromises with partners in the EU, with whom you might not agree.


“But on balance, I would argue membership of the Single Market brings its benefits. The negotiating heft you have has its benefits as well. We are going to be able to debate this in the run- up to the referendum before the end of 2017.”


He also told MPs that an EU- US trade deal discussed at the G8 would be diffi - cult to achieve – but could mean “millions of jobs right across Europe and great benefits for us here in the UK”.


After presenting his Bill, Mr Wharton said: “I believe the people are behind what we’re doing. I hope MPs from all parties will support the Bill. If they don’t, their constituents will not forget.”


David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague were among the first to sign up on the internet as cosponsors of the Bill. And, for the first time, the public can also sign up as cosponsors, through or, for those on Facebook,

VER the past few months David Cameron has moved a very long way politically on the subject of a referendum on European Union membership.

It may have taken immense pressure from this newspaper and other anti- EU campaigners to persuade him to offer a referendum. But at least he has offered one. And the EU Referendum Bill of Conservative backbencher James Wharton is a big step forward in building confidence that this time the promise to the British people will be honoured and that they will finally get their say on the EU.


Mr Wharton’s measure deserves to be backed by all democrats, whether they favour breaking free from the suffocating embrace of Brussels or remaining trapped within it.


It is therefore unimpressive and frankly bizarre that Labour leader Ed Miliband is withholding his support from the measure, instructing his MPs to abstain when it is first voted on in the Commons. Miliband intends to use parliamentary procedures to kill off Mr Wharton’s legislation without openly opposing it. This is a deeply dishonest approach. Labour was once known as “the people’s party” yet has become the party that will not trust the people.


If its leader thinks he cannot make a strong enough case for continued EU membership to convince the electorate then it is a sign that he knows the case is exceedingly weak.


Should he continue to stand between the British people and their right to determine who governs them he can expect to get very badly squashed.

N their increasingly desperate campaign against the Government’s cuts to the legal aid budget, lawyers keep telling us that Britain’s justice system is “the envy of the world”. But this is deluded. In truth our courts have precious little credibility because public faith has been so badly shattered by gross inconsistencies and institutional leniency in sentencing.


This lack of any moral purpose or coherence has been graphically illustrated in recent days by the contrast in the handling of two serious cases. In one a graffiti vandal called Kristian Holmes was given a jail sentence of three- and- ahalf years after he was convicted of causing £ 250,000 worth of criminal damage across the rail network over a period of seven years. In the other former television presenter Stuart Hall was handed a prison term of just 15 months, less than half of Holmes’s punishment, for an appalling catalogue of predatory sex crimes against children, one of whom was as young as nine.


The difference in these two sentences makes a complete mockery of justice. Holmes caused damage to property, Hall to vulnerable young lives. In any truly ethical system Hall’s monstrous reign of abuse would be treated with more severity than Holmes’s destructive, costly activities.

Jeff Duncan's insight:

Reported in today's Daily Express but not in Scotland!

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Benefits of the Union? More lower paid jobs - and more public sector jobs will be lost says respected UK economist

Benefits of the Union? More lower paid jobs - and more public sector jobs will be lost says respected UK economist | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

UK EMPLOYMENT will rise by more than 850,000 by 2018 but wages growth is likely to be sluggish, a report will say today.


Severe job losses in the public sector will be outstripped by employment created in the private sector as the economy attempts to emerge from the financial crisis.


An analysis of labour market trends carried out by accountancy firm PwC predicted that total public sector employment will fall by 877,000 across the UK by 2017-18.


That, however, will be offset by a rise of 1,740,000 in private sector jobs, giving an overall rise of 864,000 by 2018.


A similar trend was forecast for Scotland, with public sector employment falling by 85,000, which would be offset by a private sector rise of 146,000. In Scotland, the overall rise would be 61,000.


Although the employment growth rate in Scotland was predicted to be 2.5 per cent, it would not increase as dramatically as in London, the East of England and the East Midlands.


According to PwC, London employment growth would be 263,000 – a rate of 6 per cent.


The East of England would see a 101,000 increase in employment, the equivalent to a percentage change of 3.8.


The employment growth rate in the East Midlands was predicted to be 3.6 per cent (75,000).


Scotland, however, is expected to outperform other devolved nations, with Northern Ireland seeing a 9,000 increase in employment (a growth rate of 1.2 per cent) and Wales seeing growth of 12,000 (0.9 per cent).

Although the research predicted “solid” overall employment growth, it warned that real wage growth is likely to be more subdued than in previous economic recoveries.


The “Living with Austerity” report noted that many of the new private sector jobs may involve part-time or temporary work, while the public sector job losses are more likely to be better paid, full-time positions.

Coupled with the tight constraints on public pay, PwC said this would contribute to continued subdued growth in average real earnings growth over the next three to five years.


John Hawksworth, PwC’s chief economist, said: “The official data shows the young (16-24) have been worst hit so far on jobs, while the rise in employment for the over-50s has been a notable plus from the past three years.


“The latter bodes well for our ability to adjust to an ageing population, but it also points to the need for increased investment in measures to boost youth employment.


“Our analysis suggests this broad pattern will remain in place for five years, with solid total employment growth, and a slightly falling unemployment trend despite continued public spending cuts.

“However, real wage growth is likely to remain more subdued than in past economic recoveries.”

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Salmond: Yes campaign has not yet begun

Salmond: Yes campaign has not yet begun | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

ALEX SALMOND has insisted the referendum campaign has not yet begun and the Yes camp will make up ground to win next year’s vote.


The First Minister said the Scottish Government, which has come under pressure over plans to keep the pound and other key issues, was still “clearing the ground” before the campaign proper.


In an interview with the New Statesman, published today, he said: “This is the phony war. This is not the campaign. I went into an election in 2011 20 points behind in the polls and ended up 15 in front.


“The real game hasn’t even started. We are just clearing the ground.”

His comments follow a series of polls this year which have shown a sizeable lead for the pro-UK side in the referendum struggle.


Mr Salmond told the political magazine the bedroom tax and David Cameron’s decision to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union would sway voters in favour of independence. He admitted the SNP’s policy of “independence in Europe” had begun to damage the campaign after the eurozone crisis.


However, despite questions regarding the terms of an independent Scotland’s EU membership, he insisted the issue of Europe was now a “strong positive” for the Nationalists.


He said the pro-UK campaign’s lead was wiped out when Scots were asked how they would vote on independence if Britain appeared likely to leave the EU.


