Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland votes NO

Yesterday Scotland voted NO to independence. It's looking like the split will be 45/55 when the final ballot papers from the Highlands arrive.

This must be a great relief to a great many people. It's probably even a relief to the people who voted yes. In their heart of hearts they must have known that there would have been years or even decades of hardship ahead had they won. A rich and prosperous Scotland is of course possible, but getting there from here would have been a hard grind. Let us not forget that the reason they joined the Union three hundred years ago is because they were bankrupt. They have never really stopped being bankrupt. Only the continual arrival of new money from the UK saved them.

Of course there are many regions and cities elsewhere in the UK which are technically bankrupt and only kept afloat by money provided by tax-payers in the richer parts. The economy of Northern Ireland is a notorious example: half their cash is donated from the mainland; yes, "donated" not earned.

The referendum result is also a relief because all the big unanswered questions go away. What would the Scots have used for money? Would they have been allowed to join the EU? Could there still have been an open border with the south? None of this matters anymore. No-one is going to try to answer them now.

However the underlying motivation for independence remains. Scotland is still the poor relation; overshadowed at home and abroad.

The Scottish problem can be summed up in one word: England. There is a country right next door to Scotland where they speak the same language, recognise your qualifications, and consider you for jobs on a complete parity with their own citizens.  And there are so many more of those jobs, and  they pay more, and the organisations are bigger and so the opportunities greater. Scotland will perpetually leak its best people south.

Solving the problem of England is possible. It would require lower tax rates in Scotland so that all endeavours have a built-in advantage. You can pay workers less if they pay less tax because they still take home more. Your goods and services will be cheaper if your business pays less tax. Consumers will buy more stuff if the VAT rate is less and they also have more cash in their pockets.

With independence though, that would not have been possible. The Holyrood government would have been scrabbling for every pound/euro/whatever. Taxes and prices would inevitably have gone up and benefits and pensions down.

Yesterday's result comes on the back of a lot of promises made by the three main party leaders and the disappointed 45% will be looking for early delivery on those promises. The MSPs in Holyrood are awaiting the arrival of many more powers. To his credit the Prime Minister has grasped the two big nettles early on - he has already indicated that the promises will be made good before the next general election about eight months away, and he has acknowledged the "English problem" - previously called the "West Lothian question" - which is the whole issue of Scottish MPs voting on English matters in the Westminster parliament.

Progress on more powers for the Scots should be fast. All three major party leaders are on board. This should whiz through parliament hardly touching the sides.

The English problem is more of a challenge. The settlement has to be fair to the English. Let us not forget the elephant in the room - UKIP. Although they have no MPs at Westminster UKIP's power comes from the fact they could deny the Tories the next government. As mentioned in the previous post English nationalism is now awake and roaming the land. Nigel Farage knows that a rich seam of discontent will be there to be mined if the settlement is unfair to the English. If the Scots get things the English do not, UKIP will be the winner.

Farage has already said that he does not consider himself bound by the pledges made to the Scots by the three main party leaders. But he does not oppose the devolution of any power to Scotland, provided England gets the same.

So the constitutional crisis is not actually over. It rumbles on, less immediate now, but still present and still prone to erupt at some future date. Nothing has ended. No questions have been answered. But at least the Union has been preserved.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

John Redwood, the coming man

John Redwood, Tory MP for Wokingham in Berkshire, one time contender for Tory leadership standing against John Major in 1995 who had resigned in a back-me-or-sack-me move, has had a "good referendum" as they say; actually they say someone "had a good war" but that's a bit dated now.

While most politicians have been trooping up to Scotland to plead with them to stay in the Union, Redwood has been the only one saying, "What about the English?"

The modern world is a contradiction of permissiveness and unspoken taboos. Obscenities which would have been stamped out in previous generations are now tolerated, even applauded by sycophants to the PC culture. Man can marry man, but no-one is allowed to say muslims rape children. (The BBC, spiritual home of political correctness, has become willing to admit just in the last year, that Asians may groom under aged girls. Asians? Are Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists involved? No, it's muslims. And "groom"? That sounds nice. Do they brush their hair?  No, they rape them.)

Another taboo, one of quite long standing, is English Nationalism. As recently as 100 years ago the UK, or Great Britain, or whatever this country of ours is actually called, was referred to as "England" and its inhabitants, the "English". The Scots, the Welsh, the Irish, they were all included in the umbrella term: the English. But decades of pandering to the peripheral nations redefined the term "England" to exclude the others. (Technical point: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all "nations" but only the UK is a "state".)

For centuries the real original English have bent over backwards to avoid making to any distinction between them and us; to avoid any possibility of "them" being considered second class citizens. Before 1997 (the election of Tony Blair) you never saw the English flag being flown. The English used the Union flag; in the streets, at football matches, on our ships - everywhere we made sure the others would not feel excluded.

