YES for an Independent Scotland
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YES for an Independent Scotland
2014 will be a referendum on relocating power from London to Scotland. 2016 will be an election about the policies of a free Scotland
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"Something Better", Citizen Smart (Labour for Independence video)

"Something Better" A song i wrote and recorded in 2009 given a fresh and so relevant perspective by this excellent new video made by Labour for Independence ...
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BBC Scotland to receive more funding as new DG Hall bows to union pressure

BBC Scotland to receive more funding as new DG Hall bows to union pressure | YES for an Independent Scotland |
By Lynn Malone and Martin Kelly
New BBC supremo Tony Hall has backed trade union demands for more money for Scotland.  
At a meeting in Pacific Quay in Glasgow last Friday, Hall also told hundreds of staff that a bullying management culture isn't acceptable and said he will take steps to address the problem.

In a question and answer session the new Director General had to field a number of questions from at least four senior management figures before addressing the important issues demanded by journalists from the hard pressed newsroom.

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Copious gas from North Sea coal -

Copious gas from North Sea coal - | YES for an Independent Scotland |

Copious gas from North Sea coal
From Mr Algy Cluff.

Sir, The government has committed, in its Gas Generation Strategy, to support up to another 40GW of gas-fired power stations to replace old coal, oil and older gas-fired plants over the next 15-20 years. Electricity generated from gas will form the backbone of UK energy policy for the foreseeable future and will provide a bridge as the UK looks to embrace a new atomic age from the mid 2020s.

The feedstock for new gas-fired power stations will reach the UK by pipeline, liquefied natural gas carrier, some UK shale extraction as well as gas from declining North Sea fields. Importantly, the real potential of shale in the UK remains unclear.

As Britain’s remaining coal mines struggle to raise investment and reach the end of their natural lives the UK’s thirst for gas can and must be met by a variety of supplies; but it is the UK’s coal reserves that have a huge role to play. Proven underground coal gasification (UCG) technology allows the coal to be combusted in the seam and a syngas to be extracted for use by industry or the electricity generating sector.

Britain’s coal reserves are considerable, onshore and offshore. The potential for this technology to be deployed in offshore locations raises the opportunity for abundant gas production from indigenous coal reserves without any possible impact on residential development, water courses or the landscape.

When I participated in the early days of North Sea oil exploration, it became manifestly clear that we were drilling through thick coal seams which, however, we could not access or utilise. Times have changed and I can foresee the North Sea oilfields being superseded by North Sea coal fields with the capacity to sustain the UK for thousands of years with gas.

The government must move to better support UCG and guarantee that the relevant coal licences, distributed to allow UCG development, are prioritised for UK companies, which can deliver a new world-leading energy industry, harnessing revolutionary new techniques and delivering an important boost to UK energy security.

Algy Cluff, Chairman and CEO, Cluff Natural Resources, London SW1, UK

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Lords Lawyers and Racist Tweets

Lords Lawyers and Racist Tweets | YES for an Independent Scotland |
The hypocrisy of the No campaign and their media cheerleaders is both overwhelming, and, slightly comic. As a touchstone of what's happened to Labour though this is actually tragic ... http://www.y...
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Conundrum of News Gathering from social media cf Twitter

Conundrum of News Gathering from social media cf Twitter | YES for an Independent Scotland |
 The Conundrum of News Gathering on Twitter
Michelle L. Cramer   May 03, 2013
The journalist's toolkit has changed dramatically, according to news industry analyst, Ken Doctor. He considers an early 20th Century doctor and the meager tools of diagnosis he had in his traveling black bag. "The journalistic equivalent is the pencil and pad," Doctor says, jotting down facts in chicken-scratch shorthand that only he could read (if lucky), and traveling here and there to gather the facts from the most reliable sources. Now that journalist has the whole world at his fingertips. Even in an age of endless web information, it goes beyond Google searches and Wikipedia entries; today's journalists are also scouring social media, namely Twitter, for breaking news ideas.

Mark Sherbin (@MarkSherbin), freelance writer for Content Marketing Institute, points to the recent Boston bombings as an example of how Twitter is a valuable source for today's reporter. "Witnesses tweeted pubicly about [the bombings]. News organizations search these networks and get rich media like videos and pictures they'd never get otherwise because it takes their camera crew too long to get to the scene. How much bombing footage run by news networks would you say was taken by a professional?"

The answer, of course, is very little, because Twitter patrons posted in real time. HuffingtonPost writer, Floyd Elliott, believes that Twitter outshined conventional news media at reporting the breaking story of the Boston bombings on a moment-to-moment basis. However, maintaining journalistic integrity means not solely relying on social media for accurate story information.

"I usually scan 1,200 [tweets] per day and post 50 to 60 handpicked news points," says Steffen Konrath (@stkonrath), managing director and editor in chief of Liquid Newsroom. "As with all sources, it is only dangerous if you don't know how to verify or evaluate what has been said. Rumors, claims, accusations -- they won't find their way into my reporting."

Sherbin believes there is a flip-side to news gathering on Twitter. "Social media is a tremendous source of misinformation," he says. "Journalists and editors are professional news-breakers. Social media users could be anyone. They can mishear facts, hide shady motives or convey the right information in the wrong way. You end up with major factual errors, missing information, accidental slant -- sometimes entirely fabricated stories."

Twitter should compliment what you already do as a reporter, according to Jimmy Orr, managing editor of the LATimes online. "It's a good tip sheet. But it's a starting place, not an ending place, and in using it we still must follow basic journalistic guidelines. It's our responsibility to get it right. All we've got is our credibility."

Editor and publisher of The Elizabethtown Advocate, Dan Robrish (@etownpa), uses social media (mostly Facebook) to connect to breaking news in his small community. Recently he followed up on a lead through social media regarding the possible arrest of the high school athletic director. A follow-up with the local police department nullified the story, but Robrish knew the rumor had started, so he posted that there had been no arrests of school employees and the rumor was false.

"I use social media the same way I use a stranger calling me and telling me something -- I would need to substantiate that from someone more credible," Robrish says, pointing out that, while social media is another tool for news gathering, you can't rely upon it.

In a article, Jeremy Stahl (the voice behind Slate's Twitter feed @slate) says, "If, as a wise journalist once said, journalism is the first rough draft of history, then Twitter is the first rough draft of journalism." Along those lines, Stahl (@JeremyStahl) and Sherbin have recommendations for news outlets to consider when using Twitter (or any social media) for newsgathering:

    Utilize first-person eyewitness accounts and official sources (i.e. third party sources are out unless verified)
    Follow sources on Twitter that you trust
    Follow-up with all sources directly to fact-check and clarify
    Find a second source to substantiate tweeted information
    If there's a place for an opposing perspective, make sure you get it

"The foundation remains the same: get it right and make it understandable to your audience," says Doctor. "Newsrooms require deep ongoing conversations, involving all, about how to manage everything in the new evolving toolsets."

Sherbin says there's no such thing as the perfect rule system, but journalism's ethics and standards come pretty close. "Checking and double-checking facts is crucial to surviving the web's constant deluge of information." That said, Sherbin believes that unsubstantiated tweets should be treated as leads until proven otherwise because social media may change the game, but it doesn't change the rules..
3MenInABlog's insight:

If only Tom Peterkin of  The Scotsman had not "sexed-up" the Calman story. #journalistfail

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Independence from UKIP?

Independence from UKIP? | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Independence from UKIP
By Jonathon Shafi
Scottish viewers of Question Time, This Week and the local election results in England as they come in could be forgiven for thinking that they have walked into a strange parallel universe. From Starkey to Farage to the ‘rise of UKIP’ none of it makes any sense whatsoever in a Scottish context. There are so many questions that you could ask, but there are perhaps three in particular that can help take the discussion forward. What’s going on and how did it happen, why is Scotland different, and what should our response be?

Firstly, lets deal with where UKIP draw their support and in doing so avoid the far easier – and wrong – conclusion that says they are simply a bunch of cranks who have had too much media coverage

The reactionary poison that flows from UKIP has found a resonance with the increasingly embittered, divided English population. They reflect, as all such movements have done historically, a contradictory set of social forces. On the one hand they are a party that appeal to a middle class, driven into a frenzy as a result of the economic crisis. Their anger is focussed on the work-shy, the immigrant and on the European unions super state: all of whom are holding back the hardworking, pure of blood Brit who needs the help of no one to make its way in the world

Anti-EU has been the raison d’etre of Farage and UKIP, and has been the foundations of their rise. It’s classic Tory little Englandism that says we used to be an empire and now our sovereignty has been taken away by Brussels. The collapse of the Eurozone has opened up a space for this perspective to win votes.

Supporters are drawn to the disciplining social policy of the far right. UKIP pose to many as the ‘real Tories’, just look for example at gay marriage. with them feeding on the sense of what many Tories argue is an entrenchment of ‘anti-family’ values.

On the other hand, they appear to stand up for a common cause amongst working people in general. Farage on the lead up to the elections carried out public meetings all over England under the banner of ‘the common sense tour’. They wrap and intertwine the question of immigration with the corruption of not just the EU, but of the political elite in Westminister.

