Thursday, 11 December 2014

Not a Party

Scotland and Catalonia are struggling with the same issue.

In Scotland, according to the Herald, the SNP is moving away from suggestions of a Yes Alliance of the pro-independence parties. The two smaller parties - Scottish Socialist Party and the Greens - are reported as saying that "the SNP have decided they are not open to that kind of arrangement."

In Catalonia Artur Mas the President of the Generalitat, and of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya announced his "route plan to independence" with the idea of presenting a joint list at decisive In-Out elections. He proposed that the party list (here, we vote for a list of candidates from a specific party, with proportions of that list actually getting seats depending on the votes cast) should be made up not of politicians but of noteworthy people. 

Sr. Mas' idea has been rejected by the second largest party here, ERC, led by Oriol Junqueras. The two are talking, but there is little chance that ERC will agree to Mas' proposal.

What's going on? Why can't these politicians agree on this one apparently straightforward topic; independence, or not?

In a healthy democracy (yes, I know that democracy is just the least worst system for running a country) political parties are about power and vision. The collective of members and supporters has a vision. In order to get the power to make that vision they form a party, and get themselves elected. We've had that here with the creation of Podem, a fast-growing new party that grew from the civil protest movement here.

At the centre of the vision it's all very clear. SNP, Greens, SSP, Convergència and ERC all want independence for their two countries. 

But it's tunnel vision: at the edges it's all blurry. 

Do you want independence with a side order of dismantling capitalism? Then vote for the SSP. Do you want independence in a moderate, mildly conservative state? Then vote for Convergència.

If the vision meets at the edges then parties merge. This has happened when Tory defectors have a vision shared with UKIP. In their case a vision through the bottom of an empty beer glass.

Why can't the nationalist parties agree? Because their vision does not meet at the edges. And, yes, because of personal agendas, personal egos and lust for power, all aspects of the soft underbelly of democracy and all necessary aspects of why it's an imperfect system.

And for us, the voters? We need to see the vision of our politicians - the stuff in the centre of the tunnel and all the blurry edges. This was why Scotland's white paper on independence was so important. It was the whole vision of a political group - including the detail at the edges. Now there are differences. The SNP, Greens and SSP share the same central vision - independence - but have different edges. 

I want to vote for an entire vision - edges and all - and that means a party. Repeat after me: "democracy is the least worst system of government..."

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Don't Read if you are Poor

A clear, well-argued paper from the OECD shows why poverty is bad for your economic health.

Federico Cingano and Michael Förster explain in straightforward terms what happens when countries allow their poor to get poorer. They show that increasing income differences (the overall measure is called the "Gini Coefficient") by one Gini point lowers GDP per capita growth by 0.1%. The cause? Mainly, lower educational achievement amongst the poorest people; more inequality means that poorer people spend fewer years in school, and that means lower literacy and numeracy. Poor people are not reading.

And where does Scotland come in all this? 

Guess...and you'll be about right. In the UK "...the cumulative growth rate would have been six to nine percentage points higher had income disparities not widened..." over the last 20 years. Our unique position as the European country with the widest differences in income - i.e. the worst wealth gap - has been bad for all of us, not just the poor people who have suffered as a result. 

Scotland, as we know from SCVO amongst others, suffers  from some of the worst poverty in the UK; the Scottish economy is being held back as a direct result.

Time to take Scotland out of this stranglehold on growth.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

St George Slaughters the Poor (Again)

The most significant number in yesterday's Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne was "£13.6 billion."

This is the amount he intends to cut out of the UK economy if the Tories are reelected in 2015. He means to take all of this in 2015-6. 

This is a typical political strategy; get yourself elected on populist policies ('Google Tax!', '£15m to repair church roofs!') and then suck out of the economy sixty times more than you won from Google, Starbucks and Amazon.

