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If the SNP is serious about independence it needs to resolve the currency question now

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 5:40pm in

For those who think the SNP is riding high in Scottish popularity I have to say that the feeling is not universally shared. Whilst the desire for independence is high, and Sturgeon is doing well in the polls, within the SNP itself there is deep disquiet about SNP policy.

Like too many political parties the SNP is a personal fiefdom. A few people, mainly advisers, around Sturgeon, dominate SNP policy decision making. And the SNP membership is none too happy about that.

The adviser about whom there is, perhaps, greatest disquiet is Andrew Wilson. He is an economist, at one time with RBS. He became an MSP. And now he heads a lobby company called Charlotte Street Partners. But perhaps most importantly, he is, it seems, sole economic  adviser to Nicola Sturgeon.

He wrote the Scottish Growth Commission report that suggested Scotland would have to be committed to austerity for decades after independence to build up foreign exchange reserves, which he wanted to be its priority.

And he has created the policy of sterlingisation, which has been rejected by the SNP membership in conference but which the SNP leadership appear to remain committed to (an indifference to the opinion of the membership which people in many political parties will be all too familiar with).

Sterlingisation  describes a policy where Scotland would become independent, supposedly, and then use sterling as its currency for a period of up to ten years because, apparently, unlike just about every other new country in earth it would not be able to manage a currency of its own, and nor would it want to have the freedom such a currency would provide to pursue its own economic policy. Instead it would rather be beholden to the state from which it had sought to be free, and entirely at its mercy.

Wilson reiterated this policy objective at the weekend in a press interview. Tim Rideout, a regular commentator here, and coordinator of the Scottish Currency Group, to which I am an adviser, takes up the story in an article published in the National newspaper yesterday, which he has given me permission to reproduce here.


JUDGING by the reaction then the Yes movement has been taken by surprise with the claim that ‘Andrew Wilson is the brains behind the YES movement’ in an interview in the Sunday Herald. It would probably be more accurate to say that he is the brains behind a very small group of the SNP leadership clustered around the First Minister.

Lets focus, though, on the economic issues that Andrew Wilson raised.

Firstly, there was a gratuitous attack on Modern Monetary Theory. MMT is a statement of how fiat currencies work and have worked since Richard Nixon brought the last remnant of the gold standard to an end in 1971. The government creates the currency and spends it into existence. It then circulates around the economy before eventually being taken back via tax. Money is an IOU created by the state, and it actually says this on bank notes in the ‘I promise to pay the bearer’ bit. The logic that flows from this lens includes that there is no such thing as ‘taxpayer’s money’ since all money is state money. What it should always be called is public funds. It is also evident that a shortage of demand, as in a recession, requires the state to increase spending or cut tax and run a deficit.

A balanced budget or state surplus (as the Tories want) will just push the citizens into debt instead and probably cause unemployment, while driving wealth upwards to the top 1% that own that private debt. Whether Wilson accepts this or not does not matter as it is simply how a state currency works. He describes MMT as ‘a false promise’ that involves ‘just print money’. Nobody prints money these days and this is just a tired dog whistle reference to the Weimar inflation of the 1920s. The fact he argues this just shows he does not know anything about the subject. MMT is explicit that the state should manage its spending and taxation such that you maintain full employment without causing over-heating and inflation.

Mr Wilson says he ‘respects arguments’ and dislikes somebody that puts a badge on something and ‘shouts at that badge’. He seems not to see the irony in that is precisely what he did in his attack on MMT.

The second point mentions the National Debt and he wants ‘an annual solidarity payment’ to go to rUK. One would have to ask Why? In International Law and under the Vienna Convention the UK has already said clearly (in 2014) that it would be the Continuing State. They get all the assets and all the liabilities except what is in Scotland. So rUK keeps the UN seat, the Falklands, the Washington embassy and the National Debt. This isn’t a problem for them – it is just the National Savings when looked at from the other side of the account ledger, and there is no chance of it being repaid. So long as we ask for none of their assets then we should not take any of the debt either. We should also do our own thing on development aid. There is no logic in letting rUK do it for us, especially when all the relevant civil servants work in East Kilbride.

Thirdly, and most seriously, Wilson hasn’t a clue on currency. Given he was actually at the debate, it seems he does not even know what the SNP policy is. Conference was explicit that we start the preparations for a new currency ‘as soon as practicable after a vote for Independence’ such that we are ready to introduce that currency ‘as soon as practicable after Independence Day’. Whatever else it might mean, nobody would say ‘asap’ was 10 years. He actually has everything the opposite way round to reality. It is sterlingisation that is economically and politically risky. It is likely this policy would collapse within weeks of the indyref2 campaign starting as the No side will just say we will be like every other country and introduce our own currency. After Independence and leaving the sterling area then it is sterlingisation that is extremely risky. It is absolutely not the same as using sterling within the UK. There is no lender of last resort, there is no control of things like interest rates, borrowing will be much more expensive (not less as he claims) because we will have to go to the international markets, and there is no source of emergency funds for something like the pandemic.

