2007 - 2021

Risk and the Union

A demonstrator holds a replica hangman's gallows during a protest outside the Old Bailey courthouse in London February 26, 2014. Two British Muslim converts were sentenced on Wednesday for hacking soldier Lee Rigby to death in broad daylight on a London street in a gruesome killing that horrified the nation and provoked an anti-Islamic backlash.

A demonstrator holds a replica hangman’s gallows during a protest outside the Old Bailey courthouse in London February 26, 2014. Two British Muslim converts were sentenced on Wednesday for hacking soldier Lee Rigby to death in broad daylight on a London street.

By Mike Small

As the institutional violence promised before the referendum now sets in, and as Labour acolytes get jumpy nearer the General Election, it’s necessary to respond to the clipped chippy wee voices on the (theoretical) left such as Seán Duffy (‘Mortal Ash’) ‘Heroes of a Deferred Nation’ and James Stafford (see his catchily titled ‘The ‘radical’ proponents of Scottish independence dramatically overstated its potential to transform Britain’s broken political economy‘)

Stafford is Commissioning Editor of ‘Renewal: a Journal of Social Democracy’ and a PhD candidate in History at the university of Cambridge, while Seán Duffy is studying for a Phd in Glasgow. Taken together they represent an incredible intellectual confusion that can be seen as a crisis of the English left.

The independence movement has to take stock, face serious questions about political and strategic failure (s) and create a new way forward. But few lessons if any will be learnt here.

Seán’s analysis is par for the course: set a radical critique of the independence movement and adjourn to the Labour Party as default lounge of historical choice; declare nationalism a corrupt and useless vehicle; finally, declare all of Scottish politics redundant and file ALL of the indy movement as being about the ‘Yesnp’. As he boldly declares: “If independence is a ‘movement’ then it’s only functioning and influential facet are the SNP and their business cohort.”

It’s a lazy analysis being spouted from the desert that is Labour’s now (and long ago) emptied reservoir of political thinking. What’s going on? Why are we seeing this empty / aggressive backlash against Scottish politics? Gone are the days when, however cheekily, unionist political commentators would try and steal some of the credit for the ‘democratic revival’. That late, blatant distortion has been abandoned.

  *  *  *

Two things are happening. The Labour new guard intelligentsia is feeling emboldened by the cute distance between the embarrassment of actually campaigning alongside the right and far right of Britain, and second they are scrabbling about to make some sense of their own politics as the clock ticks down to the days when they actually have to stand up in front of people and say something like: “See us, we believe in something and this is is what it is!” – with straight, not red faces. So, it’s a tricky time, because they must know, in their heart of hearts that few people will be buying that this time round. As Channel 4 News has it tonight: “Peter Kellner prediction now: Con 285 Lab 275 LibDem 30 SNP 30 UKIP 6”.

Commonweal, Lesley Riddoch, Bella Caledonia, National Collective, Jim Sillars – and, strangely, Better Together are bundled together to get it in the neck.

tory-van-620_2628143aSeán Duffy writes: ‘All of us first’: the fallow minds of New Labour’s most intellectually vacant meeting rooms could never have come up with something so meaningless, yet phrases such as this have come to litter the popular discourse in Scottish politics since 18 September, 2014. ‘We are the 45’; ‘Better Together’ and perhaps strangest of all ‘One Scotland’ used in almost cultish equanimity by both sides, claiming the progressive agenda for their own.’

We are accused of ‘uncorrelated assumptions such as Scotland being friendlier to immigrants than its neighbours’ whilst Riddoch get’s a doing for incorrect use of ‘Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus’. There’s an intellectual snobbery at work in this writer who decries ‘pseudo-intellectuals and pop academics’ who have appeared. The implicit message is: How dare we?

So much for a democratic intellect.

But Duffy is struggling in the here and now. He suggests that to argue that Scottish society has a more open set of polices on immigration is somehow making some grand nationalist claim and that ‘This historical analysis stops somewhere around 1997 for it would not be advantageous to categorise the history of Irish migration to Scotland prior to this time.’

This is true. But it’s as true as David Torrance’s rather desperate repeat recall of 1950s Tory Scotland. We’re in 2015. We’re in post-Thatcher, post-Blair, post-devolution Britain.


So actually such a claim is not setting a very high bar when swathes of England’s political and media elite are backing UKIP, where Britain First is in the ascendancy or where the Home Office sets vans around the country urging people in Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham to ‘Go Home’. In fact driving National Front-style slogans around ethnically-diverse areas was celebrated and defended by the Tories. It’s not a bold claim to observe that Scotland hasn’t, thankfully, yet, degenerated to the style of Bernard Manning politics exhibited at Westminster.

Where have we all gone wrong? Language is the clue and the phrase that ‘Aside from the usual suspects confined to a strict political analysis, or historians hawking their old wares to new audiences there was little in the way of a rigorous dialectic to be found’ gives the game away. Yes, Glasgow’s finest intellectual urges ‘dialectic’ and no doubt has spent some time with furrowed brow deep in Marx. No bad thing but incompressible when merged with backing the People’s Party and their new leader, the extraordinary Jim Murphy.

In truly heroic terms Duffy explains that ‘There is nothing wrong with articulating hope of course’, for which we all may be mightily relieved, but, sadly, ‘when that hope is dressed in the clothes of intellectual legitimacy and hard scholarship there must be calls to reveal its true face.’ You guessed it, Seán’s the man for the job.

*  *  *

Over at the LSE blog James Stafford offers a more restrained assault on the failings of the radical indy movement:

“Yes campaign’s claim to the soul of social democracy was tenuous at best. Rather than seeking to overcome the challenges that have led to social democratic retreat, it largely ignored them.  In the first instance, it evaded or denied the constraining influence of international political economy on the progressive ambitions of individual states.  The Yes campaign, suffused with images and metaphors of national self-confidence and determination, seemed to suggest at times that the ‘sovereign will’ of radical Scotland’s imagined community could conquer all.  The concrete mechanisms through which Scotland might actually break free from austerity were conspicuous by their absence.”

Stafford points out that the economic policies of the Scottish National Party leadership were at odds with those of the Scottish Greens, the Radical Independence Campaign and Common Weal, but seems to have made a category error confusing these distinct organisations and bodies with a claim of right.

Sovereignty does not depend on solvency, it depends on democracy.

The fact that a broad and varied political movement with different economic analysis agreed on the need for massive constitutional change tell us something.

Setting aside the fact that some Scottish Green party members are about as radical as an RSPB coffee morning, or that the SNP is not, as defined, a perfect Blairite simulacrum he asserts wrongly: “The concrete mechanisms through which Scotland might actually break free from austerity were conspicuous by their absence.” Actually one of the breakthrough themes of the movement has been how we have seen ideas emerge and be formulated into credible policy platforms by the Commonweal think-tank and others. Efforts to caricature the movement as some form of headless, thoughtless nationalist flag-waving brood will fail because they are ridiculous.

Perhaps Stafford hasn’t read any of the books, papers, documents, essays, speeches that spiralled out of the country over the last five years? Presumably he hasn’t read any of this?

Cuddling up to Mr Duffy with Das Capital Stafford explains: “One of the key factors that historically distinguished revisionist social democracy from revolutionary socialism was its respect for the economic security of the peoples it sought to enlist and govern.” Now, enlisting Miliband, Stafford writes: “For all the Yes campaign’s accusations of Labour betrayal and decline, Labour’s aversion to economic risk is, therefore, a clear point of continuity between the Wilson-Callaghan and Blair-Brown eras, as well as with the deep history of the European social-democratic tradition that Salmond routinely claimed as his own.”

So when you see Ed Balls and George Osborne converge on austerity measures, when you visit your PFI hospital or when you think on Trident 2, remember, there is  no alternative and there never will be. You have not witnessed thirty years of Labour betrayal, what you have witnessed is caution and responsible risk aversion. As Chilcott is buried and Miliband takes up the language of the far-right, taking on from where Brown left off with ‘British jobs for British workers’, remember this is the only course. There is no alternative.

As Duffy writes ‘the multiplication of food banks and increase in general deprivation since 2010’ just gave us an excuse for our bitter and narrow nationalist project, now thankfully averted.

In a line that rises to the surface, Stafford writes, apparently seriously: “Ordinary people, not capitalists or financiers, ultimately bear the costs of periods of economic crisis and instability, such as those engendered by currency crises.” As a people actually living through such a crisis right now – where social apartheid marks Britain – I can think of no more offensive a remark. Except perhaps his last: “The rejection of Scottish independence preserves the Union as a common political space for economic regulation and redistribution, while creating strong pressure for democratic renewal and institutional reform across the whole UK.”

Pooling and sharing presumably. Bring on 2015, bring on 2016, this disastrous union must be finished with.

Comments (140)

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  1. alistairliv says:

    Nice piece of deconstruction.

  2. John Page says:

    Great stuff as always, Mike. These two “intellectuals” are just lining themselves up for jobs in the Labour Party. It is clear that Labour provides a dual role in this advanced neoliberal political economy………a source of employment for low talent careerists from town halls to Westminster……..and a fake semblance of choice in the democratic charade that is happliy crumbling before our eyes

    As you say, 2015/2016 will be a blast.

  3. RDH says:

    They spin spiders webs and then assert change is entrapped. ‘Social democracy’ is their career ladder against the wall. For it, or more centrally its advocates to rise, the existing wall must be sustained and secured at all costs even as it rots and collapses. Mouthing pieties as they cling to the brickwork, its all they know. Their self-serving cant is breathtaking.

  4. Bothy Basher says:

    An impassioned, ascerbic polemic, driven by the facts.

    It may also be moved by the disappointment we all feel.

  5. Dave Rushton says:

    Great start to 2015 Mike

  6. Frank M says:

    Neither of these two ‘students’ sounds like PhD material to me!
    It is certainly NOT academic language that they use.

  7. david steel says:

    i wouldn’t have bothered wasting your words on them – just giving their tosh some airtime !

  8. MBC says:

    Helpfully, Sean provides us with a neat bio: http://glasgow.academia.edu/SeanDuffy

    1. Bothy Basher says:

      Thanks MBC

      This from Sean Duffy is appalling

      ”I propose to undertake a sociological study analysing whether the contemporary definition of work passed on to young people via education in a working class community in Scotland serves to reinforce their social position, thereby contributing to their relative failure to combat austerity and unemployment. Within this I intend to record narratives of alternative work forms and relate this back to recent policy trends towards the benefit of unpaid work. ”

      Among other howlers he blames unemployed kids for not being able to ‘combat’ the State, as elected in England.

      I am eager to learn the ”benefit of unpaid work”.

      If I were his PhD supervisor I’d seriously ask him to reconsider his proposition or risk failure.

      1. MBC says:

        Agree. He’s a kid spouting guff. End of!

        Unable to combat austerity indeed! Sounds like Norman Tebbit.

      2. kate says:

        Also no mention of how the labour party & affiliated right wing unions deliberately impede working class capacity to fight back.

        For english labour ‘intellectuals’ the legacy of radical marxist academics like ralph miliband must never be engaged with or mentioned, not least because he is ed miliband’s father & at the same time the refutation of everything his son now stands for. the indy ref was an illustration of Ralph M’s ‘The State in Capitalist Society’ almost book & verse.

        The only common ground between the english labour ‘left’ & Ralph M is a suspicion of pluralism as a distraction from attacking the economic sources of oppression. The difference being Ralph M was concerned this led away from instigating revolutionary change (overthrowing capitalism, and its facilitator the state), hardly a concern for the labour party!

      3. gonzalo1 says:

        I see a career in packing shelves at Asda as his best bet.

  9. Iain says:

    We’ve seen stuff like Duffy’s and Stafford’s before, and we’ll see it again. You’re young, you read Marx and others, nothing about self-government for Scotland there, so it’s obviously irrelevant…some day, some day, the perfect revolution will happen, until then your role is to point out that everything else is wrong…

  10. mike gilli says:

    great insights here

  11. PhilJoMar says:

    Off topic a little but…
    I couldn’t care less about these two individuals but I’m not sure it’s wise for people to dismiss continually by association a work on political economy respected by many, many right-wing economists prior to neo-liberalism. I finally read Capital two years ago and was amazed how good it was. I’m pretty certain you can read it with profit (!) and still manage to avoid joining the SWP cult.
    I see no-one has yet picked up on Stafford’s use of Benedict Anderson’s term ‘imagined communities’ which appears to be used without any recognition of Anderson’s fairly positive view of nationalism.
    Last point..dialectic is a term in Plato, Kant, Hegel and no doubt elsewhere. I would imagine the game being ‘given away’ is that Duffy probably reads the terminally boring Zizek.
    Don’t know why I posted here for the first time. I’m not usually this dull, honest…

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I’ve read Marx too – and think he’s invaluable (as is dialectical thinking). My point is to quote Marx and urge people to vote Labour is bizarre.

      1. Bernicia says:

        I would also advise also reading Karl Popper before trumpeting ‘hegalian dialectic thinking’. It is the root of tyranny (irrespective of political persuasion.)Your inability to respond to any of the critisms put forward concerning the economic/social real politik of Scotland’s position/ the global econ pretty much sums up the intellectual vacuity of the indyref.

        ‘So actually such a claim is not setting a very high bar when swathes of England’s political and media elite are backing UKIP, where Britain First is in the ascendancy or where the Home Office sets vans around the country urging people in Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham to ‘Go Home’. In fact driving National Front-style slogans around ethnically-diverse areas was celebrated and defended by the Tories. It’s not a bold claim to observe that Scotland hasn’t, thankfully, yet, degenerated to the style of Bernard Manning politics exhibited at Westminster.’.

        …the YET is the key word!!! And actually I’ve heard non stop denigration of the ‘English’ immigrants to Scotland. Didn’t the founder of this website call for a social audit of ‘English’ in public positions? Setter / Colonists etc. Poor wee us the culturally oppressed etc.

        What part of this is backed up by empirical fact? Britain First in the ascendancy? Really show me the figures?

        This kind of sixth form analyisis and sheer ignorance of England makes me embarrassed to be a Scot.

        Scottish exceptionalism is dangerous as it denies human nature. To assume this a Westminister problem is ignorance writ large. (it is a problem of social and economic dynamics and specific circumstances) Scotland would behave in excactly the same way given the situation in places like Dagenham and Barking (now 70 % ish non white or EU immigrant in the last 20 years) in a traditional working class environment where communitarian values and cohesion are paramount due to scarcity (not to mention culture) it was always going to cause friction just as it did with Irish immigration in Scotland ( a comparative scale of immigration to get your head around) when jobs were scarce and there was the perception of competition and feeling of cultural marginalisation. I despise UKIP and this pandering to the racist right, but to dismiss it simply as ‘English’ and ‘Westminister’ is childish and embarrassingly anti intellectual and doesn’t help to solve the issue. In fact England and east London is one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the world, and there has been very little right wing activity (imagine it was France or Germany or Italy or pretty much anywhere else). This is not to excuse it of course.

