Friday, 14 October 2016

It's Scottish nationalism that suffers from xenophobia

Whichever fat fingered BBC technician “accidentally” substituted some film of a psychotic rampaging gorilla for the latest film of Nicola Sturgeon making threats deserves some sort of award. Give that man a Nobel Prize for services to humour. There is a long history in Britain of turning people like Sturgeon into a figure of fun. Throughout our history we’ve been coming across little people who like to give us ultimatums.

They usually look rather funny even when they try to look stern and serious. They gesticulate as they whip up a crowd of adoring worshipers. Sometimes they bang their shoe on the table as they tell us that they will bury us. Other times they simply underestimate us. Britain will have its neck wrung like a chicken in three weeks said some little man who has now been forgotten by history. “Some chicken … some neck” said a man who hasn’t been forgotten by history.

Since June we have all been waiting for disaster. The least Polish sounding man in history Donald Tusk keeps making threats. Perhaps someone on the BBC could push the wrong button again and show a clip of a rampaging elephant in a kilt. EU politicians keep telling us how they will make an example of Britain by showing that anyone who dares to leave the EU will be punished. It’s like a re-run of the Grexit crisis of 2015. Stern Angela Merkel wasn’t willing to give anything to Greece and although the Greek people were brave enough to say No their Government wasn’t. But then Greece has a long history of being a vassal state and hasn’t done anything of importance since Aristotle. Somebody should remind these people that Britain in not Greece.

If the EU is a prison with guards who are ready to shoot anyone who dares to leave, this is not a reason to stay. This is a reason to start digging tunnels called “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry” and once more show our European friends that there is a way to escape tyranny.

Nicola Sturgeon desperately needs taking down a peg or three. In my local SNP shop you can buy framed Sturgeon portraits to hang on your wall. The cover of the last SNP manifesto consisted entirely of a picture of her. This is outside the normal conditions of British politics. How many Labour supporters had posters of Harold Wilson? How many Liberals had posters of Joe Grimond? For goodness sake few indeed were the Democratic Unionists who had posters of Ian Paisley. A person with a framed picture of Margaret Thatcher would be considered an obsessive even by Tories. We laugh at such people. We prick their bubbles. No one but a deluded fool commissions a monument to themselves with one of their quotes attached to a rock that will endure forever. It won’t last by the way. It’s no more permanent than the Ed Miliband stone. These people always build monuments to themselves but they end up in the graveyard of statues. "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone". Nicola’s supporters may be tempted to rename Irvine Sturgeongrad, but these sorts of names don’t last.

How many of her red lines have been crossed since June? Firstly she was tempted to hold an immediate referendum on independence because Scotland voted one way while other parts of the UK disagreed. But she didn’t. Then she said if Scotland didn’t get to stay in the EU, she would hold another independence referendum. But she didn’t. Now she says if Scotland doesn’t get to stay in the single market she will hold another independence referendum. But she won’t.

But you must take me seriously cried the little gorilla. This time I really did see the wolf. OK I confess the last few times I was making it up, but this time you I’m really, really serious. I imagine the wolf may struggle with actually swallowing this gorilla, but then again this isn’t actually a problem because there isn’t really a wolf. There never was a wolf, just a little gorilla that keeps crying "wolf".

There was quite a lot of rather ludicrous fuss on the news about Nicola Sturgeon’s latest threats. But what it amounts to is this. She is going to start consulting about a bill over which the Scottish Parliament cannot debate because it is outside its competence. The Scottish Parliament likes to have debates about things it doesn’t control. Just like Nicola Sturgeon it loves to wave its arms around making gestures, looking stern and talking big. The correct response to this is laughter. It is for this reason above all that Nicola the gorilla is the best peace of political journalism I’ve seen all year.

Figures of fun keep saying funny things. It is this above all that makes them figures of fun. But what is it that makes something funny. It is above all contradiction. The picture of a priest caught glancing back at a pretty woman in a mini-skirt is funny because of the contradiction between what the priest should be thinking and what he is actually thinking. The humour in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech is her portrayal of other people in Britain as xenophobes. The humour is the contradiction between her opinion of herself and her own values and what they are in reality. The essence of Scottish nationalism is xenophobic by definition. For a xenophobe to complain about xenophobia in other people is always in the end humorous. Once more the correct response is to laugh.

Nicola Sturgeon just like every other Scottish nationalist cannot bear to live in the same country as people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If this isn’t xenophobia what is? What is it about these people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland that she so dislikes that she cannot bear to share a country with them? It is that they are not Scottish. Again, if that is not xenophobia, what is?

What is the nature of Nicola Sturgeon’s complaint about the EU referendum? Essentially she is complaining about being outvoted. But this complaint only works on the assumption that the people in other parts of the UK are not like her. If Scotland became independent, I might be outvoted. The region in which I live, for example Aberdeenshire, might be outvoted. So being outvoted is not really Nicola Sturgeon’s problem. After all this is a feature of all democracies. Nicola Sturgeon’s problem is that Scotland should be outvoted. Why should this matter? The reason they always gives is that Scotland is my country while the UK isn’t. I am Scottish, but not British, they say.

The essence of Scottish nationalism is that people from other parts of the UK do not have a shared identity with me. If they were to accept that other British citizens had a shared identity with Scots, then there would be no more problem for Scots to be outvoted in a UK wide election than for Scots to be outvoted in a Scotland wide election. The reason that Nicola Sturgeon cannot bear being outvoted is because these people outvoting her are not Scots.

Moreover she is saying that she cannot bear to live in a country where these non Scots can outvote her. She would have no problem at all if only Scots could outvote her. Why do people like Nicola Sturgeon so dislike Westminster? The reason is because Westminster is elected by people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Well what is the problem with that? The problem is that these people are not Scots. Again if this isn’t xenophobia, what is?

At Appomattox Court House in 1865 there was a famous conversation. Robert E. Lee on discovering that one of the Union officers present Ely S. Parker was descended from the Seneca tribe remarked “"It is good to have one real American here” to which Parker replied “We are all Americans”. General Grant forbade any cheering on the grounds that “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall”.

Perhaps it was this moment that lead to peace in the USA such that now it is unimaginable that there should ever more be secession. It is the refusal of people like Nicola Sturgeon to accept that she has a shared identity with her fellow citizens that means for her the war is never over. Imagine if she had another referendum on independence and she lost it again? Would she then accept that she had been defeated finally? How many days would it be before she was demanding another chance? Referendums only have a point if they can decide an issue once and for all. If they cannot do this, they only cause division. The UK has had far too many referendums. I voted to leave the EU, but I would gladly stay if the condition for doing so was that there would never be another referendum in the UK.

The UK is a nation state of around 65 million people. Scottish nationalists are saying that we want the nation state we live in to cease having a population of 65 million people and instead to have a population of 5 million. But this in effect is to deport 60 million people. Nicola Sturgeon in effect wants to banish 60 million Brits in order that she can only live with Scots. If this isn’t xenophobia, what is?

But why can’t she bear to live in a nation state with 60 million Brits. The reason is because they are Brits and she is a Scot. At bedrock this is Nicola Sturgeon’s problem with the UK. She is Scottish, while they are British. This is identity politics at its worst. But then all nationalism at root is always about identity politics.

