Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Scandinavian Approach

While David Cameron basks in the multitude of plaudits falling from the lips of the tory faithful and Nick Clegg makes a somewhat tragic sight as he attempts to cling onto his armoured car, the Independent threw a glimmer of light on the SNP's proposals for an independent Scotland.  I'll leave the analysis of the Cameron non-veto to Richard who has the story so far.

SNP insiders have disclosed key extracts from a 'prospectus for independence' which is currently being compiled, although it will not be published for at least another year.

Rather than focusing on western Europe and the Commonwealth, as the UK does at present, the proposal is to change direction and look north and east for partnerships, trade and key defence relationships. It's exciting to note that the SNP are looking outwith the bubble and a higher level of relationship with Scandinavian countries will do no harm to an independent Scotland.

One aspect occurs though. None of the Scandinavian countries is a full member of the EU.  Does this mean the SNP are finally reconsidering their EU policy?

If the independence referendum is won the Scottish government propose:

* To demand 9% of all UK assets, including defence hardware

* To hold a Scottish navy based at Faslane

* To hold a Scottish air force based at Lossiemouth and Kinloss

* An independent Scotland be given the Royal Regiment of Scotland, whose five regular and two territorial battalions would form the backbone of a new independent army.

* To develop a major container port in Fife

I see nothing of concern in these proposals although Scotland will also have to accept their fair share of UK debt.

Somehow the Scottish government will have to ensure the MoD's plans for occupation of army and air force bases are postponed until after the referendum. It would be a gross waste of taxpayers' money if the current plans were processed.

For those who suggest that Scottish military personnel will be ordered to be part of Scotland's defence forces, that is nonsense. It will be on a voluntary basis. But the devil will be in the detail and we must wait until 2014, at the earliest, to know that.


Joe Public said...

Why should the SNP demand 9% of assets?

The Scots are only 8.4% of the UK population.

It was gracious of you SR, to point out the Independent's omission that irrevocably tied to assets, are liabilities.

I note their article promises "The exploitation of new sea lanes from Asia over the top of Russia, which are being opened up because of global warming ........"

Did they forget that the 'Row to the Pole' publicity stunt earlier this year failed miserably....................because there was too much ice! [Even though the organisers kept changing the 'location' of the actual 'pole' they were endeavouring to reach.]

Quiet_Man said...

Can Scotland afford to maintain the bases at Faslane, Lossiemouth and Kinloss?
Can Scotland afford its fair share of the UK's debt?
I think you'd need serious answers and thought to those questions. I do wish you well and every success though.

banned said...

"To demand 9% of all UK assets, including defence hardware" sounds fair enough if Scotland, Wales and Ulster wish to depart from a newly free and independent England to exist as peripheral beggar provinces of the remnant EU.

subrosa said...

9% is an average over 50 years I believe Joe, although now the population has reduced slightly.

Aye I saw that too. How long we can promote the scam nobody knows. However, if renewable energy begins to become cheaper then it's win-win.

I didn't read about that. Off to google for me now.

subrosa said...

QM, we have to maintain a military although I see sacrifices ahead. For example the bus pass for everyone over 60. We can't afford that. It has to be means tested.

Also the free prescriptions, they must be too. Yes it's fine to give all those over 60/65 free prescriptions but an independent Scotland couldn't afford it.

There are lots of problems which will need to be resolved once we're independent. That's not a negative comment as it could buck up the nation and halt the stupor.

subrosa said...

Banned,have I missed something? Have my friends in England suddenly achieved independence at long last?

Anonymous said...

A lot of the debt will have to be written off to pay for the assets that the state of Scotland owns in London. (Every government building, royal palace, piece of art, gold, crown, gift from foreign governments, the wine cellars, the cars, the furniture, fixtures, fittings, etc etc etc... is partly ours).

When the Republic of Ireland got freedom from England, its entire proportion of the national debt was written off to cover these fixed assets.

Gedguy said...

