David Cameron is bringing his Cabinet north to Aberdeen today “to highlight the importance to Scotland’s oil industry of staying in the UK.”
Presumably you have to be Scottish to understand why this is such a ludicrously bad idea. Or at least, not an English Conservative who was 25 and working for the Conservative Research Department in London in 1992.
In the 1992 general election, the Conservative Party won 5 seats in Scotland.
It’s been 22 years and that victory remains the highlight of their electoral achievements in the past quarter-century. (Yes, they do have 14 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, but most of them are “list” MSPs – they represent a region, not a constituency.)
The most effective thing David Cameron could do to win a No vote for independence in Scotland is to stay in England and repeat some variation on “Of course the Scots have a right to hold a referendum on independence: naturally I want Scotland to remain part of the UK but we will respect the democratic will of the Scottish people whatever happens.”
I actually respected Cameron’s decision not to debate Alex Salmond; I assumed his advisors had let him know it would have done neither Cameron or the Better Together campaign any good in Scotland, however well the English Tory Prime Minister comes across in his own electoral territory.
The notion that a Conservative Prime Minister visiting Aberdeen to tell the Scottish people that we’d never be able to cope with our own oil industry if we were independent so we’d much better stay part of the UK…
Snow in Cairo. Snow in Jerusalem. Snow in Syria. Snow in Turkey. Informed local opinion says there’s been no snowfall in Egypt for 112 years. As the tweet above notes: no one alive had ever seen snow on the Sphinx before.
How far is the government entitled to go in enforcing the build of a new airport?
This isn’t (yet) a question about Heathrow.
Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE), or Aéroport Nantes Atlantique, is the largest airport in the west of France. It was originally a military airfield before WWII, and was called Aéroport Château Bougon – the nearest city is Nantes, five miles away, and the airport itself is in Bouguenais. The airport’s official capacity is three million passengers a year and in 2011 saw 3,246,226 passengers.
Cheap air travel and millions of air passengers per year cannot continue for much longer. Oil is a finite resource, and it takes a lot of crude oil to produce jet fuel for moden planes. Building big new airports on the presumption that the numbers for travel by air will go on and on increasing is a short-sighted folly.
What does everyone know about Scottish food?
It’s the haggis. And the whisky. And the deep fried Mars bars.
Scots eat unhealthy food, get drunk, and our iconic national dish is made of the bits of the sheep that you’d have needed to be drunk and hungry to think worth eating.
In quick summary: in November 2008 an oil billionaire, Sir Ian Wood, got an idea for a concrete Italian-style piazza in the centre of Aberdeen, to be achieved by transferring a public park into private ownership. He offered to spend £50M of his own money to part-pay for his stony vision. (He likes concrete and no trees: Union Terrace Gardens has lots of trees.) (Update: apparently some of the trees would have survived.)
Annie Lennox, November 2011:
If Sir Ian Wood wants to invest £50m into the centre of Aberdeen, that is fundamentally good, but I disagree with the way he’s going about it. It is not because I’m a reactionary, it is not because I’m against modernity or change. It is the way that this was done; it is short-termism, it is short-sighted.
From what I am gathering, he is not saying: “I have £50m, I want to talk to you, I want to hear what you guys want.” He’s telling the city this is what he will do with it. I think it’s very imperious. I think it is very, very important to listen to more people, the people who are living there, the citizens of the town.
This offer from Sir Ian Wood interrupted a long-term plan for developing Union Terrace Gardens. A consultation was carried out, which overall rejected Wood’s scheme, and then in November 2011 the SNP-controlled council had the Electoral Commission run a referendum across the whole City – in which Wood’s scheme won by a slight majority.
“Oil reserve / Long Term Investment fund”
We live in an oil-dependent world, and have got to this level of dependency in a very short space of time, using vast reserves of oil in the process – without planning for when the supply is not so plentiful. The Transition Handbook
Most of us, most of the time, don’t think about how dependent we are on oil, a finite and diminishing resource, because it is too bloody scary to contemplate. If you want to read some overviews of how societies collapse when the resource they depend on runs out, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail Or Succeed is a good place to start.
Extracting oil from under the North Sea will get more and more difficult but more and more desirable:
Those who say the oil is running out overstate rather than fabricate: more than half the local reserves have already been extracted and what’s left will be harder and more expensive to pump out. In a manifesto festooned with pictures of windmills looming out of the water, the SNP laid out a plan to succeed North Sea oil with a giant renewable-energy industry.
Switching from oil to renewable energy is an immensely sensible plan (too sensible for partisan attack). But Scotland has oil. And mention of oil in the Scottish Constitution is likely to cause problems wider than simply “thanks very much, we’ll take our share of the NHS and the BBC and be off now”.
