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Differences and Similarities between EU and the UK

May 18, 2012 4 comments

People’s pledge campaign & UKIPs leader Nigel Farage were on the Daily Politics today talking about an EU referendum. Nigel was on longer talking also about the huge Euro crisis/meltdown going on.

Nigel made a comment or rather a series of comments that made me think how ridiculous most EU sceptics and nothing embodies the eurosceptic better than UKIP and Nigel Farage.

One of his points can be seen at the end of this clip. The point being that 37 years ago, his parents voted on whether to join the Common Market which is very different from the EU that we have today. His second point not in the clip was about how 2/3rds of the population (of the EU) being against the EU and had they had a choice in whether the EU was created or not, it wouldn’t have been created. And if the people of the EU had a choice to vote or stay in that a majority would vote to leave.

How true or not that statement is, isn’t the point of this post but rather the difference between the UK and the EU.

The EU or a diluted form in the Common Market has had a referendum, it may have changed considerably but thats beside the point. The United Kingdom or should I point out that the former kingdoms within it have never in 307 years of existence ever had a vote on whether the UK should even exist.

Ask any historian and they’ll say that if democracy like we know it had existed in 1707 and a referendum on Scotland joining a union with England and of England joining a union with Scotland, then the vote would have been lost by a bigger margin I would expect than 2/3rds against on both sides of the border.

Yet over 300 years later it still exists and people like Nigel Farage claim that the UK is the most successful political and economic union ever.

If the independence referendum happens in 2014, then it will have taken 307 years for one part of the union to have an in/out referendum as opposed to the EU’s 37 and counting. If the referendum goes the way polls are suggesting it will then it looks like it might be a 70-30 split in favour of the union.

That is dramatically different than what would have happened 305 years ago. The UK has evolved particularly in the last 15 years or so with the creation of a Scottish Parliament and continuing devolution of powers.

The EU, if it survives in 15 years will look dramatically different. Now, I would hazard a guess, that in 305 years in 2317 that many people will be saying that the EU/eurozone or whatever its called in 2317 is the one of the most successful political & economic unions ever.

Thats not to say, the EU is perfect, of course it isn’t but neither is the UK. I believe in a more federal UK & EU, with power concentrated as locally as possible.

I believe the UK can learn from the EU and the EU can learn from the UK.

Categories: Politics

An Open Letter to Joan McAlpine MSP

March 20, 2012 1 comment

Dear Joan McAlpine

As a constituent of the South of Scotland region, your constituency in the Scottish Parliament, I was disheartened to see your blog on the Daily Record’s website comparing the union to domestic abuse.

For the record, I hate the marriage metaphor when describing the union. What’s next for the “unionists” in that argument? “Stay together for the kids!” i.e. Wales & NI.

If anything the relationship is more like 4 kids in a playground. England being the biggest therefore thinking it has more rights than the other 3 kids or maybe England just thinks its being protective of the 3 littler kids in the big bad playground when it isn’t.

That being said there are some things I agree with in the article. I don’t think Scotland or any community within the UK should be dependent on Westminster.

I believe whether your an individual or community (however big or small) you should have the power to shape your own destiny.

Yet, I don’t believe in Scottish independence. Why?

Two reasons.

First, as I’ve blogged before, independence will lead to parliamentary ping pong like we haven’t seen in over 300 years. My only question to you and Alex Salmond is whose up to bat first?

My bet is on Salmond, his ego is far too big.

Having that parliamentary ping pong will not be good for Scotland or the rest of the UK but then again the last time that happened, it resulted in the Act of Union, so maybe that is your secret plan. To go independent just to renegotiate back in on better terms.

The second reason and this is far more philosophical than the first and one the SNP still fail to answer.

What is a “nation”?

Define for me, what definition of a “nation” are you using?

Is it because once, long ago, Scotland used to be a Kingdom and therefore a nation? If that’s true, then is Strathclyde a “nation”? After all, Strathclyde used to be a Kingdom before Scotland. Or what about the Kingdom of Fife?

For me, my “nation” isn’t Scotland. My “nation” is and I hope always will be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (N.B. no mention of Scotland in that title)

I hate the fact, that after 305 years of the Kingdom of Great Britain and 211 years of the United Kingdom, we still use in our every day talk, language that says we are not united, that we are not one nation. We still refer to the midlands which are in the south of Britain, not middle.

