War and/or Peace

Scotland didn’t have to be at war today. Granted, the situation would be different if we were independent already, and we don’t necessarily know what it would have been. But we didn’t have to be.

I’m not going to get into the arguments for or against military action against IS – there are arguments on either side, and I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on the situation. In fact, I’ll openly admit that I probably know less about the current situation than a large proportion of the population.

If we’d voted Yes last week, could the UK Government have sent Scottish air force personnel to bomb IS targets? The legitimacy of the whole thing is already questionable, but how would that have panned out, using the defence forces and people of a soon-to-be foreign country?

But we are at war. Again. As part of the nation which throws itself into every conflict it can, more than any other in history. Having accidentally seen a ‘Britain First’ post on the subject yesterday, it’s clear that some are almost dripping with ‘pride’ at the thought. Imbeciles, every one of them. War is the ending of people’s lives, not a game.

The question people in Scotland should be asking themselves isn’t whether or not ‘Islamic State’ is a legitimate target. It should be why did we not take the opportunity to make up our own minds?

An independent Scotland could contribute to international missions, but would it not be better if we actually had more of a say, and had a greater ability to more directly hold our politicians to account if we feel they got it wrong?

It’s unlikely that many pilots will die over Iraq and Syria over the coming weeks and months – such is the nature of modern warfare these days. Fly in, bomb, fly out again – no matter how much backing IS does or does not have, they don’t have the same level of technology as the Western powers. They may take down one or two jets, but it’s effectively shooting fish in a barrel for the UK, US and others. And that’s the kind of wars we are taken into – not the places where our troops and hardware would actually be pushed to the very limits, but the areas where we can get in, use loads of ammunition, get out again in one piece and then order more bombs, missiles and bullets.


The sad truth is that modern warfare, for countries like the UK and US in particular, is more about boosting sales of military hardware and keeping the arms trade happy than it is any more noble, human reason. If it wasn’t, why are our troops only ever involved in certain conflicts when there are loads of other crises around the globe that could warrant intervention, if an interventionist stance is what your government claims to have? But those are further away and probably harder – let’s just stick to the ‘easy’ ones…

Anyway, I’m not arguing for or against the current military operations, rather highlighting the situation we find ourselves in now, after Friday’s vote in the House of Commons.

I’ve broken down the vote below, and invite you to make up your own minds on where we are…

Con: 276 (91 .1% of party)
Lab: 190 (74.8%)
LD: 48 (85.7%)
DUP: 8 (100%)
Alliance: 1 (100%)
Ind: 2 (n/a)
TOTAL: 525 (82.2%) [includes 2 tellers, minus 1 active abstention]

Con: 6 (2%)
Lab: 24 (9.4%)
LD: 1 (1.8%)
SNP: 6 (100%)
SDLP: 3 (100%)
Plaid: 2 (66.7%)
Green: 1 (100%)
Respect: 1 (100%)
TOTAL: 44 (6.9%) [includes 2 tellers, minus 1 active abstention]

Con: 21 (6.9%)
Lab: 40 (15.7%)
LD: 7 (12.5%)
Plaid: 1 (33.3%)
Ind: 1 (n/a)
TOTAL: 70 (10.9%)


Results for the 59 MPs representing Scottish seats:

Con: 1 (100%)
Lab: 23 (57.5%)
LD: 9 (81.8%)
Ind: 1 (n/a)
TOTAL: 34 (57.6%)

Lab: 5 (12.5%)
SNP: 6 (100%)
TOTAL: 11 (18.6%)

Lab: 12 (30%)
LD: 2 (18.2%)
TOTAL: 14 (23.7%)


UK totals minus Scottish votes [580]
for: 491 (84.6%)
against: 33 (5.7%)
abstentions: 56 (9.6%)

Here are those percentages again, for comparison…

for: 57.6%
against: 18.6%
abstentions: 23.7%

Rest of the UK
for: 84.6%
against: 5.7%
abstentions: 9.6%

So Scottish MPs still voted to go to war – I’m not disputing that. But it was on a very significantly reduced majority of 57.6% compared to the rest of the UK’s 84.6%. Four fewer votes and Scotland would not have voted for it. Four.

Votes against are also significantly different, with over three times more in Scotland than rUK. Similarly, the abstentions are significantly higher amongst Scottish MPs, more than doubling.

