Scottish Independence; The Final Furlong

Final furlong

Heading into the final week of campaigning in front of the most momentous vote that Scots will take in their lifetimes and with the rest of the Kingdom strictly relegated to observer status, mixed emotions are increasingly evident. Many can see victory within their grasp and are beginning to see red mist. Their claims become more emotionally charged and factually outrageous by the day. Others are suffering from referendum fatigue and simply want a quick end to it all and to be allowed to get on with their lives while some are sucked into a vortex of questioning disbelief, worry and anxiety for the future.

“No,” would appear to be slightly in the lead but with a tolerance of + or – 3pts in these polls it really is all to play for. I do though hear more stories of stupid and crass low level intimidation from the “Yes,” campaign from the Highlands to the Borders. I think we’ll hear more about this after the vote but one thing is for sure and for certain, when individuals are in that voting booth they can tick which ever box they wish with absolute privacy and impunity. That’s exactly the point when Mr Salmond may regret not reigning in the more febrile elements of his campaign.

Standing back from the melee for a moment I can’t help but think how badly planned and handled the entire enterprise has been from every constituent part. That with four days to go the level of informed debate is better suited to the cut and thrust of a mid-term by-election is nothing short of an international embarrassment. Peoples livelihoods and their economic future are at risk here and they deserve better. So does the rest of the United Kingdom.

Both campaigns have in fact completely missed the target. Salmond has failed to invest in time and energy to create a sound intellectual case for independence and instead has leaned far too heavily on transient soundbites, reviving ancient mistrust of the English, (that many voters have no lineage to anyway), questionable election practices, a nostalgia for a post war economy that has forever gone and oil and well, oil. Creating a dependency for the well being, health and education of 5m people on the price of a globally traded commodity would to me seem a somewhat casual approach to policy but what do I know?

What did you expect Nick when you asked an awkward question at a press conference. The SNP, reinventing East Germany.

An independent Scotland though is of course possible and indeed could be more of a reality if Salmond and his hopeless band of backward looking socialists embraced a culture and manifesto of socially liberal, economically conservative policies that enthusiastically sought openness, collaboration, partnership and participation. That’s not going to happen though. The SNP is a small minded, spiteful and resentful collection of miscreants who in the best traditions of modern politics will promise everything to everyone and deliver nothing except value destruction and national strife.

There is the possibility that the electorate vote for independence then immediately vote the SNP out, preferring instead individuals capable of doing the job properly but they are in short supply in Scottish politics. I think such an echo of Churchill being tossed out from government in the 1945 election is unlikely; the SNP have simply left it too late having relied too much on what they perceive to be a spirit of nationalism and they have left too many open questions unanswered.   

It would have been so much better to make the case ex oil and ex the EU and sell those as added bonus’s. Salmond should have focused on a very gradual disconnect with the rest of the UK with multiple joint ventures and collaborations, with checkpoints, at the sovereign, financial and social level. He should have warned every Scot that this momentous decision was one they were entrusted with on behalf of their children and subsequent generations. That for most Scots there would be no immediate financial uplift. That in fact the benefits would take a minimum of ten years to accrue, if not a generation. He should have asked, “Is that a sacrifice you are prepared to make?” He should have reminded, if not berated his potential voters that Scotland suffers from a corrosive drug problem, galloping ill health in some areas and a bewildering and growing culture of dependency on government. He should have reminded Scots of their heritage and what he intended to do to unleash the capacity of Scots to revive, invent and build based on a competitive and forward looking education system and an environment which allows business to thrive. Instead, he’s just shovelled out a truck load of lies, half-truths and  cynical scare stories that add nothing to the debate and diminish his appeal to voters. Voters see through this nonsense and his standing has fallen commensurate with the diminishing integrity of his argument. He will lose on Thursday and he need look no further than himself to blame.

Not all one way traffic; 5000 gather in Edinburgh yesterday

The No campaign meanwhile has been equally poor. In fact, its been an utter shambles. The “Keep Calm,” approach was chucked on the bonfire last week when the enormity of the weapons grade fuck up they’d made of it became apparent in the polls. They will probably pull it off in the end but it will be in spite of their efforts not because of them. In fact, it will largely be the pragmatic and sensible undecided Scottish housewife who rescues them. I don’t imagine she has much love for either side but will instead vote for whoever she thinks will cause her family the least dislocation and worry. I don’t blame her. The failure of the “No,” campaign to properly articulate the benefit of being a Scot within the United Kingdom is symptomatic of our hermetic national politicians and the arms length political class we’ve created. Here though is a man who can and in fact is one of the few who has written sensibly about the issues at hand for some considerable time, Alex Massie. Worth a read.

