Roundtable – “What is your opinion of the moratorium on fracking and UCG?”

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This week, we put the topical question of “What is your opinion of the moratorium on fracking and UCG?” to our contributors, but before we get into their responses, a little background is necessary.

In January the SNP government announced a moratorium on the process of fossil fuel extraction known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, while around ten days ago they announced a similar moratorium on the similarly controversial process of offshore underground goal gasification (UCG).

A moratorium basically means that the processes are illegal in Scotland other than for research purposes until the government is satisfied that they are safe and of benefit to the country.

Earlier this weekend, the SNP conference debated the moratorium and a narrow vote was cast in favour of the current moratorium, which was initially reported as a vote against a full ban, although the truth is a little more complex and well covered here.

Both of these processes are strongly opposed by environmental and community groups because of a history of pollution and seismic instability associated with the practices when used overseas, with the fossil fuel lobby making the case for the legalization of the processes.

Siobhan Tolland: I am going to make this short. It is phenomenal that fracking and UCG can EVER be be portrayed as good for the environment and people unless your sole aim is profit. Pumping Hydrochloric Acid deep into the earth is poisoning it, for instance, pure and simple. Stop fannying around with a Moratorium and ban it. End of story! Anything less is ecological suicide.

Chris Napier: On one hand, having a moratorium on fracking and UCG is a good thing. However, it’s not close to as much of a good thing as an actual ban – as demanded by both public opinion and scientific evidence – would be.

I can’t help but think that the moratorium is essentially a way for the SNP to continue adopting the look of a progressive party which cares about the environment and public opinion until the election in May next year. After that near inevitable victory, I expect they will show their true colours as a pro-business party who are inextricably invested in the fossil fuel industry and announce that fracking & UCG is suddenly OK.

The fact that Ineos have bought up a chunk of North Sea oil, been allowed to start drilling for ‘investigative purposes’ under the moratorium (as if the weight of scientific evidence from overseas wasn’t sufficient) and paid a hefty sum for a stall at the SNP’s conference all indicate that they are investing heavily in the Scottish fossil fuel industry and they wouldn’t be doing this if they hadn’t been given some sign that they’ll get to frack us in the end.

This is another serious crack in the SNP’s image as a progressive party which has me seriously considering whether I can in all conscience vote for them in the constituency ballot in May.

Louise Wilson: Well, well, well. After numerous calls for a total ban, even from many of their own members, the SNP is still sat on the fence on fracking. I can’t help but worry that Chris is right.

The justification for this is that there needs to be full and extensive research into the impacts of fracking (which I’m sure will come out with “as long as it’s done right, THE MONEY”) – and completely ignores that non-Scottish literature out there already.

But aside from all the fracking-specific issues that have been raised (contamination, house prices decreasing, mini-earthquakes), this also completely ignores one blatantly obvious fact: shale gas is a fossil fuel.

Put simply, we cannot afford to allow fracking and UCG to go ahead because, even without the short-term impacts, we cannot keep renewing our reliance on finite resources. Most political parties in the UK accept this already – yet not many seen to actually understand what that means in terms of decisions needed now.

So to come back to the original question, my opinion is this: the moratorium needs to go. Bring on the full ban – and soon.

Alasdair Duke: The issues of climate change and unconventional fossil fuel extraction are too serious to have to compete for space in this piece against political point-scoring. There will be some criticism of the SNP later in this piece, but let’s start with what is wrong with fracking and so-called “unconventional gas extraction”.

Global warming is caused by a variety of gases of which the most significant is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is created in various ways, but burning stuff, especially stuff with a high carbon content such as fossil fuels, is a leading cause of carbon dioxide emissions and therefore global warming.

We are on course for the world’s temperature to increase by around four degrees celsius by 2100. Consequently, at some point within a few generations, polar ice deposits will melt completely. There will be widespread drought and flooding, sea level rise will obliterate low-lying areas, and food and water supplies will be in a state of total crisis.

So… burning fossil fuels is always bad news.

Fracking and so-called “unconventional gas extraction” are the latest, and among the more desperate, of humanity’s attempts to literally burn the contents of our planet.

Mankind has always burned stuff. Primitive early humans developed the ability to light fires using wood. Our more recent ancestors turned to wax, paraffin and other fuels. The fossil fuel industry took off in the 1800s, at first by extracting what might be called “conventional” fuels; those which were on land and were fairly easy to extract using the technology of the time. In the twentieth century, as the price and our demand for oil increased, less “conventional” fuel extraction methods began to emerge. These included drilling under the sea, paying despot overseas governments for the chance to burn their fossil fuels, and fracking. More recently, there is oil and gas exploration in previously inaccessible or unviable places such as the Arctic regions; perversely, the shrinking of the ice caps has only encouraged Russia, Canada, the USA and others to search for oil in the far North.

As I write this in 2015, we have passed the point where the industrial-scale extraction of fossil fuels should ever be described as “conventional”. I gather from scientific consensus that the only conventional, rational approach that could safeguard the future of humanity is to leave it in the ground.

So it’s fair to say that I am opposed to all fracking and unconventional fossil fuel extraction. I am opposed to it in Scotland and I am opposed to it everywhere. Of course Scotland must set an example and ban fracking. We are an educated and wealthy nation that can set an example on this issue. I would also contend that we should go much further in tackling climate change; tackling topics such as transport, home insulation and seasonal/vegan food consumption.

