Pages tagged with "independence"

Media Watch - Scotland’s mainstream media ignores the downside of dodgy trade deals

July 27, 2022

“I have negotiated dozens of trade deals”, candidate for PM Liz Truss said in a debate on BBC TV this week. 

Since Brexit, the UK has rolled over existing EU deals covering 63 countries. It is not true to say that Truss negotiated these - they were already in place,  negotiated by the EU, and have simply been allowed to continue after Brexit. So far, Truss has negotiated a handful of trade deals. These are potentially very bad for Scotland - but that is not being reported fairly. 

The UK government is offering open access to Scottish markets for intensive, low-welfare farmers, echoing ‘The Great Betrayal’" of the 1920s, which decimated Scottish agriculture. They have signed these deals on Scotland's behalf without consent or consultation with Scotland's elected representatives. 

Promises over “safeguards” for Scottish farmers have been broken - with no scrutiny

Instead, over the last year, BBC Scotland and other Unionist media outlets have given space to vague promises that there will be safeguards for Scottish producers.  But these safeguards have not materialised and that is being brushed under the carpet without scrutiny. 

Truss trade deals - four not dozens

Liz Truss’ government has so far negotiated just four new trade deals, covering six countries. These are with Japan, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, Australia and New Zealand. But there are fears these are the gateway to the UK Government signing more destructive and desperate deals. 

Deals with New Zealand and Australia threaten Scottish food producers

Trade deals with New Zealand and Australia will see quotas for tariff-free lamb and other produce increased sharply over the next 15 years before it becomes a tariff-free, quota-free free for all. Because Australia and New Zealand don't work to the same standards on climate, environment and welfare and because they farm more intensively that allows them to potentially undercut Scottish farmers. While the idea of cheap imports may seem attractive in the short term, in the long term it threatens to damage the Scottish food-producing sector, food security and the wider economy. 

There was anger in the House of Commons last week when the UK Government forbade Parliament from discussing the terms of the Australian trade deal before it is ratified -  despite an earlier promise by Liz Truss that it would face Parliamentary scrutiny. 

Scottish MP Drew Hendry said the Government’s own research showed that Australia’s lower standards on deforestation, animal welfare and climate lets it produce cheaper food that will undercut Scottish produce. 

The Scottish Farmer said the deal “offers nothing but pain” for Scotland’s farmers and crofters. Scottish NFU president Martin Kennedy said: “Our fears that the process adopted by the UK Government in agreeing the Australia deal would set a dangerous precedent going forward have been realised…

“This latest deal offers virtually nothing to Scottish farmers and crofters in return but risks undermining our valuable lamb, beef, dairy and horticultural sectors by granting access to large volumes of imported goods. As with the Australian deal, a cap on tariff-free imports is merely a slow journey to allow NZ, a major exporter of food and drink, unfettered access to food and drink UK markets."

But Scottish food producers’ woes are not being reported by the mainstream UK media. 

A clip of New Zealand TV contrasted the reaction of “jubilant Kiwi farmers” with the despair of those facing unfair competition from producers meeting lower environmental and welfare standards has been widely shared on social media. 

People find it hard to believe that the NZ media is offering more coverage of the downside of the deal than the UK. It said: “The deal will see Kiwi meat imported without tariffs, and UK farmers say they get nothing in return. They fear it will change their businesses dramatically.’ UK farmers told the news show that they feel as if they are the “sacrificial lambs” of the deal. 

Sustainable business advisor Brendan May commented: “New Zealand television is completely mystified by the amazing Brexit trade deal Liz Truss keeps boasting about. They can’t understand why she would want to make British farmers poorer and theirs richer. Even the winning side can’t fathom it.”

The deals echo ‘the great betrayal” of the 1920s which decimated Scottish agriculture

Those with a knowledge of Scottish history will remember “the great betrayal” of 1921 when the UK Government abandoned support for agriculture and fishing - believing it could be replaced by cheap imports from the Empire. In the following decade, food production collapsed and Scotland lost 8% of its population (compared to 5% in England) due to emigration by desperate people, many of whom simply abandoned their crofts and farms.

Scottish agriculture is already a big loser from Brexit -  it is gradually losing EU funding from the Common Agricultural Policy, which moves some of the cost of food production from the consumer to the tax payer. The UK’s replacement scheme will be far less generous. The loss of easy access to EU markets, and the end of free movement of labour is also damaging Scotland’s food producers. 

The Scottish Government has criticised the UK Government’s level of engagement with the devolved governments. There has been no consultation on the negotiation process, nor on the crucial detail about tariffs and goods market access on any of the deals which the UK government has negotiated.

Unlike Quebec, which is able to scrutinise and ratify Canada’s international trade deals, Scotland has no voice. The Internal Markets Act means the UK government can make any deal it likes in Scotland’s name, without consultation or consent. 

Scotland is being let down by the media which is failing to report both sides of the story

The media is supposed to serve the people - but Scotland’s Unionist media is failing to report on the people who are being harmed by these trade deals, to scrutinise politicians’ promises, or to consider the potential for long-term harm to Scotland's interests. 

"Scottish democracy can’t be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any other Prime Minister"

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in Parliament today that there will be a second independence referendum to be held on Thursday, October 19th, 2023. 

Nicola Sturgeon said the referendum has already been referred to the Supreme Court, by the Lord Advocate. She hopes it will be allowed, without a section 30 order from the UK government,  but said 

“If it does transpire that there is no lawful way for this Parliament to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum and if  the UK Government continues to deny a section 30 order,  my party will fight the next general election on this single question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?”” 

Here are some key points from the speech. 

1 “We say ‘Yes’ and we are the people”

There was a long struggle to establish a Scottish Parliament. Those who strived for it were committed to the right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. 

The Scottish Constitutional Convention laid the groundwork for devolution. It  asked: “What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying: ‘we say No and we are the state?” 

Nicola Sturgeon quoted Canon Kenyon Wright’s “simple and powerful” response - “Well we say yes and we are the people”.

