danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I am quite excited about the latest referendum in New Zealand. They are considering changing their flag from the Australian Flag the current design adopted in 1902 to another design, which it is hoped would better represent the New Zealand of the 21st and 22nd Centuries.

They have canvassed designs in an open competition, reduced the 10,000 suggestions to a long list, and further reduced that to a short list.

New Zealanders will vote on the top candidate from the 4 entries on the short list using the Alternative Vote and then the winner of that referendum will go (mast) head to (mast) head, pole to pole, flago i flago against the Australian Flag the current New Zealand Flag.

Which seems to me to be a reasonable and democratic way of deciding on whether to replace a current incumbent and with what. It's the system I advocate for deciding on electoral reform, or house of lords reform.

More details below.



I wonder what designs we would be offered in Scotland if we ran the same process
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I am standing for election to the Council of the Electoral Reform Society. My election statement is below. Two other Unlock Democracy Council members are also standing, James Grindrod and Stephan Carter. We hope that having some cross over of membership of the two Councils will help the two organisations work well together.

You can still join the ERS and vote in the election. In order to vote you'll need to be register by the 24th July.


The last Council election had about 650 voters so your vote could well be influential. Also you can experience voting using STV.

Danny Zinkus Statement ERS Council Election Statement

Read more... )
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
The conversation I am currently not having with several people is about George Osbourne and #IndyRef.

Everytime a No voter I know starts tearing in to the manifest incompetence and evil of Osbourne as Chancellor I have to bite my tongue to avoid saying unhelpful things like "You voted for him to be our Chancellor you idiot!"
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Two thoughts on US defence policy and spending.

One - the amount of money the USA spends on defence should be viewed through the lens of transfer payments from rich parts of the US to poor parts and from rich US-ians to otherwise unemployed USians.

Two - the amount of money the USA spends on defence should be viewed through the lens of a desire to support basic research and foundational science as well as product development and innovation.

The ability to invade everywhere else in the world at once might just be a side effect of items one and two.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
There's a lot written about American politics. Two issues seem to consume the British commentariate like no other. The state of race relations and gun control. Both issues have had major talking points in recent months and the murders in South Carolina have brought both together.

And it's not that I'm not interested, curious, fascinated. I am It's not that I don't think the issues are important or that the people affected aren't important or deserving of the right answer to their problems. They are. It's not that I don't think there are answers. I certainly do.

But they are also issues, people and political solutions in a foreign country, no more or less important than similar issues in other countries.

Often I think that commentators in the UK are more excited about US race relations or US violent crime than they are about those issues in the UK. Dozens of British citizens have been murdered in a religiously motivated attack using uncontrolled guns in Tunisia and judging by the way my social media accounts are spinning you'd think it hadn't happened.

So, I'm interested and concerned but also trying not to say too much about and I'm looking out for blogs on the experience of Eastern European migrants to the UK, or how UK hindus experience hindu nationalism in India, and also on the subject of Australian boat people, gun control in Russia, land rights for indiginous peoples in South America, the experiences of white Zimbabwians or any of the experiences of not the US.

Just a friendly reminder to myself that the US is not the UK and the US is not the whole of the world.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I was pointed in the direction of this article on How the SNP Has Failed Scotland.


I didn't like it. Those that like this sort of thing will like it. The headline doesn't match the substance of the article. I'd even go as far as to suggest that it was the Labour Party derping. Worse, I think it continues a wrong headed and counter-productive strain in the Labour Party.

Failed is a pretty high bar. For a political party in government to have failed the country things would have to be in a pretty awful state, and that awful state would have to be the direct fault of acts or omissions willfully taken by the government. Or that the governing party had run on a manifesto to do one thing and the set out deliberately to do the exact opposite. The Irish government failed Ireland. The Icelandic government failed Iceland. The government of Zimbabwe has arguably failed Zimbabwe. When I hear the words "failed the people of..." that's my personal benchmark.