What I find rather interesting is that it’s not just the SNP MPs who made those figures so dramatically different – Labour’s Scottish MPs voted considerably more cautiously than their rUK party colleagues. Even the Lib Dem’s did too.

Of course, the situation would be completely different if Westminster politicians were elected using a system of proportional representation too. And would we even be voting for war if we’d voted Yes on the 18th?

Speculative? Yes, of course it is. I’m only highlighting the figures.

You make up your own minds and consider the possibility that we might not now be sending people to kill other people in some far off foreign land – whether that’s the right thing to do or not.


[Genuinely] Astonishing

A silver lining from last week’s loss has been the explosion in party membership across all of the main independence supporting parties – the SNP, the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party.


All three have seen their numbers go through the roof, which is excellent news on several levels.

Firstly, it demonstrates to the wider public and the media that this is very much a movement, not just a one-time thing, and that while it is predominantly – although not exclusively – a left of centre movement, it has a broad base of support.

Secondly, it’s simply great to see so many new people deciding to become actively involved in politics. As a proportion of the total electorate, party numbers may still appear relatively small, but for these three parties at least, they’ve just leapt massively.

The SNP have just today announced that their membership has now passed 50,000 – that’s 6,000 more than the Liberal Democrats have UK-wide. That’s astonishing (that’s how you use that word, Johann).

For the sake of perspective, the Tories have 134,000 members across the UK, Labour have 190,000, the Lib Dem’s have 44,000 and UKIP have 35,000. If you were to scale the SNP membership up to a UK-sized population, they’d now have over 600,000 members – 200,000 more members than ALL of those parties combined.

The Scottish Greens too have had a stonker of a weekend with their membership numbers. As of yesterday, they had grown to over 5,000 members – 3,000 more than they had on Thursday. Again, for a UK comparison, that would equal over 60,000 members.

The good news for the Greens doesn’t stop there though. Recent opinion polls put them at 10% of the regional vote for the next Scottish Parliament election – that could see them become the third largest party at Holyrood, overtaking the Tories. Again, astonishing.

I can’t find numbers for SSP membership at the moment, but if anyone can provide me with these, please do.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour have said “We don’t give out exact details on our membership figures…”. They did however add that their membership figures had gone up “by hundreds”. Chalk and cheese.

There is another reason that this surge in membership is great news though, and that is that these new members can now be part of their chosen party’s internal democracy, helping to shape party policy over the coming years. If these people get properly involved, attend meetings and annual conferences, exchange ideas, discuss and debate… they’ll be not only helping is get another shot at independence, but influencing policy and therefore society in the meantime too. That’s a massive plus.

If you haven’t done so already, please get yourself involved in the politics of the party you support. Become a member, make a difference.

If you support no particular party but support independence, keep campaigning with us and fight for those principles you hold dear.

The Yes campaign has brought about change, even if it’s not the main one we were hoping for… yet. We must use this opportunity to continue to build, connect and involve.

Become a member:
Scottish Green Party
Scottish Socialist Party

The Straw that broke democracy’s back

I’ve given in and subscribed to The Times for a month (just the one!), purely to access this piece: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4212654.ece

Here it is in full, with my comments after.

Let’s preserve our Union in law to stop the SNP pulling it apart
by Jack Straw

Now that Scotland has decisively spoken, after a campaign whose terms were set by the SNP for itself, we should follow the example of stable federated countries (the US and India, for example) and say: “This Union is now indissoluble.”

If independence would have been for good, so must the decision to stay. You can’t pull a living plant up by the roots again and again, and expect it to survive. Put this commitment to the Union in primary Westminster legislation. Of course, that could be changed but only by all the UK’s MPs. “Better Together” must mean what it says.

The promises of further devolution to Scotland will be honoured, and the settlements for Wales and Northern Ireland are being strengthened. Where does that leave England? Proposals for “English votes for English laws” are sedulously attractive. They have been repeated by David Cameron. However, I suggest that we English take a deep breath and examine whether they are remotely necessary, and even if they are, just how they would be put into practice.

This West Lothian question is, in truth, code for an assertion about Labour — that in government we have to rely on Scottish MPs for a majority. I am proud that Labour really is a unionist party (as were the Conservatives until their fateful decision in 1987 to use Scotland as a laboratory for the poll tax). But almost always, when we win a general election, we win south of the border as well.

