Category Archives: Scottish Independence

The Great British Power Heist

Watch this.

Over the top? Exaggerated? Think again.

You can find the actual text of the amended Bill here in Hansard. Or you can download it in  this PDF file.  You’ll find the details dealing with retained powers are in Clause 11 on page 6 of the file.

But this is the important bit:

OK, that is clear. From the day of Brexit onwards, the Scottish Parliament cannot make any changes to legislation on retained powers.

The Bill continues:

 

So that’s also clear. A Westminster Minister needs to have a consent decision from the Scottish Parliament before he can go ahead with taking forward legislation on any retained powers. Holyrood has forty days to respond to notice from the Minister. If there is no response from Holyrood the Westminster Minister can go ahead with putting motions before the House of Commons or the Lords.

Then the Bill helpfully defines what is meant by a “consent decision”:

So a “consent decision” is not a decision to consent to a piece of legislation. A “consent decision” is just a response from Holyrood to notice of proposed legislation for a retained power in Westminster whether our response is: 

(a) We’re OK with this

(b) We’re not OK with this.

or

(c) We have agreed a motion which refuses consent to your proposed legislation

In other words it doesn’t matter one iota what the Scottish Parliament wants, says, refuses,  or how it votes on any area of the retained powers, Westminster can go ahead anyway and put its proposals to the vote in the Commons and the Lords.

Westminster can lay such proposals for a period of two years after Brexit and any regulations which are passed in that time will remain in force for five years after they come into force. After that – so that’s seven years after Brexit – any regulations can be revoked by a subsequent Act in Holyrood. 

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about all this in this week’s First Minister’s Question. Ash Denham asked:

 

 

 

Indy Memes: True or False?

dictionary definition: meme (noun) 

1. an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one     individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. 
2. an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

Or this from Wikipedia:
A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

I log into various Scottish Indy groups on Facebook. There are lots of ‘memes’ in these groups. Most of them are positive, often funny, sometimes inspiring.  Here are a few taken from Yes Scotland’s Future.

There are other memes though which are attempting to communicate something but which are doing it by disseminating misinformation. I’m not going to go far as to say that their creators are deliberately lying. Or cynically trying manipulate other people. I think it’s likely that most of the misleading memes are genuinely intended to spur others to come over to the Yes side of the Scottish constitutional debate.
 
I think it’s only fair that whoever first creates a meme needs to have thought about and researched their topic. At least to have googled it. I think it’s also fair  that people who share a meme over social media also need to consider how likely it is to be true or false.
 
Having said that, it’s also true that the aspirations and emotions behind these memes are shared by all of us who want Scotland to be its own independent country. But the question is: are those aspirations well served by misleading slogans and posters?
 
Look at this one:
 
Two statements and an image.  And the “You Yes Yet?” and “The Way Forward” slogans at the bottom makes it clear what the aim of the poster is. Behind what you see here are some basic facts about Scotland and being Scottish:
  • we Scots make one of the best, most appreciated, and sought after drinks in the world. No, not IrnBru. Whisky. 
  • it’s an iconic part of being Scottish
  • it carries a great deal of cultural and social weight here. It’s what you offer your guests when they come through the door. It communicates values of friendship and trust.
  • whisky is exported all over the world and to some extent it carries those Scottish cultural memes with it

As well as those cultural associations, whisky produces a lot of revenue from the various ways those exports are taxed. It will be a significant part of an independent Scotland’s GDP and revenue stream.

This is where things get muddy. HMRC does the sums about the UK’s trade. The UK’s trade. There is no Scottish HMRC which does the sums for Scottish trade. Instead what we have are a series of estimates made by HMRC. It can’t be an easy task because although Scotch is made in Scotland, it is exported from ports all over the UK. It’s probably often sold on to secondary firms elsewhere in UK who then arrange for its export from, say, Felixstowe or Liverpool. Add to this practical nightmare, it seems that in the past HMRC didn’t count anything as a Scottish export, or a Welsh export, unless it did leave through a Scottish or Welsh port. I’m saying ‘seems’ because I have no way of confirming that actually happened. But it is widely held to have happened. And more to the point, it is still held to be happening now.

The meme works because it plays into a sense that Scotland is treated unfairly by the current tax and financial arrangements. Something that we create and which has value to us is somehow lost to us. It doesn't count, literally. And it's not a big step from that to "we don't count".

Hence the the two statements on the poster. The first statement is true. But whatever export accounting system that HMRC may have used in the past, the second statement is definitely false.

 This is what I commented when this meme appeared on the Pensioners4Indy Facebook page last month:

I’m as much in favour as anyone else in this group to get accurate figures for Scottish economic activity. But this is just not true. Or I should say it’s mostly not true, and it’s all untrue as stated in the poster above. Please don’t share it.

If a Scottish company exports its product even if it goes via a port in rUk, then HMRC classes it as a Scottish export.

What does appear to be true is that if something is exported from a Scottish company to a separate company elsewhere in rUK and then that second company exports it from rUK, then that ‘second port of export’ won’t count towards Scottish export figures.