The winner in all of this, and there aren’t many, is UKIP who will benefit from an English reaction to an independence vote but also to an excess of largesse with Devo Max. The driving undercurrent is anyway, a rumbling dissatisfaction with central government which has resonance throughout the UK and indeed in many European countries beyond.

Referendum fatigue, voters deserve better

That general feeling of dissatisfaction was nicely articulated by a chum in the Highlands over the weekend,

“I took a wee wander with the dog the other day to pass the time and popped in for a pint. On looking up at the sign above my watering hole, it read - The Royal British Legion (Scotland) Branch. I pondered and wondered what that will be called next week?  Anyway, I digress...

It was a lovely sunny day so I sat outside at a table and during my time there, I chatted to several tourists from the Manchester area about various topics, weather, how nice it was 'up here' etc, etc.... and of course the referendum. It was quite surreal actually, with about a 50/50 split in how the 'tourists' would vote if they had the chance, which came as a bit of a surprise. 'Westminster' isn't too popular in the North of England either it seems...

Also sat with me was a wise old piper, now in his eighties, who served his Queen and country well when he was in his prime and he eventually summed it all up in a few ( or quite a few...) words.

He was sitting quietly listening to all the opinions, not saying anything - apart from humming his usual heedrum hodrum pipe tunes aloud until he finally stopped 'playing' his imaginary pipes and he said;

‘Och!! I'm sick o' the whole damned thing!

Some days I wake up and my heart says Yes, but my head says No.

On other days my heart says No, but my head says Yes.

The problem is I can never get the two of them to agree.

I've listened to everything all these (*expletive*) politicians have said and all I have to do now, is decide which lot of the (*another expletive*) are lying the least!’

That for me, sums it up in a nutshell.........”

Indeed it does.

The Ballad of Brenda McGhee

Reflections; Ronnie Hughes

Life’s not all bad, dull and dreary and as you know, here at Crumble we try and occasionally elevate matters by bringing something with a cultural bent along to feed the soul and cheer the heart. With that in mind I’d like to introduce you to what I firmly believe is a classic contribution to our nations literary heritage, the joy of which will far outlive me.

 A book dropped on the doormat this week and its no ordinary book. Just once in a while, from the many hundreds of thousands of men who rotate through the Army the odd one will commit his memories and emotions to paper and in doing so capture moments in time that would otherwise be lost for ever. Former Drum Major of the 1st Bn The Royal Highland Fusiliers, Ronnie Hughes has done just that and those of us who served at the same time are grateful that he’s done so.

In his collection of poems and short stories called “Reflections,” which he collated with the help of a friends student daughter, he’s nailed an entire Battalions rich humour and sense of collective being. I can honestly say that my formative years spent with 1 RHF were the funniest I've ever experienced. There were some not so good times but those were quickly forgotten in favour of the high points and Ronnie’s book has brought a flood of memories back for me and others who are chuckling their way through it. Thanks Ronnie.

This is my favourite;

This lady is definately not Brenda McGhee and that doesn't much look much like Port Glasgow either

The Ballad of Brenda McGhee 

In the town of Port Glasgow there lived a young lass, in a flat overlooking the sea, 
That’s where I first clapped my eyes oan the sight, I hope never again for to see. 
The ugliest burd in the whole bleedin’ world, yes folks you kin take it from me, 
Meet Brenda McDonald McFadzean Coltrane, Fitzpatrick McGregor McGhee. 

To say she wis ugly, wis putting it mild, as she sat by her windae aw day, 
Gazing longingly oot as the world passed her by, in the hope that a boy came her way. 
Twa bandy legs, and a wee crooked nose, Ailsa Craig wis the size of her rump, 
Wi’ wan squinty eye, and a 52 chest, not forgetting that she had a hump. 

Poor Brenda wis lonely, of that there’s no doubt, and boyfriends a no- no it seems, 
As I looked in her eye, and she gave me a wink, not me pal, aye jist in yir dreams. 
It seems such a shame, as I toodled aff hame, leaving Brenda alone at her sill, 
There’s some ugly burds that kin capture a lad, of course there are some never will. 