        Let’s do a thought experiment…..’ Imagine 20 years from now and 70% of govan/ Leith/ Tory/ Fintry/ Raploch was overwhelmed by recent immigration, Somali, Nigerian, Sierra Leone, and would the situation and the rhetoric of the Scottish governement really be any different?

        The problem is not immigration, it is that it is all in the same place. We in Scotland should be very careful of hubris.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Thanks Bernicia – I’m not sure how pointing out the state of the far right in England is problematic. I didn’t intend to suggest that Scotland was exempt from racism, far from it. But to deny the serious problems in English political culture, policy and society is just ridiculous.

          Britain First has half a million followers on Facebook, despite having no democratically elected representatives. It is a phenomenon and part of an expression of the far right. Is it not?

          You talk of ’empirical facts’. You say ‘I’ve heard non stop denigration of the ‘English’ immigrants to Scotland’. Really? Have you? Where? When? Not here. Maybe you missed our extensive series of articles by English voters on the referendum we curated?

      2. Bernicia says:

        Pointing out the state of the far right in England is very welcome, but serves little pupose unless you address the underlying causal processes (which you don’t). Glib dismissal of it being due to one political system/ consitutency or another ‘them over there’ when the systems are actually very very very similar and are subject to the same fundamental dynamics, in order to further a separate political agenda (Scot Indy) is obsfucation. And the constant referencing of UKIP/ the right in England is/was problematic as it implicitly assumes ‘exceptionalism’ and suggests that Scotland is not susceptible to the same malign processes as England….’it’s called ‘othering’. One of the most irritating fallacies of the indy ref was the ‘Scottish political culture is different’ conceit. This in itself is perjoritative as it assumes “England’ is therefore alien and Scotland just a wee bit superior. For which there is no evidence except self regarding anectdote.

        And how many of those 1 miilion members of ‘Britain First’ are Scots? I saw quite a few of them in George square along with the SDL et al, after the indyref. To arrogantly assume they are only ‘English’ or to deflect the phenomenon to ‘Britain’ as the cause while Scottish nationalism is the ‘cure’ is nonsense, lazy and prejoritative.

        The English born in Scotland denigrated?….’I think you need to read the comments of your own site. There was a whole discussion on whether ‘they’ were allowed to vote in the next ref. And I know of plenty of ‘english’ ‘white settlers’ who felt intimidated and genuinely fearful of the hightened rhetoric flying around in the last few months of the ref. To deny this and their concerns is as contemptible as Nick Griffin or Nigel Farage trotting out an ‘ethnic’ to prove they aren’t really racist….Yes campaign did this repeatedly with English Yes voters. Patronising nonsense.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I think you’d better direct your bizarre comments to our friends in the English for Yes Campaign who took over these pages for several weeks.

          Your notion that defining one space or nation or culture as having certain attributes is essentially ‘othering’ and implicitly suggest that another space or nation or culture is inferior is just wrong. Not only is wrong in the sense of being ‘wrong’ (incorrect) in general, it’s wrong in this specific and it has the effect (whether intended or not) of saying ‘your culture does not exist’. This approach, outlined by Franz Fanon, is a well trodden path. It would be interesting to know how far you want to take that analysis?

          One of the simple statements that came out of the whole process was the unambiguous declaration: ‘we exist’.

      3. Bernicia says:

        Grow up for goodness sake, there are solid inescapable universals (structural processes and human nature) that impinge on every society/ political culture. Scotland is not unique or special in this regard. Especially so when it comes to England? Is Glasgow really different from Liverpool? Morningside and Hampstead? What was it Freud said about the narcicism of minor difference. And as usual you didn’t answer the question. the thought experiment? What would Scottish ‘exceptiona’ political culture be like under the same circumstances as parts of England with respect to immigration (which may not be too far off?).

        Systemics are systemics and has fuck all to do with culture.

        I hate to burst your ‘wha’s like us’ bubble but the power strucutres you complain about (rightly) across the UK are just as ingrained in Scotland…the .city with the most privately educated Edinburgh, the biggest gap in income after London, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, the highest social rents Edinburgh, lowest land ownership distribution in Europe Scotland – seven years of an SNP govt and no reform??? racist attacks are proportional to England (worse if you add sectarianism and other hate crime).

        And as for ‘othering’ perhaps you should read Edward Said and his views on Orientalism and the arogance of those who use difference of culture as power. Looking for the similarity in cultures rather than obsintately focusing on very minor differences is to accord all humans the same dignity as individuals.

        Oh and what is this political culture that is so different from the rest of the UK? The last two Scottish prime ministers? The government full of Scots who took us to war in Iraq? The Scottish parliament that ratified the invasion? The Scottish chancelor who didn’t regulate the banks? The Adam Smith institute, Michael Forsyth et al who advised Thatcher? Section 28 and the SNP and Souter? I could go on forever and in reverse.

        Next you’ll be telling me there can never be any gun control in the US because to do so is to deny their ‘political culture’ or that Arab states can never be liberal democracies because it’s not in their ‘culture’ or that Asian countries are fundamentally authoritarian becasue and to deny this is to deny their ‘culture.’

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I’d take a lie down if I were you

      4. JBS says:

        I hope you’ll be campaigning for the Labour Party in Scotland, Bernicia. You are a genuine electoral asset…to the SNP.

    2. Nick says:

      Many people wrongly use Anderson’s term “imagined community” as a synonym of “imaginary community” (i.e. one that doesn’t exist). I’m not sure I’d say that Anderson presents a ”positive view of nationalism” but he is certainly not as concerned with debunking national identities as other modernist scholars of nationalism.

      1. PhilJoMar says:

        Hi Nick…I don’t know if you were replying to me or not but read what I actually wrote because I didn’t use ‘positive’ without qualification…read ‘fairly positive’. I stand by that.

      2. Bernicia says:

        The whole premise of indy was based on the conceit that Scotland is more ‘Scocial democratic’ than the rest of the UK? I believed it myself for a while until I actually looked at the stats and history.

    3. Bernicia says:

      Grow up for goodness sake, there are solid inescapable universals (structural processes and human nature) that impinge on every society/ political culture. Scotland is not unique or special in this regard. Especially so when it comes to England? Is Glasgow really different from Liverpool? Morningside and Hampstead? What was it Freud said about the narcicism of minor difference. And as usual you didn’t answer the question. the thought experiment? What would Scottish ‘exceptiona’ political culture be like under the same circumstances as parts of England with respect to immigration (which may not be too far off?).

      Systemics are systemics and has fuck all to do with culture.

      I hate to burst your ‘wha’s like us’ bubble but the power strucutres you complain about (rightly) across the UK are just as ingrained in Scotland…the .city with the most privately educated Edinburgh, the biggest gap in income after London, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, the highest social rents Edinburgh, lowest land ownership distribution in Europe Scotland – seven years of an SNP govt and no reform??? racist attacks are proportional to England (worse if you add sectarianism and other hate crime).

      And as for ‘othering’ perhaps you should read Edward Said and his views on Orientalism and the arogance of those who use difference of culture as power. Looking for the similarity in cultures rather than obsintately focusing on very minor differences is the essence of racism and frankly contemptable.

      Oh and what is this political culture that is so different from the rest of the UK? The last two Scottish prime ministers? The government full of Scots who took us to war in Iraq? The Scottish parliament that ratified the invasion? The Scottish chancelor who didn’t regulate the banks? The Adam Smith institute, Michael Forsyth et al who advised Thatcher? Section 28 and the SNP and Souter? I could go on forever and in reverse.

      1. “Looking for the similarity in cultures …is the essence of racism and frankly contemptible”. You really do need that lie down!

        I haven’t seen anyone argue here that Scotland is unique. Your problem seems to be that you would rather that Scotland did not exist. I think it has a rather more substantial contemporary existence than Bernicia.

  12. James Stafford says:

    This post, and the replies, aren’t actually particularly unusual in being so bizarre and offensive; but I’m wading in anyway, since I’m named in this one.

    I’m pleased that Mike picked up on the piece a month or more after it was first published by Sheffield University’s Political Economy blog, and some four months after I actually drafted it, immediately after the No vote. I don’t actually think that what I wrote was particularly interesting or controversial; I was commissioned to write something short on the rhetorical use of ‘social democracy’ by campaigners on both sides. You might not agree, but it was hardly outrageous.

    The idea that you have to be in favour of food banks and fascism, or live under the shelter of ‘NuLabour’s magic money tree,’ to critique the Yes campaign is laughable, and does no-one any favours. I’m not happy with the UK as it is; I think that a Yes vote could have made things worse, and not just for Scotland. Is that so hard to believe without a sinister ulterior motive? I could get really angry about the way in which you try and associate my politely worded academic blog post with Britain fucking First to score a cheap point, but that’s been a tactic for so long now that it doesn’t seem worth the bother. I heard numerous times during the campaign that ‘Yes’ was supposed to be about changing things for all of us. It’s interesting to see how quickly that fades, at least for you, once anyone outside Scotland voices a critical opinion.

    That leads me to the ad hominems. ‘Clipped chippy wee voices’? Really? I mean, there’s a space for polemic, but that’s just so boring. As a historian of ideas I take Scottish nationalist thought very seriously, and it’s sad to see the likes of Nairn, McCormick and Maxwell being chewed up into this angry, confused mulch on the internet. Elsewhere, I’ve written in some depth on the theories of ‘post-sovereignty’ articulated by Neil McCormick and others. I’ve also read a lot of the policy proposals you mention. I didn’t think any of them really obviated the core problem of the currency and macroeconomic framework, which would have to be pretty favourable if large-scale state investment and public ownership was going to be possible, even moreso within the EU’s Maastricht criteria and state aid rules. Europe is a difficult field for progressive politics to navigate; I still think it’s worth trying it, but I think it was naive for Yes to treat it as an unqualified good. For a different view, read for instance Renewal’s interview with Wolfgang Streeck on ‘Hayekian Europe’: http://www.renewal.org.uk/articles/interview-capitalism-neo-liberalism-and-democracy. He’s German, incidentally, so you can’t accuse him of being a Labour Party member of a Ukanian shill like me.

    Finally, while I’ve nothing against him and he makes some good points, I’ve never met Sean Duffy or communicated with him except via the odd twitter mention. Two random Ph.D students from opposite ends of the UK, who happen to disagree with you. Some conspiracy, eh.

    1. bowanarrow says:

      @James Stafford

      Oh…. I really think you have the biggest….

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi James, I’m sorry that I didn’t see your piece till the other day or I would have replied earlier. I never argued that anyone had to be ‘in favour of food banks or fascism’- I argued that the Labour Party and its supporters need to take responsibility for its economic and social policies, which are clearly articulated and back the same austerity package as the ConDems. This isn’t to ascribe to you some ‘sinister ulterior motive’ it’s just to confront you with the reality of unionist consensus.

      I’m sorry that you feel that you’re ‘politely worded academic post’ has been sullied by some harsh truths – but I was actually responding to Sean Duffy’s scorn that Scottish society might hold a more open and progressive set of views on immigration. Certainly we are not without problems of bigotry and racism, but I’d say it’s an incontestable fact that these ideas are not held as widely nor have they established themselves into the mainstream as they have in England. That is a simple fact, if a difficult one to accept. It has historic and cultural reasons ands is nothing to do with Scottish people being more enlightened or better people. Nor is it the case that a generalisation can be made about all English people, that would plainly be ridiculous.

      As for you idea that ‘Nairn, McCormick and Maxwell’ are acceptable faces of Scottish nationalism (a term I don’t use) and everything else is beyond the pale, it seems to confirm the idea that yourself and Duffy find yourselves struggling beyond academia.

      You say you’ve read ‘a lot ‘ of the policy proposals you mention, though you don’t say which. But argue instead that:

      ‘I didn’t think any of them really obviated the core problem of the currency and macroeconomic framework, which would have to be pretty favourable if large-scale state investment and public ownership was going to be possible’.

      Nobody I know in the independence movement argued that this was going to be easy nor that there would be simple economic solutions to the large scale structural deficiencies we would inherit at the end of fifty years of British state ideology and managed decline. Nobody argued that, I certainly didn’t in my article.

      Neither did I accuse you of any ‘conspiracy’ – simply that the two of you are emblematic of a failed English left, still clinging to the wreckage of the Labour flotsam some years after it has been sunk by it’s own contradictions, and seemingly blissfully unaware of the weirdness of how it all sounds.

      1. James Stafford says:

        I fear this is a dialogue of the deaf, but I’ll have one more go, and let you then have the last word if you so wish; it’s your website.

        While I’ve read Bella now and again, you might be surprised to learn that I didn’t write with you in mind as an audience, and I wasn’t on tenterhooks for a response from you. My point was that it’s an old post with a very limited scope, written for a specific audience, who asked me to write it. I don’t think it’s as important or apparently interesting as you do. Out of a combination of mischief and curiosity, I teased you on Twitter after you posted it up out of the blue, and was then briefly hopeful that I might get some useful criticism and dialogue from somebody who’d been active in the Yes camp. It’s not turned out that way, sadly.

        You seem to have a fondness for playing random association games with out-of-context remarks. I don’t find it very enlightening. Nowhere have I written anything backing Labour’s economic policy, which I currently find pretty underwhelming. As you said in an earlier posts, it’s possible for there to be disagreements within political movements. But if you are going to lecture me on not looking at the detail of all those wonderful policies the Yes campaign were offering, then you could at least recognise the nuance that does exist between the UK parties’ positions. It might also be a bit detailed, but it’s here if you’re interested. http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7373; also http://www.newsweek.com/uks-labour-spend-ps50bn-more-year-conservatives-2020-291132.

