Pages tagged with "independence"

Who do you want to represent Scotland internationally - so-called "lords" or democratic representatives? 

Who do you want to represent Scotland internationally - unelected peers or democratic representatives? 

Who has the right to represent Scotland’s interests abroad? Is it elected representatives such as Angus Robertson - or unelected Conservative donors such as ‘lord’ Malcolm Offord? Many will ask - what possible right does Malcolm Offord have to represent Scotland internationally? And yet he does. 

The UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said that all meetings between Scottish Government ministers and overseas governments must be organised through the UK Government and attended by its own officials. The latest move represents a step up from reports that UK officials had been asked to hold follow-up meetings with any foreign dignitaries who meet with Scottish ministers.

According to polling analysed by Professor John Curtice on “What Scotland Thinks” - more Scots say they want Holyrood to have power and responsibility over foreign policy than say Westminster (where many more members are now unelected than are elected). 

A new attempt to undermine devolution

This is new. It is an attempt to delegitimize and undermine Scottish Government efforts to promote Scotland abroad. In the past, Scotland’s elected representatives have worked along with the UK’s network of embassies and consulates to promote Scottish businesses, tourism, education and so on. Before the Parliament came along, Scottish business and trade organisations did the same - because the UK has never promoted Scotland effectively internationally. This is a clear role of the devolved Parliament - which has not been questioned before.

But the UK Government is stepping in to constrain and curtail elected representatives’ work. Recently, Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee heard how at an event in Paris, the Scotland Office intervened at the last moment to disrupt the Scottish Government’s event to promote Scotland’s food and drink sector, causing embarrassment to both the Government and businesses. 

Scotland has its own identity and needs its own representation internationally

Scotland has its own identity and needs separate representation on the world stage - it isn’t helpful to subsume it in UK-wide promotions. That should be done by the people Scotland elects at the ballot box. External Affairs Minister Angus Robertson, who has been undermined in his efforts to do this, is an elected MSP. 

In contrast, Malcolm Offord was rejected at the ballot box when he stood for election to Holyrood in 2021. Offord believes that Scotland is too poor and its people are too incapable to survive and thrive as an independent country - hardly a positive message to send internationally. 

But whatever Offord says and does when he is abroad is up to him and his Conservative cronies - he can never, ever be voted out at the ballot box. He is not democratically accountable in Scotland. 

An unelected Conservative crony now represents Scotland on important trade missions

At the end of 2022, Offord represented Scotland and the UK on a trip to the Arctic Circle where he met many leading Icelandic business figures and politicians and may have taken the opportunity to brief against Scotland. 

In 2021, Offord travelled to India with Liz Truss to represent Scotland at events again involving politicians, business people and leaders of civic society, where again he is likely to have briefed that Scotland is an insignificant region of the UK that could not survive as an independent country. 

Offord’s propagandist past

‘Lord’ Malcolm Offord has a history as an anti-independence propagandist. He is not accountable to any voter. 

Offord was the director of Acanchi, a PR firm, that set up what purported to be a “grassroots” No campaign group in 2014, called “Vote No Borders”. They made a glossy propaganda video that was shown extensively on the BBC in the run up to the 2014 referendum as a news item. Acanchi also made scare videos for the cinema using the name “Vote No Borders” - which did not exist as a real group. Grassroots campaigning groups for a “Yes” vote - such as Business for Scotland - did not get their campaigning material shown without comment on BBC News channels. 

Offord also donated £147,000 to the Conservative Party and he donated to fund Michael Gove’s personal election expenses. He was then awarded a permanent seat at Westminster by scandal-hit PM Boris Johnson. 

Only independence can give Scotland control of its international profile

Under devolution, Scotland should have the right to work with the UK’s embassies and consulates to promote Scottish interests. Scotland has a separate identity and its own brands. 

But the UK Government is moving in to aggressively undermine that. 

The Scottish electorate has no say over what “peers” like Malcolm Offord choose to do or say when abroad. He can never, ever lose his seat in the UK Parliament as long as he lives. It has been awarded to him permanently - against the direct wishes of the Scottish electorate as expressed at the ballot box. 

And yet Offord is regarded by the UK Government as having more right to represent Scotland abroad than democratic representatives. 

Only with independence can Scotland ensure democratic accountability for its representatives and the right to promote Scotland’s interests internationally. 

Further info

Watch a video about Offord’s ‘Vote No Borders” campaign

 

Media Watch - Unionists announce attack on Scotland’s Parliament

Those who have been warning that the UK government is planning to undermine and attack the powers of the Scottish Parliament got further confirmation this week from “lord” David Frost in a column in the Daily Telegraph.

Frost is an unelected member of the Westminster Parliament who has held several ministerial posts including that of Brexit Minister. Writing in the Telegraph, he said the time has come to “reverse” the process of devolution.

Scotland cannot protect its Parliament without independence

Despite never being elected, Frost has more power as a member of the UK Government to decide Scotland’s affairs than Scotland’s democratic representatives. 

There is nothing Scotland can do to protect the power of the Parliament without independence. 

Some democratic mandates are more equal than others

Frost and other Westminster Parliamentarians -  including members of the Labour Party - often trumpet their belief that a narrow victory in the Brexit referendum in England was a mandate for forcing a damaging hard Brexit on Scotland and the UK.

Yet, they do not acknowledge that devolution was brought into being by a huge majority at the referendum of 1997, when an astonishing 75% of voters voted “Yes” to the creation of a Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood is important to Scotland. Polling analysed by Professor John Curtice on “What Scotland Thinks” shows that a consistent 75% of Scots want Holyrood to control how Scotland is run. Only 14% think Westminster - where many more members are unelected than are elected - should control how Scotland is run. 

“It’s time to reverse the process [of devolution]”

Writing in the Telegraph, Frost said that the issues facing the SNP were an opportunity to roll back devolution. He added that he believes Labour leader Keir Starmer basically agrees with him, and will likely ignore Gordon Brown’s suggestions for greater devolution for Scotland. 