One day came to pass, this ugly young lass, left her windae ti’ go make some toast, 
When in through the windae a burglar he came, and very soon wished he wis lost. 
Wee Brenda she caught him alone in her room, as he rifled the loot frae her hoose, 
This is ma chance, thought wee Brenda at last, as her boobs from her bra she let loose. 

Wee Joe the burglar looked aghast, his face wis as white as a sheet, 
Of aw the hooses he picked ti’ tan, and whit a god awful sight for ti’ meet. 
Aw Christ whit is this, the burglar enquired, I only came in for yir loot, 
That’s OK son, said wee Brenda with glee, only two weeks ti go, then yir oot. 

The fortnight flew in and wee Brenda wis glad, at long last she’d captured a boy, 
Virginity gone and two weeks of pure lust, the burglar wid make a good toy. 
It’s fair ti’ say Joe didnae see it that way, he wis knackered and right puckered oot, 
He longed for the day, he had to escape, doon the pawn wi’ the ugly hags loot. 

Some years doon the line, wee Joe doing time, in his cell he jist let his mind wander, 
That time in Port Glasgow he robbed the wrang hoose, aye, whit a major blunder. 
Still sat at her windae wis Brenda McGhee, she wis smilin’ for aw she was worth, 
There by her side was her 5-year-old pride, a wan eyed humpy backit wee dwarf. 

This tale has a moral, and, yes it is true, ugly hags can get boyfriends, aye, even you, 
Don’t sit at your windae, watch life pass you by, go make some toast, or even a pie. 
Remember wee Brenda, the ugliest burd, that’s ever been this side of Oban, 
Just make sure that when you leave your room, that your windae on life is left open. 

 

Historical context from Ronnie,

"Let me enlighten you as to how she found herself on the end of my pen (so to speak)  When I was growing up in the East end of Glasgow at the end of, and just after WW2, I noticed that there was a dearth of menfolk in my area, thanks to a certain wee Austrian Corporal. When the weather was fine, 'wimmen-folk' would often be seen at their window sills, leaning on a cushion or pillow. Conversations would be passed up and down the street and many even went on round corners into different streets. Now, thanks to the shortage of men (young and old) who never made it home, women just had a hard time getting themselves a laddie, and every street had a "Wee Brenda" who came up a bit short in the 'good looking' stakes, so she had 'nae' chance (until I came to her rescue with wee Joe the burglar.)  I never met the mythical Brenda, and I certainly never frequented Port Glasgow, but when I put both together, it helped my words and the poem to flow." 

 

Scottish Independence; The Wolves Lair

The Wolves Are Waiting

Salmond has had a fairly easy run up up until now with his mendacious and toxic mix of lies and hyperbole while unleashing the worst traits of Scots character. I can’t yet decide whether he reminds me of Haig before the Somme, lining up his citizens Army before they go over the top and into oblivion or Kinnock at Sheffield in ’92 when his victory grandstanding was actually followed by ignominious defeat. Perhaps though, Salmond’s smug triumphalism most reminds me of Napoleon………… and he may be about to meet his Waterloo.

Salmond has had everything going his own way since he was found wanting in the first televised debate. His scheduled debate this afternoon with Alistair Darling on Mumsnet though may be looked back on as an error of judgment on the part of the “Yes,” team. Just look at some of the questions already posted,

Salmond is going into the Wolves Lair and I don’t rate his chances. The questions so far are overwhelmingly sceptical. These Mum’s don’t care about waffle; years of listening to excuses from their husbands about why they haven’t “mown the grass / mended the hoover / forgot about the dinner party / forgot to pick Jonnie up / looked at their friend that way at the party / lost weight / not noticed their hair / not recorded their favourite programme / ………. and so on,” have battle hardened them to excuses and are trained now to just go straight for the jugular and rip the arms of helpless, mumbling men. 

I’d rather be anywhere on the planet than where Salmond will be at 1:45pm, and I’m not joking; the press will seize on this. Darling meanwhile should say nothing, (especially after his disastrous interview on BBC Scotland last night by Jackie Bird), but if he has to, just agree with everyone – just like the rest of us do when faced with angry women.


