Author Archives: Robert

Apropos of nothing, a thought about Scottish Independence:

In the event of independence for Scotland (presumably following a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum, in the wake of an SNP victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections), what would be the criteria for citizenship of the new country?

Now, I am registered to vote in Scotland (I even own a flat in Edinburgh, off Dalry Road). I would presumably become a citizen of the Independent Republic of Scotland, if it came into existence. However, I am at present a citizen of the United Kingdom, a country that will persist (albeit in a leaner form) should Scotland choose Independence. In that event, will I be stripped of that UK citizenship? Any mechanism to do so would, I think, be an odd an illiberal thing. In any case, having been born in London to British parents, I would be an unassailable candidate for dual citizenship, even if I did have to actively apply for it.

I imagine the reverse case would be true for the Scottish diaspora elsewhere in the world. They are citizens of other countries, but would be eligible for Scottish citizenship too. Personally, I don’t have a problem with a high proportion of the population having dual citizenship (I am, after all, a dangerous multiculturalist). But surely such a situation would be undesirable for the Nationalists. Gaining independence from the English, only to see hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people applying for dual citizenship, would seem to be a hollow victory.

What are the lessons from other partitions and secessions? The Scottish Nationalists claim to be ‘different’ from the English, and yet there are no clashes of religion, ethnicity, or language. Therefore the choice over which side of the border to stand is less obvious. And the reasons for drawing a border in the first place are less clear.

One of the speakers at the Enough! launch rally lat night was Sharif Omar, a Palestinian farmer. He told the familiar tale of repression, of how the stringent permit laws and officious permit-issuing authorities prevent his sons from gaining free access to his own farm; of how a man of his sixty years needs help to till the soil to its full yield; and of how he cannot find enough farm workers despite massive unemployment in the Occupied Territories. The labour market, corralled like cattle behind a security ‘fence’, three feet thick.

Listening to all this, the first thought that occurred to me was not the metaphor of animals in cages, the dehumanising of the Palestinians. Rather, it occurred to me that the restrictions described by Mr Omar would be scorned by free-market capitalists and libertarians alike, were they imposed in any other country. Why the silence on Palestine from the Libertarian Right? Or (and this is entirely possible, indeed probable) have I just been reading the wrong blogs?

I guess many people feel uneasy at sympathising with the Palestinian cause because of the distaste they feel for those already a part of the campaign: the despised Left. This is a mistake in their thought process, of course. Imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people in a walled ghetto, or imposing a religion on a populated region by force: The gross immorality of these acts is not mitigated by an ad hominem objection to those who already oppose the occupation.

There’s a crude and simple way to distinguish, should you care to, your right from your left. Waistlines.

I’ve been reading Paul’s polemic, which states that Left-wingers are fatter than Right-wingers. It occurs to me that Father Christmas is a well-known fat bastard, famous for (among other things) scoffing mince-pies and slurping sherry that is not his own, at fire-places up and down this land. He would definitely be a ‘Lefty’ by Paul’s criteria.

This hypothesis is certainly backed up by other facts too. He wears red tunic, long time favourite colour of the revolutionary left. And of course he is interested in the systemised redistribution of presents, in apparent disregard of market forces.
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Ministry of Truth:

“In such circumstance, when a government refuses to enter into open public debate on legislation it is seeking to pass, the only wise, sensible and prudent response is not to permit them that legislation.”

Reading Anna Kessel’s article on mixed-race footballers prompts a quick, Wednesday afternoon thought: I wonder if it would be possible for a mixed-race marriage to work in the Royal Family? What would be the reaction if Prince William, say, dumped that sweet Kate Thingy girl, and started courting a black or indian woman?
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Matthew Parris’ gloating over the failure of neo-con policy in Iraq prompts some soul searching from Clive:

It wasn’t just the Bush team that made mistakes, of course. Didn’t we all underestimate the challenge?

Well, no. “We all” did not. Some of us saw precisely the size of the challenge. Some of us had no confidence in the motives, the leadership, or the ability of President Bush to meet that challenge. We foresaw a mess, and put our hands up and asked whether it was all such a good idea. To us, it seemed obvious. But we were called “appeasers” for our troubles.

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“But the US could take the risk of alienating the world and discarding international law only if its leadership was going to be effective. Instead its leadership has been desultory and uncertain and tragically ineffective.”

That’s Gerard Baker in The Times last week, bemoaning the poor record of George W Bush. A slightly more articulate version of the analysis that John Prescott apparently did not give to Labour MPs that same week.

Politics is, unfortunately, not just about issues. It is also about personalities, about diplomacy, about leadership. Governing a country means making a decision, giving orders, and allowing others to implement your policy. You need to ensure this will happen, and sometimes a constitution, a chain-of-command, is not enough to drive your agenda through the bureaucracy! Similarly, achieving your foreign policy aims, whatever they may be, requires at least some practice in the art of persuasion, whereby you can convince people over whom you have no political power that you are an ally, not an enemy. Call it charisma, call it gravitas, there are certain qualities that make one a more effective leader and diplomat.
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OpenDemocracy: “Earlier this year an historic lawsuit opened, charging the Chinese authorities with genocide and other crimes in Tibet. openDemocracy talks to Tenzin Tsundue, one of the Tibetan witnesses testifying in the case, and the Spanish-based NGO that launched the proceedings.”

Tibet vs China: the human rights showdown