Things have gone so wrong, they say, that what is needed is a back to basics approach. Let’s clean up the streets, cap immigration, stand up to ‘socialist’ Europe and get Britain working. If that means saying unpopular things about labour rights, or maternity leave, then so be it. Remember, what’s important is that unlike the mainstream, they claim not to be concerned about sound bites alone. They are on your side, they are a reflection of a host of mixed up views about the world, fired by a popular support that is angry, sometimes confused and often driven by genuine reactionary tendencies.

So there is a social basis for the UKIP vote. There are three primary causes: the economic crisis, the corruption of formal politics and a general shift to the right in mainstream political discourse which is connected to the third way politics ushered in by New Labour. The crisis created the conditions for division over race and the frenzy of the middle class who themselves suffering the consequences of economic collapse.

The corruption in mainstream politics has added a double edge to this. People don’t trust Westminster, or politicians in general. This creates an opening for other forces to enter into the mainstream, especially if they find a way to articulate the sense of betrayal and suspicion many cast over the parliament and so on. And, this is all underwritten by the neoliberal consensus that was driven through by New Labour. It is not just a direct political assertion that Labour ‘sold out.’ More than that, neoliberalism has impacted society, has atomised it and has created a situation where the struggle for work becomes an intensified struggle against one another for limited and often precarious employment. The mass workplace doesn’t exist in the same way. Our communities have been disrupted, scattered or destroyed. Social bonds and solidarity are not as directly attainable now as they have been in the past. Our society is in decay, our economy is fatally flawed and the political core has shifted to the right. In such an environment, contenders can make gains.

Scottish anomaly?

In Scotland we face similar socio-economic issues. So why can we not imagine that UKIP would ever have anything near their result in the local elections up here? There are some extremely important reasons. To start, let’s just first of all say that there is nothing naturally more left wing about Scots than the English. To suggest that is to reject a material analysis of the differences in the conditions in each country.

Perhaps most obviously, there was an antidote (of sorts) to New Labour in Scotland: the SNP. This is crucial. In Westminster your only alternative to New Labour was something more right wing. And if you put your faith in the Lib Dems you were immediately sold out. In Scotland the political domain was prevented from moving to the the right in the same way, because the SNP spied that tacking to the left of Labour would achieve a better result electorally. They provided a clear alternative to the Iraq war, to trident and importantly, they deliberately set out an economic policy that included free prescriptions, free education and a commitment to, for example, the NHS

Further more, the corruption of power so easily capitalised on by UKIP is different in Scotland. Lots of people – pro independence or not – view Westminster politics as corrupt. From Iraq to expenses and so on. But the same cannot be said of the Scottish parliament. Poll after poll shows a high level of support for the SNP, but more than that, if you were to ask the simple question, who is more corrupt Westminster of the Scottish parliament, we can make an educated speculation that Westminster would top that particular poll.

Next is our relationship with nationalism. British nationalism of the type evoked by UKIP is simply not as fertile in Scotland. It is far more difficult to parade around in tweed trousers proclaiming the British way in Scotland than it is in certain areas of England. There is not widespread ‘passion’ for Britishness. Where there is a passion for Scottishness it is of a different order. Patriotism of all colouration can lead to regressive tendencies, but I would argue Scottish nationalism is different to British nationalism, and that in contemporary politics, it has progressive connotations whereas British nationalism has perhaps its most toxic for many decades. Look at it this way: saltires drape over Faslane protesters, its not true that a union jack would be so fitting. Scottish nationalism, is in a sense a form of displaced class consciousness. British nationalism is anything but, it is a rigidly oppressive and imperialist culture.

Lastly, the effects of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has created a divided economy between north and south in Britain. Finance capital has provided increased employment and improving living standards for some people in the south-east of England, but for the north and Scotland it has failed. Unlike in the industrial age, where jobs were spread across Britain, finance capital is very geographically concentrated and requires less labour, which is why unemployment has been permanently over 1million right through the 90′s and 00′s. This economic division is reflected politically with the north of the country predominantly social-democratic and the south predominantly Tory. The difference between Scotland and the north of England is that Scotland is a nation with its own parliament, whereas the north of England is tied politically through Westminster to the south of England. Labour have to go chasing votes in the south to beat the Tories, so ignore their base in the north, to an extent Cameron has to position himself to do the same visa-versa. In the process of both triangulating each other, UKIP have cleaned up the discontented in England, but in Scotland we have a political dynamic which is partially not trapped by the North-South division in England.

If we have at least some understanding of where UKIP comes from and why Scotland is different, what should our attitude be to the UKIP, dare I say it, ‘phenomenon’.

In part we will help those trapped in the spell of nationalism and reaction by breaking up the decaying British state. It is time for that period to end. And with it so to can many of the prejudices that have necessarily grown up around it. The British state needs its ‘prestige’ damaged, if its peoples are to flourish in harmony with themselves and the international community.

But more than breaking the old order we must propose independence as an opportunity to build another. This is certainly not a time for ‘gloating’ that UKIP would never happen in Scotland. It is not a time to abandon the progressive movements in England. It is far more a moment to consider that we must do everything possible to get out there and win independence. Along the way and beyond that we should extend our hands to our peers in England and show in practice that another way of running society, inclusively, democratically and collectively, is possible. The double blow of independence and of showing in practice what is possible, can confine UKIP and their like to museums and re-enactment societies where they belong.

3MenInABlog's insight:

But more than breaking the old order we must propose independence as an opportunity to build another. This is certainly not a time for ‘gloating’ that UKIP would never happen in Scotland. It is not a time to abandon the progressive movements in England. It is far more a moment to consider that we must do everything possible to get out there and win independence. Along the way and beyond that we should extend our hands to our peers in England and show in practice that another way of running society, inclusively, democratically and collectively, is possible. The double blow of independence and of showing in practice what is possible, can confine UKIP and their like to museums and re-enactment societies where they belong.

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The No Campaign gets its figures wrong again! | #donergate | Business for Scotland

The No Campaign gets its figures wrong again! | #donergate | Business for Scotland | YES for an Independent Scotland |
The No Campaign gets its figures wrong again!
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp | 12/04/2013 |
Oil has a great future
Ian Taylor, the No Campaign’s largest donor, wrote an article in The Sunday Herald last week explaining “Why he gave the No Campaign £500,000”.  The donation itself has caused some heated political debate (around the fact that he is not registered to vote in Scotland), but since this site is a professional business and economics online magazine, we will focus on the economic claims Mr Taylor makes.
It is clear that Mr Taylor now has a vested political interest in presenting the worse case scenario, in terms of Scotland’s future oil revenues.  That said, he is also the CEO of Swiss oil trading company Vitol, and so people would tend to believe that he might have an expert grasp of the facts when it comes to quoting oil price forecasts by foreign governments, but the figures he quotes appear to be wrong, and by a good margin.

In his article, Mr Taylor pours scorn on the Scottish Government’s oil revenue forecasts; he writes that in his opinion the Scottish Government’s 2014 oil price projection of $113 per barrel (Brent Crude) is over optimistic – (not an opinion shared by most experts though).

But he then writes:“Norway, so often held up as an example, are planning on an oil price of $77 a barrel in 2014”.

From previous research I knew this wasn’t right, but I like to be 100% sure that the data I reference when discussing the economics of Scotland is rock solid.  So I picked up the phone and asked a representative of the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to confirm the actual figures.
The Real Norwegian Government Forecasts

In the short term the Norwegian Government is forecasting an oil price of  NOK 650.00 this year which (at todays rate of exchange) would amount to $113.55 dollars per barrel and NOK 635.00 or $111 per barrel in 2014.  Those numbers match very closely the Scottish Governments forecast and is $36 and $34.00 a barrel higher than the rate suggested by Mr Taylor.
So how did the No Campaign’s Mr Taylor get his numbers so badly wrong?  

The  figures used in the article appear to be considerably out of date, and may be referencing the Norwegian Government’s previous long term forecast, which was issued in 2009, (at the height of the global economic slowdown).  That out of date forecast, estimated an oil price of NOK 435.00 in the long term (beyond 2040), so roughly $77 per barrel.  The current long term forecast for 2040 and beyond is NOK 525 or at todays rate of exchange $91.72 per barrel.  However that doesn’t even relate to the 2014 forecast referenced by Mr Taylor.

So was he referencing an out of date forecast or just wrong?   Either way he stated a figure for 2014 that is $34.00 less than the current actual Norwegian Government forecast and that level of inaccuracy is just not acceptable in a debate this important.
Norwegian Cautiousness

Norway often undervalues the future oil price in its very cautious oil price projections and then tends to over perform.  This is a luxury they can afford as in 1998 the Norwegian Government decided to set aside increased revenues from the good years to make sure that any future downturns in production or price wouldn’t have a negative effect on the Norwegian economy (a policy supported by the SNP but rejected by the UK Government for more than thirty years).

