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.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
For some time now I’ve given up the Yes to Independence campaign as lost. (1)
In Which I Discuss the Scottish Independence Polling )
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

Two pieces of analysis on the Coming Lib Dem collapse crossed my desk this morning. The first is an analysis of the potential electoral outcomes for the Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour parties if the current polling position for the Lib Dems of about 10% translates into vote share at the 2015 General Election.

The first is from Robert Ford, of the University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations, the second is from Hopi Sen, Labour blogger and co-author of In The Black Labour.http://hopisen.com/2012/the-coming-libdem-collapse-and-labour/#comment-13293

Ford trials two scenarios for the shifting of Lib Dem voters and looks at the results.  The first is a universal national swing. Lib Dems lose seats to the Tories, the Tories lose seats to Labour in Con-Lab marginal with high 2010 Lib Dem votes. The end result is that the Labour party ends up 6 seats short of a majority in the House of Commons with the Lib Dems on 11 seats. 

Which allows the Labour Party to form a majority coalition with the Lib Dems, or for the Conservative Party to form a (rather unlikely) coalition with the Lib Dems and the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland.

The second scenario looks at the votes cast if the current split of 2010 Lib Dems votes hold true for defected to Labour, the Tories, to Don’t Know (further re-allocated) and stayed Lib Dem.

This scenario sees the Lib Dems reduced to zero seats in the House of Commons and the Labour party sweeping to a Hung Parliament, 14 seats short of an absolute majority.

The SNP finish on about 7 seats.  I’ll let those with a calculator do that sum.

Hopi Sen broadly agrees with the analysis but questions some of the detail about how Don’t Knows split between Labour, Lib Dems and Conservative. He also asks some questions about UKIP. Things will be messier than just one axis of change.

In real life lots of stuff will happen that goes against the general rub of the green and actual results might vary and in such a close election might prove significant.

On this analysis the results look far from being a Labour landslide.  It doesn't take much to shift for both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to end up on functionally the same number of seats and for the Lib Dems to end up more influential than they were in 2010.  If this strikes you as a perverse result, well that's First Past the Post for you.

And raises the question touched on in an earlier post of mine, who do you vote for if you want constitutional change and electoral reform?

It seems clear to me that if you want Devo-Max and you concede that the Yes to Independence campaign won’t win the 2014 election then I think the party to vote in any seat where the SNP came second to the Labour Party is the SNP. 

Which doesn’t help me much. I live in a three way marginal, and the SNP are 4th.

danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

Here is how I think the Independence Referendum is going to play out.

I think the Yes campaign are going to lose. I think they will poll about 40% of the vote.  I’d call this result a definate maybe. Not enough of a rejection to make those who really, really want Scottish independence to give up for fifty years (1). Not close enough to make independence supporters think that they might win a second referendum in 5 years’ time and go through on the away goals rule (2). Some might try to paint this as a resounding vote in favour of the Union but I don’t think it will be seen as such by the people of Scotland. Most Scots will feel that their preferred option of some more powers up to and perhaps including fiscal autonomy wasn’t put to them. I think the result will be seen for what it is, a vote for neither of the two options on offer.

Over the next two years Scotland will be engaged in a long conversation about the constitution, about the practicalities of politics in a multi-nation state, about wealth creation and distribution and national identity.  So will England.

From a Scottish point of view I think what will emerge from this is a settled demand for more powers for Holyrood.  I think it likely that the bare minimum acceptable increase of powers will be offered as part of the No campaign in order to buy off some floating voters. I think a campaign around fiscal autonomy will begin to coalesce as a No win looks more likely.

There are real threats for anyone who tries to deny strong and consistent demands for more autonomy from Scotland.  The Labour Party in particular are vulnerable to losing Westminster seats to the SNP (3) if they take a No vote as an endorsement of the status quo. With the result at 40% or there abouts, those in favour of more autonomy will be able to argue that unless more powers are forthcoming there is the prospect of a second, successful independence referendum in less than a generation.  Scotland can await England’s best offer on a revised constitutional settlement for the early part of the 21st Century.

The independence referendum will engage large numbers of people into political activity. That’s my prediciton based on seeing how activists joined and remained within the reform movement following the AV referendum. Some of these people will remain active after the referendum and that’s your presure group for Devolution Max.

