The Problem With The Smith Commission In A Nutshell

In 2009, the Commission for Scottish Devolution (the Calman Commission) suggested the devolution of certain powers regarding the Crown Estate:

RECOMMENDATION 5.8: The Secretary of State for Scotland should, in consultation with Scottish Ministers, more actively
exercise his powers of direction under the Crown Estate Act 1961 and, having consulted Scottish Ministers, should give
consideration to whether such direction is required immediately.

RECOMMENDATION 5.9: The appointment of a Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner should be made following formal consultation with Scottish Ministers.

The Calman Commission’s proposals were watered down to practically nothing by the time it was enshrined in the Scotland Act 2012. But let’s not fret: it has emerged that the Smith Commission also suggests partial devolution of Crown Estates. Maybe this time it’ll stick! But the Calman Commission, like the Smith Commission, was just consultative. It wasn’t law, just suggestion. It has to go through the UK government before it can become law. That’s where the problems start.

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Taking Wing(s over Scotland)

A couple of amazing things happened last Saturday.

It was a grand day for me, and I hope 15,000 other Scots, as we collectively engaged in the biggest political discussion we’ve seen in these islands for quite some time. We were spread across Glasgow, with the SNP Tour in the Hydro, and the Radical Independence Conference at the Clyde Auditorium. To think that the SNP, a party which has been institutionally marginalised by the establishment since its inception, has managed to sell out a major venue to the tune of twelve thousand – that’s a hundred and twenty hundreds* – in 2014 is remarkable. Similarly, to think that RIC, an organisation which only started in 2012, could blossom from the 900 of the original conference to three thousand – thirty hundreds – even as the most popular party in Scotland had a massive congregation quite literally next door, is an amazing achievement.

After the SNP tour, I met up with some of the regulars at Wings Over Scotland. I’d missed out earlier in the year – I was in America – but even though the 2014 referendum is past, I saw no reason not to. I’m glad I did.

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The Man Who Bought The Union Some Time

What happened to you, man? I really liked you in Monty Python.

What happened to you, man? I really liked you in Monty Python.

It is currently being announced across the papers that Gordon Brown, the Man Who Saved The Union as according to his puppets in the press and media, is going to capitalise on his glorious victory against the Evil Forces of Nationalism by… standing down in 2015. He follows his stablemate Alistair Darling, the Leader of Better Together, who announced his intentions to stand down even earlier after what the media would love to claim was a heroic triumph against the insidious might of separatism. Before him, Johann Lamont, the leader of the opposition who handed the SNP their most crucial defeat, saw fit to follow it up by… standing down before Alex Salmond himself did. Time will only tell whether they will be joined by more “victors” among New Labour and their allies in the next six months.

We independence supporters all know what a despicable, chronic pseudologue Gordon Brown is. He lied about organ transplants, he lied about oil, he lied about the NHS in Scotland, he lied about pensions. I don’t even need to point out his rank hypocrisy over criticisms of the SNP’s corporation tax policy. And that’s just the referendum campaign: you don’t have to look far back to find the lies during his reign in Westminster.

So it’s understandable that Yes voters are angry. What I can’t understand is why No voters aren’t even more furious.

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Of Course It Was Rigged

There is absolutely no question the referendum was rigged. Anyone can see that, you’d have to be asleep not to notice. The question is not whether the referendum was rigged, but how it was rigged. The way I see it, there are two levels of conspiracy at play here.

But first, let’s define what is meant by the term conspiracy:

  1. The act of two or more persons, called conspirators, working secretly to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations.
  2. (law) An agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future.
    wiktionary.org

A civil conspiracy or collusion is an agreement between two or more parties to deprive a third party of legal rights or deceive a third party to obtain an illegal objective.[1] A conspiracy may also refer to a group of people who make an agreement to form a partnership in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member and engage in planning or agreeing to commit some act. It is not necessary that the conspirators be involved in all stages of planning or be aware of all details. Any voluntary agreement and some overt act by one conspirator in furthance of the plan are the main elements necessary to prove a conspiracy. A conspiracy may exist whether legal means are used to accomplish illegal results, or illegal means used to accomplish something legal.[2]Even when no crime is involved, a civil action for conspiracy may be brought by the persons who were damaged.[1]
 – Wikipedia

Conspiracies happen. They happen all the time, and they are exposed all the time. It is not outrageous to describe the actions of several individuals within the UK establishment – government, journalism, business, civil service – as conspiracy.

But what kind of conspiracy are we talking about?

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“What Part of “No” Dont You Understand?”

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I generally don’t bother with The Telegraph, or most newspapers in general. I might make an exception in future regarding the Greenock Telegraph due to it being Inverclyde’s local paper, but in general, I’ve forsaken the printed media as surely as I’ve decided to turn my back on visual media.

That said, this piece in The Telegraph inspired me to comment on a phenomenon I’ve noticed: this weird idea that because the referendum resulted in a No vote, pro-independence supporters should just stop campaigning for independence.

Ever since the Scottish Nationalists lost the independence referendum they have had trouble coming to terms with the fact that they lost the independence referendum (you need to keep saying it and eventually it might get through). From the moment the result was announced, humourless SNP politicians and some Yes voters north of the border have been searching for ways in which they can claim that really they won (when they lost). And anyway, they say, there is a storm coming, just like they said there was a storm coming when they swore blind in September that they were going to win the independence referendum (which they lost).