These cuts* will affect Scotland disproportionally. They will be targeted on welfare and thus at Scotland's higher proportion of poor people; welfare spend is expected to be at least '... £1 billion a year lower than forecast at the Budget...' said George yesterday. And the cuts will mean big reductions in staff numbers for Civil Service jobs.  Because the Scottish economy depends more than the English on public sector jobs, we will be harder hit.


There is one other announcement that did not hit the headlines. Our George, he who would not countenance Scotland using its own oil wealth, has created a '...Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North.'  

Politically this is the equivalent of a childish smack in the face for the SNP; just because the SNP proposed a similar Sovereign Wealth Fund for Scotland it can't have it. Ya boo to you. Culturally, it confirms what we already knew; Scotland is simply a colony of England, whose resources are to be sucked out of her in order to prop up the English Exchequer. 

But its real impact is social. Money from oil and gas licenses could be used in Scotland to help the poor and to develop our economy. That's OK for Yorkshire, but not for Scotland.

One day, St George, the Dragon will bite you back.

*There is more on the cuts in a Financial Times analysis here:  This uses OBR figures from, er, page 149 of their report (so not what you'd call the headlines...) to show that spending on local authorities, transport and other areas important to Scotland will have to fall from £147bn in 2014/15 to £86bn in 2019/20 to meet the Government's own targets. A lot, lot more than they will earn from taxing Google et al...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Devo Fudge

The scene: a modern office, Edinburgh. There is a large round table in the centre of the room. 11 people are seated around it.

Adam: ... So yes, yes we're OK about letting Holyrood run everything, election-wise.
Bob: Really? Everything?
Linda: 16 year-old voters? Numbers of MSPs? Constituencies?
Adam: Yeah
Linda: Political parties...
Adam: Yup
Linda:... And donations to the parties, Adam?
Adam: TAKES PHONE CALL IN HIS EAR BUD. Uh-hu. Da (or however you say 'yes' in Russian)
Adam: Well obviously not the donations, Linda.
Bob: So not everything, then Adam.
Adam: Yeah, like I said. Not everything. Obviously.

The same room, some time later...
Adam: George says it's OK for the Jocks to run their own income tax
Bob: [sotto voce] I wish you wouldn't keep saying 'Jocks' Adam. It's not helping us to build a consensus.
Linda: That's good news. We'd like to control income tax. You do mean it this time don't you, Adam? Income tax. The stuff workers pay?
Adam: Yeah, whatever.
Linda: So we'll be able to raise or lower rates? Great! We can finally tax the folk on high incomes!
Adam: Sure, go ahead...
Adam:... 'Course, depends what you mean by 'income'.
Bob:  It sounds like you are being verbally imprecise again, Adam. I've told you about this before.
Maggie: What's this about 'income', Adam?
Adam: Obviously we can't let you kilties define what you mean by income. Obviously.
Linda: So you mean we can raise the tax...
Jean: ...but if we do you'll just change the definition of 'income'...
Adam: Yeah, and stuff like allowances. Starbucks asked us specially. I spoke to their guy in Liechtenstein just now...
Linda: ... So we're not really in control of income tax.
Adam: You got it, Linda

Paragraph 95 is the killer app in the Smith Commission report. Labour and Conservatives must have been laughing up their sleeves when they slipped that one in. Because it says that increases or decreases in income for the Scottish Government will be reflected in adjustments in the block grant to Scotland, 'indexed appropriately.'

These are weasel words. Smith might mean that the block grant will be adjusted proportional to inflation, proportional to Westminster cuts, or inversely proportional to Scottish Government income.  At least two of these possible meanings are detrimental to Scotland. The last is the worst, because it means that if we raise more income (e.g. through a land tax) Westminster will simply knock it off our block (Barnett) grant. A zero sum game.

And the LibLabCons have, once again, shoved Scotland into the Naughty Corner. By focusing on income tax they've made what looks like a concession but is on fact a political A-bomb. Income tax is the one that gets the voters out of bed. They don't get excited about the Aggregates Tax or even Corporation Tax. But income tax is a vote winner or loser. Which is why Smith handed the hottest potato, income tax, to the Scottish Parliament and kept the real money-spinners including oil and gas revenues with Westminster.