Frost wrote: "Not only must no more powers be devolved to Scotland, it’s time to reverse the process... Ministers should make clear that, if re-elected, they will review and roll back some currently devolved powers. In particular, Scotland does not need to be an independent actor on the world stage; it should not be able to legislate to disrupt free trade within the UK; and it does not need to have most tax-raising powers currently available to it."

Frost also praised Scottish Secretary Alister Jack for using a Section 35 order to clamp down on devolved powers - and said the UK government must be more 'assertive' in its attacks on devolution, arguing the UK Internal Markets Act "has not been used assertively as it should".

The Scottish Government is being stripped of even its limited autonomy

The Scottish Parliament is already under attack - the Internal Markets Act strips it of powers in even minor areas. For example, Holyrood can’t ban single-use wet wipes despite their environmental damage; it can’t put a deposit on bottles; it may well be prevented from raising the minimum unit price on alcohol despite evidence that this reduces alcohol deaths.

Before Brexit, the Scottish Parliament had a great deal of say over how restructuring funds from the EU were spent. Since then, the UK government decides how to spend that money. It has also reneged on its promise to replace that money, providing less than half. 

The UK government is coming in to fund projects as it sees fit without consultation - such as funding a bridge in Douglas Ross’ constituency. But how can Scotland develop a more coherent transport strategy - which is supposed to be entirely devolved -  if Westminster is funding projects in Scotland based on its own, different, criteria?

The Scottish Parliament has also already been prevented from fully implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - essentially because the UK Government doesn’t want refugee children to have the same human rights as others. 

The UK does not recognise any sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament or people

The Supreme Court has ruled that in the UK, all sovereignty resides at Westminster - contradicting Scotland’s long and proud tradition that sovereignty rests ultimately with the people. 

They think that it does not matter that the Scottish people voted overwhelmingly to have a Scottish Parliament after long years of campaigning and struggle. It has no legal sovereignty - Westminster has only lent it powers that it can take back at any time. 

Given that Frost and other members of the UK Parliament believe that unelected “peers” have the right to overrule the Scottish Parliament’s elected representatives, their commitment to democracy is questionable. 

The choice is simple: independence protects Scottish democracy while remaining in this failing union will diminish our abilities to make decisions for the benefit of Scotland.  

 

Building a better future - lessons on independence from the Slovak Republic

There are few countries in the world with anything like Scotland’s long history of nationhood which are NOT independent. Scotland emerged as a kingdom in the 9th century and remained as an independent sovereign state until 1707, when it entered into the Treaty of Union. 

Looking at global examples is not meant to provide exact comparisons -  but it can be instructive to see the ways other countries successfully - and peacefully - journeyed towards independence. 

Lessons from the Slovak Republic

The Slovak Republic, now an independent country within the EU, has almost the same population size as Scotland - 5.4 million - but it is about one-third smaller. A landlocked, mountainous area of central Europe,  it was a semi-autonomous duchy within the Hungarian Empire in the middle ages, but became a fully independent country for the first time when it broke with the Czech Republic (both used to be part of Czechoslovakia).  It is often referred to as Slovakia, but its official title is the Slovak Republic.

Initially, nationalism was based on Slovaks’ desire to preserve their different ethnic and cultural identity, but in the 21st century, it has adopted the kind of civic nationalism that characterises the Scottish independence movement. 

Since independence, the Slovak Republic’s GDP has started to reach parity with the Czech Republic, which was better off before the split. Although it is not a wealthy country, the percentage of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is lower in Slovakia than in the UK. 

The Velvet Revolution 

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, demonstrations began against Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. On November 20, 1989, an estimated 500,000 protestors gathered in Prague. The entire top tier of the Czechoslovakian government resigned a few days later - they peacefully relinquished power and the one-party state came to an end. In June 1990, the first first democratic elections were held. 

At that time the Czech area’s GDP was 20% higher than the Slovak area. Cash transfers to the Slovak area, which had been the norm, stopped in 1991. The two areas’ leaders decided to split into independent countries. There was no referendum.

As the dominant economic power, the Czechs were concerned about potential damage to their currency. The Slovaks agreed to introduce their own version - initially by stamping a crest on Czech banknotes. 

The Velvet Divorce

At midnight on December 31, 1992, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech and Slovak Republics. On January 1, 1993, the National Bank of Slovakia was formed. Just a few weeks later on Feb 8,1993, Slovakia introduced its own currency, the koruna, which replaced the Czech koruna at the same rate. The transition was smooth. The two countries remained in a currency union and continue to cooperate closely.  

Building a stronger economy post-independence

In 1995, the Slovak Republic signed an Association Agreement with the EU. In 2003, a referendum on joining the EU was held, with 93.7% voting Yes. The Slovak and Czech Republics were two of the countries that became EU members as part of the 2004 enlargement

On January 1, 2009, Slovakia adopted the Euro as its national currency. Slovakia became a more integral part of the EU than their neighbours, because of their adoption of the Euro and their greater enthusiasm for taking part in the banking and fiscal unions. The Czech Republic still does not use the Euro. 

Since joining the EU, Slovakia’s GDP per capita has risen to 95% of the Czech Republic’s. Poverty has also reduced significantly. Pensions are about the same rate in both countries. 

The Slovak Republic is subdivided into 8 regions, each having a certain amount of autonomy. The capital and largest city is Bratislava. In 2019, Zuzana Čaputová, an environmental campaigner, became Slovakia's first female president (there is also a Prime Minister). The country has been very dependent on Russian gas and is now attempting to speed up a transition to renewable energy. 

The rise of the Slovakian independence movement

Arguments for independence started to gain force in the 19th century when Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At that time, Hungary started to force people to assimilate, adopting the Hungarian language and culture. 

When revolution erupted in 1848, the Slovaks supported the Austrian Emperor’s side, hoping for independence from Hungary, but they failed. Thereafter relations between Slovaks and the state of Hungary deteriorated. 

The rise and fall of Czechoslovakia

After the First World War, in the chaos that surrounded the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, several territories broke away and joined together to form Czechoslovakia. 

