Tag Archives: Unionists

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/

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Why Unionist Attempts to Politicise the Olympics Failed

Whilst everybody was enjoying the spectacle of the greatest Games on Earth there was one group of people who are doing their level best to spoil it for you.  Welcome to the UK Unionists. If there was a gold medal for petty political point scoring up there on the podium would be the anti-independence politicians and commentators. In rhetoric reminiscent of Labour claims that devolution would kill the SNP ‘stone dead’, time and again we heard claims the SNP are opposed to Team GB and that every medal marks a death blow to Scottish independence aspirations.

They condemned the Scottish Government for wishing our Scottish athletes well. They then criticised us for providing a Scottish showcase opened to fully engage with the Olympics. They scoured through ten year old speeches to misquote us out of context to prove that we’re pathologically opposed to the Games. They were even quicker off the blocks than Usain Bolt. Within five minutes of Danny Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony, there they were, declaring game, set and match for the UK state.

All of it utter nonsense, and all of it grating with the Scottish people who just wanted to enjoy the Games free from politicians trying to hijack this spectacle for their own ends. And after all their incessant efforts, Guess what? Opinion polls show that if anything the Olympics have actually increased support for independence! Talk about getting it wrong and aiming that blunderbuss at the foot. Even when presented with this evidence they just can’t seem to stop. Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander are the latest senior unionist politicians to forlornly mine this empty seam, using the Olympics, because they can’t come up with any compelling or convincing case for the Union themselves.

How people vote in the Independence Referendum will be dependent on many things. Should the Westminster Tories continue to determine Scotland’s future? Would Scotland be better off in control of its own resources? Does Scotland want to make its own peaceful contribution to world affairs without being drawn into illegal wars? These are the issues that will determine the outcome of the Referendum, not a Games, regardless of their scale or success.

And anyway, Team GB is as much my team as it is the most enthusiastic fan from any other part of these isles.

While I would naturally like to see a Scottish team march round the Olympic stadium under the St Andrew’s cross as an independent nation, I cheered on Team GB till I was hoarse. I recognise the immense pride of Scottish athletes in representing their country and of course they should be able to stand under their current national flag and take great satisfaction in being a member of Team GB.

As an independent nation we will be represented by a Team Scotland in any future Olympics. That is what normal independent countries do in international sporting events. But for now we are part of the UK and all of us in Scotland are enjoyed our team’s success, regardless of how we vote or what we think about Scotland’s constitutional future.

But probably the most ludicrous notion is that the Games has shown that we in Scotland will have to choose between being Scottish or British. This is a theme that has gained much currency amongst these anti-independence commentators recently and shows a singular, probably willful, misunderstanding about what independence is about.

What we want with independence is to complete the powers of our Parliament and take responsibility for our own affairs. We want to recalibrate the political relationship of the UK state and it has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Britishness’. That is the social union and none of it goes anywhere with independence. We will still share a British island and we will still enjoy our fantastic relationship, heritage and British culture.

But in cheering on Team GB did that mean that I was entirely happy or satisfied with all the arrangements for the London Olympics? Of course not. Like the Tories in opposition, and more recently like Labour in raising concerns about the G4S shambles, I tried as much as possible to hold the Westminster Government to account – that is my job as an MP.

But these issues have come and gone, and so, unfortunately have the Olympics. In two years time Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games where we will compete as Team Scotland. What is as certain as Scottish gold is that those self-same anti-independence politicians who have so valiantly tried to politicise these Games will be screaming blue murder at any perceived notion of nationalist politicisation.

But do you know what? Just as the London Olympics has absolutely nothing to do with the Referendum, neither will the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Blairgowrie Advertiser – 21st June 2012

The debate about Scottish independence took a rather bizarre turn last week when Labour leader, Ed Miliband, tried to suggest what my identity would be after independence.  This is when Ed Miliband revealed that the referendum for independence would be a choice between Scottishness and Britishness.

Not only is this ridiculous, it is geographically impossible.  That is, unless Ed Miliband intends to take his party’s obsession with “separation” to a new level by building a channel across the border after independence.

I am British because I live in the northern part of the island of Great or Greater Britain. I am British in the same way that someone from Stockholm is Scandinavian and in the same way that Ed Miliband is also British because he lives in the southern part of this island.  It’s basic geography and it is astounding he is unaware of that.  He also has absolutely no right to tell me what I can call myself after independence, when I will, of course, still be both Scottish and British.

To be charitable, what Ed, in his confusion, was perhaps trying to suggest, is that I would no longer be “culturally” British because I would be changing my nationality from UK to Scottish.  After independence, we will continue with a social union with England and we will also celebrate all the amazing achievements and relationships we have shared.

This is a basic failure to understand what independence is striving to achieve. What independence will mean is that Scotland will leave the UK state with the return of currently reserved powers to the Scottish Parliament.  The referendum on independence will be – or at least ought to be – about where power should reside.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Britishness or Britain, just as the UK state also has nothing to do with Britishness.

Ed Miliband, like so many other unionists, is becoming increasingly obsessed with identity, flags and nationality, and in being so, is seeking to deny us our geography and our shared culture and heritage. What we will do is to continue to invest in our cultural ties with the rest of the United Kingdom and we will build on our social union in a spirit of co-operation, equality and self respect.

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.