Who’s too wee, too poor and too stupid now?

Too wee, too poor, too stupid.  It’s the standard cry of the Britnats whenever Scottish independence is mentioned.  Unlike all the other smaller countries in the world, Scotland hasn’t the size, nor the resources nor the intelligence to be a successful independent country.  It isn’t a view widely shared by the rest of the world, though you wouldn’t have realised that had you relied on the BBC and the rest of the British media for your information, with one or two honourable exceptions.

But recently, something seems to have changed, and it’s all down to Brexit.

It all started with David Cameron thinking that the best way to retain the votes of the loony right-wing little Englander elements in the Tory party who were threatening to move to UKIP, was to offer them a referendum on EU membership.  This duly appeared in the Tory’s manifesto for the 2015 election and it appeared to have the desired effect.  Against the odds, the Tories won a surprise overall majority.  Of course, this meant that Dave had had to deliver on his promise.

Not a problem, thought Dave.  Apart from the small number of loonies mentioned above, nobody with even a modicum of sense would consider leaving the EU, would they?  Or so he thought.  But he reckoned without possibly the worst campaign in British election history.  Both sides concentrated on telling the country how awful the other lot were (that bit was true) and the only positives came from the Leave campaign, with a series of promises which they knew they couldn’t keep, but as they were going to lose, there was no harm in promising the earth, was there?

In fact, both sides were so confident of the outcome, neither made any plans for what to do if the vote went the other way.  Remainers assumed it would be business as usual after their victory and Leavers believed no one with any sense could possibly fall for the bunch of half-baked lies that made up their campaign slogans.

Is one definition of stupid not to have any plans about what to do next following a vote on the whole future of the country?  Were they really that stupid?

Worse was to follow.  Having lost the referendum, Dave fell on his sword.  Admittedly it was a rubber sword, so it didn’t do him any harm, but it allowed him to bring forward his plan to make oodles of money on the speaking circuit from all those companies he had “helped out” while in office and it meant he would no longer have any responsibility for the shambles that was undoubtedly going to happen.

Step forward Theresa May.  A slightly reluctant Remainer during the referendum, she now became a born again Leaver.  Elected unopposed to replace Dithering Davie, she was seen as a safe pair of hands.  Having spent six years cementing her reputation as the nastiest Home Secretary in living memory, she was seen as just the person to sort out the problems caused by those nasty foreign workers coming into the country from other parts of the EU and contributing to our economy.

Determined to show she was a better Prime Minister than Dave, she set about assembling a cabinet of all the talents, including David Davies (hic!) as the man to sort out all those EU Johnny Foreigners and Liam Fox to arrange all the trade deals needed to replace the EU trade arrangements, … with a little help from his friends, perhaps.

But the most exciting appointment was Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, perhaps the only man living who numbers those he has insulted as greater than those he hasn’t.  The perfect choice to convince the rest of the world how much better than them Britain really is.

It didn’t take long before the UK government’s whole negotiating position began to fall apart.  Despite delaying the start of negotiations with the EU for as long as possible in the (ultimately forlorn) hope that they could scramble together a few ideas, it immediately became obvious that the UK government had no idea what they wanted to achieve, had no understanding of the complexity of the current relationship with the EU and couldn’t even manage to achieve any form of consistency in the statements made by cabinet ministers.  In or out of the Single Market?  In or out of the ECJ?  In or out of the European Counter Terrorism Centre and Europol.  In or out of Euratom?  In or out of European Medicines Agency?  The list goes on and on.  At the last count, there were at least twenty seven European agencies whose functions would have to be replicated if the UK government chose not to remain part of.  How many of them do you think our government has a plan for?

Instead of plans, we got “Brexit means Brexit” and “out means out”.  52% of those who voted (and 35% of all voters) became “the will of the people” and it soon became “unpatriotic” to deny the will of the people, an excuse trotted out to justify any change the government wanted to impose.

However, if you thought May couldn’t do anything more stupid than put such a bunch of numpties in charge of anything more important than cleaning Westminster’s loos, you were soon to be proved wrong.  Concerned that the slim majority in Parliament inherited from Dastardly Dave might leave her open to even a small backbench revolt, with a twenty point lead in the polls, May called snap election to cement her position as unchallenged Brexit supremo.  Unfortunately the only thing cemented were the shoes she was fitted with in preparation for her being thrown overboard when the Tory party decides she is no longer an asset.

Too stupid?

