There may be trouble ahead

May be trouble?

In no particular order, we have the forth-coming referendum on Scottish independence, major constitutional changes in the UK whichever way the Scots vote, further EU sanctions against Russia, Obama and friends—if he has any left—about to bomb the crap out of Assad (sorry that should have been IS in Syria and Iraq), Oscar is not guilty of murder and Apple has just announced that they will be giving away a free U2 album on iTunes. There is definitely trouble ahead or as a Chinese philosopher might remark, we are living in interesting times!

 The Good.

The EU has finally woken up and recognised that if they don’t do something about Putin now, they’re going to have to do something much more expensive later. Further sanctions have been imposed. Normally, for the EU, later is better because later is an elastic term and can mean tomorrow, next week or at some undefined time in the future, which for the purposes of this article I’ll refer to as never. In this case, never is not an option unless we all want to learn Russian. The sanctions will be removed if something or other does or does not happen concerning the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—exactly what that something might be has been left a little vague.  Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has petulantly remarked that the EU seems to have already made up its mind about the ceasefire. Damn right Sergey old boy, your boss Vladi is going to get a knee in the nuts whatever happens. Angela (Merkel) has finally realised that it’s either tougher sanctions now or ‘bomben auf engeland Russland’ later. Mind you, with industrial output in the Fatherland falling…no, let’s not go there.

 

In the UK—which for the moment at least comprises of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—several multi-national businesses (some of which have the word ‘Scotland’ in their names) have announced their intention to vote with their feet if the Scots vote no. There is also a warning that prices of various goods may rise if Scotland becomes independent. This is because various UK firms who ship goods to their retail outlets in Scotland have twigged that consumers in the UK—read England—will not subsidise the cost of transporting goods to Scotland, which is what happens at the moment. A chap by the name of Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, speaking for Business Scotland on the radio this morning told us that this wasn’t necessarily so. Prices might actually come down, he opined. They might. Scotland might win the World Cup, IS might decide to change their ideology and embrace a multi-faith, multi-ethnic culture. Putin might apologise for buggering around in the Ukraine and Oscar might get off scot-free (sorry about that) with a commendation from the local neighbourhood watch committee. All I’ll say is the car manufacturing industry collapsed in Scotland because of bolshie unions and the cost of transporting raw materials up to Scotland instead of to the Midlands. The very latest, hot off the presses opinion polls suggest that after a brief moment of mindless, romantic optimism—I could be very unkind and refer to it as a collective ‘brain fart’—voters in Scotland have actually started to really think about the implications of becoming independent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful, romantic idea. A pity they can’t really afford it. Or perhaps they can, but would you bet your pension on it? The list of new ministries that they will have to create/fund is almost endless. Nigel Farage of UKIP is going up to Scotland to explain to them that they aren’t really voting for independence, they’re voting to divorce the English. His reasoning—difficult to fault—is that if they join the EU then they will have to sign up to the Euro and ‘follow orders’ from Brussels. Not so much voting for independence as voting to go from being a significant partner in a successful union to a totally insignificant partner in a much larger one that doesn’t work very well. Returning to Mr. Macintyre-Kemp for a moment, he referred to the price of food going down in Sweden and Denmark as opposed to the UK where he said it had gone up. I know for a fact—been there and done the shopping– that Sweden has a thriving agricultural industry and that Swedes really do prefer to pay a little more for Swedish produce. I assume that something similar occurs in Denmark. Both countries have a thriving agricultural industry. I’m aware of Arbroath Smokies and Aberdeen Angus beef but to be honest they are the only two agricultural products that come from Scotland that I am aware of. I am of course ignoring Haggis, as do most people except on Burn’s Night and Grouse, which every Scot knows are only eaten by English toffs who went to Eton, read the Times and live in London. Regarding the Euro, Gordo opined that Scotland would not be eligible to join the Euro because all aspiring states who wish to join the Eurozone have to align their currencies with the Euro for a period of two years and as an independent Scotland would not have its own currency, it couldn’t. Precisely. So that means that Scotland couldn’t join the EU for at least two years after becoming independent and in fact probably wouldn’t be allowed to join at all because all new members must adopt the Euro. They can only do that by aligning their currency with the Euro and since the SNP are proposing to use the Pound Sterling, which they will have no control over because they won’t have a central bank, they can’t align ‘their’ Pound with the Euro. I see little chance of the Bank of England obliging them in this small matter, so basically they are stuffed. Oh well, as Alistair Darling said, there is always the Ruble. If Putin does go on the rampage they could be on to a winner there.