As today's The National ( points out it's an attempt at a stitch-up.  Without control over all the levers of tax and benefits Scotland will be unable to manage its economy. There will be lots of political noise, people shouting at each other about taxation, but no real economic action.

At the May 2015 election we've got an opportunity to tell the LibLabCons that we're not having it. Vote in enough SNP MPs and we could push through Devo-Max, not the Devon-Fudge that my Lord Smith has offered us.

The strategy is simple to say and hard, hard work to deliver. All of us, everyone who supports independence for Scotland, will have to be out there chapping doors, listening to people and winning them over to our cause.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Oh dear Lord

The Smith Commission, headed by Lord Robert Smith of Kelvin, has reported.

The Good Bits

  1. Lord Smith got five political parties (Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and the SNP) to agree to one document. That's an achievement.
  2. The consensus includes an agreement to extend voting to 16 and 17 year olds - young people would* have more of a say in our future
  3. The Commission agreed that "nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose." I'm choosing, and I'm choosing now. Yes please.
  4. He added his own view: for example that there should be more local devolution - to local authorities 
  5. Scotland would* get a voice on EU business. Bonjour, Monsieur Juncker.
  6. The Crown Estate would* pass to the Scottish Parliament - we get Balmoral! Anyone want to squat it?
  7. Scotland would* get powers over fuel poverty
  8. Payday loan sharks, sorry, shops, would* be controlled at Holyrood
  9. We would* get some "formal consultative roles" - for example with telecoms, renewable energy and the coastguard. I have the impression that this "consultative role" was a negotiation back-stop in the places where Conservative, Labour or LibDems would not hand over actual power. 
  10. The two governments would "explore" (sounds very, very tentative) the possibility (even more tentative) of a "temporary right" (tentative in the extreme) to remain in Scotland for anyone identified as a victim of human trafficking.
  11. We get control over food labelling to include "Made in Scotland". 
  12. Oh yes, and we would* get powers over traffic signs. Great. Thanks.

The Not Good Bits

The Commission received 18,381 submissions from the public including, as we say in Catalan, un servidor. When they published their interim report on these submissions they told us that just 259 (er, 1.88%) were submissions "requesting no further powers be devolved." So when the report says:

...what they apparently mean is that the public view would "...NOT influence the thinking of the political parties..."
The Scottish Parliament would* have no powers over the regulation of political parties or donations to those parties. Barmy, in the extreme. 
We would* get no powers over pensions, and limited powers over benefits. Child Benefit and Maternity Allowance are both "reserved" - i.e. Westminster keeps their sticky hands on them. 
Westminster - that bastion of gender equality - retains control over equalities!
The political and environmental hot potato of fracking comes to Scotland, but the real money - the licenses for offshore oil and gas - don't. Thanks a bunch, guys.
On income tax we get to control the rate...but not the personal allowance, or tax relief or even "the definition of income." So, change the definition and change the reliefs, and the b*&&ers can carry on evading tax like before
We don't get control over National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains tax, Corporation tax and "oil and gas receipts will remain reserved." ROBBERY!!
We get to control Air Passenger Duty...but if we cut it, we have to pay the difference to Westminster. The Ryanair policy.  
Same goes for fines and penalties. We get to keep them, but we pay the amount back to Westminster. Bl@@dy pointless.

Teacher's Comments

Not really "extensive new powers", is it, Bob? Definitely not the "home rule" that Gordon Brown promised. 
You didn't actually listen, Bob, did you? When 18,381 people sweated nights to write you their six pages of opinion, and when 98% of those people said they wanted more powers, you, and the Commission, simply ignored them.
We get to fiddle at the fringes of income tax, but we can't control allowances, nor even define what "income" is.
We don't get rid of Trident, nor anywhere near it.
And we have once again been robbed. Like the English colony that we are, our oil and gas, that huge opportunity to tackle the poverty of Scotland, has been taken from us. Robbery, pure daylight robbery. This part gives me, as an auntie used to say, the dry boak.

