Sleepless in Stuttgart, Stockholm, Stirling…

The stupid EU referendum that the Conservative Party have called is causing me – quite literally – sleepless nights. The danger that too many people, especially in England, are falling for the lies peddled by the demagogues controlling the right-wing press, is deeply worrying.

As so many have done, I grew up and live as a European:

  • my mother is from Germany, my father is from Britain;
  • I have both passports, and have lived in both states;
  • I am married to a someone from Germany who has a German passport, but has lived and worked here since the early 1990s;
  • our son has both passports and like his parents speaks both English and German fluently;
  • my wife’s family all live in Germany;
  • my parents, who both now have only British passports, have retired to Germany, and can do that because of reciprocal healthcare arrangements and the like;
  • we visit family in Germany with ease – in fact, my wife is visiting her sister in Hamburg right now.
My British and German passports

My British and German passports

I am very aware that purple passports are markers of incredible privilege in the global context – and having two means I can choose which one to use when, so I’m even more privileged than most! This freedom to travel is a privilege that I would rather everyone could share.

There have been many arguments against leaving because it would damage Britain’s interests (for example, I liked Carolyn Leckie’s take on this in yesterday’s National and Maggie Chapman’s recent piece on the fallacy behind the so-called Lexit). But it would also damage more than our direct economic or working interests. Given all that I have said about my family, Britain leaving would have profound personal consequences, many of them completely unpredictable, but it’s hard to see how any can be positive. And yet, all these things can be overcome, even if they would be difficult. For example, my parents after a lifetime of constant moving house (my father was in the British armed forces), have finally settled in Germany, but would almost certainly have to move back here – now in their mid-70s – when reciprocal healthcare arrangements end. It’s not great, but it can be done.

No, what worries me even more than the unfolding disaster for Britain or the personal difficulties I or my family might encounter is the complete unravelling of the European ideal (Jonathan Freedland elaborated on this in polemical form recently). Let me add to the family story:

  • my British grandfather (my father’s father, of Irish descent, marrying a woman from Peebles in southern Scotland, and eventually settling in Northumberland) fought in World War Two;
  • my German grandfather (my mother’s father, originally from the Saarland, near the present border with France, eventually settled in the Harz mountain area, later moving to Bonn) also fought in World War Two – on the opposite side.

When my parents wanted to get married, my mother’s father was reportedly somewhat sceptical about his daughter marrying a British man, and a soldier at that. But this did not last, and my father and my mother’s father developed a deep affection for one another over the years. My family is as dysfunctional as many, but it is also a great example of European integration, and the EU has – for all its faults, and I think they are many, as my MEPs will know from my emails and letters to them! – embodied much of that. We need structures, we need frameworks, we need patterns around which to build our lives, and the EU offers precisely that. The Brexiteers are wanting to throw all that away, and the readiness with which people are falling for their lies is what is causing me so many sleepless nights. I am, like so many of my generation and younger, a convinced European, right to my core (I often identify as European before I identify with any nation state):

We are the ones whose future will be most damaged by a vote for Brexit, sacrificed on the altar of Conservative Party internecine rivalry. That is unforgivable, and I’d go so far as to say it is a grave dishonour to all those who, like my two grandfathers, fought in World War Two and yet afterwards found ways to reconcile themselves to changed realities, even letting a daughter marry a descendant of the former enemy. Love across borders – what more powerful symbol can there be of what the European ideal is? And yet, we seem to be at risk of losing it all, in a mad headlong rush towards the Brexit cliff edge.

No wonder I’m having sleepless nights.