Scottish nationalists like to try to hide the roots of their philosophy. They have all been carefully taught to describe themselves as civic nationalists.  But this is a mere fig leaf. It is very easy indeed to test the limits of civic nationalism.  How would it be if a few hundred thousand people from other parts of the UK decided to move to Scotland? By the standards of civic nationalism they would all immediately be Scots. But what if these people continued to feel British too? What if they opposed Scottish independence because they felt the same identity as people in other parts of the UK? What if these few hundred thousand people put Scottish independence beyond the reach of the SNP forever? Would you really still be so welcoming?

No-one became a Scottish nationalist because of the idea of civic nationalism. Scottish nationalists vote for the SNP because they feel patriotism only about Scotland and not about the UK. If you felt patriotism about Britain you thereby would not feel outvoted any more than someone from Vermont feels outvoted if he votes for one presidential candidate, but this candidate loses. You only feel outvoted if you think that these others who outvote you do not share your identity. If you thought that people in other parts of the UK were your fellow countrymen you would not complain about the EU referendum. It’s only because you think they are not your fellow countrymen that you complain. But what is someone who is not a fellow countryman. He is a foreigner. What is someone who complains about being outvoted by foreigners? He is a xenophobe.

Scottish nationalism is grounded in xenophobia. Fundamentally it is grounded in dislike for our large neighbour. The UK in fact is one of the least xenophobic countries in Europe. We are not threatened by parties of the far right like those that exist in many European countries including France, Austria and Greece. Most Brits welcome people from elsewhere and we are willing to share our identity with them. It is not xenophobic of course to want to limit immigration, otherwise there would be no such things as borders. But like it or not ever Scot is a British citizen. To be unwilling to share your identity with someone who is a fellow citizen is clearly discriminatory. To act towards your fellow citizen as if he were a foreigner on the grounds of where he lives, or the accent that he has is clearly a form of prejudice. To make a speech describing others as xenophobes while leading a movement that is itself inherently xenophobic is comical. It’s really is high time Nicola Sturgeon became a figure of fun.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Gone, gone the damage done

There is a reason I’ve been writing so much since the EU referendum and with perhaps a higher intensity than before. I returned from holiday in early July only to find one of my friends and colleagues in absolute bits. I remember that whole period of uncertainty leading up to the EU referendum as a time of stress. I disliked the campaign that both sides were running. Remain ran Project Fear Two, which is why they lost and deserved to lose. But I thought some of the claims made by Leave were clearly ludicrous. I don’t expect the NHS to get much more money because we are leaving the EU. But then I don’t think the NHS should get more money. The problem with health in the UK is not lack of money. If you give the NHS more money it will go on inflated salaries for doctors, who now think they should be paid as if they were merchant bankers. It will go on administration and it will go on waste. We have a health service with a methodology from the 1940s and an ideology that has been discredited the world over. Is it really a surprise that it doesn’t work? Socialism doesn’t work and nor does socialised medicine.

I came out on the Leave side of the argument. This has partly to do with my contrariness. I have always been a Tory because in part it was so much more fun being a Tory in the 1980s when absolutely everyone I met just loathed Margaret Thatcher. Well this time around the whole establishment plus nearly all the academics, plus nearly all the students thought that voting to leave the EU was not only thick, but vulgar. This is especially the case in Scotland. So naturally I looked at the arguments and found myself coming down more and more in favour of Leave. Perhaps I will be proved wrong. No-one can predict the future. But I have not been proved wrong yet. My side keeps winning the referendums. Long may this continue. 

But have you noticed something. Britain is healing from the wound that was inflicted by the EU referendum. Most people have moved on. There is some debate about what sort of Brexit we should go for. But for the most part disappointed Remainers have come to terms with losing and are working with Leavers to help create a better Britain. Compare and contrast with Scotland.

My friend had along with the rest of us suffered a great deal of stress due to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. In the course of the next couple of years she became ever more worried about the downturn in Aberdeen. Her husband works in the oil industry. On top of this she was concerned about the economic consequences if the UK left the EU. What would happen to her investments? What would happen to house prices? The result of the EU referendum was a shock. I certainly didn’t expect Leave to win. I don’t think anyone much expected that. The polls got it wrong, the betting got it wrong, the markets got it wrong. But you know what she was fine. She was absolutely fine until the Scottish nationalists started making threats.

Suddenly Nicola Sturgeon was continually on television adding to the uncertainty. She was stirring up trouble, plotting away. It was too much. All of the memories of the independence referendum came back and my friend found it tough to take. She had something of a nervous collapse and had to have a couple of weeks off work. It wasn’t Brexit that caused this, it was Scottish nationalism.  

I was reasonably relaxed about the result of the EU referendum. Whatever happened I would not lose my country. But if the SNP ever won an independence referendum I would be homeless. The UK is my home and the UK would cease to exist if Scotland became independent.

It is for this reason that I write as I do. This is personal. I have seen the damage that Scottish nationalism does to Scottish lives. The SNP have kept us all in a state of permanent tension. Who can really relax when our country is continually threatened with destruction? Some deal with this stress by writing and by fighting back against the threat. Others find they don’t have this outlet and crack.

I don’t think there is quite this sense of trauma among the Scottish nationalists, though who can tell. I am fortunate in that I don't actually know any Scottish nationalists.  Until around twenty years ago, almost no-one in Scotland expected that there would ever be an independent Scotland. The only party that supported this was tiny and hardly got any votes. It is hardly then traumatic to remain in the country you were born in and to retain the citizenship you’ve always had.

I accept that there was great disappointment on the part of the Yes side. They came closer than they thought they would and for a moment believed that they had a chance, but when they lost they returned to the world they had always known.

But look what the campaign did. This is why it has been so damaging for both sides. Many Scottish nationalists have ceased to have any feeling whatsoever for the UK. Many of them are openly hostile to Britain and want nothing whatsoever to do with being British. They see themselves now as exclusively Scottish. It is for this reason that they get so worked up about flags on packets of strawberries. But we do continue to live in the UK. We are British citizens whether we like it or not. To not feel something that you are is strange. It is like saying I am cold, but I don’t feel it. I don’t think this is so much trauma as dissociation from reality. A German person who hates Germany because he feels exclusively Bavarian is rare indeed. A Catalan who hates Spain is more common. But the truth is that the Bavarian is a German and the Catalan is Spanish. Look at your passport if you are in doubt about this matter. So there is an element of self-denial even hatred of self in the response of Scottish nationalists. I don’t know how they feel about this. Perhaps some of them do indeed find it traumatic. Then again they all maintain how they found 2014 so joyful. So if it is a trauma it is a hidden and rather repressed trauma. That might explain quite a lot.

From the Pro UK point of view things have turned out to be rather different. When I began campaigning I emphasised that I was both Scottish and British and that there was no contradiction in being both. I still think this. I was born in Scotland (not that this matters), I went to school here. I spoke the local dialect fluently. My favourite author has always been Walter Scott. I would wear Tartan from time to time and in a vague way thought that the Jacobite cause was just and that the Hanoverians were usurpers. What this means is that I took the Tory side of history. I felt mild patriotism about Scotland and still milder patriotism about Britain. I dislike flag waving. I dislike flags.

But look at the result of the campaign. This is what the SNP have destroyed. They have taken away our peace of mind. They have also diminished our sense of Scottishness. I don’t know if this is how all Pro UK Scots feel. I think some have been stronger than me and have fully retained their sense of Scottishness. But for me it has diminished and become a diminished thing. The SNP were successful. They won the battle over flags. Now the Saltire is their flag, the Union Jack is mine. Whenever I see a Saltire I think Scottish nationalist. If someone has one in their button hole or on their Twitter profile I immediately assume that they are a Scottish nationalist.