Well, you might say, it's just rhetoric. That's true, but it's bad rhetoric, because it's transparent rhetoric. It's open to two obvious lines of attach. Firstly, the unproductive Nah, Nah, Nah you (Red Tories, Lie Dems, CON Self-Serve-atives - delete as appropriate) are worse. Worse!!! Which leaves the undecided neutral with the view that all sides are pretty poor, that they don't have much interesting working with each other or making things better and they might as well vote for the person with the nicest smile. The second obvious attack is No We're Not - Look What We've Done About... and there follows a list of things that they governing party has done that are either okay or popular or both.

It's the kind of rhetoric of someone who isn't listening to either the other side or the audience but buries their head in the sand when the counter points coming in - a sort of rhestorich.

So a high bar and one open to predicable lines that carry the debate no further forward. And what has the SNP failed to do?

Having set a high bar the article then fails to make it's case. It barely starts to make its case. In order to have failed Scotland I am looking for a series of policy or executive disaster. What I get is this. I learn that spending money is easier than raising it. I learn that we've spent a lot of time thinking the constitution. I learn that the SNP have successfully defended Scotland having more money spent on it per capita than the rest of the UK but they have chosen to reduce the proportion of this money spent on health and education so that Scotland only spends a little more per capita on health and education than England and instead have spent some more money on economic develop and agriculture, and transport and on sports and culture.

And that's it. The article finishes. I think I'm meant to draw the conclusion that because the SNP are spending relatively less on health this decade than the Labour Party did last decade that the SNP has failed Scotland and we'll all be reduced to eating our children and selling their skins to make gloves for Greek pensioners any day now.

Now, I'm open to arguments that health care and education should have more spent on them. I'm also open to arguments that spending more on health and education is not the only measure of success. I'd like to see some discussion about health and education outcomes. More fundamentally, spending a bit less on health care and a bit more on economic development is a political choice. The SNP chooses to address the relative weakness of Scotland's economy at the expense of spending a bit less on health care today. That might be the wrong choice:- the benefits from a better economy in the future might never be enough to offset the loss of better health care today, that might be a choice badly made or badly executed, it might be a choice that wasn't made clear to Scots - we don't know, the article doesn't say. It just presents the SNP as not spending all the money on the NHS and the kids as failing Scotland.

And it's derping - it presents information only in the context of Baysian priors - The SNP are BAD!Or, if you are not one of the shrinking number of Labour Party members - The Labour Party hate the SNP more than the hate Thatcher. The new information in this article is that the Labour party doesn't have any policy response to the SNP, doesn't't have a new campaigning response to the SNP, hasn't changed the way it engages with voters in Scotland or tries to frame the debate. They continue with their old standard that voting for the SNP will be a disaster for Scotland. And when it's not, when the SNP continue to deliver broadly competent government delivering sort of centre-left policies they look like hollow rhetoricians. They also look like they are more concerned about whether they are driving the bus than where the bus is going. Whilst they continue to look like their only contribution to the debate is to exagerate the under-performance of the SNP in order to preserve their own personal position they can only continue to be side-lined by a Scottish electorate which is begining to see a vision for the future. Whilst the Labour Party refuse to share their vision for the future with us, Scots will continue to turn to the SNP for the SNP's future. And more and more they will stop listening to the Labour Party, leaving not effective, credible opposition in Scotland.

And that's a shame, because there is a lot to attack about the SNP in goverment. Their education policy has failed to be delivered and then failed to deliver. The centralisation of Police Scotland has been operationally disruptive and democratically deficient. Their energy policy is rather wind and subsidy-centric. They are perhaps a little too close to business interests in a way that evokes memories of Ireland or Iceland. So, I'd like a Labour Party that actually put itself in opposition to the SNP by proposing better policies and better ways of engaging with the people. I'm not even asking them to propose a radical new economic settlement, I have the Greens for that I'd just like them to stop shouting at the television and start explaining to me how they would make my country better.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I heard a rather irritating interview with Alex Salmond on Radio Four this morning which got on to the subject of fox hunting in England and Wales.

Irrititing in two ways.

Firstly, when asked a question about what principles the SNP MP's would use when deciding to vote on proposals to re-instate fox huntingin England and Wales Salmond waffled on and on and on like, well like one of my more whimsical and long-winded contribtutions to the internet giving Michelle Hussain (I think) the opportunity to interupt him with "You'll just do what every you feel like then?" or words very much to that effect.