Maybe I should be proud that even after all these years, there are still distinct identities. Yes, but the same is true of Strathclyde and the Highlands, they are culturally distinct but we still don’t use divisive language in Scotland that clearly states that the people north of antonine’s wall whether it’s to the north west of antonine’s wall in the Highlands or north east as if they are something other.

The answer to dependency in the UK is not independence, its a federal UK, where everyone in the UK has the freedom to control their own destinies.

The problem with the Act of Union and its subsequent amendments and the devolution since, is that it exists. The problem with it, is that it is simply bad.

We need a new agreement from everyone in the UK. It needs to state why the UK exists, what its for and it needs to outline a new type of democracy, a style of democracy that is fit for the 21st century and one that is capable of adapting.

Best

Nic Prigg

A Reply to David Cameron’s speech on the United Kingdom

February 16, 2012 7 comments

Cameron came to Scotland today and gave an impassioned speech on why he believes in this United Kingdom.

It was a welcome change from his previous forays into the independence debate. He was positive about Scotland and Scotland’s contribution to the UK. He talked about how solidarity that the UK had, that we would lose if Scotland left. Yes, that’s right Dave Cameron went all Labour on us.

It was an impassioned speech and no doubt the Prime Minister believed in every word but it left me with questions and doubts.

Cameron spoke passionately about us being stronger together as a United Kingdom. He talked passionately about the solidarity it brings and the benefits it brings to all when you have 60 million people standing by you. Yet as Mark Pack points out, Dave can’t see that the same reasons he talks up the UK with are the same reasons why the European Union is so valuable.

I’ve talked to many Tories and UKIPers about this, and the only answer they can come up with is that the Uk is older and is therefore somehow better. Thats not true. The UK needs reform as does the EU but the UK isn’t better because its older. The older generation isn’t better than the younger because they are older. They have more experience but experience doesn’t equate to being better.

I would love to know what Cameron’s answer to this would be.

In his speech, he talked about Scotland and England’s shared values, shared identity, shared history. Yet his government amongst the huge education reforms that they are making, aren’t making provisions for our shared history to be taught in England. Cameron is happy for the vast majority of the English to remain ignorant of how the UK was formed.

In other nations, it is pretty much unthinkable to have a large swathe of its citizens not knowing how their country came to be. Yet in the UK, we are happy to let it slide that the English, 80% of the population aren’t taught about the Union of the Crowns and the Union of the Parliaments. In Scotland, we need to change our history curriculum so its less biased and focuses on how the whole UK was formed not just how Scotland formed a Union with England.

Cameron talked of his love of devolution and decentralisation and talks of wanting a settlement that works for everyone, yet his government is devolving power to Scotland, devolved powers to Wales and is setting up the West Lothian Commission without thinking about the possible negative impacts on the rest of the Uk.

I believe devolution in Scotland has some negative impacts on the rest of the UK as well as in Scotland (although a lot is positive for Scotland). The negative impact is biased towards England because they have no assemblies or their own parliament. This government has set up the West Lothian commission to solve it. What if that has negative consequences on rest of UK? Solve those issues on a case by case base, that has negative impact on the other nations etc. etc. Isn’t it better to have some joined up thinking on this?

If Cameron wants to find a solution to how to best govern this United Kingdom, why doesn’t he set up a commission to find out the answer to that question.

Finally, Cameron talks about continuing the debate on devolution after the independence referendum. Well, Mr Cameron, I don’t believe you on that score.

There was a devolution referendum in 1979, which only failed due to a threshold and stalled the debate for a generation thanks to your idol Lady Thatcher. The 97 referendum whilst successful, there hasn’t been much debate on where we go from here other than independence from the SNP. No side has really pushed for further devolution faster or a different vision. Even the LibDems have been fairly silent.

In May of last year, you took the side of No to AV, a large section of that campaign had a Yes to PR, No To AV. I believe Cameron himself said that people who want PR should vote No so they can start fighting for something they believe in. Yet when the No vote was announced, Cameron, himself said that it was a Yes vote for FPTP and had killed the debate for electoral reform for a generation.

So unless you can give me and Scotland a cast-iron guarantee, I simply won’t believe that the debate will carry on. In fact the only guarantee, I’d except is a question on the ballot paper asking Scots if we want change to the current constitutional settlement but not independence.

