Posted by: scotlandfreepress | February 26, 2012

The Great Deception

There was a bit of a furore recently among my Twitter friends.  A few had just discovered the McCrone Report, this is a document written by a government economist Gavin McCrone in 1974 to examine the viability of an independent Scotland now that oil had been discovered off its shores. If you haven’t read it already, Wikipedia have the full document on their site.

I’m not going to talk about the details of this, now ancient, yet still pertinent, document. I’m not going to write about what would have happened if the Labour Government hadn’t classified it as secret.  I want to talk about why, even after it was de-classified under the FOI act on the SNP’s request in 2005, so many people still don’t know about it.

When the SNP obtained the McCrone report, it wasn’t exactly shouted from the rooftops, there were a few newspaper articles like the one behind the link “Scotland’s Oil” to the right of this article, and BBC Scotland, in a rare episode of neutrality, screened the excellent Truth, Lies, Oil and Scotland which can be found on You Tube. I watched the latter in complete amazement, I was astounded at the attitude of the U.K. government of the time, what astounded me more was the apathy from the general public.

I’m beginning to understand this apathy now, people say that if something incredible and unbelievable happens in front of you, your brain chooses to ignore it before it reaches your conscious mind. It’s just too incredible to compute so it doesn’t register. If a pink elephant ridden by the Yeti walked past a traffic jam, chances are no-one would see it.

I think this is the reason why the McCrone report was largely ignored. The Scottish public have been told for decades that their country is too small to support them, that without the support of our larger neighbour, we’d regress to the dark ages. Like an abused partner, we’ve been told for so long that we’re worthless we believe it. When Thatcher came to power, she decimated our industrial heartlands, condemning thousands of Scots to the confidence sapping dole (ironically, she could only do this because of the huge revenues pouring in from our oilfields). She, along with successive Tory and Labour leaders, have treated the Scots like this downtrodden partner in a concerted effort to stifle any independent thought. They knew how much was at stake, they had no choice.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that when we’re told we actually aren’t subsidised by England, that we would be better off if we were outside the Union, we don’t believe it.

When the McCrone report was published, Unionists shrugged and said the oil had almost run out anyway. In fact this is crucial, when we are told by the SNP or independent economists that Scotland is actually hugely wealthy, the Unionist media just laugh. Like a beaten wife telling her husband she deserves better, we are sneered at and belittled. The same old lies, told so often they have assumed the guise of  truth, are wheeled out to rubbish the ever increasing reasons for our country to leave this poisonous marriage.

And yet, or maybe because of this ancient document, some Scots have noticed that unfeasible pachyderm with its Himalayan jockey. The SNP landslide was explained away by thoughtful, unionist journalists as a vote for good governance, not for independence. I’m not so sure, I think this is like that scene in the Wizard Of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends spot the wee guy behind the curtain. The unionists keep shouting the lies they’ve been repeating for years but a growing number of Scots are awakening to the truth, they’ve spotted the bulging curtain, they’ve seen the pink elephant. Good governance but also a quiet insistence and irrefutable facts from the SNP, have removed the cataracts from this ancient country’s eyes.

This is why the unionist parties are screaming to have the referendum they were so opposed to as soon as possible, they realise we’re waking up. Those of us who have smelt the coffee have a duty to our fellow Scots, we have 2 and a bit years to tap our friends and families on the shoulder and point out this great deception.

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | December 11, 2011

Please Scotland, don’t shoot the Golden Grouse.

David Cameron’s recent trip to Brussels has had an interesting effect in Scotland. While I think his decision to veto the banker tax was a poor one, I find myself in the curious position of feeling sympathy for the eurosceptics that cheered Cameron’s decision.

A few years ago, when Scottish independence seemed a distant, yet realistic dream. I was all for Scotland being a European state. Now, with the SNP riding high in the polls and independence looking increasingly likely, the prospect of Scotland becoming an E.U. member state, seems to me like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

With Germany and France demanding fiscal unity from its European partners to stave off a financial implosion, a European super state is almost inevitable. While I appreciate this would come with benefits, I’m not sure that Scotland would be better off. If we were Slovakia or Poland, I’d jump in but Scotland is a unique country.

Scotland has an abundance of natural resources. Oil, gas and an increasingly valuable 25% of Europe’s renewable energy. An almost limitless supply of fresh water in an increasingly dry world. A well-educated, innovative population.