        If I had my way, yes, Labour would be offering a big stimulus, and if they make it into government I fully expect to have to sometimes march and demonstrate against them to demand more. But from the perspective of anti-cuts movements I’m involved with in Norwich and Cambridge, I can also tell that what they are offering isn’t nothing, and offers a damn sight more of a concrete chance of reducing actual suffering where I am than having a ‘progressive beacon’ to look to in Edinburgh. I also don’t think there was *any* chance of Swinney delivering on his promise of a big Scottish stimulus; it simply wasn’t in his gift to promise that when he was looking share a currency. The terms of any feasible CU would have given a much bigger supervisory role to the Bank of England in monitoring spending in both Scotland and rUK – which the Tories, by the way, would have *loved*; it would have been as close as you can get to a German, Spanish or American-style constitutional debt limit as you can get in the British system. And don’t try and pretend that you, the Greens or anybody else would have been able to convince the SNP to ditch the pound after a referendum won on that basis. I bought the Yes argument that Westminster were probably bluffing and would have given in on it in return for Trident or a share of the oil (not that that’s now worth very much). But unlike some in the Yes camp, I also thought that a CU would have been a disaster for everyone; it was the fear of this that first mobilised me, as a corrupt princeling of a flailing English left, to articulate some opinions on the referendum.

        If you’d read by article a bit more closely, you would have seen that I link to economic policy documents from the SNP, Greens and Common Weal. At the end of my other Renewal and LSE articles on Scotland there are bibliographies; I mainly went on the White Paper and Ramand and Foley as the most substantive and strategic discussions of macroeconomic policy, as opposed to the predominantly micro/supply side agenda pushed by Common Weal, or the shorter position papers published by the Greens. I’m not going to copy out my references for you here if you can’t be bothered to follow links or read my stuff properly. If you actually have specific points to make from specific documents that prove that somehow prove there was no chance whatsoever of additional austerity in iScot, definitively contradicting the NIESR, IFS, MacDonald, FCWG etc., then I’d like to see it. Personally, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think a better tactic for the Yes campaign would have been to go for maximum control of currency and interest rates, and challenge the electorate honestly to take the risk and put self-determination before currency stability, even if higher inflation, devalued savings, a period of very harsh austerity, and a degree of capital flight was a possible result. That’s what Common Weal, or at least McAlpine, seemed to want, and it was a much more honest position. That the SNP leadership couldn’t agree to it speaks volumes.

        On the racism/Britain First point – thanks for the little lecture on racism being a political/cultural phenomenon. Who knew! There is a poison abroad in England, yes, a little less so in Scotland, although I think part of the reason for that is that Scottish culture allows various outlets for these things that don’t exist or don’t seem relevant in England; for one thing, a non-ethnic ‘other’ in England or Westmonster. You will be aware, however, that SNP policies for increased immigration into Scotland poll extremely badly with the electorate, which should give pause for thought (http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/seven-out-of-ten-scots-back-ukip-policy-on-immigration.24278719).

        In any case, quite what that’s got to do with the Union question eludes me. You might as well argue that nice Green Baden-Württemburg should secede from the Federal Republic of Germany because Pegida and the AfD are on the march in Dresden, or the CSU are telling immigrants to speak German at home in Bavaria. Perhaps you do think that’s a defensible position. I think it’s kind of silly, and it would be better to direct one’s energies into actually fighting racism instead of running away from it – which I try to, by the way, again through local campaigns in East Anglia, where I live, and where you may have noticed UKIP is kind of A Thing.

        As for the ‘acceptable’, academic face of Scottish nationalism: the thing with Nairn, McCormick and Maxwell is that they actually make arguments and say new things, rather than pairing worn-out slogans with the occasional factoid or random association. There are non-academic voices in the debate – Ramsay and Meadway spring to mind – who do the same. But I’ve not found in this exchange that you’re particularly interested in dialogue or argument; more in playing to a gallery of head-in-the-sand, yes, nationalists, for whom Scottish statehood is a primary political good to which all others are secondary, from which deviance is not permitted, and from which all good things will be made at least possible (if, yes, as you say, not inevitable). I’m pretty happy with my position and with what I do with my life politically, complex and compromised though both those things are. Are you?

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Where to begin?

          I had (actually) noticed that UKIP is kind of A Thing in East Anglia, where you live. I’m not sure where you get the idea that I don’t, haven’t or won’t combat racism. That’s just made up.

          This site is a mixture of content, some academic, some just well written or well thought-out, some polemic, some downright ranting. And if you think we haven’t made arguments or said new things you’d have quite a lot of people disagree with you, who read us every day. I can see how you can find this sort of space difficult to navigate as it is a mixture of vets and approaches.

          I am interested in dialogue and debate (thats what you’re involved in).

          But you are simply wrong to say that that this is about ‘nationalists, for whom Scottish statehood is a primary political good to which all others are secondary’, in fact probably the defining aspect of the independence movement is that it was not centred around the goals you suggest. This blog was a central part of that movement and of creating that space for new ideas.

          I really DO like your idea that the Yes campaign should have based their campaign on telling voters that they would face ‘higher inflation, devalued savings, a period of very harsh austerity, and a degree of capital flight’. Remind me to enlist you the next time the referendum comes up.

          Finally, I’m not really sure how to respond to your kind but frankly odd statement of your happiness and your inquiry into mine.

      2. Bernicia says:

        I think James Stafford is my new hero….Some of us on the left in Scotland have been trying to say exactly this and show the ‘nationalist head in the sand’ fallacy for a long long time. Thanks for your considered and ‘well spelt’ response.

      3. JBS says:

        You don’t need another hero. You just need to find the way home. All you want is life beyond Thunderdome (i.e., Westminster).

      4. baadogmf says:

        “I think James Stafford is my new hero” (Bernicia).

        Tbh, me too — and I’m a slavering, spittle-flecked Gnat. I don’t mean I agree with him; I just appreciate style and grace under fire.

        I don’t think Small’s article is a fair representation, or engagement with either article it ‘calls out’, and I don’t think it’s fair or right for an influential and (to my mind) esteemed site such as Bella Caledonia to pick out two random bloggers for punishment (along with a reliable chorus of ad hominems and boo/hoorays in the comments). There’s a perfectly good supply of genuinely objectionable articles pumped out by the Telegraph, Spectator, etc; and they actually need telt. (eg: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/11314336/England-must-be-resolute-and-save-the-Scots-from-self-destruction.html)

        I did find Stafford’s article overly dismissive of the notion of independence itself, and the movement, but there you go. I probably would.

        Also, having been involved in the Reid Foundation/Common Weal, Stafford’s totally correct — we did concentrate on micro-economics and the supply-side; macroeconomic considerations never came up. I’m pretty sure his contributions would be welcome, if he’s up for it.

        In any case, thought the discussions on this thread were way more interesting than the original articles; hope yous’re all ‘pretty happy with your position and with what you do with your lives politically, complex and compromised though both those things are’.

        Thanks for the mindfood!


  13. IAB says:

    Takes me back to my uni days when we ploughed through thousands of books and journals written by academics and other authors who were following a predefined analytic model and placing ‘facts’ within them. I often despaired thinking that the content was too big for my brain although I did get used to the vocabulary. Marx has a great deal to recommend him but I was never convinced that the economic argument was the be all and end all of analysing society and might explain the actions of the groups with power but did not consider the workings of the working class where belief systems are crucial to their functioning. I ended up becoming fascinated by the social anthropological studies where smaller groups constructed their societies through common belief systems and that’s where an explanation of the Yes movement needs to be placed. I just wish someone would write it.

  14. Flint says:

    I am not sure dismissing Duffy’s and Stafford’s critiques are coming from a ‘theoretical’ or ‘English’ left is valuable or accurate – criticism helps and should be welcome

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Criticism does help and is absolutely welcome – as I said : “The independence movement has to take stock, face serious questions about political and strategic failure (s) and create a new way forward.” That doesn’t mean you have to accept all and any criticisms, especially when they are bizarrely conceived.

    2. Critique is a useful thing, if it helps provide insights on how things can be done better. Preferably – given the level of interest and activity that has happened in Scotland as a result of the referendum – in serious detail. IAB’s comment above, for example, suggests a way for that to happen. But a constant reassertion of the status quo, when clothed as radical critique, needs to be addressed. And called.

  15. Big Jock says:

    Answer to James. Can you explain without flowery language, and succinctly. Why you think Scotland would be worse after a Yes vote. You inadvertantly suggest the UK is better for Scotland despite the population not voting Tory for 50 years . Why is a country of 5.2 million better by getting the government the 50 million in another country elect. Fundamental democracy is at the heart of the situation we are in within the UK. If I can be blunt James you are quite simply wrong and out of touch with reality.

  16. End of Year says:


    “2014 “End of Year” report and a look into what 2015 might bring”


  17. florian albert says:

    Mike Small starts 2015 with a denunciation of two Ph D students for their, fairly commonplace, criticism of those who support independence.
    It is hard to avoid concluding that this introverted approach is likely to help ensure that the Scottish left remains, where it is, electorally on the margins.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Is it introverted to challenge criticisms you think are misguided? The alternative seems to be a zen acceptance of everything however weird.

      1. Bernicia says:

        The problem is you only addressed the criticisms but not what they were based on.

        JS wrote…. “Yes campaign’s claim to the soul of social democracy was tenuous at best. Rather than seeking to overcome the challenges that have led to social democratic retreat, it largely ignored them. In the first instance, it evaded or denied the constraining influence of international political economy on the progressive ambitions of individual states.’….

        ‘..The concrete mechanisms through which Scotland might actually break free from austerity were conspicuous by their absence.”

        My feelings exactly…what exactly were/ are the concrete mechanisms put forward. Answer this (within the realms of reality) and the discussion is over. Vote indy! So go on, surprise us all who voted No.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I dont agree they were conspicuous by their absence at all. I think JS was conflating a caricature of SNP policy & the White Paper to create a picture that agreed with his own views. For example I sat on a platform with the James Meadway from the New Economics Foundation weeks before the referendum, he represents the emerging radical movement across Britain that realises there is an alternative path to this debt-strewn dive. Except it’s not that radical really. Hear him here:


          or read him here:


          He’s hardly the frothing at the mouth Nat that James and yourself object to, is he?

          Or read Mike Edwards from Positive Money here:


        2. bellacaledonia says:

          It might be also worth quoting Jonathan Shafi’s article ‘Sail Away’ of March 9, 2014:

          “…the British economy is enslaved to big finance. Thatcher’s victory over working people in the 1980s set the course for a reorientation of the UK economy, away from production and manufacturing and towards a titanic financial industry. This has resulted in a permanent economic re-structuring which means the economy is based on financial transactions more than it is on the production of goods.

          In addition to fostering inequality, financialisation is inherently crisis-ridden because it creates ‘bubbles’ as the value of financial assets departs from the value of concrete things produced in the real economy – these bubbles inevitably burst. But the blowback for these crises is not felt at the commanding heights of the economy. In fact, paradoxically, the great institutions of finance can actually make more money in a crisis as they handle the increasing debts of workers, businesses and ultimately states.

          As Saskia Sassen explains: ‘Finance has created some of the most complicated financial instruments in order to extract the meagre savings of modest households: by offering credit for goods they may not need and (even more seriously) promising the possibility of owning a house. The aim has been to secure as many credit-card holders and as many mortgage-holders as possible, so that they can be bundled into investment instruments.’ (‘Too big to save: the end of Financial Capitalism’).

          It is through this and similar processes that profits are generated. Whenever you hear Osborne et al talk about retaining the ‘leading lights of industry’ or the best brains in business, don’t for a second believe that they are referring to actually productive growth. They mean big finance, and big financiers. Only in a world where peoples lives are left out of economic analysis does this make sense. James Meadway of the New Economics Foundation concludes: ‘As investment in financial assets and property has risen, investment in the sort of assets that create jobs – infrastructure, machinery, equipment – has fallen and fallen. Our financialised economy privileges financial returns at the expense of real prosperity. Real wages for most people have fallen for the last five years, and this current ‘recovery’ looks sustainable only with increasing debt.’

          This is the trajectory of the UK economy, and this is what the No campaign are defending as economic strength.”

      2. Bernicia says:

        And while you’re at it try naming a single country (of similar size and position with regards to a larger neighbour) that has extricated itself from the ‘neo lib’ consensus that Indy was purported to bring about?

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          So your argument boils down to: ‘this is it’?

          Is that really where you’re at, there is no alternative so shut up and keep your head down?

      3. Bernicia says:

        Not at all. But that an indy Scot wasn’t and isn’t the answer and would have been a huge mistake. As far as I can see it’s the opposite, the impossiblism of Yes voters, who dismiss out of hand the inability of the UK to change when all States (especially multi national ones) can adapt. And it still misses the point. Why would Scotland as indy be any different with regards to the global forces and internal dynamics impinging upon it…why make the situation worse by entering into a fractious and destructive break up in which only the big corps and right wing will benefit. You want social justice then (at least for now) you must drop the nationalism.

      4. Bernicia says:

        I red the Krugman and other economic commentary? I don’t understand the point? The Krugman article is exactly the opposite. It argues, very convincingly, that indy scot would be in a a very precarious position vis a vis part of the union?

        I haven’t read the others true enough, but will.

      5. Bernicia says:

        Again, I agree, he UK economy seriousy needs rebalancing as many have pointed out. It’s rare that I agree with a Tory but the city regions investment and the devolving of power across the ‘optimum currency area’ first floated by Hesltine in the 80’s is a much better response to the problem of London/ finacial services imbalance than creating two competing monolythic blocks with massive asymetry…Scotland simply due to size and reliance on England/ Uk for trade will not be able to forge her own path, where as Greater Glasgow (1/4th of the pop) in concert with the muncipalities of Northern England can do, with much more efficacy…Also it simply isn’t true. There is considerable manufacturing comparative advantage in parts of Scotland and across the UK which communities are dependent on. The oil and gas service industries (especially subsea tech) which has infrastructure all the way down the east coast of the uk, or the food and beveridge industry, whiskey and salmon (who were very vocal in their opposition, as the chaos of indy would have been disasterous on an industry that requires long term planning) and even the renewables which relies on UK funding/ of which incidently many companies are now going bust and are reliant on subsidy.

      6. florian albert says:

        ‘Is it introverted to challenge criticisms you think are misguided ?’

        Yes, if you are going out of your way to find criticisms to which you can respond, as appears to be the case here.

        Does it not occur to Mike Small/Bella Caledonia that the Scottish left (those to the left of SNP and SLAB) is stuck on the margins of Scottish politics and that this is, in no small part, because it is so keen on the politics of denunciation ?

        The alternative might be, rather than a zen acceptance, producing policies that will appeal to the mass of voters and putting them before the voters.

        The politics of denunciation (of austerity/neo-liberalism and so on) has not served the left well.Seven years into a major crisis for capitalism, the Scottish left is on track to make as little impact in the 2015 election as it has did in 2010, 2011 and 2014.

    2. muttley79 says:

      I must have missed the denunciation.