In 32 years of Labour governments since the war, Labour has had to “rely” on Scottish MPs to remain in power for just 26 months (1964 to 1966 and March to October 1974). That’s including Welsh Labour MPs. But we also had more English MPs than the Conservatives throughout the Blair/Brown administrations, as well as in the 1966 and October 1974 elections.

The unique characteristic of this Union is that one component — England — has 84 per cent of the population. England’s population is projected to grow over the next 20 years by another 7 million — more than Scotland’s population of 5.3 million. This means that almost every issue that may look exclusive to England can have knock-on effects for the rest of the UK. Take the 2004 increase in tuition fees. It applied directly to England and Wales only. But its indirect effect went north of the border. The greater reliance on private funding of universities south of the border indirectly reduced the block grant to Scotland. Scottish MPs thus had a wholly legitimate stake in the outcome.

English votes for English laws has been tried before. Gladstone’s second Irish Home Rule Bill of 1893 came up with the “ins and outs solution”, in which Irish MPs at Westminster were to be able to vote on “imperial” matters, but not “domestic” ones. It was the Tory leader, AJ Balfour, who exposed its fundamental defects. The system, he said, “would carry the most serious evils in its train”. It would “threaten the ordinary procedure of parliament” and “shatter the cabinet system . . . if you never knew whether an issue was going to be identified as English-only or the UK as a whole”. After months of wrangling, Gladstone conceded. As Sir Malcolm Rifkind observed in 2006, creating “two classes of MP would be a constitutional abortion”.

If we now make a reality of devolution within England — where the real democratic deficit lies — and ensure a fairer share of the cake between the southeast and, for example, the north and northwest, much of the apparent attraction of two classes of MP will go. It’s certainly worth examining whether there’d be any role for an English grand committee to discuss “English” legislation but I suspect that even this might be more trouble than it was worth.

We do not, however, need to tie ourselves in knots about this. Politicians have a constant care for popular support. We’ve all learnt the excruciating lesson from the Conservatives’ “Scottish poll tax” debacle. We English should stop fretting. The Union, our Union, has been saved. It’s “asymmetrical”, it’s untidy. But, hey, it works.

[As justice secretary 2007-10, Jack Straw chaired the Labour government’s constitutional committee. He is MP for Blackburn]’

Jack Straw, demonstrating what he wants to do to democracy

Jack Straw, demonstrating what he wants to do to democracy

Em… right you are, Jack!

There are many things wrong with this piece by Jack Straw, but the title and related text are the most significant part, so I’ll only talk about that just now.

Jack Straw is currently an opposition MP – he doesn’t create government policy at the moment, although opposition MPs can still put forward legislation for the House of Commons to consider.

But he might not need that.

In this piece, Straw does propose something that will undoubtedly bring a sly grin to many faces in Westminster, particularly amongst the Tory rank and file, who are very much in a position to bring legislation to the fore. So this is dangerous.

What Straw is proposing is legislation which would see no part of the UK ever having the democratic right to secede. We would be locked in, with no say on the matter at all.

Oh yes, he provides a ‘concession’ in stating that he believes this could be overturned by the House of Commons, but what does that mean? That means that no matter how many people in any particular part of the UK wanted to leave, they couldn’t do so without first having this constitutional legislation overturned. They couldn’t even be asked in a referendum, like the one we’ve just had.

Mr Straw refers to the USA and India in this piece as countries whose constitutions don’t allow any part to ever leave, as if this is something we should be seeking to copy in the UK. Note that he doesn’t mention a certain close neighbour where this is causing major issues for people in part of it: Spain.

The people of Catalonia are massively in favour of independence, but the Spanish constitution does not allow for them to even hold a referendum. They’re having to hold an illegal referendum, arranged by the democratically elected Catalan Government, which the Spanish Government can simply choose to ignore – and that’s the line they’re taking. That’s what Straw is effectively proposing for here.

It is dangerous, it is irresponsible and, above all, it is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Our referendum question was not ‘Should Scotland be an independent country or always remain a part of the UK?’. The right to revisit the independence question at a later date, should the result have been No, was never taken off the table, and nor should it have been. Not even Cameron proposed that.

Every democracy, if they are true to the meaning of that word, should allow for the people to decide the status of their part of it, should they wish – whether that be a nation, a region, a county, or parts/groupings thereof. I include Scotland in that too, after we do become independent (if we’re ‘allowed’) – it would be hypocritical not to.

