Archive for ‘McCrone’

Jan 6, 2021

Unions and Alliances: Divorce and the Bidie-in

D I V O R C E sang Tammy Wynette, an expert on the subject.

Divorce, yes divorce. Divorce is in the air. Have you noticed? When the UK filed for divorce from the EU it was complicated because there were four partners in that relationship – five if you count the EU. Two of the partners got their way and three did not. Now it should have been possible in those circumstances for those three unhappy with the breakup to stay in the relationship; being consenting partners. Actually one of the partners has, albeit by quirk rather than design. The remaining one of the original four, hope you’re keeping up, has been told she must cut off all connections with the former fifth partner even though she really wants the relationship to continue because one of the four is less of a partner and more of a tyrant. Isn’t that so like many unhappy marriages – in which one partner is overbearing?

Let’s put some names to the partners. The four are, of course, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales and the EU that has already been identified as partner number five. It’s a poor sort of marriage in which one partner is controlling but that’s always been the way with the constitutional setup of the UK. Scotland and Northern Ireland did not want this divorce but they’re stuck with it – only NI is being treated with more care and consideration than Scotland and now embarking on a ménage à trois with the EU and UK.

It is not that Scotland is averse to divorce. The majority of Scots would love to divorce the UK and reinstate relations with her Continental suitors. She would not be against rekindling some kind of relationship with the UK but on a more equitable footing – not the current one under the domineering and manipulative partner, let us call him England. England holds all the cards and for three hundred years has been playing with a marked deck.

England and divorce has a troubled history. I’m talking personal relationships now for I think it reasonable to compare how a nation handles its personal relationships with the way it handles constitutional ones. In the case of England marriages have always been unequally skewed with men of power and wealth able to obtain an annulment whereas wives, on the other hand, have struggled to extricate themselves from an obviously failed marriage, even where the husband is controlling and abusive. English laws have been written by men for men. Even from the grave a vindictive rogue of a husband and father could continue to harm his wife and children by omitting them from his will so leaving them penniless and homeless.

Vindictive and controlling are the traits that mark out England’s attitude towards Scotland’s desire for divorce. Okay, so to begin with the attitude was more derisory – to belittle and discredit but the tone has got more shrill and tinged with threat. Only days ago in a debate in the Commons, former Tory minister Liam Fox suggested in the event of divorce between Scotland and the rest of the UK Scotland would be punished by blocks on trade (that is so close to the events in 1707 which led to the Union it’s uncanny.)

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman [Ian Blackford MP]for giving way. Perhaps he could tell us what estimate he has made of the cost to the Scottish economy of losing access to the UK single market through independence. (Liam Fox, Tory MP for North Somerset)

Dissolving the Union –

What? Nonsense! You can’t pull out of it now! Why? Surely not? What have I done? I haven’t done anything wrong! No, I won’t agree to any divorce! I’ll make your life miserable! I’ll punish you in every way I can! You’ll be made to suffer! Divorce me! How dare you even try!

These ridiculing and hostile attitudes have not gone down well with the majority of Scots who are expected to believe the Union is one of equals while experience shows it is nothing of the kind. This Union was always a marriage of convenience that quickly turned into a loveless trial. The dominant partner has never concealed his lack of respect for the other, denigrating and belittling her and keeping a tight hold on the purse strings to prevent her from leaving him. Confiscating the house keys will no doubt come next. Like almost every failing marriage there’s bad contemptuous behaviour, constant criticisms, secrecy, avoiding each other, arguments and the sex is lousy.

Scots attitudes to divorce have always been fairly liberal with both sexes tending to be treated equally and the assumption is this progressive perspective is shared. Far back in the mists of time Scottish marriages could be simply annulled or couples choose to go their own ways and lead separate lives while technically still married. Women as well as men could obtain formal divorces on grounds of adultery or desertion from the 1500s. When a relationship was shown to have irretrievably broken down the Scots were more pragmatic over the hopelessness of the situation and the union terminated. Threats of punishment and coercion were not considered suitable alternative actions.