  18. MBC says:

    Mr Stafford lambasts the Yes movement (which he confuses with the SNP) for its idealistic aspiration to deliver social democracy. They don’t have ‘concrete mechanisms’ to deliver social democracy – but neither it seems, does he. His polemical piece is high on rhetoric but short on evidence. He doesn’t explain, or provide any factual information for how exactly ‘international political economy’ constrains progressive politics. He assumes we take it as axiomatic. Well, we don’t. This caving in to corporate power whilst lambasting those still engaged in the fight for social justice is exactly the kind of cognitative dissonance that Mike was trying to highlight is paralysing the English left.

    But several nations smaller than Scotland do at least attempt to hit back at ‘international political economy’. Tiny Iceland jailed its rogue bankers. Singapore prevents non-nationals from buying its real estate to prevent a housing crisis and an unsustainable property bubble. Panama’s banking industry is well-regulated, since it does not have a central bank to bail out banking disasters. What is preventing Britain from controlling its bankers?

    Here’s Paul Mason, one of the few English journalists to ‘get’ the indyref raging against the paralysis at the heart of the UK establishment against the banks:


    But all Stafford can do in his nihilistic miserabilsm is to proclaim the standard TINA defence (‘there is no alternative’) of neo-liberalism (for that appears to be his message) and pouring cold water on those who wish the levers of power to build a fairer and more socially just society.

    If Britain cannot hold back corporate power, it is for political reasons, because corporate power is what controls the Westminster system. When Douglas Carswell writes that there were more corporate lobbyists at Tory party conferences than actual members, he reveals the rot that is at the heart of UK government. UK politicians are just stooges of international corporations. They are the ‘Yes’ men that ought to be the target of any left attack, not the Scottish Yes movement.

    1. Paul Mason is a star!
      Though it’s important to respond to intellectual critique, poor Mr. Stafford doesn’t understand that it’s not deafness that prevents dialogue. Two people looking in different directions will not agree on the view. Thousands of people who voted for the first time in their lives believe that a better future is possible.
      A government closer geographically can be made more accountable (no SNP dipping into gravy boats in the House of Lords).
      Millions saved on Trident (even the meticulous planning of the MOD cannot predict how much this may cost us.) Billions saved on weapons that we will never use OR weapons we will use to murder and devastate ordinary helpless citizens.
      Let’s not think about the increasing pile of toxic hulks that will need decommissioning…the government hasn’t bothered to think through what happens – will we keep building them forever or will common sense prevail…or will we finally run out of money…sorry, debt.

      Yes we need proposals that will work. But we also need vision, and self-confidence to put that into action (Henry Ford ‘ whether you think you can or can’t – you’re right. If we put the same amount of time and money into renewables as they did for the motor car, we’d be self-sufficient by now.)
      So, though we can learn from criticism, don’t let it distract from the goal. All of us first – inclusive, equal, democratic, with a voice, caring for the vulnerable, add your own interpretation …. Anyone who doesn’t understand what it means has my sympathy.

      1. MBC says:

        Yes, Paul Mason understood the indyref, just as he understands that the key problem with the banks is the lack of political will to control the bankers – something that Mr Stafford ignores when he claims ‘the system’ of ‘international political economy’ is too powerful to control.

  19. AnnaJ says:

    Resistance is futile. The exit roads are all blocked and the bridges dynamited. We must accept our generation’s fate responsibly and conserve until the next conjuncture. I have seen the future and it is ‘our’ fearless left ‘academics’ clenching dialectics… and bending knees. But with such style. What was that Lukacs said about the quality lifestyles at the Hotel Abyss?

    Why risk it.

  20. emilytom67 says:

    Big jock “hits it on the nail” for me,all or most of the arguments/points raised are superfluous,why in hells name would/could we be better off governed by another country whos citizens by and large no little of us and care less,I have lived and worked all over England and English people tolerate us well just about.

  21. MBC says:

    What on earth are you on about Bernicia? JS’s article was pure polemic. He never explained what he meant by ‘concrete mechanisms’ that he accuses Yes of not presenting. Neither did he explain what exactly the ‘constraining influences of international political economy’ were that could check progressive politics. He needed to give some specific examples of these constraints and the concrete mechanisms that might potentially get round them. Otherwise his ideas are just unsupported assertions that sound clever but mean little.

    1. Bernicia says:

      Constraining influences of international political econ are the external forces that impinge on any country (including an indy Scotland).Today that means such things that are beyond any country/ parliament to challenge, thus limiting domestic policy (the very reason New Labour came about and the third way and tri party diplomacy in international relations – govt, other govt and business.) e.g) constantly shifting international capital; international shadow banking and international tax havens; constantly shifting cheap wage labour; the inability of any country to individually regulate corporations and tax regimes without being set against one another; the shifting technological advantage; the shift of manufacturing to the developing world; competition from developing countries with enormous cash reserves based on exports especially China who can now finance and grow targeted industries in a way that developed countries cannot; international currency markets; Scotlands lack of a sizable container port; the price of oil; international creditors and cost of borrowing, how to fund a welfare system whose cost ever increases and so on….What JS meant essentially was the interdependence within the Global econ system. Global governance is really the only way forward…In many respects the indy movement in Scotland was symptomatic of a wider retreat from these forces over which we have no control and that have undermined the very notion of national sovereignty.

      1. MBC says:

        Yes I got all that. But thanks for spelling it all out so clearly, it gives a basis for discussion. My point was that to discuss JS’s article properly he needed to have mentioned those things. But as he admits it was an opinion piece.

        But in his reply to Mike somewhere in this thread he states that we would not have been able to control interest rates in a CU. And his total hostility to a CU in indy Scotland which reveals a thinly diguised English fury at the sheer audacity of an indy Scotland getting his English £ which he attempts to paint up as based on solid economic reasons that it would be disastrous for everybody. We are in a currency union now, in which the BoE controls interest rates and we have absolutely no say in that at all, whilst in a CU as a separate state we would at least have had some say, even though it would be minor. Right now the BoE could theoretically raise interest rates but chooses not to do so for many of the reasons you give above. Interest rates are low all over Europe inside and outside of the EU. Thus BoE cannot really set UK interest rates now (in practice) any more than an indy Scotland could have done with or without a CU.

      2. ELAINE FRASER says:

        Bernicia thank you for your interesting and thought provoking piece.
        During the campaign I heard the currency union issue repeatedly and the idea that the EU wouldn’t let us in and the phrase ‘pooling and sharing’ I don’t remember the many ‘constraining influences of international political economy…external forces’ you list being cited in detail that much.
        I freely admit I reached a point where I couldn’t listen to anymore negativity so maybe they were banging on about it but my overall impression was the theme Scotland was too wee too poor too stupid rather than ‘ please don’t go or the rUK will be up the creek without a paddle’ .Only when I read George Kerevan ‘the UK is a ticking time bomb’ did I begin to get a handle on things.At the time I was ( still am) concerned for those struggling in rUK but also felt on balance there was no choice but to try and do things differently here in Scotland. I could have said ‘Im alright Jack’ and I don’t want to rock the boat but heres the thing I really don’t have to go too far within my own family to find reasons for voting Yes. in the hope of some improvement ..two kids ( graduates) both on very low pay one on a zero hours contract, third youngest school leaver on £4 an hour, elderly relatives having worked all their lives in houses they can’t heat reliant sometimes on charity from their families . I could go on and on . Of course there are people in the same boat in rUK but I think many there would be thinking ‘go for it!’ or ‘if I had the chance I would”
        Im wondering if the reason these insurmountable global forces were not highlighted was to do with hiding from everyone the reality because if the rUK were to be made aware then Westminster would not only have Scotland to deal with. During the indy campaign many of us woke up and started paying attention , trying to understand the forces shaping our lives and trying to work out how to regain some control especially for our childrens sake. If Labour has some master plan up its sleeve that its hiding until after the election Im afraid thats not good enough. Sounds like jam tomorrow.
        Have you had any thoughts on the political impact of independence on rUK ( I think you are saying economically things would have been very bad for every part of UK following independence)/ Do you think Scottish independence would have been any kind of catalyst for political change in rUK either nationally or regionally?

      3. Bernicia says:

        Hi, Elaine, great response and some very good points/ food for thought and I really do understand the pressure people are under. I come from a lower middle class/ working class background and have a sister who is a single mother with two kids. But to answer the precise points.

        My frustration is that a lot of what you rightly mention, zero hours contracts, housing and heating, a lack of graduate jobs ( I applied for near on a thousand – no joke) are not simply the problem of the UK. All these things are in the power of the current Scottish government to change also (but they don’t because of circumstance and reality, and deflect)…For seven years the SNP have allowed zero hours contracts in the public sector, housing is completely devolved and new builds have nothing to do with government finance but policy – if they wanted to increase the % of affordable housing private construction companies are forced to provide they could. I have a friend who lives in Aberdeenshire where there is a real problem with affodable housing. What does Alex Salmond/ Swinney do? Allows thousands of luxury houses to be built that ruins the local housing market (why becasue he has finacial support from the NE building trade,/ and the powerful lobby.) Heating costs also are with in the power of the Scottish government to change within it’s budget, as are rents and rented regulatation as are many other very important areas of poverty. But nothing happens….?

        And this is my point. I’m not anti Scottish independence on the basis of principle, I used to be an advocate, but looked at the reality and came to the conclusion that independence would leave Scotland worse off and more exposed to the forces I mentioned. This was my analysis. The high, showy offy ‘clever’ intellectual stuff is patronising and irritating I know though, when problems are pretty blunt and real.

        There are global forces at work that can’t be escaped but this doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. I frankly despise this Tory government, I can’t look at David Cameron on TV, it makes me physically ill!! But there are other options. Everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks they know best, but the truth is it really is a toss up. But when I look at the difference between the three potential parties SNP, Labour, the Torries for the next election, the 26 Billion difference in spending cuts + mansion tax rather than bedroom tax and simple ideology, I reluctantly remain a labour unionist. SNP can’t provide the very minimal cold comfort a labour govt can. Depressing…yes.

        But there are glimmers of hope. I firmly believe that devolving power to city regions + networks can regenerate the most deprived areas much better than any centralised Scottish/ Uk governement.

  22. MBC says:

    Bella/Mike, that’s exactly what JS and Bernicia mean. ‘International political economy’ is somehow unstoppable and there’s sod all the English left or anybody else can do about, so shut up Scotland and stop being a whinging Jock.

    It makes the English left, Marxism, the UK, and British Labour redundant – but that part has passed them by entirely.

    In the Middle Ages they used to write ‘Here be dragons’ on maps as a cop out for not venturing forth. It’s a version of that. It’s lazy.

    1. Bernicia says:

      No it doesn’t make the left redundant, but rather reinforces the trueism that solidarity is necessary. It is simply wishful thinking that Scotland could ‘show the way’ but Britain due to size and so long as we are in Europe could push for reform of IMF, ECB/EU/ World bank, international banking regulation and so on. And Marxism was redundant years ago (read Karl Popper) the analysis is good as one of many ways to analyise history however.

      1. Bernicia says:

        Or further transnational civil society… or is Scottish political culture too different?

      2. Bernicia says:

        Also why assume nations and states are the appropriate model? Why devolve power to a centralised nation like Scotland when local decision making is needed for some things but not others? Glasgow clearly is different to the rest of Scotland and needs more independence / interdependence than Scotland as a nation. Same goes for Aberdeen/ Edinburgh. Also England.

      3. MBC says:

        Bernicia, ‘Britain’ moves at a glacial speed. It has been trying to abolish the House of Lords since 1908 (or therabouts). We in Scotland have been arguing patiently for home rule since the 1880s. It took us 110 years from that point to get the Scottish parliament. Britain, or rather, England, it’s largest element, is a deeply divided society. Liberal progressive movements have always existed, and constantly chafe against the forces of reaction, it’s just that they never get the upper hand. The sheer weight of the forces of deep reaction and conservatism stop them in their tracks. There is such a thing as the English radical tradition. It’s just that it’s never got beyond infancy. Tom Paine had to emigrate. If I thought there was any serious chance of Britain moving on reform of the EU, World Bank, ECB, etc., I would be content with devolution. I would vote for Miliband if I thought he had any serious chance of being able to do anything radically social democratic once elected. But Miliband isn’t ever going to be allowed to do anything. In order to be elected at all he has to water his policies down to the point that they are only a slightly redder shade of deep blue. What’s the point? It’s the difference between 99p and £1.

        I am just simply fed up with Ukania. The power elites in Britain do not really want to unite with anyone and never have. They certainly see a point in tactical alliances. NATO, etc. And really, that’s all the Union ought to have been – an Anglo-Scottish treaty against the French attempts at universal monarchy during the War of the Spanish Succession. But union, like a marriage – a true, happy, fulfilling marriage – requires giving some things up and sacrificing considerable parts of your autonomy. And that is a thing that those English power elites – for they are, I’m afraid, English – can never do. It is just not in their DNA to genuinely unite with anyone. They have to dominate.

        Just look at the ridiculous hoo-hah about EVEL.

        Yes, in theory, I agree that Scottish MPs voting on ‘English’ laws when English MPs can’t vote directly in the Scottish parliament (though in effect, they do, indirectly, by the back door, by controlling Barnett) is unfair. But in practice there is no hurt to England. A recent House of Commons Library paper showed that in the last 2000 divisions that had taken place in the House, the votes of Scottish MPs had affected the outcome 0.6% of the time. English sovereignty in the UK parliament had a 99.4% success rate! But that’s apparently too little! Similarly, UK fails to win cases in the EU human rights court in 0.48% of cases, yet that is apparently a huge assault on our sovereignty!

        So your belief in UK solidarity is touching, but it is just not going to achieve anything social democratic. The forces of reaction are too strong. We, as 8.3% of the UK population have no hope of ever achieving the kind of transformation we seek. But on our own, out of these chains, our chances are fair.

    2. Bernicia says:

      MBC, Your points are valid ones and for what it’s worth I fully understand and respect the good motives of Yes and share the frustration. But again, why construct things in national terms? Scotland equally moves at a glacial pace, land reform 15 years and still a joke, education reform of charitable status for private schools non existent, social housing and % of affordable housing in new builds still only 25% and not ever enforced, the neolib planning system where there are more brownfeild sites in central Glasgow than any other UK city due to ‘the market’ and maximum profit being the only consideration, council tax freeze, rent caps still non existent, greater working class educational attainment in England Wales than Sotland (I don’t have the figures but can get them). It’s much of a muchness TBH. Britain/ indy Scot? In your heart of hearts you know that the SNP and Labour are identical in policy terms.

      And also, UK is already (a Tory governement who’d believe it) pushing for an international system of control for registering companies, partly for security reasons, laundering, organsised crime and terrorism, but also because it is how multi-nationals avoid tax and even Tory governments want some revenue. UK wide, with the financial services this has clout.

