Is Anti-Scottish Racism a Thing?

Scotland’s not a race… is it koz I is ginger?” The funny thing about racial difference is that it is neither genetic nor biological. Race based on colour is an arbitrary construct, used to fabricate social difference in relation to power.


Yesterday in the post ‘Why Don’t You Fuck Off Back to Scotland’ this blog examined the incident in a Somerset school where a Conservative MP, James Heappey, told a sixth form girl to go back to her own country. It was an open display of a growing sentiment in England towards Scots who refuse to tow the unionist political line, but it is interesting that we don’t have a more precise language for this class of prejudice. Sure, it is prejudice, as it is intolerance, bigotry, and xenophobia, but these terms lack the precision conveyed by words like ‘Anglophobia’ when the discrimination and abuse is in the other direction. This very issue was touched on in the comments section of the Butterfly Rebellion Facebook page. So we ask: Is anti-Scottish racism a thing?

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All too often we hear criticism of the charge of racism on the grounds that the group being targeted “isn’t a race.” Apparently Islamophobia and Anglophobia are not racisms because Islam and Englishness are not racial categories. Yet the assumption that these groups cannot be thought of as racial signifiers rests on the acceptance of race as a biological fact, and this is problematic for a number of reasons. Moreover, the United Nations rejects racial biology in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:

In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
Article 1, §1 (21 December 1965)

While it is the case that in the main we identify racial difference in terms of colour, there exists no scientific basis for racial difference in biology or genetics – leading UNESCO to affirm, “All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock (Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, 27 November 1978, Art.1 §1).” In effect, what this means is that race – rather than being a natural and inherent difference between human populations – is a social construct, an artificial means of differentiating between people to serve some purpose – power.

Enter Stuart Hall, cultural theorist, and his idea of race as a “floating signifier.” He presents the idea of race – something we imagine to see while failing to see so many other arbitrary differences – as a shifting meaning dependant on changing social and political relations. Whether or not one is racialised depends, at any given time, on one’s relationship to power. His argument certainly holds when we think of Jewishness or Irishness as racial signifiers. Even Albert Einstein picked up on this when he famously quipped:

If I am proved correct, the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me Swiss, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong, the French will call me Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German, and the Germans will call me a Jew.

Racial categorisation, then, when we accept that it is without a genetic or biological basis, must have a sociological origin. Race is an idea imposed on people by people, and this implies a power relation. We are familiar with the Scots, the Welsh, and the Northern Irish being called British at the Olympics when they win, and Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish when they lose. This too is a categorisation imposed by power. Britishness, as a notional superlative, is synonymous with and an extension of Englishness. England is the power holder, and it is those who speak for this dominant culture who grant the honour of Britishness to those British-ish people only when they deserve it. This is a clear type of cultural and national racialisation.

So we may be somewhat uncomfortable identifying anti-Scottish bigotry as racism, but this is only because we have uncritically accepted race as a real thing. Race is a social fabrication used by people in power to establish the parameters of the dominant group. Yes, we can’t deny that black people have black skin, brown people have brown skin, and white people have white skin, but this observation is as arbitrary as differences in other physical characteristics we routinely ignore; like eye colour, height, hair colour and such.

When Scottish people are subjected to any kind of abuse on the basis of their national origin it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to speak of this as racism. Our discomfort with this idea, however, might possibly be explained by our historical self-identification as a member of the British racialised in-group; that we – like the English – are “white.” But what we are discovering now is that, as we continue to test the patience of the power holders, we are not as white as them. “White” is not a colour, as we are discovering. Whiteness is a social measure of one’s acceptability to power, and it is in precisely this way that Barack Obama was referred to as “an honorary white man.” We Scots are fast losing that privilege in the eyes of British power.

 


The Science Of Racism


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Don’t let the Tories steal your underpants, Wales.

It’s time to decide, Wales. It’s time to decide if we still have a detectable pulse, or if the beating heart of what was once a distinct Welsh political spirit within the sorry mess we still refer to as the ‘United’ Kingdom, has finally flat-lined.

Are you going to vote on June the 8th? And are you going to make your decision based on the best interests of Wales, or are you going to let yourself believe that your vote will have any bearing at all on the overall outcome?

What’s it going to be?

We can either decide to sit up and demand to speak to the anaesthetist (we were awake all along and we have felt every single damn thing you were doing to us) or we can just quietly slip away, and let them wheel us to the morgue.

Because we have a few ways we can play this. One way I would summarise as ‘everyone for themselves’, and the other, more interesting way, I would suggest, is more along the lines of ‘let’s play this as a team, Wales’.

Because there’s a way we can play this election that will be better for Wales, no matter what the outcome overall. We need to vote tactically, but not the way you think.

Because is it just me, or does nothing about politics in the UK make sense anymore? Apart from the obvious stuff, like a prime minister who is terrified to meet with her electorate, and has no policies just soundbites (I’ve started following the Conservatives on twitter, but it took me a while to work out whether I was following a spoof account… check it out, it’s beyond parody). They are (sorry, she is) Strong. And Stable. Genuinely.

And not just because we are living in a topsy-turvy world where the villains have inherited the adulation of the masses, and the would-be heroes of the show are so busy getting tomatoes pelted at them, we can no longer even hear their lines.

Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed on Radio 4 earlier – he talked sense, of course, but unfortunately it’s too late for that. Old fashioned stuff like common sense, fairness, social justice etc just don’t sell anymore. And in UK Politics PLC, where everything is up for sale, you can have sound, fair, re-distributive policies until they are coming out of your proverbial, but they won’t get you very far (even if you attach them to a Brexit flag in an attempt to make them more visible).

So what are we going to do in Wales? Its a pretty dire position in which to find ourselves. The prospects are bleak for the UK project, which is clearly sliding faster and faster down into a slippery, right-wing abyss. In Wales we appear to be greasing ourselves up to slide on down with the giddy, gleeful Ukippers, dressed more respectfully as they now are of course, in their Tory pearls.

But is it too late, or is there still time to re-assess whether we make the jump?

Ambling around aimlessly as so many people in Wales have been for so long, in the land known as ‘complacent, lifelong labour supporter’, has left us as a country it seems, prone to being easily hoodwinked by anything resembling an idea.

Suddenly, last year, the aimless amongst us stumbled over a dressing up box. It would have gone unnoticed probably, except that it was sitting under a big neon sign saying ‘kick the establishment here’ (the other side  of course, said ‘Brexit – screw yourselves over good and proper’).

