Pages tagged with "News"

Scotland sports fans “let down” and “disadvantaged” by UK broadcasting

It has been a good couple of weeks for Scottish sport, first the mens Football team beat Spain 2-0 and then the Scotland Men’s Curling team won a historic World Cup victory over the weekend, an event which took place at 9 pm UK time and like the football was not televised in Scotland.

It is a fair bet that if Scotland had an independent broadcasting channel, it would have been. Scotland does not regulate its own TV, which is all owned and controlled from south of the Border. It doesn't even have a government-backed channel with the same degree of independence as Wales' S4C. The Welsh language channel does a great job for Wales of showing sports events that are important to the country. 

Scotland football team’s recent two-nil victory over Spain was another historic event that too many fans could not watch -  in that case because it was pay-to-view on an expensive subscription channel. Some adults might have been able to see the game in a pub - but that left football-daft youngsters (and families in rural areas) unable to cheer on the national side. In contrast, England and Wales’ Euro qualifiers are guaranteed free to air on terrestrial channels. 

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has expressed concern over the way supporters in Scotland are being “disadvantaged” - but the UK Government has indicated it will not be doing anything about this. Because broadcasting is in Westminster’s hands, the Scottish Government can’t level the playing field. 

With independence, Scotland could protect citizens’ rights to watch their national teams.

The Curling World Championships would have been inexpensive and easy to show

Scottish sports journalist Alison Walker who covered the event from Canada for the last 12 days said there should have been TV coverage of the team led by Captain Bruce Mouat - which she said would have been inexpensive and easy to arrange.

She told the National: "The athletes work so hard and are such great people with inspiring stories. They are hugely respected and admired in Canada and to an extent would be in Scotland - if folk knew about it. It’s not about money either. It would’ve cost broadcasters very little to show more of Bruce’s journey.

“The World Curling Federation are the host broadcaster, and the ‘feed’ is offered around the world. Every one of Bruce’s games was available - so I feel the question should be asked of BBC Scotland, BBC Network, STV, Sky Sports. It’s very frustrating.”

The Scotland game was free to watch in Spain

Similarly, the Scotland-Spain football game was free to watch in Spain - and indeed across much of Europe, where governments protect citizens' right to watch their national teams without having to shell out. 

In a cost of living crisis where families are struggling to pay energy bills and put food on the table, it was a sore point that so many were left out in the cold, uniquely unable to share in what should be moments of national pride and celebration. 

Scottish MPs said Scotland fans are being “let down”

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee recently called for a review of the football situation in a report which concluded:  

“We are firmly of the view that the current lack of opportunities to watch Scottish international football on free-to-air broadcast is letting down fans in Scotland, who are at a disadvantage compared to fans in England and Wales. The UK Government must be more proactive in acknowledging and responding to the frustration this situation is causing in Scotland.”

Yet the UK government refuses to intervene

The Committee said the UK Government should:

“Establish a review to consider options to improve free-to-air access to Scottish international football – potentially including Scotland’s World Cup and European Championship qualifiers to the ‘listed events’ public service broadcasters can more easily bid for.”

But Government Minister for Sport Julia Lopez MP told the Committee that the UK Government has no intention of acting on this.

Lopez disagreed saying it was “up to Scottish rights holders to determine the best balance between ensuring events can be seen by the widest possible audience and securing money to reinvest in grassroots sport”. But the SFA has no say in how the rights to these games are bundled and sold by UEFA. 

UEFA controls the rights and packages them in a way that appeals to big players

In the absence of any legal protection by the UK Government, UEFA completely controls the broadcasting rights for Scotland’s European qualifiers. The distribution is out-sourced to their partners CAA Eleven. 

It is usual practice for distributors of entertainment content to package it in bundles designed to appeal to big broadcasters. These bundles are designed to get content out of the door in the limited window where the distributor has the rights to sell it. Under UEFA’s contracts, these bundles carry with them the legal obligation to show all the games. The Scottish games were auctioned as part of a bundle that would not have been affordable or attractive for a commercial UK broadcaster.  No UK terrestrial broadcaster bid for the rights to show Scotland’s Euro qualifiers. 

The SFA does not have a seat at the table when the rights are packaged and Scotland does not have a government-supported independent broadcaster. 

Welsh fans get to see the games for free - in Welsh

The same company - Viaplay - that bought Scotland’s Euro qualifiers also bought the rights to show Wales’ games - but the Welsh games are also free to view on S4C with Welsh commnentary.  

Scotland does not have any genuinely independent Scotland-based channels (BBC Scotland and BBC Alba are regional channels operated from the BBC in London), but Wales has S4C. Now paid for via the licence fee, S4C was established as an independent channel and still has an independent board

S4C does a good job of getting sports rights for Wales. It can help in negotiations that this is a Welsh language channel, broadcasting the games with commentary in Welsh, so is not a direct competitor with an English language channel. 

