The Brexit vote wasn’t democracy in action. It was populist ignorance on a grand scale.

Pride's Purge

No-one else seems to be saying this, so I will.

Way back in 1988 – when the Thatcher government passed the infamous anti-homosexual law known as Section 28 – a majority of the UK population supported it.

I was one of the minority who was against it.

Even as late as 2000, polls showed around 52% of the UK population were against the Blair government repealing the law.

Despite being in the minority – I was never in any doubt that the majority were wrong.

These days, of course, everyone claims they know Section 28 was wrong. David Cameron – a strong supporter of Section 28 at the time it was introduced – has even apologised for it.

So we – the minority who were always against Section 28 – were in the end proven to be right.

That’s why Remain supporters need to get their balls back. Because being in a minority doesn’t make us wrong.

Politicians are too afraid…

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Jobs galore after Brexit…

I am a confirmed Remain supporter but I have to admit that Brexit will herald a new employment boom in one very specific area. If the UK leaves the EU there will be new opportunities within every company which exports goods or services to or imports from the Single Market.

  • What is this opportunity? The customs broker of course.

documentationIf we are not part of the Single Market then we are not part of the unified VAT, duty and excise system and we do not enjoy unfettered access to that market. Therefore every truck, every container, every pallette, every package, in fact every consignment of any size whatsoever leaving the UK for the EU will require full documentation to enter the Single Market and likewise anything coming the other way. We are currently trading inside a customs union but that may not be for long.

Is this likely to be a logistical problem? Anyone who crossed, for example, the road border from Germany into Poland before the latter joined the EU in 2004 will remember the miles – literally miles – of trucks queued back from the border in both directions. So yes, a logistical nightmare.

And that’s where the customs broker comes in. After Brexit all companies will need to keep a meticulous check on each and every manifest and invoice that is directed to or from the EU as it will be trade conducted outwith a customs union. Fun and games for the paper pushers.

Nevertheless, if you have a head for figures and fancy a new career take a look at training as a customs broker as it will be about the only growth industry in the UK if Brexit prevails…

The prizes of promiscuity

by Philip Lawrence

Imagine, if you will, a married couple. They have been together for a considerable time. One day the husband decides that he wishes to divorce his wife. However there are certain caveats attached. The soon-to-be-ex-wife will have to agree to still sleep with him, cook for him, clean for him, etc. She will also be expected to turn a blind eye to her soon-to-be-ex-husband sleeping with her sister, her cousin, many of her friends and various other random hook-ups whilst he also arranges to be fed and watered by sundry other prospective partners. It may also be the case that the ex-wife will be expected to play an active part in the other relationships.

You would probably agree that this is an entirely unlikely scenario. You would also probably regard anyone accepting such a scenario as incredibly stupid and/or feeble-minded. This is the stuff of the Jeremy Kyle Show!

So why are we expected to accept this as commonsense when the plot is transposed as a post-Brexit EU-UK arrangement? Just in case there is any doubt the UK is the husband in this case!

We are told daily by Leave that the UK will be able to select its trade arrangements in a lush, dreamy carte-blanche and laissez-faire sort of arrangement with whichever countries it desires – all the time secure in the safe and certain knowledge that the UK is the highest trade priority for every other government in the entire the world – whilst maintaining a free-trade relationship with Europe which the EU will be desperate to maintain at all costs. Anyone who challenges this contortion of conventional wisdom is quickly shot down as a scaremonger and a heretic. In fact any international political figure who suggests that this wisdom is not flawless is trashed as insignificant and out of step with the realities of today’s modern business world which clearly rotates on an axis centred upon London.

Actually, the post-Brexit picture that Leave present must make a sane man wonder what value has ever been seen in the World Trade Organization? In fact, if it is so easy to hook-up randomly with whoever you want, whenever you want then why have we been obsessed with formal trade blocs since the beginning of the Hanseatic League in the 13th century? It would appear that the Brexiteers have stumbled upon a new overarching economic reality that negates all conventional theory and wisdom on the nature of global trade. Kudos to Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – I didn’t know they had it in them.

Recently there has been some suggestion that the free-flowing tap of foreign footballers entering the leagues in the UK will be turned off or at least severely restricted. This follows logically from the scrapping of access to the single market and the freedom of movement of labour within that market. Brexiteer Chris Grayling however characterises such logic as “outlandish” and “really very far-fetched.” Well I never! When a consequence of Leave threatens to have a tangible negative impact on something that a large chunk of the electorate holds dear then all of a sudden it is an outlandish and far-fetched interpretation.