I see no problem in Scotland taking its share of the debts that the UK has managed to achieve as long as we get our share of all the works of art in the BRITISH museum, the BRITISH library, our share of the the BRITISH government buildings, lands and investments. We would also like to have our share of the Falklands, Antarctica, Gibraltar and any of the other colonies and protectorates that our peoples fought and bled for.
It is not as easy as saying that the Scots owe the rump UK; they also owe us.

Michele said...

I often read your posts with interest, it is one of the most even-handed nationalist blogs around.

However, it does interest me that you find yourself in 'exile' Why do you linger in England? it is sort of like the guest in the spare bedroom, who dislkes the neighbourhood, criticises the owners but refuses to move ... if you see what I mean!!

Gedguy said...


Is this comment aimed at me?

subrosa said...

Excellent point Tris.

subrosa said...

Agree Gedguy. Like Tris you have a good point.

subrosa said...

I don't linger in England Michele and during my many years of living there I wouldn't refer to it as lingering either. My family and myself contributed our fair share.

My reason for returning was education for my family and it's something I'll never regret.

My lifelong friends are mainly English and we're grateful for modern technology because I'm not known for being a regular correspondent.

Thanks for the compliment - very much appreciated.

Dubbieside said...


I am surprise that you think an independent Scotland would not be able to afford bus passes for the over sixties or free prescriptions.

These sums are, in the scheme of things, very small. I would doubt that together they would amount to more than one days tax from North Sea Oil.

The big problem with means testing is that often the cost of the testing is greater than the cost of the provision. I believe some examples of the costs of means testing were given when the tax on illness (prescription charge) was abolished.

P.S. My own personal view is that to tax people for no other reason than the fact that they are sick, has no place in a modern society, and I for one would hope an independence Scotland would never stoop so low as to reintroduce such a tax.

hector said...

yes none of the scandinavian countries may not be full e.u. members (finland?).however this is not based on hatred of the e.u. as the recent 26-1 vote shows they back the principles of the e.u. the 'scandinavian way'if i can use the term is not perfect but is as good model as any as how small countries work and have more equal societies.they also appear to respect their neighbours with no one country showing dominance.they also give an example of how one country (norway) can become independent from its larger neighbour (sweden).

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with Dubbieside. The cost of reliably checking the eligibility for free prescriptions would probably be higher than the cost of letting them go.

Bus passes should be able to be afforded. Maybe we should make them free at retirement age, instead of 60. (61 currently, but rising)

Hector: As far as I know the Scandinavian situation is:

Iceland: no; Faeroe: yes but not in €; Norway: no; Sweden: yes but not in €; Finland: yes and in €, Denmark: yes but not in €.

And the Baltic countries which are now more or less in the Scandinavian block are all in the EU but only Estonia uses the €

I would most certainly like to live like the Scandinavians.

Observer said...

It's always been useful for the SNP to argue for independence in Europe because that answered so many qyestions that worried people. The answer was it's OK we will be in the EU. If that stock answer disappears then a lot of new questions will be thrown up, & so far there are no answers. It's a very uncertain time, not the best lead up to the referendum. People who are against the EU don't perhaps understand the sense of security it brings when pondering Scottish independence.

subrosa said...

Can we afford the sums involved though Dubbie? They may seem small but altogether they add to quite a chunk of our budget.

If we get the tax from North Sea oil of course.

I've heard that said by politicians and having spoken with those about the free prescriptions, it was the cost of auditing the prescriptions that was expensive (ie folk claiming free when they could well afford to pay).

Of course we shouldn't tax those who are sick any more than we should tax pensioners twice before they receive their pensions.

But, we cannot be a land of milk and honey with everything free. Free education, free healthcare, free bus travel, free road travel (no bridge tolls), etc. Much as I would like to think that would be possible and as I also think those who have worked all their lives should be as entitled to 'freebies' as those who haven't contributed to the tax system, I just doubt we can afford to do it.

