Monday, 22 September 2014

The neverendum lives

Unfortunately its the neverendum again! Last week Salmond said he accepted the democratic verdict, that was it for a "generation" and he resigned his jobs. Possibly the laws of fecundity are different north of the Border but this week it is a different story. Buoyed by the most amazing recruitment success in history which followed the SNP defeat (not kidding) AS now announces how it all hinges on next May. Be certain that if the SNP "win" next May, they will succede. It is very simple, either the SNP are voted out next May by the Scots or the Union collapses. Sounds extreme, please don't take my word for it. I am sure the Nationalists who follow this will confirm it. In turn everything will hinge on the Labour party reversing recent performance. There's a chance they will do this. A lot of folk may feel the SNP are pissing them around. Gordon Brown may be back on the trail clunking fist and all. But just before anyone moans about the undemocratic nature of the SNP strategy, bear in mind how Devo Max landed in the referendum campaign. So in short whichever way you feel, it all hinges on next May and that is assuming Devo Max is clearly being delivered by then (and English MPs for English votes IMHO). Personally I hope the wise people of Scotland will realise what is happening and give the SNP an electoral drubbing, otherwise change the flag after all. 

BTW the paper story is slightly different to the online and includes a tweet from Jim Sillars which makes the gameplan utterly clear as does the Facebook page 45 which now has 163,000 likes.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Union Lives!

A night that has thankfully made me proud to be British. The true victors of the night are our democracy and the people. Reflect that the four nations of the islands were up for allowing one of the nations the process by which they might choose to leave peacefully. In a fantastic turnout in Scotland, one which leaves no room to dispute the clarity of the results, the Scots have clearly said that, notwithstanding the challenges we all face (and we in Northumberland know all about this), they do not wish to become foreign to us. We can remain British. Narrow nationalism, we go our own way, has no place in these islands and the Scots have reaffirmed that. Proud patriotism, proud to be Scots and British has been reaffirmed. Going forward there is an incredible task. Westminster will now have to rise to the challenge. No-one has yet said there needs to be a Federal capital on the Irish Sea! I anticipate much change still to come but I do hope I never need see an independence referendum again and I note the commitment by the SNP to accept the result. I also note and thank everyone from many viewpoints who have come forward and argued the case on my Facebook timeline in the last few months. And since I joined him on the campaign trail for a day, I pay tribute to our Guy Opperman MP who from the position of being a close Border neighbour worked tirelessly with his colleagues in the Yes campaign because his constituents did not wish to see their friends and colleagues in a foreign land.

Some links   Ewan Morrison use of the Trotsky parallel in his piece I found rather telling.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

HMS Plymouth

Do you want to know why Britain sleepwalks (loud sort of sleepwalk) to dissolution? I have always been a maritime enthusiast. I grew up very literally with a Norfolk wherry called Albion (get it?), my sister was born on one. So when I hear of how Peel Ports has aided and abetted the destruction of a Falklands veteran which at public expense should have been lovingly retained and used as an educational icon of Britishness, then I cannot be surprised at what might happen next. Ship preservation is expensive. The Scots government last year offloaded from my old museum the clipper ship City of Adelaide / Carrick. But the costs are a bargain compared with destroying the union and the British brand.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Verge of the Vote

Very nearly there now #indyref. I am looking beyond a No vote. This situation did not happen overnight. Learning more about Thatcher and the SNP in 1979 has made clear to me, that the Union has been going astray for decades and that this is largely down to Londoncentric Thatcher values. Years before, Scotland had been a (different type of) Tory heartland.  The resulting erosion of British pride has led to the logical outcome: I am Scots alone and I vote yes.  The HUGE question if there is a No is whether this situation can be recovered. I don't think simple Devo Max does it (and it will lead to situations in England and elsewhere not yet really thought through, it has been a tactic of desperation from No). Are we all ready to face up to a true Federal solution for these islands and a new Federal parliament located on the Irish Sea in North West England? Here is my prophesy: unless we are, the Union will end sometime. And if I am wrong and Yes wins, it is finished tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Nigel Farrage

Today Nigel Farrage is in Scotland. I am sure there will be howls of anguish. Indeed I find signing up to UKIP beyond me. However if you are concermed for fair debate, it is worth trying (if possible) to listen to this contribution broadcast on Radio 4 at 0710. I will try to summarise it. Firstly he acknowledged that UKIP's own policy has changed. He accepted they had made the Westminster mistake that every government has made since the rejection of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill for Ireland (well I lament the loss of some of Ireland to the Union). He set out his total support for devo max and for a federal settlement for the entire Union and made clear that devolution has to involve English regions (and that the numerically large number of English do need to be thought about). He then suggested that had Alex Salmond a sensible plan for an independent Scotland with its own currency there would have been a credible prospect to vote on and if the Scots wanted it, then Farrage could not stand in their way. However what is on offer is a breath-taking prospect of abandoning the core elements of independence by either allowing RUK to dictate Scottish financial policy (with no Scottish central bank or currency) or jumping over to the Euro. Switching one set of "governors" for another. And become a very minor member of Europe rather than having the negotiating force of the UK. I have to hand it to Mr Farrage. He can put the issues very clearly. He suggested that since the UK outside Europe will be just about its largest trading partner, it would be they who would have to agree a trade deal. Europe will need the UK whether the UK is being governed from Brussels or not. This whole debate is about the right level of government across nations. I remain as I have been throughout a staunch Unionist believing that our union of four nations across one geographical group of islands has been a great sucess (on balance, not perfect but Great). I am not going to buy the Anti Imperialist line and would remind everyone our Commonwealth Games came to Scotland this summer. I hope it will again whatever happens next.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Border Controls