You don’t have to take my word for it, just google “HMRC Scottish exports” and you find this on the HMRC website:

Are Scottish goods which are exported via ports from the rest of the UK counted as international Scottish exports?

Yes. The ESS publication measures the destination of goods exported from Scotland regardless of the port from which they leave the UK.

How are Scotch Whisky exports treated?

All international exports relevant to Scotch Whisky are counted as Scottish exports, irrespective of the port at which they depart the UK. The data is sourced from the HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics report.

Scotch Whisky exports to the rest of the UK are estimated based on GCS responses, as HMRC do not collect information on trade within the UK[1].

How does ESS treat the situation where Scottish goods are initially exported to the rest of the UK, and subsequently re-exported?

The ESS estimates only capture the first point of export. This means if a good is exported to a company in the rest of the UK and that company then exports it somewhere else, ESS will only capture the export to the rest of the UK.

Direct sales from Scottish companies to international destinations are counted as international exports regardless of where they leave the UK.

 After a couple of days, with quite a few ‘likes’ appearing on my comment, the original post was deleted by whoever posted it. I counted that as a success. Though I have to say that before it was deleted it had been shared about four times. On that basis it wasn’t a success. And if those shares were themselves shared then by this time it will have appeared in hundreds of Facebook posts. 
 
Now if you’re reading this and you’re someone who does share Indy memes on your Facebook page then you might be feeling a bit grumpy or offended with me. If you are, I don’t mind that. It might be  good thing if it makes you  hesitate the next time before you click that share button. 
 
If you’re now wondering about other misleading Indy memes, look under the Indy Snippets tab at the top of the page. I’ll add them there as I come across them.

Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

I’m linked in to a number of Facebook groups which support Scottish Independence. I see a lot of what’s posted in these groups. I reckon that there’s lot of overlap between me and the other people in the group in terms of our aspirations for Scotland. Also in terms of our sense of humour. Also in terms of our politics.  There’s a bit of mild abuse directed towards Tories in general and towards Ruth, Theresa and Boris in particular. On the whole we don’t think much of Labour’s new saviour Mr Corbyn. Nor his Scottish lieutenant, Richard Leonard. And mostly we don’t even bother to mention the Scottish LibDems or any other LibDem variety. But of course we like Nicola and her cohorts. And we also approve of the Scottish Greens.

It’s true that hese groups are echo chambers for like-minded independence supporters. There aren’t even many unionist trolls to be seen off. But we also inform each other, bring news from elsewhere to each other’s attention, promote events and fundraisers, and cheer ourselves up when yet another inaccurate mainstream media item hits the headlines. Some people in the groups are a dab hand at creating great posters. Some of us like me write on our own blogs and post to the groups.

But every now and then I see stuff that is completely wrong factually. Continue reading Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

SCOxit: Putting English Gas O’an a Peep….

Posted on 14 Mar, 2018

Read on to find out where these figures come from …..

There was a report last week, Perfect Storm for Energy Supplies as UK Runs on Empty about UK gas supplies running low in the Siberian cold snap and snow storms we’ve had. It’s in the Telegraph and has a lot of background detail (though they’ll only let you read it once before asking you to register).  In 2004 North Sea gas production meant that the UK was self-sufficient in gas. Since then our production has fallen and  we are now importing about 60% of our needs. And it’s not going to get any better : the National Grid estimates that we will be importing over 90% by 2040. The Guardian has a good article about this too though they are mostly concerned with the fact that a third of the imports are from Qatar.

Here are the facts.

In 2015, UK  production of natural gas, including natural gas liquids (NGL), was 429 Terawatt Hours (ref: Oil & Gas Stastistics) and in 2016 it had climbed to 463 (ref: UKGov Natural Gas, Ch4). This got me wondering how much if that comes from Scottish waters. I expect you see where I’m going with this!

How much natural gas does Scotland and rUK produce?

Overall, 96% of UK oil & liquid natural gas production comes from Scottish waters, so it’s very tempting to think that, post-SCOxit, the situation for England  will be hugely worse when it comes to them having to import  gas!

But then I remembered that the southern sector of the North Sea mostly has gas fields and this sector will be within English territorial waters. So the proportion of gas production from Scotland compared with rUK is much less, though it’s still more than half:

By Gautier, D.L. – US Dept. of Interior USGS Bulletin 2204-C, Public Domain, Link

I’ve also done a bit of researching into other sources for how much gas is produced from the Southern North Sea . It’s all there in the Oil & Gas Authority Offshore Production figures, gas field by gas field, except you need to know which fields are in the south. Fortunately  Wikipedia has a list of North Sea oil and gas fields by sector. So by putting the two sets of info together I’ve got an estimate for gas production coming from English sector of the North Sea. It amounts to around 150 Terawatt Hours in 2017. This is gas from offshore North Sea. There is some onshore gas production and some from Irish Sea sector. That all fits with this 150 tWh estimate being a bit less than the 170 tWh that I calculated from the Oil & Gas Statistics.  