Irritating because it's a perfectly simple and reasonable question and all Salmond had to do was either answer it with the correct and direct answer (see below) or give some bland assertion that until he saw the detail he wasn't really in a position to give a definative answer, the devil would be in the detail, see the accidental changes to the competitence of the Scottish Parliament brought in that time that it happened.

Instead, he got carried away with his man o' pairts, man o' the people act and allowed himself to be made to look unprincipled and interferring.

More irritating because if ever there was an issue on which the SNP should abstain (in as morally an affronted way as possible) it's fox hunting in England (and maybe Wales). The correct response is perhaps for one SNP backbencher to stand up and say, "Fox hunting is wrong and we're sad and bit ashamed to sharing a country with people who think it's not wrong but, as we've said before foreign countries shouldn't meddle in the domestic affarirs of their neighbours - so do what you want."

It's a pretty clear example of an England only matter. Bar a few cross border foxes. Reynard Gretna Redux. There doesn't appear to be any budgetary implications, it creates some criminal offences in England and that's about it. Bluntly, it's no more the SNP's business than fox hunting in Germany. It's also, in my view, not an issue that even indirectly affects many people in Scotland. It's not important to us, doesn't affect the day to day lives of us, or people we know. It's not like benefit sanctioning where we Scots might be appauled that our cousin was a victim of a harsh regime. Foxes aren't endangered. It's barely ever been an animal cruelty measure - it's about English class war.

Doesn't affect us. No great moral reason for us to intervene.

Almost certainly bound to get right up the noses of exactly those English voters who thought twice abotut voting Labour because they were worried the SNP were going to interfere in the running of England. "Oh, look a the SNP, they can't help themselves."

Voting on fox hunting would be a massive own goal for the SNP, and for a cause that won't make a single Scot better off, nor make much material difference to any one in England.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
What am I doing at the moment.

Lots of things.

New job is taking up lots of my thinking space. It's enjoyable being back in a dynamic part of the private sector.

I've been working on the Unlock Democracy strategic plan 2016-2026. That's hard work. It's been difficult to get people to engage over the election and it's difficult to come up with a common language and framework for what we're trying to do. I am hopeful about the eventual outcome.

I've been doing some thinking about Scottish energy policy with my dad. This is quite good fun (for a geeky version of fun) and it's great to be working with dad on something we both know something about and are interested in.

I've bought a new bike. I have not collected it yet but it is going to be the best bike I've ever owned. I may start riding it to work.

I've booked a summer holiday in Spain. MLW, BB, the Captain and my mum are going to Reus in southern Catalonia for two weeks in August.

It's not leaving much time for acting or improv or reading or writing or gardening but that's okay - there is more time coming just around the corner.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
Here follows a few fun facts about the election in Scotland.

Total votes cast approxiately 2,910 thousand , up from the 2010 figure of 2,466 thousand by some 445 thousand votes

Turn out was 71.1% giving the number of registered voters at 4,093 thousand. (Registered voters for the Independence Referendum was higher at 4,283 thousand - EU citizens are eligible to vote in Scottish elections but not UK elections)

Turnout in the whole of the UK as 66.1% and in England 65.9%.

In 2010 Scottish turnout was 63.8%. In the UK as a whole 65.1%

The turnout figure in 2015 is slightly unflattering to Scottish engagement as the number of registered electors has increased from 3,865 thousand by 223 thousand to 4,093 thousand.

Had the number of registered electors remained the same turnout in Scotland would have been 75.3%

So a markedly higher turnout in Scotland on an increased electorate. Well done us I think. Well done us.

Had the SNP stood in all the seats in the UK and acheived the same results as they did in Scotland the seat allocation would be
SNP 617
Conserative 18
Labour 13
Lib Dems 1
Others 1

That's on 49.97% of the vote - not quite half of the vote.

If the SNP could find the right 1,319 voters in Edinburgh South, 409 voters in Orkney and Shetland and 400 voters in Dumfries and persuade them to change their vote they would have a clean sweep of all the seats on just over 50% of the vote.

