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Euan’s Ramblings: collected for reference

Posted by Euan Bennet on 26/08/2014

Since I’ve started using Twitter properly, a lot more traffic has been coming to the blog. So now seems like a good time to post a summary of my articles so far. There are two reasons for this: 1) so that people can easily see what I’ve written about in case they want to read more (i.e. they haven’t been chased off by the first thousand words they encounter in any given article), and 2) so that I can quickly and easily find what I’ve written when I need to send the link to someone. Greg’s system has worked pretty well for me finding specific posts of his, so I’m going to shamelessly copy him.

Some of these posts are a year old so there may be better sources to link to now. However, everything was correct at the time of writing.

  • Pensions – a short post pointing towards the relevant information that was established last year about pensions. The scare stories that are still brought out occasionally are just wrong.
  • Comparisons of democracy – my most-read piece for a while (read by over seven people!!), seeing democracy in the UK and Scotland compared to comparable nations is equally surprising and shocking.

All I ask is that people make a properly informed decision after impassively examining the evidence. My mission statement for the blog was to provide sources for people to decide for themselves, and inhabit the niche of evidence-based decisions. We need to get away from politicians lecturing us from pedestals and use the available information to decide for ourselves.

Full Blown Hard Tory Brexit

Posted by Euan Bennet on 09/02/2017

Imagine the EU Referendum last June had resulted in the opposite result: 52% Remain to 48% Leave. Now imagine that yesterday the “Remain” Government of the UK had announced that the UK was joining the Euro, the Shengen area, and giving up all other special opt-outs that the UK enjoys as an EU member state, and that they were railroading the bill enacting this through Parliament without scrutiny in a way that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years. Imagine if the Government had threatened the House of Lords with dissolution should they not “do their patriotic duty” and approve “the will of the people”.

Imagine the outrage. That an agenda held by a small minority of citizens should be so forcefully imposed without scrutiny and under threats to both the Executive and Judiciary branches of the Government.

Of course that scenario is far-fetched, but it is the equivalent in the opposite direction of what will now be forced upon all citizens regardless of whether they voted Remain or Leave.

Last night the UK Parliament voted to allow the UK Government to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of leaving the European Union. In the process, not one amendment was accepted – these amendments ranged from guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, to commissioning a full Treasury report into the likely economic impact of the decision, to requiring the agreement of the Joint Ministerial Committee (made up of the leaders of the UK, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish Governments) to the final deal. Not a single amendment.

The Brexit bill can be found here.

What MPs voted for last night has been described so often as “handing the Tories a blank cheque” that that phrase now qualifies as a cliche. The Labour Party made a lot of noise last week about how they would be voting in favour of the Government bill, but only after extracting concessions. In the event, they extracted precisely zero concessions… and then voted for the bill anyway. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting mockery for an ill-advised tweet after the Government won the vote, including from the First Minister of Scotland:

corbyn_sturgeon

The fight starts now? Seriously, Labour? I thought the Labour Party in Scotland had monopolised most of the stupid to go around in their Party, and for context today they are probably STILL saying “we are for a strong UK in the EU” with their head buried in the sand. Perhaps it’s contagious. The fight starts now. AFTER you’ve allowed the Tories to get permission to do whatever they want. Aye, very good mate. To quote Hardeep Singh Kohli – “Jog. The. Fuck. On.”.

What do the Tories want?

It’s become clear with the Prime Minister’s kow-towing to President Trump, and the Government explicitly saying it repeatedly, that a trade deal with the USA is a high priority. Leaving aside the technical point of how weak the UK’s negotiating position is with anyone, particularly a US President whose slogan is “America First” and who has espoused at length his strategy of only making deals that favour the USA and disadvantage the other parties, what would be required to compete with US companies?

  • Deregulation of workers’ rights. This has been a long-time goal of certain parts of the Tory party anyway, and I suspect it was a major motivation for many of the Brexiteers in the party.
  • Deregulation of food standards and safety. This includes many different areas, from chemical additives to animal welfare issues. The USA has significantly fewer regulations than there are in Europe.
  • Access for US companies to buy up parts of the Health Service. The current piecemeal privatisation happening in England is only the beginning.

