Pages tagged with "EU"

Remaining in the UK is a threat to Scottish universities and students

English students face extortionate interest rates of 12% on their loans

Students in Scotland do not pay fees to attend university. They can borrow money for living expenses if they live away from home, but are charged much lower interest rates for repayment. Most Scottish students currently pay 1.5% interest on their loans. English-based students borrow both fees and living costs. Repayment of their much-higher debts are charged at 3 percent plus inflation, and interest rates are likely to hit 12% for many this summer. English students say they are “being punished” for studying. 

Scottish universities are, however, undergoing a funding squeeze. The UK Government has not increased Scotland’s budget allowance in line with inflation - and Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’s spending review offers a flat rate settlement for the next four years, which amounts to a real-terms cut. Brexit is set to suck a billion Euros from the sector. 

Scottish Unis to lose 1 billion Euros from Brexit fall-out 

Scotland’s universities are also facing the loss of EU funding  - they won three-quarters of a billion Euros in the last six-year-round of the world’s biggest science research fund,  Horizon. That included almost 20% of the “Excellent Science” funding stream, more than any other country in Europe. The coming round is significantly bigger and Scotland could have expected at least a billion Euros. 

But Scottish unis are debarred from applying - they had hoped they would still be eligible as "associate members" and when Scotland is independent they will get that status immediately.

Currently, along with the rest of the UK, in the first retaliation for the UK Government’s posturing over the Northern Ireland protocol and Brexit, they are barred.  

University of the Highlands and Islands a massive loser from Brexit

The University of the Highlands and Islands will be particularly hard hit by Brexit - it received more than £250 million from the EU in the last 25 years, because of its “peripherality” - its situation far from markets, serving fragile rural communities. There is very little replacement funding in view from the UK government.  

Below, we examine some of these issues in more depth. 

The UK Government’s student loan ‘reforms’ hit low-income graduates hardest

Earlier this year, the UK Government put in place major 'reforms' - the effect will be that lower-income graduates will pay more than they currently do - while higher earners pay less. A cap will come in on interest rates next year - but they will still sit around 7%.   England’s Institute for Fiscal Studies said

"There is no good economic reason for this. Interest rates on student loans should be low and stable, reflecting the government's own cost of borrowing."

An unfair tax that affects lower-income graduates worst

While those from the wealthiest backgrounds can pay fees and living expenses upfront, many graduates in England are already struggling.  The Observer quoted Emma Rhymer, 29, an early-years practitioner at a day nursery in London, who said that her £50,000 debt was increasing faster than she could pay it back. 

“Although I apply my degree in early childhood studies every day to my work, I find myself questioning whether it was worth it. It feels like the repayments are going to come out of my wages every month forever.  I’m very lucky to be doing a job I love, a job I trained and qualified for. But it’s like I’m being punished for going to university. I’m worried I will never be able to afford to buy a house and have the financial security I will need to start a family. It’s affecting my ability to have a future.”

Scottish students are not burdened with debt and high-interest rates

Scottish students taking vocational qualifications such as teaching or childhood studies will face a very different future. If they continue to live at home, they have a real possibility of graduating with no debt at all. Those who take out the full living-expenses loan for four years will owe in the region of £20,000. They face much lower interest rates and currently their debt will be written off after 30 years, compared to 40 in England. 

Remaining in the UK presents a real threat to the prestige of Scotland's great universities

Scotland pays University fees through general taxation. The downside of this is that universities are funded at a lower level. Despite this, they have managed to maintain a high ranking internationally. Edinburgh is consistently in the world top 20 in the QS ranking system. Glasgow and St Andrews are also in the world top 100 and several other Scottish Universities feature in the top 500. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is fifth in the world, according to this widely-respected ranking. 

The UK Government is now creating additional challenges for Scottish universities with its hard Brexit. In the past, they have been able to attract funding from the EU -  but now they look set to lose millions and many prestigious research opportunities through Brexit. 

The UK Government keeps the windfall tax - and fails to increase Scotland’s allowance in line with inflation

The UK Is also creating challenges because although inflation is running at 9%, the allowance they pay to the Scottish Government is only increasing by 2%. So Scotland faces a huge real term cut. That’s despite the fact that the taxes paid by the energy sector, 90% of which comes from Scotland, will amount to £17 billion this year, including the windfall tax. The UK Government will keep almost all of that money. An independent Scotland would have the levers to run the country in line with the priorities of its elected Government - rather than waiting for Barnett consequentials of Conservative policies designed for the south of England. 

Brexit damage - loss of structural funds

Scottish universities received about £3 million a year through EU structural funds. About a third of all of this went to the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI).  Over the past 25 years, UHI has received more than £250 million in various EU funding streams. The outcomes of this funding include more people staying in the Highlands as well as development of the research capacity, skills and the labour market in the region, by working closely with industry and employers in the region.

EU structural funds recognise the principle of peripherality - areas at the fringe of the EU, are considered to be disadvantaged due to their distance from markets. Rural areas also attract extra support. The UK Government does not recognise peripherality and tends to measure support in per head amounts. That disadvantages rural Scotland. 

The replacement Shared Prosperity Fund is far short of the EU’s main structural funds, and it does not even attempt to replace the other EU funding streams that contributed to UHI.

UK Government posturing over the Northern Ireland protocol will cost Scotland dear

The EU is now blocking British scientists from joining the €95bn Horizon Europe research programme — the world’s biggest — because of the row over post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland. 