      I’m not incidently opposed to an independent Scotland on cultural or even nationalistic basis TBH, so long as it doesn’t cause damage to those in the UK that can least afford it. Whether they live in Wester Hails or Toxteth or Barking.

      I have a suggestion….why not shelve the indy thing for the next election simply to see if the tide can be turned, as Thatcher did in 79 but the wrong way (and that means swallowing pride and holding noses while voting for Labourand taking yet another chance). The thing is austerity is a reality, the debt is a reality, but the distribution of wealth can change across UK (and the seeds are there for UK wide change). If this fails then it gives Scotland the time to come up with a realistic and managable plan on the main sticking point, the currency (the most bizzare aspect of the indyref was the lack of preparation by the SNP on this). Also we can see what happens to Greece if they vote for Syriza and leave the Euro. If Ukania is still bust and there is actual clear evidence to suggest scotland can and will be different rather than the utopian hubris, then I will vote indy with pleasure at the next ref.

      1. MBC says:

        Why construct things in national terms? Because we are a nation. Not only do we feel like a nation (a good many of us) but historically, legally, and institutionally, it’s a fact that we are a nation. There’s an extant institutional structure of nationhood. A legacy and long history of common action. Imbedded in institutions. Current. Call it social capital if you like. That’s potentially an asset. Plus, we’re different. We have different resources, different potentials, different situation. Different opportunities. We’re nearer to the melting Arctic. More potential for renewables. But they are sod all interested in that in Dagenham. Why should they be? No blame. Once size does not fit all. Did you know that 85% of the UK coastline is in Scotland? No? Neither did I until recently when I heard a military man say that – all those firths, headlands, islands, peninsulas. Got to be great opportunity there. Self-determination is a right, but it presupposes there is a self to determine. And there is. Being a Scot isn’t exclusive though – anybody who lives here and wants to make a future here is a Scot. It’s not an ethnic thing – but history has created a definite vibe which you can get with, or not, but it’s optional.

        Scotland moving at glacial pace! I’ll say! 307 years with a ball and chain on both ankles is hardly moving anywhere fast! But fifteen years on an extremely tight leash with limited powers in a devolved assembly that calls itself a parliament is hardly much time or opportunity to do much that is radical! What do you expect – miracles? Plus, half of that time was under a Labour administration and we’ve seen how hollow Labour is as an organisation controlled from London! There are plans though that I’ve read of to impose rent caps. And how much greater working class attainment in education in England is due to England’s lesser levels of multiple deprivation? Scotland is a smaller place, with proportionally more people affected by de-industrialisation. I call it ‘the black hole of Lanarkshire’. Major industry was disproportionally far, far, larger in Scotland than in England where there were large tracts of artisan and small to medium scale industry that redistrubuted wealth better and were more resilient to downturns. We just have larger problems. What has fuelled Scottish nationalism in the 20th century is the issue of who controls the Scottish economy. We are still riding out the disatrous effects of the imperial economy and its collapse in the 1960s and 70s. Historians called this ‘structural weakness’ whereby a small number of very large industries (coal, iron, steel, engineering) were interlocked so that a downturn in one affected the rest. The fact that these industries, based on the empire and mass exportation to global markets the empire controlled – were on a massive scale in a small country has meant that the effects of de-industrialisation – accelerated by Thatcher, were simply far deeper and wider. Really, they affect the whole of central Scotland.

        An indy Scotland could just as easily be on board with the battle against tax fraud. Not an argument against indy.

        Sorry, but I am just too long in the teeth, and have too deep a knowledge of history to be persuaded that Britain is for turning. I’ve waited and watched and hoped for far too long. Plus, I worry that if we don’t get indy soon, there’ll be nothing left. You sound young. Not a criticism, just saying. I’ve been there, got the T-shirt. Is all. Scotland and England are on different trajectories. That was clear even in 1885 when the Scottish Office was set up, but two world wars artificially halted a process of drift in different directions that was already apparent by 1914. The English are just too complacent. They have more fat, it affects their outlook. They have less edge. Too content by far. The English radical tradition was strangled at birth. Have you noticed that any radical political developments originated in Scotland, Wales, Ireland? The English have their Fabians but that’s about it. Our chances are fair, and I firmly believe we know ourselves better and can run ourselves better than Ukania ever could.

        Why don’t you drop the whole Labour Ukania thing? We could build a whole new country here. Does that not excite you? Even a little bit?

      2. Dr Ew says:

        I’ve read right through this comment thread and while I respect much of your analysis, Bernica, I just don’t agree with your conclusions.

        1) An international global system of government is no doubt necessary and maybe even desirable, but it’s far more likely to be constructed by the current elites and therefore perverted to their requirements – e.g. all powerful in suppressing dissent, alternatives to corporate interest and democracy in general. The EU could be a kind of prototype – undemocratic, bureaucratic, corrupt and repressive of any threat to corporate business systems. Its rules on privatisation, tendering and public ownership are testament to all that, and once TTIP etc. are implemented will be even more draconian.

        Global government that is benign, accountable, representative and working in the interests of the planet and its people is, sadly, the stuff of sci-fi fantasy. Meantime the nation state – for all its dreadful flaws – is the only realistic model at present. The left of the Yes Movement – as represented by Bella, RIC, Common Weal, Scottish Greens and others, including many non-aligned folk – generally acknowledged this and saw the establishment of an independent Scotland as an opportunity – no more, no less – to stake out an open, highly devolved, highly democratic state. Part of this was less a belief in Scotland per se but in the idea that a small, mature democratic nation with a strong left tradition might just be able to develop something that builds on the Scandanavian examples, and that might create if not a beacon – some of the rhetoric got very high-flown – then at least add a new glimmer to the lights battling the darkness of neo-liberalism.

        Idealistic? Perhaps, but a damn sight more achieveable than a progressive global government… don’t you agree?

        2) Scotland vs. Global Economic Power – Well, it’s no contest really, is it? Any potential threat to the world order is demonised, infiltrated, undermined, sanctioned, alienated… all that stuff so darkly hinted by global figures like George Robertson, Xi Jinping, Tony Abbott, Carl Bildt, Hilary Clinton and many, many others. They want the British State intact, apparently, because it suits their purposes – certainly it’s not out of any concern for the people who live here.

        And there’s the rub. Why would Scotland mapping out a radical(ish) alternative be such a threat? And if they won’t allow Scotland to do it, why do you persist in believing such would ever be permitted in the UK, containing as it does far more strategically important assets like the City of London financial hub and the long tangled tentacles of British diplomacy?

        Sadly, but realistically, an independent Scotland would have to balance its radicalism with pragmatism. We get that. But we believe independence would generate a tremendous impetus for change, the heady scent of an almost clean sheet to write a different kind of future based on localised democracy, community ownership, accountable representation, strict regulation of party funding, ridding ourselves of nuclear weapons, focusing investment on renewables and, above all, a constitutional enshrining of a singular principle unthinkable in the UK sovereignty of the people. Which leads me to…

        3) Reforming British Democracy – It is just beyond living memory since the British State ran 1/4 of the globe from Westminster. The Upper House of its legislature is unelected yet contains almost as many “representatives” as China’s. The City of London has an agent called ‘The Remembrancer’ who sits in as the only unelected person in the Lower House. Financing of all the main political parties who populate both houses is in large part via the CIty of London, who also corrupt and tempt our tribunes with sinecures, junkets and directorships before during and after their term in Parliament. The wretched people cannot even claim to have sovereignty of their own land; that is vested in the “Crown” in “Parliament”. We are not citizens, we are subjects with very limited rights.

        2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – “Did she die in vain?!?!” quoth Tony Hancock. Too right she did, me old marra. It may say the monarch is not above the law but it appears bankers are – not one collar felt 2008 despite rampant criminality, fraud and mismanagement on a global scale (that word again). I’ll also be interested to see how far any action against Prince Andrew is pursued, or indeed others of our ruling elite who have been publicly accused of historical child abuse. What price an independent inquiry into a decades long paedophile ring procuring vulnerable children for fucking, violance and murder by lords, judges, showbiz personalities, MPs, ministers and the aristocracy.

        That’s the Motherfucker of Parliaments you believe can be reformed, Bernica. Good luck with that. You’ve got more chance of a Global Government.

        4) I mentioned Magna Carta, much vaunted but which failed to deliver sovereignty to the people. Imagine that, Bernica. Living in a country as a citizen, not a subject. A place where the constitution enshrines your sovereignty and not the successor of feudal gangsters. For me, that alone was worth a Yes vote.

        Scotland’s history does not include Magna Carta. It was formed differently as a nation – geologically, religiously, politically, legally, culturally – imperfect, but unique. Maybe in the far distant future there will be a glorious government of the Globe. If so it will need to be comprised of a myriad of smaller democratic units reaching back through continents, nations, regions… all the way to your community. I could see a future Scotland as a part of that structure, an independent nation that could and I believe would put down those local democratic roots sooner rather than later.

        As for the UK, while it remains intact it is part of the past and part of the problem.

      3. JBS says:

        So, Bernicia, you reckon the Labour Party stinks like a dead herring in high summer but you want the people of Scotland to vote for it anyway and help it secure a working majority at Westminster?

        Wow. Just wow.

        Hang on, maybe that should have been cod above rather than herring. Oh, well, I’ve written it now. ‘The moving finger writes’, etc.

      4. Bernicia says:

        MBC… And the only problem with all this is that Scotland doesn’t want full independence (we had a vote). Also the Scottish parliament has plenty of options to introduce redistributive policies and hasn’t (at least SNP) the rhetoric comming from Sturgeon to business is the same as Mandelson and Blair. Just the Fabians???? the word ‘Radical’ in political terms origionated in England and you claim to be ‘know too much about history’ but our Southern neighbours have been much more progressive than Scotland….as I’ve already pointed out on this site and will do again if need be. To indulge in this kind of conformation bias is lazy.

        Of course Scotland is a nation, but politics can be multi level, and is fluid, as is sovereignty. And it depends on priorities. Personally I put social justice first and nationalism last. Others feel different. Besides, if you know your history you will also know that nations are recent contructions (read Hobsbawn) and for much longer the central political unit was either empire of the city state (which incidentally would do much more to improve the areas of depravation rather than the one size fits all that has to accomodate Orkney to Eyemouth…And by this I’m assuming you’re an ‘Imperialist’ WoS whose urban socialist politics alienates everyone outside the west/ central belt?

        But yes, if Scotland had voted for independence I would have got stuck in to try and prevent the low reg/ low tax model the SNP offered. (that’s democracy) Although we’re back to reality and the fact that there isn’t a single small non centre right country in the world due to the external forces that impinge on any country.

      5. Bernicia says:

        @ Dr Ew (incidentally before I sound off, I watched the Heisenberg/ Bohr play, fantastic stuff cheers!)

        1) I realise that it was more about creating a small social democratic country. 3 years ago I was a very eager proponent, but reality got in the way…the currency, the fact that Scotland isn’t as socially democratic as assumed, or that due to asymetry the tools for redistribution (fiscal policy) would have to mirror the UK etc.

        Conclusion, an indy Scotland would be more exposed not less to neo lib/ austerity.

        But yes the global govt thing is a stretch (I’m not saying get rid of the nation state but accept overlapping sovereignty and focus more on trans national civil society/ orgs that exist and change them. But I do take your point. Also the most socially progressive and destructive forces have been top down AND bottom up. Marshal plan, Bretton Woods, World Bank (as it was before the neo libs took over), UN (not perfect but still better than westphalian orthodoxy) Climate change and energy policy can only be trans national to have any progressive efficacy. Take your pick of the destructive ones, Communism, Neo Conservatism, turbo capitalism and neo lib orthodoxy etc.

        2) The problem was Scotland wasn’t mapping out anything radical (at the periphery commonweal, Greens etc…An indy Scot would have been more or less like every other small centre right country…including Scandinavians.

        3) This is just silly. I agree with the anger, but not the analysis. Fred Gowin still lives in Edinburgh on 700 000 grand pension does he not (would he have dissapeared in a puff of smoke with an indy SCot? Brain Souter?) The idea of a blank canvass just denies the reality of the Scottish power structure which would remain embedded with that down South. Indy would chop off one head, but others would grow back.

        In an Indy Scotland we would still have Prince Andrew/ monarch as head of State and the elite establishment protecting him once again, is equally Scottish and would still exist after indy.

        House of lords. Yes needs reform (but so does the committee system in Scot parl since SNP got in power. Commons is much more accountable.)

        4) I share your hopes and like I said if there was the chance of ‘small’ countries ‘showing the way’ etc then I’d be on board. – perhaps start by introducing some redistributive policies into the areas of government that Scotland currently has…then i’ll take it seriously…maybe get rid of those very same fuedal gangster around 500 of them who own Scotland??? for a start? Has nothing to do with UK what so ever. Or maybe not collude with semi criminal American Billionaires to push people out of their homes and destroy ancient environments? Then I’ll tke it all seriously…why don’t the commonweal, RIC etc hold the power of SNP in check also?

        G20 is a reality and a work in progress, as is the debt written off for education (means millions of the world’s poorest children now have free education) The new imperialism/ colonialism of China is a reality (and will not simply by pass Scotland – it already owns 10 % of the licences in Brent – why? to influence the oil price. 45% of the world’s surface under the high sea is now accessible due to sub sea tech and out of any national jurisdiction so up for grabs. Deepsea minning and drilling will be commonplace and is already leading to conflict (China/ Vietnam, Russia/ Norway/ NATO in the artic, and environmental destruction. An independent global regulatory body is essential and can happen. China owns 95% of precious metal deposites essential fo our high tech world etc etc…the world is very small and vey interdependent.

        And all the the things you point out are in equal measure problems of the EU, but yet pooling sovereignty there is OK? why?

        And finally, the criticisms of the UK system, valid as they are, doesn’t not in any way suggest Scotland would have been different (perhaps worse) A lot of this is conjecture and moral luck. And please please please, end this conceit of ‘Scotland being ‘naturally’, more social democratic than England when there is zero evidence to back it up. Social attitudes are almost identical given the stats.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          This is really confused.

          “…the currency, the fact that Scotland isn’t as socially democratic as assumed…” I think you’ve got the world the wrong way round. From what you write it suggests that only places that are already pre-radical / pre-progressive should be so. Surely the pointy of radical social movements is to give vision and offer ideas for real change?

          The you say “The problem was Scotland wasn’t mapping out anything radical” – this is the ultimate its not pure change so lets have no change shibboleth. It’s a manifesto for complete inertia.