He continues that we need to ‘sort out borrowing, taxation, growth and exports’ before we introduce our own currency. This is a massive failing as it demonstrates no appreciation for the fact that it is having our own currency which enables these things to happen. The exchange rate adjustments, for example, is exactly what does bring your imports and exports into balance. He also does not understand that a government deficit is a private sector surplus, and as such typically good for the citizens and business and something that most governments should do most of the time (unless there is a boom).

The final word on the economic front is that the finances of any state with its own currency are always sustainable. The only time they are not is if a state breaks the cardinal rule and borrows in a foreign currency. Borrowing in dollars was the downfall of Venezuela, Argentina, and many others. Strangely, borrowing in a foreign currency is precisely what Wilson would have Scotland do.

Looking to the future, and to assist in keeping the timetable to independence and our own currency much shorter than 2026, there is a new motion being submitted to the November SNP conference. This instructs the SNP to start drafting a bill to establish the Scottish Reserve Bank as the new central bank so that we are ready to start the parliamentary process ‘as soon as practicable after a vote for Independence’. It also sets out the principles of the bank, such as full democratic control and accountability, and provides for it to create and manage a sovereign wealth fund.

The motion has been submitted by Dalkeith SNP (who also won Amendment D in 2019) and is supported by many other SNP branches and elected officers such as Angus Brendan MacNeil MP and Douglas Chapman MP. You can find out more by visiting the Scottish Currency Group on Facebook or You have until Friday October 23 for your branch, MP or MSP to lodge a copy with SNP HQ.

Emerging from the economic storm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 9:53pm in

This is good. Alex chooses good guests. On this one Danny Blanchflower, Alex Neil MSP and Robin McAlpine. All worth listening to.

Building a Scottish tax system

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 5:02pm in

The Scottish National newspaper has reported that:

THE Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) has today announced a “comprehensive” new report on building a new sovereign nation, The National can reveal. Titled Transitioning Scotland: Building The Institutions For Our New Country, the work will cover borders, customs, security, taxation and currency and banking and will be published in parts – with the first coming as early as the end of October.

The rest – led by experts including Professor Richard Murphy, Dr Philippa Whitford and Dr Craig Dalzell – will follow over a three-month period culminating ahead of the May 2021 election.

By June, it is hoped that the complete set will be “ready to guide the new parliament”.

It looks like I should finish my contribution in that case. It is, of course, about tax and the role it will play in an independent Scotland and right now it is way over length.

Belfield Bashes BBC Diversity in Name of White Working Class

A days or so ago, internet radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield posted yet another video tearing into the Beeb. He’s a man of the right, who regularly attacks immigration, Black Lives Matter, forced diversity and ‘wokeness’ – what used to be called ‘political correctness’ not so long ago. He’s posted videos supporting actor Laurence Fox and his ‘Reclaim’ party, though now Fox is being sued by people he’s called ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter, and a small charity which works with disadvantaged working class young people in Manchester over the name. They’re also called ‘Reclaim’, and obviously really don’t want to have it, or their charity, associated with Fox’s outfit.

Belfield himself is also a bitter critic of the BBC and very definitely wants it defunded, if not actually wiped out altogether. He’s got some kind of personal feud with the Corporation. He was one of their presenters, but seems to have been in some kind of trouble for which m’learned friends are now involved. This seems also to have involved Jeremy Vine, as he’s posted a series of videos attacking him.

Class Attitudes at the Beeb and the Favouring of Ethnic Minorities

Belfield believes that he was looked down upon at the Beeb because of his class origins. He was a working class lad from a pit village, and this did not sit easily with the other members of the corporation, whom he lambasts as rich ex-public schoolboys, who all read the Guardian, wear chinos, sip lattes and hold lefty views and sneer at ordinary people like him. He’s also criticised June Sarpong, the head of diverse creativity at the Beeb, for demanding that there should be more Black and Asian figures in front of the camera. His view is that, according to official stats, BAME performers and presenters are already slightly overrepresent at the Beeb. The proportion of BAME actors, presenters and broadcasters at the Corporation is 15 per cent. But Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities only constitute 13 per cent of the British population. The real problem, according to him, is that Blacks and other ethnic minorities aren’t properly represented in the Beeb hierarchy and management.

At the same time, he rails against the Beeb lefties because White working class boys are the least privileged group in society. They underperform other demographic groups in school and jobs. At the same time, automatic ‘positive discrimination’ is not appropriate for all ethnic minorities. Indians and Chinese outperform Whites, have better jobs and higher salaries. They do not need extra help from the state, which should be target at those groups that really need it.

I think he has a point, but as with everything the right says, it’s not the whole point and more often than not its articulated with the ulterior motive of depriving everyone of state aid even when they genuinely need it. I believe he’s correct when he states that at present Britain’s minority ethnic population is 13 per cent of the total. I can also remember Private Eye attacking an anti-racist organisation for the same thing June Sarpong’s done: demanding even more representation of BAME people in excess of their real numbers as a percentage of the population.