“Provision for Scottish Defence Forces under control of Scottish government”
Today in the Scotland on Sunday, Euan McColm takes up his keyboard and goes to battle for the Scottish military
One of the ways in which die-hard SNP members kid themselves that their party is still in the slightest bit radical is through their approach to defence. The Nationalists’ broad “nukes out, troops home” mantra may, from time to time, chime with a wider public mood. But it’s a stance adopted in the days when the notion that an SNP politician might ever have to seriously consider the defence of an independent Scotland was laughable.
One of the big things that will change for Scotland if we become independent: The UK is about 22nd in the world for population size. But Scotland, which is between five and six million people, will be somewhere between 110th and 118th for population size. Our neighbours on this list won’t be France and Italy any more; they’ll be countries the size of Nicaragua or Denmark or Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan or Slovakia or Finland, Singapore or Turkmenistan or Norway.
Everyone knows this – the SNP keep pointing at Norway and Denmark, European democracies the size of Scotland, to prove that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
But one change which this sizing down makes inevitable, which I think any realistic person will have to accept:
Countries the size Scotland will be don’t go to war for fun. Continue reading
Scotland has oil. In 2001, the UK was producing 2.54 million barrels of oil per day from the Scottish waters (and using 1.699). Demand for oil has risen, but the revenue from the oil has dropped by about half. The silly season is already out on how the Unionists might resolve this if Scotland votes yes in autumn 2014: the English Democrats want to know how did our oil get under their water? and Lord Kilclooney suggests partitioning Scotland.
As ever, there’s some sound discussion about the legalities around the independence referendum at Peat Worrier:
While Wallace’s colleague, Michael Moore, has said that the UK Government would not attempt any legal challenge to Holyrood legislation authorising a referendum. Wallace’s statement, by contrast, at least still countenances the possibility. Given Moore’s ditheriness, and the range of wrangling interests pulling the coalition this way and that, I doubt too much stock should be put in whatever view the Secretary of State happens to be entertaining today. This was followed up by a piece in the Scotsman, in which Wallace kept open the possibility of litigation, to spike an SNP referendum, if the transfer of powers (with or without conditions) cannot be agreed between the parliaments.
But it looks like things are progressing – the Scottish Government have agreed to use the Electoral Commission, which suggests in turn that the Westminster coalition aren’t planning to try an undignified blocking strategy.
Joyce McMillan had some altogether sensible advice to give to Johann Lamont in the Scotsman yesterday:
Already facing a collapse in Labour votes and membership caused by the party’s movement to the Blairite right since the 1990s, and facing a triumphant Scottish National Party which has now become the focus of all hope for many centre-left Scottish voters, the new Labour leader now has to deal with her party leader’s decision to join the Prime Minister’s gang on the constitutional issue. She has to agree that Scotland should be made to hold a “binding” yes-no referendum on independence, and to rolling out Westminster Labour “big guns” to lead a government-inspired campaign designed to frighten the Scots into voting “no”.
Now tactically, of course, it is tempting for Labour to join the Tories in wrong-footing Alex Salmond, by demanding the straight yes-no referendum which he fears he cannot win. The First Minister has clearly been taken aback by the extent of his own success in demoralising the opposition parties in Scotland, which has left him without significant support in promoting the “devo-max” option which he also wants to see on the ballot paper; and Labour is doing all it can to prolong his pain.
This is the kind of moment, though, when serious political leaders have to take a step backward from the fray, and the consider the long-term future of the movement which they seek to represent. It’s this kind of courage and statesmanship that is now required of Johann Lamont. The party she leads was founded on trade union representation, on the co-operative consumer movement, and on a passionate belief in Scottish home rule as part of what we would now call a federal UK.
Tomorrow, 18th January, Reddit and English Wikipedia and quite a lot of WordPress and various other online communities, big and small, will be blacked-out from 5am, British time, to 5 again the next morning (midnight to midnight, Eastern Standard Time, or the hours Washington DC keeps). This is a protest against the SOPA and PIPA legislation: more links here. This is not actually a post directly about SOPA and PIPA, which none of us outside the US can actually do anything about anyway aside from note what this legislation is, why the US government is doing it, and, if you’re a geek with a talent for explaining stuff to politicians, writing to your MP and asking to meet with them to explain why threatening a website owner with five years in jail for the 21st-century equivalent of recording a film on your VCR with the intention of watching it over and over again is stupid.
There, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it. Excuse me. I’ll move on.
Why will the Tories fight foul? What does this have to do with US Congress legislating on the Internet?
On ZDNet Government, David Gewirtz writes: 5 reasons why SOPA, PROTECT-IP and other legislative idiocy will never die:
- You can’t really compete against consumer behavior.
- Fear sells.
- There’s a lot of money to be made from fear.
- Politicians need lobbyists.
- Lobbyists have a disproportionate influence on politicians.
First of all, let’s consider: assuming that the Tories want the Union to be preserved, what’s their best means of going about it? Continue reading