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Eleven brief comments on the Scottish elections

Scotland Can... the Scottish Green Party's campaign banner

Scotland Can… the Scottish Green Party’s campaign banner

Eleven short comments on the Scottish election:

  1. I’m delighted my party did pretty well, electing 6 MSPs on various list votes, including Mark Ruskell in my own region. It is excellent news that Andy Wightman is now in the Scottish Parliament – serious land reform becomes more possible. I am very sorry that Maggie Chapman and Sarah Beattie-Smith in particular did not get elected.
  2. The SNP did amazingly well, in a system not designed for such large votes (156,000 more than last time). They polled more votes than Labour and the Tories together, and gained 59 constituency seats (previous record: 53 Labour in 1999, 53 SNP in 2011). Most of Scotland’s cities went to the SNP: Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, Stirling. It’s also very good to see that the percentage of women who were elected SNP MSPs has risen from 28% to 43% (we Greens have one woman out of six MSPs…).
  3. The Liberal Democrats did badly, though I wish they had not even won the constituency seats they had (especially Orkney and Shetland, given the scandal of a self-confessed liar in the form of Alastair Carmichael as the Westminster MP): although the LibDems have the same number of seats as before, their constituency vote is down to the lowest level they’ve ever had.
  4. Labour did disastrously badly: the lowest Labour vote in Scotland in living memory. I was at the Stirling count, and was shocked when sampling at how few Labour votes there were – it was clear early on that this was shaping up to be an awful night for them. I agree with Paul Mason to some extent: I cannot see how the Labour party can be relevant in Scotland again until they sever the link to Labour in London and realise that independence is the only way forward. They’ll sink further into irrelevance if they don’t do this. It probably has to happen within 2-3 years – half-way through this parliament – and be genuine. That is going to be tough. I don’t know if it can happen, or if Kezia Dugdale can manage to get her party to do that.
  5. The Conservatives did well in certain regards: it’s still a lower share of the vote than they had in the 1992 general election, but it has been effective, partly because they are clearly the party of the unionists: I suspect most of their support is not about welcoming the vicious policies the Tories espouse, but about wanting a solid unionist bulwark against the SNP. This will become apparent very soon: Ruth Davidson will get to be the first to ask questions at Holyrood’s First Minister Questions, and this gives the SNP a glorious opportunity to make Davidson defend, week after week after week, the pernicious effects of Tory Westminster policies on normal people in Scotland. Whilst Ruth Davidson is good at media stunts, Nicola Sturgeon is far more accomplished as a debater and will relish the challenge, I am sure, of attacking the Tories directly on such a regular basis. This has the potential to cause the Tories considerable harm.
  6. Rejoice: UKIP failed dismally across the board.
  7. Unsurprisingly, RISE did not rise. I still think most people will go for the Greens if they want a party of the clear left with environmental concerns.
  8. Although the SNP are the largest party, they cannot form a majority, so need an alliance. The only realistic party they can rely on are the Scottish Greens (seriously, the LibDems?!). Whilst I cannot see a formal coalition taking place (and the Greens’ co-convener isn’t expecting that either), having the SNP reliant upon SGP votes to get legislation through will help keep the SNP veering to the left. This is important, because an SNP majority with the Tories as second party would probably not do this as they would then pander to the right, the natural home of several SNP MSPs, such as Fergus Ewing. We know that most Yes campaigners and ergo most newer SNP members were to the left of the party’s elected representatives – we’ll see if that has changed as a result of this election – and a connection to the SGP will help to solidify that.
  9. I think it was a mistake for the SNP to try and push the #BothVotesSNP line so hard. It was entirely predictable, after the Westminster election last year, that the SNP would dominate the constituency vote, and that then means to achieve anything significant in the list requires an absolutely massive number of list votes (for my own region, Mid-Scotland and Fife, results were: Conservatives (4 list seats) 73,293, Green (one) 17,860, Labour (two) 51,373; SNP had 120,128 but no list seats). That was always unlikely given the diversity of list parties on offer, and whilst no party will ever say “don’t vote for us”, a more nuanced approach might have led to better results for the broad pro-independence parties and therefore let fewer Tories in. This is something many people tried to argue, but certain die-hard SNP-supporters have done themselves no favours by shouting such voices down. The Scottish parliament is not designed for majority government and I don’t think the system can be gamed to achieve that – as reputable psephologists such as John Curtice repeatedly explained – so the 2011 result should be seen as an anomaly and not an expectation.
  10. In some ways, the future appears to be like the past shortly before the Scottish parliament: the main opponents of Scottish independence (or even constitutional change) are the Tories. The choice, articulated as putative in the independence referendum by many on the Yes side, is now clear: independence or the Tories.
  11. The SNP cannot deliver independence on its own, as the 2014 referendum showed, based as it was largely on an SNP approach. For example, arguments for reducing Air Passenger Duty, blind support for oil and gas with no vision for change, keeping the United Kingdom’s monarchy etc. were not things that most Greens could fully subscribe to, and we therefore had to make complex arguments about all these things being proposals that could be decided upon after independence. There are many who argue this case (for example, here), and I broadly agree with that argument. However, the SNP connecting with the SGP as another clear pro-independence party will help in this regard, and make independence a surer prospect when the next referendum comes. And it will.

