In my last blog post – How will the Scottish people defeat the British Tories? – I proposed five pillars of a successful referendum campaign, but did so in very general terms. I tried to lay the foundations of a solid structure. However, if we are going to secure an independent Scotland we need to do more than that. We need to flesh out these bare bones of an idea, or set of ideas.
I ended my post by promising to itemize what specifically I think the BBC broadcasters (and the rest) are getting so badly wrong, not just now and then but consistently and – I believe – as a matter of policy: this is not simply the world’s longest cock-up in broadcasting history.
What questions are not being put by the BBC broadcasters – paid for by our license fee, public expenditure that is being deliberately squandered on behalf of the Better Together campaign? Until Brian Taylor, Glenn Campbell, James Naughtie et al put these questions again and again to Labour politicians until they agree to answer the question, the broadcasters remain in the dock. Ed Miliband, Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont and Gordon Brown must be forced to answer the following questions or their interviewers will be treated with the greatest suspicion by Scotland’s voters. They will be dismissed as no more than megaphones for the Better Together Campaign.
- Why does the Labour leadership never stop personalizing Scotland’s independence referendum? Why do they present our choice in terms of whether we do or do not like Alex Salmond? Why must Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown lie to Scotland’s voters about Alex Salmond being some kind of dictator in an independent Scotland? What makes them think the Scottish people will be lumbered with policies we don’t like because if he doesn’t like them we don’t matter? What an insult that is to the Scottish people. Why must Jackie Bailey and Alistair Darling pretend that if the Scottish people remain unconvinced about the alleged benefits of cutting corporation tax then Alex Salmond will get his way regardless? Scottish independence is about letting Scotland’s voter decide what we want to do with a shared currency, with Trident, with the Monarchy, with tax and spend decisions, and the relative merits of investing in the weapons of mass destruction and illegal wars so beloved of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband or creating a society based on the needs of the people, our children, pensions, the NHS. Ed Miliband’s alleged ‘race to the bottom’ is a lie. It is predicated on Alex Salmond being able to force through a tax and spend regime that is not on the independence referendum ballot papers. Why is he allowed to get away with peddling this lie? It is about time that Ed Miliband learnt what this referendum is about, and if he’s unwilling or unable to do that, he should get the hell out of our debate.
- A shared currency is not a matter for Ed Miliband. BBC broadcasters who intimidate Radio Scotland callers for refusing to say whether we think he is ‘bluffing’ or not are insulting the Scottish people as a whole, and not merely the caller in question. Whether Ed Miliband is joining Ed Balls, Danny Alexander and George Osborne in a massive bluff to intimidate the Scottish people into surrendering to their Better Together prejudices is beside the point. In a United Kingdom general election, these people will have one vote each. No more, no less. Whether they are even returned to Westminster at the next general election is not something they can guarantee. And none of them can bind a future parliament, nor the post-independence negotiating team, especially once businesses on both sides started to tell all these politicians to grow up. The English voters cannot be deprived of their right to elect politicians who agree that under an independent Scotland, a shared currency may be the best option for both the people of Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. Would it be? That would clearly depend on the how negotiations were handled. It is possible that either side may present a set of conditions that proved unacceptable to the other. In such circumstances, Scotland would be forced to examine alternatives, of which I could list about five. Nevertheless, in almost all circumstances the English voters would prefer a shared currency because it would beyond a shadow of a doubt be in their interests. There is zero prospect of Ed Miliband or any other politician denying the English voters their right to determine the relative merits of a shared currency. That is a matter of elementary democracy and justice, not to mention economic reality.
- We have seen how Ed Miliband is lying about our independence referendum being about what one supporter of Scottish independence wants, rather than extending sovereignty to all the people of Scotland. It will be us who will determine the policies after a set of post-referendum elections. But what is on offer from the No Campaign? What does Scotland win if we vote No? All the parties in Better Together promise something new, something different from the status quo, which every one of them now deem untenable. But what exactly is on offer? No one has a scooby. The leaders of Better Together vetoed the people of Scotland having a third option on the ballot paper. Voters are going to be told absolutely nothing about what set of principles will guide us through our devolution settlement rebirth if there is a No vote. Ed Miliband can’t tell us because he says what he can do is predicated on what the English voters decide at a subsequent general election. But getting any legislation through parliament will be decided on the basis of MPs elected by first-past-the-post – in other words a lottery. The election of these MPs will take place in the middle of an electoral cycle which in one poll today puts Labour neck and neck with the Tories – a mere 35% -, with Ed Miliband being dismissed all across the board as a hapless clown. Nigel Farage’s Thatcherite xenophobes are on track to win more votes than any other British party in May’s European elections, possibly not merely despite a coalition of the rest of political establishment including all the broadcasters, but because of the toxicity of this wretched political establishment. And Ed Miliband having to salvage the prospects of his getting the keys to 10 Downing Street with the assistance of Britain’s most hated politician, Nick Clegg…. Do I hear a ‘Jesus Fucking Christ’? Ed Miliband inspires no one in Scotland, no more here than he does in England. The fact that the Labour Party doesn’t know how to get rid of this albatross around their necks without opening up an electorally damaging civil war, with the UK general election not that far off, speaks volumes. As Private Fraser would have put it, “we’re all DOOMED!” Why should the Scottish people place our future in an improved devolution settlement when it all depends on promises made by Nick Clegg? Or indeed any of these corrupt politicians? Every one of them will all be exposed in a few weeks time as all extremely unpopular, so unpopular that they are tossing votes hand-over-fist in the direction of ultra-Thatcherite Nigel Farage? Better Together know this is damaging them and vastly increasing the chances of a Yes vote in Scotland’s independence referendum. But there is nothing any of them can do about this. Nothing.
