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We Will Not Be Bullied | National Collective

We Will Not Be Bullied | National Collective | YES for an Independent Scotland |
We Will Not Be Bullied

Posted by National Collective on April 18, 2013 in Announcements · 1 Comments


Preemptive strike? Tweet from Better Together head before our article on Ian Taylor was published.

On Tuesday 9th April, lawyers acting on behalf of the multi-millionaire oil-trader and principal Better Together donor Ian Taylor attempted to silence National Collective through threatened legal action. The following is our side of the story up to this point.

This is a story that should worry all Scots who wish the referendum campaign to be conducted in an open and democratic manner. Since launching in 2011, we have prided ourselves on running a positive, thoughtful and self-critical campaign, and have hoped that, in our own small way, we have improved the independence debate.

Our main focus has been on imagining a better Scotland. But any campaign for change is also a campaign against the status quo, and that requires a degree of criticism – and so, when necessary, we have been critical of the Better Together campaign.

On Sunday 7th April, Better Together revealed the details of those who donated £1.1 million to their campaign. The Sunday Herald provided a platform for Ian Taylor, who donated £500,000 of that money, to explain why he chose to back Better Together to such a degree despite not being eligible to vote in next year’s referendum.

We were confused. Nobody in the press seemed to be expressing any concern over Taylor’s background, despite a series of press reports linking Vitol, the company which Taylor served as CEO, to several ‘scandals’. And so our intrepid reporter Michael Gray (a 21 year old student), through careful use of Google, collated a series of stories already in the public domain, and in doing so challenged Better Together over the source of much of their funding. If we can be self-congratulatory for just a second, it was a fine example of citizen journalism.

The reports we raised were serious, and we did not publish them brazenly or without due care. Taylor’s company have been accused of giving $ 1 million to a Serbian Paramilitary leader, of bribing Saddam Hussein’s government and of tax avoidance, amongst others. All of these stories had been sourced and had been in the public domain for several years. We simply, in response to Taylor’s piece in the Sunday Herald, compiled them and asked Better Together to respond.

And so we were shocked to receive a letter from Mr. Taylor’s lawyers accusing us of defamation, and threatening two of our members, Ross Colquhoun and Michael Gray, with legal action if we did not remove the article immediately, publish an apology and agree to never to publish the material again.

We took this threat seriously, of course. Ian Taylor is a rich and powerful man and the courts are often a rich man’s playground. Out of fear of provoking further action, we were forced to become silent. We sought legal advice. We went through the original article with a fine tooth comb to check if, in fact, there was any basis in the claim of defamation.

We stand by Michael Gray’s article. Everything in the article was based on reliable news sources and, while we do not have the resources of the mainstream press or journalistic training, the piece was put together with due care and caution. The Herald received a similar legal threat and refused to back down.

Our legal advice was to remove the article in question while we prepared a response. Doing so would be in no way an admission of guilt or wrongdoing, but an acknowledgement that we were up against powerful forces with which we cannot compete financially. Yet there was an important principle at stake here – the principle that ordinary citizens should be able to question the powerful in society. We felt uneasy about the prospect of pulling the article, even temporarily, and continuing as normal. We may only be a humble group of activists, writers and artists, but to appear to be backing down felt too much like submission and displayed a lack of solidarity with Michael. If his voice could not be heard, then neither should any of ours.

For this reason, and for the reasons documented here, on Wednesday the 10th of April we took the very difficult decision of removing our entire website on temporary basis while we sought further advice. That morning, our initial story had been covered by both The Herald and The Daily Record. A further piece published online by The Scotsman that day included a warning from Vitol about legal action to ‘correct inaccuracies’ and ‘prevent further publication’.

By threatening legal action, Mr. Taylor’s lawyers hoped that this information could be kept from the public domain. But we were not attacking him personally. This was not the gutter press. This was information in the public interest. It matters how these campaigns are funded, which is why we repeatedly asked Better Together to comment. Lots of other people did, too. It was not an unreasonable demand considering Douglas Alexander, not our biggest fan, had previously raised similar questions over Taylor’s relationship with Downing Street. It was Labour MP and Treasury Select Committee John Mann who first described Mr. Taylor’s political donations as ‘dirty money’. (albeit Mr Taylor does not consider there to be anything improper about his political donations)

Yet we were met with silence. When we asked questions on Better Together’s Facebook page, the comments were marked as ‘spam’, and so could not be viewed by the public. It’s not the first time the No campaign have preferred to hide from us than engage – only a few weeks ago, Better Together tried to pull a film promoted by National Collective from YouTube, only for this to spectacularly backfire and go viral.

