The uncertain minds Posted on June 11, 2013 by Rev. Stuart Campbell
Keen followers of the Scottish media may have noticed that since the start of the year there’s been little sight of the phrase “the positive case for the Union”. Perhaps buoyed by opinion polls showing little movement, the No camp has more or less abandoned even the pretence of positivity and concentrated on the tactic it’s most familiar and comfortable with – carpeting Scotland with fearbombs.
The last couple of days have been no exception. At the Scottish Tory conference David Cameron repeated the curiously vague threat that an independent Scotland might not be allowed to keep the pound, and yesterday in Westminster the Home Secretary, Theresa May, dropped hints that Scots might not be allowed to keep UK passports.
But wait a minute. Why so shy?
The reason these issues are constantly raised by the Unionist side is that polls indicate Scots definitely want to keep the pound, and nobody ever wants to give up a passport once they’ve got one – the more “nationalities” you have, the easier it is to smooth your passage around the world.
Similarly, the reason the Yes campaign, and the SNP in particular, is pursuing a “don’t frighten the horses” strategy minimising the amount of upheaval a Yes vote will produce is because nobody likes upheaval – even if it’s for the best of reasons – let alone forced upheaval.
Moving house is a pain, even when you’re moving to a nicer one in a better area. The worst dump in a terrible neighbourhood can still seem tempting compared to spending weeks packing everything you own into boxes, handing thousands of pounds to Pickfords to move it and then unpacking it all again.
Under that strategy – to the chagrin of radicals who seem oddly perplexed about the correct arrrangement of a cart and a horse – the Nats insist that we’ll still be British, we’ll still have the Queen, we’ll still be in NATO and we’ll still be able to watch Doctor Who, while Unionists shriek that we’d become some sort of isolated North Korea-style pariah state sealed away from the rest of the world in a hermetic barbed-wire bubble.
Or rather, they say we might.
And that’s the odd thing about the Westminster fear campaign – despite having been given repeated opportunities to do so, neither David Cameron nor George Osborne (or anyone else) will actually come out and say that the rUK would, for example, definitely refuse to enter a currency union with an independent Scotland.
The reason they won’t is that – as pointed out by “Better Together” campaign chairman Alistair Darling – a currency union would be overwhelmingly the only sane thing for the two nations to do. Nobody could stop Scotland using Sterling (a fully tradeable global currency any nation can adopt if it wants to without requiring the UK’s permission) in any event, but the chances that the rUK would refuse to co-operate with a currency union with Scotland are zero. You can quote us on that.
But that doesn’t explain why the UK parties don’t say it wouldn’t. If Cameron and Osborne stood up and stated unambiguously that they would refuse to enter a currency union after a Yes vote, or if Theresa May said categorically that Scots definitely WOULDN’T be allowed to keep their UK passports, it’d undoubtedly be a huge blow to the Yes campaign.
(And if we’ve learned nothing else from the last 15 years of British politics, it’s that politicians’ pledges aren’t worth the giant placards they’re printed out onto. They could say it without actually meaning it, and nobody would bat much of an eyelid when they went back on it afterwards.)
So why don’t they? Let’s look at some possible explanations.
1. Maintaining positivity
A flat-out explicit threat would look like bullying, and if one thing might just rile Scots into voting Yes it’d be the feeling that they were being railroaded by a bunch of Eton toffs.
Cameron’s public pronouncements have been much more along the lines of wanting to keep the Union together because we’re one big happy family, and the recent “Better Together London” launch spoke of getting expat Scots to “lovebomb” their family and friends back home with tales of how sad England and the other nations would be to lose us.
But it seems to stretch credibility to suggest that these barely-veiled threats are any less bad in that respect than open ones. Reported in the media with screaming clickbait headlines, all nuance is lost and they come across as the very thing they’re trying to avoid being. By the time the qualifiers and disclaimers have appeared two-thirds of the way into the articles the damage has been done.
2. The shock doctrine
It may be, of course, that the advocates of the Union are simply keeping this particular powder-keg dry, in order to deploy it in the last weeks or days before the poll. A sudden announcement in early September 2014 that the rUK would seek to recall all its passports and wouldn’t enter into a currency union would leave the Yes camp no time to counter the wave of fear.
But it would also inevitably look deeply suspicious, and even panicky. It’s a high-risk “Hail Mary” tactic to unleash after spending the best part of three years being evasive on the subject.
3. The myth of more powers
The non-committal approach could also be an attempt to protect the narrative that a No vote will result in the greatly-enhanced devolution settlement that’s still the constitutional preference of around a third of Scots – a constituency who will effectively decide the referendum according to which of the two available options they consider the least bad.
Persuading wavering voters that Westminster is keen to devolve more powers to Holyrood after a No vote will be a tougher sell if the UK parliament plays such uncompromising hardball at this stage, because it doesn’t depict a government interested in co-operation and negotiation.
Then again, given how incredibly stupid anyone would have to already be to believe that a No vote will result in more powers for the Scottish Parliament, it’s a push to imagine that a few half-hearted caveats are going to win any of the sceptical votes in that sector over.
4. The fragile recovery
The No camp has spent most of the last 18 months issuing dire warnings about the “uncertainty” caused by the referendum and how it would cripple investment, enterprise and growth. Last week saw that particular fox well and truly shot, but the surest way to create real uncertainty would be for the UK government to effectively declare economic war on an independent Scotland in advance.
The UK’s current “recovery” is a pitifully weak runt of a thing, and such announcements would surely cause a great many businesses to put expansion plans on hold for years. (Because after the referendum there’d also be a looming general election, delaying any kind of “certainty” right into summer 2015.) Cameron and Osborne simply can’t afford that risk.
But the threat of non-co-operation is useless after the referendum – if Scotland DOES vote Yes, there’s no point in the rUK government being hostile to a major trading neighbour. If the UK government refuses to directly say that it’ll refuse a currency union now, it has nothing to gain from doing so afterwards. So that can’t be the reason either.
