Sunday, 19 August 2012

Why would we listen to Gordon Brown?

So, Gordon Brown has entered the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.

The former Labour Prime Minister gave his opinion during a lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival, with his comments then being reported as the lead-item on both BBC Scotland and Scottish Television news. Why? ‘British Unionist politician is against Scottish independence’ – where is the news in that?

Brown simply reiterated the Unionist position that Scotland is too wee and too poor to be an independent country, while Scots are too stupid to govern themselves (except people like him, of course, who are so bright they can govern England). The only slight difference between the position of the so-called ‘Scottish’ Labour Party and that advanced by Gordon Brown, was that the former Prime Minister would not even allow Scotland the limited powers of ‘Devo-Max’ (which he called ‘maxi-devo’). Brown said he favoured more powers being transferred to Edinburgh, but argued even Devo-Max, never mind full independence, would result in the undermining of the UK’s shared “legal, social and economic rights”.

We should, of course, remember that Gordon Brown is the ‘towering intellect’ who did more than anyone to cripple the UK’s economy. So when he speaks of our ‘economic rights’ being damaged, he knows what he’s talking about. However, an independent Scotland would be free to follow its own economic path and could avoid being dragged into a financial meltdown exacerbated by decisions taken at Westminster.

Scotland - like England, Wales and Northern Ireland - was damaged by the actions of Gordon Brown while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was Brown who introduced ‘light-touch’ regulation of the City of London, which led to the ‘casino’ banking that almost bankrupted the country.

It was Gordon Brown who transferred to the Bank of England the power to set interest rates, a fiscal mechanism previously utilised by elected governments, and it was Brown who handed the Financial Services Authority responsibility for supervising the banking industry, thereby putting the spivs and speculators beyond government’s direct line of sight.

In a period of just three years (1999-2002), Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, sold 60 per cent of the UK’s entire gold reserves. He took that decision immediately before gold entered what dealers described as ‘a protracted bull market’. In other words, Brown sold Britain’s gold just before the price began to rise steeply. In total, Gordon Brown sold 395-tons of our gold, raising around £2.2bn. By 2012 the amount of gold Gordon Brown sold would be worth in the region of £12.1bn, so the chancellor lost the British public around £10bn. This financial disaster has since led to anyone selling a commodity at a very low price being described as ‘selling at Brown bottom’.

Away from financial matters, but still extremely relevant in relation to how much credence we should give to the judgement of Gordon Brown, this is a man who strongly supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and the deployment of British forces to Afghanistan, both conflicts that have claimed the lives of hundreds of young British men (and countless thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans). In addition, Brown is a member of a lobby group called ‘Labour Friends of Israel’, which supports the country that currently illegally occupies Palestinian land and which has launched missile attacks into densely-populated residential settlements in Palestine, resulting in the deaths of more innocent men, women and children.

As Prime Minister, Gordon Brown famously ‘bottled’ the calling of a General Election in October 2007, while Labour was ahead in opinion polls. He subsequently hung-on until the he had no option but to face the public in May 2010, leading Labour to its worst election result since the 1930s (losing around 90 seats, including 6 government ministers). The party’s fortunes were not helped by the fact that, during the election campaign, Gordon Brown was recorded calling a Labour-supporting pensioner “a bigoted woman” after she had the temerity to question him during a public appearance.

As for the other two areas where Brown stated Devo-Max or independence would undermine our ‘rights’ – legal and social – it has apparently escaped the ‘towering intellect’ that Scotland has retained an independent legal system throughout the 300 years we have been a member of the British Union: and that the social union between Scots and English will continue for as long as we share family and friends on both sides of the border.

Gordon Brown’s intervention in the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future was a non-event. He said nothing of consequence – simply regurgitating British Unionist scare stories – managing only to further muddy the waters over what, exactly, is Labour’s position on Scotland’s future.

