All posts by thomas

What the new nuclear power station says about future oil prices

Nuclear Wetlands
Nuclear Wetlands, a photo by James Marvin Phelps on Flickr.
The unionist parties like to emphasise the uncertainty about future oil prices (e.g., “The tax we get from the North Sea is so volatile that the difference between the highest and lowest years is the equivalent of Scotland’s NHS budget”).

However, talking about Westminster’s decision to give the go-ahead for the UK’s first new nuclear station in a generation, and to guarantee the investors an electricity price that is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said:

‘People won’t be paying this for ten years’ time and in ten years’ time we’ll be in a very different world – we’ll have had to replace all those nuclear power stations and coal power stations and we’re likely to see carbon prices going up and so on,’ he told BBC1’s Breakfast.

In other words, he’s implying that future energy prices will be much higher than they are at the moment, which is bad news for consumers everywhere, but excellent news for an independent Scotland. If Ed Davey expects energy prices to double over the next ten years, it means he must be expecting North Sea oil prices to rise by a similar amount, too.

Given the amounts of energy produced in Scotland, sky-high energy prices is an advantage for an independent Scotland, but this is not the case for the UK as a whole. Only in an independent Scotland can we use the increased revenue from rising oil and gas prices to make energy more affordable for the people living here.

Scots and the Scottish Cringe

I’ve been away to Denmark for a few days, and I took the opportunity to read Bill Kay’s Scots: The Mither Tongue.

For people like myself who didn’t grow up in Scotland, the Scottish Cringe is often somewhat of a mystery, but as an independence campaigner I often also feel the whole campaign is a fight to overcome that sentiment.

I therefore felt it interesting to see how the linguistic persecution of Scots (and of Gaelic, of course, but people are probably more aware of that) has formed the basis for the creation and preservation of the cringe:

The effects of centuries of stigmatisation and cultural colonisation cannot, of course, be overcome instantly with a new political attitude. The Catalans are a few decades into the recovery of their language but they concede that it will take several generations of confidence building before what they call the ‘slave mentality’ of their people can be removed. In public perceptions of Scots, we face similar problems and have not even seriously begun the process of recovery. Our equivalent of the slave mentality is the Scottish cringe.

If the people of Scotland started taking pride in both the languages of Scotland again — Gaelic and Scots — it would become so much more difficult to perpetuate the belief that we’re uniquely too wee, too stupid and too poor to be independent. The unionists have a much easier time when the world is also linguistically seen through the prism of London.

What will happen to the Scottish political parties after independence?

Everyone leads a party
Everyone leads a party, a photo by WordShore on Flickr.
The Scottish political scene is rather odd when compared to the political spectrum one tends to find in independent democratic countries.

Firstly, independence rather than any other political question is the biggest political shibboleth, separating the SNP, the Greens and the SSP from Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Secondly, the fact that the Scottish Parliament has almost no tax-raising powers means that the parties don’t divide into higher-tax-and-higher-spending parties on the left and lower-tax-and-lower-spending parties on the right. I guess the Tories are trying at times, but their message clearly doesn’t appeal because they can’t promise to lower any taxes.

After independence, independence will cease to be a dividing line — I’d be very surprised if any mainstream party advocated reunification with the rUK after independence.

Furthermore, in an independent Scotland it will again be possible for a party to get votes by promising to lower taxes — all Scandinavian countries have powerful centre-right parties, so even in a Scotland committed to the Common Weal project there will be people wanting to reduce the size of the state.

The consequence of all this is that the Scottish political landscape will most likely undergo a period of rapid change after independence.

The exact changes cannot be predicted. It’s likely the SNP and Labour will continue to be the two largest parties, but it’s impossible to say whether Labour will continue to be more right-wing than the SNP, or whether they’ll quickly become a left-wing party again once the ties to London have been cut. Also, although I’m certain there will be a centre-right party, I’m not sure whether it will be a descendant of the Conservatives, Labour or the SNP.

