Scotland. Dependence and Poverty Beckon

Scotland. Dependence and Poverty Beckon

Consider this. Scotland spends 9% more than it earns (it has a 9% negative GDP). That’s before the coronavirus. 

How does we balance the books then? Right now we arebanked by the UK Treasury. Quite right. The union was a Scottish project (King James). We survive in lockdown because the UK can borrow at very low interest rates. And subsidises Scotland to the tune of £2,000 per person through the Barnet formula. 

OK then. So 58% of Scots apparently want to unhitch themselves from this onerous arrangement. We are told by our SNP government that “it’ll be all right on the night”. How?What are the options?

First – become a member of the EU. With a 9% negative GDP? We’d have to first endure the pain of getting under 3% negative GPD. A bigger shock than that to Ireland after the financial crash. And, we’d be doing this our own. We’d have to endure a period of poverty and isolation first. Without the helping hand of the RUK (rest of the UK). The people we’vejust abandoned.

Second – be completely on our own. A small country with an independent currency. Oh and the 9% negative GDP. Doesn’t this add up to a quick road to the bankruptcy? It was of course Scotland’s bankruptcy (caused by the Darien Crisis) that led the Scots to petition for union in 1707. (Incidentally fiercely resisted by much of the English parliament). I don’t see this as “independence” in any proper sense. It would more likely lead to increased dependence on England. This time without representation.

Third – retain the pound and  continue to live within the shelter of our common currency. But without representationwe would be “takers” of the rules of that currency and peoples. 

I truly don’t get it. You have to ask – independence from what? To do what?

Right now we have a Scottish national government, with local decision making on everything significant, except a shared foreign policy, treasury and defence. We combine this with over-representation within the UK parliament which determines those matters. Don’t believe that? Just wait for the next parliament when Labour and SNP together have a majority and can forge a new fairer social Britain. 

There is a religious wing of the SNP. I say religious. Independence, damn the consequences for the people. What’sthat then? It is this wing who are pressing for another referendum. They want to take advantage Coronavirus, blind the people to facts; and most of all get the thing done before Britain throws out the Tories in 2024.

Scotland – Nationalism v Economics

This is a reprint from the Spectator this week…

Scotland’s deficit is higher than the UK average — an estimated 7 per cent of GDP, as opposed to the UK’s 2 per cent. It’s not hard to work out why. In 2018-19, Scottish public spending was 13.6 per cent higher per head than the UK average and revenue collected was 2.6 per cent lower. Scotland accounts for about a tenth of the UK’s population and a tenth of its economic output — but more than half of the increase in total annual government borrowing in cash terms.

How could the Scottish government possibly sustain that level of expenditure in the absence of the UK subsidy (about £10 billion a year)? It would have to go, tam o’ shanter in hand, to the bond market, but with the size of Scotland’s deficit, as well as the share of the UK’s debt it would inherit, the interest rates would be far more onerous than those currently available to the UK.

Bankruptcy would soon follow.

Would the IMF come to Scotland’s rescue, as it came to the UK’s in 1976? Maybe, but only at the cost of a huge reduction in spending on public services such as education, already a complete basket case under the SNP’s stewardship.

But let’s suppose the Spanish government waives its objection to Scotland joining. That wouldn’t exactly save the day. For starters, there would be the small matter of the hard border with the rest of the UK, not something conducive to trade with Scotland’s largest export market.

Then there’s the fact that Scotland would have to adopt the euro and become part of Schengen, both of which are non-negotiables for any new member states. But crucially, Scotland’s annual deficit of 7 per cent of GDP puts it over the 3 per cent threshold that automatically triggers the EU’s ‘excessive deficit procedure’, i.e. the

EU would insist on an eye-watering austerity programme as a condition of joining.

And if the people of Scotland want to know what that would involve, I’m sure plenty of Greeks would be happy to tell them. (Youth unemployment of 40 per cent? Not sure that will go down well in Glasgow.) It would make the levels of austerity imposed by George Osborne and Philip Hammond — which the SNP ceaselessly complained about — look like a mosquito bite compared to full-blown malaria.

