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10 May 2015


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Bryn P

You are quite right in saying that the idea of the SNP having undue influence over English affairs in any potential coalition with Labour frightened many English voters. Labour was also not helped by Conservative warnings to its traditional voters that defecting to UKIP would only result in letting in Labour in many marginals. The opposite happened. More working-class voters were attracted by UKIP's anti-immigrant bias and let in the Tories!

You are also correct in saying that the dynamics leading to Scottish independence are now very strong. Paradoxically they are much stronger with the Tories winning the election than they would have been under any Labour-SNP coalition government.


The real shockeroonie is that the city of Calgary went NDP. That's like Dallas and Houston voting for the Green Party and Bernie Sanders.

As luck would have it, I was talking to a couple of Albertans (snowbirds) last night at the bar. They railed against the Progressive Conservatives, called them arrogant, didn't listen, thought they would be in power forever, gave away the provincial royalties to support all the other provinces (10% royalty down to 1%, which pays for Alberta education and healthcare). Then they said, rolling their eyes--I'm just reporting here, have no idea if it's true--that the people around the new Premier are all 20-somethings. Baristas, yoga instructor, drop-out students, a Chilean admirer of Hugo Chavez, child-care worker. They told me to search for this article from the Edmonton Sun: "Lorne Gunter: NDP lineup full of radicals" http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/05/06/lorne-gunter-ndp-lineup-full-of-radicals

I don't know what MLA means exactly but it's an elected member of the Alberta government.

Apparently the yoga instructor tweeted the day after her win last week that she was going to teach yoga in her studio, then go home to google what an MLA does, and ask the Premier for her portfolio.

These two had me in stitches. The people of Alberta are MAD. Unlike the US, the people of Alberta own those royalties. Have since 1949. They are considered people property, public domain, and stored in a separate fund for their benefit, not subsumed into the provincial pot automatically.



Are you American, Canadian or both? pl

Bryn P

I cannot help you here though it is clear that there will have been a Conservative, or more accurately a pro-Unionist majority in Northern Ireland and anti-Conservative majority in Wales.

As for the promised EU membership referendum in 2017, if it does take place it will do so under very different circumstances than if it was happening now. If it was happening this year as UKIP would like, I believe that there would be a majority for staying in. The opposition is still somewhat fragmented and has not yet marshalled a clear and coherent message as to why and how this can be achieved. In the next two years maybe they will get their act together and maybe we will in any case be overtaken by events should the Euro collapse. As it stands Cameron clearly wants us to stay in so who knows how he will frame the question?

For the record I voted against joining forty years ago, not out of any anti-European bias but simply because I did not welcome another layer of bureaucracy. Today I would vote to stay in, though in the light of its wholly undemocratic structures I would do so reluctantly. However I think that the alternative would be a UK even more closely allied to the United States and given your current situation this possibility frankly horrifies me. At least within Western Europe I see a growing disillusionment with US policies which just might force our politicians to disengage from some of your more extremist actions.



"Do you have any proof for the assertion that the French in Quebec are merely freeloaders? Like little children, eh?"

No links. No. It was during the 90s, if I recall correctly.

Canada was experiencing a lot of budget problems. BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, all doing poorly. Oil at $10/barrel. The $CAN worth $USD 0.62. The eastern provinces were in the deep doldrums, having lost their industries from over-fishing and tough regulations imposed.

Lots of people were sympathetic to Quebec going it alone, but when they discovered they would be paying for it, they snapped. Ordinary Canadians couldn’t afford to travel outside the country. They couldn’t afford imports. Everybody in every business in Canada had to hire French translators for their business, because all marketing and advertising materials had to be in both languages; I don’t know if that’s still the case.

“You were in Montreal at McGill? Now, there is a place friendly to the French!”

Nah. I said I was in-between degrees —> in the US. I lived on Rue St-Denis, I had a job with a French Canadian company, and was heavily into the French Canadian culture, crazy partiers, which was why I spoke joual, the French Canadian dialect. I already spoke French fluently; learning joual was nothing at that age. No one, and I mean no one, got into the real underground French Canadian cultural world without speaking joual. T’sais?