And we all knew that English Nationalism was the beast that must never be allowed to waken. This blog, you may have noticed, supports the British National Party. We consider the optimal state to be England, Scotland, Wales and the entire island of Ireland. (Obviously part of Ireland is already outside the UK, but a BNP government would invite it to rejoin.) Our delineation of this state is based on a shared culture, a shared language, a shared history and a shared or merged race. We have always known that provoking English Nationalism would break up the Union and so have always opposed it.

But if Scotland leaves the Union then the UK is broken, and the urge to keep English Nationalism well corralled goes away. John Redwood MP, has already shed his muzzle and started blowing the English trumpet. When them and us are on different sides of a border then English Nationalism becomes right and proper: we will need an English parliament; we will need foreign MPs out of Westminster on days when English affairs are being decided; we will need a per-capita egalitarian distribution of public spending and we will need the foreigners out of our great institutions.

The sidebar of this blog links to Redwood's website where he writes prolifically, many times a day on occasion. He is now raising the battle standard for the English and may well make another leadership attempt if Scotland leaves and the government falls.

And frankly, this blog endorses everything he says.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Liar for Prime Minister?

Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2012 - this being the start of his second four-year term, taking him through to May 2016. At the time of his election he was repeatedly asked if he would stand for parliament while still being mayor. He always answered no to this question. He pledged that if elected he would be mayor and only mayor for the full term. Two years previously, in 2010, parliament had adopted a fixed five year term so Boris already knew the dates involved.

Last week Boris was adopted as prospective parliamentary candidate for the very safe Conservative seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. So safe that last time the Conservative candidate got more than twice as many votes as the next candidate (Labour).

The Tories of Uxbridge and South Ruislip are presumably content to be represented by a liar.

Boris has generally been quite successful at having his cake and eating it. Before he was mayor he was an MP, and before he was an MP he was a journalist. Before he was a journalist he was a management consultant, however he couldn't understand spreadsheets so he gave that up.

However he doesn't make a habit of giving up the previous job when he gets the next one. He remained a journalist after being elected MP for Henley, and remained for a while MP after being elected mayor. He took quite some persuading to give up parliament after being ensconced as mayor in County Hall. He has never given up being a journalist which still earns him about a quarter of a million pounds a year - this he describes as chickenfeed - although it is more than his mayor's salary.

Boris gets what he wants by bluster, waffle, bravado, and outright mendacity when the first three don't work. His superficial charm masks, albeit badly, a grasping, massively selfish personality. The more you learn about Boris the less you like him. He's not stupid but he lacks morals.

Boris probably anticipates a Conservative loss at the general election next year, followed by a Cameron resignation and a vacancy at the top. He will then seek to become Tory leader and thereafter Prime Minister in 2020.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Scottish independence - one week to go

Rather than discuss in detail Scottish independence, which this blog continues to consider a bad idea and unlikely to happen, here is a list of issues, most of which are not being debated by the public and media but will suddenly become rather important should the Union be broken up.
  • Transfer of £100bn to £150bn of national debt.
  • Transfer of £8.6bn of public works debt which Scottish local authorities have borrowed from HM Treasury.
  • Student loans.
  • Transfer of Premium Bonds and other NS&I investments; does Scotland "buy" these from the UK?
  • Unfunded pension liabilities; who pays? Consider a retired diplomat living in Edinburgh who spent his entire career in Azerbaijan. Where does his pension come from? There is no fund for "Whitehall" pensions, only local authority and teachers. Also police pensions are unfunded.
  • Transfer of tax records, UK might withhold these as a negotiating tactic.
  • Feasibility of using sterling informally; Scot government will be borrowing in a currency they don't control; euro crisis all over again.
  • Transfer of motor vehicle records.
  • Transfer of criminal records.
  • Extradition treaty between Scotland and UK.
  • Will Scotland honour all international treaties signed by the UK?
  • Membership of NATO.
  • Membership of Commonwealth
  • Membership of UN; security council seat?
  • MI5, MI6 and other intel agencies in Scotland; transfer of classified documents.
  • Defence of airspace with no fighters; Russians attempt an intrusion about once a week and are sent away by RAF; Mig-35s seen over Edinburgh.
  • Maritime defence; Scotland plans to have two frigates only; defence of oil fields.
  • Border control; free movement of people and goods to England?
  • Allocation of Scottish nationality; based on location of birth? Immigrants?
  • Scottish lords; still sit at Westminster? New house of lords in Scotland?
  • Will Scots be allowed to work in England without work permits?
  • Same for English in Scotland.
  • Disposition of national assets held in London? British Museum; British Library; do 8% of books have to be sent north?
  • Supreme court
  • Crown commissioners; income from the royal estates.
  • All laws and legal precedents adopted by Scotland?
  • Domicile of commercial contracts; disputes heard in England or Scotland?
  • Who pays separation costs; eg cost of shipping things north?
  • Changing the union flag to remove Scottish saltire.
  • What effect on other Commonwealth nations; Australia, New Zealand change their flags or just decide to become republics; effect on Canada, including renewed Quebec separatism.
  • Effect on EU; Catalan separatism; Basque separatism.
The ramifications of Scottish independence seem to be endless. Nothing is insoluble but the work load would be enormous. A couple of interesting documents available are:

The SNP's manifesto for independence.
The Whitehall list of affected departments.

