Sunday, 3 August 2014

Progressive Party

Whether we vote Yes or No in September there is no doubt that thousands of people have been inspired to get involved locally and nationally in campaigning for the referendum. Many people genuinely believe in voting No as best for Scotland. I dream about a Yes vote to deliver a more Progressive Scotland but even if we vote No, it's absolutely clear that voter apathy is closely related to the failure of Tory, Labour and Lib Dems to provide people with policies that actually enthuse them. Westminster's completely undemocratic first past the post system makes it impossible for any other party to get traction and I believe that's why there are no alternatives.

A Scotland still tied to Westminster, despite the proportional system, is still driven by the massive power of those main parties' London paymasters. It's also impossible to get any real democracy when the media that everyone relies on for their news delivery is so closely controlled financially and technically by Westminster and London. Who knew that the SSP was still going? Not me, not until I saw Colin Fox at a Yes event. What a speaker and what a shame there is no chance of him getting a real voice on the BBC. Although I agree with many of his ideas and most of his vision my progressive approach would take a slower route to achieve some of them and perhaps not nationalise quite so much. We do need to work within a capitalist world but try to stamp our mark on it and perhaps reduce the free market element of capitalism. To get some ideas of what my version of heterodox economics is try reading anything by Ha-Joon Chang. I'd use it to get better jobs, better wages and provide part of a drive to more equality.

I am hopeful that once Independence is achieved the SNP could, released from the shackles of aiming for independence and working within the weird world of the block grant and competing with three London parties for control of spending at Holyrood, reach my ideals of progression. Yet, free from Westminster, democracy and representation at Holyrood can flourish and I believe several new parties will be required to meet the aspirations of Scots.

We need to ensure the 80% who vote in indyref stay engaged so I dream of a party that represents my desires for my country.So let's create a new party. Let's simply call it Progressive. Economics will be key and therefore requires a lot if thought. I've kicked off with three policy ideas to kick start my own debate and if anyone wants to join in they can. If anything has spurred me to campaign more for Yes it's Gaza. The US talks blandly of ceasefire whilst re-arming what seems to have become a terrorist state murdering civilians with impunity, staunchly supported by David Cameron in MY NAME.

I've detailed my first ideas below and would be interested to know what anyone thinks.

Progressive Party

1. Scottish Defence & Humanitarian Force.

Army, Navy, Air Force combined under single command.
Spend will match proportion of current UK, excluding cost of nuclear deterrent & submarines.
50% will be defence, maritime & air patrol, rescue.
50% will be turned to humanitarian aid. Vastly increased medical core including large proportion of reservists via NHS. Available for direct missions & UN. Will include new bespoke hospital ships & air transport.

2. Foreign Policy.

Diplomatic core will have three key aims.
A. To promote Scottish humanitarian ideals. Economic aid & international development will be included.
B. to promote Scottish business, tourism & arts.
C. Consular support for Scottish & EU citizens.

Key change from current UK. Civilian disruption (refugees), persecution (women's, gay, minority, etc rights), state or other attacks on defenceless citizens will take preference over trade, etc (eg: full support for Gaza & condemnation of Israeli attacks on civilians & disproportionate use of force).

3. Land & Housing.

Combined into new department.
Importance of housing, food & water as basics of human life will drive this new department to deliver joined up thinking in the use of all land.
Community buy outs will be extended following consultation, potentially meaning all land not directly used for homes, farming (directly managed by owner) forestry will be re-distributed. Farm tenants will be allowed to purchase at defined multiples of rent: this could include all share farming or other similar arrangements where the farmer is a tenant in all but name.
Land tax will be introduced for all land zoned as suitable for residential.
Community Councils (CC) (to be expanded and core to new local democracy) will have right to apply to planning to have 1 year Forced Housing on specific areas they consider necessary for local housing need. Consultation will be extensive but the aim is to prevent land trading, land banking and options preventing others building homes where identified need. Key aim to create more affordable homes and reduce land prices. Under Forced Housing, land owners will have 1 year to sell it or build homes. If sold new owner will have 1 year to start building, no option to sell again except to Gousing Association (HA). If not CC will be able to compulsorily purchase that land and engage HA to build affordable/PRS/mid market homes mix. HA will be required to provide mixed & blind tenure in all developments: private sale/private rent/affordable sale & rent/mid market.
Agriculture: TBC
Fishing: lots
Forestry: community councils given full power over regional forestry in consultation with FC & meeting key criteria to provide national forestry requirements but free to use 30% allocation for community/recreational.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Decline of Shipbuilding in Scotland

Some lovely pictures of what used to be....

The most important thing to remember when reading this or when challenged by anyone who might say that cheap labour and resources in Asia was the root cause - tell them they don't know what they are talking about and quote the bold bits in this piece.