But the main point is that in 2016 we produced 60% of UK’s natural gas and  LNG, liquid natural gas. (Ref: Scottish Government Oil & Gas Statistics)  

How much natural gas does Scotland & rUK consume?

In 2016, UK consumed 891 tWh of natural gas. (Ref: UK Energy Brief, p23) Initially I assumed that 10% of that consumption happens in Scotland, based on us having 8% of the UK population plus a bit because it’s colder up here. But since then I’ve found these stats which show that in terms of gas meters, we only account for  4.5% of UK metered usage. 

However that doesn’t include other ways in which gas is used, the big one being power generation. Now Scotland is fast approaching self-sufficiency in electricity production from renewable sources, ie not from gas fuelled power stations. But let’s be generous and assume that Scotland still takes 8% of total UK gas usage, ie 71tWh. That means rUK consumption is 820 Terawatt Hours. If they produce 170 tWh and assuming that all imported gas, 418tWh,  will go to  rUk then they will still need a further 232 tWH supply to plug the production hole post-SCOxit.

Where do our gas imports come from?

It’s from these countries that we import gas to UK at present:

According to Reuters, Norway won’t be able to plug a post-SCOxit gap (Ref: Reuters, 2012) Another option is to import it from elsewhere in Europe but that in effect means becoming more reliant on  Russian gas.  The easiest option will be for rUK to buy it from Scotland. But can Scotland plug the rUK gas shortfall? No, not all of it.  We’re producing about 260 tWh and using about 71tWh. So we have a surplus of about 189 tWh. In the short -term rUK’s gas imports will look like this. 

OK, so that prompts another question. What’s the wholesale cost of natural gas? And how much income would come to Scotland from exporting 189 tWh of it to England? 

The wholesale gas market in Britain has one price for gas irrespective of where the gas comes from. This is called the National Balancing Point (NBP) price of gas and is usually quoted in price per therm of gas. (Ref: Ofgen)

Current price is around 50p/ therm (Ref: ERC Equipose) so that just needs converting to tWh….. OK, 1 tWh equals 34.1 million Therms. UK therms, of course, just in case you’re worried that I’m using the right units. So Scottish exports of 189 tWh of gas will sell for – Wait for it :

 

Now this exercise isn’t about me finding a new source of income to the Scottish Exchequer. Tax income from this £3billion is presumably already included in the GERS estimates under Oil & Gas Revenue. What this is about is showing that rUK will be dependent on us for its gas supply. There’s no way they can do without Scottish gas imports. So next time we hear some Unionist telling us that independence will put Scottish trade at risk cos they might just stop trading with us, just wait till they draw breath and say: 

Aye, right!! but whit aboot yon 180 terawatt hours of gas ye need frae us?

 

 

 

 

 

Do Revenues from Scottish Oil Under-Write UK Profligacy?

 

This has appeared on several Indy pages on Facebook. It’s unusual that it’s so specific on the date and place that he’s alleged to have said this. In fact, that’s just the kind of reference that I’m forever asking for on Facebook. Unfortunately in this case I can’t find any trace of him saying it. I’m not the only person who has looked into Hansard records to confirm. No-one has managed to confirm it that I have found. In fact as far as I can make out from the Hansard Archives, the Commons wasn’t sitting that day. So if he said this on 29 May, he must have said it elsewhere.

It is of course only one of lots of memes which focus on the same underlying belief. The belief goes like this:

Scotland produces XXX billion in revenues which goes to Westminster

Westminster returns much less than that in the block grant to Holyrood.

Scotland is being ripped off by Westminster.

To be able to prove this conclusively is an on-going activity for Indy supporters. So if Alastair Darling said this actually while he was UK Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Gordon Brown Labour Government of 2007-2010, well that is quite a quote to have handy for another Scottish Independence campaign.

But Google searching does provide another reference to John Jappy. You might not have heard of him: he was from Inverness and worked in the civil Service in Accountant and Comptroller General’s Branch. Several quick promotions took him to the Head Office in London, and further promotions to the General Accounting Division, with links to the Treasury. This involved me in the preparation of National Budgets. When he retired and was active in CND. He died in Feb 2018.

He wrote up this article called  “Hiding the Truth”.  (You can find many other articles by him here.) And it’s in this article that you find the statement :

On 29 May 2008, Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling admitted in a back-handed way, that Scotland’s oil revenue had been underwriting the UK’s failure to balance its books for decades.  There is still 30 years of oil supply left in the North Sea (some 150 million barrels) valued at 2008 prices at 1 trillion dollars.  This excludes the new fields being brought into production in deeper waters west of Shetland.

So no information about where it was said. But a statement by a respected Civil Servant with many years experience and insight into the ways of working of the UK Treasury.

This was an interview he gave in the run up to the 2014 Scottish Referendum. 

If you’ve listened to the interview video then you’ll be aware that Mr Jappy referred to various other instances where Scotland’s financial health and wealth were revealed.

So, apart from the inclusion of an unverifiable reference to Hansard but which is probably incorrect, this would appear to be a good meme!! Hurrah.