When Barack Obama adds his tuppence worth from the viewpoint of a concerned friend who understands the value of working on relationships he is variously criticised for his part-Kenyan ancestry which surely has to make him fundamentally anti-British, for being a lame duck who is on the way out, for supposedly varying his vocabulary in a manner to suit Downing Street and for not having any real idea of the value of the UK to the US.

The attitude of Leave supporters to what is acceptable or not is entirely pick ‘n’ mix which is of course utterly incoherent from an intellectual perspective. But whoever said that politicians had to be coherent?

The Leave camp promises that promiscuity in economic affairs is the way to secure the future of British business and the British economy. But anyone who has been promiscuous in any facet of their existence will know that the ultimate outcomes tend to follow a route (shortened for purposes of brevity of course!) along the lines of thrill, disappointment, new thrill, a nasty little itch, ultimate isolation.

But who knows – have Gove, Johnson and Farage maybe cracked it?

What are right-wing people? – a guide for under 10-year-olds

Oh, this is irreverent.

Pride's Purge

RIGHT-WING PEOPLE

toby young cartoon

This is Toby. Toby thinks he is great. Toby likes to tell other people how they can be great too. Toby is what we call a ‘right-wing’ person.

But what are ‘right-wing’ people?

Right-wing people are people who think they are great. Right-wing people think everyone can be great too if only other people were a bit more like them. Right-wing people think they know how to do things better than other people.

Some right-wing people even think they know better than experts. If you have a tummy ache, normal people go to a doctor. Normal people listen to the doctor and do what they tell them to do.

But right-wing people don’t like to listen to doctors. Right-wing people think they know better than doctors.

jeremy cartoonThis is Jeremy. Jeremy thinks he knows better than doctors.

Right-wing people also think they know better than firemen how to put out fires. And they think…

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Scottish! Not British!

Scotto Voce

Nicola Sturgeon has, as we might expect, gone to the very nub of the issue for voters in the coming election. When she refers to the “social contract with the people of Scotland” she is talking about the things which make Scotland different from the rest of the UK. She is talking about the distinctive political culture which has developed in Scotland since our parliament was reconvened in 1999. A process of divergence that was markedly accelerated with the arrival of the first real Scottish Government in 2007. A process that gained unstoppable momentum with the SNP landslide of the last Holyrood election.

There is, in Scotland, a social contract between the governed and their government which has no parallel in the relationship between the people of Scotland and the Westminster elite. The British political establishment has rejected any such social contract in favour of a mechanistic relationship in which…

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Processes and tipping points

More common-sense from Peter A Bell. Take note.

Scotto Voce

What John Swinney suggests regarding a Scottish Chancellor makes perfect sense. Unless you are ideologically opposed to the power of the Westminster elite being diminished in any way. We are on a trajectory which inevitably leads to independence. With every bit of power that is wrested from the jealous grasp of the British establishment and returned to the Scottish Parliament where it belongs, it becomes increasingly difficult to rationalise the continued withholding of related powers.

It is an incremental process. It is gradual. But it is also an accelerating process which must, at some juncture, arrive at a tipping point. The point at which it becomes patently untenable for powers to continue being withheld. That point is likely to be reached rather sooner than most people suppose. In fact, it could readily be argued that we have already passed that highly significant milestone where the locus shifted from Westminster to…

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Welfare for the wealthy

This is a repost in its entirety of an article by Russell Bruce as published by Wings Over Scotland on March 14th.

There are two very different kinds of welfare in the UK. One is the kind that primarily benefits poor people, which is under remorseless attack from the government.

But there’s another kind too, for which there’s still a bottomless pit of cash.

Last week Treasury officials briefed that there would be no change to pensions in the coming budget, despite a widely-circulated consultation on a Pension ISA with no tax relief on investment, or an alternative model based on flat-rate pension tax relief.

The result has been that those with money to invest have been putting in as much as they can, in case either of those things happen in the future. Because if they did, higher-rate taxpayers would lose a fortune. And not even a small fortune.

Pension tax relief costs the Treasury around £35 billion a year, and much of it is a huge bung to the rich. The table below shows the present levels of tax relief on a pension investment of £3,600 a year (£240 a month). If you pay normal basic-rate tax and save that much, the Treasury chips in £720 to your pension pot over the year.