5. The risk of backfire
The most interesting hypothesis, then, might be that Unionists don’t want to risk the Yes camp exploring what might turn out to be popular alternatives.
For example, there seems to be widespread support at least within the independence movement for an independent Scottish currency. If Westminster definitively ruled out sharing Sterling at this point, Alex Salmond and Blair Jenkins would have a year and a half to sell that fundamentally-attractive idea to the Scottish electorate.
Similarly, with passports, the thought of being absolutely forced by Westminster to choose between Scottish and British identities might not work out too well for the “British” side, given that even Scots who claim to be both prioritise their Scottish identity over their British one by a large margin.
54% of Scots classify themselves as either “Scottish not British” or “more Scottish than British”, with just 11% favouring the opposite definitions and 31% ranking both identities equally. The UK parties almost certainly don’t want to concentrate Scottish voters’ minds on that question even as a threat, because it inevitably gives rise to nationalistic feelings – a free gift to Yes Scotland.
It seems, then, that the only reason the No camp is being so wishy-washy over its “warnings” is that if they were to actually pull out the revolver and point it openly at Scots, we’d be able to see there were no bullets in the barrel. Indeed, it looks increasingly likely that there isn’t even a revolver, just someone pointing their fingers at us through their jackets.
As far as the supporters of independence go, the parties of the Union certainly aren’t pleased to see us. But they haven’t got a pistol in their pocket either.
In a post earlier this morning we made passing reference to the Scottish “cringe” – a sociological phenomenon by which Scots develop a subservient inferiority complex about their culture and abilities, predominantly compared to England.
Separation isn’t on the ballot paper! Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp | 06/06/2013 | 2 Comments Wealth Distribution in the UK
Wealth Distribution in the UK
The United Kingdom we live within isn’t actually one single union, it started life as a union of the crowns in 1603, then a union of the parliaments and currency in 1707 and now it consists of many different types of unions. Some of those work and some don’t, some work very much against the interests of Scotland, others work for one UK region or nation but act against the interests of all the others.
Unpicking these dysfunctional unions from those that do work isn’t actually very difficult. It only requires a little common sense; when a system of management fails repeatedly and completely it needs to be redesigned, that is common sense.
The complicating factor is that special interests profit from the maintenance of the status quo:
Westminster politicians with expense accounts and jobs that will be impacted if Scotland votes to re-shape the system (including Alistair Darling) Lords with lobbying contracts Business people who have done well and can’t see or don’t care that the system has held others back The establishment and those that profit from it including the media, often without understanding that the status quo isn’t actually in their long-term interests either
Those people want you to think it will be harder to change the system because they fear change itself, or because change might challenge their entitlements and privileges.
The Edinburgh Agreement handed the wording of the referendum question to the Scottish Parliament and most commentators expected a big fight over the wording, but were then surprised when the simple clear and easy to understand question with a YES or NO answer was selected.
“Do you think Scotland should be an independent country?”
Why was there no big fight over the wording? Because the question matters a lot less than what people think the word “independence” means.
Two Competing Definitions
The No campaign want to define independence as separation, isolation, the creation of border and barriers, old style negative nationalism, xenophobia, and economically risky.
The trouble is these definitions don’t relate in anyway to Scotland’s enlightened, inclusive and internationally focussed movement for political decision-making to be transferred to Scotland. They do, however, seem to be almost text book definitions for Nigel Farage’s UKIP which is fast becoming an influential force in UK politics (despite losing their deposits in every seat in the last Scottish election).
In contrast, the Yes campaign and the Scottish Government proposition is one where we have the appropriate levels of interdependence and economic interconnectedness, with both the other home nations and with our EU neighbours and trading partners. Crucially we need a system where we have the ability to engage the rest of the world on our own terms, which will enhance trading and political relationships.
The slow death of political union
All the evidence points to the UK having become an unbalanced economy with wealth and power now centralised in London and the South East. Mass economic migration accelerating rapidly over the last fifty years means that the population size of London and the South East sets the political agenda for the whole of the UK. Their economy has become so alien to Scotland’s that the economic and social policies they vote for are damaging not just to Scotland but also the other home nations and the English regions.
Westminster’s one size fits all policy platform isn’t working for Scotland. A win for home rule in the 1979 referendum (52% – 48%) which was never implemented, then the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, followed by the Calman Commission and the recent Scotland Act devolving more powers (but not the ones we need) have all been milestones on the journey towards re-shaping the political and economic model of the UK. The Scottish Government is not suggesting changing the geographic union of Britain, nor are they changing the currency, monarch or social unions, nor the common market for goods, services, trade, capital and people. They are also not changing the defence union through maintaining NATO membership. The political union however – the status quo you get if we vote no; well thats history.
The status quo is already dead, there is a great deal of uncertainty with a NO vote, not least because we do not know what NO means but because the polls also predict a NO vote in the EU referendum. The votes of London and the South East will be enough to take Scotland out of the EU, despite the fact that Scotland is likely to vote to stay in.
Fool Me Twice
Vote NO and trust us to offer some form of enhanced devolution says the No Campaign. Meantime, a Westminster parliamentary committee report says a Devo-Max or a Federal solution can only happen after a UK wide referendum. This would require London and the South East to vote in a way that is usually described as turkeys voting for Christmas (at least in terms of their short-term interests). They don’t want enhanced competition across the UK and they won’t vote for it, even if it’s in the more medium-term interests of a stable and sustainable economic recovery across these islands. Lets also put aside the fact that the two further referendums that follow if we vote No mean there is far more constitutional uncertainty than with a Yes vote next September! Let us actually consider if more powers will actually ever be offered! At a charity dinner last year Andrew Neil of the Politics Show said: Andrew Neil warns Scots not to trust Westminster
Andrew Neil warns Scots not to trust Westminster
“Devolution, the Calman Commission, the Scotland Bill, the Edinburgh Agreement, all of this and more you have, is because Westminster parties are scared of the SNP. If you vote NO you massively change the balance of power and they will not only give you nothing, but will probably take powers away from the Scottish Parliament”.