The SNP appears craven. There are numerous factors that have long pulled the party towards the fossil fuel industry: chiefly, the centrality of oil to their arguments for Scottish independence, and the party’s power base in the North East of Scotland where the oil industry has transformed the local economy. The party has always maintained close connections to the fossil fuel lobby and continues to do so, despite the influx of tens of thousands of younger, more idealistic members since the referendum.

The SNP leadership, and in particular Alex Salmond, have gone to great lengths in recent years to appear “statesmanlike”: unifying, populist, disciplined and yet pragmatic. Something for everyone; a recognisable brand that the whole country could trust. But, faced with a stand-off between their chums in the fossil fuel lobby and those who believe in sustainability, the party came down on the side of short term economic self-interest. To hell with the long term.

There are many SNP members who will be disgusted by their party’s gradual U-turn towards fracking. Maybe they will try to drag their party away from this horrendous mistake. But for the casual voter, and for what remains of the Radical Independence Campaign, the game may be up.
Other political parties are available.

What is your opinion of the moratorium and the prospect of fracking/UCG being legalized or banned in Scotland? Let us know!

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Roundtable – Can David Cameron survive #piggate

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This week our contributors had a spirited debate about the motivations behind the allegations that the Prime Minister had carnal relations with a decapitated pig’s head and the possible effect it might have on his political career going forward. Of course, this is one of our less serious and more irreverent roundtables, but we just couldn’t resist. There will be memes.

What do you think about the image of Cameron porking a piggy? Let us know?

Siobhan Tolland – That’s if he lasts till Sunday of course.

Chris Napier – He will. Much of the MSM is refusing to cover the story, there is no corroboration and at the end of the day most people don’t give a fuck if a politician is a bit of a pervert – it’s almost expected.

Alan Stares – I’m going to take the unpopular route and say that while it’s immensely funny it was well in his past, it didn’t hurt anyone (assuming he didn’t get a live pig and kill it himself) and it doesn’t affect his job ability. Mhari Black got slated for things she had done in the past and a lot of folk (including me) defended her so the same rules must apply to old pork scratchings there. He’ll survive because let’s face it, there is no-one for them to answer to and the Daily Mail has already dragged out his dead son for an article about how nice he is.

Chris Napier – Also, the whole act of face fucking a dead pig – if it in fact happened – was part of an upper class club initiation, the purpose of which is so that anyone who breaks ranks can be dragged down with smears by their erstwhile buddies. As Cameron has NOT broken ranks, it’s unlikely that his buddies in the corridors of power, who run the newspapers etc. will be complicit in dragging him down this way. Hence, it will be brushed away and be nothing more than a snarky online joke in a week or two.

Let’s be honest, the cover up of the Westminster pedophile ring, the destruction of the welfare state and the decision to embark on military operations in a sovereign state targeting our own citizens without parliamentary discussion or approval are all better reasons to have a go at Cameron.

It’s also worth thinking that this all came out at the same time that a former general was advocating a military coup should Corbyn win in 2020 and decide to enact his anti-Trident, military-reducing policies. Even a negative story can be useful if it diverts from the true operation of the machine. With that in mind, we’re not talking about how really positive Corbyn is anymore, rather how cartoonishly bad Cameron is and that has never done him any harm before.

Paul Duguid – Agree with all you say here. And if you add the fact that Ashcroft “donated” millions pre 2010 on the premise of a post by Cameron the story makes more sense. The timing, on top of the coup, overshadows the deal with China for the nuclear plant in a part of England already subsiding, which we’ll pay over the odds for (this has already been agreed) he’s either taking one for the team or they’re looking to oust him early. My money would be on Boris… Osbourne is nowhere near clever enough!

Chris Napier – Word is that Boris isn’t nearly as close to the Tory succession as we all supposed before the election. Apparently his incompetence has been exposed at Westminster, when he could get away with it as Mayor. That means Osborne is almost a shoe in as the next leader. Of course, Gideon is in Cameron’s relatively Euro-friendly camp so he’s unlikely to want to rock the boat before the EU ref.

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Siobhan Tolland – I am not so sure actually. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not in terms of propaganda, because it is extremely effective. The image is now here in the public. The PR trying to make him look good but this story would never have been told if there weren’t other powers allowing it. This is a strategic maneuver to discredit him, and the question is who did this and why. If this was just Lord Ashcroft and the Daily Mail then it would have been silenced. Other powers are behind this. Chris, I thought about this as a way to silence other issues but for me that just does not make sense. There are a million other ways of moving public opinion away from these issues. Cameron shagging a pig is a poor strategic move that is extremely risky. The coup issue was being managed very well and it actually wasn’t that big a scandal media wise. And it is not as if the PR campaign against Corbyn was flailing. It was actually being quite effective. Unless there is a hidden story somewhere that is a million times more scandalous than this, then it simply does not work as a distraction story. This is much more than that. This is huge! That is came out and managed to get out it huge! This is the PM, petty revenge from someone doesn’t touch him unless it is allowed to. No, in my opinion, this is a strategic manoeuvre to get rid. Nothing else makes sense. This it way beyond what he did or didn’t do. And in terms of PR it is nowhere near anything of Mhairi Black’s past. It is also not about judgement of his actions, it is whether he can survive the sheer force of that image regardless of its truth.

