Editorials/Features

McCrone Report is Trending (Article By Solon Scotland)

This week the McCrone report has come to prominent news after being printed in full by The Scottish National Newspaper

‘Hushing Up’ of The McCrone Report Raises Fundamental Issues about Westminster Government in Relation to Scotland

The report was commissioned by The British Government in 1974 but it was ‘hushed up’ and unreleased in the public domain for around 30 years by successive Conservative and Labour Governments in the ‘national interest’ and because of its undoubted effect it could have on the validity of an independent Scottish economy.

This is short commentary piece on the Report by Solon Scotland (Scottish Politics News Commentator)

“The ‘hushing up’ of the McCrone Report by both Labour & Conservative Governments for around 30 years throws up fundamental questions about the very nature of Westminster Government in relation to every person in Scotland.” (Solon Scotland)

Placing aside the economic assessments in the McCrone Report (most of which profoundly boosted the valididity of a successful Scottish economy in the event of Independence) one of the most striking aspects of the report is that it was never made public and has never even now been afforded common knowledge amongst most people in Scotland – that raises fundamental questions about the nature of UK Government and Civil Service in relation to Scotland.

The report was never released in any public form because it would have been ‘bad good news’ for the United Kingdom union and economic/political structure, and ‘too good’ for the case supporting an independent Scotland. That is ultimately shocking..but not in any measure unsurprising?

Scotland in the 1970s and even into the 1980s had high levels of deprivation and poverty particularly in inner city areas like Glasgow where the highest concentration of population could be found. The British economy was also suffering as traditional industries such as mining, shipbuilding and steelworks  suffered job losses due to wordwide competition and arguable lack of investment by successive British Governments in favour of cheaper overseas supplies. At the same time conflict between unions and Government was at a highpoint to try and save these industries and jobs. The ‘stand off’ between unions and goverment in the 1970s Heath/Callaghan Labout Govts and then Margaret Thatchers’ Conservative Governments (from 1979) was one of the pre-eminent political focal points for almost two decades.

The very same era that saw the dismantling of uk manufacturing industry along with high levels of unemployment and uk social & economic inequality, arose at the very same time almost as the McCrone Report highlighted that the wealth from the North Sea was in essense potentailly ‘GARGANTUAN’!

That information simply could not be released in general public news since, a Scotland which voted consistantly for the socialist Labour party would have been outraged. Why would some of the money not have been used for the betterment of Scotland? …Why would it not have been used to invest in some of the traditional industries suffering, and which resulted in massive amounts of workers being laid off UK wide and heading Britian towards record unemployment levels?

Labour and Conservative governments both seem to have been complicit in ‘burying or hushing up the report’ until it was released under freedom of information around 30 years later?

It seems incredible that in the first instance the report would have been hushed up by a Labour Government because essentially the UK union and economy was more important than letting Scottish voters know about the positive economics of the report. Scotland was an absolute bastion of Labour support in the 1970s and 80s yet that was taken for granted and indeed subverted in favour of the overall uk union?

This raises fundemental questions for every single person in Scotland irrespective of party allegiance and opinion on independence. The allegation and one rightly promoted is that the facts will be hidden by inner British Government if it conflicts with the promoting the UK Union or effects the uk economy. If the economy or social circumstances of one of the four composite nations of the uk union suffers but it is seen in the interests of the overall structure, then it must be followed that UK Goverment has a policy of seeing that as a justified consequence of continuing to uphold the union?

That essentially means that whether you are Conservative, Labour, SNP, Green or Lib Dem in Scotland your economic and social needs are secondary and even if their is potential for say Scotland to benefit from a prticular plan, then it may be ‘shafted’ as they say, because that would affect the overall power structure!

A secondary point also here is that there would undoubtedly be many many socialist Labour supporting Scots in the 1970s and 80s who would have wanted some action in relation to this report in the 1970’s and 80s (even if it wasnt for full scottish independence)…yet the Labour Party leadership decided that this was not in UK Labour and UK Union interest? ….that is shocking and many will argue is a symptom of why Labour now finds itself as runner up in Scotlands Political map?

A new generation has grown up in Scotland since the 1990s who do not simply follow the automatic previous Labour/Socialism model, and a large section of the previous generation to that one have now lost all support for the Westminster establishment and they will never return to it. The only question is whether these two groups will continue to rule the Scottish Political landscape in its present form or will they be joined by even a significany minority of 2014 no voters to put Scotland first irrespective of party allegiance?

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Background & Links:

“The McCrone report is a document on the Scottish economy written and researched in 1974 on behalf of the British Government. It was composed by Professor Gavin McCrone employed at the Scottish Office. The document gave a highly favourable projection for the economy of an independent Scotland with a “chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe”. This led successive iterations of the British government to classify the McCrone report as “secret”. This was so to avoid fuelling independence sentiment in Scotland. The report became public in 2005 when new freedom of information legislation came into effect.”


Introduction from Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCrone_report


Read the full Report on our website:
http://scottishpoliticsnews.org/2019/02/27/the-mccrone-report/

Although the report was commissioned in 1974 it allegedly only came to public knowldge in 2005 when the SNP obtained several UK Government papers under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The full provisions of the Act came into force on 1 January 2005.

The McCrone Report

“The McCrone report is a document on the Scottish economy written and researched in 1974 on behalf of the British Government. It was composed by Professor Gavin McCrone employed at the Scottish Office. The document gave a highly favourable projection for the economy of an independent Scotland with a “chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe”. This led successive iterations of the British government to classify the McCrone report as “secret”. This was so to avoid fuelling independence sentiment in Scotland. The report became public in 2005 when new freedom of information legislation came into effect.”

Introduction from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCrone_report

Although the report was commissioned in 1974 it allegedly only came to public knowldge in 2005 when the SNP obtained several UK Government papers under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The full provisions of the Act came into force on 1 January 2005.

The National Newspaper printed this news feature on 27/02/19
Link: https://www.thenational.scot/news/17461406.this-is-what-westminster-doesnt-want-you-to-read-the-mccrone-report-in-full/

Mr Reid
SCOTTISH ECONOMIC PLANNING DEPARTMENT
New St Andrew’s House
St.James Centre, Edinburgh, EH13TA
Telephone 031-556 840. ext, 4017

J Garlick Esq
Cabinet Office
Great George Street
London SW1
23 April 1975

At the meeting which you held last week on various aspects of North Sea oil and devolution I suggested that I might send in the attached paper in the hope that it would serve as a starting point for any assessment the Unit may wish to carry out on the economics of Scottish Independence.

The Paper was written over a year ago in the weeks immediately before the February 1974 Election. This will be particularly apparent of page 5 where, of course, the Ministerial pronouncements referred to relate to the Conservative Government. I have not attempted to update any of the figures, since although there would be differences these do not seem to me to be such as to alter the argument.

As you will realise, the debate on Scottish nationalism has been founded to a surprising extent on economic arguments ad the purpose of this paper was to examine how far this was affected by North Sea Oil. The first part goes through most of the usual arguments which have been used against the Nationalists in the past with fairly convincing effect; the second part sets out the sort of economic strategy which an SNP Government might try to follow indicating both the dangers and the possibilities. As I said at the meeting, one can reach almost any conclusion depending upon the assumptions that are made about tariffs, a common currency, a Scottish Government’s spending priorities and its success in controlling inflation. My paper may give an SNP Government the benefit of too many doubts, but I was anxious to see whether a credible economic strategy could be put together which would appear to be more convincing in terms of solving Scotland’s traditional economic problems than the regional policies of the Unionist Governments have been up until now. I think the conclusion is that the most convincing way of taking the wind out of the SNP’s sails is by demonstrating that we now have policies which can make major in-roads into these problems.

