Sunday, 27 July 2014

Not in the News - Late July Edition

Welcome to the eighth of our bi-monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages. Our last edition covering early July can be found here.

One hundred million billion quadrillion jobs could be lost!
We were treated to a headline in the Scotsman 'newspaper' in mid July entitled: "Labour claim 1m may lose jobs after independence". What is the basis for this headline (because obviously it isn't reality)? The latest idea being pedalled is that everyone in the rest of the UK will suddenly, and inexplicably, stop wanting to make money or have quality goods and services if it involves Scotland in any way.

Note: this is how you are supposed to react.
Currently, Scotland exports £47,600,000,000 worth of goods to the rest of the UK every year. There will continue to be free trade between our borders (as there is between all EU and EFTA states) so there will not be any legal barriers to trade. And our wealth isn't magically created by Westminster. The suggestion, therefore, can only be that people who live in England (and the companies that are based there) will suddenly and blindly hate anything Scottish solely because we don't want anything to do with Westminster anymore. This is plainly wrong and I feel embarrassed for anyone who tries to make such an argument.
But being wrong and embarrasing doesn't mean that the Scotsman won't print it!
Nobody loves you (if you believe Westminster)
On the 15th of July, EU President Jean-Claud Juncker stated the European Union was not looking to expand beyond its current borders in reference to membership applications from Balkan states. Despite his spokeswoman confirming that "[Juncker] was not referring to Scotland when he talked about a five year pause in EU accession", the controlled British media proceeded to attack the Yes campaign:
"Alex Salmond's dream of staying in the EU dealt a blow by new President of the European Commission" (Daily Record)
"Unionists hail Juncker 'hammer blow' to Scotland's EU place" (Financial Times)
"Independence: Juncker deals blow to Scots EU plans" (Scotsman)
"Juncker deals blow to Alex Salmond's EU claims" (Telegraph)
And, despite the EU president's spokeswoman's statement coming during the afternoon, that evening's Reporting Scotland broadcast on the BBC at 6:30pm still suggested that his speech was somehow directed against Scotland. It took the BBC until 8:40pm to correct its story.

Another victory for the modern media over the dinosaur press. Of course, none of this stopped Liberal Democrat MP Charles Kennedy from using Prime Minister's Questions to help David Cameron repeat this same, debunked nonsense the very next day. Democracy in-action!
Vote for us to remove the policy we introduced and defended!
The Liberal Democrats have finally realised that the Bedroom Tax was a stupid idea and are now against the policy. It was known before it was introduced that it would hurt the poorest in society, but that didn't stop their leaders breaking Liberal principles and supporting it anyway.
So the Westminster Liberal Democrats are now asking people to elect them because they promise to oppose the policy they introduced. The question is, can you trust their promises? Or would you rather a Liberal Party free from Westminster's influence comes to the fore? Only a Yes vote can create the latter.
Absolutely nothing is going on
Absolutely nothing is going on with online opinion polls, linked in accounts or YouTube videos. Yes nothing. We can't image a single thing that could possibly be going on. If it it were possible (which is isn't) we can't image anything that would be done. Therefore nothing is happening and every link here is absolutely and totally wrong.
These people do not exist and have never existed, ever.
There are no hints that website posts or news broadcasts are being censored, and no belief that Westminster is using its vast resources to manipulate public opinion.
And because there is nothing going on (not that there is anything that could go on) we know that our intelligence services provide value for money and will make no further comment.
Just some of the reasons why I (and many others) don't like BBC management
We've already covered some of the evidence of BBC bias during 2014, yet they keep adding more and more. So instead of detailing the most recent examples one by one, I though it would be better to put the latest stories into a single list.
The BBC? Stick it up your Juncker! (a report by Newsnet Scotland at how the BBC knowingly misrepresented a statement made by EU President Jean Claude Juncker to encourage people to vote no).
BBC Justifies Telly Poll Tax By Claiming Poor Watch More TV (the order-order website highlights the public statements made by the BBC's Director of Policy, James Heath).
Protest BBC Bias...with The Indy Kitteh (a video by McV looking at recent and past examples of BBC bias and why it is important that we expose their lack of impartiality).
Better Together 'tipped off' on BBC debates (a Sunday Times article about how the BBC informs the official no campaign in advance of filming programmes such as Question Time so that they can fill the audiance with anti-independence campaigners.
BBC Scotland told to rethink news output amid questions over indy balance (a Herald report looking at the reasons why trust in the BBC in Scotland is low)
SNP calls on BBC to address 'serious concerns' after report questions news coverage (analysis from Newsnet Scotland on an Audience Council Scotland report which highlighted recent examples of BBC bias)
The BBC, home of the facts (a look at how the BBC quietly changed its figures regarding the effect of Scottish Independence on UK GDP)
The BBC is impartial in the sense that they don't care if you are lied to or just mislead. As long as they receive their 30 pieces of licence fee silver from Westminster then they are happy.
The sad passing of Gerallt Lloyd Owen
We were saddened to learn of the passing of Welsh poet Gerallt Lloyd Owen. His family kindly asked people who wished to make a donation to send them to the Yes Scotland campaign. It is a really kind gesture and one that is very much appreciated across Scotland.