So thanks for trying, and well done with the getting-them-all-to-agree bit. But it's not enough. Not enough, by miles.

*IF the UK Government agrees to implement all this lovely stuff, bearing in mind the forthcoming general election, the views of UKIP and their mates in the Tory party...

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Quine's Speech

Nicola Sturgeon, first of the quines of Scotland, has drafted her government's programme for 2014-5. The detail is interesting.

The programme has two axes - business, and equality. On equality, the Government is planning to do battle with poverty and to emulate by 2020 what the First Minister has done in her Cabinet - require 50:50 representation by women in the leadership of organisations across the nation.

The economic strategy is written for the long term - productivity, increasing labour market participation, and a focus on making Scotland a good place to do business.  The steps include good practical stuff, so parents in the workforce (and without) will get more and better childcare: that will help businesses directly.

The government is promising more Modern Apprenticeships too. For many young people an apprenticeship is a great way to get a solid start in work, and much better to get hands-on work than spending years in a classroom.

The equality programme is wide and varied. From cradle to grave it includes continuing protection for the NHS, more free child care for 1-3 year olds, help for people caring for others, payment of the Living Wage in public-sector contracts, and a thoughtful proposal to analyse how best to legislate specifically against domestic violence. There is to be a fund to recompense people for the idiotic Westminster "Bedroom Tax" -  a bizarre example of one government digging a hole and the other filling it in.

The Government purposes legislation on human trafficking, a horrible source of exploitation that especially affects women. Human trafficking is the dark underside of the sex work trade and legislation will have the beneficial effect of shining a light on the (mainly) men who traffic their sisters.

The Government proposes the end, finally, of Mrs Thatcher's 'Right to Buy' scheme under which our best social housing was sold off to private landlords. This might protect the tail end of social housing in Scotland.

Land reform - the subject of much of Leslie Riddoch's Blossom (and today's front page at The National)- will also be tackled. This is going to be a land war, but one worth winning. Scotland, as Riddoch argued, has millions of acres of unproductive land held by unaccountable land owners. The reform proposed will include transparency so that we can see who's who, and a shift in business rates (tax) so that 'game' estates - those that occupy thousands if acres just so that folk can shoot grouse or deer - will pay their proper share of tax. Expect loud bangs when the gun lobby reads about that.

Land reform with power sharing with local communities is the environmental part of this programme. There is more - legislation on landfill and work on fisheries, as well as support for renewables through the "Offshore Wind Accelerator" programme (a pun of a name.)

So what's missing? There is stuff that this Government can't do. It uses the phrase "short of the power to legislate, the Scottish Government is committed to…", or "...within the limits of our current powers…"  to signal those places where it cannot overcome those of Westminster. Amongst the most horrible of the things they can't do: they can't get rid of Trident.

There is little on the non-profit sector apart from support for culture and reforms in the way that universities are governed. But the huge focus on inequality will please many in the sector.

The first quine's speech is a series of promises to do her best to shepherd all this good stuff through the Scottish Parliament. This is how she would like the future to be - but it's a plan, not an audit report.  Some of it might not make the final cut. Today's report by the Smith Commission and next year's Westminster election might open new doors, or close others. 

But as a manifesto for building better lives for people who have little, or nothing, it gets my vote.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

XY Scots

I inherit my Scottish nationalism from my mother.


One of my sisters has the condition but the other three siblings don't. I seem to have passed it on to both of my children. (Via my mum's X chromosome, I thought, until my daughter smuggled me into her second year Zoology lecture this week at the University of Glasgow by Professor Edward Tobias. Autosomal recessive inheritance, Professor?)

My clan name - Clan Kerr - comes via my grandmother. I know I'm a member because the clan motto - Sero sed serio, Late but in Earnest - is genetically embedded in me: I am forever late but always in earnest.