Possible Reasons for Sarpong’s Call for More Diversity in Excess of True BAME Population Numbers

In Sarpong’s case, I think there are a number of reasons for it. The first is that she is herself Black, and seems to have automatically assumed that in this issue Blacks and Asians are suffering racial discrimination. Everyone wants the best for people like them, and so she wants more to be done for Blacks and ethnic minorities. I also think self-interest may also be involved. She’s head of Diverse Creativity, but if she admits that Blacks and Asians are already well-represented on our TV screens, then she’s contradicted some of the need for her post. And I also believe that much of it is due to the metropolitan media bubble. London, as the capital, has a very large Black, Asian and ethnic minority population. It’s well over a third, and I think it may be just under half. Black activists like Sarpong and White liberals see the high BAME population of London and automatically assume that the rest of the country must be the same. Some Black performers have described their shock on visiting parts of the country where there are very few peoples of ethnic minority background. Nearly a decade ago, the late actor and comedian Felix Dexter was a guest on an edition of the News Quiz from Scotland. Dexter, who was Black, expressed his surprise at going through some areas of Scotland where there was hardly another Black face to be seen. Which reminded me at the time of the stereotypical comments of White British explorers that they were going through regions of Africa or wherever which no White man had seen before. I doubt very much that this observation would go down at all well with racially sensitive Black activists and militantly anti-racist Whites, but it is there. I think Sarpong, and those like her, have assumed that everywhere else in Britain must be like London, and so demand the same proportion of Black stars.

All Broadcasters Dominated by Middle Class Public School Boys and Girls, Not Just Beeb

At the same time, White working class are the most underprivileged part of the population. This has been reported not just in the parts of the press you’d expect it, like the Heil, but also allegedly liberal papers like the I. The Heil has also published official statistics showing that Indians and Chinese also outperform everyone else in education and work.

I’ve also little doubt he’s correct about the lack of working class people in the Beeb, and that it’s dominated by public school boys and girls, who look down upon on peeps from more modest backgrounds. But I think that’s common throughout broadcasting. Terry Christian, whose Manc tones graced the ’90s Channel 4 yoof programme, The Word, apparently describes how he was driven mad by much the same attitude there. He was the only working class lad amongst a group of people, who all went to Winchester public school. Which no doubt explains why he wanted public schoolboys put in Room 101 when he appeared on it all those years ago.

And here’s where we get to what is not being said: how many of the staff and the performers on the other, private networks come from working or lower middle class backgrounds. How many of the faces you see on Sky and who work behind the scenes are lads and lasses who went to state comprehensives, and whose parents worked as factory workers, bus drivers, cleaners, dustmen and so on. Very few, I expect. But Belfield deliberately avoids mentioning it. Because as a right-winger he hates the BBC for its ostensible ethic of impartiality and wants it to be replaced by private networks that can feed the British public the equivalent of Fox News. Like the Times would like to do with its new channel, Times News or whatever it is, which will present news with what they claim will be an objective slant against the ‘woke’, ‘wet’ BBC. Well, the Times ain’t be a source of objective news since the departure of the late Harold Evans as editor at the end of the ’70s, so this is especially risible.

White Working Class Despised Not By Labour or Democrat Left, But Blairite and Clintonite Neocons

As for the concern for White, working class boys, I think he’s right that a certain section of the left does look down on the working class. But this isn’t the Labour left. It’s the neoliberal, corporatist right of the Democrats in America and the Labour party. There’s a very interesting book, Confronting the New Conservatism, which attacks the Neo-Conservatives and particularly their warmongering and the illegal war in Iraq. It’s mostly written from a left-wing perspective, but some of those interviewed are traditional Conservatives. One of these is a female American colonel, who bitterly attacks Bush’s grotty administration as a bunch of chickenhawks who never served in the armed forces and hated and forced out experienced senior military staff, who knew far more about the Middle East and told them directly that they were wrong. The book argues that both American parties, Republicans and Democrats, have been infected with the Neocon virus. Part of this is the bilateral support by the White middle class for affirmative action policies, provided they don’t affect their children.

Right-wing Pseudo-Feminist Attacks on Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Shows Contempt for Working Class

You can see that in the sociological origins of the Blairites. They’re very middle class, very public school. They support affirmative action policies for women and ethnic minorities, but really don’t have any time for the working class as a whole. And especially not working class men. One of the claims that was used to attack Jeremy Corbyn over here and the awesome Bernie Sanders in America was that, somehow, they were misogynist anti-feminists. Remember all the furore about ‘Bernie Bros’ and their attacks on Hillary Clinton? This was despite Sanders’ strong support for feminist groups and his appearance as an ‘honorary woman’ at feminist rallies. Because of his support for an expanded welfare system and Medicare for All, Sanders supports policies that would benefit blue collar and lower middle class workers far more than Clinton. She was a member of the corporate elite. She has done things that have benefited women and children, but in general she supports the grotty neoliberal, corporatism that are impoverishing working folks for the benefit of the very rich.

The I and the Groaniad launched the self-same attack on Corbyn. He was a male chauvinist, who would drag the party back to the days of old Labour when it was under the patriarchal control of the trade unions. I don’t believe for a single minute that Corbyn could ever be remotely properly described as any kind of misogynist. As a member of the Labour left, which was attacked in the ’80s for its support for Black, gay, and women’s rights, I think he’s the complete opposite. As for the trade unions, I don’t doubt that they were male dominated. The strongest unions were those in mining and heavy industry, which are traditionally male jobs. Women tend to work in the service industries, which are often poorly unionised. This is because employees in those sectors are in a weaker position regarding employers. But this isn’t an argument for weakening the unions. Rather it’s an argument for strengthening them so that they can enrol and protect women workers. My mother was a teacher, and I remember that during the teachers’ strike of the 1980s banners appeared with the slogan ‘A Woman’s Place Is In Her Union’. Too right. Feminism isn’t just for middle class Thatcherite girls.