Mr Salmond claimed the Prime Minister’s policies were designed to appease Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, but added: “You can never out swivel-eye the swivel-eyed.”

On the unpopular bedroom tax he claimed it would have “the same galvanising effect as the poll tax”.


He claimed Alistair Darling and the pro-UK Better Together campaign he leads would “run out of steam” as the referendum drew closer.

A Better Together spokesman said: “People can see through Alex Salmond’s bluster. The debate on independence has been going on for generations.


“For Alex Salmond to suggest this is utterly ridiculous. The truth is the more the SNP talk about separation the more people are turning away, whether it be on pensions, currency or Europe.”


Minister’s policies were designed to appease Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, but added: “You can never out swivel-eye the swivel-eyed.”


On the unpopular bedroom tax he claimed it would have “the same galvanising effect as the poll tax”.


He claimed Alistair Darling and the pro-UK Better Together campaign he leads would “run out of steam” as the referendum drew closer.


A Better Together spokesman said: “People can see through Alex Salmond’s bluster. The debate on independence has been going on for generations.


“For Alex Salmond to suggest this is utterly ridiculous. The truth is the more the SNP talk about separation the more people are turning away, whether it be on pensions, currency or Europe.”

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Yes Scotland says women and young shifting to independence

Yes Scotland says women and young shifting to independence | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

YES Scotland sources say they have identified a shift in favour of independence among growing numbers of women and young people, two of the groups thought to be most opposed to Scotland leaving the UK.

The shift has been picked up by the same polling system that identified the surge which swept the SNP to an unprecedented majority in the 2011 Holyrood elections.


While those campaigning for a No vote are still in the lead, Yes Scotland believes there is evidence of growing support for independence among what is seen as two key groups of the electorate.


“This new, robust research is based on a sample several times the size of a conventional poll,” said a Yes Scotland strategist.


“This bespoke polling is based on a well-designed series of questions building on a rolling monthly basis going back to last January.”


The pro-independence campaign believes voter engagement is the key to success. The more interested people are, they say, the more open they are to persuasion of the merits of a Yes vote.


The polling found 74% say they are interested in the debate, compared to 10% who say they are not interested. Another indicator of engagement is intention to turn out on referendum day, with 75% saying they are “very likely to vote” and a further 13% saying they are “quite likely to vote.”

The source said: “We believe engaging people’s interest is key to building support. The more information people want they better it is for our side of the campaign.”


The new research is significantly different from other recent polls in showing that women are no more likely to be No voters than men. It indicates men and women are equally likely to oppose independence.

Women are, however, more likely to be undecided, but as their minds are being made up more are supporting Yes than No, the Yes camp says. The polling uses a one-to-ten scoring system with one or two being most opposed to independence and nine or ten being keenest on it.

Women are said to be shifting steadily up the scale, according to this research.


The other surprise finding also contradicts recent polling in finding the strongest support for independence among those aged 16-24.

“There is now a majority among these young voters in favour of Yes,” it was claimed.


The other area of strength for the pro-independence cause is among parents with children aged 11 to 15, where there is also a majority in favour.


Polls have suggested SNP leader Alex Salmond has failed to connect with women in the same way as he has with men.

Winning over the female vote for independence is a key task of the Yes campaign. The appointment of Nicola Sturgeon to lead the campaign was seen by independence supporters as a way of winning favour with women.

But recent polls suggested the task remains considerable. Last month, an Ipsos MORI poll had support among women for independence at only 23%, down by five points on February, despite a concerted effort by the SNP to woo women voters with promises of better childcare if they vote yes.


Yes Scotland will continue aggregating the polling material in the months to come.


It will be shared with the various sub-groups within the campaign and with groups such as the Scottish Independence Convention to inform the way they seek to build support.


As unverified, external polling it will be dismissed by pro-Union campaigners.


However, Yes Scotland said it had used the same system that had accurately identified the SNP’s 2011 victory.

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Be assured, we will take our place at table in Brussels

Be assured, we will take our place at table in Brussels | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

SCOTLAND is an ancient European nation, and an independent Scotland will continue in European Union membership.


Our country has the lion’s share of all the EU’s oil reserves and a huge proportion of the continent’s renewable energy, as well as some of the richest fishing grounds.


Would Brussels want to lose such assets when energy security is one of the dominating issues of the early 21st century?


Would Spanish, French and Portuguese fishermen want to be blocked from fishing the lucrative waters in Scotland’s sectors of the North Sea and West Atlantic?


There is precedent which shows that, when hard-headed concerns are brought to bear, Europe is a flexible institution. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989, few at that point would have expected a united Germany to be part of the then European Community within less than 12 months – but that is exactly what happened when German reunification took place on 3 October, 1990.


Overnight, East Germany, which had been subject to Communist rule for four decades, became part of the Brussels club, despite stringent rules for new members which say a functioning market economy and a well-established democracy are fundamental prerequisites for membership.

How much more straightforward is Scotland’s case, given our 40 years of membership, which by definition means we meet the criteria.

A joint paper published last year by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy observed that an independent Scotland’s continued EU membership is “unlikely to be opposed”.


Meanwhile, Professor Sir David Edward – one of Europe’s foremost legal experts – has said that, in his view, continued Scottish membership would not need an accession process, merely amendment to treaties.

Professor James Crawford, one of the UK government’s chosen experts, has described the Scottish Government’s proposed 18-month transition to independence following a Yes vote as “realistic”.


We also have the process by which independence can be achieved outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement, signed by both the Scottish and UK governments. An independent Scotland will keep the pound, and a shared sterling area will be in the economic interests of the rest of the UK. There is no mechanism to make any EU member state join the euro, as the case of Sweden proves.


Scotland will remain part of the Common Travel Area with the UK and Ireland, an arrangement which long predates Schengen.


An independent Scotland will be a welcomed and valued member of the European Union. l Nicola Sturgeon is the Deputy First Minister and deputy leader of the Scottish National Party.

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Scotland braced for yet more cutbacks as London Treasury slashes further £1bn

Scotland braced for yet more cutbacks as London Treasury slashes further £1bn | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

THE London Treasury has signalled future cuts to the Scottish budget after six more government departments agreed a combined reduction of more than £1 billion in their coffers for the 2015-16 financial year.

But last night Treasury officials insisted that the Scottish budget will be spared the full 8 per cent decrease announced for the UK departments because the big spending areas of health and schools will be protected.

The six Whitehall departments include the Home Office, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which mostly cover areas devolved to Scotland, meaning there will be an equivalent reduction in the Scottish Government budget.