Edit 7.5.16:  added Mid-Scotland and Fife results to point 9.

Manifestos and Mandates

Andy Wightman (Scottish Green Party candidate) tweeted last night:

Even if your manifesto is a joke, as UKIP’s clearly is (this interview with STV’s Bernard Ponsonby is a must), at least it’s possible to decide that for yourself if you have a manifesto you can read.

I read somewhere recently that Labour are only releasing a manifesto eight days before the election – I find this utterly incredible, given that we can use postal votes and therefore some people will decide their vote long before that. This morning, their manifesto page shows ‘A note from Jim Murphy’ on it! This is obviously from the 2015 Westminster election:

Scottish Labour website; screenshot, 15.4.2016 (click the image to go to this page)

Scottish Labour website; screenshot, 15.4.2016 (click the image to go to this page)

The SNP website doesn’t yet appear to include any mention of a full manifesto at all, as far as I can see (I can’t be bothered looking up the LibDems, but I’ll take Andy Wightman’s word for it).

Such lack of respect to the voters should be impermissible. Even a shambolic semi-democratic system like ours should be able to require parties to release a manifesto a set time before postal ballots are sent out – even if it was just a week or 10 days, that would probably be sufficient.

Expecting voters to place blind faith in a party that isn’t prepared to outline it’s proposed programme in some detail is a singular failure in the democratic process.

——

I’m delighted that my party, the Scottish Greens, launched our manifesto before the postal ballot began.  You can read all about it on our website:

Scottish Green Party; screenshot 15.4.2016 (click image to go to this page)

Scottish Green Party; screenshot 15.4.2016 (click image to go to this page)

You can also download our full manifesto as a PDF in two different formats:

Scottish Green Party; screenshot 15.4.2016 (click image to go to this page)

Scottish Green Party; screenshot 15.4.2016 (click image to go to this page)

Why vote for the SNP in the Scottish Parliamentary elections?

On 7.5.16 Scotland will vote for a new Scottish parliament.

It’s worth understanding how our voting system works. Stephen Paton’s wee video is excellent:

In thinking about how to vote, it’s important to know my background. Very simplistically put, I…

  1. … am broadly on the left;
  2. … am a vaguely active member of the Scottish Green Party (SGP) and have been involved at various levels for a few years;
  3. … campaigned alongside Scottish National Party (SNP) members and others in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and voted Yes;
  4. … voted SNP in the 2015 Westminster elections (I know, I know, it’s bad for an SGP member to do that when an SGP candidate was standing in my constituency, but I wanted to be absolutely sure the racist Labour candidate Johanna Boyd didn’t win, and I wasn’t trusting enough of the polls predicting an SNP victory… I also couldn’t campaign for the SGP at this time, so hadn’t sought to persuade others to vote in a way I wasn’t prepared to do… all this is one of the bad side effects of Westminster’s FPTP voting system).