What about England?  Part of the difficulty of giving, or returning, more powers to Scotland is that the more powers are located in Scotland the more strained our current constitution looks. Powers without fiscal responsibility for Scotland look indulgent.  Powers in Scotland that English areas other than London don’t have look unfair.   The West Lothian questions become more and more begged.  All the talk of national identity and national priorities in Scotland is bound to provoke similar thinking in England.  Is the current constitutional framework working for England?  Is it working for London? For Cornwall? How do you deal with the differences in opinion and wealth between the South and the North?

So, I see some renewed discussion in England about an English Parliament, or devolved regional assemblies or returning more power and more fund raising responsibility to local authorities. I’ve no idea how this discussion will turn out. Not really my bag to carry.

It makes the 2015 election really, really interesting from a constitutional point of view. Will the Labour Party go into the election campaign, six months after a No vote with a platform of more powers for the devolved parliaments? Will they go into that election with proposals to address the West Lothian question? For some revised constitutional settlement for England?

Or will they have to be dragged to it?

Will the Labour Party win an outright majority or will the Lib Dems do enough to end up in coalition, and in a position to drag a reluctant Labour Party to some form of reform?

How will the SNP fair in Labour’s urban heartlands of Glasgow and the central belt? How far will non-partisan seekers after fiscal autonomy influence the Scottish Labour Party?

All difficult to tell.

And it all sits around allied constitutional questions about the House of Lords and voting systems.

What I think will happen is that even with a No vote in Scotland there will be an inevitabilty about constitutional change in Scotland. This in turn, I think makes the current arrangement of England without its own parliament or assemblies unworkable. Solving these issues opens further questions about the role of Westminster and the use of voting systems (4).

So constitutional change keeps rumbling on as the background conversation to the more bread and butter issues of taxes and pensions and law and order.

I think the choice for the Labour Party is whether they want to manage this process in the 2010’s or be dragooned into it in the 2020’s.

(1) I think this is sub 30%.

(2) High 40’s, mid 40’s is still too far away.

(3) Those Labour supporters in England who doubt that the SNP are a credible threat to your Glasgow MP’s I’d invite you to think about the five Glasgow Holyrood seats Labour lost to the SNP using first past the post. Would you rather hand over tax raising powers to Holyrood or create 20-30 new marginal seats? How long can you be out of government in Scotland and expect Scots to vote for you at Westminster?

(4) I think it very unlikely that any English Parliament or Assembly would use First Past the Post. And what is the House of Lords for if most domestic policy is being formulated in single chamber regional assemblies?

danieldwilliam: (Default)

With the launch of “Yes Scotland” pro-Independence campaign in Edinburgh later today two things have been on my mind.  What will the anti-Independence campaign call themselves and what will life actually be like in the independent Scotland of the future? I’ve consulted with a few knowledgable types and together our think-tank; The Shortbread Institute for the Study of Scotology has gazed into the future and can offer these predictions about life in Scotland in the early 21st Century.

Pull back the Curtain for those True Facts. )
danieldwilliam: (politics)

Whilst considering the political landscape of Scotland post-Independence I have been assuming that there was only room for one Social Democratic party in Scotland. Consequently, either the Scottish Nationalist Party or the Labour Party would cease to exist, either as a recognisably social democratic party or utterly. A helpful comment in a pub recently suggests that there might well be room for two social democratic parties in Scotland, one in government and one in opposition. What will they disagree about?

Scotland appears to have a settled political consensus around Social Democracy with a goodly amount of Democratic Socialism. By this I mean that it is broadly agreed that the state should be an economic actor, providing goods and services to its citizens, that there should be high levels of taxation and that the provision of public services by the state should be broad and of good quality.  Some areas of the economy are to be reserved for state action. In many more areas a commitment to state provided, tax funded universality of service is made. Some suggestions are made that the collective should directly own whole industries.  The state is seen as vehicle for effecting a meritocracy where the practical equality of opportunity brought about by universal public services allows people to rise and fall on their own efforts rather than the lot they were born into.

These are essentially arguments about the utility of state action in the economy as an agent of the community and individuals.

What then are the dimensions of opposition? Even within the confines of a debate between two social democratic parties the differences of opinion go further and deeper than differences over the correct technical policy or questions of whether specific fringe activities should fall wholly, partly or not at all within the parameters of the state.  Three that spring to mind as examples of how Government and Opposition in an Independent Scotland might be defined in the early 21st Century are Centralisation, Authoritarianism and Diversity.