1913 was the Glasgow’s greatest year. It produced a third of the railway locomotives and a fifth of the steel manufactured anywhere in Britain. Most of all, it built ships. Big ships and many of them. At one point in the early twentieth century a fifth of all ships in the world were made on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

Glasgow and West Central Scotland became famous for their quality engineering products because the area was close to centres of iron manufacture in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Motherwell. Shipbuilding and engineering replaced the cotton industry, and whole towns of shipyard workers grew up. Clydebank did not exist in 1861, but by 1901 it was home to over 30,000 people. Between 1860 and 1870, more than 800,000 tons of iron ships were built on Clydeside, at huge shipyards laid out at Clydebank, Finnieston, Govan, Kelvinhaugh and Scotstoun.

About 24,000 of 47,500 men working in UK shipbuilding in 1871 were resident in Scotland, almost all employed on the Clyde yards.

By the 1880s shipbuilding had become the single most dominant industry, and it was now beginning to have an influence on the culture of Glasgow. It was becoming impossible to avoid the industry. It had such a dominant visual presence, with ships and shipyard cranes now looming over the city landscape; and the noise of riveting could be heard rattling right across the city.

A century ago the market of shipbuilding was dominated by Europe, having a world market share of some 80% at the beginning of the twentieth century. Scotland, along with other parts of the UK to be fair, had a dominant position at that time.

Clyde Shipbuilding reached its peak in the years just before WW1 and it is estimated that over 370 ships were completed in 1913.

The industry employed 60,000 workers as well as another 40,000 in ancillary trades that were dependent on the river for business. Glasgow was truly the 'Workshop of the British Empire' and dominated by the industrial behemoth of shipbuilding. But these years represented the Clyde at its historical peak, a position it would gradually lose throughout the 20th century. From then on things would never be the same again.

For various reasons, including the decrease of the European shipping fleet, lack of investment, poor labour relations and an inability to increase productivity levels, the UK dominance gradually eroded, partially being replaced by continental Europe and Scandinavia.

In the 1950s the position of Europe overall started being challenged by Japan, to be gradually taken over in the 70s, mainly due to a rapid growth of the Japanese economy and a coordinated shipping and shipbuilding program. Shipbuilding assumed the position of a strategic industry and new shipbuilding techniques were introduced that enhanced the Japanese productivity in shipbuilding. In the early 1970s Japan and Europe together still dominated the world market with a combined share of some 90%.

In the early 70s the position of Japan was in turn challenged by South Korea as they made a choice to position shipbuilding as a strategic industry for the country,

It is worth noting what else South Korea did as Scotland's decline in the steel industry is almost as scandalous. South Korean President Park Chung-hee's administration concluded that self-sufficiency in steel and the construction of an integrated steelworks were essential to economic development and the government owned steel business created at that time grew into the fourth largest in the world.

In ship building, just as Japan did before, a carefully planned industrial program was initiated starting with the construction of shipbuilding facilities by Hyundai and Daewoo, later followed by Samsung in the 1990s. In the mid-1990s the share of South Korea had increased to 25% and by 2005 it had overtaken the position of Japan measured in CGT deliveries. Other than Japan and Europe, South Korea focused from the start on the export market.

Even in the 70s we still had around 30,000 people directly employed as ship builders

We now have around 4,000 left and the future for the ship building industry (if it's still big enough to call it that) is bleak.

Alex Massie as usual does a very insightful detailed piece but ends with a weird conclusion because he is so blinded by the elite of the UK - how could an Independent Scotland possibly do any worse - The UK is not placing any focus on re-industrialising Scotland and the SNP has prepared a major paper about how they plan, if elected in 2016 to be the first government of an Independent Scotland, to do exactly that! Alex Massie needs to open his eyes to see the bigger picture.

Better Together want us to stay in the UK to protect 4,000 jobs building just 13 frigates over the next decade - hardly a sniff compared to 1913 -

Even recent history tells us they are talking absolute tosh -

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Another BBC Complaint: Professor Dunleavy & Setup Costs for Indy Scotland

My latest complaint in relation to this website BBC story:

And this Twitter exchange:

It is hard to believe that the BBC could be so factually incorrect, incompetent or just plain biased on this issue continually. It is a fact that the Yes and No sides in this debate are arguing over the costs of setting up an independent Scotland. It is also a fact that the No side's figures in a Treasury report quoted two professors who immediately distanced themselves from that report and said the No side were misrepresenting their research in producing their forecasts of an independent Scotland's start up costs. The No side have been trying very hard ever since to continually spin the story to try and get the upper hand and make voters continue worrying about high set up costs. Your website shows a story headlined "Scottish independence: Cost 'up to £1.5bn'" with a big picture of Professor Dunleavy which goes on to suggest that he is now saying it will be up to £1.5billion. Professor Dunleavy has told me directly today that your story is factually incorrect and misrepresenting his view. I asked him: "Is the BBC story online a correct representation of what you have said" - he replied "No. Set up costs £200m & ten year transition costs another £400m The £1.5bn is Treasury number, not mine." It is absolutely astonishing that having just taken the time to write a report to illustrate the actual set up costs and set the record straight, the BBC have now been, willingly or otherwise, duped into misreporting it all over again.