The Norwegian oil fund worth around $712bn is one of the largest investment funds in the world – known as Norges Bank Investment Management (it is part of Norway’s central bank) – and has just enjoyed its second best ever year last year as rising equity values helped it to a return of 13.4 per cent.  The fund increased in size by NKr504bn in 2012, with NKr276bn coming from set aside oil revenues.
Not Optimistic but Realistic

So is the Scottish Government figure for $113 per barrel optimistic and over priced?

Well it seems to be extremely close the Norwegian Governments cautious figure, but it is worth also noting that the OECD is forecasting a 2017 oil price of $150 per barrel, the UK and USA Governments around $130 per barrel.  Much is made of the OBR forecast of $92 dollars per barrel but the UK Government Energy Department has ignored that as pessimistic and is forecasting $130.00 per barrel.

Add to this the forecasted increase in productivity following record levels of investment in the North Sea and Atlantic fields, (expected to kick in around 2016/17) the lower end estimates would mean Scotland could have a similar net revenue situation as today in its first few years as an independent country.   However if the UK / USA Government forecasts are right, that would mean an oil boom for Scotland that would go a long way to clearing our share of the UK debt and enable us to start our own oil fund and follow Norway’s excellent example.

In terms of the expected increase in oil production, don’t just take my word for it; speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Vince Cable the Business Secretary stated last month:

“I think that in past there’s been a little bit of an assumption that it (North Sea Oil) had been taken for granted. Also a belief that it was declining, and it isn’t declining, it’s got great prospects.”

London based industry body Oil and Gas UK Chief Executive Malcolm Webb said:

“Record investment is forecast this year to search for and produce UK oil and gas reserves. This will be followed by an upturn in production from 2014, sustaining growth across the supply chain and reinforcing the industry’s already significant contribution to the UK economy.”

Even if the lower end price forecasts are correct, I believe that the increase in production will at worst normalise tax revenues at today’s levels and that is pretty much the worst case scenario for the next few years.  Not the best possible, but the “most likely” scenario is that Scotland is set for a new oil boom, or as Vince Cable puts it “it has great prospects”.

The No campaign’s major backer, Ian Taylor, has charged into the Scottish referendum campaign,( in which he doesn’t have a vote), and basically got his numbers completely wrong. Then again, not checking their assumptions against facts, seems to be par for the course for the No campaign.
Further Reading

Oil: boom times ahead? - Herald Scotland

Britain has squandered the golden opportunity that North Sea oil promised  - The Guardian

Up to date Oil pricing data supplied by Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy

Why I decided to give The No Campaign £500,000 Sunday Herald
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Scotland is more socialist | Ipsos Mori

Scotland is more socialist | Ipsos Mori | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Scotland's Road to Socialism   Gregor Gall
Review By Jamie Maxwell

One of the favourite refrains of the Scottish right is that Scotland’s centre of political gravity does not, as socialists and nationalists like to insist, sit to the left of the rest of the United Kingdom’s. Citing a wealth of statistical research, often conducted by either Bill Miller of Glasgow University or Strathclyde’s ubiquitous politics professor John Curtice, conservatives argue that, on questions of tax and spend, the attitudes of Scots correspond more or less exactly to those of voters in England and Wales. Leaving aside the reality of Scottish political culture, which is dominated by two (at least nominally) social democratic parties, this raises questions about Scotland’s appetite for progressive reform: what hope is there for a more equal Scotland if the Scottish electorate shares the hostility of the English electorate towards greater redistribution?

But new research by Ipsos MORI Scotland suggests a substantial discrepancy exists between Scottish and English/Welsh views on tax and public service delivery, including greater Scottish support for higher taxes in exchange for improved services. Writing on his organisation’s website, Mark Diffley, director of Ipsos-MORI Scotland, explains his findings:

    When we compare Scotland with the rest of the UK, we can see different attitudes to how public services should be delivered and funded. For example while the appetite for increasing taxes to pay for additional spending on health, education  and social benefits has declined in both Scotland and England during the 2000s, it remains an option more favoured in Scotland, with 40% supporting such a policy move, compared to 30% of the public in England.

    When it comes the delivery of public services, the strength of public opinion in Scotland opposed to radical change becomes clearer. Scots have clearly different views from their neighbours about how public services should be delivered…

    When asked which sector would be best at providing public services that best understand what service users need, over half of Scots (54%) believe public authorities do the best job while just 11% believe that the private sector would do a better job, compared to figures of 30% for public authorities and 16% in favour of the private sector among adults in England and Wales. Similarly, 58% of Scots believe that public bodies would provide the most professional and reliable public services, compared to 19% who would favour the private sector in that regard. This contrasts with figures of 30% for public bodies and 29% for the private sector among adults in England and Wales.

As Diffley notes, this research is politically significant. Attempts by parties to introduce more private finance into Scottish public services will face strong popular resistance. But beyond that, it reinforces nationalist and left-wing claims about the entrenched social democratic sympathies of the Scottish public and consolidates the perception of a growing ideological divide between Scotland and Westminster.

Read Diffley’s full piece here:

Gregor Gall’s book has launches next week (more here)

Wednesday 8 May, 6.00 to 7.30pm, Stand Comedy Club, 5 York Place. With Gregor Gall (editor), Neil Findlay (contributor) and Colin Fox (contributor)

Thursday 9 May, 6.00 to 7.30pm, Stand Comedy Club, 333 Woodlands Road. With Gregor Gall (editor), Maggie Chetty (contributor) and Dave Watson (contributor)

Details to be confirmed
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 020513

Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 020513 | YES for an Independent Scotland |

A three pronged attack by the Better Together campaign allowed Lamont through to a win. Salmond poorly defended the SNP position of a Sterling currency union. The ghost of Willie Rennie showed up but didn’t mention toddlers and Ruth Davidson forgot most of her professional TV presenter training but still made a mark on pensions. The poor BBC Scotland production missed the start and finish of the session.

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Extinguishing Corporate Corruption in an Independent Scotland

Extinguishing Corporate Corruption in an Independent Scotland | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Extinguishing Corporate Corruption in an Independent Scotland   By Mark McNaught
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 18:36
The UK political system has recently revealed a number of its unappealing attributes.  These bear heavily on Scotland’s independence referendum; by implication, they illustrate what kind of country an independent Scotland could become.

Political fraud must be recognised and constitutionally proscribed, so that an independent Scotland does not fall prey to intractable, endemic corporate corruption.  The future of a democratic Scotland depends on it.

The first regards the £500,000 contribution of Ian Taylor of Vitol to the 'Better Together' campaign, and if newspaper reports are to be believed, the dubious provenance of much of Mr Taylor's income.  Having studied the American campaign system, it is not difficult for me to imagine how Mr Taylor can easily get a significant return on his investment.  Major donors have direct access to senior politicians and civil servants - Mr Taylor has dined with Prime Minister David Cameron as a result of his generous contributions to the Tory party.

If that £500,000 contribution can help write tax or regulatory policy in Vitol’s favour, or deflect scrutiny by regulatory authorities granting impunity to shady business dealings, then it is cash well spent.

Upon independence, Scotland must adopt constitutional mechanisms to assure that no campaign can be dominated by money, whose contributors necessarily want something in return.

The second example of corruption is that the economic basis for the austerity programs in the UK and elsewhere has been shown to be a sham.  The study 'Growth in a Time of Debt' conducted by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff purported to show that if a country has a debt to GDP ratio in excess of 90%, this hinders economic growth, and debt levels must be brought down in order to induce economic growth.

This study has served as the intellectual basis for austerity policies in many countries, including the UK.  The study was recently examined by 28 year-old graduate student Thomas Herndon, who found it to be riddled with errors and false assumptions.  The paper showed that the Excel spreadsheet upon which it was based omitted many variables which would have shown that this 90% 'tipping point' thesis was invalid.

The upshot is that George Osborne’s policy of economic austerity imposed on Scotland by a government Scots didn’t vote for is based on an invalid study.  No wonder that despite the downgrades of the UK credit rating, avoiding a triple-dip recession is considered 'healing'.  What economic future can the UK look forward to if the government is basing its policy on lies and skewed information?

This raises the broader question of corruption of information, and how such a shoddy study can become the basis of fiscal policy in so many countries.  Why are there not constitutional safeguards in place to verify the validity of research involved in formulation of policy and law?  What could be more important for ensuring the integrity and credibility of the Scottish legal system?

The third major source of concern involves the web of corporate lobbying within the UK partially revealed by the resignation of Liam Fox as Minister of Defence in 2011.  He had to resign because his 'assistant' Adam Werrity, was managing 'Atlantic Bridge'.  Established in 2007, this organisation counts George Osborne, William Hague, and Iain Duncan Smith among its alumni.

Naturally, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are their patron saints, and Thatcher served as honorary chairwoman from 1997.  While all the transatlantic sycophancy transpired, 'Atlantic Bridge Research and Education Scheme' was also becoming a corporate outpost of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC is a secretive organisation that effectively allows lobbyists to write the bills for US State legislatures and have them adopted, in addition to providing lonely state legislators with corporate interest suitors willing to make generous campaign contributions.  Not content merely to pollute the US political system, ALEC has sought to internationalise the interaction between multinational corporations and legislators whom they can do business with, including in the UK.