These are the very reasons that most people will vote for Scotland’s freedom. Why then, after we have won this hard-fought independence, do we then give it all away to an even larger neighbour?

Scotland could be Europe’s power house in more ways than just providing it with electricity, oil, gas and water. As potentially Europe’s richest nation, it would be a lot more influential in dictating policy if it held on to its sovereignty, rather than giving it all away for a seat in Brussels.

So while I sympathise with England’s eurosceptics, I also feel sorry for them. Because when we leave this outdated union, England will have little choice but to join the E.U., cut off from their Golden Grouse, they will be in a similar position to Slovakia.

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | August 16, 2011

Windfarms; Feasible or Folly?

If you live in Scotland, you can’t fail to notice our landscape is changing. Wind farms are everywhere you look, springing up almost overnight in remote glens or farmland, they either instill awe and wonder, or horror and disgust depending on your point of view. I have been driven to write this because I have finally come down off the fence as to my opinion of them.

The catalyst was the recent proposal to build 3 wind farms outside Cromarty on the Black Isle. A philanthropic local farmer, Bright Gordon, before she sadly recently passed away, invited an energy company to explore the feasibility of a wind farm on her land. The result is a proposal to build 3 large turbines on the North East slopes of the Black Isle above Cromarty.

Bright Gordon’s enthusiasm for wind power is not shared by everyone,  at  a local consultation recently it was met with stiff opposition from a small but vocal group who live nearby the proposed site. Their concerns seem to be mirrored everywhere a wind farm is proposed, they range from noise pollution,  concern for migrating birds, a devaluing of the scenery to a new claim of the effect of “blade flash”, where the sun reflecting off the rotating blades could cause disturbance and even aggravate epilepsy. This group from around Davidson, a mile or so outside Cromarty, were also angry that they had not been notified earlier of the consultation, and this, I think is where the division starts.

The consultation was well advertised around Cromarty, on noticeboards, the local website and the local papers, yet the complainants were in the dark. Why? Although they live a mile from the village, they never visit Cromarty, they turn right instead of left and travel to Inverness or Fortrose for their provisions or work. If it hadn’t been for this wind farm they might never have visited this charming village. The benefit of this proposed wind farm is a guaranteed income of £30000 per year for Cromarty. The residents of Davidson, who never set foot in the place, can not see the huge potential of this legacy that Ms Gordon has left the area. All they see is a blight on the view that they moved there to enjoy. This leads me to my next point.

South of Thurso in Caithness on the A9, there is a large wind farm. The nearest turbine is 100 yards from the road. I often stop there for a break before the long drive South, the reason I stop there? It’s peaceful. The Flow Country stretches for miles before me and the view is lovely, it’s also quiet. Although the nearest turbine towers above me, I can only hear a muffled whoosh as the blades turn. In my opinion they are beautiful, graceful, majestic structures that certainly don’t detract, in fact they offer a focal point in a featureless landscape. Ah! I hear you cry! Would you feel the same if they were on your doorstep? Well of course I wouldn’t but these structures are never built on anyone’s doorstep. They are a minimum of 400 yards away from the nearest habitation. I’m not going to get mired in the mantra that wind farm opposers across the country repeat like automatons, suffice to say that not one of their objections hold water.

There is also the recurring suspicion that the loudest objectors are people who have moved to the area for the scenic value, they haven’t been brought up there, they have no memory of a changing, fluid landscape and community. They moved there because it was beautiful and peaceful and they will fight to keep it exactly as it is. They have no interest in the local community, they have no investment, no children. They have moved there to spend their final years in a theme park. They’re like New Yorkers moving to Florida to die! I know that’s a generalization, and probably wrong but it is my experience of the most vocal objectors to any development in the Highlands. I digress.