      6. Bernicia says:

        I appreciate what your saying (and I’m not a blinkered unionist sneering at Yessers because I share much of thei politics and am not opposed in fact to independence (at some point) – three years ago before all the ‘celebs’ got involved I was very pro and have voted SNP, then I looked at the uncomfortable reality and made a judgement based on probability. And I commend websites like this for exactly this kind of ‘fresh air’ discussion. But…

        The facts as thing stand are this.

        1) Scotland voted no..not for fearty reasons but very rational and considered ones – the currency. Another ref will produce the same result, maybe worse because of the oil slump.

        2)The hand doesn’t fit the glove. Independence would not have resolved the issues it claimed to. But then neither does Britain or any other nation state with the overly centralised power they retain. Although a qualitative assessment suggest the latter has more chance due to size.

        3)They are called MULTI nationals corporations for a reason, as is Global capital, and politics needs to mirror this. This is why the most sucessful schemes in irradicating poverty have actually been local (city region ones) interconnected across the world, city region endevours that link with other cities beyond national constraints and circumvent or match up to the same dynamics as the global neo lib econ.

        4) Civil society has to mirror the system that it is trying to compete against. Therefore my conclusion (and many others) is that civic association is a much more managable entity; so empower cities vis a vis the state. Aberdeen does not have the same issues as Glasgow or as London. The loose over arching framework will still be national and trans national (incidentally this has already happen in terms of commerce and it is politics that is waiting to catch up.) Similarly cities can implement environmental policy in co ordination with trans national objectives much more efficiently and with greater efficacy. The problem with Indy Scot was that rather than see a diffusion of power it would have created two very monolythic centralised blocks (the evidence since 1997 is crystal clear) competing against each other, with Scotland the loser.

        3) For thirty odd years now the need to devolve regions has been floated (Heseltine ‘Mr Liverpool’ led the charge – imagine he had been Tory leader rather than Thatcher!) Only in co operation and looking beyond both Scotland/ England/ Britain will the north of England and Central west Scotland escape centralised national ‘managed decline’. These places really are in it together. Independence would have cut Glasgow off from the allocated 1.2 Billion city region deal…this combined with greater fiscal powers is much more sensible an appropriate a scale than out right independence.

  23. RDH says:

    There does seem to be a huge and not too well hidden depth of distain for the unwashed non ‘academic community’ in these two Labourista responses. How dare we engage without appropiate tutelage. Next it will be mob rule and Oxbridge in flames as the Herbertists shout F@ck the Pope and Death to the Fabians. No wonder Polly Toynbee can’t sleep at night.

    1. MBC says:

      There’s that. But there’s also guff-speak, and the assumption that guff is an effective weapon for cowing the masses. Maybe it works in England but it’s not working here.

    2. muttley79 says:

      Immanuel Kant said:

      “Have courage to use your own reason”- that is the motto of enlightenment.’ He also said:

      ‘I have placed the main point of Enlightenment – the escape of men from their self-incurred tutelage’…

      1. MBC says:

        Hear, hear, Muttley! Well said! And that is what has happenned in Scotland. There has been an awakening.

    3. JBS says:

      ‘Oxbridge in flames’? Nah, the College buildings are actually quite attractive, in a quaint sort of way. In any case, it’s not necessary. All that’s needed is the return of Zuleika Dobson.

      1. Bernicia says:

        Think privately educated PPE Oxbridge grad, Indy darling Leslie Ridoch might complain.

  24. Dan Huil says:

    In 2010 Scotland returned 41Labour politicians out of a total of 59 available.
    What was Scotland’s reward to such supposed loyalty to Labour? A Tory/LibDem government.
    I am pleased to see opinion polls showing that people in Scotland will not be fooled by Labour’s arrogant mantra: Vote SNP get Tory.
    During the referendum Labour showed its true blue colours. Only a fool would vote for Labour in Scotland in May.
    Not philosophy, just logic.

  25. Darien says:

    These academics don’t seem to appreciate that, irrespective of Tory or Labour, the UK is a bust joint-venture state, economically and morally. When returns fall below acceptable levels that is when a JV usually ends. Scots ‘shareholders’ in UK plc have had enough.

  26. Big Jock says:

    The last time I checked. Independence is not one thing ,nor is it a single idea on future policy. Fundamentally the question was , is Scotland a nation? 55% of the electorate decided it wasn’t. The 45% I voted with , agreed that Scotland was their nation. So there is no point in getting into debates about social policy of a state,that nearly half of us in Scotland don’t recognise as our country.

    I am quite sure the labour party and the unionists would like to pretend we can achieve social justice together. However the majority in England don’t share their vision. Hence they are turning to UKIP rather than the Greens or the Labour party. The UK ( England). Is now a right wing nation. We can say this with confidence, as both labour and the Tories have come together in terms of their general monetary policies. But tat is not enough for some and that’s where UkIP come into play. There are about 20% of the English electorate who want even more extreme versions of the Tories. The direction of travel is right in England but left in Scotland. How can we possibly ever be one nation! We are two distinct nations and the inevitable direction is independence or the end of Scotland.

    1. MBC says:

      I’m not sure at all that you can assume that all of the 55% didn’t think they were Scots, or thought that Scotland wasn’t a nation. They just weren’t sure about independence, it was too much of a leap for them. A great many were older voters (one million pensioners above age 65 in the last census – an 85% turnout = 850,000. If 73% voted No, as polls suggested, that was the No result more or less in the bag by just that one demographic alone).

      Most of the No group were low information voters. Many of them were terrorised into voting No. Others thought they genuinely could have it both ways – they didn’t forsee that the indyref would change everything, regardless of the result. Now it is beginning to dawn on many that we can’t ever go back to the status quo ante and they are re-examining their priorities. The fact of the indyref has amongst other things, normalised the idea of independence. It has also revealed the fissures in the British state and revealed the way Scotland is regarded by England and the hollowness of the Labour party that they followed blindly for so long.

  27. Just Give me Some truth, not waffle says:

    Excellent stuff Mike. Good to see you got up the goat of a pair of pretentious pseudo-intellectuals who have clearly compartmentalised ‘Nats’, thus setting up a straw man as some petty bourgeois tend to do in their childish games of pretending they can argue a case. Loading the dice falsely is what kids do when they play games. Met so many of them who live off the public purse and they would be unfit to do another real job if they were forced to lower themselves to have to look for one. There are so many blatantly obvious fuck ups in the Western USA-led-bullyboy-pushed acceptance of Neo Liberalism that if people cant see we are well into the middle of a neo-totalitarianism of economic stranglehold over nations that possess democracy but are unable to practice democracy and the leading ‘radicals’ (HA HA JIM MURPHY) have nothing but a kintergarden slogan or twa to con the public like politics is a Punch and Judy show, then it is clear the progressive forces must come from people whose humanity and compassion and ability for human empathy is not dead. Scotland, or the majority of its poorest people, have suffered under the boot of calloused English Exceptionalism for centuries and all the intellectuals of the so-called Left can offer is some ego bitching point scoring to a realistic writer who has exposed their craven cotton woolled claptrap.

    1. MBC says:

      I think you are spot on. And though Mr Stafford does raise some good points in his angry riposte to Mike, explaining for instance that his polemical article was intended merely as an opinion piece, and is not definitive in scholarly terms, but can still be backed up by his wider scholarship, if Mike cares to examine it, it is undeniable that what has really riled him is that Mike and others on this thread have pointed out the paucity of his aspirations as a wannabe English radical. Thus showing the futility of the Union as a vehicle for progress. Mr Stafford accepts neo-liberalism as a universal system and thinks that all you can do is nibble your way around the edges, and that the crumbs that are released are worth having. The Scottish ambition to establish a new state which frees itself from the wrong patterns and worst decisions of neo-liberal austerity Britain raises resentment not admiration, because it reveals how much further the radical tradition is in Scotland than in England. And as an Englishman that galls him.

      His reaction is significant for a number of reasons.

      It is hypocritical to aspire to be any kind of radical yet despise the radical pretensions of fellow-Britons by defence of the forces of reaction and power that radicals struggle against.

      It also reveals the lack of fellowship in the concept of ‘Briton’, or any sense of the term ‘Briton’ as meaning something progressive.

      In short, Mr Stafford is an Englishman first, a radical second, and a fellow-Briton, last.

  28. Fran says:

    Sometimes when talk gets too intellectual or ideological it becomes far removed from the basic compassion that so many of us desperately want to see in a new politics.

  29. Big Jock says:

    MBC. We can use all the polite reasons and excuses for how people voted. But if you are asked ,should Scotland be independent. You are offering nationhood in a referendum. You cannot choose to be a nation for football or at a Burns night. Its not a part time job. Being a nation means you accept everything, and the responsibility of being independent. You can’t have it both ways. The world looked on and saw that Scotland chose to remain a region of the UK. Whether we view ourselves as such doesn’t really matter. Legally and politically we are not a nation in the UN.

    We can’t keep making excuses for people running away from things. I know businessmen,poor people,old people young people who voted yes. Why because regardless of money,wealth or even political persuasion. They agreed Scotland was a real country. Everyone has personal circumstances! Is the cleaner in my work less worthy because she doesn’t have a car and large mortgage. The argument being that poor people have less to lose. I am middle class have a mortgage and cars and wife and bills. Why did I not care about any of that when I ticked my box. Because it wasn’t about me,it was about Scotland my nation.

    I have had enough of apologists having their personal circumstances as an excuse for voting no.Everyone who voted yes has personal circumstances, and how dare no people presume theirs are unique or more important than the 45.

    1. MBC says:

      I hear all that. But I also see how mentally trapped people were. Gramsci called it ‘hegemony’. By that he meant the way that power elites convince the disempowered to accept their powerlessness, to accept their domination. To accept that there is a hierarchical order of things and they are at the bottom. And that’s just how it is – and that it’s not too bad, is it? That level of in doctrination is very powerful. I spent many hours trying to dislodge that kind of thinking from older No voters whilst canvassing. I witnessed the heart and the head being pulled in different directions. So no, it’s not cowardice, not in most cases anyway. But the indyref has been cathartic, it has chipped away at that Gramscian hegemony.

      So all I’m saying is to keep chipping away at that, and not at No voters’ low self esteem necessarily, or they are not going to come with us.

      I once had a scruffy friend who was also quite short and slight in stature. The kind of ‘wee bochle’ that is generally pushed around and overlooked. He used to tell this story of one time he was on a packed train leaving Queen Street station, but had been unable to purchase a ticket before boarding. This was in the days when you couldn’t by tickets on board. It was standing room only. And he was challenged by the ticket collector, shoving his way gruffly through the massed throng of humanity to produce his ticket. Suddenly he had a flash of inspiration, and, pulling himself up straight, and looking the ticket collector fiercely in the eye, he barked out, in his best attempts at received pronounciation: ‘I BEG YOUR PARDON!’.

      And low and behold, but the ticket collector just dissolved into a flurry of mumbled incoherent stumblings and started apologising to him! Before beating a hasty retreat.

      That’s Gramscian hegemony. The ticket collector had heard His Master’s Voice. That’s what we were up against with a lot of low information No voters being barked at in their living rooms and on the front pages of their newspapers.

    2. Big Jock, really enjoyed the thrust of your thought process and your obvious passion. As an expatriate Scot it is fellow Scot’s like yourself that maintain my belief in my ancient homeland and my people. I played the pipes in the 2005 Tattoo and hope to return again one day to play them anywhere in a Sovereign Scotland, for anywhere will be just as valuable as anywhere else.

  30. ian says:

    I could well be wrong but i’m assuming that the more wordy contributors to this thread eg Bernicia and Mr Stafford are young and rather niave. Experience and living in and through the last fifty odd years of life in the UK gives you all the answers you really need.Glasgow has the same problems it had thirty five years ago when i was a student poor housing,unemployment,social deprivation ect,ect.The Labour party has been in charge of the city through most of that time whats changed,little or nothing?
    We have more than enough sudo intellectuals banging away on keyboards when the issues are very simple.Why is a a country that is relatively rich in resources ect full of relatively poor people?Why is the myth encouraged that scotland is subsidised when its clearly not the case.why do aprox.30000 people leave Scotland every year,the majority being the young.Why do English mps get their way 75% of the time in Scottish affairs yet Scottish mps influence affairs in england 0.06% of the time,so much for pulling and sharing,raping and pillaging more like.
    There are numerous other straight forward facts that clearly show the Union does not work and never will.We are different peoples who may well appreciate our diffrences more by being separate.We could then cooperate as neighbours of equal standing not this sham we have at the moment.
    I feel Scottish in my heart not Brittish whatever that is, for me independence is an imperative.

  31. Big Jock says:

    Thanks James, haste ye back as they say.

    MBC I get all that. The misinformed,the disinterested, the genuine Brits, the , this referendum is such an inconvenience types, the apathetic, downright lazy, the meek. They all voted no. My point is this though. If you are too meek or too I’ll informed ,to make an intelligent decision on your nation then maybe you are not deserving of a nation.

    There is a Stockholm syndrome alive and well in Scotland. We are a bullied nation. Until the population realise that Rome will not slip into the sea after a yes vote. We will not get independence. Salmond said there was more than one way to get independence. I don’t necessarily think he was referring to a unilateral declaration. Instead he was referring to a point where Scotland would become ungovernable!

    By that he means a majority pro independence MP,s at Westminster and Holyrood. Thus preventing and disrupting Whitehall dictat and government policy being implemented. The road to independenceis closer than we can imagine. We have the opportunity to demand and achieve Devo Max in 2015 with an SNP majority. After Devo Max comes independence in a kind of defacto agreement to dissolve the union! Without the need to have the plebescite decide in another referendum.

    1. MBC says:

      I don’t think we are really disagreeing, are we, except about the hegemony thing. I don’t think all No voters were beyond redemption by any means and urge you not to piss them off by calling them cowards and traitors – which is what you implied. It wasn’t moral cowardice that was holding a lot of them back but indoctrination. I am just saying that rather than condemn all of the 55% our real target should be to wear down the hegemony. By continuing to be assertive and pointing out Scotland’s wealth and viability as a state. By creating a counter narrative tocounter the hegemony of learned helplessness. We have already had a massive go at that and this work of education needs to continue. I just wonder how we get it out of the Yes bubble. Some of it will slowly perculate out without much effort on our part as news journalists find they are having to mention blogs like Bella or Wings. But we need to find other ways of getting the word out to low information indoctrinated voters.

