By Alex Robertson
Watching the most recent sitting of the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee was like watching a bout of bear-baiting.
This time the subject was Defence, and with not a single member from the governing party of Scotland present, the Defence ministers, Peter Luff (Tory) and Nick Harvey (LibDem) did their level best to fire off shells in the hope of sinking or seriously crippling the cause of an independent Scotland.

They were ably aided and abetted by the egregious Ian Davidson, who was chairman of the spectacle.  One by one they pawed over the issues of the small number of air, navy and army bases a future Scotland could support, membership of NATO (judged a very good thing by Messrs Luff and Harvey), whether rUK military ships could ever be built again in Scotland and last and most drooled over of all, who was going to pay for the removal of nuclear submarines and weapons from Faslane.

Mr Harvey informed us that the most recent upgrade to Faslane had cost taxpayers £5Bn, so Lord knows how much a removal and building of a new base would cost – a gargantuan amount averred Mr Harvey.  Nobody seemed to be able to get their head round, or even try, how a joint military collaborative arrangement could be assembled and made to work.

The two most striking things I took away from observing this sad affair were firstly the glee, which nobody even tried to disguise, at how the negotiators for Scotland after a ‘YES’ referendum outcome might be trapped, tricked or punished.

Of course, not all the MPs doing the baiting were Scottish or even sat for Scottish seats, some were English from English constituencies, but they all joined in.  The Elephant in the room was, of course, who was going to pay the “gargantuan” costs of removing and relocating from Faslane?

Mr Davidson seemed to be aware of the risk.  What, he asked, if Scotland held that over the Westminster negotiators’ heads?  Then the Scots might be able to use this as a massive negotiating advantage and extract unimaginable concessions from Westminster in return for sharing some of the Faslane relocation costs.

It was fun for the ministers and MPs alike – they could all enjoy speculating on what negotiating position the Scots might take, whilst regarding the likelihood of such a negotiation ever happening as beyond belief.  The MoD, the ministers admitted, had given no thought, no preparation and made no approaches to Holyrood for the simple reason that they did not believe it would ever happen.

So much for plan and prepare then.

Of course, I had to keep pinching myself to remind myself that this was the MoD speaking, not usually to be trusted to be open or even honest about anything.

But the second, and larger conclusion to be drawn, and one much more widely apparent across the entire independent Scotland question, was the total inability of Westminster to think outside the box.  There is a real and urgent need now to think of new ways of collaboration to the mutual benefit of all involved in the British Isles, Ireland included.

Instead of devising ways to trick or trap, exploit or outdo each other - why can’t Westminster see the immense benefit to be gained for everyone if they spend their energy on seeking out new ways to work together? Defence, Commerce, Energy are just three of a whole range of ways cooperative working which would yield massive savings and benefit all round. 

But Westminster gives all the appearance of a great lumbering dinosaur, destined for an extinction nobody wants, certainly not in Holyrood or Dublin.  The Queen, on her recent visit to the Republic of Ireland, provided a masterclass in how to repair devastating damage and begin the process of a true friendship.  Mr Salmond repeatedly shouts his desire for England and Scotland to be best pals as independent yet collaborative countries.

But somehow Westminster can only play the old mulish game, devoid of intelligence or imagination and firmly welded to the obsessive desire to win.  Win-win seems to be entirely beyond their consciousness, and yet if they applied their minds to work with Holyrood and Dublin, what marvels could be wrought to benefit the ordinary people of all three countries.

So let’s please put away the gunboats, stop looking for ways of outwitting and trapping each other, and apply no doubt formidable minds to cooperate, to find and devise new ways of cooperating and partnership without the need to make anybody lose.

With the possible imminent collapse of the Euro, and Heaven knows what else besides, we are all going to need to help each other and ourselves.

It’s not too late to start, but it is late in the day.


# Wave Machine 2012-06-17 07:04
It's the Westminster Bubble Syndrome.
Everyone associated with Westminster is swimming around in a goldfish bowl. There are a few exceptions, the Parties of Scotland and Wales (SNP etc) and Green(s), but that's about it.

Any change in approach that works in parallel to the SNP will have to come from somewhere outside the bubble. Perhaps a voice from elsewhere in England with a different powerbase. A Mayor, Joe Anderson of Liverpool?
# G. P. Walrus 2012-06-17 07:18
I predict that the day after the successful Independence Referendum they will become entirely constructive without missing a beat. This is just bluster in the hope of dissuasion.
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-06-17 07:34
Westminster is so accustomed to being able to 'bully' its way to what ever it wants, reliant on the fiscal 'We can wreck your country don't yer no' backing of the 'City of London' they now have difficulty telling their nose from their backside.