I still want Scottish independence, and am sure it is coming. I cannot foresee any circumstances in which I’d ever vote Conservative or LibDem (the former basically hate everyone not part of the 1% and are profoundly racist, sexist, and just downright awful for anyone with a social conscience, whilst the latter are mendacious and equivocal, actively supporting blatant liars like Alistair Carmichael). Although I voted Labour solidly for years I doubt I’ll ever do so again: this is not only about having watched them celebrate the 2014 referendum outcome at the Stirling count with their Tory Better Together friends, but that is a potent symbol for their broader failing to represent the interests of the vulnerable in society, which I think is one of the primary roles of political parties. As the Greens are not putting forward a constituency candidate in my area (it’s just SNP, Conservative, Labour, LibDems), I therefore need to think carefully about how I vote. Many might see the options as:

  1. constituency vote: SNP, list vote: SNP
  2. constituency vote: SNP, list vote: Green
  3. constituency vote: SNP, list vote: RISE
  4. or…?

One of the things Paton points out in his video is that the list vote allows you to vote as you really want to. However, the constituency vote also impacts on the list vote, reducing the value of the list vote for parties that do well at constituency level – and that has serious implications for those who want to vote for a broadly pro-independence and left position. Lots of SNP supporters on Twitter and elsewhere follow the SNP’s line of arguing for #BothVotesSNP (option 1 above) – and of course the SNP would be a very strange party if it didn’t argue that people should vote for it whenever possible! But I don’t think option 1 is a good idea, in part because the SNP is likely to win most constituency votes with a substantial margin and so the number of SNP votes needed in the list to not let Labour, Tory or LibDem candidates in would have to be absolutely huge.

Many folk on the pro-independence left are therefore suggesting: vote SNP for the constituency, and then Green (option 2) or RISE (option 3). However, I am inclining towards another option – of not voting SNP in the constituency vote at all, and just voting how I want to in the list.

I like Nicola Sturgeon as a First Minister (and I certainly wouldn’t want Kezia Dugdale or Ruth Davidson as FM!), and Bruce Crawford, our constituency MSP candidate seems a decent person who mostly tries to work for the interests of the constituency. But the SNP as a whole is failing to do more than tinker with some of the great problems we face, such as:

  1. environment – the unbridled enthusiasm for oil and gas (and the SNP’s Energy Spokesperson’s equivocation over fracking) when we actually need to be moving away from fossil fuels and towards additional renewables;
  2. land reform – even the party membership recently rejected the cautious approach of the party leadership;
  3. economics – John Swinney’s fiscal conservatism at times seems remarkably close to Westminster’s Tory austerity: I wonder if he is so caught up in financial concerns that he’s lost sight of the purpose, the telos, of economics, which is to improve society;
  4. Council Tax – based on valuations from 1991(!), the SNP’s revised CT (after years of the anti-democratic interference of local finance through the CT freeze) still means those in the cheapest properties will pay proportionately far more than those in the most expensive properties, as these two tweets show (with the contrasting amounts proposed by key parties contesting this election);
  5. standardised testing in schools – a policy opposed by pretty much anyone in education (but with enthusiastic support from the Tories!), it is hard to imagine why the SNP wants to promote this.

There are many more examples. Although the SNP’s membership is now far to the left of the leadership, this appears to be having little effect on policy, at least for this election. Whilst the SNP has never, to my knowledge, described itself as a left-wing party (it’s broadly centre-left social democratic), its new members might see that differently.

In contrast, the Scottish Green Party is at core progressive, seeing independence as a way to implement progressive policies (as do RISE, but I doubt they’ll do well in May). The SNP – and certainly many of its supporters – see independence as a primary aim after which all other things can be sorted (see many of the comments on sites like Derek Bateman’s): for many, progressive policies are a tool to get to independence. This results in half-hearted and tepid efforts at the truly transformational politics that Scotland needs right now.

Of course Scotland should be freed from Westminster’s priorities, but we can do so much more in the meantime, and the SNP’s timidity in the face of the truly enormous challenges faced by so many people who, after the bankers’ crash of 2008, have suffered from Labour/Tory/LibDem policies at Westminster. The SNP is failing here: ignoring the huge injustices of unequal land-ownership, the reliance on fossil fuels, the Council Tax shambles – these are all things they could act on, but the assurances of electoral victory are perhaps making them too complacent to do so (just as happened with Labour in Scotland?).

