Feeling confused? Don’t know which way to turn? Is the only flag you’re waving a white one? Fear not mackisimul’s guide to voting in the EU referendum is here to lead you into the light.
This ‘guide’ takes a particularly Scottish slant to the referendum because as in most things the view from Scotland, the reasons for voting Leave or Remain and the consequences of that vote are different for Scotland than for the UK as a whole. The first thing to recognise is that this referendum is at the behest of England and particularly the Conservative party. The fact is the Tories have been fighting among themselves over Europe for the last 40 years. Apart from the fruit loops of UKIP no one else seems greatly fashed. The Scottish parliament had a vote on the subject recently and only 8 out of the 129 MSP voted for leaving. It’s a private punch up but we are all invited. The unfortunate part is that we all are affected by the outcome.
I’m going to look at the main areas of the debate, if debate isn’t too polite a description for this unedifying rammy. The economy, immigration and democracy.
The economic argument confuses more than any other. This is because if you asked 10 economists for an opinion you would get 11 different answers. So economic soothsaying is absolutely ripe for misdirection and misrepresentation. You will have noticed when both sides come out with a prediction or a set of ‘definitive’ figures they are immediately rubbished by the other side. This is fine because both sides are talking bollocks. This also highlights one of the main differences between this referendum and the Scottish independence referendum. The treasury et al produced reams of completely nonsensical figures and forecasts during the indy ref but the difference then was that the entire mainstream media was on the Unionists side and quite happy to repeat all the deceptions and lies over and over again. This time you have MSM on both sides, so while happy to print their own sides garbage they challenge the oppositions.
So forget all the figures from Gideon, a man who couldn’t accurately predict what colour of socks he will be wearing tomorrow never mind the state of the UK economy in 10years time, and his threats of emergency budgets. Not that he wouldn’t love an excuse to further slash public spending. He’d also love to put up taxes. Of course he comes across as a tax cutter but even dumb Gideon can read the figures. Despite apparently creating ‘000s of jobs income tax receipts are falling. This is because most of these jobs pay very little and aggressive increases in personal allowances and the higher rate tax band ain’t conducive to revenue collection. Anyway if there is a Brexit Osborne won’t be Chancellor any longer. More on that later.
So you can only consider the figures we do know and take a broad view of the likely consequences of a Leave vote. The fact is Scotland does rather well out of the EU. Scotland and England are net contributers to the EU budget whilst N Ireland and Wales are net beneficiaries. After taking into account what we get back from the EU Scotland pays less than £100m net per annum. So what do we get for our £100k? Research suggests EU membership stimulates some £7bn of benefit to the Scottish economy each year. This equates to about £2bn of revenue. In other words we gain 20 times our contribution.
Although Scotland represents only 8.5% of the UK population we get more than 17% of EU spending. We gain in areas such as infrastructure spending, agriculture subsidy, grants to our universities and research facilities. UK spending is predominately in London and the South East. For example those jobs the Tories claim to have created. 80% of the jobs created are in an area of the UK with only 15% of the population. Huge infrastructure spending like London Crossrail, the Olympics and soon HS2 all benefit the south even though we all pay for them. By contrast EU funding is aimed at the poorest regions within the EU. So EU spending provides, to a degree, a counterweight to UK government bias to the south. The Leavers claim if we kept all the money we send to the EU we could fund all our own spending. Frankly if you believe a Tory UK government is going to provide the level of funding to Scotland that the EU does you need your head examined.
Overseas investment, another area where Scotland does particularly well, will suffer if we leave the EU. Without access to the single market it is going to make more sense for exporting companies to set up in an EU country than Scotland or the UK as a whole.
The Leavers claim that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU, they sell more to us than we sell to them. This is delusional stuff. The EU is another 27 countries so combined it’s hardly surprising they sell more to us although it is also true that the UK is pretty hopeless at exporting. That is partly due to the economic mismanagement of the manufacturing sector as both Tory and Labour governments have become enthralled with the financial and consumer sectors to the extent that the UK economy is now some 65% service driven. The rest of the UK sells almost as much to Scotland, population 5.3m, as they do to the whole EU, population 450m. Only Cyprus and Ireland export more than 10% of their goods to the UK. To quote the National Institute of Economic and Social Research on the subject ‘we would become one of the EU’s largest export markets, even if not necessarily the largest. But we’d still be far less important to the EU than they are to us’.
