After losing so many Yes campaigners throughout the country in recent weeks I was getting a bit depressed. Too many were being taken that had worked hard for independence and with such a short time left, weren’t going to see it happen.
We had been asked if we could act as chauffeur on Saturday night and to be honest, with the low feeling and the cold, damp, misty weather we could have seen it far enough. However we had a mission. We had to collect Dr. Norman Allan in Banff and ensure he got to Strichen. The mission was secret. He was to be told that it was just a fundraiser for the Yes campaign. In truth, it was a surprise birthday party for a tireless campaigner.
Eventually the First Minister arrives and the event gets underway. Norman is still unaware of what is about to come. Alex welcomed everyone, thanked them for coming and shocked Norman by announcing we were all there to celebrate his 92nd birthday.
It was a fine evening. The staff at The Lodge served beautiful meals from food that was all sourced in the shire. [Mrs Salmond insists you must go here if you are ever in the vicinity of Strichen]
The First Minister was in relaxed and chatty mode among his ain folk. There were the usual raffle and auction (well it was a Yes fundraiser!) and a free whisky tasting session was thrown in too.
A very important element in the evening turned out to be Alex’s office manager. Not only is Fergus a qualified lawyer and a thoroughly pleasant young man, he is also a musician. As if that wasn’t luck enough, he had brought along two friends and it just so happens that one of them had been a finalist in the young traditional musician of the year award. Fergus had composed a pipe tune for Norman and had framed a written copy. He later played the tune for us.
Why am I telling you of this thoroughly enjoyable evening?
It kind of illustrates why we could be an independent country, to me anyway. We have the natural resources to feed ourselves, keep clean and warm. We have talents. Good cooks and chefs, creative people in all the crafts and music. We are a very sociable people and even people with very important jobs can mix with the more ordinary and work alongside them for worthy causes.
Most satisfying was seeing young people like Fergus and his friends with talent and confidence. We are seeing a competent government at work in Edinburgh with younger M.S.P.’s getting elected and learning how to run their country. We have people in all walks of life confident of their products, their creations, their talents, which are Scottish. The cringe factor has gone, we are discovering that quality can be traditional as well. We don’t need to be following other countries ideas. We can forge our own place in the world by being Scottish and proud.
I am confident now that we can create the socially just and fair country that we strive towards. That said, we have to keep working to the end of voting on 18th September in every way we can to ensure that we reach our goal.
Published in the Scots Independent
Scotland’s oil – the truth
Scotland does not receive one penny of cash from North Sea oil revenues
I woke on the morning of 11 March 2014, and reached out with a lazy arm and switched on BBC Radio Scotland to hear the words –
“Later today we will hear how much further Scotland has fallen into debt”.
I sat bolt upright realising that the BBC and the Unionist controlled right-wing media were going to have a field day attacking Scotland’s drive for independence because of this year’s temporary fall in oil revenues. Needless to say, my thought proved to be no exaggeration.
The GERS figures showed that North Sea oil revenues had fallen by £4.4 billion. This was seized upon with glee by the No Campaign to use this figure to try and prove that an Independent Scotland could not survive on its own, with such right-wing newspapers like the “Scotsman” (should it be renamed the “Englishman”) leading the charge with its front page heading “Scotland’s cash from the North Sea drops by £4.4 billion”. But wait a minute, is it not the case that Scotland does not receive one penny of cash from North Sea oil revenues – for the last 40 years it has all gone into the coffers of the London Exchequer to do with it whatever it wishes (a total of approximately £300 billion). The GERS figures will not affect a single person north or south of the border, all that it will result in is that the London Exchequer will have to borrow extra cash on top of the approximate £115 billion it has to do every year, simply to balance the U.K. budget. Below the main heading came a further set of news grabbing headlines.