Honest words indeed from a committed unionist and leading expert on Westminster politics. Consider this scenario: would a Tory/UKiP coalition after the 2015 UK General Election be likely to have extra powers for Scotland on its policy agenda when they may have not have one single representative here? Or when they have the larger constitutional issue of EU membership to tackle?
Nobody wants the status quo either!
The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was devised on the premise that the SNP would never win a majority and so there would never be an independence referendum and so many of the questions are out of date, but the last one threw up a fascinating result.
When asked how Scotland should be governed:
8% opted for a form of independence that included the word separate and not in EU 16% opted for a form of independence that included the word separate 50% opted for the devo max option 11% for the status quo 11% for dissolving the Scottish Parliament
A fair conclusion is that independence is more popular than the status quo and that maintaining the status quo (which is what a No vote does) is no more popular than the idiotic idea of scrapping the Scottish Parliament in the No camp!
When asked a slightly different question on who should make decisions on behalf of Scotland (not using the word separation) the same sample threw up very different results:
Independence won with 35% Devo max 32% Status quo 24% Ending devolution (closing the Scottish Parliament) 6%
The NO campaign has been busy asking us not to vote for “separation” and making some plainly ridiculous claims as to how bad this separation would be. The problem with that tactic is that separation isn’t on the ballot paper – I don’t want separation. Independence is on the paper and so is the status quo, but nobody wants the status quo, even the political parties campaigning for a No vote don’t want the status quo.
The winner will be the one that wins the Devo Max votes without losing the support of their core vote. Devo Max has some horrendous flaws though, it is sometimes described as having all the benefits of independence except that we would leave Defence, Foreign policy and Welfare under Westminster’s control, but these arguably represent some of Westminster biggest failings. Independence allows us to share services with the rest of the UK whilst ensuring economic and social policy control in Scotland and the choices such as not to enter an illegal war in the Middle East or host nuclear weapons fifty miles from our largest city. It is independence that gives us the best of both worlds.
For example; the bedroom tax is being applied across the whole of the UK because house prices in London and the South East are artificially high. Rents have increased significantly and so therefore has Housing Benefit (200% since the slowdown began) so they say we can’t afford to pay the benefits to disabled Scots – except that housing benefit has only risen 14% in Scotland during the same period.
Foreign affairs and defence being left at Westminster would mean that our soldiers could still be required to fight in unwise and even illegal wars, and Scotland would still play host to nuclear weapons that cost Scotland £1.5bn a year just to maintain, money most Scots believe we could better spend elsewhere.
Business for Scotland believes the Scottish Government offers a form of independence that maintains the unions that work in the best interests of all the home nations. These will include a currency union with a prudent financial stability pact, free trade, open borders, social, cultural and family unions, in the case of the examples such as British Lions and Ryder Cup Team, a sporting union. We get to agree with our friends and neighbours in the British Isles what unions should be maintained for mutual gain, but more importantly we get to bin the ones that harm Scotland so we can tailor our economic and social policy in the interests of a distinctive economic landscape, challenges and opportunities and very different values, ideals and outlooks within Scotland and on the world as a whole.
In the interconnected global economy we require an element of co-operation and interdependency, to trade and co-exist peacefully. That’s the way of the world nowadays. This mature level headed internationalist, rather than old style nationalist approach seems to have caught the No campaign off-guard. They are arguing for the Scottish people to reject a form of independence that isn’t on offer. That is not real independence they cry, but it very much is. It just happens that the No campaign don’t doesn’t understand modern concepts of workable, mature and common sense Independence.
Once again, separation isn’t on the ballot paper. Modern independence that gets rid of the failings of Westminster and adopts the elements of Devo Max that work whilst rejecting extreme versions of independence is on offer next September.
Before we vote there will be a clear roadmap to a better Scotland, one with all the powers we need to improve our economy whilst simultaneously meeting our nations social and welfare needs, sounds just like what the people of Scotland really want and will vote for once independence is fully defined.
Maybe the slogan of the Yes campaign should be “Independence in Europe and Independence in the UK”? Join Business for Scotland Now
Category: European Union, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, Independence in the UK, International, Prosperity, Referendum 2014 About the Author (Author Profile) Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the owner of the Social Media and Sales & Marketing consultancy Intelligise and founding member of Business for Scotland. With a degree in business and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G). Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Enlightenment School of economic thinking.
The Denial of Justice by Craig Murray on May 29, 2013 . I don’t think any single person who has considered the matter seriously, has any real doubt that Jack Straw was complicit in torture in an active and involved way, and has lied about it continually. There are some who would argue he was ethically justified, but that is a different argument. It is not worth engaging in ethical argument with anybody who maintains that the facts which are the basis of the argument, should not be known. . The Gibson Inquiry was set up by the Government precisely to get to the truth of these matters. It was then cancelled precisely in order to hide the truth of these matters, which is one Hell of a U-Turn. The real reason for the cancellation of the Gibson Inquiry was that it became evident from its initial inquiries, firstly that Gibson was not a vicious calculating placeman like Hutton, and secondly that the number of very senior ministers, diplomats, security service agents and civil servants who were directly implicated in criminal activity was very large.
I confess that the cancellation of the Gibson Inquiry, at which I was determined to give evidence, came as a staggering blow to me. The official excuse for its cancellation was that there are a number of law cases pending over torture of individuals. This was very strange as public inquiries are generally into incidents likely to result in law cases, and the notion that the inquiry cannot run in parallel with law cases is a novel one.
Anyway, I collected myself and I quietly after several police interviews gave my formal, sworn, eye-witness evidence to the Metropolitan Police to assist the police investigation against Jack Straw, Mark Allen and others in the kidnap and torture of Abdel Belhaj and others. That was some years ago, and it is now absolutely plain to me that the very decent and genuine policemen whom I met are being blocked from ever going anywhere with that case.