Chris Napier – That’s a good case, although I still think that the biggest damage to Cameron is that his ability to go on about ‘British values’ when he’s widely perceived as having had public carnal relations with a deceased, beheaded pig is significantly compromised.

In any case, he did always say he was stepping down at some point during this parliament, so maybe this just brings that forward by a few years.

That thought leads me to think that maybe there is an element within the Tories that would prefer a less pro-Europe leader to be in place before the EU referendum takes place… or is that TOO tinfoil hat?

Siobhan Tolland – Have you read the Dug, it disna matter what they throw at us, we can just retort back, aye bit your leader shagged a pig! As for the Europe thing, hmm, certainly something up and we seem to have missed it along with the internal wranglings. Caught up in the internal wranglings of Labour no doubt. Can a man plagued with the image of shagging a pig really continue? I have these images of PMQ and everyone just trying to suppress laughs and someone just grunting out in the silence. Its too much….

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Louise Wilson – We’re now on day 2 and the Daily Mail has continued its attack on Cameron. I agree there is something strategic going on, because the paper has always been pretty pro-Cameron. Whether it is to push for his removal ahead of the EU referendum, or as punishment for the recent change in the “migrant crisis” narrative, or something else remains unclear. The paper seems set on destabilising him, though given he is not running for PM for a third time I do wonder why.

Or is could just be that the Daily Mail new this would sell papers, and given that he is to start down sometime between now and 2020, why not choose Dave as a victim. I also agree with previous comments that it’s unlikely to be particularly damaging – it’ll all be over in a couple of weeks.

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Roundtable – “How would you reform the House of Lords?”

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In light of David Cameron reinforcing the Lords ranks with a cadre of Conservative friendly new peers, this week’s roundtable sees our contributors tackle the question of reforming the UK Parliament’s much criticsed upper chamber.

As ever, we’re interested in your thoughts, so please make your feelings known in the comments.

“How would you reform the House of Lords?”

Disclaimer: Despite some of the language used, The Scots Perspective and it’s contributors are not seriously advocating arson or terrorism against the institution, building or members of the House of Lords. Such language is used to convey depth of feeling and for lyrical effect.

Alan Stares – Blow it up!

Abolish the whole process at least, there is zero need for it and put the money into the million other things that apparently we don’t have cash for. £300 a day could feed and clothe a lot of refugees without any hassle and that’s just one Lord’s daily payment. Besides, the old bastards look like they could miss a dinner or two and they don’t exactly ‘need’ the money for anything else bar maybe the monthly subscription to their child porn sites

The situation that it’s starting to be a bunch of old Tories and unionists is bad enough but the fact they can have influence over issues without any form of democratic election process and dress it all up as ‘tradition’ deserves a slap in itself.

Mark McNaught – Burn it to the ground, with the ermine in it.

Chris Napier – I would abolish the House of Lords at the first opportunity as it is an expensive, undemocratic anachronism which attaches Britain to its feudal past in a way that is unsupportable in the modern age.

Turn the building into a tourist attraction or even better, convert it into 650 one bedroom, en suite flats, akin to student accommodation to remove the need for MPs to have second homes at all…

That said, I believe that the concept of a second chamber to act as a restraining hand on the House of Commons is a good one, but such a chamber should be democratically elected and ideally not subject to party loyalties. As to how that would look, I think that’s worth an article in it’s own right…

In any case, I believe that a complete break with the feudal past that the Lords represents is necessary and the UK’s democracy would benefit from a fresh slate with an all-new second chamber.

Louise Wilson – At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Scots Perspective colleagues, I do not support the abolition of the House of Lords. Rather, I support radical reform.

My reason for this is because I believe that a democratic, properly functioning second chamber should exist. Looking at democracies around the world, many have a second chamber of some kind. And whilst there is much wrong with the House of Lords, its general principle to scrutinise government legislation is sound.

Our second chamber is rightly restricted in what it can do – it cannot stop any Bills regarding taxation, nor any piece of legislation that appeared in the elected government’s manifesto. It can only slow down the process of passage by one calendar year for all other legislation. Whilst it can make recommendations to the House of Commons, elected MPs have a right to ignore any veto from the Lords. And finally, though Lords can introduced their own pieces of legislation, these must also be agreed by the Commons. Essentially, the buck stops with those whom we elected, not those appointed.

These are the strengths of the Lords, but of course it would be remiss of me not to mention its weaknesses. As mentioned, Lords can bring forward their own bills and there are questions around the legitimacy of this given peers are not elected. Even if Commons can stop such items passing into law, there is a question of whether it is right that policy can stem from an unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable body.

Further, the sheer size and subsequent cost of keeping the Lords is not insignificant. The Lords is the largest second chamber in the world, and there really is no need for such a body to outnumber their elected colleagues. A part of this is because Lords are Lords for life (barring any scandal). Relatedly, at £300 per day for expenses, these peerages can cost us over £237,000 each day – not including the complimentary champagne nor the pay received by office holding Lords. Aside from it not being necessary to have so many peers, the cost of keeping them all is difficult to justify.