“Oil and gas shortfall in 2012/13 means Scotland is £12.1 billion in the red”. What it did not say was that the UK deficit is now £114.8 billion, so I know which side of the border I would wish to live on, following Independence. At least the newspaper did try and give part of the reasons for the decline, quote …
“A major downturn in North Sea receipts which dropped to £5.6 billion in 2012/13 from £10 billion the year before was behind the rising deficit as well as a spending push on building projects by the Scottish Government to boost Scotland’s economic recovery.” (What it did not say was that in contrast Westminster had slashed its capital spending). “A gas leak and evacuation at the vast Elgin oil field in the North Sea a year ago, which led to an 11 month unplanned shutdown was by far the biggest cause in the slump in oil and gas production. It resumed production earlier this week, but was not expected to reach full production until 2015”.
This is exactly the reason why an Independent Scotland will set up a small Oil Fund, into which a percentage of oil revenues will be paid every year to cover the lean years.
But what the Scotsman conveniently forgot to tell us and what accounts for almost £2 billion of the fall was the huge investment in new plant (much of which was given as allowances on taxable earnings). This more efficient and modern equipment is now ready to meet the challenges ahead. The total money invested was £14.4. billion, the highest for 30 years. So far from the No Campaign’s claim of doom and gloom that would result from Scottish Independence, this proves exactly the opposite, and isn’t it the case that the pillar of the English Establishment, the Financial Times, only a few weeks ago, painted a glowing picture of how successful Scotland would be from Day 1 of gaining its Independence. As Douglas Fraser, business and economy editor of BBC Scotland put it – “John Swinney welcomed new figures from the O.E.C.D. club of developed economies that point to Scotland being “the 14th wealthiest nation in the world” positioned on a table between Belgium and Finland, with Luxembourg and Norway atop the table and Ireland at seven. Using the data from 2012, this compares with the UK ranked 18th(between France and Japan) out of 34 countries included. You can see why that’s quite a useful assessment from a YES campaigner’s point of view. He makes some further interesting points.
“The latest year for GERS saw hardly any cut in the UK Government’s deficit though the economy grew a bit, so its share of GDP was down. It wasn’t helped by a reduction in offshore oil and gas receipts from UK waters from £11.25 billion the previous year to £6.6 billion.”
In that previous year 2011/12, the tax Scotland contributed, including oil and gas, showed that it was more than paying its way in the UK and could justify roughly 10% higher spending per head. After such a sharp one-year cut in oil and gas revenue, the tax per head in Scotland still remains higher than the UK. Much of the GERS figures are based on estimates. How much is spent per Scot by the Ministry of Defence in London? How much on Foreign Office’s services around the world? We can only make informed guesses, or equalise across the UK.
How much corporation tax can be attributed by Britain wide firms to their activities in Scotland? We don’t know. The statisticians have to guess. Only on things like stamp duty or council tax, because these are property based, can you tell precisely how much tax is raised and where.
So, in my mind, I cannot but suspect the accuracy of the UK figures. Earlier Treasury figures to support the various “scare stories” have not stood up to close scrutiny. As the current GERS figures are so close to the date of the Referendum, I cannot but be suspicious of how the various estimates are arrived at.
Forecasts tell us that oil production will increase by 14% between 2013 and 2018, and of course, still to be exploited reserves of oil west of Shetland will, far from seeing production reducing, increase output and revenues, lengthening the period of productivity at least for the next 50 years, and, as investment in the new equipment shows, the oil companies are all geared up ready for this.
As a former budget specialist, on analysing the figures over the last five years I have found that even during the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s, Scotland’s finances have been healthier than those of the UK to the tune of £8.3 billion, or nearly £1,650 per person in Scotland. The figures also show that Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole for every single one of the last 33 years.
Only with a Yes vote on 18 September can our finances be used for the benefit of all the people of Scotland.