The other three departments are the Scotland Office, Wales Office and the Law Officers Department, which will all have their budgets slashed.

The overall savings of £1.1bn will contribute towards the £11.5bn savings target nounced at Budget 2013.


Taken with the near-£1.5bn savings delivered at the Budget and £1bn of savings delivered in the first phase of settlements, which saw seven other departments agree reductions of around 10 per cent, it brings total savings to £3.6bn, nearly a third of the way towards the £11.5bn target.


But after the recent killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, and continued concerns over the threat of terrorism, the security services and counter-terrorist activities in the Home Office will be protected.


Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “These provisional settlements show we continue to make real progress towards the savings we need, while protecting priority areas. None of the spending choices we make are easy, but ensuring the UK can pay its way in the world is vital to our long-term prosperity.”


The Treasury would not specify the cuts to each department and the impact on Scotland, saying that full details will be provided when the spending review is unveiled in two weeks.


However, a Treasury spokesman said: “The Scotland Office budget only makes up a tiny amount of the overall amount and because health and schools budgets in England will be protected, it means that the equivalent amount of the Scottish budget will also be ringfenced.”


But SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie said that Scotland should brace itself for more damaging cuts. “Scotland’s budget will be slashed even further without any consideration of what the Scottish economy needs.”


Labour’s shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said Chancellor George Osborne had been “forced to ask for more cuts” because of his “total failure on living standards and growth”. He said: “Far from balancing the books, the deficit is now set to be over £90bn in 2015.”

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Patten: The BBC is up to covering 2014 poll ...but it will not be easy

Patten: The BBC is up to covering 2014 poll ...but it will not be easy | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

BBC chairman Lord Patten has described the independence referendum as arguably the biggest domestic political event in his lifetime and insisted the corporation can cover it in an impartial and balanced way.


The former Tory MPsaid he was surprised at the amount of time taken up in the UK Parliament talking about a potential EU poll compared to the campaign north of the Border.


The BBC has earmarked £5 million to boost its coverage of the referendum in the run-up to the poll on September 18, 2014.


Coverage will include specially commissioned documentaries and a series of debates from across Scotland over the next year.


Lord Patten, 69, said: “I’m surprised we spend as much time in England talking about Europe and not nearly as much time, indeed hardly any time, talking about the Scottish referendum... arguably the most important issue that has come up domestically in my political lifetime.”


He said his biggest challenge as head of the BBC Trust was to avoid the Corporation getting politically caught up in what is a hugely important debate.


He noted: “It would be foolish of us to get sucked into this debate.”

Asked about the SNP’s assertion that the resources and staff of BBC Scotland would be easily transferred to a new Scottish broadcasting body, Lord Patten failed to answer the question.


He instead directed his comments to the coverage of the referendum in general.


He said: “There is plainly a big problem for the BBC in making sure that we cover the referendum campaign as an impartial and balanced a way as possible.


“We’re up to that. We’re putting more resources into doing it. I’m not too worried about that.


“What I’m most worried about is the reaction of voters in England, in particular ... to a debate which they will in the early and middle stages be rather uninterested in but will suddenly wake up to rather late in the day. That’s going to be the real challenge for us; how we handle that aspect of the debate later on.”


Lord Patten said there would be “big implications for every British institution” if Scotland voted for independence, while a no vote would spark a devo-max debate.


He said: “That again will be a difficult issue to handle in terms of English public opinion. So it’s a big challenge for us in the BBC.

“Covering t he debate in Scotland is something we are up to ... but it’s not going to be easy.”


The Chancellor of Oxford University also said Scotland’s higher education establishments were in “pretty good nick”, referring to the impressive research activities at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities.

However, he suggested free university education for Scots would become a bigger issue as competition grew in the sector and the country acquired more tax powers.

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BBC under fire over debate line-up

BBC under fire over debate line-up | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

THE BBC has been accused of bias and making cheap entertainment after UKIP leader Nigel Farage and George Galloway appeared on Question Time from Edinburgh, but the Liberal Democrats and Greens were left out.

David Dimblebey hosted last night’s unique edition of the show whose audience was made up entirely of 16 and 17-year-olds who will have a vote in next year’s referendum.


Members of the Radical Independence Campaign, whose members forced Mr Farage to cut short a recent visit to Edinburgh, last night waved placards in a protest outside the recording at the Corn Exchange.


Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP made a formal complaint saying the BBC is only interested in delivering “sensationalist confrontation” rather than serious debate on Scotland’s future”.


The LibDems described the BBC’s line-up as “daft” and “puzzling” given it did not reflect political representation in Scotland.


SNP MSP Jim Eadie has written to BBC directorgeneral Tony Hall, seeking an explanation.

He said: “By adopting this one-sided approach, the BBC is failing its own traditions of high-quality public service broadcasting.”


The Electoral Reform Society in Scotland said the panel was more “pantomime than serious debate.”


A BBC spokeswoman said it sought to provide as broad a range of political opinion as possible, while offering a UK-wide audience a varied and interesting political and current affairs debate.

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Galloway: Hijacking of Farage ‘ugly’

Galloway: Hijacking of Farage ‘ugly’ | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

FORMER Scottish MP George Galloway insisted last night that the hijacking of Nigel Farage’s press conference in Edinburgh last month “looked ugly”.


Mr Galloway, a veteran leftwing politician, lined up with the right-wing Ukip leader to attack the SNP as the BBC Question Time was broadcast from the Scottish capital.


The political make-up of the programme dominated parts of the televised debate, as SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson criticised having four anti-independence politicians on a platform of six.


Mr Robertson claimed Scots “wouldn’t be mucked about” under independence in the way he claimed the country had over the political balance of last night’s QuestionTime.


The make-up of the panel, which included Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish deputy Labour leader Anas Sarwar and journalist Lesley Riddoch, sparked complaints to the BBC from the SNP and the Scottish Greens, who claimed that it was dominated by anti-independence politicians from outside Scotland.


Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the invites to Mr Farage and Mr Galloway had been “contrived to deliver sensationalist confrontation”.

Hen Broon's comment, June 15, 2013 5:13 AM
What a vulgar wee shite you are Galloway
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Former military bosses 'slay Unionist myths'

Former military bosses 'slay Unionist myths' | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

ARMED forces in an independent Scotland would "most likely" be short of personnel, a retired Air Marshal has told MPs.