My mother and my grandmother are two of the most influential people in my life. These Scottish women have made me, loved me, fed me and wiped the blood of falls and cuts from me. They taught me to see life at its best every day and to keep on keeping on when life gets rough. And both women showed me that you carry on learning all of your life - my grandmother's lifetime of studying nature, and my mother's flowering as a writer.

A lifetime in pictures

And now another woman, a 44 year old "working-class girl from Ayrshire", is leading this country of women. She has promised to keep on keeping on for women in Scotland. She will do a great job for Scotland.

XY dominant, Professor?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Smith Says Yes

The Smith Commission has published its interim analysis of 13,759 submissions from members of the public.
Just, ehem, 259 (1.88%) were “submissions requesting no further powers be devolved.”

4,800 of the submissions were petitions – meaning they were signed by more than 10 people. Of these, all (yes 100%) were for one or other mixture of further powers including devo max and home rule.

So, Lord Smith. Your big, big test: will you recommend what most people want? Or will you fudge the issue?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Horsemen of Hypnosis

England appears hypnotized. How else can one explain the inaction, inertia, blindness, sleepwalking? The country is heading into a perfect storm which will make the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse look like a Sunday School picnic.

Here they are;

The Pestilence of Poverty

Are England's ruling class aware of poverty, outside their own back door? This is the scandal of the wealth gap - the UK's near-to-worst position (24th in 2011, ahead - just - of Israel, Turkey and Chile...) in the OECD list of countries ranked by wealth gap.

We know from charities and from walking the streets that there are far too many people who have little or nothing. And from walking streets not many blocks away, too many with too much.

Britain, and especially the privileged bubble of Westminster has created a society of two tribes. The Rich Tribe is comfortable in its cars and its brand-name shops, while Sebastian ('he's something in the City, darling') squeezes the max out of his salary and bonus package. Its politicians are happy to reduce benefits and tax the spare rooms of the poor because they never consciously encounter the Poor Tribe.

The people who cross this tribal divide are the philanthropists. Not just the high profile people of wealth, but the thousands of people who know that poverty is not another world and who give their money to good causes. But there are not enough philanthropists to fill the growing wealth gap. And some day the Poor Tribe are going to have had enough. 

There will be an explosion in the streets of Britain.

The War Horse

It is Poseidon's weapon of choice. It sits sizzling just 25 miles upwind of Glasgow. And it is costing you, and you, and you a King's ransom. The UK parliamentary committee that met to approve its upgrade reckon £80 billion over the next twenty years... but that's one of those defence spending estimates that has a habit of increasing, maybe doubling.

And yet the English public seem blind to the atomic war horse that is Trident. Most will spend most of their working lives paying for it through their taxes. Some, the million Scots living downwind of Faslane, may one day sniff it in the air. But only a tiny number seem to care. Think how many schools and hospitals you could build, equip and run for £80 billion!

The Financial Famine

Yesterday's Financial Times reminded us that the UK is horribly in debt, and that the debt is getting worse each year, despite awful cuts to social services. ONS says that the debt is now £1.4 trillion. This year it is likely to be £100 billion more.

Britain is sleepwalking into the red, with a government that is meant to be good at financial management. But this is a neo-liberal government that refuses to the sensible thing (tax wealth to pay the debt.) Instead it has announced tax relief on wealth, and further cuts in benefits for poor.

One morning we will wake to the news that a trader in the Far East, a new Soros, has decided that the UK economy can't support the debt and that the pound is worthless. When that particular horseman arrives he'll be galloping, and the apocalypse will be fast. The collapse of the pound ('if only we'd joined the Euro when we had chance!') will mean hyperinflation and massive social unrest. A very British apocalypse.

The Death of the World

The palid horse of Death also approaches, across the Channel. It is the Death of Britain's world, and the rebirth of Little England. The people of England seem to have become afraid of anything foreign, starting with the 'terrorists' and now encompassing the EU and its massed ranks of 'immigrants.'