When my paper was written it was classified “secret” and given only a most restricted circulation in the Scottish Office because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject. I am copying it now to Leo Pliatzky, Dick Ross, Jim Hamilton, John Liverman and Stuart Scott Whyte.

RGL McCrone
SECRET





THE ECONOMICS OF NATIONALISM RE-EXAMINED

It is commonplace that the discovery of North Sea oil and entry to the EEC are factors of major economic significance for Scotland.

Already both issues, especially the former, feature widely in the SNP’s election material. The purpose of this paper is to reassess the economic arguments for an independent Scotland in the light of these developments, especially the discovery of oil. It will be shown that the whole framework within which the economic implications of nationalism were argued has indeed been altered. The importance of this is probably greater than is recognised at present by the majority of the public and it may well be, therefore, that the discovery of North Sea oil will come to be seen as something of a watershed in Scotland’s economic and political life.

The case for Scottish nationalism is, of course, very much more than an economic issue. This paper makes no attempt to examine the wider questions. Suffice it to say that Scottish nationalism has been much more concerned with economic prosperity than nationalist movements in other countries. Unlike Wales there is no great cultural movement attaching to the preservation of a language.

The main cause of discontent is the country’s unsatisfactory economic performance over the last half century, especially the persistent unemployment and net emigration above all in the West of Scotland.

Poor social and environmental conditions, especially in and around the city of Glasgow, accompany this outdated economic framework and are as much a source discontent.

Despite regional policy and the efforts of planners, these problems have not been overcome, nor do they look as if they will be in the foreseeable future. The SNP have therefore based their campaign on the assertion that Scotland would be economically better off independent; and it is for this reason that budgetary estimates have always featured so large in the controversy. Yet in spite of Scotland’s undoubtedly poor economic performance the SNP case until recently lack credibility. Most people regarded both their statistics and arguments suspect, and they continued to believe that Scotland derived more economic advantage than disadvantage from the Union.

The importance of North Sea oil is that it raises just this issue in a more acute form than at any other time since the Act of Union was passed.

The Case Against Nationalism

The traditional economic case against nationalism has always been that a politically independent Scotland would be unable to gain sufficient economic sovereignty to solve her problems successfully.

This is partly a question of the scale of the Scottish economy, but more of the extent to which it has become integrated with that of the rest of the UK over the last 270 years.

Scotland needs a faster rate of economic growth than either she or the UK has had in recent years if she is to absorb her excess labour resources and thereby cut down both unemployment and migration.

There are three principal ways in which an independent Government might seek to bring this about. First it could seek to foster and protect Scottish industry by means of tariffs and import controls. But such measures would risk retaliation from England which, given Scotland’s close trade ties with England, could cause damage far in excess of any benefit that may be hoped for. Such policies would also be incompatible with continued membership of the EEC and withdrawal, especially with England, Wales and Ireland remaining members, would clearly have very damaging consequences.

Secondly, fiscal policies might be used to give especially large benefits to new industrial investment or tax relief and subsidies to existing industry. This might involve the imposition of a tax frontier at the border, as still exists between most EEC countries, but this need not to make it impractical. Such policies have been used with considerable success by the Irish Republic since the mid-1950s. The main disadvantage is that England would probably feel obliged to match the Scottish measures with equivalent in grants or tax allowances for industry in English and Welsh Development Areas. Up to now England has always been in a position financially where, if she wished, she could have more than matched any measures which a Scottish Government would be able to afford.

It is here that the budgetary position of a Scottish Government becomes important. Various studies, notably the Treasury’s Scottish Budget of 1967/68 and the work of the Kilbrandon Commission have shown that public expenditure per head in Scotland is generally above the UK average, whereas public revenue is Scotland is slightly lower, largely because Scottish incomes are below the UK average. The result is that budgetary estimates for Scotland show a proportionately larger borrowing requirement than for the UK as a whole. His position is confirmed in the most recent estimate of Scotland’s budgetary position carried out by the Economic and Statistics Unit of SEPD for 1971/72. This shows a Scottish current account surplus of £24m. but a net borrowing requirement of £447m. overall.

There are, of course, various ways in which this could be tackled. In the first place it is not necessary to balance the budget. To finance loans and various items of capital investment, particularly those which yield a return by borrowing is quite reasonable; other items too may be covered by borrowing from time to time particularly if an expansionary budget is necessary to generate a higher level of economic activity in the economy. For these various reasons the United Kingdom budget normally involves a net borrowing requirement and whilst this will normally be fairly small this is not always so; in the present year, for example, the borrowing requirement reached the record figure of £4,000m.

If allowance is made for the capital items that it would normally be reasonable to finance by loan, this would still lave a Scottish deficit of over £200m., a very similar figure in 1971/72 to what it was in 1967/68. Whilst such a figure could be covered if it arose only exceptionally, it could not be tolerated as a regular feature of the budget. It would involve a steadily increasing Scottish debt and it would have serious implications both for interest rates and monetary policy, unless a substantial part of it could be financed from abroad. A Scottish Government would therefore have to take steps to reduce the deficit either by raising taxes or cutting expenditure. Such measures are perfectly possible, and on the scale necessary, need not provoke a intolerable situation, especially if defence was one of the items cut; but they would create a background of acute budgetary stringency against which it is hard to see it being possible to provide a major fiscal stimulus to encourage economic expansion.

The third possible course of action would be to devalue the Scottish currency. This would stimulate economic activity by increasing the demand for exports and making Scottish goods more competitive against imports in their home market. In many respects devaluation would be the obvious measure for an economy in Scotland’s condition with persistent unemployment, a budgetary deficit and probably a serious adverse balance on the balance of payments.

Indeed, if the later was persistent, it might be that devaluation would be inescapable.

Exchange rate adjustment is, of course, the ultimate and most effective weapon by which an economically sovereign state maintains approximately full employment while at the same time avoiding balance of payments disequilibrium. Indeed, if Scotland could have devalued by a good thumping 2 percent and made the adjustment effective in terms of costs, this would be by far the best way of solving Scotland’s economic problems of the last two decades. It has been argued that the ‘regional problem’ only arises because exchange rate adjustment, the normal way of dealing with disequilibria between countries, is not possible between regions.

However, the economic case against Scottish nationalism has always at bottom come down to the proposition that an independent Scotland would not find it possible to carry out an effective devaluation.

To be effective, devaluation involves a country in making a cut in its real living standards at least until such time as production is able to catch up. But the Scottish labour market is so closely linked with that of the rest of the UK that it is hard to see how real earnings could be adjusted downwards without giving rise to the most serious difficulties.

For such a small country heavily dependent of international trade, devaluation would, of course, have serious inflationary consequences, since all imports would rise in price. Trade Unions are to a large extent on a Great Britain basis and it is hard to see them accepting a deliberate attempt to cut real wages in Scotland compared with England whatever the reason for it may be. Furthermore, even with independence, freedom of labour movement between England and Scotland would be likely to continue, a common language and two and a half centuries of free movement make this easy. Changes in real wage levels would therefore be likely to be reflected in migration figures and could lead to a shortage of certain types of skilled labour in Scotland even while a surplus among the less mobile unskilled persisted.