It is possible for two people to agree that the state should involve itself in the life of the community, yet disagree about the size and shape of the state and where the part of the state that interacts with an individual citizen is located.   Is the state to be highly centralised?  Are tax revenues to flow into the coffers of the central government and then be disbursed, with conditions and performance targets attached, to local administrators? Should those local bodies have responsibility for local policy and should they be directly accountable to the citizenry in their area? Are local bodies to be geographical or comprised of overlapping areas of endeavour.

Some examples.  Should all important decisions about policing and health care be made in Holyrood and Victoria Quay with local bodies merely the executives who deliver central government policy?  If policing and health and other policies are devolved to local bodies should there be one elected body with policy and strategic oversight, a local council and corporation or should the powers and responsibilities for policing be devolved to an elected police board and those for health to an elected health board? Where are the taxes to pay for nurses and polices to be raised and decided upon?

One question that captures the essence of the centralisation question for me “Is the Holyrood general election going to be the only election worth voting in?”

It is possible for two people to agree that the state should involve itself in the life of the community but for one to think that the state should not interfere overly much in the life of the citizen.

Is the state to be able and willing to intervene in the private lives of the citizenry?  These considerations are not restricted to issues of morality and the boundaries between the public purse and private health which are touched on in questions such as: How far should the state be able to go in regulating the sexual mores of the public or its eating and drinking habits? Is it the business of the state to encourage us to take exercise or to compel us?  

There are issues of civil liberties and public security that range from our response to terrorism to crowd control at football matches to thought crimes. Should we be subject to invasive screening and intrusive surveillance to protect us from malevolence?  Should disapproval of sexual behaviour or religion be a criminal offence?

It is possible for two people to agree that the state should involve itself in the life of the community, yet disagree about how that community should develop and what role the state should play in that development.  Is post-Independence Scotland to be mono-cultural or many cultured?  Is that the for the state to influence?  There are issues here of strict secularism in schooling.  Issues of state support for families howsoever defined (and distinct from financial support for those raising children). Do we promote various and varying sexual orientations as a positive choice people can make and a welcome addition to the gaiety of the nation or are non-straight, non-cis monogamists to be seen as the state sponsored norm with Others a tolerated by abnormal fringe?  When considering our immigration policy do we welcome people from social democratic Tanzania as more or less like us than people from Libertarian Texas and does it matter? 

For me the nub of these of Centralisation, Authortarianism and Diversity is how much control do we place in the hands of how few individuals?  If we are agreed in Scotland that we are all in this together and that the group has wide ranging obligations to its members and vice versa these questions seem all the more important.

I can see a Scotland emerging where the primary question of how much of a role the state has in the lives of our community is a settled one. The answer: a lot. What remains are discussions about how centralised that state is to be, where the boundary between public and private activity lies and when the state can step over that boundary and what role the state has in promoting or restricting diversity.

These remain ideological issues and they turn on whether you believe other people can trusted with their own happiness and a share in our communal happiness.

Taken to extremes on the one hand we could have a social democratic party that sees the state as a diverse and devolved facilitator of the betterment of the community and the individual and on the other hand a party that sees the State and by extension the Party as the sole arbiter in disputes and the sole solution to an individual’s problems.

danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

My mother lives in Cornwall. She used to live in Aberdeen (where my sister and daughter were born). After that she lived in Australia.

In recent months whenever she phones she asks about the up-coming independence referendum. These are my favourite 25 Questions my mum keeps asking me about Indepedence and the answers I don’t give her but think quietly to myself.

Q: Will I (my mum) need a passport to visit you (me) in Edinburgh?

A: No, you won’t need a passport because as you’re English you’ll never ever be allowed to visit Scotland every again unless you can produce your Mebyon Kernow membership card.

Q: Will Bluebird (my daughter) be allowed to become Scottish?

A:  She was born in Aberdeen. She’ll be lucky if she’s not deported from Wiltshire as an undesirable alien by that loon you lot elected in 2010.

Q:  Will Scotland even be allowed to be in the EU?

A:  Given a choice between Scotland and England who do you think the EU would rather have?  England will be lucky Jaques De Lors ever sneers at you again.

Q:  Will we (England) be allowed to keep our nuclear submarines at Faslane?

A: Your submarines? *Your* submarines?  When my brother left his motorbike in your garage *you* sold it.  What makes you think we’re not going to put “your” submarines on Ebay as soon as the polls close?

Q: Do you like Alex Salmond?

A: Not only do I like him mother, but, like any true patriot I’m considering letting him impregnate my female relatives.

Q: You were born in Birmingham, will you be alllowed to stay?