Labour are always claiming to be a progressive party, just as they claim to be a great many other things that they’re not. But this idea, if it is shared by others within the party, boots that word right out of the park.

Jack Straw, Labour’s former Home Secretary, Justice Secretary and Foreign Secretary – some of the most important and senior positions in government – is effectively wanting to roll back democracy with this proposal. He wants to take the will of the people out of the equation. And a large number of Tories will be readying themselves to jump right on-board with him, grinning from ear to Spock-like ear.

John Redwood, trying out Kirk's chair while he's on an away mission.

John Redwood, trying out Kirk’s chair while he’s on an away mission.

“I dinnae trust ANY of them!”

“I dinnae trust ANY of them!”

How many people do each of us know who have uttered those words, or similar? I bet it’s a few.

And who could blame them? Certainly not me.

We live in a society that seems to have grown almost blasé about political corruption: from MPs salaries spiralling through the roof while others see their quality of life plummet, through the expenses scandals [Hi there, Mr Murphy and Flipper!], to dodgy dossiers and Tony Blair’s government taking us into a war under false pretences – and these were supposed to be the GOOD guys!

It’s no surprise at all that many people simply refuse to believe a single word that comes out of any politicians mouth. I’m just surprised that so many still take politicians at their word at all.

But on Thursday, we have a unique opportunity to drastically – and that’s not hyperbole, it is drastically – improve our ability to hold politicians to account – to hold them to what they say, and to look them in the eye as they say it.

We simply don’t have that ability within the UK system. Just look at how many expenses-fiddling MPs are still at Westminster. Watch Tony Blair swan around the world, cashing in on his ‘expertise’ on the Middle East [no comment!].

That’s one of the core reasons to vote Yes – no matter what you think of the politicians on either side of the debate. We can give ourselves the power to boot them out if they fail us – and let’s not kid ourselves here, sometimes they will.

Independence doesn’t deliver us to a land where unicorns with gold horseshoes dance in cool streams of milk and honey – we never claimed that it would. I’m not a fan of honey anyway…

But it does put us in a place where we hold far more power over those we elect to govern for us.

There are many reasons to support independence, but for loads of us this whole thing comes down to three simple principles: democracy, responsibility and accountability.

Use your vote to improve those for everyone living in Scotland. Vote Yes.

The Purging of Scottish Madness, by Ciaran Healy

I was lucky enough to have a hand in bringing the world down in 2008. 

Not a very big hand, of course.  I was a headhunter.  I found a certain kind of person for a certain kind of bank.  The kind of person I found could best be described as being like Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting.  The banks I found them for were all the ones which exploded.

I want to give you a very specific insight into something, some revelations that have recently surfaced about how the finance sector will react to Scottish Independence.  This seems a little abstract, but isn’t for the thousands of Scottish people who work in finance – it is vast here.  Vast.  Here’s my take on this, and this is informed by the intimate knowledge and privileged view I had of the culture, personalities, systems and insanity that led to the last crash, and what all this means for us.

Because there is a real simplicity to this.  Something very simple has just hoved into view.  No side that I’ve heard is talking about it.  I’m going to hit it as fast as I can, but we’re covering a lot of ground, so try to keep up.

The explosion of 2008 has not been communicated to the people.  It’s been broken down into little buzzwords.  ‘Risky bets’.  Stuff like that.  The kind of stuff that fits in a red-top headline.  But that’s not what happened. 

What happened is arrogance.  What happened is systemic arrogance buttressed by absolute faith in mathematics so complex that only a tiny few could ever understand them.  Mathematics of probability and chance so arcane that they could make anything seem like anything else.  They could make risk vanish.  And they did.  And then the madness began to truly spiral.

If you have a bet you have no risk on, the amount of profit you make is just the amount of money you can slap down on the table.  Banks have billions – but billions weren’t enough.  They didn’t bet the money they had, or even the money they managed.  They did something else.

They took all that money, and used it as collateral to borrow massively more at incredibly high interest rates.  From who? 

Well, from each other, of course.  From each other, because they all knew that the money would be earned back because it would be placed into riskless bets that could never fail.

Complexity onto complexity, abstraction onto abstraction, further and further down the rabbit hole of mathematics until the entire mental world these men (all men) occupied was so far away from reality that full noonday sunlight seemed to it like the twinkling of a distant star.

