Accessibility Page Navigation
Style sheets must be enabled to view this page as it was intended.

Tuesday 11 March


Had enough of Indyref? You may be in luck - it may not happen.

Or at least, not on September 18.  George Arbuthnott and Jason Allardyce reported in this week’s Sunday Times [£] that Aidan O’Neill QC, an ‘expert in EU law’ is to challenge the legality of the whole thing.

The story was followed up in the Mail on Sunday. In essence the case ,taken up by Mr O’Neill on behalf of Mr James Wallace, a lawyer from Dumfries but now living in London, is that barring Scottish ex-pats from voting breaches their rights under EU freedom of movement and threatens their EU and British citizenship.

Mr Wallace is sending the legal opinion to Salmond and David Cameron today, demanding they enfranchise the estimated 1.15m Scottish expatriates in order to avoid court action. Which sounds an awful lot like blackmail, but we couldn’t possibly comment. This is not a new story – Mr Wallace has raised this before and it hasn’t gone anywhere, but the intrepid Mr O’Neill threatens a judicial review if the case falls at the first hurdle – supposing the money can be raised from ex-pat donors like Kenny Logan.  Jarndyce v. Jarndyce will look like a teddy bears’ picnic if this lot unravels…

Meanwhile, some indication of what those ex-pats might think comes to us courtesy of the View Online series of free-sheets covering Dorset, Somerset and East Devon.  Former mayor of Weymouth and Portland [1989-90], one-time Glaswegian Alderman Jess Nagel has clearly read both the 650-page White Paper and the UK government’s Scotland Analysis papers before pronouncing that she is “very sad to think that all this has come to pass, I really, really am because we have been united for hundreds of years…the long and the short of it is that I don’t think that the Scottish Parliament has gone into this question of independence as deeply as it should have. England has roughly ten times the population of Scotland and, I feel, has been the greater contributor tax and economy wise to Scotland … if something isn’t broken then why fix it? Scotland doesn’t need fixing. It has been perfectly all right as it is for centuries.”

That’ll be why the SNP was elected in 2011 with an impossible-to-achieve majority then. ..



Back in the real world, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, came to Edinburgh.  His mission, as Nicholas Watt in Friday’s Guardian reported, was to reinforce the message of his boss Chancellor Osborne that when they said no currency union, they actually meant no currency union, not maybe. “Our decision”, he said, “taken in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK – is final. No ifs, no buts. No matter how much of a racket they make, it isn't going to change."

Ian Bell in Saturday’s Herald was impressed neither with Mr Alexander nor with his speech – “Mr Alexander has yet to say what service, if any, he would offer Scotland and his constituents in the event of a Yes vote. He has no real interest in constructive suggestions should the people's will go against him, or in any of the several alternative schemes for a currency. Like the other strange musketeers, Mr Alexander has a single tactic he mistakes for a strategy: first create uncertainty, then complain about uncertainty. Then be sure, at every turn, to call your contribution "positive". Then remember to explain yourself to the voters back home”.

Iain McWhirter in the Sunday Herald has had enough of the finger-wagging of Danny Alexander and all the other scares and warnings - “George Osborne says No, Ed Balls says No, Danny Alexander says No, Johann Lamont says nothing at all. A coalition of the City of London, the political classes and a UK-dominated media laying down the law. Wagging a finger. No means No!” – and he’s wondering whether the Project Fear is becoming counter-productive. “Eventually people are going to ask themselves: who exactly is running this country? Who are these people to make these threats? Who elected all these financiers and captains of industry?

“Bob Dudley, the boss of BP who earned $8.7 million last year, heads a firm that isn't even British any more. Since when did we allow banks to make our political choices for us? The degree of direct political involvement by big business in this referendum campaign is unprecedented, and deeply disturbing. It is reminiscent of Latin America in the bad old days, of US dirty tricks and Yankee colonialism…They may win the referendum, but they’ve lost Scotland”

Well, in the past week it was quite clear who they are.  Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden, Lloyds, Barclays, Dundee-based Alliance Trust  (who are already setting up offices south of the border to cater for their non-Scottish clientele), Aggreko, and Citigroup, whose analysts questioned both the likelihood of a currency union and the economic viability of independence, saying it would only rate a single A. Sunday’s Observer reported a Survation poll that showed 36% of firms would relocate under independence. Last week, of course, it was Standard Life – Ken Roy in last week’s Scottish Review  made some revealing comments on the personnel at the top of the company. Worth reading.

Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos was virtually a lone voice in the wilderness saying that Grangemouth would flourish under either independence or the status quo. In an interview in the Sunday Times [£] he says, You don’t have to be big to be successful. Switzerland is small and it is very efficient and it has got one of the highest gross domestic products on the planet.”  But of course, Mr Ratcliffe is not flavour of the month after last year’s debacle...



It won’t please the cybernats, but perhaps they should take heed. We found this lovely little essay in Click on Wales by John Winterston  Richards, posted before the clash at Twickenham on Sunday, as good a defence as any we have read of the concept of dual identity.  No comment needed.



… and the earth moves. Yesterday it was the turn of the clunking fist of Kirkaldy to re-enter the fray. Gordon Brown was in Glasgow. According to Severin Carroll in the Guardian, this is the first of many more interventions we can expect from Mr Brown in the run-up to September.  The former PM was promoting a written constitution that would guarantee a partnership between a further devolved Scotland and England Wales and Northern Ireland with equal rights for all across all four. "With these changes, we bury for good the idea that Westminster enjoys undivided sovereignty over the country… we reject for ever the out of date idea of Britain as the old unitary centralised state of the constitutional textbooks… we propose a 'new union for fairness' whose watchwords are power-sharing, diversity and constitutional partnership, replacing the old union of centralisation, uniformity and Westminster's undivided sovereignty."  Harriet Arkell also reported on the speech for the Daily Mail, with a neat summation of the six main points. This is BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor’s take on Brown’s speech.



Yesterday too, veteran LibDem Ming Campbell unveiled Campbell II - plans to try to find some ‘common ground’ between the three unionist parties.  Hamish McDonell previewed the speech on the Spectator’s website. It could be all over bar the voting, says McDonell, if they would only put party politics aside and work together. . Ming realises how this could transform the campaign, McDonell says, “It just seems a pity that his Labour rivals are so locked into their own partisan battles (and its desperate desire not to be seen to be working with the Tories) that they cannot see it too”.

Which brings us back to Gordon Brown’s speech. McDonell thinks it was a bit ‘so-whatish’. “What Scots need to know is exactly what actual powers would be transferred in the event of a No vote. That is what is important, not just a symbolic right to more powers, which Mr Brown seems to be suggesting. And, as the Nats pointed out quite pertinently this morning, if Mr Brown feels so strongly on this issue, why on earth didn’t he do anything about it when he was Prime Minister?”

The Scottish Labour party itself, of course, is wrestling internally over its Devolution Commission, due, as we said last week, to report to Spring conference in Perth on March 21st, with some MPs very unhappy.   For a preview of the likely approach the commission will take to welfare, we look no further than Scotland on Sunday, where a summary of the Labour-leaning think tank IPPR paper Devo More and Welfare by Alan Trench and  Guy Lodge appeared this weekend.  Devolution of welfare, they say, will improve social and economic outcomes in Scotland – “Welfare is not an all-or-nothing affair; many things which affect welfare are already devolved, and a well thought through extension of devolved powers will serve to make better policy”.  The full paper is published today, and you can find further information on the IPPR Devo More research project here.

Labour is firmly in the sightline of ‘veteran’ campaigner Tariq Ali, who arrives in Scotland this week to add weight to the Radical Independence Campaign.  Steve Briggs in the Sunday Herald quotes Ali saying a Yes vote will be “a rediscovery of hope for a better future” and would “finish off the ''decrepit, corrupt, tribal Labourist stranglehold on some parts of Scotland forever"



Thursday’s Bella Caledonia carried an article by Jonathan Wills about the Articles of Union. It’s interesting, and though long, repays time spent digesting it. Wills’ theory is that there is much in the original articles that would not need repealing should we vote Yes.  He makes no secret of where his sympathies lie; the interest lies in his dissection of the Articles and their present day relevance – not least to EU law.

“The articles establishing freedom of trade and navigation (Article 4), equal rights of citizens (also Article 4), a customs union (6), a fiscal union (Articles 9 & 14), a currency union (16) and a free trade area (18) would not require repeal”.