This doesn’t mean that Holyrood will suddenly look like Westminster. For instance, the centre-right party in an independent Scotland is likely to be a decent mildly Conservative/Liberal party more like the ones found in continental Europe rather than being dominated by lunatic Thatcherites, and left-wing parties will probably be in power more frequently than has been the case in the UK till now.

I’m definitely looking forward to Scotland becoming a normal country in this respect, too.

The 2013 March & Rally for Independence

Aerial view of the independence rally with labels.
Aerial view of the independence rally with labels (click on it to see a larger version).
I went to Edinburgh today with my wife, all five kids and my mother to take part in the March & Rally for Independence.

It was a great day. I met many old friends and made several new ones, and the rally featured lots of great music and many excellent speeches.

There were a lot of people there. I’ve no idea of the exact numbers, but the first marchers reached Calton Hill before the last ones had even started moving yet. There were definitely so many people that I completely failed to find several friends in spite of texting them repeatedly.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make next year’s march & rally even better:

  1. Assemble on a wider area (such as the Meadows), which would make it easier to spot banners. We ended up marching with some people we didn’t know because it was too hard to find the ones we knew.
  2. Failing this, make an official list of assembly points in advance and put this list on a poster so that people who just turn up can read it (e.g., “Yes East Renfrewshire to assemble at 219 High Street”).
  3. Create assembly points in the rally area. For instance, put letters on sticks so that you can text your friends that you are at assembly point X. I got a lot of texts describing in vague terms where on Calton Hill people were.
  4. Make sure that either the march route or the rally venue makes it possible to take a photo of everybody in one shot. Most of the photos of the rally I’ve seen have been taken from the stage and only show a small part of the rally.
  5. Finally, the kids would have loved to get their faces painted before the march rather than after it!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day, and I’d like to thank the organisers and everybody who took part! I’m already looking forward to next year’s rally and the Yes vote shortly afterwards!

Scotland as a Nordic country

Scotland and the other Nordic countriesA year from now, the most important referendum in the history of Scotland will take place.

In foreign policy, England has always tended to ignore the Nordic countries and preferred to look south towards France, and the UK has of course always been dominated by England in this regard, but after independence Scotland can revert to being a Northern European country.

Obviously, Scotland isn’t part of Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. However, can an independent Scotland be regarded as a Nordic country? If so, joining the Nordic Council would be possible.

The usual definition of the Nordic countries includes only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and the Åland Islands. However, a brief glance at a map shows that Scotland would be a natural addition to the list.

Scandinavia is largely defined by language — Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible after a few weeks’ exposure. This isn’t true for the other languages of the Nordics, however. Also, people from all the Nordic countries are increasingly using English amongst themselves, so not knowing a Scandinavian language might not be a real problem.

In fact, I have a suspicion that the Finns and the Icelanders might be quite happy to get an excuse to use English — although Finnish-speaking Finns learn Swedish at school, almost none of them are able to understand spoken Danish.

Historically, the non-Scandinavian Nordic countries are, or have been, ruled by a Scandinavian one: the Faeroes and Greenland are still controlled by Denmark (although they have devolution), Iceland was Danish until 1944, and Finland and Åland were part of Sweden until 1809.

Orkney and Shetland were part of Denmark-Norway until 1468, when they were pawned to Scotland, and many Scottish islands were under Viking rule a few centuries before that, so there are definitely some historical connexions there that might be useful when submitting the membership application.

However, at the end of the day the Nordic Council is a club for small Northern European countries with a Social-Democratic mindset. If Scotland goes down the Common Weal path, I expect the Nordic Countries will be more than happy to let Scotland join.

See you on Saturday!

My new Arc of Prosperity T-shirt
My new Arc of Prosperity T-shirt, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
As you’re probably already aware, the 2nd annual March and Rally for Independence will take place in Edinburgh on Saturday (21/09).

I’ll be there, of course, together with my family. We went last year, too, and it was great fun. Have a look at my wife’s photos from the event.

I hope to meet you there, and if you like this blog, please say hello! I’ve got myself an Arc of Prosperity T-shirt, so I should be easy to recognise.