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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why should Scots support the Union?

An update on the situation in a small and faraway country which has been growing disenchanted with its larger neighbour in the last 30 years and could shortly pose yet another problem for European constitutionalists – Scotland.
The prospect of a referendum on independence became inevitable when the Scottish Nationalists won, in May 2011, an outright majority of seats - all the more astonishing since the electoral system had been designed in 1998 to avoid any party winning such a majority. In the middle of last year the UK Prime Minister bowed to the inevitable and accepted that a referendum would be held - in 2014. Political grandees from the establishment parties have united to fight for the Union but, as a powerful  article argues today, with little conviction and fewer converts.
Labour has still failed to sell the union on its own merits. Events since then may even have rendered the task impossible. Unionists have talked loftily about dangers of break-up and separation in a world that is thirsting for continuity and stability.
Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world's most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.
Last week, Goldman Sachs, one of the banks with its fingers in the till when global economic meltdown occurred, awarded an average bonus of £250,000 to each of its employees. The gap between the richest in our society and the poorest stretched a little more and we were reminded yet again that the UK government, despite its promises, allows greed, incompetence and corruption to be rewarded. (How many people do you think will go to jail for the Libor rate-fixing scandal?) Meanwhile, Westminster politicians are dividing the poor into categories marked "deserving" and "scum".
The most common wet dream of every Bullingdon Tory is the national lottery. And what a jolly wheeze it is: get the poor to fund our biggest capital projects in exchange for a cruel fairy story. Now they've doubled the stake to £2, confident that the benefit cuts are increasing their customer base daily. In Glasgow, the boss of a council-run regeneration agency was given a £500k pay-off at a time when the Citizens Advice Bureau is reporting almost 1,000 calls a day from people whose families have been impoverished by the benefit cuts. Life for millions of people under the most rapacious and reactionary government in 150 years has diminished. To prevent the peasants revolting, however, they have been treated to exaggerated displays of unity euphoria such as the Olympics and assorted royal jubilees.
Labour in the UK long ago gave up any pretence at being the party of the marginalised and the vulnerable. Instead, it throws rotten fruit at the SNP when it says what Labour should be saying. Alex Salmond last week painted a handsome picture of what a new Scottish constitution following independence would look like. Every Scot, he said, would have a right to a home and free education. There will be no nuclear weapons. And we'll decide who we're fighting and who we're not. Until Blair, Mandelson, Balls and Miliband hijacked the party, that was what I thought Labour stood for. Now they simply boo and hiss with the Tories and say it can't be done.
Earlier this month, the UK Treasury declared that, following a period of intense and prolonged analysis of the economic numbers, each of us would be £1 a year worse off in an independent Scotland. Put another way, for £1 a year you will never have to endure the economic privations of a Conservative government ever again. You will not be penalised for being poor or old and nor will you suffer the pain of watching your young boys being killed in illegal wars or occupations.
We won't be lacking friends, either. Of matters concerning oil and Europe in an independent Scotland, the Norwegian government officials I met in Oslo last month were very upbeat. "Come and talk to us before you commit to the EU," they said, "and let us advise you how to manage your oil fund and how to negotiate with the oil companies."
With each passing week, it becomes more difficult to support a union that doesn't really exist anyway. Morally, it may soon become indefensible to remain in a state that rewards corruption and promotes inequality when you have an opportunity to leave it behind.
However, as my friend and namesake, Alf Young, points out in this article, a declining number of Scots are, these days, disposed to vote for independence. And the voters will, in 2014, be faced with a very complex issue as the UK Prime Minister is now committed to giving the British voter a referendum on whether to stay in or exit from the European Union. So the Scots will not really know what they are voting for next year - Scotland, the UK or Europe?

The photo is of Helensburgh in Sotland - and is an elevated view of what I could see most days from my home town of Greenock on the river Clyde.

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