Horizon Europe is the EU’s flagship funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion. It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

Scotland won around €755 million in the €80bn Horizon 2020 round over 2014-2020.  This made Scotland the most successful nation per head. Scotland received 19.9% of funding delivered through the ‘excellent science’ pillar.  

At the same time, it has become difficult and expensive to bring faculty members to the UK - they need to pay a health supplement.  It is also no longer possible to exchange students and teachers through Erasmus. 

The UK Government is out of step with most European countries

The UK Government is pursuing its own ideological priorities down south, burdening graduates in lower income professions with a greater load of debt. Scotland is in tune with most EU countries, which fund university education through general taxation and do not throw the burden on individuals. 

In an independent Scotland, the elected government would be able to manage the university sector in a more stable and financially responsible way, without the hiccups due to waiting on Barnett consequentials of policies deigned in another country with different priorities. It could immediately access EU funding which rewards excellence in research, and also offers support for rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

Scottish TV industry should double following independence

The UK Government's plans to sell off Channel Four, alongside regular hints that they want to scrap the BBC licence fee, reveal their unwillingness to support the idea of public service broadcasting.  It also exposes Scotland’s marginal status and lack of decision-making power when it comes to how public sector broadcasting is regulated and funded. 

Programme-makers like Alan Clements of Two Rivers Media and Dorothy Byrne have said selling C4 will damage Scotland’s independent production sector. However, Scotland gets only 4% of C4’s spending and it has a much weaker television industry than most similar-sized EU countries. 

An independent Scotland would be in a much stronger position to support public service broadcasting. An overwhelming majority of Scots (75%) according to a recent poll would like to see power over broadcasting move from Westminster to the Scottish Government.

C4 Spends A Smaller Proportion of its Production Budget in Scotland than even the BBC

Channel Four may be widely respected for its nightly news, but actually spends a far smaller percentage of its content budget in Scotland than the BBC does - less than 4% in 2020, half a UK population share. The BBC spent 6.5% of its production budget in Scotland in 2020 and was still criticised for failing to meet its charter obligation to spend 8%. 

C4’s news team has won plaudits for robust questioning of Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries over Partygate, replacing Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture at a climate debate and so. But they have little presence in Scotland - covering it like a foreign country with just one Scotland Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins. No other member of the news team is based in Scotland, according to the C4 website

More C4 Employees Live in Vietnam than in Scotland

According to LinkedIn, more C4 employees live in Vietnam than in Scotland. Also according to LinkedIn, only about 3% of C4 employees graduated from Scottish universities. C4 has committed to spending half its production budget outside the M25 next year, but more than half of its 1,700 UK employees still live in London. Of the 57 job opportunities it currently lists, the vast majority are in London with a handful in Leeds. None is in Scotland. 

C4 doesn’t make any specific Scottish content - the best-known show produced in Glasgow is Location, Location, Location. But it did open a Creative Hub in Glasgow in 2019 and the £19 million it spent on content in Scotland in 2020, despite being a small part of the £550 million total, was nevertheless important funding for production companies in the city. 

Channel Four actually makes much specifically “British” content - for example, the Great British Bake Off (although that show was criticised for lacking a Scottish contestant last series), The Great British Dig, The Great British Truck Up, The Great British School Swap, Great British History Hunters etc. Arguably, in an age where the sense of Britishness appears in decline, C4 is an important engine of Unionist cultural identity. 

Rethinking How Broadcasting is Funded

An independent Scotland would be in a position to rethink how public service broadcasting is regulated, funded and supported. It could consider creative suggestions, such as replacing the licence fee with a universal broadband package which could include funding for content production. 

Scotland possesses a much smaller broadcasting base than most EU countries.  All the Scandinavian countries have thriving broadcasting sectors. The largest is the Norwegian which turns over more than 600 million Euros annually. It was formerly funded by a licence fee but in 2020 that changed to funding through general taxation. 

Denmark is introducing a Netflix tax, mandating that 5% of turnover is re-invested in Danish content and that the streaming service provides insight into how its algorithms serve up suggestions.  In France, rules that gave producers rights over TV shows have been extended to streaming services and companies like Netflix are being forced to invest 20% of turnover back into French content. 

France gives independent producers rights - and companies must reinvest 

The FT reported that Call My Agent (Dix pour cent) was first commissioned and financed in France under a regime where producer rights for traditional television were protected by law. This meant ownership of the show eventually returned to its producers — in contrast to most Netflix originals.  After years of heavy lobbying from producers, France extended the Call My Agent model from traditional television to global streaming services, bolstering local producers who want to retain rights to their work. 

Using powers under an EU directive adopted in 2018, France has required big global platforms to invest at least 20 percent of their French turnover in European productions. As a result Netflix, Amazon and Disney have in total committed to invest at least €250mn in France every year from 2022. Furthermore, 85 percent of those productions must be in the French language — and most must be “independent” works where producers retain rights.

French public sector broadcasting is currently funded by a licence fee - and a debate about its future is part of the current election campaign with President Emmanuel Macron promising to scrap it if elected in order to help with the cost of living squeeze. There is no clarity over how this would be replaced. 

Wales of course, has SC4, a national Welsh-language channel that was launched at the same time as C4 in response to widespread direct action by Welsh protestors who occupied TV studios, picketed and refused to pay the licence fee.  It was originally funded by the Department of Culture but that has now been transferred to the BBC.

