Friday, 21 February 2014

More and more Scots reject Unionist message

There is a common theme emerging from recent anti-independence initiatives: the ‘No’ campaign’s so-called big-hitters don’t like being questioned on what they have to say.

Tory Prime Minister David Cameron held a press conference at the Olympic velodrome in London, at which he urged people in England and Wales to phone friends and relations in Scotland, with the message that we should reject independence.  At the end of his speech Mr Cameron took two questions, one of which was about flooding in the south of England.

That was followed by Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne jetting into Scotland for a few hours: just long enough to tell us that he (and his British Unionist colleagues in Labour and the Lib Dems) won’t let us use the pound if we vote for independence.  Of course, Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander have no power to prevent an independent Scotland using the pound: it has been Scotland’s currency for 300 years and belongs as much to us as it does to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Osborne also threatened to deny Scotland a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom after independence.  Personally, I don’t favour a currency union, but if an independent Scotland elects an SNP Government and it pursues such an accommodation, it would be in the interests of a UK government to agree, not least in terms of balance of payments figures and international transaction costs.

Osborne left Scotland without taking questions.  Actually, there is a video on Youtube showing the Tory Chancellor disappearing into a car as STV’s political editor, Bernard Ponsonby, chased him down a street, trying to ask a question about the British Unionist united front against the right of Scots to use the pound.

Then, in what might have been a scene from a low-budget horror movie – Day of the Political Living Dead – up popped former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown to frighten Scots about their future pension provision if we vote for independence. 

Mr Brown recently described himself as “an ex-politician”, which must have come as a surprise to the people of Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath who elected him as their MP in 2010.  Brown has made very few appearances in the House of Commons since that election, but he is still supposed to be representing the interests of his constituents.

Normally, someone who has held high political office would be shown a little respect, however grudging, but Gordon Brown will forever be remembered for failure.  This was the Chancellor who declared he had ended “boom and bust”, just before the British economy crashed through the floor.

As Prime Minister, Brown then told the House of Commons that he had “saved the world”.  It was a slip of the tongue: he meant to say he’d saved the banks, after they caused the implosion of the UK economy.  In ‘saving’ privately-owned banks, though, Brown and his Labour Government spent billions-of-pounds of public money (our money) and borrowed billions more in our name.  The result of which is that Britain is now one of the most indebted nations in the world, and ordinary men, women and children are continuing to pay for covering the debts of private banks, while the bankers themselves still take home six-figure salaries and bonuses.

Brown’s failures led to defeat for Labour at the 2010 Westminster Election and ushered in the current Tory-led UK Government.  Under David Cameron and a Cabinet of multi-millionaires, a wave of brutal cuts has been unleashed against the public sector and the poorest members of society.  The economic collapse that happened under Brown and Labour has provided the cover for the Tories to do what they always do in government, protect the rich and hammer the poor, while privatising public assets that belong to you and me.

Gordon Brown was also the man who sold much of Britain’s gold reserves when the price was at a 20 year low.  Brown sold our public gold for $300 an ounce, bringing-in a total of £2bn.  Shortly after, gold rocketed to $1,920 an ounce.  Today, the amount of gold sold by Gordon Brown would be valued at around £12bn.

All of which prompts the question, why would we want to listen to Gordon Brown?

Doubts grew over the suitability of Mr Brown to be lecturing Scots when it was revealed the subject of his public pronouncement was pensions in an independent Scotland.  The former Chancellor and Prime Minister entered the referendum debate to scare-monger that Scots would not get their ‘British’ pensions if we vote for independence.

This is the same Gordon Brown who as Chancellor of the Exchequer raided private pension schemes, resulting in reduced pensions for private sector workers.  To be exact, Mr Brown, in his first budget (1997), removed tax credits on share dividends paid in relation to private pension schemes.  This resulted in financial benefit for the Labour Government, at the expense of pension funds.  What actually happened as a result of Gordon Brown’s actions was best described by Terry Arthur, a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries, who explained, “What happened in 1997 represented an enormous and ongoing raid on the assets of UK company pension schemes.  My research shows it would be very hard to justify an impact of less than £100bn - and even £150bn may still be a conservative estimate.”  Just for clarity, Gordon Brown, who came to Scotland last week to lecture us on pensions, stole between £110bn and £150bn from the pensions of British workers.

At least Gordon Brown was prepared to be interviewed following his scare-mongering intervention of last week.  It was, though, a very short interview with a reporter from STV news.  Mr Brown didn’t like the questions, so he took off his microphone and walked out.  Again, the clip appears on Youtube, for anyone who wants to watch it.

Cameron’s ‘phone a friend’ initiative and the threats of Osborne, Balls and Alexander backfired.  Scots do not appreciate politicians attempting to bully them, particularly London-based politicians representing parties the people of Scotland rejected at the ballot box.  Gordon Brown’s lack of credibility, particularly on the issue of pensions, compounded the belief that the British Unionists are very out of touch with feelings in Scotland.  Support for independence grew after the contributions of Better Together’s supposed ‘big hitters’.

Gordon Brown couldn’t care less about the truth in relation to ‘British’ pensions after Scotland retakes its independence, but Scots have a right to know what will actually happen.  State pensions will be paid in the same way, but by the Scottish Government rather than Westminster.  Accrued pension rights will continue to be honoured after independence.

In addition, public sector pensions will also be paid in the same way.  In fact, some public pension schemes are already administered by the Scottish Government.

After we retake our independence, private sector pensions will operate as before, with the Scottish Government ensuring suitable protections are in place for final salary occupational schemes.

Independence offers Scots full control over the type of pensions system we want, and UK Government figures show that, in Scotland, pensions and other forms of ‘social protection’ take up less of our tax revenues and national wealth than is the case for the UK, meaning an independent Scotland will be able to afford better pension provision.

Independence is simply being a normal country.

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