Saturday, 7 January 2012

For the Want of a Rational Argument

Read an argument in the Scotsman newspaper (sic) the other day. Basically it was as follows - The only thing saving Scotland from being the North Korea of Europe is – you’ve guessed it - the Union.

Starting with the statement that no reasonable argument for independence has yet been put forward and that the move for separation is based on xenophobia and stirring up cultural differences, it was quite easy to see where it was heading. It continued - that despite the global recession and especially the Euro-zone crisis; most people in Scotland still eat well, still have cars less than 10 years old, still have free education and healthcare, still have flat screen TVs, had a turkey at Christmas and are still able to enjoy all the trappings of modern life and that many countries in Europe do not enjoy such a lifestyle.

All this was thanks to the Union. And no doubt the great lie that is the subsidising of Scotland through the Barnet Formula.

It goes without saying that this is a typical Unionist argument. Basically, the people of Scotland would not have these things if they governed their own affairs. There is also an argument however, that they might well have had more, had they been governing their own affairs for the last 50 years.

How reasonable is the statement that separation is driven by xenophobia and the stirring up of cultural differences. It is all-encompassing statement which fails the test of reason quite markedly.

Just how does a dislike of foreigners promote a move for independence? Any racial intolerance here seems to be on the part of the Unionist argument. For there is little doubt that for “xenophobia” we are meant to read “anti-English”. A puerile statement that can be easily dismissed. Unless of course there is evidence to show that those who support independence are, in fact, anti-English. On the other hand, it may mean that a newly independent Scotland will go into the grown-up world as a nation of xenophobes - chauvinistic and showing a dislike for all foreigners.

It may come as a surprise to some but there are English people living in Scotland who, after the reality check that comes with living north of the border, vote SNP and support Independence.

On the point of cultural differences. These exist between all the nations in the UK and are well documented. Surely they are integral to any and all national identities. Why this should now have taken on a sinister form is unclear. Moreover, to suggest that a preference for Scottish independence is based on the manufactured heritage that continues to blight the country at the expense of its history is an attack on the intelligence of its people.

If by “free education” we are meant to acknowledge that Scotland offers what would be expected of any modern society it is hard to see how that has anything to do with the London Government. Indeed, by refusing to burden its normally domiciled students in further education with tuition fees it does a great deal more that those who govern from London.

The same is true of health care. The reason for the UK languishing 12th in the European table for best heath care is surely not attributable to the country where eye examinations and care for the elderly are free and prescription charges have been abolished. This would not be the case, as has been patently demonstrated in the past, if such decisions were left to Westminster.

As for Flat-screen TVs and Turkeys. Has anyone recently tried to but a TV with a cathode-ray tube? As for a Turkey at Christmas. I think you will find that most people that celebrate Christmas will have enjoyed whatever their traditional Christmas meal is. That the people of Scotland wouldn't normally eat well for no other reason than the country becoming independent is a ludicrous suggestion.

And so to all the trappings of modern life that many countries in Europe do not enjoy. I would suggest that such countries are to be found in Eastern Europe, where the continent’s 10 poorest nations are. These are the countries which are still recovering from Communism and the outside influence and interference of the Soviet Union. I can’t think of one in Western Europe

So, basically, it is the same old argument. Everything that Scotland has is down to the Union. It has nothing to do with its people who, if left in charge of their own affairs would be paying for education and healthcare, drive old cars, sit in front of blank TV screens, have bread and dripping on Christmas day, pretty much starve for the rest of the year and hate every other country in the world.

Rational arguments indeed.

An A+ for Nonsense

The honour for the providing the first Independence economic scare story of 2012 goes to the Scotsman, a seemingly infinite source of pro-Unionist tales of future doom and gloom. In its latest, and somewhat confusing anti-Independence piece by Executive Editor Bill Jamieson (Jan 4th), separation will heap more untold misery on Scotland because as an independent sovereign state, it will lose the triple ‘A’ credit rating that it presently enjoys as part of the UK.

Putting as much spin on an analysis by Jim Leaviss, a fund manager for what the Scotsman calls “the giant M&G Group”, Mr Jamieson musters up yet another scare story to frighten Scotland’s bairns.

According to Mr Leaviss, an independent Scotland would struggle to sustain a triple ‘A’ credit rating. Give Mr Leaviss his due he also suggested that the remainder of the UK would do likewise. However, as this is not what the Edinburgh based rag wants to hear it simply spins the story as yet another dire consequence of the people of Scotland taking responsibility for their own affairs.

The ‘story’ as far as this lamentable excuse for a newspaper, is that the Scots would suffer. The reason? Well as usual it is because the country is “small”. According to Mr Leaviss, “Most small economies of an equivalent size [to Scotland] do not enjoy a triple ‘A’ status”.

Now I’m sure that is true on a global scale. But as we are talking about a country in Western Europe and a member of the EU, are we to assume (as one suspects we are) that if and it’s a big ‘if’, this was to be the case, Scotland would sink without trace.

According to Standard and Poor, smaller nations in Europe with triple ‘A’ status include, along with usual suspects of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein; Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In fact, Guernsey and the Isle of Man both have an AA+ credit rating. And it might also be worth noting that Slovenia, with AA-, has the same rating as China and Spain.

So, is there anything to fear here, as the Scotsman would have it?

Of course not.

Plenty countries get by without a triple ‘A’ rating. Losing that rating is only a problem for those countries which, like the UK in the past, have used it to borrow like there was no tomorrow and are now in serious trouble. Sound familiar

There was a time when triple ‘A’ was a size of battery. Now however, as a one of an ever increasing bag of economic buzz phrases, Mr Jamieson thinks it is time to add it to the Unionist armoury. But, while you can make of it what you want, as with the other sticks and stones at London’s disposal its efficacy as a weapon against independence can be undermined by readily available data. 

As for “economic analysts”, one will recall that they had ample opportunity to predict the present crisis and were found wanting. Whether we should give much credence to what they say now is a matter for further conjecture.

However, it does seem that the Unionist’s fixation on “size” has yet again been shown not to matter.