Friday, 29 August 2014

Am no deid!

I've just been busy.

Working away again, this time they put me in charge of something which is never a great idea. However, you learn things about how you are perceived by others when you are put in charge. This might be hard to believe but I'm not a particularly serious person, not even (probably especially) at work, and when it came to taking the lead - it showed.

Even at my most cack-handed, I could never plumb the depths Johann Lamont manages - I hate to say it though - like Johann, I found myself in a position of oblique control but direct responsibility. That said, I don't feel sorry for her (or any of the rest of them) because what they've chosen to do is ruinous to Scotland's future.

The road between Edinburgh and Forres - specifically the one that goes through Perth, Blairgowrie, Braemar, Cock Bridge, Tomintoul and Grantown on Spey is liberally peppered with campaign signs. I think the Yes side have the lead ever so slightly but more and more No/No Thanks/ No etc signs cropped up while I was there.

There are those who still think Yes voters are a lunatic fringe, they believe we're voting the way we are because we haven't looked at the arguments. The idea we might be voting Yes not because of a misty eyed ideal of a Scotland-past but because we have looked at the arguments and have made a hard calculated choice - baffles them.

More and more (usually on Twitter) I find myself in debates with No voters who for supporting arguments are using polling and betting trends. What if anything does a person require to realise if that is the breadth of their argument, they've already lost the debate?

But no, you can chip in the most incontrovertible fact - the democratic deficit for example; Scotland could vote Labour for ever and a day but if England don't then those votes count for nothing - and still these people sit and shake their heads like you're talking nonsense. That can't even be massaged or spun - it is what it is - but they drop into screen saver mode, its as if they've left the room.

To be a bit clearer, this was work related. I work for a part of the NHS in Scotland (don't worry, its not patient-facing) who's work at times is already carried out by private companies - even in Scotland. What I was trying to explain was; if there is a No vote, going by things unionists of all shades are saying, there will be more austerity. And going by what nationalists commentators are saying about those 'further powers' Cameron said would be 'guaranteed soon' - what ever the fuck that means - voting no will mean cuts and no job for us.

As I said before, when it comes to professional advice in the work place - I'm not the go-to guy. I'm comfortable with that, it gives me more time to produce this sort of thing (which I enjoy immeasurably more.) When it comes to the referendum though, I'll put myself up against anyone and match them point for point on any indyref related topic - but that only works if people are prepared to listen - alas - some are not.

So I hope for a Yes vote I really do, because if it goes the other way - right here and now - I am reserving my right to be the most insufferable I-told-you-so on this plain of existence. As we pack up our desks I am going to fix those who I know crossed the wrong box with a flinty gaze and never ever let them forget it.

I would say I'll stalk them to ends of the earth but since I'll be jobless, I'll probably not be able to afford the transport costs.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Definitive guide to economic reports re. Indyref.

This area of the debate can be particularly intimidating but really, its not. Here are some simple guide lines to keep in mind when a think tank rep is on the radio or telly blabbing on about their most recent report.

Its dead easy, two gents from think tanks on the radio (at 2 hrs 9 mins-ish in, link is good for 7 days from today) on Good Morning Scotland. Euan Stuart from the No supporting Scottish Research Society - that this set-up supports a No vote already casts a shadow over its objectivity - and John McLaren from Fiscal Affairs Scotland which is unaligned. The BBC interviewer focused on the costs of a Yes vote even although the unaligned chappy had a range of results from £1000 better off to £1000 worse off.

The Scottish Research Society report is titled, well, as above really... 

The No supporting chap was proved to be talking mince because his figures were based on a per head share of oil - which not even Better Together/Westminster use any more on account of it being a bit daft - he was saying the much-put-upon-yet-still-venerable 'Scottish Family' could be as much as £5500 worse off. Using a per capita share instead of a geographic share of oil isn't trying very hard these days, its akin to telling people to vote No because David Cameron has great hair - it is completely irrelevant.

Here's the thing though, the key point - the flaw. In order to know how much better or worse off we'd be, you have to know two things; how much cash you have to begin with and how much you're already spending.

We know very roughly how much cash we'd have to begin with (from GERS.) There are those who believe its a pretty conservative estimate because companies trading across the UK but headquartered south of the border currently have a lot of their tax counted as English income - not to mention excise duty from Scottish goods leaving the UK via English ports...

In terms of spending though - what figures are they using? Is it projections based on what Westminster spends? If it is, that's going to be pretty inaccurate given the difference in spending priorities between Holyrood and Westminster.

Another rule of thumb is; if they've used figures from the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) while they'd say it lends their report a certain gravitas - since the OBR was created by George Osborne and is widely accepted as being an arm of the Tory Party - reality says something quite different involving feelings a good bit less satisfying than those generated by gravitas.

OBR oil projections. Its the only one going downwards.

These reports often talk about an independent Scotland having to raise taxation and cut spending - never one or the other mind - always both. They're also invariably too busy banging on about areas where we'd have to increase spending (on the elderly is a fave) to tell us about areas where we'd be spending a lot less (like defence.)