The Guardian did some excellent investigative journalism uncovering various ties between ALEC and Atlantic bridge, but the most important lesson an independent Scotland can derive is to see that if left unregulated, corporate corruption will grow like weeds throughout Parliament and the civil service.  Atlantic Bridge essentially vanished as a charity after the Werrity imbroglio, covering their tracks as best they could.

David Cameron refused to allow an ethics investigation into the Adam Werrity affair, probably because many in his cabinet were members of Atlantic Bridge.  To do so would have revealed the mechanisms whereby various sectors of the government can fall under corporate control: prisons, private security firms who want overseas business, the health system, etc.

An independent Scotland can design a constitutional firewall against corporate corruption, and guarantee the integrity of information used for the formulation of laws and policy.  Referenda and elections must be firmly structured and regulated by law, efficiently and equitably funded by the state.

No party or candidate should have to depend on massive cash contributions to make up for a lack of popular enthusiasm.  Rules for the admissibility of studies and information for making laws and policy can be similar to that of the admissibility of evidence into a court of law.  Finally, complete transparency for all lawmakers' memberships in all organizations, as well as complete transparency for the operations and financing of these organizations, must be required for all MSPs and civil servants.

In short, the motivation to serve in the government of an independent Scotland should be based on the desire to honourably serve the public, not merely to gorge at the taxpayer's trough.

Scots deserve an honest, clean, and efficient government.  If not in 2014, when?

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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Its all so uncertain

Its all so uncertain | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Its all so uncertain    Posted on May 1, 2013    by auldacquaintance
It’s all so uncertain, so many unanswered questions, why wont you answer us? We demand to know!
Its an ongoing unionist mantra….Ohmmmmmmm
Why all the uncertainty? Why all the questions? Why all the spreading of doubt? Europe,The currency, borders,Nato, pensions, the economy…..the list extends out in front of us…
When they get answers, they say they have not had any, and proceed on the their merrygoround for another circuit. For some things, they ask for answers that they know cannot be answered until independence is negotiated, as much will depend on dialogue and agreements. As there are no immediate answers because such dialogue hasn’t taken place yet, they say they haven’t been answered.
They deliberately call the YES campaign the SNP, despite the involvement of other political parties and non political people making up the compliment of YES.

Of course the reason behind all these questions, is to create uncertainty, to inspire fear of the unknown, to take advantage of the fact that the majority of Scots don’t pay that much attention to politics, and are not political anoraks who will investigate claims made in the unionist media or the BBC. Folks read the headline, listen to the news, and simply accept what is told to them most of the time.

It is this climate of uncertainty that the unionist better together bunch rely on, because lets face it, they haven’t much positive to contribute.

So lets ask them the questions instead.

Will the UK parliament guarantee that we will have a seat in Europe in 5 years time?
Not a hope of that promise …There is a referendum promised with most of the right wing UK parties agitating to pull out of Europe.

Will the UK parliament promise to get rid of nuclear weapons?
Again, no chance….we are stuck with a pile of nuclear bombs in the most populated area of Scotland, as all the UK parties are wanting to invest in new war toys.

Will the Uk parliament promise us that there is no chance of the economy collapsing and the pound failing?
They may promise it wont, as they would promise anything….But lets face it..the British economy is a basket case which is Trillions in debt, and piling on £120 billion a year more debt currently.
Expect Austerity for the poorest to carry on for at least another generation! The last to feel its effects, unless there is total collapse shortly, is the richest…and when It does go belly up…they have moved all their wealth elsewhere!

Will the Uk parliament protect the NHS, and welfare state, and provide proper provision for those who cannot afford private care and treatment?
No way…They are privatising the English NHS, dismantling the Welfare state, and even privatising some police services. The poor and disabled are getting hammered! Hence all the Food banks and families going hungry, children being malnourished, and health failing.

Will the Oil run out?
Yes it will…..sometime in the next 50-100 years in the North Sea…..But we haven’t even touched our Atlantic waters, which I am given to understand from a french Oil geologist, makes the North sea oil look like a basin full in comparison…..But this has been kept quiet…..Why? .. Think McCrone Report!!
In the meantime….Its the only thing that has prevented a triple dip recession.

These are just some questions of them…

Now let them tell us…… In what way does the Union benefit and enhance Scotland?
We don’t need claptrap about why we make Britain stronger, and gives it seats at the top table of NATO etc…. In what way…is the Union really benefiting the lives of the people of Scotland that we can actually see in our daily lives? In what way can remaining in the Union help make our lives better, improve our health, our living standards, our communities, our employment prospects, our education, and the lives of our children and forthcoming generations?
Answers please…..If you have them?

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A glimmer of hope for life after 2014 vote | Robert McNeil

A glimmer of hope for life after 2014 vote | Robert McNeil | YES for an Independent Scotland |

A glimmer of hope for life after 2014 vote
Robert McNeil   Friday 10 May 2013   Columnist
WARNING: may contain hope.
Yup, you have been warned. Indeed, you're going to be warned daily for another 16 months. Rarely can any vote in modern history have been so imbued with fear as the independence referendum. True, Scotland isn't one of those bad places with death squads running around reminding citizens of the consequences of voting "wrongly". Here, we have the press to do that. Not waving guns just drowning us in scare stories. But the effect is the same: be afraid.

The fear seems to have affected even the BBC. Online monitors – fast becoming the great hope of democratic accountability – performed a quick, basic internet search of the BBC linking the words "Scottish independence" and "warning" in the same sentence. Prefaced by the dreaded i-word and a colon in each case, they found: "Pension shortfall warning"; "Warning over 'weakened military'"; "'Havoc' warning from pensions firm"; "Luxembourg warns against 'going separate ways'"; "Barroso warning on EU membership"; "Michael Moore issues warning over vote question"; "'Border checks' warning from Home Secretary".

This isn't necessarily the BBC's fault. Apart from anything else, its agenda is largely driven by the print press and, even if it weren't, it has to report the endless warnings and fear-mongering issued in press releases by ministers and other clots.

A bigwig from Westminster's warning is real. It's true that he said it. No getting round it. Except, the truth about truth is that it has many faces.

As a journalist, you can present one side's truth or the other's. If there's space, and there should be on a big enough story, "Independence warning" can be "Independence warning dismissed". "Fears raised" can just as easily be "Fears rejected". Unless, of course, the reporter hasn't contacted the other side with a chance to reject the fears.

The BBC almost always does. And, in Scotland, its political analysts in my view are very good. I don't accept the personalised critiques of BBC figures by Nationalists so incensed at the overwhelming torrent of negativity that they see bias whenever any Yes or SNP spokesman is questioned rigorously. That way, paranoia lies.

But the fact remains that the BBC has become as much a conduit for warnings and fear as the worst tabloid-sized newspaper.

Surely, there must be another way, another dimension to this debate? Rain from its dark clouds has drenched everything. The whole debate is miserable. Or, at least, it was – until a group of economists and academics produced a blueprint of how a Yes vote could transform Scotland into a Nordic-style country with cradle-to-grave public services, better jobs, better wages, more shared ownership of industry, more local democracy, more gender equality and less social division.

This "Common Weal" model would take Scotland in a different direction from, as the Sunday Herald put it, "the UK's decline into a low-wage, low-skill economy in which markets rule, public services dwindle and the gulf between rich and poor widens". True, there'd be a bigger tax take, but from a fairer system and a larger pot of wages.

Bejasus, I almost wept when I read this. It was like a ray of sunshine breaking through what seemed like endless darkness. But I wasn't becoming ludicrously lachrymose out of sheer uplifting joy. Nope, it was from recalling the likelihood that, if the polls are anything to go by, we'll never get the chance to attempt this. Instead of an enlightened, progressive, Nordic-style model, we'll remain thirled to the whole dreary, fear-filled, pomp-and-poverty Britain of Ukip, the City and the Little Englanders who so despise Scottish "separatism".

Thanks to an unlikely hodgepodge that includes the Labour Party and the Northern Isles, a Nordic model of poverty-denying progress will be stymied. How nuts is that?

OK, maybe I'm over-egging the sunny uplands, as it were. But what's wrong with enjoying a little May sunshine after all the gloom? What's wrong with a little hope, creativity and vision, particularly when based on realistic examples?

As the saying goes, fear keeps you sitting, boldness helps you stand. And, once standing, let's boot these will-sapping warnings back into the receding darkness.

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Collective Thinking: A Time For Visionaries by Ruth Wishart | National Collective

Collective Thinking: A Time For Visionaries by Ruth Wishart | National Collective | YES for an Independent Scotland |

Collective Thinking: A Time For Visionaries by Ruth Wishart

Posted by National Collective on May 7, 2013 in Guest Editorial

Collective Thinking is our exclusive series of monthly Guest Editorials by a selection of our favourite figures from the independence movement.

Ruth Wishart is a respected journalist, writer and broadcaster.

As the 500 days till D day passed, many of us have been taking stock of the most important vote Scotland will face in our lifetimes.