The idea that we can say to the EU, look we’re leaving the club, we aren’t going to pay our dues anymore but we still want full use of all the facilities, is crazy. Apart from the economic realities pointed out by the NIESR the political reality is even more important. It would be politically impossible for the EU, even if it wanted to, to give free access to its markets, it would undermine the whole concept of the common market. Why would EU countries abide by the rules and pay their dues if a country outside the EU got free access? Can a trade deal be done? Of course it can and it will. But on what terms and how long will it take? Leave has no answer to any of that.
So the economic message is actually clear, Scotland benefits from membership.
Nowhere is the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK (England actually) more stark than immigration. The thing is you wouldn’t really know that if all the information you had was gleaned from the MSM and UKIP. Day after day Scots are bombarded with stories of waves of immigrants flooding the country bring rape, pestilence and an end to ‘British’ civilisation as we know it. Surveys confirm that there isn’t that great a difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK when it comes to our attitude to immigrants. If so that is entirely down to the media. Please don’t confuse immigration with asylum seekers or refugees, even though Farage and UKIP did do so deliberately with their recent poster which was actually illustrated with a picture of a line of Syrian refugees. The fact is Scotland needs immigration.
The percentage of people living in Scotland who were not born here or another part of the UK is only 8%. That’s the same percentage as English people living in Scotland. Our largest city, Glasgow, has the largest number of immigrants, 12.5%. Contrast that with England’s largest city, London, at over 50% or Birmingham it’s second largest city also over 50% or the home of the new Premiership champions, Leicester, over 50%. And many other towns and cities in England with much larger immigrant populations than Glasgow.
The fact is current UK government policy on immigration is harmful to Scotland. With Brexit and walls going up it is going to get worse.
An even starker figure is the overall population contrast between Scotland and England. In the last 35yrs Scotland’s population has grown 3.5%, one of the lowest growth rates in the world. In England the figure is 37%. The difference is massive.
If there is one thing likely more than anything to get my back up it is some UKIP moron/Old Etonian twerp/ignorant little Englander, take your pick, plonker, telling us we have to take our country back. What they mean is they want England back because it is of course the home of all things democratic while the EU is full of faceless bureaucrats determined to do old Blighty down and force us all to eat straight bananas and sauerkraut.
Now it is true that even the most enthusiastic Europhiles believe the EU needs reforming and it does, but leaving isn’t the answer. It is also true that most of us don’t know how the EU is structured, how it operates and how we are represented within it. Whose fault is that? Well it has to be largely the fault of our own government and education systems that no effort is made to educate the populace on what is actually a very important part of our lives. You can bet that a large majority of the little Englanders have no idea how the EU works but the Daily Express tells them that it isn’t working for them and that must be true. The anti EU sentiment plays directly to every xenophobic trait that the English/British possess. The little Englanders/Brits are not used to consensus and cooperation, they are used to telling people what to do.
The irony is that the UK is one of the least democratic democracies you’ll find anywhere. For reference you may care to read my Agenda piece on the subject in the Herald in July 2013 which was part of the indy campaign.
Just a few points. The UK has two chambers of parliament. One of them, the House of Lords isn’t elected at all, so not very democratic. You get to be a member by privilege of birth, obtaining high rank in one sept of one religion (not the Church of Scotland) or being appointed through the grace of the Prime Minister (neatly hidden under an appointments committee) which means you are either useful to the ruling party, being rewarded for having been useful to the ruling party or a past member, usually failed, of any party.
Far from being democratic this is the biggest unelected assembly anywhere in the world, with over 800 members. Hold, I hear you cry, surely the National Congress of the Peoples Republic of China has more members? Well it appears so as the Congress has some 1,700 members. The thing is the population of China is a tad larger than the UKs. If the Congress had the same representation per head as the House of Lords there would be 16,000 of them. The House of Lords has more members than the entire, elected, EU parliament which represents 28 countries.