S4C secured exclusive UK free-to-air broadcast rights to show the Wales games in the UEFA Nations League campaign and the European Qualifiers campaign for UEFA EURO 2024, which are available free to watch live on Sgorio Rhyngwladol.

“It is key that Wales supporters can enjoy their matches on free-to-air television."

Announcing the deal, S4C Chief Executive, Sian Doyle, said:

"We are thrilled that S4C will be the exclusive free-to-air home of the Wales men's national football team, and we believe that this is fantastic news for Welsh football supporters and the Welsh language.

"This is a golden age for the Welsh national team and for the continued growth and development of the game it is key that supporters can enjoy their matches on free-to-air television."

It's a fair bet that if Wales had been competing in the Curling Wolrd Chamipomshops, S4C would have shown the games. In contrast, Simon Pitts from STV told the select committee that, for Scottish international football and other sporting events where the likely TV audience is Scotland only, a commercial channel like STV which has no government support is unable to bid.

An insider said: “The way the Scotland games for the Euro qualifiers were packaged it would not have been possible for any UK broadcaster to bid for them”.

Another insider said: “If the UK government had intervened it might have been possible for the Scotland games to be free to view. As it stands, the games will be on pay-to-view subscription TV until 2028.”

In an independent Scotland, the government could intervene

What does it say to youngsters coming up through grassroots sports in Scotland that they can’t cheer for their national teams?  In football terms, the unfairness is even more marked this year as, for the first time in recent years, the England Euro qualifying games are free to view, on Channel Four. No terrestrial broadcaster in the UK bids for the rights to show Scotland’s Euro qualifiers. 

Scotland does not have an independent national broadcasting company. Scotland’s broadcasting sector is much weaker than that of similar-sized independent countries. Scotland does not have a government-supported Scottish-run channel. Instead, fee money goes to the BBC in London which does not even manage to spend a population share of that in Scotland. 


This is a problem the free market won't solve

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee was right to point out the “frustration” this situation causes in Scotland. They recognised that this is a problem the free market is not likely to be able to solve. Multinational pay-to-view channels that secure these rights have “no obvious commercial incentive” to relinquish exclusivity.

It will require government intervention to give Scottish sports fans the same rights to watch their national teams that citizens of independent countries take for granted, either by setting up and supporting a genuinely independent Scottish channel, or through legislation. In an independent Scotland, the Scottish government would be empowered to make sure Scots are no longer let down.  


200+ delegates to attend Scottish Independence Congress - Sat 18th Feb

Saturday's Scottish Independence Congress will be the biggest ever gathering of Yes Group organisers. More than 200 delegates from around 100 Yes Groups have registered to attend the online Congress.

The growing success of this event (registration opening only two weeks ago) serves to prove that the grassroots independence campaign is getting ready for a final push to gaining Scotland's independence - regardless of the pathway to independence chosen by the political arm of the Yes movement.

In a coup for Believe in Scotland, leadership figures from the three main independence-supporting political parties have agreed to be quizzed on the best route to Scottish independence and the Congress will vote and agree on our proposal on the way forward. Michael Russell of the SNP, Kenny MacAskill of Alba and Ross Greer of the Scottish Greens will all be quizzed by The National's chief Political Reporter, Judith Duffy.

Believe in Scotland is the grassroots campaign support organisation managed by Business for Scotland. Believe in Scotland now has 136 affiliated local and national Yes Groups that campaign together to promote the benefits of Scottish independence.

The Congress is open to all active campaigning groups regardless of their affiliation and so it's an all-political party and no-party congress of leading campaigners from Orkney to the Borders.

Also on the agenda will be an exclusive announcement of polling results conducted by Panelbase for Business for Scotland that will reveal the key economic and social policies that will significantly increase independence support. A panel session, chaired by former Sunday Herald and The National editor Richard Walker, with activists and commentators: Lesley Riddoch, Kelly Given and BiS Founder Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp.

Delegates will then participate in a series of votes to agree on the position of the Grassroots Yes Movement on the pathway to independence. The success of this Congress sends the message that independence is moving higher up the political agenda. Even if the leadership of political parties changes, the destination and our determination to get there remains the same.  

Scotland will become a successful, fairer, greener, wealthier, healthier and happier thriving independent nation in the near future.

If you run an active independence campaigning Yes group and would like to attend email [email protected] for details on how to register.

Media Watch - BBC Radio 4 “Today” gets it badly wrong on how Shell pays tax on Scottish oil

When Shell announced the biggest profits in its history - £32.2 billion pounds for 2022 on Thursday - the BBC morning news flagship, the ‘Today’ programme gave listeners misleading information about how much tax it is paying in the UK compared to other countries. 