On Monday 8th, our story had received only a small mention in The Guardian, buried at the foot of another article. But we persisted. Within 3 days of publishing, our original article had been viewed 25,000 times, shared on twitter over 900 times and receiving over 3000 facebook likes. Momentum was growing behind our concerns, and yet Better Together refused to respond to us. But our persistence paid off. By Wednesday, the story had made both The Herald and The Record, and SNP Defence spokesman Angus Robertson had begun questioning Better Together over Vitol’s links with Serbian paramilitary Arkan. The information presented when Arkan was indicted to the International Criminal Court is too vile to discuss in detail.

After our story made the national press, many supporters of National Collective expressed concern over our silence – we’d had a serious breakthrough, so why had we not commented? When we replaced our website with a notice reading ‘Not for Publication’, many looked at Vitol’s warning in The Scotsman and correctly guessed that we had received a warning from lawyers.

Later that day we released a statement from our lawyer Aamer Anwar stating that our ‘website is offline only as a temporary measure for a few days. A detailed and robust response will be issued early next week along with further questions for the Better Together campaign.’ The response was an outpouring of sympathy which we found overwhelming. Donations flooded into our campaign fund without any request on our behalf. Kenny Farquharson, Deputy Editor of Scotland on Sunday, expressed his support, tweeting that ‘I hope the young pups at @WeAreNational overcome their legal difficulties soon. I’m a fan of much of what they do on#indyref.’ Euan McColm wrote that we had been ‘so far, among the most interesting and positive contributors to the campaign’. Kate Higgins, writing over at Bella Caledonia, gave great praise for the work we’d done. Support came in from, amongst others, musician Stuart Braithwaite, writer Alan Bissett, and several MSPs, as well as hundreds of ordinary people from both sides of the debate.

Meanwhile Better Together had suddenly taken an active interest in our group. Staffers Rob Shorthouse and Blair MacDougall put out a coordinated tweet mocking us prior to our statement being released. Better Together, who had been notably silent over the issue for several days, then responded by releasing a frankly bizarre statement accusing us of being part of a ‘co-ordinated dirty-tricks campaign’. This was only the beginning of a series of diversions manufactured by Better Together, all of which is covered in this rebuttal document ‘here’.

During a stressful time, this statement was a welcome piece of comic relief. Blair McDougall continued this line of attack on Scotland Tonight that evening, insinuating that this campaign was orchestrated by the SNP with Alex Salmond at the head. We can only speculate as to whether Better Together believed that Michael Gray’s article had been planted or encouraged by the SNP. For the record, Michael is not, and never has been, a member of any political party and the SNP and Yes Scotland were completely unaware that we were running the piece on Ian Taylor prior to its publication. It’s nice that Better Together are so worried by us that they’ll make this stuff up.

On the same night, Severin Carrell, the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent, discussed the disappearance of National Collective on Newsnight Scotland. When asked by interviewer Gordon Brewer if it might not be in the political interests of the No campaign for it to appear to be taking elements of the Yes campaign to court, Carrell said ‘No, it won’t play well at all. It’s certainly going to fuel the sense of outrage in their opponents and it’s going to start to put them on the back foot. I suspect, especially for the Better Together campaign, there’s rather a bit more to come on this one’.

Despite attempts to paint this as a smear campaign, the story refused to disappear. As well as ourselves, legal threats were sent to The Herald as well as other pro-independence websites. Robbie Dinwoodie continued to cover the story for The Herald on Thursday, and writing on Friday of the silence from Alistair Darling and Douglas Alexander over the matter.

While Darling and Alexander were still silent by Friday, Better Together continued to attempt to smear the independence movement. The Sun covered Better Together’s claims of ‘dirty tricks’, where the evidence presented for this widespread conspiracy and sabotage was a single facebook post and an abusive form returned to the Better Together office. They sounded rattled. The Sun couldn’t resist mocking the No campaign, stating ‘if you really want to get into conspiracy theory territory, you could even start to wonder if the whole thing is a fiendish plot by Better Together to smear their opponents’. The attempt to accuse the independence movement of a coordinated smear campaign, while in fact smearing us all, seemed a classic case of psychological projection.

Meanwhile, the story rumbled on. On Saturday, Alistair Darling finally broke his silence, welcoming the support from Mr. Taylor and indicating that the donation would not be returned. The same day, senior Labour MSP Ken McIntosh conceded he had no knowledge of the situation. At the same time, in a classic case of the Streisand effect, people had dug deeper into Vitol’s history and uncovered allegations of questionable business practices. We will report on this in due course.