In 1938, the Munich Agreement, which UK PM Neville Chamberlain famously signed with Hitler, allowed Germany to annexe part of Czechoslovakia - the Suddetenland. The remaining country became Czecho-Slovakia with more autonomy promised for Slovakia. In fact, Slovakia became a puppet regime of Nazi Germany. Almost all of the Jews, along with gypsies and dissidents were deported to death camps. In 1944, there was an uprising against Nazi occupation - the Slovak National Uprising. It was unsuccessful and thousands of people were put to death. 

After the Second World War, Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Soviet Union. It became a puppet regime of the USSR, behind the Iron Curtain. In 1968, armed tanks rolled into Prague to put down an uprising called the Prague Spring. In 1969, Czechoslovakia became a federation of the Czech and Slovak Republics but it remained under Soviet control, with only limited autonomy, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Conclusion - it is possible to build a better future with independence in Europe

There are of course many differences between Scotland’s story and that of the Slovak Republic. But when Unionists pour scorn on Scotland’s plans, it is useful to look at what Slovakia managed to accomplish in a relatively short time.

Since gaining independence, the Slovak Republic has managed to increase the prosperity of its citizens and to reduce relative poverty. They have seized the opportunity of joining the EU to improve trade and cooperation.

Scots have every reason to feel confident that Scotland can also accomplish the task of building an independent nation. Scotland is significantly more prepared, and has a wealthier more advanced economy that the Slovak Republic had when it became independent.

More independence lessons

Too wee, too poor for independence? Malta didn’t think so  - read more here

Why Norway Chose to Become an Independent Country –  read more here

Why Quebec’s independence dream went wrong - read more here

New Zealand’s century-long journey to independence - read more here 

As Jamaica proudly celebrates 60 years of independence - read more here

 

Starmer and Sunak’s speeches try to relegate Scotland to a region of England!

The start of the year has seen keynote speeches from the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a response from opposition leader Keir Starmer. Both proclaimed they were setting their visions and their priorities for UK governance. One glaring similarity between the two speeches is that they both largely ignored Scotland and the other devolved nations, even implying that Scotland as no more important than an English region.  In particular Starmer's clumsy attempt to suggest similarities between Brexit and Scottish independence demonstrates that he and his New Labour Party have zero understanding of Scotland nor any interest in working in the interests of Scotland.

Sunak did not even manage to say the word “Scotland”

Sunak didn't even mention the words Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. He used the term “our Union” just once and talked about his priorities being enacted across the UK as a whole, implying that Scotland and the other two nations are no different to the English regions. Far from the previous 'family of nations' narrative or that 'Scotland should lead the UK not leave it', he failed to acknowledge the existence of devolution and ignored the different electoral priorities of the Scottish government.

Sunak did not acknowledge that the policy areas covered by many of his pledges are devolved and he did not discuss mending fences with the Scottish government. 

Nor did he mention dealing with the Northern Irish protocol - surely one of the most pressing issues facing the UK Prime Minister. Getting this wrong could precipitate retaliation from the EU that could deepen the cost of living crisis. The Northern Ireland Assembly (Stormont) is currently suspended and the people of Northern Ireland are engulfed in a constitutional crisis that is a direct result of Brexit.

Sunak’s priorities are anglocentric. He has no understanding or interest in the specific issues affecting Scotland and this speech confirms that he views Scotland merely as an unimportant region of England. 

Stamer tried to conflate support for Scottish independence with support for Brexit

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer claimed both the Brexit vote and the Yes vote in the first independence referendum were motivated by the same political goals. He said that both would be addressed in a “Take Back Control” bill - a bill which has nothing to offer Scotland.

Starmer says of Brexit: “As I went around the country, campaigning for Remain, I couldn’t disagree with the basic case so many Leave voters made to me. People who wanted public services they could rely on. High streets they could be proud of. Opportunities for the next generation. And all of this in their town or city. It was the same in the Scottish referendum in 2014 – many of those who voted ‘yes’ did so for similar reasons."

By likening Brexit to independence, Starmer hopes will put Scottish voters off - and he won't acknowledge that the 2014 'No" campaign told Scots that was the best way to retain EU membership, or that the vision of an independent Scotland in the EU is raising support for independence now. At the same time, he is committing his party to the impossible task of making Brexit work, while suggesting the UK has too many immigrants, in another attempt to curry favour with English right-wing voters. 

Starmer’s “Take back Control” bill offers nothing to Scotland

Starmer made no acknowledgement at all of the disastrous consequences of Brexit for the UK economy, for freedom of movement, for exports, imports or the loss of opportunity for both young and old.

Aping clarion calls of Brexiteers Farage and Johnson, he said his proposed “Take Back Control” bill would devolve powers over “employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances” - most of which are already devolved to Scotland - so either he doesn't know how the UK operates or he is announcing a full scale assault on devolution. 

Starmer also did not mention how he would negotiate with Scotland over its desire for full autonomy and for control of policies such as immigration, foreign policy, energy regulation and borrowing powers. 

Starmer talked about setting up a British energy company - “Great British Energy”. He talked about “clean British energy” being nine times cheaper than imported fossil fuels.  He did not acknowledge what is becoming an increasingly sore point of many Scots - that Scotland is one of the most energy-rich countries in the world - yet we pay some of the highest energy bills in the world. Scotland produces a large proportion of all of the energy produced in the UK but sees little benefit from that. 

The use of the sloganised name Great British Energy is based on his wish to distract people from the fact that a great deal of that cheaper renewable energy is actually Scottish. We also wonder if he is aware that there was a company called British Energy and it was the UK's largest electricity generation company by volume, before being taken over by EDF (Électricité de France) in 2009?  Nothing says Great British energy than selling your biggest energy provider to the French governments publicly owned energy monopoly!

Starmer referred to Glasgow and Dundee in his speech, but only as part of a list of dynamic UK cities. He made no reference to Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales as separate countries with separate governments, different issues and electoral priorities.

Two sides of the same coin - the UK parties have nothing to offer Scotland

The priorities of both UK Unionist parties are policies for England that chime with the electorate south of the border. The leaders not discuss or acknowledge the growing rift with Scotland, the increased support for independence or the Scottish dimension to the energy crisis, where Scotland produces enough renewable energy to power itself and also exports 39% of our electricity to the rest of the UK and yet Scots pay higher bills. 