But the appearance of Iain McNicoll and his colleague, retired Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster, before the Commons Defence Committee was hailed by the SNP as slaying a number of "Unionist myths" on defence, from Nato membership to shipbuilding.


Both were asked detailed questions by MPs about the defence implications of possible Scottish independence and both suggested it was difficult to be specific because the SNP's foreign and security policy was not yet fully formulated.


Mr McNicoll said the size and scale of an independent Scottish defence forced hinged on something he had "not yet seen beyond broad assertions and sweeping generalities, which is a proper foreign and security policy translated into defence needs identified and working out how these can be met".


He accepted a similar-sized Denmark was a "reasonable comparator" with an independent Scotland with a comparable budget for a defence force but asked: "What do you need it for?"


On Nato he said: "There are other members of Nato who do not accept nuclear weapons. It's possible, in theory, for Scotland not to accept nuclear weapons."


Last night, Angus Robertson for the SNP, praised the "refreshingly sober views" of the former military top brass.


Both were asked detailed questions by MPs about the defence implications of possible Scottish independence and both suggested it was difficult to be specific because the SNP's foreign and security policy was not yet fully formulated.


Mr McNicoll said the size and scale of an independent Scottish defence forced hinged on something he had "not yet seen beyond broad assertions and sweeping generalities, which is a proper foreign and security policy translated into defence needs identified and working out how these can be met".


He accepted a similar-sized Denmark was a "reasonable comparator" with an independent Scotland with a comparable budget for a defence force but asked: "What do you need it for?"


On Nato he said: "There are other members of Nato who do not accept nuclear weapons. It's possible, in theory, for Scotland not to accept nuclear weapons."


Last night, Angus Robertson for the SNP, praised the "refreshingly sober views" of the former military top brass.

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Coalition’s North Sea oil forecast is six billion barrels short says expert

Coalition’s North Sea oil forecast is six billion barrels short says expert | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

UK Government predictions for the future of north Sea oil are based on “very low” forecasts which are well below independent analysis, an expert in the field said yesterday.


Professor alex Kemp, oil economist at aberdeen University, said new figures compiled by the department for energy and Climate Change (deCC) on future production in the north Sea had undershot his own predictions.

data published last week by the office of Budget responsibility (oBr) suggested a further ten billion barrels were likely to be extracted in the north Sea from now until 2040. But speaking as the Scottish Government prepared to publish a paper on north Sea oil today, Prof Kemp said there were still up to 16 billion barrels remaining.


“They are saying thatfrom now until 2040, we are only going to produce another ten billion barrels, which is very low,” he said. “That would be pretty disappointing.


“our own modelling takes a 30-year view up to 2042 and we could have 15 to 16 billion barrels,” he said.


The pro-independence campaign aims to convince voters there is enough remaining oil to support an independent Scotland in the medium term. more S c o t S m a n c o m m e n t No plan for what the public finances of an independent Scotland might look like would be regarded as credible if it entailed committing all oil revenues to current spending on areas like health and education. than 40 billion barrels has already been extracted from UK waters, and oil production is expected to enter a decline from the end of this decade.


However, SnP ministers will use today’s paper to argue that oil revenue, stretching for the next few decades, can still act as an economic “bonus”.

First minister alex Salmond is also expected to attack deCC’s own estimates, having accused UK government departments of telling “fibs” over the expected reserves in the north Sea.


But UK government figures last night pointed to other independent analysis showing that, even on high estimates, north Sea oil revenues would fall way short of the sums hauled in during the oil boom of the 1980s.

The row over the amount of oil still to be extracted comes after the oBr last week sharply revised down its estimates on future revenues, saying tax income between 2017-18 and 2040-41 would be £56bn, compared to its previous estimate of £67bn.


The oBr said it was “confident” oil and gas receipts were on a “declining trend”, saying by 2040, oil would account for just 0.03 per cent of UK GdP. The oBr estimated that potentially another ten billion barrels of oil could be extracted between now and 2040, taking the current total of 40 billion to 50 billion barrels by then. The figures were based on estimates supplied by deCC, based on a decline of 5 per cent a year after 2018.


Prof Kemp’s own detailed modelling agrees that, after a short increase in production in the next few years, there will be a long-term decline over the coming decades.


But his model still found that, over the next 30 years, cumulative production could amount to 13.5 billion barrels under a “medium price” scenario, or up to 16.8 billion under a “higher price scenario”.

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The hidden cost of the Union - HS2

The hidden cost of the Union - HS2 | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

How do you feel about the people of Scotland having to stump up £4,771 million pounds for a transport project that not only comes nowhere near Scotland, but offers absolutely no economic benefit to our economy at all?  An even better question might be: if you had £4,771 million pounds to spend on Scotland what would you spend it on?


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Independence camps take their message to the Royal Highland

Independence camps take their message to the Royal Highland | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

THE Royal Highland Show, showcasing the best in Scottish farming and claiming to contribute more than £100 million to Scotland's rural economy, begins its four-day run at Ingliston, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, today.


Following last year's sodden event that caused chaos with parking arrangements, the organisers have invested heavily in improving car park drainage.


This year's show is to be used by both the yes and no camps in the independence debate to win support from the farming community. Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, an SNP MSP, will put forward the case for independence, and George Lyon, LibDem MEP, will argue for the status quo.


Organisations such as NFU Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers and other lobby groups within the farming industry are taking a neutral position for fear of creating division among members. In fairness, NFUS invited Michael Moore, LibDem Secretary of State for Scotland, to put forward arguments for retaining the Union, and Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, to put his case for independence at the annual meeting in St Andrews in February.


With the Common Agricultural Policy annually worth between £560m and £600m to Scottish agriculture, most farmers want to know where an independent Scotland would stand in the EU. With most Scottish produce exported south of the Border and to elsewhere in Europe, farmers also need to know exactly how independence will affect trade. Then there is the question of any impact on investment in Scotland by food processors.

NFUS says that, without taking sides, it intends to lay out the bare facts of the various issues later in the year, and leave it up members to decide how to vote.


Elsewhere on the showground, machinery dealers will have their work cut out to persuade farmers to part with their cash after a dismal year of weather-related problems.


As always, livestock are at the heart of the show, and entries have exceeded 6000. There are close on 1000 head of cattle on show and about 1700 sheep, as well as other livestock sectors. There is a sharp rise in the number of Northern Irish competitors expected this year, which will partly make up for those Scottish farmers staying at home to make silage.