2 Inspired - and informed - by the example of other independent countries

Scotland should be inspired when it looks at the performance of independent countries across Europe that are comparable to it. They are doing much better on a range of metrics. This demonstrates that Scotland over generations has paid a price for not being independent.  

Westminster governments Scotland didn't elect have imposed policies Scotland didn’t support, holding Scotland back from fulfilling its potential. 

3 The Conservatives have only 10% of Scotland’s MPs - yet they ripped us out of the EU

Despite having only 6 Scottish MPs, the Conservatives have been able to rip Scotland out of the EU. Businesses and public services are struggling for staff because freedom of movement has ended, and young Scots have been deprived of opportunities. 

The Conservatives have created the worst cost of living crisis in the G7 and the second-lowest growth in the G20.  They are also demonising workers, stoking industrial strife and provoking a trade war. 

4 The Scottish Government doesn’t have the levers it needs

Many look to the Scottish government for leadership. But it doesn't have the levers it needs to shape Scotland’s economy and grow the country’s wealth 

Mitigating damage is not enough - the Scottish government can’t prevent its budget being cut. It can’t stop the UK government pushing thousands of children deeper into poverty with the stroke of a pen. It can’t protect human rights or prevent anti-trade union legislation being enacted

5 Now is the time to build a fairer, green, wealthier Scotland 

Independence will allow Scotland to chart her own course, to build a fairer, greener, wealthier country.  It will allow Scotland to be guided by values and interests that are shared by more of its people. 

Now is the time to get Scotland on the right path, the path chosen by those who live here. An independent Scotland can be outward-looking and internationalist. 

6 "Scottish democracy can’t be allowed to be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any other Prime Minister"

The UK Government is refusing to respect Scottish democracy. The Scottish Parliament has a clear mandate for a new independence referendum. But the legality is contested by those opposed to independence. The Lord Advocate has already set the wheels in motion for the Supreme Court to decide if the referendum will be legal. If not, it won’t happen.

"If the referendum is disallowed it will end any

idea that the union is a voluntary union of equals." 

7 Believe in Scotland

Let’s make a positive case for independence. Let the opposition make the case for continued Westminster rule and then let the people decide.

Independence means trusting the talents and ingenuity of people who live here. Scotland has unrivaled energy, extraordinary natural heritage, a strong basis in the industries of the future, brilliant universities and colleges, a highly skilled and creative population.  Many independent countries don’t have the resources Scotland is blessed with. It's time to believe in Scotland!

The day that Britain died - rights ripped from Scotland’s devolution settlement 

History may record that Britain finally died the day the UK Government decided to rip the European Convention on Human Rights from the heart of Scotland’s devolution settlement.

The leader of the group which drew up the Convention, in 1950, was a Scottish lawyer, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe. As a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, David had seen first-hand how international justice could be effectively applied to support universal rights for individuals. He guided the draft, which has influenced the understanding of human rights throughout Europe ever since. 

At one time, this Convention would have been regarded as the bedrock of British values. But now the Government in Westminster seeks to cross out the bits it doesn’t like. It has declared its intention to remove these from the Scotland Act without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. 

Perhaps history will record that the values enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights turned out to be Scottish values and that English values are rather different. 

Fundamental disregard for the devolution settlement 

The Convention was used to halt a flight deporting refugees against their will to Rwanda, and now the UK Government intends to excise sections from British law. The changes it intends to make include removing the right to trial by jury - for indidviduals the Government doesn’t like. 

The Bill makes clear that the UK Government intends to amend the Scotland Act of 1998 by replacing all references to the Convention with the UK Government’s own Bill - that will clearly have to take place without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. That shows a fundamental disregard for the principle that the devolution settlement would be respected, and should not be changed by Westminster against the will of Holyrood.

The UK Government has decided not to submit its Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny by the House of Commons or the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has made it clear it doesn't recognize any sovereignty for Holyrood so it doesn't matter if the Scottish people and their representatives consent or not.

Those who voted No in 2014 believing assurances by Unionist parties that the devolution settlement would be respected have every right to feel betrayed. 

The referendum for the Scottish Parliament had overwhelming support

The battle for Home Rule had been raging for a century or more when, in 1979, Scotland voted in favor of a Scottish Assembly. Despite the fact that the margin for Yes was similar to Brexit, Scotland didn’t get its own Parliament because a clause had been inserted by the then Labour government that said 40% of the electorate had to vote ‘yes’ in order to succeed.

So throughout the subsequent 18 years of Conservative rule, Scotland’s governance was left entirely in the hands of Westminster. Most of the time, the ruling party didn’t have enough Scottish MPs to fill the Grand Committee so it was packed with English MPs from the Shires who knew little and cared less about Scottish affairs.

Scotland’s industries, many of which had been thriving in the post-war years, were decimated. Workers were let down by a complacent, London-based managerial elite and didn't have the government backing other small countries had. Economically, socially and culturally, Scotland struggled, feeling its own powerlessness and lack of ability to influence Westminster’s policies. 

In 1997, the Labour government was swept into power. It was led by several prominent Scots, (including Donald Dewar)  who had promised to introduce - finally - Home Rule for Scotland. The referendum of 1997 was greeted with an overwhelming yes - 75% of the vote. 

The Scotland Act of 1998 was based on the shared values of the Convention

The Scotland Act of 1998 was supposed to be the bedrock of a new relationship within the UK.  Woven into it was the European Convention of Human Rights, representing a framework of shared values on which to build a strong democratic Union. 

That dream died with Brexit. The UK Government removed Scotland from the European Union against its will, without consent or consultation. Since then it has taken every opportunity to undermine the devolution settlement, repatriating powers to itself with a series of Acts starting with the Internal Markets Act.

This new plan demonstrates that Holyrood has no sovereignty. The Scottish parliament is powerless to defend the rights of Scottish citizens.