By Sunday the 14th, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish entered the debate, telling The Scotland on Sunday that prominent politicians behind the No campaign had to ‘respond to legitimate questions’, and that ‘Labour has to be clear about whether this is the type of finance we want in the campaign’. Yet, when politicians from across the anti-independence parties were pushed for answers, they responded with silence.

6th day of asking without answer: Does @margaret_curran approve of @uk_together donor link to war criminal Arkan?…
— Angus Robertson (@MorayMP) April 15, 2013


6th day of asking without an answer: does @ruthdavidsonmsp approve of @uk_together donor link to war criminal Arkan?…
— Angus Robertson (@MorayMP) April 15, 2013


6th day of asking without an answer: Does @willie_rennie approve of @uk_together donor link to war criminal Arkan?…
— Angus Robertson (@MorayMP) April 15, 2013

We wish that we did not have to discuss this. While campaign funding is important, it’s also a minority interest and discussing it is certainly not why we launched National Collective. The accusations of a smear campaign put forward by Better Together (which, ironically, appears in every sense a smear campaign) have been in poor taste and Scotland deserves a better debate.

We look forward to returning to normal and working towards a Scotland where one in four children do not grow up in poverty. However, we are extremely concerned with how the debate has gone since we published our original article on Ian Taylor. Our website has been the subject of very serious threats in an attempt to silence and stifle debate, and while the influence of big money over politics is not new, our questions remain unanswered. We are very lucky to have been able to access the advice of well qualified legal counsel Aamer Anwar, who gave time and support completely free of charge. Other citizen journalists without these support networks would likely have been silenced.

This demonstrates the power of a platform such as National Collective. Thanks to careful research, an effective online presence and the support of the wider movement, we’ve forced an important issue into the debate, and Better Together can ignore us no more. This is a moment for all supporters of our campaign and all those who care about Scotland’s future to unite behind citizen journalism.

We know that Yes Scotland will reject any large donations from outside of Scotland, and we hope that they would also reject any donation from any individual or group with as questionable a history as Ian Taylor. If they did accept such a donation, we would ask that they return it. To the supporters of Better Together we ask – what price is Union for you?

What next? People on both sides of the debate have called for Better Together to return this donation. We are backing this call, and hope that our partners in the Yes movement will join us. Today we launch this petition to call for Better Together to answer questions about its funding. We are contacting Better Together, as well as their supporting parties, to ask the following questions, and will publish their answers if and when we receive a response.

Do Better Together believe it is good practice to accept a large donation from Ian Taylor in light of the concerns raised by National Collective and others over the business practices of Vitol?Do Better Together believe it is acceptable to accept a large donation from an individual who is not eligible to vote in the independence referendum?Do Better Together believe that their principal donor taking legal action against their political opponents is in the spirit of a fair and open debate?

There are bigger questions raised here for another day. We’ve asked questions over the hostility of rich elites to independence before. While the continued ability of rich, powerful men to intimidate ordinary citizens may not disappear on independence day, there is a discussion to be had about how we empower ordinary Scottish citizens and end the domineering influence of the powerful over politics. We hope you’ll join us in that discussion.

But for now, let us leave with this. We suspect that Mr. Taylor never intends to take us to court. To do so would simply raise the profile of a story he evidently wants buried. And if he did, both Michael Gray and Ross Colquhoun would go to court if it would clear the path for a fairer and more equal Scotland. And they would not be alone. If, Mr. Taylor, you do intend to continue with legal action, make sure that you do not only single out Michael and Ross. Come for all of us.

We are National Collective.

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Video | Leith Noise Up Show | 110713

Video | Leith Noise Up Show | 110713 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
A holiday mood rant by Alex on converting NOs to YES opens the show. Issues discussed... MOD attempts to seize Faslane for rUK | Project Fear | Salmond saltire at Wimbledon | Latest Westminster mud...
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Exclusive: ‘Scottish EU Membership Straightforward and in Denmark’s Interest’ | National Collective

Exclusive: ‘Scottish EU Membership Straightforward and in Denmark’s Interest’ | National Collective | YES for an Independent Scotland |

Exclusive: ‘Scottish EU Membership Straightforward and in Denmark’s Interest’

Posted by Michael Gray on July 10, 2013 in International · 0 Comments

An independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union would be straight-forward and in Denmark’s national interest, according to Danish academics and politicians. In a series of exclusive interviews with National Collective, members of the government, opposition and academics from the University of Copenhagen made it clear that Scotland would be welcome in international organisations. This follows supportive comments from the new Prime Minister of Iceland, who said Iceland would “welcome Scotland with a new thriving relationship” in the event of independence.

Growing interest in Scotland within the Nordic nations is a boost to the campaign for independence, which looks to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland as examples of successful independent countries.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen MP, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Social Liberals – who are part of the Danish government – stated that in the event of independence

    Scottish membership of the EU would be a mere formality.”