Scots producers and viewers rely on scraps from UK companies

At the moment, the Scottish Government has no say over how broadcasting is funded, regulated or supported. Scotland must rely on scraps from the UK broadcasters who spend less than a population share of independent production north of the border. They also have often been guilty of a London-centric perspective which has often failed to serve Scotland.  

During the 2014 independence referendum, crowds of protestors gathered outside Pacific Quay to protest BBC bias against the case for Scottish independence. Channel Four was not subject to those kinds of protests - but it did not produce much coverage.

Veteran BBC journalist Alan Little has reflected on the ignorance of London-based BBC decision-makers about Scottish affairs and the assumption many of them made that the “Yes” side was chippy, foolish or simply wrong in 2014. In the next independence referendum, Scots will probably have to share less well-funded content on social media rather than rely on broadcasters. 

It’s is not unreasonable to suggest that after independence the TV broadcasting sector in Scotland should at least double in size and become a strong pillar of a dynamic Scottish culture.

Too wee, too poor for independence? Malta didn't think so - lessons for Scotland

Today, Malta is a successful small independent country, the smallest in the EU. But when it sought its independence from Britain, it was told it was too wee and too poor to make a go of it.  Sound familiar?

In fact, Malta is much smaller than Scotland. Its population has grown 20% in the last decade to about 525,000 but it is still only about the size of Edinburgh in terms of inhabitants. There are three inhabited islands in the Maltese archipelago, the biggest, Malta island is 27 miles long and 9 miles wide.  It is not particularly rich in natural resources. At the time it began its independence journey, it suffered widespread poverty. 

Despite being a lot more wee and initially poorer than Scotland, Malta found the confidence to reject British rule in a referendum in 1964 and since gaining complete independence in 1979, it has built a thriving economy. Now it has a smaller percentage of its population in poverty than the UK does. 

Malta celebrates Freedom Day to commemorate the day in 1979 when the British Navy and army forces finally withdrew from the islands. This year, it will be celebrated on March 31. 

What the Brits said about Maltese independence

In 1959, The Times published the following:

“Malta cannot live on its own ... the island could pay for only one-fifth of her food and essential imports; well over one-quarter of the present labour force would be out of work, and the economy would collapse without British Treasury subventions. Talk of full independence for Malta is therefore hopelessly impractical.”. 

The Times was not alone in this view - it was shared by many in the British establishment.  In his memoirs, the former secretary of state for the colonies, Olivier Lyttelton, described Maltese problems as ‘amongst the most difficult to deal with in the whole world’, adding that the ‘underlying reason which makes them so intractable is that

"The Maltese aspire to political independence and to financial dependence’ 

Referring to Malta in 1953, Lyttelton remarked: ‘She lacks minerals and is poor in other natural resources, and her whole economy therefore depends, directly or indirectly, on expenditure by the Services and could be disastrously affected by contraction of defence requirements in the Mediterranean’. Seven years later, a Colony Office official warned

‘Such measure of political and economic stability as there is is largely dependent on the ballast provided by the presence of the British Services in Malta. If that ballast is removed, and assuming that we cannot adequately replace it, the place becomes a cockleshell and simply capsizes."

The long road to independence

Situated in the Mediterranean, Malta has a rich history - it was colonized by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and assorted other empires. It became a British colony during the Napoleonic wars.

The Maltese fought off the French under Napoleon and signed a deal with the Brits that the British navy would protect it in return for providing a strategic naval base. But the administration of the Island was to be in the hands of the Maltese, who had democratically elected representatives and a constitution modeled on the American one. However, the British did not keep to the terms of the agreement and Malta soon became a colony.

Malta continued to be a strategic naval base, most importantly in the Second World War, when the islands were under siege and held out bravely from 1940 to 1942 - it was one of the most heavily bombed areas in the entire war. Retaining Malta was thought to play a significant role in Allied victory in North Africa. The entire island was awarded the George Cross. 

After the war, demands for independence grew from both major parties, both the Maltese Labour party and the Independence Party. Initially, the Labour Party under Dom Mintoff backed a plan for Home Rule in 1958 which would have given Malta three seats in Westminster. 

In the event, it was the Brits dragged their feet on this. They were concerned that a good devolution deal for Malta would set a precedent for Scotland, among others. 

Mintoff fell out with the long-running Secretary of State for the Colonies Alex Lennox-Boyd, (whose mother Frances Begbie was a Scot). Boyd was angered by what he saw as Mintoff’s failure to show proper deference and essentially accused Mintoff of being a liar.

Mintoff was well known as a tough negotiator -  his hard bargaining once caused the NATO secretary-general, Joseph Luns, to say of the Labour Party leader:

‘I have negotiated with Sukarno, with Nasser, with Krishna Menon. But never have I met such a bastard!’

After the British cut defence spending and sacked 40 people from the docks, relations deteriorated and the Maltese Government started to push for full independence. Malta held an independence referendum in 1964, where Yes won a marginal victory - about  55% of the vote and 42% of registered voters voted for independence. But many of those who voted ‘No’ did support some kind of independence - there were disagreements about the form it should take. For some years during the transition to independence, Malta charged Britain  £14 million a year for the use of the naval base. 

In 1974, when Mintoff was again Prime Minister, Malta became a Republic and in 1979, the Brits finally left - on the day now known as Freedom Day.