It is for these reasons that many economists have in the past concluded that Scotland, if she were independent, would probably be unable to devalue effectively against the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lacking this ultimate weapon of economic sovereignty and limited by the budgetary situation in the use she could make of fiscal policy, it did not seem that political independence would give Scotland sufficient economic sovereignty to enable her to tackle her economic problems successfully, At the same time, whatever the constitutional set-up, the Scottish economy would remain closely integrated with that of the rest of the UK and would be greatly affected by policy decisions taken in London, though as an independent state her ability to influence those decisions would be greatly reduced.




The Implications of North Sea Oil

The analysis in the last section is based on the situation as it appeared before the discovery of North Sea oil. Even after its discovery the full significance of North Sea oil was not immediately apparent and it still remains in large measure disguised from the Scottish public by the DTI’s failure to make provision for a proper Government return when the fourth round of licences was issued.

So far all that Ministers have said is that they expect North Sea oil to be yielding 70-100m. tons of oil per annum by 1980 and that on that basis the Government revenue from rent and royalties from the whole of the Continental Shelf including the gas fields in the southern sector may be of the order of £100m. per annum at that time. It has been explained that this estimate does not include the yield from ordinary taxation on the oil companies and it has been stated that licensing policy is currently under review but the significance of this has probably not been fully appreciated by the public.

The SNP countered these figures by claiming that North Sea oil should by 1980 be yielding a Government revenue of approximately £800m. and have charged the Government with giving Scottish oil away to the international companies ridiculously cheap. Up to now much of the Scottish public may have regarded the SNP figures as pretty wild and they have been publicly condemned as such by Ministers.

But authoritative support for the charge that the Government has failed to do a satisfactory bargain with the companies is provided in the criticisms of the Public Accounts Committee which so far remain unanswered. The example of Norwegian policy on Government revenue from oil likewise shows up the failure of British.

The Government’s reveiw of licensing policy has been in progress since the early summer of 1973. This has confirmed the total inadequacy of arrangements to secure Government revenue and shows that some of the most attractive measures to put this right would involve breaking the terms on which the licences were given. It is partly for this reason that the Government has so far failed to take a decision, the choice lying between carried interest (ie state participation), which would provide the biggest revenue and also give some power of control but would go back on the terms of the licences, and excess revenue tax, from which the return in 1980 would be some £200m. less but would be defensible in international law.

The DTI estimates of last summer showed that total Government revenue following adoption of these measures would have been between £800m. and £1,200m. a year in 1980 depending on the system used and the prices prevailing in 1980; today, following the huge increase in international oil prices of recent months the corresponding figures are in the range of £1,500m. to over £3,000m. Thus, all that is wrong now with the SNP estimate is that it is far too low; there is a prospect of Government oil revenues in 1980 which could greatly exceed the present Government revenue in Scotland from all sources and could even be comparable in size to the whole of the Scottish national income in 1970.

As well as the gain to the Government Revenue, North Sea oil will of course make a massive contribution to the balance of payments; indeed these two aspects are closely linked. At present world prices the expected output of 100m. tons of oil in 1980 is worth approximately £3,000m.; assuming price rises from the present £33 a ton to £51 a ton as in the Government revenue calculations the value could be as high as $5,000m. Part of this will, of course, be repatriated by the international companies in the form of profits distributed to their shareholders or reinvested in projects in other areas. The balance of payments gain to Scotland would therefore depend critically on the amount of Government revenue secured from the profits. Indeed, since none of the major companies operating in the North Sea are predominantly Scottish owned, the Government revenue would be the major element, apart from the expenditure of the companies on goods and services produced in Scotland, which would accrue from the value of oil produced as a balance of payments gain. Thus assuming measures which would yield Government revenue of the scale referred to in previous paragraphs, plus some additional revenue to shareholders in Scotland and to suppliers of equipment, then the net balance of payments gain might be expected to lie very approximately in the range of £2,000m. to £3,500m. a year, depending on prices and the share of the Government ‘take’.

It is not possible to compare these figures with an accurate estimate of Scotland’s present balance of payments position. From the state of Scotland’s economy one would expect a balance of payments deficit on current account and a rough comparison of income and expenditure estimates for GDP suggest that this could be of the order of £300m. a year in 1970/71.

Plainly this is a most unreliable figure and it will vary from year to year, but it is probably sufficient to suggest the orders of magnitude.

What is quite clear is that the balance of payments gain from North Sea oil would easily swamp the existing deficit whatever its size and transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic surplus.

All the above figures are, of course, based on the estimated output of 100m. tons of oil in 1980. This was the DTI’s revised estimate in the early summer of 1973.

Already it is beginning to look as if these estimates may be too conservative. Recent finds and the plans of companies appear to indicate that the Shetland basin may prove very productive indeed. Zetland County Council’s consultants worked on the assumption that 70m. tons a year might actually be piped ashore in the county. It is now known that Shell expect to land 50m. tons a year through their own pipe alone and pipelines may also be expected from Total’s Alwyn field, Conoco’s Hutton and the recent BP and Burmah finds. In addition to this there are, of course, substantial finds further south, particularly BP’s Forties field and Occidental’s Piner. Whether or not this, plus any new finds that are made, result in the 1980 estimate of 100m. tons being exceeded largely depends on how quickly newly discovered fields are brought into production, but it does now seem extremely likely that production during the 1980s will use well above 100m. tons a year with consequent increases in revenue and gain to the balance of payments.

Can one be certain that the oil is without doubt a Scottish asset or, even if it is, that these substantial revenues and balance of payments advantages would indeed accrue to an independent Scotland? Clearly these questions raise complicated issues in international law which could, if allowed, occupy the legal profession for many years. Two possible lines of argument may be expected: either that Scotland should pay England some compensation for appropriating the most productive part of the Continental Shelf, or that the whole shelf should be regarded as the common property of the nations of the former United Kingdom with revenue distributed in accordance with some population based formula irrespective of where oil is discovered. As regards the first of the arguments, the prospective return from oil revenue would at the very least be one of the factors taken into account in determining the financial settlement between the two countries when they become independent. To argue the second would be directly counter to the line that the UK Government has taken with the EEC, that the resources of the Continental Shelf are as much a national asset as are those on land, like coal mines, and that there is therefore no question of the Europeanisation of North Sea oil.

Disputes on these matters might well occasion much bitterness between the two countries, but it is hard to see any conclusion other than to allow Scotland to have that part of the Continental Shelf which would have been hers if she had been independent all along.

There might be some argument about where the boundary between English and Scottish waters would lie. At present this is considered to be along the line of latitude which lies just north of Berwick on Tweed, and it might perhaps be held that it should run NE/SW as an extension of the Border. This could have the effect of transferring the small oilfields in the south, Auk and Argyll, to the English sector, but would not affect the main finds.

It must be concluded therefore that large revenues and balance of payments gains would indeed accrue to a Scottish Government in the event of independence provided that steps were taken either by carried interest or by taxation to secure the Government ‘take’. Undoubtedly this would banish any anxieties the Government might have had about its budgetary position or its balance of payments. The country would tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kroner. Just as deposed monarchs and African leaders have in the past used the Swiss franc as a haven of security, so now would the Scottish pound be seen as a good hedge against inflation and devaluation and the Scottish banks could expect to find themselves inundated with a speculative inflow of foreign funds.