A few things are clear. Without a seamless transition to EU membership Scottish independence is non-starter, and Scottish independence will rely heavily on English goodwill. Scotland is not self-sufficient in some important things; for example  they do not generate enough electricty. The SNP manifesto says blandly that the existing national grid arrangements will continue. Nice try! They will continue if England says yes, otherwise the lights go out.

It is likely an independent Scotland will immediately be strapped for cash. The manifesto says they may forgo assets in return for not adopting debt. They may try something like England can keep Buckingham palace provided they keep paying certain pensions and benefits.

Ironically Scotland may be in a very strong negotiating position after May 2015. If a Labour government is returned in the UK general election which only has a majority thanks its Scottish MPs then those MPs will be able write their own cheques as there would effectively be Scots on both sides of the negotiating table.

This could sit badly with the English.

However there will be a eight month window after the referendum during which the Tory-led UK government could legislate to remove the rights of Scottish MPs in Westminster. Maybe even legislate so that there is no voting in Scotland in May next year and no MPs are sent south, since they would only be in Westminster for a year anyway. A Tory government would probably do the necessary but they are in coalition with the Lib-Dems who may demur. The coalition could crack and we could even see a UK general election much sooner than planned.

Friday, 5 September 2014


Instead of me writing anything on Rotherham you can just watch this video:

Thursday, 4 September 2014

MOD to buy 589 vehicles at £6m each

You thought we were poor and austerity was the order of the day? Nope, check out what your taxes will be buying next...

General Dynamics Scout SV: Six million quid each,
comes with side-mounted shovels and
can crush cardboard boxes.

The MOD will be spending £3.5bn for 589 of these vehicles - which works out at roughly six million pounds each. They are SCOUT SVs (Specialist Vehicles) and come with a 40mm cannon, grenade-launchers, a removable turret and a load of electronics.

It has to be said, the vehicle is basically a computer on tracks, but still, that's an eye-watering amount of money to hand out.

Given that we are now out of Afghanistan and out of Iraq and never went into Syria it is not totally clear where these 600-ish vehicles will be deployed - possibly Salisbury Plain.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Putin joining dots

Putin is joining the dots – he took the Crimea a few months ago and now he’s joining it up with the Russian mainland by sending “off duty” Russian soldiers into southern Ukraine. The extent of his territorial ambitions is unclear. He certainly wants a land corridor to Sevastopol; Odessa would be nice to have (deep water port there) and making the Ukraine a landlocked country by cutting across to the border with Romania would be the icing on the cake.

Russian territorial ambitions

The West is bleating about this and a new round of sanctions cuts in this week, as soon as the EU and USA can agree what little baubles the Russians are going to have to do without – electronics and oil exploration equipment most likely. Of course we don’t want to cripple the Russian oil industry too much because then our lights would go out.

The “nuclear option” on sanctions is to cut Russia out of the world banking system – no funds to be electronically transferred in or out of Russia. It’s unlikely they will do this. To buy oil from Russia you do need to be able to send them money. No money in, no oil or gas out; if prolonged the consequential rise in crude prices would send the West into recession. Western nose would become detached from Western face.

Meanwhile the Ukrainian government is quite laughably trying to join NATO. In NATO an attack on one is an attack on all. (Less well known is the fact the EU Lisbon Treaty has the same clause.) The Ukraine is trying to get the West to fight Russia for it.

No thanks. We should sit this one out. Let’s not forget that the Ukrainian government came to power in a coup d’etat and has absolutely no legitimacy.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has said that Russia is practically at war with Europe. That’s very wishful thinking from the Baltic. They must be feeling Russia’s cold breath on the backs of their necks. The three Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) are members of NATO and an attack on them would draw us into war with Russia, but not the Ukraine, they are not in NATO and until they are genuinely democratic should not be admitted.

For the first time, over the weekend just past, Putin has started talking about the future of the Eastern Ukraine. Previously he maintained an inscrutable silence on the subject. Now he is saying a change in ownership needs to be discussed.

It must be remembered that although the West is calling Russia’s actions an invasion, for the people who live there it is more like a homecoming. They want to be Russian, or independent if they cannot be Russian.

As this blog has mentioned before, the Americans must be wishing they had never sponsored that coup back in February. It’s all gone horribly wrong.