I therefore have to ask: why should I vote for the SNP at all? They’re doing too little to earn my vote. After all, we’re not obliged to cast both votes. Option 4 then becomes: no constituency vote (blank or spoiled ballot), and Green (or another preference) in the list vote. And one day, the SNP’s members might help it to become the more radical party so many of them want it to be – in the meantime, my vote for them is hesitant, but I will give it. This time.

Edit 4.4.16: correction to list vote procedure.

The government wants to deprive you of secure encryption – but why does this matter?

In early October I wrote a blog posting on my academic blog about the need for strong encryption for academics; when tweeting this posting, I noted that it actually applied to all areas of life.

Now, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph, our dreadful Conservative government at Westminster wants to prevent anyone in the UK from having proper encryption.  That is not how they describe it, but it is very clearly what they intend.  They want to ensure that nobody can use encryption services that the government cannot access – in other words, the government is going to ban you from securely encrypting your data.  This is not what they say they are doing, but: if your data can be read by anyone other than the intended recipient (another person or yourself), then it is not securely encrypted.

You may think this does not matter to you, because you have no deep dark secrets that you communicate on Facetime or iMessage (the Apple examples given in the Telegraph).  I would dispute that view (see below), but even if that is not a concern to you, bear in mind that all your financial transactions are put at risk by idiocy such as this: if secure encryption is no longer allowed in this country, it is certain that not only will the government be able to access your data as it is transmitted, but before long others will be able to do so as well – others with aims at least as nefarious as those of the government.  Think about the implications of this next time you enter your credit card details to buy a book online, or transfer money using your online banking, or give someone (your employer?) your bank details so they can give you money.

The Telegraph article says:

Companies such as Apple, Google and others will no longer be able to offer encryption so advanced that even they cannot decipher it when asked to, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Measures in the Investigatory Powers Bill will place in law a requirement on tech firms and service providers to be able to provide unencrypted communications to the police or spy agencies if requested through a warrant.

But data is either securely encrypted or it is not.  Semi-secured encryption is an oxymoron.  To be sure, there are different levels of encryption (see the note below), but that is not the same as allowing a backdoor that can bypass the encryption altogether – that’s simply insecure.

If the government is allowed to pursue this madness, no communications in the UK can possibly be trusted, nor will it be possible to trust devices or software bought here.  The economic and computing argument is lucidly laid out in this blog posting.

More generally, as the leaks from Edward Snowden and others have shown, governments are absolutely not to be trusted with personal data. I believe we have a duty as members of the public to not be a totally predictable or transparent population.  As soon as we are transparent in our lives – whether this be our shopping patterns or our political views – we are tearing at the fabric of democracy, and governments of all kinds will appreciate us doing that for them! As responsible individuals, we must use encryption for ourselves in order to maintain the appropriate balance between our personal lives and the public good.  The government seeks to make the personal public by removing our right to privacy, whilst at the same time taking what is public away from us as persons.  This proposed removal of the right to secure encryption coupled with the current attacks on civil liberties – whether cuts to legal aid, restrictions on trade union activity, or the ever-diminishing space for public protest etc. – is a profoundly worrying situation.  Responsible citizens should use secure encryption, and we should resist the government’s attempts to take that away from us.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a very good guide to all kinds of security issues on its Surveillance Self-Defense pages – I highly recommend going through these and seeing what might apply to you.

I also strongly encourage you to write to your MP about this issue; you can find out who this is by clicking here.