The show’s journalists gave the erroneous impression that the UK is getting a similar amount of tax from Shell as elsewhere - but in fact, because of the UK’s tax regime, Shell made no ‘taxable profit’ in the UK in the first three quarters of the year 2022 and paid no windfall tax at all. It may pay a small amount of windfall tax to the UK for the last quarter but the figure is so far unclear.  

Shell produces about 120,000 barrels of oil a day equivalent from the UK continental shelf, 90% of which is in Scottish waters - but it makes no taxable profit on that. 

FT energy correspondent David Sheppard wrote: “A windfall tax that raises a big fat doughnut from one of the UK’s largest oil and gas producers at a time of record prices is, by its very definition, imperfect, even if Shell has indicated it expects to start paying tax in the UK... A system that taxed oil and gas production first rather than zeroing in on profits would ensure the government’s take from the exploitation of an irreplaceable natural resource was never zero.”

Robinson: “It’s a little bit higher in other countries” - hmm, no - it is SO much higher in other countries!

Presenter Nick Robinson said: “There is a lot of tax being paid by these companies already. Shell is paying 75% of its UK-based profits in tax - it is a little bit higher in other countries but not much. We are talking of companies that are paying a lot more in corporate taxes than most.”

Robinson did not mention that Shell, which moved its HQ from the Netherlands to London a year ago, has made no taxable profit in the UK since 2017.  In contrast, Shell paid £3.7 billion to the Norwegian state in 2021 for example, far more than it paid in the UK. where since 2016, its subsidies have outweighed the tax it has paid.  

Shell also distributed $26bn to shareholders in 2022 including $18bn in share buybacks. Tax expert Dan Neidle argues that it would be appropriate for the UK to levy a one-off tax on Shell’s UK-based global HQ. “Shell is crying out to be taxed more,” he told the Financial Times.

“It’s not easy to design a windfall tax”, Today’s business apologist - sorry, business editor - explained

Business editor Simon Jack implied that Shell should be allowed to keep its massive profits - the highest a UK headquartered company has ever made - because it “got no subsidy” when oil prices fell. 

Simon Jack told listeners: “It’s not easy to design a windfall tax. Its not the highest in the world - its higher in Nigeria and Norway but it’s one of the highest in the world, and just a reminder that Shell makes 95% of its money and that is taxed elsewhere in the world not here in the UK"

Robinson asked Jack: “How do governments deal with these record energy profits which may be just short term?”

Jack said: “It's very volatile prices. For example, when the price of oil collapsed, Shell will say ‘No-one offered to subsidise our losses when we lost billions in those years so this is the flipside of that’. There is obvious outrage at these numbers, but, like I say, designing a windfall tax is not straightforward for a UK-domiciled company which makes 95% of its money elsewhere in the world and is taxed elsewhere in the world."

Not true - since the oil tax regime changed, Shell has benefited from taxpayer support!

If you look at GERS, the account of Scotland’s finances, you can see a change coming through after 2015/16, when the UK government started to tax the sector differently. The effect of the UK’s tax changes were that many private companies and their shareholders became net recipients of taxpayers’ money.

This was ostensibly done to increase investment and to protect jobs as the oil price fell – but Aberdeen was hit harder than Norway, which continued to tax energy firms at its usual high rate. Rebates were not specifically linked to any commitment to save jobs. In 2016 Shell, having benefitted from tax rebates from the UK Government and having made many thousands of workers redundant, went on to declare the world’s largest shareholder profit dividend that year. 

Could there be a political reason for under-taxing oil production from Scotland?

The UK Government now takes much more tax on oil and gas at the pump or when heating oil is purchased. In 2022-23, fuel duties are expected to raise £25 billion. Very little of that is credited to Scotland’s accounts. 

Some suspect that one reason for changing the North Sea tax regime is to lend weight to the Unionist argument that Scotland is too poor to become independent. 

Energy taxation is reserved to Westminster

Shell is not doing anything illegal - it is the UK government's political and ideological choice to give Shell tax rebates and subsidies. This is reserved to the UK government - the Scottish Parliament has no say on it. 

Westminster gives tax rebates to large oil companies to cover the cost of decommissioning rigs and fields and to explore for new oil fields. These tax deductions include an effective subsidy for any fossil fuel production -  but not for green investment. Writing in the Financial Times, Professor Michael Devereux at the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation argues this has, in effect, created a subsidy for fossil fuel projects that otherwise would not go ahead.

Conclusion - BBC flagship news show sounds like propaganda

The BBC has come in for criticism recently for being too close to the Conservative Party, and to the world of big business. It has lost the trust of many in Scotland, where 1 in 7 people no longer pay the licence fee. Today’s misleading reporting of Shell’s historic profits, which in the UK came from exploiting Scotland’s energy resources, will do little to rebuild trust. 