Starmer addressed the fact that the UK’s economic problems are worse than comparable European countries but he failed to acknowledge the damaging reality of Brexit.  It seems that no matter who the next UK Prime Minister is neither will govern for the benefit of Scotland’s economy, environment, or our communities. 

Our Ten Most Shared Blogs of 2022

Scotland faces a media that in many cases is completely hostile to independence. News stories are spun to suggest Scots could never be trusted to run their own affairs. Good news is minimised, or just simply not reported and bad news for Scotland overblown and taken out of context.  Contrast that to the measurable and quantifiable damage of Brexit where the UK national news almost never acknowledges that Brexit is one of the root causes of inflation and economic damage. That’s why increasing numbers are turning to “Believe in Scotland” and its sister site “Business for Scotland” to find news stories that are put in context and explained from a pro-independence viewpoint. 

Most of our campaigning and engagement takes place on social media, via shareable graphics and on the streets and through leaflet drops etc but our blogs remain core to what we do. The most-read blogs on both our sites are shared far more often than almost all of the news stories on traditional, mainstream media. Take a look at the Facebook pages of The Times Scotland, The Scottish Daily Express, The Scotsman or BBC Scotland News and you will see that most stories are barely shared at all. 

In contrast, the most popular Business for Scotland post in 2022 generated 9,000 likes and shares on Facebook alone with hundreds more shares on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. One of our blogs that is updated every year has now been shared more than 81,000 times on Facebook alone. All of the others on this list got above 2,000 engagements on Facebook alone, most were higher than that.  Obviously, the blogs get a lot more reads than shares, as only a small percentage of people share articles but its a good way to gauge the popularity as well as readership.   

#1

Business for Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 9,263

The Scottish media was filled in the summer with stories about ferries being late or overbooked, and issues with two ferries ordered from Ferguson Marine. This article looked behind the banner headlines to add some context. 

Key points

  • Scotland pays much more for its share of UK infrastructure projects which overrun or get into difficulties than it has for the 2 ferries
  • Investment in Ferguson Marine is bringing it up to date as a publicly-owned yard with a future
  • Flexible fares on CalMac ferries cost less than half similar ones in England
  • The expansion of Road Equivalent Tariff (a popular policy) has massively increased traffic, demand and wear and tear on the ferry network. 

Read the article

#2

Believe in Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 4,787

Unionists like to talk about the cost of independence - but staying in the UK is costing Scotland dear, both financially and in terms of lost opportunity  This article looked at some of these.

Key costs of remaining in the Union

  • The windfall tax on Scottish energy assets is bailing out the UK
  • Scotland’s economy is visibly shrinking due to Brexit
  • The UK has the worst economic growth in the G20 bar Russia
  • The pound has lost 20% of its value – pushing inflation upwards
  • The UK Government broke its promise on the triple lock, exposing pensioners to inflation (restoring it later has still left a lag)

Read the article

#3

Believe in Scotland, March. Facebook shares - 4,510

Norway with its sovereign wealth fund is one of the richest countries on the planet. But it has only been an independent country since 1905 –  for 500 years before that it was it was in a union with Denmark and then with Sweden. 

When Norway finally took the step of having a referendum on its independence, “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.”

Key reasons why Norway became independent

  • Norway’s people wanted to take control over foreign policy, after being dragged into other countries’ wars
  • Norway had become a puppet state where power and control moved to an effective capital outside its borders, and the country suffered a long brain drain
  • In a technologically advanced and innovative country, Norway’s people thought they could make better use of their rich natural assets.

#4 The Great British electricity swindle

Business for Scotland, March. Facebook shares - 4,059

With higher standing charges for energy and higher charges for Scottish energy companies to connect to the UK’s privatised and outdated National Grid, Scotland is paying too much for both creating energy and using it. 

“That doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t fair. But regulation of the energy market is reserved. There is no way to change this without independence.” 

Read the article

#5

Business for Scotland, August. Facebook shares - 3,389

Scotland has huge potential to produce renewable electricity. At the moment, that is constrained by the UK’s energy policy and producing more electricity won't noticeably affect Scots' bills

“An independent Scotland could operate as a zone, setting a price for electricity across Scotland, while still exporting to the rest of the UK through hubs, charging a higher price. That could tip the market balance towards more renewable production north of the border.” 

#6

Believe in Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 2,826

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 access the EU fund Horizon, and also get EU support for peripheral areas such as the Highlands and Islands. 

Read the article

#7

Believe in Scotland, April. Facebook shares - 2,752

This article compared the size of Scotland’s broadcasting sector with other independent EU countries. Scotland is powerless when it comes to how public sector broadcasting is regulated and funded. 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.

#8

Believe in Scotland, October. Facebook shares - 2,713

This article explains which countries in the EU use the Euro and which don’t and looks at Scotland’s options. 

"Yes, Scotland would have to pledge to being open to join the euro at some point in the future. It could take 15 years, like Bulgaria which is adopting the Euro in 2024, or much longer. Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Poland have no current plans to switch. But whether or not to join the Euro and the timing of that will be a matter for future governments. It will be a matter for debate after Scotland has: achieved a referendum, voted for independence, established a central bank, a Scottish currency and rejoined the EU. It’s a way down the road.

Read the article

#9 5 Things You Need to Know About Labour’s Latest Vow on Constitutional Reform

Believe in Scotland, December. Facebook shares - 2,702

Keir Starmer, flanked by former-PM Gordon Brown, unveiled Labour’s plans for "UK constitutional reform".

"There is a clue in that first sentence as to why it’s not going to blunt moves towards Scottish independence. This report is about Labour reclaiming its so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats from the Tories and it offers nothing new for Scotland. In fact, it confirms that Labour are committed to Brexit and therefore the power grab that goes with it."

#10 Scots caught up in UK energy disaster look enviously at independent Nordic states

Business for Scotland, July. Facebook shares - 2,493

Anger mounted in Scotland across 2022 as energy prices soared for consumers while energy producers announce record profits.  Scotland now pays the highest electricity bills in the world. This article compared the Scottish situation to Nordic countries such as Finland where bills are much lower thanks to plentiful, cheap renewable energy. Scotland has the capacity to produce even more energy than the average of the Nordic countries – and it could export this to the UK and EU. 