For the chronologically gifted among us this will be the third major referendum in which we have had a chance to shape Scotland’s future.

In the late seventies we could only manage a whispered yes to a shilpit wee Assembly, but even that was torpedoed by a cynical manipulation of the rules by a London based Scottish MP. Plus ca change!  The forty per cent rule put any ambitions to even modest self determination on the back burner for another 20 long years.

Then came 1999 and all that, and the opening of Holyrood. A day marked by fine speeches, high hopes, and, for a while at least, a moderation in knee jerk cross party hostilities.

All of which has brought us to these crossroads at which there is undoubtedly dirty work afoot. Several recent incidents have persuaded me of the urgency of upping our game if we are to prevent the road to September 2014 being cluttered with petty bickering, character assassination, and internecine squabbles.

All of my adult life, it seems the energies of many left of centre, liberal minded Scots have been squandered in party political warfare.

Just forgiveable, perhaps if the parties involved had a profound ideological divide.  There are elements in Scottish Labour and the Scottish National Party who would sell their granny before conceding that they might have anything in common.  Like agreeing about a whole raft of issues around social policy and defence.

What a criminal waste of time and talents.

But now we do have a real divide.  Not, as some would have you believe between the parties, but between those energised by the thought of creating a more equitable communitarian society in a modern independent Scotland, and those determined to hang on to their status as junior UK partner no matter who is at the helm of HMS Great Britain, or in which alarming direction they are steering it.

This is not about party politics for me.  Nor should it be for anyone voting YES.  This is about the shape of Scotland to come, about the land we want to leave our children, about its values and priorities.

It is not given to many generations to have that priceless opportunity to rebuild the foundations of a reborn nation state. It should be a moment characterised by an adult debate, mutual respect, and an honest weighing of disparate opinions.

Instead we risk slipping into an unsavoury form of verbal mud wrestling with claim and counter claim as to who is threatening or trashing whom. We need to raise our eyes from that pettiness; we need to be able to say that whatever happens in 2014 Scotland was grown up enough to have a serious and tolerant conversation with itself.  And the footsoldiers in party uniforms have to remind themselves that this a battle of ideas not a war of personal attrition.

In fact, neither a battle nor a war but a moment of crucial self and national reflection.

One of the most unsettling things I watched of late was the respected, intellectually gifted journalist Isobel Fraser being the subject of ignorant attempted bullying by a member of the Scottish tribe at Westminster with something of a track record in that activity.  Another was the sly slighting of Mary Lockhart, erstwhile chair of the Co-operative Party, after she confessed in a thoughtful article that, after much soul searching, she had concluded she must vote Yes.

I do not suggest for a moment that all reprehensible behaviour in this national debate comes from one camp.  People of all persuasions are capable of opening their laptops before their brain is engaged. But there is a huge imbalance at the moment in the way in which the referendum campaigns are being reported. The daily scare stories orchestrated by Whitehall and dutifully recycled in Scotland might be risible, but doubtless the hope is that they will sow enough doubts and fears to win the day.

And what a hollow victory that would be.  Scotland the feart, cowering under a blanket of indecision when the call came to vote for a positive future.

This last weekend the Sunday Herald broke free of that negativity to bring us news of a new study suggesting how Scotland might re-configure itself on the Nordic model rather than continue to be dragged rightwards by Westminster and UKIP.

The Common Weal is a vision of the Scotland we might yet be.

And, boy, do we need some visionaries.

Ruth Wishart
Journalist, Writer and Broadcaster

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Agenda: Why Scotland must stay in Europe | Herald Scotland

Agenda: Why Scotland must stay in Europe
Tony Giugliano   Thursday 9 May 2013
Next year's referendum will not only be about Scotland's future in the Union, but about Scotland's place in the world.

It'll be a choice between a UK increasingly marginalised at the European fringes and an independent Scotland working constructively with her neighbours.

The rise of Ukip south of the Border is testimony to the polarisation of sentiments on Europe between Scotland and the rest of the UK. But it equally highlights the contrast between our political landscapes and even our social values.

There's more to Ukip than Europe: policies on social justice, immigration, equality, the environment, the NHS and taxation are at odds with Scotland's needs and priorities.

Is it viable for Scotland to be governed by Tories – utterly rejected by the people of Scotland – shifting to the right and running scared of another right-wing party banging on the door of No 10? A party that would favour the abolition of MSPs and the abolition of our Scottish Parliament, which we trust?

In the 2009 European Elections Ukip won a mere 5.2% of the Scottish vote. Scotland would have needed 15 seats for one Ukip MEP to have been elected.

But it's not just Ukip. Nigel Lawson's coming out as a supporter of EU withdrawal should be a warning to all pro-Europeans. Britain's relationship with Europe has never been easy – but this time it's serious. Withdrawal is now overwhelmingly a majority view among Conservative members and supporters, and the issue can no longer be dismissed as a protest vote; it has become a mainstream view of Westminster politics.

Next year the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose between isolation and participation in Europe. Over the past 40 years we've been on the edges, never shaping the European debate, simply reacting to it.

Take, for instance, the European Arrest Warrant. A Tory Home Secretary affirms her intention of opting out of the only tool that exists to combat EU cross-border crime. The 133 pieces of legislation have served Scotland well. But instead of listening to the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, Theresa May heeds her backbenchers who have only one interest – repatriating powers from Brussels, no matter how useful those powers might be.

Or the social chapter which promotes equality and safety in the workplace, guaranteeing rights such as protection for pregnant women and part-time workers. David Cameron said during his Europe speech that social protection would be one of the first things to go in his "renegotiated membership status". How does this sit with Scotland's trade unions?

As an independent member state, would we be arguing against a cap on bankers' bonuses in Brussels? Would we have allowed the decline of our fishing communities through reckless fisheries policies? Would we be short-changing farmers by calling for a reduction in farming budgets?

While Westminster casts doubt over our future in Europe, Ireland holds the European Union Presidency – a small nation, setting the agenda for 500 million Europeans during their toughest financial crisis. A country smaller than Scotland but with more MEPs, its own Commissioner, its own seat at the top tables of Brussels and the power to influence the EU's policy direction. Scotland should be there, advancing policy, leading in areas where we have expertise: energy, climate-change legislation, world-leading research and fisheries. Instead, we're forced to rely on Westminster to represent us, a Westminster system that is failing to protect our distinct interests in Europe.

Today, cities across the continent are marking Europe Day, the celebration of peace and unity. Independence will give Scotland a unique opportunity to shape and mould the Europe of tomorrow.

With our own dynamic on European engagement we'll be in a position to protect our national interest while making a contribution to the direction of the continent we live in. I'll be voting Yes next September for many more years of EU membership. This time let's be at the heart of it.

Toni Giugliano is Yes Scotland community groups adviser

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Call Kaye loses it with Gordon from Dundee over Ian Smart

Kaye Adams is wrenched from her comfort zone - fitba' - by Gordon from Dundee
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Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 020513

Video | First Ministers Questions Review | 020513 | YES for an Independent Scotland |
A three pronged attack by the Better Together campaign allowed Lamont through to a win. Salmond poorly defended the SNP position of a Sterling currency union. The ghost of Willie Rennie showed up but didn’t mention toddlers and Ruth Davidson forgot most of her professional TV presenter training but still made a mark on pensions. The poor BBC Scotland production missed the start and finish of the session..
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Smart gambler might take a flutter on Salmond's Folly | Ian Bell

Smart gambler might take a flutter on Salmond's Folly
Ian Bell
4 May 2013
You wouldn't bet against Alex Salmond.
The First Minister understands odds better than the rest of us, and has made a habit of beating them. Unlike most of us, he enjoys a gamble. His definition of a long shot is not the common definition. Whether he can win the biggest prize is therefore, appropriately, a big question.

As Mr Salmond knows, there are three ways to handle a game of chance. In one version, you can play the percentages, risking a little and gaining a little, succeeding, with luck, by tiny increments. For most of the SNP leader's contemporaries, this is otherwise known as politics.

It was also the organising principle of Scottish Nationalism for decades. You might not get rich, electorally speaking, but you wouldn't lose your shirt with the tactic. Year by year, said this version of game theory, the odds would turn in your favour. One fine day, all your little bets would become one big pile of winnings.

Another way to play is to risk everything on one fall of the cards. No professional gambler would ever advise this as a method to keep a fool and his money from parting, but no poker addict ever had to draw to the SNP's hand. The reckless bet depends on the belief that there is nothing to lose. Where independence is concerned that is, in essence, the deal.

The third method is more interesting. It had less to do with cards than with Mr Salmond's fascination with horse racing. In that game, betting on the favourite pays off less often than you might think. If following form was the only thing that mattered, we could all get rich. The smart gambler looks for the horse that the rest of the punters have failed to take seriously.

As things stand, all the tipsters say Mr Salmond is risking everything – career, reputation, even (he might have been joking) his house – on a broken-down nag of a proposition. He might have a small side-bet on devo max and the like, but in essence the First Minister is betting the lot on the runner the pundits say is a faller, time after time, at every fence.