Oddly though, I don't seem to be able to get my own question for the debate posted

Balancing this off is of course the visit of the other party leaders to Scotland which may neutralise any damage Salmond ships today because its difficult to see any circumstance where the #westminsterschooltrip can end well. For what it’s worth, I think honest straight talking would have more value and garner more respect than sycophantic toadying to many who will not ever change their minds. My question to Cameron is, “would you indulge your young children in this way if they didn’t get what they wanted no matter the cost or how ridiculous the demands?” The “reverse engines,” on Devo Max is actually harming the “No,” campaign because voters can only see headless chickens in a flat out panic who are throwing honesty and integrity out of the window.  Their target must be the small percentage of Labour voters who have swung to “No.” The bookies meanwhile, or rather the punters, are still backing “No,” and whatever the media noise level, I wouldn’t dismiss that.

Finally, the press have reported that assets have been leaving Scotland. That’s a bit presumptuous and premature. It’s not as if everything would shut down on the 19th in the event of a “Yes,” vote, indeed it would take years to disconnect and unravel Scotland from the rest of the UK and many things simply wouldn’t change at all. Nonetheless, as I alluded to yesterday, changes in the psychology of the crowd can quickly surge and overrun accepted thinking. Watch the ATM’s. Big and widespread cash withdrawals would be illogical but watch what happens, that would scare voters.

A few interesting articles,

Paul Krugman in the NY Times doesn’t get it

John Redwood on the role of Scottish MP’s

Heffer takes offence at South African comparison and a good deal else.

Scotland’s Financial Service Industry – Reuters

International impact; Vuc Jeremic in The Times

Prof Charles Pattie with a reflective view of an unsettled future

Forecasting Scottish Migration in the context of the Referendum; University of Southampton


HMS Prince of Wales

Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier

I suppose I ought not to call it HMS given it's some way from being named and launched or whatever the conventions of our naval chums are. Anyway, I spend enough time bashing the government they ought to be congratulated when they do something good. The decision to not mothball the Prince of Wales on delivery is a welcome respite to years of grinding cuts. We'll then have two! Remarkable isn't it that Great Britain having two aircraft carriers is a cause for rejoicing?

Given all the other news this week, mostly bad, I'm surprised that few commentators appear to have grasped the significance of the decision. At a stroke it sends a powerful and resolute message to our allies, "oh, so you are serious," and will keep us at the geopolitical top table. Nor will it be unnoticed by our enemies and it is an overdue shot in the arm to the Navy who for too long, have been the poor relation. Their morale has suffered somewhat with relentless reductions in scale and capability in the past two decades and this news ought to encourage more experienced men to stay on given their potential career paths just broadened.

don't worry son, the Royal Navy's out there to look after Christmas

I know there are other considerations, such as aircraft which we haven't yet sorted out but for the moment, we should take what's on offer. Clearly, the Navy are in the ascendant and I would think too, so are the Royal Marines. I'm not the only one who thinks its good news. There is a statistic that rolls around out there that says 90%+ of all Christmas presents under the tree come by sea. Little boys and girls can sleep safe then; the Royal Navy is there to protect Christmas for all children.....

 

Scottish Independence; Ahmm wee word, Mr Cameron....

The kind of backfire that Mr Cameron is currently experiancing

When I mentioned in my last post that PPE at Balliol hadn't prepared the policy wonks and advisor's in Westminster for the General Custer, "Where the fxck did all those "Yes" votes come from?" moment I had little idea that I would be so quickly validated by the pointy headed clowns.

We discover today that messrs Cameron, Clegg and Milliband are sufficiently in melt down mode that they've binned Prime Minister's questions tomorrow and are all off to the North "to listen." 

“There is a lot that divides us – but there’s one thing on which we agree passionately: the United Kingdom is better together. That’s why all of us are agreed the right place for us to be tomorrow is in Scotland, not at Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster. We want to be listening and talking to voters about the huge choice they face. Our message to the Scottish people will be simple: ‘We want you to stay.’”

Crumble's interpretation of that statement is, "oh bloody fxck, fxck, fxck bloody fxck. I'm not going down as the one with his name above this fxcking fiasco.......... book the fxcking tickets - I do humble better than anyone else, I'll go and beg."

Wee word Mr Cameron, and even I down here can figure this out. The 'word on the streets' is why only offer 'extra powers' now?

The Yes campaign are being very quick to point out that that was one of Salmond's original requests for the ballot paper.  He wanted 2 questions on it - 

1. Should Scotland have more devolved powers? - The 'Devo-Max' option.
2. Should Scotland be an independent country?

Cameron was emphatic that there would only be one question - a straightforward IN/OUT - YES/NO question and no more powers would be devolved whatsoever!