Tories Claiming To Support White Working Class In Order to Exploit Them and Destroy Welfare State Even Further

The Tories have always attack the Labour party on behalf of disadvantaged Whites. The Daily Heil ran stories from the 1980s onwards, for example, denouncing various Labour councils for giving priority for council housing to non-White immigrants. But this conveniently omits the facts that the reason there was a shortage of council housing was because of the Tories: Thatcher had sold it off, and passed legislation forbidding councils from building any more. The Tories make a great show of standing up for the White working class because of their patriotism and traditional values. By which they mean the type of working class Conservatives on whom Johnny Speight based the monstrous Alf Garnet in Til Death Us Do Part. These were people, who lived in dingy homes with cracked windows, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing but who somehow lionised them.

Only Labour Left Really Standing Up for Working Class Whites, as Concerned for All Working People

The people who are really standing up for the White working class are the Labour left, people like Richard Burgon and in Bristol, mayor Marvin Rees. They’re standing up for the White working class as part of their mission to defend all working Brits regardless of race and colour, Black, Asian, White or whatever. Marvin Rees is Black, but he’s Bristol through and through and has said that he intends to stand up for the White working class as well as underprivileged BAME peeps. He has said that he wants more Bristolians to know about the city’s past as a major centre of the slave trade, but he doesn’t want to demonise the White working class, because they didn’t profit from it. They also suffered, according to him. Clearly he supports Black pride, but he also genuinely support the White working class and is reaching out to them.

Blairites and Tories Exactly Same in Contempt for White Working Class

But you will not hear about these initiatives, especially from the Corbynite left, from the lamestream media or the Tories. Because it contradicts their narrative that the Labour party is racist towards White working class folks. And they have a point when it comes to the Blairites, who are geared towards picking up middle class, Tory swing voters and have ignored or scorned their working class base. Their view of what counts as correct left-wing activism is feminism and anti-racism. Both of which have their place, but they concentrate on them while going along with the Tory destruction of the economy and British industry in the name of market forces, the privatisation of the NHS, because private enterprise is always better, and the dismantlement of the welfare state and workers’ rights, because the poor, the starving, the disabled and the unemployed are scroungers who could get a proper job if only they were properly incentivised. It’s the same view of the working class the Tories hold, except that they cynically exploit the petty jealousies and vindictiveness of sections of the working class to hold them down, while all the while claiming that it’s Labour’s fault. They’re cynically exploiting White working class resentment in order to maintain the British class system and the power and authority of the traditional ruling elites. All the while risible declaring that they’re not elite at all. As Tweezer did so with her cabinet, who were almost public school educated millionaires to a man and woman.

Don’t believe right-wing shills like Alex Belfield. The Tories despise ordinary working people. The only people who are really serious about doing anything for working people – including White working people – are the true Labour centrists. People like Richard Corbyn, Dawn Butler, and the other Corbynites.

Is the growing support for Scottish nationalism based on a wholly explicable desire for a decent government reflecting a decent society?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/10/2020 - 9:35pm in


Politics, scotland

Colin Kidd has what I think to be a very good article on what he calls The Scottish Question in the New Statesman. In it he says:

To be sure, nationalism plays a significant part in the independence cause. But in the broad miscellaneous coalition of voters that supports independence, flag-waving nationalists, though the most obviously visible cohort, rub shoulders with a range of other social types. There are the voters, often middle-aged, who think independence is the best way of preserving what remains of Britain’s cherished welfare state; those who want to live in a normal northern European country – like Denmark or Norway – with a Nordic model of egalitarian social democracy; those who despair of the Brexity delusions of Britain’s post-imperial nostalgia; and a radical younger generation that identifies with Rise, the alternative movement for “Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism”.

The more Boris Johnson resorts to vacuous boosterism – “world-beating” virus contact-tracing apps, and the like – the more Scots relish the idea of belonging to a modern, non-world-beating social democracy.

It’s really not an unreasonable wish, is it? It’s one that many in England would share.

And that is his point. What Kidd is suggesting is that Scotland has not seen a wave of nationalism. Nor, come to that, is support for Scottish independence the opposite of Unionism, which has all its own definitional problems. Rather, it is a desire for decency in government and society.

This will, of course, upset some nationalists. But equally, it suggests that the move towards independence, which Boris Johnson has, yet again, said that he will block this morning, has foundations which are now virtually unstoppable, and which are rooted in the rejection of the model for government that Johnson is, himself, putting forward. For too many people in Scotland that failed model of government appears rooted in real nationalism, which is in their view too popular for their liking in England. The result is a desire for independence, but not Scottish nationalism, per se.

If he’s right, Kidd's argument suggests that Scottish independence is virtually unstoppable, but also implies the same direction of travel for Wales. The article is worth reading.

