I read this morning that Betfair, one of the innumerable online betting organisations that seem to be underwriting Sky Sports these days, has paid out 48 hours early on a No vote success. I can’t think of a single good reason why it should do that, save one. It may be taking a gamble itself, in the hope of encouraging a rush of ‘Yes’ bets in the last two days before the result is known.
If that is the case I look forward to seeing Betfair stuffed twice over.
There’s a song that Eileen likes to sing to the grandchildren: ‘Clap hands for Daddy coming doon the wagon way, pockets full of money and his boots all clay.’ The days Daddy is quite likely to have his mobile in his hand, gambling that money away on the next yellow card in the Newcastle game, or some such.
Online gambling is a cancer on modern society, yet Westminster seems to have no interest in controlling it. I predict that an independent Scottish government will take a firmer line.
Ah! Becks wants us to vote No. And if the Yes manifesto had offered tax breaks to retired footballers . . ?
So what are these ‘new powers’, that are trailed by our three ‘leaders’ on the front page of this morning’s Daily Record?
Actually, not a lot; the only specific pledge I can nail down is the continuation of the Barnett Formula, which is actually hated by many Scots. There will be increased tax-raising powers, and there is a guarantee that all decisions affecting NHS Scotland will be taken in Scotland. That situation exists already, so the trio are simply promising not to break their word.
There is some surprise that this ‘Pledge’ has been made on the eve of the poll. There shouldn’t be; the timing is set to leave as little time possible to lay the glaring flaws in the document open for debate.
Will Scotland be able to set its own rate of Corporation Tax? No.
Will Scotland set its own rate of VAT? No.
Will the rate of excise duty in Scotland be set in Scotland? No.
Will Scotland have its own benefit system? No.
Will Scotland leave the EU when the Europhobic English majority votes to take us out? Yes.
Will the nukes remain in Faslane? Yes.
Forget the window dressing. The truth is that our economic policy will continue to be driven by Westminster, we will have no control over the fuel costs that are a great burden on the remote and island areas of Scotland, and the defence and foreign policies that are anathema to many of us will continue to be those of Thatcher, Blair and Cameron.
The truth is that the ‘Pledge’ unveiled this morning is a sham, a bribe to potential No voters. The daftest thing of all is that any money on offer is ours already. These are three desperate men.
There is a secondary reason for my desire to live in an independent Scotland, beyond my inherent patriotism. When I look across the border at our neighbour nation, I don’t like what I see. Already it is divided politically, socially, economically, ethnically and it can only get worse.
For years I have suggested to my friends down south that I rarely meet an Englishman, per se. First and foremost they’re Geordies, Lancastrians, Cornishmen, Yorkshiremen, you name it. (Apart from Londoners: they see themselves as special, and above all the rest.) This may not be surprising since the middle ages in England were one continuous Civil War, but today new factors are in play.
This is not a racist argument, let me make that clear to the ever-watchful PC police who are a blight on modern life. My beloved family is multi-national and multi-racial; I have no conventional religious beliefs, but I respect the right of those who do to express them freely.
What I’m saying is that for seventy years, successive UK governments have presided over barely controlled immigration but have failed to integrate much of that new population into existing communities.
I fear for England’s long-term future, for I believe that in a couple of generations it will have lost any sense of real identity that it ever had. Scotland has a chance to cut loose, and to consolidate the balanced, integrated secular society that we enjoy already. I hope with all my heart that on Thursday we take it.
My interest in politics began in my mid-teens; its principal stimuli were the Oxbridge satirists who populated ‘That Was the Week That Was’ (it’s over, let it go) and gave us Private Eye, when it was a fearless rag that gave fewer damns about consequences than it does today. They were never short of material, since those were the days of John Profumo, Stephen Ward, Christine Keeler, the days of the decline of SuperMac and the rise of Harold Wilson, a man so devoid of personality, to this young observer, that he had to hide behind a pipe and a Gannex raincoat to be noticed at all.
As a guy predicted during a debate in Glasgow University Union, my Granny’s budgie could have won the 1964 election for Labour and Wilson duly did.
The first political speech I can recall was on the telly, Hugh Gaitskell’s ferocious rounding on his opponents within his party. I didn’t a clue about the background, but I knew that he was taking no prisoners.
