Enter: ‘Project Feart’

TOM HARRIS nails the nationalists’ latest NHS lie 


It’s called “Project Fear” by the nationalists; any attempt by Better Together (aka “No Thanks”) to warn voters of some of the downsides to Scottish independence is seen as negative campaigning. Only the Yes campaign is invariably positive and life-affirming.


It was never true, of course. And when the much-anticipated Yes lead in the polls failed to materialise during the summer, Salmond’s campaign stopped even trying to pretend it was so. So now we have “Project Feart”. The Scottish NHS, the police and free personal care – all of them specifically devolved to the Scottish Parliament – are at risk from Westminster in the event of a No vote, we’re now told.

It’s a lie, and not even a very good one. Let’s start with the foundation of the nationalists’ claim, that the NHS in England is being privatised in order to reduce the health budget, and therefore the public spending total and, consequently, the Scottish block grant as calculated by the Barnett Formula.

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Xenophobia and Independence

PETER RUSSELL puts on his tin hat


Our very good friend Kate has now retired from her job, which was with a small NGO that did irreparable good by promoting the rights of workers (especially women workers) in emergent nations. She and her family have lived in Scotland since the 1970s. These are her views on Scotland’s future, based on that experience.

I’ve worked or lived in upwards of 25 newly independent countries. As we approach the vote next year I’ve been reflecting. 

I’ve been caught up in the euphoria – ‘the rainbow nation’ comes to mind. All are welcome to be citizens of – Kenya, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Uganda, Zimbabwe . I could list many more. The new country will be everything everyone hoped for.

Then comes the hard part, negotiating the terms of the settlement. Global powers hold all the cards and extract a very, very high price. What you want is not what you get. NATO membership screwed Central Europe with disastrous consequences for their social welfare budgets. IMF loan conditions cut welfare, imposed privatization and market forces which massively disadvantaged the poor in Africa, Hungary and elsewhere. Europe has been squeezing the Greeks and installed an unelected president in Italy. Nearer to home, the credit rating agencies appeared to be running Britain for a while. 

So what are Scotland’s tactics for the crucial negotiations? I’ve heard the ‘wish list’ but nothing about how we will prevent powerful others dictating the settlement. 

When the going gets tough… and it will … then the enemy without easily translates to an enemy within. Individual Russians, European immigrants, white farmers, Serbs or Asian traders come to signify all that is wrecking the dream.

Friends tell me that this won’t happen because Scots are different… this special pleading worries me even more. No nation is composed of ‘special people’. I’m not saying don’t go for independence – only do it in full knowledge and preparedness for the consequences and accept the inevitable 10 years or more of frustration and austerity which lie ahead of any new, small nation.

After 37 years.. I’ll not be here to suffer it… or take the blame for what’s gone wrong …I’m British and will decamp over the border to enjoy my twilight years”

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Independence and the apostles of negativity

The crusade against child poverty is being sidelined in favour of constitutional self-indulgence, warns DONALD MACLEOD


It’s November, the SNP party-conference is over, soon it will be September and any day now we should hear someone roll out the arguments for a Yes-vote vote in the forthcoming referendum.   

The burden of proof lies on the apostles of negativity, who consistently disparage the last three hundred years of Scottish history as if the Union had prevented all progress and sapped us of all self-respect.  Listening to them you would never believe that during these years we have successfully negotiated the industrial revolution, produced such world-class writers as Robert Burns and Walter Scott, nurtured cutting-edge scientists like Alexander Fleming, John Logie Baird and James Clerk Maxwell, and reared outstanding athletes such as Kenny Dalglish and Sir Chris Hoy.

Nor would you ever believe that since 1707 we have provided the UK with (at a quick count) seven Prime Ministers (and that’s before we count such other bearers of Scottish genes as W. E. Gladstone and Harold MacMillan); or that we have benefited from such social revolutions as free schooling, the Old Age Pension, universal franchise and the National Health Service.

Nor do separatists ever seem to notice that from the day of the Union Scotland has had its independent legal system, its independent kirk and its independent system of education; or that since devolution we have had control over health, police, housing and the environment; as well as a voice on all the matters still reserved to the Westminster  Parliament, even when these are no concern of ours but impact the lives of only the South British.