Glasgow North East records the highest swing in a general election ever of 43.9% from Labour to the SNP.

UKIP got more votes (47,078) than the Greens (39,205) and increased their vote share by 0.9%, slightly more than the Greens 0.7% increase.

The Greens poll less than half the 87 thousand votes they achieved in the 2011 Holyrood election and about 1/3rd the 108 thousand votes they polled in the 2014 Euro elections.

UKIP polled over 140 thousand votes in the 2014 Euro elections.
danieldwilliam: (Licorice Bull)
Here follows a not particulary funny or kind joke.

A Scottish Labour MP, a Scottish Tory MP and a Scottish Lib Dem MP got in to a taxi.

The taxi driver grabs the steering wheel, turns round in his seat and asks them "Where would you like to...


"Westminster, please, but why the big pause?"

"I'm a fucking panda."
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

There are a few places I go to on a sort of political pilgrimage when I need to get my head straight about what work I need to do and to reconnect with heroes and role models from the past. The statue of John Cartwright in Bloomsbury, the New Rooms in Bristol, an old mill in Stroud and New Lanark. New Lanark is the one that is in my mind this weekend.

I don't see great advantage in the Labour Party trying to tack a little bit to the left of the Tories whilst led by someone in a slightly nicer suit that David Cameron in order to snaffle a few marginal suburban seats. I doubt it will work and even if it did what, fundamentally, would be the point?

New Lanark reminds me that in the beginning the Labour Movement was an attempt to bring together hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who wanted to work in co-operation and solidarity with each other, with their communities, to build better lives and better politics.

Somewhere in the future i hope there is a Labour Party that will once again be able to connect  millions of people and help them tell the truth about their lives and  create a better future together.

danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
With the referendum over, for now, the UK general election with it's siren call of tactical voting over, the prospects for immediate constitutional reform reduced it is probably time for me to lift my head a little and look towards the upcoming Scottish general election in a year's time.

And that means remembering that I am a member of an opposition party in Scotland. That no matter how much I admire Nicola Sturgeon and no matter that I share common ground with the SNP I must remember that there is a much I don't support about the SNP government.

I have some concerns about their narrative. The problems in Scotland are not all the result of Westminster, Margaret Thatcher, Red Tories or They English. Some of them are of our own making. Some of them are of our own choosing. The SNP are the government of Scotland and have been since 2007.

What have they done to advance our society, our state and our polity? What have they failed to do? Those are the questions that the Scottish opposition should put to them. The point is not to deplore their aspiration for autonomy or the route they propose towards a progressive political settlement in Scotland. It is certainly not to buy in to the story that they can do nothing in the face of Tory cuts and the Westminter system. Independence is not the only important question. Over the next five years it is probably not a very important question
The point is to ask them if they have used the powers they have fully, wisely and cleverly to do the best they can.

Is the centralisation of public services like Police Scotland efficent or effective or democratic? Why is a Glasgow model of the suppression of prostitution being forced without consultation on a more tolerant Edinburgh, where I live? Why are they trying to arm the police?

Is the policy of free tuition fees really the most effective or progressive way to ensure we have well educated citizens with fair access to the benefits of a good education? What about early years provision for poor kids so they can grow up to get the grades to make university an option for them?

How are we going to integrate large numbers of renewables on to the Scottish grid? What can we do to make energy in Scotland cheaper and a source of exports and jobs? Shoud we really be excluding nuclear energy?

What about internal devolution and the powers of local councils? How can we make Scotland a more participative and deliberative and pluralistic democracy?

Are we comfortable with the relationship the SNP has with rich foreign businessmen like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump? Or our own rich businessmen?

Lots of questions to put to the SNP about their record and their choices and their priorities and their plans. The SNP are in government in my country and I am a member of an opposition party.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Well, that was an unexpected election result. In lots of ways.

I had been hoping for a minority Labour government requiring support from Lib Dems and the SNP.

I'd been expecting a Conservative minority government.

I was, I suppose expecting the opinion polls to be predictive.