A “deeply regressive” Bill

The Scottish Human Rights Commission called the provisions  "deeply regressive". It has particular concerns about the following proposals in the bill: 

  • directing national courts as to how to interpret and apply human rights, which it says would interfere with the role of courts, undermine the separation of powers, and reduce accountability for breaches of rights;
  • decoupling UK courts’ interpretation of Convention rights from the European Court of Human Rights, which will introduce confusion and uncertainty for rights holders and duty bearers alike, and may further reduce rights protection;
  • requiring a rights holder to demonstrate "significant disadvantage" before being permitted to pursue a remedy for a breach of their human rights in court, which would "severely undermine the development of a rights-respecting culture and the international human rights requirement to provide an adequate remedy for all human rights breaches";
  • requiring UK courts to take into account the wider conduct of rights holders, undermining the universality of human rights, a fundamental principle of human rights law; and
  • the impact of repealing the Human Rights Act in Scotland – the Act is embedded into the Scotland Act, and "The potential impact of repealing the Human Rights Act, in terms of the fulfillment of human rights in Scotland, does not appear to have been adequately considered."

The Law Society of Scotland's President Murray Etherington said:“For over 70 years we have benefited from the protections offered by the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 those rights have been built into UK and Scottish law and it is vital that they are not diminished as a result of new legislation.”

There are of course many English people who are also concerned, and see the damage that is being done, although many of the same people supported or facilitated Brexit, despite knowing it was not supported by Scotland or Northern Ireland. Edward Garnier QC, former solicitor-general warned in a column in the Times that: 

The Bill of Rights will “further bolster the concerns of those who believe with some justification that this government has a reckless disregard for domestic and international law.”

 

The moral case for independence - should Scotland allow itself to be represented by lawbreakers?

The UK Government’s draft law to illegally set aside part of the Northern Ireland protocol threatens to cause reputational and economic damage to Scotland as well as to the rest of the UK. It also creates a moral argument for independence - should Scotland allow itself to be represented in foreign affairs by lawbreakers? For as long as Scotland remains part of the Union, we effectively allow the UK to speak for us. 

The UK government is taking a recklessly one-sided position over Northern Ireland  - it fails to recognise that the majority of those elected in Northern Ireland’s recent elections support the protocol, including many business people from both sides of the divide, who recognise that Northern Ireland is doing better economically than ever before - second only to London in the recent ONS growth figures

Having access to the EU via an open border with Ireland whilst having a border between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland has massively boosted Northern Ireland's economy compared to the rest of Brexit-damaged Britain.  This is the case study that the UK Government wants to destroy. 

The Republic of Ireland supports the protocol, which is helping to mitigate some of the economic damage Brexit threatened. The Scottish government also supports the protocol - indeed it asked for something similar but was ignored. The EU supports the protocol and so does the USA. 

The draft bill “has been declared illegal by the most prominent legal minds in the UK.”

It is no surprise to anyone that leaving the EU single market created a difficult situation with Ireland, where there is a contested territory that was created by the UK in dubious circumstances a century ago. The UK government in 2020 signed up to a deal that placed the border between the UK and the EU in the Irish Sea, instead of across the island of Ireland. It was a compromise position to respect the Good Friday Agreement. 

And yet the UK Government has now introduced a draft bill to set this on its head which even moderate Conservatives recognise is illegal. The Financial Times Policy Editor Peter Foster wrote this week in an article entitled “UK’s approach to solving the protocol problems is illegal”  that the draft bill “has been declared illegal both in Brussels and by a clear balance of the most prominent legal minds in the UK.”

Some commentators see the draft bill as a dog’s breakfast which will never become law, at least in its current state. In order to foster her leadership ambitions, Liz Truss allowed it to be dictated by the right-wing, Brexit-ultra European Research Group: ‘“The ERG was driving it,” said one former Tory cabinet minister. Johnson, also relying on ERG support to keep him in Downing Street, could not afford to be outflanked by a leadership rival and so seized on the idea.’

But it went too far even for Johnson: “By the time Truss presented the latest draft to the “global Britain strategy” meeting of cabinet ministers last week, even Johnson chided his foreign secretary for giving too much ground to the ERG.” It was watered down somewhat with a residual, advisory role left for the European Court of Justice and some scope for NI businesses to use a dual regulatory approach, effectively adopting the higher standard of the EU over the UK. 

The DUP has not committed to participate in power-sharing at Stormont even if it is passed

The legislation itself is likely to face a rocky road to becoming law, it will be batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords. Even if the bill were to become law before the next general election, which will be in 2024 at the latest,  it would be unlikely to satisfy the demands of the Democratic Unionist Party.  

The DUP has given no commitments that even this Bill would be enough to persuade it to participate in power-sharing with Sinn Fein at Stormont. The DUP is no longer the largest party in Northern Ireland and a slow demographic shift in the province means it is unlikely ever to be the largest party again. 

EU retaliation is already damaging Scotland

The EU has already started to retaliate - by barring UK and Scottish research scientists from the world’s biggest funding stream. Scotland’s Universities tend to punch above their weight in terms of research grants and this is a major blow. The Guardian reported that 16 of the UK’s top research teams have already indicated they will move their work to Europe to keep the prestigious funding awards - it didn’t name them or give their locations. 

Brussels has launched legal action against the UK over the Northern Ireland protocol. The European Commission has announced it will resume a previously paused legal action against the UK for failing to implement full border checks for goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain.  

Anger is mounting in the US

The US officially reacted calmly to the draft Bill this week, saying it will proceed with trade talks and: "The U.S. priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast Good Friday agreement”, but there are signs of increasing anger. Bob Menendez, Democratic chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, called Johnson’s decision “an irresponsible move that threatens the 24 years of peace”. 

The UK Government appears to be risking what it once called ‘the special relationship” and regarded as an important post-Brexit trading opportunity for ideological reasons. Scotland has a dog in this fight - for example, whisky exports could be at risk if the UK continues to act in this reckless and irresponsible way.

Scotland is part of a UK that disregards its obligations

But, more importantly,  as part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is being represented internationally by a Government that is  breaking the law and disregarding obligations that it signed up to. 

The UK Government is effectively trying to bully Ireland into accepting a situation that is clearly inimical to its interests. But for once, Ireland is not alone at the negotiating table, as it was a century ago when the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1921 was signed. 