Now we have the news that the new Justice and Security Act is to be used by the government to ensure that the facts of Belhaj’ civil case against Straw and Allen are forever hidden from the public. It is quite extraordinarily Orwellian that the systematic and deliberate denial of justice is through something called the “Justice and Security Act”.
Seems Margaret Curran is early for the Don’t Know Week – this level of feigning ignorance is unacceptably stupid. By Citizen Smart
DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): What do we make of Denis Healey admitting that when [North Sea] oil was discovered, Labour – a Labour government, ahead of a referendum, interestingly, on the constitution of Scotland – misled, deliberately misled the Scots about the value of oil?
MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : Well, Derek, I don’t know anything about that, those times, I don’t know the basis on which Denis Healey said that, I don’t know the argument, I don’t know the papers around that.
DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): But you’re the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland! You’re a senior Labour figure, I mean, he was a Labour chancellor.
MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : I know I’m getting on a bit, but I wasn’t around in Denis Healey’s days.
Oh yes she was.
Unless it was another Margaret Curran I met who was Secretary of Glasgow University Labour Club, the biggest in the UK, when Healey was Labour Chancellor in the Callaghan Government. This would have been in 1978, two years after Healey had made global front page news and labour movement noteriety after he went to the IMF for a bail out in exchange for huge public spending cuts.
Indeed not only did 20 year Margaret know who he was, but was sufficiently angry with him to be calling for his resignation. Because, difficult though it may be to imagine, Margaret was at that time was a prominent supporter of the Labour left opposition . And her, “not around” line is as credible as David Cameron claiming he was “not around” when Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax: As credible as would the current Secretary of Oxford University Conservative Association claiming in 30 years time he was “not around” when George Osbourne slashed welfare budgets.
So what is it about today’s Scottish Labour Party that makes decent enough people, spout such untruths on Scotland’s national radio station? Deny their own past? Be “not around?”
I think on this one it is obvious. Because Margaret well remembers that, in addition to being in the middle of an economic crisis in 1978, the Labour Party in Scotland, and grassroots activists like her in particular, were under immense political pressure from the SNP, which with 11 MPs at Westminster and opinion poll rating s touching 40% threatened to wipe Labour out whenever the next UK General Election came around. It had already near done it in the Council elections on May 1977, where for the first time in decades Labour had been swept from office in Glasgow. Or were you ‘not around” for that either Margaret?
Like, me she will certainly remember spending the best part of the Spring of 1978 campaigning for Donald Dewar in the knife edge Garscadden by-election, where the SNP started as clear favorites to take Labour out in one of its west central Scotland heartland seats, a success that would have left every last one of them vulnerable. The SNP rallying cry at the time? “It’s Scotland’s Oil”, backed up by detailed proposal on how a national oil fund in an independent Scotland could transform our country and deliver prosperity and social justice for folks in places like Garscadden and beyond. Folks like Margaret indeed.
Scottish Labour, with an able candidate in Donald Dewar, set about the nationalist claim with some gusto and effectiveness, and as a participant, I went along with this, genuinely believing the SNP claims were way over-hyped. I am sure Margaret then was little different from me in this respect.
But we now find – 36 years down the line – not only that the SNP was correct, but that the entire Labour Cabinet at the time, Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer especially, knew this but decided not to tell anyone, including Labour activists like me and Margaret.
Now I am long out the Labour Party, and have been lied to so often by Labour that I feel I am kind of immune to being shocked or outraged. But this one is so close to the bone, so central to my first experiences of serious political campaigning that it has shocked even me. “I spent all that time, all that energy, money I barely had, took all those early morning buses to Drumchapel, missed out on all these social events, that Elvis Costello concert in Edinburgh, to campaign on a lie, a lie known to the people who led that campaign?” And not just the 1978 Garscadden by-election, but the 1979 Referendum too. Our best argument was denied to us – by our own side.
But Margaret was “not around”.
Yet she most certainly was. Because I do remember, even if she chooses not to. At that time Glasgow University Labour Club, with over 300 individual members, was the largest in the UK by far. It was “on the circuit”. Everyone who was anyone spoke there – Tony Benn, Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot all regulars, as were all the leading lights in the Labour Party in Scotland. And Margaret, as Labour Club Secretary was their first point of contact, the facilitator. But according to her”not around”. Maybe she organised it all on the internet!
One other detail I must mention before I conclude. Margaret was a leading light on campus in the “Labour Yes” campaign for the 1979 Referendum. The “Labour Yes” campaign mind, not “Yes for Scotland”, the all party campaign, where those pesky “nats, liberals and commies” were also involved. But her direct university and Labour club comrade and friend, Johan Lamont was not. She was a leading light in the “Labour Vote No” campaign. You read that right: Johan Lamont, in 1979 actively campaigned against the ever so modest measure of devolution her own Labour Government offered the people of Scotland.
Go ask Johan. Or maybe she was “not around” either.
But believe me, they both were, and very much so. Key Labour student activists, earmarked as ones to watch by Helen Liddell the then Scottish Secretary of the Labour Party, situated in Keir Hardie House just 5 minutes walk away from Glasgow University. And Margaret and Johan, even in these days were on relaxed first name speaking terms with Donald Dewar, John Reid, Brian Wilson, Robin Cook, John Smith, George Foulkes, Bruce Milan……the list goes on. “Not around?” They were part of the show.
Which comes back to my initial question. Why is Margaret denying this?
Simple to answer: Because she needs to. Without that denial, her credibility and the credibility of her entire generation that is now running the Labour Party in Scotland is shot. They were mugged. We were mugged – because I was part of it too. Scotland was mugged. Poor working class people in Garscadden were mugged.
Some folks learn from history.
Others deny it. Repeat it.