Spine, brain and heart transplant needed
Former politician Gordon Brown, who still receives £66,000 per year to represent his constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, made the claim that patients in Scotland were 'at risk' of not receiving organ donations if we make decisions for ourselves.
The story didn't make any sense and was quickly proved to be false following confirmation from the NHSBT Donor Line:
"I can confirm that Scottish independence will not affect organ donation and the system will continue as it does currently." Tom Kempster, ODR Assistant (in answer to a question from Reverend Stuart Campbell)

The sad part of this story is the slavish reporting of the lie from Mr Brown by the Scotsman, the Courier and STV. They lacked the spine to challenge the former Prime Minister, they lacked the brains to find out the facts, and they didn't have enough heart to admit that they were wrong. Fortunately, as we can confirm, these parts will still be available in an independent Scotland.
Let the games begin!
The start of the Commonwealth Games took place in July, but the Secretary of State for Portsmouth, Alistair Carmichael, had important words of warning. It is wrong for this international event to be used in an attempt to influence the outcome of the referendum...

...that was what the London Olympics were for!

Blinded by the light!
Whilst we do have a full section above looking at various BBC related stories (7 in total, all from just the past 2 weeks), we thought we had to include this story separately. Staff at BBC Scotland "headquarters" at Pacific Quay have to phone an office in Redditch, Worcestershire, if they want to open their own window blinds. This, rather pathetically, is not a spoof. Staff at the BBC in Scotland can't even control how much light comes in through their windows.

An example of what BBC staff would see if they were allowed to look out of the window
I'm sure it won't matter for much longer. Regardless the outcome of the referendum it will be curtains for the BBC in Scotland!
The Wind Rises
Not in the news in July was the story that wind farms are the cheapest method of energy generation in Denmark.
According to 'tck tck tck', onshore wind energy now provides over 50% of Denmark's power needs and is cheaper than even coal or natural gas:
"New analysis shows that onshore wind plants due online in 2016 will cost half the price of coal and natural gas plants, coming in at around 4 cent euro (3 UK pence) per kilowatt hour.

Countries strong on renewables are also winning the global energy efficiency race." tck tck tck, 21st of July 2014
The report also looks at the investment in clean technology by Germany, which has been ranked as the most energy efficient major economy in the world by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. China's rapid advancement was also noted.