An independent Scotland could distance itself from a reckless UK Government that has no electoral mandate in Scotland for its chaotic adventurism. But, for as long as it remains part of the Union, the UK Government speaks for Scotland in international affairs. The economic and reputational damage is already evident and may worsen. 

Ten reasons Scotland can't afford to stay in the UK any longer

Campaigners for the union try to make people fear that independence somehow risks damaging Scotland’s prosperity. Indeed, it sometimes appears to be their only tactic. All the evidence suggests that Scotland has what it takes to thrive as an independent nation - it will be the most advanced and wealthiest nation ever to achieve its independence. Within the Union, Scotland is not as wealthy as many similar-sized northern European nations, many of whom lack Scotland's massive natural wealth and economic advantages. In fact, it trails behind even Northern Ireland in terms of growth. There is a cost to staying in the UK too, both in financial terms and in the opportunity cost. The Union Scotland is failing to realise its true potential and it looks set to continue on that path for as long as it is held back by a combination of Westminster incompetence and a lack of care for Scotland's interests.

1 The windfall tax on Scottish assets is bailing out the UK

The windfall tax on oil and gas companies' profits, combined with tax takes from the energy companies and petrol taxes levied at the pump are going to raise billions for the UK Treasury. Bloomberg reported the Treasury will collect £12 billion of tax from the oil and gas sector in 2022 - before adding the £5 billion windfall tax. That does not include fuel duties on petrol and heating oil which are expected to raise £26.2 billion this year.

This money is being raised largely from Scotland’s natural assets. And yet Scots pay more than anyone else in the UK to fuel their cars and heat their homes. To add insult to injury, headlines at the time of the last independence referendum told voters Scotand’s oil was about to run out. ​​In May 2014, one of the BBC’s leading stories reported “In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas.

The windfall tax also carries a tax ‘super-deductible’ that is designed to encourage more fossil fuel extraction. The UK Government is continuing a half century of mismanaging Scotland’s energy potential the same way. 

2 The UK Government has demonstrated it can’t be trusted to invest fairly

In an act of breathtaking political hubris, the UK Government passed over the Acorn carbon capture project in one of Europe’s biggest energy producing areas, Aberdeen. The Scottish Cluster – comprised of major industrial emitters, as well Acorn’s developers Storegga Geotechnologies, Shell and Harbour Energy – would have been an obvious choice for the technology. Instead, the UK Government decided to invest in marginal constituencies in the North of England. They demonstrated they cannot be trusted to help Scotland realise its potential to become the renewables powerhouse of northern Europe. 

3 For Scotland to realise its green energy potential requires a massive investment in the national grid

Scotland could power the whole UK and more. The Northern Isles alone could power the whole of Scotland. Right now, wind farms in Orkney have to pay financial penalties for creating more energy than the outdated grid can take. It doesn't matter how much tidal, wind and hydro energy they can produce, it is worthless - even a negative cost - without an efficient, renewables-based grid. The UK’s privatised National Grid is still configured around coal-fired power stations in the north of Engand that no longer exist. Creating a grid that could support Scotland’s transition to green power would require a multi-billion investment. 

Robert Gordon University recently calculated that for Aberdeen to become a global hub for renewable energy would take a £17 billion investment - and the money needs to start coming in now.  The ‘Making the Switch’ review says that “urgent capital investment” is urgent - without it the UK will miss its climate targets and Aberdeen will miss the boat. Yet the UK Government is investing only paltry, tiny sums for this important work.  Instead, the UK Government passed a law putting a levy on all UK energy bills to fund outdated and increasingly expensive nuclear power that Scotland doesn’t need.

If Scotland was independent and produced 100% of its own energy requirement from cheaper renewable sources it could provide cheaper energy across the country. There are many ways to store renewable power nowadays - including pumped storage hydro. 

4 Scotland’s economy is visibly shrinking due to Brexit

The Centre for European Reform (CER) has concluded that by the end of last year the UK economy was 5.2%, or £31 billion, smaller than it would have been if the UK was still in the EU. 

Scotland is being hit worse than other areas of the UK. It has one of the oldest populations in the world, with an average age 42, two years higher than the UK average, and no immigration levers. Losing free movement and the pool of EU nationals who could come here to work means that hotels across the Highlands and islands are restricted to residents only for dinner; or even shut; restaurants are shut more of the time; care homes are reducing capacity and crops are not being planted

5 Northern Ireland’s economy is growing - Scotland’s isn’t

Data released by the Office of National Statistics ONS this week shows that Northern Ireland is doing way better than Scotland. It is outperforming all the rest of the UK, except for London. Only those two regions have gone back into economic growth since the pandemic. 

That is because Northern Ireland is protected from some of the worst effects of Brexit on trade by the NI Protocol. It still has a foot in the single market while also trading freely with the UK. 

After the Brexit vote, the Scottish Government suggested a compromise position which would mean Scotland having a similar half-in, half-out status to Nothern Ireland but that was rejected out of hand. 

6 The UK has the worst inflation in G7 - and the worst economic growth in the  G20 bar Russia

The 9% rise in the UK consumer price index is the highest since records began in 1989, outstripping the 8.4% annual rise posted in March 1992 and well ahead of the 7% seen in March of this year.

The UK is expected to have the highest inflation in the G7 not just this year but also in 2023 and 2024, according to economists. A Financial Times analysis of the causes of price increases across the world’s leading economies shows that Britain — where the inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 9 per cent in April — combines the worst aspects of other G7 countries. 

The OECD has predicted that the UK will have the worst economic growth of any G20 country bar Russia. The reason things are so bad for the UK is Brexit. 

7 The pound has lost 20% of its value - pushing inflation upwards

Since the Brexit vote, sterling has been on the slide and has lost 20% of its value. Oil is priced in dollars and is bought on the international markets - so petrol, heating oil, fertiliser and many other vital imports cost more and that adds to inflation. 

Mathew Lynn wrote in the Daily Telegraph recently: “We can no longer rule out that sterling will fall all the way to parity with the dollar for the first time in its history. Our departure from the European Union has worsened the trade deficit at precisely the wrong moment. It hit £278bn in the first quarter of the year, the highest figure on record, and equivalent to 1.8pc of GDP….this is a big enough deficit to merit concern about the stability of sterling.” 

