Sillars undermines the Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign again …

Jim Sillars with Alex Salmond on the campaign trail. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Alex Salmond (L) campaigning with Jim Sillars

Yeah, but No, but Yeah – oh I so can’t believe he just said that!


Jim Sillars has no doubt initiated a probable exodus of big businesses from Scotland if the ‘Yes’ campaign wins the referendum by asserting that the newly independent Scotland would punish large commercial entities such as Standard Life and Royal Bank of Scotland by increasing the notice period for redundancy to two years. ‘The Scotsman’ reports that the former SNP deputy leader has threatened a day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote”. He continued “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks”.

It seems that shooting themselves in the foot is becoming a habit, with the ‘Yes’ campaign presenting themselves in the media as plainly naive. Sillars vowed that “oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland”. This threat alone will scare potential investors in Scotland, who won’t feel particularly comfortable with their assets being prised off them at below market value.

The simple fact is that the ‘Yes’ Campaign need to try and understand the harsh realities of world economics. It does not serve their interests to threaten and intimidate the very commercial organisations that may well bring them prosperity with their nation’s independence.

It doesn’t take much rational thought to work out that the vast majority of RBS customers are south of the border. The ‘vast majority’ by the way, means something like 95% of personal and mortgage accounts held with RBS were taken out in England and Wales. Why wouldn’t they move south?

The above threats by Sillars – and no doubt many other Scots nationalists, will come back to haunt them in future years. Sillars continually refers to oil but the fact is that it really won’t last forever. A well-established, diversified economy is essential in the modern world to avoid the fate of states that have a dominant, mainly one-dimensional economy and then hit trouble when the going gets tough. Sure 40 years is a long time to diversify, but it won’t help if international companies and investors are wary of your methods towards companies that are seeking to protect their own interests. I think Sillars needs to abandon his ‘trades union soap-box’ mentality and try to think like a successful politician.

Ask yourself this question: How many divorced couples retain a joint bank account? The answer to this is really, why do the SNP really feel that they can continue with the pound? Do they not understand that HM Treasury (UK) underwrites the Bank of England, who in turn safeguard many investments by guarantee. Why would the UK government – less an independent Scotland – continue to provide protection to customers with personal accounts with banks if those customers were in a foreign country? Why would the Bank of England continue to support private commercial banks based in Scotland?

Back to the divorced couples: Legal separation means just that, in every respect, when it comes to the breakdown of marriage. So it is when states cease to be in the same united framework.


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.

How many Khameneis exactly?

Not one to hide his light under a bushel but  under an amama, the Muslim headgear that many Americans seem to delight in describing as a ‘raghead’, the Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme ruler of Iran, surfaced today to delight everyone with his not-so-witty observations on the US military proposals for Syria.

“We hope that the new US attitude toward Syria would be a serious policy and not a media campaign. The latest developments, if they can be taken seriously, show that they have stepped back from the inconsiderate and mistaken actions that they had taken in the past few weeks.”

Most of us were more likely wondering about the rather puzzling inactivity of the US with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, truth be known. The Ayatollah has recently had some bother with media campaigns, hence his dander being slightly up.  Headgear is also part of the problem too.

Several hundred Iranian men uploaded images of themselves dressed as women, wearing headscarves and chadors, the flowing robes Iranian women wear, to highlight their anger that university student Majid Tavakoli was arrested having given a speech during the National Students Day protests in Iran.

Majid Tavakoli forced into female clothing.

Majid Tavakoli forced into female clothing.

State media  published pictures of him with a headscarf alleging: “This student dressed up as a woman to escape from the university campus.”

It is alleged that these pictures were either photoshopped or that after arresting Majid Tavakoli, they forced him into wearing female clothing to take the picture. He is regarded as the “honour of the student movement” by his peers.

An Iranian photographer took up the banner by asking Iranian men on social media to protest the treatment of Mr Tavakoli by the Iranian security forces. He invited them to post a picture of themselves in women’s clothing and it resulted in over 250 pictures. The spearhead of the spontaneous and peaceful outburst states that the arrest of Majid Tavakoli and the publishing of his picture in hijab (Muslim female covering) is a mode of “straining the student movement and the Green Movement in Iran,” as well as “belittling Iranian women.”

The statement adds: “To prove that we are behind Majid Tavakoli, to prove that there is nothing wrong with female clothing and the only thing that’s wrong is the compulsory wearing of hijab whether it is forced on the women of this country or upon Majid Tavakoli; to show that we are all together, post your picture in hijab!” The result was this:


Majid Tavakoli was arrested after a speech on December 8 during which he directly criticized senior Islamic Republic officials.