Women’s standing has always been more robust in Scotland than in England. A Scots woman’s individualism did not get extinguished on her marriage, as was the case in England and you can see the majority of older Scottish gravestones display women’s own last name along with reference to her status as wife or relict of a man. Until relatively recent times that is. Now the English habit of a woman relinquishing her identity to her husband has become common here in Scotland. For a time it was the norm for a married woman to be addressed by her husband’s name – as in Mrs David Macdonald. That piece of nonsense is now hopefully relegated to the misogynist dustbin of the past.

You know why divorces are so expensive? Because they’re worth it. 

Scots women and children have always been better protected by the law than their English counterparts. For example a Scottish widow  could not be deprived of her jus relictae and the children of a marriage of their legitima – meaning they could not be written out of a husband’s/father’s will. A wife was entitled to one half of the movable assets of a marriage and her children to the other half and in the case of there being no children, the wife’s share comprised one-third. That should tell us about the type of society that operates in this way and the type of society that does not. As we’ve seen above this has never been the case in England.

A marriage in which one partner enjoys more rights than the other so able to restrict the rights and freedoms of the other partner is no worthwhile relationship. A union in which one member nation assumes greater privileges than another nation and gets to impose rules unilaterally is no worthwhile union. Under Scots law this union would have been dissolved long ago. Under English law Scotland remains a chattel of England’s.

The English state does not respect Scotland because Scotland’s status within the Union is so weak. Scratch a unionist and they’ll argue that Scotland’s position within the Union is comparable to an English county. Labour leader, Tony Blair, in 1997 epitomised this view when he described the Scottish parliament as having no more powers than an English parish council because sovereignty would remain “with me” i.e. the prime minister at Westminster.  So much for Scotland having an equal voice within the UK. This Union is nothing more than an abusive relationship but mentions pulling out of it and unionists are aghast then angry then more abusive.

Divorce after 300 years!

300 and a bit years. Call that a union?

Here’s a union. France, you know that country that a section of English xenophobes love to describe as their ‘traditional enemy’ (to which the obvious retort is – who isn’t?) has never been on the receiving end of such animosity from Scotland. Quite the reverse for links between Scotland and France are greater than those between Scotland and England.

This is a Union

The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, established in 1295, has never been formally ended so the Union with England is bigamous. England is the bidie-in. It has been argued the Auld Alliance was wound up in 1560. If this is so it means Scotland’s union with France lasted over 260 years, just 38 years shy of that other union with England.

When Scotland was badgered and blackmailed into the Union in 1707, against the wishes of the people who signed petitions, demonstrated and rioted their disapproval, Scotland lost her legislative powers, many of her public offices to London, with a knock-on impact on Scottish trade and commerce. Resentment within Scotland has simmered ever since with fluctuating degrees of support for independence or Home Rule.

Divorce is a piece of paper

Back in 1890 a piece in the Westminster Review described how the demand for Home Rule for Scotland was gaining popularity on the back of the movement for Irish Home Rule. The article went on to observe –

“But the grievance that impelled her [Scotland] to do it [go for Home Rule] have been long and severely felt.  And they have a deeper root than the English people seems yet to understand. It is not only that Scotland has been shabbily and unfairly treated in the matter of Imperial grants; it is not only that the Scottish people have been put to enormous and needless expense, vexation, and trouble in connection with so-called private Bills; it is not only that Scottish affairs have been grossly mismanaged in London; Scottish legislation trifled with by the leaders of both parties, and the verdict of the Scottish constituencies on Scottish questions reversed in Parliament by the overwhelming votes of English members knowing little, caring less, about Scottish affairs, and merely voting as their party leaders bid.”

Those observations could have come from yesterday in parliament at Westminster. In 1890 the two parties in question were the Liberals and Tories. Labour would later traipse along in their wake and with some notable exceptions follow the line of England knows best, back in your box Scotland – that has been the attitude of all the UK parties.

A feature throughout the life of the Union has been the English tendency to deride Scots and Scotland – as the Westminster Review put it – “wrong done thus and otherwise to Scotland’s life and honour and progress as a nation.” And nothing has changed.

“England seems scarcely to know that Scotland remains a nation.” (Westminster Review)

And nothing has changed. That is the position of Johnson, Starmer and their party acolytes. What the English know or think they know about Scotland comes from Anglicized Scots, the Westminster Review tells us. These people rarely represent their own country and so misrepresent the Union.