Inside the dressing-up box were some unseemly costumes, not at all flattering compared to our usual attire, but we have been getting them out and trying them on none-the-less. We have discovered, in some cases, that we had something similar at home, but we’d just never thought it was suitable to wear in public.

And with this new look, comes a new attitude. A change of heart, with a change of clothes. We have tried on the Ukippers’ jaunty flat cap, the cheeky ‘salt of the Earth millionaire’ look, and the kitten-heel with leather trouser look of the Tory fetishist.

Some people, it seems, have looked in the mirror and thought, hm, this is a good look for us.

Really, Wales?

There are a range of accessories in the box too, which we are busily playing dress-up with. Many of them sparkle but they are all fake. We might think we look all that, but if only we had a mirror, we would see what a dog’s dinner we are really making of this.

Because none of this suits us, and actually, a lot of what’s in this box is bad for us. We’re not behaving very well now that we’ve tarted ourselves up either, we’re being a bit racist and fighting amongst ourselves, if we are honest about it.

And where do we think we are going, with all this fake jewellery on? Who do we think we are kidding with all this bling? At the end of the day, none of what’s in this box is real. We can keep sharing out the cheap feather boas, and laughing because it tickles, but at the end of the day, those feathers are all dropping out.

And, shit. While we were trying this stuff on, someone has run off with all our clothes.

All of our clothes.

Like, everything, even your pants. Because you may have thought they were your pants, like, your underwear, and even though you just wore them everyday, and you didn’t appreciate them because they were just there (they were quite new as well, you had only had them since, you know like 1999) now that they are gone, you kind of miss them.

Maybe you should have changed them once in a while, looking back.

So, shit. What are we going to do?

Don’t worry. I have a proposal.

It’s very simple. It requires us collectively, to just get a grip of ourselves, and vote as a team. Team Wales. Because there are several things we just need to accept.

1.The Tories are going to win the election.

2. They are going to do so with a landslide.

3. This is going to be very, very bad for people in general. How bad will be on a sliding scale, but unless you are a millionaire (quick where’s that jaunty flat cap?) basically a Tory Government for the next 5 years on a massive majority is horrifically bad for anyone who relies on things like wages and public services to get by, rather than say, offshore bonds and the interest on their inheritance.

4. A Tory Government is going to be very, very bad for keeping the powers that Wales has, in Wales.

5. The way we vote in Wales will not influence the overall outcome (it never does).

I really, really wish that none of the above were true. But given that we all know that the above is the case (if you aren’t sure about number 3, then you need to put that feather boa back in the box, and accept that kitten heels don’t suit you, then go and google ‘wage stagnation’, ‘in-work poverty’, ‘the rape clause’, ‘mental health care’ and the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ to name but a few things).

If you are in ill-health, or disabled, or on a low income, or studying, or if you have elderly parents, or children or grandchildren who are in school, and you still want to put that feather boa on, then you need to look in the mirror when you do it.

Look yourself in the eye.

Can you do it? Or do you blink?

Because I think you know, deep down…

So. Given all of these things, we need a plan.

The most plausible approach at this point feels like either running around in a panic, gorging on alt-left news media sites (or alt-right I guess, but if you hang that way you probably aren’t here reading this), and repeatedly checking tactical voting sites and the latest polls to see if you can make any sense of how to vote in ‘the farce generally known as a UK General election’.

If it’s any comfort, this will no doubt be the last one, because once Scotland leaves, it’ll be known as a ‘rUK General Election’. Or an ‘England and Wales General Election’ if Ireland unifies.

Hell, that’s unwieldy, we’ll just call it an ‘English Election’ for short shall we?

Anyway, none of these strategies are the best one, I would suggest.

I would suggest instead that what we need is to elect some MPs, as many as possible ideally, who actually give a shit about Wales.

Now, this has long been the territory of Plaid Cymru, no surprises there. They have been banging this old drum for so long, we’ve practically got bored of hearing about how they are going to stick up for Wales, and the interests of people who live here.

Thing is though, they do.

Jeez, they are just so predictable like that. Change the record already. Showing up for votes on issues that effect Wales. Voting for devolving more powers to Wales when they are offered. Working hard for Wales.

Yawn….

Voting against Article 50 because, you know, it was all based on lies.

Opposing Tory welfare ‘reforms’ and cuts.

It does sound like sticking up for Wales’ interests, I’ll admit, but it’s just so boring.

It would be much more interesting if they spiced things up a bit. Said one thing and then did another. Threw a bit of ant-immigration rhetoric into the mix, just to appeal to, someone, somewhere (probably in Skegness).

Sticking up for Wales is just so Plaid Cymru, no one wants to hear about it.

Although this week, someone else has decided that this story is quite a good one. Good old Carwyn has finally, after 107 years as First Minister, pushed back his chair, and #stoodupforwales.

But, oops!

It’s too late Carwyn. Despite the fact that the UK picture is so dire that even I, momentarily, wanted to give you a hug (just for effort) or at least help you out of your chair when you #stoodupforwales on Monday. Unfortunately Welsh Labour haven’t got a good track record on this.

It doesn’t take more than five minutes on they work for you, to come up with a long list of examples of times when Welsh Labour MPs have not #stoodupforwales. Or, actually, when they have stood up, but then they have also unzipped, and relieved themselves all over Wales and the constituents they are supposed to serve. If we are being completely honest. And you started this standing up analogy, Carwyn.

To be fair, Plaid had already nabbed ‘defending Wales’ (Tarian Cymru, is way cooler). While Carwyn is still getting to his feet (it takes a while when you haven’t exercised in this long, the joints are achy, and you are easily distracted brushing the crumbs from your lap) Plaid are off. They are in battle, they’ve been there all along.

There are only three of them, at the moment, but they are plucky. And I know who I would rather if it came down to it in a showdown between Theresa May and Wales, Voldemort style. Who do you want, Liz Saville Roberts, Jonathan Edwards and Hywel Williams (think passion, articulate conviction and showing up) or Stephen Kinnock, Christina Rees (who?) and Chris Bryant (think, um, not actually there).

Apparently, when Liz Saville Roberts speaks in Parliament, a hush descends and people listen.

Which is not common, in the Commons.

Would you like people to listen to Wales?

So. My proposal is that we think about this from a Wales angle. Rather than a UK angle. And from this angle, from this side of Offa’s Dyke, there is only one sensible way to vote.

