Back at the Keyboard

A whole lot happened in the indysphere during the week I took off because family were visiting from England – loved ones I’d not seen since before lockdown started. Most significant for prospects for independence perhaps was the news that the SNP and the Scottish Greens have reached an agreement on formal cooperation in government. For the Greens its a historic development, being the first time anywhere in the UK that the Greens have been represented in government. The deal is not a coalition, the closest parallel is possibly the pact between Harold Wilson’s minority Labour government in 1977 and the Liberal party then led by David Steel. The Pact saw the Labour government adopt a number of Liberal policies and in return the Liberals supported the Labour party during any vote of no-confidence.

Unlike the Lib-Lab Pact, which gave the Liberals no cabinet representation, the SNP-Green deal, if approved by Green party members, will see two Green MSPs, most likely co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, taking up ministerial positions. If it goes through, the deal reinforces the pro-independence majority in Holyrood by effectively giving the Scottish Government a substantial majority and guarantees the Scottish Government’s survival should the anti-independence parties call for a vote of no confidence.

The deal effectively destroys the – always spurious – attack line of the anti-independence parties who claim that because the SNP fell just short of winning an outright majority in May, there is no mandate for another independence referendum. The British nationalist parties now have no chance of voting down any measures that the Scottish Government introduces to facilitate another referendum, and the Scottish Government will be able to negotiate with its UK ministerial counterparts from a position of unassailable strength at Holyrood.

The inclusion of the Greens in the Scottish Government will also help tilt the Scottish Government in a decidedly more environmentally friendly direction, which will be invaluable for attracting the support of younger voters for whom the environment and climate change are key issues. This cohort of voters will also be attracted to the socially progressive policies backed by the Greens, policies which are anathema to the socially conservative wing of the independence movement. However the key to victory in the referendum that’s coming is to ensure that as many young voters as possible turn out to vote. This deal helps to achieve that goal and so should be welcomed. There is now a solid “supermajority” for independence in the Scottish Parliament.

British nationalists were happy last week because it was GERSmas, the annual publication of the GERS figures which purport to demonstrate that Scotland is an irredeemable basket case, hopelessly dependent on the largesse of a benevolent Westminster. Every year it’s the same ritual. Of course even those who gleefully leap on the GERS statistics as “proof” that Scotland should not become independent are reluctantly forced to concede that the GERS figures tell us nothing about the financial position of an independent Scotland.

All that the GERS figures tell us is how Scotland’s finances are managed by the Westminster Government, and even that isn’t done with any degree of accuracy that can inspire confidence. Most of the figures are based on guesstimates. According to the economist Richard Murphy, GERS is a mechanism for artificially inflating Scottish expenditure and artificially decreasing Scottish revenues.

However if they were indeed accurate, all that the GERS figures would tell us is that the Scottish economy is being hopelessly mismanaged by Westminster. The anti -independence parties, aided and abetted by an overwhelmingly anti-independence media, like to propagate the myth that it’s the Scottish Government which is responsible for the state of Scotland’s finances as told by the GERS figures. This is a barefaced lie. It’s Westminster which has control of the macro-economic levers which steer the Scottish economy, and it’s Westminster which jealously guards its control over them. The Scottish Government operates within the financial constraints of a fixed budget and has very limited borrowing powers. Under the terms of the devolution settlement, Holyrood is simply not able to create the deficit which the anti-independence parties are so eager to weaponise every year.

There is little doubt that Scotland does have an annual deficit in its finances. Deficits are normal. Equally there is little doubt that the GERS figures tell us nothing about what the real deficit of an independent Scotland would be.

The GERS figures were first introduced in the 1990s by the Conservative Scottish Secretary Ian Lang, who wanted a political tool to deploy against those who were campaigning for the creation of a Scottish Parliament. Three decades later the GERS statistics are still being used as a political weapon against those who argue for greater Scottish self-government.

Meanwhile a new study of the Scottish media has revealed the extent of the anti-independence bias in the Scottish press. The study, by South African academic David Patrick, a senior researcher in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, examined around 7000 newspaper articles written during the 2014 campaign and afterwards for a new book. due to be published at the end of the month.

The study found that there was a distinct anti-independence bias in newspaper front pages, which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Scottish media. Patrick also found that Ruth Davidson’s reputation as the supposed “saviour of the Union” was entirely the creation of a sympathetic media long after the referendum campaign was over and was not borne out by reporting of her activities during the campaign itself. Equally the study found that Gordon Brown was built up into a supposed “political titan” by a right wing media which had spent the previous years trashing the former Labour PM’s time in office. The media only changed its tune because the anti-independence campaign was in need of a figure who could sell a promise of greater devolution to Scotland in return for a no vote. This was a promise which as we all know, was later reneged on by a Westminster which has used the Brexit which Scotland didn’t vote for as an excuse to undo key aspects of the devolution settlement.

However perhaps the most interesting finding is that the London based media paid little attention to the referendum campaign until the final week when a YouGov poll gave Yes a narrow lead. Until then the London-centric media had lazily and arrogantly taken a No victory for granted. They won’t make the same mistake the next time, which is why it is all the more important that we focus on making positive arguments for independence and persuading undecideds and soft noes. That’s what this blog is going to get back to now that I’ve had a wee break to spend time with some much missed loved ones.


In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.

Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.

If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.

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