8 The UK Government is squeezing Scotland’s budget - and it has to spend millions mitigating UK policies

The Scottish Fiscal Commission confirmed in December that: “Overall the Scottish Budget in 2022-23 is 2.6 percent lower than in 2021-22. After accounting for inflation the reduction is 5.2 percent.”

The situation is significantly worse The Scottish government gets no extra money in recognition of the huge sums being raised from taxing Scottish assets. Instead, it has to spend almost £600m, from its limited, fixed budget, mitigating policies which are out of step with Scotland’s electoral choices and designed to make life harder for the poor - such as the bedroom tax and the so-called rape clause which limits benefits to just two children per family. 

9 Loss of EU support for the Highland and Islands, food production and education

Scotland’s universities are being debarred from applying as associate members to the EU’s Horizon fund, the biggest science funding stream in the world. In the first retaliation for the UK Government’s posturing over the Northern Ireland protocol and Brexit, the EU has barred the UK from applying. Scotland's unis will lose a billion Euros

The Highlands and Islands are also set to lose large sums of money in vital funding - it seems the UK Government mislead voters when it promised to match at least the EU structural funds - its current plans won't do that. The structural funding is just one stream of EU support among many - and as the EU recognises "peripherality" which the UK Government doesn't, the Highlands and islands looks set to be a heavy loser from Brexit. Agriculture also looks set to lose out as the replacement for CAP won’t be as generous - more of the cost of food production will be paid by the consumer, and less by the taxpayer. 

10 The UK Government broke its promise on the triple lock, exposing pensioners to inflation and poverty

The UK Government broke its manifesto commitment to raise pensions in line with average wage growth at the worse possible time. Prices have soared. Pensioners, particularly those who are ill or disabled, are especially exposed to hardship caused by rising energy prices. Inflation on basic foodstuffs is also affecting their quality of life. Pensions rose by just 3% this April while inflation is running at around 9%. Even if the triple lock were reinstated in the autumn it would leave pensioners worse off and how could we trust the UK Government's pension promises ever again?

Scotland can no longer afford to sit by and let Westminster decide

An independent Scotland would be smaller and more agile than the UK, it could start making better decisions for Scotland on day one of independence. It could make decisions that are in line with the electoral priorities of Scots, such as rejoining the EU. It could use taxes raised on Scotland's assets to invest in the infrastructure that is needed for the next century of energy production.

Old chestnuts from the New Statesman

The New Statesman is as Unionist as any publication in Britain despite its left-wing image. That stance is evident in articles about both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A recent issue saw the nightmarish prospect of nuclear attack by Russia in terms of the UK”s constitutional question. It argued that Scots would not wish to become independent if it meant getting rid of Trident.  Andrew Marr, now able to take a more explicitly Unionist stance having left the BBC, wrote:

“Putin didn’t start a war to damage the SNP, but that’s what he’s doing.” 

Marr did not consider whether Putin’s current nuclear threats actually do the opposite - by suggesting that the doctrine of MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - may not be as reliable a way of averting nuclear war as had been hoped. That makes the “nuclear umbrella’ an outdated concept. 

Marr claimed the Ukraine war means the Scottish independence movement risks:

“subsiding into a normal, social-democratic managerial machine in decline, just like the Parti Québécois after it lost its independence referendums.”

Marr didn’t mention the many differences between Quebec and Scotland.  Quebec’s independence movement is based on a particular ethnic identity and language. Canada’s response was also unlike the UK”s. Quebec has the right to call an independence referendum if it ever wishes to do so; it controls immigration, social security and administers more of the public spending budget than the central Government does. Quebec’s Parliament is consulted over international trade deals. Canada also has more claim to be a democracy than the UK. An increasingly sore point for Scotland is the 800-seat member House of Lords where Evgeny Lebedev and Malcolm Offord have more right to rule over Scotland than anybody elected in Scotland. Canada in contrast has a Senate with just 105 seats,  appointed on a geographical basis - Quebec has 24 Senators. 

On Labour’s performance in the council elections, in the current issue, Chris Deerin comments:

“Scottish democracy would undoubtedly benefit from a better and stronger challenge to the dominant, overweening nationalist machine, and closer political competition.”

Those who vote for Scottish independence-supporting parties don’t see it that way. In fact, since Brexit, a series of acts such as the internal Markets Act, the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Electoral Reform Act have been pushed through without Holyrood’s consent. These all threaten Scotland’s devolution settlement - which was supported by 75% of the electorate in 1997. Independence is the only way to confirm the rights of Scotland’s elected Parliament. 

Northern Ireland gets the same treatment. In a profile piece on Michelle O’Neill, the New Statesman writer Martin Fletcher quoted the Daily Mail which dubbed her:

“the beauty from a family drenched in blood,”

referring to Republican sympathisers in her family.  The piece was a cuttings job without insight. Most of it seemed lifted from a piece in the Sunday Times that attracted criticism for its focus on O’Neill’s teenage pregnancy with the sexist headline “from pregnant schoolgirl to Northern Ireland’s next leader”. (The headline has been changed on line but still appears in the URL)

In the April 27 issue, Fletcher introduces a piece entitled ‘Is a United Ireland now inevitable’  by remarking “It is a far cry from the last time I was here. That was in July 1998,”- therefore perhaps, he is not well qualified to opine on the province’s future?  

The New Statesman looks at Northern Ireland through an anglocentric, Unionist lens, much as it does Scotland. Fletcher concludes his piece with a string of wizened chestnuts:

“I have a great affection for Northern Ireland and its people. My family and I spent two happy years in the province in the late 1990s. But, as I return to London, I recall Reginald Maudling’s famous comment as the home secretary flew back from his first visit in 1970: “For God’s sake, bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country.” Or Winston Churchill’s after the First World War: “The whole map of Europe has been changed… but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.” 

Fletcher uncritically reports the DUP’s analysis that: ”The UK is the world’s fifth-largest economy. It gives Northern Ireland up to £15bn a year, access to the NHS and a welfare state.” All of that is disputed - many argue that Northern Ireland’s potential has been wasted and its economy ill-served by British rule.