Read the article

Other content that generated around 2,000 likes and shares includes

 

Media Watch: Times Scotland front page headline changed online after legal rubbishing

Frontpage headlines rarely cause laughter - unless on comics like the Broons.  But listeners to the press review on BBS Radio Scotland’s Sunday Show last weekend may have chuckled as reviewers joked about the Sunday Times Scotland's latest anti-independence splash.

Separately, a law professor condemned the editorial team behind the weekend’s splash headlines as “deeply unserious people” “more interested in scandal-mongering than checking the accuracy of their stories”.  

The story, which was later altered online, fell below the standards of a quality newspaper. On occasion, Times Scotland reads like an anti-independence propaganda sheet. It claims to reach 1.3 million Scots through its print and digital outlets, so this kind of bias is concerning. However, as support for independence rises, the paper may eventually have to change its stance. Proprietor Ruper Murdoch has stated publicly that Scottish independence “feels inevitable”. 

“Straightforwardly false” headlines altered in the online edition

The front page banner headline on the print edition read: “SNP’s indyref spending may be unlawful”. Law lecturer Andrew Tickell told listeners to BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship "Sunday Show" that it was “straightforwardly false”. He said:

“This is the idea we should never have had the court case in the first place, that the SNP should have ignored its mandate and never have gone to the Supreme Court and asked the question. The headline is straightforwardly false. It is not unlawful for them to spend money on this, that is not how the Scotland Act works, and they would know that if they had asked any experts in law to resolve it as Aileen McHarg a professor at Durham University was pointing out on Twitter earlier today.”

Tickell, a lecturer in jurisprudence at Glasgow Caledonian University and a columnist in the National, added, sardonically:

“Their legal source for this story was Alex Cole-Hamiton, who doubtless has many merits but legal education is not particularly among them.” 

“Deeply unserious people”

Professor of Public Law and Human Rights, Durham University, an expert in Scots & UK public law, Aileen McHarg condemned the idea that money spent clarifying a point of law could be retrospectively ruled unlawful if he case was lost, tweeting that It: “only requires a moment's thought to know that it's a ludicrous position to adopt.

“This is a cheap line advanced by people who obviously don't expect that they will actually be in a position where they would have to try to govern under these conditions any time soon. Deeply unserious politicians. And, I might add, a press more interested in scandal-mongering than checking the accuracy of their stories. Also deeply unserious people.”

Later, the online headline and story appeared to be changed to “Spending public money building case for independence ‘may be illegal’” and the story was dropped from the ‘Scotland’ section of the online edition. 

Later in the week the Times carried the headline “Whitehall investigates independence planning by Scots civil service” saying that Sue Gray is to look into the role of civil servants in independence planning. Further down the article the story’s importance was diminished by the explanation that: “the talks…are not seen by Whitehall as a formal review that will lead to reports being published.”

The Times Scotland falls below standard of “newspaper of record” 

The Times Scotland has always been an anti-independence paper - but presents itself as a source of reliable information. Recently, it appears to have sunk to the level of a downmarket tabloid. The headline last weekend was politically biased and not worthy of a newspaper that presents itself as a “newspaper of record”.  

Times owner Rupert Murdoch predicted Scottish independence

For pragmatic reasons, the newspaper may eventually change its stance.  Back in 2015, its owner Rupert Murdoch  Scottish independence was inevitable. He tweeted: 

“Scots may be crazy or not wanting self rule, but who can deny right of self determination? Feels inevitable over next few years.”

The newspaper reported that the first poll conducted in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling showed voters who favoured independence rose to 49 percent, an increase of five points compared with its survey in September 2021. Unionist support fell by two points to 45 percent.

The report concluded:

“The poll mostly made happy reading for the first minister, who has said that she will run the SNP campaign at the next general election as a single issue “de facto referendum”. If pro-independence parties win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, Sturgeon would assume this to be a mandate to begin negotiations with Downing Street about breaking up the UK.”

If the Times wants to continue to expand its readership it will need to reach out to younger audiences who primarily support independence. 

Top lawyer: UK refusal to negotiate with Scotland on independence “undemocratic”

Rising star in the field of Scottish and UK law Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, who is a fellow at Princeton in the US, argues the UK government risks undermining the rule of law and should change its stance to allow a referendum on Scottish independence. 

In a hard-hitting legal analysis in the current issue of Prospect magazine, Douglas-Scott writes: "The UK government’s refusal to negotiate the independence issue with Scotland (including to permit a referendum) is unreasonable". She goes on to argue that:

“By ignoring the mandate of a lawful government, the UK government’s conduct in this context also undermines the rule of law."

Douglas-Scott, who is also a chair of law at Queen Mary University in London, argues that democracy is a key constitutional principle. She writes:

“The UK government has undermined democracy by ignoring the SNP’s 2021 manifesto pledge to hold another referendum, the endorsement of that pledge by the Scottish people, as well as the vote in the Scottish parliament in January 2020 for a further referendum.”

Supreme Court wrong to dismiss the issue of self-determination

Douglas-Scott argues that the Supreme Court under its current President Lord Reed defined devolution too narrowly:

“The Reed Court inclines toward legal formalism—in that it takes a narrow reading of the rule of law, adopts a close reading of legal texts and eschews arguments which stray into broader issues (such as those relevant to Scottish independence which rest on the principle of democracy).”

Many Scots would have been surprised to read that the Supreme Court summarily dismissed the argument that Scotland has the right to self-determination under international law. It said that this right only belongs to a colony, that Scotland is clearly not a colony and has no right to “secede”. 

That begs the question - what is Scotland then? Is it merely a region of the UK or is it an ancient country which entered by agreement into a voluntary union?

Douglas-Scott argues it is the latter. She writes that “time and time again” the UK government has indicated that Scotland is a voluntary partner in the Union and has the right to consider its future.

“Through its own conduct over many years, the UK government has generated an expectation allowing for independence in principle. If the UK government refuses to countenance any new independence referendum, it will undermine the characterisation of the Union as voluntary. 