I don't speak joual, never saw the need for it. my wife can if she wants to as could my mother. "when they discovered they would be paying for it," Well, pilgrim, you can't make unsupported statements like that here without proof. If you are going to slander a people you must have evidence over and above prejudice. pl



"No one, and I mean no one, got into the real underground French Canadian cultural world without speaking joual. T’sais?" Insulting, arrogant BS, you are on thin ice. [pl


David Habakkuk,

You complain of these things (Scots votes on English laws, tutition fees, etc) as if they are natural phenomena. England can change each one of those things if they wanted to. If you recall, university was free in all constituent parts of the UK not too long ago. Scotland has only maintained the policy. Is it really the fault of the Scots that England hasn't?

Britain is a small increasingly insignificant island and on it perhaps it is the Scots who are the true conservatives (small c) and Tory/New Labour England who are the radicals. It is Scotland who wants/wanted slow modernization of the post-war British welfare state, not the radical reassignment surgery of Thatcher and Blair. As I see it, Scotland is only doing what England has become too weak and bought-off to do themselves, namely look after their own interests.


You're mirror imaging there. Britain is different than the US. People there have a much more sympathetic view of the state, and that the state should provide "cradle to grave' support to the people. This is a cultural feature about the proper moral role of one's community as much as it is a political one. The SNP sits squarely within this post-WWII welfare state tradition, and within it is actually is a centrist party. Labour on the other hand has not been a left wing party since Blair. It is a party for and of metropolitan professional elites, who get off looking down on people who are not as 'sophisticated' as them and telling the proles that they should quit reading their tabloids and worry not about their actual interests but rather what words are offensive and what behavior is 'wrong.' That's a big reason the SNP has done so well, it actually talks to and takes seriously the concerns of people who are not necessarily educated, not politically correct, and may not, clutch the pearls, have the 'right' view on this or that.

Also, I have found that Presbyterianism and Protestant work ethic play a much bigger role in people's minds than the romantic Braveheart crap. That is generally only for the American tourists.


David Habakkuk,

My impression is that Salmond and Sturgeon are notably different in affect and approach, which some English observers do acknowledge. Already Sturgeon has distanced herself from post-election remarks made by Salmond to the effect that independence is on its way. She seems to be well aware that a majority of the Scottish public just voted against independence and she has stated that no referendum will be in the offing unless "circumstances" change. It is true that a more extreme Tory government is a better foil for the SNP, but it also seems to me that Sturgeon has an interest in seeking to hold Cameron to his promises without seeming unreasonable and Cameron has an interest in not being the fellow who won his re-election at the cost of losing Scotland. (No doubt Sturgeon is thinking about the immediate future of the Scottish economy as well.)

David Habakkuk


My purpose was not to 'complain'. It was, first, to correct the statement that Scots have 'a marginal say in their own governing', which is false. Second, it was to try to explain how a lot of people in England feel, not always easy when talking to Americans, whose national history starts with a revolt against rule from London.

As to whose 'fault' the situation which has been developing is, my own sympathies perhaps reflect the fact that my paternal parents were Anglicising Welsh – in 1915, the year my grandfather went into the Royal Navy, they gave their son the name of an Anglo-Saxon king. So I do not instinctively sympathise with Welsh or Scottish nationalism, but am not in general particularly enthusiastic about the English version either.

Actually, I discussed some ambiguities of Welsh identity in a discussion on Ukraine on Nicholas Gvosdev's blog back in 2008, to which I also brought in some lessons learnt from having family members from the West Ukraine, of mixed Ukrainian and Russian ancestry.

(See http://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.htmlhttp://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.html">http://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.html">http://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.htmlhttp://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.html .)

What I tried to explain there, as I have in this discussion, is that the notion that 'nations' are a kind of 'collective individual', with a 'general will' – rather than groups of individuals, with some common consciousness, but also divided both among and within themselves – is a fallacy, and a dangerous one. What I left out is that this image of the 'nation', however unrelated to actual facts, seems to be one which has an immense hold on people's imaginations.