Westminster's Section 35 block on Scottish law fundamentally undermines UK democracy

The UK Government has decided to block the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, despite the legislation falling under devolved competence. A move which Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said will almost certainly end up in court.  As we have been predicting, this is a worrying intensification of Westminster’s efforts to undermine devolution and reduce Scotland’s political autonomy.

Make no mistake: this is a political crisis for the UK and it’s one of Westminster's own making because no Westminster party has ever truly been committed to making devolution work.  Of course, they defined devolution working as stopping the inevitable rise in support for Scottish independence and in those terms, it has been an abject failure for the Union.  Devolution has been immensely popular with voters and where devolution has worked is in the Scottish Government's acting to mitigate some of the worst impacts of Westminster austerity, spending more of its budget on social care and Scotland’s NHS (roughly £100 per head) and the abolition of student fees. Where it has been a failure for Scotland is the fact that devolution within the UK comes with the continued failed economic mantra of Laissez-faire capitalism, the recent watering down of anti-casino-banking rules, political corruption and of course, being able to do nothing about the unmitigated disaster that Brexit represents. 

Devolution may have opened the door for the SNP to prove that they are able to run a country differently and with more soul and care for the people. Now that they are supported by the Greens in a majority Scottish Government, they have an unanswerable mandate for change and that is infuriating Wesminsters failing self appointed elites.  In 2017, when giving evidence to the Westminster trade Committee, I (GMK) explained that ‘Devolution was incompatible with Brexit’. I have been proven right many times over and now as both the Tories and Labour have lurched to the right to fight over the xenophobic Brexit vote the Union has become incompatible with Scotland, incompatible with democracy and incompatible with the values of the ordinary Scottish people.

Whether you like it or not, a majority Scottish Government has the mandated right to call an independence referendum; whether you like it or not, it has a mandated right to pass its Gender Recognition Reform legislation. Blocking these moves amounts to nothing more than an assault on democratic principles.  

Westminster enacted Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, a previously unused mechanic which has been described by political commentators as the ‘nuclear option’. Section 35 allows the Scottish Secretary of the UK Government to intervene with the passing of a devolved bill if it is believed to adversely affect the operation of reserved matters, that is, areas outside the remit of the devolved government. Despite having years to make amendments and consult with the Scottish Government, the current Conservative Scottish Secretary Alister Jack instead used Section 35 to block the GRR Bill. Translated - essentially, the UK Government is blocking this bill because they don’t like it, which sets a dangerously antidemocratic precedent.

This ruling comes hard on the heels of the UK Supreme Court’s recent move to block a second Scottish independence referendum, as well as an extension to challenges to devolved legislation such as the Rights of the Child Convention. Today the UK Government will push ahead with its regressive Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill which will remove all the mostly eminently sensible EU-derived legislation from the statute book by the end of the year. It's almost as if they thought Brexit isn't going as well as it should because there were still too many protections for exporters and that the food and drink industry needed a harder Brexit.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the first use of Section 35 is to limit a bill which had caused division in both the pro-independence camps. It is a clear divide and rule tactic with Westminster hoping for a muted response due to the nature of the policy involved. Regardless, the bill was approved by two-thirds of MSPs gaining votes from five different political parties. This included the current leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar and former leader Richard Leonard, as well as the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw.

This move sets a worrying precedent for how Westminster responds to bills passed by Holyrood in the future. We have to ask what else a UK Government which is politically opposed, hostile even, to the majority elected current Scottish Government might also move to restrict. This does not just undermine devolution but also threatens the tenets of Scottish democracy. 

Finally, regardless of anyone’s opinion of the GRR Bill, it is important to ask: will the UK Government really stop here? What happens if Wesminster blocks legislation on devolved healthcare? On education? On the environment? This ruling exposes a fundamental flaw of devolution as an expression of self-determination - one where it can be overridden when the central government feels like it, especially when they diverge from the devolved government. 

Until Scotland is fully independent, its political autonomy will always be under threat. New Labour are back: Starmer has moved the UK party to the right of Thatcher and is big into Brexit and refuses to defend the blocking of a bill that was supported by 18 out of his party’s 22 elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament. He offers no alternative even for voters of Labour in Scotland. Independence is normal and completely compatible with democracy and the clear desire of the Scottish people to rejoin the EU.

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

In Leeds today, 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. The key recommendations are focussed on England and the English regions, with the devolved nations as an afterthought. Included in the report is the abolition of the House of Lords and further powers for the English regions. For Scotland, we can expect more promises of increased devolution for the Scottish Parliament, a tune we’ve heard played by Brown and Labour time and again.