“Its behaviour will also fly in the face of history, reducing Scotland to the status of a colony or a region with no history of independent statehood, while undermining any claims (made by UK government ministers) for the exceptional, “family” nature of Union.” 

The Union is an ongoing agreement between two independent nations

Douglas-Scott argues that the Treaty of Union was not a one-off act but the basis for an ongoing agreement between two nations. 

“Constitutional relations between Scotland and England have existed for over 300 years, since the UK was established by a Treaty of Union between two sovereign states, which was then ratified by two Acts of Union in the respective parliaments. 

“But this relationship, and the issue of consent of both parties to it, is an ongoing one, not something over and done with thanks to an Act of Union three centuries old. Since 1707, Scotland has maintained its own distinct civic institutions, legal system, church and cultural heritage—all factors which point to the Union as a continuing agreement between two independent nations.”

Scotland must demonstrate support for independence

Douglas-Scott argues that:

“All these arguments must be supported by evidence that the Scottish people desire to exercise their right to self-determination and leave the Union.”

Douglas-Scott acknowledges that Scots were misled in the 2014 referendum:

“During that campaign, the pro-UK Better Together alliance conspicuously argued that Scotland could only retain its EU membership by remaining in the UK. This was not so; and since then, Brexit has taken place. In the 2016 EU referendum, Scotland voted 62 percent in favour of Remain. Although the Scottish government protested that it was undemocratic for Scotland to be taken out of the EU against its will, this argument was ignored by the UK government, and the whole UK exited the EU on 31st January 2020.”

A referendum would be the clearest way to demonstrate the desire for independence, but there is precedent for using a general election to give voters a voice on a single issue.

“The 1910 general election was fought on the issue of the Liberal government’s “People’s Budget”. The 1918 general election was fought by Sinn Féin on a manifesto commitment to establish an Irish Republic.” 

Conclusion

According to Douglas-Scott’s analysis, the UK government is acting unreasonably when it refuses to negotiate over a referendum on Scottish independence. The Supreme Court took a narrow, procedural view in its judgment and refused to consider the broader issue of democratic principles.

Denying Scotland the right to self-determination and to consider its future “flies in the face of history”. The Union is an ongoing agreement between two independent nations. 

Douglas-Scott still argues that the UK government should change its mind and allow a referendum on independence. But if the referendum route continues to be blocked, the Scottish government can legitimately use the next general election to test support for independence. 

Further Reading

The UK Supreme Court has not settled the Scottish independence question by Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Prospect Magazine

Scotland scunnered with rule by House of so-called “Lords”

A proposal that Scotland’s Secretary of State Alister Jack should postpone taking up his controversial peerage until the next general election in order to avoid a by-election in his marginal seat of Dumfries and Galloway is being condemned as an attempt to play the system, in a new scandal for the UK’s unelected Upper House.

Disgraced former PM Boris Johnson is handing out 20 more places in the “Lords”, which will take the number of sitting members above 800 (830 total). The House of  so-called “Lords”, the second-largest legislative chamber in the world behind the Chinese National People's Congress, is so undemocratic that it could potentially bar the UK from rejoining the EU in the future.

Johnson used his “resignation honours” list to nominate the former cabinet ministers Nadine Dorries, Nigel Adams and Alok Sharma, and Alister Jack, the Scotland secretary, to the “Lords” but arranged for them to defer taking their peerages until after the next election. The SNP.s Mhairi Black spoke for many Scots when she told Jack in a recent Commons debate “I won’t take lessons on democracy from a soon-to-be-unelected ‘Baron’.” A tweeted video of her comment went viral and was listed on Trendsmap as a top global tweet. 

Experts have warned that Jack and the other Ministers’ by-election avoidance plan could have wide-ranging constitutional implications. The Times reported that “Lord” Cormack, a Tory peer, said it showed a “cavalier disregard for the constitution”.

The new list includes former editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre, despite Dacre being blocked by the House of “Lords” Appointment Commission on a previous list, and David Ross, the multi-millionaire Carphone Warehouse founder who was forced to quit as a City Hall aide over a share-selling scandal.

Scotland diverges from House of so-called “Lords”

Scottish political life has diverged from the House of “Lords” in recent decades - not one single peer supports Scottish independence, for example. Scottish MPs from the SNP do not sit in the “Lords” - unlike those from the Unionist parties. There are 27 members of the Scottish Labour group in the unelected Upper House.

Members don’t get a salary but they claim an allowance of £323 plus expenses for each day they attend - about the same as Universal Credit pays per month for a single person. Last year the House of “Lords” cost almost £120 million - a population share of which is charged to Scotland’s accounts and fattens Scotland’s notional “deficit”.

“Lords” does not meet the “Copenhagen Criteria” for EU membership

In 2010, the then Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described the House of “Lords” as a “democratic aberration” and said it could prevent the UK from joining the EU. Back then there were only 700 members.

Clegg said “It’s totally preposterous that we have a second chamber which is basically a plaything for political patronage – if that existed in other countries that were applying to the European Union, we would be saying ‘sorry you can’t have that because it doesn’t conform to European standards of democracy'”.

The criteria for countries joining the EU today are set out in the “Copenhagen criteria” and it is hard to see how a country ruled by the House of “Lords” could meet the bar. It states that:

“Functional democratic governance requires that all citizens of the country should be able to participate, on an equal basis, in the political decision making at every single governing level, from local municipalities up to the highest, national, level. This also requires free elections with a secret ballot.”

The half-reformed House of “Lords” put shadowy patronage in place of heredity

The House of so–called “Lords” has never been democratic but in recent years it has become more and more subject to the PM’s personal patronage, with little in the way of checks and balances. Since the 1999 Reform Act, when the Labour Party under Tony Blair abolished the rights of 600 hereditary peers to sit in the Upper House, new peers have been entirely appointed, largely by the head of the ruling party. (What was touted as a democratic reform was seen by some as a Labour power grab, as hereditary peers tended not to support Labour.) 

The advice of the appointments committee has been overruled by Boris Johnson more than once. He ennobled Evgeny Lebedev, who is bankrolled by his Russian oligarch father, Alexander; and Peter Cruddas who the “Lords” appointment committee said was not fit for office. Tory donor Malcolm Offord  was made a peer and appointed to the Scottish Office after failing to win an election in Scotland.  