What about the wider goals?

  • CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION, to quote the famous Labour mug. Yesterday the UK Government snuck out an announcement that they were ending a programme for taking in lone child refugees – they had previously committed to taking 3,000 unaccompanied children in to save them from starvation, slavery or sex trafficking, but have decided to shut the doors to these most vulnerable humans after taking in only 350.
  • A European tax haven. This is not just a goal of the Tories, but given that the financial sector might just prefer to move to an EEA nation when the UK rejects the four freedoms, how else will they desperately appeal to them to stay?
  • Repealing human rights. The Tory plan is to replace the current (EU-driven) human rights laws with a “British bill of rights”. Given all that we’ve already witnessed, would anyone like to bet that a society with the Tory version of human rights would be a desirable society to live in?

 

Further implications

In my opinion, starting last night the UK set out on a truly dangerous path with no clear plan other than to let the incompetent xenophobes in the UK Government make things up as they go along. Factually, this is where we now stand:

  • The UK Government has effectively ripped up the Good Friday Agreement which is an international treaty that safeguards the peace process in Northern Ireland.
  • The UK Government has effectively forced the potential end of the United Kingdom by all but guaranteeing a second Scottish Independence Referendum, in which every single one of the winning 2014 No campaign’s arguments have been systematically dismantled by… the UK Government.
  • The UK Government has demonstrated that they would rather cosy up to a US administration whose actions are consistent with those of a fascist coup, than choose the path of diplomacy and rule of law that the European project is founded upon.
  • The UK Government has demonstrated a casual disregard for at least 48% of voters and the majority of all citizens, and intend to pursue an extreme agenda favoured by a far smaller minority.

 

Closer to home

A reminder: Every part of Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union.

result_map

We are now being dragged against our will into some sort of Europe’s North Korea dystopian future. If that’s not a “material change in circumstances” then I don’t know what is.

There will now certainly be a second Scottish Independence Referendum. And frankly, if we don’t vote for independence under the circumstances of , then we never will. And if we don’t vote for independence to choose a different path for our country, we will deserve absolutely everything that is coming to us – and that is NOT going to be pleasant.

Time to get the Yes campaign up and running again… Let’s do this!

 

 

 

Schadenfreude city as UK Government shambles continues

Posted by Euan on 04/11/2016

I spent much of yesterday trying not to die of schadenfreude at the High Court verdict saying the UK Parliament as a whole is required to trigger Article 50 on leaving the EU. I understand the Government’s case put forward in court was that the unelected Prime Minister should be able to do it alone, acting by the divine right of power channelled straight from God’s storage cupboard via the Queen.

Apart from a deep satisfaction at a would-be dictator not getting their anti-democratic way, my main feeling was utter despair at the incompetents who rule over us (unelected). They clearly thought that they could just continue to make things up as they go along (and to be fair, they would have no reason to think otherwise given we live in a ridiculous country with an “unwritten constitution” instead of the modern 21st-century European democracy you would expect from our location on the world map) and they have been totally caught out – AGAIN.

In 2014 I campaigned for Scottish independence as a route to proper democratic accountability and better (i.e. kickoutable) leaders. The only circumstances under which I would have even considered voting No would have been if there had been actual likelihood of meaningful reform for the UK, and that would have required evidence of actual ability at the top. Just competence at matters of state. Apparently that was, and is now more than ever, too much to ask. I could not possibly vote to endorse the ability, and attitudes, of the “ruling class” in Westminster. It used to absolutely baffle me that anyone could look at that place and think “yes, I am happy with control of my future being in their hands”. Now I keep trying to remind myself that people vote with the information they have available, but that’s getting more and more difficult to believe.