The controlled media in the UK didn't report this story, with the Telegraph screaming: "Stop building offshore wind farms, says Centrica". But what did they not report...
Centrica are the owners of British Gas, who favour nuclear power plants such as the disasterous project at Hinkley Point. They claim that giving more public money to projects by themeslves and the rest of the big 6, instead of to smaller energy companies, will provide the cheapest fuel prices. This, however, goes against the evidence we have so far:
"[Energy Secretary Ed] Davey agreed a minimum price of £92.50 for every megawatt hour (MWh) of energy Hinkley Point generates – almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity. The price is also index-linked to inflation, meaning EDF can expect revenue of about £121 per MWh by 2023, the analysts calculated. That means the price of gas will need to increase by at least 130% to make the government's agreement pay by making nuclear power more attractive than gas." Guardian newspaper, October 2013
Still, you can't expect the newspapers to highlight to the public the same truths that they tell to investment groups.
New analysis shows that onshore wind plants due online in 2016 will cost half the price of coal and natural gas plants, coming in at around 4 cent euro (3 UK pence) per kilowatt hour. - See more at:
New analysis shows that onshore wind plants due online in 2016 will cost half the price of coal and natural gas plants, coming in at around 4 cent euro (3 UK pence) per kilowatt hour. - See more at:
New analysis shows that onshore wind plants due online in 2016 will cost half the price of coal and natural gas plants, coming in at around 4 cent euro (3 UK pence) per kilowatt hour. - See more at:
New analysis shows that onshore wind plants due online in 2016 will cost half the price of coal and natural gas plants, coming in at around 4 cent euro (3 UK pence) per kilowatt hour. - See more at:
Join us again in the middle of August for our next look at what's 'not in the news'!
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Sunday, 20 July 2014

The World at War

On the 28th of July 1914 the world witnessed the start of the First World War.
The horror of this conflict remains with us to this day.  A conservative estimate counts the loss of life to have been over 16 million, with a further 20 million wounded.

The civilian dead made up approximately 7 million of this total although this disregards those who were conscripted, and those who volunteered under false pretences.  These numbers mean little until we consider that every one of them was a human life, with family, friends and loved ones.  These were people who were sent into a nightmare and never returned home.
This was a war which hit Scotland hard.  Scots suffered more than 25% of total British casualties, a number far greater than our share of the population.  Indeed the tremendous cost we paid inspired the American Government in 1927 to gift a memorial specifically to recognise the tremendous sacrifice of Scottish Regiments.  You can still see ‘The Call’ in the west end of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.  It has a simple inscription which states:
“If it be life that waits, I shall live forever unconquered.  If death, I shall die at last, strong in my pride and free.”

It’s a shame that the Government in Westminster didn't hold the same value to our regiments.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to mark the hundredth anniversary of Britain’s formal entry into the war with “a commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year (2012), says something about who are as a people.”  I don’t want to commemorate the beginning of the Great War ‘like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations’.
David Cameron wants to mark the anniversaries of certain battles, such as the Somme and Gallipoli, and his intention is to spend part of his £50 million ‘commemoration’ budget in educational programmes for school pupils in England to learn about the “sheer scale of sacrifice.”  I don’t see much focus on the reasons for this violent and senseless conflict, or thoughts on what could have been achieved if this war had never taken place.  The estimated financial cost of $186,333,637,000 alone could have achieved so much.

Last November we ran our serialisation of General Smedley Butler's brilliant book 'War is a Racket'. It examined how war generates obscene profits for a handful of people and offered ways to prevent most conflicts from starting or escalating. The themes explored in 'War is a Racket' and other titles should form the basis of any study of the First World War, and the 136 other conflicts Scotland has been involved in under Westminster rule, yet they are ignored in favour of war advocates.
It is the end of a war that should be remembered and I hope that amongst the pomp and ceremony that is certain to dominate these commemorations that we’ll remember those who lost their lives in this needless and senseless conflict and aspire to keep our youth from experiencing such horrors.  I hope none of us sees another ‘Great War’, but that will be difficult when our leaders don’t understand the first.
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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Not in the News - Early July Edition

Welcome to the eighth of our bi-monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages. Our last edition covering late June can be found here.
Electoral Commission and the CBI - better together?
That reliable source of comedy, the Confederation of British Industry, was making more headlines (online - the controlled media aren't very interested in mocking them). It was revealed that before they attempted to register as an official partner of the no campaign (alongside such groups as the far right Britannica) they had shared private conversations with the Electoral Commission.