But there was simplicity too.  Real simplicity.  That if you borrow money to bet, and take all the profits of your betting, and put that down as collateral so you can borrow even bigger and even bigger sums of money, ALL of which you throw into these bets…..

….well.  You only need to lose once, don’t you?

And when you lose once, you don’t lose all the money you have.  You don’t lose all the money you manage.  You lose the massive amounts of money you’ve borrowed.  The average was between 20 and 40 times the amount these banks had.

The bank jargon for that is ‘leveraging’ your position.  That’s what that word means if you come across it again.

When the banks lost, they all lost at the same time – and not by chance.  They lost because they were all locked together in the same betting system, laying the same ‘risk-free’ bets with money they’d borrowed from each other.  When it came down, that’s why it came down.

They’re still doing it.  Today.  They’re still doing this in Scotland.

This is not a caricature of what they’re doing.  It’s not an exaggeration.  I’m not fudging it so you can understand it better.  This is EXACTLY what they are doing. 

Bear that in mind.

RBS and a whole slew of massive banks are leaving Scotland, legally, in the event of independence.  This is real.  They’re going to do it, and they’re going to do it because they have to do it, because there’s a power in this world much, much greater than that of the people.  It’s that of the markets.

If a bank is engaging in this kind of betting, we all know that there’s the chance it can all detonate.  But even that’s not really fair.  Think of Edward Norton in Fight Club, that thing he said.  Over a long enough timeline, everyone’s survival chances drop to zero.

Sooner or later this is going to explode again.  It’s a system that is insane.  Nobody has stopped it.  Nobody has slowed it down.  The regulators are useless, and basically non-existent.  There’s a lot of press releases.  Actually that’s not even true these days.  There’s barely even that.

Even if this is stopped, what other madness can arise from this terrifying culture of ‘banking’?  Well I’ll tell you one thing – a mass scandal in systemic insider trading that scoops billions every day off the pension funds of the world, in which almost every major bank is complicit.  Michael Lewis’s book Flashboys just lays it out, clear as crystal.  Nobody cares though.

Point is this.  Scotland just received notice that a number of banking heavyweights will leave it if and when independence hits.  They’re not doing that because they want to.  They’d much rather do nothing – any ripples and uncertainty about any operations causes market ructures that are savagely expensive for these companies.  So why?

It’s one issue.  Just one, and you can probably guess.  What’s called (banking jargon alert) a ‘lender of last resort’.

Sounds sassy, don’t it?  Like the title of a John Grisham novel.  It is exactly what you think it is, if you think it means that the banks leaving are the ones who need to have the constant, eternal option of a publicly funded massive bailout in case they explode.

That’s what it means, by the way.  Again, that’s not a caricature.  I’m not fudging it to make it easier to understand.  This is literally what it is.  It’s not more complex than this.

But think.  Think.

What does this mean?  THINK.

What it means is that Scotland’s entire financial sector, on the day of independence, will be purged.

Every company that is doing this, EVERY company, will immediately leave Scotland.

ONLY those companies will leave. 

Do you see?  None of these guys are doing it because they want to.  They don’t want to do anything other than what they do all day. 

Now, look – some of the banking sector (and it’s crazy to remember this, but it is true) is actually good.  For real.  It’s a business that works to create and sustain other businesses.  That’s what banking is.  All this other betting stuff, what it has become, is lunacy.  But it’s a great industry, and an amazingly useful one if done with even a modicum of sanity and competence.

On top of that, there’s a lot of jobs here.  A lot.  A huge number of Scottish people are employed in the financial sector. 

But that’s the thing.  They don’t care about moving the jobs – nobody needs to physically be anywhere else, it’s a bank.  So they relocate head office to London.

Now.  It’s all not all sunshine and rainbows.  There is a real hit Scotland has to take here.  But that hit isn’t jobs.  Banks are very complex systems, if you start relocating whole departments of real people, massive logistical ruptures will happen – or at least they might, and that’s enough for the markets to crucify the company.  And they will.

So jobs stay.  That is true.  That’s not some wild speculation – you cannot move these people, with their existing skills, relationships, living arrangements, down to London, without the company being disembowelled on the exchanges.  So that’s just not going to happen, and it’s not.  It’s really not.

What will happen is that Scotland will lose the corporation tax (20% of profits after losses are taken out) of these companies.