CRAIG Wilson sold 29 prime heifers at Ayr on Tuesday to a top of 250p per kg and an average of 238.4p, while five prime bulls peaked at 242p and levelled at 219.4p. In the rough ring, 81 beef cows averaged 156.5p and 87 dairy cows levelled at 130.8p. Nine OTM cattle averaged 189p and eight bulls levelled at 146.8p. Another large turnout of 17 dairy cattle were a plainer show for quality that sold to £2200 for a Holstein heifer and averaged £1560 (-£6 on the week).


The firm went on to sell 613 prime lambs in Newton Stewart yesterday to a top of £108 per head and 241.5p per kg to average 228p.

The 93 cast sheep forward saw ewes sell to £87 for Texels and £54 for Blackfaces.

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Independence can beef up our key industries

Independence can beef up our key industries | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

Greater fiscal powers will help to bring out the very best in our producers, writes Simon Howie


As the Royal Highland Show gets under way, it is a good time to reflect on what’s been happening in the farming community. It has been a record period of growth for the food and drink industry as a whole, but what does that mean for food producers and farmers? And with the media firmly focused on the pending independence referendum, what does it mean for us?


Clearly, the weather has had an impact, making it tough for farmers, and for many it is having a serious impact not just on their livelihoods, but also on land, livestock and produce.


As a farmer, a butcher and processor, I am involved in all angles of meat production. I speak to farmers across Scotland and it is obvious that they are not having an easy time. While we have a Scottish Government doing what it can for the sector with measures introduced swiftly to help farmersto get through the bad weather, there is still a longer-term issue that cannot be fixed by short-term cash. We need to protect our farmers and give them help to ensure that they can put cost-effective food on our tables.


The fact is, ten years on, farming is still suffering from the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak. The sheer numbers of stock culled is still having an impact on the food chain and that is starting to hit the price of lamb and cattle.


Primary producers struggling with market prices and costs is a serious issue and I think a direct and positive intervention is the way forward. We need to control the cost of production, or producers will go out of business, with a subsequent impact on supply and demand.


We must increase our herd and flock numbers. This is vital, not only for the farmers involved, but also for the whole agricultural community and, of course, consumers who buy the meat. Unless we give stockmen incentives to commit to calving and lambing, we will never regain our status as a serious animal producing country.


This issue can be looked at now. But with the referendum around the corner, what could we do in the future with new economic levers at our disposal?


This will be debated by both sides of the independence argument at Ingliston this week. The opportunities for agriculture and the food and drink industry with fiscal levers and country status are worth thinking about, but I am more interested in what we can do in practical terms to get on with growing our food industry, helping our farmers and driving forward Scotland.


The drinks business has been the darling in the rise of the food and drink industry in Scotland. Salmon and our high-quality beef herds have been leading the way in driving forward the strong Scottish food brands, but it is the drinks industry that has achieved record level. Years of work on branding, coupled with a relatively high gross margin, has made this possible.


It shows what the food sector can aim for and I think that we can significantly up our game and raise our platform to the world markets with competitive fiscal levers and a stronger brand Scotland.


It is remarkable to think that 40 bottles of whisky are shipped overseas each second. What if beef, salmon, pork or haggis was exported throughout Europe and further afield at similar levels?


Turnover in the food and drink growth sector has grown 50 per cent since 2007, reaching £5.38 billion in 2011 – making it one of the biggest export sectors. It is a real success story. But we could be more competitive in the world markets with greater financial powers at our disposal.

I am not convinced that independence would have a negative impact on Scotland’s trade with the rest of UK. We are also one of England’s biggest markets. For the past five years, retail sales of Scottish food and drink brands across the UK have steadily increased. In the end, it will come down to simple supply and demand – and quality – not politics. So, providing we do not grandstand about being independent or not, our neighbours will continue to trade with us.


I am really interested in a fairer taxation system and VAT is a good starting point. It is an indiscriminate tax and, at 20 per cent, highly punitive. People pay their taxes and are then asked to pay 20 per cent for everyday goods such as fuel, home improvements and eating out.


We should be using fiscal powers to modify our taxation system. I think we should start with VAT breaks for Scotland. I would begin immediately with home improvements to boost Scotland’s economy, create new jobs and help those who cannot afford home repairs and protect consumers from rogue traders.


The hotel and restaurant trade has been suffering in the downturn. VAT cuts for tourism-related businesses, pubs and restaurants would bring a significant boost to this key sector in Scotland, which in turn would benefit the food and drink producers. Lots of other countries in the European Union have done this, why shouldn’t Scotland?


The ability to adjust VAT rates is just one example but, overall, I think a more competitive Scotland with fiscal levers would be good for the whole of Britain, not just Scotland.


If fiscal powers give Scotland the ability to attract inward investment, then that can only be a good thing. It is key to developing infrastructure and inward investment for all sectors of Scotland, not just mine.

We need to grow our economy by expanding our key sectors such as food and drink and continue to see the benefits of a government in Scotland working with industry.


Scotland needs a political, economic and social system that benefits the majority not the minority. If that comes by way of increased devolved power, or by way of full independence, fine by me.


• Simon Howie is an entrepreneur and owner of Simon Howie Group

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Scotland will flourish after Yes vote, predicts economist

Scotland will flourish after Yes vote, predicts economist | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

FORMER economic adviser to Alex Salmond has argued that Scotland would thrive after independence, with Edinburgh acting as its “dominant” economic centre.


Professor John Kay said Scotland was wealthy enough to survive without the same level of UK support that he claimed Wales and Northern Ireland would need to separate.


He used a lecture in Edinburgh last night to claim that an independent Scotland would be a “rich country” because of high growth and incomes, which he said were at similar levels to those in the rest of the UK.


Prof Kay claimed Scotland was the wealthiest part of the UK outside London and the south-east of England as he delivered his lecture on “the economics of Scottish independence” for the alumni of St John’s College Oxford at the Royal Society of Edinburgh last night.


He said: “When I compare Scotland with the UK as a whole, there doesn’t seem to be much difference. Economically, Scotland looks like the UK as a whole.


“Income per head in Scotland is close to the UK average. Over the last 50 years it has moved in a range from 90 per cent to 100 per cent of the UK average.


“The nadir was reached in the 1960s, when that figure dipped briefly below 90 per cent. The peak was reached in the 1990s, when it approached 100 per cent and since then has fallen back slightly.

“That makes Scotland the richest part of the United Kingdom outside London and the south-east of England.


“The growth rate of Scotland has been slightly lower than that of the UK, but that difference is accounted for more or less entirely by slower population growth in Scotland.”