So, with all these things wrong with the House of Lords (and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t addressed), why do I not support complete abolition? Well, I don’t think starting from scratch is totally necessary. The restrictions on the peers are reasonable, and many of those that sit just now actually do a good job. Yes, I would like to see Lords elected and reduced in size – but this can be dealt with simple reform, rather than getting rid of the thing as a whole.

Siobhan Tolland – Scrap it and salt the earth, gentlemen! Abolish it now. Create a second chamber with elected people who are not of any political affiliation.

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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture and if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

Roundtable – “What impact can ‘RISE – Scotland’s Left Alliance’ have on Scotland’s political future?”

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With the launch of RISE yesterday, we thought we’d be topical and put their potential for influencing the next election and Scotland’s political future to our contributors. Here is what they said and as usual we’d welcome your contributions, so please join the debate!

Chris Napier

I’ve got mixed feelings about RISE. On the one hand another progressive voice in a more diverse parliament would be more than welcome and I’ve been very impressed with the likes of Cat Boyd over the last few years.

On the other hand, I’m concerned that RISE might further split the vote going to the left/progressive/Yes parties contesting the regional list, potentially leading to less representation in parliament in favour of more unified votes for the Westminster parties and leaving less of a bloc to the SNP’s left. It’s telling that all of the articles promoting RISE’s launch neglected to mention that there is already an established party to the left of the SNP in the shape of the Scottish Greens and it would be a shame if RISE got in the way of their success, especially if RISE didn’t get over the line in terms of representation themselves. Of course, I’d not complain if they took votes away from Solidarity and I’ll take Cat Boyd over Tommy Sheridan in Holyrood every time.

Perhaps in future a broader progressive coalition might be a good idea… but that said, there is also a concern that far from being a true ‘Left Alliance’, RISE is in fact more of a (much needed) SSP rebrand with the media savvy and profile of the RIC/Left project types added in and are unlikely to unite the disparate elements of the left no matter how they present themselves.

On balance… I’ll have to wait and see, especially considering that RISE haven’t even decided on structure or how they’ll select their candidates yet, much less had enough time to develop policy or much aside from a promising idea and snappy name.

I’d like to see them become a genuine left wing option for Scottish voters and in time a key part of a diverse and vibrant parliament (and at other levels of government) but in the immediate future, nine months is not much time to put together a concerted campaign for a parliamentary election and it seems likely that their immediate effect can only be to damage and dilute the progressive vote.

Siobhan Tolland

I am somewhat torn on this question. RISE is a cooperation of various political groups with the sole intention of putting forward candidates for the Scottish Elections in May. The rise and solid support that the SNP has, and had received, during the UK General Elections was the appropriate course of action given recent political circumstances.

Within the Scottish election context, however, the SNP cannot and should not have a largely unopposed parliament. A parliament without an opposition is not healthy for democracy. The SNP needs a robust opposition to develop a vibrant Scottish democracy in the new independent era that will come.

My favourite scenario for the Scottish Parliament is that the SNP holds the majority but with a robust, overwhelmingly pro-independence and progressive opposition. Effectively a parliament that has a solid mandate for independence, where the two Unionist parties have a minimal role. For me, this will lay the ground for a post-independence political structure.

RISE can contribute to this in a healthy way. It can provide a strong progressive agenda articulated through a political desire for self-determination. It could hold the SNP accountable to a more left political slant and transform the political scene, making it more politically removed from the UK’s current right wing pro-austerity agenda.

In our current situation, we have a very clear parallel of our political structures. We have a Westminster structure and we have a Scottish one. These obviously interact and overlap, but what works in a Westminster political context does not necessarily work in the Scottish context.

Labour is a good case in point. A personal perspective would be that the possibility of working with the Scottish branch of the Labour Party is neither possible nor desirable in the current circumstances. However, on a Westminster level, the possibility of the SNP working with a Corbyn-led Labour party is to be supported wholeheartedly.

What creates this distinction is the notion of self-determination. In a Westminster context, we can work with other political priorities. Within a Scottish political context, however, the notion of self-determination is a political dividing line.

I think this parallel political process is something we all, especially RISE, need to be aware of. Whilst we need a healthy and diverse political structure in Scotland, what we need most of all is a coordinated and consensual approach to gaining self-determination from the UK. Treading that line is difficult. We need to keep the consensual politics of the referendum whilst negotiating difference of policies and ideas within the Scottish parliament.

My concern about RISE is the history of the Left and its insatiable drive to split, divide and in-fight. It is a history of Monty Python Judean People’s Front procedure that is so damaging to a progressive movement. We have a tendency to build up then rip down with in-fighting with ideas of ‘political purity’.

I want a vibrant political opposition in the Scottish parliament. However, I don’t want it at the expense of a broken mass movement that has developed. RISE is anti-austerity, yes, but so is the Greens. So is SNP. Is the anti-austerity agenda served by yet another party?

Whether political parties like it or not, the SNP spearheads the new popular movement. We need to work with the SNP. We need to recognise their important role. I don’t say this as an SNP member. I see my membership as a loaned membership until we get independence. I say this because they are, by far, the largest political party in this movement.