There’s only one way to make sure of two things:

  1. That anyone ever notices us again, ever. Because if we roll over and vote like England (i.e. getting our knickers in a knot, listening to the mainstream media and believing that there are only really two options – HA DID WE SAY TWO?!! One of them is an idiot…. Left wingers are unelectable…. Vote Tory… Mmm, you look just exquisite in those pearls darling).
  2.  When we are headed for hell in a handcart, under a Tory UK Government, we have people in Westminster, with an honest heart and a genuine passion for Wales and a desire to see the best done for those who live here.

Because as much as I do actually want to hug Carwyn Jones this week (despite all the times I have compared him to various forms of rice-based puddings, I do think he has good intentions, deep down) unfortunately he’s not the boss.

He may have done a very good job of not mentioning you know who this week, but when it comes to Westminster, we aren’t voting for Carwyn. I genuinely appreciate Welsh Labour’s efforts to make this about Wales, it makes a change, but there are two major holes in their plan.

The first, is that despite the parlous state of the media in Wales, some of us here have actually noticed that things like health, education and housing are devolved. So when you make promises like ‘no grammar schools in Wales’ in the context of a General Election, that’s just an itsy bit patronising to your electorate.

Don’t you think?

I know that Mayhem and Jezzer don’t know what’s devolved (they make this embarassingly clear every time they visit Wales). Theresa May was at it again this week talking about plans for education in EnglandandWales, poorly briefed, or Freudian slip?

But I think (hope) that you have a better handle on the ins and outs of devolution at this stage Carwyn.

So, cut it out, please? I think you can do better than promising that Labour in Westminster will do things that Labour in Wales already have the power to do. Or are you proposing that we give devolved powers back to Westminster? Because at best, your election launch is confusing, and at worst it’s down-right disingenous.

Sort it out.

The second fly in the ointment with this approach is that Labour MPs from Wales do not answer to Carwyn. He is not the boss of them. He may have Wales’ best interests at heart (if we believe that from deep down under the duvet, he is trying to do the best for Wales) but the evidence suggests that Welsh Labour MPs do not share that aim. They serve their UK masters. They have proved that with every time they have failed to show up for debates about Wales. Every time they abstained on votes to devolve more powers to Wales. Every time they have voted with the Tory Government on policies that will hurt people in Wales, or damage our public services by supporting the politics of austerity, taken us into illegal wars (looking at you, Anne Clwyd, Chris Bryant and David Hanson) or given away our money to pay for Nuclear weapons we will never use.

It’s too late to stand up now, Labour.

You had your chance to stand up for Wales, and you chose not to, so we are going to vote instead for those who have a track record of defending Wales.

So. Let’s think like we want to win. Let’s play this one like a team. Hell, if for no reason other than it will be the only way to make sure that Wales is ever mentioned, ever, ever again.

If you want to make sure that your vote counts for something, vote for the only party that doesn’t answer to UK masters, and that consistently show up and vote in our interest, rather than their own.  Do this wherever you are in Wales, but especially if you are somewhere that you quite like, with people that you care about and public services that you would like to keep.

If you live in a country called Wales, rather than EnglandandWales, and you’d quite like to keep it that way, it’s time to vote as a team.

#voteplaid, #defendwales, #tariancymru

It’s A Bullseye?

 

 

 

 

Finally! A comic that includes two of my favorite things….Scottish independence and my newly discovered love for “Bullseye” Oh, any and all characters are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. (Except for Lindsay) FT 😛

You can follow The History Twins at @thehistorytwins and at the webpage thehistorytwins.wordpress.com

 

 

May the Fourth be with You

We are being informed over all frequencies that the empire is striking back, but when we take a cool and collected look at the data we see that this is a bluff. On the whole unionism is on the decline and a new hope awaits.


Britain’s media propaganda machine would have us believe that in the local council elections today and in the June 8 general election we’re going to see an unbelievable Tory revival in Scotland. The only thing it has right in this assessment of Scotland’s political reality is that this prediction is unbelievable. It’s a fiction that says more about the nature of polls in modern democracy than it does of reality on the ground. That some in the Tory press are able to write of a “swing from the SNP to the Tories” merely underlines our mainstream media’s embrace of post-truth politics.

Twitter

View image on Twitter

An absolutely mad total lie from the Express today. Literally completely made up.

 

 


Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives have gained in the polls and this will be reflected in the number of local council and Westminster seats they gain over both elections, but to claim this as a revival completely misses what is actually happening in Scottish politics. The Tories, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats have campaigned in these local elections on a platform of preventing another independence referendum and saying “No” to independence, questions wholly beyond the brief of local councils. Other than being completely irrelevant, this tactic demonstrates the extent to which our country is divided on the constitutional question.

What we learn from this is that party affiliation itself has become irrelevant – at both local and national level, bringing to the fore two political blocs rather than numerous parties; the nationalist and unionist blocs to which the parties are aligned. In this analysis a vote for the Conservatives in Scotland is not a vote for UK-wide Tory policy – that remains as toxic as ever. Scottish unionists will be voting for the Tories because unionism has consolidated itself around the Tory Party at the cost of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In no way has the unionist bloc – the aggregate of the votes for all the unionist parties – increased. The polls show that this is well and truly on the decline. It is only understood among unionists – not just Tories – that voting Labour or Liberal Democrat splits the unionist vote. This is far from a Conservative resurgence. This is the phase of national polarisation where unionism is being consolidated around a single party.

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Scotland’s pro-independence bloc (SNP and the Green Party) are already over 50 per cent.

Of course this process – which is entirely natural and to be expected – will benefit the Scottish Conservatives, but this is not the desired goal. The objective of unionism is to increase its support across Scotland, but this is clearly not happening. When we count the vote share of the two blocs we see that the pro-independence bloc is in a steady upward trajectory – showing in all polls more than a 50 per cent share of the vote. What this means is that we are now well and truly in the end game. Scotland will become more clearly split between the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives as Labour and the Liberal Democrats retreat into practical non-existence. This will continue to be the case until the next independence referendum, where it is more likely than not that we will decide to leave the United Kingdom.

 


What Voting Tory Really Means


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Dangerous Scottish Subversives

It would be silly to think that Scotland has escaped the creepy watchful eyes of Britain’s dirty-tricksters in the secret service. We know what they are capable of and what they have done in the past. We have to keep our eyes and ears open.