This was at odds with statements made by CBI Director General John Cridland, who claimed he had no knowledge that his organisation would be making an application.
"In his submission to the Electoral Commission, Cridland insisted the CBI had received no legal advice prior to the application form being signed.  However days earlier in a BBC interview the CBI Director General claimed his organisation had indeed received advice." Newsnet Scotland, 27th of June
Will there be a Scottish Parliament on the 19th of September?
In an unusual outbreak of frankness, Liberal Democrat and no campaigner Willie Rennie MSP, confirmed that Westminster can close the Scottish Parliament down at any time unless we vote for independence. He confirmed that it is a temporary institution and went on to say:
"They [the Westminster Parliament] can legislate on anything to do with the Scottish Parliament at any time." Willie Rennie MSP, June 2014
Of course, if a second question had been added to the ballot paper offering more powers and guaranteeing the Scottish Parliament's existence, then this wouldn't be an issue. But that option was opposed by...Willie Rennie. Great to see how much he values our parliament.

Dun telling the truth
The BBC and the Daily Record both posted dramatic images and headlines: "Costs of setting up separate Scottish state could top £2bn" cried the Daily Record.

The story's are allegedly based on a report by Professor Dunleavy. Unfortunately for the BBC and the Daily Record, Newsnet Scotland and Wings over Scotland have been checking their bleak interpretations.
"Professor Patrick Dunleavy has said the £1.5bn figure, touted by newspapers and the BBC is, "not a figure I accept"." Newsnet Scotland, 28th of June
Professor Dunleavy explained that he believed the likely set-up costs (the cost of returning jobs to Scotland and setting up IT systems) would be £200m. He added that over a 10 year period the maximum charge would be an additional £400m. To put these in perspective, the cost of the UK pulling its military forces from Afghanistan is going to be £300m.

So the BBC has been caught exaggerating by 700% (or, if they simply don't understand the difference between start-up and transition costs, by 250%). The Daily Record was even worse. Wings over Scotland highlighted 4 separate lies in its 5 sentence report. They need to try harder to make every sentence a lie.
Can't count, won't count
It was great fun attending the BBC Bias protest on Sunday, the 29th of June. There were so many people and so much excitement. Over 2,000 people were present to show their discontent at the anti-independence bias which the BBC in Scotland produces.
The BBC, which stated that everything they have produced has been "fair and accurate" (we presume that they are including each of the 35+ stories here in their 'fair and accurate' assessment), claimed there were only 350 protesters. Check out sources from these blogs, domestic news and international news sites and below and judge which report is more accurate.

The reason we were protesting the BBC is the same reason they claimed that only 350 people were present...those at the top of the organisation are biased.

Can't count, will estimate
The BBC bias protest was not the only event taking place on the last weekend in June. Armed Forces Day was held in Sterling on Saturday, the 28th. The BBC used the MOD's (ridiculous) attendance figure of 35,000 when reporting the event, however you can see here (and here) that this is very detached from reality.

We know that the BBC is biased and would be keen to underplay the attendance of the protests against itself, but why give a false and inflated impression of Armed Forces Day?
"The Armed Forces Day events are supposed to be in honour of those who served or have served in the armed forces. It honours and remembers those who fought and died and sacrificed. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be.

But choosing to hold the event in Stirling on the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn was a shamefully transparent attempt to politicise what ought to have been a solemn and non-political event in order to use it as a stick with which to beat the Scottish political opponents of the Westminster parties. That’s a perversion of the stated purpose of Armed Forces Day. If you honestly believe that it was sheer coincidence that the event was held where it was and when it was, I have a Stirling Bridge to sell you." Wee Ginger Dug, A tale of two events
It's clear that many working for a no vote view militarism as a method for gaining support, but the reasoning goes beyond this. The UK Parliament is looking increasingly likely to pass a National Service Bill, which will make military service (or community service, something which Westminster views as a punishment) very likely for those who will be voting for the first time. It is this link between the state broadcaster and the state interests which causes so much concern.
"[T]he demonstration rated a few seconds at the end of the BBC Scotland evening news broadcast, and attendance was described as “hundreds of people”. Interesting is it not that one event’s attendance was inflated to 35000, while the other was reported as a vague low estimate. The protest did not rate three film crews and live coverage throughout the duration of the event followed by endless analysis and discussion afterwards. A demonstration against BBC bias itself demonstrates the bias that the demonstration seeks to highlight. BBC management don’t do irony." Wee Ginger Dug, A tale of two events
The YouGuff Surveys
Survey Group YouGov has come under criticism from online analysts for how it records support for independence amongst SNP voters.

