Scotland Unchained

People quite rightly point out that a Yes or a No vote shouldn’t be cast solely on the exquisitely attractive option of permanently ridding this country of Tory rule. It’s about far more than that. As Brian Wilson says in the Scotsman today: “the way to change the policies is to change the government, not change the constitution.”

But the attacks on the gains of devolution, on the fabric of society, on the concept of univeralism (‘we’re all in this together’) and on the poor are not confined to this Coalition Govt, or that New Labour manifesto. They are built into the structure of the British State and the structure of power relations within it.

This is what needs to be understood about Britain, it is structurally incapable of being progressive. Why? Because of the concentration of power and privilege in the south-east and in the City of London, because of the power of the military establishment and because of the wholesale capture of government by private interests.

The reality is that south of the Severn-Wash line, outside London, Labour holds just ten of 197 seats. This is why, if Labour wants to win some of these back, Labour must be according to Ed Miliband: ‘the party of the private sector as much as the party of the public sector’ and the party of the ‘squeezed middle’ as well as those of those in poverty.

This is getting worse. As the Tory party begins to shed its veneer of respectability and organise around the far-right agenda of Britannia Unchained. MPs Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss call for a Britain of extreme economic liberalism in which, in the words of Labour’s Jon Cruddas, “their ideal worker is one prepared to work long hours, commute long distances and expect no employment protection and low pay”. The Financial Times called it “shock therapy for the country”, a quote the publishers apparently took as a compliment.

Is this all the preserve of right-wing think-tanks of London and the chattering classes? Not at all. This is co-ordinated and is unleashing a new throwback to a new Thatcherite policy surge. As the Reid Foundation has outlined:

“We should not mistake the onslaught for the passing thoughts of a few individuals on the back of the announcement that Scottish Labour is to review what its leader calls ‘something for nothing’ benefits. This is a political programme actively supported by a number of groups. Right wing think tanks (and especially the David Hume Institute) has been gnawing away at the principle of the welfare state for ages, mainly using ‘public sector accounting’ as its method of attack. Likewise many parts of the Scottish media have been curating a story about ‘affordability’ and ‘maturity’ for ages, absolutely confident in their belief that accountants are the most valuable members of society when it comes to defining political ideology. What you don’t see is the use of the expensive lobbying budgets of organisations like SERCO or A4E or Atos Healthcare which are being used at all times to pressurise government to carry out more and more means testing (it’s one of their main sources of profit after all).”

There is an extraordinary attack coming. The carving up of the NHS is one travesty, now in the hands of the private sector. The extension of a tax system staggering in it’s inequality is a central part of rip-off Britain. This is the future we have to avoid being drawn into.

Shutting Down Debate

Meanwhile, the ‘commentariat’ we’re told by Newsnight Scotland, are at each others throats. This is really just Gerry Hassan criticising Ian Bell, Iain Macwhirter and Joyce Macmillan.  For example Hassan (‘Searching for the New Tartan Tories’) writes:

“Macwhirter on ‘Newsnight Scotland’ (3.10.12) confronted an incredulous Brian Wilson with the charge that Lamont’s stance meant Labour was supporting ‘£9,000 student tuition fees in Scotland’, a complete fiction. Elsewhere Kevin McKenna commented that ‘Mrs Thatcher would have been proud’ and that the views expressed by Lamont ‘would have tickled the Iron Lady’.”

But it’s odd because neither Lamont or Davidson is expanding new ideas, they are re-treading the old failed economics of the past. It’s not ‘binary’ or blinkered to hold fast to an aspiration for a better more equal society nor to defend the (modest) gains of devolution. Gerry talks of a ‘profound complacency’ but there’s more complacency about an inability to respond and come together in solidarity against the forces of the Unionist right.

Why is it that only benefits are being discussed? Why not taxation and the burdens of supporting Americas resource wars in the Middle East or the crazed sacrifice of young Scots men in Afghanistan? Why aren’t we discussing the mass tax-avoidance of companies like Starbucks and Amazon?

Why aren’t we discussing why the country’s in recession and who broke the financial system? One of the reasons this focus is compelling for Unionist parties is that it feeds in to two central ideas they want to rehabilitate. The first is that Scotland is too poor or reliant on Westminster subsidies to be independent.The second is that the whole devolution period has created policies that are now untenable given our ‘new financial reality’. This is a warm-up act for austerity, the austerity measures being rejected across mainland Europe.