I'd start with bus passes. As you perhaps know I don't possess one because the bus service here is more or less non-existent and to drive to the nearest bus station defeats the object for me, but I know the system is abused.

You day it's peanuts, but it cost in the region of £700m a couple of years ago and it's rising. That's not peanuts.

subrosa said...

I forgot Finland Hector. :(

I think quite a few of the 27 will have a rethink once they realise they're being asked for a blank cheque.

subrosa said...

Tris, I read some time ago an article from Nicola Sturgeon in which she said that the treasury gained from prescription charges but not much.

The most important thing about prescriptions is that those who have serious health problems, either chronic or acute, get free medication.

Only recently there was some word about bringing the age of free buses down to 55. (Can't find the link, sorry).

My knowledge of Norway and Sweden is that the taxes are much higher than here although salaries are higher too. To live any quality of life there you have to ensure you have a good job which means you have to work at school.

Swedes also have much higher taxation and little is free. Insurance plays a large part in their lives.

subrosa said...

What I've never understood is why people actually believe the EU offers us security Observer. Perhaps it did when it was the Common Market but certainly not now.

We have to address the issue and let people know just how undemocratic the EU is. Do Scots really want the EU to be telling their government of choice what to do with their money and laws?

Anonymous said...

It must work though in Scandinavia, SR. There is much much much less difference between rich and poor there. One of our problems is that the gap between the haves and have nots in the UK is horrendous and growing. One of the worst in the world (after America, I think)

As John said, we could be the 6th richest country in the world... I think we would manage well enough to be decent to the poor.

But no bus passes at 55. That's silly. People have still got 12 years to work.

I know you don't use them, but the free buses are a life line for some of the poorer pensioners who just couldn't afford Dundee bus fares of £3 a day, or £21 a week!

I read your story about the cheats, in fact I think I commented on it. I've just been in France and in one week I was stopped twice (I've never been asked for a ticket here) and asked to show my ticket by inspectors who work in teams so there's no intimidation.

If that was likely to happen a couple of times a week here, these people would stop, or be caught (and beheaded!!!). Well maybe just fined then.

The trouble is the bus company don't bother because as long as they are getting the money, why should they lay on staff to check.

Maybe the government should send inspectors round and if there are frauds on the bus they could impose a large penalty on the company, or refuse them the next licence.

(And from my experience it wouldn't hit Mr Soutar, because their conductors check every card.)

It's the Birmingham bus company that takes our money in Dundee that allows cheats. (Scottish money headed for Birmingham!)

And they are crap in most other ways too.

subrosa said...

Tris, I can only speak about what I hear from Swedish and Norwegian friends.

You're right, the differences between rich and poor are much less and the reason given to me is that the UK has a more extensive welfare scheme. Living from government handouts is not encouraged in either country and their cultures have much more emphasis on work rewarding the worker.

No I don't use a bus pass. What's the point? I have to get to the nearest bus service by private transport. Yes, I appreciate the passes are a lifeline and have said that several times, but I also know they're use by rather well off people because it's 'fun' being on a bus and travelling Scotland. The money for every journey has to come from somewhere and I'd rather it went to those who can't afford to pay.

You're right. As long as the bus companies are getting paid they don't care. To be honest why should they? A driver is a driver and shouldn't have the responsibility of checking passes, giving change etc, except perhaps on rural routes.

I didn't know the money went to Birmingham Tris. I learn something every day.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's strange SR. I heard that the Scandinavian countries had the most advanced welfare systems in the world. But, I suppose if you asked two Scots about our system they would say entirely different things; so no reason why two Scandinavians wouldn't be the same.

They are not, though, without poverty and drugs problems and alcohol is always a problem in northerly countries with long cold and dark winters. Northern Russia, Northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia have huge issues with drink and the Baltic countries, along with Scotland and Ireland.