People will keep talking about Scotland, or England, or Ukraine, or Germany, as though they corresponded to a kind of Hitlerian image of the 'Volk' as a collective of identical individuals all thinking the same – apart, that is, from the traitors.

On Gvosdev's blog, I attempted to explain that, if people in the West were determined to see Ukraine this may, and refused to face up to the complex ethnic, linguistic and religious divisions both between and within its people – and also the shadows of its terrible history – they would destroy the country and wreck our relations with Russia.

Treating the issues involved as a simple morality play, in which the efforts of virtuous Ukrainian nationalists to find their natural home in the West were subverted by evil Russians, would create total disaster – as has happened.

The risks involved in the likely separation between Scotland and England are, thankfully, not as serious. But to see what is happening there as another simple morality play, in which some kind of unified and virtuous Scotland confronts a contemptible England, is not helpful.

This is particular so, as questions to do with the sustainability of current levels of welfare provision, and its ambiguous effects – 'dependency' culture is real, and a very serious problem, there as elsewhere – are themselves complex.

Many of the issues – like those involved in the sustainability of current levels of deficit spending, which is still high in the U.K. – are ones on which I do not have a clear view.

As I noted on an earlier thread, John Kay, who is one of the most interesting of British economists, argued prior to last year's referendum that while the Scottish Nationalists were making patently bogus claims that independence would make it possible to have more welfare and less tax, claims it would produce a disaster were also unfounded.

(See http://tinyurl.com/kl7au3j .)

However, I would recommend to your attention a brief statement published prior to last year's referendum by another Scottish economist living in England, David Nicholson, under the title '5 Reasons Why Scottish Independence Would Be An Economic Disaster'.

(See http://tinyurl.com/q848jju )

As to who is right, I simply do not know. But the issues involved divide people of intelligence and good faith, on both sides of the Border, and are best not treated on the basis of the old Puritan principle that all virtue rests with one's own side, all vice with the other. If one is to try to mitigate the potentials for disaster, it is important to try to have some empathy for the views of people with whom one does not naturally sympathise.


David Habakkuk,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply, and I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph. I also agree with your notion that it's dangerous to presume that nations have a singular will. In the case of Britain today I would put that the real divisions are not Scotland vs England, Left vs Right, or Labour vs Tory, but are instead more about London vs the rest of the UK, and between educated metropolitan professionals and, let's use some shorthand here, "tabloid readers." What the SNP have done I believe is use the soft nationalism of the Scots to mobilize a political alternative to the relentless consolidation of wealth and power in London and also the paternalism of the metropolitan classes towards those ordinary people whose wants and material interests have been ignored or outright mocked for the last 20 years. No such mobilization has occurred in England or Wales, and as such the only choice people have is between 2-3 metropolitan elitist parties or the half-baked nationalism of UKIP.

Wales is an interesting case. I have always had the impression that Welsh identity - like English identity perhaps - is imagined mostly in terms of language rather than any kind of political or cultural consciousness. That is where Scottish nationalism differs. Language is unimportant in Scottish nationalist imagination, presumably because there are several - Gaelic in the West, the Scots of Robert Burns, Doric in Aberdeen, and a variety of Englishes spoken around the country.

Scottish nationalism I think is quite different, and centered not around language or any kind of tribal blood or race-based identity, like in Europe, but around political sovereignty over Scottish land. Or to use your terms, Scottish nationalism is based on a common consciousness of the sovereignty of all those who live within the borders of Scotland, rather than That is why for example ethnic Scots living in London could not vote in the referendum, but ethnic Pakistanis in Glasgow could. That is also why the Act of Union was supported by many nationalists of the time, and opposed by others. Just like with independence today, it hinged on pragmatic considerations viewed through the prism of national pride, defined as collective sovereignty over the land.