Let’s debunk some of that right now. We are a country of huge potential scarred by inequality.

This is not a poor nation:

Scotland contributes 9.6% of total UK tax revenue, yet only 9.3% of total public spending is spent in Scotland (GERS)

Scotland generates over £1,000 more tax per person than the UK average

Over the past 30 years, Scotland has a cumulative relative surplus of £19 billion

95% of North Sea oil reserves and revenue are situated in Scottish waters; North Sea oil has been estimated by scientists to have over 60 years of production left

Scottish North Sea oil and gas is an asset worth over £1 trillion

In the next 5 years alone, North Sea oil revenues will be £54 billion

Trident cost approx. £15 billion and continues to cost over £2 billion annually; removing Trident from Scottish waters would save billions which could be spent on hospitals, schools and the police

A Scottish Defence Force would save Scottish taxpayers at least £1.5 billion; independence would reduce our spend on Defence from £3.3 bn annually in the UK, to £1.8 billion under independence (RUSI)

The war in Iraq cost the UK nearly £10 billion; an independent Scotland would not take part in such expensive, destructive and potentially illegal wars (UK Govt figures)

Scotland has an exceptionally strong exporting sector, including whisky and renewable energy sustaining thousands of jobs and livelihoods

Scotland has 25% of the whole of Europe’s renewable energy potential; fully harnessing this great asset could create 28,000 quality jobs and attract £30 billion of investment to Scotland

For Scotland to be ‘unchained’ it needs to be liberated from the mindset and the dogma of neoliberal Britain, it needs to be creative about new economic models and social experiments to lead us out of the darkness of Union.

Yes let’s have some real debate in this country about our economy, about what we can and cannot afford. But let’s not bullied into believing that ‘real debate’ means buying into the framing of these ideas by the forces of reaction. Let’s discuss our economics on our own terms.

Comments (30)

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  1. David Moynagh says:

    Beg to differ on main point. My main reason for voting for independence IS to free Scotland from the tory dominated westminster system. This in itself is sufficient reason. It is akin to spraying an insecticide upon a contagion spreading parasite. Kill the verminous bugs and the disease is wiped out.

    1. lumatrix says:

      Best description of the Tories yet – ‘verminous bugs’ – Oh no, wait a minute – that’s a slander on verminous bugs.

  2. bellacaledonia says:

    My point is that’s a short term solution (an attractive one) but we need to look to long-term solutions and avoid the mistakes of an austerity-agenda.

  3. Wullie says:

    What can we do about a post-imperial set-up which is probably un-reformable, from squandering squillions on Trident to walking backwards and chapping doors with sticks. It’s fantasia and if that’s what they want let them have it.

  4. picpac67 says:

    In general agreement on the main points. Just want to pick up a couple of issues:
    1. The Brian Wilson quote: what constitution? Britain is the only country in Europe with no proper (i.e. written) constitution. It’s absolutely crucial to the success of any future acquisition of independence that Scots (including those ‘foreigners’ like myself who have spent more than half their lives here, and that’s a long time in my case) give themselves their own constitution. That means all parties (not just the political ones) committing themselves to establishing a constitutional convention tasked with producing a genuinely democratic draft constitution. The convention would have to include a representative selection of ‘ordinary’ citizens; it must not be left to the constitutional lawyers and politicians. Once again I recommend people study the constitutive process which led to the new constitution of the Canton of Zurich – mandatorily approved in a referendum of all the voting members of the canton. It’s the most democratic constitution in the world i.e. it gives its citizens more power than any other.
    A constitution represents the people’s consensus (at a given moment in time; it is not set in stone and must include provisions for partial or complete revision) about the ‘rules of the game’ – political, social, economic and other – they wish to have put in place. It is first and foremost a check on the abuse of power. It would, in my view, have to include strong rights of popular participation in decision-making at every level – local, regional and national) via systems of initiative, referendum and recall (known as “Direct Democracy). There would also have to be a Constitutional Court to which appeals can be addressed.
    We need to stop talking about ‘government’ because it gives people the wrong idea – both those who like to ‘govern’ (dictate) and those who feel they have to simply obey. That isn’t democracy, and it doesn’t belong in the 21st century. It doesn’t create a fair society at peace with itself. We really ought to have learned by now that governments are inherently untrustworthy. It’s utterly naive to think that a new government will give away power unless it is forced to do so.