With that in mind, how many people who voted to Leave the EU based on the “Take Back Control” message will be deeply unhappy with this? It’ll be further evidence for some that they never had control (hopefully inspiring a political revolution that will drive for ACTUAL REFORM of the UK. LOL J/K UKIP will be along in a minute to blame foreigners!) but surely there must be others who at least look at this latest crop of the ruling class and think “THESE people are in charge?!”,

Brexiteer Britain 2016: Mainstream newspapers openly call for dictatorship

Today the front pages look like this:

worrying

There’s a lot of white noise in the air at the moment, between the furious brexiteers who have been led to believe that this is in open defiance of the vote, and the ecstatic bremainers who have convinced themselves that all will be well after this (to grossly generalise and stereotype two “sides”) . In all the excitement, both groups seem to have missed that this was a legal decision and not a political one. Imagine if the court *had* ruled that the Government could trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament or even so much as a basic look at the details. In our glorious unwritten constitution, that would have set a precedent for the Government being able to override the rule of law whenever it feels like it. That would be the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. We’re still not out of the woods on that yet either, as the Government plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

While we should certainly celebrate the fact that the court has prevented, or at least slowed, the UK’s descent into dictatorship, we should not lose sight of the fact that this was a legal decision, and has little bearing on the political decision to invoke Article 50 or not. A friend pointed out to me yesterday that the whole reason we’re in this mess in the first place is the self-serving incompetence of MPs. Does anyone seriously believe enough MPs will “defy the will of the British people” and vote to block Article 50, when the alternative is saving their own skin for the next election?

I’m reasonably sure that at least 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs will vote against Article 50 (as clearly instructed by their constituents, incidentally), but that’s unlikely to tip the balance. In the meantime, more and more voters in Scotland will be looking at the absolute shambles of a Government at Westminster and asking themselves “surely we could do better by electing our own leaders”.

 

Welcome to Great Britain. Unless you’re “foreign”, in which case, you will go on the “list”.

Guys, I’ve had an amazing idea! Lots of people are talking about the UK Government’s plans to force businesses to list their non-British workers, to “shame” them into giving British jobs for British workers. It’s Gordon Brown’s dream come true at last! Well I was thinking, that all sounds really boring, I mean who has the time to search through a list to find people to arbitrarily hate. So I’ve got an idea that will make the Government’s job and all our patriotic British lives easier, and I’m pretty sure (like, 99% sure) that no one has ever thought of it before.

How about we find all the foreigners and give them armbands to wear so we can all tell who’s coming over here, stealing our Great British jobs? Maybe make them yellow or orange, something bright so they stand out. Also I know I said the list idea was boring but actually, maybe we should still do that. And so that we can make sure everyone is on the list and we can check it easily, we need to make sure they all have a unique number. And it has to be somewhere easy to check… Got it! How about tattooing the number somewhere visible, like their forearm? Man, I am churning out these brilliant ideas today. Like I said, I’m pretty sure these have never been thought of before. They say there’s nothing new under the Sun, but I’m proving them wrong today!

Ok so that’s the foreigners-stealing-our-jobs problem sorted for now, but the Government has also said they want to start deporting people back to where they came from. I mean, what proud British patriot wouldn’t support people staying where they were born instead of travelling all round the World just to interfere in places? I mean, how un-British is that? And don’t worry, the Government aren’t completely stupid: they’ve said they won’t deport all the doctors and nurses who keep the NHS working until *after* new good British doctors and nurses have been trained. Everyone else though? Well they can just fuck off and get the next ferry back to Bongo-bongo-land, said one prominent Government official.

Well I was thinking about that as well, and I mean there are, like, millions of immigrants that the Government wants to deport. I think I have just the plan to make the Government’s life easier: we build some sort of temporary accommodation out in the countryside for them. Great, right? And because it’s only temporary, the conditions don’t have to be that good, so it’ll be more of a camp. Camping is fun, right? We should put that in the name. And it’s a place where all the foreigners can be concentrated, so they don’t keep taking British jobs and benefits. So it’s a camp where people are concentrated, but what to call it? Ah, we’ll think of a name later, I’ve got more ideas for now.

Ok, what’s next? Well I don’t know about you guys, but the sick and disabled are just such a bummer. I mean, they should be out looking for jobs but they’re just so lazy. And the Government has been trying so hard to get them to get off their backsides and get a job. The jobs that all the foreigners are taking… ok no it must be different jobs, yeah. All those other jobs that are out there. Lots of them. I mean, if you look at their record guys, the Government has been trying really hard. They keep cutting benefits for sick people, forcing them to humiliate themselves if they want to survive, I mean the Government is doing everything they can to persuade the disabled that it would just be easier to get a job instead of leeching off of us genetically-pure able-bodied folk, am I right?