Divorces are made in heaven

Scottish Secretaries of State at Westminster represent Westminster in Scotland not Scotland at Westminster. Their role is to squeeze the life out of Scotland and ‘denationalise’ her. Scotland’s junior position within the Union has meant from the very start she was being milked for whatever she was worth by London, from the malt taxes to oil and gas.

Against the grain: Scotland pays the English Exchequer | Lenathehyena’s Blog (wordpress.com)

As an illustration take an example from 1851 when Ireland’s revenue was just over £4 million Westminster took £153,547. About the same time Scotland’s revenue was just over £6 million and of that England took £5,614,847. Astounding. If astounding is another term for theft.

Heavy burdens in the form of taxes and customs duties and making Scotland pay for England’s national debt – if only England wasn’t such a xenophobic country it wouldn’t always be spending money on costly wars against other nations – kept Scotland indebted to England and diminished her freedom as a nation within the Union. Scotland had no national debt when the Union knot was tied and England made sure that she could never have England’s freedom to borrow money. That still applies today with Scotland having to balance her books while England can accrue as much debt as it likes and demand Scotland pays a share. What kind of Scot would have agreed to a contract like that? Not any kind of good one.

Article 15 of the Treaty provided a lump sum – the so-called Equivalent – was paid to Scotland as compensation for having to agree to take on a share of England’s national debt. That and to compensate Scotland for various disadvantages imposed on her by the Union such as a reduction in the value of Scotland’s currency to match that of England’s, winding up the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies so it was not in competition with England’s East India Company.  To quell the protests from Scottish businessmen London agreed to provide subsidies as compensation for Scotland’s lost markets for its successful exports such as woollen goods. In keeping with so many promises made to woo the handful of Scots nobles who played fast and loose with Scotland’s independence those subsidies were never paid out. You can see the direction of travel this Union was taking. The Equivalent was paid to 25 commissioners who first and foremost took care of themselves with the cash – and it was mainly cash. So you can imagine how widely this was (not) spread. The Union that England holds so dear was created on a catalogue of lies and deceptions.

In place of promised financial help came an increased tax burden for Scots. Prominent Scots, such as the eminent economist, Adam Smith, tried to prevent Scotland being penalised so heavily by England but to no avail. Why would England’s government aka Westminster relinquish the grip it had on Scotland? It didn’t want to risk having a rival and potential threat to its security on its border. Which reminds us this Union was a marriage of convenience. Time for the bidie-in to sling his hook.

 I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story. In a story, everything has an end and a beginning.

References:

(Julian Hoppit, University College London, Scotland and the British Fiscal State, 1707-1800. )The Westminster Review (19th and 20th centuries)

The Westminster Review (19th and early 20th century editions)


 

Dec 19, 2012

Better Together? Think Again

And to those of you in the Labour Party who grumble we’re ‘better together’ let me remind you it is your Party which has run Glasgow for over 80 years and has made it the most impoverished city in the UK and one of the poorest in the whole of Europe and it is your Party which schemed and eventually succeeded in removing 6000 miles of Scotland’s territorial waters and re-designating them English – with all that implies for Scotland’s economic prosperity.

The McCrone Report – You Sleeping Beauty

Dave Cameron’s Better Together

Sep 18, 2011

The McCrone Report – You Sleeping Beauty

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, implied recently that Scots people were stupid for expressing their desire to have greater control over the energy which comes in from Scotland’s maritime sector. Cameron went on to say that the oil and gas revenues should be used for the benefit of the UK.

It’s a funny thing that oil and gas production off the north and north east of Scotland has attracted so little attention over the past forty or so years it has been supporting the UK economy from Westminster governments, both Labour and Conservative, but still touched a nerve with Cameron.

Perhaps it has been the sensitive nature of the energy industries which necessitated their exclusion from calculations over Scotland’s contribution to the UK treasury and forced Westminster to bury the McCrone report for thirty years before it was dragged out of its dusty drawer through Freedom of Information. The endurance and patience of the Scots throughout these decades as the steady stream of oil and gas revenues have been channelled south of the border perhaps does confirm Cameron’s opinion of us as stupid after all.