    2. The invasion and occupation of Iraq – based on proven lies – was not “potentially” illegal. It was illegal and remains a war crime – “aggressive war” being the greatest crime according to the Nuremberg judgements. All those who “talked it up”, approved it, carried it out, or have since supported it and/or failed to condemn it are, according to the International Criminal Court Act, equally guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ignorance is not a defence.
    But we shouldn’t forget Afghanistan. Its invasion and continued occupation are also war crimes, equally based on lies – especially the demonstrable fiction that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. Ask the FBI, which kept a list of his alleged crimes. Asked why 9/11 was not included in the list, the FBI spokesman said: “Because we have no hard evidence of his involvement”. The whole “ObL and his merry band of hijackers” myth (there is equally no evidence of any Arabs of any description being on any of the planes alleged to have been hijacked that day – fact, not conspiracy theory) was concocted to provide the fake justification for an attack on Afghanistan which had been planned months before 9/11. Scottish soldiers have been dying as a result of a massive lie. Anyone who sustains the lie is in law complicit in the crime. An independent Scotland must somehow deal with its complicity – witting or unwitting – in these shameful and illegal acts. A “truth and reconciliation commission” might be one idea.

    1. David Moynagh says:

      Entirely true …. the ordinary sane person can see through the lies and corruption which started these wars and which they continue to use as justification for continuation of the killing and domination. The ordinary people in any democracy should have more control of the politics and of the politicians and not the other way around. The manner in which Cameron treats the sick and the poor in this

      country as well as the unemployed and minimum wage worker has all the hallmarks of

    2. David Moynagh says:

      Entirely true …. the ordinary sane person can see through the lies and corruption which started these wars and which they continue to use as justification for more of the killing and domination. The ordinary people in any democracy should have more control of the politics and of the politicians and not the other way around. The manner in which Cameron treats the sick and disabled as well as the unemployed and low waged has all the hallmarks of the recipe for great civil disturbance and revolt. This is a prime case of the government having too much power.

      country as well as the unemployed and minimum wage worker has all the hallmarks of

    3. PicPac67 –
      Hear, hear.
      It’s a brave blogger dares mention 9/11 these days, and for many it’s a bridge too far. That doesn’t mean you’re not spot-on. It’s just one of a long list of subjects which even the boldest observers daren’t allude to. Orwell wrote, in 1945 ‘Intellectual cowardice is the greatest enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that subject does not seem to me to have had the attention it deserves.’ He was writing about the reluctance, in the intellegentsia, to criticise Stalin. Substitute ‘self-censorship’ for ‘intellectual cowardice’, and the statement could equally apply to many contemporary commentators who have been trained to develop a sixth-sense when it comes to knowing what not to bother writing/talking about.
      Many of the subjects we have to consider are so bound-in with 9/11 and the behaviour of our American cousins, it’s a waste of time discussing them unless we’re prepared to face up to unpleasant facts.

  5. bellacaledonia says:

    I agree with everthing you say

  6. muttley79 says:

    We definitely need a constitution, hopefully more will be made of it in the Yes campaign as time goes on, as if it is done right, would, or should be a major attraction. Even just one article in a prospective Scottish Constitution would be better than Westminster, a rule that requires a general election for Holyrood every four years. How many Westminster governments have been so obviously incompetent, vision-less etc, but have somehow managed to keep themselves in office for five years? The present lot will do just that if they can get away it, then you can add the debacle and shambles of the Major government of 1992-1997. There is also the Thatcher-Major government of 1987-1992. There was a reason that lasted five years, they should have been punted out in 1992. Ironically in put back Scottish Home Rule for another five long years. Add in the Labour governments involved in putting off going to the people who elect them in the first place, and it is clear that is not rocket science to realise that four- year parliaments are the way forward.

    1. Iain Hill says:

      Crucially important. Spelling out detailed proposals for a constitution, and what improvements it could make to the lives of ordinary people, is fundamental to the generation of sufficient yes votes. Political parties, sadly all of them, want to fudge such things until after the vote, but it cannot be said often enough that a nationwide campaign which gets everyone talking about the new Scotland, is the only counter-mechanism to the vast deceitful propaganda by the no-sayers which is likely to work. Q

  7. naldo says:

    Fine piece. I’m very keen on independence for Scotland because I want to change the power structures so well articulated above.