I would never now show any Scottish symbol. They are all lost to me. I would not wear a tartan skirt. I would not go to a ceilidh. I would not go to a Burns supper. I have lost my flag and I have lost a part of my identity. Of course I do not deny that I am Scottish. But I think of Scotland now as the equivalent of Aberdeenshire. I likewise do not deny that I am Aberdonian. But I don’t wear any symbols of Aberdeenshire. I fly no Aberdeenshire flags or wear a Dons strip while walking up Union Street. I rarely now speak Doric. I hardly know anyone who does. It is something from my childhood that is gradually being forgotten. I remember that time when there was no division in Scotland. When we were all just Scots and our identities had not been politicised. The independence referendum changed everything. Before the rise of Scottish nationalism I didn’t question Scotland’s being a country, but I followed through the logic of the argument. If Scotland was indeed a country in the normal sense of the word then it ought to be independent, so I was forced to conclude that Scotland was only called a country. Thank you SNP. Not only did you threaten the UK, you caused me to lose my sense of living in a country called Scotland. 

So I too in a way am in the position of denying myself and denying what I am. Of course I’m happy to say that I am Scottish. After all this is where I was born, this is where I am from, this is the language I can speak and the accent that I have. But it is not something I anymore will ever emphasise. I would put North Britain on my letters if I ever posted any letters anymore. 

We have gone through too much in the last few years in Scotland. Not everyone feels it at all. The Scottish nationalists think of these years as a triumph of democracy and popular engagement with politics. The joy of it that Scotland has not been so divided since the Covenanters. But the Scottish nationalists are no closer to winning. In fact they may be further away. What happens when this mass movement actually realises this fact. How do you reconcile yourself to being British forever when you hate Britain?

The trauma on the part of the Pro UK person is I think greater. We thought for a moment that we would lose our country. We were at no point in the UK’s history closer to doing so than on that September night in 2014. I would rather lose a war than lose my country. And then we had no victory. All sorts of reasons can be given for this. Perhaps the upsurge in SNP popularity was simply because people thought something was possible now that previously they had thought to be impossible. The campaign for independence created a desire for independence that had never been there before. This was David Cameron's mistake. He should never have allowed the vote. But then we should never have created the Scottish Parliament. We should never have made concessions to Scottish nationalism by granting it ever more power. We are where we are. Neither side is happy. But neither side can win. Whatever happens Scotland is divided. Perhaps now we are divided for ever. I used to say that the only solution to the problems of the Soviet Union is to leave. Perhaps the same can be said for Scotland or perhaps we have already reached peak nationalism and now it is already in decline. We shall see. But I think it has become a frozen conflict. No solution is possible, but no peace either. It begins to be pointless even to write about such things. 

But the SNP should be made aware of the damage that they are doing. Neil Young once wrote “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done”. Well when I visited my friend who was struggling mentally because of what Nicola Sturgeon kept threatening I could say I’ve seen the SNP and the damage done. How many people in Scotland have been left traumatised by this never-ending struggle that we are doomed to fight continuously without a chance of reconciliation? How many of us have lost something precious “Gone, gone, the damage done.”

Friday, 30 September 2016

The great leap forward

It is only through writing that I can really know what I think. My views develop and change. The fundamentals don’t normally change a great deal, but the details do. My method is not scholarly. I find most academic writing to be desperately dull and pointless. I rarely now write footnotes. What are they for? I hardly ever read the books or articles that are cited, so all these little footnotes do is show that someone is a scholar and that they play this academic game with success. They are published in journals which no-one reads and write books that are unreadable.

Some good work is no doubt being done in science and medicine, but I rarely come across something that I find interesting in the subjects that concern me such as history, literature, philosophy and theology. The discussion is frequently very narrow and about something that doesn’t matter, an author who ought to have been forgotten, an obscure verse in the Bible or an academic dispute that concerns no-one else. I don’t do this. It is pointless. It is only about being employed and receiving money. I sometimes think that modern day universities have one purpose only and that is to employ academics. The quality of the teaching and the quality of what is written is a disgrace compared to how things were one hundred years and more ago. The reason is that everyone is constrained and dare not say what they think.

Gradually a creeping conformity has taken over nearly every subject that is not grounded in experiment. I refuse to read anything written by Americans. It is simply too dull and depressing. The most original thinkers are tamed and made to conform to the latest political view. The most important issue is not to give offence to anyone. The words and the issues that might cause offense keep growing.  Who knows what will be offensive next.

A person from 1960 would be in trouble if they arrived in the modern world. Much of what they assumed to be unquestionably true would have turned out to be false. Ordinary words that they would use and their beliefs about religion and morality would be considered to be grossly offensive today. An article that I might have published in a philosophy or theology journal in 1960 might get me sacked today. No wonder so much writing is dull and conformist when we are all scared that the western equivalent of the Komsomol will denounce us. They will arrive with their little red books demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings and if we are not careful we will end up in the paddy fields grateful still to be alive. There is a cultural revolution taking place on campus.  No doubt one day it will be considered to be a great leap forward.

At the heart of this revolution is falsity. As ever I return to Dostoevsky in or to explain this. (All quotes from Pevear translation p.44)

At the start of the Brothers Karamazov there is a meeting between the father of the brothers Fedor who is a buffoon and Zosima a wise monk. Fedor continually plays the fool and tells lies. Zosima tells him “A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others” Because of this such a person ceases to love both himself and others and falls into a degenerate state giving himself up to coarse pleasures and eventually reaches such an extremity of vice that it amounts to bestiality.

Why should this be so? I think it can be explained in Christian existentialist terms. Kierkegaard puts forward the idea that the self is relational. A self is a relation that relates itself to itself and in doing so relates to another. This other is God, but also other people. But if a person lies to himself, his relationship to himself is distorted and founded on falsity. This also prevents the person from relating correctly both to God and other people. Because God is the foundation of an objective morality, the person who lies to himself is left with being able to relate to others only in terms of law or in terms of inclination. Whatever feels good to me I will do so long as I can get away with it. The morality that everyone in 1960 took for granted has been undermined by our great leap forward to such an extent that I cannot even describe vice as immoral. If you have a different partner every night it is me that is wrong for being critical of you. I am a “slut shamer”, you are virtuous. People thus can interact in the way that animals do without respect and solely for the purpose of pleasuring each other. The truth that once was universally acknowledged that certain actions were immoral has been discarded. Even to suggest that certain behaviour is immoral is now condemned. The immorality is to suggest that something is immoral.

In what does the lie consist? In my view it consists in denying that the person has a relationship to God and that he has a soul. Each of us feels free and unconstrained when we act in our daily lives. But the foundation of modern science is to suggest that we are all in essence animals. The great leap forward is the attempt to explain and reduce human nature to biology and the universe to atoms. This is not how I experience the world. The basic feeling I have is that I am free. But science would tell me that this feeling of freedom is an illusion. All is determined. But my ordinary consciousness tells me that I am not matter and atoms causing each other to do things. It tells me that I am something qualitatively different. Science’s attempt to deny my most basic experience means that if I accept this reductionism, I am forced to deny the foundation of my existence. If science is correct, then everything I know about myself is untrue. But this requires that I deceive myself and lie about my everyday experience of freedom. The conflict between the scientific world view about my existence and my own everyday experience means I must either be authentic as a free spiritual being or else lie to myself and deny that I am what I am. It is a desperate situation if a person’s whole existence is founded on a lie. The reason for this is that I lose the authentic relationship I have with myself. I lose the grounding for any sort of objective morality which depends on God (if God does not exist everything is permitted) and I treat everyone else in terms either of what I am legally obliged to do or in terms of my own self-interest. No wonder this ends in bestiality because science tells us we are indeed beasts.