Well once the foreigners have all been deported, the fun camps we built for them will be empty, so why not use those? I mean, we’d be able to find some jobs for the disabled people we put there, but it would be really hard jobs that no one else would want to do. But hey, then the disabled wouldn’t be such a burden, right? Sure, lots of them might die, but who’s going to miss them? The Government is already making sure the genetically weak can die alone and not be found for months – so this is just a natural extension of that policy. I mean, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t even need to ask the Parliament to vote on any of this, just like how they don’t need to ask about Article 50! And if we just let all the impure people die, then only the strong shall pass on their genes to the next generation! Think about how wonderful it will be to have a country full of strong, pure (and obviously white) children – I am honestly amazed that no one has thought of this before.

Ok I’m going to stop there but I have so many more ideas, so Theresa May just drop me an email (you’ve already read all my emails so you know how to get in touch) and I can help you solve even more problems! I like to think my main strength here is the joined-up thinking of my ideas. The Government has been trying some brilliant stuff to solve their problems, but if they take my ideas on board they’ll really connect all the issues and solving them will be super effective!

\end{satire}

In the face of the ruling party helter-skeltering into outright open racism, step forward Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Labour Party, saviours of the Union and champions of international brotherhood. The Labour Party, providing credible opposition and putting forward their own ideas to convince voters that they should be the Government instead. The Labour Party, standing up to the dangerous rhetoric of the Tories…..

Oh, maybe not.

What happens next?

Posted by Euan Bennet on 24/06/2016

This morning the First Minister of Scotland made a statementclick here for the video.

At about 5am this morning I posted an attempt at dark satire on Facebook:

I’m given to understand that UK political discourse now fashionably features extreme, even provocative, language. So let’s try and join the bandwagon:

The UK Government can take my EU citizenship from my cold dead hands.

That’s how we express things now isn’t it? In Europe’s North Korea, living in the prequel to Children of Men.

I actually checked with Greg, who I watched the full results with, before posting it in case it was too extreme, but it does kind of sum up how I feel about the result and what I want to happen next. I am extremely encouraged by the First Minister’s response to the result, and with the Scottish Green Party launching a petition to #letscotlandstay in the EU, we know that a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament will support exploring every option to make sure people in Scotland retain our rights and protections as EU Citizens.

I’ll just leave some links here for those motivated to join a pro-EU rights party in Scotland, in alphabetical order.

Scottish Green Party

Scottish National Party

Scottish Socialist Party

At the time of writing I am not aware of the positions of the other political parties in Scotland. I have seen members of the Conservative Party saying that we should accept the result and go along quietly with what follows (of course they would say that). I assume UKIP are saying the same.

I don’t know if the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats have expressed a view regarding Scotland’s future status. For both of those parties their next move on this could either save them from political extinction or hasten it – and I am not optimistic about them saving themselves.

 

 

flags

People of Scotland, it’s time to choose: one Union or the other?

Posted by Euan Bennet on 24/06/2016

Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? The people have spoken, and the answer was

Remain in the European Union: 16,141,241 (48.1%)

Leave the European Union: 17,410,742 (51.9%)

 

result_map

The results by council region

This striking results map shows at a glance that the UK is now more than ever a Union in name only.

Scotland only

Remain a member of the European Union: 1,661,191 (62.0%)

Leave the European Union: 1,018,322 (38.0%)

Every single council area in Scotland voted Remain, some overwhelmingly (67% in Glasgow and 74% in Edinburgh), and some were a wee bit closer (Remain win by 119 votes in Moray). Watching the map of Scotland turn uniformly yellow as the night went on was very pleasing. The country is united, as the saying goes.

The Disunited Kingdom

The absolute opposite applies to the “United” Kingdom.

England only

Remain a member of the European Union: 13,266,996 (46.6%)

Leave the European Union: 15,188,406 (53.4%)

The only Region of England to vote Remain overall was London (59.9% Remain). Check out how the other English Regions voted.