But a 40% taxpayer saving the exact same amount gets twice as much tax relief – £1,440 – and the 45% taxpayer gets even more – £1,620 – paid in by the Treasury.

pensiontax.jpg

The Treasury is sensitive about how much it’s subsidising the pension contributions of high earners because the government is bleeding a vast torrent of money to people who plainly don’t need it.

Luckily for them it rarely makes the newspapers, because pensions are boring and the editors of newspapers are exactly the sort of well-paid and savvy people who can take advantage of the juicy scheme, but just how lucrative the present system is for high earners was illustrated by Chris Giles in last Thursday’s Financial Times.

ftpensiontax

One particularly eye-watering passage can be found here:

ftpensiontax2

But we’re also going to build an illustrative story around those figures, because they aren’t the end of the tax saving potential for high earners.

Our fictional high earner – let’s arbitrarily call him “Boris” – is paid just under £150,000 a year, so he qualifies for 40% tax relief. He has £40,000 in unused allowances and plans to invest the full amount in case the rules change, following the route above.

But our lucky (and ENTIRELY FICTIONAL, remember) Boris was also left a portfolio of gold-mining shares by his Auntie B, and gold has risen in value in recent months. At the end of November last year it was trading at $1061 and is now $1246. When the gold price rises this leverages the price of mining company shares.

Boris calculates he is sitting on a profit of just over £11,000 on these shares. As he hasn’t used his capital gains tax allowance and the tax year is running out, he could take the profit to pay off the £10K left on the bank loan and leave the full £40,000 in his new pension pot.

Boris is happily married to Clarinda, who works in the City at something nobody really understands. She’s also a higher rate taxpayer and has used the same process as hubby Boris to turn £14,000 into a new pension pot of £40,000. Clarinda is only 52 so can’t move to drawdown and still has £10k left on her bank loan, but when annual bonus time comes around she gets enough to clear it in one go.

Boris and Clarinda earn a very healthy £295,000 between them. They also have money in stocks and shares and pay the maximum £15,240 into ISAs every year, where there’s no further tax on dividends and no Capital Gains Tax on profits.

They’ve each put £15,240 into an ISA and £14,000 into their pension, for a total of £29,240 each in tax shelters. They’ve used their Capital Gains Tax allowances to save £8,576 of tax, reducing the cost of those investments to a combined £71,328.

But in just one year – and there’s nothing stopping them doing much the same again next year, and every year – they’ve just managed to effectively increase their joint savings pot by a whopping £110,480.

Who paid in the extra £40,000? You, the hapless and unsuspecting taxpayer did. And by keeping the rules the same, the UK government is going to make sure you keep subsidising Boris and Clarinda’s comfortable retirement. Don’t let anyone tell you the Tories are reducing welfare, readers. They’re just redirecting it.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

Scotto Voce

There’s a lot of understandable and perfectly justified anger about the BBC Question Time broadcast from Dundee on Thursday 10 March. Even for the BBC, there was some quite remarkably blatant bias on display. Were the preposterously arrogant management of the corporation given to explaining themselves at all, they would surely be struggling to account for the very obvious dearth of local people in the audience. Although the unionist/anti-SNP weighting of the panel was pretty standard.

But what had most people choking on the breakfast cereal of grovelling humility that these days is supposed to supplement our regular diet of haggis, porridge and shortbread, was the appearance of, not one, but TWO relics from British Labour in Scotland’s humiliation at the hands of the Scottish electorate last year. One of these was a nonentity of such profound blandness as to have made no impression on me at all. But the…

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Rousing the beast of British nationalism

The very fact that the questions are being asked about Ruth Davidson’s future as leaderette of David Cameron’s North British operation tells us that here future is not as secure as she likes to pretend. It also suggests that she is being held personally responsible for the decision to stake the Scottish Tories’ electoral fortunes on a desperate bid to lure hard-line unionist votes away from British labour in Scotland with a campaign designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator among British nationalist fanatics.

Internally, of course, Davidson has undoubtedly pinned her future on “beating Labour into second place in the Holyrood election”. Much as the polls may have prompted second thoughts about her boast that the Scottish Tories can go from toxic support act for their British Labour allies to a leading role as official opposition, that moment of braggadocio will inevitably come back to haunt her if she fails to come first among failures.