There is something else on which this whole lie depends. Let us return to Zosima. He says “A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense. Doesn’t it?” The whole essence of our great leap forward is that we take offence. When I was a student in Cambridge no-one even noticed the old statues. I didn’t know who they were and I didn’t care. I had more important things to concern me. But now someone somewhere takes great pleasure in being offended. First they object to a statue of Cecil Rhodes. If this succeeds they take pleasure in objecting to someone else. Likewise someone finds that a novel from the past has ideas or words that are not current today. Someone must be offended. There are whole industries devoted to people being offended or alternatively to those who want to show that they are so liberal that they always use the currently fashionable term.

I write in a provocative fashion, because it is how I develop my thought. I want to write original articles that contain challenging thoughts. I will no doubt sometimes offend. But the Christian message itself is “offence to the Jews and folly to the Greeks.” This is the nature of truth. The deepest truths cannot be thought. They involve going beyond the bounds of reason. You climb up the ladder and then you throw it away. Truth therefore is folly. Moreover, telling someone he is wrong will always lead to him finding it offensive, especially if he wishes to remain in the wrong. In order to challenge the established way of thinking I therefore have to write things that will sometimes appear strange, (folly), and may also appear to be offensive. This is especially the case if I argue well.

But what we have above all is manufactured offence. Again Zosima describes the person who lies to himself “And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked on a word and made a mountain out of a pea”. I come across this so frequently that it has become the essence of our great leap forward. Someone picks out a word in one of my blogs and shares it on social media. Suddenly hundreds or indeed thousands of people tell me how offended they are by this word. They describe me in the worst possible terms. They find ever more innovative ways to show how much they hate me. But not one of them is really offended. It’s all completely inauthentic and false. They want to score points. They dislike my politics. They want to find a way to stop me writing. But not one of these people is really, genuinely offended. They are all the equivalent of the five year old who tells teacher that little Johnny was doing something wrong. The five year old is not offended by Johnny she just wants to suck up to the teacher and get Johnny into trouble. This is the essence of lying to yourself. It is self-deception. It damages you. It doesn’t touch me.

How many words have I written in my 200 plus blogs? Perhaps half a million. Yet still someone may point to a single word that I wrote two years ago and try to use it to condemn me. He only condemns himself.

We have reached the stage where the slightest slip on social media can lead to a storm of protest. But this inhibits all of us. We each have to watch what we say in case we say the wrong word. Suddenly a word that all of us have used without a problem becomes problematic. Who knows what it will be next week. I never once thought the word “Jock” was offensive. But now it may be added to the long list of words that cannot be said. But this is all founded on a lie. The person who objects to the word “Jock” doesn’t really do so. He just wants to be offended.

Whole areas of academic life are now controlled by this false sense of offence and it makes it almost impossible to write freely. It is such good fun for an 18 year old student to scare an elderly professor half to death because he fails to use the latest term for something. Fifty years ago nice people described black people as “coloured”. But that term is no longer fashionable. Fair enough. I too can see the problem with it. We all have a colour after all. But if someone who has not kept up with the fashion inadvertently uses this obsolete term is there any reason to take such an offence? Of course not, but it gives people such a warm feeling inside to condemn others. Look at how they apologise and abase themselves because they made a mistake. There is no greater joy than seeing a sinner repent.

The person who feels continual offense “likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility”. The hostility is this. There are lots and lots of people who go about trying to ruin other’s lives because they happen to say something that they pretend offends them. An academic may be sacked for the slip of a tongue. An off-colour joke may lead to a criminal conviction. An argument that contradicts the established orthodoxy may lead to a visit from the police. Someone may be banned from speaking publically at a university because he holds a view that was common place in 1960. No wonder so much writing is dull when the consequences of writing in an interesting way can be so devastating.

This is all founded on a lie. First we lie to ourselves. We lie about what we are. We deny our experiences and we reject what is evident to our senses. We reject 2000 years of religion and 2000 years of moral tradition and in the space of 60 years we construct a worldview that would baffle our grandparents. This too is a lie. Then we say that anyone who does not accept our modern world view must be condemned. They are not even allowed to think that this world view may have flaws. Anyone who does so will find themselves out of a job or in jail. We then call this state of self-censorship “freedom of speech”.

But there may be hope. Ordinary people in Britain rejected this whole modern worldview when they voted for Brexit. No wonder the Stepford Students were so angry. It was a step. A first step. We must cease lying and start telling the truth. God help us if we don’t.

Scottish nationalism has reached the fundamentalist stage

When I stand at my bus stop waiting to go home I watch the lorries pass by. Nearly every single one has a combination of Scottish flags somewhere in the cab. There is usually a phrase about Scotland being bonnie or being forever. Sometimes there are bits of tartanry dotted about, pictures of men in kilts or pipers piping. I don’t believe I have ever seen a lorry in Aberdeen which expresses the fact that it is from Britain and likes Britain. Are these lorry drivers all Scottish nationalists? Possibly they are. However it is statistically unlikely. But then this is our problem really. Vast numbers of Scots may vote to remain in the UK, but their identity is exclusively Scottish. Their allegiance is weak and their support temporary. It is for this reason above all that we have a problem in the UK with Scottish nationalism and why it remains a threat.

It’s worthwhile trying to understand the nature of your opponent. The SNP are consummate liars or else perhaps they deceive themselves. It’s not always easy to judge from outside. For years they argued that the reason they wanted independence was that Scotland voted Labour while the rest of the UK voted Tory. Vote for independence because then you will get what you voted for. Having used that argument to destroy Labour in Scotland, they then argued that we shouldn’t vote for Labour because it isn’t really a left-wing party. Labour were really “Red Tories”. Well any left-winger could hardly wish for a more socialist leader than Jeremy Corbyn. How many SNP supporters are now going to switch back to Labour because now we’ve got the real deal? How much more left-wing do you want Labour to be before it once more is worth your vote? But now it turns out that Scottish nationalists don’t want socialism after all, they just want independence. So their whole argument has turned out to be founded on a lie.

Nicola Sturgeon is very good at appearing on television and pretending how progressive she is. She may well be sincere. But it is beside the point. When we had a Labour Government under Blair and Brown, the SNP wanted independence. If we had a one with Jeremy Corbyn, they would likewise want independence. If we had voted to stay in the EU they would want independence. Now that we are leaving they will want independence if there is a “Hard Brexit”, but if there is the softest of Brexits they will also want independence. The SNP argument is fundamentalist. It is always fundamentalist. The rest is noise, just bells and whistles to try to win the argument. Everything Nicola Sturgeon has said and done since she was a child has been to achieve one goal and one goal only: Scottish independence.

