Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A pathetic, hate-filled article: and my response

This morning, the extreme right-wing British website The Commentator produced one of the most hilarious interventions in the independence referendum debate to date. Riddled with inaccuracies throughout, it was clearly written by a patrician, arrogant British nationalist whose understanding of Scottish life, politics and culture is clearly firmly grounded in the Victorian era. I half-expected, genuinely, to be told at some point in the article that Scotland isn't a real country anyway, and we should be called North British again.
The article in question can be found here. It contains the usual rubbish. In abridged format, this is it.
There is no oil left. The oil that is left isn't worth anything. Anyway, it's all in Shetland. And some of it in Orkney. And they will want to be part of England if Scotland votes Yes. Which it won't. Because it's too small and too poor and it's people too stupid. They get subsidised by England. Alex Salmond is a bit overweight. Scottish people eat deep-fried Mars bars, hahaha. 
My response to the worst article yet - and I am including Michael Kelly's cries de coeur in this - in the independence debate is below.
What a tragically misguided article.
Clearly written from the viewpoint of a hard-right Little Englander and British nationalist who simply can't understand why the jocks would ever want to leave the benevolent United Kingdom which has been so good to them, it is an article riddled with errors, and with panic and fear at the prospect of the end of his country seeping out of every word, with a liberal dollop of hate and contempt on top. The author clearly has no knowledge of Scotland beyond about 1955 and the article absolutely reeks of a "but how DARE they, after all we've done for them?!" colonialist mindset.
1. The errors begin before the article even does when it asserts "2/3 of the oil is in Shetland and Orkney waters, and they'd probably rather stay with England than join an independent Scotland"..As a matter of fact, when Scotland becomes independent, Shetland and Orkney - as part of Scotland - will be coming with us (they won't need to "join" - they are already part of Scotland). If at some stage in the future there is any movement whatsoever for Orcadian and Shetland self-government, they will be entitled to hold a referendum on independence. They certainly won't be "staying with England" in the immediate post-independence period.
Indeed, it appears that the only person in the northern isles who has any desire not to remain part of Scotland is the increasingly-hysterical pantomime dame, Tavish Scott, a fanatical British nationalist extremist whose singular contribution to Scottish politics was the utter destruction of the Liberal Democrats in 2011, being reduced to a rump of only five MSPs, with not a single constituency retained in the Scottish mainland. There are boybands with more members than the Liberals have MSPs.
Furthermore, the international law of the sea could not be clearer on what the situation would be on the isles' ownership of oil should either or both secede from Scotland: it would have absolutely none. The islands would be, legally, an enclave with exploitation rights to the oil only within a 20km radius of their coast. There is between little and no oil there.
2. The first paragraph talks of the "increasingly unlikely event of Scotland becoming fully independent". The author has every right to view (or, in my opinion, he hopes) independence as unlikely, but to claim the likelihood is *decreasing* is simply untrue, with every consecutive poll showing a narrowing in the gap between the pro-democracy campaign and the Tory-led No campaign, which shares a sponsor - Ian Taylor - with Arkan, the Yugoslav War criminal.
3. "Neither does it mean that the UK will pay anything". Well, yes, it does. Unless the remaining UK wishes to default, it will indeed be paying anything. It is a matter for the UK Central Bank whether it wishes to pay 90% of the UIK debt (i.e. the national debt less Scotland's 10% share by population) or 100% of the UK debt (i.e. if the British regime decides that the UK Central Bank is not a shared asset and liability, e.g. by refusing Scotland the continuing use of our currency). But with an absolute minimum payment of 90% of the national debt, it is tosh and piffle to assert that the UK will not be paying "anything".
4. Whilst the Barnett Formula does indeed give Scotland more money per head than England, this is not some sort of "English subsidy" to Scotland. This is a common "mistake" by journalists (I appreciate the author of this piece is a blogger, not a journalist) as they attempt to pretend Scotland is subsidised. Imagine Mr Mitchinson and I entered into a marriage. I earn one million pounds (or Euros, of course, given Scotland will simultaneously be expelled from the EU and have to join the Euro....) per annum, and Mr Mitchinson earns one pound per annum. Our salaries go into a joint account, giving the Mitchinson-Ball family a total annual income of £1000001. I withdraw £700002 per annum. Mr Mitchinson withdraws £299999 per annum.
Whilst I indeed withdraw over twice as much money as Mr Mitchinson over the course of a year, would anyone seriously claim that this means I am a kept man? Of course not. Yet this is the exact situation with Scotland and the UK: Scotland contributes 9,6% of all UK taxes, but receives only 9,3% of UK spending in return.