So, when ever the Scottish media peddles a doom & gloom story about the economy, just bare in mind, the authors of the reports driving the headlines are using spending projections they know will be different to those in an independent Scotland - partially or fully based on figures from a Conservative number factory.

When Donald Trump sat in a Scottish Government inquiry  jawing about wind farms damaging tourism - he claimed in support of his point: "I am the evidence." No one (except him) bought that - and so it is with many of these economic reports. Essentially, its the No campaign saying: "Listen, this is a terrible idea that'll make you all poorer. How do we know? Because we asked ourselves and we said so."

The Yes side might cherry pick stats to suit its agenda, but what it doesn't do is take projections from places like the OBR and treat them like incontrovertible fact. But that is a common refrain in the debate, if Better Together/Westminster are saying it: its fact - but if the Yes campaign/SNP are saying it: its dangerous assertion.

Friday, 8 August 2014

All In It Together

I found this YouTube video on my Facebook timeline last night and thought it deserved wider attention - I only have about a dozen friends there - I think mostly because I use it as a therapy service, which is to say, I only ever moan.

There are those who say I've taken to numbering these episodic moans and that currently I'm on #315. I won't deny it, I'm just surprised the number isn't higher.

Anyway, its not me in the video because while I am far more handsome, I am nothing like as erudite. Also, I would have ruined it with jazz hands or some other puerile nonsense.

As it is though, you're left in no doubt about the message being conveyed. 

From Ashton Easter's YouTube channel.

Published on Aug 7, 2014
Union with the Palace of Westminster no longer has anything to offer the people of Scotland. Independence is the once in a generation chance to change things for the better. A chance to show Westminster how many of its voters have lost faith in the bankrupt neoliberal, right wing political ethos that permeates its corridors and pollutes its sense of right and wrong.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Soooo, the debate that happened...

Right, its time to write something about the debate between Salmond & Darling. Was it any good, did we learn anything and was it edifying in anyway?


If anything, it engendered in those viewing - probably of all opinion & none - a great deal of frustration. Why? Because both Salmond & Darling fell into the standard political bickering that has no basis or importance in reality. Darling pressed for a 'Plan B' on currency but received no answer. It begs the question, how engaged in life (never mind politics) do you have to be to understand that if Salmond said Plan B was to use the pound anyway (which by the way is Plan B); Darling would go off on an economic diatribe so dark and incomprehensible - we'd all be off stubbing our toes and stepping with our bare feet on upturned plugs just to cheer ourselves up a bit.

Salmond then pressed Darling on whether he agreed with Cameron's thoughts around Scotland being a successful small independen- you know? I can't be arsed repeating it. Darling obviously prevaricated - he couldn't be seen to agree with Cameron because Salmond would in turn have banged on about that. Again, how engaged does a brain have to be to understand it doesn't matter whether Labour Darling agrees with Tory Cameron because we all know you can't get a fag paper between Tory and Labour policy and they both want us all to vote no.

Here's the really frustrating thing: we know what currency we'll be using and no one cares if Darling agrees with Cameron or not - its all political posturing; great fodder when seen through the skewed prism of a newspaper headline but completely fucking pointless in real life.

I'd hoped - and there was a hint of it in Holyrood at the start - that Scotland would engage in more pragmatic politics and leave this frustrating childish point scoring at Westminster where they have it down to a fine art.

I think those of us on the Yes side expected Salmond to use Darling as a mop to give the studio floor a good going over - that he didn't and our reaction to it is a component of the famed Scottish Cringe. Like the classic underdogs we are, driven by what I'm going to call National Subordination Syndrome within the UK: when someone capable does step up, our expectations go through the roof. Even if they draw or win narrowly on points; we are struck down with despondency, its business as usual in Scotland, back to our place of subservience we know so well. There are some in Scotland who revel in that familiar disappointment, they hold it close their chest and chew on a corner like a chastised kid with a much loved comfort blanket.

As in the video above, Alistair Darling has spoken before about the need for political and currency union together and that a currency union would mean ceding budgetary controls - ergo - meaning it wouldn't be real independence. My question is; we have a form of political & currency union now, while Westminster controls the over-all amount of cash Scotland gets to spend on devolved areas - it has no specific control over budgets. Holyrood decides how much it spends of what little it gets back in specific areas - heck - Holyrood has budgets for services that don't even exist in England. How would a currency union with an independent Scotland mean Westminster or the BoE gets to control budgets north of the border when it isn't doing that now?

Am I missing something or is Darling scaremongering about things he's trying to tell us won't happen anyway - how the hell does that work?

(Unionists on Twitter: don't bother answering that, I know about lender of last resort & interest rates blah blah blah - contrary to what you think, you haven't got a clue either - its yet more bluff & confusion masquerading as information.)

The real skinny is this: Better Together feigns certainty while accusing the Yes Campaign of making assertions. In reality neither are being entirely straight because its about likelihoods. What is likely to happen in a given set of circumstance. After a Yes vote, circumstances will change like they already have since the beginning of the campaign, meaning Unionist parties are now 'promising' more - albeit unusable - devolution for your No vote.