It's backfired a wee bitty hasn't it?

We love our neighbours

From a friend in the Highlands,

"It's still close - but I'd put the Yes voters in front of the No's for now. The people just don't seem to trust (with reason in many cases) anything Westminster says anymore which is why there has been such a big swing in the polls..... To be perfectly honest, even I am wavering a bit now too! ..... I don't believe what Westminster are saying anymore either, so it's going to be interesting to see what this 'package' of new powers consists of. All 3 Westminster parties have their OWN agendas and ideas on what they should be and leaving it to the last minute to cobble 'something' together that they ALL agree on, certainly doesn't fill me with confidence....."

New Powers to Scotland

I remain of the view that the last thing Salmond wants is full independence; the Devo Max thing will do just fine. In fact, no one is probably flapping more than he is at present at the prospect of actually having to get a spreadsheet to add up that can't and won't ever do so and it wouldn't surprise me if he was paying for Cam's tickets. Whilst though, we are all hoping for restoration of level headedness when Scots voters peer over the abyss in a Quebec moment, the Westminster team may well be playing this wrong at the crucial moment. Fighting Celtic emotion and passion with repressed English emotion and passion will not help. The loss will just be bigger. I understand they have to take action and be seen to be taking action but they must rely on presenting mature arguments and logic and leave the Scots to make their own minds up on that basis.

A reflection of the level of panic, and stupidity of 13 year old advisor's, is the decision to fly the saltire over Downing Street from today until the referendum. However well intentioned, it's just a very visible sign of the wheels coming off and won't go down to well elsewhere in the Kingdom where people feel they're just rubbing along as best they can. 

Aye Pods

Aye Pods

David Cameron has been on holiday every three months since he became Prime Minister and only on one of those has he been to Scotland, (Jura). Not withstanding my own views about that kind of idleness perhaps the time to show an interest was in August or perhaps at Easter. He and his parliamentary colleagues are in fact in danger of making a bad thing worse. That's it, if in doubt throw more kerosene on the fire Mr Cameron, pass the bucket.

Scottish Independence; What About The Jocks?

Mostly, I wouldn't recommend an argument with these lads, (2 SCOTS)

Nine days to go and half of the country think they're Nelson Mandela running around shouting "Cry Freedom," while the people supposed to be running the country and demonstrating clear leadership are running around in a flap with their pants on their heads. PPE from Balliol didn't prepare any of the policy wonks and advisors for this. (Good piece by Chris Deerin here btw).

Anyone who thinks this is just about Scottish Independence is somewhat missing the point. The same dissatisfaction that drives English voters to UKIP is herding wavering voters to the "Yes" camp in Scotland. That is, a screaming sense of dislocation and disenfranchisement, stretching to utter abandonment in some areas, from the political process. Some of this is just very basic. How difficult is it to empty the bins on a weekly basis? (Thank you for nothing Mr Pickles). How difficult is it to regulate travel costs so people can travel to and from work without surrendering half of their after tax income? How difficult is it to plug in the country to fast broadband to bring all our communities into the 21st century? How difficult is to provide sufficient local educational and health infrastructure for the immigrants that the national government allow through? How difficult is it to articulate a vision that offers at least the potential for a better life if not for oneself then at least for ones children? Actually, how difficult is it to listen? 

I digress. Nine days to go and the "Yes," campaign rolls on with much noise but little substance. Enjoy the ride, it won't last long. Let's just pick out one knarly, wee small issue but one which is of interest to many of us Mr Salmond.

It's obvious that many people are unlikely to change their minds and agree in the nine days that remain before voting. That's fair enough.

Royal Regiment of Scotland

But, if the "Yes" camp win the world is going to change for Scotland and change for the Armed Forces. The SNP say they will retain 3 out of the 4 Scottish regular infantry battalions, two reserve battalions, and the incremental company, (not including the Scots Guards, RSDG, 45 Cdo or 19 Fd Regt RA).

In the SNP's Independence White Paper, they contend that "the units of the Scottish Army will carry on the names, identities, and traditions of Scotland’s regiments, including those lost in the defence reorganisation of 2006." (The lads from Plockton will love to hear that). Lot to squeeze in there, especially as the "All Arms Brigade," of three units with supporting arms is described as "infantry/marines."

If you win Mr Salmond, who would you chop and what would you say to the Jocks who might be given a choice of moving to England to join an English regiment or being made redundant?