What is the future for England?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 5:12pm in

The following paragraphs were written as tweets. Each was, then, constrained to 280 characters. And as they were posted separately, and not as a thread, each has to stand in its own right. They are, nonetheless very obviously related so I offer them here in that way, with this necessary explanation as to their style:


I wish I did not gave such an apocalyptic world view right now. It’s no fun realising we’re heading for a crisis that our government has helped develop, wants, and has no desire to ameliorate.


There is no such thing as manageable creative destruction from which a guaranteed upside will emerge, except maybe in the head of Dominic Cummings. But, no sane person would want to go there.


Destruction can only be a political tool for the unaccountable. That’s what the Johnson team believe that they are. So far the Opposition has humoured their belief. If Parliament has not done enough to hold them to account it’s Labour’s fault.


Labour sat out Brexit, believing they could rely on Napoleon’s maxim that you should never interfere with your enemy whilst they’re destroying themselves. The trouble is, they were tearing us apart as well. Labour cannot forget that this time and make the same mistake again.


The Opposition (Labour, SNP, PC, Greens) can’t sit out this crisis. It’s going to be too painful to do that. They must have plans they can promote to deal with the immediate issues. But they have to also remember Beveridge: the best time to promote fundamental change will be soon


Whatever was normal will have gone by the time this crisis is over. Whatever replaces it is not yet known. It could be fascism. And it could be something so much better. But the better route requires a willingness to imagine it. I only see that willingness in Scotland right now.


Because Scotland has a vision of what it’s future might be I have little doubt it will get it. That’s because unlike the rest of the UK it will have a plan as the chaos of this crisis will continue to unfold.


Survival always requires a will to do so. I don’t think the UK, as a union of four nations, has that will any more. It’s why I see independence for Scotland soon, Irish reunification thereafter, and then Wales also thinking there might be a better alternative to rule from London.


The collapse of the UK will come because without having a role as an exploiter - whether by old fashioned land grab, or by financial capture of other country’s economies by the City of London and it’s tax havens - those ruling from London have no idea what role England has.


It’s easy to see the basis on which vision for Scotland and Wales can be created. They are, in a way most in England who have never been there can’t comprehend, other countries. With care a united Ireland could also achieve that. But England? What is it? That is the hard question


A post-colonial, post-financialised, non-exploitative vision of England as a separate country that can survive on its own rather than by extracting value from others is what is required if it is to make it through the long existential crisis that coronavirus is presenting it with.


The politicians who can imagine an England that has its own role in the world, as a separate nation state, not dependent on the support of the other countries that have sustained it for centuries, are what are required to guide it now. And I can’t see them, as yet.


I have to live in hope. That hope includes a belief that England can find a future in which exploitation plays no part. That hope has limited foundations. But when the alternative is offered by the far right it is something I have to believe possible.

Book Review: The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Political Thought in Modern Scotland by Ben Jackson

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 9:27pm in

In The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Political Thought in Modern ScotlandBen Jackson offers a new history of the political and theoretical debates that have provided the intellectual foundations for Scottish nationalism as a social and political movement. This is a hugely important contribution to British political history and a work that will doubtlessly become part of the canon on Scottish politics, writes Jennifer Thomson

The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Political Thought in Modern Scotland. Ben Jackson. Cambridge University Press. 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devolution to the forefront of British politics. The different policies that the four separate nations of the United Kingdom have adopted to fight the virus (and the differing results), and the various policy problems that it has thrown up, have acted as an almost daily reminder of the multi-level, and often competing, nature of governance across the UK. Indeed, there is a growing suggestion that the pandemic may be contributing to a strengthening of support for Scottish independence. On top of Brexit, and a ruling Conservative government at Westminster which enjoys very little support in Scotland, a global pandemic may be the final straw for the Union.

In the light of this, Ben Jackson’s The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Political Thought in Modern Scotland is particularly timely. It provides much-needed contextualisation to the still very recent political phenomenon that is Scottish nationalism. His book is an intellectual history of the ‘conception and theorisation’ (8) of the ideas behind Scottish nationalism. As such, this is a consciously elite study (focusing almost exclusively, as Jackson acknowledges, on the writings of men (10-11)) and speaks less to the lived reality of nationalism and its politics for ordinary Scots. As Jackson writes in the introduction, this focus is warranted given that the intellectual underpinnings of Scottish nationalism have not been given sustained academic consideration and that ‘existing accounts of Scottish nationalism have ascribed too little weight to the political ideas used by politicians, intellectuals and activists’ (6). The Case for Scottish Independence thus fills a key hole in the literature on Scottish nationalism by taking seriously the political and theoretical debates which provide the intellectual foundations for it as a social and political movement. As such, it represents a hugely important contribution to British political history, and it is a work which will doubtlessly become part of the canon on Scottish politics.

The book follows a loosely chronological structure, with the first chapter considering nationalist thinking prior to the 1960s, but the majority of the book focuses on the period from the 1960s onwards, when Scottish nationalism stepped into the political spotlight. The main structuring of the book is, however, along thematic lines, with each chapter focusing on one element of the debate around Scottish independence.