The economist, a member of Mr Salmond’s panel of economic advisers from 2007 to 2010, argued Scotland had an “economically dominant capital” in Edinburgh, in the same way that England has a strong financial centre in London, dismissing suggestions it would be heavily reliant on the public sector to create jobs and support the economy.


He said: “Scotland could be an independent country and a rich country. Scotland is not in the same position as Wales or Northern Ireland, both of which would find it very difficult to operate economically without support mechanisms from the United Kingdom.”


“The industrial structure of Scotland is also similar to that of the UK. A myth often heard is that Scotland is much more dependent on public sector employment than the UK.


“But Scotland also looks rather like the UK in another sense. The country has an economically dominant capital city just as the UK does.”


However Labour MSP Richard Baker, a director of the Better Together campaign, said Prof Kay’s speech lacked any real evidence.

He said: “Scotland’s economy is far stronger within the UK, when we all work together. Many people hearing this speech will be struck by the lack of any real evidence put forward.”

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Spain ‘cannot block Scottish bid to join EU’

Spain ‘cannot block Scottish bid to join EU’ | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

A CATALAN nationalist MEP has challenged claims by a European Parliament vice-president that Spain could veto an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union.


Ramon Tremosa, of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party, suggested Spain might try to block Scotland’s membership to quell Catalan and Basque separatist ambitions, but said it would not be successful.

European Parliament vice-president Alejo Vidal-Quadras has said France and Spain “will surely not” accept an independent Scotland into the EU.

Mr Vidal-Quadras, an MEP from Catalonia who opposes the region’s independence from Spain, also suggested that police would confiscate ballot boxes if Catalonia holds its own “criminal” referendum.

Mr Tremosa said Mr Vidal-Quadras is unpopular in his own party, is destined for defeat in next year’s MEP elections and does not speak for the European Parliament. There would be uproar from the international community if Spanish police confiscate Catalan ballot boxes, Mr Tremosa said.

“Scotland is not Turkey. As a pragmatic union, the EU dealt with the unification of Germany in one week,” he said. “Scotland has several years’ compliance with EU law and citizens with EU rights. You cannot take away [these] rights.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The future of Scotland is a democratic decision for the people of Scotland, not for politicians from other countries.”

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Lesley Riddoch: Uncertainty is a starting point too

Lesley Riddoch: Uncertainty is a starting point too | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

An IRISHMAn who was a senior BBC executive for many decades had a favourite joke about the dangers of presumption. There was an Englishman driving round the Irish countryside and he was lost. He saw a chap standing beside the road, stopped, rolled down the window and said: “Good morning, Paddy. Which way is it to Dundalk?” The chap said, “How do you know my name’s Paddy?” “Well,” says the man, “I was only guessing.” “So why don’t you feckin’ guess yer way to Dundalk then?” came the pointed reply.

In the wake of last week’s controversial BBC Question Time programme – in which I was a panellist along with Anas Sarwar, Angus Robertson, George Galloway, Ruth Davidson and nigel Farage – this anecdote has sprung to mind several times.


It seems there was surprise in some quarters that I announced an intention to vote Yes in the 2014 ballot despite arguing for more than a year that 37 per cent of Scots (at last opinion poll count) should have the chance to back their preferred “in-between” constitutional option. The presumption was that any supporter of a Devo Plus option on the referendum ballot must be planning to use it. not necessarily.


The moral authority of the 2014 referendum ballot will be directly related to the degree of fairness involved in framing it. I wanted a “free vote” on all the most popular constitutional options, not just some. You might say that’s perverse. I’d say that’s democracy – and I suspect the non-party political majority of Scots might agree.


So while we’re at it, here are other “perverse” views that co-exist just as happily for me.


I can put the UK in the dock just as easily as I put independence on trial – no matter how many alarmist headlines I read. I can plan to vote Yes and still recognise that option currently looks set to lose.


I can entertain the very slim possibility my vote might change – if unionist parties step up over the next 500 days, commit together to transfer tax-raising powers to Scotland (including the collection of oil revenues), embed the Scottish Parliament so it cannot be abolished, and campaign for genuine federalism across England to combat the growing danger to the entire UK economy and society of a dominant, overheated southeast. It’s a massive “if” – but still within the power of democrats to decide upon and deliver.


I can criticise the SnP, not wish to join the formal Yes campaign and still – in my own un-herded, nondirected way – plan to vote Yes.


I can cringe at simplistic slogans and feel my heart sink at the juvenile insistence on both sides that all things will automatically be better/worse after a Yes/no vote. The strength or weakness of each campaign doesn’t dent the basic choice facing me and every other person living in Scotland – is it better to face change outside the UK or face being changed within it? For many folk that’s a judgment call, not an article of faith.


A choice between polar opposites, however, has long been the British way. Under first-past-the-post, no-one has much cared if a large minority is forced to choose second best or fails to vote at all.


Some believe the end justifies the means in politics. I have never agreed. There is no settled will for independence in Scotland as there is today in Catalonia or as there was a century ago in norway. It may arise over the next year – it may not. To get across the road, the vast majority must be confident to cross. Otherwise, we must all wait. That is the nature of solidarity and we (further) abandon it at our peril.


So here is the final heresy. I plan to vote Yes but would find a tiny majority for independence almost as problematic as a no vote. Why? Undoubtedly we are all products of our background. Thirteen formative years growing up through the Troubles in northern Ireland had their effect on me. Implacably opposed, hostile camps impeded all social progress. It hardly mattered who was “right” because calm analysis of grievance became impossible in the emotionally-laden atmosphere of claim and counterclaim.


Some may be shocked to see any comparison of peaceful Scotland with northern Ireland – and to be absolutely clear, I’m not suggesting violence will erupt over Scottish independence.


But polarised camps that deny the existence of uncertainty or middle ground have already left capable, like-minded Scots stranded on opposite sides of a totemic divide. That’s a recipe for stasis and inertia in the post-2014 reality we must all face together – a dodgy, dividing, disempowering legacy. Whatever happens we need common cause.

All sizeable minorities must be given respect – though with 0.28 per cent of the local Scottish vote in 2012, that doesn’t mean Ukip.


Instead, camp followers insist every pronouncement from their side makes sense and every difficulty can be easily overcome. This is simply untrue; voters know it and each hollow claim produces a feeling of unease and detachment among non-aligned Scots.