Fletcher does not consider the fact that unification would be likely to trigger large-scale investment in Northern Ireland from both the EU and the USA. The EU invested heavily in supporting Germany’s unification process. The USA’s Irish diaspora would be keen to see new Ireland make it. This investment could help unleash Northern Ireland’s huge productivity and development potential. 

For many who support independence, there is much to celebrate in the prospect of a new future for the islands of the British archipelago where independence for Scotland and Wales and possible unification in Ireland will bring democracy. 

Labour Lords Plot to Make an Indyref2 Illegal - key questions answered

The House of Lords contains more peers that are than it does peers who support Scottish independence. It is an out-dated antidemocratic institution packed with cronies of the UK's ruling elite.

Some peers - led by Scottish Labour's Baron Foulkes - are now putting forward a new law which would make it illegal for the Scottish Government to hold an independence referendum - here we answer questions about what this move means and the possible consequences.

Q What has been proposed?

The proposal is for the UK Government to pass a law making it illegal for the Scottish Government to spend money on anything outside a tightly-defined remit. 

Q What other effects would it have?

The primary purpose would be to stop a new referendum. But this law would mean that Westminster would very much dictate what the Scottish Government is allowed to do, on a wide range of issues. 

The bill would make it illegal for civil servants to work on post-independence planning, or for Scottish Government representatives to travel abroad to meet their counterparts in other countries, It would no longer be permissible for anyone employed by the Scottish Government to spend time on issues like defence, the post-independence Constitution or mitigating the effects of Brexit in international trade. 

But the law could go further than this. Under the Internal Markets Act any measure which create a different trading environment north of the border are out of order. So even Scottish Government officials planning to put a 10p deposit on a bottle of Irn-Bru could be ruled illegal.

Q Who is behind this?

This proposal comes from members of the House of Lords. The main proposer is Labour Peer George Foulkes. Foulkes is drafting a Private Member’s Bill which he will put forward to the Conservative government after the Queen’s Speech on May 10, hoping that Boris Johnson will pick it up and decide to make it law. 

Foulkes has reportedly won the support of Conservative Scottish peers Michael Forsyth and Liam Fox. The Daily Express called them a “Dad’s Army” of veteran politicians, referring to the Second World War TV show. 

Q Do the rest of the Labour group in the Lords support this? 

The Scottish Labour group in the House of Lords has 27 members. It is not clear how many of the rest of the group support this plan, but so far none of them has disassociated themselves from it. 

There are 167 Labour Lords. Few of these understand much about Scotland - but they could be instructed to support this Bill if it passes to the next stages. 

Q How many Scottish members of the House of Lords are there? How many support independence? 

The current membership of the House of Lords is around 800. There are no geographical criteria for membership, unlike Canada which has an appointed upper house of just 105 members selected from each territory of the federation. 

Around 87 members of the current House of Lords could be regarded as Scottish Peers, according to research by MP Tommy Sheppard in 2020. They are largely privately-educated males over 65. A quarter of this number, 22, are hereditary peers. The rest include Tory donor Malcolm Offord who was ennobled and appointed to the Scottish Office after failing to win an election in Scotland. 

The bill for Scottish peers services has been calculated as around £3 million a year. Not one single Scottish peer is apparently in favour of Scottish independence. 

Q How many members of the House of Lords support Scottish independence?

There are more people in the House of Lords bankrolled by Russian oligarchs than there are supporters of Scottish independence. Evegeny Lebedev is funded by his father Alexander, a former KGB agent who acquired a large stake in Gazprom. There are no peers at all among the 800 strong membership of this exclusive club who have voiced support for Scottish independence. 

Q What could the Scottish Parliament do to prevent a Bill like this becoming law? 

Very little. The House of Lords has the power to debate and amend legislation which affects Scotland - but Holyrood does not.

Despite being fully elected, by the Scottish people under a fairer proportional representation system, the Scottish Parliament gets no say at all over controversial laws that affect Scotland. In the post-Brexit settlement, the UK Government decided to remove powers from Holyrood under the Internal Markets Act. Holyrood refused consent for this as it has for other draconian new laws such as the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Elections Bill, which may disenfranchise 100,000 Scots.

But Westminster repeatedly ignores the wishes of Scotland's elected Parliament. The UK Supreme Court recently ruled that “Westminster has merely lent powers to the three devolved territories, which can be reclaimed at any times.”

Critics of this position argue that because the devolved Parliaments - especially Scotland’s where 75% of voters said Yes in 1997 - were established by a referendum with strong popular support, they should be recognised as sharing sovereignty with Westminster. However, there is no suggestion that Westminster ever would share sovereignty with Scotland’s elected Parliament. 

Q Will this become law?

At the moment, there is no clear path for the proposed bill to become law. It may be that Foulkes has been persuaded to float the idea in order for the UK Government to test the strength of opposition to it. Or the UK Government may feel they can use existing powers to dictate to Holyrood. 

The House of Commons would also have to vote to pass this law.  But if it were to make it that far, there would be little Scots could do to stop it. The majority of MPs elected in Scotland since 2011 have supported independence - but they are regularly outvoted on matters that affect Scotland, such as the Internal Markets Act. 

Conclusion

This latest attack on the democratically elected Scottish Government is another sign that the House of Lords is out of touch with the country it seeks to govern. It is unacceptable that Labour peers like Lord Foulkes feel entitled to lay down the law when they can't claim to represent the people of Scotland in any way. 

Only in an independent Scotland would be free of the shadowy hand of this unelected body.

Why Quebec's independence dream went wrong -  lessons for Scotland

Between 1990 and 2005, about 50% of people in Quebec said they wanted independence from Canada. But since then, that has fallen to a third. 

During the rise of the Quebec independence movement, there were two referendums. The first was in 1980 when the proposal for more sovereignty was rejected by a 59.56 percent to 40.44 percent margin. The second was in 1995 and extremely close. “No” won by a whisker - less than one percent. It secured 50.58% of the vote, on an exceptionally high turnout of 93.52%.