We now have a former Labour Prime Minister saying Scotland should not even have Devo-Max, while the party north of the border apparently supports it (although, so far, it has been unable to define what Devo-Max actually means). Meanwhile, the Labour Party, in both Scotland and England, is happy to join with the Tories and their Lib Dem lapdogs in working to stop Scots taking the power to govern their own country. By its actions, Labour has shown it would rather see the Tories continue to govern Scotland from London than have a Labour Government in an independent Scotland.

People like Gordon Brown, and the Labour Party with its Tory and Lib Dem campaign colleagues, offer nothing for Scotland. They are the representatives of an ideology that ties Scotland into a Union where we are very much the junior member, dominated and governed by our larger neighbour. In 2014, for the first time in 300 years, Scots will be given the opportunity to say whether or not we wish to remain in that Union. We should take the opportunity to express the desire for Scotland to become a normal, independent country.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Scare stories of the Unionist 'No' campaign

Just over 300 years ago Scotland was sold into a political union with England. The so-called ‘nobility’ of Scotland were paid handsomely for their treachery, while ordinary Scots rioted in the streets in opposition.

Robert Burns described the pro-union nobles as being “bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel o’ rogues in a nation”. Today, another parcel o’ rogues is attempting to keep us in the British Union with a campaign partly funded by ‘English gold’.

They call themselves the ‘Better Together’ campaign, but in reality they are an unprincipled coalition of British Unionists, committed to working together in an attempt to prevent Scotland from assuming the status of a normal, independent nation – so let’s just call them what they really are, the ‘No to Independence’ campaign.

The so-called ‘Scottish’ Labour Party has no qualms about jumping into bed with the Tories and their Lib Dem lapdogs, nor from working in a campaign partly funded by Tory donors: recently a pro-union fundraiser was held at the Signet Library in Edinburgh, organised by the Essex-based United & Cecil Club, where tickets cost £150 each (£1,500 to sponsor a table) and the main speaker was right-wing Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove. These are the people determined to keep control of Scotland, even when Scots reject them at the ballot box.

Only by retaking our political independence will Scots be able to create the situation where Tories can never again impose their will on Scotland, yet ‘Scottish’ Labour is working with the Tories to prevent us from having that power. Labour, by their actions in the ‘No to Independence’ campaign, have made clear they would rather see the Tories continue to govern us from London, than allow Scots to elect our own government in an independent Scotland.

Even on their own website the paucity of the pro-Union case is revealed for all to see. Instead of a positive vision for Scotland within the British Union, the site pleads for help, with headings such as “Tell us why you think we are better together” and “Share your ideas for the campaign”.

At the ‘No to Independence’ launch, the campaign’s ‘big hitter’, former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, was so bereft of anything positive to say about the British Union that he resorted to attempting to scare parents about their children’s future. Honestly, this is what Darling said: “If we decide to leave the United Kingdom there is no way back. It is like asking us to buy a one–way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination.” Seriously!

So, apparently, we should stick with the certainty of Scotland governed by Unionists from London. You know, the certainty of soaring unemployment, the certainty of cuts to desperately needed services, the certainty of increased areas of multiple deprivation, the certainty of children growing up in poverty, the certainty of our elderly dying in winter because they can’t afford to put their heating on, and the certainty of young Scots being sent to kill or be killed in illegal, immoral, imperialist wars.

As for there being ‘no way back’ once we have voted to retake our independence: at a rough count, I make it 48 countries that have become independent from Britain – spanning the United States in 1776 to Brunei in 1984 - none of which have ever sought to give up their independence and find a way back.

After we have retaken our political independence, the social union between Scotland and England will continue, so don’t listen to the other nightmare scenarios painted by the increasingly desperate British Unionists: there will be no border guards at Gretna, we’ll still be able to watch Coronation Street, pensions and benefits will continue to be paid (usually through the same offices), Scots and English will still be able to work in each others’ countries.

There is nothing to fear from Scotland becoming a normal, independent country.