The English Tories had little idea, before the Report was delivered how lucrative an asset for the UK purse the energy sector would turn out to be. It has to be said that when you look around parts of the west of Scotland it’s difficult to match up the generated maritime wealth with the poverty and wasted lives of so many people, many it should be said who are or were Labour Party loyalists throughout this long period of production and deceit.

Bury bad news – or good news – depending on who you are and what the news is. Bad for the Union – good for an independent Scotland.  Except we didn’t know it at the time. Or rather those of us in the north and north east did recognise that there was incredible wealth being created and it was a mystery why oil and gas figured so little in the discussions of the UK economy as a whole, with its contribution played down to the extent that many in the UK are possibly still unaware that there is an oil and gas sector operating here at all.

So the civil servants and Secretary for State for Scotland (sic) in the Scottish Office (sic) agreed to work against the best interests of Scotland and its people and preserve the myth of subsidy junkie Scots dependent on English largesse .

The truth, as we know, was just the opposite and we have been supporting that pampered and self-serving corner of S-E England to the detriment of ourselves. So stupid we still are if we fall for the ‘better in the Union’ argument any more.

‘Most peopleregarded both their statistics and arguments suspect, and theycontinuedto believe that Scotland derived more economic advantage than disadvantage from the Union.The importance of North Sea oil is that it raises just this issue in a more acute form than at any other time since the Act of Union was passed.’ (McCrone)

Perhaps if Glasgow’s working people who suffered badly following the loss of the heavy industries in the 1970s had looked beyond the end of their streets and seen what was happening in other parts of Scotland and voted for the SNP then instead of automatically voting Labour, the Party which has consistently kept them in the manner they have become accustomed, poverty, then Scotland might today be in a far better position.

‘With North Sea oil revenues, public expenditure on construction projects could be greatly stepped up and a major operation should be mounted to carry on the rebuilding of Glasgow and do much more than has been done in the past for environmental recovery.’

The revenues of North Sea oil and gas would have created an affluent and prosperous Scotland which could have supported ship building and other heavy industries against overseas competition. The lessons, however, have been slow to learn.

Around 90 per cent oil and gas reserves were in Scottish waters in the mid-seventies. This was before Tony Blair’s Labour government had the idea of transferring 6000 square miles of Scotland’s maritime space to England, affecting oil, gas and fishing rights.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/398670.stm

In the 1970s, the North Sea energy industry was in its infancy and projected figures estimating its output were cautious – very cautious. All part of the Unionist game to suppress the reality of the opportunity for Scotland to become a thriving and well-off nation beholden to no-one, least of all its chippy and hard-up neighbour to the south.

McCrone goes on to explain how the Department of Trade and Industry played down the extent of income and its impact on the economy. And allowed foreign competitors to take up North Sea options to the detriment of the UK economy, in particular, Norway benefitted considerably from the UK , read Scottish, areas of the North Sea.

As McCrone pointed out, ‘This has confirmed the total inadequacy of arrangements to secure Government revenue and shows that some of the most attractive measures to put this right would involve breaking the terms on which the licence’s were given. It is partly for this reason that the Government has so far failed to take a decision, the choice lying between carried interest (i.e. state participation), which would provide the biggest revenue and also give some power of control but would go back on the terms of the licences, and excess revenue tax, from which the return in 1980 would be some £200m. less but would be defensible in international law. The DTI estimates of last summer showed that total Government revenue following adoption of these measures would have been between £800m. and £1,200m. a year in 1980 depending on the system used and the prices prevailing in 1980; today, following the huge increase in international oil prices of recent months the corresponding figures are in the range of £1,500m. to over £3,000m. Thus, all that is wrong now with the SNP estimate is that it is far too low; there is a prospect of Government oil revenues in 1980 which could greatly exceed the present Government revenue in Scotland from all sources and could even be comparable in size to the whole of the Scottish national income in 1970.

Even in those early days, McCrone was aware the potential from the North Sea was massive and would work in favour of an independent Scotland living off her part of the Continental Shelf.

