Will the new Hadrian’s Wall be a steel immigration barrier?

The Scottish Referendum for independence

On the eve of the Scottish referendum, which, I have to confess, has driven me mad because of the childish behaviour exhibited by both sides, it seems right to explore what might go wrong if Scotland does take the brave step to go it alone – well almost alone because they are still insisting that they are intend to use the pound as currency.

EU membership – renegotiate or re-apply?

The biggest stumbling block must be Scotland’s EU membership. First Minister, Alex Salmond, continues in the belief that Scotland will be able to retain existing membership of the EU by negotiating ‘tweaks’ to current treaties to, in effect, step sideways and remain in the EU once independent. Scotland would also keep the pound and wouldn’t enter into the Schengen Agreement. It seems highly unlikely that the member countries are going to allow this, although the ‘Yes’  camp have justified their position by saying …

“There is no way that the EU won’t want to keep oil-rich, fishing-rich, renewable energy-rich Scotland. And we will keep the pound, because joining the euro is entirely voluntary – as the example of Sweden shows. We have no intention of joining the euro, and don’t even qualify for membership even if we did.”

In the last couple of days there has been much debate among high-level politicians in Europe about Scotland’s position and it should be remembered that EU membership must be unanimously agreed by the very politicians who are now voicing doubts about Mr. Salmond’s claims.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo is a Spanish politician and is also Spain’s Minister for European Affairs. This week he said: “It is crystal clear that any partner [of a] member-state that leaves the member state is out of the European Union. If they want to apply again, they would have to follow the procedure of article 49 of the treaties” noting that there were “more ifs than a poem by Kipling” as to the possibility and the terms on which Scotland would gain entry. Because of the need for unanimity amongst the member states he concluded that “it is a process that takes more or less five years”.

Sterlingisation – will the new state really abandon its debt to keep the pound?

Salmond appears to be under the illusion that independence will mean that he can almost do as he pleases. This is evidenced by his warning that an independent Scotland, failing an agreement with the remainder of the UK about currency sharing, can simply keep using the pound and walk away from their share of the UK national debt.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said in a damning report that action of this kind would see Scotland isolated from EU and international markets and would bring about “unprecedented austerity”. It noted that such a serious default on debt would mean that rating agencies would mark down Scotland’s current ‘Triple-A’ rating relegating it to below investment grade. The end result of this would mean that the newly independent Scottish government would be unable to raise new funds for up to a decade, according to the NIESR.

Mr Salmond’s explanation that Scotland could not be forced to use the Euro because it would not meet the economic conditions seems not to hold water. Mr Mendez de Vigo said: “There is an aim of all member states to share a common currency.” Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and its accession treaty was signed in 1994. In the EU following the Euro crisis, it is highly unlikely that Scotland will be allowed to follow Sweden’s example. It would have to work towards ERM II, and this in itself would cause enormous difficulties to the Scottish economy.

The Scot’s Schengen problem

Finally, what of the Schengen agreement? Gianni Pitella, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, warned the newly created state of Scotland wouldn’t enjoy the UK’s existing rights to the UK’s opt-outs when it negotiates to join the EU. He said: “An independent Scotland would have no automatic right to the various special treatments that the UK has been granted over the last few decades, from the budget rebate to having no obligation to join the euro or participate in the Schengen area of travel without frontier controls. No new member has been accorded such special treatment.”

From this statement it would seem clear that the Scottish state would have to sign up to Schengen and this could be a really serious matter for England and Wales as, should Scotland be in the Schengen Area, it could seriously weaken the ability of England and Wales to enforce current immigration. We could end up with a frontier barrier like the one erected along the land border between Morocco and Ceuta as the Calais migrant camp moves to Gretna Green!

Shetland’s oil for Shetland?

A further problem will be Islands such as the Shetlands. There has been more than a murmur of dissatisfaction from the leading voices of the 22,000 islanders, with many saying that the Shetlands should follow the Scottish mainland and claim its own independence following a successful ‘Yes’ campaign.

Shetland, with its vast oil reserves, may consider taking steps to become a self-governing territory, similar to the Isle of Man, in preference to remaining within an independent Scotland after a yes vote, the Scotland secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carmichael said if Shetland were to vote strongly against independence but the Scottish national vote was narrowly in favour, then a “conversation about Shetland’s position and the options that might be open to it” would begin.