Peace, Radicalisation and Progesterone

It was striking in the recent Scottish referendum that the young and male voted in a markedly different way from the old and female. The call to fight is an appeal to testosterone. It rouses people out of their beds, out of the apathy of materialism or despair. However, it comes at a cost. Division. Us – against yous. Our poor, our oil, our land, our nation.Not yours. Alongside the passion there is and has been a considerable degree of radicalisation. An awakened anger seeking outlet,  but to what purpose? Passion in pursuit of a just cause is good, necessary and admirable;  but nationalism is always wrong. The fruit of that plant is always bitter.

Whilst there is no doubting the motive power of the raw male, testosterone fuelled  radicalisation has unintended consequences. The best way to rouse the young male is to find and to caricature an enemy. One that must be fought. Winning is all. The world has witnessed that from age to age. It’s how wars start, it’s how repression is justified; and worse. We can see that in radical Islam. What has IS and their beheading culture really to do with the religion? Could these young men stay in charge unless they had the USA (great satan) as an enemy? Is the motive force amongst these radicalised young that of that great peaceful religion Islam? I suspect its more to do with  the desire of young men to fight, kill, win and control their enemies and women. To its great credit, in Scotland it wasn’t the noisy, the young and the men who carried their way. It was the old and above all it was women. Both groups with lower testosterone. That’s called democracy.  We must prize it. It was the testosterone-lite who quietly said no, at least not now and not like this. Those who have an eye to continuity and the future. It is of course particularly women who care passionately for community, compassion and an integrated society. Not exclusively thank goodness; but I wonder what a world would be like if it were run by  women, educated and empowered.  Do you really imagine that there would be noisy cars racing round Edinburgh? The turning away from the excluded parts of society in Liverpool, Manchester and rural England? The beheadings in Syria? No, of course not. On the other hand – there wouldn’t have been the degree of social injustice in the first place.

I have come and gone with feminism. A one time supporter, a some time doubter; but if we could evolve a world and society where testosterone was not the key to decision making, then put the women and the old in charge. Feminism as leadership rather than equality. Bring it on.

Is this the way to peaceful radicalisation?  Perhaps in a connected world where strutting masculinity were side-lined and channelled – then we could focus together on what really matters. I put it to you (as a mere man, but aging) – that the plight of women around the world and of the poor, oh and of our children’s environment – are somewhat more important than whether one male tribe in these British islands – covered in woad – triumphs over another.

Counter Transference and Saint Paul

One of the key working tools of a psychoanalyst is  “counter-transference”. An analyst is trained to pay attention to what they themselves feel – because this is a reflection of the emotional state of the client they seek to help. We all do this. What else is empathy?  We constantly resonate with the emotional state of those around us. Psychoanalysts undergo about a decade of training so that they can identify the feeling states caused particularly by the client relationship – so that they don’t get caught up with them and react to them.

Unfortunately I’m not a psychoanalyst and have no such training. And so, I’m struggling right now as an Englishman in Scotland. My emotional response to the SNP campaign is unpleasant. It feels like a cocktail of rejection and sadness, with an overarching self-righteous anger. I think that this underlying feeling is a resonance with what the “Nationalist” feels about the “English”. It certainly generates in me an equal and opposite emotional response. It’s why I’m pretty sure that Scottish independence (if brought about in this particular way) would generate an enormous English backlash.

These feelings do me no credit. They are difficult to live with and they isolate me from my wonderful Scottish friends and family. What is there, in lieu of a decade or so of psychoanalytical training? How should one deal with this negative internal state?

It happened that the New Testament lesson last Sunday was from Paul’s letter to the Romans.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

So, thank you to the Minister of the Canongate Kirk – for reminding me that our faith is shared across nations and races.

Nationalism and Racism seek to divide us from each other. Resisting that is principally an internal struggle, but it’s a struggle that millions of us share and have done across generations.

 

Racism and Nationalism

In Ernest Gellner’s famous book on nationalism, Nations and Nationalism, he describes “.Nationalism as a sentiment, or as a movement, can best be defined in terms of this principle. Nationalist sentiment is the feeling of anger … a nationalist movement is one actuated by sentiment of this kind”

“The term nationalism refers to a link between ethnicity and the state and therefore, the term nation-state is a state dominated by that specific ethnicity, whose signs of identity, such as language and religion, are often embedded in its symbolism and legislation.” (Charlie Peirson- Charterhouse 2012)

In other words – nationalism is entwined with racism.