We have an unelected Head of State, hardly democratic. Again you become Head of State by accident of birth. This pertains even if you are as mad as a box of frogs, which indeed some occupants of the post have been. There is a suspicion some of the potential future occupants may also be as Clint Eastwood once put it, ‘not too tightly wrapped’.
To get into government you have to be elected (whoopee) to the lower house, the House of Commons. Actually your party needs to be elected, the Prime Minister can appoint anyone from the House of Lords he likes to serve in the government. To be elected a party only needs to secure around one third of the votes cast. The present government got 37%. The last majority government only got 35%, not very democratic.
The Prime Minister exercising the Royal prerogative, given to him by the unelected Head of State, may declare war without consulting parliament or anyone else.
The UK alone of all European countries has no written constitution laying out the rights and obligations of the State and it’s citizens. The UK doesn’t actually have citizens, only subjects. This allows the government and parliament to overrule the courts. The present government in its last LibDem coalition guise has done this. When the Court of Appeal upheld the claim of two jobseekers that their benefits had been unlawfully stopped parliament rewrote the law and back dated it to before the judges ruling thereby making the legal system in the UK redundant. If that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you I don’t know what will.
This stinking, corrupt cesspool of a UK parliament also brought you the expenses scandal, MPs like Malcolm Rifkind whoring themselves for £5,000 a half day selling the information and contacts they obtained by being very highly paid by you as MPs and cabinet ministers, not to mention Alistair Carmichael. Carmichael of course used his position to undermine and smear the First Minister of Scotland by secretly releasing a memo he knew to contain false information, for the purpose of rigging a ‘democratic’ UK general Election. He found himself in court, was found guilty of all charges, brutally castigated by the judges but let off because he was acting as a politician not an ordinary citizen, sorry subject. An ordinary subject would have been sacked and probably ended up in jail. Who wrote the unbelievable law that protects MPs and allows this abuse? Yep, the democratic UK parliament.
The idea that the people of this country will be availed of more democratic accountability outside the European Union is laughable.
I have to say I’ve never been totally convinced of the idea that Brexit would automatically lead to a second referendum. I know that senior SNP politicians, including the First Minister, and leading figures whom I respect in the independence movement, have been bullish of the prospect but I’ve always been skeptical. Polls have shown that Brexit boosts sentiment for independence around 6 points typically taking support from around 47/48% to 53/54%. More recent polls suggest less of a boost, anyway it is too close and it ain’t a good idea to hang your hat on a single shoogly nail. If this was 4 or 5 years down the line, the polls were consistently showing support for independence at 53/54% the boost of Brexit could be the nail in the Union coffin.
It may prove so yet. In the meantime how should people vote in the EU referendum if their main concern is Scottish independence? There is a gap between England & Scotland on the issue. If the UK votes out it will be on English votes. Scotland is solidly behind Remain. The theory is if Scotland is taken out of the EU against her will on the basis of the rest of the UKs votes it will be a democratic outrage (which it will be) and indy2 will be triggered. So vote Remain.
Some misguided souls think they will be helping the cause by voting Leave. This is all wrong for a number of reasons. Voters in England, because it will be them primarily, make up 85% of the vote. They don’t need any help from you. Scottish votes can only affect the result if it is very, very close and you can’t call that. Independence is best served by a clear and substantial difference in vote between us and the rest of the UK. Voting Leave reduces that gap and in the worst case scenario gives Scotland a Leave majority in which case Brexit is a non issue in the independence debate. If the rest of the UK votes Remain as well, again Brexit is a non issue. Putting too much emphasis on the possibility in the overall context of independence is counter productive.
If the vote is Leave there is no way that Cameron can survive and Osborne will go with him. Bad as they are they will be replaced by an even more right wing, xenophobic regime. You can be sure that will be even worse for Scotland.
There are other reasons to vote Remain of course if your concerns are social justice or workers rights etc which I’ve not covered here. Human rights, workers rights and all kinds of protective legislation will be repealed or altered by the Tories. Everyone thinks the EU needs reforming and it does but for economic, immigration, democratic and independence reasons the right vote for Scotland is Remain. All clear now?