Both Fiona and myself listened to the overnight news with some incredulity. If the next tactic of No is very late in the day to offer a "timetable", it hands the victory to the SNP. They either win outright or they can say narrow victory lads but look what we achieved, better luck next time. In the last 10 days of the campaign and No looks totally on the back foot casting around for an idea.
To both our minds, the SNP campaign has been marked by a whole string of lies and bullying (one tactic being to accuse No of bullying and lies). I hear today Sturgeon plans to campaign on the NHS! That which they have been responsible for since 1997.
It is probably a good idea we are not in any position of authority. A shock like the appearance of "trialled border controls" to emphasize how serious this might be? Or the deployment of a royal message? On my Facebook timeline  the Yes campaigners simply do not believe the reality of Fermanagh I experienced in the 1990s and which I evidence with maps and photos (Aghalane A road bridge near Belturbet 1995 is the photo).  21 Scottish border crossings would be much easier to manage.
All along Yes have said we will get our own way, we will have the EU, we will have the pound, there will be no border impediments, and now in the last length, No appears to be confirming just that with the "timetable"!  There is (as there was 300 years ago) a soft and a hard side to this. The south is a vastly larger economic entity through which most of Scotland's own economic activity has to pass or inter-relate (e.g. banking), if Scotland cannot see it needs to be within that in order to influence matters, then perhaps some evidence of the cost of separation has to be "seen".  The border controls.   However I can well imagine this will not be seen as a practical route and so as of this morning, I am very fearful ths UK is history. It is why months ago I was saying a real gamechanger is needed: Liverpool, new capital of a Federal British Isles. Leave Westminster for the English.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gilsland Station reaches the House of Commons

It is possible that we will be able to reflect on this evening at some point in the future and say this is when it happened.  The moment when the Gilsland Station campaign went electric, literally. Transport in Northumbria (stretching Northumberland somewhat) has been a real cinderella. Campaigns like Leamside and Ashington Blyth and Tyne seem to go round and round in circles measured in decades. How can we underplay the achievement of Hexham's present Tory MP Guy Opperman  in securing an adjournment debate this evening? Many subjects were mentioned including needy road projects like the A1, A66 and A69 whose dualling I would not contest. But Ovingham and Wark Bridges also got their space.

For me I focus on trains and so tonight did the debate. These are headlines. Guy was invited to meet with the Electrification Task Force within the House of Commons and present the case for the Newcastle & Carlisle. This is potentially a huge move. Whether you have a starter project to run electric trains from Newbiggin to Metrocentre or Hexham, or whether you understand this is the only cross country railway for 100 miles each way north or south and hence its electrification is just a basic piece of national strategy, there is no underplaying that invitation.

Everyone has to grasp that opportunity. And here is an aside, only one Labour MP bothered to turn out. Thankfully he did ask about Ashington Blyth and Tyne and thankfully Guy did agree it was needed and it needed connecting to the Tyne Valley. The evidence from Merseyside, through Manchester and in Rail North is that progress comes to those who work together. Did Labour shun this debate? What a pity if they did. Luminaries like Sir Alan Beith and Rory Stewart and John Stevenson turned out. I don't take political sides, I am sure all people in Northumberland want their MPs to get together and to get transport sorted out, dual the A1, re-open the AB&T and electrify it and the Tyne Valley to form a whole. That would be progress.

In that picture Gilsland suddenly flowered. The study has been done, get the capital paid for and it will wash its face. A station actually sat on the core central section of the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site with major sites in easy access, and more or less on the Pennine Way. Gilsland will seem marginal to most but it literally straddles Opperman and Stewart's border. Proving that rural investment can beat borders is so important.  Now hear this, Claire Perry the Transport Minister who responded in a generally positive vein (and we all know the wriggle room her department is leaving itself over Pacers which had their space in the debate) PROMISED to visit Gilsland in 2015. That is saying to everyone involved there is all to play for here.


(the 9th of December 2013, Blaydon Labour MP David Anderson celebrates more trains calling at Blaydon Station and has to endure the Pacer, a bus on rails, a 30 year British Leyland National owing nothing to anyone mounted on a freight wagon underframe, David was not in the chamber tonight)

I have a challenge for the Labour party politicians of Northumberland. For Gilsland to go forward (since the platforms are in Northumberland) the county has to place the project high in its transport planning scores for it to work through the GRIP process. An officer called Stuart McNaughton needs political authority to push Gilsland. If the Labour party desire they can more or less kill Gilsland, small project that it really is. That would though say: this is how we do business in the North East. It is a way to get nowhere. The politicians of all colours in Northumberland should enthuse about both Gilsland and Ashington Blyth and Tyne together and not run them against each other. Do that and there is no Connected Up Northumberland let alone a connected up North. So for those who were not in the chamber last night, I very much hope they still get the message. Guy Opperman achieved a huge amount for a lot of the North this evening. He should be applauded and that includes people like Heaton depot MP Nick Brown (where was he?). And in applauding, these Labour politicians should be quite entitled to have Guy's wholehearted support and lobbying skills to take the trains back into Newbiggin.

To close: a Prudhoe station upgrade was also on the floor as an important project to undertake. Peter Nevin: be pleased!

To see the debate go to

To read a transcript of the debate go to