Sunday, November 29, 2009

The St Andrews Day Cringe.

The world is dancing to a Scottish jig today, or so we're told. From the 12th Annual St Andrew's Ball in Baku; the Kirkin' o' the Tartan's Scottish gathering in Sydney; and on to Java where "a Scottish Ceilidh Band will stir all to their feet with the finest ceilidh music to be heard east of Krakatoa", according to   Rock on. Oh – and there'll be a few events in Scotland as well.  Like synchronised smearing from cyber nats  like Mark McLachlan and his Unversality  of Cheese graters.

I always feel uncomfortable about St Andrews Day.  There always seems to be something slightly bogus about it. In Norway, Iceland Ireland they have no problem with celebrating their national day with a sense of collecive pride. But here it always seems to be polluted by politics – which I suppose given the constitutional DEBATE is inevitable. The SNP see it as a recruiting pageant and Labourites see it as nationalist propaganda exercise.

The Scottish National Party have  colonised St Andrews Day and used it this year not only as a climax to the “Year of Homecoming” but as the moment to pop the question on independence – or rather to publish their white paper for a referendum on separation to take place – inevitably – on St Andrews Day 2010. This has been roundly condemned by the Labour opposition as a waste of time and money and a needless distraction from the urgent task of hauling Scotland out of recession. Commentators think the SNP is on a loser because support for independence seems to be waning, in recent opinion polls, and that today will be a St Andrews Day damp squib which will confirm that the SNP's honeymoon is well and truly over.

The bill will certainly not get through the Scottish parliament as it stands because it is opposed by the a majority of MSPs. But that doesn't mean Alex Salmond is daft tabling it. I don't think anyone in the party seriously believes that the Labour leader, Iain Gray, will be so moved by Alex Salmond's oratory that he will tearfully assent to the ballot taking place on the SNP timetable, but the bill represents the honouring of an election pledge and sends a message, not least to the SNP rank and file that the SNP leadership has not forgotten about its historic mission. Then we can forget about it until after the next election.

But is the independence project still viable? Is it still on a roll? Well, it depends how you look at it,Yesterday’s Mori/Ipsos poll suggested that only 25% of Scots want to leave the UK. – but historically formal independence has rarely had the support of more than a third of the Scottish voters. That hasn't stopped the SNP being extraordinarily successful under Alex Salmond and moving Scotland in the direction of ever greater autonomy.

In a way, the Calman Commission report, and Labour's white paper last week, is a measure of the success of the SNP. For the first time in Scottish history, the three opposition parties – Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Tories have united behind a proposal to give the Scottish parliament extensive tax powers. That would never have happened had the SNP not won power in Holyrood in 2007 and forced the unionist parties to come up with a better offering than independence.

Now, I know that many people believe that Calman isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and that it's a unionist trap. The estimable Nicola McEwen of Edinburgh University has described it as “not so much devoluion max as devolution and a little bit”. The tax powers are incoherent and piecemeal, the borrowing powers are unworkable and it doesn't address qurestions like Scotland's right to a share of oil revenues. True. But I think we are missing the constitutional wood for the presentational trees.

Clearly, Calman is not a proposal for full fiscal autonomy, nor is it a fully worked out federal model, since it doesn't propose constitutional changes at the federal, ie Westminster, level. But just look what it does do: Calman establishes, for the first time, the principle of fiscal accountability, transparency – that the Scottish parliament should raise the money it spends. Calman not only proposes the partial repatriation of income tax, it also proposes that Scotland should have new taxes like stamp duty. It is quite remarkable that the unionist parties put their names to this report – especially the Tories.

Of course, George Osborne has distanced himself from last week’s Labour white paper, but importantly he has accepted the principle that the parliament should raise the money it spends. If the Tories are elected next May, I believe they will try to impose some system of fiscal accountability to Scotland, partly to address the complaints from Tory backbenchers and the London press about Scotland getting too much public money, and partly because they need to force through radical cuts in spending across the board. With a nationalist government in Holyrood, the surest way to achieve this would be through fiscal autonomy because as we all know, the amount raised by taxation in Scotland is considerably less than what is spent here.

If Labour win, then they will try to implement Calman. But they will have to do it with the active cooperation of the Scottish parliament. It couldn't just be handed down from on high because that would have zero legitimacy. This suggests to me that the Scottish government would be able to argue strongly for a better arrangement, if not right away, then in a few years time.

I believe this is why Alex Salmond has been willing to accept that 'third question' on the referendum ballot paper – the 'devo max' option, based on Calman. It may be a unionist proposal, but so was the Scottish parliament. People said that devolution was a trap, a half way house that would never work, a means of undermining independence. It was – but it was also a democratically elected legislature which has steadily drawn power to itself. Calman would be an important new stage in the evolution of Scottish democracy.

So, while the SNP may not be doing so well right now, the momentum is still towards Scottish autonomy. The truth is that independence is paradoxically, a goal that will never be reached because full separation is no longer possible. It isn't the destination that matters, but the journey.


Jeanne Tomlin said...

Nonsense. Full separation is certainly possible. You give NO reason why it isn't possible except that you're a committed unionist.

The goal is CERTAINLY more important than the journey and the goal is Scots actually running their own nation and not having it done FOR THEM (and to them) from outwith.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

And if you cringe at your own history and your own celebrations, YOU, sir, need to take a good hard look at YOURSELF.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

" Like synchronised smearing from cyber nats like Mark McLachlan and his Unversality of Cheese graters.

And that SMEARING was the truth. Or don't you read your OWN newspaper.

Since when is telling the truth a smear? Only in Scotland.