It's a disappointing result too. A Tory government is not something to wish on one's friends. I was also hoping that a government with legitimacy issues and dependent on others to support it would be open to some significant constitutional reforms. Those look unlikely from a majority Tory government.

So what comes next?

Well several more years of a reduction in public spending. If the public sector wants to protect the services it provides it will have to embrace technology and find ways to reduce the cost of provision and overhead significantly.

The economy will continue to grow quite sharply for another 18 months to two years. Then I think our structural problems of lack of productively growth, weak infrastructure and shortage of profitable investment opportunities kick in and growth is slower. Growth will be further depressed with the uncertainty brought about by an EU referendum. With a Tory government more of the proceeds of that growth go to Capital. So folk can expect to not feel much better off I expect.

Constitutionally, we might well see English Votes for English Laws. I don't have a problem with the principle but I think the practise will be fraught with unworkable problems. Otherwise, not a lot, not a lot. Oh, Boundary Reviews, reducing the number of seats to 600 and making the seats probably a little easier for the Tories to win.

The SNP will win handsomely in 2016.

I expect Europe will become the Big Issue and if the Tory party remains as split about Europe in 2015 as they were in 1992 that will be interesting.

A few Tories will die. The government will see its majority slowly decrease but not die - literally barring accidents of the multiple car pile up on the road to Conference variety. All the talk of Europe will keep UKIP in the public's eye - with their 3.9 million vote and 1 seat. (More than twice the votes of the SNP for 1/50th the seats). Things could get tasty if the Tory party really go mad over Europe. I don't know that they will. If the Tories have one quality it is successfully holding on to power. I would not be surprised by a Tory party split over Europe, before, during or after the EU referendum.

I've no idea about the EU referendum. I think Cameron wants to avoid it. I'm not sure how he can withuot splitting the Tory party from right under himself. I'd say that the massive funding and roll call of big and small business supporting a Yes to the EU vote would guaranttee a win for the EU but the British public seem in a perverse mood at the moment.

(If I were Cameron I'd do two things I'd offer the SNP Full Fiscal Autonomy and a binding 4 Nations Concurrence on EU withdrawal. This would keep the SNP quiet and ensure that Cameron could hold and win the EU referendum without it being his fault.)

If the UK leaves the EU Scotland will leave the UK.

I'm not sure where either the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties go from where they are. I expect the Labour Party will have cause to regret not ensuring electoral reform, House of Lords reform and regional devolution. I expect they won't realise they are the authors of their own downfall.

Other than that my taxes will go down a little, my children's schools get a little worse and I'll hope I don't get seriously ill for ten years.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
Really very pleased to see the Scottish Parliament Committee on Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments recommend a light touch but useful Lobbying Register.

This follows the work of Neil Findlay MSP in raising a private members’ bill to introduce such a lobbying register and the support of Unlock Democracy and especially the Electoral Reform Society Scotland in supporting and promoting his bill and raising public support for it. I had some small role in this but the real work was done by the staff at those two campaign organisations and of course, Neil Findlay and his staff who deserve huge credit for pushing an unpopular issue. Also well done to the Scottish Parliament clerking team who took an innovative approach to the public consultation.

This report is worth the subscription fees to the ERS and UD alone.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
A little while ago the Sun published its Sunfesto, a list of policies the Tories must support before the Sun will publicly support them. But how many does a sceptical left-libertarian type like me actually support once we get past the shock of agreeing with the Sun.

Read on for the answer - cut because it's long )

The answer turns out to be 25 out of 52. (Ish) so just under half.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I was up for Portillo. Every election has it's moments of drama and its moments that typify the whole event. Sometimes they are one and the same.

I am looking forward to the 2015 General Election for all sorts of reasons but perhaps the thing I’m most looking forward to is this.

It’s about four o’clock on Friday morning. Results are starting to come in. Early indications are that UKIP have actually picked up a few of their key seats.

Cut to the Thannet South declaration. By a whisker Farage has failed to win his seat. During the interview afterwards he attempts to talk down his personal disappointment whilst talking up the fact that it’s a been a great night for UKIP. His usually cheerful to the verge of smug face is tinged with the bitter realisation that, like Moses he has lead his people to the Promised Land but can not enter it himself.