Christ said “by the fruits shall ye know them”.

What are fruits, what is the real social result, of Nationalism.

What would be the impact on our peaceful island of Britain of an angry Scotland divorcing the “rest” of the UK. I’m pretty certain that the English in particular would react strongly and negatively.

For what purpose? When, as Henry Kissinger puts it – “The World is in Flames”

Same old nationalism

I keep asking a simple question. When has nationalism, of any type, ever been a positive influence? I haven’t yet had an answer, from anyone, of any type.

People talk about “political engagement”. As in – feminism, fight against global poverty, fight for democracy. All good, noble, positive. But “political engagement” combined wtih nationalism and you have what –  Isis, the BNP, National Socialism. The point is that the concept of  “nation” is dangerously intertwined with that of  “race”. Easy to tip from one to another. A cheap way of harnessing base prejudice to a politician’s particular interest. Did I say cheap? Expensive in the end. A bill paid in hatred, division, further prejudice. Ask Jim Murphy.

So I repeat. When has nationalism, of any type, ever been a positive influence?

And living as I do in Scotland – part of a rich peaceful democracy – and nationalism seems to me to be self-indulgent at best – given the quiver-full of real issues that cry out for our political engagement.

Henry Kissinger wrote a telling and thoughtful piece in the Sunday Times Review today – about the dangers that could engulf the world. Look only to Russia and Ukraine, almost anywhere in the Middle-East and much of Africa.

And in Scotland our attention is where exactly? And why?

I would understand some of this if I had an answer to my question. When has nationalism, of any type, ever been a positive influence?

 

 

 

Scottish Nationalism, playing with fire..

I have lived approximately half of my life in England and half in Scotland where I have married and brought up my family. There is an anti-English prejudice in Scotland which has never previously been reciprocated. I suppose this prejudice is not surprising given the history of enmity between the countries until James VI of Scotland united the crowns and introduce the concept of a Great Britain.

“English”  to Scots is thus the archetype of “Enemy”. Indeed it is to some extent bound up with class – the English being identified, unreasonably, with being “toffs”.   We all have prejudices. A key struggle of civilisation is to overcome and integrate them. I do not believe that on the facts we as voters in Scotland would  break the Kingdom that James V1 United. I believe that the only way that this can be accomplished is to release and play up the ancient prejudice against “The English”, and this is indeed happening.   Alex Salmond is a master at playing to the emotion of the crowd. My sorrow is that this in now stirring up anti-Scottish sentiment in our 60 million neighbours, cousins and previous friends. My hope is that we can quickly get through and past this episode without releasing the spectre of racism from the Pandora’s box that is foolishly being unlocked. It is not too late to put out this fire before it burns us all.

Acceptable Nationalism?

Can nationalism ever be more than a dirty word? An inward looking concept – fuelled by the identity with a particular group, and by the exclusion and minimisation of “the other”?

I was struck in reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes by the fragility of an accepting and tolerant society. The Austrian Empire up to Franz Joseph seems to have thrived on acceptance and tolerance, or many races – including the jews. And yet. The Nazi Putsch changed everything – in a heartbeat. The same could probably be applied to the Wehrmacht through to 1933.

Nationalism certainly has the potential to release an infectious plague of ugly emotions from the Pandora’s box of a tolerant pluralistic society. What are the balancing reasons for turning that key and letting fly those negative divisive emotions? They should necessarily be overwhelmingly powerful.

The thing is, living here in Scotland I just don’t see them.

Perhaps I’m confused or overly fearful, or maybe just missing something.

What was the quote – jingoism the last bastion or refuge of the scoundrel?

Scotland is an idea…

… a dream and a gift. Outgoing, passionate, vibrant, edgy, generous, educated, intellectual, yeasty.

What loss to the world if this were once again to be bound to the rock of jingoism and re-contained in the economics of a small land, with a declining and ageing population on the rainy margins of Europe.