Now, even if we put to one side the fact that some of these companies are still bleeding money, making vast losses from both the crash itself, and a whole host of other, deeply criminal activities they are being fined for… even putting that to one side….

Stop the press.  Stop the press.

This ‘damaging leak’ saying that RBS and all the rest are leaving Scotland – when you look at why that’s happening and what that means in real terms….

It means that, for the loss of basically no jobs and only the corporation tax of companies….


I’m trying to be really clear.  I’m not dumbing it down.  I swear to God.  I’m not.  This is why.

Think.  This is why.  There’s no politics in this decision.  There is none.  They are shunting their corporation taxes down to London because the markets will kill them if they don’t.

And why?  Because at some point, someone’s going to have to pick up the tab for another explosion.

The loss of corporation tax from these companies will not destroy Scotland.  It will hurt.  Don’t flinch that.  Don’t belittle it.  When the going is good, these companies make vast profits.  Vast.

But the loss of those taxes will not destroy Scotland.

The detonation of these companies on Scotland’s doorstep will. 

It really will.  It will annihilate this nation’s capacity to make political decisions.  Like Greece, power will shunt to the German banks, or the London banks – whoever decides to make the power-play. 

This is real.  So what’s just happened… the ‘bad news’ that Downing Street leaked to destabilise the Yes campaign… is that ALL the banks who stand to explode and ONLY the banks that stand to explode are going to pay their corporation tax to London now, in exchange for London picking up the damage of their next explosion.

No jobs will be lost. 

That is the leak.  Look this in the eye.  And think of this – good GOD.  An independent Scotland would be a Scotland retaining it’s massive job-base in financial services, but freed of the danger of the toxic madness of modern banking in one day.

In one day. 

That, in and of itself, regardless of anything else that has been said, is reason enough to vote Yes, alone.

Think about it. 

Really do.

Then vote.

Ciaran Healy

What’s it all about, Alfie…


When all is said and done, what are we actually voting for?

Strip out the fluff from either side. Put aside the rhetoric.

Try to forget for a minute those politicians you hate with a passion, on either side of the debate… this is neither about them or for them – they’re movable, temporary figureheads. That’s what elections are for.

What’s actually there?

The referendum next week is not about Scotland vs UK, or Scotland vs England.

It’s not even really about Scotland – it’s incidental that that is where we happen to be.

It’s about taking our right to vote – a right earned by countless people in struggles all over the world, throughout history – and deciding whether or not we want to build on that right that we have at the moment: to give it greater meaning and depth, with a better quality of representation, and on a more direct and accountable basis.

If you vote Yes, that’s what you’ll be doing. You’ll be saying ‘Our votes – yours and mine – they are important’. You’ll be voting to help everyone who happens to live in Scotland – from all personal and political backgrounds – achieve that.

And you won’t be removing that from anyone else to enable that: it’s not a finite resource, democracy – unless you take it right down to the individual level.

In fact, you’ll actually be helping our friends and neighbours in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by taking our MPs out of their equation, leaving theirs to focus on what’s deemed right for their constituents.

If you say ‘No Thanks’ next Thursday, you’re not saying it to the SNP.

You’re not saying it to Alex Salmond, or to Yes Scotland.

You’re saying it to everyone who lives here. And that includes yourself.

You’ll be saying ‘No thanks, I don’t think my vote – or that of anyone else here – is important enough to shake things up a bit’.

I value democracy very highly indeed, and I am voting Yes – not for flag,  ‘FREEDOM!!’, or any sense of ill-will towards people elsewhere in the UK – but so that our voices, all of them, are heard that bit louder, and with more clarity.

And I’m voting Yes to modernise our system of democracy itself, ridding ourselves once and for all of the archaic Westminster system, where half of the parliament is run on a ‘jobs for the boys’ basis, and because those we elect to Holyrood are put there using a version of proportional representation, meaning that people have a much better chance of both being and feeling represented.

That, to me, is the key gain of independence: the bettering of both our democratic system and our democratic rights as individuals.

That’s why I could never bring myself to vote against independence. And that is why I urge you to think about what democracy really means, and to hopefully do the same.

Ruthless Facts… or Factless Ruths?

Ruth Davidson on Trident and nuclear weapons (about 55 minutes into last nights ‘Yes or No – The Debate’, on STV):

“…We now have half the number that we had in Britain, because of Tony Blair. There’s two-thirds less in Russia, because of the work he did. And there’s three-quarters less in the United States – because of working with other people.