But now, almost two decades later, the issue of independence is no longer at the forefront of political debate. Only about a third of Quebecois still support independence, although another third supports greater autonomy for Quebec. 

So what changed? Why did two-thirds of the people of Quebec reject the dream of independence?  Here are three reasons why Quebec independence support fell away and why those circumstances differ from the Scottish independence movement. 

1 Quebec’s independence movement is primarily associated with a white ethnic identity.

In his 1995 concession speech, the Parti Quebecois premier, Jacques Parizeau, blamed “money and some ethnic votes” for the loss. 

Although there were progressive elements in the mix, Quebec’s movement towards independence was based around the Francophone community and cultural identity.  Canada is a huge country - it has a larger landmass than the USA. Quebec is three times as big as France although the population is only 8.5 million. Different areas developed quite differently. Quebec was once part of the French empire, and was settled by 10,000 French immigrants - around half of the population today are descended from them. The movement for Quebec independence centred around protecting the French language and the cultural identity they developed as Quebecois. 

In general, the French settlers had better relations with native people than other colonists. But the independence movement was not successful in bringing along the indigenous people of the area, who were embarking on their own drive for more self-determination, human rights and control of natural resources. Some First People did vote ‘Yes” in the referendum of 1980, when the question was a vaguer one about developing a new relationship between Canada and Quebec. But that changed by 1995. 

The most populous First Nation of Canada, the Nehiyawak or Cree People, traditionally moved freely across a wide swathe of the country. They were particularly vocal in resistance. On October 24, 1995, the Cree organised their own referendum, asking the question: "Do you consent, as a people, that the Government of Quebec separate the James Bay Crees and Cree traditional territory from Canada in the event of a Yes vote in the Quebec referendum?" 96% of the 77% of Crees who cast ballots voted to stay in Canada. The Inuit of Nunavik held a similar local vote, with 96% voting No. The vast majority of non-French speakers, including immigrants to Quebec also voted overwhelmingly No in 1995. The multicultural city of Montreal also voted heavily No. 

Nowadays, supporters of independence are most likely to be over 55, white and native French speakers. (This is the opposite demographic in Scotland, with the only age group not supporting independence currently being the over-65s). Within social attitudes surveys, Quebec records significantly less support for multiculturalism. In 2017, Quebec passed a law banning women from wearing the hijab in public, even on the bus. 

2 Canada responded effectively to Quebec’s desire for more autonomy - eventually

Canada’s federal system is the most decentralised in the world. It has acknowledged and responded to Quebec’s desire for more autonomy. 

It wasn’t all plain sailing - in between the two Quebec referendums, there was an attempt at reform which would have officially recognised Quebec as a nation within a nation. When that failed, support for independence surged. 

But since 2006, Quebec’s status has been officially recognised. It has the right to call an independence referendum if it ever wishes to do so; it controls immigration, social security and administers more of the public spending budget than the central Government does. Quebec’s Parliament is consulted over Canada's international trade deals. 

Canada is a constitutional monarchy like the UK, but the King’s role is more clearly defined as ceremonial. It has a two-chamber Parliament similar to the UK. But in place of the increasingly corrupt and swollen UK House of Lords, Canada has a Senate with just 105 seats. These are appointed on a geographical basis and Quebec has 24 Senators. 

The House of Commons has 338 seats, allocated to the different regions. Quebec has 78. The main independence-supporting party, the Bloc Quebecois fell back to as few as three seats in 2018 when the ten-seat grouping split into two factions. But it has subsequently recovered and now has 32 seats. 

Quebec’s National Assembly has 125 seats. Support for the nationalist Parti Quebecois collapsed at the 2022 provincial election and it lost most of its seats, retaining just 3. The main party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec, has 90. CAQ is not an independence-supporting party - it is a federalist group, which works closely with the Canadian Government at national level.  

3 A focus on the past

If the movement for Quebec independence were ever to revive, it would have to be on the basis that most of the people in the country saw it as offering something for them. In its current incarnation, it does not.

Quebec was colonised by French speakers in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was called “New France”. But these French colonists were in similar position to those caught up in the plantation of Ulster. They were arriving in a country that was already inhabited and had language and culture and traditions already. 

Those indigenous people didn’t see that there was any benefit for them in the plan to create what would be essentially an alternative monocultural state with one official language. That view was shared by most immigrants, both English speakers from the rest of Canada and the US, and non-English speaking immigrants. 

A law to protect the status of the French language called Bill 96 which was passed in 2022 is still causing controversy - not leat with the USA which is resisting product labelling requirements.

The battle to keep Montreal as a French-speaking city is also proving controversial. Combatting the drift to English from a young, international population won't be easy. Even many young people of Francophone heritage are not in tune with the aims of Quebec’s independence movement.

Conclusion

Quebec’s independence movement is focused around maintaining a language and culture which are associated with a particular ethnic group and its history in Quebec. That is going to be a hard sell to the roughly 50% of the population who don’t share that background, and even for many of the young people within it.

It is different from the Scottish independence movement, which is not based around ethnic nationalism. The Scottish independence movement is a coalition of people who feel that independence is the first step to real progress on issues like social justice and climate action. It is based on a recognition that there has been long-term political divergence between Scotland and England. Despite not voting for a Conservative Government since 1955, for most of that time, Scotland has been ruled by one. Since the last referendum, Scotland has started to experience the negative economic and social consequences of a Brexit that it didn't vote for -  a material change in circumstances since 2014.

Another difference is that the UK Government has rejected multiple chances to devolve more powers to Scotland. Instead, it has taken every opportunity to sideline Holyrood and undermine the devolution settlement, such as with the Internal Markets Act

But the lesson to learn from Quebec's story is the importance of reaching out to all communities. The main source of immigration to Scotland is England - indeed the Scottish Government's economic plan involves trying to attract more people from south of the border. it is important that the message of the independence movement continues to be one that offers hope to new Scots of all backgrounds.