5 Things to know about this report and what it means for Scotland:

1. Scotland gains no new major powers

The report says that Labour will not abolish the Scottish Parliament, a condescending statement as they already promised that in ‘the Vow’ in 2014, and the people of Scotland would not accept its closure under any circumstances.  The report says that Scotland would be able to enter into international agreements when it comes to devolved matters. Devolved matters however do not include issues of EU membership, retention of nuclear weapons/participation in illegal wars, trade deals and immigration - all the actual powers that would help Scotland's economy. Scotland would also have access to regional support through the British Regional Investment Bank. Not only is Scotland not a ‘region’, this is also a policy that is only required because of decades of Westminster mismanagement of Scotland’s natural and economic wealth. In fact, Scotland already has its own National Investment Bank- evidently Labour is having trouble coming up with original ideas for devolution. 

2. It doesn’t lay a path back into the EU for Scotland

Central to Labour’s plan for the next election is to rebuild the ‘Red Wall’ in the North of England. This requires a full commitment to Brexit that the Scottish people will never accept. 

With 72% of Scots saying they would vote Remain if the vote was held today and with Labour offering no path back into the EU, it is clear that Scottish voices will once again be silenced on this issue. 

Labour have said we need stronger economic growth but won’t rejoin the Single Market, the one thing that would guarantee this. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to promote the report, Starmer made the remarkable claim that rejoining the EU and being part of the world's biggest single market wouldn't boost economic growth, saying: “I don’t think it would. And there’s no case for going back to the EU or going back into the single market.” Starmer has previously claimed the opposite, so is he lying now or was he lying then? The OBR has forecast the UK faces a 4 per cent fall in economic growth compared to if we had remained in the EU - so no one can take such claims seriously. Clearly independence is Scotland’s only route back into the EU. 

3. There’s no commitment to the reforms they’ve promised

Labour is proposing what they say are radical solutions to a widespread constitutional crisis facing the whole of the UK. However, when these policies are examined in detail, the end result is underwhelming. There is a promise to abolish the undemocratic House of Lords, within Labour’s first term. That is a promise they have been making for a century and have failed to deliver on every time they have been in office and had the power to act. The House of Lords represents a serious issue in the political structure of the UK but the proposed reforms are still subject to further consultation - so they will be watered down. If Labour are serious about offering long-term, systemic change as soon as possible, why can they still not commit even now to the most important proposal from this paper?

4. Federalism is unworkable for Scotland

This report once again presents federalism/devolution as an alternative to Scottish independence but this is a pipe dream. England has 84% of the UK population and federalism cannot work under these conditions. To sell Federalism to the wider UK public would require major parties to concede that the UK system is broken beyond repair and commit to truly radical solutions. This would also require a UK wide referendum and England won't vote for it. Also to say they have a mandate to change the constitution with a Westminster General Election majority but that the SNP can't change the constitution as it refers to Scotland with a majority of MPs is just dishonest and antidemocratic. 

Independence is normal but Labour still refuses to give countenance to that fact. Once again, they offer a bland unworkable compromise between unionism and independence, which is actually err…more unionism. While federalism is championed by Labour as the winning democratic solution to save a broken Britain, in practice they do not offer the radical solutions they promise.

5. Labour will ignore the wishes of the people of Scotland

The plans announced by Labour today require that the Scottish people abandon their commitment to independence and accept a bland list of recycled constitutional reforms that should have been implemented last century, dredged up by an ex-Prime Minister who never won a General election and has lost all credibility when it comes to making promises to Scotland. Labour cannot accept that everything changed after the first independence referendum and Brexit which followed.

While this conference and paper did acknowledge the UK is broken, they refuse to admit that blocking a second referendum is the most high-profile example of the British state’s disregard for democracy. Keir Starmer as PM would not listen to the people of Scotland and if any extra powers offered to Scotland don't allow us back into the EU or at least the Single Market then they do nothing for Scotland.  At the press conference for the launch of this report, Gordon Brown stated that Labour would push on with these proposed constitutional reforms even if the people of Scotland reject them at the ballot box - which they will.

In the end, isn't that all you need to know about Brown and how far Labour have fallen?

Five Reasons Scotland can be confident of rejoining the EU

As Scotland reboots its independence campaign, the European situation has changed in major respects since 2014. Here are some of the factors that underlie the Yes movement’s renewed confidence over EU membership. 