Since then I’ve heard more than a few, and some have stayed with me. My then boss, Frank McElhone, perplexing some of his 1970s audience by beginning, ‘As Lord Wheatley said to me last week, “Behind every successful man, there stands an astonished mother-in-law”.’ (Most of you will have to research that one.) Maggie at Perth in 1982, when she finished the staged autocue stuff, put her arm on the lectern and told her audience exactly why we were going to war with Argentina. The same lady two years later, the day after the Brighton Bomb, with SAS guys in the gantry above her ready for action if necessary. Ted Heath, around the same time, giving a one-hour masterclass on European politics to a tiny audience in Glasgow, without a single note. Barack Obama’s first inaugural. Neil Kinnock’s disastrous ‘We’re alright!’ speech that sent John Major back to Downing Street and ended his own career in Westminster. Five minutes of inspiration by Michael Foot in Glasgow, followed, unfortunately by fifteen minutes of arrant raving nonsense.
I’ve heard a lot, but never, until last night, had I heard a politician apologising for his own presence, as our Prime Minister did in Aberdeen.
No Dave, you will not be here forever, but the problem is, you’re here now, and the likelihood is, you’ll be here for another five or six should you survive losing the Referendum vote, given that Ed Miliband is unelectable.
Separation, he told his affluent audience in Scotland’s oil city, would be a painful divorce. Wrong again DC; it won’t be a divorce at all. It will be the annulment of an arranged marriage.
We’ve read much over the weekend of canvass returns, from both sides of the referendum debate. ‘Yes’ says theirs show them in front, and ‘No’ make exactly the same claim. They both can’t be right, can they?
Of course they can. No canvasser I’ve ever met has questioned a positive response on the doorstep. Don’t waste time, thank the voter and move on. It was one of the unwritten rules, alongside ‘Don’t ring doorbells when Coronation Street’s on.’ The inevitable fact that many householders said what the canvasser wanted to hear was ignored and the positive target voter slips were completed without questions being asked.
The same flaw exists in opinion polls, although people are more likely to speak the truth to someone they perceive to be neutral.
The real pros knew what was happening without the need for knocking doors. I once met an old Tory agent in the north of England, a guy who knew everyone on his patch. As election day approached, he would put on his overcoat and his rosette and go for a walk along the High Street, greeting everyone he saw. By the end of his stroll he could judge whether he as in or out by the number who looked him in the eye, versus those who avoided his gaze.
But not even old Joe would be able to call it this time.
I was born in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, somewhere between VE-Day and VJ-Day, at the drawn-out end of WWII. My home town made steel; it was sustained by the mills, even before the establishment of the Ravenscraig plant that dominated it for decades. It was a sectarian society, make no mistake about it; the religious divide was strictly observed, with us in our schools and them in theirs, and my parents while not bigoted in any way, had been raised within that framework and were part of it. I was nine years old before I met and played with a Roman Catholic child. His name was Phil McKeown; he joined our gang during the sumer holidays and was welcomed because he was a nice kid. It was only in August when we were all returning to school that he told us that he went to Park Street. Looking back, Phil was probably the first Liberal I ever met.
Sectarianism didn’t end in the schools either. In those days we had our own burgh police force; I cannot say for sure that there were no Catholic cops, but if there was one, he must have been lonely. Their job wasn’t that hard. Motherwell was not a rough place; there was a post-war period of twenty years when there was not a single homicide in the town, although the serial murderer Peter Manuel did live not too far away, until he died, suddenly, in Glasgow.
We weren’t rich then, as a community, but we were self-assured, and on either side of the invisible divide, we had the strong sense of identity that is part of my genetic makeup. We were Scottish, and we were proud of it.
However, we were also aware that we did not have power over our own lives. When I was very young, I remember my mother warning me that if I didn’t behave, ‘Mr Gaitskell will get you’. He was only Chancellor then so God knows what wold have happened if I’d done something bad enough for Mr Attlee to come for me.
Then Mr Churchill was Prime Minister again, and for a while all seemed well with the world . . . apart from the fact that our government was very far away, and the coal mines were still dark, dangerous places where lives could be ended by a single act of carelessness, or were taken aware more slowly in retirements limited by the inevitable lung disease, which the Coal Board did little or nothing to prevent. As for the steel works, in those men invented new ways of getting themselves killed.
July meant Elie, and a month in a rented house, with a new set of temporary friends, mornings spent pulling my dad’s trolley round the golf course, afternoons spent on the beach, more often than not huddled behind a windbreak, staring across the Forth of Forth at the Bass Rock, and unknown to me, at Gullane, where I would spend the bulk of my life. The saying was, ‘If you can see the other side, it mean it’s going to rain. If you can’t seen it, it’s raining.’