Further reading

History of Quebec - Britannica

History of Canada - Quebec separatism - Britannica

The Future of Quebec Separatism - OU podcast

The Nehiyawak/ Cree people - Canadian Encylopedia

How did Quebec’s Nationalist Movement Become so White? - Guardian, 2018

Language Bill Deepens Culture Clash in Quebec - the New York Times, 2021

"No Great Mischief" - novel by Alistair Macleod, about Gaels emigrating to Canada

Three Reasons Westminster's Energy Strategy Doesn’t Work for Scotland

The UK Government announced a new energy strategy this week. This concentrates investment in nuclear power. Scots householders will have to pay for that - but Scotland doesn’t need it. The country has more than enough renewables for all its electricity needs and more. 

Instead, Scotland urgently needs a transformation of the UK's electricity transmission system which does not serve Scotland's needs.  It also needs more investment in energy efficiency and demand reduction

Here are the three key reasons Westminsters energy strategy doesn't work for Scotland.

1 The UK’s privatised national grid system does not serve Scotland well

Many people assume that the UK’s energy grid is a publicly-owned asset, managed by the UK Government. It is not. It was privatised in 1980, under Margaret Thatcher. 

National Grid Transco PLC is a London-based company that operates in the UK and US. It is enormously profitable. It employees 12,000 people worldwide and made £15 billion in revenue last year. It recently sold a majority stake in the UK's gas transmission and metering business for £2 billion to a consortium led by Macquarie Group. National Grid said this move was part of its transition to low-carbon and that it would: 

"Enable National Grid to maintain a strong balance sheet with its strong investment grade credit rating, supporting its sustainable dividend policy".

Last week, the UK Government announced plans to buy back the part of National Grid Transco PLC that oversees the UK’s electricity systems which it also builds and operates. The Government is not disclosing how much it is paying for this partial renationalisation, which attracted little news coverage. 

National Grid Transco PLC owns and manages the grid infrastructure in England and Wales. It also manages the transmission system in Scotland - although the ownership lies with Scottish Power and SSE, a situation which appears to make investment in the Scottish grid less attractive. Scottish energy companies are charged ten times what English companies have to pay to connect to the grid. 

Shortly after the Scottish Government licensed a huge amount of offshore wind earlier this year, National Grid said it had no plans to connect most of this to the grid for at least a decade. 

SEC’s energy briefing reported

“The recent ScotWind auction of 25GW of Scottish offshore wind potential - enough wind energy to power the equivalent of 23 million homes per year - demonstrates the risk (from the grid). Within weeks of the auction being announced, National Grid/ESO declared it did not plan to connect more than 10GW of the successful projects. This left billions of pounds of investment and clean energy potential hanging in the wind.”

National Grid also makes profit from building and managing connectors that link the UK network to Europe. The way the UK mitigates against demand surges or supply shortfalls is to buy electricity at the spot price on the open market.

SSE commissioned independent research which found storing renewable energy in hydro facilities for when it is needed, could save UK bill-payers £690 million a year by 2050. But, like the other facilities that have been granted planning permission by the Scottish Government, it is unlikely to be built because of the lack of a market framework. SSE stated

“The study, by Imperial’s researchers, found that 75% of the savings to the energy system from projects like Coire Glas would be from the avoided capital expenditure in higher cost electricity generation technologies that would otherwise be needed to meet the UK’s target of carbon neutrality by 2050 whilst meeting security of supply. “Importantly, the report highlighted that despite all of the benefits which new pumped hydro storage projects would bring, the current policy and market framework is unlikely to bring forward investment in many new projects because the long duration and low carbon capability of pumped hydro storage is not sufficiently valued.”

2 The strategy pours billions into nuclear power - while making unrealistic claims about what that will achieve. 

The money that is invested in nuclear will come from energy consumers. It is predicted that consumers across the UK including Scotland will have to shell out £80 a year through their bills for this. The strategy document says the UK has: “committed to provide up to £1.7 billion of direct government funding to enable one nuclear project to FID (final investment decision) this Parliament.” It proposes up to 8 new nuclear reactors -  which will cost a total of £13 billion.

Unlike renewables, the cost of nuclear power is rising. When completed, Hinkley Point C will be one of the most expensive power stations in the world. The fuel it generates will cost £90 per MWh. The UK’s existing nuclear power costs £45 per MWh

Writing in Advanced Science News recently, global expert Professor MV Ramanda wrote:  “Although often blamed on public opposition, especially resulting from the devastating accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, the main cause for the drop in nuclear power’s importance has been the steadily rising cost of nuclear reactors and the almost invariable tendency for project construction costs and time to escalate dramatically.”

The UK Government also plans to invest £120 million on smaller reactors.  Professor Ramana wrote:

“Private industry is not going to take the risk of paying for production lines and buying large numbers of reactors that could well prove uneconomic. So, it will be public money, as it nearly always has been the case with nuclear power, that will be risked.”

The UK Gov strategy, however, ignores current science and harks back to a 1950s vision of nuclear power. However, It does not mention that in 1957, a fire at Windscale nuclear plant spread radioactive material throughout Europe. The UK Government still spends £3 billion a year keeping this site, now known as Sellafield, safe.

3 There is no well-funded commitment to improving energy efficiency and insulating homes in the strategy

A large-scale energy efficiently drive would benefit consumers struggling with energy and cost of living crises. But instead of new measures, the strategy repackages existing schemes. It also relies on householders borrowing money to insulate their homes. 

The strategy voices the UK Government's faith in the free market:

“This is not being imposed on people and is a gradual transition following the grain of behaviour. The British people are no-nonsense pragmatists who can make decisions based on the information.”

The SEC Energy Strategy Briefing concluded:

“The UK’s net-zero 2050 target as already looking under pressure. Without more incentives to consumers and business to reduce demand for energy…that target looks further away than ever.”

Like the UK, Scotland has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe. Much of rural Scotland doesn’t have access to the gas network - and electricity is priced in a way that makes their bills far higher than the average. They also have to pay higher standing charges than most of England. 

Scotland does not share the UK Government’s nuclear vision. But Scots will still have to pay for it - and the Scottish Government is deprived of the decision-making power to invest in the energy priorities that the Scottish people choose. In short, energy bills will be cheaper in an independent Scotland and the energy sector far more environmentally friendly. 

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.