II A Policy for Development

The situation described in the first part of this paper is indeed an astounding reversal of the problems which are usually considered in a Scottish or British context. But it could nonetheless give rise to some serious difficulties and would require careful handling if Scotland was really to derive maximum benefit from it. It is, of course, perfectly possible that these difficulties would not be overcome and that an independent Scotland despite its wealth would continue to have an unsatisfactory economic performance. It takes more than money to eliminate the traditional problems of the Scottish economy and nationalist movements, dependent as they are on strong emotional pressures, have not always been notable for their economic realism. In this respect the example of Ireland’s poor economic performance between 1922 and 1956 comes immediately to mind and the SNP is already showing signs of making promises which could be an embarrassment to its economic management.

Nevertheless it is obvious that the surpluses from North Sea oil would open up new opportunities for a nationalist Government. The purpose of this second part of the paper is therefore to consider in very brief outline some of the policies a nationalist Government could follow to try to bring about the development and prosperity of the country as a whole.

Scotland’s central economic problem is to secure a faster rate of economic growth so that she can raise income levels and absorb the excess labour which presently appears as high unemployment and emigration. As has been explained, this is a situation which would normally point to devaluation as a possible remedy. North Sea oil, however, by giving the country a chronic balance of payments surplus, would rule out any possibility of devaluation. Indeed, it is hard to see how an upward valuation of the currency could be avoided. Obviously this pressure should be resisted as far as possible; but unless there was a remarkable change in the strength of sterling, it must be expected that the Scots pound would rise in relation to it fairly soon after independence, especially if the latter continues its downward slide. A revaluation would give rise to none of the difficulties which were argued earlier to apply to a Scottish devaluation.

Since the effect would be to reduce prices and raise incomes there would not be the same resistance to making it effective in Scotland. An exchange rate of £1 Scots to 120p sterling within two years of independence therefore seems quite probable.

This exchange rate movement would improve Scottish real incomes; imports would all become cheaper, and GDP per head in Scotland, which would include the value of the oil produced, would rise smartly. The gap between Scottish income per head and English would probably soon be eliminated and might well be reversed. The danger is that with a rising currency Scotland’s traditional economy would find it more and more difficult to compete; manufactured exports would be priced out of foreign markets and imports would become highly competitive at home; tourists would find that the rate of exchange made Scotland a very expensive country for holidays; and Scottish farmers would find that the EEC’s Common Agricultural Policy gave them a much less satisfactory level of support than expected. Thus there would be grave risk that the economy would be driven more and more to depend on the oil industry and other activities would tend to wither.

But while oil would give Scotland a good income, it could never be an adequate source of employment with the rest of the economy in decline.

Scotland, therefore, could face the danger of prosperity coupled with continuing or even worsening unemployment and emigration.

To counteract this situation it would be essential to try to keep the surpluses on the balance of payments down and thereby reduce the upward pressure on the exchange rate. This could involve extensive lending abroad, whether to England, the EEC or under-developed countries. Such lending could well be in Scotland’s interest rather than face the prospect of an intolerably high exchange rate; it might also do much to help cement relations with other EEC countries and, coupled with the supplies of oil for export, would make Scotland a highly desirable member of EEC with a strong bargaining position.

The first priority, however, would be to spend the surpluses as far as possible in developing Scotland’s domestic economy and providing a modern infrastructure. The following paragraphs suggest how this might be done.





a. Manufacturing Industry

Output per head in most sectors of Scottish industry is well below European levels. This is largely because the British economy has invested much less than other European countries over the last 25 years. A substantial increase in manufacturing investment is therefore necessary if this is to be put right. Only then will Scottish industry be able to compete effectively with other members of EEC at anything other than low exchange rates.

Part of the reason for the low investment in Scotland in the past has been the persistence of ‘stop-go’ in the UK economy. Every time investment has begun to rise satisfactorily, as it was doing in 1973, the emergence of a balance of payments deficit has forced the Government to take strong deflationary measures with the result that the investment boom has petered out again. Scotland made good progress in 1973, but ideally from her point of view the 5 per cent growth rate needed to go on for another couple of years. As an independent state, Scotland’s balance of payments position would enable her to break out of the ‘stop-go’ cycle and a sustained rate of growth could be planned on the basis that it could be carried on for at least a decade.

The strength of the currency coupled with the budgetary surplus would help to keep interest rates down and there would be no need for sudden increases in taxation or massive cuts in public expenditure.

Admittedly, since Scotland is so closely tied to the English market, her economy would continue to be affected by measures taken in London, but this effect would diminish the more Scotland expands trade with other EEC countries. Furthermore, it would be quite proper for a Scottish Government to take countervailing measures to stimulate the Scottish economy at times when England was going through a recession.

Such measures would help to keep Scottish output up and would help the English economy by reducing the Scottish balance of payments surplus. It can be expected therefore that the prospect of sustained expansion and an end to ‘stop-go’ would do more than anything else could both to raise investment in domestic industry and to encourage foreign investment to come to Scotland.

However, this expansionary macroeconomic policy would need to be backed up by firm regional policy measures. The position in West Central Scotland has deteriorated vis-a-vis the rest of Scotland over the last decade and this is likely to be even more accentuated by North Sea oil developments.

Furthermore, as an independent state, it would seem to be quite inappropriate for Scotland to regard the whole of the territory as subject for regional policy. Something along the lines of the following package of measures therefore seems to be most appropriate:

i. For Scotland as a whole the Regional Development Grant would be abolished, but to stimulate investment Corporation Tax would either be abolished or reduced to a purely nominal rate. This would have the effect of more or less removing the tax from industry’s retained profits while leaving distributed profits taxed roughly as they are at present. As a national fiscal policy measure it would not come within the control of the EEC’s ceilings on regional aids. The cost of abolishing Corporation Tax would be £120m.

ii. West Central Scotland would be scheduled as Scotland’s Development Area and the definition could be extended to certain smaller areas in the Highlands and Islands if necessary. Within this area there would be a 20 per cent Regional Development Grant paid as at present in addition to (i) above.

iii. There would be a Scottish Development Authority covering the whole of Scotland but with instructions to give particular priority to West Central Scotland.

Its budget would at least be on a scale equivalent to the funds which previously went into REP and SIDO. It would be empowered to give discretionary grants and loans and would be equipped to provide advice to companies. It would be responsible for working out a strategy for developing Scotland’s domestic industry as well as promoting foreign investment. The HIDB would continue to operate with its own much wider remit in the Highlands.

iv. Steps would be taken to strengthen the shipbuilding industry by adopting a scheme for insurance against inflationary risk as operated in France and approved by EEC. The new SDA would be especially charged with the preparation of proposals for the modernisation of the industry.

b. Construction

The construction industry employs a substantial part of the labour force and its fluctuations have been a major factor in unemployment. In 1971 no less than 25,000 of the 100,000 unemployed were registered as construction workers.

In times of boom the shortage of skilled labour in the industry becomes a serious bottleneck in the economy although coupled with continuing large numbers of unskilled unemployment.