My brother said something that I am very mindful of. Colin Fox talked of the aim of RISE being to challenge the SNP. If the aims of RISE is to fight for self-determination and fight austerity, then why would its aim be to challenge the SNP? RISE absolutely cannot become a party that focuses on a critique of the SNP. And it needs to not become distracted by vying for leadership of the new mass movement.

RISE has to become a party that produces dialogue and disagreement with the SNP and other progressive forces, of course it does. But it also needs to create a consistent common ground in the struggle against austerity, neo liberalism and against the UK state intent on retaining the status quo. We need to forgo the ego in our politics and compromise. At this point in time, this has never been so important.

We need to be mindful that we are dealing with a UK political system that is so right wing it makes Thatcher look like a pussy cat. We are bordering on fascistic persecution of the poor and vulnerable. A government so heartless that it doesn’t care how many die as a result of benefit sanctions and whose solution to the crisis at Calais is to send more dogs. That is the sheer level of inhumanity we are dealing with. And this government will not give up on preserving the UK at any cost.

RISE need to be mindful of what we are actually fighting then and not transform the SNP into the political enemy. When the next referendum comes (and it will), we need to put aside our political differences and face the struggle with focus, determination and commitment. And we need to do this together: not as a divided force who has spent 5-10 years creating enemies of each other. Our worst case scenario would be a derelict and broken movement fighting the next referendum.

I wish RISE success, but I only wish them success if they become clear and consistent about our commonalities as a movement. I hope they don’t become the People’s movement for an Independent Scotland when everyone else is the Independent Scotland people’s movement. Because it will jeopardise a successful struggle for an independent Scotland, and the grip of the right wing Union will remain forever strong.

Alan Stares

First impressions are that it seems like a good idea that’s run by fannies! I could be wrong it may be the best thing ever but for now it’s a case of sit back and watch.

Louise Wilson

The left have long had to combat the very real problem of several different factions competing for the same achievable seats. The addition of RISE to the ballot paper may only further split this fractured vote. However, I’m not sure how much of an impact RISE will actually have by next May – with only a few months to go and so much uncertainty around what policy they will actually support (other than vague leftism), it would seem that the party will be relying on its core SSP/RIC vote base. This is probably not enough to gain any real traction.

One can hope that they could have an impact by adding to the number of voices to the left of the SNP. Whilst the SNP has gotten behind left politics, I am still not totally convinced that there ideology is necessarily leftist. I believe they are a populist party, and while left-wing politics in Scotland remains popular there is not problem. The danger is when right-wing policies in Scotland come back in fashion. Therefore, having more options to the left of the SNP could hold the debate to the left.

That said, I return to the original question of whether the party will have much of an impact. The party would have to appeal to more left votes – many of which already go to the SNP or Greens. Therefore, the left vote simply gets transferred between a few parties rather than dragging them from elsewhere. It is highly unlikely to party will attract enough ex-Labour or ex-Conservative supporters to make a difference. There is of course the chance to gather votes from non-voters, given the high levels of engagement in Scotland right now. However, there is a question as to how many voters will back RISE, or whether they are more likely to back more established parties.

In sum, I remain unconvinced that RISE will have any real impact because it’s appeal is to a base that already votes left.

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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture. Aand if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

Roundtable – “How would you solve Europe’s migrant crisis?”

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We’re a day late with this week’s Roundtable, where our pool of contributors tackle the topical question of the so-called ‘Migrant Crisis.’ As ever, we’re keen to hear your thoughts so please make yourself heard in the comments!

“How would you solve Europe’s migrant crisis?”

Louise Wilson – This question comes from the assumption that there is a migrant crisis. There isn’t. Using such language and telling people that they’re under threat from migrants is unhelpful. It dehumanised people – and worse, it dehumanises them at the time they need compassion the most. These people have fled their homelands from war, from persecution, from unbearable conditions, crossing the Mediterranean and much of Europe searching for hope. Only to be met by the language of ‘swarms’ and ‘floods’. That is no way to treat anyone.

I’m going to instead suggest something that might seem a little ‘out there’. How about we give migrants security and opportunity. How about we respond positively to their hope. Whilst the media is tripping over itself to highlight the millions of migrants waiting at the gates of Europe, look at the actual numbers. The latest stats from the European Commission suggest 1.7 million people from outwith the EU migrated here in 2013. Compare that with total EU population, that is 0.34% – hardly at crisis point. And besides, not everyone that makes up the 1.7m will be the type of migrant Western media fears (i.e. not from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa).

Surely Europe as a whole could be working together to help real, living people – not worrying about how their being here might effect our rather privileged way of life. This might be temporary help or a more long-term solution depending on each individual, but nevertheless support should be available. And whilst I’m a little reluctant to suggest this last solution – given the West’s record in the past – Europe should also be extending the hand of friendship to the countries that are struggling, the countries from which people are fleeing. Because not everyone coming to Europe is doing so out of choice, but out of necessity.

Alasdair Duke – I am troubled by many aspects of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ in Europe.

Firstly, the crisis, such as it is, is not caused by migrants. If this is to be called a crisis at all, it should be called a crisis of social responsibility. The crisis is caused by lack of preparedness on the part of European nations for the inevitable consequences of their military adventures; and it is Europe’s responsibility to fix it.