England, exporter of migrants to her colonies where they were supposed be a civilising influence, now fears migrants who might civilise the Motherland. Students are now blocked from entering the UK to study here. Entrepreneurs and new corporate recruits (the CBI complained last week) are facing delays and refusals at our borders. And Prime Minister Cameron has flown the dangerous kite that he will attempt to remove the right of EU citizens to move to and work in any Member State. His kite string will snap in the combined storm of protest from Germany and France over this core principle of the EU.

But this fourth horseman appears to be invisible to many in England. To the UKIP supporters and the loonie right of course, but also to Conservative and Labour voters. Can these Little Englanders not see the illogic of their position? 'We emigrate' equals 'good'. 'They emigrate' equals 'bad'. Really? 

And do they not see the dangers? Targeting immigration means targeting immigrants and that smells, quickly, of racism. And of course Britain will be expelled from the EU - even if England does not vote the whole UK out - if it persists with this folly.


Hypnotic Men on Horses

Why are the people of England blind to the four horsemen? It seems to be an almost perfect disconnect between the English and their politicians. A disconnect made obvious by the contrast with Scotland, where these topics were aired and discussed for the Referendum and continue to be the subject of writing, thinking and discussion afterwards.

But for hypnotised England the clip-clop of hooves is already audible. We just don't know which horse will come in first; poverty, and social turmoil when poor people finally sicken of the cuts? The a massive sell out of sterling when the markets discover that our debt is unpayable, ever? A 'tragic accident' at Faslane? Or the loss of Britain's largest trading partner? Or will all four Horsemen arrive together in a perfect storm?

Whatever. It's coming. Someone, please: wake up England.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Self-Determined Catalans

The polls have just closed here in Catalonia and it looks very likely that two million of the electorate of 5.4 million will have voted in the civil referendum.

This is despite the fact that:

a) only one third of the normal number of polling stations were open

b) the Constitutional Court had declared the vote, the act of voting, and the act of supporting a vote illegal

c) Head teachers at every school in Catalonia (many schools are used as polling stations in elections) had received this letter from the Governor of Catalonia telling them that it was illegal to open the school as a polling station.

Message from the Moon

(The letter, from the wonderfully named Maria Llanos de Luna (Mary "Planes of the Moon") is a masterpiece in legalistic obscurantism. It is also almost unreadable - the first sentence, for example, runs to 107 words.)

Catalans everywhere have been voting - there were queues at the London office of the Generalitat, in Fleet Street.

Today's poll is determined self-determination. Every Catalan who voted was breaking the law - two million people defied the courts and voted. This is democracy in the face of a Madrid government that tried to ban it. At last night's European Free Alliance meeting in Barcelona  Daniel Turp of the Parti Québécois focused on the right of people to self determination as a measure of democracy. 

He was right - the Catalans have shown what democracy (δημοκρατία / dēmokratía) really is - rule of the people.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Crushing Catalonia

The machinery of the Spanish state is attempting to crush Catalonia, to ensure that Catalans cannot vote, 9th November, on independence.

At its weekly meeting today the State Council (Consejo deEstado, Government consultative body) will dictate a memorandum against the vote. That will trigger a decision tomorrow, Friday, at the Constitutional Tribunal (Tribunal Constitucional, the court responsible for interpreting the 1978 Constitution) to ban the vote. The State Prosecutor (Abogacía del Estado, part of the Ministry of Justice) will then attempt to stop the vote.

And this is the second version of a vote that they are banning. The first, organised by the Catalan Government, was banned on the basis that it was unconstitutional. This second version (called the “nou 9-N” or ‘new 9-N’), run by 40,000 volunteers and with the support of local councils is also about to be banned.

Catalans are getting angry. It will not take too much more provocation from Madrid before there is an explosion. As it is, the intransigence of the Madrid Government is likely to increase, not decrease the desire for independence.

Catalans have seen the people of Scotland vote. Why can we not vote here?

