Category Archives: Scots Independent

Goodnight Westminster

So that’s Westminster’s role in Scotland’s referendum at an end, and I’m sure that anyone who watched the 6 hour marathon debate on the Section 30 order will breathe a huge sigh of relief at that.

Westminster isn’t just opposed to independence, it loathes the very suggestion of it. Some of the comments from our unionist friends in the debate weren’t just political knock about, they verged on the contemptuous and bizarre.

The chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee actually went as far as to say that the referendum was timed to celebrate Scots slaughtering “large numbers of English people.” This is the same man that called the SNP “neo-fascist” and reduced this once proud committee to little more than an appendage of the No campaign.

The Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party in his extraordinary contribution said that the Scottish Parliament “is not a democratic place in the conventional sense” but “is a dictatorship”. Now, I don’t know if this is the official view of the Labour party in Scotland but it seems that they have lost all respect for the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.

Most of these comments seem to be because we will not “confirm” to them that the Scottish Parliament will “accept unconditionally” the view of the Electoral Commission on the referendum. Indeed, they went as far as to suggest that the referendum should not be a matter for directly elected Members of Parliament, accountable to the public, but be exclusively a matter for an unelected body appointed to advise the Westminster Parliament.

No Parliament in the world would agree to such a ridiculous proposition and that includes the Westminster Parliament itself. Last year the UK Government rejected the advice of the Electoral Commission on local authority elections, the Minister responsible is even alleged to have told the Electoral Commission where they might wish to dispose of their question! The Electoral Commission themselves say that their role is to advise Government and it is for elected members to decide. That is what happens in a democracy.

We also don’t know what the Electoral Commission is going to say. Yes, we might agree with them, but to demand that we do so in advance would be a desertion of democratic responsibility.

But did this issue with the Electoral Commission deserve all the hyperbole and nonsense we heard from unionists in the debate? Westminster says it wants a role and wants to be listened to in the debate about the referendum. Well, it’s going to have to do better than this.  On current evidence all I can say is thank goodness it’s a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

To give but one example of the quality of Westminster’s contribution I will end with a quote from the (respected) Tory MP, Rory Stewart. He said “Independence will not cause the war between England and Scotland to start again. Those days of savagery, murder, pillage and rape – what we saw in Cumbria for 400 years – will not return”.

Indeed, and goodnight Westminster.

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This is an article Pete wrote for the Scots Independent Newspaper

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The Ghost of Too Wee, Too Poor, Too Stupid

“Too wee, too poor, too stupid”. This was the former staple diet of unionist propaganda in the old days, when the independence debate was composed of much simpler fare. Then there was no need for the scare story. We were simply subsidised Scotland, surviving off scraps from the ruins of our former industrial decline. “What would we do without the generous largesse of the UK state?” was enough to confirm our diminished status and spike any ambition to run our own affairs.

“Too wee, poor and stupid (too wp&s)” was the orthodoxy until it became apparent we contributed more to the UK state than we received. “Scotching the myth”, well, scotched it, and now only the Westminster Tories and sections of the metropolitan press still ramble on about a subsidised Scotland

No unionist involved in the referendum debate would now say directly that we are “too wp&s”. Even they know that to insult the very people they’re trying to recruit is simply not good campaigning tactics. So now “too wp&s” is simply hinted at. It’s disguised in all the uncertainty they’re trying to present in their doom-laden version of an independent Scotland. “Yes” they say, “Scotland could be a successful independent nation,” then in the next breath we get the multitude of reasons why the Scots, uniquely, wouldn’t make a success of independence.

Even our inbuilt advantages have to be a negative. We are, in fact “burdened” with our oil resource and when it runs out, the ghost of “too wp&s” returns to suggest we aren’t creative enough to prepare for this and ensure our future prosperity.

The narrative of a “separate” Scotland is the theme that is being compiled and a lot of thinking is invested in delivering this crushing vision. They have to convince the Scottish people that we will be bereft of, and incapable of creating, the infrastructure of state. Currency, partnerships, defence and even culture are all under threat. This vision of the “separate” Scotland is being carefully constructed and the impression they are trying to create is one word – unviable.

“Too wp&s”, therefore, underpins this “separation” and “unviability”. Of course we’re not “too wee”, but according to Michael Moore, we would be in a diminished state and a “bit player” in the world. We’re not “too poor”, but even with our fantastic oil resource we’re still going to be impoverished without the UK to manage our affairs. We’re not “too stupid”, but uniquely we don’t have the wit to effectively defend ourselves and make a success of our independence.