Secondly, the numbers of people coming to Europe are manageable. Lebanon, a country with the same population as Scotland but with far less land, is currently hosting with over a million refugees. The whole of the EU is being visited by a number in the very low millions. I would reallocate a fraction of each EU country’s military budget towards accommodation, financial support and of course, social support, by which I mean supports such as translators and cultural facilitators to help ease people into the bosom of the places they are visiting. Europe can well afford to do this.

Thirdly, I would put an end to the NIMBYism of northern European nations, particularly Britain but also Germany, in (believe it or not) ignoring the issue. While we in Britain have become exercised by five thousand migrants at Calais, they are not the issue.

The issue is millions of refugees across the world, of whom hundreds of thousands, or more, are in the ports of cities around the Mediterranean right now. Britain and Germany are acting abhorrently to hinder these people, by sending their police officers south to physically prevent refugees boarding trains to travel north. Britain and Germany should divert their resources and their efforts to supporting the cities and towns around the Mediterranean, where the pressure is on, and to offering a far greater number of refugees sanctuary within their own borders.

Fourthly, I would legislate to ensure that humane treatment of refugees be factored in to the budget and remit of the UK’s foreign policy. If we spend billions on weapons (and we shouldn’t), then we should set aside at least the same amount again for reparations, in one way or another, to stem the human misery that our weapons inevitably create.

Lastly, I would leave the lorries on the M20. If we are serious about tackling climate change then we need to reduce fossil fuel-based transport, and that means closing motorways and reducing road freight.

Alan Stares – Shoot them. Wait I’m not a Tory!

It’s a hard one, if we’re talking migration in the massive numbers sense throughout Europe in the respect of refugees as opposed to our own wee ‘problem’ as Cameron puts it of small (competitively) numbers of immigration then it’s really Europe’s own fault for being a bunch of uncaring arseholes as are our own ratbags of a government.

It’s a big place and each country would do well to volunteer to take some of the people rather than them gathering in one or two big spots and if Europe is as united a place as they would have us believe then it wouldn’t be a problem but as usual people in Europe and in the world are the best Facebook gladiators ever, fighting for clickable causes until one day a smelly tramp sits on their doorstep and then the mood swiftly changes.

Take financial leeches and nuclear arms (War altogether for that matter) out and there would be no problem in providing for these people comfortably but why help your fellow man when it’s easier to be a complete prick!

Anna Crow – As I see it, the real crisis is really the creeping rise of bigotry and fascism both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.  This is so evident in terms of mainstream media portrayal of the so-called migrant crisis – where the situations regarding the Channel tunnel or the Greek Islands for example are likely to be reported in terms of impinging on a rights of a privileged group getting to enjoy their planned holiday, rather than a focus on the basic human rights of people who are trying to escape threats to their and their families’ existence and are still struggling to survive. It is also worryingly evident in the language used by our own politicians – David Cameron referred to these people as a ‘swarm’; our own prime minister is referring to people in a way that is completely dehumanising. This is utterly unacceptable.
Through this bombardment of bigoted right-wing ideology, people in the UK are being taught to view migrants as a threat. At the same time other marginalised groups such as benefit-claimants, those with mental health problems and the disabled are also being targeted and demonised – not just in rhetoric used in the mainstream media or by any elected members of government, but in government legalisation such as the ongoing and worsening benefit cuts in the name of austerity. The current situation, particularly regarding the issue of immigration has very frightening parallels with the rise of fascism in Germany in advance of the Second World War. Recently I read an article in which was reported that as an experiment someone replied on the comments thread of Daily Mail articles regarding immigration with quotes from Nazi texts, Adolf Hitler etc, substituting “Jews” with “immigrants” and startlingly numbers showed agreement with the statements expressed.

A multi-faceted approach is needed to tackle the growing problems here. It should be clear that above all else, a focus on the protection of the basic human rights of people is needed. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. It has the capacity to open its borders to more migrants and to offer asylum to many more people than it currently does – when you view statistics regarding numbers of asylum seekers and economic migrants in the UK compared to other countries in Europe and further afield, you will see that the numbers here are comparatively low. Moreover, UK laws which allow indefinite detention of asylum seekers are inhumane and unacceptable, as are other areas of current UK immigration law.

Education of the UK general public is needed so their actions, words and beliefs will be shaped by facts rather than biased, inaccurate and dangerous ideology. Empowering people in this way enables us to put more pressure on our current government. It also gives us the best chance of electing in the future those who believe in the common good – who stand up for the human rights of all people, and whose focus is on peacekeeping rather than dragging this country into yet another illegal war – specifically, those who may tackle the problems behind this such as the UK’s vast arms exports – as well as challenging other significant issues here, for example, that of the right wing control of UK mainstream media.

Chris Napier – Europe is undergoing the most significant episode of mass migration since the second world war and arguably the most significant INWARD migration in hundreds of years – possibly since the end of the Roman Empire. Whether this is a crisis is entirely a matter of perception and how we choose to handle it.

Mass migration is invariably caused by factors which make the migrant’s homelands unappealing, the most common factor being war and the related issues of oppression, famine and disease (although the latter two can also be caused by climate change and the destruction of once viable areas, which is a growing issue, especially in Africa.)