Tactical errors of the ‘Yes’ Campaign

It seems sad that Mr. Salmond has set about the referendum without thin king much of this through more carefully. There is considerable concern in Scotland regarding Mr. Salmond’s integrity. Fiona Scott, whose father John Ferguson taught Mr Salmond mathematics at Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian wrote in a newspaper that  “Mr Salmond has succeeded in creating divisions across Scotland that were not there before and that will still exist after the referendum, no matter which way the vote goes. Stories of intimidation, violence and vandalism are rife. Freedom of speech is under threat. Relationships between neighbours are now threatened if you indicate which way you are voting.”

Mr. Salmond has an uphill battle, whether he wins or loses the referendum that he was so keen to see take place.


Russia’s ‘hybrid’ wars and China’s belligerent expansionism

A game about he Russian tactic of maskirovka, Moscow’s hybrid war

The Wikileaks revelations described the Russian Federation as a ‘Mafia state’, but is this really such startling news? It was obvious soon after a drunken Yeltsin virtually gifted the resource-rich state industries to highly-placed and cunning apparatchiks that Russia resembled the Wild West rather than developing a conventional system of government for the world’s largest state. Bloomberg’s article here details the the effect of hybrid wars on the Russian economy.

Yeltsin’s actions, and the failure of the political classes to stop him, robbed the extremely poor of the true value of the nation’s assets, running into hundreds of billions of pounds. The instability inherent in what amounts to an unsound economic policy brought about massive losses to these new super-rich a couple of years back because of the volatility of the Russian market. The last decade has also seen oligarchs being jailed or fleeing the country altogether, their underlings being murdered and press freedoms curbed – even to the extent of organised murder of journalists – to stifle debate and possible dissent. 

China is attempting to expand its territory and increase its natural resources, against the wish of smaller nearby states.. Artificial islands are under construction in the disputed South China Sea as the Chinese state makes relentless efforts to expand it’s geographical boundaries at the expense of its neighbours. In 2012 the Communist Party reclassified the South China Sea as a “core national interest”, placing it alongside such sensitive issues as Taiwan and Tibet. It means China is prepared to fight to defend it. 

Beijing’s claim includes the Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands and the area it encompasses comprises an “expanse stretching right up to the coasts of the Philippines and Vietnam and even Borneo.” The vast majority of the South China Sea is claimed by the Chinese, in an area which is demarcated on maps by the ‘nine dash line’. 

This territorial ultimatum by China is yet another example of the Asian superstates flexing their muscles knowing that their surrounding neighbours are too small and weak to make a stand. To resolve this imbalance these countries are forced to align themselves with the US, or as in the case of Ukraine, the EU, in order to make the playing field more even. Of course, alignment with the US is deeply unpopular to the world at large, paradoxically because they see the US as ‘the bully’ or thinking of itself as ‘the world’s policeman’. Such arguments provide no resolution to the problem of the balance of power between smaller states and superstates, nor the possibility that China and Russia will almost inevitably seek to take advantage of the weaknesses of more democratic states and their unwillingness to stand up to them.

The most alarming aspect of this new world is that, in twenty-five, maybe fifty years, it will be Russia that will have the single largest economy – along with China – and they will probably be calling the shots (no pun intended). Many in Europe fear the spread of Islam, and their fear may be justified if it concerns those involved in terrorism. What the fundamentalists should fear – along with us – is the new world order that is about to emerge. The freedoms that we cherish and that the Islamic fundamentalists despise may be swept away by these countries as they expand, but the paradox will be that none of us will gain from a ‘Mafia’ overlord and fledgling democracy overseen by a proletariat in the coming generation. You only have to look at human rights in China, and the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Urumqi, and what happened in Georgia and Azerbaijan to realise what the future may bring. These superstates are slowly expanding and will become larger as time goes on. We are feeding crocodiles here and weill will be on their menu in the future.

Former Justice Minister Ken Clarke: We should settle Islamic State jihadists back down in the UK.


WS Churchill - appeasers

Will returning jihadists really be met with this muddled response?