One is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Alan Smart. Glasgow University Labour Club 1976-82. Chairperson Glasgow University Labour Club, 1980-81, Chairperson of Scottish Organisation of Labour Students, 1981-82. President NUS Scotland 1984-86, (elected on Labour Student ticket)
Margaret Curran: Glasgow University Labour Club, 1975-80. Secretary Glasgow University Labour Club. 1978-79. Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students 1980-81
For Margaret (That history degree she got don’t seem too have done her much good) :
Denis Healey. Chancellor of The Exchequer, 1974-79. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 1980-83.
Here in full is what Dennis Healey told Holyrood Magazine in May 2013:
Footnote: Many have commented that, with the exception of the bold Derek Batemen on his BBC Radio Scotland programme, and unlike the rest of the media, including STV, BBC Scotland’s coverage of this major admission by arguably the most important Labour politician of the late 1970s early 80s period has been near non existent, especially on TV. There may be many explanations for this.
Here is a possible one:
John Boothman, Present Head of News and Current Affairs, BBC Scotland: Chairperson of Strathclyde University Labour Club 1979, Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students 1980. Chairperson of the National (UK) Organisation of Labour Students 1981.
What's behind Scottish Labour's latest cancer concern? Monday, 27 May 2013 06:37 By a Newsnet reporter . The last two sessions of First Minister’s Questions has witnessed Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont focus on cancer treatment, specifically the availability of drugs in Scotland.
The focus by Ms Lamont has epitomised what Labour in Scotland have become, a party that will use anything in order to mount an attack on the SNP.
Central to Labour’s attack on the Scottish government is the apparent variance with England when it comes to the availability of some cancer drugs. One drug that has featured prominently is a drug called Cetuximab.
The company who manufacture the drug, Merck KGAA, issued guidelines in 2010 to the Individual Patient treatment Request (IPTR), they advised against prescribing the drug to Scottish NHS patients who had already undergone chemotherapy.
The IPTR was set up in order to open up a channel for access to drugs that had not been sanctioned by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) - the body which approves new medicines for the NHS in Scotland.
However, the IPTR has come under attack from Scottish Labour who are claiming that the system in operation south of the border is leading to cancer patients in England having far greater access to these drugs than those living in Scotland.
On May 16th, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont attacked free prescriptions and suggested some of the money could be better used paying for drugs such as Cetuximab.
In her opening question, she said:
"A packet of paracetamol costs 19p in Tesco. To dispense it on a free prescription costs the NHS £3.10 per prescription. The NHS spends £7.2m a year dispensing paracetamol.
"For that amount of money two hundred Scottish cancer patients could get Cetuximab to treat their condition for free for a year. While that treatment is free in England, Scots cancer patients have to pay around £3000 a month for it."
She added: "In the First Minister’s Scotland if you have a headache your prescription is free, but if you have cancer your prescription costs £3000 a month."
One week later, the Scottish Labour leader again brought up cancer drugs, this time describing the system in Scotland as "unfair".
Following Ms Lamont’s initial attack on the system that operates in Scotland, BBC Scotland online decided it should be the top political story in Scotland that day. Incredibly, when the Scottish Labour leader repeated the attack one week later, BBC Scotland online did exactly the same thing again and made it the top story.
Four days after the initial attack, BBC Scotland Radio phone-in programme Call Kaye covered the issue. In an uncomfortable broadcast, cancer victims were urged to phone in and detail how the system had let them down. The programme also highlighted Johann Lamont’s attack on free prescriptions and challenged SNP Minister Alex Neil to defend the SNP's free prescription policy.
What neither of these reports mentioned was the actual stance taken by Scottish Labour on both the Individual Patient treatment Request and the ending of free prescriptions to pay for more cancer drugs.
In 2011 Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee openly attacked a suggestion from the Scottish Conservatives that the cost of cancer drugs in Scotland should be paid for by scrapping free prescriptions in Scotland.
Speaking in a debate on cancer drug availability, the Labour MSP attacked the Scottish Conservatives for planning to re-introduce prescription charges in order to pay for cancer drugs.
Ms Fee said: "I find it worrying that the Conservatives would pay for the cancer drugs fund by bringing back prescription fees.
"To me this is a tax for certain illnesses to pay for others."
The apparent support for free prescriptions and the rejection of a Tory plan to re-introduce prescription charges - to pay for cancer drugs - lasted less than two years.
As ever, the Scottish Labour party are being less than honest with those cancer sufferers on whose plight they have hitched their latest anti-SNP campaign.
Scottish Labour are already on record as opposing the cancer fund system that operates in England. Indeed speaking in September 2011, the party’s Health spokesperson Jackie Baillie didn’t just rule out an English style fund, she confirmed her party supported the very system – IPTR - they are now criticising.
Speaking in a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Baillie described IPTR as:
"…an innovation to improve our existing system which we absolutely approve of. It does enable clinicians to make judgements in the interests of their patients."
The Labour MSP added that the IPTR was supposed to "make the medicine available to those who will benefit it most" – a key phrase.
Baillie also warned that there appeared to be failings in the system and urged the Scottish government to provide a measurement of how many requests for drugs were being made and what the success rate of these requests were, citing claims of routine rejections.
There was one other aspect of Ms Baillie’s speech that day when she said: "We value the work being done on value based pricing of medicine."
Value based pricing of medicine is a method of establishing the value of a drug based on whether the additional health expected to be gained from its use exceeds the health forgone as other NHS treatments are displaced by its additional cost.
In short, if the cost of one drug means that more patients will suffer because another cannot be purchased then this has to be factored in.
So, in late 2011 we know that Scottish Labour absolutely approved of IPTR. We know that they were not calling for a blanket approval of all IPTR requests, but only to those who would benefit most and we know that they were concerned about the rate of success of requests.
The Scottish government collated the figures of successful applications to those submitted and found the success rate of requests stands at two thirds - a high figure by any standard.
So is this enough to satisfy Scottish Labour?
Apparently not, for in February 2013 Scottish Labour who had previously "absolutely" approved of the IPTR system, according to Ms Baillie now considered it "no longer acceptable".