Unfortunately, the rest of the world was unimpressed.  For reasons that seemed to escape our government, there wasn’t a queue forming outside Westminster desperate to strike a deal which was really advantageous to the UK.  Several countries seemed more interested in striking deals with the EU, or had already done so.  As the EU market, without the UK,  is more than six times the size of the UK market, it can’t be a surprise to anyone that countries are more interested in a trade deal with the EU than with the UK.  That is, it can’t be a surprise to anyone except our current government who seem astonished that everyone wasn’t prioritising a deal with the UK over everything else.

As no one seemed to be beating a path to their door, May and her ministers were forced to take their pleadings for priority trade deals around the world.

Japan told May they were keen for a deal, but it would have to wait as they were currently too busy negotiating with the EU.  The UK would have to join the queue.

Canada were also prepared to discuss a deal, but not while the UK are still in the EU, as that’s against EU rules and Canada don’t want to irritate the EU just weeks after concluding their own trade agreement.  The UK would have to wait.

May also went to the US to hold hands with her bestest friend, Donald Trump, who promised a quick trade deal.  Unfortunately, Trump’s first act of the new arrangement was to slap a 219% tariff on aerospace parts coming from Bombardier in Belfast, not the act of a man desperate for a deal, but perhaps a taste of things to come.

Remember, during the independence referendum, when Unionists told us we would have to join a queue to get into the EU?  Well, who’s being forced to join queues now?

In addition to the reluctance of many major countries to prioritise deals with the UK, another problem the UK Government has is that it lacks the capacity to be able to conduct the separate negotiations necessary to replicate the trade agreements they already have as a part of the EU.  According to Liam Fox, the International Trade minister, this means concentrating on bigger agreements and ignoring smaller ones.  Even on the bigger ones, the UK Government wants to adopt cut and paste copycat deals, effectively replicating what they already have as a part of the EU.   You could ask where the benefit of leaving the EU comes from when the best that can be achieved is what the UK has now, and that only for bigger countries.  Unfortunately, the UK is just too wee to cope with all the changes brought on by Brexit.

The UK Government’s final problem is that it’s just too poor.  The UK has to take its place in the queue behind the more important countries, and by more important, we mean countries who can afford to trade.  UK national debt has been on a rising trend for many years, but the rate of increase has risen sharply since the Tories took office in 2010, despite an election promise to eliminate the deficit by 2015.  Debts of under £1tn when the Tories took office have increased to over £1.7tn now and are expected to reach £2tn by the end of this year.  Doubling national debt in the space of 7 years must rank as some sort of record.  I wonder if Guinness have been told?

This doubling of national debt has gone hand in hand with a decrease in the UK’s credit rating.  Remember when we were told that independence would mean the loss of our AAA rating?  Well, the latest rating issued by Moody’s shows the UK downgraded to Aa2, a rating which may well see interest charges rising on the UK’s enormous debt.  And all because nobody believes Brexit is going to improve the UK’s economy.

So the next time a Unionist makes comments about independence, just tell them that everybody else in the world thinks that it’s the UK who are too wee, too poor and too stupid.

 

 

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When will they ever learn?

I am getting a bit worried about where the Indy campaign is going.  Perhaps it’s just post-holiday blues.  I know I should be grateful for getting away at all, but it’s been no fun coming back to the election aftermath, to Brexit and, worst of all, to Grenfell, possibly the worst man-made land disaster in the UK in my lifetime since Aberfan.

As the Grenfell death toll rises inexorably towards 100 and likely beyond, the truth surrounding the decisions taken by governments, both local and national, which led to a minor fire being transformed into a major catastrophe, are gradually filtering out.

Cheap cladding was specified, not because it would improve the lives of those living there, but because it would make Grenfell Tower look more attractive to the residents in the more expensive parts of the Royal Borough, the people who really counted to the local authority.  Indeed, many of the spending (or saving) decisions taken by Kensington and Chelsea council seemed more concerned with reducing the opportunity for the richer residents of the borough to come in contact with the poorer ones.

The so-called internal “improvements” in Grenfell were carried out with little regard to the structural integrity of the building and there’s significant evidence emerging that the “improvements” were at least partly responsible for the seriousness of the outcome.

However, Grenfell is not the reason I started writing this blog.  As I said above, it’s just one of the reasons why I’m perhaps feeling a bit depressed and this depression might be the root cause of what I’m going to say.