As the prospect of Scottish independence poses a real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom as a state entity, it stands to reason that the security apparatus of the British state is taking an active interest in our independence movement. Regardless of the rhetoric concerning its value and reliability, Scotland’s North Sea oil continues to be Britain’s most important strategic resource – and maintaining control over this cannot be anything but at the top of the Westminster government’s priorities. It was the wealth generated from Scotland’s oil that transformed the City of London into a global financial centre, and, with the British economy now on the Brexit chopping block, oil has to be considered one of the UK’s last reliable security

 

Unit of Labour @UnitOfLabour

MI5 and GCHQ subversion of the 1984-5 miners’ strike is where we begin to consider UK deep state activity in Scotland now.

 

Scotland’s North Sea oil and London’s control over it is nothing short of a matter of national security, and it is this fact that explicates the need of the British state to deploy its secret state security machinery against the Scottish National Party and the wider independence movement in this country. Without succumbing to paranoia – which is of course a desirable by-product as far as the British administration is concerned – we must familiarise ourselves with the UK security services, its known tactics and prior operations in similar contexts.

Not to be too alarmist, it must be borne in mind that when it comes to the murder of its own citizens and agents these organisations have form. In Scotland there is enough evidence to implicate MI5 and others in the 1985 death – in suspicious circumstances – of the Scottish nationalist and anti-nuclear activist Willie MacRae; enough at least to warrant a full inquiry. Much the same can be said for the 1984 death of Hilda Murrell, that of Dr David Kelly – the “sexed up dossier” whistle-blower – in 2003, and the murder of known MI6 operative Gareth Williams in 2010.

Thanks to the formery MI5 Intelligence Officer and whistle-blower Annie Machon we know the British secret service funded al-Qaeda in Libya, aided in the false conviction of Palestinian Solidarity activists in London, and deliberately ignored coded messages from the Provisional IRA – effectively creating false-flag attacks and letting British citizens die. We are not talking about people with the best moral and ethical standards, and it is unimaginable that they are not operating in Scotland.

Officially, MI5 and GCHQ – the domestic intelligence agencies – rescinded their political brief at the end of the Cold War; giving the secret police – or “special branch” – the task of deep intelligence gathering and the infiltration of “political subversives” – small left-wing and Trotskyist groups, the Militant Tendency, the Socialist Workers Party, and such like. From her experience within MI5 in the mid-1990s Machon is able to confirm that these operations continued unofficially, with the surveillance and wire-tapping of Labour government ministers.

If it true that members of the British government and small, fringe political groups were deemed enough of a security concern to merit the attention of the secret services, then it can be safely assumed Scotland’s political subversives are under active clandestine investigation. Those of us involved in pro-independence politics and activism in Scotland have to be aware that the reach of this unofficial and secretive scrutiny is full-spectrum – reaching from the highest offices of the SNP, Green Party, and Scottish Socialist Party to small local, pro-independence groups. Paranoia will not serve us well, but there are Reds under our beds.

 


Inside MI5 – The Real Spooks (State Propaganda Video)

You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Independence is one thing, but then what for tax in Scotland?

I had some interesting discussions in Scotland yesterday. One, perhaps earlier in the day than desirable for such issues to be considered, concerned the tax transition from the UK to an independent Scotland if that were ever to happen. There is, of course, a precedent. In 1922 Ireland became an independent state. Article 74 of its 1922 constitution said:

Nothing in this Constitution shall affect any liability to pay any tax or duty payable in respect of the financial year current at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution or any preceding financial year, or in respect of any period ending on or before the last day of the said current financial year, or payable on any occasion happening within that or any preceding year, or the amount of such liability; and during the said current financial year all taxes and duties and arrears thereof shall continue to be assessed, levied and collected in like manner in all respects as immediately before this Constitution came into operation, subject to the like adjustments of the proceeds collected as were theretofore applicable; and for that purpose the Executive Council shall have the like powers and be subject to the like liabilities as the Provisional Government.

In other words, tax continued uninterrupted with the UK tax system being adopted in its entirety by the Irish Free State (as it then was) until such time as it could make amendments.

I strongly suspect that this would have to be the case in Scotland if it too were to become an independent country. But the real question is what happens then? At the risk of simplifying Irish history somewhat grossly, in the years after independence Ireland descended into a trough of intense conservatism during which time innovation was notable by its absence. Scotland could not afford to do that. We now know the success of the modern state is far too closely related to its tax system for such an outcome to be submitted and yet, as yesterday’s hearing in the Scottish parliament showed, there is not enough tax thinking going on in Scotland right now: that is why three of the four witnesses had to come from England (albeit Alex does actually have strong Scottish roots).

This then is an issue of rightful concern and one where it is vital that recourse is not made to the usual suspects, whether they be the Big 4, a major firm of lawyers, or the tax institutes. It is all too obvious that each of these would be conflicted in offering advice: first because they do not think tax is an economic and social issue and second by the interests of the large businesses that dominate their concerns. It would be a disaster for Scotland if they were to shape its taxation future. The chance that they might wish to turn Scotland into a tax haven might also be high.

As a result there is an issue for those with broader concern to address. I will be musing on it. Serious thoughts are welcome.

You can follow Richard  J Murphy on twitter at @RichardJMurphy and at his webpage Tax Research UK

featured image Tax

Scotland is Risen Indeed

It is accomplished. The scales have fallen from our eyes. The stone has been rolled away. It is the morning, and we have risen. An Eastertide reflection on the story of Scotland – a people awoken, a nation rising, and this is only the beginning.

Easter Sunday 2017, and I am about to let slip my thoughts and allow them to wade out into a place they have never before been permitted. Pádraig Pearse’s great genius was his ability to reach into the deepest recesses of Ireland’s cultural imagination and fuse the language and symbolism he found there with the highest national aspirations of his country. What he produced was arguably the most powerful form of Irish nationalism in the long history of Ireland’s struggle for freedom from British domination. Until very recently, in my own thinking, I have not been a fan.

Religion and the mythology of nationhood are a volatile combination, creating – as we see in the work of Pearse – an ideology verging on extremism. Unionist efforts in Scotland to present the SNP as a “cult” highlight the fact that unionism – which has always been a quasi-religio-political force – is already betraying its anxieties around Scottish nationalism developing a similar dynamic. Whether we are religious or not, the universal themes of religion are what they are, precisely because of the commonality of the human imagination – and there is certainly nothing wrong with reinterpreting and recycling these themes.

