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Do Unionists hate the English? 171

Posted on June 26, 2014 by

It’s becoming ever harder to keep track of the twists and turns of the No campaign on the thorny subject of immigration.

First we have astroturfing groups urging us from London to Vote no borders”, and the Better Together narrative of “border posts at Berwick”. But then we’re offered the rather desperate spectacle of the fear of immigration being used as a weapon against Scotland being able to control immigration with the powers of independence. 


We’ve already written about the ludicrous way in which the figures for net immigration were distorted by the media and the differing needs here. But there’s even more irony and hypocrisy in the No camp using immigration as a stick to beat Yes with.

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The not-so-iron bar 224

Posted on April 12, 2014 by

Even Sparta’s mythical iron-bar currency – specifically designed, so legend had it, to shackle the economy by being too heavy to buy or trade anything – was marginally better, in Alistair Darling’s view, than anything an independent Scotland might be able to use for money, all of which will lead to inevitable doom.


Because Scotland, as all good unionists know, is the only country in world history for which there is no currency option that will work at all.

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On holiday with foreigners 108

Posted on September 26, 2013 by

It’s amazing what a trip away can do: refresh, educate, put a new slant on an old debate. I was in the US recently. The first thing I learned was before departure, and I pass it on as a tip: if you’re going to the US, fly from Dublin, not a UK airport. Apart from being about half the price – presumably because they have control over their airport taxes, so can adjust them to compete with Heathrow – it makes life far easier.


When I last flew to the US from a UK airport, long before 9/11, we were held in a bleak corridor without any amenities for well over an hour before being processed through immigration, where we were interrogated about the purpose of our visit, what address we were staying at, and where we were going exactly. It put me off re-visiting the States for a long time.

Flying from Dublin is a different experience.

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Standing up for your own side 144

Posted on May 09, 2013 by

Sir Alex Ferguson (no relation) resigned as manager of Manchester United this week. The resulting deluge of newspaper articles covered a wide range of opinions, both gushingly complimentary and rather less so, but one characteristic of the man was uniformly (and approvingly) agreed on – that he always defended his players.


And it was hard not to contrast that unwavering loyalty (a trait described by Ferguson himself as “the anchor of my life”) with events in the independence debate last week.

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We are the 51% 95

Posted on February 18, 2013 by

I’m not a feminist. I’m barely feminine come to that: a pushing-40 tomboy. My initial reaction to comments about gender balance is a cringe. So what if there are four men and no women on a panel? What do women bring to a debate that a man can’t? If I’m really honest, a man will often persuade me to a cause long before a woman – they can exude an air of authority most women would feel embarrassed to display.


It’s only very recently, partly thanks to Women for Independence, I’ve realised it’s an issue that does matter. On this site – below the line – the question of gender balance has been dismissed as hysterical feminism. On Twitter, a debate last week had the lack of women in politics dismissed with “Well, they exclude themselves, don’t they?”

The irony for me, as a woman, is how those kind of comments mirror the independence debate itself. An “I’m not a feminist but…” article echoes the now common, “I’m not a nationalist but…” refrain. The cringe when women speak up about gender imbalance is similar to the Scottish cringe: a lack of confidence in who you are; in standing up for yourself or others in your position; in insisting you on your right to be heard over those exuding more authority.

The “Well they exclude themselves don’t they? If women want to be involved what’s stopping them?” line carries within it the same lack of insight into power structures and barriers as, “What are those Jocks whinging about now? They’re represented at Westminster, aren’t they?”

The issue, as far as I’m concerned – and other women may disagree, we don’t all think the same – isn’t one about straight gender balance. Simply replacing male politicians and panellists with women who’ve made it within the same system misses the point. The issue is with politics itself, and the style of UK political and media debate.

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A letter to Tony Benn 71

Posted on January 29, 2013 by

Dear Mr Benn,

I was in Glasgow Concert Hall on Saturday for your interview, and the preview of the film about your life. And what a life! You are inspirational to many, as the crowd made clear. It’s easy to see why. You talk passionately of hope, of belief in a better future, of anger at injustice. Of engagement and democracy.

You recognise, too, that New Labour became right-wing, almost a second Tory party. You must understand how this played in Scotland.

It’s for these reasons I was depressed and perplexed by your answer to the question on Scottish independence. The question was a good one: would an independent Scotland be more socialist? It’s a question many in the independence movement grapple with. Can we cast off Westminster’s neoliberalism, corruption and corporate greed? There is no answer; no one knows.

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Into the arms of Yes 143

Posted on January 18, 2013 by

I’ll make a confession: I don’t think Scotland needs independence. I’m not certain full independence is the most desirable option. At this stage in the debate, on Wings Over Scotland, that might be a quite contentious assertion. But last year, on numerous talkboards and comment threads, starting with that statement frequently saw me being called a “cybernat”, an “SNP stooge” or in one instance, “Salmond’s stormtrooper”.

That was because the statement always came with a “but”: “…but we do need control of welfare” or “…but we do need fiscal autonomy”“. And the “but” never went down well.

Full fiscal autonomy was the reason I voted Liberal Democrat in 2007. It had much to recommend it over the SNP’s full independence policy, both for Scotland and the rUK. It would have been a gradual approach that wouldn’t have scared many horses, north or south of the Tweed. It was an “I do want independence but am too polite to say so, in a very British way” kind of option.

It could have passed barely noticed by the UK media. Friends and family in England would have responded to your declaration of being a “full fiscal autonomy supporter” with a weary eye-roll and “Do shut up about Scottish politics, dear”. Independence, even if virtually synonymous in the detail, instead attracts “What? You want to rip my country apart, literally destroy 300 years of history and rob me of my entire identity, you evil separatist nat bastard?”

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