As well as the gain to the Government Revenue, North Sea oil will of course make a massive contribution to the balance of payments’ What is quite clear is that the balance of payments gain from North Sea oil would easily swamp the existing deficit whatever its size and transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic surplus.’

I’ve written it before in my blogs, as have many others, that North Sea oil and gas has been systematically derided as fairly insignificant by successive governments in England and nothing has changed to date. For the around forty years of the oil scene in the north east we have listened to the refrain, ‘It’ll not last long.’

Despite being aware of McCrone’s conclusions regarding the benefits to Scotland should she be in charge of her own maritime production, Westminster administrations refused to consider setting up an oil fund for Scotland. However, well done to Shetland Council which acted in its areas interests and insisted on just such a pot for its part in the industry. Shame on the Scottish office for again working against the interests of the country it is supposed to support.

All the above figures are, of course, based on the estimated output of 100m. tons of oil in 1980. This was the DTI’s revised estimate in the early summer of 1973. Already it is beginning to look as if these estimates may be too conservative. Recent finds and the plans of companies appear to indicate that the Shetland basin may prove very productive indeed. Zetland County Council’s consultants worked on the assumption that 70m. tons a year might actually be piped ashore in the county. It is now known that Shell expect to land 50m. tons a year through their own pipe alone and pipelines may also be expected from Total’s Alwyn field, Conoco’s Hutton and the recent BP and Burmah finds. In addition to this there are, of course, substantial finds further south, particularly BP’s Forties field and Occidental’s Piner. Whether or not this, plus any new finds that are made, result in the 1980 estimate of 100m. tons being exceeded largely depends on how quickly newly discovered fields are brought into production, but it does now seem extremely likely that production during the 1980s will use well above 100m. tons a year with consequent increases in revenue and gain to the balance of payments.’

McCrone spelled it out clearly enough for there to be no doubt. An oil rich Scotland would not need the Union. The ‘they need us more than we need them’ would have to be put to rest. But it was his Report which was put to rest, for thirty years, the sleeping beauty.

Perhaps the Westminster administrations, both Tory and Labour shied away from sharing McCrone’s findings because of potential ‘bitterness between the two countries’ Scotland and England preferring to keep us Scots in blissful ignorance. I imagine the bitterness would be all on the part of England, had Scotland become independence and retained all of her designated area of the Continental Shelf.

McCrone alerted the government to the possibility of altering the boundary between English and Scottish waters to provide England with some, albeit smallish oilfields.  But the remaining Scottish sector would retain substantial revenues. ‘The country would tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kroner.

Norway, yes. Independent and thriving little Norway. Such an inspiration to an oil-rich Scotland.  Couldn’t be allowed. Bury McCrone.

McCrone raised the potential difficulty of Scotland having more potential to provide incentives to industry to the detriment of England. Up to now England has always been in a position financially where, if she wished, she could have more than matched any measures which a Scottish Government would be able to afford.’ And he discussed the proposition that an independent Scotland might expect to raise its peoples’ incomes with greater GDP so increasing the gap between incomes per head in Scotland and England.

‘As an independent state, Scotland’s balance of payments position would enable her to break out of the ‘stop-go’ cycle and a sustained rate of growth could be planned on the basis that it could be carried on for at least a decade. The strength of the currency coupled with the budgetary surplus would help to keep interest rates down and there would be no need for sudden increases in taxation or massive cuts in public expenditure. Admittedly, since Scotland is so closely tied to the English market, her economy would continue to be affected by measures taken in London, but this effect would diminish the more Scotland expands trade with other EEC countries. Furthermore, it would be quite proper for a Scottish Government to take countervailing measures to stimulate the Scottish economy at times when England was going through a recession.’