Breaking news.

UKIP HOLD Clacton.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
In the wake of #IndyRef I’ve seen many suggestions that Scottish Labour are dead and that the SNP will win a majority of seats of Westminster seats in the 2015 General Election.

I don’t think the end has come for Scottish Labour. I think Scottish Labour is in long term decline with an existential threat. Nothing that is acceptable to them will repair their situation. The end is nigh-ish.

Read more... )
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
Well I’m very disappointed. I think Scotland has made a grave error and we’ll have cause to regret it sooner rather than later and for a long time.

So where next?

Well for me I’ll be working on Unlock Democracy’s campaign for a citizen lead constitutional convention. If we don’t ask we won’t get.

I’ve been very impressed with the work that the Electoral Reform Society Scotland have been doing with their Democracy to the Max initiative. The more I experience it the more I value genuinely participative and genuinely deliberative democracy. Or user defined quality as I describe it to myself.

I think it’s time to re-join a political party. That party isn’t going to be the Labour Party.

And honestly, I’ll be dusting off my Australian passport. If I’m going to be living in a neo-liberal hellhole I’m not going to be doing it with Nigel Farage. I’m going to be doing it somewhere I can eat prawns five times the size of the prawns I get at home and sit on my veranda looking over the Adelaide Hills sipping a nicely chilled glass of local wine whilst my son spins a rugby ball or a cricket ball through the warm evening air.

For politics in Scotland?

I’d like to hope that many of those newly engaged or active in politics in Scotland remain so. We have a UK general election in a little over six months from now and a Holyrood election in just over eighteen months. So plenty for people to get involved in. Both Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society are gathering signatures demanding a citizen led constitutional convention.

I am very sceptical that the promises of further devolution will come to much. I think it’s difficult to marry up the sort of powers that Scotland requires to remain part of the Union, the aspirations of Wales and Northern Ireland, with the current thinking on devolution in England. I don’t think there is enough time to do the necessary consultations and deals even if you exclude a citizen lead constitutional convention from the process. Bluntly, I don’t trust the Labour Party or the Tory Party to bother themselves or to get themselves into uncomfortable positions over this.

And the obvious protest vote if you don’t like the Westminster parties is UKIP.

I hope I’m wrong but I’m still waiting for Lords Reform.

I think the biggest losers in the Indy Ref campaign have been Scottish Labour. The Better Together campaign has been dire. Not only relentlessly negative in a way that has resulted in them telling their own voters over and over and over again that they shouldn’t hope for better and couldn’t cope with it if they got it but operationally poor.

The Better Campaign, Tory Money and Labour Bodies, has been operationally and strategically appalling. If they have saved the Union, they’ve only just done so. Personally, on balance, I’m of the view that we’ll be doing this again in about 2026.(1) The cost of that is that they’ve damaged their ability to operate in Scotland, become associated with the Tories and given the SNP a stick to beat them with. Footage of Johann Lamont running down Scotland is going to appear all over the interwebs in April 2015 and April 2016. Well, two sticks. Here come the Tory enabling Labour Party. Every taunt the Labour Party has directed at the Lib Dems since 2011 is now fair comment for the SNP everytime the Labour Party appear.

What they have done is split their activist base. Quite a few Labour activists appear to have been excited by the independence message. These people will be viewed as close to traitors by some in the Labour Party. Glasgow, the home of the Labour movement, voted for independence.

Fundamentally, they could have avoided 1.6m people voting for independence by sorting out a decent devolution package in 2012.

And operationally, they’ve been poor, again. They barely seemed to have turned up on the ground for the campaign which I think is indicative of a deeper malaise in the Labour Party. They were forced to rely on three Westminster politicians to spearhead their campaign, Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy and, like an anaemic ghost of Duncan, Gordon Brown. I think they will lose seats at the next UK general election.

So, I expect the SNP to continue as the natural party of government in Scotland and to continue to face utterly inadequate opposition. Whilst I am in favour of many SNP policies and I think they are a competent government I’m not happy about them being left entirely to their own devices.