#1 If Scotland had voted ‘Yes; in 2014, we would still be in the EU today

Rewind to 2014. The Spanish Foreign Minister at the time, commented that as long as Scotland became independent by a legal process, Spain would have ‘nothing to say’ about that. But despite this, the media was full of headlines suggesting it might be difficult or take a long time for Scotland to get back in - EU Commission President Manuel Barroso even intervened in the campaign, giving a controversial interview on the Andrew Marr show. His words were interpreted to create a slew of negative headlines

In fact, had there been a Yes’ vote in 2014, even if there had been some kind of paperwork trail to go through, an independent Scotland would be in the European Union today. The rest of the UK, if it wanted to leave, would have had to negotiate a protocol with Scotland of the kind that applies to Northern Ireland since Brexit. 

People who voted ‘No’ in 2014 have every right to feel that they were misled by the Better Together campaign’s claims that independence would lead to leaving the EU and voting No would secure our membership.  A leaflet sent to every home in Scotland on the benefits of being in the UK featured a picture of the EU flag and the words:

"An Influential Voice in Important Places... As one of the EU’s ‘big four’ nations, the UK is more able to protect Scottish interests. "  

#2 Casting doubt on Scotland’s EU membership without evidence won’t fly

Most people didn’t question what they read and heard - the Better Together technique was not to set out a strong case, but just to cast doubt, and feed uncertainty. So Better Together continually suggested that Scotland might not be allowed to join; or that it would have to join a “queue” for membership - even though there isn’t a queue, it is done on a case by case basis. Countries such as Finland and Sweden completed the process in less than three years. 

For more than a year in the run-up to the independence referendum, Scots were subjected to a torrent of headlines, reports, columns, TV debates that suggested Scotland’s EU membership could be rejected, a suggestion without much foundation in fact. Few readers got to the end of these stories, where the comment from the independence side was buried. 

 “‘Impossible’ for Scotland to join EU’” shouted the Scotsman’s banner headline; “Separate Scotland Might Not Get Into EU, warns Barroso” - the Times; “Independent Scotland would find it extremely difficult to join EU” - the Guardian

History has revealed this to be Unionist propaganda - the real risk to Scotland’s EU membership was actually from staying in the UK.  That was underplayed at the time, although some commentators did point it out. But those who suggested this was a possibility in TV debates were greeted with derision. The same tactic is unlikely to work a second time. 

#3 The UK is no longer a member of the EU and has little influence

The most significant change of circumstances today is that the UK is no longer an EU member. The backdrop to the previous referendum was an EU that was keen to retain Britain at the top table. Westminster’s envoys were in constant communication with Brussels. They were able to pressure EU officials and members to get them to intervene in the 2014 campaign.

The situation is very different now. The UK Government is not on good terms with the EU. The next prospective Prime Minister Liz Truss has already made threats to unilaterally tear up the Northern Irish protocol, causing frustration in Brussels. 

In these circumstances, the UK Government would find it difficult to get any EU member country or any senior EU official to do its bidding in terms of threatening Scotland by saying that it would not be allowed to join the EU as an independent country.

#4 Senior EU figures say the EU would “enthusiastically” welcome Scotland after independence.

VP of the Green group in the European Parliament, German MEP Terry Reintke visited Scotland earlier this month to participate in discussions about Scotland’s continued cooperation with the EU. She said:

“If Scotland were to become an independent country, an accession procedure to the European Union would be much easier – as Scotland had previously applied the full acquis [EU statues book] already.”

Sylvie Bermann, one of France’s leading diplomats, and the former ambassador to the UK said that the EU would welcome the accession of an independent Scotland.

“The situation has changed because there’s been Brexit…Probably there would be some negotiation, but [Scotland joining the EU] would be good for Europe. There’s no reason why if there’s this referendum which is accepted that we shouldn’t want to have Scotland – we’ll be very happy.”

Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said “the mood on the EU side is rather positive” and suggested an independent Scotland might be able to conclude membership negotiations in “two to three years” – similar to Finland in the mid-1990s. Many leading MEPs from every corner of Europe have expressed support and said the process of accession would be smooth.

#5 The Northern Ireland protocol could be a template for independent Scotland

Because Ireland is now in the EU and Northern Ireland is not, the UK and Ireland agreed on the Northern Irish protocol. This is supported by governments in Washington, Brussels, Dublin and Belfast. The First Minister Elect of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill is on a trip to Washington meeting US Government representatives, and gave a hard-hitting interview to CNN, defending the protocol. She said: 

"Who wouldn't want the access that we now have to both markets, to the EU and the British markets?"

The protocol has been adjusted in various ways, but it is working for the Northern Irish economy which is growing faster than the UK. While Scotland suffers all the harms and blocks of Brexit, Northern Ireland can trade freely with the EU and also, for the most part, with the UK.

All of the effort that has gone into streamlining border checks for goods traded across the EU’s border with the UK demonstrate how this could effectively happen with Scotland. It may be that the real reason that the UK government wants to tear it up is not to pander to the Democratic Unionist Party but to prevent the protocol showing that independence for Scotland as with the protocol in Northern Ireland could result in relatively few border checks, and those for goods only, not for people. Despite Brexit, both Northern Ireland and Ireland continue to be part of the Common Travel Zone with the UK. 