Wind farms aren’t perfect, they depend on a relatively constant wind, they are expensive to build, and put in the wrong place, they can alter a skyline for the worse. So what are the alternatives? A recent proposal to build a waste incinerator at Invergordon across the firth from Cromarty was met with huge opposition, there is no guarantee that the fumes would not cause health problems for those who are regularly exposed to them and the growing cruise ship tourism would surely suffer. Invergordon is where recent tidal and wave generators are being assembled and there I think lies the real alternative to wind farms. The potential in tidal power is enormous and fortunately, our forward thinking Scottish Government is doing everything in its limited power to encourage this industry. Unfortunately, the U.K. Government has a different view. They have a rather cosy arrangement with EDF, the French energy provider, to build several nuclear power stations to replace the ageing ones we have already. Irritatingly for them, the SNP, and most of the Scottish people, are totally against nuclear power. This is a serious problem, as Scotland would have been the ideal place to put these toxic leviathans. If they went horribly wrong, only a few thousand people would be displaced rather than the millions if they were sited in densely populated England. So quietly, the U.K. Government is chucking up offshore wind farms around the coastline, they would have preferred the nuclear option, and they still intend to build as many as they can get away with but without Scotland as a site, they have to diversify.

They have to because we all have to.

Every E.U. country signed up to a huge reduction in CO2 and they are all scrabbling to meet those targets, as the fines would be disastrous if they don’t.

That’s why there are wind farms everywhere you look in Scotland, we are actually one of the few countries that are on target to avoid those eyewatering CO2 penalties. Yes, they may spoil your view but assuming tidal, wave and other alternative ways of producing power accelerate at the same speed they have been, we won’t need them for long. They can be easily removed and the access roads will grow over quickly. A nuclear power station, is a permanent and highly dangerous addition to the landscape. Which would you prefer?

 

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | May 14, 2011

The Berwick Wall?

I have been reading and watching with fascination the aftershocks of the political earthquake that shook the United Kingdom earlier this month.

Before the election an independent Scotland was either dismissed as a nationalist fantasy or portrayed as the end of the world as we know it depending on the mood and leaning of the journalist or politician.

Now that the SNP have an improbable majority at Holyrood, our English partners have suddenly realised that there is a large elephant in their living room. This has surprised and disturbed even the most educated Englishman. I can only liken this to a corpulent and complacent husband who suddenly realises too late that his beautiful and talented wife has filed for divorce. The arguments over who keeps the family dog and who owns the Vettriano in the hall have started in earnest. Lawyers are lining up on both sides for the inevitable rancorous battle for assets and responsibility for debts.

I am not a political commentator by profession and I won’t insult your intelligence by attempting to assume that mantle but I do feel that they are missing something,  perhaps the elephant during its long incarceration in the Englishman’s house had an affair and it’s famously long gestation has produced a another smaller, yet unnoticed, pachyderm.

In the late 80’s I remember an apocalyptic scene from a tv series called Snakes & Ladders.  A bright yet impoverished Scot had accidentally been allowed to travel to “South Britain”. He was placed on an armoured bus and passed through a checkpoint that made the Berlin Wall look like a white picket fence. Once on the other side he passed through a beautiful and prosperous land, highlighting the gray industrial wilderness he had emerged from.

This was during the Thatcher years,  it portrayed a future that surprised no-one.  The Thatcher led government was decimating Scotland’s industry and that scenario looked completely plausible. Now that same future is being predicted by many Unionists, as this debate over our now almost inevitable divorce rages. Border control is cited as a bad thing, we will have to have a passport to cross to either side. That is seen as scaremongering by some, I see it as an eventual necessity.

Snakes & Ladders showed a possible future, I remember watching that and thinking I hoped it was the other way round. Now I believe that is the more likely scenario. With a permanent right-wing government in place south of Hadrian’s wall, the North of England will become ever more impoverished as they are punished for the temerity of voting Labour. Scotland with its small population and huge natural resources will become ever more attractive to those who are excluded in the new United Kingdom. Although I think Scotland’s population could easily cope with 10 million people and be more successful with it. I think we will run the risk of being over-run, not just by economic migrants but by the already growing stream of English who, “cannot live in an ethnically diverse society”.

I for one don’t want Scotland to become like Essex, a haven for right-wing English people who fled London as their empire came home to roost. I think a strong border between Gretna and Berwick will become a necessity, not an apocalyptic fantasy.

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | May 7, 2011

How Tavish Scott Escaped The Cull

Scotland’s people have awoken to a brave new world this weekend. As we blink, rub our eyes and gaze fondly with a new optimism at our beautiful country, there are a few of our citizens who are staying in bed with the pillow over their heads, wishing they were anywhere else but here.

One of those is Tavish Scott. His LibDem party were all but annihilated across Scotland, yet curiously the only seats they held were the Orkney and Shetland Isles. The counts for those constituencies showed the LibDems well ahead of any other parties, in fact the second place went to independent wind farm protesters. Now I know the Northern Isles are separated from Scotland by sea, culture and distance but are the people really that different politically? Why did the LibDems survive? I’m not sure but I think I may have a reason.