As human beings, compassion should dictate that we instinctively care for our fellow humans displaced by such tragic events but in light of the media casting these events as a ‘crisis’ and the poor souls involved as a ‘swarm’ with all the connotations of an invasive parasite, it’s clear that we cannot call on compassion alone to address the situation.

The vast majority of the migrants gathering at Europe’s fringes – and the numbers backing up in Italy, Greece and Turkey are several orders of magnitude higher than those who ever make it to northern Europe – are fleeing the after effects of the West’s dubious adventures in trying to influence regime change in North Africa, Syria and Iraq. Like it or not, but we are directly responsible for the rise of ISIS and the forced displacement of these people and have a responsibility to respond to their plight, and not with bombs.

Furthermore, even a cursory look at Europe’s demographics shows that we sorely need a population injection. Almost every nation in Europe has an ageing, shrinking population, with the proportion of elderly people to working (tax paying) people getting higher all the time, meaning an influx of working age or youthful blood is necessary to ensure our societies and economies do not topple under the weight of an increasingly aged population.

Europe should welcome these migrants, firstly because it’s the right thing to do, out of compassion and a sense of responsibility and also to allow them to energise our demographics and save our economies in the mid to long term.

The West should also take some responsibility for the carnage our military adventures have left in their wake, both by assisting in rebuilding the nations we have bombed into rubble (without attempting to exploit or oppress them) and by helping ti accommodate those displaced by these troubles.

Arrogant isolationism will lead to a stagnant society, an ageing population and eventually being surrounded by hostile, jealous enemies. Only the compassionate long view will suffice.

Photo credit – Photograph: Daniel Etter/New York Times / Redux / eye vine from the Guardian.
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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture. Aand if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

Roundtable – “What is an appropriate timeframe for the next Scottish Independence referendum and why?”

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Every week we’ll be asking our pool of contributors a topical question and presenting their responses, with the aim of fostering debate around an issue.  For this first week our question is…

“What is an appropriate timeframe for the next Scottish Independence referendum and why?”

Of course, we’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the issue, so please feel free to join the debate or even join our team of contributors!

Anna Crow

In a time of unprecedented political change very much ongoing in Scotland and beyond, I find this an impossible question to give a specific answer to. I voted Yes not for independence as its own cause but as an opportunity for the kind of radical changes I feel we are very unlikely to see while tied to the Westminster establishment. I still largely feel this way, especially with events of recent months including the general election result.

However to rush into another referendum too quickly without comprehensive planning or a clear majority – eg upwards of 70% supporting a Yes vote – would be a mistake. There is benefit to seeing how things will play out regarding issues such as the EU referendum and also changes within the Labour leadership while carefully considering when a next referendum should take place if circumstances are still much the same in terms of the detrimental effect in many ways, as I see it currently, of remaining part of the UK rather than being independent.

I certainly would be less opposed to being part of a UK with someone such as Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. As with so many things, I feel it is important to remain equally open-minded and critical. Scottish independence should not be regarded as a single issue, and neither should it be focused on in an unhelpful way at the expense of considering much more immediate and pressing concerns.

Chris Napier

My answer to this has to come from two viewpoints.

From an objective point of view, a second referendum cannot be rushed, after all the first referendum took place almost three and a half years after the SNP’s majority in the 2011 election so a similar timeframe (assuming an SNP majority in next year’s election) points to a referendum in autumn 2018. This is the minimum amount of time which should be allocated to organise, legislate and campaign for a plebiscite of such magnitude.

However, such a swift revisitation of the question is problematic for a few reasons. Firstly, the Conservative government in Westminster is not amenable to another independence referendum and would block it at every opportunity, so waiting for a change in government – or at least Conservative leadership (likely in 2018 or so) may be necessary.

Secondly, the EU referendum is pencilled in for autumn 2017 and it’s implications should be made clear before Scotland is asked to decide on it’s own constitutional future again. Thereby it would be preferable to wait rather than potentially have a predictable material change in circumstances midway through the campaign.

Lastly, four years is a very quick turnaround to revisit a constitutional question of such magnitude and more time for analysis, reflection and for attitudes to change in either direction is only seemly. Of course, the ‘once in a generation’ rhetoric is unreasonable, because if there is popular demand for a vote, no administration should stop there being a vote in the name of some arbitrary 25 year moratorium on the issue.

From the point of view of a Yes voter, who took that position in the informed belief that Scotland could thrive economically and socially as an independent country and that the progressive change needed could only happen shorn of the Westminster establishment, I don’t wish to rush a second referendum when the possibility of another loss exists.

Quebec took fifteen years between their independence referenda and the second result was still a No vote. Since that second (incredibly narrow) loss, the issue has not been revisited in twenty years…

I’m also of the belief that if progressive change becomes possible within the UK, then many of the most compelling reasons for undergoing the turmoil of secession from the union fade away.

Both points of view indicate that a second independence referendum should not take place within this parliament and that it would be best for both sides to fully analyse the reasons for the first result before even considering a second ballot.

There is also a lot going on at the moment, between the EU referendum and Jeremy Corbyn’s potential to revitalise the Labour party as a progressive force and it’s worth letting these issues play out before rushing back to the polls.

As such, I’d say that a referendum in the next parliamentary cycle is perfectly reasonable, perhaps initiated by the result of the EU referendum or an SNP majority in the next Holyrood elections, making anything between 2021-2024 a plausible date for the vote.