Wales only

Remain a member of the European Union: 772,347 (47.5%)

Leave the European Union: 854,572 (52.5%)

Wales man, what on Earth happened there? Even with UKIP’s vote shares there in 2014 and 2016, I still expected Remain to narrowly win. Show’s what I know!

Northern Ireland only

Remain a member of the European Union: 440,437 (55.8%)

Leave the European Union: 349,442 (44.2%)

The vote in Northern Ireland seems to have split along Unionist (Leave)/Republican (Remain) lines. I’m not really in a position to comment in detail on the unique situation in Northern Ireland. Suffice it to say they, London and Scotland tried our best – but collectively we were still outnumbered by the rest of England and Wales.

So it’s an overall Leave then

Facebook is full of people expressing their disbelief at this result. I’m oddly calm today – maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. More likely it’s because I’ve been anticipating this for nearly two years.  I was one of the raving Yes campaigners during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum who wouldn’t shut up about Better Together’s dishonesty on EU membership.

BTlies.jpg

This image has been doing the rounds all night, and rightly so.

Looking at the direction of travel politically of the UK as a whole (driven by England [and Wales, as it turns out]) my view during the IndyRef was that the real danger to EU membership was with a No vote. The trouble is, at the time there were no guarantees either way. For me as I’ve discussed before, the primary driver for a Yes vote was the better democracy that would have resulted from it, with everything else following.

I complete understand people who voted No based on the premise of wanting to keep EU membership. Whether they agreed with me or not, voters all made their decision based on the available information, and why would they listen to vile separatist bloggers like me over the UK Government and official No campaign assurances that the “only way to guarantee EU membership is to vote No”?

A material change in circumstances

In 2014 voters made their decision based on the information available at the time. Last night the available information dramatically changed. Voters in Scotland can now choose: either stay in the UK, or stay in the EU. Both are no longer an option.

I truly hope that every No voter who based part of their decision on the EU membership is willing to re-evaluate their decision. Those voters for whom this changes their mind about Scotland within the UK will be welcomed with open arms into the independence movement. Nobody benefits from saying “I told you so”. We voted in 2014, promises were made if we voted No (not just on the EU membership), and every single one of those promises have been broken. Those of us on the Yes side in 2014 will only persuade a majority of people to support our view that Scotland should be an independent country by positive encouragement and welcoming all to the cause.

Last night’s result was the starkest reminder ever that Scotland’s voice does not count as part of the United Kingdom “Union of Equals”. As a consequence our country faces being dragged out of a true Union of Equals against our democratic will. In 2014 I argued that one of the main constitutional reasons Scotland should be independent was that 60% of the time over the last 50 years we’ve had governments imposed on us that we soundly rejected at the ballot box. Functionally this time is no different: but it is more serious, and far harder to refute the fundamental differences in outlook after a binary choice vote as opposed to a multi-party election.

In addition to the constitutional angle there is the political angle. Politically the direction of travel of Scotland could hardly be more diametrically opposed to that of England (outwith London). The Leave vote won the referendum yesterday where the main focus of the campaign was on reducing immigration. Scotland needs MORE immigration, for goodness’ sake! Our problem for the last 3 centuries has been too much EM-igration! Not only that, Scotland now has a Scottish Government and a vast majority of Westminster MPs who were elected on an anti-austerity platform. David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister but do any of the candidates for the Tory leadership (and unless an unlikely General Election is called and an even more unlikely Labour victory occurs, our next Prime Minister) seem likely to give us less austerity given that the pound just crashed through the floor?

At what point is enough, enough?

During the 2014 independence referendum I debated with people who wanted to vote No to stay in the UK and help reform it for everyone. My view was that the UK had already proven itself unreformable and that it was futile to tie ourselves to the direction of travel that England (mainly) was choosing, when with less than 10% of total votes we had hardly a hope of affecting anything.

If ever there was clear evidence of Scotland trying to influence a progressive choice for the UK as a whole, and failing, then it was yesterday. Yesterday was a major turning point: the cliche in Scotland to explain Labour’s electoral annihilation is “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me”. After yesterday it would be fair to say “Scotland isn’t leaving the UK, England & Wales are leaving us”.

