Category Archives: #IndyRef: The Truth is Out There

On 14 Sept 2014, Scotland voted in a referendum asking if we wanted to become an independent state. We voted Yes: 45%, No: 55% which was a rise of about 20% in the Yes from the beginning of the campaign. That was IndyRef1. IndyRef2 hasn’t been announced. But it’s coming.

The Great Norwegian State Pension Mystery

I’m fan of ScandiNoir detective fiction. But there’s one Scandanavain mystery that been puzzling me for a while:

How come

  • Norway has approximately the same population as Scotland
  • Has a similar retirement age
  • Has extracted much the same amount of oil & gas from their sector of the North Sea as  has been extracted from our North Sea sector.
  • Has a less diverse economy than ours – we’ve got a thriving financial sector, IT sector,   food & drink sector, satellite design and construction sector… we’re even going to have a space port!

Yet

  • their gross domestic product is twice ours
  • their state pension is twice ours
  • they have a sovereign wealth fund
  • we don’t have a sovereign wealth fund and neither does the UK
Answers on a postcard please!
My opinion? 

Firstly I think that it is connected to the way they have managed their oil & gas reserves since the early 1970s when the North Sea came online. I’ve written about this in  previous blog posts : Please, Norway, Help Us Look After Our Oil  and Still Game After All These Years and these posts have the source references to the info given below. For example this is the Norwegian approach to stewardship of their natural resources:

“The overall objective of Norway’s petroleum policy has always been to provide a framework for the profitable production of oil and gas in the long term.
It has also been considered important to ensure that as large as possible a share of the value creation accrues to the state, so that it can benefit society as a whole. This is partly obtained by the tax system.”
(Norsk Petroleum)

 

Having educated myself about that,  I’m now more focused on the consequences of the prudent Norwegian approach. And I think the amount of their state pension compared to ours is one of them.  

 

35 SNP MPs Claim Just £80,000 in Total over a Year? Aye Right!

This was posted in Yes Scotland’s Future on 11 July. C’mon !! Do some arithmetic, guys.. That would mean 35 hard-working MPs claimed on average about £2300 each for a year’s worth of travelling up and down between Scotland and Westminster plus their rent in London, plus their staff wages….. Nah. It’s definitely rubbish. 

Where do these thing come from? Why make them up, and so stupidly ? And why, oh why, share them?  And tag Ruth Davidson too, for goodness sake, you’re just handing over evidence of your own daftness and inability to count!

 

 

 

And then of course folk start repeating this guff on other websites. Wee Ginger Dug does some fantastic blogging and he’s not responsible for the comments that folk write on his blog, like this one:

 

The Truth is Out There and It's Not Hard To Find, FFS!

Just look up Hansard for MP’s expenses. Or use the MPs Expenses website. If you do you’ll be able to build up this graph. It’s called back-up evidence.

So far from 35 SNP MPs claiming £80,000 in total over 12 months in fact each SNP MP claimed about £65,000 making a total of £2,274,161 over 12 months. And in fact SNP MPs claimed more on average than other Parties.. Not surprising that LibDem and SNP claimed more they have the furthest flung and largest constituencies to cover.

The costs include travel, staff and office costs in their constituency and at Westminster, accommodation in London. Here’s my MP’s expenses claim:

 

Back to Indy Meme Culture page

“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.” Oscar Wilde

In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody – was it Burke? – called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.

Oscar Wilde. From The Soul of Man under Socialism

A few weeks ago I felt demoralised after watching First Minister’s Questions from Holyrood. Normally when I watch FMQs I’m not demoralised. I may be frustrated at the now-to-be-expected narrow party political point-scoring indulged in, by Ruth Davidson in particular. I may be recalling with nostalgia past FMQs when Annabel Goldie was the Scottish Tory leader because, although I disagreed with pretty well all of her political views, at least she articulated them in an honourable and truthful way. I think Ken Mackintosh, the Presiding Officer, should be stopping the misinformation and spin being indulged in by some questioners. But today I was just demoralised with it all.

Why? Some background ..

Continue reading “In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.” Oscar Wilde

The Revenue Men: Exports, Imports & the Black, Black Oil

(This blog post was sparked off by reading a post by John Robertson on his blog Talking Up Scotland. His post is from 8 June 2018 and called  8% of the population, nearly 9% of the exports, but only 5.25% of the imports.)

Every quarter Her Majesty’s Revenue men and women calculate the UK’s imports and exports of goods. And rather helpfully, they break the figures into UK geographical areas. These are the latest figures: 

That’s looking pretty good for the non-English parts of the UK. Scotland and N Ireland have a trade surplus in goods and Wales is not far behind with only a modest trade deficit. Engerland however are massively in the red with a £138billion deficit. In fact their imports are 40% more than their imports. 

Continue reading The Revenue Men: Exports, Imports & the Black, Black Oil

Baroness Wilcox’s Expenses

(Posted April 2018) This was doing the rounds of Facebook the other week, especially Scottish Indy group pages. This woman apparently claims our hard earned cash to pay for her travel to the House of Lords from her house just round the corner. This appeared on the Facebook group page Pensioners for Indy and it had been shared from another FB group page called Rolling Thunder.

