Sound and Fury, Indicative of Nothing

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century: Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others; Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” – Cicero

I write this on the eve of what would have been the UK’s departure from the UK. As it stands, there is still no actual plan on how to do so – though a recently negotiated extension has pushed the cliff edge out to April 12th. I didn’t realise just how prescient my “dystopian Brexit” mini-fiction was going to be when I wrote it last year. The UK Government still doesn’t have a clue how it wants to cut through its own red lines.

Incidentally, CGP Grey recently posted a good video illustrating the same paradox as I did but with shinier illustrations.

One interesting thing has happened though. Parliament, as exasperated as everyone else is, decided to “Take Back Control” from the Government and yesterday held a series of “Indicative Votes” in which the Parliament came up with a list of 15 possible options for Brexit (of which, the Speaker chose 8), and then they held “free”* votes on each of them.

*”Free” in the sense that some of the parties only whipped for or against some motions and the Cabinet were whipped to abstain on everything.

And the results of the Indicative Voters to check to see if Parliament, rather than Government, could come with an option that could command majority support? Well, in true Brexit style…they couldn’t.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Short Break

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I disabled my Twitter account early this morning and few folk have been asking what’s going on.

There’s no problem. No emergency. I’m just piled under with work at the moment and social media was proving one distraction too many.

I’ll be back once I’ve reduced the proverbial “IN” pile a bit. Till then, my emails are open and you’ll continue to see my output in the usual places.

Also, I’ve just realised that this month marks four years since the start of this blog so…Yay! It has been a bit of a journey since the first post.

The Common Green logo comprising the words "The Common Green" above the Common Weal "balance" icon

Book Review: The Economics of Arrival

“In the industrialised world, the great challenge is not to remain competitive, or to increase efficiency or production. It is to slow down without derailing, to reimagine progress beyond more of the same. The challenge is to make ourselves at home in the world.” – Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams, The Economics of Arrival

It has been a very long while since I’ve written a book review for this blog but I have one that’s worth that wait. A wee while ago, the CommonSpace team received an advance copy of a book I have been eagerly awaiting. I “volunteered” to give it a read through instead – by which I mean that I nabbed it before anyone else could.

Econ

Those who’ve followed me for a while now know the distain I hold for those who still somehow believe that infinite economic growth is possible on a finite (and dying) planet.

The economics that brought us to this point have very clearly hit their limits and we really need to look where we go next. Trebeck and Williams have thrown their hats into the ring with this effort to lay out the scale of the problem and where we go from here.

Continue reading

Exporting Scotland

“Trade negotiations are exercises in mutual self-interest. They are not power plays, or coercions” – David Davis. Former Brexit Secretary.

The annual ESS report came out last week and – as is traditional in Scottish politics – it was pounced on by those eager to make a quick headline out of the numbers. When statistical reports like this come out it’s always better to take a bit of time to dive a little deeper into them and to discuss the details that can often be far more interesting than those initial headlines.

The Carta Marina showing some of Scotland’s important trading partners in the 1500s.

First though, we should talk a little about what ESS is and what it measures (as well as what it doesn’t measure). Continue reading

The Final Countdown

“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?” – Europe

We’re finally there, after delay and shambles, at the day of the “Meaningful Vote” on May’s Brexit deal. I’m about to commit that cardinal sin of political commentary and analysis and actually try to make a prediction about what happens next. May my desk soon suffer not as it has.

5527fb98-5ec0-4cf3-a156-3895b3d7e2ba

Source here.

Continue reading

That Was 2018

Bliadhna mhath ùr.

181122 Balance.jpg

Light and dark, land and sky in perfect balance. As all things should be at the turn of the year.

This year past has been one of the most rewarding I’ve experienced so far but also one of the most challenging. Principally, my colleague Ben’s moving from Head of Policy at Common Weal to Editor of CommonSpace led to me taking on the joint role of Head of Policy and Research and taking on roles in the co-ordination of various lines of policy work with various groups and volunteers who having been working with us in addition to the six policy papers I have personally authored through the year.

This doesn’t include the various newspaper articles and media appearances in which I’ve represented Common Weal nor my ongoing and extremely enjoyable Policy Tour in which I have visited pro-indy political party branches, Yes groups and, of course, Common Weal locals all over Scotland. I don’t have an exact count of how many talks I’ve given this year but I think I’ve been averaging around three per month. (I’m already taking bookings for 2019 so if you’d like me to visit your group, give me a shout)

Continue reading

Withdrawing Agreement

“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” – Sir David Frost

I was preparing this week to talk about the “Meaningful Vote” in the House of Commons which would have ratified or rejected Theresa May’s woefully inadequate Brexit deal.

A parody timeline of the Brexit negotiations. An incomprehensible tangle of flow lines point to scenarios such as "We're screwed", "Bring back Nick Clegg" and "Jacob Rees-Mogg as PM".

But things have progressed somewhat since I started planning that post. In a direction not necessarily to the advantage of the UK government. Theresa May, Strong and Stable, took her deal from the table.  She started into the face of the humiliation of losing a vote possibly by a triple digit majority and ran away to try to renegotiate with the EU – who have already said that renegotiation is not possible. If it turns out that they were not entirely solid on that principle, then they’ll surely exact a high price for any changes.

Continue reading