Tag Archives: yes campaign

Baroness Wilcox’s Expenses

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.

Is that true? Well I thought I could begin trying to find out by looking on the House of Lords website. And sure enough, it has details of the Lords’ expenses claim going back years. They don’t get paid a salary – unless they also hold a ministerial position in the government of the day – but they can claim a daily allowance when they are in the House and they can claim for travel, postage, and a few other things. 

So I looked up Baroness Wilcox. Here are her most recent expense claims,  for the year to November 2017. 

So she only claimed the attendance allowance for the days she was in the House. . She didn’t claim travel or any other expenses apart from fifty quid for postage.  

The meme says she claims “up to” £5700 a month. Well not over the most recent year we have figures for she didn’t. “Up to” is a very imprecise way of putting it. She claimed “up to” £5100 inasmuch as she claimed that amount in one month. But on average she claimed £2642 a month. And of the £300 per day’s attendance that she could claim, on average she claimed £268 per day. Let’s assume she’s there for 8 hours a day (probably she’s there a lot longer than that since sittings start at around midday and can go on till midnight. But 8 hours a day means that she is getting £33.50 an hour. That’s not to be sniffed at. But it’s not extortionate compared to professional hourly rates. It’s about the same as a young GP or solicitor working a 35 hour week.

The meme also says she claimed that “for her walk to work”. Well no she didn’t claim any travel expenses. And the daily attendance allowance  is the same for everyone irrespective of where they live whether that’s Land’s End, John O’Groats or just round the corner from Westminster.

Where did this meme come from?

It’s from the Daily Mail and it’s dated July 2015. The version of the meme that’s been circulating round Indy sites is directly from the Mail. Here’s what they said:

She lives in a £4million home just 200 yards from the House of Lords.

Yet Baroness Wilcox still bills the taxpayer up to £5,700 a month for her walk to work.

In two years, the 74-year-old former Cadbury Schweppes director has pocketed £74,400 in parliamentary attendance allowances.

The former Tory minister is among scores of affluent peers who claim thousands despite living in and around Westminster. 

None has broken any rules – and they are otherwise unsalaried. But they stand accused of cynically exploiting a new tax-free payment of up to £300 a day that is massively weighted in favour of those based in London.

So to repeat:

  • There is absolutely no logical connection between the first and second sentences above. 
  • Attendance allowance is for taking part in official Lords Parliamentary Business. 
  • A Lord who lives in Land’s End will get the same allowance for attending and in addition can claim for the cost of travelling to London.
  • Where’s the “cynical exploitation” and why it is “massive weighted” in favour of Londoners? 
  • No doubt she is a “former Cadbury Scheppes director” but she got a BA in Business at Plymouth, started and built up various successful companies which were later bought by larger companies like Birds Eye, so you know not a landed gentry type, but someone who’s a successful businesswoman.
Just out of interest: what is her voting record?

She’s a Tory. She was ‘elevated’ to the Lords in  1996 as one of the first Working Peers. It’s very east to find out her voting record. Just google ‘Baroness Wilcox voting record’ and you find the website theyworkforyou.com which has all the voting info of the Noble Lady.

 

Indy Memes

I wrote some background about Indy Memes in a post Indy Memes: True or False. I included an example of a false meme. False memes spread disinformation even if they are genuinely meant to persuade people to support Scottish independence.

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 do voice my opposition to these 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 of these false memes and asks how do they impact on us. Follow the links to get more info:

  1. Baroness Wilcox ‘s Expense Claims. Is she as mean as she’s being accused?

This one about Baroness Wilcox appeared on the Pensioners 4 Indy Facebook page on 5 April 2018. Comments soon appeared on the original post voicing strongly felt emotions and a fair bit of swearing. But is it true?  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.

 

 

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 Memes: 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. And if it’s been put together on a poster with a striking image, colour scheme and eye-catching font, it can whizz round Facebook in no time at all. Here’s one:

I used to respond to these sorts of memes by posting some well thought out facts and figures that I was sure would bring folk round to seeing the truth of the matter. I know  some folk were convinced from the appreciative ‘likes’ which appeared on my comment. But I also know that I managed to antagonise other folk. One lady in one group replied stating “You’re a right smarty pants, aren’t you?” Some people even told Facebook that they didn’t want to see my comments. You know this has happened when you are reading through a thread of discussion and it’s clear that other people are seeing and replying to posts that are not visible to you.