Post-independence 

Malta joined the EU in 2004 and the Euro in 2008. With an educated, multi-lingual workforce it has strong services, financial and tourism sectors plus some electronics and technology manufacturing. Around 20% of the Maltese population lives below the poverty - whereas it is a quarter in the UK and that percentage is growing. 

Post-Brexit, Malta has become an attractive prospect for Brits who want to retire to an EU country as it is one of the easiest to get permanent residency. It has a special scheme for third country pensioners who can get permanent residency, as long as they can afford to buy a house and make a one-off payment to the Maltese exchequer.  Most people speak English, it has a good bus service and it uses the same three-pronged plugs as the UK, adding to its ex-pat attractiveness.

The EU has, however, raised concerns about Malta's "golden passport" scheme - which can be an entry route for individuals whose wealth is of dubious origin. In 2017, investigative journalist Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb attack in Malta, after investigating corruption. 

Lessons for Scotland

Malta started out on its journey to independence from a position of weakness. Its economy was extremely dependent on British defence spending. There was a lot of poverty on the island. It did not have many natural resources to draw on. Its population was tiny.

Yet it pushed ahead with independence and has made a go of it, with a smaller percentage of its population now at risk of poverty and exclusion than in the UK. 

A loss of freedom is the price we pay for Brexit

Brian Monteith tries to defend the indefensible, firstly equating Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion with the UK's 2016 Brexit vote and secondly agreeing with Boris Johnson's characterisation of being a member of the EU family, as slavery.  The comparisons could not be more inaccurate. Ukraine is fighting for its survival as an independent state after being invaded by its larger neighbour. Brexit was (as we now know) a Russian-influenced campaign resulting in a narrow vote to leave the European Union, that the UK had been a successful member of for over 40 years. Johnson's cack-handed attempt to conflate the two events is both politically manipulative, insincere and indefensible.

Monteith's Scotsman column serves only to demonstrate that the low quality of Johnson is matched by his acolytes. Monteith claims, Brexit has freed UK citizens from EU serfdom, is he aware that Ukraine desperately wants to join the EU, which the EU has accepted, and asked for its application to be fast-tracked, which the EU has declined?

Unanswered questions hang over the Brexit campaign. The head of Vote Leave, insurance salesman Aaron Banks, met Russian officials multiple times before the 2016 vote and was offered Russian money in the form of business opportunities and gold and diamond mines by the Russian ambassador to the UK. Aaron Banks also made the largest single donation, £8 million, to the Leave campaign. The Electoral Commission found there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the “true source” of the money.

It’s notable that Boris Johnson delayed the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 referendum until after he was in Downing Street. One of the Authors of the report concluded that ministers actively avoided looking for evidence of Russian interference and that the UK Government should have recognised the threat in 2014 when there was “credible open source commentary” that Russia undertook influence campaigns in relation to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Russian infiltration into the very heart of the British political establishment and London’s transformation into the world’s laundromat for dirty money is well documented. And we know that Johnson rebuffed intelligence officials’ concerns about Evgeny Lebedev (whose father was a KGB agent) and then he went ahead to make him a member of the House of Lords.
 
Does Monteith wonder why P&O recently sacked 800 UK employees but no French or Dutch workers? It’s because Dutch and French national employment laws are far stronger than UK laws. The Dover workers will be replaced by Indian seafarers being paid $2.38 per hour, well below minimum wage. The UK Government isn’t challenging P&O on the legality of their actions nor is it thinking of strengthening national employment laws to prevent this from happening again.

Monteith doesn’t seem bothered that Brexit will deliver a 4% permanent hit to UK GDP. The long-term damage from Covid will be just half of that. Even before the Ukraine war, higher taxes, food and energy prices and shortages were already a reality. 

Energy prices are set to soar higher, plunging millions more into poverty. The French have capped energy prices at 4%, but the UK is allowing them to rise 54%. And Scots will pay the most given the much higher transmission charges Ofgem imposes on Scottish generators. This is especially perverse when renewables, producing nearly all of Scotland’s electricity, are cheaper than oil and gas. 

The Australia trade deal will deliver a 0.01% bump to GDP while trade with the EU will plunge by 15%, costing the UK economy £32 billion. That’s money that could have funded social care and cushioned the blow from inflation and interest rate increases. The deal also threatens the livelihoods of Scottish farmers and fishermen, who have already seen exports take a nosedive since Brexit. 

Brexit hasn’t brought the UK ‘freedom.’ It has left it out in the cold, isolated and poorer but it is making the ruling class richer, which was always the goal. That's the cost of Brexit, not the cost of freedom.

Monteith ignores that 62% of Scots voted to remain, a material change in circumstance since the 2014 referendum. The only positive that can possibly emerge from this debacle will be the restoration of Scottish independence.

Why Norway Chose to Become an Independent Country - Lessons for Independent Scotland

Norway, of course, is one of the richest countries on the planet -  in part due to its sovereign wealth fund which holds a share of the oil profits from Norwegian waters and stands at $1.3 trillion. It is also one of the most egalitarian, with a strong sense of social cohesion. Norway celebrates its national day on May 17, as a community event, with picnics, sports and festivities. 

But Norway has only been an independent country since 1905 -  for 500 years before that it was not. First it was in a union with Denmark and then with Sweden. In both cases Norway was the junior partner. 

When the country finally had a referendum, the question asked was whether people supported the step the Parliament had already taken to dissolve the union with Sweden. Support was virtually unanimous. 

