Baron Knights

The Scotland in Union ‘data dump’ raises a number of questions about the nature of the Unionist coalition, the power of conservative Scotland and the prospects for any future Better Together campaign. At first sight the organisation of SIU and allied projects seem formidable. Scotland in Union is ahead of the curve, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, organising social events and matched by an impressive academic coalition of writers and thinkers in These Islands. This is serious money and serious people who are confident and well organised.

But a closer examination suggests all is not well.

Scottish Unionists and British Unionists are vulnerable as the cultural sinew that has held Britain together is dissolving and the economic models they rely on are collapsing before us. The British crisis is well developed and the castles, palaces and fortresses that these people live in can’t protect them from the coming storm.

The Social Makeup of British Nationalism

The spreadsheets show that far from being a grassroots campaign this is Landed Money clinging to power. Amongst a scattering of journalists and oddballs the predominant profession is property and real estate, but mostly it’s just the aristocracy.

This is an ageing rural class of people who probably know their way round Burberry online better than Reddit. This is Toffs for Dependence, hashtag #iwanttokeepmycastle

In fact what the dump shows is British nationalists and Scottish unionists converging in a very precise social class.

The SIU demographics are mirrored in the Tory Party.

The current party of UK Govt is the fourth largest party in members (behind Lab, SNP & Lib Dems).

On the Andrew Marr Show the Chairman Brandon Lewis said he wasn’t prepared to “play the numbers game”, and the party have refused to declare party membership numbers for four years now. Whilst party membership may not correlate directly to electoral appeal, it must be a worrying metric for Unionist forces in Scotland. The party is dwindling, ageing, ineffective online and under-active off it. No wonder they love The Colonel.

But the SIU isn’t all Conservatives. It’s a former Labour MP Pamela Nash who has replaced Graeme Pearson (himself a former Labour MSP) as chief executive of Scotland in Union in 2017 and Labour are currently willing to attend Scotland In Union events – Johann Lamont MSP is joining Alistair Carmichael (Scottish Liberal Democrats) and Murdo Fraser to somehow re-recast Robert Burns as a British nationalist on the 2 February in Glasgow.

Noticeable by their absence is any kind of demographic diversity.

There are Torquils and Tamara] and at least two Ruperts lunching with a handful of Boyds and Blairs.

There are more double-barrelled names than at the gymkhana. There are enough ruddy-cheeked Lords, Earls, Viscounts, Marquises and Barons to fill a vast banquet hall in one of their stately homes, but where are Scottish workers, innovators, or entrepreneurs?

Who would want to be associated with such reactionary hereditary power? What does someone like JK Rowling for example, who pictures herself as a liberal committed to social justice, and does engage in philanthropy, see in allying herself with the Duke of *********, the Viscount of ***** or indeed Lord ********* (*******) ******* ******* *****, 3rd Baron ********* ?

What’s deeply ironic about this is that the organisations that claim to be unifying and positive represent a tiny shard of Scotland. The only thing “grassroots” about them is the amount of land they collectively own.

These people have unimaginable amounts of money, power and land, but they only have one vote.

As is often the case with the powerful, they are in fact far more vulnerable than you might realise.

The Economic Case

Back in 2016 Scotland in Union boasted of a ‘Union Dividend’. They wrote:

“Scotland in Union has welcomed new research which shows Scotland enjoys higher spending on public services, more capital investment and lower taxes as a result of being in the UK. A new report by economic consultants Europe Economics – commissioned by Scotland in Union and using the latest GERS figures – has shown that being part of the UK is worth c£8.8bn to Scotland.”

This has been described as Scotland’s ‘Union Dividend’ by Alastair Cameron, Director of the Scotland in Union campaign.

The key findings are:

• Total public expenditure in Scotland is 14 per cent higher than the rest of the UK – worth £8.2bn, or £1,530 for every individual in Scotland.
• There is an emphasis on capital spending, which is 34 per cent higher than the rest of the UK, while current spending is only 12 per cent higher.
• Spending on key public services is higher with 188 per cent more on economic development, 126 per cent more on housing, 11 per cent more on education and training and five per cent more on health.
• Combined council tax and non-domestic rates have fallen since devolution in 1999 relative to the rest of the UK from £252 per head higher to £118 per head lower.
• The total ‘Union Dividend’ is estimated by Europe Economics to be worth £8.8bn to Scotland.

Responding to the report, Scotland in Union Director Alastair Cameron said:

“This clearly shows the enormous financial benefits that we in Scotland enjoy from our place in the UK. The ‘Union Dividend’ is a return on our long contribution to the success of the United Kingdom and all that we have achieved together over generations of shared history, culture and endeavour.

No wonder there are splits in the Unionist camp.

With Carillion showing corporate Britain like pigs at the trough and the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment’ modelling a financial catastrophe for Scotland, the ‘Unionist Dividend’ (fictional as it always was), is now dead in the water.