As for Scotland not having access to the, then, EEC. McCrone notes, ‘North Sea oil could have far-reaching consequences for Scottish membership of EEC because of the tremendously increased political power it would confer. Without oil other members might pay little enough regard to Scotland; her voting power would not be large and it might indeed be argued that she could exert more leverage on the Community as part of the United Kingdom.As the major producer of oil in Western Europe, however, Scotland would be in a key position and other countries would be extremely foolish if they did not seek to do all they could to accommodate Scottish interests. For Scotland the net cost of Common Agricultural Policy, which features so large in British discussions would be at most some £40m. a year, a small sum compared with the balance of payments gain from North Sea oil. The more common policies come to be decided in Brussels in the years ahead, the more Scotland would benefit from having her own Commissioner in the EEC as of right and her own voice in the Council of Ministers instead of relying on the indirect, and so far hardly satisfactory, form of vicarious representation through UK departments.’

And what did he see as the benefit for the Scottish population? ‘so long as Scottish GDP per head is only 70 per cent of the European average, the unemployment and emigration rates among the highest and the country regarded by the EEC as one of its worst problem regions, then Scotland is justified in using her own resources to rectify these problems rather than relying on the generosity of others at least until she has managed to catch up.’

So where would Scotland have stood in relation to England?  ‘ Economic conditions in Europe and above all in England, with whom Scotland will remain closely tied in trade, are of particular importance. Even with greater diversification of Scottish trade to Europe and to North America, an impoverished England or one perpetually suffering the rigours of demand restraint would have most serious consequences for the Scottish economy. Britain is now counting so heavily on North Sea oil to redress its balance of payments that it is easy to imagine England in dire straits without it. The oil prices since the Yom Kippur war make this a much more serious matter than could have been imagined before; and it is now likely that transfer of North Sea oil to Scottish ownership would occasion much bitterness in England if not an attempt to forcibly prevent it. England would, of course, be no worse off than most of the Continental EEC countries in this respect; indeed, probably there are better chances of finding oil in the Celtic Sea or the English Channel than are open to most of them. If therefore the other countries can adjust to the new energy situation, England should be able as well.’

So for those of us who sometimes puzzle over why those who hold so much enmity towards Scotland and Scottish independence are often the most vociferous Unionists perhaps McCrone’s conclusions supply some possible answers.

Oil and gas production has waned somewhat from the heady days of the past but there is still plenty out there, in Scottish waters. Jobs are still being created and the plan is that this will continue with some 15000 projected in the years to come. Oil prices are high, bad news for consumers but good news for national treasuries. Our waters also have the potential for big profits from wave and tidal energies and it is vital that Scotland is not fleeced a second time (I’m being generous and forgetting about the circumstances of the Union).

 

UPDATE MAY 2014

Scottish economist Gavin McCrone’s first report into the potential of investing future oil and gas revenues was suppressed by Harold Wilson in 1974, amid fears it would boost support for the SNP.

Now it has emerged that Professor McCrone, then chief economic adviser to the Treasury, wrote another paper three years later – and it was again ignored by Wilson’s successor, James Callaghan.

The report, dated November 7, 1977 and entitled the ‘Draft Green Paper on the Benefits of North Sea Oil’, was buried in the Scotland Office archives until it was unearthed last week by researchers.

In it, Professor McCrone wrote that Britain had been presented with “an opportunity to improve her economic performance, raise her living standards and overcome some of the serious difficulties which have impeded progress in the last two decades”.

He urged the Government to set up a “Special Fund for Investment” to provide money for “industrial and regional development” and to “safeguard” Britain’s oil wealth from being spent on short term projects.

Although North Sea oil and gas had made the UK “the most richly endowed economy in the EEC”, Professor McCrone warned: “This advantage is of
finite and relatively short duration; and if we do not put to good use the time that we have to strengthen our economy, we cannot expect a second chance.”

He concluded: “If we allow this precious asset to be used without leaving something in its place for the future, we shall rightly be condemned in the eyes of succeeding generations.”

The report was found in the National Archives of Scotland following Professor McCrone’s appearance before a Scottish Parliament committee last week.

Although his 1974 report has long been a talking point in Holyrood politics, he stunned MSPs when he recalled writing “a second paper which has not been unearthed so far, in which I recommended an oil fund amongst other things”.

The Scottish Government believes an oil fund set up in 1980 could have eliminated public sector debt within three years and would now be worth between £82billion and £116billion. read on –

http://www.express.co.uk/scotland/475204/Advice-on-oil-wealth-was-suppressed-by-two-Labour-leaders