 The Bad.

UKIP. Now I don’t have a lot of time for UKIP. I think it would be a disaster if the UK left the EU and even if the official line of UKIP is that it is not a racist party, they attract some very dubious individuals. HOWEVER, ‘our Nige’ has pulled a flanker. He’s noticed that none of the three main political parties (OK, the two main political parties and the Lib-Dems) want to talk about major constitutional changes in the UK. This is, of course, exactly what is going to happen whichever way the Scots vote. They’ve been promised the earth if they vote to hang around—although exactly what the earth is nobody has actually spelled out—and they’ve been promised it quickly. Whatever they actually do get, inevitably Wales and Northern Ireland will demand the same as well. The UK will become a federal state. Parts of England will demand more devolved power. I’m not necessarily against a federal UK and, not being a particular fan of large central governments, I can see that the ‘regions’ having more say in their local economies could be a good thing, but I’d rather that there was a considered debate about it than having measures which were designed to placate/tempt Scottish voters nodded through Parliament. Right now, a vote for UKIP in the next general election is the same as a vote for the Lib-Dems, wasted in other words—but that might change on the morning of the nineteenth of September. In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote there are some questions that will need pretty quick answers. Never mind a currency union—not going to happen—what about the 2015 general election? I think that all UK political parties would be against postponing it until after Scottish independence but what about Scottish MPs? With Scotland independent, the chance of a Labour government is slim to non-existent but in 2015 Scotland will still be a part of the UK. Were Labour to emerge as the largest party in Parliament it would be because of Labour MPs elected by Scottish voters. Come 2016 and independence, all those MPs will disappear. What happens then, another UK general election? Or will there be a 2015 general election in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland. Will Scottish (and Welsh) MPs be allowed to vote on purely English matters? If anybody knows they aren’t saying. Except our Nige, and possibly John Redwood, a Tory backbencher—for the moment. He, our Nige, has noticed what the others, apparently, have not. There is a growing English disquiet. I don’t think for one minute that there would be some sort of revolution, we tend to leave that type of thing to the French. It is, however, worth remembering that we were the first to have a peasants revolt, the first to have a civil war and the first to behead a reigning monarch. Right now, people in the queue are grumbling in a restrained, English sort of way. Come the 19th the queue might be heading for Downing St. Come the 2015 general election it is just possible that UKIP might hold the balance of power, and that is a frightening thought.

 The Ugly.

President Obama has finally decided to do something. History would suggest that he’ll get it wrong, either off his own bat or guided by the  advice of others. I offer one example. The CIA has announced that their previous estimate of the number of IS fighters was incorrect. They had previously estimated—and doubtless advised President Obama of their estimate—that IS had some ten thousand fighters. This morning they said they’d got it wrong, the number was probably closer to thirty thousand. A slight difference but leaving that aside, how did they reach their two conclusions? Perhaps IS issue numbered membership cards to their fighters or maybe IS responded to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act. No, I don’t think so either. Shades of Iraqi WMD. This is not to say that we in the West should do nothing but before we do bomb the crap out of anybody we’d better have a plan for what happens next. Here’s a clue. It will have to involve troops on the ground, although it would be smart to use Special Forces and not regular troops. Interestingly, to listen to the Leader of The Free World, putting SF personnel into the fray is not putting boots on the ground. Perhaps Navy SEALS, Delta Force et al wear sandals not boots. Expecting the Arabs to do anything is wishful thinking. They condemn IS on one hand and slip them a few notes with the other.

 

Apple has announced that to celebrate the arrival of the iPhone 6 and a new watch (whose battery will expire just when you want to know the time) they will make the new U2 album available for free via iTunes. People are whingeing. Amazing. Apple are damned if they make people pay for iPhone apps and damned if they give stuff away. Mind you, I don’t particularly want the new U2 album either but apparently you have to apply for it, then you are given it, so that’s all right then.

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