    I’m not a nationalist though and I worry what will happen to the rest of the UK without Scotland’s benign influence upon it – even if that just means packing Westminster with a few more Labour warmongers, it’s usually better than the Tory alternative.

    Am i just dreaming when I hope that other parts of the UK will take Scotland’s lead and opt out of that rancid union some way down the line? Could we even invite them to join us? Really not sure what such a state would be called but as mentioned, i’m not a nationalist, so don’t concern myself with such details.

    Contrary to what Brian Wilson may think, I reckon the constitution is precisely what you need to get right. Let’s hope Scotland does.

    1. Holebender says:

      There comes a time when you have to stop trying to save the world, and just save yourself. Scotland’s 9% of the UK can’t save (or even influence much) the rest of the UK, so we have to save ourselves. Once we are free we can set an example for the rest of the UK to follow, but they won’t take heed as long as we are subsumed into the UK.

  8. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Britannia Unchained, 152 pages of second hand notions smelling strongly of Ayn Rand. She, like baking, is the “new thing” in sexy. The authors may represent the new thinking in a state shuffling towards anglo-fascism. By hook or by crook YES must prevail.

  9. Michael says:

    I’d recommend very strongly that folk have a personal plan B just in case we don’t win because Scotland with a no majority will present easy pickings for the UK. In short getting out is a serious option folk will need to consider. In terms of your points on Gerry Hassan’s attempts to give credibility to Lamont you are of course correct. What Lamont presented by way of policy proposals was no more than the basest form of provincial managerialism which should have been dismissed out of hand by any thinking commentator. Gerry, sadly, is fixated on his middle class vested interests / big debates narrative and saw scope in Lamont’s posturings to advance it. What he achieved was to give a modicum of respectability to a set of proposals so crude in their construction that in any mature European democracy they would have been laughed off the field.

  10. Tony Little says:

    @Michael
    I am at the other side of the equation. I am currently working/living abroad and will NOT return if Scotland commits suicide by voting no. We have this one chance (I do not give us a flying fig to be able to have another referendum in the next 20/30 years) to stand on our own feet. If the majority of Scots are too scared to make that step, then let’s rename ourselves Northernmost England and have done!

    Saor Alba

  11. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Independence requires lateral thinking, thinking outside the UK box. Part of the problem in getting the YES case over to the public lies with the fact that too few in Scotland/Alba appear to be able to do so. Think the possibility of a negative and we will sure as death get a negative. The future of the residual EWNI state is a marginal concern. A bit of assertive, unadulterated national selfishness would not go amiss right now. We either have the chutzpah for full sovereignty or we rot in the declining edifice of Ukania. No brainer really, is it?

    1. naldo says:

      I want EWNI to have bright future. Call me old fashioned but i want to make the whole world a better place – especially that part of the world occupied by my neighbours.

      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        Hi Naldo….They don’t need our good wishes. They are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.
        We gave them an easy ride for 3 centuries but
        they’ll cope without our contribution. Could be the start of an an adult/mature relationship.

    2. Or perhaps simply Scotlandshire bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/

  12. muttley79 says:

    Alasdair, never underestimate the sentiments of the middle classes in Scotland and the media’s influence in this debate. These groups are generally conservative and against change. They have both been very hostile to the SNP over the years. The whole anti-English, separatists lines have reflected this. They have generally tried to convince themselves that these things are true, because if they are not, it takes away a major cause for resisting independence. My personal experience is that individuals can get very angry if they even hear people criticising London rule. These people can be personally confident, but they literally seem to hate the idea of Scottish independence. Therefore, the fear of change should not be underestimated.

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Hatred of the very idea of independence is something I can’t get my head around. Inferiority, the Scotch cringe, residual triumphalist Unionist Protestantism, wilful ignorance, laziness, stupidity or whatever it all amounts to continued subserviance and subordination to third party interests. If these independence phobics react the way they do it betrays a symptom psychiatrists would recognize as a species of self-loathing and suggest suitable cognitive therapy. A long session with Dr Indy is literally the only cure. 300+ years of rubbishing your nation needs strong medicine: however much the patients might kick and scream or threaten to quit the country. Of course,
      there’s always pistols at dawn…..