There was no concern then about how Norway would manage its border with Sweden, or about what currency it would use. In fact it continued to be part of a Scandinavian monetary union with both Denmark and Sweden for the next two decades. The borders between the countries continue to be passport-free. Norway is not in the EU but it is an associate member of the Schengen Zone that allows free movement (before it was in Schengen it was in something called the “Nordic Passport Area’). Norway is in EFTA, the European Free Trade Area, but not in the Customs Union. That means there are sporadic customs checks on goods vehicles but that around 30,000 people a day travel seamlessly between Norway and Sweden to work. 

So what were Norway’s reasons for breaking away from what many historians regard as successful Union with a neighbouring country? 

Here we take a look at three of the motivating factors that caused Norway to seek independence.

#1 Lack of control over foreign policy 

Norway was a junior partner in its unions with Denmark between 1521 and 1814 and then Sweden from 1814 to 1905. Although Norway retained its own national identity in some ways, it was unable to set foreign policy. As a result, Norway was often caught up in wars that were not of its making. 

The best example is when Norway was transferred from Denmark to Sweden in the Napoleonic Wars. Denmark-Norway at that time had a significant navy. Britain was concerned this could end up in the hands of Napoleon and so demanded the fleet. The Danish King refused and the British navy mounted a massive attack on Copenhagen from the sea, destroying 1,000 buildings in a single night

The Danes were on the losing side of the war. When the Swedish King helped the British to defeat Napoleon a few years later, he demanded Norway as a reward - and he was handed it in a treaty after the Battle of Leipzig. There were no Norwegians present when the deal was done and Norwegians weren’t even informed until some time later.

The Norwegians were outraged. They demanded to be independent instead and to elect their own head of state, ratifying a Norwegian Constitution on May 17, 1814. In the short War of Norwegian Independence that followed, the British navy blockaded Norway to prevent supplies from getting in.  Despite winning some battles, the Norwegians were overwhelmed by the Swedish army, and they had no international support. 

The Norwegians eventually signed a compromise deal where they kept their own Parliament and administration but became subjects of the Swedish Crown. They also had to hand over control over foreign policy to Sweden. 

For almost a century under Swedish rule, Norwegians felt they were represented abroad and on international bodies by people who knew little about Norway and who didn’t understand what Norwegians wanted. When the Norwegian Parliament eventually decided to set up its own consular service, they were at first overruled by the Swedish King and that was the point at which Norway finally declared independence. They held a referendum where almost everyone who voted supported the decision of the Parliament. 

#2 Frustration with colonial rule 

Despite officially retaining its own separate identity, when Norway was subject to the Danish Crown from 1521 to 1814, it became a puppet state. This period is sometimes called the “400 year night”, because the centre of power and control moved to Copenhagen. Some historians point to the fact that the two countries together did become more prosperous, but Norway consistently struggled for more autonomy. 

Norway was not initially in favour of the Reformation, for example, but this was imposed on it. The Crown seized church lands and valuables which were transferred to Denmark’s ownership.  Widespread resistance was defeated.  Danish was imposed as the official language. 

The Danish Crown became absolutist and hereditary. It ruled over Denmark with the aid of sheriffs, military officers and government officials who were all answerable to Copenhagen instead of to local authorities. Norway was subdivided into districts, each of which had to produce a certain number of men to fight for the Danish King.

In order to fund its wars, the Danish Crown eventually started to sell parcels of the land it had seized from the Church to Norwegian farmers, increasing the number of people who owned their own smallholdings.

While recognising that this period was one where Norway did make some advances, many Norwegians see it as a time when Norwegians were unable to progress in the government, law and administration of their own country. Many went abroad instead. Many Norwegians became seafarers. Large numbers went off to the New World - the lack of opportunity at home as well as disagreement with religious laws for some, led to a brain drain. 

Under Swedish rule, May 17 the date of the Constitution signing became an annual independence rally. Celebrating it was banned by the Swedes - but after soldiers broke up a rally at the “Battle of the Square” in 1829, it was allowed and became increasingly seen as independence day.

#3 Control of their own assets

In the past, Norway was often portrayed as a poor country, on the periphery of Europe, mountainous and hard to farm, full of narrow-minded people with backward notions. Its people were looked down on by the Danish and Swedish elites who governed it for centuries. 

The reality was far different. Norway has a wealth of natural resources and it has often been at the forefront of technological innovation to make use of these. It was quick to embrace mechanised methods of harvesting timber and its forests were vital in providing ships for centuries; it was at the forefront of hydro-electric power which was a valuable energy export before oil; it was one of the first countries to provide electric street lighting.

Increasingly, Norwegians wanted to have more control over their own assets. They felt there was an unfair transfer of wealth going on. Towards the end of the Union with Denmark, about two-thirds of Norway’s audited annual national income was transferred to Copenhagen each year. Norway was also forced to pay the debts that the Danish Crown had assigned to it in the treaty that ended the Napoleonic war, even though the Norwegian Parliament never ratified this debt. They tried to refuse to pay but were threatened with military attack so they paid up. 

In trade, the terms that were set by the Danish and later Swedish Governments, were often seen as unfavourable to Norwegians. When it came to monopolies, Government contracts, and the granting of rights to exploit Norway’s assets, many Norwegians grew frustrated with what they saw as the lack of a level playing field, and that also fed into the desire for independence. 