So clearly a change in tactics was called for to try to avoid upsetting people. I mean why carry on putting obstacles in the way of communication if you don’t have to? So I attempted to make critical posts less critical by crafting them along these lines, saying :

  • I really sympathise with what X has said in this post. For myself, I feel ….. etc etc
  • I’m wondering though if all the info in it is accurate? 
  • Then I say briefly why I think it’s not accurate.
  • Finish by repeating my agreement with how he/she feels about this and how necessary it is to get the truth of it. 

So for example it’s fairly common to see posts like this one:

I have no doubt that Mr Davis said something like that. You may have come across him under his other name of ‘Brexit Bulldog, the Master Negotiator’ as he is known on BBC Radio4’s Dead Ringers programme. It’s not a bad idea to  counter  claims that England subsidises Scotland  by referring to Scottish economic figures. Although this poster doesn’t give a reference (tsk, tsk) it looks like the revenue and grant amounts are taken from GERS. I’ve seen variations on this meme. Basically it’s saying:

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. 

The wider context for this is that there is an apparent £15billion ‘black hole’ in Scotland’s finances which unionist commentators love to talk about it. So it is important for Indy supporters to be informed about our finances and be able to counters unionist claims that we’d be bankrupt without kind Englanders bailing us out.

This is what I commented when I saw it posted in the Pensioners for Independence Facebook group:

First of all, I’m completely sympathetic to the emotions behind this sort of post and I share those emotions. Mainly frustration at Westminster goings on. But this gives the wrong picture of what’s actually happening. The block grant covers everything devolved to Holyrood. Everything not devolved is paid directly from Westminster. Direct outgoings from Westminster to Scotland include about £10billion for benefits, pensions. There are other direct outgoings too. You can easily get the details from .scotGov website.
Sympathetic though I am to the intention behind this, it does no good to our Indy intentions to misinform people and it opens us up to ridicule from Unionists.

I’m more than happy to delve into GERS and try to find the truth of the matter. Or read Prof Richard Murphy’s blog on his views of the Scottish economy. Or Craig Dalzell of CommonWeal for his views. But I’m probably in the minority compared to most Indy supporters. And after I’d added the comment above, people just carried on sharing it anyway. Sigh!   🤨 🤓

How do we engage in debate bringing both our passion and our reasoning abilities into play? And how do we engage and convince people about Scottish independence outside of our Indy echo chambers? 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Scotland 8% of UK Population: Too Wee, Too Poor?

I’m a fan of John Robertson’s website Talking Up Scotland. If you search for ‘8%’ on his website you get a list of his posts where he gives various examples of how Scotland, with 8% of the UK population, repeatedly achieves much more per head of the population than rUK. 

I used one of his posts, about the number of nurses in Scotland compared to England , to make up this visual: 

It proved popular on various Indy supporting Faceboook groups and I know that it’s been shared around quite a lot. So I thought I should produce a set of such visual aids for other examples where Scotland punches above its weight. All of them give a reference for how you can find the original data if you’re so minded. Most of them are taken from Talking Up Scotland, some I’ve found myself. 

I’ve tried to compare Scotland with whole of the UK. But to be honest, England is so much the biggest share of UK, that adding in Wales and NI doesn’t make that much difference to the overall percentages.

Here they are. Don’t know about you but it makes me think that the “Scotland’s too wee and too poor to be an independent country” slogan is just not true. Well I’ve never thought it was true but it’s good to have some examples of just why that slogan is such as insult to what we’re already doing for our society, never mind what we could do if we held all the political lives of power in our own hands.

 

Wee Duggy Dug!!!

I have just discovered these wee videos made in 2014 by NewsNet.scot in the run-up to ScotRef and starring Duggy Dug. He knows everything about why Scotland should be an independent country. Thank you NewsNet.scot… Grrruff, grrufff.

Yes! Super Saturday – 13 Sept 2014

It’s taken a while to get my photos and videos from Yes! Super Saturday organised but here they are.

Yes! Super Saturday was 13th September 2014, the last Saturday before the Scottish Independence Referendum. Glasgow was hummin’. But very little of this was reported on mainstream media. While I was taking these clips, a London-based BBC reporter had coralled three Yes supporters at the other end of Sauchiehall Street and was questioning them whilst ignoring the noise of thousands of Yes supporters about quarter of a mile away from her. Funny that. Aye, right. Just what we have come to expect from BBC Scotlandshire. Not so much our  Public Broadaster as the Establishment Broadcaster.