Salmond's Folly hasn't been going too well, say observers in the stands. At each time of asking, it refuses the jump in opinion polls. It shies away from issues involving defence, Europe, pensions, the currency. It refuses to put on a burst of speed no matter how often it is goaded. Those with their money on other runners doubt that it will stay the course.

It therefore becomes a good question. Why is Mr Salmond so sure that he has made the right selection amid all the available choices of horses for courses? He has settled on a particular SNP programme. He sticks with it (more or less) despite consistently bad news in the opinion polls, and despite weekly assaults on this or that policy detail. An instinct to gamble is one thing. What has become mysterious is the basis upon which the grand bet has been made.

Where a currency is concerned, a succession of old-school Nationalists have made perfectly fair points. There can be no independence, in any real sense, if it depends on the non-existent good faith of a London Treasury. There can be no independence, by definition, if you do not control your own economic affairs. From a purely economic standpoint it might be stupid, in any case, to depend on a City of London busy preparing its next disaster.

Mr Salmond doesn't want to know. He has Nobel Prize-winning economists he can cite – he still takes their trade seriously, too – and a good case involving England's self-interest to make. Clearly, the First Minister has a plan he believes will appeal to the community of Scotland in September 2014 and he means to stick to it. The source of this confidence is hard to find, however. The fact that the strategy is failing is obvious.

One story is told by the opinion polls. Conventionally, the theory goes that the SNP has shifted its position on issues such as Nato and sterling in order to "reassure" voters. No doubt that was the plan. But where is the evidence, the single shred of evidence, that this tactic has paid any dividends whatever?

The run of polls says, instead, that the Yes campaign would have been no worse off if the patience of Nationalists had not been tested over Nato, sterling and the rest.

Mr Salmond's gradualism has convinced no-one who was not already convinced. No-one has been won to the idea of independence because of a nuclear alliance or some fiddling around with the theory of a currency union. The 30% or so who mean to vote Yes did not acquire their conviction, meanwhile, thanks to Mr Salmond's watered-down nationalism. That's what they tolerate, not what they embrace.

The First Minister's bet is that he can bridge the gulf between two different views of the world. If he's right, it won't happen because of any story he can tell about EU cross-Border pension rules. But his gradualism, his compromises with what he takes to be political reality, have trapped him in an endless round of skirmishes over policy details. Every detail matters, but not a single one, of itself, will persuade a voter to restore a country's independence.

There are other bets available, of course. One attracting good odds says that voters will be so disgusted with the reality of the Coalition Government by 2014 they will take any escape route offered. I'm less than sure about that. In miserably uncertain times, no one votes for more uncertainty. They vote for ideas and for a belief in ideas. The spectacle of a First Minister rounding up the stats on the reality of a currency union does not do a lot for belief.

Mr Salmond believes he understands the voters. The belief lies at the heart of his bet. He is attending to their concerns, as he sees it, one by one. He is asserting that opinion polls do not reflect the opinions of the people and that, properly reassured, they will follow the path he has marked. His record in these matters has earned him confidence. But confidence alone guarantees nothing.

Most gamblers know that the last bet has nothing to do with the next bet. Mr Salmond and his party won a parliamentary majority under conditions that were supposed to be impossible. It would be naive to think that they could not perform a similar trick in the referendum, or in another Scottish general election. It would be daft, nevertheless, to imagine that rehearsals for 2014 are going well.

People, a majority of them, don't believe. They're not buying it. Part of the reason, I suspect, if that when they hear Mr Salmond involved in fiddling arguments over currency arrangements they conclude that he doesn't quite believe in independence himself. When everything is qualified, conditional, consensual and negotiable, the absence of faith becomes obvious. The debate begins to sound like a lot of fuss over nothing much.

For the 30%, with their ingrained beliefs, it sounds like an argument that is beside the point. Perhaps Mr Salmond should take a bet on their instincts. As things stand, he has nothing else to lose.

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Call for positive debate as anti-SNP death threats highlighted

Call for positive debate as anti-SNP death threats highlighted | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Call for positive debate as anti-SNP death threats highlighted
  By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has called for an end to the "denigration of people" in the referendum debate following a row over claims by comedienne Susan Calman that she received death threats after poking fun at the SNP's independence plans in a BBC Radio show.
In a statement following comments from Labour MP Douglas Alexander, an SNP spokesperson said both sides had to recognise that the problem spanned the constitutional divide and that Yes and No supporters were equally at fault.

Speaking at the 'Judith Hart Memorial Lecture', the Labour MP claimed that online abuse was carried out only by pro-independence supporters he called ‘cybernats’.

"This truly appalling episode is just the latest example of the hate-filled outpouring of the so-called cybernats, whose characteristic is general intolerance to everybody and anybody who does not share their outlook." He said and added:

"How has Scotland — rightly proud of our openness and tolerance — arrived at a place where a comedian is smeared, bullied and even threatened for speaking out and making light of the pretensions of politicians?

"All of us in Scotland should condemn unequivocally statements that poison the well of public debate and demand a different and better conversation ahead of Scotland’s choice."

Responding to the comments, an SNP Spokesperson said:

"We agree with Douglas Alexander - denigration of people has no place in the referendum debate, it doesn't matter whether those doing it support Yes or No."

The spokesperson condemned the online abuse aimed at Ms Calman but also challenged the view that the issue was exclusively a problem for the pro-independence side and highlighted several documented incidents showing similar threats and abuse from pro-Union supporters.

The spokesperson added: "It’s a matter of public record that Nicola Sturgeon has been sent death threats on Twitter, a posting on the No campaign’s Facebook page talked about firing bullets into SNP leaders, appalling remarks about Alex Salmond's dad were made on a Labour Party website, and the abuse directed at Susan Calman was disgraceful."

"All of it must stop, because the referendum debate needs to be a positive one with the people about what Scotland can achieve as an independent country – with the powers of independence we can build a fairer society and stronger economy, be a close friend and neighbour to the rest of the UK, and a good citizen of the world."

In February it emerged that Nicola Sturgeon had received death threats on her twitter account that threatened to "Kill the bitch".  The Deputy First Minister did not report the incident to the police and instead blocked the messages.

Commenting at the time, Ms Sturgeon said: "I hate to see stupid, offensive, downright ignorant rubbish from people purporting to believe the same stuff that I believe in.  But it is not just a problem from the Yes camp.  Some of the most diabolical stuff comes from people on the No side."

In another incident last year, a message posted on the official Facebook page of the No campaign contained a threat that bullets would be fired into SNP leaders.

The message from Gary Coburn, which read "I wish the vote was how many bullets do we get to fire into the SNP leaders." was allowed to remain for three days before being removed.

Months later another sick message from a Scottish Labour campaigner targeted the father of First Minister Alex Salmond.  Someone calling himself Daniel Kelly posted a message saying he wanted Mr Salmond’s father to die.

Offensive messages and comments have also been made by pro-Union journalists and some politicians.

In February 2012, Labour peer George Foulkes compared SNP supporters who disagreed with him over the path to Devolution as "Holocaust deniers", 'holocaust' being a reference to the mass killing of Jews by Nazis.

In September 2012 Lord Foulkes party colleague, Labour MSP Michael McMahon published a photograph of Alex Salmond standing alongside media mogul Rupert Murdoch with a caption that read "Remember the 96 Mr Salmond".

The ‘96’ was a reference to the 96 people who died in 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The First Minister has also been compared to evil dictators by Unionist politicians and media commentators.  BBC Scotland’s Douglas Fraser recently compared the SNP to the regime in North Korea ...

... and Unionist MP Anas Sarwar, who leads Labour’s No campaign, earlier this year claimed that the Scottish government was a "dictatorship".

The row over online abuse has witnessed several journalists single out the SNP for criticism, with pro-Union Herald reporter Magnus Gardham alleging the online abuse suffered by Susan Calman was the result of "SNP intolerance".

Another to single out pro-independence groups was BBC Scotland presenter Gordon Brewer who has repeatedly used the derogatory term ‘cybernat’ to describe pro-independence online commentators.  This week Mr Brewer claimed the online attacks levelled at Susan Calman had been carried out by "pro-independence campaigners".

However there are questions over the veracity of the more serious claims that Ms Calman had suffered death threats.  Despite being asked to provide details, the comedienne has steadfastly refused to provide evidence of the alleged threats.

Newsnet Scotland also revealed that Ms Calman had turned down a request from the BBC to appear on Newsnight Scotland to discuss her claims.

This week also witnessed the BBC embroiled in another row when satirical programme Have I Got News For You witnessed guest host, actor Ray Winstone, refer to Scots as "tramps" and invite the studio audience to tell Scotland to "bugger off".
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Public Services Reform and Public Opinion | Scotland more socialist

Public Services Reform and Public Opinion | Scotland more socialist | YES for an Independent Scotland |

By Mark Diffley, Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland
Reform to public services in Scotland is coming. When the Christie Commission published its 2011 report, setting out how the welfare state was facing its most serious challenges since inception, reform began in earnest.