Coinciding with Scottish Labour’s new found ‘disapproval’ of IPTR, the party began highlighting individual and sometimes desperate cases of cancer sufferers whose requests had been refused.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Jackie Baillie also ruled out the cancer fund system operating in England.
She said this was because Labour: "genuinely believe there are other equally serious conditions that required improved access to medicines too".
She also said the cancer drugs fund in England had led to "a bit of a postcode lottery" in some places, "which is not desirable".
The Labour MSP then highlighted the case of Ann Fisher, a mother-of-three from Greenock who suffers from cancer.
"She can't get access to drugs here that would be available if she lived in England,"
It’s this aspect of Scottish Labour’s stance that is most distasteful if not confusing. Using patients who are quite understandably desperate is unbecoming to say the least. But to encourage these people to fight for a system that Scottish Labour itself describes as "not desirable" is beyond belief.
The attack on a system they initially supported, despite the improvements already carried out and the reviews still taking place, is typical Scottish Labour. We see this behaviour time and again on issues such as the council tax freeze and free University education.
They get away with it because the Scottish media refuses to police the party.
But why attack the IPTR system now?
The highlighting of individual patient cases is usually reserved for the period of election campaigning where parties are allowed to politicise any and all issues. Most people remember the infamous ‘glue ear’ case raised by Labour in the 1992 general election that highlighted the length of time a young girl had waited for an operation.
It remains to be seen if Scottish Labour are employing this tactic in an attempt at encouraging the Scottish media to use the issue in the weeks leading up to the Aberdeen Donside by-election to be held next month.
The Sunday Times ran a story this weekend based on Scottish Labour’s attacks.
We will be watching closely to see if this issue is indeed used by the media to attack the SNP in the lead-up to the by-election.
If it comes to pass that this does indeed become a media campaign then, given the reasons behind the need for a by-election, it will mark a particularly unsavoury signpost on the Scottish Labour road.
Joan McAlpine: Stop using oil lies to rig independence debate . JOAN McAlpine debates whether the treasury lied about the Scottish oil wealth and believes nothing it says can be considered impartial. . THEY say age brings wisdom but we should also add honesty.
There’s nothing to lose once you’re past 90, so you might as well tell it like it is. That’s why the interview with former UK Labour chancellor Denis Healey is so important.
The man whose bushy eyebrows once entertained millions courtesy of the impressionist Mike Yarwood is now aged 96 and still very sharp.
He says the Treasury covered up the extent of Scotland’s oil wealth because they were terrified the truth would give us the confidence to become an independent country.
This says a lot about the present, as well as the past.
The British state will go to any lengths to preserve itself and the privileges of the people who run it.
That includes Westminster MPs and Treasury mandarins.
If the Treasury told lies for decades about the oil, are they likely to change their habits now, with a referendum on independence next year?
The Treasury is a branch of the No campaign run by the Tory-led Government at Westminster – with Labour’s Alistair Darling as a frontman.
Nothing it says can be considered impartial. This week it published yet another “report” claiming this time that savings will be jeopardised if we take control of our own affairs.
A first draft seen by the Scottish Government was based on scaremongering about an independent Scotland losing its triple-A credit rating and paying more for mortgages.
Then the UK lost its triple-A credit rating because of London’s economic mismanagement – so the paper was quickly rewritten to focus on savings.
In fact, world bank reforms mean that deposits will be protected across national boundaries.
And Scotland is less dependent on financial services than the rest of the UK – they contribute 8.3 per cent to our national wealth compared with 9.6 per cent in the UK.
We are perfectly capable of guaranteeing savings. The Treasury paper is pure fiction – just like their lies that under-value massive oil reserves.
In the 1970s, a government economist called Gavin McCrone wrote a report saying an independent Scotland would be as rich as Switzerland – but it was kept secret for 30 years.
Now Healey, who was chancellor during the “It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign of the 1970s, says: “I think we did underplay the value of the oil because of the threat of nationalism.”
He says it was Margaret Thatcher who reaped the benefits and used oil wealth to fund her destructive policies that threw millions out of work. Healey doesn’t think much has changed: “I think they [Westminister politicians] are concerned about Scotland taking the oil, I think they are worried stiff about it.
“We would suffer enormously if the income from Scottish oil stopped but if the Scots wanted it (independence) they should have it and we would just need to adjust. I would think Scotland would survive perfectly well, economically.”
Lord Healey adds that accusations Scotland is subsidised by the rest of the UK are wrong and that we pay our fair share. He thinks keeping the pound as the currency of an independent Scotland would benefit England too.
Healey is of Irish descent and considers independence a “natural desire”. He might have also added that it was the “natural desire” of the privileged British establishment to stop the Scots. And there is nothing they will not do, no lies they will not tell, to achieve their ambition.
Labour should cut its ties with the illiberal Henry Jackson Society
Born of a desire to tackle totalitarianism, the society is increasingly intolerant, yet some Labour MPs still support it
Share 72 inShare1Email James Bloodworthguardian.co.uk,Monday 20 May 2013 11.12 BSTJump to comments (149)Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett in 2007. She is one of 11 Labour MPs to sit on the Henry Jackson Society's advisory council. Photograph: Dimitri Messinis/AP
Ever since the Iraq war, and to a lesser extent prior to it, popular perception has had it that humanitarian intervention is a cause célèbre of the right rather than the left.
One might even go so far as to say that, until the 2008 financial crisis hit and reignited the squabble between Keynesians and austerity hawks, the single biggest area of disagreement between left and right was on foreign policy.
"Hawks", "neocons" and "imperialists" were invariably of the right whereas "doves", "peaceniks" and "stoppers" were, with a few exceptions, on the left.
Douglas Murray, the Henry Jackson Society's associate director. Are his politics becoming the politics of the society as a whole? Photograph: Mary Stamm-Clarke/Demotix
As with most attempts at compartmentalising political ideologies there were of course glaring exceptions. While many on the left were instinctively uneasy at the concept of George W Bush's "war on terror", others conceded that, to paraphrase American author Peter Beinart, liberal principles could be threatened by forces other than western conservatism.