Oil.

Shetland has an oil fund, they are paid revenues for every barrel of oil that comes ashore to their Sullom Voe terminal. It’s a pretty fair deal and without it Shetland may have turned into St Kilda by now as their fishing industry declined. So I’m not jealous or resentful but I still fail to see why the LibDems have such a monopoly up there. Is it perhaps that if Scotland became independent that generous income would be shared between us all? Mainland Scotland receives no revenues for the oil pumped ashore here, it all goes to the U.K. treasury. If we were independent and received those revenues, would we cancel Shetland’s deal? I don’t see why but perhaps they think so.

Last year Tavish did a Q&A session in the Scotsman, I asked him why he didn’t back an independent Scotland as we were obviously swimming in oil. He said because the price fluctuated, it was difficult to estimate the benefits of the revenues and therefore difficult so base an economy on it.

As he lives in an area that does benefit from the revenues I thought this was a bit rich to say the least but I’m beginning to understand his cagey answer now. He knows fine how well off Scotland would be. He thinks along with the rest of the Shetlanders, that if we stay in the U.K. their oil fund is secure, if we are independent they have to share it with all of Scotland. Or at least that’s what he’ll be telling them on those long, dark, winter nights.

So there’s an explanation as to how Tavish is still an MSP, it’s ok for Shetlanders to directly benefit from their oil wealth but for some reason it’s not for Scotland. That looks  like changing in the not too distant future. Perhaps then the political spectrum in those beautiful, SCOTTISH islands will change too.

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | April 23, 2011

Doomed?

For years now Scots have been told that we are subsidised by the rest of the U.K.. Every time a swelling of nationalism rises north of Hadrian’s wall, a collection of journalists and sponsored economists, write ominous, sober assessments of how badly Scotland would fare if we cut the umbilical and wandered, blinking, into the big, bad world on our own. A classic example is Gerald Warner’s article in the Spectator;  http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/6881178/were-all-doomed.thtml

What bothers me is the absolute authority that these facts and figures are bandied about. There is no room for doubt, no opportunity to question. These are FACTS and don’t you dare even think about the possibility that they’re wrong.

The thing is, as we have all witnessed recently, financial “facts” are based on speculation, supposition, assumption and opinion. They’re not facts. They’re complete fabrication. The banking collapse has shown us exactly how delicate and frail a foundation these “facts” are built on.  Yet they are still fed to us like grain to a Foie Gras goose, and we are expected to give our livers in grateful return.

That this latest edition of “How Scotland would be screwed without us”, is from an intelligent, supposedly high brow journalist and published in a lauded and esteemed publication, shows just how entrenched this lie is in the public psyche. Even after world-renowned economists buck the trend and state Scotland would actually be better off financially if it cut the apron strings, he is at best ignored and at worst, ridiculed.

There is hope however, the Spectator is a U.K. publication, the U.K. is fast becoming a foreign land in Scotland. Hughes-Hallett’s earth shattering opinion is lost in the mire south of the border but it wasn’t completely ignored up here. The Scots who work in oil, wave, tidal power, hydro power and the much maligned wind power, know how much we contribute to this union. The McCrone report (the old, oil one), the rubbishing of the GERS calculations of our oil share (they always use a per capita, rather than the correct, geographic formula), the increasing awareness of the fact that we have 25% of Europe’s potential renewable energy. All this and more, along with a competent 4 years of SNP government, has planted the seed in Scotland’s mind that we can, we should, we must free ourselves from this unfair, increasingly poisonous marriage, with our larger, leaching partner.

The English scratch their heads, they can’t understand why we want rid of such a good deal. They can’t see the world is round. They still believe the old lie. There will be no resistance from the general populace south of the border, to our request for a divorce. The U.K. government will have to either acquiesce, or admit to the world that they have consistently lied about Scotland’s contribution to the Union.

Whatever happens, people like Gerald Warner may soon be writing articles headlined “We’re doomed!” solely for his English readers.

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | October 27, 2010

Weekend in Applecross

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | October 17, 2010

Aultbea to Stoer 16.10.10

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | October 3, 2010

Loch Sunart, Morvern

Posted by: scotlandfreepress | September 11, 2010

Summer 10

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