It has become generally accepted by all sides that a second Scottish independence referendum can only take place at the end of the Brexit process.  Sure there are differences between the parties as to what constitutes the end of the process.  Is it after agreement has been reached (or not reached) between the UK Government and the EU, likely in the latter half of next year?  Is it when the UK formally leaves the EU, at the end of March, 2019, unless a new date is agreed in discussions?  Or is it only once the full impact of leaving the EU becomes known, likely to be at least a decade after leaving?

However, all sides agree that, whenever the time comes, the Scottish people will be able to make an informed decision, based on the then known facts of the implications of staying as a part of the UK versus becoming an independent country.  Unionists probably hope that a longer delay will give the UK Government time to pull off a miracle and make Brexit look like the greatest thing since sliced bread, or perhaps they just think that kicking it into the long grass will give everyone the chance to forget all about this IndyRef2 malarkey.  But even independence supporters seem happy to go along with the idea, thinking that, when the terms and implications of leaving the EU become clear, many more Scots will realise what a bad deal we will get by staying as part of the UK and this will make them more likely to vote for independence.

Let’s look at this second belief in more detail.  The union has been in existence for more than 300 years.  The bulk of the Scottish people weren’t very keen on the idea, but it was pushed through by the politicians and the elites, the very ones who had most to gain from the arrangement, so, in the end, the street marches and protests were of no avail: the union went ahead as planned.

Wind forward to today.  The bulk of the Scottish people don’t favour the union, but its continued existence is being maintained by the politicians and elites who have most to gain from the current arrangement.  By the way, don’t confuse the statement above with the proportion of people who might vote to leave the UK.  Many people who voted no in the independence referendum did so out of fear for the future, not out of love for the present.

So if so many people don’t think the United Kingdom is good for Scotland, why did so many vote to stay in it in 2014 and why do opinion polls consistently show less than 50% in favour of independence?  The short answer, or answers as there are two, is/are fear and lies.

Let’s look at the lies.  You can’t survive on your own without handouts from England.  You won’t get your pension.  You’ll have to use the Euro.  You won’t get into the EU.  You won’t get into the UN.  You won’t be able to trade with any other country.  You won’t be able to afford an army or navy.  You’ll be responsible for the breakdown of world order.  You’ll be invaded by the Russians.  You’ll be invaded by aliens.  All of these and more were used by the opponents of Scottish independence.  All have been thoroughly debunked, but all had an effect on the outcome.

But why would such, in most cases, obvious nonsense make people change their minds?  The simple answer is repetition.  With a virtual monopoly of both broadcast and print media, union supporters were able to get a lie repeated time and time again, with virtually no chance that the same media would broadcast or print an opposing point of view.  Often it appeared that the media were working with each other, with a story appearing on the radio on Wednesday, being brought up in Parliament on Thursday, then repeated in the press on Friday and, to (almost) quote Mark Twain, a lie can be halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on.

For years, Scots have been told they are second class.  For years, they’ve been told they survive on handouts from England.  For years, they’ve been told they are subsidy junkies.  For years, they’ve been told they couldn’t run their own country, that they aren’t equipped to make political decisions.  Ruth Davidson, the leader of the so-called Scottish Conservatives, went even further to tell Scots that 90% of their countrymen and women are a burden on the state and that Scots are not normally put somewhere if there’s something they can steal.  This from a person who tells us she’s a “proud Scot”.  Proud to be one of a bunch of thieving, no-good layabouts?

The continued drip, drip of negativity (or at some times more like flood, flood) is what produces the fear.  Having been told so often, and by so many people, that Scots are generally useless, people fear that any change can only be change for the worse.  And when this gets repeated regularly practically all through your lifetime, is it any surprise that, deep down, you become a little afraid to make the leap into the unknown, to independence.  You might not really believe any individual story, but there’s no smoke without fire, so they say.

So unionists have been telling us lies for years and years, probably for 300 years, since the formation of the United Kingdom, though I can’t vouch for that personally, and enough Scots have been sufficiently swayed by the lies to fear change, change that they have been told can only make things worse.

So my question is: does anyone think that this will be different at the end of the Brexit process, whenever that is?  Will the media tell us how bad things might become for the UK after a Brexit on terms much worse than we have now, or will they tell us that this is just the first step to a brighter future?  Will they tell us that every good outcome from the talks shows the brilliance of UK negotiating, or will they say it’s just a practical necessity?  Will they place the blame for any poor outcome on the UK government or will they blame Johnny Foreigner?  Do we really think the media will not be supportive of whatever is the outcome of the negotiations?