Still, one consequence of the inevitable economic darkness which will befall Scotland is that the recruiting problem for the British Army will be solved in a heartbeat yet it will have lost part of it's soul without the Royal Regiment of Scotland. 

 

Scottish Independence; Escape Velocity?

The weekend polls were unsurprising and made dismal reading for unionists. The problem besetting the “No,” campaign now is the nagging concern that they’ve allowed the “Yes camp,” to seize the initiative, set the agenda into the final phase and have allowed them to gain significant momentum. As the “Yes,” block gain more “don’t knows,” and turn previously set “No,” voters have they in fact reached escape velocity? That is, have we just witnessed a Berlin Wall moment this weekend when passion and emotion overtake logic and reason when the end simply becomes inevitable?  I see a growing number of “ah, fxck it, lets give it a go,” type of one liners on social networks and the hope now, that voters adopt a pragmatic and reasonable stance with a high turnout of “No,” voters looks at this point at least, doubtful.

English Scots For Yes.............. I have no words

Within Scotland the “Yes,” camp consists of a pretty broad church of constituencies. Surely the oddest must be this collection of loons, English Scots for Yes. I initially though they must be a bunch of ultra conservatives campaigning for a yes vote to rid parliament of 43 Scottish Labour MP’s but no, they seem to be fully paid up members of the Turkey’s for Christmas Club. Be careful what you wish for. On the other side of the nonsense wing are characters like Bruce Ogilvie of Siol nan Gaidheal.

Nutter

A kind observer might think him an eccentric cove but actually, he’s just a rabid racist of National Front type extremism who will inevitably end up behind bars one day. I remember there used to be a few clowns like him running around in the seventies dressed in what they thought Jacobite s wore and spent their time being angry and chopping down telegraph poles. The independence consortium consists of left wingers, right wingers, nationalists, naturalists, greens, immigrants, special interest parties, bored people, mischievous people, anti English people, anti government people, anti establishment people, passionate people, rich people……………… and all the rest. I’ve even heard of “no” voters who intend to vote yes because they want the relocation package to the south from their employers.

Thing is, once Motherwell Man has cast his deciding swing vote, what next? The experience in Estonia was that everyone wanted independence, they got it and then produced a fragmented political landscape consisting of many, many parties. Salmond has promised so much to so many but has not managed any expectations. In the transition phase Scotland will need a strong government acting with a fair but firm hand to navigate its way through the decoupling process. There is no indication that such leadership yet exists and there will be a danger of squabbling and division sinking the boat before it makes it out of the harbour. The SNP’s default position of “blame Westminster,” for anything they get wrong simply won’t cut it on a go forward basis and any “yes,” voter who sees some utopian vision where all Scots act as one is simply being disingenuous as to the reality of how Scots see fellow Scots across geographical, cultural, demographic and social divides.

The entire exercise will have a negative impact on the UK during and after any transition. The hard facts however, are that England, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to emerge more or less economically intact after a prolonged period of restructuring. It will though, probably take Scotland a generation to reengineer its economy and there are likely to be some early hits to tax revenue and business morale with some companies moving out or reducing investment. Voters who are influenced by a need to teach Westminster / England / anyone-not-voting-yes may wish to ponder that.

Certainly, if I lived in Scotland and had a mortgage I’d be sprinting to lock in a fixed rate.

But, this is becoming less about the detail and more about the psychology of the crowd. Certainly, there are some pretty important aspects to a restructuring such as pension liabilities that at the moment, are dismissed with a catchphrase and wave of the hand but when the hard reality hits individuals they may wonder what happened to the Utopia they were promised. There will though, be no way back. “Yes” voters are buying a one way ticket which is why Devo Max is so attractive since they get the best of both worlds without the liabilities. That outcome is perhaps the least fair to the individual English tax payer which is why a “No,” vote ought to present the greatest satisfaction to any fervent nationalist.

The Wee Blue Book

GBP; Smell the coffee time

GBP; Smell the coffee time

Fourteen days to go and with the latest poll reporting a difference between the two sides of just six points, a frission of nervousness is flowing through capital markets and excitement is gathering across the media in expectation that they may be on the verge of the biggest story of their careers. Alas, no sign of life from Westminster but then we’re used to that. The “don’t knows,” are swinging to “Yes,” at a two to one ratio. Most observers attribute the change to Darling’s poor showing in the last debate when he had no answer to Salmond’s aggressive debating tactic of painting Scottish Labour as quasi Tories, (although Guido squarely blames the Gordon Brown effect!).