The industry does not play as large a part in the British economy as in most other European countries and this coupled with the manifest need for urban rebuilding and house replacement suggest that, with the proper policy, the industry could play a much larger part in providing steady employment for the Scottish labour force. Indeed, if the Scottish construction industry employed 10 per cent of the labour force, the EEC average, this would mean employment for an additional 40 thousand.

With North Sea oil revenues, public expenditure on construction projects could be greatly stepped up and a major operation should be mounted to carry on the rebuilding of Glasgow and do much more than has been done in the past for environmental recovery. This would probably require a special Environmental Recovery Agency to assist the local authorities rather in the way that SSHA operates.

Housing policy has been bedevilled in the past by the subsidisation of certain types of housing. This has led to the colossal public housing sector in Scotland with the emphasis on quantity rather than quality. It seems desirable to subsidise housing for many years to come both to improve the living conditions of the Scottish people and to keep up the demand on the construction industry. Instead of subsidising rents at one extreme and at the other giving tax relief on mortgages which is greater the larger the mortgage, it would seem much more appropriate to give the assistance to individuals regardless of the type of house they occupy or whether they are tenants or owners.

This could probably be done under the new tax credit system and it would have the effect of providing a housing subsidy or negative tax to those with low incomes and a housing tax allowance to others. In this way demand for housing as a whole could be encouraged while avoiding the distortion between different types of housing which has been such a feature of the past. It would be likely that local authority housing would then gradually decline in importance and housing associations would assume greater prominence. As competition between different forms of housing increased, so the quality of housing would improve.


c. Service Industry

In the past service industry has received much less assistance from regional policy than manufacturing.

In part this is right because many service activities, such as medical services, education, accountants, distribution, are governed simply by local demand. But there are service activities, notably major offices, which have a choice of location and every effort should be made to attract them to areas where labour is available.

Following independence the increased Government activity would largely wipe out any spare labour resources in Edinburgh, but major efforts would be needed to promote commercial and office development in Glasgow. The Scottish Development Authority should be empowered to offer assistance, comparable in scale to that available to manufacturing industry, to encourage such development in the Glasgow conurbation and the system of property rating should be revised, if not abolished, to prevent high rates being a brake on commercial development as they have been in the past.

Tourist development would obviously assume major importance for any independent Scotland and the financial resources available to the Tourist Board could be increased.

d. The Pace of North Sea Oil Development

On the face of it the pace of development of North Sea oil appropriate for Scotland would be very different from that now being demanded by the UK.

Apart from the need to avoid piling up excessive surpluses, Scotland would wish to extend her North Sea oil revenue over a much longer period than the 30 or so years which seems likely at presently planned rates of extraction. It is also desirable to avoid the frenzied peaks of activity which seem likely in Shetland, the Moray Firth and Loch Carron on present plans.

These will impose immense infrastructure demands, lead to a substantial inflow of population and leave in their wake problems of readjustment and unemployment which it may take years of regional policy to overcome. In addition the contribution of Scottish Industry to oil developments, which is so far disappointing, might be increased substantially if the whole programme is not required to go at the maximum possible speed.

From a purely Scottish point of view this suggests that a production flow of, say, 50m. tons a year might be ideal.

Even this would be five times Scotland’s present consumption and yield and annual revenue of between £700m and £1,500m.

However one cannot look at the Scottish position in isolation.

If, because of action in the Middle East, there is a serious energy shortage in Europe, Scotland would undoubtedly suffer severely from the resulting slump. It would therefore be in Scotland’s interests to increase her oil production well beyond what would otherwise seem desirable. If however there is no serious shortage in physical terms, merely a crisis of price, then action by Scotland is not going to affect the international price of oil, nor will it matter to the other countries what the source of their oil is.

e. Inflation, Income Policy and Training

The strength of the Scottish exchange rate and the low interest rates which would result from the budgetary and balance of payments position would do much to reduce inflationary pressure. A major part of the British inflation has resulted from the downward drift of the currency and the consequent rise in import prices. The absence of this, relaxations in taxation and subsidies for housing would no doubt help to reduce the pressure of wage increases.

Nevertheless as Scotland moved nearer full employment serious shortages of certain types of skilled labour would occur and this would tend to produce acute inflationary pressure.

Some form of incomes policy is clearly going to be a continuing feature of advanced economies and would be essential in Scotland if the economy was not to price itself out of international markets. It is important to recognise, however, that the labour shortages which give rise to the pressure could be avoided to a considerable degree if training schemes were more flexible and if a substantial increased effort was put into retraining. A full-scale examination of training is clearly an early priority.

The European Community Membership of the EEC affects the economics of Scottish independence in several important respects. It guarantees access to English and Continental markets in a way which would not be possible otherwise. Without EEC Scotland would always run the risk that England might find it expedient to impose an import surcharge, a quantitative control or even a tariff on goods coming from Scotland. It was largely to eliminate this that Scotland accepted the Union of 1707. New EEC rules would have the same effect and for all nine member states. In the unlikely event of England leaving the EEC, Scottish access to the other countries could in time largely compensate for any restrictions that might arise on English trade.

Access to EEC should also help to provide a major stimulus to Scottish industrial investment. The EEC is not only a bigger market than the UK but its economy has been much more buoyant than that of Britain. There is no doubt that the exclusion of the United Kingdom had a damaging effect on investment and that foreign firms in particular preferred development within EEC. To gain the full advantage of this stimulus from membership it will, of course, be necessary to have a stable domestic economy.

High rates of inflation and a declining currency such as the UK has had recently would do much to discourage foreign companies from coming to Scotland.

North Sea oil could have far-reaching consequences for Scottish membership of EEC because of the tremendously increased political power it would confer. Without oil other members might pay little enough regard to Scotland; her voting power would not be large and it might indeed be argued that she could exert more leverage on the Community as part of the United Kingdom. As the major producer of oil in Western Europe, however, Scotland would be in a key position and other countries would be extremely foolish if they did not seek to do all they could to accommodate Scottish interests. For Scotland the net cost of Common Agricultural Policy, which features so large in British discussions would be at most some £40m. a year, a small sum compared with the balance of payments gain from North Sea oil. The more common policies come to be decided in Brussels in the years ahead, the more Scotland would benefit from having her own Commissioner in the EEC as of right and her own voice in the Council of Ministers instead of relying on the indirect, and so far hardly satisfactory, form of vicarious representation through UK departments.

Conclusion This paper has shown that the advent of North Sea oil has completely overturned the traditional economic arguments used against Scottish nationalism. An independent Scotland could now expect to have massive surpluses both on its budget and on its balance of payments and with the proper husbanding of resources this situation could last for a very long time into the future.

Wealth does not automatically mean full employment and the end of net emigration. But provided sensible policies are pursued, it is possible to see how this situation could be used to re-equip Scottish industry and renew outworn social capital thereby providing the expansion necessary to absorb Scotland’s excess labour and the increase in productivity required to raise incomes. Thus, for the first time since the Act of Union was passed, it can now be credibly argued that Scotland’s economic advantage lies in its repeal. When this situation comes to be fully appreciated in the years ahead, it is likely to have a major impact on Scottish politics, since it is on social and political grounds alone that the case for retention of the union will in future have to be based.

Nationalist policy as outlined in this paper can, of course, be regarded as extremely selfish.