If nothing changes in the media, if the media continue to praise the UK position and continue to tell us only what the politicians and elites want us to hear about the Brexit negotiations, why would we think that the Scots taken in by the lies and the spin in 2014, those who feared change in the last referendum, are going to react differently this time and be able to see clearly that staying a part of post-Brexit UK is not in their best interests.

Unfortunately, as things are going, I can’t see a post-Brexit independence referendum producing a better result.  As I said at the start, perhaps it’s just post-holiday blues, but I fear that, no matter how bad the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the MSM will make sure the Scots who didn’t see it last time won’t see it this time either.  So those of us who want independence need to think of a more radical approach than the current let’s wait and see how Brexit turns out.

Getting out of hand, Brexit style

It was David Cameron’s idea.  I suppose a lot of the Tories’ really bad ideas can be traced to Davie.

“I know how we can get rid of those nasty UKipper Little Englanders for good.  They are dead against the EU, but we can adopt their policies and their language and replace them with good solid Tory Little Englanders who will also be dead against the EU, but, at least, they’ll be our Little Englanders and, if push comes to shove, they’ll vote for us.  We’ll have a referendum on staying in the EU and, when we win, that’ll put UKIP’s gas at a peep and get rid of them as a threat for a generation”

You would have thought he could have learned a lesson from Scottish devolution.  Remember when George Robertson (now Lord Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie) told us that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead.  I wonder how that worked out, George.

Unfortunately for Davie, he had reckoned without a number of factors.

Firstly, he forgot the mainly right-wing media’s history of rubbishing the EU at every turn, pandering to a Little Englander agenda, spinning every EU decision in as bad a light as possible and making up stories if they couldn’t get a real one.  Straight bananas anyone?  Were the media likely to support remaining in the EU?  No chance, and that’s how it turned out.

Secondly, he forgot the years of effort our right-wing media have put into telling us that all foreigners are awful.  Foreigners who might make decisions that we Brits would have to pay attention to are awful, but foreigners who want to come to the UK because we have bombed their countries back into the Stone Age are even worse, much, much worse.  The media tells us the immigrants (they’re not refugees, of course) are only coming over here  to steal our jobs, occupy our houses, use up our NHS resources and take advantage of our benefit system.  All just because we and our American pals have bombed their house, killed their neighbours and generally destroyed the area they used to call home.  What sort of reason is that to want you and your family to move somewhere safe and liveable.

Thirdly, he forgot that the Brexiteers could invent largely illusory benefits to be gained by leaving the EU and, with the help of the media, these “benefits” would be the ones that would stick in voters’ minds.  I’m sure everyone remembers the £350M/week to be spent on the NHS.  Unfortunately, putting it on a bus turned out to be much easier than putting it on the NHS.

Fourthly, he forgot to have a list of benefits for staying in the EU.  Always going to be a hard sell because of the first factor, it was made much worse by the Remain crew virtually completely confining their arguments to trying to rubbish the Brexiteers’ claims.

And lastly, he forgot the attraction to many of returning control and decision-making to the UK Parliament and the UK courts.  With years of rubbishing the EU behind them, people have been conditioned to believe that the EU isn’t democratic because we don’t always get our own way, that we pay a fortune into the EU and get almost nothing back and that every EU decision is stupid and anti-British.  Mind you, this makes what happened shortly after the referendum even less understandable.  But more of that later.

So, much to everyone’s surprise, the outcome was a win for Brexit, something no one in Government wanted, not even the Brexiteers, who, it turned out, were only trying to engineer a sufficiently close result to give the UK a bit more leverage in subsequent negotiations with the EU.  To complicate matters further, of the four countries in the UK, only two, England and Wales voted to leave, while the other two, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to stay, as did Gibraltar.  The differing and often conflicting expectations of each country are creating real problems for Theresa May, who replaced Davie as PM after he decided there were better (and more lucrative) things he could do now that the referendum wasn’t going to plan.

What wasn’t planned (I don’t think) was that the language used by the Brexiteers, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee would effectively give permission for the public to speak, and sometimes act, in the same way.  The weeks after the referendum saw a substantial increase in hate crimes, mainly in England it appears, with foreign UK residents and even visitors being harassed, abused and even physically attacked.