Even after Cameron’s speech, I’m left wondering what is Cameron’s vision for the UK! Does he have one? I’ve got empty rhetoric, nothing else.

It is time, that the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems set out their vision for what a future UK would look like. If they can find one.

The Benefit Cap Achieves Nothing!

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m wading into the debate over the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) a little late.

The benefit cap, caps all benefits, a person can receive at £500 pound a week or £26,000 a year. That is an incredibly large sum of money. I don’t feel comfortable with someone receiving that amount on benefits. So in principle, you would think I support the benefit cap. Well yes and no.

There are several reasons why I don’t support it.

One of the reasons is that it could punish those who’ve just lost their jobs and claiming benefits perfectly legitimately for a short period of time whilst they get back on their feet. As Tim Leunig points out in the guardian here and as the Independent points out here.

The other reason is that it simply does nothing to combat the reasons why people can claim so much. Not that the state is overgenerous but because rents are too high, a lack of affordable housing and not enough new jobs are being created.

There are some ramshackle flats in London, that are barely habitable that have extortionate rents. Due to lack of council housing, the government is then forced to pay the ridiculous high rents of these private buildings. If the government can fix the rents and stop private landlords have extortionate rent prices not just in London but up and down the country, that doesn’t just help the government bring the benefits bill down, but helps people up and down the country by putting more money in their pocket which they can then spend in their local economy.

The third reason that I am against it, is it does absolutely nothing to deal with those people who are longterm jobless, in workless families who don’t even want to work. It does nothing to these people. I don’t know about you or anyone else up and down the country, I’d happily and so would many others have £26,000 in benefit. It doesn’t say work pays in fact, it says the opposite that living on benefits can give you a nice life if your single. If we want to help these workless families, lets find ways of going after them rather than this gesture policy which sounds like we’re going after them without actually going after them.

The only reason I am for it, is the principle of you shouldn’t be entitled to more money in benefits than the average family in work earns. Other than that statement, it achieves little. I wish we could achieve more than gesture politics. I wish we could use our influence to actually implement policies that have a hope of achieving something.

Is the Union Fit For Purpose?

January 15, 2012 4 comments

Well, that is the question doing the media rounds at the moment. It is another way of phrasing the independence debate that is happening in Scotland with the referendum due in autumn 2014.

Henry McLeish in yesterday’s Herald said that the union wasn’t “fit for purpose”.

I agree with the former First Minister, the current settlement is terrible but then again he helped draft it. There is all this talk about “saving” the Union. Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats today in the Sunday Herald called it “outdated and over centralised”

Is this Union worth saving?

I would say not.

Is independence worth fighting for?

I would say not.

Is devo-max or full fiscal autonomy worth fighting for?

I would say not.

What is worth fighting for?

A union where we all come together, as a nation of equals to make decisions that benefit the whole of these islands not just one part. As again, Willie Rennie said in the Herald today, a union which we look past “division and difference” in order to achieve for everyone not just a select group.

I don’t think the current settlement allows every part of the UK to fly. As I’ve blogged here. We need to do something radically different. I think the LibDems can capitalise on it, if we start arguing for a federal UK or even a settlement thats created by the whole of the UK. As I’ve blogged here.

In order to create a Union that is fit for purpose, we’ve got to realise that each part needs to strive for excellence whilst having the support and the collectivism of the rest of the United Kingdom. In order to create a union that works we need to find that balance of individualism and collectivism. It is that balance which liberals fight for in all areas of life.

Now more than ever we, liberals need to fight for that balance within the structure of governance of the United Kingdom so that individualism doesn’t break the collectivism and harm the whole of the United Kingdom.

Independence referendum “date” set!

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

This post was going to be something quite different. It was going to be a “What Everyone Has Been Saying About the Independence Referendum” after all there has been a lot of news coverage over the weekend. Cameron stepped in to say that he will put a clause into the Scotland bill going through parliament at the moment that will give the Scottish parliament powers to hold a legally binding referendum on Scottish Independence if he holds the referendum in the next 18months.

According to Andrew Sparrow’s live blog apparently George Osborne has been chairing the ministerial committee on Scotland and led the discussions in cabinet.  Apparently George is not the “union’s biggest fan” and sees the referendum as a win/win for the Tories given that if Scotland leaves, it takes 59 seats with it which only 1 is Tory.

The coalition has been divided over how to tackle the referendum after LibDems opposed the mandatory 18month limit on the SNP holding the referendum. Quite rightly i might add.