Former Justice Minister, Ken Clarke says “see what you can do to settle them down to stop them being seduced back into this kind of thing when they’re back in England”


Conservative MP Kenneth Clark was interviewed on the ‘World at One’ programme this lunchtime about the problems posed by the Islamic State and potential military intervention using British armed services. At the conclusion of the discussion, James Robbins asked Ken Clarke “Is it possible, desirable, legally possible to strip British jihadists of their citizenship?”. This was Ken Clarke’s reply:

“Countries cannot render their own citizens stateless and there are thousands of these people, there are more French than British, I think, a lot of Americans … all kinds of people there … if the reaction of the states of which they’re citizens is to start stripping them all of citizenship and somehow saying they should stay there, I’m sure the leaders of ISIS will be absolutely delighted

That far his argument made sense, though in reality no stabilising state wants those that are rebellious of nature as part of the mainspring of their new government, if indeed the Islamic State achieves an approach to stability. Equally, it is legally possible to rescind the British citizenship of a person who has dual-nationality, as many of the jihadists will possess two nationalities, the other being the country that they or their parents emigrated from.

What Ken Clarke said next, though, was quite disturbing ..

… what of course what you do have to do, when your citizens return, is firstly to decide if its safe to allow them to return if there is some legal way of temporarily delaying the worst ones, that is (er) worth looking at, if in fact there are people who have regretted it, had enough of it, want to get out of it, then you’ve got to make sure you know they’re coming back, see what you can do to settle them down to stop them being seduced back into this kind of thing when they’re back in England”

The interview can be heard on BBC iPlayer here. It begins 30′:03″ into the programme and the above quote can be heard between 34′:08″ and 35′:20″.

Where does Ken Clarke think these people have been? His response is more suited to football hooligans than those who have likely committed mass murder at the least. Islamic State atrocities include mass executions, ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, torture, sexual abuse, forced religious conversions – heaven knows what else – and Mr. Clarke’s response to such an abhorrent list of war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by the jihadists is that we should see what we can do “to settle them down to stop them being seduced back into this kind of thing when they’re back in England”?

We are back in the Afghanistan situation again. You may remember that British Muslims who went to Afghanistan and were caught ans suspected of joining the Taliban or, worse still, al Qaeda, were imprisoned in Guantanamo Detention Centre and then we – the British public – had to pay them seven figure sums each after they returned here because of their ‘human rights abuses’. That having been said, how do we differentiate between the jihadists who went out solely to see if the Islamic State is a good Muslim country or those who committed appalling atrocities? 

Would YOU want to live near to these jihadists?

It is essential that the government makes an urgent statement to detail how they will prevent these men from returning to the UK and committing further bloodshed. It isn’t just white Christians (or atheists for that matter) who are potential targets. Ordinary, law-abiding Muslims will be at risk, especially their young men who will be considered traitors in the eyes of the men returning from their failed jihad. 

The government must respond to this threat – the British public deserve to know how these potential terrorists will be dealt with if they return to the UK.

No! That’s my toy, not yours!

It's not yours ... leave it alone now!

It’s not yours … leave it alone now!


Many a parent will recognise the headline as the mantra of bossy toddlers seeking to reinforce the concept of ownership as a new-found device that is useful in exercising authority over their peers. Parents that want the best for their children will tell them to share and not to be silly, but the sad fact is that adults frequently behave like this as well.

The recently enacted Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has brought about a rash of this sort of behaviour. Those of faith have sought to defend their ‘property’ by claiming that marriage is enshrined in faith as being between a man and a woman and that the state should not attempt to re-write an institution that has existed ‘for thousands of years’. No, really, this is qualitative opinion central to the faith-based argument for marriage, from no lesser a person than Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who observed “For thousands of years, the union of one man and one woman has been the bedrock of societies across cultures, all around the world” and sadly this nonsense doesn’t stop with him. Lyle Shelton, from the Australian Christian Lobby, recently asserted “Our democratic freedoms give us the right to prosecute the case for retaining marriage”  though I am unaware that anyone is suggesting anywhere that marriage will not be retained.

The sad fact is that this simple act of bring equality to the civil act of marriage has spawned anti-gay legislation in Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Russia and many other states from the developing world. The focus in Africa has been supported by many right-wing, Christian organisations from the United States. In Russia it has been cynically used by President Putin to focus his nation on anything other than the amount of money he has embezzled from the state, or through oligarch’s who seek his continuing support. Whatever, the social hegemony of American born-again churches is crass and will be responsible for much harassment, imprisonment, torture and even deaths. Putin? I have long since referred to him as President Boot-in. Anyone who has worked for his country’s government all his life and is a billionaire is not worth consideration in terms of opinion.