5. The gap between revenue and expenditure is wider than in England. This is true. The author asks how we will bridge the gap. The running cost of the Trident nuclear weapon programme alone is £2bn per annum (at a 10:90 population split, this would be £200 million per annum from Scotland). Scottish repudiation of Weapons of Mass Destruction would immediately, and alone, pay for one in every ten pounds of the author's claimed "£2bn spending gap". Scotland, at the moment, is paying for 10% of the English High Speed Rail line, despite the closest it comes to Scotland being Leeds, in Yorkshire. Scotland receives not a brass penny in Barnett consequentials, as this is a "UK infrastructure project". Like Crossrail - entirely in England but paid for with Scottish money, and with no Barnett consequentials. Like the London Olympics - almost entirely in England, but with Scottish money propping it up: and no Barnett consequentials.
6. The author, reasonably correctly, asserts that the "Chancellor rubbishes this idea [of Scotland retaining the Pound Sterling]. He may well rubbish the idea, but he has conspicuously refused to rule out a Sterling Zone - as has every single member of the British government. At any rate, the Pound is a freely-tradeable international currency which can be used by any nation which desires to, whether that is Scotland, Sweden or Senegal.
7. The author then tells us "it is inevitable that the [oil] price per barrel will fall markedly. North Sea oil is notoriously expensive to find and extract. If the price falls below about $80 a barrel the rigs could stop pumping. And there has been little investment in exploration for some years." Perhaps he is unaware of the development of the brand-new Kraken oil field, in Scottish waters, less than two months ago, which will create 20 000 new jobs. Perhaps the author knows more about oil exploration than oil exploration companies. Perhaps these companies like to throw money away on worthless projects. Perhaps the author rather hopes that the oil will run out. It's been "running out" since the 1970s. There's only so many times you can shout "boo" before the cat stops jumping in fright.
8. Having spend hundreds of words dripping with fear, the article moves swiftly into hatred and contempt territory. We're told that "the islanders ...are not Celtic; they are Norse." I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with anything. Scotland is a non-racial society. It's the witless witterings of someone who dearly imagines Scotland as a society riven by tribal rivalry, sort of like a particularly rainy South Africa.
"They have their own dialects and don’t speak Gaelic.". Well, bully for them. There are more Polish than Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Indeed, the vast majority of the Scottish people don't speak Gaelic. The point is a complete irrelevance, and at this stage, one begins to wonder if the author has, in fact, ever set foot in Scotland. He seems to imagine it as this Brigadoon land so beloved of Victorians. It isn't. Really.
"They don’t wear the kilt.". Jesus wept. A total and complete irrelevance, patronising and contemptuous. It undermines his whole argument to suggest that the independence of Scotland is somehow about "kilts". It isn't. Really. This is a modern, 21st century society. Kilts are as popular as top hats are in England. A kitschy relic of the past generally worn at weddings and by Prince Philip.
"They have their own flags and distinct identities.". Ok, so the author's point here seems to be that because the islands have their own flags and distinct identities (but no independence movement whatsoever), they ought to be independent of Scotland. Simultaneously, despite Scotland having its own flag and distinct identity (and a pro-independence government), it, er, ought not to be independent of the UK. Be stupid and patronising if you want, but for goodness sake, be consistent.
"And they would prefer remote Westminster to over-close Edinburgh." They expressed this preference in a remarkably odd way, then, voting overwhelmingly (62,4% in Shetland; 57,3% in Orkney) at the last referendum to be governed from Edinburgh than London.
9. It is an article riddled with hope. The hope that if the silly jocks vote for independence, to "throw it all back in our faces", that we will be punished by economic warfare from London. The hope that when we vote for independence, we will lose our northern territories, despite there never being the slightest desire from Lerwick or Kirkwall for either self-government or leaving Scotland (neither an MP, MSP or local councillor is elected on a self-government platform.
But more than anything else, what shines through this pathetic cry of hate, bitterness, contempt and fear is the earnest and apparently genuine hope that after more than three hundred years of Union, what has been achieved is a Scotland too crippled and poor to govern herself.
I would say that's a pretty good advertisement for giving up the Union. For if we couldn't go back to governing ourselves after three hundred years, what sort of condition will the Union have left us in after four hundred.
Mr Mitchinson is, of course, entitled to his opinion. It's just a shame that his opinion is bilious poppycock scored through by hate.

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