The flag of Scotland

Following the introduction, the second chapter addresses the work of philosopher George Davie and arguments around the distinctive nature of the Scottish university system. Davie argued that Scottish higher education had focused on a more generalist and humanist model, as opposed to an English system which emphasised a more specific and narrow mode of study. As Jackson writes, such characterisations of Scottish intellectual and educational life as unique (and implicitly superior) to its southern counterpart ‘were only indirectly presented as arguments for Scottish independence’ (55), but nonetheless helped to create a sense that a particular and highly important aspect of Scottish culture was being eroded through the Union.

The successive chapters turn to consider imperialism and nationalism’s place on the left-right political spectrum respectively. Jackson addresses the work of political theorist Tom Nairn to survey the impact that the gradual loss of the British Empire following the Second World War, and the respective weakening of British identity, had in the nationalist imagination. He argues that there has been little serious place in nationalist thought for the idea that Scotland was ever in a ‘colonial relationship’ with England, ‘at least in the most common sense of that term’, but that the ‘loss of political autonomy after 1707 also led to some loss of cultural autonomy’ (88), leading to what Nairn referred to as ‘self-colonisation’.

The following chapter illustrates how this perceived difference has been enunciated with regards to political economy. As it outlines, the positioning of the Scottish National Party (SNP) to the left of Scottish Labour is a relatively recent phenomenon. The chapter focuses largely on the work of the ’79 group, a collective of longstanding supporters of independence, including future First Minister Alex Salmond, which was formed in the aftermath of the 1979 failed referendum on devolution. It illustrates how the development of economic policy in nationalist thinking has fluctuated in recent decades, moving from a Scandinavian model of high tax and spend to an Irish model of low corporation tax comforted through the protective cushioning of European Union (EU) membership. Jackson paints a picture of an economic policy which is distinctly less radical than the manner in which much mainstream UK coverage of Scottish politics tends to discuss Scotland’s political economy, and which sounds distinctly risky in light of the 2008 financial crisis.

The final chapter considers the issue of sovereignty and nationalism’s evolving understanding of it. Jackson addresses this largely in relation to the Constitutional Convention of the 1980s and the UK’s membership of the EU. The SNP’s strong support for the EU in recent decades sometimes appears to fly in the face of its support for independence from the other Union of which it is a member. As Jackson points out though, this pluralist approach reflects a ‘realpolitik’ – ‘as a small country, Scotland would need to find a place within international relations’ (146) and the EU would be a key part of this. As discussed above, the EU grew to represent a welcoming home in the understanding of a future independent Scotland, a community for small states which reflected a growing interest by nationalists in ‘Ireland’s successful transformation into a vibrant European economy’ (158).

Jackson’s work is an important reminder that Scottish nationalism remains a political phenomenon that has only really emerged at the forefront of the public imagination in recent decades. As such, it remains a particularly interesting development for historians and social scientists to attempt to explain. Implicit in the varied sources and thinkers that Jackson draws upon is the fact that there is no obvious enemy of the Scottish nation – no great, grand narrative of historical oppression to be told, as in the vein of Ireland. There is not even a distinctively separate identity as in the linguistic and cultural nationalism of Quebec or Catalonia (or, closer to home, Wales). As Jackson outlines, the history of nationalist thought in Scotland has been diffuse, and has at times fluctuated quite dramatically across the political spectrum, particularly with regards to its economic policy: ‘its character has been a contingent one, its rationale shifting in response to wider intellectual and social trends’ (175). The main glue for nationalist sentiment was, and remains, anger at the fundamental and profoundly negative legacy that Thatcherism had on the economy, institutions and people of Scotland.

Jackson ends on a note of caution for the SNP, pointing out that much of the debate he analyses in the book has happened outside of the confines of the party and that ‘even in the devolutionary era, Scottish nationalists remained reluctant to engage each other in spirited public debate about their political objectives’ (176). Such an admonishment seems important, especially in the context of the upcoming Holyrood elections in the spring of 2021 which, should they return a clear SNP majority, may provide the impetus for the party to argue for a second referendum from Westminster. Without a clear understanding of what the goals of independence are, and without an acknowledgement of multiple glaring failings that the party have presided over whilst in government (recent school exam results being just one), the party may fail to appeal outside of their core base. As Jackson appears to argue in closing, Scotland deserves a bigger and better debate about what it is and where it is going. A key part of this is understanding where it came from and how it has arrived at this particular point as a country –Jackson’s book is an essential component of that.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Image Credit: (Alasdair Mckenzie CC BY 2.0).


Disgusted at Tory Simon Hoare Abstaining on Internal Markets Bill and Threat to Peace in Ulster

I’ve got no new information to add to this. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have said it all very eloquently and cogently. But I felt I had to add my voice to theirs condemning Simon Hoare, the Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee and his disgusting announcement that he is going to abstain on the government’s Internal Market Bill. This is the piece of legislation that will break international law by contradicting our treaties and agreements with the EU. And it’s a real threat to peace in Northern Ireland because it imposes a hard border between the Six Counties and the Republic. But it was an essential part of the Good Friday Agreement that the border would remain open.

The Americans have already warned the Tories that if th20 years e Bill gets passed, any future agreement with Britain is gone. That means that all Johnson’s rubbish and guff about getting a good deal with America is just null and void, bluff, bluster, propaganda and lies.