A: I lied on my visa application and said I was Australian and you were a refuge from Vietnam. Please try and sound more Asian the next time you visit, you’re blowing my cover.

Q: Will you get to keep the panda?

A: Why do you ask?  Are you still upset that your next door neighbour has blocked out your light with bamboo?

Q: With all those Scottish Labour MP’s gone how will Labour ever win another General Election?

A: Easily, I think the SNP will probably disband after they win the referendum as their internal ideological differences will no longer be overwhealmed by their preference for Independence leaving Labour as the party best reflecting Scotland’s preference for a social democracy.

Q: I meant in England, how will Labour win here?

A: I don’t care. That’s rather the point.

Q:  Will you keep the Queen?

A: No, unlike the submarines you can have the Queen back. Unless she wants to stay.  I would never send anyone to England who didn’t want to go.

Q:  Will you keep the pound or adopt the Euro?

A: Neither, we are going to revert to pre-decimilisation pounds, shillings and pence in a bold move to confound the Daily Mail and make ourselves the retirement location of choice for the over nineties.

Q: Will you still speak English?

A: No, Bunnahabhan, ceilidh tchucther, ceilidh laphroig skien dhu, my hearties.

Q: What about Your Lovely Wife, will she have to move back to England?

A: I’m pretty sure that sure that an EU passport holding, Lithuanian, Oxford educated mother who runs her own business and has owned a flat in Edinburgh for ten years with a post-grad and all her own teeth is going to allowed to stay. She’s lived in Scotland longer than I have. If you are worried I’ll ensure that she is the mother of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2035 winning scrum-half. Also, whilst we are on the subject of mothers and deportation could you *please* try and look a little more Asian please?

Q:  Will Scotland be merging with Ireland?

A: Good grief no! Have you seen what those idiots have done to their economy.

Q: Are you sure you like Alex Salmond?  I don’t like him, I think he’s racist.

A: You’re right, he’s a filthy racist. I personally saw him slapping a Spaniard but I’m too cowed by the secret police to say anything. The things he said, mother, to that small Spanish boy. The. Things. He. Said.

Q:  Will Scotland be able to afford free care for the elderly after Indepedence?

A: Of course, we’ll be sending all our old people to live in your village in Cornwall as a condition of helping Mebyon Kernow’s guerilla campagain.

Q: Of course, I’m not really English. I’m Cornish.  I’ll be able to move to Scotland if I want, won’t I

A:  Oh for sure.  In fact we may have a vacancy for Queen if Liz wants to stay in London and Annie Lennox is busy and  if you don’t mind living in rural Aberdeenshire and having tea with Alex Salmond every Monday.

Q:  I mean, if I really want to?

A:  Absolutely mum. What Scotland needs is *more* mad old ladies. We don’t have enough puritan, silver haired “wise” women disapproving of us getting drunk and swearing and elbowing their way to the front of the queue in the post office.

Q: You would let me emigrate wouldn’t you? 

A: What are you talking about. You hate it here. I spend half of every visit you make trying to persuade you to move here so I can look after you and you spend half your time telling me how effing cold it is and how racist Alex Salmond is.

Q: But if the Tories kept winning elections I could come, as a refugee?

A:  Of course, the People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of South Orkney welcomes all political exiles from our former colonies. Tommy Sheridan himself will carry you across the bridge at Coldstream as an act of Solidarity. On the subject of refugees, for the love of god if you don’t keep pretending to be a Vietnamese boat person I’m going to be chained to the Forth Bridge at low tide as an imposter then exiled to Rockall.

Q: Could you afford to bail out RSPB?

A: The bird people? WTF? 

Q:   I mean could you afford to bail out RBS on your own?

A:  Could England?  Didn’t stop you?

Q:  I keep *my* money in the Co-op. Do you have the Co-Op in Scotland?

A: Strangly, the land of New Lanark has heard of the co-operative movement.

Q: What will you do when the Oil runs out?

A: You tell me. You’re going to find out what it’s like to live in a country that used to have oil but now doesn’t much sooner than I am.

Q:  I mean, when the oil runs out will you (me) have enough money to live on?

A:  Oh yes. I’ll be fine. I’ll have murdered you for you my inheritance long before then and MLW and I will be able to move to Barcelona.

Q: I’m not racist, but I really don’t like Alex Salmond.

A:  You are racist and Alex Salmond is a state of mind, not a nation state.


danieldwilliam: (Default)

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