In 2014, Scotland was asked to vote No and be part of something bigger than ourselves. 55% of voters did.

In 2016, 62% of voters in Scotland voted to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We now face a clear choice: Which Union do we want to stay in?

What price are we willing to pay to stay in the UK?

Referendum differences and one similarity

Posted by Euan Bennet on 23/06/2016

I’ve left it a bit late to restart the blog for this vote, and perhaps that’s an indication of how engaging the referendum campaign has been. I’ve been appalled at the two official campaigns, and it’s only been relative fringe voices on either side that have presented anything in a tone worth paying attention to. I already had a pretty good idea of how I’d vote, but very little has been said or done by the campaigns to either make me reconsider or harden my resolve.

Several of the usual media suspects have lately attempted to equate this referendum with the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and in particular the Yes campaign with the 2016 Leave campaign. I haven’t seen any evidence for their assertions, so it’s probably just a sneaky way of flogging the dead “Scottish Nationalists are racist: there’s no evidence for that, but it’s a fact” horse that the media loved to trip out regularly during our referendum. The tone and content of the Yes and Leave campaigns could not be more different. The prospectus for independence was a 650-page Scottish Government textbook. The prospectus for leaving the EU is a lie on the side of a bus, Boris Johnson promising to apologise on live TV if it causes a recession, and Lord Farage joining the UK Government. Casual observers might notice a difference in rigour.

The tone and content of the official No and Remain campaigns have been startlingly familiar however. Project Fear 2.0 has been rolled out promising all the same apocalypses that were supposedly going to befall Scotland. Though mercifully we were spared the “attack from space” scare story this time. Once again I was bemused by those in power essentially telling voters “vote for us or we will punish you in these varied and extensive ways”. Not exactly a good tactic for winning people over to their cause.

However, the point of this blog was to try to avoid the emotional aspects which undoubtedly play a part in any big decision. Let’s look at some evidence.

The difference between Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU

The question of “how can you support one Union but not another?” has come up a few times. My answer is that the UK Union and the European Union are fundamentally different creatures, down to their DNA.

Scotland in the UK is in a position of having power devolved from the centre of a Union state that behaves as if it is a Unitary state. Power devolved is power retained: Westminster is the final arbiter of the powers of the Scottish Parliament. We can see this in the paltry offering of further devolution that has materialised since 2014 – a settlement that failed to meet low expectations, especially when compared to the desperate campaign promises made by the political leaders of the No campaign. Every single amendment proposed by MPs representing constituencies in Scotland was voted down and rejected by the UK Parliament.

Financially, the UK Treasury gathers almost all of the taxes collected in Scotland (about 88% before the referendum, now it’s about 85% off the top of my head). The Scottish Parliament has limited tax-raising powers, and still none of the important macro-economic levers such as corporation tax, duty, and social security. Westminster decides how much money is spent in Scotland based on a formula that translates how much spending has been done in England. No reference to what might be needed in Scotland. No agility to respond to changes in circumstances quickly. The Scottish Parliament is responsible for about £30 billion in spending, with Westminster spending the rest (another £50-60 billion) on our behalf.

The UK in the EU is a member state of an umbrella organisation that can legislate on matters that member states agree should be legislated on at a European level. Member states have “vetoes” over policy areas and indeed the UK has used vetoes in the past on issues such as immigration. Power is shared between the member states but ultimately still lies with the member states themselves.

Financially, the UK and other member states pay a “subscription fee” to the EU. This fee has been a big focus of the referendum campaigns. Putting it in context it amounts to between 0.5% and 1% of UK Government spending per year. Considering the fiscal multiplier attached to it, it seems to be a sound investment. The UK has in the past negotiated a “rebate” meaning effectively the other member states pay part of their fee. Some of the membership fee goes into funding the EU itself as an organisation, but a lot of it comes back in the form of funding and grants for a variety of projects. It’s actually an incredibly effective mechanism for redistributing wealth from Westminster to outlying parts of the UK.