We cannot let the unionists suggest that we could not be a success as an independent Scotland. It is independence that believes in Scotland, and the people who live and work here. It is the unionists who continue to imply that we’re still too wee, too poor and too stupid with every bit of their narrative of a “separate” Scotland.

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This is an article Pete wrote for the Scots Independent Newspaper

Reaching Out to That “Inner Nat” in our Fellow Scots

As we approach the two year countdown to the referendum It’s time to reach out to that patriotic inner Scottish nationalist that resides in practically everybody who lives and works in Scotland. It’s time for that “inner nat” to shout out that this is our time, and we can, and we will, secure our independence.

Our job is to unleash that inner nationalist that resides in our fellow Scots. That essentially Scottish spirit that knows we can, and we will, and that no one will tell us that we can’t and we won’t. It is the “inner nat” that longs to be like all those other countries in the world, normal and self-governing, peacefully patriotic and above all free and independent.

The inner nationalist knows we are better than this. Knows we are a rich, inventive nation that will make a positive, peaceful contribution to world affairs. It is the inner nat who waves the saltire proudly and knows that we are as good as anybody else in the world.

It is the inner nationalist that is appalled by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith who tells us we’re “too wee or too poor” to run a welfare state. It is the part of us who shouts out indignantly at his likes and all the other naysayers who deride our ambition and talk us down.

The inner nationalist is also the part of us that believes in our sense of national dignity and self respect- the pride in taking responsibility for ourselves and blaming no one else for our failures. About the self respect that it is us, the Scottish people, who will make our own way in the world.

The “inner nat” is proud of our achievements, roars on anyone in a Scotland top, and is culturally relaxed and in tune with his or her innate Scottishness. He or she is proud to be Scottish, but is an avowed and committed internationalist.

Independence will be about the heart and the head. The head that knows that it is the people who live and work in Scotland who are best placed to decide our future, simply because it is us who care most about our nation. But it is the heart that’s most important, that patriotic, ambitious inner nationalist in us Scots that knows that independence will allow us to be all we can be and express ourselves fully.

The inner nationalist in us will drown out the negative voices that tell us we can’t and who try to denigrate our ambition. The inner nationalist is simply an emotional response that says Scotland deserves better, is better and deserves its national liberation, its independence and its freedom.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Devo-Max?

What do we do about devo-max? This peculiar, but simple, constitutional option seems to be causing a great deal of consternation amongst all sides in the independence debate and no-one seems to know what to do with this most impertinent of proposals.

Devo-max is either a legitimate aspiration of the Scottish people, or it is an evil nationalist ploy. It is either, what most people seem to want, or it is a sinister “nat-filled” Trojan horse.

It is, of course, the anti-independence parties that have the greatest issue with devo-max. For them, devo-max has become a totally toxic proposal, which must not get anywhere near a constitutional ballot paper. They are prepared to give up all their other “conditions” to get this removed and they have poured scorn over any suggestion that it be considered.

Their main contention is that devo-max is a consolation prize if the main goal of independence isn’t achieved. They want no succour or comfort for us in the SNP in the event of a failure to secure independence.

But we’re supposed to all be for more powers aren’t we? Eh, well yes, but just not now. The Unionists, as one, seem to put forward the consolidated view that the independence question has to be resolved before we can start to deal with the question of more powers. This, therefore, leaves them in the rather uncomfortable position of opposing independence, but offering what can only be referred to as “jam tomorrow”. This isn’t a good place to be and they know it. It would also mean a great leap of faith by the Scottish people who seem to be doing a collective “aye right” after having the hindsight of having been here before.

But what exactly is devo-max? “It is a proposal without a home, which no-one can define” are the usual well rehearsed gripes! Well, let me try and attempt a little clumsy definition of my own. For me, devo-max would be the devolution of all remaining powers at Westminster, barring defence, foreign affairs and international treaty obligations. We would remain part of the United Kingdom, but effectively run our own affairs, including all financial ones. Simple, and surely if this is what the Scottish people want, this is what they should have regardless of any constitutional niceties.

And what about devo-max and the SNP? It is, of course, not our position, we want independence. We also want more powers for our Parliament, so we don’t have the inbuilt hostility of the anti-independence parties to devo-max. We are also democrats, who believe that the Scottish people are sovereign and they are the ultimate masters of their constitutional progress.

I, therefore, have absolutely no problem about a devo-max option being on the ballot paper and would look forward to engaging with “devo-maxers” about the short journey between what we want with independence and the maximum powers they support.