In other words, totalitarianism – whether in its Islamist or secular guise – required a firm, and where appropriate, military response.
When it was first created in 2005, the London-based Henry Jackson Society (HJS) appeared to offer a base for those on the centre-left and right who believed in a variant of "muscular liberalism". Much like the senator after whom it was named, the HJS sought to fuse a concern for social justice at home with a hardline approach to totalitarianism and autocracy abroad.
As a result the organisation attracted broad parliamentary support, including 11 Labour MPs, who continue to sit on the organisation's advisory council to this day.
In February, Labour's shadow secretary for defence, Jim Murphy, even gave a speech on policy at an event organised by the HJS.
According to those who've worked behind the scenes at the HJS, however, in recent years the organisation has degenerated into something that is anything but liberal.
The associate director of the HJS is Douglas Murray, a columnist for the Spectator and Standpoint, who joined the organisation in April 2011. In March, Murray wrote an article following the release of the results of the 2011 census in which he bemoaned the fact that in "23 of London's 33 boroughs 'white Britons' are now in a minority".
It wasn't so much integration that Murray wanted to talk about, however, but skin colour:
"We long ago reached the point where the only thing white Britons can do is to remain silent about the change in their country. Ignored for a generation, they are expected to get on, silently but happily, with abolishing themselves, accepting the knocks and respecting the loss of their country. 'Get over it. It's nothing new. You're terrible. You're nothing'."
In 2009 Murray also described Robert Spencer, the leader of a group calling itself "Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA)", as a "very brilliant scholar and writer".
A number of years before Murray saw fit to praise this "brilliant scholar", the latter wrote that there was "no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists".
And just to keep you up to date, this week Murray effectively endorsed Ukip in an article for the Wall Street Journal.
The spirit of intolerance at the HJS appears also to extend to those who have taken issue with Murray's rhetoric.
Marko Attila Hoare, a former senior member of the Henry Jackson Society who left the organisation in 2012, told me that his opposition to Murray's anti-Muslim and anti-immigration views saw him driven out of the organisation.
"It rapidly became clear that Murray had not tamed his politics, and that actually they were becoming the politics of the whole organisation," Hoare told me.
Murray's boss, HJS executive director Alan Mendoza, has form too. In March of this year he claimed that the increasing European Muslim population was to blame for Europe's "anti-Israel feelings", adding that the voices of Muslims "are heard well above the average Europeans".
Eleven Labour MPs are still associated with this organisation. How, one wonders, do the views of the Henry Jackson Society sit with one-nation Labour?
I wrote to all 11 Labour MPs with my concerns about the Henry Jackson Society but none were available for comment.
Perspectives: Anatomy of a scare story Posted by Stephen Noon on June 11, 2013
Every time I see yet another No campaign scare story my mind turns to the sombre warning issued by none other than Gordon Brown days before the 2007 Scottish election. With every ounce of gravitas he could muster and based on his wisdom and experience as the Chancellor who ended "boom and bust", Mr Brown assured people in Scotland that:
“The day after an SNP administration came to power, the fiscal position would start to become chaotic, unstable and unsustainable.”
Of course, a few months later the world’s economy did enter a period of chaos and instability, but few if any would put the US sub-prime mortgage collapse and ensuing stock market crashes down to the SNP. Indeed, for most fair-minded observers, it is reasonable to say that the sky did not fall in when the SNP became Scotland’s government. Mr Brown was engaging in that favourite of No politicians, the politics of fear.
And, before Scotland even voted for devolution, the then Scottish Secretary, Michael (now Lord) Forsyth delivered another master-class, showing us that the very best scare stories also include an element of talking down: a not so subliminal message that you Scots, you’re just not up to it.
His attack on the so-called tartan tax, could hardly have been framed in a more offensive way (from the Herald, 9 December, 1995): "An alcoholic asking for the keys of an off licence on the basis of a promise that he would not take a drink would have more credibility with the Scottish people than Mr Blair and his pathetic assertion that he would create a power to raise a tartan tax but that it might not be used." Of course, four terms into our Parliament, the rather useless tax-varying power has not been used!
Theresa May is no Lord Forsyth or Gordon Brown, but today her attempt to engender fear exposes the approach adopted by successive No politicians. In order for us to accept Mrs May’s claim that Scots would not be able to claim dual nationality, you would have to believe that a future UK government would treat Scotland differently from every other nation in the world. You would have to agree with the idea that the Mother of Parliaments, the cradle of democracy, would behave in a totally irrational way to its nearest neighbour and Union partner for 300 years.
As the Scotsman reports today, “the current UK Borders Agency advice states that British subjects who take on another nationality can keep their British passport as long as the second country allows dual nationality.”
The Scottish Government has indicated that it will allow dual nationality, and so for Mrs May’s scare to have effect, the UK government would have to reverse its current approach.
This raises two questions. First, why on earth do No politicians think it is a good idea to tell Scotland that they will seek to single us out for punishment if we vote Yes? That they will treat us differently, treat us worse than everyone else? It doesn’t say much for how they view the nature of the relationship that has been built up between us if this is their approach. And, I can’t help wondering whether these Tory ministers who are willing to punish Scotland for voting Yes, are also willing to punish us for not voting Tory?
And second, do they not realize that their scares have a diminishing return? As they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. All it takes is for a Scottish voter to see through one of the scares for them to adopt, justifiably, a "Why should I believe anything you say?" approach.
Within the depths of the Yes Scotland private polling is a piece of information that gives me absolute confidence that the No campaign’s tactics are backfiring. The more information people say they have about independence, the more likely they are to vote Yes. That explains the No campaign’s approach: undermine, confuse and misinform, and hope people don’t notice – but I have every confidence in the people of Scotland. We can see right through it.