- Is it good enough for the Scottish people to put our trust in any alternative to independence no matter what it is in the expectation that anything is better than whatever Alex Salmond wants? Not really. After all, we have all been told that the status quo is no longer good enough. Labour, Lib Dems and the Tories are all promising something else. But not one of them can tell us what it will be, nor when we will get it. How on Earth do we know we will get anything at all? Never forget that Nick Clegg justified his crawling into bed with David Cameron in order to abolish the unelected House of Lords, destroy Britain’s insanely anti-democratic first-past-the-post electoral system, and also to bring in a right to recall MPs who had lost the trust of their voters. And what has Nick Clegg delivered to us? Not a fucking thing: they don’t call the Liberal Democrats the pledge-breaking bastards for nothing. On electoral reform and the abolition of the House of Lords what Nick Clegg proposed was actually worse than the status quo, which is a feat of Herculean incompetence. And Nick Clegg didn’t even allow the legislation on the right to recall to be put to a vote in parliament. Why should the Scottish people trust Nick Clegg to use his MPs to abuse the balance of power to deliver something to the Scottish people that is not in fact even less good than the status quo? We cannot. We cannot trust any of these Better Together parties. And why do the BBC broadcasters refuse to pin Ed Miliband et al down on any of these most obvious of questions? If they are incapable of doing their job, then they need to make way for others who can. Give me a go. I’ll sort them out.
- Finally, there is the question of Scottish sovereignty. The BBC and the rest of the Better Together propagandists are refusing to challenge Jackie Bailey, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband on this. Why not? Why won’t Brian Taylor point out the simple fact that just because an independent Scotland won’t be able to defy the laws of gravity, in no way does that prove it won’t be independent in any sense? What does independence mean? It most emphatically does not mean the people of Scotland will be sucked into a black hole to reappear in a parallel universe. All sorts of bilateral and multilateral relationships will be negotiated with all sorts of bodies. What we are in fact debating is not a binary choice of all sovereignty, on the one hand, and none at all, on the other. Take Nigel Farage for instance. He wants to re-establish UK sovereignty. His party may secure their definition of this sovereignty, with a little help from his good friends on David Cameron’s Tory backbenches. UKIP may indeed succeed in dragging all subjects of the United Kingdom out of the European Union. That, by the way, kinda gives the lie to Ed Miliband’s support for Jose Manuel Barosso kicking the Scottish people out of the EU if we dare to defy David Cameron. However, lets examine Farage’s position a little more closely. Is he demanding that a post-EU United Kingdom quits the United Nation? Does he propose Britain loses its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council? I hardly think so. So, even UKIP wants to share a degree of sovereignty with others. And that will be the same situation in an independent Scotland. If Scots prefer to remain members of the EU, then a degree of sovereignty is shared. If we agree to remain members of NATO (a position I personally reject, as do many in the Yes Campaign), then a degree of sovereignty is shared there too. If Scotland remains part of a shared currency with the rest of the UK, then, again, a degree of sovereignty is shared. So what? A shared currency with the UK has pros and cons. Not everyone in the Yes Campaign is agreed on their relative merits. And these may change over time. Negotiations could fail; that can’t be ruled out. Nevertheless, a shared currency is not the end of Scottish sovereignty all across the board, nor even as far as economic policy is concerned. Sharing a currency means that borrowing would have to be determined at a level that removed the Scottish votes from the final say. That is a price that would have to be paid. No one is denying that. Lender of last resort? Then of course the English people won’t write a blank cheque for irresponsibly high spending Scots. None of us would dream of asking for that. However, within agreed borrowing limits (determined by internationally determined interest rates), the Scottish voters would be free to balance our books according to our democratic priorities. We could determine the relative rates of redistributive taxation. And if Alex Salmond, or Johann Lamont or any other politician didn’t like that, then they’d be free to place before the Scottish voters a different set of priorities. I know who I want to determine tax and spend. And I’ll let you into a little secret: it’s not an as yet unelected Westminster Parliament. I want a economic policy to be determined by a government elected by proportional representation. I do not want tax and spend decisions to be determined by the leaders of the United Kingdom’s three main parties who are only allowed any media coverage as their reward for allowing their policies to be determined by the priorities of the obscenely wealthy.
Those are a few of the questions that the BBC broadcasters, and their equivalents at SKY News and Channel Four News should be putting to Ed Miliband and to Gordon Brown. But they refuse to do that. And Gordon Brown refuses to take any questions from anyone at all. Trust these Labour leaders? You must be joking.