It is exactly a year since SR published my article 'The Great Repeal Act can be defeated.' I started: 'It showed in their eyes the morning after; blank stares, looking into the distance and not knowing where their chosen path led. Muddled Johnson, driven Gove, they had won and suddenly realised that they could not keep their promises.'
I argued that the decision to accept without debate the result of a fraudulent referendum was constitutionally wrong and the result should not be regarded as binding on our elected representatives; I hinted at dark forces behind the campaign to convince less thoughtful members of the population that there were untold benefits to renouncing our European alliance.
Since then I have buried myself in writing a book on the rise, decline and fall of coal and fossil fuels, commodities that led to unbelievable prosperity for the developed world but at enormous cost in health and life to those who procured them and used their products, and also led ultimately to disastrous air pollution and climate change. It is a parable of capitalism and regulation.
And as I wrote, I have each day seen further evidence of the failure of our version of capitalism – so-called neo-liberalism. For this failure is exactly what is behind, not just Brexit, but also the otherwise inexplicable election of Trump; the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest; and the loss of hope by the many left stranded. The clue was the champagne celebration party held for Farage in London on the day of the referendum result by Britain's richest billionaires and newspaper owners – the funders of the Brexit campaign.
What do these people stand to gain from Brexit, or for that matter what do their friends in the USA stand to gain from the election of Trump? What is their common interest in seeing parliamentary chaos and disruption of alliances? It is clearly not to enable a more equal society or to help the poor and disadvantaged. Rather it is to free them and their businesses from the restrictions imposed by taxation and regulation, to return us to the days when the poor knew their place and the earth's resources were raped by their predecessors, using the labour of those who could turn nowhere for help.
They are the people who see government regulation as evil and wish to kill off state provision. Their money sits in hedge funds that are ready to buy the NHS, prisons, and social services, and to profit from them. They use their newspapers for right-wing propaganda and they have direct lines to British MPs. Free market think tanks such as Legatum and Cobden House, for example, have direct access to the Brexit ministers Steve Baker and David Davis, according to the Times on 18 October.
Our last chance to avoid Brexit is approaching. Most people, apart from Johnson and Rees-Mogg, seem to recognise that the promises of the snake oil salesmen who gulled the English and Welsh into voting for Brexit cannot be fulfilled, and that the best that can happen in the short- and medium-term is likely to be further decline in the economy and increasing austerity for Britain. Ask those who look forward to wonderful new trade agreements to consider what is happening to Bombardier's contract with the USA. We are entering an era of protectionism.
The worst does not bear thinking about, but must include issues around the status of Northern Ireland and Scotland. I hold to my original view that Brexit is too stupid an idea for other than the most blinded or ideologically-driven politician to support. Divorces are always costly. Businesses are moving to Europe, foreign NHS workers are returning home and the English NHS is in dire straits. The writing is now on the wall. Let's do all we can to make sure that our MPs actually get a chance to vote on Brexit after a proper debate on the apparent consequences. Let us hear the will of the people's elected and informed representatives. They are the ones who should take responsibility, whatever the outcome.
Further to R D Kernohan's
article: just because we want out of the EU doesn't mean we want to reject our European friends. The problem is that the EU is a declining trading bloc. All the growth is outside Europe. Forecasts by the World Bank show that by 2050 China will be the largest trading nation followed by India and the USA, with Indonesia probably in fourth place. (The UK is reckoned to be in the top 10.) All of those countries trade with the EU under WTO terms.
We are fortunate to be in the Commonwealth. China and Italy are working hard at doing business with Africa which has huge potential if it can sort out corruption and political issues. Seven of the top 10 African economies are in the Commonwealth. We have great relations with the Commonwealth nations of Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the scope to do free trade deals with them.
Why can’t we be upbeat about the future outside the EU? Our MSPs know very little about trading outside the UK and they are afraid of what they don’t understand. The SNP wanted to remain in the EU as it simply had no idea how to deal with the world as an independent country. It decided to rely on the EU to do all its international dealings. An Independent Scotland would need to deal with the world as it is – and will be.
I'm not leaping to the defence of Mark McDonald, but he is the product of a system that most mature adults would probably agree has something wrong with it. Compare Mr McDonald's sad ministerial demise with the response of the irrepressible Alex Salmond to electoral defeat. Former MP, MSP, first minister, and MP again, Mr Salmond just keeps bouncing back: more a rubber ball than a 'wrecking' one as the National Trust for Scotland's president, Neil Oliver, chose to call him.
We live in daunting times, and answers seem there few. Some speculate that the problem is that we are governed by an elite, isolated by their wealth and privilege and with little experience of anything outside politics. I suppose that mainly applies to Westminster but it certainly has echoes at Holyrood. What particularly concerns me is the apparent narrowness of vision and lack of any broader international perspective that prevails in our media/parliamentary 'bubbles', especially Scotland's.
I don't want couthy parliaments at Holyrood or Westminster. I want parliamentarians who confront big issues and are unafraid to challenge perceptions. They need to be willing to posit new ideas from the platform the electorate has given them, without micro-management by their party hierarchy. And I want a media that will examine fresh and original thinking, not just ridicule it. The polarisation of Britain has been going on for decades and that can only be changed by open, honest and informed public debate which is reported accurately. In the absence of that, as Mr McDonald may have learned, hypocrisy flourishes.
I have just read Kenneth Roy's
piece on the case of Ian Gordon [the man recently convicted of the culpable homicide of his wife].
Diminished responsibility seems to have been accepted by the Crown after the evidence of the daughter underlining the condition of the victim and the accused's devotion to her. At face value, that seems a little odd as diminished responsibility is normally based on a psychological/ psychiatric report asserting that the accused's state of mind was critically impaired, short of insanity, to the extent that he was incapable of properly controlling his actions. The onus of establishing this rests with the defence.
Such a report would be in Crown's hands ahead of trial to enable them to consider the matter and instruct their own expert on the issue. A statement from the daughter would also be in their possession well ahead of the trial.
The timing of acceptance of diminished responsibility seems to tie in with the daughter's evidence on day three. Why would her (non-expert) evidence along the lines mentioned have any bearing on the forensic question of the accused's state of mind at the critical time? Her evidence appeared to be that of a lay witness to the general background. It may have had some bearing on the sentence, but I'm struggling to see how it could be relevant to the crucial issue of the accused's state of mind, such as to tip the Crown into acceptance of a reduced plea, which had hitherto been unacceptable.
SR welcomes short pieces in response to SR articles or to current events in general. Send to: Islay@scottishreview.net