Shock of the Century

Brian Taylor of BBC politics fame had a seemingly off-record quote about the startlingly obvious yesterday...

Firstly, a UK minister told me, with considerable emphasis, that the government at Westminster was “not neutral” with regard to Scottish independence.

A few years ago Jack Straw was more forthcoming with the real reasons. There has been a change of management in Westminster since then but no change in policy.

historically England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among other things, of amplifying England’s power worldwide.

A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interest of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.

Our [England’s] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We’d slip down the world’s GDP tables.

Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN.”

Forget all the nonsense you hear about preserving the Union for emotional or patriotic reasons. The quote from Straw shows the real nuts and bolts of why there is opposition in Westminster to Independence.

However Straw misses the economic element in this too. A clear example of the economic strategy of a government that is firmly “not neutral” can be seen in the changes that were made (somewhat sneakily) by the Blair government (and this was not the first time it had been done) to the sea border between Scotland and England details of which can be found in the report “The National Borders of Scotland“…

Imposition of the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999:

On 13 April 1999 the UK government promulgated Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1126, purported to be Constitutional Law and entitled “The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999”

Hidden under some chat about fishing waters was the real purpose of the exercise

Very conveniently, nothing in that document limits its applicability to fisheries. That lack of limitation was not accidental. On 24 February 2009 The Times published „Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields‟.12 It stated, in part:

Documents detailing secret government plans in the 1970s to prevent Scotland laying claim to North Sea oil have been seen by The Times. They show the extraordinary lengths to which civil servants were prepared to go to head off devolution, which was seen then as inevitably leading to independence.

Treasury officials also advised that the boundaries of Scotland’s coastal waters should be redrawn and a new sector created to “neutralise” Scotland’s claim to North Sea oil – a step that was taken.

The “step that was taken” was the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999, which illegally moved Scotland’s North Sea border to the north, thereby transferring some 6,255 statute square miles (5,540 nautical square miles) of Scottish waters to English jurisdiction (see Figure 5). Besides being a clear violation of the Treaty and Acts of Union, this transfer has a direct deleterious effect on the finances of the Government of Scotland in that no taxes or licence fees derived from activities in the illegally transferred area are credited to Scotland in the periodic Government Expenditures and Revenues Scotland (GERS) reports.

None of this is particularly surprising to many supporters of Scottish Independence. It may however come as a surprise to those in England who wonder what this Independence thing is all about. I tend to meet people with 2 different attitudes in England. There is the friendly “if that is what you want to do then it is your choice” group or the slightly less conciliatory “f*** off you ungrateful…”.

Although one of those sentiments is clearly more friendly (and sane) than the other, both of those are in marked contrast to the UK government line which was and remains “oh no you f***king don’t”.

Comments (17)

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  1. Alex Buchan says:

    “historically England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among other things, of amplifying England’s power worldwide. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interest of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.”

    As Jack Straw’s comments make clear the UK government is essentially the English government continuing. Those who feel the referendum will be won because unionists don’t have any positive arguments underestimate the lengths to which the UK state will go in torpedoing Scottish Independence. There are reports that they have been studying the no to AV campaign. They will play dirty, very dirty.

    1. douglas clark says:


      Agree completely. However we are a thrawn bunch of folk. The more they twist and turn the more likely a positive vote for independence. Unscientific as it is, I have a feeling in my waters that the union will end sooner than we all think. Leaving SNP MP’s aside for a moment can you name me one Westminster MP representing a Scottish Constituency that actually resonates positively with Scottish voters? Maybe Charles Kennedy, after that?

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        You might be right about Westminster’s poor image in Scot’s eyes but then why does the opinion polls still show a persistent, even if presently declining, margin against independence. To say the case hasn’t been made for independence yet raises the issue of whether the case will be allowed to be made against a backdrop of scare stories in a hostile press. The comparison with how the no to AV campaign went about dominating the news agenda is apt and I can see why the Westminster parties want to learn the lesson of that campaign.

        I would like to think that it would backfire but people have very real concerns about what an Independent Scotland could mean for their livelihood’s, benefits, and pensions. These are massive bread and butter issues that will dominate between now and the referendum and they are already being manipulated by the press though a drip-feed of scare stories; and that’s before the no vote has even got organised. I want to yes vote to win, but we should never underestimate the British establishment’s ruthlessness in pursuing its objectives.

  2. Alex, I take it you saw this when it was on?

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      Thanks for pointing it out. I didn’t see it. Just seeing it is a reminder of how totally useless BBC Scotland is.

    2. Alex Buchan says:

      Given, Jacob Rees Mogg’s proposed amendment today to insert an independence referendum into the Scotland Bill, I hope you can get this video of him onto your blog. He would persuade anyone, even a hardened Scottish unionist, to vote for independence. This video linked with his amendment could quickly create a bit of an anti Rees Mogg cult.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        We’re on it…

    3. Alex Buchan says:

      Given Jacob Lees Mogg’s proposed amendment today to insert an independence amendment into the Scotland Bill, I hope you could upload onto your blog this video of him arguing against transfer of the Crown Estates. He would persuade even the most hardened unionist to vote for independence.