But the real harm could be to the people of Ulster. Those of us of a certain age can remember the horrors of the twenty years or so of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the IRA’s bombing campaign on the mainland. I don’t know how many people were killed, maimed and injured. I do remember the day the IRA bombed Magg’s department store in Bristol. Fortunately no-one was hurt. It wasn’t just the IRA – Loyalist paramilitaries also carried out their atrocities, and there is more than ample evidence that British armed forces, which were originally sent into Ulster to keep the peace impartially, actively colluded with them, as well as the infamous Bloody Sunday Massacre.

The Daily Heil has been fiercely critical of the NI peace agreement, claiming that contrary to all the publicity the paramilitaries are still active. Well, I think one of its editors, David English, was a member of the Loyal Orange Order. Their anti-Catholic activities resulted in a concerned British government launching an investigation into them in the late 19th century, as I found out while working in the archives of the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. I dare say they are. But the violence seems to be very, very much less than I remember and there does seem to be, or at least was, a real atmosphere of positivity and optimism. The great people of Ulster really did seem at last able to live in peace with the hope that tomorrow would be better. Ordinary, innocent people didn’t have to live in the fear that they were going to be shot or bombed in their homes, pubs or work.

Too many people from both the Nationalist and Loyalist communities and politicians of goodwill from Britain, Ulster and Eire and worked too hard and risked and sacrificed too much for this fragile peace to be put in jeopardy. I know personally people from both communities in Northern Ireland, who hate the bigotry and violence.

No-one should die or live in fear simply because Boris and the Brexiteers – surely the name of a really grotty pop band – want to stick two fingers up to the European Union. Abstention isn’t an option: this is just Pilate washing his hands at Christ’s crucifixion again. Hoare might have eased his conscience, but it’s a weak gesture simply so that he hangs on to his job.

You can’t abstain. Not when people’s lives and the political stability of an entire province hangs in the balance. He should do the decent thing and vote against.

Just as Starmer had no business ordering the Labour Party to abstain but not to vote against more Tory legislation granting British forces immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

This could all blow back in Tories’ faces. A majority of Ulster Protestants also want to keep the border open. The province voted to remain in the EU, and some political commenters have argued that this leaves the way open for Eire winning them over and so creating a united Ireland. I think this is far too optimistic, but who knows? If all the people of Ulster want to join Eire rather than have their trade and personal contacts disrupted by a harder border, than there honestly can be no argument. Not if it was the result of a genuinely democratic campaign free of intimidation from the men of violence.

There’d be a united Ireland, and Cameron and Boris would have succeeded in breaking the Union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And when Blair made peace in partnership with Eire and the Americans, some people claimed that he had betrayed his people.

No: he and his partners gave them peace. A peace that Boris is set to destroy and Hoare is doing nothing to preserve.

The Tories are a disgrace. A murderous disgrace. The people of Ireland and Britain deserve better. And the Tories deserve nothing but our hatred and contempt for their willingness to risk more violence.

As I said, disgusted.


Karin Smyth Pushing Right-Wing Candidates in Bristol South Labour NEC Elections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 7:41pm in

Tomorrow Bristol South Labour Party is holding its elections for the party’s NEC. If you are a member of that constituency Labour party, please go ahead and register to vote before the meeting begins on Zoom. Registration stops at 6.45 when you should start signing on. It’s a closed meeting, and so people won’t be admitted after it begins at 7.00 pm.

Yesterday evening I and the other constituency party members got an email from our local MP Karin Smyth outlining what she’d been doing in parliament. She’s due to give her report at the meeting. She also told us who she hopes will win our votes for the NEC. And it looks like a pack of Blairites.

‘There are many excellent candidates and I am hoping Paula Sheriff, Theresa Griffin, Liz McInnes, Johanna Baxter, Ann Black, Terry Paul, Luke Akehurst, Gurinder Singh Josan and Shama Tatler will be successful.’

Now I’ll admit my ignorance. I don’t know most of these people, but one name stands out: Luke Akehurst. If you’ve been following Tony Greenstein’s excellent blog, you’ll know that he’s one of the true-Blue Blairites, and a fanatical Zionist. He’s one who has smeared and tried to purge party members as anti-Semites if they supported Jeremy Corbyn or dared to offer the mildest criticisms of Israel. I’m guessing that the others she’s promoting have similar views.

My was one of those smeared and expelled from the party by the NEC, simply because he had the temerity to show that Ken Livingstone was historically correct when he said that Hitler supported Zionism. The Nazi leader signed a short-lived pact with the Zionist organisations in Germany to smuggle German Jewish settlers to Palestine. This was the Ha’avara Agreement, which is recognised history and documented as such in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. 85 per cent of the initial founding capital for the Jewish state also came from Nazi Germany.

Mike was suspended from the party without being told on the evening before he was due to stand as a councillor in the local elections in his part of Wales. The NEC also went behind his back and told the press before they told him. This included Gabriel Pogrund, a hack with the Sunset Times, who then rang him up for an interview. The Sunset Times then showed its complete absence of any concern for truth by libeling him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Which he is certainly not, and has never been. These lies were repeated by other newspapers, including the Jewish Chronicle.