This is serious

This is serious

There may be an another reason however that is driving the don’t knows, and many previous unionists, into the yes camp. 

The Wee Blue Book

The Wee Blue Book

Hardly anyone has heard of it in the South but in Scotland, “The Wee Blue Book,” has been dropping through letter boxes for weeks with many households receiving, and continuing to receive multiple copies. Written by Stuart Campbell of the Wings Over Scotland cybernat blog, (who oddly lives in Somerset), it is turning heads and changing minds. You may not yet be familiar with Wings Over Scotland but it is a very successful site and is read daily by most if not all political journalists and interested politico’s.

Up until very recently many individuals were genuinely undecided but friends tell me that since this book started dropping on the doormat many have changed from “No” to “Yes” and its self-evident where the “don’t know’s” are heading. It’s a slick, well written production and having read it, its easy to see how many find it convincing. The scary thing is, people across the political and social spectrum appear believe it verbatim. The “No,” team do not yet have an appropriate, equal or original response. All of which is fascinating to reflect on across multiple levels given the recent debate on indoctrination and radicalisation in English towns. 

The “Book,” as it has become known, obviously covers just about every argument raised in pub debates in the last ten years and predictably, an independent Scotland wins every time. It even mentions the World Cup! No one would expect anything else from mischievous, or malevolent, political operators who have produced this cleverly, or craftily, written piece of propaganda.

I wouldn’t underestimate the impact this thing is having. At the minimum, interested unionists should read it cover to cover. At some point the penny must drop, we’re within a whisker of losing the most important political campaign in 300 years and we didn’t really show up for the bout. 

After the divorce the family might continue to squabble

Another aspect of the campaign which is manifesting itself on a broader basis is the increasingly spiteful and sinister edge to the Nationalists campaign such as was endured last week by the Better Together campaigner, Labour MP Jim Murphy on his “100 Towns, 100 Days,” campaign. Mr Murphy is genuinely to be admired for his commitment and passion. Unfortunately, an underlying nastiness is emerging further afield in villages and towns with rumours and scaremongering becoming more apparent. Everyone would earnestly hope that the debate, voting and counting process will be conducted properly and that both the eventual winner and loser, and their supporters, will treat the decision with dignity and respect. Scots harbour long memories. You don’t have to go far in the Highlands to discover a residual resentment borne in the collective memory from the Clearances and that resentment is aimed at the central belt every much as it is the English. A more obvious chasm exists between the Orkney and Shetland islanders and the central belt and that is likely to be one of Salmond’s first thorny problems were he to win on the 18th. But that’s another story.

The “Yes “ camp are a nose in front but that’s all. Placing a higher news and political priority on an Essex by election than a debate of national historical and international importance is not helping the perception in Scotland of how much the rest of the nation care. It needs to change, we need to engage and bloody quickly.

 

NATO Summit; GDP & Body Bags

Mr Putin’s apparent belligerence might quietly be welcomed in some corners of NATO, an organisation that in recent years seemed to have lost its way and its reason for being.

Calls for member states to increase defence spending to 2% or more of GDP after twenty five years of cuts are growing, especially for European nations who are perceived not to have “done their bit.” The ‘peace dividend’ has been substantial, ranging between 0.7% and 1.5% of GDP for Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada.  The largest ‘peace dividends’, however, accrued to the UK, where defence spending as a proportion of GDP fell over that twenty-five year period from 4.0% to 2.3% and the USA, where the proportion declined from 5.6% to 3.8%, (World Bank figures).  These are the NATO members where it might be most expensive to return to former levels of military outlays.  That may partly explain why they are among the more enthusiastic proponents of economic warfare.

There is though, zero appetite among our politicians to do anything but keep reaping dividends from defence cuts. For one thing, we're at completely the wrong point in the election cycle to expect anything but short term fluffy inducements and frankly, I don't see anyone out there with the moral courage to do the right thing even if they could figure it out. There is too, war fatigue in the general populations who are tired of seeing our boys come back in boxes and are embarrassed at the growing number of amputees in their local shopping centers. All in all, from the top down, everyone wants an easy life and that ultimately will cost very much more in both percentage points of GDP and body bags.

We live in an age of political and moral cowardice and no one appears to be unsettled in the slightest by it.