Isn’t it precious just how insecure this paragraph seems? Ostensibly it seems Iain Martin is repeating “they lost” for the independence supporters’ benefit, but the more you read it, the more it seems like it’s Martin who needs to keep reminding himself that “they lost.” The practically undisguised glee in repeating the mantra belies a strange fear that, maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the resounding, crushing defeat we thought it was.

How, pray tell, is one supposed to “come to terms” with this fact? Are we to just give up on independence entirely, even though we saw a pro-independence minority of around 30% at the start of the campaign rise to 45% – and, if recent polls are to be believed, may well have gone over 50% since the referendum? Because 400,000 more Scots voted No than Yes, that means the 1.6 million who voted Yes are to basically be ignored? Chance would be a fine thing for the Unionists. But I’m not sorry to say, that isn’t going to happen.

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Red Flowers and White Feathers

I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall; I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself: I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city are safe with me; never through me
Shall you be overcome.

 – “Conscientious Objector,” Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1934

The white feather has many meanings in different cultures. In British culture, it is a symbol of cowardice, of shaming those who refuse conscription to a brutal war:

At the outset of the war, Britain relied on volunteers to fill the trenches and recruiters were not afraid to harness the power of shame and embarrassment to fill their quotas of men to ship to the killing fields of France and Belgium.

One army recruiting poster, addressed “To the young women of London”, baldly stated: “Is your ‘Best Boy’ wearing Khaki? If not don’t YOU THINK he should be? If your young man neglects his duty to his King and Country, the time may come when he will NEGLECT YOU!”

The white feather movement unabashedly capitalised on such sentiment and within weeks young men were being confronted by women bearing their symbols of cowardice.The effect was often powerful and immediate.

James Lovegrove was only 16 when he was confronted by a group of women on his way to work. He wrote: “They started shouting and yelling at me, calling me all sorts of names for not being a soldier! Do you know what they did? They stuck a white feather in my coat, meaning I was a coward. Oh, I did feel dreadful, so ashamed. I went to the recruiting office.”

Despite initially being told to go away because he was under age, the recruiting sergeant eventually took pity on him and falsified his measurements. Lovegrove added: “All lies of course – but I was in.”
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: White feather for winner of Victoria Cross

A note given to the younger brother of a conscriptee. The boy was ten years old.

A note given to the younger brother of a conscript. The boy was ten years old.

But it is not the same across the globe.

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Bon Cop de Falç!

"Encara podem pujar... i ser una nació de nou..."

Encara podem pujar… i ser una nació de nou…

I’ve often wondered about Nationalism, even long before the referendum came along. Scottish independence is always something that seemed right to me, and I simply couldn’t understand why the Scottish people dwelt in this sort of limbo between regional and national status. How could we be our own nation, with our own national legal system, national education, national health services, national trust, national arts organisations, even national football teams, yet not have control over our national finances, national welfare, national resources, national defence, national budget? It seemed like we were a nation in only some respects, and a region in others. Yet why have we never had a direct say in exactly what respects we are a country, and in which we are a region?

Today, Catalonia must make their decision on a similar question to the one Scots made on the 18th of September, but for them, the stakes are even higher: in Spain, there is no rhetoric about Catalonia being part of a “family of nations.” You cannot really be a “proud Catalan” while still being a “proud Spaniard” as if they are both nationalities. Most damning, the Spanish government are refusing to recognize this referendum. Already we’ve seen brutish displays of colonial might in the form of tanks cruising along roads, attempting to cow the population into subservience. We’ve been there.

Go For It Catalonia

I’d love to say my interests are entirely selfless, but it shouldn’t need to be said that I do hope that a successful Si vote in Catalonia will help galvanise the continued fight for independence in my homeland – and that of other countries throughout the world. For all the filibustering about the Evils of Nationalism, it’s clear to me that the vast majority of independence movements are not based around the old ideas of conquest and supremacy, but the simple desire for self-determination. Whichever way the vote goes, I feel like my reaction would be little different to my reaction to Scotland’s vote – and tears either way. For any vote for self-determination, especially in the face of such adversity from a larger, controlling polity, is a victory for the self-determination of all human beings.

Future Europe

Consider: what if it was different? What if the seat of Spanish power was centralised not in Madrid, but Barcelona? What if the dominant language of Spain – and thus, a great proportion of the world – was Catalan, not Spanish? What if the national anthem of Spain was not “Marcha Real,” but “Els Segadors”? Would we not respect the right of the Spanish people to assert their independence? Would we not see the injustice of a nation not having control over its own national affairs? Would we not urge them to take responsibility for themselves, cut themselves from the ties that bind them, join the cloud of butterflies with those nations already free?

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you well, Catalunya. Vote Si – for yourselves, and for all of us.

Catalunya triomfant,
tornarà a ser rica i plena.
Endarrera aquesta gent
tan ufana i tan superba.

Bon cop de falç!
Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra!
Bon cop de falç!

Ara és hora, segadors.
Ara és hora d’estar alerta.
Per quan vingui un altre juny,
esmolem ben bé les eines.

Bon cop de falç!
Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra!
Bon cop de falç!

Que tremoli l’enemic,
en veient la nostra ensenya.
Com fem caure espigues d’or,
quan convé seguem cadenes.

Bon cop de falç!
Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra!
Bon cop de falç!