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House of Lords and Scottish Independence

The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs published its report on Scottish independence on 10th April. The report itself is a curious document. Its introduction states its determination to provide an evidence-based analysis of the economic consequences of independence but this claim is rather undermined by its composition – Lords who all support the Union – and its choice of witnesses and evidence, some of whom just say what you expect them to say. This is an arm of the UK’s political establishment having its say so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it adopts a conservative position. The economic assessment in the report is actually quite limited – it identifies a range of problems with independence, not surprisingly, but there isn’t much new or conclusive here: just marshalling of evidence that it will all be very difficult. It isn’t even that useful on the UK dimension either, it considers some aspects of a Scottish independent future but has nothing to say about a Scotland-in-UK future, presumably as it will be peachy. Iain MacWhirter’s analysis in the Herald is actually quite amusing about these dimensions of the Lords’ approach. It is here – http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/clarity-is-needed-on-reports-idea-of-life-after-independence.20761994 

 

Where the report is more interesting is on defence, where it is a lot more neutral – perhaps somewhat effected by the more neutral evidence it received. In relation to the EU, it just parrots the position of President Barroso without any great reflection on the EU itself or its treaties. There isn’t much heat or light here.

The Lords report is here – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldselect/ldeconaf/152/152.pdf

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Money, Money, Money and Better Together

There are several indyref stories in the papers this morning, with the Sunday Herald covering the finance behind the Better Together campaign. The paper reveals the top ten donors to BT as well as the identities of several other smaller donors. The biggest donor also donates to the Tories, no surprise there.

The article is here –

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/revealed-better-togethers-2m-war-chest-and-who-donated-to-it.20727542

The interesting thing is the preponderance of business figures donating – as opposed to trade unions – and this is an interesting list in that the story originated in BT itself, who have lined up quotes from several donors plus the article to ‘manage’ the donations issue. Also in the Sunday Herald is coverage of the fact that Conservative Friends of the Union has not donated to BT and also that Yes will soon publish its list of donors.

And, it didn’t take long for the funding to cause waves, especially the money from the Vitol owner. National Collective produced an article on this company here – http://nationalcollective.com/2013/04/07/dirty-money-the-tory-millionaire-bankrolling-better-together/

And, there is a trail of articles about Vitol and Arkan amongst others, going back in time. See here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jul/01/balkans.warcrimes2

Scots Tories Devolution Review

 

Despite being the ‘no change’ candidate in the Tory leadership contest in 2011, defeating a ‘complete change’ candidate, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has erased any lines in the sand over devolution by proposing a review of the party’s policy on devolution. This is a 180 degree turn compared to the leadership election but actually quite sensible, perhaps. The party is under pressure to come up with something positive on devolution in order to appear less negative at the independence referendum though, a review is just a review. It contains some figures who can hardly be associated with positive views on devolution as well as several – Trench and Fergusson – who are pro-devolution. The party leader has framed the u-turn by talking about the need for more fiscal responsibility at Holyrood as well as devolving tax powers so that Holyrood could cut taxes. And, the commission plans to report before the referendum. The question is, what will they come up with and will it be politically credible to voters?

Ruth Davidson’s speech is here – http://www.scottishconservatives.com/2013/03/strengthening-devolution-taking-scotland-forward/

Analysing the Referendum

Though this blog is one mechanism to collect material and analyse the independence referendum campaign, I’m also involved with other academics in looking at the issues involved. Attached is a link to a paper for this year’s Political Studies Association conference, with Kevin Adamson that looks at the discourse of the different campaign orgqanisations and actors. It can be viewed here –  http://www.studyingpolitics.com/2013/UploadedPaperPDFs/95_164.pdf

Scottish Independence Referendum Bill

Yes, the second referendum bill in just over a week has appeared – this time the actual referendum bill. The bill is here – http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/61076.aspx – and again, the policy memorandum is much more digestible than the bill itself. The main surprise of the bill was the date – Thursday 18th September 2014. October had been anticipated instead but now there is a date that is warmer and lighter and also occurs before the main UK political party conferences that occur in October each year. The date was the surprise, the rest of the bill is similar to the Edinburgh Agreement and the Electoral Commission decisions on question-wording, campaign rules and finance. So, there is a lot of familiar stuff here in the bill. Despite that, this is an historic day.

Scottish Independence Referendum [Franchise] bill

Slightly belatedly, but here is the link for the newly published indyref franchise bill – the bill needed to extend voting to 16 and 17 year olds. The details are here – http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/60464.aspx

And, the trick with this kind of issue is to look at the policy memorandum attached not the bill, which explains the mechanism involved, which is to create a one-off private register of young voters [ to protect their identities] through the normal annual canvass of voters by local authority Electoral Registration Officers. And, technically, adding the new voter – known as attainers –  is a challenge, not least when the UK government introduces Individual Electoral Registration from Spring 2014. The bill’s publication did bring Better Together to go negative by briefing about army personnel based abroad, even though there was broad support across the parties for youth voting – which suggests they needed an angle to be negative about.

Coming up this week is the expected announcement of referendum day itself – sometime in October of 2014. We await the announcement with bated breathe.

Scottish Government Oil Analysis

As expected and trailed in the media, the SNP Government has gone on the attack over oil with a sober economic analysis of the prospects for oil production, pricing and development over the next 5 years or so. Better Together have already attacked them for dishonesty – like the UK government was honest about oil in the 1970s and some of their rhetoric is markedly similar now. What’s interesting is the document uses UK government figures as well as US Department of Energy figures – presumably they are being dishonest too – and presents 5 different financial scenarios using the figures with high and low end scenarios for production, prices and revenues from a low of £31.3 billion from the OBR projections to £57.1 billion tax revenue over the next 5 years according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The document is here – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00416072.pdf