There was some shock the other week when she wrote something about Scottish independence transcending other issues. But of course she is right and she is being honest. As I have long argued, there is only one argument for Scottish independence, but it is a good one. People who feel patriotic about Scotland and who feel that Scotland is their country ought to want Scottish independence. This is exactly the same argument that people have used through the centuries to achieve independence. Norwegian patriots wanted their country to be independent, as more recently did Latvian and Estonian patriots. This appeal to patriotism is very strong and powerful. When it becomes strong enough it does indeed transcend other issues. No-one can predict what will happen to an economy. Who can really weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of political action? No-one can pretend to guess what the UK will be like in twenty years’ time because of Brexit. Nor can anyone predict what Scotland would be like in fifty years’ time if we voted for independence.

Crucially however as I have also frequently argued the nationalist argument is circular. Nicola Sturgeon and others always argue that it would be better for decisions about Scotland to be taken by people in Scotland. But this argument is equally valid if I say either that it would be better for decisions about the UK to be taken in the UK or alternatively it would be better for decisions about Aberdeenshire to be taken in Aberdeenshire. The standard response from Scottish nationalists is that neither the UK nor Aberdeenshire are countries. What this amounts to then is that a country ought to be independent because it is a country. It is only because they always assume that Scotland already is an independent country that they can argue that it ought to become one. What this circularity means however is that for Scottish nationalists the argument is fundamentalist. They may pretend that they want independence in order to obtain something, but this is not true. They want it in and of itself.

The mistake that everyone has been making for the past twenty or thirty years is to fail to realise that we are up against fundamentalists. There is nothing whatsoever I can do to persuade Nicola Sturgeon to give up her goal of Scottish independence. She will want this all of her life. She was, no doubt, brought up this way. She will live this way and she will never change. Such an opponent is powerful. John Wayne in the Searchers called it a “critter that'll just keep comin' on.” If you’ve seen that film you’ll realise the power of obsession and how it can be dangerous with a touch of madness in it. Beware the fundamentalist. They are capable of anything.  Look at the news if you need any help with this idea.

Given that people like this will not change, it is futile to make concessions to them. Nicola Sturgeon wants Theresa May to tell her all about the Brexit negotiations. Why help your opponent? Tell her nothing. The SNP want the softest possible of Brexits. Why give your opponent anything. Rather if they want this, do the opposite. Some people think if only we have a soft Brexit then the SNP will have no reason to ask for independence. But this is to misunderstand the nature of our opponent. They are patient. They will wait and use this concession to achieve their goal.

How do we fight fundamentalism? The first thing to realise is that you cannot change the minds of fundamentalists. So don’t try.  But also we must realise that a utilitarian argument against a fundamentalist argument is always liable to lose. It's like taking a knife to a gunfight.  If enough Scots become fundamentalist Scottish nationalists, it will not matter about the economy and it will not matter about the oil. The issue will transcend all others.

This is our problem. The vast majority of Scots are like my lorry drivers. They already have one foot in the Scottish nationalist camp. If you have been brought up to think of yourself as exclusively Scottish then it is an easy thing to persuade you to join those who want independence. How else was it possible for Labour to lose most of its support? They already were Scottish patriots, it was a small step indeed to turning them into Scottish nationalists.  A patriot ought not to give a damn about the price of oil or whether independence would make you poorer.

The reason though that Nicola Sturgeon is going down the fundamentalist route is that she realises that after Brexit she has no other argument. It is a sign of  her strength but it is also a sign of her weakness.

How many Scots are fundamentalists about Scottish independence? It’s very difficult to judge, but it is certainly not fifty percent at the moment. But how many Scots are like my lorry driver? I think that is a much higher percentage than fifty percent.

It is not necessary of course for any of us who feel British to give up our Scottish identity. We can be both. But we must learn to express both. The key to defeating the SNP long term is to increase the sense of British identity throughout the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon says that she feared that the No campaign would be positive and Pro British telling us about all the wonderful things the UK had done in the past and would do in the future. She is right. You can only fight patriotism with patriotism.

We must keep the utilitarian arguments in the background. Everyone knows already that Scottish independence would make you poorer. But this argument does not help us and sometimes hinders us. We must never be negative about Scotland, but only positive about the UK. We must also start flying our flag, which after all contains the saltire. Only when I start to see Scottish lorry drivers with union jacks in their cabs will I feel that our country is truly safe. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

"But he hasn't got anything on at all"

As I frequently say I am in the business of questioning assumptions and I don’t think there should be things that cannot be said. This must be said. So let it be said.

At some point in the past fifty years or so someone decided that there was a thing called gender that differed from biological sex. From this all sorts of unlikely thinking has arisen. As with everything else it is necessary to go back to first principles and question everything. 

In the 1940s John Steinbeck wrote his novel East of Eden. At one point a little girl tells her uncle that she would like to be a boy and could he help her become one. The uncle points out to her that it isn’t possible for her to be a boy and she has to accept what she is. Over time she does so. She grows up and becomes a woman.

Imagine this same conversation today. I still think most parents would try to convince their little girl that it wasn’t possible for her to become a boy. But there is always the chance that someone would eventually agree with the little girl. They would take seriously the idea that she felt that she was really a little boy and they would set about making her dream come true. Would this story have a happy ending?

Let’s look at the ideas involved in modern day assumptions. It is assumed that gender can be different from biological sex. The little girl’s biological sex is female but her gender is really that of a boy. But how do we determine this gender? Is there anything empirically that we can point to in order to determine if it is true? All we have is the little girl’s statement that she feels like a boy and wants to become one. But how does she know that she feels like a boy? How does she know what being a boy feels like? I do not know what it feels like to be any other person. I only know what it feels like to be me.

Moreover, if what matters is that someone says they feel like something else, what if the little girl had said I feel like a cat and want to become a cat? Should we take that statement seriously and set about turning her into a cat? Why can’t we make a similar distinction between our biology as homo-sapiens and our feelings that we are cats? This is clearly analogous to the distinction between being biologically a little girl and feeling like a little boy. It may not be technologically possible to turn people into cats, but this is a mere medical limitation. One hundred years ago no-one thought it possible to turn a girl into a boy. So we could work towards a time when we could fulfil the little girl’s desire to be a cat, meanwhile accepting that although she is biologically a human being she is really a cat.

If however we accept that there is a distinction between biological sex and gender why ought there to be a need to change biological sex. If gender is determined by how someone feels, why not say you can feel as you please, no-one is stopping you. But why then do you feel the need to change your biological sex? There is a contradiction here. Either whether someone is a girl or a boy is something objective or it is not. If it is a matter of how someone feels, there need be no need to get medicine involved. If on the other hand it is something objective, then it ought to be determined objectively. But how is it that we determine the sex of infants? This is either the criterion of who is boy and who is a girl or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways.  There is nothing hindering you being subjectively a little boy even if you were born a little girl. But subjectivity is not truth and ought not to determine reality. Once you go down the route of making subjectivity the master of thought then you can quite soon believe absolutely anything, no matter how unlikely. This unfortunately is the case throughout much of the Western world. We have reached the stage where “black” will soon mean “white” if that is what the latest PC fad suggests. Moreover we all must conform or else face censure. Soon we will be commanded to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 and we will all do so willingly. 