Jeanne Tomlin said...

Let me tell you sir, I am now angry. I post online. I support nationalism for Scotland.

I do NOT appreciate YOU SMEARING ME by calling me names such as "cybernat".

I do not appreciate your disrespect OR YOUR SMEARS in YOUR BLOG OF NATIONALISTS. Now YOU SHOW ME WHERE Mark McLachlan LIED.

HMMMM? Maybe when he stated quite TRUTHFULLY that "Colin Smyth, Scottish General Secretary of the Labour Party and Labour councillor for Nith Ward was kicked out, ejected, expelled, nay cast out by popular vote from a Dumfries and Galloway council meeting on Thursday this week."

Hmmmm as reported in the HERALD where you work?


Jeanne Tomlin said...

My question... do you have the balls to let my comments stand? =)

I'm betting not, but I'd like to see you prove me wrong. You occasionally act like a man instead of a mouse.

iain macwhirter said...

Squeek, squeek! I've never removed any of your comments, though I reserve the right to remove abuse. Maybe you should listen to what Mike Russell has said about the cybernat in question. He sacked him forthwith.

iain macwhirter said...

Squeek, squeek! I've never removed any of your comments, though I reserve the right to remove abuse. Maybe you should listen to what Mike Russell has said about the cybernat in question. He sacked him forthwith.

Dramfineday said...

Wow Iain – you responded - brilliant. I thought your site was going to be like Brian T’s on the BBC blog, where people write all sorts of good stuff and not a twitch in response. Jeanne has a point however in that the blogger in question has raised some interesting stuff that the MSM continue to ignore. This was also seen during the Glasgow NE bye-election where Willie Bain was given a very easy ride, for example, with regard to his place of residence – while the SNP candidate was torn apart. I sense that frustration is behind some of these outbursts (which I too abhor and have said so elsewhere). After all if the press are not prepared to give balance and ignore legitimate concerns and issues – what happens next – one day you wake up to a labour party only state in which the rest of us have switched off (AKA Glasgow NE) and sit and do as we are told by the local apparatchik?

As far as I’m concerned, you can get stuck into the SNP regarding policy, delivery or whatever…………I’d just like the same response and style of questions put to all the parties and not this cod Glencampbely response that we get and will continue to get in the months ahead.

PS In case the expression Glencampbely is unfamiliar, it was coined as short hand for the sort of biased behaviour, questions and story lines one can expect from BBC Scotland

Dubbieside said...

Maybe the three countrys that you highlight celebrating their national day with a sense of collective pride are different from Scotland.

Oh I forgot they are different, they are independent countrys where national pride is a given, not something to cringe over. Any journalist in these countrys saying the thought that there was something bogus about their national day would be treated with the derision that they would deserve.

Everyone keeps telling us the spin, stronger together, £5000 tax bill for everyone in Scotland if SNP run government in Scotland etc, but no one can tell us why we are better in this union. Maybe they do not tell us as there are no benefits

On the future of independence, that will happen, all that is up for discussion now is the timing. It may take longer but that genie is out of the bottle and it is not going back in.

Anonymous said...

Jeanne needs a dose of reality, go post on and let the adults talk!

St Andrews Day is becoming a tool for this bogus politics. We shouldn't need to be conformist and say "he's our national saint, therefore it's our national day". Burns night is the premier celebration of Scottishness and should remain so with all its worthwhile traditions.

Social Democrat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Social Democrat said...

@ Jeanne Tomlin

Your aggressive and intolerant rantings on the blog of a respected and even-handed journalist is exactly the sort of thing that is undermining the cause of self determination and giving the vast majority of decent, fair minded supporters of independence a bad name by association.

You are a gift to unionism. The progressive movement for an equal, internationalist, independent Scotland is damaged by nasty, vitriolic rants such as yours. Thanks a bunch.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

The (Labour) Secretary of State for Scotland has backed down in a row with a leading Conservative QC over the admissions policy of one of Scotland’s top Roman Catholic schools after being threatened with a defamation action by the lawyer.

Jim Murphy immediately withdrew claims from his website that moves by Paul McBride “could stop many local pupils going to St Ninian’s High School” in his East Renfrewshire constituency after receiving a letter from the QC on Friday afternoon warning him that he would face a defamation action if he repeated the claim.

we're just evil nationalist bloggers!

Infecting the internet and telling lies!!!

Oops. Guess we have company.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

*salute* Mr. MacWhirter. You do occasionally stand up like a man.

Yes, he was fired but the fact was he told the truth and you know it. Russell said what he had to. Doesn't change the right to tell the truth.

Aye We Can ! said...

jeanne, you really talk mince.

He was abusive, liblous and found out. Immediately resigned, immediately dumped by Mike Russell.....but "he told the truth and you know it"

Do you ever take a deep breath and read your own posts? The living emodiment of "The Cybernat", a gift to unionism

And would one describe your 5consecutive abusive comments (and the rest of them) to Iain McWhirter's thoughtful analysis?. "Balanced?" or "intimidating" ?

Jeanne Tomlin said...

The vile internet comments and messages which have appeared on the likes of the Daily Mail, Guardian and Guido Fawkes this week attacking the nationalists and suppoting the union have trawled new depths.

When are newspapers such as The Herald going to call them to account?

When are Iain Gray and Jim Murphy going to take responsibility for these people who may be Labour party members or supporters and weed them out?

Ah... but we know. Don't we?

Labella Labella said...

Youve got a design here thats not too flashy, but makes a statement as big as what youre saying. Great job, indeed.
voyance serieuse gratuite par mail