Scotland was a member of the EU for more than four decades. Most of its laws are compatible with EU statute; it shares the values of rule of law, support for human rights and cooperation. Every single council area in Scotland voted to remain in the EU - it was a strong and unified voice. Despite that, the UK decided to pursue the hard Brexit sought by a factional government. 

Scotland can be confident that returning to EU membership will be straightforward and should take less than three years. The process of accession could begin while Scotland is still negotiating the detail of its independence from the UK Government.

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. 

Scottish election results treated as an afterthought by UK broadcasters

There is no dedicated TV show to focus on Scotland’s detailed election results they come out today. Scotland’s council voting is on the Single Transferable Vote which is more complicated to count. That is one reason why the decision was taken to do it in day-time rather than through the night. 

Watching votes being counted, seeing the results announced live, hearing them analysed by people who have insight into the process builds trust in democracy. It is a vital role for a national broadcaster. 

Yet, the BBC’s national results show on BBC Two finishes just when the Scottish results start coming out.

On Radio Four’s supposedly UK-wide news show Today, the new political editor Chris Mason was urged to get some sleep before Any Questions this evening - no mention was made of the importance of recording and discussing the results from the devolved nations as they emerge this afternoon. 

Some people took to social media to voice their disgust. Former Labour voter and SNP supporter William Irvine tweeted his disappointment with the BBC’s efforts: “On BBC One Scotland now they are showing the same crap programmes. On BBC Alba-  nothing. BBC Scotland - nothing. Three channels and not one has a Scottish council election special on them, everything going through BBC England.”

Channel Four,  Sky cover Scotland like a foreign country - STV shows load of old cobblers

Channel Four will be showing Countdown, as usual. Despite its claim to be less Londoncentric than other UK broadcasters, it spends 4% of its budget in Scotland, and has one news correspondent. It employs more staff in Vietnam than Scotland.

STV is showing an antiques show and two quizzes this afternoon. Sky has a rolling news channel and will no doubt scroll Scottish results across the bottom of the screen - but they have one Scottish correspondent and cover Scotland like a foreign country. Everything will be filtered through London - where many commentators are unfamiliar with the Scottish scene and do not appear to understand proportional representation. 

There may be some newspapers who offer a bit of coverage on YouTube - but, unlike the English, Scots won’t have the privilege of seeing their democratic results taken seriously, discussed and analysed by experienced commentators who can grasp underlying trends and put the results in historical context.  

Refugees voted - and canvassers joined in a successful protest to stop a deportation

There are unique features of the Scottish election - for instance, refugees were able to vote many for the first time. In an extraordinary protest in Edinburgh yesterday, many people involved in local elections stopped their canvassing to participate in an intervention where a crowd formed to prevent Home Office officials deporting someone from a local restaurant. 

Chief Exec of Scotland’s refugee council Sabir Zazai tweeted: “Tonight I am even prouder of a big decision I made 5 years ago today to move to #Scotland. Today #refugees voted in #LocalElections for the 1st time and a Home Office enforcement van was sent empty, thanks to #NicolsonSquare protest. Couldn't have wished for a better anniversary.”

The London Bureau Chief of German TV station ARD Annette Dittert commented: “They did it again. Scotland is quite something,” with video footage of the crowd. The demonstration was not covered on the evening TV news in the UK.

Other unique features of the Scottish election are that 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote, as they are in Wales. 

Another feature of the STV system that Scotland uses in local elections is that it is more likely to lead to coalition councils, because it is a proportional representation system which tries to reflect the preferences of the electorate in a fairer way.

Boris Johnson will carry on regardless - Scotland doesn't count

Scotland is likely to elect a large majority of independence supporting councillors. And when the results are assessed on a national basis, Boris Johnson’s party is likely to slide into third place north of the border. But these results will have no effect. Senior Conservatives have already proclaimed that Boris Johnson will survive as leader, after the party performed better than expected in England. 

The UK’s London-centric politicians and media groups have united to disparage Scottish independence supporters, proclaiming that the war in Ukraine makes a referendum impossible. They do not want to know about the growing anger in Scotland and so prefer to ignore it. Scotland’s results will be given an item on the evening news, and then dismissed. 

Scotland’s sense of engagement and interest in the results of its democratic election could be damped by the feeling that it is being relegated to an afterthought.  A strong democracy should be accessible, transparent and accountable to the public. The lack of coverage and analysis on mainstream TV on our democratic systems contributes to Scotland's democratic deficit.

There are many Scots who distrust the robust voting system we have, but that trust could be renewed by being able to see more of the process. Mainstream TV coverage is a vital access point.