In that other great social language – football – the harshest critics of a team are usually its own fans. They care most, they notice most and “support” their team by being openly and constructively critical. Of course if opponents welly in first – that’s another issue.


But only politics reverses this dynamic. Perhaps that’s why it leaves so many people stone cold. Supporters of any idea must perforce become uncritical drones.


I suspect there are many folk like myself who simply have a strong idea of the society they’d like to see and realise the clock is ticking – a reality brought home by the quiet dignity of the late Iain Banks as much as any political development.


Can the status quo deliver? As things stand, I think it cannot. But others disagree and that’s fine.


What’s needed for progress in Scotland is a collective and voluntary act of will – but that’s less likely to arise in an atmosphere of messianic, proselytising zeal.


This weekend I’ve been on Eigg celebrating 16 years since the community buyout. Even these bold islanders took years to decide the status quo wouldn’t work. The lengthy, exhausting buyout only became possible when a clear majority agreed the dangers of stagnation outweighed the dangers of change.


So it will be with Scotland.

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Busy fools will discover time is on the side of the Yes campaign.

Busy fools will discover time is on the side of the Yes campaign. | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

PATIENCE”, according to St ­Augustine, “is the companion of wisdom”. It is an important thought.


I have often lived in moments where the world was ablaze with energy, activity and haste and all around people were running fast to get to destinations they were sure they had to get to in work, in business and in life. Rarely were these moments of progress and happiness. “Busy fools syndrome,” a wise colleague of mine once called it. Common in most mortals, but fatal in leaders.


Campaigners in the Scottish referendum story would do well to keep this reality close to heart. I detect in the waters and bunions of the Scottish body politic a degree of triumphalism in the No campaign (“it is not enough to win, we must win well”) and, well, the opposite on the Yes side. Both, I humbly suggest, are very wrong to strike such a pose. Just ask a former Prime Minister.


Harold Wilson has long interested me for a variety of reasons. Not least his name approximates to my dad’s but few kids at school in Wishaw bought my canard that dad was, in fact, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. You could see their point as he never smoked a pipe. Hang on, neither did Harold, but I digress.


One of the most quoted phrases in politics was one of Wilson’s. It was, of course, that “a week is a long time in politics”. And if that was true then imagine the currency of it more than half a century later in a world in which the tides of news and public opinion can turn in seconds.


Reflecting on this, my advice to all is this: whenever commentators, politicians or plain old campaigners are tempted to call a result with more than 457 days to go, don’t. Stand back from the moment and consider the whole story in context.


In 1997 Labour’s landslide election led to a quick referendum on the back of a hastily drafted White Paper: haste evidenced, for example, in estimated costs for the building at Holyrood of £40 million which – at less than a tenth of the actual outcome – was, erm, slightly wrong.


This, however, secured an historic approval vote and became law within months to allow elections to a new Scottish Parliament just over two years after that victory.


It was simple enough to deliver when considered in historic context because very little constitutional authority transferred from London to Edinburgh. The Scotland Act of 1998 basically codified the existing powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland and empowered a Scottish Parliament to check them. Progress indeed, but hardly shattering, although plenty of Tories told us it would. Funny how so many former Home Rulers are happy to join them in the same fibs now.


But once again step back and reflect on the next steps in the journey. The SNP landslide election was just over two years ago. With that came a mandate for a referendum that Westminster politicians and (ironically) their party colleagues in Holyrood, spent 17 months and nine days telling us was illegitimate and illegal. That is until it wasn’t, when the ­Edinburgh Agreement was signed in October last year.


Meantime, the Scottish Government and its officials have been working on their own White Paper setting out their vision of what exactly it is they will ask people to vote Yes to next summer. Opponents wanted, and got, a near 18-month debate on process and now they are successfully replacing it with a debate on process detail.


I often think it would be like saying to Nye Bevan “Yes, yes this NHS idea is all well and good but how many bedpans will you need in Doncaster and who is going to pay for them?”.

It is fair to say that in comparison to possibly all of the 142 countries who have declared their independence and joined the United Nations since 1945, the Scots will demand, and will get, more detail, clarity, structure and certainty than any new country has ever had before it determined to place its first step on its own road. I guess it’s the Scottish way.


But as that picture emerges we will see it represents a world of a difference from the fear, uncertainty, disruption and doubt that opponents like to paint. It will represent power as close as possible to the people that power effects, and control from Edinburgh of the decision to keep sharing sovereignty and administration sensibly and amicably with the state structures we are emerging from.


And then, of course, advocates will be able to campaign, evangelise and persuade on the reasons, hopes and opportunities that go with it. Or, if they oppose it, the opposite.


Slowly, but surely, in a very methodical, deliberate and cautious Scottish way the truth of the choice we face will outshine the busy fools trying to cloud our minds with 1001 reasons why we can’t. Then, and only then, will the reasonable majority of the population fully engage in how they will wish to exercise their choice. So now is a good time for progressives to hold their nerve and focus, and remember what it takes to win.


Timing is everything.

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Talks aim to produce statement on yes or no vote outcome

Talks aim to produce statement on yes or no vote outcome | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

The Scottish and UK governments are working to produce a statement on what will happen in the event of either a yes or no vote in the independence referendum, the deputy first minister has said.


Talks on the process are being held following a recommendation from the Electoral Commission, Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Holyrood’s Referendum Bill Committee.


“There are discussions ongoing between my officials and counterparts in the UK Government about what a statement of that nature might look like,” she said.


“I thought the Electoral Commission’s recommendation in that regard was sensible. Just as we were right to accept their recommendations on spending and the wording of the question, I think there’s a duty on both governments to accept the recommendation in this regard.


“Those discussions have not concluded. I’d be happy to report back to the committee when those discussions reach conclusion.”


Ms Sturgeon appeared before the committee as part of scrutiny of legislation behind the referendum, due to be held in September next year.

She also revealed that guidance will be sent to publicly-funded bodies to help explain how they should behave in the runup to the vote.


Some concern was raised that they may make unregulated statements on their position, particularly during the final weeks – a period known as “purdah”.


Ms Sturgeon rejected that but said: “Once this bill is through we propose to do guidance, which I think would happen during any purdah period.

“The committee will have the opportunity, if it so desires, to scrutinise and make suggestions about that guidance.”


The purpose of purdah is to prevent governments from making major policy announcements or funding decisions seen as having an influence on the outcome of a vote.


The referendum bill, once passed at the Scottish Parliament, will only officially regulate the Scottish Government in that area.