The report, accepted in its entirety by the Scottish Government, outlined how increased demand for public services, driven in the main by an ageing population, has combined with the ongoing squeeze on public spending to create these challenges. 

These issues are highlighted by predictions that the population of pensionable age is set to rise by 26% between 2010 and 2035, while the working age population is set to rise by only 7% over the same period. At the same time, it is estimated that the Scottish public sector budget is likely to suffer a £39 billion shortfall between 2010/11 and 2025/26, the year when the budget will finally return to 2010 levels in real terms.

Policymakers tasked with implementing changes to public services therefore face considerable challenges. As well as likely resistance to significant change from within the organisations who deliver services, a range of evidence from opinion surveys highlights that the public too is likely to resist significant changes to the status quo and will be difficult to win over to radical reform.

In accepting the Christie report, the current Scottish Government has stated its commitment to shifting resources towards preventative action, better partnership working between service delivery bodies and enhanced reporting of public service performance. But what about more radical reform in terms of how services are planned and delivered?

Ideas about market-oriented management of public services, adopted by UK governments of all shades since the 1980s, have not gained traction with devolved administrations in Holyrood. In part this is down to these administrations reflecting the significantly different views of the public in Scotland, compared to attitudes south of the border.

In accepting the Christie report, the current Scottish Government has stated its commitment to shifting resources towards preventative action, better partnership working between service delivery bodies and enhanced reporting of public service performance.
Put simply, Scots view public services as hugely important, are increasingly satisfied with their delivery and are wedded to the current model of these services being delivered by public bodies. According to the 2011 Scottish Household Survey, 88% of adults in Scotland are satisfied with local health services, up from 81% in 2007. Similarly, levels of satisfaction with local schools rose by 6-points over the same period, from 79% in 2007 to 85% in 2011.

Moreover, when we compare Scotland with the rest of the UK, we can see different attitudes to how public services should be delivered and funded. For example while the appetite for increasing taxes to pay for additional spending on health, education  and social benefits has declined in both Scotland and England during the 2000s, it remains an option more favoured in Scotland, with 40% supporting such a policy move, compared to 30% of the public in England.

When it comes the delivery of public services, the strength of public opinion in Scotland opposed to radical change becomes clearer. Scots have clearly different views from their neighbours about how public services should be delivered in order to maximise value for money, understand what service users need, provide care and compassion and provide a professional and reliable service.

On each of these performance criteria, Scots are clear that public authorities are best placed to provide public services. Moreover, public opinion surveys illustrate that the appetite for the involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services is significantly higher among the public in England and Wales than it is in Scotland.

Moreover, when we compare Scotland with the rest of the UK, we can see different attitudes to how public services should be delivered and funded.
When asked which sector would be best at providing public services that best understand what service users need, over half of Scots (54%) believe public authorities do the best job while just 11% believe that the private sector would do a better job, compared to figures of 30% for public authorities and 16% in favour of the private sector among adults in England and Wales. Similarly, 58% of Scots believe that public bodies would provide the most professional and reliable public services, compared to 19% who would favour the private sector in that regard. This contrasts with figures of 30% for public bodies and 29% for the private sector among adults in England and Wales.

Even when asked to consider which sector would provide the best quality service for the money, a measure where one might expect public bodies to do less well, 50% of Scots believe the public sector would provide the best public services, compared to 17% in favour of the private sector. Again, this contrasts significantly with England and Wales, where 27% believe the private sector would perform best on this measure, while 25% preferred public bodies.

This survey data has significant implications for policymakers in Scotland. Any moves to ‘privatise’ the delivery of public services in Scotland is likely to be met with much sterner public opposition than is the case south of the border. While this may not be on the immediate political agenda, it is clear that the public is very much supportive of the status quo in terms of how these vital services are provided and delivered.

The current political discourse in Scotland is dominated by next year’s independence referendum. But regardless of the outcome of that vote, and the results of the Westminster and Holyrood elections of 2015 and 2016, the need for changing the public services landscape will be an ever present challenge. Whoever is charged with delivering reforms will need to be wary of the strength of public opinion and work hard to ensure that the public is brought along every step of the way.

By Mark Diffley, Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland

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'Death threat' comedienne refused to appear on Newsnight Scotland

'Death threat' comedienne refused to appear on Newsnight Scotland | YES for an Independent Scotland |
'Death threat' comedienne refused to appear on Newsnight Scotland   By G.A.Ponsonby
Friday, 03 May 2013 05:29
A Scottish comedienne who claimed to have been the victim of death threats, made after she appeared on a BBC Radio programme at the weekend, refused to appear on BBC Newsnight Scotland to discuss the issue.
Susan Calman is at the centre of a row after claiming to have been the victim of death threats at the hands of pro-independence online critics.
However, despite providing quotes to a pro-Union newspaper making the claims, Newsnet Scotland can reveal she declined to appear on a programme that evening where the matter was discussed.

The death threat claim followed an appearance on a BBC Radio 4 comedy show 'The News Quiz' in which the comedienne poked fun at Scotland and also lampooned First Minister Alex Salmond’s policy on a shared currency.

According to Ms Calman, who has a history of attacking independence in her BBC shows, some listeners reacted by sending her abusive messages.  She has also claimed death threats were made.

The story featured on Newsnight Scotland and also led to an article in the pro-Union newspaper the Scotsman which also claimed the comedienne had suffered "death threats".

The row has led to claims the attacks are the work of so called 'cybernats', a derogatory term used to describe people who support independence, a claim also levelled by BBC Scotland presenter Gordon Brewer.  Mr Brewer went further last night and claimed the alleged abuse was the "full ire of some pro-independence campaigners".

Yesterday an online comment from the Scotsman, apparently from an administrator, claimed the matter was now sub-judicial, leading to speculation that the matter was under police investigation.  However despite being contacted by Newsnet Scotland, the Scottish police could not find any evidence of a police complaint having been filed.

Newsnet Scotland has also contacted the Procurator Fiscal's office seeking clarification if any complaint is being investigated - we are awaiting a response.

Writing on her own blog, Ms Calman herself cryptically described the death threats as "real or otherwise" and called for them to stop.

Some online commentators have questioned whether death threats were received at all and have asked the comedienne for evidence.  There have also been questions over claims by Ms Calman of "a blog which is pretty abusive towards me", with many people claiming to be unable to find such a blog.

Newsnet Scotland has contacted the Scotsman newspaper asking if they had seen evidence of the death threats.

Ms Calman’s facebook page has since been taken down.

In a tweet to Ms Calman, Newsnet Scotland condemned unequivocally any and all online abuse and threats.  We also asked the comedienne to clarify the nature of the alleged death threats, but have yet to receive a reply.

We also contacted Ms Calman’s agent who confirmed that her client had been invited to appear on Newsnight Scotland to discuss the issue, but turned down the invitation.

Vivienne Clore said: "Newsnight Scotland invited her to appear on the show and she declined because she doesn't want to make any further comment on the matter at the moment so I really am sorry but I cannot help you."

Ms Calman's agent's reply suggests that the comedienne may well make a further comment at a later date.

Some BBC personalities have come out in support of the comedienne, include Kaye Adams.  Ms Adams who is host of Radio Scotland 'Call Kaye', tweeted:

"Chucklebum! I have scoured the twitter sphere to tell you you're a funny little thing and I love you!"

The presenter has herself faced criticism with accusations that her morning Radio phone-in show reflects her own pro-Union views.  Earlier this year the BBC admitted that a claim made by the presenter, that anti-English attacks had increased in Scotland, was untrue, but insisted it was not deliberate.

Another to lend his support was impressionist Rory Bremner who told the Times newspaper:

"The tone of this debate is unlike anything I have ever come across before in terms of the menace," he said. "Both sides must take responsibility because the stakes are too high.

"I’ve been quite careful not to take sides but I do not want one of the funniest comedians around to be subjected to intimidation like this.  The majority of Scots have a sense of humour.  We joke about politicians all the time down south.  They should not be off limits.

"We need to have a sense of humour about this.  It is down to party leaders to rein in their shock troops."

However, Mr Bremner's claim not to have taken sides is at odds with comments attributed to him by the Scotsman who quoted the impressionist as saying: "I love the idea of being a separate entity within the whole.  I think independence is an idea whose time has come and gone."

He said he wanted his children to feel Scottish, adding: "But not in an Alex Salmond, independence kind of way…"

Mr Bremner was himself embroiled in a row last year after Newsnet Scotland reported that he was planning a satirical look at the independence referendum.

The comedian angrily denied the story and launched an attack on Newsnet Scotland, tweeting: "Newsnet's not exactly unbiased.  I sent two posts responding to insults and correcting inaccuracies. They published neither."

In January this year, the impressionist also publicly attacked Newsnet Scotland in an interview he gave to Classic FM.

In fact not only did Newsnet Scotland publish all comments received from the impressionist, but he has now confirmed he will appear in a satirical documentary looking at the Scottish referendum to be broadcast later this year.

[Newsnet comment - Newsnet Scotland has always employed a policy of non-abuse when it comes to posting comments.  We do not tolerate abuse and condemn it in whatever form it takes and from wherever it originates – we close the accounts of persistent offenders.