On 9-N we will vote. We must vote.

"Si o Si, i Si i Si"

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

To the Smith Commission, with love from Catalonia

Dear Members of the Smith Commission

I live in Catalonia, one of millions of Scots living abroad.

Scots abroad are the ambassadors of Scotland. We talk about Scotland to neighbours, friends and colleagues. We support Scotland in debates about anything from football to fisheries. We promote Scotland, Scottish products and places. We welcome Scots to our homes, and help Scots in need.

We could not vote in the Referendum, but by goodness we care about the place we still call "home."

1          Current Situation in Scotland; Issues

1.1        Power, and Responsibility

There is little that links the people of Scotland to those in power in the UK.

Scottish affairs occupy very little of Westminster's time and appear to be of little interest. This lack of interest comes from the top: Prime Minister Cameron was absent from Parliament for debates on 6th May 2014: Wales Bill/Scotland Wales symmetry, 25 Mar 2014: Disenfranchisement debate, 29 Nov 2012: Scotland and the union, 15/3/2011: Scotland Bill and 7/3/2011: Scotland Bill. Between 2004 and 2010 he mentioned Scotland in the Commons an average of just three times per year, including two years in which he never spoke about Scotland at all (source: Hansard).

Local Government and local democracy is in a poor condition in Scotland. The abolition of the Parish Councils, the County Councils, and the District and Regional Councils has pushed democracy further and further from the people. Politics in Scotland feels (excluding the brief moment of sovereignty that was the Referendum) like a very distant place.

1.2        Poverty

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation showed us what we already knew - there is deep, widespread poverty in Scotland. People who live in Ferguslie Park, Possil Park or other deprived areas of Scotland are three times as likely to be unemployed and if they are unemployed, almost five times as likely to be sick and unemployed as folk living in the least deprived areas of Scotland.

Poverty needs local solutions, and the UK Government in Westminster has shown itself to be unable to deal with Scotland's poverty.

1.3        Peace Dividend

The Westminster Government has followed its US allies into a succession of wars, principally in the Middle East. It maintains and is about to renew its Trident nuclear missile system, based close to Glasgow. The cost of these adventures is awful in human lives. It is also economically destructive. The Trident Commission Final Report, July 2014, states that the cost of replacing Trident is "£2.9bn in 2012 figures, or 9.4% of the defence budget" over 20 years.

Scotland’s share of £2.9 billion per annum over twenty years (the Trident Commission predicts that the actual cash cost will rise to a maximum £4bn per annum) is money that could be going to education, health or the alleviation of poverty.


1.4        Oil, Gas, Renewables

The Scottish Parliament does not control licensing for oil extraction in the North Sea...nor for fracking under the Scottish Central Belt. The Scottish government does not control the tax revenues arising from these activities, meaning that it cannot use licensing and taxation to manage extraction, nor can the people of Scotland benefit in any way other than the direct or indirect employment these industries create. This is a situation very similar to the extraction of raw materials in the Global South, where nations are left in poverty despite the extraction of valuable mineral wealth.

1.5        Representation Overseas

Scotland is poorly represented overseas. We had direct experience of this here in Spain during the weeks before the Referendum when a group of Scots in Spain had to ask the British Ambassador in Madrid, Simon J Manley CMG, to cease tweeting comments against the Yes campaign. He replied that he "articulated Her Majesty's Government's views on this subject." [Source, letter from Simon J Manley, 24 June 2014]. He did not articulate the views of many in Scotland.

The distinctly Scottish voice on foreign affairs, including the Scottish orientation toward the Nordic states and the EU, and the Scottish thinking on a range of topics from energy to migration are not adequately represented by the UK’s Ambassadors.

1.6        EU and international

Catalonia and Scotland have much in common, including a positive view of the benefits of EU membership. This positive view is not shared by many in England and there is now the real possibility that Westminster could remove Scotland from membership of the EU, against its democratically stated will.