‘Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment’ concludes that if the UK was to pursue a WTO relationship, the cost to Scotland would be about 8.5% of GDP. That’s £12.7bn a year by the year 2030 – equating to a loss of about £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland.

Not only is that devastating to their economic case it doesn’t even to take into account the supposed largesse of the ruptured rUK in a post-Brexit economy. If establishment Scotland had a fit of the vapors at the modest tax changes only a few weeks ago, can you imagine the gnashing and wailing if we actually said we want our country back?

Comments (7)

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  1. Robin Clunie says:

    Is it any wonder that there is increasing support for the proposal that ownership of the land resources of Scotland be democratised under a Common Good Agency owned wholly by the individual citizens not the state. The rents for access/use of land would generate sufficient revenues to be distributed to every resident citizen and their dependants, dividends and allowances in the order of £900/mth/adult and £400/mth/child and a pension set aside of £100/mth between ages 16 and 66, all as part of a Citizen’s Income, and still have sufficient monies to generate £9 billion a year for investment.

  2. S Ingleby says:

    Hardly necessary… simply replace the grossly iniquitous council tax with a property value tax. Even a flat rate tax would be vastly fairer than the council tax (a £200M mansion is taxed about 15% more than a £350k home.. and rates vary wildly from postcode to postcode). Then just wait for the big estates to drop like ripe fruit.

    The state could accept land in lieu of unpaid tax, allowing a new wave of well-built council housing in urban areas, fair and secure state leases for tenant farmers and the truly national parks we deserve in wilderness areas.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald. says:

      S Ingleby, This is a constructive and feasible proposal. It is really down to political will.

      Undoubtedly, via the broadcast and print media there would be a ferocious attack – based on the fact that all these home owners are – allegedly – elderly widows who are holding on to their family homes!

      The new rates arrangements with regard to private schools comes into force soon. Newsdrive on Radio Scotland had an extended interview with Common Space editor Angela Haggerty about this. The approach taken by interviewer, Bill Whiteford was certainly in support of private schools and he used the phrase ‘politics of envy’ as if that were a ‘FACT” rather than a glib slogan. (Some months ago in relation to the Paradise Papers I heard Shereen Nanjiani dismiss them as ‘the politics of envy’) He also used the word ‘socialism’ as if it really were ‘the red menace’.

      Private schools are really part of the landownership ‘package’. They are a ‘class factor’. So, by his dogged questioning, Bill Whiteford demonstrated that the BBC will defend its class interests and will employ ‘useful idiots’ like Johan Lamont to bolster their case.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        The taxpayer paid Head of BBC Scotland sits on the board of a private school so I think we can safely say that she ‘supports’ private schools. The majority of private school places in Scotland are paid for via public sector salaries (and/or land/farming subsidies). i.e. the public sector, or rather the taxpayer, ultimately pays for the private schooling of most of Scotland’s elite. There are, after all, over 10,000 senior ‘public servants’ on salaries of over £100k a year in Scotland, allowing this ‘class’ to afford private school fees.

        1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

          Alf,

          Thanks for the information regarding the current head of BBC Scotland.

          I agree with your view regarding the amount of public funding that goes, perhaps at one remove, into the private sector. The fact that many of these private school patrons are responsible for large aspects of public policy is certainly concerning and ought to be made clear in the way politicians have to make entries in the register of interests. But, of course, what I am proposing is an example of the ‘politics of envy’!

          Yesterday, there was a report of the BBC website regarding a teacher at a ‘TOP’ private, who had been convicted. In most media references to the private sector, schools are routinely described as ‘top’ or ‘leading’. In fact, the adjective, ‘private’ is often omitted, with ‘top’ or ‘leading’ implying that they must be private. The use of such language is, surely, not accidental; it is editorial policy.

  3. Pete Daly says:

    Anyone else noticed that SiU’s heed ghillie, Alastair Cameron, looks like a giant ginger Billy Bunter?

    “What ho, Alastair! You’re a decent porridge wog, so unlike those Glasgow ruffians with their unseemly poverty. Here, carry my blunderbuss up to the range and give my chimney sweep a good whipping. Toodle-pip!”

  4. SleepingDog says:

    In 1984, the multiplayer computer game The Prince was released for the ZX Spectrum. It was based on the work by Niccolò Machiavelli and promised “much scope for skull-duggery, deception, and behind-the-scenes arm bending”:
    http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0003877

    Vested interests compete/collaborate for the control of the Castle Ravencrag: each of four players “represents a particular ‘power base’ within the life of the castle – there is a Landowner, a cleric, a merchant and a court official”.

    The success of the game was probably due to its relish in depicting the nefarious mechanics of secretive political manouevring.

    The modern day is crying out for a new game that accurately (if fictionally) models the plotting in the “castles, palaces and fortresses” this article speaks of.

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