Undoubtedly it is, but it can be argued in reply that so long as Scottish GDP per head is only 70 per cent of the European average, the unemployment and emigration rates among the highest and the country regarded by the EEC as one of its worst problem regions, then Scotland is justified in using her own resources to rectify these problems rather than relying on the generosity of others at least until she has managed to catch up.

Yet undoubtedly the greatest weakness in the nationalist economic case is that Scotland, even with its oil, cannot expect to prosper in isolation.

Economic conditions in Europe and above all in England, with whom Scotland will remain closely tied in trade, are of particular importance. Even with greater diversification of Scottish trade to Europe and to North America, an impoverished England or one perpetually suffering the rigours of demand restraint would have most serious consequences for the Scottish economy. Britain is now counting so heavily on North Sea oil to redress its balance of payments that it is easy to imagine England in dire straits without it. The oil prices since the Yom Kippur war make this a much more serious matter than could have been imagined before; and it is now likely that transfer of North Sea oil to Scottish ownership would occasion much bitterness in England if not an attempt to forcibly prevent it. England would, of course, be no worse off than most of the Continental EEC countries in this respect; indeed, probably there are better chances of finding oil in the Celtic Sea or the English Channel than are open to most of them. If therefore the other countries can adjust to the new energy situation, England should be able as well.

Nevertheless it is now clear, as perhaps never before, that Europe could bring about its economic ruin by disunity. If supplies of oil become seriously restricted or the burden on the balance of payments of importing countries proves more than the international monetary system can cope with, a serious breakdown in the economic system of Western Europe could well result.

This danger imposes serious international responsibilities on those European countries which are likely to be exporters of energy, Norway, Scotland if independent, and Ireland where oil is likely to be discovered. A spirit of European co-operation is not very evident yet either in discussions or plans for the development of energy and the rather nationalistic attitude so far followed by Britain would hardly be a good example to an independent Scotland. Yet the situation offers the energy producers a real opportunity to contribute to the economic strength of Europe and in so doing to ensure their own prosperity; if instead they retreat into narrow nationalism, developing their energy resources with regard to their own interests alone, they could undermine the whole European economy and seal their own fate in the process.

Perhaps the most important conclusion is that time is now extremely limited. British regional policy has been in operation for forty years and the annual cost of the measures applied to Scotland is now about £100m. a year. But, although there have been undoubtedly been notable achievements and the Scottish economy would have been in a much worse state without such a policy, there is still little prospect that it will solve the problems of West Central Scotland in the foreseeable future. High hopes have been held out for European regional policy but any impact from this is likely to be very small for a long time to come. In much the same way agitation for a workable form of political devolution has persisted amongst a substantial part of the Scottish electorate for a considerable time but without any practical result so far and it is still far from clear whether anything will stem from the consideration of the Kilbrandon Report.

If, in five years’ time North Sea oil is contributing massively to the UK budget, while the economic and social condition of West Central Scotland continues in the poor state that it is today, it would be hard to imagine conditions more favourable to the growth of support for the nationalist movement.

Very determined steps to urgently transform economic conditions in Scotland will therefore be necessary and the Scottish people will have to be persuaded that their problems really have received the attention and expenditure they deserve if this outcome is to be avoided.




Brexit Deadlock; Rule Britannia rhetoric is making the waves bigger?

Opinion Piece – Solon Scotland – Political Commentator

Watching ‘The Brexit Never Ending Negotiating Story’, it never ceases to astonish how many of those in power who support Brexit (and presumably well educated) resort to hyperbole of Rule Britannia, Lead The World, We Won the War blah blah blah, over actual facts and common sense?

The latest classic we have is Conservative Brexit MP Mark Francois who is quoting the war and not bowing down to Germans…yes this is an exact quote. “My father was a D-Day veteran, he never submitted to bullying by any German. Neither will his son”. https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1088814152037138435

How many times will we hear Government ministers like Liam Fox claim that leaving the EU will lead to a brave new world of the UK leading the economic world and securing new trade deals? That is rhetoric from the days of the Commonwealth and British Empire from hundreds of years ago. It is gone but they choose to promote that as a way of glorifying the GREAT BRITAIN project. THIS IS HISTORY NOT MODERN DAY FACT. We live in a world of Globalization where we are one of the many, not the leader of the many. If you want to get really harsh about British History, the British Empire and Commonwealth was built on the oppression of the indigenous people in countries all over the world. It was based on class and race ideas of supremacy. It has also been whitewashed from being promoted in mainstream British History. Affluent Scots also played a role in that, but as in the 1707 Act of Union ordinary people had little power, with money and privilege leading the way. ….and yes these two areas are another whole debate ripe for great twitter insulting and abuse!!!

Back in the present however, the UK is leaving the EU – that is a fact as long as the current Conservative Government is in power. The question is how it finally manages that leaving process, the exact date it occurs and what form the future deal and relationship with the EU takes.

As it stands, based on what exists now as fact, the Government say the UK is leaving with or without a deal. (That is not to say that brexit couldnt collapse or that a change of government/government policy is impossible. Economic implosion could even yet affect brexit since we are still in a ‘phoney war’. (If you think the negotiation period has been a shambles, wait till you see the actual implementation period?…An extension to the leave date is also obviously a strong possibility but that is still a precursor to “we are leaving, the people have spoken”).

Why the rhetoric of a marginal 52-48% is so strong is another whole analysis! The likeliest answer to that is, it is convenient for those in power who have always wanted to break ties with the EU irrespective of economic setbacks. The other factor is undoubtedly those again in power who seek to drastically curb and control immigration from the EU.

How that solves the fact that more people arrive in the UK from outside the EU is another debate, yes on top of the other, other debates!

Migration Figures 29/11/18: https://news.sky.com/story/non-eu-migration-to-uk-highest-for-14-years-but-eu-migration-slows-11566853

THE GOVERNMENTS OWN ECONOMIC ANAYSIS CONFIRMS ALL FORMS OF BREXIT WILL CAUSE AN ECONOMIC HIT TO THE UK ECONOMY

Brexit will make UK worse off, government forecasts warn: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46366162




Their is no brexit without an economic loss, the worst losses are obviously under no deal.
If people in power or in the country at large believe in brexit as a retaking of power then fine if that is your reasoning, we live in a democracy, but why are the Government selling it as some kind of economic utopia – that is lies! Why are you selling it as Rule Britannia – why would the UK have more rights on the way europe and the world trades as opposed to other nations?

Lastly, from Scotlands’ postion and the Scottish Governments more aptly, the time is coming when a definitive stance on brexit must be made, otherwise the danger is brexit will rankle on in debate for years and people will become apathetic and Scotland will just sit in the backseat to wherever the driver takes us.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Scotland is still a country in its own right. The UK is technically not a nation, it is made up of 4 nations in a union. To use the claim that we voted as the UK means to refute the fact that Scotland is a country? It is also a country with a parliament and that parliament has a duty to serve its electorate. The democratic majority in Scotland voted to remain in the EU at massively higher numbers than in the UK as whole. if the claim is that the figure is irrelevant in a UK vote then the next step is abandoning the Scottish Parliament as meaningless?

In many peoples’ opinion in Scotland the time has passed to go along with the brexit journey further. The daily arguments and rhetoric are embarrassing and a political fiasco.