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen MP, the Venstre Spokesperson on European Affairs and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said

    Should Scotland vote for independence it would only be natural for Denmark to acknowledge this independence and to welcome Scotland in both the EU in accordance with the Copenhagen Criteria and also in NATO.”

Venstre are Denmark’s largest parliamentary party.

A source within the Danish government – when questioned on Scottish independence – stated that “we are following this with great interest”, yet did not wish to be drawn on further statements at this time.

Professor Lars Bo Kaspersen, Head Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, said that

    Scottish EU membership would be in the Danish interest. I think it could be a fairly quick transition. I’m sure that the European Union in general would strongly support Scottish membership and the same goes for NATO. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t think it was a good idea.”

This view was backed up by Professor Mikel Rasmussen.

    Scottish legislation is suitable for membership equal to that of the United Kingdom. When it comes to NATO and the EU, if Scotland wants it, it would not be in anyone’s interest to not let them in. If Croatia can be part of the EU of course Scotland can be. I find questions over membership to be a non-issue.”

These views contrast sharply with the doom-laden pronouncements of Westminster politicians who claim that an independent Scotland would be isolated and frustrated by barriers to EU and NATO membership.

The Copenhagen Criteria set down the requirements for EU membership. Rasmus Petersen MP, when asked whether this process would be prolonged or clear for Scotland, replied

    It would be very clear. In the case that Norway wanted to become a member of the EU, for instance, it could happen overnight.”

When asked whether Scotland could become a member “overnight” Petersen stated

    If Scotland wants it, yes. It would be a mere formality.”

There was also great interest in Denmark in developing closer cooperation with Scotland within the Nordic Council and the Arctic region. Søren Espersen, the deputy leader of the DPP, said that

    There’s lots of opportunities. We are so close to each other in so many ways. There will immediately be a close connection. I know that the Danish government will accept straight away that Scotland could be a member of the Nordic Council.”

The Arctic region is of growing significance to environmental policy makers. It was highlighted as a weak-point within the UK Strategic Defence Review.

The Scottish government are following Nordic development with great interest, as they consider how an independent Scotland’s can strengthen relationships with its neighbours. A number of projects – such as Nordic Horizons and Common Weal – also seek to translate the success of Nordic models to Scotland. They argue that Scotland can be a more prosperous and equal country, while providing a just contribution to global affairs.

For further details contact

Michael Gray
National Collective
- See more at:

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The Stepback Wives - Film Review

The Stepback Wives - Film Review | YES for an Independent Scotland |
 The Stepback Wives - Film Review
Saturday, 29 June 2013 00:01

By Llando MacBellieve and Noah Hinkitsreal, Our Film Correspondents
This is one of the scariest horror films we’ve seen in a long while. It deals with the themes of power and conformity and how these can both corrupt and destroy.

The lead character, Ruthanne Lammison, starts off as a strong and successful woman, one who forged her own identity and a career in politics and leadership.

But she finds herself lured into a place which at first seems perfect, almost a utopia.

Union is a place where nothing bad ever happens. Its citizens are all happy and content, wealth oozes from it with no sign of poverty. It is well protected by the finest and most proactive police and security forces in the world, and any threat would, in any case, be easily seen off by the nuclear submarines parked in the local lake.

Right from the start, there is a slightly dark and sinister undertone to this utopia but the attention is diverted away from it initially by the sense of success and power it gives off, and it is this which bedazzles Ruthanne and lures her in.

As the movie goes on though, realisation dawns that things are even more sinister than they appear. All the women, once so formidable and successful, begin to become subservient to their men, who in turn spend all their time in the union clubs talking in hushed terms.

They begin to talk the same way, to say the same things, to the point where they begin to sound almost like androids, programmed, no longer with minds of their own. There is one horrifying scene where you realise they are even now dressed the same! “All decent Union women are subservient to Union” becomes almost a mantra to anyone who questions the changes they see happening around them, especially those non-conformists who challenge or attempt to escape.

Meanwhile though, it’s not only the women who are affected. The union men too – again beginning as strong characters with differing political views – also appear to merge and blend into each other.


Chairchoob - finally driven mad by his own contradictions

By the end of the film it has become near impossible to tell the difference between the three main male characters – Dave, Ed and Nick. When you add in secondary characters like the other Ed and first Ed’s brother Dave the confusion becomes even more intense. And it is in this merging of identities, opinions and speech that the film has most impact in demonstrating the corrupting and self-destructive nature of power and the desire for conformity, even to those who wield it.