With regard to the sex that someone is assigned at birth, there are no doubt instances of people who have a medical condition that requires intervention, but these are few and far between. However, in the vast majority of cases it is simply unhelpful to make a false distinction between gender and biological sex. In the world we live in today I suspect 99% of the population understands sex as an objective matter that is almost always determined at birth. Only in the West have we got ourselves into a terrible muddle by making a distinction where there is no difference. The correct response to someone who says they were born with the wrong gender is to point out that they are simply mistaken. You may feel like a boy, but you are not a boy. You may feel like a cat, but you are not a cat. It is better to be what you are than to try to be what you are not and can never become. That way only lies unhappiness, because it is to try to build a house on the foundations of falsity.

It is unreasonable to base our whole theory of identity on a few people who describe themselves as transgender. The norm for nearly everyone is that there is no distinction between sex and gender. Creating a distinction where there is none because of a small group of people who are objectively mistaken is clearly odd and lacking in logic. Moreover it is I believe harmful. Many little girls who would grow up to be women and little boys who would grow up to be men are being confused by an assumption which has no evidence behind it. It is quite simply something a few academics made up out of their heads mainly because they are sophists who have fallen for the old lie that “man is the measure of all things”.  Plato showed the folly of this position thousands of years ago. There is truth and it is objective otherwise what I am writing right now would be self-defeating and pointless.

There are objective qualities and there are subjective qualities. For the vast majority of us it is simply a fact that we are male or female, black or white. I cannot say that I feel like a black woman and therefore I am a black woman. This quality of being black is objective. To fail to realise this rapidly leads to the nonsense of someone pretending to be black even though their parents were white.  For the self-same reason I cannot say that I feel like I am a man, therefore you ought to help me become a man. It is more correct to simply say to me, “I’m very sorry but you are mistaken. You are a woman. Accept it for this is something you cannot change.” If we really thought that the idea of someone being a girl or a boy was subjective we wouldn’t determine it in the way that we do at birth, but rather we would wait for every infant to become eighteen before giving it a name or deciding what sex it was.  

There are exceptions to every rule and we must be kind and understanding. But we do not define words by how they are used by a tiny minority. The fact is that for nearly everyone in the world there is no distinction between sex and gender. We determine both by looking at someone when they are naked.  The whole theory of gender being distinct from biological sex falls down upon a simple examination. It’s a wonder that so many people believe in it. But then there is a lot of pressure on them to do so. But I’m very sorry, I may be something of a lone voice here, but I feel the need to point out that the emperor has no clothes on at all.

A world without work

I am running out of things to write about Scottish politics. Maybe it is just that I have written too much. I certainly imagine that my opponents think this. There is a special place in their hearts for me. Eventually they all blow up and say something nasty even if I have never said anything unpleasant about them. I attack the idea, not the person. But Scottish nationalists so identify with their ideology that they treat any argument against the SNP as an argument against Scotland and against themselves personally. It isn’t.

What I have been trying to do with this blog lately is to get people to think clearly about their assumptions.  The only way that any of us can do this is if we question them. There are far too many ideas in the Scotland and the West in general that cannot be questioned in polite society. It makes for very dull and uninteresting thinking. Question everything and say those things that you don't quite dare say. I have an example in a companion piece to today's blog. 

The Left has become intellectually bereft since the fall of the Berlin Wall and has now gone up a blind alley. The foundation is still socialism, but no-one in the world seriously thinks that socialism is either practical or desirable. This experiment has been tested to destruction.  The problem though is this. When Labour supporters were growing up they believed in socialism. Who joined the Labour party to be a Blairite? People become moderates because they realise that socialism wouldn’t work or it won’t get them elected. But they still wish that socialism did work. So they water down socialism and try to make it fit in better with how the market works. This is usually called “social democracy”. But it’s not exactly an inspiring sort of thing. It is for this reason that left-wingers favour Corbyn. At least he is the real deal.

So we are left with a choice. Either we are moderates but insipid and also to an extent hypocrites or we have faith in the true religion, but we have no chance of gaining power. Worse than this though, moderation doesn’t work, because it is still based on assumptions that are false. Watered down socialism is still socialism. The problem still remains. It is contrary to human nature. I work for myself and my family. Everyone else is a stranger. The free market harnesses human nature to make the economy productive and wealthy. Even watered down socialism can never compete with this, because its model of redistributing wealth and hoping to achieve equality will always make the economy poorer. This is not accidental. It’s a feature.

For this reason it is also not accidental that Scotland is poorer than the south of England. The fundamental cause of this is that nearly everyone in Scotland who has influence or who is in power believes in their heart that socialism ought to be true. They dislike business and think that working for the state is more to their liking. They think that the solution to every problem is that the government spends more public money. They think that government planning is the way to achieve economic growth rather than leaving people alone to get on with their own businesses. So long as the SNP remains in power Scotland will always be too poor to achieve independence. As I have sometimes said it’s not Scotland that is too small, too poor and too stupid. It’s the SNP and the Scottish establishment.

There is change in the air. Brexit was part of this. People are gradually realising that socialism or even social democracy will make you poorer. Eventually this idea may even penetrate into Scotland. It will take time. People change their assumptions slowly. But it is becoming blindingly obvious that the devolved parts of the UK that elect left-wing governments are doing worse than those that don’t. This is one of the more tragic consequences of devolution.

But there is the possibility for redemption for the Left. I have spent my whole life disagreeing with left-wingers, but there is an issue that needs addressing and it ought to be an issue for the Left.

Every day I see students on the bus. They go to university for four or five years and then later I see them working in Tesco doing a job they could have done at age eighteen. There was a time when you could leave school after doing your highers and find a decent job. You would gradually work your way up. There was no particular limit to your prospects. Most jobs after all do not require a degree. Unless you are studying something specialist like medicine or law, a bright eighteen year old should be no worse off than a bright twenty-two year old. But those entry level jobs for school leavers don’t really exist anymore. There are huge numbers of jobs created by the UK economy but far too few of them lead to worthwhile careers.

We are training grossly too many students in subjects that will not lead them to employment.  But worse than that, many of the jobs that used to be done by people can be done better by machines. Whereas before a clerk had to tot up figures in a ledger a programme can now do this more accurately and more quickly. A lecturer could record a model first year lecture and put it on video and it could be shown to students all over the world. Some aspects of surgery can be carried out by robots more accurately than surgeons. Many of the transactions in the stock market or currency exchange are carried out better by computers than by people. Who knows if my job will still exist in twenty years’ time or in thirty?  Or your job for that matter. But then we have a problem. How do we determine how much a person will earn in a world where there is likely to be underemployment?

At the moment how wealthy I am is a matter of how much I have inherited and the job that I do. But what if we lived in a world where only ten or twenty percent of the population had high paid jobs? Those who worked for Google or Apple would be fine. They would control the robots. People who owned businesses would be fine. They would employ those who made the coffee or performed other services. But what if there was an abundance of wealth an abundance of food and other necessities, but not an abundance of work. At this point we would have to think of another way of determining who got what.

There are a variety of possibilities. Some suggest that there should be a basic wage which everyone receives whether they work or not. This could then be topped up by whatever work a person chose to do or not do. Could an economy afford such a citizenship wage? At what level could it be set? What would it do to the work ethic if you didn’t have to work? What would it do to efficiency and productivity? Could anyone qualify for such a wage even if they had just arrived here? These and many other questions will need to be addressed by people on the Left and the Right.