1.7        Migration

"We are all immigrants", the first line of The Scots - a Genetic Journey (, reminds us that Scotland has immigration needs that are not shared by England. We have more universities per head than any other country in the world. Access to these wonderful universities is being hampered by the UK-wide single policy on immigration. Scotland has land that it could share and an ageing population that needs balancing with younger people; we have space, and the need, for more immigration.

2          Principles

2.1        Rebuild democracy in Scotland

People in Scotland should feel that they have a say in how their local area, their region and their nation is run. Those in power locally, regionally and nationally should know (not just morally, but constitutionally, and legally) that they are responsible to their electors
Only the powers that absolutely have to remain at Westminster should do so – the principle of subsidiarity. Westminster should retain powers over foreign affairs and defence, within the provisos below. All other powers - including all forms of taxation and State income generation, and all forms of expenditure - should be devolved to the Scottish people and their Parliament.

2.2        Poverty

Scotland’s government should have a constitutional requirement to reduce poverty. A simple threshold would suffice – for example, to reduce poverty to the levels experienced in a basket of Nordic states.

2.3        Defence

Scotland's defence needs are simpler and cheaper than those of England, with a focus on inshore patrols and no need for an A-bomb deterrent. Scotland should enter a military alliance with England and Wales, with an agreed level of participation by Scottish regiments, air force and navy units, and an agreed budget. Scottish taxpayers would not have to support Westminster's defence programme, and as a symbol of this new alliance, Westminster should remove its Trident missile system from Scotland.

2.4        Natural Resources
Scotland's wealth of natural resources should be used to benefit the people who live there. Oil and gas licensing including licensing for fracking, and all oil/gas taxation revenues should be managed in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament, with a proportion representing the English geographic share of oilfields in North Sea waters being paid to the Exchequer in London. Tax revenues from hydro, wind, tidal, biomass and other renewable energy systems should also be received and managed by the Scottish Parliament. The levels of tax and subsidy should be set by the Scottish Parliament.

2.5        Foreign affairs

Scotland's viewpoint is different from that of England or Wales. The UK should have formal structures through which Scotland's views on foreign affairs are expressed, including a Scottish Foreign Affairs committee in the UK Parliament, and a substantial, influential Scottish Foreign Affairs office within the FO.

Scottish High Commissions - a form of Embassy - should be established in countries with large Scottish communities and in countries such as India with large migrant populations in Scotland. Their role would be to promote Scottish trade and exports, promote Scottish interests in the country and region, and to provide a hub for migrant families in Scotland and migrant Scots abroad. Scottish High Commissions should be established in the USA, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Belgium (Brussels, EU), Spain, United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

2.6        EU membership

The Commission could consider a settlement that allowed Scotland to remain in the EU even if England chose to leave. The relationship between the Channel Islands and England provides a constitutional model; one nation outside the EU, the other inside, and both linked together by the Crown.

2.7        Migration

Scotland's distinct needs should be reflected in different policies. Specific categories of permitted immigrant to Scotland should be created so that students and young economic migrants from outside the EU could live in Scotland. This is similar to the situation in Canada where individual territories set immigration policies relevant to their needs, within an agreed national framework.

3          Devolving powers and responsibilities

Devolving powers and responsibilities to Scotland would recover democracy there, and that in turn would mean a stronger society, a stronger civil society, and a greater degree of social cohesion. These are social goods with an economic value that will repay the investment in time and money required to build them.

The necessary first steps are in the fields of taxation and revenue generation, meaning that all taxation revenues from oil and gas, as well as income taxes, land and corporation taxes, and sales taxes would flow to a Scottish Exchequer. With this flow of funds Scotland could afford to build a stronger democracy and to tackle the many causes of poverty.

4          Conclusion

With power over all forms of taxation and the economy, with a peace dividend arising from a new arrangement for defence, and with a powerful say in foreign affairs, Scotland could thrive. Without these powers it remains, as now, at the whim of a Parliament focused on other issues, other places, and other battles.

Thank you for considering this submission.