Those who are unable to conform, for example the tragic characters of Ian (Smart) and other Ian (“the Chairchoob”), are finally driven mad by their own contradictions.

One of the finest quotes in the movie is, in fact from Ian (Chairchoob) who, musing on the nature of power says, “See ony wee wummun wha doesnae dae as I tell her? She’ll find hersel’ getting a doin’ eh?

"Cos Ah hate that. Wummin wha talk up tae ye as if they huv a richt tae spik back. Naw, oor Union wummin ur better than that. Dae as they’re telt, read fae their wee scripts, dinnae question ower much. No like thae Natz who’re aye yappin’ awa wanting tae be different. No bein’ different is a bad thing, eh?

"Except we’re no like thae Tories either, ken. Naw. Wha’s sayin’ Ah’m like thae Tories? Ah bluddy hate thae Tories almost as much as thae Natz!”

He then wanders off with a banner reading, “Ban the bedroom tax”, even though all the men in the union club had already agreed they all agreed with the bedroom tax.

The film ends with Irving Berlin’s fine 1954 song Sisters, Sisters and never have those lyrics had such spine-tingling impact as they do after watching the movie.

    Sisters, sisters
    There were never such devoted sisters,
    Never had to have a chaperone, no sir,
    I'm there to keep my eye on her
    Caring, sharing
    Every little thing that we are wearing
    When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome
    She wore the dress, and I stayed home
    All kinds of weather, we stick together
    The same in the rain and sun
    Two different faces, but in tight places
    We think and we act as one
    Those who've seen us
    Know that not a thing could come between us
    Many men have tried to split us up, but no one can
    Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister
    And lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man
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'The Scotland Institute' a Scare-Story Howitzer

'The Scotland Institute' a Scare-Story Howitzer | YES for an Independent Scotland |
'The Scotland Institute' a Scare-Story Howitzer
Friday, 28 June 2013 23:27
By Mark McNaught
In the United States, think tanks litter the post-apocalyptic political landscape.  For every policy debate, there is some group of 'experts' with 'institute' or 'foundation' in their name ready with a statistic tailor-made to sway public opinion.
While some of these conduct valid empirical research, many others are funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers who seek to apply an academic veneer to their fascist neoliberal ideology.

Those who conduct 'research' and write 'reports' for these think tanks are already aware what their conclusions must be.  For example, for any 'study', a CATO Institute 'scholar' will invariably reach the conclusion that government is bad and the free market is good.  If he doesn't, he's out of a job.

Scotland … welcome to the world of millionaire-funded think tanks.  You've made it…baby!

The 'Scotland Institute' was launched by Alistair Darling a year ago, and funded by multi-millionaire Azeem Ibrahim.  Fortunately, 'Better Together' campaign manager Blair McDougall has reassured us that "It's not our vehicle, we are not owners of it, but it's helpful to the cause."

But to what extent could a 'report' conducted by the 'Scotland Institute' be objective and thereby helpful to 'Better Together', rather than a scare-story howitzer which will backfire.  I invite you to read for yourself Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland.

While the number of false assumptions could fill a tipper truck, the equestrian faeces contained within plops into at least three broad thematic heaps.

The first is that if Scotland becomes independent, they will no longer be able to play the global role the UK has played in military affairs.  Scotland is way too weak, too wee, and too poor to project their military might throughout the world as the UK has.

What the report fails to consider is whether an independent Scotland actually wants to play the UK role of 'airstrip one' (Orwell's 1984), sycophantically aiding the US to invade countries around the world, exploit its resources, or simply knock off governments they don't like.  After all, the US learned from the master, who is now their servant.

Maybe Scots would like to carve out a more benevolent strategic niche commensurate with their values.

The second is that NATO would not forgive Scotland for leaving the UK, to the point where they would not allow Scotland to join, even though they are already members as part of the UK.

The idea that an independent Scotland would be excluded from NATO, as if it were akin to the former Soviet bloc, is preposterous.  Even if it did, Scotland could simply not seek to join, which would enjoy significant Scottish support.  What relevance does NATO have in this day and age, anyway?

Although there is stiff competition, perhaps the most outlandish claim is that Scotland would lose out on billions in military contracts, and that there is "no reason to think that independence would be good for Scotland's defence industry".

Independence has the strong potential to redefine and reinvigorate its defence industry, and allow Scotland to focus on producing the conventional equipment necessary to assure its new military posture: a non-nuclear responsible global citizen.  Clyde ship building could see a renaissance, not only to supply ships for Scotland's navy but also to pursue contracts with other nations.