While Nick was in Scotland on Saturday, he said that Independence was an extreme option.

Today, we had Moore in the Commons posing legality questions over the SNP holding the referendum and giving Holyrood the power to legally hold the referendum.

Then of course we had the SNP at the same time announcing the date or rather season of the referendum to be in Autumn 2014. Thats 2 and a half years away. There has been a whirlwind of activity on this, hopefully, i’ve caught everything thats been going on.

Will Cameron and Osborne try to bring the referendum closer who knows.

High Pay Isn’t the Only Market Failure.

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Cameron has been over the newspapers in recent days and was on the Andrew Marr show talking about what he calls “crony capitalism”.

He also said something that as a free-marketeer must have been very hard for him to say in that there had been a market failure with regard to high pay. As I’ve blogged before, high pay isn’t the only market failure. There is a market “failure” at low pay, medium pay and just in general.

I say “market failure” but it isn’t market failure, its human reasoning failure. Its our inability to calculate something’s worth.

Humans and I of course include myself in that, have this inability to calculate the worth of something especially and this is probably more difficult, what someone deserves in pay. And any number we do come up with is completely arbitrary. Add to this, the fact that we can be over motivated or overpaid i.e. as we increase our pay or our motivation beyond a certain level, we diminish our productivity. Add to that, the fact that we can be under motivated or underpaid  i.e. we feel that we are worth more than what we’re being paid and so our productivity isn’t as high as it could be. Add to all that the politics of jealousy i.e. executives seeing what other CEOs are earning and saying that they are worth just as much if not more than another CEO who is performing worse than them.

If you then look at how disastrously our economy is moving, yes you can blame Osborne/Darling/Brown (although there are slightly different pressures on them potentially leading to the same over motivation, decrease in performance) is that we have workers at the bottom who feel undervalued and therefore not being as productive as they should be and you have workers at the top who are over motivated and therefore not being as productive as they should be. What does this lead the renumeration committees to do. Why increase their pay? (This is Cameron’s “crony capitalism”) They think that they are under motivated and in order to get more growth in the company and more productive you need to increase the executives pay so they perform better whilst slashing/freezing the truly under motivated workers increases their productivity levels?

Renumeration committees logic is quite frankly ridiculous.

There isn’t just a high pay problem, there is a pay problem non-stop. I really wish that one of the leaders preferably Nick would actually stand up and shout about this fact.

The question is how do we deal with this problem? Presumably we don’t want the state telling companies how much to pay their workers and their executives.

One way to change it is to put workers on renumeration committees to force up their own pay and to pull down executives pay. Make shareholders votes be legally binding especially on pay structures. This would work better the more workers were shareholders. Although Cameron wasn’t prepared to say that workers would be put on to renumeration committees.

Cameron on Marr talking about executive pay.

Nationalist: If you’re a Unionist, you’re not loyal to Scotland

January 1, 2012 9 comments

I wanted to thank Tom Harris MP on twitter for bringing this to my attention.

The original tweets:

Now David Berry was the SNPs candidate in East Lothian in May last year. Yes, he was the guy who almost knocked the then Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray out of parliament.

What angers me about Berry’s comment is that the SNP still seem to think that the only people who want to see Scotland do well is them. That somehow wanting to be part of a union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland is somehow betraying Scotland. Its the same with the eurosceptics, that somehow if you are pro-EU, you are betraying the UK.

I know many nationalist will consider me a unionist because I think that we are stronger together and weaker apart. I believe in a Union, I do not believe in the current Union. I hate some of the arguments coming out of the coalition government and a lot of Labour heads as well. I hate the argument about economic benefits.

The SNP are incapable of grasping the idea that people of Scotland no matter their political views are all 100% loyal to Scotland. Everybody in Scotland wants to see Scotland fly.

The SNP love to talk about Unionists talking down Scotland but the real people who talk Scotland down are the nationalists. The SNP talk down the UK government without realising that to talk down the UK government is to talk Scotland down. To talk down Northern Ireland is to talk down Scotland. To talk down Wales is to talk down Scotland. To talk down England is to talk down Scotland. To talk down the EU is to talk down Scotland.

The UK is a team and to talk down one player is to talk down the whole team. We can criticise the UK government, we can challenge them but to talk them down is to talk us down as well.