It is perhaps time for the Scottish Government to lay the cards on the table – stick or fold. The process towards a new Scottish Independence Referendum must be announced. That doesnt even necessarily mean saying straight away about the date, since the UK Government will presumably need to authorise it and will most likely stall. The Scottish Government and Parliament should however state its postion on record…if it is the postion that Scotland must remain in the EU full stop as a result of the economic effects then you have to state ‘the only way that this is possible is for independence and that is what we recommend to the Scotiish People as the elected Government of Scotland. The UK is leaving the EU and we are now powerless to stop that position as the Government of the UK have committed to Brexit’.

Whether Independence is then afforded a referendum and voted on is for future debate, that is democracy, but the process must be formally initiated, otherwise the independence position may become embroiled in the very same Brexit Never Ending Story?

There has abeen a cataclysmic change of circumstances since the 2014 indy ref – Scotland is being removed from the EU – Scotland did not vote for that position in 2014 and has reaffirmed that in subsequent elections to the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

..and one final view. It is highly probable that more than 50% of Scots believe in an Independent Scotland controlling its own affairs, but that is not the same as getting people to vote for it, that is why the figures stand at around 45-55. People need to be confident to change if they are not in the yes camp, they need to be given a reason to support it and to vote for it, they need to be given confidence.

The safety you know is the status quo, irrespective of how bad it is performing for many in the middle ground, the unknown is to choose to remove from that and that is difficult for many people, particularly older people. The Scottish Government and Parliament need to start putting parliamentary statutes in place before a referendum date such as enshrining benefits and particularly retirement pension into law in a future independent Scotland. For example if Scotland was ever independent it should be enshrined in law that The UK Retirement Pension will be a legal right at the same rate or better as it would be in the uk for the rest of a person’s life.

I am free for more rambling…watch this space!!!




Why am I Called Solon Scotland you ask? That is my stage name, and Solon was a founding father of modern democracy in ancient Greece. Im no Expert on the subject though as I wasn’t there at the time!

BBC in Big Brother Enforcement Move?

News Article Opinion by Solon Scotland

BBC Steps into Dangerous Territory as Two Prominent Scottish Independence Platforms are affected by You Tube Copyright Violation Complaints.

Two pro independence on line platforms have seen their You Tube channels either shut down or suspended this weekend in an apparent copyright complaint made by the BBC that news items have been uploaded and breach BBC copyright.

This will raise alarm bells amongst small media companies and individual bloggers and social media news commentators in a move which seems destined to question BBC impartiality and raise serious questions about copyright in relation to what is effectively the state news broadcaster.

BBC will cite that in simple copyright terms that you cannot upload or reproduce or use other individuals/companies content without their authorisation, otherwise you would likely be breaching their copyright. This seems straightforward for Katy Perry’s latest single, or a photographers personal work or a journalists individual news item, but a snippet of BBC news uploaded to social media is now in the same copyright field?

In the first instance the BBC is funded by the people of the U.K. via the licence fee so some will argue their is a case for some ownership of that said content within reason and in the public interest/fair use? Yes it can’t be reproduced or uploaded for financial benefit or misuse or damage to the brand, but it is news that we all technically can claim some ownership of, and secondly we pay for it to be produced at source as licence payers.

There may be arguments that the BBC is an individual company, that it is a trademark etc., and that it is entitled to use copyright protection the same as any other individual or organisation but this is dangerous territory to simply use the copyright laws by wholesale proxy in an area which is open to dispute?

Why did the BBC not contact the accounts in question directly in the first instance to advise of a copyright infringement and ask for removal?

Was their a political motivation in the action? if so this issue will surely escalate over time with a further damaging of public confidence in both the BBC and mainstream media.

There are now questions to be asked from a political perspective and public right to know standards.

Is this a policy which has been in 100% use against any violations long term on other accounts, or have the two sites in question been targeted specifically?

If it is not a wholesale accross the board policy then someone in authority at the BBC should be asked to answer some questions about this case and their policy in general.

Has the BBC been prodded from political sources to remove the said material in question as it would be beneficial for certain groups not to have it viewable to a large audience? It is highly unlikley this would be admitted (even if true) and it is practically impossible to prove in any case without a first party statement, but the suspicions will arise and increase.

If the BBC are saying no one can now upload any news item and that this is simply copyright rules being enforced so that they can protect their brand, then they are going to be extremely busy and indeed they may find a range of wider conflict arising in terms of social media and copyright interaction. Social media and sharing in relation to copyright has massive overlaps. The action taken in this instance has done nothing for the BBC Brand reputation and has not technically protected copyright from financial deficits either. The news article in question could easily be worked around by third parties so it seems a pointless action by BBC unless it is politically motivated?

The internet is awash with shared material from third party sources, indeed many will argue that news reproduction isn’t the same ball park as blatantly using a photographers image, a bands music or a writers words….and again the key point here is that we are talking about the news media from the company that we personally fund from taxes via the government.




Another question that must be asked is, why from a public relations perspective would they not in the first instance have directly contacted the accounts in question and asked for removal of items deemed copyright infringements? By going directly to You Tube and citing a number of violations in one instance they would know that the channel in question might well be shut down or at least suspended. Where is the attempt at mitigation as a first step and which is normally made in minor copyright infringements?

Again one might ask, is this a political motivated instance, hiding behind strict copyright and You Tube rules conveniently?

If that is the case there are much bigger more serious questions at play which not only affect these two accounts, they affect news and social media in general, they affect the very nature of freedom of speech, democracy and open media.

By choosing not to contact the individuals they effectively by-passed the opportunity of mitigation for the accounts in question, and worse the You Tube accounts if completely closed could loose other valuable information on their channels.

Would this course of action work in any other area of law eg a crime, …no chance for redress or discussion…bang you are out of the game?

There is also a question of what this particular policy achieves in terms of copyright protection since it is almost unenforceable and has no financial benefit to the BBC? Minor news stories will be almost worthless within a day? Who is going to buy old news if anyone?

Thousands of people on social media will also be using and sharing the almost same material daily even if they are not necessarily uploading it. The items the BBC cited as violations could easily be uploaded on proxy servers, untraceable websites, random you tube accounts (and then shared to another you tube account in a playlist). You Tube, Facebook & Twitter accounts can be created with simply an email address…anyone could have BBC videos in playlists on a You Tube channel without uploading them to that account directly – they could be displayed from a secondary account for example?

The same videos could also easily be displayed by anyone on a Twitter account using just a url address and thereby they are not technically uploading the video. That method is used widespread on Twitter by indivduals and media people alike. Videos can be displayed almost as embedded in a tweet simply via a linking method, so what is it that the BBC is aiming for here?

Serious questions need to be asked and guidelines need to be framewoked for us all!
Reproducing and interacting with news on social media isn’t generally about deliberatley violating copyright laws, its about social interaction and discussion.

On a wider scale many may start to ask if social media will come under threat from those groups in power who wish to diminish its freedom for the masses to question the old hierarchical order?

Producing news media as the state funded broadcaster and then saying you dont want it replicated full stop might well have George Orwell drafting a follow up!

By Solon Scotland (Street Commentator)




Scotrail is in crisis….according to the mainstream media that is!





Editorial Post – Article Date: (23.11.16)

Scotrail is in crisis?….well at least according to the mainstream media it is!

The actual statistical facts don’t support a sudden monumental crisis which merited the blanket coverage but let’s look at how major media in Scotland portrayed the events.