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“Beware of the Risen People.”

Easter is one such theme. Within Christian cultures – including more secular nations such as our own where we have been shaped through history by Christian ideas – we have this story of death and resurrection. This idea is replicated in every religion and tradition. It is a narrative retelling of a human tale embodying the cyclical movement of the seasons; the progress from the death of winter into the rebirth of spring. Pearse retold this story, but he reinterpreted it as a story of the rebirth of Ireland – “the risen people” – overcoming the death that was foreign occupation.

We are free to do the same. Remove the familiar, half-remembered story of the resurrection from all the trappings and baubles – the angels, the rolling stones, the eggs, and bunny rabbits – and what we are left with is a story of complete and utter defeat, of death and rising, and of victorious vindication. Where in its details is this unlike the story of Scotland? We have stood upon the pavement before Pilate and he has washed his hands of us. We have been ignored and neglected. Justice has been denied to us. We have been lashed under the hand of the cohort. We have been stolen from, humiliated, rejected, and despised. We have been nailed to that ignominious gibbet and we too have perished. In Union the placard above us reads: Scocie Mortuus Est, Vivat Rex.

Yes, we too are a risen people. This was not the final end of us. Our story does not end here. We are only at the beginning of our story.

We remember that the story of the crucifixion is set against the backdrop of empire, and its hero a simple man – ecce homo – who would not take up the sword and who taught his followers to turn the other cheek to every humiliation and act of violence. Their every violence has robbed them of their humanity; like wild predators they hunt down and maul the poor, the old, the disabled. Without conscience they take food from the mouths of children, they degrade the degraded, they have become the despoilers of the world and of us. By taking up the sword we become like them. In spite of all this we have risen, and the guards at our tomb have fled away.

It is only a story, but already it is one that has made us evangelical in our zeal to spread the message of our liberation – our rebirth, our resurrection. This is a narrative of national renewal – invested with the language and symbols of our history and traditions – that has made what we are doing an unstoppable force. And look now! We can see it clearly because the night has ended and the morning has broken – the stone is rolling away. Let us arise and be on our way. Scotland has risen. It has risen indeed – Beannuichibh an Tighearn!

You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Why Welsh independence is a no-brainer

 

People will tell you that Wales is too poor, too Welsh and too dependent to be independent. But, like me, you aren’t stupid, and therefore no doubt you are starting to see the circularity of these arguments…

You’re also probably starting to realise that it’s almost impossible to list all of the reasons why Welsh independence is a good idea. But I’m not bored of writing these pithy lists yet, and if you aren’t bored of reading them, then here’s my latest thinking on why anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together, is taking a good look at Welsh independence right now.

Because if you are in a burning building and the people supposed to be in charge are holding flame throwers, you at least want to know where the nearest exit is

OK, this is not a subtle analogy, but these are not subtle times. I don’t think I even need to elaborate, do I…

Optimists are the new Nationalists

Call it what you want, optimism, curiosity, a refusal to be told something isn’t possible, a stubborn insistence on evidence based reasoning…

Being an advocate for Welsh independence has traditionally been associated with the term ‘Welsh Nationalist’, but oddly, in the eight months or so I have been actively involved in this movement (as opposed to sitting at home waiting for someone else to do something about it as I was previously), I have hardly heard the term ‘Nationalist’ used, and I have never once used it to describe myself.

I get that there is a strong case for reclaiming the term ‘Nationalism’ in the context of Celtic independence, and that there is a difference between Welsh/Scottish and British Nationalism. It’s very important to make this distinction too, since some people are so determined to conflate the terms, and even to equate Celtic Nationalism with racism.

I’m not denying the validity of inclusive, civic, Celtic Nationalism, it is a fine thing and should be celebrated. But I think that in Wales the landscape has shifted. You don’t have to identify with old school ‘Nationalism’ to think about Welsh Independence and to try it on as a way of looking at things, or as a vehicle for solving some of Wales’ problems (although of course you may choose to).

To be curious about Welsh independence is not to assume an identity. It is to adopt a frame of mind. To agree to maintain an open mind

That’s all.

The status quo is no longer the status quo

Change can be scary. We’ve been part of the United Kingdom since, like a really long time. I get that. I get that it’s easier to stick with what you know.

The thing is, from where we are standing right now, in March 2017, you can kiss goodbye to pretty much everything you thought you knew.

I’m pretty sure that when we (or whoever inherits this sorry mess) looks back at this time in Planet Earth’s history, by which I mean last year, this year and maybe the next 5 to 10 years, people will have a lot to say about it.

But the dominant theme is likely to be ‘holy shit, that was a rough ride’.

Let’s just re-cap.

Robots are about to inherit the Earth (it an Artificial Intelligence thing, and an automation of jobs thing, but it doesn’t look great for you or I or our children’s employment prospects).

For our part, the UK is about to crash out of the biggest trading union in the world, maybe with no safety net whatsoever, just as almost every other country in the world is busy joining trading unions.

We are on the cusp of a now almost unavoidable global climate apocalypse, with implications for absolutely everything, but most crucially for food and water security, and in terms of the refugee crisis that will follow when many millions of people lose their homes to rising sea levels and desertification.

The far right are on the rise across Europe, and Russia has interfered with America’s free and democratic election process to install a despotic authoritarian in the White House.

So you tell me.

Do you think we should do things exactly as we have for the last 600 years, or do you think its worth revisiting some topics that haven’t had an airing for a while? Perhaps we should dust off this Welsh Independence issue, in the light of some new circumstances?

Because when big changes happen, it’s usually best to adopt a position that allows you to appraise the options and effect the outcome to best advantage/minimal damage, for yourself and those around you. You want to have a say in the way things settle out, rather than flying by the seat of other people’s pants.

Just ask yourself who you trust right now.

I bet you didn’t vote for a Red White and Blue Car Crash Brexit

There is almost nothing that Unionists like saying to Wales more right now than ‘well don’t blame us, you voted overwhelmingly for Brexit afterall‘, before mumbling something about turkeys, and Christmas, and trying to hide a very large, red bus up their own arse (or more probably, yours, just bend over would you…)

Well you may have voted to leave the European Union, and I respect that, I really do.

But I bet you didn’t vote for a ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, ‘screw the economy’ (especially the Welsh economy) ‘who needs an export market anyway’, Brexit.