Conclusion

Today,  Norway ranks as the best place to live in the world, on the UN Human Development Index Report, which takes into account a number of factors like life satisfaction, health, gender equality, financial security and education. It has made good use of its independence. 

When they finally took the step of having a referendum on the issue, there was no disagreement over arrangements as to borders, currency or trade. Norwegians had the confidence to believe they could they work those things out successfully - and they did. 

An Independent Scotland would be welcomed back into the EU

Guest post from Europe for Scotland

is the arm of the Scottish campaign that campaigns across Europe. It is  a grassroots movement of Europeans who would like to welcome an independent Scotland back into the EU. We are shining a spotlight on Scotland in continental Europe, rallying support for Scotland’s right to choose its own future, and calling on the European Union to welcome Scotland back with open arms if Scots wish to rejoin it as an independent country.

Our pan-European initiative launched in April 2021 with an open letter, organised by a handful of people but signed by almost 200 renowned intellectuals and cultural figures from all European countries and all UK nations, which was simultaneously published in ten countries. In the months since, thousands of Europeans joined these first distinguished signatories and signed our open letter on Action Network.

With the pandemic waning across the continent, we have ambitious goals for 2022. We have recruited more than 50 volunteers from 17 European countries that form groups of national ambassadors of our campaign, who work on strategies to increase support for our arguments in their respective countries. A group of cultural ambassadors will soon start planning events to remind Europeans of the many ways in which Scotland could enrich the European Union. Lastly and most crucially, we have recruited a group of lawyers, lobbyists, and EU insiders that are developing a plan to lobby the European Parliament, where we hope to convince MEPs to take a stance and vote in a motion on Scotland’s future in Europe in 2023.

We find that there is great affection for Scotland across Europe, rooted in familiarity with Scotland’s rich history and culture, vibrant cities and beautiful landscape. However, both among the European public and among European politicians the many differences between Scotland’s desire for self-determination and other independence movements are not always well known. In order to gather European political support for Scotland’s choice about its future we are promoting a deeper understanding of Scotland’s past and present, raising awareness that Scotland is not a region in Great Britain (or, indeed, in England) but an ancient European nation that existed long before most other European nations. Most importantly, we are highlighting Scotland’s unique situation as a former member of the European Union (for 47 years), which rejected Brexit by 62% and yet had to leave against the will of its people–a democratic injustice that Scots should have the right to reverse.

In addition to promoting a culture of solidarity with Scotland across Europe, Europe for Scotland also wants Europeans to appreciate how much Europe would benefit from Scotland rejoining the EU. On a practical level, Scottish universities enjoy great popularity among Erasmus students, Scottish shores have enormous potential for renewable energy, and Europeans would like fewer obstacles to work and trade with Scottish businesses. On a political level, Scotland’s patriotism and pride in its culture and history, coupled with its desire to be an equal partner among European nations stands in stark contrast with British nationalism and desire for dominance. While Brexit emboldened not just Trump but also far right Euroskeptics across the continent, Scotland rejoining the EU would have the opposite effect, as Scots would inspire Europeans to follow their example, showing them that they can celebrate their national culture whilst they embrace their European identity.

With the help of our groups of national ambassadors, as well as of our EU lobbying group we want to make the case for Scotland’s future in Europe, lobbying EU leaders to explicitly support Scotland’s choice about its future and to clarify that if Scots wish to return they could speedily rejoin the EU.

It is vital that this assurance comes before a referendum is held. During the Brexit referendum voters did not have clarity about what they were voting for, as Brexiteers and British tabloids spread lies about the EU, whilst the EU itself remained silent. Scottish voters deserve honesty and clarity about the future that is on offer when their referendum takes place, and EU membership should be an offer that is on the table. We will do what we can to ensure that Europe does not stay silent this time, but rather guarantees Scottish voters that an independent Scotland would have a bright future in the European Union. Speaking for the many Europeans involved in our campaign we can certainly say that Europeans miss Scotland and we would love to welcome you back! If you would also like to see an Independent Scotland in Europe, please sign and share our petition with your European friends!

The Wheels are off the UK Bus

Guy Stenhouse, writing in one of the Herald's regular, 'talking Scotland down' columns, that they gift to unionist campaigners, appears to have only a passing acquaintance with movies or the facts. He uses the analogy about wheels coming off the nationalist bus just as they did in the movie the 'Italian Job' - I can categorically tell you that the bus in the aforesaid movie didn't lose any wheels nor has the Yes movement. However, let’s humour him with his wheels off the bus analogy and point out where he is wrong.

Wheel one, pensions. Scotland more than pays its way. Once independent, it will keep all the tax and national insurance revenues, not send them to Westminster, and since life expectancy is lower, Scotland could raise the state pension at no additional cost. But Scotland shouldn’t advertise this since it may precipitate a flood of people coming north to escape one of the lowest basic state pensions in the developed world.

Wheel two, currency. SNP policy is to adopt a Scottish currency as soon as practicable after independence. Currency has no intrinsic value but derives value from the goods and services an economy produces. Scotland’s immense natural wealth, highly developed economy and educated and innovative people will guarantee our currency has value. Scotland will launch its own currency at the point it becomes advantageous to Scotland to have one, there will be a transition period and using Sterling (our own currency) for a short period would maintain pensions values and facilitate trade as Scotland becomes independent. A sensible, desirable and pragmatic approach. 