Continue reading Baroness Wilcox’s Expenses

Indy Meme Culture

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.

I wrote some background about Indy Memes in a post Indy Memes: True or False. I included an example of a false meme. Good memes are definitely a good thing… they spread accurate information in a way that’s easy to understand and share. False memes spread disinformation and sometimes fake news, even if they are genuinely meant to persuade people to support Scottish independence.

Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. One selective pressure is not ‘liking’ or sharing false memes on social media. Another pressure is debunking them. 

I voice my opposition to false themes by explaining why they’re inaccurate and unhelpful. But I am also interested in why people post them on social media and how they get under our skin in the way they do. And they certainly do have an impact because they are shared round and round social media. Often the same meme re-eappearing every few weeks or so.

This page follows on from my original post and shows up some Indy  memes, asks if they are true, and wonders how they impact on us.

 

Click on the images to find out more....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

North Sea Oil – Still Game After All These Years?

Is the UK North Sea Oil Sector its Last Legs?
During the 2014 Scottish Independence campaign it certainly seemed that North Sea oil was at the end of its useful life. We kept being told that independence would be a disaster for Scotland. We’d be bankrupt, not least because the oil was about to run out.

The Scottish Government White Paper on Independence used the oil industry’s own estimates of 24billion barrels of still recoverable resources. Then Sir Ian Woods intervened in the debate  saying 15-18 billion barrels was more likely and that by 2050 an independent Scotland wouldn’t have any oil revenue income. (Ref: BBC, Aug 2014). Sir Ian doesn’t support Scottish Independence. That doesn’t mean he was being biassed in his estimate but his opinion was given a great deal of weight by the Unionist-supporting media (ie nearly all of the UK media) and less was given to the oil industry’s opinion.

Continue reading North Sea Oil – Still Game After All These Years?

Please, Norway, Could You Help Us Look After Our Oil?

Let’s start with this impressive statement of intent from Norway about its oil resources:

“The overall objective of Norway’s petroleum policy has always been to provide a framework for the profitable production of oil and gas in the long term.
It has also been considered important to ensure that as large as possible a share of the value creation accrues to the state, so that it can benefit society as a whole. This is partly obtained by the tax system.”
(Norsk Petroleum)

That’s called responsible stewardship.

Continue reading Please, Norway, Could You Help Us Look After Our Oil?

Journey to Yes

In 2014 we Scots voted in a referendum. Either Yes! we wanted Scotland to be an independent nation once more after more than 300 years of political union with England. Or No, we wanted to remain in that union. At the beginning of the campaign opinion polls showed a Yes vote at about 25%. By 14 Sept 2014 the day of the vote it was 45%. That’s a big increase. But not a big enough increase. 

Since then the promises made to us by the Unionist politicians to get us to vote No have mostly been shown to be empty. In particular the No campaign took a strong line over EU: the only way to be sure of remaining in the EU was to stay in the Union; an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to join the EU; Spain would veto us; we’d be out in the economic cold. Aye, right. It was not correct then and it sure as hell isn’t right now after England voted to leave the EU last June. Scotland voted to remain by 62% : 38%. That isn’t important apparently and we should just be quiet and let our kindly Westminster Government get on with sorting things out for us.

Not surprisingly, some people who supported the No campaign in 2014 have shifted their view and now support Yes. Here are some videos made by Phantom Power which tell the stories of those Journeys to Yes.

 

 

Article 50 Delivered to Brussels :-(

Today saw Article50 with Theresa May’s signature at the bottom of it wend its way over to Brussels and in to the hands of Donald Tusk. In the House of Commons, our PM gave a statement to that effect and called for the ‘nation’ to pull together. We already heard from her the other day up here in Scotland that Britain is an “unstoppable force”. 

Here is Angus Robertson’s, leader of the SNP in the Commons, response to her statement. Angus is getting better and better …..

BBC Weather Maps of UK

Those of us who live in Scotland have become increasingly worried about the way in which Scotland is shrinking. What could be causing it?

  • Global warming perhaps? 
  • Has the earth titled on its axis recently?
  • Are the Russians the culprits? 
  • Could it be the BBC a fault? Surely not. 

To see what I mean, here is a photo – a photo, not a map – of the UK taken from the ISS, the  (International Space Station)

 

View from the window of the International Space Station

And here is a BBC weather map of the UK. Sorry Ireland, I took you out of the picture just to keep things simple.

BBC map which I’ve simplified by deleting Ireland…

 

And here they are again superimposed. I’ve kept the BBC map in its original proportions but aligned it so that it completely matches ISS photo of the south coast of England.

ISS & BBC comparison

As the Broons would say, Michty Me!! the BBC’s Orkney islands are only as far north as Crieff!! Now I know that BBC show maps that include an allowance for the curvature of the earth which means they have a fore-shortening effect as you look north. But crivens, the curvature effect isn’t as big as this.