Fair warning Posted on May 29, 2013 by Rev. Stuart Campbell
The Herald today reports officially (or at least semi-officially, quoting “a senior Treasury source”) what we’ve been telling you for months:
“Scotland’s annual block grant is set to be cut by hundreds of millions of pounds in a knock-on effect from George Osborne’s attempt to find £11.5 billion of extra savings across Whitehall budgets.”
The cuts will be implemented in 2015, if Scotland votes No to independence. Labour has repeatedly refused to commit itself to higher spending in the event it wins the 2015 election. The net effect on the Scottish budget of both up-front and hidden cuts like those described in the links above will be likely to run into billions of pounds.
When Johann Lamont says that universal services for Scots are no longer affordable, she isn’t basing her calculations on Scotland’s own finances, because Scotland can afford them and will be able to afford them for decades to come. She’s basing them on the reduced pocket money that Scotland will receive from Westminster regardless of who wins the next election, because that’s the true meaning of “One Nation Labour”.
George Kerevan: UK Treasury in choppy waters Treasury analysis suggesting an independent Scotland would be weaker is a 'tendentious and mendacious'. . By GEORGE KEREVAN Published on 24/05/2013 00:00 . In questioning Scotland’s ability to weather an economic storm the Treasury is sailing rather close to the wind, writes George Kerevan
THIS week both sides on the independence debate were firing off economic broadsides at close quarters. There was a lot of shouting and the sound of wood splintering, but when the smoke clears will anyone have scored a decisive hit on the opposition’s main mast?
First shot came from the UK Treasury with a 113-page analysis purporting to prove that “the exceptionally large and highly-concentrated financial sector of an independent Scotland would be likely to increase the risks, to markets, firms and consumers, of financial services firms operating in an independent Scotland.”
As an economic argument, this is frankly tendentious and mendacious. The argument that size should confer greater risk is not found in any economic textbook I’m familiar with. Nor has a large, concentrated banking sector been bad for, say, Switzerland or Luxembourg.
The Treasury paper argues that in an independent Scotland, the assets of domestic banks would equal 1,250 per cent of GDP. That random statistic is there to frighten the unwary, especially if compared to bankrupt Cyprus, where the comparable figure is circa 700 per cent. Of course, safe, dependable Luxembourg has bank assets worth 2,500 per cent of GDP, or double the Scottish figure. In fact, Luxemburg has enjoyed social and economic stability since 1945.
Sensing the Luxembourg case undermines their argument, the Treasury spin doctors clutch at straws. They claim Scotland “would require to run large… current account surpluses” in order to emulate Luxembourg’s economic strength. But an independent Scotland would run a very large current account (trade) surplus. Oil and whisky would generate circa £50 billion in exports annually. The rest of the UK – having lost Scottish export earnings – would see domestic interest rates rise in order to borrow the foreign currency needed to finance its massive trade deficit.
The point is that the size and concentration of a financial system is not a problem per se – the real issue is how well regulated it is. And the effectiveness of the regulatory regime has nothing to do with size and everything to do with the public authorities. Glaring example: it was the UK Treasury that, as part of the triumvirate of British regulators, failed miserably to head-off the 2008 banking crisis. The self-same Treasury that now has the unmitigated gall to lecture on financial prudence.
Had Scotland stuck to its traditional banking model, which eschewed banks borrowing on the wholesale money markets to fund their own investment gambles, we would not have had the credit crunch. Indeed, the Canadian banks – still operating on those traditional Scottish banking principles – came unscathed through the global financial meltdown of 2008. The best reply to the Treasury nonsense is that an independent Scotland will ban such proprietary trading.
The Treasury document does its best to frighten the horses by constantly referring to the financial crisis in Cyprus. It makes scant mention of the reason the Greek Cypriot banking system imploded: because it converted the massive influx of Russian funds into imprudent loans to the neighbouring Greek government, which was in no position to pay back. The loans to Greece – the main ally of Cyprus in its conflict with Turkey – were political.
I can’t see the banks in an independent Scotland taking it into their heads to finance a Cameron, Miliband or Farage administration.
My favourite bit of jiggery-pokery in the report is the bold statement: “There could be questions about an independent Scotland’s ability to stabilise its banking system in the event of a future financial crisis.” As proof, the report cites aid to RBS, noting that bank “received £275 billion of guarantees through the UK Government’s Asset Protection Scheme. This combined support from the UK Government to RBS is equivalent to some 211 per cent of Scottish GDP”.
Folk are meant to draw the conclusion that wee Scotland can’t protect its domestic depositors. The truth is that the Asset Protection Scheme did not involve any cash at all, far less multiples of Scottish GDP. It was an insurance scheme forced on RBS for which the bank paid to the Treasury (i.e. which RBS depositors paid). In fact, RBS never called on a cent of the insurance payout because it was too expensive. If it had, the Treasury would merely have borrowed the cash on the financial markets and lent it on to RBS at a higher interest rate, thus making a whopping profit.
However, I accept one key point repeated throughout the Treasury paper: that there is a “tight relationship between the sovereign and bank’s credit risk”. In lay terms, if a government is imprudent in borrowing, the markets will worry about the implications for the domestic banking sector. The result is higher bond insurance rates and lower credit grades for private financial institutions as well as for the government. And the bigger a country’s banking sector, the bigger the likely negative impact.
The Treasury ghost writers interpret this as meaning Scottish banks will move their HQs to London to enjoy lower risk ratings and lower borrowing costs.
But note the Treasury sleight of hand: the paper implies that an independent Scottish Government would be imprudent and so trigger a negative market reaction.
Here we come to the other economic document published by the SNP Government. This includes an interesting compendium of statistics showing that over the period 1980-2012, an independent Scotland (with oil) would have had an annual average budget surplus of 0.2 per cent of GDP.
As for banks moving their HQs, the real threat comes from the likelihood that an alliance of the Tory rightwing, the London tabloids and a populist Ukip will take the UK out of the European Union. Then just watch City banks flee to Frankfurt taking their £17bn trade surplus with them.