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Note: Regarding the different levels of encryption: this is about determining the ease with which an attacker could break the keys, perhaps by trying to reverse-engineer or brute force guessing of the password/passphrase etc.  Different levels of activity warrant different key lengths: clicking on the padlock in my browser bar shows that the WordPress site I am typing this text on uses 128 bit keys, which is ok for a simple blog:

Screenshot of Firefox's Security tab in the Page Info screen - click to see a larger version

Screenshot of Firefox’s Security tab in the Page Info screen – click to see a larger version

My online banking uses 256 bit keys which is better; my GPG encryption uses 4096 bit keys, which as far as anyone knows, means it is practically unbreakable at the present time: the only way to read something I have encrypted with GPG is by asking (or torturing…!) me or the recipient to provide our respective passphrases.  Of course, even GPG (which is based on Phil Zimmermann’s Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP) is not going to be secure forever, but at the moment it is the best there is for email (even Edward Snowden uses it), particularly because the code is open-source meaning that countless experts have studied and reviewed it and found it to be secure.

The EFF link above makes useful suggestions for other forms of communication, including text messaging (eg Signal/TextSecure), chat (eg ChatSecure), and more.

The Labour leadership contest is about the true identity of the Labour Party

I read this story with some incredulity: Labour Leadership Race ‘Should Be Halted’ – rather than welcoming new members, establishment Labour figures appear to be wanting to keep them out:

[Backbencher John] Mann told The Sunday Times that acting party leader Harriet Harman should step in, as speculation grows that 140,000 people may have joined the party since the General Election – just so they can vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

After last year’s Scottish independence referendum, which decided that Scotland should remain part of the UK (at least for the time being), the tremendous upsurge in political energy sparked by the referendum resulted in several of the key political parties in the former YesScotland campaign becoming much bigger. My own party, the Scottish Green Party, went from about 1,700 members to now well over 9,000, perhaps more – a five-to-six-fold increase.  The other two key parties involved, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish National Party, also saw remarkable increases in their membership.

All three parties have welcomed their new members, and delighted in the increased popularity and influence this affords them, and they have been willing to change as a result of their new members.  And increased membership brings obvious electoral success: without so many members and volunteers, it is unlikely that the SNP would have won 56 of the 59 Westminster seats in May, for example.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate the public actually likes - Labour or otherwise

Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate the public actually likes – Labour or otherwise

The Independent had an interesting article a few days ago showing that Jeremy Corbyn is not only the most popular leadership candidate amongst Labour members, but also amongst the population overall. He represents something that the other candidates, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, do not: a clear understanding that the present neo-liberal agenda is not working, which is something that most people know, even if neo-liberal Labour do not. Corbyn offers Labour a chance at electoral success that the other right-wing candidates quite simply don’t: he could offer voters a Labour Party worth voting for. It’s not that there are not enough Labour voters in the UK, it’s that there’s not been enough Labour for most people to vote for.

The defeat of Labour in May and the resultant rise in membership as a decent leadership candidate emerges certainly has some parallels to the defeat of the Yes campaign in last year’s referendum and the subsequent rise of the defeated parties.  If 140,000 people really have joined Labour recently (though how John Mann knows they’ve all joined in order to vote for Corbyn is not clear to me), that should be cause for the party leadership to be rejoicing.

Instead, what responses like Mann’s clearly show is that the establishment Labour Party is not interested in winning against the Tories, but would rather preserve its own self-interested and cosy position as part of the Tory-Labour duopoly at Westminister – which, incidentally, also explains why it struggles so much with the SNP.  If the establishment Labour Party is allowed to get away with such anti-democratic measures as fixing the leadership election, or ousting Corbyn as soon as he’s elected, then they really are doomed in the rest of the UK (and not just in Scotland, where they won’t manage to defeat the SNP any time soon anyway, even if they elect Corbyn).  What the inclusion of Corbyn in the leadership election has shown above all is that this leadership contest is really about the core identity of the Labour Party, and perhaps that explains why it is such a heated debate – the neoliberal right is aware that it faces a real threat to its dominance of not just the Conservative Party, but also that traditional party of the broad left, the Labour Party.  The parallels to the Scottish independence referendum, the rise of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain all show that resistance to the neoliberal consensus is growing, and that is tremendously encouraging.