The reality is that those of faith do not own marriage. The separation of church and state in terms of marriage came in 1837 when registry office marriages were introduced by act of parliament. It should be up to the relevant religious bodies as to whether they will conduct same-sex marriages, but the state has every right to legalise the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) bill as it has done. The petulant ‘it’s not yours, I won’t let you’ stance by those of faith does not do their intellect justice.

Me personally? I cannot see why a gay couple would want to do this. Marriage is a failing, outdated institution being increasingly abandoned by the straight community.




James Brokendream’s reinvention of the Nasty Party



The fact that Yashika Bageerathi has been deported is grossly embarassing for many people in the UK, who feel nothing but shame for this ideologically-driven decision by the immigration minister, James Brokenshire, who is more interested in appearing tough on immigration than dealing with cases on their merits.




Hundreds of foreign criminals won their appeals against deportation on the basis that deportation contravened their human rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Home Office data details over 60o appeals that were allowed by the immigration courts in a year spanning 2012-13, including 324 criminals who were allowed to stay in Britain because of their right to a family life.




Whether or not you agree with the deportation of Yashika Bageerathi, surely being allowed to finish her education here might have been a more apropriate way of dealing with this matter. James Brokenshire has acted in the most inhumane way, leaving this poor young woman alone in Mauritius, a country where recent research highlighted the following human rights problems:


  • Security force torture and abuse of suspects and detainees
  • Prison overcrowding
  • Harassment and intimidation of journalists
  • Official corruption
  • Violence and discrimination against women
  • Abuse and sexual exploitation of children
  • Discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS
  • Restrictions on labor rights and anti-union discrimination
  • Forced labor, including by children, and child labor




Yet it sounds so tranquil in the brochures … except for tourist Michaela McAreavey’s unsolved murder on the island, of course. 


Is voting a privilege, or a millstone around your neck?

Russell brand has figured largely in the recent debate about voting. In an interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, Brand admitted that he had never actually been to the ballot-box because of “absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class”.  Not being a great fan of Russell Brand, I winced a bit, because I too feel the same about the vote. Paxman later admitted that he did not vote in a recent election “because I thought the choice so unappetising”.

I am a great deal older than Brand, but my conversion came about 10 years ago, largely because of the voto en blanco in Spain, which is a similar tactic used on politicians there that are not respected and who the general public suspect of being on a carousel of corruption, just as a growing number of people here believe that the relationship between Parliament and big business is simply too cosy.

Nick Clegg waded in on his LBC radio show, saying that “we know that politics is not perfect, but at the end of the day it is the way that we decide how you pay your taxes, how we support our hospitals, our schools, whether we are going to war or not, how we deal with climate change. Of course it’s sometimes unedifying but this idea that you can sneer at the whole thing, dismiss everybody as somehow being rogues and charlatans and say, ‘Well, therefore I’m going to wash my hands of the whole thing,’ I think is a total abdication of responsibility.”

There are two basic flaws to Clegg’s argument: The first is that he argues his case on the basis of voting on a mandate, which neither the Tories nor the Libdems had when they came into power as everything was up for an unseeemly grab because the Conservative mandate ended up being blended with the Libdem mandate. His second was to preach about what he believes would be “a total abdication of responsibility”.

voter apathy or protest

As a politician, Nick Clegg is acutely aware that the turnout at the general election must be kept as far above 50% as possible. Since 1945 the turnout has varied between 83.9% and 59.4%. Having a respectable minority winning share of the vote is deemed to be acceptable, but if the turnout were to slip significantly below 50%, the politicians would unquestionably lose the argument, as they would have no mandate to govern.

Let’s be clear about this: what happened during the vote for Police and Crime Commissioners last year,  where the turnout was estimated at an average of about 14.5%, could not be allowed to happen at a general election because the ballot – and the mandate won by whichever party – would lose all credibility.

On BBC Radio 4’s PM, comedian Ken Dodd was asked what he thought of Brand’s stance, replying: “It’s stupid. To be able to vote is a great privilege.” The problem with Dodd’s assertion is that it takes no account of why voting is such a privilege. Surely it is because there is something worth voting for? Wouldn’t voting for someone largely on the basis that voting is a privilege play into the hands of politicians like Nick Clegg, who knows that the voting system would crumble to dust if the majority shunned it? Go on, give it a try in 2015!