In addition, Scotland could redefine military procurement rules and contracts to eliminate the horrendous fraud and cost overruns which are endemic within the UK, i.e. US, defence industry.  Scotland can begin with a blank slate, exert much greater oversight over the procurement process, and have strict anti-corruption rules which will prevent the emergence of a dominant military industrial complex.

Cringingly, the author of the foreword asserts that "Scots are indeed a warrior race".  Yes, Scots have historically been impressed as cannon fodder for British imperial ambitions, but this caricature is hard to square with the most delightful and empathetic people I have ever known.

This 'Scotland Institute' obsession with lobbing scare-stories clearly demonstrate that it is unequipped to meaningfully contribute to an objective debate over independence defence issues.

But that is not its purpose.  Rather, the 'Scotland Institute' seeks to lend military might to the 'Better Together' campaign, well aware that politicians and media outlets like the Scotsman and the BBC will parrot their findings without scrutiny.

'Better Together' and its backers know that few reporters, politicians, or citizens will ever take the trouble to actually read it and judge for themselves.  Calling it a 'leading think tank' confers about as much credibility as the advertising slogan 'as seen on TV'.

Bear this in mind as the 'Scotland Institute' and other hastily contrived think tanks attempt to influence the independence debate.  Shield yourself by knowing exactly what think tanks are, who funds them, and how they operate.

Scots deserve a well-informed debate over its military future post-independence, rather than shills from a scare-story howitzer.

Mark McNaught is a member of the Constitutional Commission and an Associate Professor of US Civilisation at the University of Rennes 2 France. He also teaches US constitutional law at Sciences-Po Paris.
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Coming soon, later and always

Coming soon, later and always | YES for an Independent Scotland |
We haven’t seen anyone giving due kudos to BBC Scotland’s graphics department for this splendid bit of work on last night’s Newsnight Scotland yet, so we’ll do it now. As “vicious insidious pied-pipers of cybernats”, we appreciate it especially.
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Snowden, Surveillance And The Secret State

News analysis and media criticism
3MenInABlog's insight:

"the primary function of the British state, 'virtually its raison d'être for several centuries – is to aid British companies in getting their hands on other countries' resources.' "

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You and whose army?

You and whose army? | YES for an Independent Scotland |
The weekend's Scotland on Sunday contained another in a long series of doom-laden predictions about the state of an independent Scotland's defences, including the assertion that current Scottish so...
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review 130613

Video | First Ministers Questions Review 130613 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Salmond trounces Lamont and scores a remarkable 95% Rennie and Davidson prove again that Harvie or Margo should have regular questions
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The uncertain minds

The uncertain minds | YES for an Independent Scotland |
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.

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Forever blowing bubbles

Forever blowing bubbles | YES for an Independent Scotland |
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.
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Separation isn't on the ballot paper!

Separation isn't on the ballot paper! | YES for an Independent Scotland |

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.

The Opportunity

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”?
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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.
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 300513

Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 300513 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Alex Grant, Norrie Stewart and Stewart Lochhead review First Ministers Questions from 30th May 2013  
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BBC Scotland on hunt for trainee journalists to assist in referendum coverage | allmediascotland…Your key to the media

BBC Scotland on hunt for trainee journalists to assist in referendum coverage | allmediascotland…Your key to the media | YES for an Independent Scotland |

BBC Scotland is on the hunt for trainee journalists to assist in its coverage of next year’s referendum vote on Scotland’s constitutional future.

Says the BBC, successful candidates will be working “mostly as a researcher on a raft of programmes and media across the coming year designed to keep audiences up to date with every step on the road to the independence referendum”.

It continues: “This is an unique opportunity to learn journalism skills at BBC Scotland and help top BBC journalists tell the biggest story in Scotland’s history for over three hundred years.”

The closing date for applications is the second of next month.

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Alastair Campbell shows why no one cares about the Falkirk row, but it still matters | Liberal Conspiracy

Alastair Campbell shows why no one cares about the Falkirk row, but it still matters | Liberal Conspiracy | YES for an Independent Scotland |
by Leo Barasi    

8:01 am - July 9th 2013

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A standard rule of commentary is that, whenever a major news story comes along, writers of all political sides waste no time in declaring that it demonstrates how they were right all along.

The good news is, I’m only going to do that for the first half of this post. Feel free to skip to the bit under the second sub-head if you’re bored of that kind of thing.

Why Falkirk doesn’t matter: no-one’s noticed

Labour’s Falkirk troubles will need little introduction to the kind of supremely wise and good-looking person who reads a blog about public opinion. In fact, it’s been hard to avoid for anyone who reads the politics pages or is into political Twittering. Even before Tom Watson’s resignation, it was easily the dominant political story.