The group, which now gives the lowest figures of support for a Yes vote and had stated as early as 2011 that a Yes vote was 'literally impossible', have so far refused to explain it's unusual methodology of splitting SNP supporters into two groups when weighting support. They have also failed to justify their position of not offering the base numbers in their datasets.
Laurence Janta-Lipinski, an employee of YouGov, stated on Twitter during an exchange with Scot Goes Pop:
"no, you will not get breakdown (of the hidden SNP datasets). Why? Why should you? We don't put up 1000s of potential xtabs at behest of bloggers" Laurence Janta-Lipinski
Survation and Scot Goes Pop, whose successful crowdfunding appeal raised £3,475 earlier this year, highlighted the flaw in the YouGov defence:
"(YouGov) specifically cites the eccentric practice of splitting SNP voters into two distinct groups as a reason for thinking YouGov are right and others are wrong. I'm not quite sure where that leaves Mr Janta-Lipinski's claim that it's OK to be ultra-secretive about that part of the methodology because it's just one trivial detail out of 'thousands'!" Scot Goes Pop, 2nd of July 2014
We have written before regarding how opinion polls can influence elections (see: 'It's Great to be Different') but experts appearing on the controlled media are not highlighting when polling agencies artificially lower Yes support in their figures. Thankfully, the controlled media is a dinosaur, and it is soon to be extinct!
Labour MPs helping David Cameron?
On Wednesday the 2nd of July, Jim Sheridan MP had a chance to challenge David Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions. What question would be the best to ask on behalf of his constituents in Paisley and Renfewshire North? Would he ask about widespread increases in poverty during a supposed recovery?
"Does the Prime Minister agree with me that there is a moral responsibility on employers to inform their employees what the consequencies of any separation of Scotland from the UK in order they can make an 'informed' choice prior to the referendum?" Jim Sheridan MP, 2nd of July 2014
Former Trade Union Convener Jim Sheridan thought the best way to represent his constituents was to ask a planted question to a Tory Prime Minister asking managers to tell their employees how to vote. Just read that line a few times again so that it sinks in. A Labour MP, a former Trade Union Convener, is helping David Cameron by asking a soft question encouraging bosses to be able to influence how their workers vote.

Mr Burns, a hero of Labour MP Jim Sheridan (probably)
Of course, this tactic of having large corporations coercing their employees to vote a certain way isn't new. Jim Sheridan is calling on the UK Government to take the same approach that failed US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney encouraged in 2012.
But is there any economic justification for this approach? Earlier, Mr Sheridan claimed that companies were withholding investment in Scotland due to the referendum. This is at odds with reality as Scotland has seen a dramatic increase in investment since the referendum was announced. Good to see that he is aiding a Conservative Prime Minister for ideological rather than practical reasons!
Don't offer an opinion!
It was revealed that international news broadcaster Russia Today was warned against discussing the Scottish Independence referendum on their most popular show 'The Keiser Report'.

The show's host, Max Keiser, tweeted that he was not allowed to offer any opinion on-air at the risk of the channel losing their licence on Freeview. A petition to uncover who at OFCOM issued this warning to an outspoken supporter of a Yes vote and to allow Russia Today to report freely again has been started here.
A super big rally (with 220 people)
Prime Minister David Cameron was the star attraction at the super-mega important Rally for the Union. Just 220 people attended. Cough. That isn't even enough to fill a large passenger bus or even the economy seats on a 747 (not that David Cameron or his pals would ever need to travel economy!)

I'll give you £15 million a year for just £270 million (Deal or no Deal)
That is the offer Prime Minister David Cameron offered Scots in early July. This is a terrible deal which no amount of spin from the Daily Express can hide for long. Rather than reporting the reality that Glasgow will receive a paltry 6% of the cuts in welfare payments back, they instead claim that money being invested by the Scottish Government is also Cameron's (although if his family had paid tax in the UK it would probably equal this amount!).

Nurse, Nurse!
Earlier this year Sir Paul Nurse, a senior UK scientist, claimed that cancer research could be harmed by a Yes vote. Despite having obvious flaws, this statement was given blanket coverage throughout the controlled media.

