I bought the Sunday Telegraph today and read Andrew Gilligan’s piece on the SNP conference in Perth. In fairness, Gilligan conceded that, “Fiscally, there is no question that an independent Scotland could afford to go it alone”, which, I suppose, is progress. Because it wasn’t so long ago that Unionists like him were insisting an independent Scotland would be a pauper state. However, the rest of the piece was the usual combination of slapstick and scaremongering.
By line five of the article the respected leader of the SNP had become “Tubby” Salmond, a condition he was trying to remedy with a diet devised for him by, wait for it! – an Englishman. I found myself asking, ‘Is the dietician’s nationality important?’ and the only answer I could come up with was ‘no’. Maybe it was all too subtle for me, and this was Gilligan’s way of telling us that the Scots need their benevolent neighbours to look after them.
Gilligan introduced more humour (but unintentionally, this time) by reminding us that Scotland’s only oil refinery, at Grangemouth, had suddenly been closed by “its Swiss-based multinational owners” leaving the prospect that Scottish oil “would have to come ashore in England” with all the revenue and other implications for Scotland. Plus the more immediate possibility of fuel shortages in Scotland. Possibilities that may have had Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells salivating over his kedgeree this morning, but if you think about it, then the very idea is silly. An independent Scotland could either buy or take over Grangemouth, or just build a new refinery.
Gilligan conceded though that whatever was happening at Grangemouth looked like a “cooked-up dispute” over pay and conditions. Half true (as he may have known). The dispute is definitely contrived, but the pay and conditions angle is a red herring and a pretext. It might help if we look at exactly who owns Grangemouth refinery. The company is called INEOS which as Gilligan says, is headquartered in Switzerland, but he neglected to tell us that its registered office is in the canton of Hampshire. The company was founded by the very unSwiss sounding Jim Ratcliffe, and the only others mentioned in the ‘Leadership’ section of the website are, Andy Currie, John Reece and Jim Dawson. So, while INEOS might operate in many countries it is most definitely an English company.
What we appear to have here, then, is an English company playing politics and possibly trying to influence next September’s independence referendum. With oil figuring so large in an independent Scotland’s projected finances INEOS could be saying, ‘And how are you going to get the oil ashore without the Grangemouth facilities – that we own?’ If so, then the only question remaining for me is whether the UK government, or any of its agencies, put INEOS up to this stunt, and perhaps even agreed to underwrite the company’s losses. With your money.
Now there will be many reading this who’ll dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist. If I am, it’s because there are a lot of nasty things going on out there, and some of the worst of them are done by loveable, fluffy democracies that spend so much time castigating regimes that are more openly corrupt and repressive. This, added to a certain experience of how the bastards operate, leads me to confidently predict that between now and the Scottish referendum we shall be entertained with dirty tricks, black propaganda and downright lies that would make a propaganda chief in a totalitarian regime blush with embarrassment.
What am I talking about? Well, let me give you one of my favourite examples. What comes into your head when you think of Cananda? Wide open spaces, Mounties . . . not a lot really; truth is, Canada comes over as dull and boring – ah, yes! but a model democracy, surely? Well, yes, until that is the Frenchies start being awkward, then the Canadian federal government, helped by big business, media and Uncle Sam pulls out all the stops to frighten the Quebecois into rejecting independence and / or parties promoting independence.
We’ve all heard the ‘money will flood out of the country’ argument against independence. Well in 1970 it was played out on the streets of Montreal, in what French speakers call a coup de theatre, and in this case, ‘le coup de la Brink’s‘. (Link to article in French. Difficult to find anything in English on this incident. Hardly surprising.) On April 26th, in the hope of deterring people from voting for the Parti quebecois in the upcoming election for the Quebec parliament the Royal Bank of Cananda – on the instructions of the federal government – sent a convoy of nine Brink’s armoured cars to Montreal where they were loaded with bonds and securities before heading off to Toronto.
Maybe it worked. Certainly the PQ vote was not as high as had been expected, or feared. Further, given the skewed electoral system then operating in Quebec the PQ got just seven seats despite winning over 23% of the vote. (Still think Canada is an ideal democracy?)
You want a Welsh example of underhand behaviour by a government? OK, try this. At the first Assembly elections in 1999, under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru came very close to getting more votes and more seats than Labour. There was, understandably, panic within Labour ranks, so the Labour government in London had words with its friends in the media. One result was the arrival of the Welsh Mirror newspaper, nothing more than the English Daily Mirror with articles slagging off Plaid Cymru and regular scare stories and borderline racism from Paul Starling, who also wrote for the New Statesman. Soon Dafydd Wigley was removed, Labour came back strongly in the elections of 2003, the Welsh Mirror went back to being the Daily Mirror, and Paul Starling seemed to disappear.
Which is why I confidently predict that the Scottish referendum campaign will serve up a feast of dirty tricks, black propaganda, psycops and all the side dishes, maybe even some ‘false flag’ stunts. And if it looks like there’s going to be a Yes vote, then it’ll be a real blow-out. It should go without saying that the groaning board I anticipate will not be provisioned by the Yes campaign.