One of these things is not like the other

Hopefully it’s obvious just how fundamentally different the UK and EU Unions are. There is a world of a difference between the relationships with power, and money, of each Union. There is also the fact that the EU was founded to preserve peace through diplomacy and shared economic development, while the UK emerged from feudalism straight into bloody imperialism. I would propose that there is evidence of both outlooks continuing to this day – though only one of those is a good thing.

The similarity (singular) between the 2014 and 2016 referendums

The only common link that I can see between the two referendums is the unacknowledged heart and core issue of the EU referendum, which was also the core issue of the Independence referendum (though it was only acknowledged and talked about by the Yes campaign): the issue of power, who holds it, and how it (and they) relate to the voters.

My number one reason for campaigning for Yes to independence was essentially as a super efficient mechanism of electoral reform. At a sweep we would have transferred power over the many important Reserved policy areas (energy, macro-economic  powers, welfare, foreign affairs, defence…) from the medieval sham democracy of Westminster to the proportionately-elected modern European parliament of Holyrood.

This time round the proposition from the Leave campaign is “Take Back Control”. Superficially the slogan bears a resemblance to some themes of the Yes campaign – but that doesn’t excuse so -called journalists from conflating the two. If we ask “ah, but Take Back Control for whom?” then the answer gets to the heart of the matter.

Presently the (imperfect) European Union functions a voluntary Union between member states, with an executive that can pass laws on issues that member states have agreed should be shared across the Union. The power to pass these laws ultimately rests with the European Parliament, consisting of 751 MEPs elected by proportional representation by voters in all member states. The power to propose laws (N.B. not pass) is partly with the European Commission, made up of one individual per member state. These individuals are nominated by their (democratically-elected) member state Governments, and their appointments have to be approved by the (democratically-elected) European Parliament.

So a democratic Parliament has the power to pass laws affecting all member states, but only on matters that member states agree should be legislated on at a European level.

By voting Leave and “Taking Back Control”, the powers that are currently shared with the other Member States will return to Westminster. The power will entirely rest in the hands of the least democratic Parliament in Western Europe, and far from having “unelected EU officials” passing laws (a popular outright lie from the Leave campaign) power will be passed to the House of Lords – a bona fide unelected chamber (the only one in any Western democracy) of 825 illegitimate lawmakers. Who would I trust more to make the decisions that are currently shared and rigorously debated by 28 Member States? That’s a simple answer for someone who believes in voters having the power to influence lawmakers.

Final point – international trade

We’ve heard a lot about how much trade the UK has with the EU compared with the rest of the World. Various figures have been bandied around, with no indication if they are remotely comparable – I suspect several apples and oranges situations have been used. However, the Leave campaign always talks about how we can trade more with the RoW than with the EU. That might be true, but today I realised I had a very strong gut feeling that what they mean by that is “we can sell more weapons to the rest of the World”. I don’t have any particular evidence so it’s just speculation, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if the growth in trade the Leavers are aiming for would be driven by arms deals.

Early implications of the Budget 2015

Posted by Euan Bennet on 09/07/2015

Having read the actual budget document yesterday, I was surprised [not really] to see the front pages of the UK mainstream media proclaiming a “pay rise for all” without the appropriate caveats. Caveats such as “all, except for the young, the low-paid, and the sick”. The way the press have run with the “£9 living wage” announcement represents a very loose interpretation of reality – what was actually announced is next year the minimum wage will be £7.20 an hour, rising to £9 an hour by 2020. As long as you are 25 or over. For comparison, the Living Wage in Scotland is £7.85 an hour right now. Living wage employers in Scotland include the Scottish Government.

Of course, the mainstream media will never report that the only place any of these wages are enough to live on is some parallel universe where food and energy prices haven’t changed for the last seven years. The actual living wage is more like £10 an hour (at least). Until yesterday, this was reflected in tax credits paid to low earners. After yesterday, those tax credits are being cut, and cut hard:

I’m sure this family won’t miss that £1,357.22 a year. After all, it’s not like they need food AND electricity, is it? Image source.

As Wings over Scotland have pointed out today, even when the Daily Mail fudged and sugar-coated the numbers, they couldn’t hide the abominable transfer of wealth directly from the poorest in society to the richest.