I bet you didn’t vote for a sadomasochistic Brexit  (‘while your backs are turned we’ll privatise your underpants, remove your human rights and make you eat them while we sit back and pleasure ourselves’ kind of a Brexit, which it turns out is just an excuse for Theresa May to act out all of her most twisted fetishes).

So given that what Wales thought it was voting for, turned out to be a strong laxative, forcibly administered, and given that we are already pretty dehydrated, why don’t we pause and regroup?

We don’t have to take the kind of medicine that Westminster is prescribing for Wales.

We can seek another opinion.

It’s called our own.

 

Learning to ride a bike was difficult, but you did it

(Unless you never did, in which case, have I mentioned I am a qualified cycling instructor and my rates are very reasonable?)

So my point here is pretty obvious. Lots of stuff seems daunting, improbable even, at the beginning. There’s an element of ‘no pain no gain’. My daughter is learning to walk right now, and I’m not pretending there isn’t going to be a lot of tears and gravel imprints to the forehead before we get there.

But we get over these hurdles. We take risks because we know that we’ll be glad we ventured.

I’m willing to scuff my knees and ride out some turbulent times for a better future, are you?

It’s not a good time to be a sacrificial lamb, and Wales is famous for sheep so you do the maths…

This isn’t about the Welsh lamb industry (although it could be). It isn’t even about the risk that Wales disappears so far up it’s own stereotype that we become invisible to the outside world, ceasing to exist at all except on the ‘Traditional Welsh Cawl Recipe’ tea towel your Aunt Bev once bought in Criccieth.

It’s about the fact that if you made a list of all of the vulnerable groups that Westminster is shafting right now, you’d see immediately that Wales is disproportionately affected. People on a low income. People claiming out of work benefits – and people on in-work benefits, people dependent on long term sick or disability benefits.

People whose health has been adversely affected by a lifetime working in heavy, polluting industries, but who haven’t reaped any of the profits.

People who didn’t happen to inherit an estate, or a peerage or go to Eton.

There are a large number of people in the United Kingdom at the moment that are being crushed by the cruelty of the system imposed by the British State. It’s not a phenomenon unique to Wales of course. Many of the people disproportionately affected by ‘we’re all in this together austerity’ live in the North of England, and Scotland for instance. And not as many live in the South East of England, which is coincidentally where most of the power is based.

But given that rather a lot of the people that are on the ‘getting shafted’ end of the Tories’ austerity jolly, do live in Wales, how about we review whether this is a party we still want to be at? Ask ourselves, and everyone who came with us, if we are still having fun?

We aren’t likely to see anything but a Tory Government in Westminster for a very long time, and given that Wales gets a Tory UK Government at least half of the time despite never voting for one, shall we get together and have a chat about whether we still think this system is working for us?

Or shall we just knuckle down, plan ahead and open a few more food banks?

Better take out some health insurance too, because I heard that ol’ kinky boots is going to flog the NHS to Donald Trump, and I’m sure she won’t let a little thing like devolution get in her way.

(When Wales says ‘no’ it means ‘yes, more’, in Sadomasochistic Brexit World after all..)

Because I do not want my name on bombs that blow the heads off Yemeni toddlers

Actually I would rather that bombs did not blow the heads from the bodies of Yemeni toddlers.

It’s hard to treat this topic lightly, so I won’t try to. But we need to talk about it. Because if you, or someone you know, is inclined to feel that the British State is a benevolent force for good in the world, and that we in Wales should continue to be associate with its international policies and its ‘look the other way and pocket the cash’ approach to arms dealing with war criminals, then we need to agree that it means that you and I, and Auntie Bev (you can use this argument with her), are all culpable too.

Is that the price you want to pay to call yourself British?

Because Boris Johnson looks to camera, and without blanching, brushes off the fact that the UK still profits from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, including bombs that we know will end up killing innocent people.

So I am looking at Boris Johnson and I am thinking, FUCK YOU.

How short is the money trail that leads back from those bombs to Boris Johnson’s pocket do you think? Or to the pocket of a Tory donor? How long after leaving office will Boris wait before he accepts a seat on the Board of BAE?

So you can take your Union Jack and use it as a marketing tool to make profit from war and state sponsored genocide if you want, Boris.

But you are not doing it in my name.

Not any more.

 

There’s no ‘W’ for Wales in BAE. Where do you think the profit is going? And would you want it even if it was coming here?

Given the price?

So we can all keep writing to our MPs about things like this, or we can cut them off at source. What about if we all just stand up at once, and leave? Just say we’ve had enough, and we are leaving (the UK) on principle?

(Ideally, do both, write to your MP and list all the reasons you are pro independence for Wales, you could use their voting record to help you compile your list).

It’s not good karma to end on the topic of dead toddlers

So we need one more thing on this list, something upbeat. But don’t forget about those toddlers.

Actually I need to build back up to upbeat, so here’s a penultimate thing, for free

Independence is sexy. It just is. Check out almost anything from the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign. Do a Google image search and tell me, who looks like they are having a fun, inclusive, sexy time?

‘Yes’?

Or ‘No’?

Its palpable. And enervating. It blows the ‘heart’ or ‘head’ argument about independence right out of the water.. When you look at images associated with the ‘Yes’ campaign for Scottish Independence, you feel it in your loins

Hell, it makes me want to just rush up there and have a whole load of Scottish babies.

Who do you think is getting it on more, when you look at those pictures?

‘Yes’?

Or ‘No’?

So even if it weren’t obviously going to go for ‘Yes’ in Scotland the next time around, even if we just waited it out, ‘Yes’ would just out breed the Unionists out of the equation if we waited long enough.

Young people are overwhelmingly in favour of independence compared to older generations anyway.

All this is also true for Wales, so let’s do it.

‘Let sleeping dragons lie’, is not a thing.

Sleeping dogs, yes.

But not dragons. Sleeping dragons should always, always be woken up.

So go on, wake your dragon. She’s just snoozing anyway…

####

You can find information about safe ways to wake sleeping dragons here.

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at her blog page indymam.wordpress

Tories Create a New Party Block (Think North) – It includes Scotland Which it Is Planned Will Be Phased Out as a Separate Entity Over Time – Read On McDuff – Independence Is your Only Option.

Scottish Local Elections 2017
You should be prepared to be subjected to a cacophony of English voices canvassing for your vote for the Conservative party in the days leading up to 4 May. loads of Tory supporters are being bussed from the North of England to Scotland to join with and boost local Tory activists in their campaigning efforts.