But that’s where appearances deceive. Everyone who reads Dan Hodges’s blogs or watches Prime Minister’s Questions should remember how different their experience is from the vast majority of the country’s

As usual, this is a political story that feels far more game-changing to the politerati than it does to the rest of the country. From the blogs, tweet and briefings, you’d think this was revolutionising the political views of the nation. But in reality there’s been no discernible change.

The proportion who’d vote for Labour, in YouGov’s tracker, is 39-40%: as it’s been since mid-April. The underlying perceptions of the parties haven’t changed either according to YouGov: during June, Labour lost a couple of points in being seen as able to take tough and unpopular decisions, but over the same time it actually improved its score in being seen as less old and tired, and also in having moved on and left its past behind.

So anyone who says that Falkirk is hurting Labour needs to come up with the evidence. So far there’s nothing to show that the public cares.

Why Falkirk matters a lot: opportunity cost

But there’s another side to it. I used to work for an agency that was set up to run political campaigns. One of our slogans, particularly when we were talking to the private sector and wanted to flex our political credentials, was “if you’re not winning, you’re losing”. I’ve no idea who came up with the line, but it perfectly describes why Falkirk really matters for Labour.

Even if Falkirk drags on and even if the party becomes more split about it, the problem for Labour wouldn’t be direct damage to its reputation. It’s a process story that can’t be easily summarised to someone who doesn’t care about process stories (that is, nearly everyone): Labour’s poll scores won’t take a hit. The problem is the opportunity cost.

Alastair Campbell recently delivered a brilliant speech about strategic communications (transcript here). The key part for Labour is this:

You need strategy and one that is so clear, so strong, so thought through that nobody can be in doubt as to what it is. Nobody internally, nobody externally. And the best strategies can be communicated in a word, a phrase, a paragraph, a page, a speech, and a book.

The word – Modernisation.
The phrase – New Labour New Britain.
The paragraph – Many not the few, future not the past, leadership not drift, education the No 1 priority. …

We had three years with TB as leader before an election. My goal was that by the time of the election, when his face came on screen, or people saw that slogan, they had an idea what was coming, regardless of what the newsreader or any other intermediary said.

For all the work Miliband’s team have done in keeping the party together, winning and retaining 2010 Lib Dem voters, and consistently leading the Tories, no-one would claim that he’s reached the point where, as soon as he comes on screen, people know what he’s going to say.

It’s still 22 months to the election: time enough to get to that point, but not long enough to have time to waste. Every week Labour spends talking to itself is a week when it’s not communicating a vision for why it should run the country. That’s the main threat from Falkirk, and why the best outcome for the party is one where Miliband turns it into a definition of what he stands for.

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Last Rat joins the sinking ship!

Last Rat joins the sinking ship! | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Meanwhile Project Fear goes from strength to strength. (Last Rat joins the sinking ship!
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Scottish SMEs Divided on Independence

Scottish SMEs Divided on Independence | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Scottish SMEs Divided on Independence
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - July 1, 2013) - Research from AXA Business Insurance reveals that just over half of SMEs in Scotland are in favour of independence, in contrast to those across the rest of the UK who are less enthusiastic.

The study, which questioned around 500 SMEs across the UK, revealed that one in four (25 per cent) of all those questioned believe that independence would be a good thing for small businesses in Scotland, while 45 per cent believe it would not. The remaining 30 per cent are not sure either way.

However, when it comes to businesses based in Scotland, the number in favour of independence doubles to 52 per cent, while only one in three feel independence would not be a good thing for SMEs.

South of the border, in England, 43 per cent of SMEs think independence would not be a good thing for their contemporaries in Scotland, while in Wales this number is 59 per cent.

The study also revealed that Scottish SMEs are more negative about current government spending cuts than SMEs based in England, although those in Wales are the most unhappy about the effect these may have on their business.

However, a larger percentage of SMEs in Scotland than in England feel that the current low interest rates provide a positive outlook for their business.

The results come on the back of the AXA Optimism Index which last week revealed that, while levels of optimism were riding high right across the UK, SMEs in Scotland were the most upbeat about their futures.

Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance says: "It is clear from our research that this is an issue that is very much front of mind for small businesses.

"SMEs have a lot of business critical issues to manage at the moment and the uncertainty around a possible independent Scotland will only add to those concerns.