What may be interesting about this developing sideshow is the way it is coming to serve, if not entirely satisfy, the British media’s need to get back to the ‘normality’ of British politics, and the faux rivalry between British Labour and the other half of the double-act. I suspect we will see an increasing focus on the runners-up and an effort to portray this as the really significant aspect of the election. The SNP is, of course, ‘only’ a Scottish party. How can it possibly be as important as the ‘main’ British parties? Such is the mindset of the British media. Whether with malicious intent or merely as a function of their primitive instincts, they will tend to seize upon any opportunity to sideline the Scottish in favour of the British.

Which will, incidentally, feed nicely into a battle for the crumbs off the Scottish Parliamentary election table fought as a contest of increasingly extravagant displays of Britishness. British Labour in Scotland will, as ever, allow their Tory dancing partners to lead. They will take their cue from Ruth Davidson as she prances and postures before the lumpen loyalist mass. Even as I write, the moths are being shaken out of lurid union jack clown-suits and the tawdry baubles of ‘Brand Britain’ are being dusted off. The appeals to sickly sentimentality for a mythical past are being prepared. The militaristic jingoism is being rehearsed. If at all possible, royal buns will already be in aristocratic ovens. The British bit of the Scottish General Election will come to look like a badly printed scene from a cheap commemorative plate. It will not be pleasant.

But there is a serious side to all of this. One wonders if Ruth Davidson is aware of the dark forces she is toying with as she seeks to rouse the monster of British nationalist fanaticism in aid of her electoral ambition. Is she genuinely naive enough to suppose that she can control the slavering beast she seeks to unleash? Is Kezia Dugdale smart enough to avoid being drawn into a fight for the favours of elements that less desperate politicians would shun?

Having observed the conduct of the British parties in Scotland over the past few years, there is no cause to be hopeful. Neither can we hope that the media will behave responsibly. The expectation must be that the British media will relish the contamination of Scotland’s politics that the British parties are set to visit upon us. If we are not careful, Ruth Davidson’s political career may be the least of the casualties in the coming election.

Scotto Voce

The very fact that the questions are being asked about Ruth Davidson’s future as leaderette of David Cameron’s North British operation tells us that here future is not as secure as she likes to pretend. It also suggests that she is being held personally responsible for the decision to stake the Scottish Tories’ electoral fortunes on a desperate bid to lure hard-line unionist votes away from British labour in Scotland with a campaign designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator among British nationalist fanatics.

Internally, of course, Davidson has undoubtedly pinned her future on “beating Labour into second place in the Holyrood election”. Much as the polls may have prompted second thoughts about her boast that the Scottish Tories can go from toxic support act for their British Labour allies to a leading role as official opposition, that moment of braggadocio will inevitably come back to haunt her if…

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We want YOU as a new recruit!

In an effort to reach out to politically and economically aware Scotland we have decided to open the pages of the Scottish Economic Analysis Unit to you.

Do you have ideas for a blog or maybe just one article but have never found the time to get round to it? Or is there one burning issue which really gets you going and you know you have the alternative smart answer? Or maybe you have already written that piece and distributed it to your own contacts but it deserves a wider audience? Whatever the scenario might be, now is the time to hit your keyboard.

What we are looking for is original material to publish on this blog relating to Scottish politics and economics with particular emphasis on May’s Holyrood election and the EU referendum. By original we mean material that is not simply a reprint of a mainstream journalistic work. If you want to submit articles from your own blog then that is ideal.

Unlike a traditional election the EU vote is going to define our relationship with our main trading partners in Europe – probably for most of us – for the rest of our lives. You would have to imagine that it is incumbent on the media to give us all the full and true story but with the track record of the MSM we know that will not happen! So let’s try to offer as wide a resource base of informed opinion as possible.

Please bear in mind that the editorial line here is pro-independence and pro-EU. That is not to say that you cannot play devil’s advocate on issues as we are not foolishly blinkered to the point of ignoring coherent opinion.

What we ask is that the content and conclusions of all articles submitted should, wherever possible, be verifiable and substantiated. We will also prefer positive arguments wherever possible but that is up to you.

Write to us at scottisheau@gmail.com and tell us your idea for a blog post or, even better, submit your piece now. It’s your choice. But do it now so that you don’t lose momentum!

Get writing now – for all our sakes.

The Editor