When I was eleven I was sent to Glasgow High School. I hated the daily journey, and I hated (as do my entire class, to this day) my prep year teacher, a frenzied belter whose like were abolished long ago, but I loved the city. I loved its size and its grandeur, and the proud assertiveness of its people. I loved the richness of its shops and the size of its buildings, architectural beauties that were taken for granted. My Grandma Bell called it simply ‘The Town’. And that’s how I think of it still. Yes, Edinburgh was the capital . . . a relatively meaningless status back then . . . but Glasgow was the heart of my Scotland.
I was almost sixteen before I crossed the border. My parents decided that we should have an Easter Holiday, so we squeezed into the A35 and headed South, for London. For a reason I have never come close to guessing, my old man took us into England over Carter Bar. It was snowing significantly at the time; I do not blame the English for that, incidentally. In those pre-motorway days the drive took two days, with an overnight stop in Tadcaster, a brewery town. We arrived at my mother’s aunt’s place in Corby, dumped the car and did the rest by train. (Why didn’t we train it all the way? Dunno, and I never did ask my father that one either.)
My earliest memories of the City on the Thames are mixed. We did the usual stuff, the Tower, Buck House, etc, and Madame Tussauds, but that’s all a blur. Only three things stick in my mind: an overwhelmed, uniformed Scoutmaster failing to control a pack of cubs at the tube station in the Tower, a meal in The Volunteer, a pub in Baker Street which had a parrot and claimed to have served kidney soup every day since the Napoleonic Wars, and arriving at my folks’ friends flat in South Ken, to find that they had a genuine debutante staying with them, a girl not much older than I was, on the way to being presented at court. Her name was Caroline, and she was sitting in front of the fire drying her hair, which was in curlers. She bolted for the bathroom and I never saw her again. Funny, I can remember the Crown Jewels only vaguely, but that deb is still fresh in my mind.
The other thing that never left me was the sense of being an alien. The staff in our B&B spoke what might have been another language and were of another culture with a quaint view of ours. For example, the breakfast waitress assumed that we would have ‘porridges’, and was visibly disappointed when we declined and had Corn Flakes instead. I suspect that an Indian family would have been offered curry as standard.
These days, things have changed; my imaginary Indian family may even own that hotel. But one thing has not; I still feel like an alien every time I set a foot on English ground.
I am Scottish. The nation in which I was raised has gone, although some of the prejudices still remain. The town in which I was raised is unrecognisable to me. The city I loved has been devastated, and turned into little more than a theme park. And yet they are still mine, my pride, my joy.
The referendum has given me the opportunity to declare my love for my country and my faith in its ability to restore and renew itself. Our society was not perfect then, it is not perfect now, and it will not be perfect on Friday whatever happens. But if we seize the chance we have been offered we can pursue perfection unhindered, as every nation has the right to do.
I have voted Yes because I am me, and there is nothing else that I could do.
So what have I learned this morning, the last Saturday of the Scottish Referendum campaign, from my trawl of the media?
- Richard Branson is against Scottish Independence.
- The Germans still hate Winston Churchill.
- Nigel Farage, who appears to hate everyone who isn’t English, is among us.
- Deutsche Bank’s chief economist knows nothing about Scotland.
- The Orange Order is backing ‘Better Together’.
- London Labour has lost all faith in its Scottish leadership, with 29% of the party’s membership, and rising, declaring for “Yes’.
- ‘No’ is in deep trouble: when Gordon Brown is seen smiling, you know he’s nervous, when he’s seen laughing you know he’s terrified.
- George Osborne is so concerned about the outcome that he’s saving the public purse the cost of a first class return air ticket to Australia.
- The FTSE 100 closed yesterday on a near record high, and Sterling was robust against the major currencies.
Every one of those is, in my eyes, a plus point for ‘Yes’.
So is the fact that a significant percentage of those sampled by opinion pollsters have declared themselves undecided. Against a background of the most intense bullying that we have ever seen by one side of a national campaign, it is unsurprising that many people are disinclined to disclose their voting intentions.
In the days to come we are promised more dire warnings, of Scottish economic collapse. There is a claim that Scotland lost 6-7% of its GDP during the banking crisis. If so, what else can they do to us? We will be threatened with higher prices in shops and supermarkets. Really? Multi-national businesses will shed their competitive instincts overnight and collude to drive costs up?