But we are all bound by the Scottish people, and in the Scotland I believe in, they should always secure what they desire.

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This post is Pete’s new article for the Scots Independent newspaper. More information on the Scots Independent can be found on their website at http://www.scotsindependent.org/

The Power to Shape Our Own Future

Several decades ago Johnny Nash reminded us of an unalterable truth when he sang, “there are more questions than answers”. Now, he clearly wasn’t thinking of the “no” campaign when he belted out this little ditty in the 70s, but this sort of encapsulates the early skirmishing in the independence debate.

Everything from the size of intelligence services in an independent Scotland to the exact size of the merchant fleet, the unionists demand a full and detailed response.

This, of course, is a calculated attempt to suggest that not everything is thoroughly thought through and that independence is some sort of leap in the dark. “Hah”, these cunning unionists conclude – “this is your lifetime ambition and you can’t even tell us what insignia the boy scouts will wear when you separate”.

When the answer to a particular question is given it is conveniently ignored and the next question is then posed, and thus it goes on, indefinitely!

The intention is to wear us down, sow confusion and invent erroneous answers – the more obscure and potentially unanswerable the question, the happier they are.

The only problem for them is that Scotland will make a decision about its future on the basis of the most detailed comprehensive prospectus ever presented to a nation considering its constitutional future. The white paper being prepared by the Scottish Government will detail, in an almost overwhelming totality, how Scotland will govern itself as an independent country. It is on the basis of this white paper that Scotland will make its choice.

And it’s absolutely right that the Scottish Government prepares this work and presents the Scottish people with a vision of an independent Scotland.

But independence as a concept is bigger than any white paper. What independence will do is return all of the decision making about Scotland to the people who live and work here.

Independence means that it’s all in our hands. After independence if the Scottish people elect a Government that wants large armed forces then that’s what they will get. Similarly if it wants a Government based on the Scottish Greens’ world view, then they will similarly also secure that. If a particular approach isn’t working the Scottish people can replace the Government of an independent Scotland with another one, which will do something differently. It’s what normal independent countries do and it’s actually quite a simple concept.

The Scottish people want answers to all those questions and they want to know how an independent Scotland will work. Our prospectus will offer just that. But it will be the Scottish people who will ultimately be in charge of all of the decisions about our future. It is the ultimate form of self Government and it is right that every nation has the self respect and dignity to take these decisions for itself.

Scots Independent – June 2012

Do you ever feel you’re living in a parallel universe? Well being an SNP MP at Westminster is sometimes quite like that. You see, Westminster doesn’t like the idea of Scottish independence. In fact it doesn’t like the idea of it a lot. Out of the 650 MPs in the Commons 640 of them are totally hostile to the suggestion. In the House of Lords it’s probably even worse. All 786 members would probably take exception to the notion, apart from Plaid Cymru peer, Dafydd Wigley, and the Liberal, but indy-supporting, Earl of Mar. That’s an awful lot of indy-loathing parliamentarians. In fact, that is about 1,400 unionist MPs or Lords and Ladies determined to let Scotland know how they feel about the whole proposition.

With these sort of numbers, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the debate about Scottish independence is just a little bit different in London than it is in Scotland.

Any cursory look at Scottish Questions will give you a flavour of how they approach the debate. Unionist MP after unionist MP will rise to give Scotland the benefit of the strength of his or her unionist passion. The prospect of an independent Scotland has to be talked down and the wonders and joy of the union repeatedly spelled out – ad nauseam.

In the House of Lords it’s even worse. Now, I know that it should never be recommended, but watching the Lords debate Scottish issues is almost funny. During the passing of the Scotland Bill former Scottish Ministers, both Tory and Labour, would practically be fulminating at the gall of the people to vote for an SNP Government. Such is the surreal quality of the Lords that the ever popular Michael Forsyth is the star turn at these events!

Then there’s the Scottish Affairs Committee, all unionists, who can’t even bring themselves to mention the word “independence”. They are accompanied by the (at least) other 4 Westminster select committees, again all entirely unionist, and all looking at issues to do with “separation”.

Should we care what Westminster thinks about Scottish independence? Should we try and accommodate its view and take on board its concerns? Well, if it’s going to be reasonable, then yes, we should. But if it can’t bring itself to even say the word independence, if it believes that the whole concept of independence is somehow illegitimate, and if it attempts to try and shout down the few of us who take a contrary view in London, then Westminster diminishes its contribution. We want a constructive debate about independence in the next couple of years and Westminster needs to engage constructively and sensibly.