Wheel three, the deficit. Under the terms of the devolution settlement, the Scottish Government must balance its budget every year. London assigns Scotland a deficit based on the supposed benefits we receive from being part of the UK and for billions spent on nuclear weapons, foreign wars, unemployment payments because of UK economic mismanagement, Westminster corruption, servicing a UK debt Scotland didn’t generate, expenditure on Brexit and negotiating foreign treaties that damage Scotland’s economic interests. Some of the UK's spending on Scotland's behalf is spent in Scotland but what deficit Scotland has will change dramatically once we remove the added costs of UK membership and start investing in Scotland's wellbeing.   

Wheel four, the EU, not English, Single Market. ONS figures show the UK’s economic recovery has lagged that of its EU counterparts and UK exports to the EU plummeted by £20 billion in 2021 compared to 2018. As for that vaunted EU rebate, there is no £350m extra per week for the NHS. Regressive National Insurance taxes are rising, the triple lock on pensions is gone, and food and energy prices are soaring. Meanwhile, the newly minted Minister for Brexit Opportunities, Rees-Mogg, is desperately scrabbling around amongst Sun readers for ideas on how to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Scotland will be back in the Single Market as soon as we exit this failing Union and like Ireland, will rapidly forge new trade links with the EU, leaving behind an isolated rUK that will sorely need Scottish energy, water, and food and drink.  

The wheels have been off the UK bus for some time now. The founding director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, David Simpson, put it well: “The economic cost to Scotland of our dependency on England is measured by the incomes, jobs and tax revenues that have been foregone as a result of the slower rate of growth of the economy because of its mismanagement under the Union.”

Once independent, Scotland will be able to make economic, social and foreign policy decisions that will benefit the people of Scotland.

A vote for independence must be a vote for Scotland rejoining the EU

In January, we polled 5,943 Scottish independence supporters to seek their opinions on a range of issues impacting the movement. We recruited respondents through Twitter and Yes supporting Facebook pages, generating a wide cross-section of the Yes movement. When we research public opinion, we use Panelbase to generate representative samples but that was not our intention here. In our last Yes movement poll in September (3,226 responses) we were able to identify the motivations of around 200 No to Yes switchers. 60% of them identified Brexit as the key motivation to switching sides and that theme holds true in this much larger sample.

Our new poll found that 97% of No to Yes switchers want an independent Scotland to become a member of the EU. Thus, rejoining the EU must be a key plank of the indyref2 argument. Not only does Brexit (against Scotland's wishes) justify a second referendum, but it is also the key motivation for No to Yes switchers and the expectation of the majority of the Yes movement.

When you look at the overall attitudes towards joining the EU from the whole Yes movement there is still a supermajority of 88% support for rejoining. In fact, when the old unionist trope that joining the EU is "swapping Westminster rule for Brussels rule", the Middle 30% of voters (who could go either way on the independence question) are likely to feel motivated to Vote Yes. This shouldn't be a big surprise as "Vote No to stay in the EU" was arguably the most effective weapon the 2014 No campaign had (even though it turned out to be a lie).

In 2014 the Yes side had a valid case that if Scotland, being an EU member, were to become independent it would remain an EU member and not have to rejoin. Unfortunately, Brexit happening whilst Scotland was still in a political union with the UK means that an independent Scotland would have to rejoin the EU and that could take up to four years. Many have therefore suggested that joining The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) would allow swifter access to the EU market but although many would see that as an acceptable compromise it isn't the game-changer that full EU membership represents.  

You might think well 66% being happy with EFTA is a good result but frankly, it's not because thats means 1/3 are unhappy and its the most important third. When we delved deeper into the figures, we found that 100% of No to Yes switchers would be unhappy with joining EFTA versus joining the EU. Add to that, not even one single person who said No to rejoining the EU listed that policy as one that would make them less likely to vote Yes or even less likely to campaign for independence. 

Let's be 100% clear, Yes will not win indyref2 if there is any ambiguity about our intention to rejoin the EU as an independent nation. A vote for independence is a vote for Scotland rejoining the EU.

This is backed up from our general population research which identified majority Yes support amongst non-Scots-born voters (with specific policy offers) and rejoining the EU is fundamental to that as EU born citizens will vote Yes in big numbers to rejoin the EU, whereas last time they feared a Yes vote meant leaving the EU.

Instead of trying to shortcut access to the EU and especially the European Economic Area (single market) via joining EFTA Scotland should seek Associate Membership of the EU, beginning on independence day which will follow a two year transition period. Associate membership could include access to the single market, no voting rights but immediate involvement in multiple policy areas such as, membership of the Europol policing agency and the Erasmus student exchange scheme. Associate membership is the EU's new big idea and Scotland could be the successful case study.

This is the first of several articles that will come from our Big Yes poll. Join our campaign now simply by pledging your support for independence and we will email future articles.

Scotland's links to Flanders ... post Brexit buddies looking for independence trade

Flanders has extended the hand of friendship to an independent Scotland by focusing on the ‘enormous opportunity’ of a trading partnership.

The minister-president of Flanders, Jan Jambon, has said that ports in his region should start preparing as soon as possible for trade with an independent Scotland.

Our ports must be ready to become at that time [after Scottish independence] the main partner of the Scots

He said: "If Scotland becomes independent in a few years it will want to join the European Union as soon as possible. From then on, she will no longer want to have her exports go through England but to ship them by sea directly to the continent.

"This is a huge opportunity that Antwerp and Zeebrugge must already anticipate now. Our ports must be ready to become at that time the main partner of the Scots".