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause
Jimmy Halliday – lifetime Nationalist
To put matters into context, in 1955 the SNP contested only two Parliamentary seats in Scotland. Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth and East Perthshire and Jimmy Halliday fought Stirling and Falkirk Burghs. Jimmy then became the youngest ever SNP Chairman and served 1956-70; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
There will be a Referendum for Scottish Independence this year, which was unthinkable in the dark days of 1955. Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85, and we will be publishing all his articles in the Scots Independent, all those we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book with all his contributions over many years but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.
Disadvantages that come with incumbency
James Halliday SI February 2009
“Opposition” starting to raise their peevish greetin’ voices.
To our present material discomforts we have to add political disadvantage. Without having to say very much, Unionists these days can encourage whispering pessimism about Scotland being too small for this harsh world. They will get some mileage from this as we must recognise. However, most people are well and increasingly aware that if Scotland and Ireland and Iceland are too small to protect themselves adequately their larger neighbours are no more successful.
Even without ongoing world problems we would have our own political difficulties to contend with at this time. Being now about halfway through the term of office of the Scottish Government our stunned rivals have regained confused consciousness and recovered a bewildered readiness to compete. Now able to raise their heads above the sandbags they can also raise their peevish greetin’ voices.
The First Minister, who knows which agreements have been reached, reports that fact. Those who profess to need documentation then bray about “misleading”. All this episode proves is that no politician imagining that he has a fine scandal with which to embarrass his opponent, takes kindly to having the feet ca’d from under him when that opponent can disarm him with facts.
A Cabinet Secretary goes to advance Scottish interests in Canada, leaving his Minister to deal with his department’s duties in Parliament. The presence of the Secretary would be at best symbolic or merely cosmetic, but how affronted and outraged the Opposition can purport to be over his absence.
A feeble joke about having Mr Salmond’s picture on our banknotes tempts the Tory leader into unwise jibes about personal appearance. We can all join in such a game, encouraged by our viewing of our members on TV, drawing as the camera pans along the rows, amused conclusions about their various Iqs and the condition of their adenoids
All these infantilisms are accompanied by a sustained chorus about “SNP broken promises”. The chorus began a matter of weeks into our term of office and they got away with their nonsense for many months. At last Eleanor Bradford, Radio Scotland’s correspondent on Health issues, asked the blustering Labour critic just what they had done while in office to deal with the matter being so noisily raised.
It is a sad fact that no matter how contemptible these complaints are they build up eventually to the point which the political calendar always reaches sooner or later. When all else fails all arguments come down to “It’s time for a change”. It took Labour thirteen years from 1951 and then 18 years from 1979 before they persuaded the British electorate to agree. Surely they can’t expect the trick to work after eighteen months.
More damaging than the mere passing of time are the disadvantages which come with incumbency. Whenever a government does anything it antagonises somebody, and the antagonism of the offended is usually greater than the gratitude of those who gained advantage from the deed. Every priority decided upon leaves someone disgruntled in the queue behind. Incumbents quickly find that there are limits to time and money, and that they cannot evade responsibility to make choices. We have to believe that they will be wise and honest but wisdom and honesty don’t quieten the ignorant or disarm the clever partisan.
So, if on due consideration a new crossing of the Forth seems required some other venture may have to be delayed. If all the many repairs and maintenance to our inadequate road system are to be attempted, then perhaps the A9 will not be dualled in one brisk operation. The Tory member who pursues this particular programme with such zeal does so to show himself in the best possible light to his own and neighbouring constituents. No blame should attach to any MP or MSP who seeks to confer favours upon his or her own people. We are entitled however to point out that we see clearly what they are up to.
The A9 issue however, and the attempts to make political capital out of it, provide just the most recent example of an attitude very popular with all parties in Scotland, our own included. Purely as an opinion, and courting disapproval no doubt can we not as Nationalists accept and cherish the unity of Scotland. All our citizens in all parts of the country should be bound and protected by the same laws. They should expect to enjoy the same social freedoms and have rules applied to their conduct and to their expressions of opinion which apply throughout the country. Politicians should restrain themselves from seeking popularity in one part of the country by encouraging dislike or jealousy of another.