The fact is, should Scotland vote ‘Yes’ on Thursday, an event which Westminster’s orchestrated hate campaign against us makes ever more possible, we will not awaken on Friday to an economic collapse.
The fact is, those from outside Scotland who interfere in our debate and seek to browbeat us into submission, do not give a toss about our nation. They are not afraid for an Independent Scotland, they are afraid of an independent Scotland.
Back off, people, and let us decide for ourselves.
This from the Chair of the Wetherspoon pub chain:
“I think there’s been a massive amount of nonsense talked, especially by businessmen, about Scottish independence.
“There’s no reason why Scotland shouldn’t thrive as an independent economy if that’s what the Scots want.
“New Zealand has the same population, Switzerland does very well and Singapore with half the population is an economic miracle. There’s no reason a small country can’t thrive.”
A couple of days ago, I had a Facebook debate with a friend, Jackson Carlaw, who really should be the leader of the Scots Tories. He’s as committed to ‘No’ as I am to ‘Yes’ and I respect his beliefs. He is sure that his side will win, I hope that mine does; that’s a fair summation of our positions, and whatever happens we’ll still be friends next Friday.
He’s a veteran of many elections, and so am I if you go back to the Eighties, so we’re both basing our judgements on the same experiences. However I believe there is one thing that he is not taking into account. In size and scale, this is unlike anything we’ve seen before. The 1978 referendum debate was a pale shadow of this one, plus the game was rigged from the start. 2014 is new, and it may be that received wisdom will not apply.
If I’m right, ‘Yes’ will win. We’ll see in a week, after a further week of debate, and pontification by media ‘experts’ who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Could it be that the people who will decide the issue aren’t listening to any of them?
LOL Are they reduced to this?
I wonder if my Tory friends who spent the first part of this week rubbishing YouGov polls will take the same line now that it has published one in their favour. Note: the leads suggested in each are within the margin of error.
Finally it has come clean. The Scotsman newspaper has made a mockery of its own masthead by declaring itself on the side of Westminster.
In fact its stance has been clear from the outset of the campaign, and throughout that period its circulation has fallen inexorably, a so-called national newspaper selling fewer than 30,000 copies daily. In three years it is due to mark its bi-centenary. Will it survive that long? I doubt it.
So, the Royal Bank of Scotland will leave us if we vote ‘Yes’?
The truth is that for all Fred Goodwin’s Folly out at Edinburgh Airport, the policies and decisions of RBS have been driven by the City of London for decades, since someone decided it should become a global player . . . and we all know what happened after that.
So Bank of Scotland will follow suit?
Thanks to a panic-driven reaction by the leader of Better Together, who has been strangely silent for the last few days, Bank of Scotland has been part of the Lloyds group since the beginning of the crisis which he and his predecessor did much to create.
Let me tell you how honest and ethical the BoS has become under Lloyds’ direction. A few weeks ago the owners of a Scottish business turned up for work one morning to find men on their doorstep. The decades-old family owned company had been operating for years with a credit facility from Bank of Scotland. It was rationalising and a programme of asset realisation was under way.
Who were the men on the doorstep? They were sheriff officers. Without the knowledge of its clients, the Lloyds-run Bank of Scotland had sold the debt to venture capitalists. They had decided, as creditor, to put the company into administration, again without consultation. The former owners were history, and the venture capitalists stood to make a nice killing.
A reborn independent Scotland will want no part of such banking practices. Indeed I hope it will make them illegal. So fair enough, RBS, BoS, piss off to London. The functions which you have in Scotland will remain of necessity, for there will be no speedy way to relocate them. Your branch networks will remain, although they may have to operate under a new and more rigorous regulatory system.
For an issue that was always meant to be decided by the people of Scotland, we are sure seeing a hell of a lot of interference from outside. This is being co-ordinated in the main by the London media, although it will be interesting to see how their Scottish editions declare, should the polls on which they lean so heavily show ‘Yes’ in the lead next Wednesday.
One part of their strategy is clear, their determination to focus attention totally on Alex Salmond, and to demonise him in the process. Apart from being as vicious as we have come to expect from what used to be Fleet Street, it is also a gross distortion of the truth . . . another London editorial norm.