So what potential does Flanders hold for indy Scotland and how important a friend can Jan Jambon be?

Who is Jan Jambon anyway?

He is a Belgian politician of the New Flemish Alliance who has been serving as minister-president of Flanders since 2019.

He has been in Scotland with a delegation of port companies looking to boost trade entering Belgian ports, the first such mission since the United Kingdom left the European Union. Brexit hit Flanders badly in the first quarter of 2021, when exports fell by 21.19%. But an improving performance since then saw exports increase by 3.45% over the first seven months of the year compared with 2020. The improvement was largely driven by pharmaceuticals.

Scotland has fared less well. HM Revenue & Customs figures show that from the period ending June 2021, Scottish exports had decreased by 14% compared to the previous year - the highest decline in the UK.

Over the past three years, Scottish exports have also fallen from a high of around £4.8bn to £3.2bn in the second quarter of this year.

Jambon met Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday, when they discussed trade links between Scotland and Flanders as well as "future opportunities to co-operate across a range of shared interests".

In a separate tweet from his own account, Jambon also stated that they discussed plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, possibly be held in 2023.

Does Flanders already have significant links with Scotland?

Flemish ministers or parliamentary delegations regularly visit Scotland, with the aim of collaborating in key policy areas such as education, health, ports or international activities.

Flemish artists and theatre companies are regular visitors to Scottish arts festivals with the support of the government of Flanders. In recent times, many Flemish productions attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival under the guise of 'Big in Belgium'.

The area also has extensive ties with Scottish universities. It has specifically supported a historical research project, Scotland and the Flemish People, at the University of St Andrews which looks at the influence of Flemish migrants on Scottish society throughout history.

The Scottish National Gallery hosted a Flanders Day reception in 2016 the wake of a Rubens exhibition and an academic conference to emphasise the close ties between Flanders and Scotland.

The ancient county of Flanders in northern Belgium was the economic powerhouse of Europe in the early medieval period and the principal outlet for Scotland’s major export of wool

Have we collaborated before?

Scotland has strong historic links to the Low Countries –  also called Benelux countries, a coastal region of north western Europe consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The ancient county of Flanders in northern Belgium was the economic powerhouse of Europe in the early medieval period and the principal outlet for Scotland’s major export of wool.

In a two-part Radio Scotland series Scotland and the Low Countries broadcaster Billy Kay celebrated Scotland’s profound engagement with the Flemish and Dutch people over the centuries.

Xenophobic, inhumane UK is a foreign country

Thousands of people who considered Scotland their home have been left fearing they have lost the right to stay here and that their lives are being torn apart. This morning they are waking up in a country they no longer recognise.

The UK government’s decision to force EU nationals to apply to remain in their homes is not just cruel and inhumane. It has also been a shambles. Time and again Boris Johnson refused to even countenance agreeing to pleas that the deadline be extended past midnight on Wednesday to deal properly with the staggering number of applications.

More than 50,000 people applied for ‘settled status’ on the last day. More than 5.5 million applications have been received in total.

The last-minute rush forced the UK government to take the action they had ruled out and extend the deadline ... but only for nine hours.

Social media has been full of heart-breaking messages from those who face having to leave and those who desperately want them to stay

Its assurance that applications submitted before 9am on Thursday was hardly enough to calm the fears of those worried they could face deportation.

Social media has been full of heart-breaking messages from those who face having to leave and those who desperately want them to stay.

Michael Goulden @mikegoulden posts telling the story of his 83 year-old mother - who was originally from Germany, who worked for the British Army as a translator and who moved to the UK in 1962 - went viral.

She qualified as a teacher, raised two children and is a long-standing member of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She now has dementia and became upset when her son was going through the process to complete her application for her settled status.

Mr Goulden posted: ‘A Britain that was once tolerant, generous and welcoming has morphed into a cruel, xenophobic, third-rate country under the monstrous government we now have. My mum has contributed so much to this country and this process is an insult to her and millions like her.’

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, posted: ‘Tonight I light my #candleforcare thinking of and thanking all who come from #Europe to work in Scotland’s health and social care  sectors.

These posts and thousands like them highlight the terrible pain being caused by a Westminster government determined to plough ahead with the very worst aspects of Brexit despite mounting unarguable evidence that it has been a disaster.

This is what Vote Leave promised us in 2016: ‘There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.’

Scotland’s message has always been at direct odds with Westminster’s inhumane moves to strip our friends and neighbours of their right to live and work in the country they love

It was a lie in a long list of lies about Brexit and in this week of all weeks the terrible truth has been laid bare for all to see.

Scotland’s message has always been at direct odds with Westminster’s inhumane moves to strip our friends and neighbours of their right to live and work in the country they love.

We have continually stressed that those who have come to Scotland from elsewhere in Europe are welcome here and contribute a huge amount to our economy and our culture. Our politicians have insisted that the need for settled status should be abandoned and this cruel treatment brought to an end.

But again and again we have been ignored.

Just as we were ignored when we voted against Brexit. Just as we were ignored when we argued for a softer form of Brexit which would protect our industries, our economy and our people. Even when we try to enshrine children's human rights into law Westminster objects so much it takes our parliament to court to stop us.

The treatment of EU nationals is a stark confirmation that believing in Scotland and its independence offers a better, smarter, kinder alternative to the cruel and xenophobic country the UK has become.