  3. Scottish republic says:

    The Brit nats are going to pull out all the stops as has never been seen before to prevent the Scots believing in themeselves .

    It’s going to get dirty.

    The question will then be, do the Scots believe the lies of the Brit nats or do they choose self determination?

    The answer will be just after the referendum, and I suggest Holyrood insist the voting is properly monitored by the UN.

    1. I’d agree with that request but not sure if they’d get it.

  4. Alex Buchan says:

    Don’t know about problems with the count. There could definitely be problems post a yes vote of Westminster still trying to engineer some kind of constitutional sutmbling block, such as bearking the vote down by regions and claiming a need for a special status for Shetland for instance. What’s important is making sure there is a sizable yes majority.

    One weapon against Westminster is keeping open the possibility of a third option. This is something the London leadership of all the unionist parties would not want to see because there is no doubt that either independence or devo-max would trump the status quo regardless of any No campaign.

    A yes vote to any devo-max proposal that had not been legislated by Westminster is a challenge to its authority. The No campaign would find difficulty coping with a third option because, technically the ConDem government would argue that it couldn’t be forced to legislate more powers, but as a campaign strategy this could prove disasterous for the No campaign because it would explode the myth of Westminster being receptive to Scottish aspirations.

  5. RolftheGanger says:

    It is not only going to get dirty – it already is dirty.

    Counter arguments to the FUDD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt and Disinformation should be forefront of SNP activist thinking.

    Some suggested recommendations:
    1. Never collude with denigration of the Scottish Government’s First Minister. He is Mr. Alex Salmond, First Minister of the Scottish Government. Not ‘wee eck”, or similar denigrations. People can dismiss what is discounted and diminished by ridicule. The Unionists want us to unconsciously diminish the importance of the First Minister.

    2. The Scotsman and others are setting up “Salmond” as they rudely call him, to be a ‘Big, Bad, Bully’ with all these thinly disguised personal attacks. Also portraying the SNP to be supposedly ‘autocratic, authoritarian, overweening and — increasingly – illegitimate’ – so they can be dismissed. Perhaps literally.

    3. Over-personalisation. The press deliberately distort it to be “Salmond’s personal ambitions’ etc as if the SNP and MSPs were puppets in his pocket. They use: “Salmond’s party does this and that” Not the duly elected Government of Scotland expressing its needs and wishes via their chosen political party, government and its duly elected officebearers. I recommend taking the language back to “The Scottish Government view is” etc.
    Counter informality and denigration with formal reality.
    4. Blame the SNP for not being fast enough at cleaning up the mess – created by Westminster and former regimes at Holyrood.

    I recommend that SNP activists are prepared for the counter-propaganda along the lines of:
    “Oversensitive” No. Accurate
    “Doesn’t matter” If so, why argue with us?
    “Chips on shoulders” Valid, legal, formal, appropriate
    “Quibbling about pointless little things” In which case accuracy is better than sloppy expression
    “After all, we are all in this together” Westminster created the mess

    Activists need to tune in and tackle the subtleties of language as well as the crude “too wee, too poor, etc” arguments.

  6. Tocasaid says:

    Interesting article. Good to hear this kind of stuff from the horse’s (J Straw) mouth so to speak.

    Another reminder of why the Unionists will fight tooth and nail or just fight dirty to save ‘England’s position in the UN/ G8’. Cue, a few ‘SNLA regroup…’ scare stories in the Express and Hootsmon and tales of anti-English racism becoming ‘endemic’.

  7. Alex Buchan says:

    Do you ever wonder if some poor sod from MI5 has to read through all these comments. Well I didn’t until today when I read that following the first ever meeting of the cabinet committee, chaired by Cameron to work out strategy on the referendum, Mundell in Scotland on Sunday is repoerted as saying that the Prime Minister has decided that there should be no third option on the ballot.

    As I said above, a third option puts all their plans to fight the referendum in disarray. Effectively they can’t secure the status quo if there is a third option, and they know it. Cameron has insisted that Salmond has to get the wording of any question ratified by him (in order to ensure there is no third option) and if he doesn’t has more or less said the No campaign will challenge the legality of the ballot in the courts.

    Which, the paper helpfully informs us, means that it will be the Supreme Court that will have the last word on this. And people thought that Alex Salmond had lost the plot, not a bit of it!

  8. If the UK/Britain as a state is legally the same without the Scots in it as the British Government is now claiming is the international position then this proves that Britain (Brittania?) has always been a ‘greater England’ and Scotland is in fact internationally invisible within it.

    Unionists like to pretend that Scotland and England are equal within the union but the reality is that we are no more equal than the UK would be if it was attached to a larger nation like China or Russia or the USA.

    Not only has Scotland been effectively internationally invisible we are now told that every action by the UK Government and every treaty had nothing to do with us at all!

    What this means logically is that Scotland has never been part of any true union just a convenient fiction which has justified England claiming a larger international profile than it deserves.

    Ending the union will mean for the first time that our flag will fly at the United Nations and the Olympic Games. If the EU doesnt want us then we should join EFTA and have a trading relationship with Europe without unwanted political interference.

    Why should we stay a part of something when Britain officially says we are an irrelevance to its continuing status. Obviously we are wasting our time.

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