The Labour Party’s plans to reform the House of so-called “Lords” are already facing push-back. Labour peer “Lord” Mandelson objected to them on the BBC’s flagship “the World this Weekend” and the current issue of Labour magazine Prospect carries an article by influential think-tank member Meg Russell arguing that tiny-footstep small-scale changes would be more realistic. 

An independent Scotland could get out from under the weight of the House of “Lords”

The Labour Party’s attempt to reform the House of “Lords” in 1999 actually left it worse than before - Boris Johnson has demonstrated how the leader of the ruling party can appoint peers without any democratic oversight. 

Members of the House of so-called “Lords” have the constitutional right to debate and amend laws affecting Scotland. The Scottish government does not. That is not fair, it is not democratic and it is also an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money. 

There will be no unelected second house in an independent Scotland. 

Ten things you need to know about the Supreme Court judgment - and the response

The UK Supreme Court jugment that the Scottish government doesn’t have the legal right to hold a referendum is a huge milestone in the road to independence. It gives clarity over the nature of the Union; it ends this potentially time-consuming legal stage promptly and puts the question of Scotland’s independence firmly back into the political sphere. Here are ten takeaways from the judgment and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s statement in response. 

1 Scotland’s independence movement respects the judgment of the Court

The judges were ruling on a matter of existing law. They don’t make the rules - they only apply them. Unlike the infamous attack by the Daily Mail on three judges involved in a High Court challenge to Brexit, when it ran their photos under the headline “Enemies of the People”, Scotland’s independence movement respects the rule of law. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said in her response to today’s judgment:

“We must be clear today that the Supreme Court does not make the law – it interprets and applies it. If the devolution settlement in the Scotland Act is inconsistent with any reasonable notion of Scottish democracy – as is now confirmed to be the case – that is the fault of Westminster lawmakers, not the justices of the Supreme Court.” 

2 Only a lawful, democratic and peaceful approach will achieve successful independence

Nicola Sturgeon said that maintaining respect for the rule of law is vital for Scotland’s eventual success.

“That principle also reflects a practical reality – the route we take must be lawful and democratic for independence to be achieved.”

3 The Supreme Court did not rule on whether Scotland should become an independent country

The question the Supreme Court was asked - was: Does Holyrood have the power under the Scotland Act to hold a consultative referendum? The court decided unanimously that it does not without a section 30 order, like the one agreed for the 2014 referendum.

Presiding Judge Lord Reed said: “The Court is not asked, and cannot be asked, to express a view on the political question of whether Scotland should become an independent country. Its task is solely to decide on the provisions of the Scotland Act”. 

4 The democratic mandate for independence is as strong as ever

In her response, Nicola Sturgeon said the judgment means that without a Section 30 order “the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for the referendum the people of Scotland have instructed it to deliver. That is a hard pill for any supporter of independence – and surely indeed for any supporter of democracy – to swallow.” But she went on to reiterate the democratic basis for the request. 

“The Court was not asked to decide if there is a democratic mandate for a referendum. The mandate and parliamentary majority for a referendum is undeniable. Nor was the Court asked if Scotland should be independent. Only the Scottish people can be the judge of that.”

5  Any referendum on Scottish independence would carry great democratic weight 

The Scottish government argued that a referendum that was simply about consulting the people of Scotland and was not binding on the UK government could be allowed. But the Supreme Court disagreed. It said that while it may not be legally binding, it would be of huge political significance and could weaken the UK Parliament’s sovereignty over Scotland. 

Lord Reed said:

” A lawfully-held referendum would have important political consequences relating to the Union and the UK parliament. Its outcome would possess the authority -  in a political constitution and culture founded upon democracy - of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate. It would either strengthen or weaken the democratic legitimacy of the Union and of the UK Parliament's sovereignty over Scotland.”

6 A majority vote for independence in a general election will carry the same democratic weight

That presumably will also apply to the next general election. If more than half of the voters in that contest vote for a party standing for independence, that will also carry the weight of a democratic expression of the will of the Scottish people. 

Nicola Sturgeon reiterated the SNP’s determination to seek a way for Scotland to express its democratic will on this question:

“We must and will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will.In my view, that can only be an election The next national election scheduled for Scotland is the UK General Election, making it both the first and the most obvious opportunity to seek what I described back in June as a de facto referendum.” 

7 The Supreme Court ruled Scotland can’t claim the international right to self-determination

The Scottish National Party made separate submissions to the Supreme Court in the case. It argued that Scotland could claim the right to self-determination under international law and that this should affect how the Scotland Act is interpreted. They quoted strong representations that the UK government had made to the UN in support of the principle of self-determination in other cases, such as Kosovo and the Falkland Isles. 

But the Supreme Court rejected that. They interpreted cases over Quebec, Kosovo and the Falklands to mean that this right only applies to former colonies or where a people is oppressed under foreign military occupation,  or where a defined group is denied equal access to government. The court said this position did not apply to Scotland. 

8 So an ancient country with a voluntary Treaty has less right to self-determination than a colony?

So on the one hand, the Court said Scotland is not like a former colony, but on the other that it does not have the sovereignty to hold a referendum on its independence from the UK. That is a paradox.

Scotland is not a colony but a country with a long history, which entered into an international Treaty of Union with the UK. Surely that should make it easier, not harder to leave the Union?

9 The Supreme Court’s judgment changes the nature of the Union

The Supreme Court’s judgment means that it appears that the United Kingdom can no longer be seen as a voluntary Union. In her response, Nicola Sturgeon said that while some Unionists would crow over what they saw as a victory, others would be concerned. 

“That is because they will understand that this judgment raises profound and deeply uncomfortable questions about the basis and future of the United Kingdom. Until now, it has been understood and accepted – by opponents of independence as well as by its supporters – that the UK is a voluntary partnership of nations.