I lived and worked in Scotland (Glasgow and Dundee) for a number of years and I've also always found it interesting how Scottish nationalist poetry and songs are usually not about great victories or eternal brotherhood of the Scottish people, but rather - in good dour Presbyterian fashion I suppose - about failures, specifically how Scotland failed to resist and gave into the pragmatic considerations to reduce the people's sovereignty. "Selling out" is a big part of Scottish nationalist imagination, just as much probably as egalitarianism and dour pragmatism is part of Scottish culture. Robert Burns hits on this in his "Such a Parcel of Rouges in a Nation:"
What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro' many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor's wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour's station;
But English gold has been our bane -
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

But I think the Proclaimers sum up this somewhat unusual style of nationalism in their song "Cap in Hand:

We fight - when they ask us
We boast - then we cower
We beg
For a piece of
Whats already ours

Once I thought I could make God a bribe
So I said I was in his lost tribe
Getting handouts can be so frustrating
"Get in line son, there's five million waiting"

I can't understand why you let someone else rule your land, cap in hand

Medicine Man

MLAs are Members of the Legislative Assembly. They represent ridings in the province. Essentially the various ridings elect representatives and the party that wins the most ridings takes control of the provincial government.

I too have heard tales of the AB NDP's inexperience; some hilarious stuff. While Albertans don't switch their government that often -- 4 times in the last 80 years, I've heard -- this "seismic shift" could turn out to be a brief interregnum if the new party proves feckless. On the other hand, the new Premier seems to understand that this election was not a mandate for radical change and has been mostly talking about returning the province's economic policies to the center. I suspect that this is what what the voters in AB want, so we'll have to wait and see how things go.

Medicine Man

Col.: My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I remember the MRW's claims making the rounds back in 95. I remember them mostly as scaremongering.

Babak Makkinejad

One of the things that hurt Canada at that time was NAFTA; many US corporation that had to maintain offices in Canada were no longer required to do so and they promptly closed those offices.

Toronto was hit and many people where put on the streets at that time.

Babak Makkinejad

I spoke in French with a number of Québécois years ago; they are proud but I failed to understand the basis of their pride.

Is it an extension of France and her role in the Western Civilization?

Do you know?



They are proud of their persistence and emergence as a separate people after having passed through the fire and cold of several centuries. They are distinct from the metropolitan French. "Je me souviens" is their motto. "I remember." Hockey and genealogy seem to be their major obsessions. IMO they will eventually leave Canada or the rest of Canada will be called something different. Statues and other memorials of many of my ancestors are distributed across the land up there. They were among "les premiers." I also have English ancestors. it seems to have been a genius of the English that they alienate all those whom they rule. I am no exception in my descent in either side. No. I must say that it was always the enlisted soldiers who liked me best. pl

different clue


Are you confusing "money" with "wealth"? If we continue to allow Free Trade Agreements to catalyze the attrition and export of what thingmaking industries still exist in the United States, and if we continue degrading the ecological underpinnings of our food-growing sector, both through soil and water mining and also through climate-degrading mass-carbon skydumping; then we will have a series of social collapses and ecosystem collapses profound enough to produce economic collapses in their wake without any Balanced Budget Ammendment at all.

Magical Monetary Thinking (MMT) leaves me as underwhelmed as it ever did.

different clue


I've never been there, but isn't Scotland awfully bleak and cold? And bleak? And cold? How many tropical-world people would ever move there, even for all the benefits in the world?

Babak Makkinejad

I think a charitable role for the state in UK goes back at least to the time of Elizabeth I, if not earlier.

The English seem to have been dealing with the problem of welfare and its pathologies for centuries, at least in England.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you.

Many foreign students from the Third World countries attending English universities did not like the English either.

They preferred the United States.



No, I think I've got it right.



Mars bars and Irn Bru for the world thanks to North Sea Oil.



They don't move there for the weather, they move there for the gimmedats.

Look at the amount of vibrants from Sub Sahara and the Middle East that have enriched Sweden (with its generous welfare benefits) with so much diversity its now got one of the highest rape stats.

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