The SNP’s plans for kicking Trident submarines 400 miles down the road do nothing to make the world a safer place, or to bring down nuclear weapons. And I think that what you need to do, is work with those partners.

And, I want to say, and put in context for people, what the cost of Trident is: it is 0.1% of the budget.


So, I believe that you do have to defend a country. I believe you don’t encourage other people to give up their weapons by just giving your up and saying ‘You do what you want’. You work with other countries around the world, and that’s how you reduce nuclear stockpiles, and that’s what Britain has done.”

Bit angry there...

Bit angry there…

I’m going to skip right past the fact that Davidson believes that Blair getting rid of a far smaller proportion of nukes than either Russia or the USA was fantastic.

I’ll also skip past her suggestion that if Scotland rids itself of nukes, it won’t have any impact on rUK’s ability or desire to continue having them.

Instead, I want to talk about the figure she so generously offered us, to “put in context for people, what the cost of Trident is” – that “0.1% of a UK budget” that she was so adamant about asserting.

0.1% of the UK budget, or 1/1000th? That seemed odd to me. So I thought I’d check it out…

For 2013, the UK Treasury raised £612 billion, and the government had a total expenditure of £720 billion (increasing the deficit by £108 billion – nowt to worry about there…).

The defence budget for 2013 was £34.3 billion – either 5th or 6th highest in the world, depending whose figures you use.

Figures regarding the exact running costs of Trident and our nuclear ‘deterrent’ seem not too easy to come across, but here’s what David Cameron said on 4th April 2013, to The Telegraph:

“Of course, the deterrent is not cheap – no major equipment programme is. But our current nuclear weapons capability costs on average around 5-6 per cent of the current defence budget. That is less than 1.5 per cent of our annual benefits bill. And the successor submarines are, on average, expected to cost the same once they have entered service.”

[Let’s ignore that sly little dig at the benefits system, for now]

The one who SHOULD know the figures...

The one who SHOULD know the figures…

Note that Cameron doesn’t stipulate whether or not this “5-6%” covers the cost of the crews, the cost of refits, the cost of refuelling, etc. I don’t know if it does or not – it might be easier to figure out if we had slightly more transparent government.

Anyway, the £34.3 billion spent on defence in 2013, is 4.76% of the £720 billion total spent by the government.

Assuming that Cameron knows the figures better than Davidson – who has absolutely nothing to do with either defence or the budget allocated to it – and also assuming that he’s playing it safe by saying “5-6%”, let’s go with his own upper estimate of 6%.

6% of 34.3 billion is 2,058,000,000, or just a smidgen under £2.06 billion, per year.

Now let’s look at how that £2.06 billion relates to “the budget… a UK budget”.

100 x (2.058 ÷ 720) gives us the cost of “our current nuclear weapons capability”, as a percentage of the total UK budget, according to David Cameron.

Oddly enough, that figure is not “ZERO POINT ONE PER CENT”, as insisted upon by Davidson.

It’s not 0.15%.

It’s not 0.2%

It’s not even 0.25%.

What it is, is 0.286%.

“Oh, that’s still hardly anything!”, you might say – but it’s almost TREBLE what Davidson claimed in last night’s debate. And it’s still £2,058 million a year. £2,058,000,000 which could, myself and many others would argue, be put to much better use.

And that’s the running costs of the system we have now – it doesn’t include the purchasing of the upcoming Trident replacement, which is estimated by the UK Government to be £15-20 billion – a figure much debated by others (£34 billion estimated by Greenpeace).

So… where did Ruth pick her figure from? Was it the thin air that she breathes, way up there on her particularly long-legged horse?

I had a theory that what she should have said, was ‘0.1% of GDP, as that would have at least been nearer the ballpark. Even then, 0.1% of the UK’s 2013 GDP would only be around £1.49 billion, so still way out, going by Cameron’s own figure of “5-6%”.

But she didn’t. She clearly and repeatedly said “0.1% of the budget. I’m sure that anyone reading this will know that GDP and budget are two very different things. They don’t even sound or look alike.

But who knows… Perhaps Ruth Davidson knows what she was on about? Or, perhaps the Tooth Fairy’s less well known cousin, ‘Random Number Generating Fairy’ – so often consulted by the No camp – has an inkling.