      To be perfectly honest, my biggest fear was that we might have won by a tiny majority. That would have triggered massive protest and you can be sure that the British state would not have taken that lying down. It could have led to a lot of instability, and us getting shafted during any negotiations. They are already talking about No voting parts like the Borders or Orkney and Shetland being retained, as Ulster was. So with that in mind we need to keep building on the counter-narrative and continuing to win over a larger number of No voters especially in those areas.

  32. Big Jock says:

    I agree MBC. I reckon about 25% of the electorate are unreachable. So we have about 30% to convince. The problem I have is the Bravehearts at Scotland games etc. They think Scotland exists in sport only and not when it really matters. I know many die hard Tartan army types that voted no. Why? Mainly due to selfish I,m Scottish but types. The ones that think their lives are so important they couldn’t possibly have that threatened by the masses. They are misguided of course. But certainly the referendum opened my eyes to the amount of selfishness in Scotland. I dont think independence is about the self or about money. So like it or not there is a them and us partition in Scotland. There are those that care about everyone and there are Thatchers children who care about no one. I am not too concerned about divide and rule. We already have that. I will not come together with right wing people. Instead I will chip away at the maybes not the Naws! They can stew in their own self importance.

    1. MBC says:

      I sympathise. I don’t follow football myself. But if I did it would really stick in my craw to hear folk chanting Flower of Scotland post-indy, knowing that a fair number of them must be Nawbags who lacked the moral courage or faith in Scotland to vote Yes. I would be inclined to boo at that point. But the thing is, you can’t tell the bravehearts from the fainthearts in a crowd. I think on balance I would just not sing at all or stop attending matches. Or perhaps Yessers need a new Yes indy Scotland song? How about Caledonia?

  33. Dr Ew says:

    So, to sum up, Mr Stafford thinks the Labour Party is the only realistic vehicle for any kind of leftward reform of the UK and Bernica thinks our ulimate aspiration should be a benign world government but advocates we vote Labour meantime.

    I recall many such radicals espusing precisely the same message while handing out newspapers through the 80s. They too quoted Marx and read Popper. Many ended up strongly New Labour becoming more not less so through the dodgy dossiers, Iraq, honours for donations and neo-liberal economic policies by the author of the Red Paper, guaranator of the Vow, saviour of world banking AND the Union, the one and only Gordon Brown.

    Give them the prospect of a genuine alterantive, or real fundamental change that would shake the bones of the rotting carcass that is the UK and they’ll find a million imperfections in the idea. Meanwhile they hold their noses swallowing down every equivocation, lie and misdirection from Labour until they’re so full of them, they have no option but to believe. Luckily openings at the top will be available.

    I hope you’re both different but, frankly, I doubt it.

    1. Bernicia says:

      Again, show me the ‘realistic’ evidence of how Scotland can extricate itself from the global forces that impinge upon it and I’ll be on board. Having a few meetings in the village hall and waving a few flags and chanting a few vapid slogans and quoting Gramsci isn’t really enough.

      Incidently Gordon Brown re distributed more wealth than any other post war prime minister including writing off the crippling housing debt wracked up by the city council.

      And you call yourselves radical and progressive but the only politcal unit you can imagine is the tired old nation state. Has it ever crossed anyones mind that maybe that is the problem? that the problems that affect people are beyond the control of national governments, that they are all now more or less technocratic facilitaors rather than shapers. The world has changed.

      Anyway, it seems Syrias may win in Greece, leave the Euro…watch this space as we may soon have some actual comparision for how small left of centre countries acn buck the might of the global econ system. I hope they do sincerely!!

      1. Dr Ew says:

        You didn’t bother to read my previous posts, did you Bernica? Either that or you’re deliberately ignoring that I’ve addressed the very points you mention – the nation state and the limitations created by global capitalism, why a Scottish model has far more potential than the UK, what might be realistically achieved and specifically taking on your blue sky thinking about “World Government”.

        Perhaps you can explain how that’s going to work, how we can all lend a hand towards its establishment and why Scottish Independence would damage the coming of this (ahem) golden dawn?

        Meanwhile you only seem to be advocating the status quo here. If Scotland had voted for independence in September, Syriza and Podemos would be campaigning in a very different climate. You do, however, correctly point out that we didn’t vote Yes. Some of us – hundreds of thousands, at least – aren’t giving up on that goal because we still believe it’s worthwhile. Not giving up – that’s how you win change.

      2. MBC says:

        Don’t compare Scotland to Greece! No offence to the Greeks, but Scotland is a very different place. We pay our taxes in Scotland. Greeks, especially rich ones, thought that was beneath them. Tax avoidance and corruption was on a massive scale. We’ve always been good at administration in Scotland. Since devolution the books always balanced whoever was in power.

  34. MBC says:

    Bernicia, that 55% voted No to independence does not mean that they were right. Only that we are stuck with their decision for the present. Plus, many were swing voters with no real depth of commitment to their No vote. As Ashcroft revealed, 30% had made up their minds in the last three weeks. There’s a great deal of fluidity. Look at the polls now. No was also a spectrum, and not the clear-cut decision it was intended to be because when it looked like Yes would win, the Unionists panicked and started issuing all sorts of fair promises about extra powers and telling people that they could have their cake and eat it, a thing which was certainly a breach, as postal voting had already begun. They also ramped up the fear of Armageddon in the press, dangling both carrot and stick. Thus, whilst we can be reasonably sure what Yes votes meant we can’t be sure what No meant. For many it simply meant, ‘No, not the now’ and not ‘Not, not ever. No way’. No did not mean support for the status quo with so much uncertainty amongst so many No voters and so much being dangled in front of them post-indy.

    The term ‘radical’ may have originated in England, (in the twentieth century, by English historians looking at the ‘English’ civil war period) but not the concept! The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) makes clear republican statements about the basis of political authority being conditional on the support of the lieges, and George Buchanan’s sixteenth century histories developed the republican basis of political authority in Scotland tracing it back to Gaelic antecdents of elected monarchy. Plus, it was the Scots who in 1637 were the first to begin the open challenge to royal authority which resulted in the ‘English’ civil war by the signing of the National Covenant. This was signed by just about every male in the land. Scots have as much, if not greater, ownership of the idea of radicalism as the English. You are far too indoctrinated.

    And as for Hobsbawm… where to start? The man was a Marxist whose views on nations and nationalism were entirely shaped by his Marxist opposition to nationalism. It is ridiculous to say that nations are a modern phenomenon. The strength of national feeling in Scotland surprised Edward I in the 1290s and the eloquence of Baldred Bisset’s 1320 Declaration gives full force to the sense of collective will and collective identity. Besides which, the nation state has simply been astonishingly successful as a means of collective security and collective organisation. Why are more and more nation states emerging into the modern world? By your Marxist thesis nation states ought to be disappearing not emerging. The nation state is simply the best vehicle we have for meaningful democracy.

    I think the main difference between us is that you don’t have particularly deep Scottish roots. You are rather floating on the surface of Scotland rather embedded in her DNA. That’s totally cool by me. We’re not all the same. But times are changing and the British state does not live up to expectations. We in Scotland had, and may still have, the opportunity to build a whole new society. The British state has changed. It is now more of a plc where the MPs are stakeholders in Britain plc, they are businessmen, not patriots. They use their position for private gain. If you’re cool with that then you really are sae base sae be a slave. You will not call them to account because you say we cannot! Life, meaningful life, is an act of will. Of conscious direction.

    1. Bernicia says:

      I think the main difference between us is that you don’t have particularly deep Scottish roots. You are rather floating on the surface of Scotland rather embedded in her DNA. ….

      is this ethnic nationalism? ANd I do have deep Scottish roots, but also deep English ones and a bit of Welsh/ Jew in me. So yes I don’t share your crypto fascist analysis of human association.

      1. MBC says:

        No, it’s just that in truth you are British. The British do exist as a new mixed people, and I think they felt their identity threatened by the indy-ref.

      2. MBC says:

        Nothing wrong with being British, BTW. I’ve always acknowledged there were sound reasons for voting No.

        1. If you’re British. Why on earth would you want to dismember your country?

        2. If you’re a neo-liberal loving Tory. The British macroeconomic system is working out perfectly well for you. So why would you want to change it?

        3. If you’re Feart.

        Some of these reasons are of course more admirable than others. 1. is certainly admirable. It’s just that Brits don’t acknowledge they have a sense of national identity. They condemn Scots for their national feeling but not Brits, and I find that dishonest and hypocritical.

        In defence of Scottish national aspirations, we at least have some kind of vision of what we are and where we want to go. British nationalism however has always struggled to articulate itself or say where it is heading. That’s because Britishness was all about the empire and international trade. Once the empire went Britain has struggled to find a new role. And Britishness has been exposed as being about nothing more than international commerce.

    2. Bernicia says:

      @MBC Jesus everything is simply black and white for you? This or that? good or bad? right and wrong? bollocks to complexity.

      ‘The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) makes clear republican statements about the basis of political authority being conditional on the support of the lieges, and George Buchanan’s sixteenth century histories developed the republican basis of political authority in Scotland tracing it back to Gaelic antecdents of elected monarchy.’

      Utter bollocks, it was a bunch of feudal French/ Norman nobles squabling over who held power. And who give a fuck anyway???? what does this have to do with anything??? We don’t live in the fucking 13th century. And strictly speaking allegence was to the feudal nobel or clan or locality rather than any understanding of a ‘Nation’. Stop watching Braveheart!!! This was before the printing press or any form of mass communication FFS, the notion of Scotland/ England was as abstract as the notion of Europe today! The notion of nationhood was imposed long after through creation myth…all nations did this primarily in the 18th 19th and 20th centuries. Next you’ll be telling me Ossian was real?eThe only people who thought in terms of nationalities wre the ruling elite, your average peasant couldn’t give a fuck.

      ‘Scotland had, and may still have, the opportunity to build a whole new society. The British state has changed. It is now more of a plc where the MPs are stakeholders in Britain plc, they are businessmen, not patriots. They use their position for private gain. If you’re cool with that then you really are sae base sae be a slave. You will not call them to account because you say we cannot! Life, meaningful life, is an act of will. Of conscious direction.’

      At the risk of repeating myself SO IS SCOTLAND a PLC and would be more so after independence…take a look around!!! How are the economic realities here any different from anywhere else. Dependent on Oil (tick), subject to global trade (tick), subject to competing notions of taxation (tick), subject to the top down ingrained social power structure that you’ve pointed out are quite old (tick) subject to shifting capital (tick) subject to lax international regulation (tick) subject to competition in the global econ (tick), subject to conflicting view points (tick)

      Scotland is not Narnia!!!

      1. MBC says:

        Bernicia, this was a considered reply to the fact that you stated that political thinking was a product of England and that there was no intellectual tradition of republicanism in Scotland before the seventeenth century. The way you have replied to this is so rude that I am not even going to bother informing you of your ignorance. Suffice it to say that Scottish identity is not a modern construction but has deep historical and institutional roots despite the guff Hobsbawm spouts.

        Yes, a modern independent Scotland would have to negotiate the same international and global frameworks as any other modern state but would still be able to exercise its own policy choices in the way it negotiated that landscape.

        The way you speak is that there is no scope for government whatever in the modern world. We might as well not bother voting then. Democracy is dead. That’s a profoundly nihilistic view.

      2. JBS says:

        “Scotland is not Narnia!!!”

        Bernicia, you crack me up.

        Remember when I said that your credibility was zero? It has now taken a nosedive into negative numbers.

    3. Bernicia says:

      People can be more than one thing! they can have multiple identies!

      1. MBC says:

        At last, we agree on one thing. Identity is indeed multilayered. In an indy Scotland I might just about manage to feel I was in some benign weak cultural way a Briton whereas at present I don’t feel British at all. I just won’t have to pay my taxes to the British Exchequer or go cap in hand for my own money back.

      2. Bernicia says:

        You don’t have to now. Income tax is devolved. Can’t wait to see how socially minded and generous Scotland is when they wack it up to redistribute downwards…I won’t hold my breath. there will be some excuse as there always is.

      3. MBC says:

        Income tax is not and will not be devolved. Only when we have revenue collection in Scotland.

    4. Bernicia says:

      Actually there was a 4th) and 5th reason people voted No.

      4) They weren’t convinced independence was actually independence.

      5) they didn’t buy into the blank canvass fantasy, or believe Scotland would be any nore progressive than UK, probably worse after indy.

      But yes, I agree, I admire and completely accept those who want indy because they are nationalist, I may disagree with it but there is a refreshing honesty to it. Respect!

      Personally I’m happy with political association where ever it best fits, large or small. Maybe one day there will be no England and Scotland or Britain but a new Hansiatic league across the north and baltics? who knows?

      1. MBC says:

        4 and 5 were moot points. There was no clear way of knowing. One way or the other. The impact of future policy changes that a Scottish government might make was completely unknowable. 4 and 5 amount to ‘better the devil you know’. It was an inherently conservative position. Robert Peston did a basic economic analysis of the spread sheets post-indy for Channel 4. His conclusion was that we would be no worse off or better off. But as he freely admitted, he couldn’t calculate the impact of future policy choices that an independent Scotland would make. That’s incalculable.

        You set a really high bar Bernicia. Here we are in our little rowing boat of state, the Scottish Parliament, without sovereign powers, which means legal uncertainty in international terms over many policy areas, with no power to set or collect our own taxes, given a small portion of our own revenues back with no enforcement agencies of any kind (bar Police Scotland) and you expect from that, in only fifteen years, an economic miracle? A radical redistributive transformation? Otherwise you are not going to vote for indy? Can you not see that the SG has had limited opportunity to transform Scotland and that given such limited powers that a cautious approach with modestly progressive changes is the only sensible thing we can do?

      2. Bernicia says:

        A single redistributive policy would be nice??

        Again, an independent fiscal policy due to Asymetry would not possible due to monetary policy being set by the BoE. Independence wasn’t independence!

        But I do apologise for being rude! uncalled for sorry.

  35. Bernicia says:

    I’ve travelled a fair bit with my job, China and East Asia mostly, but also US and Brazil and one thing that is clear is that an network interconnected city regions and overlapping identity and soveriegnty with nations is the future (like it or not) in terms of pressing human organisation. But this can be a very positive thing. Obstinate ‘head in the sand’ nationalism is sooooo 20th century and no longer fit for purpose. Read David Harvey and look at the transnational inter city schemes that are actually having an enourmous impact on peoples lives at a local level, especially in the south. And get over this moribund ‘national’ intellectual cul de sac or please stop calling yourself ‘radical’. Greater power and soveriegnty to Glasgow/ Edinburgh city regions linked with the great Northern Municipalities of England is much more progressive and important than Scottish independence. And will do much more to balance things away from London.