In early July, Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to outgoing EU president Jose Manuel Barroso, refuted the assertion that a Yes vote would negatively affect research in Scotland.
"On the 19th of September I don't see that changing because if I am in China or in North America, I want to work with the best and if the best are in Scotland, I'm still going to work with the best." Professor Anne Glover, Holyrood Magazine
Professor Glover has no titles to gain speaking positively or negatively regarding the referendum. So how does the BBC report this important (and independent) assessment? "Scottish Independence: Academics say 'Yes' vote could harm scientific research". You know BBC, writing headlines like this which are the opposite of reality is why so many people turned up to the 'anti-BBC bias' rally last month!
Then again, perhaps all of this could have been prevent if people stopped mixing science with politics! Nurse!!
Nurse, Nurse (2)!
We view the online version of the Huffington Post quite a lot. However this post from the 4th of July was read purely for its comedic value.

Dr Nicholas M Almond, who states that he is 'a quarter Scottish', made so many mistakes that it could be the most ill-informed piece of writing regarding the referendum. Thankfully, Reverend Stuart Campbell at Wings over Scotland made a full review of them.
"So that’s 16 flat-out major factual blunders, and a whole bunch of screaming batshit madness on top, squeezed into just 914 words. That’s one serious mistake every 57 words. (This paragraph has 65.) God alone knows how many it would have been if he hadn’t been a quarter Scottish. The bar’s certainly been set high for Johann Lamont’s next speech, that’s all we can say." Rev Stuart Campbell, Wings over Scotland
"Whatever it is, I'm against it!" Dr Almond (probably) [note: not actual photo!]
I think we would get more sense from Dr Hackenbush!

Oil, oil everywhere (except in the Scottish newspapers!)
On Sunday, the 6th of July, Professor Donald Mackay, board member of right wing think tank Reform Scotland, declared that the UK government's projections for an independent Scotland's oil revenues was woefully undervalued and half of what it should be (resulting in an extra £8,000,000,000 of revenue every year).
On Monday, the 7th of July, the following media outlets said nothing:
Daily Record
Scottish Sun
The Scotsman
The Herald
Scottish Daily Express
Scottish Daily Mail
Press & Journal
BBC Website
STV website

Only the Sunday Mail ran with the story. What was even more ironic, was the response of the OBR (Office of Budget Responsibility). Upon their predictions being described as absurdly pessimistic, they further reduced their expectations for oil revenues. This aspect of the story was covered by the Times, Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Independent, Scottish Sun, Daily Record, Courier, Guardian, Press & Journal, Daily Mail, Financial Times, BBC and STV.
Many thanks to Wings over Scotland for spotting and covering the story.
Europa Un-Universalis
Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott of Oxford University produced a study in an independent Scotland's membership of the EU following a Yes vote. You can read it here. It highlighted that it was in the interests of other EU states to support Scotland's continued membership. Derek Bateman stated:
"[The report] lends an unimpeachable voice to the only sane solution on the EU, the one with least hurdles for existing members and the course already laid out by the Scottish Government. Her calm exposition reads like straightforward common sense when compared to the childishly hysterical screams of alarm from Unionist MEPs and commentators who don’t know any better." Derek Bateman, 8th of July 2014
That's pretty clear. And we received statements from Italy (who will hold the presidency of the EU till the end of the year) and the new president of the European Commission stating that the wishes of the people of Scotland will be respected. How many of the newspapers will highlight this?..

I wanna hold your hand
Our favourite story from early July involved Tory MP Rory Stewart. His 'hands across the border' (not actually taking place at the border) was designed to show how much people in the UK oppose decisions affecting Scotland being made in Scotland. However for 'logistical' reasons, this has been called off.
"I wonder if those "logistical" problems might conceivably include - a) not enough people, and b) the wrong border?" SCOT goes POP!, 9th of July 2014
I think that Scot goes Pop is wrong in this instance. The only problem must be that those about to take part just didn't know how to hold hands so, for the benefit of the no campaign and their leaders in Westminster, we have linked to this 'How to Hold Hands: 10 Steps' by wikiHow. Now that the real logistical problem has been solved, 'hands across the border' can take place...or maybe not.