UK ministers will be bound by a “gentleman’s agreement” set out in the so-called Edinburgh Agreement between the prime minister and first minister, the committee previously heard.


Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Patten has said the referendum is the “most important” political issue to arise in his working life.

He predicted that current low levels of interest south of the border would spike upwards as next year’s vote drew nearer.

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Pledge to scrap bedroom tax in first year of independence

Pledge to scrap bedroom tax in first year of independence | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |
First Minister makes promise as opposition ridicules welfare system plans

ALEX Salmond has pledged to abolish the so-called bedroom tax within a year if Scots vote for independence.

Independence would ‘free us’ from the bedroom tax. Not only will we abolish it, we’ll do it in the first year of independence


The First Minister insisted his plan to share the UK’s existing welfare system would allow an independent Scottish Government to reverse cuts to housing benefit.


It would cost £60 million to restore the benefits but Scottish Government officials insisted it would incur no additional administrative costs as a result of deviating from UK welfare policy.


They claimed there was “no need” to discuss the plan with the Department for Work and Pensions before the independence referendum on September 18 next year.


Speaking during First Ministers Questions at Holyrood, Mr Salmond said independence would “free us” from the bedroom tax. He added: “Not only will we abolish it, we’ll do it in the first year of independence.”

The promise was dismissed as “nonsense on stilts” by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.


The SNP has put the unpopular bedroom tax – a cut in housing benefit for people deemed to have more rooms than they need – at the heart of its independence campaign, claiming it could only be reserved if Scotland left the UK


Earlier this week ministers said they wanted to share the UK’s welfare system, in the event of independence, for a transitional period up to 2018, two years after the SNP’s planned independence day.


The move followed an expert report which warned of “serious risks” to pension and benefit payments if an independent Scotland sought to create a stand-alone welfare system immediately.


However, ministers insisted the plan would allow a degree of flexibility to alter welfare policy before a new system was set up.

In addition to scrapping the bedroom tax, ministers want to reverse benefit cuts which have mainly hit women in part-time jobs. The move would cost £60m to £80m.


Mr Salmond spoke out after he came under fire over his plans not only to retain the UK welfare system but a range of institutions including the pound, the Bank of England and the monarchy.


Ms Lamont said the plans were not credible and challenged Nationalist MSPs to set up an “SNP for independence” breakaway group.


Onhis pledge to axe the bedroom tax, she added: “Independent experts have said it is impossible to get rid of the bedroom tax on day one of independence if you are going to continue with the welfare position. It is nonsense on stilts.”


A UK Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s position on welfare is increasingly unclear.


“Wanting to leave the UK but keep the UK welfare system while operating different policies makes no practical sense.


“No-one should be in any doubt a decision to leave the UKis exactly that – it would mean walking away from all the UK institutions which currently work for people in Scotland.”

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One in every seven people in Scotland lives in poverty

One in every seven people in Scotland lives in poverty | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

ONE in seven Scots is still living in poverty and the situation has “not significantly changed” in the past seven years, official figures have shown.


There has been a slight fall over the past year, but the Scottish Government says tens of thousands more youngsters could be plunged into poverty as controversial changes to the benefits system take root.

A total of 710,000 people – including 150,000 children – were classed as being in relative poverty in 2011-12, a report published by the Scottish Government says.


It means 70,000 fewer people including 20,000 youngsters were suffering compared to the previous year, although the reductions were not regarded as “statistically significant”.


The report also stated: “There has been no significant change in the number of people in relative poverty since 2006-07.”

While the 2011-12 statistics include the impact of some benefits changes, the report made clear that the figures “precede the more significant changes implemented in April 2013”.


Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know that the UK government’s welfare reforms are already having a significant impact on Scotland’s children, with further damaging changes still to take effect. These figures take into account the environment in 2011-12, but a number of changes have been made since then.


“These measures include changes to eligibility for child-tax credits and working tax credits which could, on average, mean that households will become around £700 a year worse off.”


Average household incomes have fallen over the past two years, going from £461 a week in 2009-10 to £436 in 2011-12, the statistics showed.

Labour’s social justice spokesman Drew Smith said the fall in average weekly pay has put an “additional burden” on families living in poverty.


“The SNP’s hands have not been tied and they have had many powers at their disposal to bring more families out of poverty,” Mr Smith said.

People are described as being in poverty if their income is less than 60 per cent of the UK median income. That means a couple with two children are regarded as living in relative poverty if their income, before housing costs, is £392 a week.


Meanwhile, a single parent with two children is classed as being in poverty if they receive £308 a week or less while for a couple with no children the threshold is £256.


A total of 15 per cent of youngsters were living in poverty, the 2011-12 figures showed.


John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) also voiced concern.

“We need government to ratchet up its use of devolved powers to not just mitigate damaging UK policies but build on promises to, for example, widen free school meal entitlement, ensure working parents receive a Living Wage and improve access to childcare,” he said.

Jeff Duncan's insight:

Nicola Sturegeon says 'Tackling 'the scandal of child poverty will be one of the big prizes of independence.'

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Scottish independence vote outcomes to be made clear

Scottish independence vote outcomes to be made clear | SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE |

SCOTS will be given a clear picture in advance of the independence referendum about the consequences of a Yes or No vote, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.


Talks are currently under way between officials from the SNP government in Edinburgh and the coalition in Westminster.


Elections watchdog the Electoral Commission has previously said that voters should be told about what process will follow the referendum in “sufficient detail” to make it clear what will happen in the event of either a Yes or No vote.


There have been concerns that many Scots are unsure what independence will actually mean – or they are unclear about the implications for Scotland if it stays in the UK.


MSPs on Holyrood’s referendum committee yesterday took evidence from Ms Sturgeon on the historic vote and Nationalist back-bencher Rob Gibson asked: “What discussions have you had with the UK government about what will follow the vote?”


Ms Sturgeon said: “There are discussions ongoing between my officials and counterparts in the UK government about what a statement of that nature might look like.


“I thought the Electoral Commission’s recommendation in that regard was sensible – just as we were right to accept the recommendations on spending, there’s a duty on both governments to accept the recommendations in this regard as well.”


Ms Sturgeon said the discussions have not yet concluded and she will report back to MSPs when this is done.


There are also concerns that “purdah” restrictions which apply to the SNP government from making major announcements in the build-up to the vote on 18 September next year, will not apply to the UK government.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted that undertakings to this effect had been given by the coalition in the “Edinburgh Agreement” signed by Alex Salmond and David Cameron.


She said: “I would expect them to honour that in full.”

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