This is not a new event. The Tories have been dependent on their English supporters for many-a-year. What is new is the level of coordination which makes it difficult to see the join between the two groups. But the accent is the giveaway.

Also new is the 2016 creation of a new party group called “ThinkNorth” which joins Tories in the North of England with Scotland.

It is fully intended that, having concluded a successful Brexit and seen off a second Scottish independence referendum “Think North” will be formalised, operating under the control of Ruth Davidson, possibly out of Holyrood.

More on this group follows. Scot’s be warned If you get the chance to become independent within Europe grab you chance. You will never get another.

https://www.scer.scot/database/ident-1251

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ThinkNorth” – A Centre-Right Policy Group Created Exclusively for the North and Scotland.

Founded in 2016, “ThinkNorth” was setup to develop a strong voice for the North of England, and Scotland (NE/S). We recognise that the NE/S has its own unique challenges and opportunities, and believe in you, its citizens are best placed to bring about long lasting positive change.

At “ThinkNorth” we have worked hard to develop a unique structure aimed at harnessing your collective knowledge, ideas, and creativity in order to strengthen the NE/S. The terms Connect – Shape – Empower guide our approach. We are continually striving to build the tools and offer the interactive events to enable you to connect with local politicians and decision makers. Our work has inspired over 18 individual MPs, MEPs, MSPs, and Councillors to join us as Patrons.

Our patrons (MP’s and MSP’s) want to hear your thoughts and opinions, offering you a unique opportunity to shape future policy of the North of England, and Scotland. As the “ThinkNorth” network grows, our collective voice will help empower the N/ES to address its challenges and meet its opportunities. If you believe in the potential of the NE/S and would like to share your ideas – connect with the “ThinkNorth” community, you could shape tomorrow’s politics and help us empower the North. ( http://www.thinknorthuk.com/)

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25 February 2017: The Scottish Conservative & Unionist candidate for Shettleston ward, Thomas Kerr benefits from the attendance of “ThinkNorth” activists on our first Scottish action day in the Shettleston – Mount Vernon ward today. Much more blanket canvassing to follow before 4 May.

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Statement Of Intent: Scottish Conservative Conference Demonstrates Confidence Of The Party North Of The Tweed – The 2017 Tory “ThinkNorth” Conference in Glasgow

A Scottish Conservative and Unionist administration, with Ruth Davidson as First Minister. That was the Scottish leader’s statement of intent when she strode on stage in blazing red for her keynote Address. Once more rejecting the notion of a referendum, she went on to give a strong indication of what that campaign would look like.

“Unlike the previous administration’s ‘Project Fear’, the PM realises that in the world of alternative facts and post the Leave EU campaign, the arguments will have to be emotional not just practical. May painted a picture of British patriotism, of “four nations but one people” and emphasised her role as UK Prime Minister. To an enthusiastic audience she hinted at more unified policies across the UK post Brexit, criticising previous Whitehall policy to “devolve and forget” and the need to “take this opportunity to bring our United Kingdom closer together.”

Of course, that is unlikely to become a reality with an SNP Government in Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon had already called discussions on whether agricultural decision making coming from Brussels should remain at Westminster an “attack on the very foundations devolution”. So any moves, as suggested by the PM, for UK ministers to work more closely with Scottish ministers would likely only be workable under a Unionist administration.

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The Silent Majority Must Be Prepared To Stand Up To The SNP Who Seek To Divide Us

The thoughts of Robert Weir (Law student at the University of Edinburgh) and co-Director of Policy for Conservative Future Scotland:
“Nationalism, if not born through the love of one’s country, is born through the hatred of another. Scottish nationalism is just as ugly as the rest, and together we must stand up against it and put forward the positive case for the United Kingdom: united by a common culture, an impenetrable bond of friendship and a desire to say No to nationalism.”

Joe Porter deputy chaiman ThinkNorth

Deputy Chairman “ThinkNorth” with Ruth Davidson

“Think North”, Chairman, Richard Salt and Deputy Chairman (Scotland) Andrew Jarvie Attend This Year’s Scottish Conservatives Conference

The team had an amazing time at the Scottish Conservatives Conference. Fantastic meeting up with our Scottish patrons, Annie Wells MSP, Ross Thomson MSP, Donald Cameron MSP, Alexander Stewart MSP, Ian Duncan MEP, Oliver Mundell MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP.

Met separately with Adam Tomkins MSP, Douglas Ross MSP, Peter Chapman MSP and Donald Cameron MSP to discuss “ThinkNorth” future policy ideas formulated at our 1st Scottish Conference. Fantastic to see just how far the Scottish Conservatives have come and how they are determined to make sure that the North gets the best representation it can get. Check out Tomkins Blog: (https://notesfromnorthbritain.wordpress.com/author/conlawforum/)

 

 

 

 

If you want to follow the CaltonJock at his website just click here

 

Beyond the Headlines

“[I]f there is to be meaningful debate on this issue then the SNP have a lot of work to do to produce best possible data. The last thing they should do is trust that from London.” – Richard Murphy

Tax expert Richard Murphy, who is currently most notable for exposing the UK’s massive £120 billion per year tax gap, has written an article warning of relying on UK economic data to make the case against Scottish independence.

Murphy

Before he gets attacked too badly by hacks telling him that the Scottish economic data is produced by Scottish civil servants (Edit: I may already be too late on that) I thought I’d write a parallel piece pointing out what those civil servants have told me about the limits of some of their stats.

The first thing to remember in all of this is that the UK is not a federation or a confederation, it considers itself to be a unitary state of which Scotland is just one region of twelve (plus the “extra-regio” offshore regions). Therefore there is currently no real obligation to even gather the distinct statistics for Scotland and it really only has become important because of the independence campaign.

Tax Revenue

As I’ve pointed out in my paper Beyond GERS, the issue of apportioning tax revenue is fraught with subtle difficulty. GERS itself has updated its methodologies multiple times over the years (particularly since the SNP took the government in 2007. The GERS of today is no longer very closely related to the GERS created by Ian Lang to discredit Scotland in the early ’90’s). There are still differences in the results presented straight by HMRC and the data eventually “Scottishised” [To use the stats folk’s term] and presented in GERS.