What side would you like to be on?
This is a question those in the main stream media should be asking themselves (but so far aren't):
The BBC - A guide to how to mess up referendum coverage
The UK state broadcaster has made a number of unusual editorial decisions (unusual until you understand that it is merely an extension of Westminster that will do anything to maintain a status quo) but its latest spending choice is probably its biggest blunder of the campaign so far.

It's good to know that the state broadcaster always respects our licence fee
The BBC wants to host a debate in Glasgow regarding the referendum one week before the vote. This is fine, however they then proceeded to pay £100,000 so that a live audience of 12,000 people where maybe 0.0015% of them would be able to even ask a question (just 17 questions were asked in the 3rd US Presidential Debate which was 90 minutes long). If that was a stupid idea, then allowing the budget to spiral out of control to £500,000 is even worse.

What were they thinking?!

You've got mail (but don't worry, we deleted it)
"Communications between the Electoral Commission and the CBI that led to a meeting to discuss the independence referendum, have been deleted the electoral watchdog has told Newsnet Scotland." Newsnet Scotland, 12th of July 2014
Is this how the impartial, accountable and professional Electoral Commission is supposed to behave? Is it right that they don't appear bothered by errors in the official no campaign registration or have much interest in the spending and actions of the no campaigning Orange Order? We will leave these questions up to you readers.
I would cycle 500 miles
A number of the Sign for Scotland team managed to meet Indy Cyclist Mark Coburn on his 500 miles fundraiser. The campaign, which was generating funds for 10 local yes groups as well as Maryhill food bank, started on Thursday, the 10th of July and easily surpassed the initial goal of £5,000. The fundraiser officially ends on Friday the 18th so if you haven't donated yet then please consider doing so.

Well done Mark!
Checking your purse before your pulse
This is one of the most important reasons for supporting a Yes vote:
"But there is a further threat facing the NHS. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the fruit of long-running negotiations between the EU and the US over trade liberalisation. One of its fundamental principles is that services, including state services, should be open to private competition from American multinationals. According to Garcia Bercero, the EU Commission official with responsibility for TTIP, health services in Europe will be opened to private competition, but only where privatisation is already established.
In other words, where there is an existing state monopoly, foreign companies cannot sue the government in question for unfair competition.
But the UK Health and Social Care Act opened the UK system to TTIP because it explicitly introduces a private market in health provision in England. After a No vote, private providers and insurance companies may argue that, since Scotland is not a sovereign state but a region of the UK, it cannot be exempted from competition for health provision. We are a long way from that being tested in law, but what is beyond doubt is that the UK has made the NHS in England TTIP compliant. It seems highly likely that the Scottish system will be seen as an unacceptable anachronism in a unitary state." Sunday Herald, 13th of July 2014
Independent nations are capable of defending and representing themselves. Even if you believe that health care should be privatised, it is wrong for that view to be forced upon the people against their wishes. If you believe it, then you should have the courage of your convictions, start campaigning and win debates, not wait for an uncontrollable Westminster to force it through (especially since many of the House of Lords stand to gain financially if health care profiteering takes place).
Join us again near the end of July for our next look at what's 'not in the news'!
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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Eyes wide shut

The referendum is, at its core, a debate around which parliamentary system is better suited to Scotland's needs.
A Yes vote is placing faith in a more proportionate parliament where everyone's vote matters and no party is assured power (meaning special interest groups have to influence more than just two parties to get their way). Yes also supports limiting the power of politicians by creating and introducing a new written constitution which will guarantee the rights of every citizen.

A no vote is leaving power at Westminster. This article will look at why that is a bad idea.
Many of the politicians in Westminster do their jobs with their eyes wide shut. Firstly, they protect the House of Lords, which has many appointed members who have a financial interest in the laws they are supposed to be scrutinising. Here are a few examples:
David John Maclean, also known as Baron Blencathra and Lord Blencathra, is a Conservative Party life peer. He joined the House of Lords in February 2011 following numerous years as an MP. During a press conference in April 2012 he stated:
"I work for the Cayman islands government in London not for the UK Government in Cayman." Lord Blencathra, 5th of April 2012
The reason this is important is because Lord Blencathra is a lobbyist for the Cayman Islands government receiving £14,000 per month from 'Two Lions' for his services, who was hired to 'get the message across' to UK government officials, and is entitled to vote on legislation affecting the tax treatment of money that is transferred between the UK and the Cayman Islands.