So all in all, not a great result in my view.

(1) Timetable based on

2015 UK political parties fail to actually deliver further devolution for Scotland because they can’t agree on a workable way of devolving further powers to England and baulk at allowing Northern Ireland the tax varying powers NI wants to compete with the Republic.

2016 A pro-independence government is re-elected in Scotland. I’m not predicting a second SNP majority government. I think the Greens will do better than last time and the non-environmental left might actually get themselves into some order in Glasgow again.

2016-2020 Nothing much happens.

2020 Having governed for 13 years the SNP run out of steam and lose the 2020 Holyrood election.

2020-2024 Still nothing happens.

2024 the SNP and other pro-independence parties gain a majority at Holyrood on a platform of “We told you so.”

2026 18 months after the 2024 Holyrood election we have Indy Ref Round Two.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
Washington DC has a particular and peculiar constitutional position in the US.

DC is a federal district, as provided for in the US Constitution, rather than a state. Consequently DC has no senators and can only send an observer status member to the House of Representatives. Were DC a state it would qualify for the two senators and, with a population of some 600,000 one Representative. They would all three be Democrats.

The citizens of DC are therefore under represented at a federal level. They do pay federal taxes though. Worse is to come. At a local (state) level DC has a legislative council but it’s status is only advisory. It can be, and often is over-ruled, by Congress.

Many citizens of DC are unhappy about this and have used what political powers they have to change their licence plates. Specifically, licence plates are issued by states and federal districts with one of one or more mottos on them.

The DC licence plates read “No taxation without representation.”
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Yesterday, I was catching up on a bit of Scottish independence referendum chat.*

I came across some talk** of Orkney and Shetland making a counter bid for indepedence.***

It set me thinking about what the minimum size of a practically independent nation-state is. There appear to be lots of institutions that nation-states need one of. Not necessarily a large one of whatever it is but definitely one. Difficult to be a nation-state if you don’t have a diplomatic service. Then there are a bunch of things that a nation-state, or any community needs access to. A police training college, someone to write regulations for hotel health and safety. Someone who knows how to buy fire engines and lifeboats.

I’m not necessarily thinking about the minimum size to have an economy large enough to afford these things or to afford to buy them in. Orkney, for example, is likely to have significant oil and fisheries and renewable energy to sell.

But with a population of 20,000 would Orkney have enough people to do all the things that needed doing? And, if it contracted out a lot of services does being reliant on (foreign) suppliers for a bunch of important stuff undermine the idea of a nation-state.

Two examples. An Orcadian diplomatic service that wanted to set up embassies in the top 50 countries Orkney wanted to influence, with 5 staff in each embassy would require to base abroad more than 1% of the population of Orkney.

If Orkney contracted with, say Scotland for access to the Police Scotland training college for the training of the Orcadian Constabulary how much of the culture of the Orcadian Constabulary is actually the culture of the Scottish Police and therefore determined by the government and people of Scotland?

How big do you need to be in order to be large enough to do in-house enough of the things that shape and project your national character?****

*To be honest I’m not paying that much attention to the substance of the debate. I’ve already made up my mind pretty firmly. I’ve come to terms with the necessary ambiguity and uncertainty. No new information that might reasonably be expected is going to change my mind. I want to avoid getting in to an argument with my wife about it.

** Often this talk is by some agrieved English person and is along the lines of “Ha, ha, just you wait Scotland / Salmond (for the two are interchangable like the Kim family and Korea), just you wait as soon as you leave England, Orkney will declare independence and take all “your” oil with it. Then you’ll be bankrupt like Zimbabwe. Ha, ha, ha.”

To which the only rational response is, “Cheers, cheers for that. Perhaps we’ll manage to not treat Orkney like some second rate provence or the personal fiefdom of second rate Labour politicians and, if we fail, well, we’ve still got a higher GDP per capita than you, so I reckon we’ll be just fine thanks all the same.”

*** Which I think they would be entitled to do and I can see why they might not fancy being run by the Central Belt.

**** If indeed that is a thing you want to do.


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