"Regardless of the outcome of the vote, it is important that small businesses are looking at every eventuality and ensuring that their business is prepared for the vote to go either way."
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Brown scrambles to make up for past negligence as MoD blamed for Dalgety Bay contamination

Brown scrambles to make up for past negligence as MoD blamed for Dalgety Bay contamination | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Brown scrambles to make up for past negligence as MoD blamed for Dalgety Bay contamination (However, as revealed by Newsnet Scotland as far back as December 2011, the Labour MP did little to facilitate a...
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review 270613

Video | First Ministers Questions Review 270613 | YES for an Independent Scotland |

Holiday fever at Holyrood High. Head Girl JoLa rambled though her speech, eyes glued  to the paper, and forgot that its supposed to be question time. Head Boy Alex was confident replying to no questions from JoLa and looked slimmer. Junior school head monitor Ruth successfully avoided politics in her goodbye address. Its usually  a fair strategy but not if she plans a political career. Corporation Tax; Tories at last finding allies in Scotland in  the Labour Party; Free personal care. Lets hope they return after the hols more inspring.

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How should Scotland's unions respond to Labour's Right shift?

How should Scotland's unions respond to Labour's Right shift? | YES for an Independent Scotland |

How should Scotland's unions respond to Labour's Right shift?
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 21:38
"THINGS fall apart; the centre cannot hold..."
We might not yet have reached the stage where the words quoted above can be applied to "the great alliance" that once existed between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions in Britain.

Yet it is difficult to remember a time during the past century when that relationship has been under greater strain than now. There are a number of reasons for this.

The Labour Party was brought into existence to be the political voice of the organised labour movement across Britain. They were in parliament to defend the interests of that movement and the working class the movement represented.

Somewhere between 1979 and 1997 the Labour Party gave up any pretence of being that kind of party. In the words of the recently deceased author Iain Banks: "Labour gave up being Labour."

Anti-union laws

The embrace of the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe by the Blair and Brown governments was the most obvious signal of New Labour’s change of direction.  There were many others.

Illegal wars, privatisation, deregulation, welfare cuts and attacks on civil liberties are some examples of Labour’s drift to the centre right ground of politics; and of its drift away from the socialist and collectivist principles that had traditionally defined the labour and trade union movement.

Labour’s affiliated trade unions were powerless in the face of this betrayal.  Within the parameters of the British state they had nowhere else to go. Bad as Labour had become, the Lib Dems and the Tories were even worse.

The unions may have hated what Labour Governments were doing.  They were more frightened of what Lib Dem or Tory Governments might do if given the chance.  Events were to prove them right.

The onset of the financial crisis in 2008 first ended 13 years of New Labour Government and then ushered in a ConDem Coalition committed to a programme of austerity that threatens to destroy everything "the great alliance" had ever stood for.  In particular, it threatens the one part of the economy where the unions remain relatively strong - the public sector.

One senior union official recently told a pensioners’ conference that more than 50,000 public sector jobs in Scotland had disappeared in the last four years and another 250.000 were set to go over the next four years.

The trade unions’ key role in electing "Red Ed" Miliband as Labour leader was meant to signal the beginning of fight-back against austerity, a break with New Labour and the hope of a steady return to the collectivist and egalitarian ideals of "the great alliance".

This flight of fancy was soon brought crashing to earth as Miliband and Balls, in true New Labour style, announced that they would honour the Tory inspired spending cuts, cap social security spending and erode universal benefits through further means testing.

Anyone looking for an end to austerity under a Labour Government would look in vain.

Political funds

So where do trade unions turn now?

The argument for trade unions to have political funds rests on them being able to use the money to campaign politically on issues of social justice that affect their members - full employment, rights at work, decent public services, the eradication of poverty and inequality and so on.

How then can any union continue to fund and support a Labour party that is committed to austerity policies that threaten all of these socially just ends?  The only credible answer to that question is that within the British state there is no electable alternative to Labour.  Scotland, of course, is different.

We now have an historic opportunity to break with a British state that has remoulded what was supposed to be a party of labour into just another prop for a deeply conservative political culture.  The challenge facing the leadership of the Scottish trade union movement now is to face up to that uncomfortable reality.

The STUC and its Labour affiliated unions claim that social change and not constitutional change should be at the heart of the referendum debate.

If they mean what they say they must recognise that the social change their members need cannot be achieved through a Labour party thirled to the British state but only through the break-up of that British state.

It really is time to think again.
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 200613

Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 200613 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Another commanding performance by Salmond. Lamont fails to land a glove. Davidson pursues the baby ashes scandal and Rennie asks a constituency question.  
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Perspectives: Anatomy of a scare story

Perspectives: Anatomy of a scare story | YES for an Independent Scotland |

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.

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Quoted for truth #17

Quoted for truth #17 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Labour Party member Cailean Gallagher in the Herald, 6th June 2013: “Until this week, the hope was that a Labour government at Westminster would respond with a cure.
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 060613

Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 060613 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Lamont speech writer fails. Salmond back on top form. Ruth gives way to Murdo.  
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