State media claim he was dressed in female clothing out of fear of arrest. Majid Tavakoli was also arrested three years ago after a protest rally against the presence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Amir Kabir University and was imprisoned for 15 months.

Incidentally, if you seek to follow Khamenei on Twitter, you will find there are no less than 14 personas there, but the real Ayatollah is easy to spot: the fakes are harmless and funny.



How many Syrian children need to die before this lot believe ending chemical attacks would be better than improving their chances in the 2015 general election?

Since the shameful defeat of the government’s proposal for military strikes in Syria, which was predicated on a limited attack to try and neutralise the regime’s chemical weapons ability, there has been much comment, most of it focusing on domestic political differences on the issue here in the UK.

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It has also raised Diane Abbott’s profile as an anti-military intervention spokesperson, although any such elevation of her opinion can logically be discounted by the fact that Ms. Abbott feels that, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, military intervention should only take place if Russia and China are in agreement. On that basis Ms. Abbott, intervention would rarely if ever take place and, to give an example, thousands of people living in Benghazi would likely be dead by now, as Gaddafi would not have been stopped and would have wreaked a terrible revenge on his rebellious city. We would also have seen thousands upon thousands of Libyans fleeing to Britain to claim political asylum as their lives in Libya would have been in terrible jeopardy. Our military intervention prevented this and stabilised Libya.
The equally inept Nigel Farage observed on the BBC that as Assad  may have chemical weapons, would it really be prudent to go ahead with a military attack as “who knows what he might do, we might very well make things worse, not better.” UKIP’s foreign policy on this matter thus appears to be to do nothing in case we provoke Assad into even more drastic, ghastlier measures! The electorate should take note of Mr. Farage’s outright refusal to commit us to acting in a responsible manner in terms of progressive military intervention. Clearly Mr. Farage prefers that the Libyan rebels claim political asylum here in the UK.
It is a great pity that those who supported the defeat of the military strike seem not to have listened to Dr. Rola, a humanitarian medical worker in Syria, who appeared on the BBC, lamenting the UK’s lack of support for the alleviation of human suffering. She is in Syria for the purpose of alleviating suffering, asking for us to intervene. She even invited Mr. Miliband and his family to spend a night in Syria to experience the horror themselves. The Zaatari refugee camp is the fifth biggest city in Jordan. Doesn’t Miliband recognise the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing the world? Can he not see that we will be faced with an impossible refugee situation at our borders?
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan houses 160,000 of the two million refugees.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan houses 160,000 of the two million Syrian refugees.

Maybe we should focus on how the people of Syria feel, because if they want our help and we don’t give it, then is it not likely that there will be an overwhelming need for them to further enlist the help of Al Qaeda to rescue them from Assad’s killing machine?  Our intervention in Libya doubtless prevented Al Qaeda from gaining any influence or power when the interim government was formed. In the case of Syria, we will have no say in the matter, a fact we may bitterly regret. What good, I ask, will that do for any of us in the long term?

A public apology to the victims of the regime in Syria


The vote in the UK parliament against the government’s motion on the principle of military intervention in Syria has made me ashamed to be British: 


Ashamed because the country that I love and have lived in for over 60 years has seen fit to abandon the vast majority of Syrian people to the wiles of your callous dictator. Ashamed because we will not stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries and accept our responsibility as a democratic nation. Ashamed because even at this late hour we will not even attempt to deter the Assad regime from gassing you and your children with chemical warfare.

It seems that our parliament is more interested in political jockeying for the upcoming general elections than making any attempt to help you, Assad’s victims, not least the two million of you who are refugees living in a vast camp in Jordan. Those Britons who will surely complain at the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees when Assad takes his revenge in the near future will get short shrift from me: What would they expect those so remorselessly persecuted to do, remain there and be slaughtered?


Not just our government, but the British people too have lost their moral compass as public opinion in the UK seems to be against military action to minimise your suffering. If we won’t get involved, even when children are being killed in their schools by chemical bombs raining down on them, then I start to question my own sense of being British any more. We have learned little from past failed attempts at appeasement: our government’s proposed action was to be limited to removing weapons of mass destruction only, but Britons now, in what I see as the most selfish action in generations, have decided that we will abandon the position that we would customarily hold, that using chemical weapons is completely unacceptable.

As our Defence Secretary Philip Hammond observed after the vote in parliament “The Assad regime is going to be a little bit less uncomfortable tonight as a result of this vote in parliament.”. The only winner from the outcome of this vote is Assad, it’s that simple, and the fact is that we as a nation don’t know yet what we have lost.