So where are we now?  Brexit means Brexit; a phrase that’s been on almost everyone’s lips over the last few months.  So said Theresa May when asked for a full explanation of the UK Government’s strategy for negotiation with the EU.  The Government refused to tell anyone what their negotiation strategy would be on the basis that they wouldn’t reveal their hand in advance of the negotiations themselves.  However, many unkind people suggested it more likely that they were keeping it a secret because to reveal their strategy would have shown that Brexit means Brexit was all of it.  For a government of a party that prides itself in its organisation, it is almost unbelievable that they could have been so complacent, so sure of victory, that they didn’t even bother to think what they would do if the vote went against them.

Not only did the UK Government refuse to tell the public what their strategy was, but they initially refused to allow Parliament to debate the terms.  It was their intention to use the Royal Prerogative decide on the timing and strategy, without involving parliament until after the decision had been taken.  Many were unhappy about this and, as a result, a small group decided to go to court to force the Government to seek parliamentary approval for both timing and strategy before triggering article 50.

When the court’s decision came down, that approval of parliament is a requirement, there was an astonishing outpouring of bile from politicians, the public, and, in particular, from the media, especially the right wing press.  They had insisted during the EU referendum campaign that they wanted to bring decision-making back to the UK to prevent the nasty foreigners in the EU Parliament and the European Court making decisions for us.  Now we had an example of English judges in an English court applying English law and deciding that the UK parliament (you could even say the English parliament) should have the final decision on the Brexit terms.  Wasn’t that what the referendum was all about?  Wasn’t that what 17m people voted for?  But no, many were distinctly unhappy, even incandescent with rage.  How dare these unelected judges try to overturn the will of the people they said, apparently unaware (or not caring) that the judges had only decided that Article 50 couldn’t be triggered without a vote in Parliament.

But their disagreement with the verdict was not the most worrying aspect of the coverage.  What was most worrying was not he fact that the media were annoyed, but it was the tone of the way they covered the verdict.

d-mail-judges      First we had the Daily Mail printing photographs of the judges and calling them “Enemies of the People”, describing one as a Europhile (how awful), one as someone who has made a lot of money through an association with Tony Blair (now that is awful) and a third as an openly gay ex-fencer (what can be said about such a comment in 2016). The Daily Mail weren’t the only ones to print photographs of the judges as the Telegraph did as well (a so called quality paper).  Short of printing the judges’ home addresses and explicitly calling for members of the public to sort them out, what more could they have done to stir up trouble.

sun-judges        Well, what they could have done what the Sun did, describe the group of people who took the action as rich foreigners (a bit ironic when printed alongside a photo of a woman married into one of the richest families  in the UK, or is it only British women that are allowed to be rolling in the stuff) and printed a photograph of one of the group specially darkened down to make her look really, really foreign.

two-faces  Compare the photo from the Sun on the left with the (nearly) identical one in the Times on the right.  I suppose it’s not really surprising for the Sun to do this as another article in the paper described how the proportion of white people living in some English towns has allegedly reduced over the last 20 or so years.  When did the Sun become the house magazine for the Ku Klux Klan?

Cheered on by politicians and the media lying about the court case, pretending that the intention was to overturn the result of the referendum, the situation got really out of hand.  Death threats and other abusive remarks were scattered around like confetti, aimed at anyone perceived to be on the “other side”, because anyone on the “other side” was an “enemy of the people”. ( It must be true, I read it in the Daily Mail).  People were said to be in hiding for fear of attack.  Politicians (mainly UKippers to be honest) called for the judges to be sacked for applying the law and for judges in future to be chosen by the government.  Bang goes the impartial judiciary then.  Who needs it?  It was perhaps indicative of the way things are going that the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, when finally forced to make a statement, refused to condemn the attacks on the judges.  I thought that the Lord Chancellor was supposed to be on the side of the judges, not the lunatic fringe of the press.  Perhaps she’s on the side of the judges in the same way Fluffy Mundell is on Scotland’s side.

What confuses me is the real objective of the media.  It certainly appears that they are trying to stir up trouble, even encourage violence, but to what end?  What would they hope to gain from such a situation?  Should there be violence, would they sell more copies, or is there some other advantage?  Or is this nothing to do with the media, but more to do with the owners of the media.  Do the mega-rich types who own most of the media in this country have a plan to turn the situation to their advantage?  Will civil unrest allow them to make changes which will benefit them and, by implication, disadvantage the rest of us.

It’s difficult to see how this will all turn out, but it’s hard to imagine that Brexit is going to benefit the UK economy, the relationships with our neighbours or the UK culture.  If only someone could think of some way that we in Scotland could avoid all the problems the UK will be facing over the coming years.  Any ideas?