Before his expulsion, Mike, like so many other decent, left-wing, genuinely anti-racist members of the Labour party, was subject to a kangaroo court hearing. This was supposed to let him challenge the NEC’s decision, but is really just window dressing designed to put a veneer of justice on what is a flagrantly unjust procedure. The Party then released a statement which again totally ignored and misrepresented what Mike said in his defence. To show how completely uninterested they were in any kind of real justice, one of the members of the hearing said, when asked by Mike if he’d read the parts of his defence in which he showed that he wasn’t an anti-Semite, admitted he hadn’t. He’d been told by someone unnamed not to. And the head of the tribunal wanted to finish early because she needed to catch the train home to Scotland.

Mike is currently suing the Labour Party for breach of contract over his shabby treatment. The hearing is next months, and he’s invited the press. I hope he wins.

Smyth’s support of these scumbags disappoints and infuriates me, but I’m not surprised. She has struck me as something of a Blairite. She was one of those who stayed away when Jeremy Corbyn visited Bristol on the campaign trail next year.

I fully intend to vote for their candidates from the Labour Left if there are any put forward, and I strongly advise others to do the same.

That is if you want a Labour Party that really stands for working people, rather than a nest of Blairite intriguers determined to enforce Tory policies and expel on fake, trumped up charges anyone who opposes them.

Mike Names the Tory September Brexit Criminals

‘November Criminals’ was the insulting name the Nazis gave to the German socialist president, Fritz Ebert, and the other democratic politicos who signed the armistice finally ending World War I. They hated them for the humiliating peace that the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany and the creation of a the new, democratic Weimar republic.

Rigorous press censorship meant that ordinary Germans were not informed of the country’s defeats. Not even the Kaiser himself was told. His generals had a policy that he should only be given the good news. As a result Germany’s defeat was a complete shock. It led to the vile conspiracy theories about the Jews that ultimately led to the Nazi seizure of power – that they had stabbed Germany in the back. It was a total lie. Jews were amongst the most patriotic of the German population, and as a percentage constituted a larger proportion of German recruits than other groups. The captain who put up Adolf Hitler up for his Iron Cross was Jewish.

The defeat led to the complete collapse of traditional parliamentary government and its replacement in the German Council Revolution of 1919 with workers’, soldiers and peasants’ council rather like the soviets of Communist Russia. In fact it seems that many of these councils, far from dominated by the extreme left, were moderates simply taking over the governmental functions that had collapsed. The Kaiser himself raved about leading his army as their warlord back to reconquer Germany with steel and poison gas until one of his leading generals pointedly asked ‘What army? What warlord?’

Ebert himself had lost several of his sons in the War, and was no radical. It may be due to him that Weimar Germany was a democratic republic. The KPD – the German Communist party were about to declare Germany a republic. Ebert heard about it, and narrowly managed to head off their proclamation by hurriedly announcing it himself. He was also responsible for using right-wing paramilitary units – the Freikorps – to crush the council republics that had been set up throughout Germany. This led to the murder of Bavarian president Kurt Eisner, and earned the SPD the nickname ‘social fascists’ by the German left.

And however humiliating the terms of the Versailles Treaty was, it was actually no worse than the peace of Brest-Litovsk the Germans had imposed on the defeated Russians. And they planned similar crippling reparations on England, France and the allies if they had been victorious.

But if the term ‘November Criminals’ is a grotesque slur on the democratic politicos that ran Germany during the Weimar republic, ‘September Criminals’ is an apt description for the 340 Tory MPs who trooped through the lobby to support Boris Johnson’s Internal Markets Bill. This tears up the previous agreements made with the EU. It is illegal, and a stream of senior lawyers and former prime ministers, including John Major, David Cameron and Gordon Brown, have condemned it. It will mean that Britain will lose the trust of other nations, vital as we need to make deals with them after we leave Europe. Brexit is threatening to tear apart the Union of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which has persisted for three centuries. It is threatening to return Ulster to sectarian bloodshed and violence through its breach of the Good Friday Agreement. It also seems that Boris and his clique are deliberately aiming for a No Deal Brexit that will ruin Britain’s industries, because this will benefit the hedge funds that are now the chief donors to the Tory party.

The Tory press and media has smeared Remainers and critics of Brexit as traitors. But it more accurately describes the Tories themselves, and the way they are ruining this country. All while trying to convince its sheeple that they’re the real patriots through waving the flag and demanding the singing of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’ at the Last Night of the Proms and demonising asylum seekers as invaders.

Way back in the 1940s members of the British left wrote the pamphlet The Guilty Men, fiercely attacking the members of the Tory party, whose collaboration with the Nazis they believed was responsible for the War. Another, pseudonymous book was published by the Left Book Club which similarly denounced the Tory MPs, who were blocking the legislation that would set up the National Health Service. Which the Tories have also been trying to destroy for the last 40 years since Maggie Thatcher.

It’s time to turn the tables on the Tories. They are the real traitors, and the 344 Tories supporting Johnson’s lawbreaking bill deserve to be called ‘September Criminals’. I don’t want them to receive abuse, death threats or worse like the Nazis inflicted on their victims.

But their names should live in infamy, like the Guilty Men who betrayed us and the other European nations to the Nazis, and the Tories, who tried to block the creation of the NHS. Remember their names, and kick them out!

For the full list of their names, go to:

#ToryLawBreakers: the 340 MPs who voted like sheep to turn the UK into a rogue state