    2. Alex Buchan says:

      I’ve come across this, even from my brother, over the recent Jeremy Warner article in the Telegraph, and my brother has in the past been open to independence. Difficult to know where this anger is coming from; perhaps it’s the old head versus heart issue and the anger is partly because of resentment at being put in that position. Often there is an accompanying issue of “I’m just as Scottish even though I don’t support independence”. I think a very interesting aspect of this is what you could call the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Louis Stevenson was a Scot. I don’t pretend to know Hogg’s “Confessions of a Justified Sinner” but that whole thing of selling your soul for base material gain; of having a split personality, is central to the Scots calvinist, with a small c, mind-set. I hope the referendum campaign will throw up more interest in these theme’s but I suspect the level of antagonism will feed into the aftermath effect if the vote is no, with a result that people don’t want to go through that again. This sense of unnecessary division will certainly be something the Scottish unionist parties will want to utilise in their campaign to portray the SNP as extremist.

  13. Alex Buchan says:

    In terms of Lamont, what the different analyses neglect is the extent to which all this is part of the on-going reaction to the election last year.

    The universal benefits brought in by the Labour/LibDem coalitions were partly designed to keep the SNP threat at bay by showing that devolution could meet Scotland’s aspirations, the fact that it differed from what was being done at Westminster was seen at the time as a bonus, because it reinforced the illusion of devolution as an alternative to independence. Robin McAlpine’s disruption really occurred in 2007 when this all broke down with the SNP’s victory. The effects have just taken time to work themselves out.

    Since then Scotland has been having a kind of political nervous breakdown. Difficult to detect because it has built up gradually because there was the belief initially that the SNP victory would be short lived. A cursory glance though through the BBC Parliament channel of the different Assemblies shows how pathological the Scottish Parliament has become. The nearest comparison would be if Sinn Fein managed to become the majority party in Northern Ireland. As would happen in N.I., the unionist parties here do not accept the legitimacy of what has happened.

    Lamont’s main intent is to open up a new front against the SNP, by abandoning the “keep the SNP close” strategy. The right wing forces have been around for the start of devolution it is the political juncture that has given them an opening in Scotland. To that extent Gerry Hassan is right much of what was taken to be Scotland’s social democratic credentials was a carefully crafted attempt to project devolution as a project that could meet Scottish aspirations, nothing more. The greatest danger is if Robin is right about those in the SNP who think they can go on after a referendum defeat with what he called “Party hegemony”. Scotland will be a very different place after such a defeat, especially in it is decisive.

  14. muttley79 says:

    Alasdair, unfortunately that is the way some people think. I don’t know how you can convince or win them round. Maybe it is best if you acknowledge that some people can’t be won around. I doubt they would admit it but, I reckon they like being part of what they perceive to be a powerful state. The middle classes generally have latched on the whole British identity thing in a big way, something that is rarely acknowledged. They see Scotland as too insignificant and they will just continually run down their own country, particularly when it comes to politics. The resentment and hatred they have towards the SNP in particular, is also rarely mentioned and is largely unspoken. However, these people’s viewpoint is seriously under threat at the moment. Their ’cause’ is facing the biggest threat since 1707, their politicians are subsequently lashing out, and that is a manifestation of this. I think it is because the SNP and others, particularly in the cultural side, have challenged the Scottish cringe, and strongly supported Scottish self-government, that has drawn this reaction. They may need time to adapt to the new situation, even if there is a No vote.

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      The end of empire, hurray! They are going to have to get used to it. New dawn, bright sunlight, exciting future….
      Agree the Brit thing was very big in the Scottish consciousness, perhaps was even our invention: a comfort blanket substitute for 1707 and all that. The prestige and power element does not attach to Britishness nowadays. These benighted souls need to
      get real. A new generation expects to have direct control of its own destiny and does not expect to have
      to wait for dreamers to wake from their Raj reveries.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        I think it would be a miscalculation to see it as a hankering after empire or as nostalgia. Joan McAlpine had an interesting piece on her blog about a year ago on why women are less likely to support independence. One of her main argument is that women tend to be attuned to culture and are attacked to the higher production values of London based cultural output. I felt it was an interesting argument and you only needed to watch the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics to get an idea of what she meant, but of course it more pervasive than that and goes from TV to magazines to Newspapers. One of the most significant developments in culture in Scotland has been the extent to which UK tiles like the Telegraph and the Mail have targeted and made major inroads into the Scottish market replacing for many middle class people papers like the Scotsman or Herald who have both seen a marked drop in circulation figures. The Telegraph and Mail not only are cleverer as papers they are also purveyors or an ideology that is totally inimical to Scottish identic or independence. It’s something that we need to acknowledge that Scottish newspapers have been very poor both journalistically and in adapting. It may well be as muttley says that we have to accept that such people cannot be won over to independence but it’s important to acknowledge the reasons, and Mail readership for instance is pretty massive now comparative in Scotland.