‘Yes’ is my campaign just as much as it belongs to Alex Salmond. I had my first flirtation with the SNP when he has just begun secondary school. He was still there when I was in at the birth of the party’s modern era when a diffident Winnie Ewing visited my newspaper office just before winning the Hamilton by-election.
The ‘Yes’ campaign is the culmination of her efforts, and those of thousands more, stretching back to Dr Robert McIntyre, elected in 1945 by my home town, Motherwell, as the party’s first MP. Today ‘Yes’ has millions of co-owners, in Scotland and beyond. For our opponents to focus their venom on one single man is stupid. It is also dangerous, for all they are doing is hardening attitudes and encouraging more and more independence votes, from those who after a lifetime of being bullied by London, are mad as hell and ain’t going to take it anymore.
A point of fact: at this moment Scotland is part of a currency union within the United Kingdom.
Of those who say we can’t keep the pound, I ask this: how do you take such a union apart against the will of one of its participants?
Fergus, a blog reader, posted this as a comment yesterday. It’s beautiful and worthy of the widest possible audience so here goes.
‘I copied this from a newspaper the other day and it seems to me to be spot on, especially the “self-repudiation and self-harm bit.” We need to go for it. I can’t vote because I don’t live in Scotland but I’m with you (us) all the way.’
“Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice.
To deny this to yourself, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign, to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there; then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.”
One downer today; I learned of the death, on Sunday, of a friend, Bob Taylor, a fine, funny and gentle man. I have no idea how he’d have voted next week, but whatever, it would have been okay with me. My deepest sympathy goes to the Taylor and Crawford families on their loss. He’ll be missed.
I am not given to whooping with laughter very often, but last night was one of those times, when I heard that Larry, Curly and Moe, AKA the three Westminster party leaders, were skipping today’s PMQs in favour of a trip to Scotland, clad, no doubt, in new brown trousers. Coming on top of Cameron’s bizarre decision to fly the Saltire over Downing Street, this is another pure gift for ‘Yes”.
Are they coming because they no longer trust their Scottish counterparts to get the job done? Looks like it. Shortly before this bombshell, Sky News showed me on my iPad a clip of that trio, on the stump.
I don’t mean to be cruel here, but if (God forbid) Ruth Davidson was involved in an accident anywhere in Scotland, having left her handbag at home, and was rendered unconscious, it would probably take a good couple of hours before anyone recognised her as the Scots Tory leader. As for Willie Rennie, her LibDem counterpart, his profile is indicative of the fact that his parliamentary party at Holyrood could fit easily round a very small dining table.
For me, the most interesting of the three in terms of body language, not personal profile for she isn’t very well known either, was the Scottish Labour Leader, the very nice Johann Lamont. As she made her pitch for Bitter Together, I couldn’t help feeling that her heart wasn’t quite in it. As thousands of her Scottish party members reject London Labour’s arguments and prepare to turn Scotland into a permanently Tory-free zone, is she beginning to realise that she has pitched her tent in the wrong camp-site?
Among the more bizarre ‘Yes’-linked stories this morning is one which suggests that the FA, the SFA and (sic) Strathclyde police, are worried about the prospect of trouble between supporters at the November Scotland – England friendly at Celtic Park. If history means anything, they need not fash themselves.
My memory goes back to the days when our nations played each other annually . . . and yes, I was at Wembley, although not on the pitch on the day that our over-enthusiastic support took most of it home with them as souvenirs. (There was some excuse for that non-angelic behaviour; the hospitable people of London Transport decided to go on strike that weekend leaving thousands of their city’s guests with no option but to walk to Wembley from central London, on a baking hot May day, naturally refreshing themselves en route.)
Back then every game was like a home match for Scotland. While the Tartan Army went south in battalion strength, the English simply did not head north in any significant numbers, so there was never any significant trouble. Yes, there was one occasion when a hooligan group turned up and made their presence felt; they were removed from the ground for their own safety. Soon after that, the fixture disappeared from the calendar, because the FA chose to play elsewhere.
According to the author of today’s piece, the usually sensible Henry Winter, the ‘security alert’ was triggered by English fans in Basle on Monday chanting ‘F*ck off Scotland’ we’re all voting Yes.’ I only wish they had votes.
Tickets sales the forthcoming game will be controlled by the two Associations involved, and the visiting side will have a limited allocation. Whatever the result on September 18 there is as much chance of trouble at the match as there is of me walking into the Telegraph office tomorrow and hitting Henry Winter with a deep-fried Mars bar