Louise Wilson

I agree that suggesting any specific length of time on this would be arbitrary. Should another referendum on independence go ahead, it ought to be as a response to the calls of the electorate – whether that is in two years or ten years or longer doesn’t matter, that’s just how a true democracy functions.

That being said, I think there does need to be a reasonable length of time to pass before the question is posed again. At the end of the day, any referendum will somewhat detract from other issues of importance, and that must be taken into consideration. Further, and as many politicians themselves have pointed out, there needs to be some change in circumstance to mean a referendum would be required, or simply risk repeating the same outcome we saw in September without actually addressing any new issues or for there to be a reasonable suggestion that voters have changed their minds.

Having a Conservative majority at Westminster does not qualify – we were all well aware that this could happen in September, and votes were cast with this knowledge. Any referendum that would fundamentally change a composition of Scotland and the wider UK should not be called on the basis that people don’t like the government of the day – after all, this is subject to change at least every five years (under current legislation).

I also believe that a ‘landslide’ win for the SNP next year would not necessarily provide the ‘mandate’ the party has been talking about. Many who vote for the SNP may not be supporters of independence, but rather their other policies. Poll after poll has actually indicated that many No voters trust the SNP to deliver on other issues – notably devolution.

On the EU referendum, this could qualify as a shift in circumstances – with a caveat. The difference between the Scottish and rUK vote would have to be more than just marginal. It could happen that the rUK vote 51% out whilst Scotland votes 51% in – though this marks the difference between In/Out, is also means thinking is similar enough than nearly as many people rUK would feel exactly the same about a result as Scotland. However, I genuinely don’t believe the UK will opt out of the EU, so have doubts that this would be an issue anyway.

Essentially, it’s a very difficult question to answer. Of course a referendum should be held if people are calling for one – but exactly how to measure those calls and what is deemed as a shift in circumstance are very complex issues.

Pat Wylie

I am wary of a kneejerk response to the ‘no’ vote and its immediate aftermath. When I narrowly fail a test or an exam, my first reaction is usually to wish to try again straight away; but the correct reaction is to learn from why I failed – while not forgetting what I did right, how hard I worked and how close I came. I think we have a lot of reflecting and learning still to do.

We are still in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum. The aftermath will last for many years to come, as the short term destinies of Scotland, the UK, the Eurozone and the EU develop over the next ten years or so. Much of the referendum campaign, rightly or wrongly, hinged on popular predictions around what was going to happen in the global economy. Factors such as North Sea oil, the destiny of the global economy, and the ability of ‘the left’ to stage a revival among floating voters in the South of England, all need to be given time to play out. It will be time to consider Scotland’s constitutional future when these grand macroeconomic and political positions have fermented.

I also feel uncomfortable even considering a second referendum while relations between our two biggest parties, Labour and the SNP, remain tribal and, at times, hostile. I do not blame London Labour alone for this; Miliband’s stance at the recent General Election was ill-considered but the SNP government has behaved provocatively towards Labour activists and Labour-run councils in Scotland over recent years, and this will have stoked the tension between the parties.

On the left, we also have to use our parliament and our local government to back up our discourse of a more equal society with well-resourced public services. Regardless of the pathetic dilution of ‘the Vow’, we have some (not enough, but some) powers over taxation and planning. We need to use these to defend our long tradition of universal public services, while finding creative and fair ways to discourage the creeping trend for better-off Scots to use private health and education services, to show that Scotland really is different, a place that knows, deep down, that we are all equal.

Then, and only then, will we be ready to sit the exam again.

Liam Muir

As much as it pains me to say it. I do not think a Scottish Independence referendum is a sensible decision in the current political climate. It hasn’t even been a year since the last one and given the significance of the recent developments in Greece, there are quite simply more pressing issues on the horizon!

Pressing issues such as the EU referendum. It is all relative. If (and thats a big ‘If’ given the Left’s recent loss of patience with the EU) Scotland is dragged out of the EU against its wishes, then of course there would be legitimate cause for protest. Nicola Sturgeon has often spoke of a material change in circumstance and this eventuality may well be it but we will just have to be patient. I believe some in the Yes camp are making a mistake by pushing for another vote as soon as possible!

We all know how little effort the House of Commons have made to keep their promises on devolution but this is going to take a while to sink in with the general public. The bottom line is, we need to convince more people of the practical benefits independence has. Now I fully accept there was significant influence from the state media and business last time around but asking people to contemplate our nation’s sovereignty again so soon is only going to alienate the people we need to sway!

I do not have an exact year and date I think another referendum should be called, but before we start thinking about when, we need think about how. There are arguments we must win that we didn’t last time. The currency was for most people the biggest obstacle. So if we return to this debate with the same arguments as before, we can expect the same result.  Once the EU referendum, the Holyrood election and the 2020 UK General elections are out of the way, Scotland will have a much better insight in to public opinion and what lies ahead. Timing is incredibly important regarding ‘Indyref 2’ because if we lose again, it really will be ‘settled for a generation’.

That’s what our contributors think, but what do YOU think?  Next week’s question will be “Would Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership be good for Scotland?” and we’d love to hear your take on both this week and next weeks topics.

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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles and if you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture and if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.