Daily Mail says: Fantastic! Everyone is an average of £1,204 per year worse off!!! (Sincere apologies for the source)

The United Kingdom in 2020: economic apartheid

The figure below shows the distribution of income per household per week, in 2011/12. The figures are not adjusted for housing costs, but are adjusted to include social security.

See full ONS report 

Imagine you are towards the lower income end of this range – to the left of the median income line i.e. where most of the population is. We’ve already seen that the changes mean you would gain slightly in wages, but lose out by more than you gain when the changes to welfare are included. What does the Budget statement say about your situation? Let’s find out by cherry-picking some out of context quotes!

“The government believes that those in receipt of tax credits should face the same financial choices about having children as those supporting themselves solely through work.”

Sounds promising, so they’re appreciating that family social security is about making sure the children get the best possible start in life first and foremost then, right?

Wrong:

“The Budget will therefore limit support provided to families through tax credits to 2 children, so that any subsequent children born after April 2017 will not be eligible for further support. An equivalent change will be made in Housing Benefit to ensure consistency between both benefits. This will also apply in Universal Credit to families who make a new claim from April 2017.”

“The Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as the result of rape, or other exceptional circumstances.“

But it’s ok, they’re not completely heartless. Already have two children, and happen to become pregnant after getting raped? Simply prove it some bureaucrat and everything will be fine!

Ok, so they didn’t really mean that everyone should have the same choices for their children, in terms of welfare. Maybe they meant everyone should have the same choices if one parent would like to give up work to raise their children?

“Extending parent conditionality – From April 2017 parents claiming Universal Credit, including lone parents, will be expected to prepare for work from when their youngest child turns 2, and to look for work when their youngest child turns 3”

Oh. Well at least they’ll continue to support disabled children whose parents need to provide full time care, right?

“The disabled child premia in tax credits and UC will also continue to be paid to all children with a disability.”

That’s good. Except, as we’ve already seen, a family with one adult working at the minimum wage will be £1,357.22 a year worse off because their tax credits are being cut…

If you’re well off, you’ll be fine

“Combined with the increases the government has made to the personal allowance and the introduction of the Personal Savings Allowance, from April 2016 individuals will be able to receive up to £17,000 of income per annum tax-free, and separately invest up to £15,240 per annum through an ISA tax-free.”

“The government will achieve this by taking the family home out of inheritance tax for all but the wealthiest with a new transferable nil-rate band, introduced from April 2017.”

“First time buyers will be able to deposit £200 per month into their Help to Buy: ISA at participating banks and building societies. First time buyers will be able to open their Help to Buy: ISA accounts with an additional one off deposit of £1000 so that they can start saving now.”

I wonder how much of their £20,448.79 a year a family with 2 children will be putting in an ISA to make the most of the limit being increased. Or maybe they should be putting their money in a help to buy account so they have something to pass on to their children. All nice considerations to add in to the annual “heat or eat” decision!

But what about the welfare parasites?

Corporate welfare – £93 billion per year .

Image source.

Get this collected and the national debt will be gone in no time. Let’s see what the budget has to say about it:

“The government has asked HMRC to start a dialogue with business on how to improve the effectiveness of existing IR35 [tax avoidance] legislation. “

“The government will consult on the technical details of introducing tougher measures for those who persistently enter into tax avoidance schemes”

“The corporation tax rate will be cut to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020.”

The change in language when discussing tax collection is very apparent when compared to how welfare is discussed in the document. Now it’s all about “dialogue” and “consulting” instead of making sure the super-rich pay their fair share. Though at least the Government are doing their bit to reduce corporation tax avoidance, by reducing the amount of tax to be paid.

Conclusion

It’ll take some time for a more detailed analysis to emerge, but it would be reasonable to expect that inequality in the UK has just taken a step change increase. The Budget was a direct transfer of wealth from the poorest in society to the wealthiest. Aspects of inequality are now going to become more firmly ingrained, and far from work being the route out of poverty, the changes to the welfare system are likely to mean more people become trapped in working poverty. Then there are the under-25s – a generation who are in danger of being left behind.

And the truly sickening thing? This Budget was announced to cheers and celebrations by our colonial masters.