  15. Rob4i says:

    The No campaigners shout Yes UK or YUK for short!!——sounds fitting.

  16. muttley79 says:

    Alasdair, they know the empire is over. The problem is they replaced this with preserving the British state has it is now. They know that Wales is not much, if any threat and Northern Ireland will likely remain for decades because of the memories of the Troubles. Therefore, Scotland has been, and obviously is at the moment, the biggest threat. This is probably a major reason for the hostility of the SNP by certain elements of the electorate since the 1960s or so, Also, the Republic of Ireland has attracted a certain amount of ire from some unionists in Scotland, although this is probably not done publically as there is a lot of Irish people in Scotland. The problem they have with the Irish Republic is that it rejected rule from London, and they find this very difficult to accept. I think they knew that this put them in a difficult place in terms of defending the union, at least up until the financial problems there.
    In terms of unionism in Scotland, its strength lies in the fact that its ideology has had hundreds of years to develop. In my opinion, it essentially looks back at the past, and cannot give a plausible vision for the future of Scotland. I think that the unionists in Scotland are aware of this.

  17. martinrthorpe says:

    A trillion in the North Sea, oh that old chestnut. Whilst I personally find the “Unchained” authors a fairly unpalatable lot, I’ve never reacted well to being lectured by those whether it be Cameron, Clegg or Miliband, etc., for whom the system has so obviously “worked” and who display little or no interest in examining matters from the perspective of those for whom it “hasn’t”. Needless to say I fall firmly in the latter camp; university education followed by decades of dross under and unemployment.

    So, why am I writing this post, well simple really the messengers may be a rum bunch the message remains salient. Forget the oil, its way past peak and even if it wasn’t it merely obscures the underlying reality, namely that in this country we have systematically lived -well- beyond our means for decades and far from independence being the means by which we can further put off the day of reckoning it should be the opportunity by which we escape from our self deluded catharsis and restructure the economy of our country to provide the foundation for a sustainable – as opposed to a Wonga-like social contract.

    In practical terms this means at least twenty years of austerity, and I mean real austerity not the smoke and mirrors version being practiced out of No.11. I mean Germany 1945, that’s right folks it really is bad, I know that the real economy isn’t a place that most contributors to Bella etc., spend much time but it might soon well be once the further education cuts start to hurt, but that’s another topic for another time. Quite simply Bella in keeping with the vast majority of Scots assumes that the status quo is exactly that, but the reality is that it simply isn’t a sustainable option. Massive restructuring an expansion of the productive sector of the Scottish economy will be required simply to pay the current pension and health commitments let alone move the country to a scandinavian model.
    I in common with the most of the above would see this as a highly desirable end point but sadly the path to it is going to be long and hard and will inevitably require considerable and at times painful sacrifice, free university (humanities) education is an obvious target. My observations are hardly original, Corelli Barnett got there a long time before me, but they get to the nub of the matter for me, attempting this process within the context of the UK is a pipe dream for reasons big, small, profound and trivial. I live in Highgate in London and most are on show within a quarter mile – down the road the former mayor of Moscow and his wife (the wealthiest woman in Russia) are rebuilding the second biggest private residence in the capital (the biggest is Buckingham Palace) and in the process they won’t get much change out of 150 million quid. Keeping people like this sweet and spending is what passes for economic policy and make no mistake.

    Scottish independence offers the real possibility of doing things profoundly differently; land redistribution, re-industrialisation, real social democracy, etc., but you aren’t going to get any of these by promising to merely roll back the cuts and spend, spend, spend. The oil money should go into a Norwegian style trust fund and uncomfortable as it may be at least in the short term me and my fellow countrymen and women are going to have to bite the bullet and work a lot harder for a lot less with whatever surpluses we accrue going into investment and not spending.

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