The chat about having a Plan B (or not) is a campaign tactic, trying to claim in a currency union Scotland wouldn't independent is so much arse-gravy - its also totally beside the point (as is trying to get Darling to admit he agrees with David Cameron., why bother? We know he does on more than enough issues for us to feck him off at the first opportunity.)

Some might also have noted a subtle new paradigm in the currency debate, the pound doesn't belong to England, Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland - it belongs to the UK. This brand new wheeze from the marketeers of Better Together gets round the awkward fact that Scottish endeavour over the past 300 years (and oil over the past 40) helped make the Pound what it is today. We have just as much right to it - even if independent - as the rest of the UK's component nations. One wonders what the good people of England think about the Pound not being theirs - well - those who know England isn't the United Kingdom anyway.


In the aftermath, some audience members were asked if they'd had their minds changed. Many said they'd still be voting No because they thought it was the 'safe' thing to do. No voters should be in no doubt; Better Together and Alistair Darling do not represent the status quo, there is no such thing - voting No is not a safety blanket the corners of which you can safely sook. Both Campaigns represent something new, both represent change. The absolutely key point here? A No vote cedes control of that change where-as a Yes vote takes it back.

We could go on for ever, nit picking points from either side of the debate. But here's the thing: much as many politicians like to think its all about them - its actually not and voters shouldn't fall in to the same trap. The referendum on the 18th of September is not about Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling, its about having a government that doesn't treat Scotland as an afterthought.

Did anyone win? STV got good ratings and it certainly fired the debate. Unfortunately, since the format wasn't conducive to anything approaching informative TV, the only winners are the trolls. They have yet more slurry to spray around social networks further hampering genuine efforts to inform those not currently engaged.

I'll let you decide what campaign has what roll in that potentially damaging equation.

To STV Producers? Do us all a favour and get rid of the section where politicos get to cross examine each other - it doesn't work and ends up being an impenetrable rammy. Also, what's with the robotic audience members who are obviously political plants - is it beyond your abilities to get some normal folk in?

I'm finished now.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Final word on the...

... Commonwealth Games.

And since we're now running into an at-times overly mawkish celebration of the start of what was arguably the most destructive war of its day - although these things are relative and it seems we've learned nothing from it given things going on still.

For non-sports fans, the CWG's like the Olympics might have been a bit of a turn off. Surprising myself, I did enjoyed seeing many (from all over) winning medals they really didn't think they'd win. I'd never noticed, but the Commonwealth Games are much less of an elite affair than the Olympics - while some might say its the poorer for it, I'd say the opposite is true.

In terms of the organisation of the games, speaking for myself, I have to be careful. I'm going to be a bit of wanker and quote myself:
"I’m just glad its over, not wishing to provide any one with horrid mental imagery, but for the past 17 days (feels like months) what we've seen is the British state (call it what you will) basically having sex with itself, for the next few weeks it will sit smoking a fag telling itself how wonderful it was until eventually, it’ll have to start replying to those emails its been getting for cheap Viagra and penis enlargements because, contrary to its own hype; even sex with itself was a bit crap."
That's what I said at the end of the London Olympics so it would be hellishly hypocritical for me to overly laud Glasgow and Scotland for the Commonwealth Games. The British State still managed to muscle its way in - for example - where else in the world does a country hear about its neighbour's sporting success before it hears of its own? When we do hear about it, while our much larger some might say over-bearing neighbour is named - the rest of us are referred to by some woolly label like 'the home nations'.

One particular BBC dividend was having token Scottish commentary while wheeling out the (English) big guns for peak viewing, not to mention the BBC favouring English athletes in heats over Scottish athletes in medal winning events.

Maybe not then. (Vertical stripes are slimming you know...)

I understand why the BBC do this, most viewers are in England, but why do we settle for it. If we are a poor second in our sports coverage or during the news - even when the event is being held in Scotland - what hope have we got with things that actually matter?

Moving on to the World War One commemoration - I'm not even sure what to call it; is it a celebration? A remembrance? What is it exactly? There should be some sombre low-key marking of the anniversary of the start, but surely the main brunt should mark the anniversary of the end?

Hearing David Cameron give what he probably thought was a heart-felt speech on the sacrifice & bravery of those killed - if I'm being honest - filled me with disgust. Cameron represents those who would have been directing assault & counter assault with reckless abandon and little thought about human cost well away from the front line.

We're told by unionists it would be crass and tasteless to view these commemorations through the prism of the independence debate, isn't it fucking handy that they're able to talk at length then about the achievements of Britain in the face of such adversity while blithely skimming over the brutal reality of war?

Meanwhile, the usual throbbers say, in part, it was nationalism that caused the first World War - which is true, but since the politics around the current independence debate have so little in common with those that existed in Eastern Europe 100 years ago - its like comparing the words of David Cameron with those of Harry Patch.

The British ruling classes' attempts to link tragic acts of heroism in days gone by to Britain as it is today is a reprehensible attack on the memory of those who were duped into going to war by the ruling classes back then.

They wrap national self-interest up in a blanket of camaraderie & adventure then send young soldiers away to die.

Does anything ever change? The irony is sickening.