The Labour Party is not my party, but… you know… go, Jeremy, go, go, GO!!

—-

PS Rather than exclude Corbyn supporters, perhaps what should be happening is that people like Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall should be excluded from the party for infiltrating an ostensibly left-wing party from the neoliberal right, thereby killing off the old hunger for winning elections in order to bring about change that benefits the people they supposedly represent…

British ethnic nationalism – an ugly exclusiveness that encourages Scottish independence

One of the most welcome features of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was the principle that (almost) anyone who lived in Scotland could have a vote in the referendum. This meant that those who identified as Scots but did not live in Scotland would not have a vote, but those who had decided to live in Scotland and wanted to play a part in its future could vote. This is called civic nationalism: it is based on who lives in the country and is contributing to it, and is not based upon origins or birth or parentage.

One of the side effects of this decision was that many people who had been born in Scotland or who had Scottish parents but who did not live in Scotland were not able to vote. Many of these people left Scotland because they felt it lacked the opportunities for a good career that other places offered: I heard this many times in the years we lived in London and my wife was the minister of one of the two Church of Scotland churches there.  In today’s judgemental environment we would probably call them ‘economic migrants’ even though many of them would be appalled to think of themselves like that (other people are economic migrants…).  Many left for love, or had to leave for work even thought they didn’t want to, and still others will have had other reasons for leaving Scotland.  I know that many of these people were disappointed not to be able to vote in the 2014 referendum – but the referendum was decided by those who had stayed in Scotland or who had moved here, and quite correctly in my view, they were the only ones determining Scotland’s future.

This approach also represented the starting point of many of the Yes campaign’s arguments: they/we took a civic nationalist standpoint, whereas the British nationalist/unionist position was very different – it took an ethnic nationalist standpoint for its arguments.  I explained this in a blog posting that was widely read at the time, and is available here (the original place of publication), and (republished by National Collective) here, and (archived on this blog) here.

United Kingdom EUNow we face another referendum in 2017, this time across the whole of the UK, to decide whether Britain should stay in the European Union or not. In this referendum, organised by the Conservative party, only people who have a British passport will be allowed to vote, according to a report in today’s Herald newspaper:

Members of the House of the Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will be given a vote, in addition to those on the Westminster voters’ roll.

Those entitled to vote in UK elections include British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, plus UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years.

This means that all of those people who have moved to Britain and chosen to make their lives here (including other EU citizens – such as my wife!) are going to be denied a vote. However, those British passport-holders who have chosen to live elsewhere as (economic or other) migrants, or those who have chosen in the last 15 years to retire abroad (including my parents!) will have a vote – even though they no longer have as substantial an interest in what happens here compared to those who live here.

In doing so, the Conservatives are disenfranchising people who have chosen to contribute to this country – it is classic exclusive ethnic nationalism, rather than inclusive civic nationalism. There is a measure of hypocrisy here too, as David Leask of the Herald points out:

So let me state unequivocally, that this is the consequence of what people have voted for last year and this year:

When the No voters prevailed in last year’s Scottish referendum, this exclusive understanding of nationalism is what they were voting for (if you voted No you may say that you are not an ethnic nationalist, but that is the basis on which the No campaign argued the referendum and it has given the British nationalist/unionist parties the mandate to act as ethnic nationalists).

When people voted Conservative in this month’s general election, this exclusive understanding of nationalism is what they were voting for.

Ethnic nationalism invariably leads to chauvinism (I think that in theory it doesn’t necessarily do so, but in practice it always does), and in my view, is to be utterly condemned.  Westminster’s espousal of ethnic nationalism despite the good example of broad engagement set in the Scottish referendum affirms my view that Scotland and Westminster are still moving ever further apart, and this in turn encourages me – and no doubt others – to work harder towards the day when Scotland becomes independent and engages all those who live here and contribute to the country in whatever form.  I want a truly broad and inclusive body politic of all who live here, not one that excludes people on the basis of their birth and parentage.  We are clearly not getting that from Westminster.