    1. MBC says:

      Both, and. Intercity connectiveness is a good thing at regional level but it’s still not the same thing as the levers of a state. It’s not going to pay your pension or your health service. Or provide a system of justice, law and order, or defend you if you are attacked. It’s an interesting economic detail, and addition to the resources of a nation-state, not an alternative.

      1. Bernicia says:

        Why can’t it pay pensions? It does in the US? and China? Brazil? And the point is not exclusivity but overlapping systems of governance. Since when is defence the exclusive domain of the nation State? Have you not heard of NATO? the Wasaw Pact, the English/ Portuguese alliance rahte rthan ridgid nationalism! We already do have multi level systems of justice? including international law? Do you think contract law is exclusively national??? Just a few months ago my boss signed a contract with a Korean company, the agreement bound by international law????? There are multiple ways the people can arrange themselves.!

      2. MBC says:

        You’ve just given very good reasons why Scotland does not need the undemocratic UK.

      3. Bernicia says:

        Aye, then lets agree to disagree, you go back to the only possible unit of politicy/ social and economic association being the tired old nation state. Some of us more progressive will look beyond to new forms of multi level governance, civil society that better challenges the globalised neo liberal orthodoxy. Off you go take your ball home, blame everything on UK, and dissapear off into the North Atlantic. Can rename the country Scotopia.

    2. JBS says:

      Hmm. I have to say that, for me at least, your discursive incoherence does not mesh with the image of someone who is called upon to represent his company’s interests internationally. But perhaps it is only the topic of Scottish independence that makes you babble…

  36. Seán Duffy says:

    Hello friends,

    All of these ad hominem attacks are quite funny and I really am getting a lot of enjoyment reading the maniacal thoughts of a few people who clearly have just taken this strange piece as law. That said, I’m glad my article was of interest and I thank Mike for engaging with it (or at least looking at it and then speaking about entirely unconnected tweets and comments by me in a different format, whilst attributing them implicitly to the piece itself.)

    Aside from the rampant xenephobia of some of these comments, which is to be expected these days, I take a lot of it on board.

    My final point would be, if I – a resident of Glasgow, working at Glasgow University – am on the ‘English left’ then what attribution is being made there other than that I do not belong because of the place of my birth. It’s also very convenient to characterise all academic types as middle class know it alls who’ve never spoken to anyone with a real job in their lives but it’s not actually true is it? You could have read this in the very description of my blog for instance. But of course……English = rich/bad, Scottish = salt of the earth/benevolent.

    Really poor form, and I do wonder how it’s in line with this site’s supposedn editorial guidelines? Or do they simply exist to justify this kind of petty squabbling?

    James said everything that needs to be said in regards to how ill researched Mike’s article is, but glad to engage nonetheless.

    Until next time fellow Britons.

    1. MBC says:

      The paucity of your arguments about indy and those of the English left.

  37. MBC says:

    Bernicia, and you go off to your blue sky thinking about hopes of multi-level governance giving a sh** about reining in neo-liberalism’s ill effects in curing the potholes and alcoholism in Barlanark. If you think that’s going to protect you, good luck. To me that’s avoidance behaviour. Why confront what’s staring you in the face – Scotland, your people, your feet on the ground, your territorial integrity – when you can look for a more abstract, more perfect, untainted, solution? Why confront the present reality when you can escape to a futuristic Utopia?

    Still, you have made some good points about the potential for globalisation not necessarily going all in one direction. So thanks for that. We can be global and local and national at the same time though, surely?

    Ultimately each and every one of us has somewhere – a sanctuary – that we call ‘home’ and neighbours that we hope we can call friends and that’s my point really. Wishing you a good one, and a Happy New Year.

  38. Dr Ew says:

    Bernica, I owe you an apology. I must have skipped past your pretty detailed response to my original post. I don’t agree with your conclusions, mind, but I was incorrect to say you’d ignored it, so sorry for that.

    As regards political and social culture, you mention your international travels. I’ve done a bit of travelling too, mainly through work and have been long active in an international NGO which is, in fact, the oldest worldwide human rights organisation with 147 centres around the world. My experience on visiting and talking with people at those centres is of huge differences in political culture and outlook but in the last couple of years every one of them I spoke with couldn’t understand why Scottish independence was on a knife-edge. Surely your people want to take control of their own affairs, they said again and again and again. For them it was a slam dunk question and many contacted me post-vote to express amazement and incomprehension at the result. There were a couple of exceptions to this, notably England, the US and China, though the latter never speak to anyone about anything so, you know, we’ll take that as supporting the Xi Jinping line. The English – with whom we work very closely and include several I would count as personal friends – were uncomfortable with the idea and seemed to repeat lines from the Guardian. With one or two exceptions – including one fellow married to a Scotswoman and who’d lived in Edinburgh for a time – I was astonished at how many were symapthetic and knowledgeable about national liberation movements in other parts of the world, yet grew more squeamish and ill-informed the closer it got to home (Catalonia had them split down the middle).

    Anyway, my point is this: these people are the very definition of internationalists in the modern world. They promote and share strong common values on human rights, especially freedom of expression. And virtually all of them liked the idea of Scottish indepndence, partly because the UK is no longer seen as a progressive force in world politics.

    – Incidentally, someone above posted that the term ‘Radical’ in the political sense was coined in the mid-20th century. The word, in fact, has been about since the mid-14th century and applied to many groups religious and political through the years – including the Covenanters and Baird, Hardie & Wilson the executed leaders of the ‘Radical Uprising’ in 1820 Scotland. The judge in fact used that very term when condemning Purlie Wilson to be publicly hanged and beheaded. –

    About the distinct culture, I’d be first to admit there are a lot of very ugly strains in Scottish life, public and private. I’ve experienced bigotry and violence first hand, and previous work led me to deal with staff and products of “independent” schools over an extended period (and a more arrogant sense of entitlement you would not wish to come across). There were indeed pockets of people before during and since the campaign trying to create sectarian lines in the debate, and who have an abiding belief in some innate superiority of Scots – arrant nonsense and dangerous drivel. I don’t believe Scots are any better or worse than any other people I’ve come across, and was struck by how welcoming the campaign was to people from all classes and cultures. Certainly there was only one side talking about Scottish patriotism and it wasn’t Yes.

    But we do have a culture that is different from England, Ireland and Wales. We do have a history as a nation from long before nation states were in vogue. We do have a cultural memory of oppression of our values, nationhood and people and we do have particular sense of identity and community that could help give a basis for the kind of localised democracy and community ownership most people in this thread want to see.

    No, we can’t buck the entire global neo-liberal agenda and if we tried we’d be crushed, no two ways about it. But we could create something far better than the irredeemable quagmire that is Westminster – I for one think an engaged, educated and energised electorate such as the Yes campaign allowed us to glimpse would demand far-reaching changes to party funding, democratic accountability and constitutional rights. THe present set up is designed for corruption and, yes, power does corrupt so we have to have well understood and highly robust structures in place to minimise that possibility and make it as risky and unattractive an option as possible. That in itself would be worth it not just for the peoples of Scotland, but also to demonstrate how things could be done differently – and better.

    I hold no torch for the SNP and find their centralising tendencies worrisome, though probably borne out of paranoia that devolving to the present structure of local government would simply empower the deeply entrenched Labour Party. Nicola Strugeon is showing some encouraging signs as regards land reform and if the financial wherewithal could be found to restructure Scottish Government I suspect they’d happily break down those distant, unresponsive bureaucracies. Perhaps if they’re forced into coalition with the Greens in 2016 that might well happen.

    Nevertheless, I would say my experience of its current leadership is far more positive than my long record of engagement with the Labour Party (of which I was a member for ten years). Unlike their counterparts in (ahem) ‘The People’s Party’ they did not join that party with an eye to the main chance of personal advancement and inflated status. The SNP’s idealism has kept it relatively corruption free till now, for they know the slightest transgression would see them crucified in the media (unlike Labour councillors and MPs the length and breadth of the country who have sticky mitts in hundreds of murky pies). If the SNP do become the “natural party of government” in Scotland that will likely change, for then they’ll be worth corrupting, and plenty of the young guns coming through now may already be viewing it as a vehicle for their personal ambitions.

    But, as we said repeatedly during the campaign, this is not about the SNP, or Alex Salmond, or Nicola Sturgeon. It is about people taking control of their own future. And a little bit of that can go a long way.

    I’m pleased you enjoyed watching ‘Copenhagen’, Bernica – ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ rules! Tiny alterations can have enormous unforseen consequences. Scottish independence probably won’t topple neo-liberal global capitalism but it could just spark a reaction to create something different. That’s why I voted Yes.

    1. Bernicia says:

      Thanks for a great very well considered response that is hard to argue against. I doff my cap. And I’m not fundamentally against Scot Indy (at some point), just think we should be careful what we wish for and also entertain other options as when push comes to shove it seems we agree in principle on the ‘ethics’ of things.

      1. Dr Ew says:

        I think we do agree on the principles of what fundamentals we can achieve for a better society, and I do respect people who are genuinely working towards something better; we can’t all agree on everything and it’s good that we acknowledge the prism of Scottish independence can be distorting on boths sides of the debate. I want people to understand the opportunity it offers, the possibilities and limitations, and for the Yes movement to continue to develop its ideas.

        Thanks for the debate and see you here next time!

  39. emilytom67 says:

    Big big hurdle to overcome is that there is in this country a large swathe of the populace that do not see themselves as Scots but British first,the reason for this ?? maybe it,s in our education which is in part all about the “great” British Empire I don,t know.

  40. Dr Ew says:

    P.S Just read your comment about the devolution of income tax to the Scottish Parliament. Bernica, given the obvious breadth of your reading I’m really surprised you don’t understand how the Smith proposals offer virtually no latitude to alter bands and aboslutely no incentive to increase taxes when any net gain will be deducted from the Barnett formulated block grant. If you think devolving limited powers on income tax is any kind of test, all I can suggest is read the Smith Report to understand just how useless it is.

    1. Bernicia says:

      Aye,agreed that was a cheap shot.

  41. Big Jock says:

    I dont feel any British identity at all. Others feel Scottish and a wee bit British. Some just feel British. That’s life! Being one thing or another ,or feeling one thing does not make you a bad person. A bad person is someone who insists that the majority have the right to dictate the feelings or connection of the minority who don’t share their thoughts.

    I have noticed that as soon as someone mentions identity, and how they personally feel about their identity. The holier than thou brigade cry foul and try to demonize the individual. We cannot enforce nationality. We must accept other individuals identity and not try and force a multi identity onto that person.

  42. Having won the birth lottery of life, I pay homage to the land of my birth and it’s air that first gave me life, fortunately for me it was Scottish air. I have never thought off or called myself British in my life, why would I demean myself by accepting a politically constructed identity for no such homogenous British people exist. But distinctive Scot’s certainly do. And that’s why the English have a love/hate relationship with us. Loving us for our distinctiveness and our respected acceptance all around the world and feeling good about it by association as in their eyes we become British. Ironically they also resent us for the same reason.

  43. Marga says:

    With due humility, I wonder if Berenicia will still be saying the same about the non-existence of any “small non-right wing states” and the inevitability of things after the coming Greek elections, then after the Spanish elections next year (Podemos).

    There are other models beginning to appear in southern Europe, society cannot take any more (and has B. not seen the growing crisis in the – English – NHS this winter). Maybe according to B. these experiments are all doomed to fail as illusory and ill-founded, but what with Catalonia joining in too, about whose eventual independence there is a growing consensus, there might be some new visions appearing that challenge some of the received “there is no choice” discourse.

  44. Marga says:

    Just a point – Berenicia criticised the surprising lack of SNP preparation on currency since CU was out of the question – did not the Treasury admit shortly after the referendum that an accommodation would have been reached?

    There’s lack of preparation and there’s the assumption when dealing with the UK government and agencies that there will be honest treatment of serious issues. Maybe the latter is naive, but it is not necessarily wrong. As apparently in this case.

    1. MBC says:

      Bernicia is all over the place.

  45. Lochside says:

    Bernicia, I have read through your tired clichéd stuff and I’ve been listening to it all my life.
    If you were ever a potential ‘YES’ voter, I’ll eat any hat I possess. Your pathetic repetition regarding Nation states as ‘tired’ is bullshit.

    The Declaration of Arbroath may well have been signed by Norman/Anglo/Scot/Norse nobles but 700 years ago these diverse robber barons were asserting Scotland’s rights, as a nation and a country that had already existed for three hundred years previously. When the English were trying to subjugate their ‘cousins in France, they made it a nasty habit, when conquering castle strongholds, to execute Scots amongst the captured French by hanging them from the castle walls, as ‘traitors’.

    Now those sorry souls may have been serfs or not. But my grandfather and great uncles that fought in WW1 were not fighting for anything but their regiment and Scotland. People support National teams in far greater numbers than regional /commercial teams, like Man Utd. People actually identify by nation, not by class in the first instant. However, that does not mean that they do not want to rid their country of aristocracy, royalty and inequality. In England the desire is lower than here. They want overwhelmingly to keep the travesty of the Houses of Parliament…45% of us did not.

    Neo-Marxists who abound in Academia, forget that the original was a genius who perfected a framework of historical materialism to explain class consciousness and development. Essentially a nineteenth century scientific analysis, it also was ultimately utopian. These intellectual pygmies that have followed on just don’t get the ‘National’ question: countries no matter how small, and economically uninspiring desire democratic self-determination. And they are right, because democratic self determination is right.

    The brave ones set out to achieve it. The less brave allow themselves to be subjugated and politically, economically and culturally bullied and dominated. This imperialism is almost always defended by academics from the Imperialist State doing the subjugating.

    When I attended Univ. I urged the head of the ‘Media’ group to investigate Institutional English racism against Scotland, similar to the then studies of anti-Irish and anti-black. This was rejected as absurd by the English academic in charge .Incidentally, even then, thirty years ago, the Social Science Dept. was dominated by English Academics. Then as now, that fact is seen as unremarkable by the Establishment.

    The English Academics on here and their Scottish apologists are unable to recognise colonialism when they see it. In fact Bernicia advocates a World governance (World Order?) as a solution to our woes. Somehow trivial matters such as no full economic powers in Scotland and food banks are not linked apparently, but illogically, the SNP government’s fault. Major cities in Northern England have more in common with Glasgow than the latter with the rest of Scotland?……sorry , but Murphy speak here masquerading as Intellectual insight.

    Let’s get it straight, was Ireland wrong to throw the English out of Ireland after 800 years of occupation?
    Were all the other Commonwealth countries ‘better together’ under British rule? If the answer is in the affirmative, then go back to your ‘Marx-Engel Reader’ and start again guys.

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