Another experience of having to accept this treatment from anglocentric broadcasting organisations that don’t understand Scotland’s needs will likely feed into a desire for independence. The sooner broadcasting is regulated by Scotland's democratically elected Parliament the better. 

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. 


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.

The illegal rendition of asylum seekers signals the UK's values, not Scotland's

It is easy to express outrage at the UK Government's plan to illegally rendition asylum seekers 6,000 miles to a country with a poor human rights record and a recent record of mass genocide.

However, you must not discount the possibility that you are supposed to be outraged. It is a possibility that this is all a ruse to distract both you and the headlines, in order to make you think that the fines for breaking lockdown rules and partying whilst people died are somehow yesterday's news and a minor transgression in comparison. That of course would mean that the Rwandan rendition will never happen as you can't be forced to resign for something that never happened.

Either way, the Rwandan move signals that the UK state is broken and led by an incompetent, compulsively dishonest, criminal, racist, British nationalist government. A government that does not share the values and common decency of the people of Scotland or the political parties that they choose to represent them in both Westminster and Holyrood.

Within hours of Priti Patel, smirking inappropriately as she announced what amounts to illegal rendition with their plan to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda, the Home Secretary was being lampooned online in pictures with her caricature leaning on a folder marked “Migrant Death Warrants”.

Offshoring migrants has been on the cards since the PM vowed to “take back control” of Britain’s borders following the Brexit vote, a promise that so far has led to nothing but deep falls in exports, 20 mile lorry tailbacks and rapid inflation, but their new rendition plans have been slated as “inhumane”, “unspeakably cruel” and “state sanctioned violence in practice”.

Under the plan, to which Johnson said the UK Government would contribute £120m, migrants will be housed temporarily in mainly hostels or hotels in the Rwandan capital Kigali while their asylum claims are processed. The UN refugee agency has stated that the plans are illegal and that attempting to "shift responsibility" for claims of refugee status was "unacceptable".

The scheme will be challenged in the courts but criticism and disgust has come from refugee charities, lawyers and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, whose Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, said: “People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said Rwanda did not respect some of the most basic human rights: “Refugees have been abused in Rwanda and the government has, at times, kidnapped Rwandan refugees outside the country to bring them home to face trial and ill-treatment.”

Johnson said Rwanda was “one of the safest countries in the world”, despite the fact that in 1994 Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – genocide that shocked the world. He added that the risk of ending up in Rwanda would prove “a considerable deterrent” over time.

However, his own government, in January last year, delivered a statement on Rwanda at the 37th Session of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), urging Rwanda to model Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Glasgow immigration lawyer Usman Aslam said from breaking their own rules and refusing to resign, we are now faced with a Tory Government who are misleading the public about the realities of the Rwanda scheme, which people deserved to know.

“When Priti Patel said this is a ‘Global first’, it is not at all. Australia were sending asylum seekers offshore to be ‘processed’ for years and even they stopped,” he said. “The UN Special Rapporteur even said the Australian model (that the Tories are obsessed with) was an abusive offshore detention system that ‘cannot be salvaged’ … unjustifiably punitive and unlawful amounting to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’.”

Manus in Papua New Guinea and Nauru – 690 and 1800 miles respectively off Cape York – were first used by Australia for offshore immigration detention centres in in 2001, but were blighted by shocking living conditions and a lack of water. Six years later they were mothballed after a farce that saw the overwhelming majority of those detained allowed to be resettled in Australia as genuine refugees.

They were reopened in 2012 to prevent asylum seekers arriving by boat gaining access to Australia, and over 4,000 were processed at the sites between 2012 and 2019. Last December, there were still 105 people on Manus and 112 on Nauru.

Denmark may have been the first country to join the UN Refugee Convention in 1951, but it has been open about its goal of “zero” refugees in the country.

It passed legislation last year to allow it to move asylum seekers to third countries outside the EU while their cases were processed, a move that drew questions about its legality from the European Commission and human rights groups.

In 2015 Israel moved to halt a flood of refugees, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, by striking deals with “third country safe havens” – identified by media sources as Uganda and Rwanda. By 2018, Israel said around a third of 65,000 people who had arrived in the country illegally had left under its various schemes.

Aslam said it was no surprise the Patel-Johnson briefing was “sketchy when it came to specifics”, because he thought the “horrendous” Nationality and Borders Bill, if passed, would go against their plans. Patel had not addressed Section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which states that no asylum seeker can be removed from the UK while their asylum application is pending.

“In the Borders Bill, whilst it states that they can be removed to a safe country, it defines safe country as a place where a person’s life and liberty are not threatened by reason of the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,” said Aslam.

“Rwanda is a place that people run from for these exact reasons, so the law would not allow them to be sent there anyway.”