“No-one in the Yes campaign”, he says, “is suggesting we end these essential components of a friendly co-existence with the other countries who share the British archipelago. Nor is the SNP. The people who do say they’d abrogate these parts of the Treaty and Act of Union, if we dared to vote Yes, are the Tory-Liberal Coalition and their Labour and UKIP supporters. If they did so they’d be in breach of several European Union treaties as well as the Treaty of Union”

Another interesting piece on the nature of constitutions and the possibility of a Constitutional Convention for an independent Scotland comes from Daniel Hind on the Al Jazeera website.  Hind quotes Paine and Burke and says the referendum is threatening to rouse the Establishment from their complacency over the lack of a written constitution for the UK.



Q. When is a ten-fold rise in radioactive gas emissions not a ten-fold rise in radioactive gas emissions? A. When it happens at a naval nuclear reactor near Dounreay and is a ‘planned and deliberate gaseous discharge. ’ The reactor is used to test for potential problems that arise in the reactors that drive our submarine fleet, including those with Trident warheads. Last Thursday Defence Secretary Philip Hammond made a statement in the Commons admitting that radioactivity had leaked into the reactor's cooling water, but had been contained within the sealed reactor circuit. "I can reassure the House”, Mr Hammond said, “that there has been no detectable radiation leak from that sealed circuit."

But there had been. And SEPA had detected it, but had been told by the MoD to keep it secret on a strict need-to-know basis for security reasons. Secret even from the Scottish Government to whom SEPA is, presumably, accountable. The MoD, according to David Maddox in the Scotsman, denies this, and blames SEPA for the decision to keep mum.

The First Minister is huffing and puffing – with some justification we feel - and has written to the Prime Minister accusing the UK government of disrespect for the democratic process, the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland. Richard Dixon of FOE Scotland said "Philip Hammond categorically stated that no radioactivity was released to the environment, and we now know that this is definitely not true. Either the MoD misled him or he misled the House of Commons. Either way, someone should be losing their job." Quite.



Wednesday’s Herald  reported that a new body is to be set up “to play a key role in delivering the first strategy for Scotland's historic environment”. Well, actually, it’s goodbye to two old quangos and hello to a bigger, better version.  Historic Scotland – scourge of many a castle or listed building owner, but saviour of the nation to others – is to merge with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of Scotland. No, we neither.

Legislation to create Historic Environment Scotland is passing through Holyrood under the watchful eye of Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.  And of course, no self-respecting body can be without a strategy or indeed a partnership, so we have Our Place in Time, the strategy, and it’s been developed “in partnership with a number of key bodies, including the National Trust for Scotland, the local government body Cosla, the Society of Antiquaries and the Built Environment Forum Scotland”.  It’s about pooling resources, identifying priorities and collaborating more effectively. And tho’ the Herald doesn’t say so, we’re sure it must also be sustainable…



Sir Jamie McGrigor, Bart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and environment spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, has upset his constituents.   Land owned by Sir Jamie above Loch Awe currently used for sheep, is to host a windfarm for RWE in a deal that, according to the Sunday Herald, could yield the Eton-educated baronet a cool £7,000 a year ‘base rent’, rising to a possible £315,000 and £8m+ over the 25-yr lifetime of the turbines.  Locals say it will not only despoil the area, but create health problems. If only Sir Jamie hadn’t, as recently as 2008, signed a parliamentary motion demanding rules on windfarms to end "speculative applications ... threatening scenic areas".



An interesting article in yesterday’s Conversation on HMP Grampian, the newest of Scotland’s prisons, which ,says  Sarah Armstrong of Glasgow University, is ‘another nod to Scandinavia’ and emphasises a very different approach from that of England and Wales. It replaces existing prisons at Peterhead and Aberdeen and will cater for all types of offender from the north-east of Scotland.  “It is a public project and a local prison in an age where privatisation and centralisation still have wide-spread policy sway. It represents the ambition of a Nationalist government seeking to do punishment differently, and specifically, differently from England”. It is, says Armstrong, a purpose built place where staff will implement a policy of unlocking potential – of finding out what’s right with their charges and building on strengths. It remains to be seen, she says, whether it will succeed – “… will it be any different in its effects? Will its humane architecture give way over time to rules and security devices that overwhelm its community-facing, strength-building dreams? Will it become the carbuncle akin to the prisons it has replaced?



We hate to intrude on private grief, and must apologise in advance to Cleggomaniacs, especially with the York jamboree in full swing, but couldn’t resist this little revelation from Guido Fawkes . Love the mutt…and the toy dog’s cute too.