Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Danish comparison

Gordon Brewer and Newsnight Scotland picked up where Raymond Buchanan left off on Good Morning Scotland this morning. It's taken it upon itself to have a dig at the Yes campaign's comparisons with Denmark by pointing out that Danish taxes are high. So what? Danish taxes are high because that's what Danes vote to do with their national wealth. We could do the same or we could do something different. The point of the comparison is about their wealth, not how fairly they choose to share it out. They are comparable to us, in size and resources. They are a wealthy, successful country with, as it happens, some of the happiest citizens in the world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I'd seen it suggested, before the Bank of England floated the idea today, that setting negative interest rates would be a way to encourage lending and spending. Reading up this evening, I saw Denmark actually set a rate of -.2%, in July last year. Surprising, I thought. Denmark is a small, northern European country, with tremendous renewable energy reserves, a sensible defence force, decent social provision, an educated populace and so on - just like we would be. If its economy is a basket case like the UK's, I thought, then why hasn't Alistair Darling been bellowing about it before now? So I checked. The reason Denmark set negative interest rates is because its currency (yes - it doesn't use the Euro but pegs the Danish krone) is so strong, and so attractive to investors who are piling into it that its strength needs to be curbed. Precisely the situation the McCrone report, in the 1970s, would arise with a Scottish pound.

Another one bites the dust

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's oil ok

If I understood Alistair Darling on Good Morning Scotland this morning, he was telling a, to be fair, incredulous BBC reporter that having unimaginably vast oil wealth would be a problem for an independendent Scotland because the price goes up and down. In fact, the ratings agencies made it clear some time ago that the UK would have been downgraded long ago, due to its tanking economy and enormous debt, were it not for the fact that it had sufficient assets (that is, oil) to compensate.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The perfect blog post

I hope it's not just me. Assuming not, sometimes, whatever you are doing in life, you see someone else doing the same thing but doing it so fluently, so persuasively, so articulately and so ineffably better than you could ever hope to do that you are overcome with an almost overwhelming urge to jack the whole thing in. To choose a target that has left others feeling vaguely uneasy but unsure how to respond, to do your research well, to pick apart your opponent's claims and to do so concisely and in a way that will leave any sensible reader helpless with laughter. To do all that would, you might think, result in the best ever blog post. And you'd be right.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lies, damned lies and how to spin the objective

What's a reporter to do when presented with set of figures to work with? You can't spin the objective, can you? Of course you can, and it's so easy that we can miss it when it's done:

"FEWER than a third of Scots support independence, while almost half want to stay in the UK"
(The Scotsman) .

Crikey! Almost a half. 

Hang on. "Almost" a half? That's not enough, is it? Not in a two horse race. How about:

"ALMOST a third of Scots support independence, while fewer than half want to stay in the UK"

Genuinely, particularly as the movement in this series of polls was away from the no side, is not the noteworthy fact that fewer than 50% of Scots want to stay in the UK?

Now, of course, that would be misleading too, for a different reason but it would be consistent with the constant refrain that "less than a third" want independence. That suggests 70% oppose it. We know we are in a two horse race so if you are using the polls as a predictor of the outcome you have to strip out the don't knows. That gives the yes side around 41%, before you start wondering whether the don't knows are likely to fall on one side rather than the other. Only a few points more and it'd be "nearly half" in anyone's language.

Game on, I'd say.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The voice of liberal England

I think Steve Bell's cartoon was the Guardian's Hillsborough moment: the point at which a paper lost a core section of its natural demographic, for ever. I have bought the Guardian for 30 years, through the miners' strike, the Falklands War, the Lawson boom, Blair, Mandelson and the rest. I remember telling a friend in Ealing who took the Telegraph that I didn't know anyone who read it and her saying the same about me and the Guardian.  It's all genuinely upsetting, like realising someone you thought an old friend never liked you that much. The wisest words I have yet read about the sorry affair:

"If I think it would be against your interests to break a failing relationship with me, would I succeed by telling you to ‘go fuck yourself’? If I did, would you take it as a ‘joke’ or even a ‘commentary’? You might, rather, take it as further proof about the state of our relationship.
We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we cannot laugh at ourselves or are beyond satire. But this is satire so broad and so ugly that it sails across the line into offensiveness. Why would The Guardian ‘satirise’ a country simply wanting to make its own decisions anyway? The aims of the Scottish independence movement – social justice, protection of public services, opposition to Conservatism – are the same ones which The Guardian themselves espouse. Can we imagine a mainstream Scottish newspaper, or even a website such as this one, running a slogan which says, ‘England Should Go Fuck Itself’? Can we imagine The Guardian saying such a thing about India, China or France?"

Credit where it's due - sort of

You have to be fair. Scotland on Sunday ran a piece at the weekend which went some way to redressing the relentlessly anti-independence message of most of their coverage.

The essay by Jim McColl, chairman of Clyde Blowers is broadly supportive of independence and sets out the business or economic case for it:

Different question, different answer? Yes, but...

It's all pretty simple really. The SNP won the last election. It, then, gets to choose what question it wants to ask in any referendum it wants to hold. It is neither unfair nor biased to frame the question other than their political opponents would have asked had they been holding a referendum. I can't see what grounds I would have had to complain if Johann Lamont (or Wendy Alexander for that matter) proposed to ask the country "Do you want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and be a separate state?" That would be up to her and she'd not owe me, as an opponent, any duty at all in the framing of the question.