We do not know what abuse Ms Calman suffered, but the level of media profile afforded her claims has elevated this story to a level that makes it incumbent on all to investigate both the veracity of the claims and, if they are true, the source of the threats.

If death threats have indeed been made then those responsible need to be pursued with the full weight of the law, the referendum debate requires nothing less.  Such serious allegations must also be accompanied by proof and requests for proof must not in themselves be dismissed as 'attacks'.

Newsnight Scotland has now covered this issue twice, with presenter Gordon Brewer himself levelling very serious allegations that pro-independence 'campaigners' are responsible for the threats.  BBC Scotland must now provide proof to back up this claim from a senior presenter.

Abuse comes from both sides in this debate and vitriolic exchanges are to be seen not just in Scotland but wherever there is allowed free and open discourse.  However in Scotland, we see a filter adopted when it comes to online abuse with pro-Union examples rarely if ever commented upon by our Unionist dominated media.

Indeed, much of the inappropriate comment from Unionists comes, not from anonymous individuals, but from elected representatives.  SNP and independence supporters have been described as 'swive eyed anti-English bigots'.  Scots have been accused of commemorating Bannockburn because hundreds of thousands of English people were murdered.   Alex Salmond has been subjected to levels of abuse that are off the scale.  Even the BBC is not immune from the gratuitous 'nat bashing' with Douglas Fraser recently comparing the SNP to the dictatorial regime in North Korea.

There is also an insidious and very unhealthy 'Jock Bashing' agenda creeping into BBC broadcasts that was exemplified this weekend by 'Have I Got News For You', where Scottish culture was insulted and Scots denigrated as "tramps".

This xenophobic culture prevalent within the BBC needs to be exposed and condemned.  Thus far a blind eye is being turned to one side in this examination of those who post and broadcast extreme and obnoxious views.]
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Newsnight Scotland: Susan Calman and Satire

Newsnight Scotland: Susan Calman and Satire | YES for an Independent Scotland |
Newsnight Scotland: Susan Calman and Satire   By G.A.Ponsonby   Wednesday, 01 May 2013
I tuned into Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday to be confronted by what appeared at first glance to be a subject many of us at Newsnet Scotland have been lamenting of late – the lack of high quality political satire in Scotland.
It’s simply non-existent within main stream media outlets and only by delving into cyberspace does one find evidence of the fast growing underground satire movement – of which the hilariously funny BBC Scotlandshire is an example.

Scotlandshire lampoons BBC Scotland with a riotously funny parody of our ‘impartial’ state broadcaster.

Our own Paul Kavanagh excels in his unique take on Scottish politics and National Collective has ‘The Scottish Daily Scare’ which caricatures the genre of the Unionist scare story – also known as ‘news’.

They all of course have two things in common, the first being that they offer a pro-independence satirical take on Scotland’s constitutional debate.  The second is that there is little chance of their unique brand of political humour featuring on BBC Scotland, or indeed any broadcast outlet.

All three can trace their origins back to blogs like pseudepigrapha which had hilarious spoof Scotsman front pages and the Universality of Cheese that mixed comment and satire in order to stab a potent comedic dagger at the heart of establishment Unionism.

Sadly, and predictably, Newsnight Scotland wasn’t remotely interested in discussing the lack of satire.  The real reason for the programme was a broadcast by a comedienne Susan Calman.

Ms Calman, who is Scottish, had appeared on an episode of a Radio 4 show where guests discuss news events of the week.  Nothing much wrong with that, but Ms Calman’s contribution – we are told – didn’t go down well with some Scots who let her know in no uncertain terms how they felt.

Newsnight Scotland played a clip of Ms Calman, which was accompanied by some melodramatic claims regarding complaints she had received.  According to Gordon Brewer the perpetrators were all Cybernats - were they? We don’t know.

The problem with the whole item was that it conflated two different subjects, the clear lack of ambition within Scottish broadcasting regarding satire and the reaction to a mediocre performance by a Scottish comedienne on BBC radio.

Susan Calman’s contribution on 'The News Show' raised laughs, perhaps due to the fact that her material was tailored to her audience which was home-counties middle England.  A few cheap gags that traded on the Scottish stereotype probably improved her bank balance by a few hundred quid and raised her profile.

Satire it was not, unless parroting anti-Salmond soundbites in a ham-Scottish accent now constitutes satire.  For real satire Ms Calman would have lampooned all parties who once saw the euro as an attractive currency, including the Lib Dems and Labour.

The misnaming of John Swinney as 'Sweeney' by the show host was in keeping with the general ignorance of Scotland and the jokes were pretty mild in comparison to other BBC broadcasts.  Have I Got News For You added to the gratuitous jock-bashing weekend by claiming we export "tramps" and that we could effectively "bugger off".

Ms Calman’s appearance on The News Show wasn’t her first foray into the world of Scottish politics and what Gordon Brewer refers to as ‘satire’.

Here are two more clips of the comedian appearing on the BBC where yet again Scotland and independence featured prominently.

It doesn’t take a genius to see a theme with Ms Calman when she appears on the BBC in front of an English audience as the clips demonstrate.  To be fair she doesn’t restrict her ‘satirical’ rapier wit to the SNP, Scotland also receives a generalised slap now and again from this queen of satire.

Susan Calman isn’t that funny, but good luck to her in carving out a career as a guest on the TV talk show circuit.  But to suggest that her brand of comedy is ‘satire’ is the real joke here.

Making political points against the SNP and ‘separation’ and dressing them up as a joke is not satire and it never will be.  Nor is claiming to be objective when you are clearly pro-Union, as evidenced by a recent appearance on Alexander Armstrong’s show ‘The Big Ask’.

Turning to the offensive messages Ms Calman received after her performance, nobody condones the clowns from both sides who inhabit cyberspace and attack one another regularly, but people who post offensive messages are not representative of anything other than themselves.  It could have been worse though, satire cost the host of the Universality of Cheese his job.

A real satirist might develop some material that sought to highlight just why there are no main stream media outlets backing independence and why the BBC insists on loading its shows with pro-Union contributors – even it seems its comedy shows.

How this ended up being discussed on Newsnight Scotland is a bit of a mystery, on the day that Lord Ashdown intervened in the row over the Ian Taylor donation to Better Together one would have thought that the latter was more deserving of coverage - another topic for a satirist surely.

But whilst we're on BBC current affairs shows and cheap laughs, here’s a recording of a BBC show 'Any Questions' that had many of the targets Susan Calman has aimed at and provided just as many chuckles from the English audience.

Is it also satire Mr Brewer?
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Arts blog: Calmangate | Performing Arts - Scotsman guilty Calman not-guilty

Arts blog: Calmangate | Performing Arts - Scotsman guilty Calman not-guilty | YES for an Independent Scotland |

FOR poking fun at the independence debate on Radio 4’s The News Quiz, comedian Susan Calman, pictured, says she was subjected to “name-calling, swearing and death threats”. “I was accused of betraying my country, of being racist towards my own people and of being a c***,” she wrote in a recent blog, comments reported in yesterday’s Scotsman.

Plenty of people have spoken up in support of Calman. Others have questioned her motives for speaking out, and the Scotsman’s motives for taking what she said at face value. Print examples of the online abuse Calman says she was subjected to, demanded Stuart Campbell of the independence-supporting website Wings Over Scotland yesterday, suspecting the whole thing was a unionist attempt to smear independence campaigners as bullies (even though Calman had not actually suggested either side was more culpable than the other).

For this, Campbell was called a “misogynist”, a “poisonous bastard” and (by Calman herself) “the vilest possible person” on Twitter. Ironically given Campbell’s scepticism, this actually adds weight to Calman’s original point – that, whenever the subject of Scottish independence comes up, people on all sides of the argument have a habit of resorting to personal attacks alarmingly quickly (including both Campbell and, to add further irony, Calman herself).

It’s a depressing situation. For my part, every time I’ve addressed the subject of independence in writing, most online comments have, instead of responding to specific points in my argument, immediately begun making (wrong) assumptions about my background, class and nationality. This, for some people, appears to be far more important than anything I’m actually saying.

This kind of thing is not confined to conversations about independence. It has as much to do with the way the internet – a place where people can safely and anonymously lob abuse at each other across vast geographical distances without ever having to look the person they’re addressing in the eye – has degraded a lot of political discourse. But combine this technological development with the heightened emotions that accompany an incredibly important debate about the political and cultural future of a whole nation, and the result is frequently disastrous.

This was particularly apparent during the ill-tempered debate following the publication of Alasdair Gray’s Settlers and Colonists essay last year. Nobody came out of this looking very good, from those who (wrongly and scandalously) accused Gray of racism, to those who compared his critics to Nazi sympathisers (this really happened – and from an intelligent independence campaigner who should have known better).

What’s the solution, other than blandly and perhaps naively suggesting that everyone be more polite and respectful to each other? Perhaps Susan Calman nailed it in her blog: “We are over a year away from the vote. If we don’t start laughing soon it’s going to go horribly wrong.”
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