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Scots Myths (3) – ‘The Scots are more left wing than the English’

PETER RUSSELL continues his series of posts exposing some of Scotland’s many political fallacies


“Scotland is social democratic, but England is a Tory country,” was first current in the days of the Thatcher supremacy, but has re-emerged as an axiomatic part of the rhetoric of the pro-independence camp.

Alex Massie has addressed some of the issues in his Speccy blog piece. This looks at the evidence of social attitudes surveys, and comes to two conclusions. The first is that if there are any differences between attitudes to welfare, public services and taxation between England and Scotland, it is not by much. And his second conclusion is – as the title says – that if the UK is divided, the fault line is not along Hadrian’s Wall but somewhere in the English Midlands. Any demarcation line is between the North and South of the UK rather than between English and Scots.

See also here.

This of course makes great sense if seen through the prism of the industrial economies of the respective regions, above all in the history of the north, of the industrial revolution, coal and steel based engineering, manufacturing, organised labour, slum clearances and Council estates.  A good example is that of similarities between Glasgow and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Both owed their prosperity to coal, iron, steel, the industrial revolution and shipbuilding. Both also sit at the centre of industrial regions, and both suffered massively in the 1980s. Both cities also undertook massive urban redevelopment programmes in the 1960s and 70s, and both have come back since the 1980s with regeneration programmes based on Garden Festivals and groundbreaking arts and culture programmes.

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With a year to go, it’s time to go deeper…

If separatism is rejected next year, how will the Nationalists live up to their commitment to respect the verdict of the Scottish people? asks DOUGLAS ALEXANDER


This week marks one year until the referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

In some ways the 18th September is just another day, just another date in the calendar – but like so many seemingly random dates there is a deeper significance when you scratch beneath the surface.

The 18th September is a date with a fine progressive pedigree; as the day in 1895 that the Atlanta compromise was delivered – the precursor to the black civil rights movement in America.

It was the day in 1919 when Dutch women won the right to vote, in 1987 it was the day that America and Russia agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenal.

And the same day when the so called Saffron Revolution began in Burma in 2007.

The 18 September 2014 is a date I’ve been reflecting on for some time. And throughout the summer, as well as spending time with my family, I took the opportunity to read, think and to try and consider the significance of this date for Scotland…with a year to go until the referendum.

Stepping back over the summer from the day to day exchanges confirmed to me just how arid (a strong but honest assessment) much of the contemporary constitutional debate has become. In the last year alone we’ve seen a debate characterised all too often by shallowness, grievance and personal vitriol.

There is a real risk that the vitriol, which at times has infected the debate, will not simply fade post 18th September 2014, and when people look beneath the surface of whatever numbers define the result, it will not be a pleasant view.

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Not going away

Serious questions about Bill Walker remain unanswered, writes IAN SMART. For everyone’s sake – including the SNP’s – we need answers


Graeme Pearson and I come from different ends of the criminal justice system. Before becoming an MSP he had spent all of his life as a policeman, latterly a very senior policeman, catching the bad guys and seeing them prosecuted. I, on the other hand, have never prosecuted anyone in my life, my own career being devoted to defending the innocent and sometimes the not so innocent.

But Graeme and I have one skill in common, spotting when somebody’s story doesn’t ring true. And when Graeme says in a press release today that Nicola Sturgeon’s “alibi” over Bill Walker simply does not add up, he has my unconditional endorsement.

I blogged about this on the day Walker was convicted since when various other pieces of the jigsaw have come to light.

Firstly, it appears I was too readily prepared to accept the version of the SNP about the meeting Rob Armstrong, Walker’s former brother in law had with Nicola Sturgeon’s office in 2008. The SNP claimed that it was primarily about a child access dispute and indeed in my previous blog I was crtical about their breach of confidentiality in that regard but here we have Mr Armstrong’s version of events.

 ”[that] is a totally inaccurate assessment of that meeting. The purpose of the meeting was purely about Bill Walker.”