The Dundee bus company has its headquarters in Birmingham. This is taken from their website:

"National Express Group PLC is a company registered in England and Wales, whose registered office is National Express House, Birmingham Coach Station, Mill Lane, Digbeth Birmingham, B5 6DD. Registered No: 2590560."

Profits go to group hq, in England.
(Like Tesco, Morrison, Boots, Asda, etc, etc, ad infinitum [ad nauseum].)

Not only do the profits go to Birmingham; the routes are planned in Birmingham, which explains some of the stupid decisions made recently to save money. They had to send their operations manager up to explain why they were chopping so many routes around. And it was all about money. Nothing about a public service.

I think rich people who use these services for free are as despicable as poor people who cheat on them. Why should we spend the inheritance when the government can pay.

They will be the same ones who complain about the "waste" of money and how high their taxes are.

subrosa said...

Advanced in what way Tris? As far as I know they're far simpler and fairer. Also supervised more efficiently than others. Yes indeed alcohol does create problems but it is not accepted as an excuse for criminal behaviour.

Thanks for the info about the buses. I really ought to have known that but I never use buses when in Dundee, for obvious reasons.

I wouldn't call the people I know rich, but 'comfortable'. That's why I think the passes should be means tested. They'll cost nearly a billion a year shortly if the numbers rise. £1bn is not a small amount.

Anonymous said...

Advanced in that they protect (particularly in Sweden) people from the cradle to the grave. There has long been generous child care so that people can work. You're right, they do expect work, as should we all) but there they actually do something about REALLY helping to make sure that it is doable.

As you know I've been working for a long time now in the welfare/work field, and the problem I find with our system is that there is rarely enough money put into a project. The only time this happened to my recollection was when New Deal started, and the then Employment Service wasted it all on image projects. New desks, new colours, new carpets, no logos, new everything for New DeaL. Course for staff run, if you please, at Gleneagles hotel...where a cup of coffee costs a tenner.

Of course the money soon ran out, and instead of the good scheme which it had been, with real options for work, work experience, training, further/higher education it became a useless way of badgering people to do things that they were not capable of doing.

A good trainer identifies a training need, and then finds the right training. New Deal ended up in Dundee with everyone going to Claverhouse for 13 weeks of torture. And being forced into jobs they weren't really capable of doing by staff working on targets.

Unfortunately many companies have interviewers whom I would't trust to select a box of chocolates. Put the two together for chaos.

No thought, no intelligence, no consideration for treating people like they are people... and what do you get in return? Resentment, hatred and subversion.

My understanding is that in the Nordic countries good welfare is considered a duty, as I said cradle to grave. So excellent child care, often at people's work; good education; good help if you need to look for a job; good help if you are sick and a decent way of life in old age.

Exactly about alcohol and drugs and for some reason it is given as mitigating circumstances in Scotland M'lud my client had been drinking solidly for 4 days and didn't know what he was doing...

Unlike here, I'm told by a colleague that there is real help available for those who want to come off alcohol and other drugs.

subrosa said...

Thanks for taking the trouble to explain Tris. From what I'm told I would agree with you. Let's not forget the higher taxes there too though, which allow these policies.

Having been away from my fulltime career for some years, I would hesitate to say that there was rarely enough money. I witnessed, as you say you've done, great misuse of funds which have been squandered because government was handing out money to training companies which had no idea about training.

As far as I can gather the New Deal was just another initiative similar to the one I used to supervise many years ago. Fraudulent paperwork was rife in order to claim 'successes'. In my day it was sad to see so many people's hopes dashed. No amount of money would have improved it though because there were only two of us employed in the whole of the Midlands to check on these training companies.

Government, being a very slow cog, took years to investigate our complaints and the companies knew that. BTW not all were rogues but I would say it was around 50/50.

I've worked with some superb trainers (not necessarily companies) who have given a life to quite a few and none of them ever complained their payment wasn't enough.

The Scandinavians run their welfare along business lines and it works. Ours is now so complicated it's very easy to abuse and people will.

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