Onshore corporation tax is a good example of this. Where an overall UK stat may simply count the location of the HQ of a company for the purposes of assigning corporation tax and this may make sense from a unitary state perspective (albeit this is becoming less true as globalisation increases the ability for multi-national companies to move resources across borders).

For many companies though, the profits one which corporation tax are paid are not generated at the HQ. This is obvious in the case of, for example, a large retail chain which has stores across the country. To correct for this, HMRC and GERS both use different methodologies to apportion the tax more evenly. Various measures (and the weighting applied to those measures) such as estimating volume of sales, number of employees, amount of capital spent in the region and overall population are all used in different ways to reach slightly different estimates. As a result, HMRC estimates that in 2015-16 Scotland produced 7.1% of the UK’s corporation tax compared to 7.3%% estimated by GERS – a gap of  about £100 million.

One can also see possible limits of these methodologies especially if taken individually. For example if one looks at employees then one could probably consider a company (and, it should be stressed that this is a completely hypothetical company) which employs a dozen people in Scotland to make, say, a high value, highly exportable product with a geographic link (call it a similarly hypothetical product like “Scotch blisky”) and then employs a couple of hundred people in London to market it. It may be very difficult to properly apportion the “value” of that product and its profits based on employees alone. It’s possible, after all, to find a market without marketing but a bit harder to drink an advertising campaign.

VAT is another issue where these figures can differ for similar reasons. The UK doesn’t demand point of sale ID to determine the location of VAT spend (If you nip down the road to Carlisle for your shopping, then that results in VAT paid in England but Tesco neither knows nor cares where you came from to get there). Again, various methodologies are used to try to estimate the proportions paid and the estimates are slowly aligning (HMRC claims Scotland paid 8.4% of the UK’s VAT compared to GERS’ 8.6% – a gap of £110 million). There is also a further complication wherein the results between HMRC and GERS are simply presented in a different manner (HMRC measures the cash receipts, GERS measures the accruals)

A third prominent example is Income Tax, and is going to become pertinent now as IT is largely devolved to Scotland and all Scottish residents are to be assigned a distinct Scottish tax code and especially now that the income tax bands in Scotland will soon start to diverge from the UK bands. However, HMRC has been recently criticised for a series of administration issues which is making it difficult to roll out this tax code. As with the difficulties in rolling out devolved welfare, this won’t be nearly so much of an issue once Scotland is independent but highlights the difficulty in trying to run a devolved situation from a centralised unitary setup. This said, both HMRC and GERS arrive at a proportion of about 7.2% of the UK’s income tax coming from Scotland although this may change as the new systems are launched (even if tax rates are kept the same).

It is not possible to say whether the HMRC or GERS estimate is “better” or “worse” than the other. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has commented saying, especially of corporation tax:

“Neither of these estimates is clearly superior to the other, and both may be some way off. Profits are not necessarily generated in proportion to the number of employees, or their wages. Some employees may be more instrumental in generating profits than others; and profits also arise from capital assets – both physical (such as buildings and equipment) and intangible (such as intellectual property and brand value) – the location and contribution of which may differ from the location and wages of employees. Calculating how much of a company’s profits are attributable to economic activity in different locations is conceptually and practically difficult and is the source of many problems in international corporate taxation”

Balance of Trade

This is the big one that has attracted a lot of shouting in the past few months. Once again, the UK’s status as a unitary state causes much of the furore over the published numbers to be based on false premises and over-massaged numbers. The UK’s balance of trade figures are published here and probably do do a decent job of estimating the UK’s position in the world. What it doesn’t do is show the internal movements of trade within the UK. As a unitary state it simply doesn’t matter to the external balance of trade whether or not Yorkshire is a net exporter to Sussex. The UK does produce figures which try to estimate the trade balance between the regions  with the rest of the world but it only covers goods, not services (hence excludes nearly half of the UK’s total trade) and it does not cover internal trade. For that internal trade, we turn to ESS – Export Statistics Scotland – which surveys exporting companies in Scotland and asks them where they send their goods and services (contrary to a semi-popular belief, these statistics don’t care how the goods reach their destination so it doesn’t matter if they physically leave the UK via an “English port“). There are some limits, again, to this methodology.

First, not all companies know where their goods are going (see the example of Tesco again. If someone from Carlisle buys a crate of beer in Glasgow then goes home then that’s a Scottish export but Tesco wouldn’t be able to record it easily) so they won’t appear in the survey. Goods which are shipped to England then either re-packaged or used as a sub-component before being exported from England to somewhere else (or even back to Scotland) would be counted only as far as their export to England and there may be some cases where service “exports” are caused by, for example, someone in London buying insurance for their house in London from the London branch of a provider who just happens to have a brass plate in Edinburgh. The total proportion of these anomalies in the data is simply unknown at this point and unlikely to be knowable until after independence.

Beyond the Horizon

And this takes us to the most important point in this whole article.  Even if the methodologies above all align and all can capture the full economic picture of Scotland and everyone can agree on the figures produced and everyone agrees that they produce an accurate and complete picture of Scotland’s economy within the Union there is a fact which should be utterly indisputable (and certainly is within the team which put together these stats).

Independence. Changes. Everything.

None of these figures have any validity if you try to use them to project beyond the independence horizon. Corporation tax may change due to the redomiciling of businesses post-independence. Both those seeking to remain within the UK and those seeking to remain within the EU or EEA may shift operations. Trade exports may suddenly become a lot easier to assign (whether there’s a “hard border” or not) and that “extra-regio” oil which is often excluded from stats due to historical and supply chain accounting issues suddenly has to be accounted for. Those tax streams which are simply too embedded to discuss in any terms other than by a population share have to be audited. And all of this is before Scotland starts to make changes to the tax system to optimise it for the Scottish economy or to do things like close the tax gap.

As with everything in science and in economics, statistics are based on models, models are only ever as strong as their underlying assumptions and projections are only ever as strong as the person making the prediction’s understanding of the limits of those assumptions and the models.

IMF GDP Growth

(One day I’ll write an article about the “Porcupine Plots” which get created when inappropriate models are used year after year in spite of reality)

I don’t mind discussing the economy of Scotland within the Union. I don’t even mind speculating on the economy of an independent Scotland. But I sense that the next two years of campaigning will get very frustrating if pundits continue to stretch their own models past the point of credibility in a quest to push their political point. This, I should warn, goes for both sides. We need a more meaningful economic debate than we saw last time. Let’s get beyond the headlines to create one.

You can read more articles from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green

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