You may say that this is illegal however this arrangement was approved by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
"The FCO told the Bureau in April, following our investigation, that it had played ‘no role’ in the appointment.

However correspondence released under Freedom of Information shows the Minister for Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, approved Lord Bencathra taking the job despite looking at the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role in the House of Lords." The Bureau Investigates, 2nd of October 2012
As a side note, when still an MP Lord Blencathra led the campaign to prevent MPs' expenses. We are certain this had nothing to do with the £20,902 he received in second home allowances for a property that was subsequently sold as his main residence (thus avoiding Capital Gains Tax).

But it is not just former MPs that hold outside interests in the House of Lords. It is estimated that 1 in 5 staff pass holders have links to lobby groups. Some may argue that this is fine as long as it is declared (the current list can be viewed here) but that isn't always the case.
"Undeclared interests: Peers fail to register business roles" was a headline from the Bureau Investigates from June 2012. It detailed failure to record interests from Lord Plumb and Lord St John of Bletso, as well as incomplete entries from other Lords.
But even declaring an interest doesn't prevent the Lords from voting on legislation that they have a financial stake in. 1 in 5 of those who voted on the UK Government's Health Bill had conflicted interests. This isn't restricted just to health. 16% of all Lords are paid by City firms with one, Lord Brittan, writing a white paper for David Cameron advocating the policies of a financial lobby group that he is a member of.

Whilst it is impossible to say whether the potential for profit altered the actions of any of those who voted, the mere fact that such an opportunity presents itself shows how vulnerable the Westminster system is to corruption. Yet the corruption is not just financial. The threatening of a female SNP MP, the widespread abuse of assistants by MPs, the loss of files on renditioning flights through Diego Garcia, and most worrying the paedophile ring operating out of Westminster involving at least 40 politicians have each required whistle blowers and individuals to speak out. That shouldn't be the case.
[Note: You can read more about how the paedophile ring is being treated here, here, here, here, here and here].
When corruption and wrong doing has taken place, too many within the Westminster system watch with their eyes wide shut. It is a system that doesn't deserve protecting. A Yes vote in September gives us the chance to enhance and control a much better, more democratic approach. We don't need unelected Lords influencing laws that they have financial interests in. We don't need a cosy club where everyone shields everyone else.

When you go to the polling station on the 18th of September, do so with your eyes wide open. Vote Yes and lets tackle the rampant corruption that is holding back our country.
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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Scotland - The Next Generation

There are some who support independence because of our past. It’s easy to see why. Scotland has many long and proud traditions. We have contributed so much to the modern world from the pedal bicycle, to logarithms, to the kaleidoscope. The Saltire is one of the oldest and most recognisable flags of Europe and our myths and legends attract tourists from every corner of the globe.

Sign for Scotland

But the reason why I support independence is our future, and what more we can contribute. It is doubtless that somewhere in one of our schools there is the next David Livingstone, Mary Somerville or William Ramsay. But if we want that talent to flourish, we need to make some choices.
Scotland cannot keep subsidising Westminster and maintain the highest proportion of world class universities to population in the world. We cannot store and subsidise weapons of mass destruction and have a healthcare system based upon need and not ability to pay. We cannot subsidise a military designed to attack other countries and have a defence force capable of defending our shores.
Voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum means that we will decidewhat’s most important. Only we can guarantee the things we perhaps take for granted are available to the next generation. Only we can make sure that we have governments which respond to and reflect the wishes of the people. Only we can ensure that our values and principles are enacted, both at home and abroad.

Captain Jean Luc Picard's message to the people of Scotland
And if we vote ‘Yes’ we will be giving ourselves the power to decide our future, and ensuring that every generation that follows does too. What greater vote of confidence can we give our children than to trust them with self determination?
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