What merits a crisis for a start? Is it figures and data? …Well no, in this instance (and many others) it seems, it’s the mainstream media who decide what a crisis is. The actual facts would appear to be less relevant than the story angle or the headline!

For logical analysis, a Scotrail crisis would be if service statistics were suddenly plummeting and affecting people getting to work on time or being able to travel at the time when they want?

The statistical facts quoted and available on Network Rail don’t back up any recent major deterioration meriting the mass used language of  ‘crisis’. A major single train breakdown did happen on Wednesday 16th November which had a knock on effect that day, but that was a one off unforeseeable incident. That isn’t a crisis surely?

Most of the mainstream reporting since that event supported the reasoning that we have a serious rail crisis on our hands. Ask yourself this though, where was the crisis on Tuesday 15th November? Did it just mysteriously mushroom in one day on the Wednesday? Did numerous trains break down and numerous events unfold or was it one event with a knock on effect.

Even general analysis of the figures confirm that Scotrail performances in many areas exceed those in England and Wales levels regularly, so how is there not a rail crisis in those areas of the UK?

The train breakdown on a main line caused serious disruption to many services but that is not something unheard of. It will happen again, in countries all over the world every day, ….things break down, that’s the nature of our technology, it’s not perfect, ask Samsung, Blackberry, Apple, Microsoft etc!

A crisis would be if the service is frequently grinding to a halt and people can’t get to where they are going on time. If that were the case then it would surely have been in the news regularly before now?

Scotrail has issues and problems which need addressing but there isn’t suddenly a crisis. Trains have been having delays and breakdowns since modern railways began and this is increasing due to the numbers of trains, the mass usage and increasing numbers of commuters in high population areas.

Even although figures confirm there is no sudden crisis the volume of negative media forced the Scottish Government onto the back foot simply by the sheer volume and repetitiveness of it. The facts are bypassed, It’s a story, it mushrooms and then it’s a crisis; that seems to be how the major media works for their own most beneficial effect. Scot Gov in turn had to go on the defensive and threaten Scotrail more vigorously than they would have intended and announce steps to improve services etc simply because of the weight of the story and not because of the facts.

The figures suggest there is a massive overreaction to the story to mushroom it from one incident into a giant story.

What could be the motives, could they be political, ….surely not you say, open mouthed, incredulous!

I write that with a giant slice of irony/sarcasm of course, since most will agree much of our major media is partisan to a particular ideology. (Some more than others!!) Main newspaper media has always been partisan but recently there is a large section of everyday Scots who believe BBC Scotland and STV do not report both sides equally.

In the political points scoring Game of Thrones, it is Labour/Conservative/UK Unionism/UK Mainstream Media versus Scot Gov/SNP/Independence movement …with the balance decidedly against the latter side!

Is it the case now though that our mainstream media is becoming ever more desperate to points score to secure its position and uphold its challenged major role of power?

Much of mainstream media is UK union orientated in nature as it has been established from that era, …a break from the establishment seriously affects its future and therefore it will/must do anything to uphold it. Yes, they will let you hear from both sides and claim editorial fairness for all, but analyse the headlines, the rhetoric, the balance and many will argue its massively unbalanced and in some issues such as scotrail incredibly so.

In headline terms in the Scotrail story and others, it’s a political point scorer or/and a media profile point scorer. It becomes a bandwagon, and those who seek to exploit it suddenly turn an incident into a major story…it’s called a ‘mass proliferation effect’ if you like….Other newspapers and media then think we better get on this story and suddenly in turn we have every main news bulletin and newspaper running the story for a week.

What’s the underlying tactic? Well, the opposition to the Scottish Government, and the mainstream media are fighting the same battle. They seek to maintain the establishment, never before have the traditional parties and the traditional media been under so much threat. The internet and growth of social media has played a massive role in that.

The established media and UK politics had for generations been essentially either Labour or Tory but the SNP and nationalist supporters have now landed on the scene to destroy that cosy two pronged alliance. In the past, pre Scottish Parliament, the SNP  was merely a minority in voting terms, it needed little addressing as there was no significant shift or challenge to the two party state. The two parties and their media supporters quite merrily toddled along in an every ending derby match. Being out of power was not a disaster because there was always next time and there was always a turn around in government eventually. Even in opposition the media had a steady stream of stories for at least one or two parliaments to challenge the opposition on every decision under the sun with the goal of securing victory next time. It was a cosy two party alliance of mutual dislike but equal requirement.

But Bang…along came the NEW BIGGER BOLDER SNP (helped by the internet explosion at the same time) and its not just a fleeting pop in the door, they’ve now consolidated to a point where they are the mainstream party of government in Scotland and they set the tone. Three elections wins in a row, three Scottish Parliamentary largest votes/seats three times in a row and the establishment has been well and truly shaken to its core. Couple that with the massive growth of the aforementioned  Internet to their media dominance, and you see why any tactics will be used to try and hold onto some semblance of power or importance.

There was a time when a party like the SNP could simply not have challenged electorally because of the UK media structure and the establishment system. It was impossible and the situation would have continued without the internet. There was always a Scottish identity but that was almost totally focused on labour in general election terms. The General Election of 2015 broke that monopoly though and has seen that previous position now destroyed, with the SNP taking 56 of 59 Scottish seats. (Previously they were between 3 to 6 MP’s maximum from 1979 – 2010 respectively). It does not look like this is a fleeting move either that will return to the pre Scottish Parliament days. The SNP electoral position has been consolidated in three Scottish Parliaments which will total 14 years in govt., and current polls say that will continue into the next parliament. It would require massive swings to change that position.

The 2014 independence referendum may not have been won but it opened up a cataclysmic reaction in terms of Scottish political interaction by the general population. Any followers of Scottish Media will see there is now a vibrant and massive debate ongoing constantly about independence and the effects of brexit. That is not going away anywhere soon. Statistical analysis of demographics will also show that the majority of people who support independence and the SNP increases significantly in the lower age groups. It stands to reason that these voters will be consolidated by new voters if following a similar pattern.

Add in the effects of Scotland voting in a major contrast to England’s Brexit and you see that the power house of media and dominant parties has been well and truly challenged in Scotland…and they don’t like it one little bit.

We have already seen many damaging and sensationalist headlines this year around brexit and the American Election. Watch out for more and increasing amounts of the same when EU Article 50 is enacted and a Scottish Independence referendum becomes inevitable.

Brexit has not even hit the running track yet, and look at the stories…you think you have seen some vitriolic language?….you haven’t seen nothing yet. When the two sides emerge from the courts and the formal course of action is enacted next year watch out for hyperbole not just in Westminster but in the media as they build up with the calvary. Add to that the Scottish angle where brexit is fuelling up the independence debate and a highly likely new referendum at some point, and you have a powder keg of media madness just ripe for exploding.

In the build up to the last referendum the established parties and media could not foresee how a yes vote could happen as it started at low levels of support. In the last few months of the Indy Ref. 2014 though, the ‘establishment’ had to pull out all the stops when the vote managed to get to around the high 40% mark. They only survived by the skin of their teeth, which potentIally means next time they will need to pull out all the stops and they wont be shy in doing so.

Could it be we are at the start of the phoney war with this Scotrail story warming us all up for the big event when brexit and Indy comes on the table for real…set up the barricades, …you think Scotrail was a crisis, you better strap yourself in because it will get very dirty!

 

Written By Paul Donnachie @paulairdrie