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Russell: Scots Myths (2) – The Highland Clearances.

Peter RussellThe first Scots myth sets to right the perception  of Nationalists that Scotland has no influence in UK General Elections. Follow-ups on LabourHame[1]  illustrate how historical election results are seen  through the prism of contrived grievance, to fit the narrative that Scotland has received a bad deal from the Union, which is a key part of the mythology of the pro-independence case.

This was most luridly expressed by Joan McAlpine  when she compared Scotland to a woman in an abusive relationship, and adds a distasteful note of victimhood.  The narrative of grievances  includes examples taken from history, such as the Highland Clearances, the story of North Sea Oil; the early introduction of the Poll Tax; and siting of Trident on the Clyde.

The truth is that the people of England suffered equally if not more in many of these cases.   Continue reading

Tom Harris is a genius, says disgraced MP

Some honesty from Labour about the challenges it faces would not go amiss, says ERIC JOYCE


I re-read this honest and perceptive 1993 piece by Tom Harris today. It describes where the Labour party was 20 years ago, and what profound cultural issues had yet to be tackled in order to end the Tories’ lengthy dominance of UK politics.

Tom was writing before devolution had killed nationalism stone-dead, of course. A similar piece from a Scottish perspective today would need to take account of the alarmingly different priorities of the Labour Party and those of the Scottish ‘brand’, the Scottish Labour Party. I’m writing today at one reluctant remove from the party; that’s a shame, but my shackle-free outsider’s status helps me to see the nature of today’s party in sharp relief, both in Scotland and the UK. Mine isn’t a perspective I’d necessarily wish upon Labour members, but here are three thoughts that some might find worthy of reflection.

First, Tom’s piece alludes to a time when many Labour activists were still making the best the enemy of the good. Happily, we know now that period immediately presaged the rejection of the “How can we get elected? Well, I wouldn’t start from here” mentality. Thanks to Blair, Brown, Mandleson, Reid and others, from 1994 Labour embraced fully the need to understand the aspirations and values of regular folk and to start the electoral journey from there. The consequence of that epochal shift was Labour’s most successful period in history.

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Russell: Scots Myths (1) – ‘Scotland Always Gets The Government That England Votes For.’

Peter RussellAfter the 2011 SNP Conference,  it was reported that its activists possessed an unshakeable confidence that they would easily win an independence referendum. This was obviously not based on their election victory – in which they secured less than a popular majority, and only increased their vote by attracting further Lib Dem and Tory voters. Instead, activists took strength from the assertion that “we have true religion, and the Nos do not.”

Religions of course do not operate on a basis of fact, but on a faith stoked by myths and folklore, and the SNP faith is no different. Anyone who spends a day of two on social media will verify this: and a week or two will prove beyond all doubt that the SNP and the Yes campaign share a rich landscape of received wisdom which informs their world view and dominates their logic. Continue reading

Business in an independent Scotland – too many ‘known unknowns’

ann_mckechin_portrait_240-211x300The prospect of an independent Scotland has given rise to a host of tricky questions. From currency to central banks, NATO to nuclear weapons, the First Minister and his colleagues treat us to their trademark bluff and bluster when pressed on the key issues and continually accuse those who simply ask for clear answers of “scaremongering”. Very little precedent exists in international law for some of the changes which would need to take place if Scotland became independent, and businesses are rightly worried about the consequences of a ‘yes’ vote in 2014. These ‘known unknowns’ are what the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills select committee sought to understand during the recent evidence sessions for our inquiry into the effects of Scottish independence on UK businesses.

European Union membership was consistently raised as a concern by many who gave evidence, with the added complication of the proposed referendum by the Prime Minister. José Manuel Barosso, President of the EU Commission, has explicitly stated that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership, possibly joining a queue behind the likes of Turkey and Albania. Others have pointed out that Scotland would be able to negotiate its membership more swiftly than other potential member states, given that it has already complied with the accession requirements as part of the UK. But it remains highly improbable that Scotland would receive red carpet treatment, particularly as many EU heads of member states with their own secessionist regions share Barosso’s thinking. Continue reading


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