I recently watched the movie Miracle(2004). Inspirational movie. Highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it. The one thing it teaches and shows incredibly clear that if your thinking about yourself and not about the team, then you can’t be great. To me, it shows the dangers of being divisive. If you harbour rivalries, if you have an us vs them attitude then you can never be great.

The thing the nationalists are great at is creating this Scotland vs the rest of the UK attitude. They are great at creating a rivalry along an abstract border. The SNP are great at talking about the sovereignty of the Scottish people and about this nation called Scotland but what is a nation? Shared culture, shared language, shared history? Cumbria used to be part of the Kingdom of Scotland should we allow them to become part of Scotland again? I’m from Strathclyde which used to be a Kingdom, which means it was once a sovereign nation. What if in an independent Scotland, I don’t fancy being run by holyrood? I want to have more powers for Strathclyde. I don’t feel I have that much in common with the east coasters or the highlanders so can Strathclyde become an independent nation?

Nationalists use abstract concepts of nationhood to divide and weaken countries. The SNP love to blame Westminster for Scotland’s ills but Westminster hasn’t just failed Scotland but the whole of the UK. We need to devolve power away from Westminster and in my opinion devolve some up towards Westminster so that we can build a country of individuals, but we can also build a team from the centre as well.

In my opinion, the only party that can deliver on this is a Liberal Democrat one, which is why I want to see a LibDem majority government in Westminster in 2015 and a LibDem-led/majority government in Scotland in 2016.

Easy Steps Towards Preventative Healthcare

December 6, 2011 3 comments

Preventative healthcare is far cheaper than our current remedial approach. Yet we are not really creating policies to create a more preventative model of the NHS.

Our approach of moving towards a more preventative healthcare system is to provide more education so that we all know what to look for. Has nobody noticed that very few people are medically trained and those that are, are doctors, nurses etc. i.e. the people we need to go see when there is something potentially wrong with us. Expecting us to be some mini-GP is quite frankly ludicrous.

That coupled with the fact that most people even when they notice something tend to have their default set to, “its probably nothing serious” or “I won’t ever be seriously ill” so they don’t go to the medically trained people they need.

In order to move to a cheaper more preventative healthcare system, lets take a lesson from car manufacturers.

Car manufacturers manage to get car owners into the back of dealerships for regular automobile maintenance. How?

They bundle all the maintenance checks into easy to manage schedules e.g. car needs maintenance every 6 months or 5,000 miles. Is there therefore a way to bundle all healthcare checks in an easy and predictable manner?

The next problem with moving towards a more preventative healthcare system is people not turning up to their appointments.

Why?

Procrastination.

How do you solve procrastination?

Provide a parental voice.

How do you provide a parental voice in the NHS?

Ask for a deposit.

Easy.

This isn’t medical science.

Obviously above our politician’s heads though.

 

Should LibDems be proposing something different than EMA and its successor?

December 2, 2011 2 comments

Much has been made about the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England. Its replacement is £180m bursary scheme to children in the lowest-income households. LibDems and of course Conservatives say this is better as it targets those on the lowest incomes rather than giving money to the slightly better off who spend the EMA on CDs/DVDs or video games.

I think we as Liberal Democrats should be taking a rather different approach to this than Labour and the Conservatives. Instead of paying kids to stay on in school by providing them money in order to buy books/stationery/transport etc. lets actually provide them with the necessary tools that they need to stay on in school.

There are a couple of reasons why the current approach of paying the kids directly is bad so let me explain:

First, when people are paid money whether its theirs or someone else lending money to them, they begin to take ownership of the money and they therefore feel entitled to the money even though it isn’t this. So if in this case the state decides that the money we hand to slightly less well-off would be better off going to the neediest. The slightly less well off get annoyed and angry that the state is taking money away from them.
These kids feel entitled to this money even though it isn’t theirs and partly because it is now their money, they can spend it on what they want rather than what the money was provided for.

Second, every company provides the books, stationery and if its required travel expenses for the employees in order to do their job. They do this as they want their employees thinking about their job. A kids job is to learn and be creative so that they learn to be the innovators of tomorrow yet we as a nation seem incapable of providing them with the tools they need to do that.

Textbooks and stationery should be provided so that they don’t have to worry about the cost. They can use the time worrying about cost and put it into their studies. School buses should be easily accessible or public transport should be free to and from school.

As a country, we should be doing everything we can to make sure the next generation can fulfill their potential.

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