We cannot be Luddites. We cannot smash all the computers. But the world of work is changing. Not yet perhaps or not obviously so. But it is clear that between the top 20% and the bottom 20% a whole swathe of formerly well paid jobs will soon cease to exist. Look back a century and more and you will find that jobs that used to be common place are more or less no more. How many coopers do you know? How many smiths? How many tailors? All we have left are the surnames. This will continue to happen. No doubt there will be future jobs that none of us have dreamed of. But this industrial revolution is really different. People are being replaced.

The Left is still debating about a world that rapidly will not exist. Mr Corbyn is stuck in the 1970s and his ideas were obsolete even then. Almost no-one is even thinking about the meaning of the words Left and Right in a world where the whole concept of work is changing and where it will be necessary to find a way of determining who gets what from the wealth of a country. If only 20% earn nearly everything, they will not be able to keep it all for they will be outvoted assuming that we remain a democracy and if not we will be a tyranny of the oligarchs just like in other countries that have given up their democracy. These are important questions. We need a new model of debate. There is a vital role for the Left in this, because it is naturally their issue. But can the Left look forward. Can it cease squabbling? Can it ditch dead Russians and the temptation to flirt with terrorism? Can it cease being wrong about everything and start being right about just one thing.  

Meanwhile in Scotland all our energy is devoted to a question that we already answered and model of government that makes us poorer. We look back to battles fought with swords and pikes and concern ourselves with what is obsolete and in this way don’t even notice that the world has moved on from our obsessions and it is leaving us ever further behind.  

Friday, 16 September 2016

A "Hard Brexit" will bury the SNP forever

I never thought economics was a subject worth studying until 2008. But suddenly with the worst economic crisis since the 1930s making a difference to all of our lives, I thought it best to try to come to some sort of understanding of what was going on. I didn’t, of course, go to the library and find the latest first year economics textbook. But I did start reading the financial pages in the newspapers. Also I investigated ways of making a return on an investment in a world where interest rates were near to zero and succeeded by learning on the job.

In my college we discussed each other’s subjects and people didn’t pull rank. What’s the point of discussing at all if someone just says I know best I’m a physicist? In the end all subjects become one. Study gives you a command of the details, but in the abstract anyone with intelligence can comment on the whole thing in general. They may get the detail wrong, but the detail doesn’t matter.

In the Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) the actor Paul Muni portrays the French chemist who has a theory that disease is caused by unseen microbes. He advocates that doctors who are treating women in labour should wash their hands and boil their instruments. But he is dismissed by the medical community as a charlatan and a crank. How could these things that no-one has ever seen possibly cause disease? I always remember this story whenever I come across a consensus that overwhelmingly argues for something. Truth is not democratic. One person can be correct and all the others can be wrong. We are social beings and we like to fit in. To get ahead in the medical profession in the 19th century it was necessary to dismiss Pasteur. To be taken seriously as an economist prior to the referendum on the EU it was necessary to say that leaving the EU would be a disaster for Britain.

The same is true of far too many subjects studied at university. There is enormous pressure to write unoriginal papers and books that simply find different ways to agree with the consensus. In the Soviet Union a history article would be vetted according to whether it fitted in with Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. But it is no better in the Anglo-American world where it is necessary to fit in with the liberal leftish worldview. Try questioning any of these assumptions in a radical way and you are liable to find yourself unpublished and perhaps without a job. Is it any surprise then that so much of what passes for thought in universities is dull and pointless. The consensus, of course, may well be correct. There is a consensus after all that balls when dropped fall to the floor. But only if someone is able and willing to challenge orthodoxy is there the chance to think originally. Test even your basic assumptions, perhaps one day you will find balls sometimes fall up.

Imagine if we could go back a few months and begin the EU referendum campaign knowing what we do now. We would then know that the overwhelming consensus of economists and politicians was wrong. We have voted to leave the EU and there has been next to no chaos. Of course we haven’t left yet. But we were promised by people like George Osborne that immediately on voting to leave the British economy would suffer something like a heart attack and would need an emergency budget to keep it on life support. In fact the opposite has happened. The UK economy still looks in better shape than any other in Europe.

The vast majority of Remain supporters were quite wrong about the immediate effect of voting to leave the EU. So why should we trust their views on actually leaving the EU?

Remainers are still working with the assumption that the EU is good and leaving the EU is bad. For this reason even when they accept that the UK must leave the EU they hope to mitigate the situation by arguing that the UK should leave the EU as little as possible. It is for this reason above all that they want the UK to remain in the single market. But this is really to fail to overturn the assumption and admit that they were mistaken. It is to continue to work within a consensus that is rapidly being shown to be false. The EU is not good. Brexit is not bad. Leaving the EU far from being a disaster will bring freedom and prosperity. Remainers may well be washing their hands but they still don’t believe in microbes.

There is nothing to negotiate with the EU. We are leaving and we must simply leave on our own terms. Of course we would like to trade with them. For this reason we should be always willing to lower any trade barriers with both the EU and the rest of the world as much as possible. We should then say to everyone "you can trade freely with us". We are open for business. If you choose to charge an entrance fee to go to your shop we will try to find another shop where we can go for free. So it will be you that loses, not us.

It is vital to realise that the EU is above all about protectionism. It is a customs union that allows its members to trade freely with each other, but prevents them from trading freely with anyone else. The price of membership of this customs union is too high. When I go to Tesco every week I don’t have to pay a fee to go in the door. But the EU charges an enormous sum every year just so you get to trade without tariffs. But this fee means that we don’t actually have free trade at all. Paying to have free trade is self-evidently not free trade, for the simple reason that it is not free!

If we had to pay a tariff to trade with the EU, what would be the cost to the UK? No-one seems to be able to agree on the figure, but it doesn’t matter. The important question is this. Would we save overall if we simply chose not to pay the EU entrance fee while paying whatever tariff they choose to charge? 

This is not only a question about money. The EU charges more than money in order to be a part of its customs union. Think of all the things that the UK had to give up or take on in order to trade "freely" with the EU.  We used to have the right to all the fish in the waters around the UK. We had to give this up. In this way our fishing fleet was nearly destroyed. That too was part of the price. We had to accept that the laws made in our own democratically elected parliament would be subordinate to the laws made in Brussels. We had to accept all sorts of rules and regulations that we could not change even if we wanted to. A British firm that sells light bulbs to another British firm is governed by rules made in Brussels that we in Britain cannot change. The rules by which someone is employed in Britain are frequently set not by people we elected in Britain but by people who are unelected in Brussels. Bossy people keep telling us what to do simply in order that we can trade "freely" with other European countries. The price keeps getting higher and conforming to these regulations makes our businesses ever more inefficient.

The highest price of all however is this. So long as we remain a member of the EU we cannot make a trade deal with anyone else. Moreover, rather too frequently the EU itself cannot make such a trade deal. It is sometimes thought to be an advantage that the EU is a large bloc that can use its power to get good deals. But it now looks as if the EU free trade deal with Canada may fall through. The free trade deal with the USA is almost certainly dead. The reason for this is that in order to do a deal the EU has to keep all of its members happy. But many of those members are protectionist by nature. It is in the nature of a customs union to be protectionist. That is what it is for. The Common Agricultural Policy is a way to protect French farmers from competition so that they can continue to farm inefficiently. Therefore, the fact that the EU struggles to make free trade deals ought not to come as a surprise. So this too is part of the price of trading “freely” with the EU. Don’t dare trade freely with anyone else.