“The Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs back in 1950 said this: “Scotland is a nation and voluntarily entered into the Union as a partner”. That sentiment was echoed nearly 60 years later by the cross-party Calman Commission which described the UK as “a voluntary union and partnership”. And it was reinforced in 2014 by the Smith Commission which made clear that “nothing in its report prevented Scotland becoming an independent country should the people of Scotland so choose. What today’s ruling tells us, however, is that the Scotland Act does not in fact uphold that long-held understanding of the basis of the relationships that constitute the UK – on the contrary, it shatters that understanding completely."

10  Independence is the only way for Scotland to become an equal partner in Britain's "family of nations"

Back in 2014, Scotland was told to "lead not leave" and that it was voting to remain in a partnership of equals. telling Scotland it now has no choice is likely to increase support for independence.

Independence support has already been increased by the disastrous Brexit that has been foisted upon Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon's statement said that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, Brexit is costing public revenues in Scotland upwards of £3.2 billion a year. Low-income households in the UK are now 22 percent poorer than their counterparts in France, and 21 percent poorer than in Germany. Independence is needed for Scotland to achieve its potential - the UK is holding Scotland back. 

Let’s be blunt: a so-called partnership in which one partner is denied the right to choose a different future – or even to ask itself the question —cannot be described in any way as voluntary...And that exposes a situation that is quite simply unsustainable. In the words of former Tory Prime Minister, John Major: “No nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will Indeed, perhaps what today’s judgment confirms more than anything else, is that the only guarantee for Scotland of equality within the British family of nations is through independence – that fact is now clearer than ever before.” 

Conclusion 

The Supreme Court’s judgment ends the legal stage of the fight for Scotland’s independence. Scotland is a country with a long and proud history. If her people want to leave the Union that was entered into by a political treaty, then that is a democratic right. 

The Supreme Court made clear that the voice of the Scottish people will carry huge political weight. If there cannot be a specific referendum on independence, that voice will be heard at the next General Election. 

Two-thirds of Scots think the UK will not exist in ten years, Ipsos polling shows

Almost two-thirds of Scots say the UK will break up within a decade, and half think it will take just five years, according to a new poll by Ipsos Mori. 

Half of Scots want Scotland to vote for independence, with another 4% saying they don’t mind either way.

And despite the constant onslaught by Unionist politicians and media, most Scots say an independent Scotland will be either more prosperous or equally as prosperous as it is under Westminster rule. 

Independence on 50% - with 4% saying they “don’t mind either way”

Asked if they would prefer Scotland to vote for or against independence, 50% of Scots said ‘for’, 43% ‘against’ with 4% saying they don’t mind either way and 2% ‘don’t know’. 

In Northern Ireland, less than half - 43% said they would like Scotland to vote ‘against’ independence with 26% saying they ‘don’t mind either way’ and 28% saying ‘for’. In Wales and England, a slim majority of 54% wanted Scotland to vote against independence. 

Only a quarter of Scots think the UK will last a decade in its current form

Asked if the UK will still exist in its current form in ten years, just a quarter of Scots, 26%, think it will, with 13% saying they don’t know, and 61% saying it will have broken up. And in just five years, less than half of Scots (42%) think the UK will still exist:  49% say it won’t still exist and 9% don’t know.

A majority of people in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England agree that the UK will have ceased to exist in its present form within a decade. Even in England, less than half - 46% - predict the UK will still exist in its current form in five years - down from 51% six months ago.  If you take the timeline to 20 years, only around 20% in England and 11% in Northern Ireland say the UK will still exist in its current form. 

Independent Scotland will either be better off or the same, say most Scots

More than half of Scots say that an independent Scotland would be either more prosperous (43%)  or equally as wealthy (10%)  as under Westminster rule, with less than half, 43% thinking independent Scotland would be worse off and 4% ticking ‘don’t know’.  

In England, however, 58% of people think an independent Scotland would be worse off - but only 50% of those surveyed in Wales and 45% of those in Northern Ireland agree. The percentage of ‘don’t knows’ was higher in the other three UK countries than Scotland, at between 12 and 14%.

The rest of the UK more likely to be worse off when Scotland becomes independent

In all four nations, people are more likely to think the economies of the rest of the Union would be worse off (37%) than better off (20%) if Scotland became independent, with 45% of Scots saying that the rest of the UK will be worse off after independence.

There is widespread concern about the current state of the UK economy: 80% of Scots expect the general economic condition of the UK to worsen in the next 12 months, compared to 73% in February 2022. They are only slightly more optimistic about Scotland: 73% expect Scotland’s general economic condition to get worse over the year ahead, compared to 68% earlier this year.

Independence support is higher than average in this new poll. 

The poll did not ask the standard Yes/No question on Scottish independence, opting rather to ask if people would prefer Scotland voted for or against independence.  This will be due to the fact that it was a UK-wide poll.  The figures for Scotland were 50% would prefer Scotland voted for independence versus 43% against. 4% had no preference and 2% were undecided.  Now that adds up to 99% and we don't know where the rounding effect impacts so we can’t be 100% certain but we can estimate that this would result in 53% Yes 47% No as things stand.   

This data was collected by Ipsos’s UK Knowledge Panel, a random probability panel which provides gold-standard insights into the UK population.  Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 6,944 people over the age of 16 in the UK online from 13th to 19th October 2022. 

The findings echo other recent polls showing Scotland moving towards independence

The polling echoes recent findings that most Scots have much more trust in the Scottish government than in Westminster. A poll by Panelbase for Believe in Scotland in October found that 50% of Scottish voters had more trust in the economic competence of the Holyrood government than in the UK Government. Only 28% had more trust in Westminster’s economic competence and 22% answered that they didn’t know.

Also published last month, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows that Scottish voters increasingly say they don’t trust Westminster to act in Scotland’s best interests. Two-thirds of respondents think that they can trust the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s interests, compared to just 22% who say the same about the UK Government. 

It also confirms the long-term trend towards independence. Over the last decade, the number of Scots supporting independence has gone from around 28% to above 50%. The Social Attitudes survey began in 1997 and can map the trends since then.  Ipsos Mori confirms the trend, with polling starting back in 1979, when support for independence stood at just 14%. 

This recent data shows that Scots are growing in confidence and starting to look towards an independent future, where it will elect its own governments all of the time.