The Scots thrawn nature does not like 'bullies' so these staged events to try and cow the Scots increasingly have the opposite effect.

The 'No' camp either wrap themselves in a joint history that never was (while without awareness or irony accusing the Yes campaign of being based on 'Bannockburn and Braveheart') or their incessant 'too wee, too stupid, too poor mantra' .... or bullying as I prefer to call it.
# Macart 2012-06-17 08:43
I have heard this story repeated in various forms over the past few days. I still find it incredible to imagine that so many experienced politicians are so ignorant of public and political tidal change that they simply will not consider the ramifications of their behaviour/actions to future relationships within these islands.

Openly discussing means of weighting/fixing future negotiations with your current union partner and ally????? To say they are winning no friends with such behaviour and open contempt for the Scottish electorate is the understatement of the decade. The thought that their bufoonery actually carries any weight at all in Holyrood is the most bizarre of all. They apparently feel that devoid of Scottish Government representation, this committee is now going in the right direction. Interesting.........

I have not personally seen this particular session, but it sounds so similar in reportage to all the others that I have no problem whatsoever in picturing the scene. There are certain words we are not allowed to use on NNS, list them all mentally and arrange in any order you deem appropriate and end with roll on 2014.
# Marian 2012-06-17 08:54
I recorded and tried to watch this after noting it was to be a debate on "separation" on BBC TV and thinking that it was going to be a serious debate about the potential effects of Scotland becoming independent but found instead that it was totally comprised of unionists engaged in their normal "sport" of finding ways to do Scotland down, so I stopped watching it and deleted it instead.

Davidson and his ilk are so out of touch with Scotland and so arrogant that they think they are impressing us with this kind of buffoonery.

I truly believe that as time goes on the more they behave like this the more likely it is that Scots will be drawn towards voting YES.
# DavidS 2012-06-17 09:53
I would have thought that the question of removal of the nuclear submarines was easy. If Westminster wants them then they pay to take them away. If they don't want them then we sell them and use the cash for more appropriate military facilities.
# hiorta 2012-06-18 10:39
Exactly - and no bloody arguments.
The question of site rehabilitation must also be settled - and not traded off.
# Jim Johnston 2012-06-17 10:29
Hi Alex,
I have to admire your patience watching Scottiah Affairs Committee sittings, even for the laughs they come out with. The chairman Davidson is in that select band of legends in their own lunchtime. Who is taking seriously anything they come out with....nobody !!

There is another elephant grazing in the garden as well. What happens when the Tories see the chance to get rid of the LibDems they obviously hate. There is a fair chance they could start talking up the possibility of an offer to the soon to be rUK, a route map to an EU referendum. That would fire up Tory support, put the LibDems out of their misery, and spike Labours guns at the same time. Weither they ever set out on the road to an EU exit is another matter, but hey, this is raw power politics.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government will carry on talking up Scotland to the world, gaining friends, serving Scotlands best interests, setting out positive reasons for Independence that Scots are well capable of understanding, and winning the Yes vote Scotland deserves so much.

Davidson arrived without trace and will go the same way.
# Exile 2012-06-17 14:29
Alex, I hope your intended message is not "stronger together". Towards the end of the article you seem to be leaning in that direction. But I'm sure that's not your intention, more "stronger together apart" or "stronger apart together"?
# Caadfael 2012-06-17 16:40
Time for a bit of humour :-
Totally risible, with a free gift,

what a rallying call for all manner of sporting venues/events!
# pmcrek 2012-06-18 02:34
If they cant afford the weapons then the international community will happily chip in to help us dismantle them, just like they did for Ukraine when Russia couldnt afford to retrieve their weapons.

On the cooperation front, why not apply for the Nordic council instead?
# Marga B 2012-06-18 17:39
"the total inability of Westminster to think outside the box" - much the same could be said of the BBC.

And according to recent figures, unlike a more plural England, most of western and northern Scots go straight to the BBC for their news.

The SNP is already being tarred as a "one man band" by all the media re. independence (hard to fathom how a majorty government can be seen as a one-man band) and the positions of both sides never seem to meet.

Wave Machine's idea of a strong English ally of the SNP is appealing, but whatever, something has to break through this stalemate.

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