Britain at the moment is talking to other countries about possible trade deals. It makes sense for us to prepare the ground. But immediately the Germans tell us we are being naughty, because we have to wait until we actually leave the EU before we can even begin to negotiate a free trade deal with Australia. It’s quite a price to pay in order that we should have a trade deficit with Germany. Better by far to say to them keep your Mercedes we will go elsewhere.

I have never thought that immigration from within the EU was a problem. Given our demographic situation we should get down on our knees and thank every Pole and Czech who chooses to come and work here. But the price of trading "freely" with the EU is that anyone who has the right to live in an EU country has the right to live in the UK. What this means is that practically speaking we have little control over our own UK border, because the EU has lost control of its own external border. Anyone who can get into the EU can get into the UK. We have no control of this.  This too is very a high price to pay.

Some people would like a world without borders. But this would simply mean that our welfare state would collapse and we would have no National Health Service. Our system of universal welfare depends on the concept that you pay taxes in order to at some later point receive a benefit whether it is sickness pay, unemployment benefit or healthcare. It is a sort of universal insurance. But I pay insurance so that if my house burns down the insurance company will help me buy another. But if someone who has never paid insurance can also get his house rebuilt, the insurance company would collapse under the strain. You can have a welfare state or you can have unrestricted immigration. But you can’t have both. If someone can simply turn up in Britain and gain the same rights as British people who have paid taxes all their lives, it will mean that in time the whole system of benefits will collapse.

A world without borders would be a world where we had to share equally with everyone. We would all be part of one giant country. The average per capita income in the world is six thousand pounds a year. Call me selfish, but I’d rather have borders because they and they alone protect my lifestyle. If you want to take a massive pay cut, be my guest. Why not stand for the Pay Cut Party and see how many votes you get?

The price of trading freely with the EU is that we have to treat everyone in the European Union as if they were a British citizen. But what do we get in return? If I choose to move to Warsaw, will I get unemployment benefit? Will I get free tuition in their universities? Will I get free language classes in Polish and will I be able to claim tax credits if I work there and child benefit if I have children? No. I will get nothing whatsoever. EU citizens from countries that would give us no benefits can still claim whatever benefits are available to Brits here. This is not only unfair, it is simply untenable. It damages not only Britain it damages Poland and the Czech Republic, because their young people naturally enough prefer to live here rather than at home.  

So here is the deal. Every EU citizen who at present lives in the UK should be allowed to stay. After we leave the EU, every EU citizen should have the right to live in the UK, but they should only receive the benefits that a UK citizen receives if they have paid taxes for a certain period of time, for example. five years. We will grant work visas to any EU citizen who is highly skilled and we will grant work visas to any unskilled EU citizen up to for example 100,000 people ever year. After that figure is passed we will be reluctant to give any more visas that year to anyone from anywhere. This would still be a very generous immigration policy. But most importantly it would be the UK Parliament who decided immigration policy. Those who want to make it laxer than I suggest can campaign for this. Those who want to make it tighter can campaign for that position too. Above all we must recognise that it is too high a price to pay to trade "freely" with the EU that we lose control of our borders.

I am in favour of a so called “Hard Brexit” because the price we have had to pay to be a member of the EU single market is far too high. The UK economy will have to adjust. But the fundamental fact is this. You do not have to be in the EU single market in order to trade with EU countries. Japan trades with them. So does China, so do Australia and New Zealand. I want the UK to be in the same position as those countries. We must simply say to the EU we want to trade with you as freely as possible. But if you make it hard for us to trade with you that’s fine, we will go elsewhere. You can make life hard for us if you want. But it will hurt you more. The UK economy is performing much better than the EU. If you want to cut yourself out of our market by all means be my guest. If you want to make life tough for Brits who live in the EU now we will welcome them home. We want to trade freely and have a friendly relationship with our European neighbours, but it has to be two way traffic.

So let us talk to the EU by all means. Let us make plans and try to come to a consensus. But their hand is weak. All we want from them is that we can sell our goods as freely as possible and buy theirs in return. If they don’t want this then we simply walk away.

I was I think the first to point out that leaving the EU would make Scottish independence untenable. My friend Malcolm Cameron calls this the "Effie Deans Doctrine". I kept making this point when Remain supporters thought that Brexit would lead to the collapse of the UK. They were wrong about this, just as they were wrong about what would happen to the UK economy when we voted to leave. But it is leaving the single market above all that makes Scottish independence impossible. If Scotland were in the EU single market while the UK was not, Scotland could not make a trade deal with the UK. They could not make one any more than the UK can at present make a deal with Australia. Scottish trade with the UK would therefore be controlled by Brussels.

Scottish independence given a “Hard Brexit” entails the following. It means that Scotland would probably have to join the Euro. It probably means that there would be hard border between England and Scotland. This is to assume that Scotland would have to join Schengen. But this is after all a condition for membership of the EU. It would mean that Scotland would no longer be part of the UK single market and might have to pay tariffs at Berwick and Gretna. We would lose the billions of pounds a year we receive from the UK Treasury and we would have to pay a subscription to the EU without any rebate. If any of that appeals to you, then by all means vote for Scottish independence.

When Scotland elected 56 SNP MPs it was clear to me that in order for Scotland to remain in the UK something had to change. The momentum was with them and in time there would probably be a new independence referendum. If things had stayed the same, it looked like the Pro UK side would eventually lose. It was for this reason that I began to campaign for Brexit, because I could see a glimmer of hope. Brexit I believe will bring the UK closer together and also it will bring us prosperity. The EU is in trouble. Its two main means for bringing the continent together are failing. Free movement of people (Schengen) has led to new border posts going up. Everywhere in the EU people are building fences. The Euro is acting like a drag anchor on the EU economy. We have a positive story to tell about the UK’s future outside of the EU. Just watch as we succeed, while the EU gradually realises that it is a failed experiment. A Hard Brexit makes the choice clear for Scots. The fanatics and the fundamentalists will want independence come what may, but they are a minority. The moment has passed just like so often before.  

The last chance for Scottish nationalism is that the UK stays in the single market. This is why Nicola Sturgeon’s is now making that her red line. The weakness of her position is shown by how her red lines keep changing. She threatens and blusters but never does anything. It is absolutely simple really. Our task is to defeat the SNP. But the first rule of battle is “always do what your opponent least wants”. If the UK remains in the single market, then the whole doctrine of how Brexit stops Scottish independence in the long term is liable to not work. If the UK stays in the single market, it is as if we stayed in the EU. Then Scotland could vote to leave the UK with the comfort blanket intact and the SNP could argue that nothing fundamentally would change. There would be no hard border, no damage to trade none of the huge disadvantages that Brexit can bring to Scottish nationalism. So Pro UK Scots and Brits everywhere must face up to this choice. The vote for Brexit required something like a miracle. It may later be seen as a second Dunkirk. Ordinary people rising up and doing what was necessary when our country was in danger. Brexit will equally save our country for the long term. It will keep it intact. But for pity’s sake don’t throw the SNP a lifeline. It really is time to change your assumptions. Brexit only defeats Scottish nationalism if it is a Hard Brexit.

When you have a weed that keeps reappearing each year you have to dig it out at the roots and then pour weed killer in the hole. This is what a Hard Brexit will do to the hopes of Scottish Nationalists. They will bluster and they will threaten, but their threats will be empty. Pro UK Scottish Remainers have been wrong about everything. They are wrong about this too. The price of staying in the single market is too high not least because in the end it will destroy our country. You either change your assumptions and wash your hands of the SNP, or you don't.