BBC Biased Reporting of IFS versus CIPFA Reports on Independent Scotland Finances

I sent this complaint today based on these two stories:

BBC News - Scottish independence: Post-Yes fiscal forecasts updated by IFS
BBC News - Scottish independence: Finance body warns on referendum information

And this report:

Independent Scotland spending gap would be smaller than UK's, CIPFA finds | Public Finance — official CIPFA magazine

Dear BBC

In early June, the IFS updated their calculations on the likely financial position of an independent Scotland (iScot) following a Yes vote.

In your 04 June article, you made no mention of the facts that the "independent OBR" as you call them had forecasts which vary widely from the UK Government's own department of Energy and all industry forecasts on price - none of which are as pessimistic as the OBR. I would dispute their independence, certainly in comparison to CIPFA. There was major coverage of the IFS story across all BBC news.

Yesterday CIPFA produced a major report. They really have had an independent look at finances for an iScot, are not a department of the government and seem to be THE institute that could shed some light on public finances post a Yes vote.

My key criticism of your coverage of this is two fold: firstly, I only found about about it from a tweet, the story has disappeared since this morning form the main menu having started towards the bottom of the news page for Scotland; secondly, your headline & sub-headline under the photo are negative and the article contains 9 negative sentences, very little positive and not even a direct response from Yes despite one from Ms Baillie which seems untrue to me.

Why is this report so poorly reported compared to anything the private IFS says? Why are you leading with negative spin when the CIPFA headline on their website is so positive: "Independent Scotland spending gap would be smaller than UK's".

Friday, 27 June 2014

BBC Bias Continues - GMS Complaint 27/06/14

I've made the following complaint to the BBC this morning.

In relation to reporting Ed Milliband's EM visit to Scotland. Complaint relates to discussion at around 7.40am plus an interview later around 8:19am with a Labour MP.

Jim McNaughty led a discussion with Alex Massie about David Clegg. Alex is a well known right leaning political blogger who's views are well known to be against independence. David is political editor of a paper that everyone knows is a left leaning. Labour favouring paper which has a clear editorial policy against independence.

I fail to see how their views on Ed and his visit to Scotland to speak on Independence can be seen in any way as unbiased. Jim also finished the discussion by allowing both these anti-independence commentators to have a shot as independence start up costs.

At 08:19 I then heard Mr McNaughty discussing that same visit by Ed with a Labour MP extending the bias still further.

I know an SNP MEP was on before that but they were discussing something else.

People dip in and out of your radio programmes as they get ready in the morning or drive to work.

The BBC has a duty to be unbiased segment by segment & across each programme.

An editorial response that those two commentators are not biased but independent and neutral will not suffice in this complaint. That would only demonstrate a lack of understanding of the debate and the people in it or a lack of caring at all in this regard.

If there are common perceptions about commentators and their views which are well known that must be accounted for.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Why J K Rowling is Wrong to Support the Union

I respect J K Rowling for her decision to intervene. She lives here and contributes to Scotland and so has a right to voice her views and support the "No thanks" campaign.

Joanne's reasoning behind the decision does seem to be based on the mass campaign of disinformation by our UK Government.

The first thing to take to task is that "there is a fringe of nationalists who like to demonise anyone who is not blindly and unquestionably pro-independence". The rest of the article being written in quite a balanced way makes this a strange comment. The SNP, the Yes campaign and specifically Alex Salmond come under vicious attach by what I call cybertogs or pro-unionists. I have been told to shrivel and die in my own nationalist little corner of Scotland after a No vote and even been called a bastard by a well known journalist and commentator for The Scotsman and Herald. Others have had much worse and it's quite common on the Yes side to be called nazis.

Secondly, Joanne says she is happy that "devolution has protected us from what is being done to health and education south of the border". Well, I can confirm that is hasn't and it won't. The Scottish Government is funded by a block grant and still will be no matter what extra tax varying control is passed to Holyrood. If England spends less on health and education then Scotland's block grant decreases. That is a fact - it's how the grant is calculated. The second fact is that the Tories plans for health and education that she doesn't like are based around privatisation. Privatisation has a single purpose in life and that is to reduce spending. In areas of genuine free and open markets for things everyone needs and anyone can make or sell like TVs and sofas competition by private companies can reduce costs and increase quality. In public sector delivery it is only about money. As "efficiencies" are created in these and other sectors Scotland, as we strive to maintain public services in public control, will receive less money to spend on these areas.

Joanne says that the union saved us from economic catastrophe. Well - the union also created that catastrophe but I suppose there is no way of proving what would have happened if we had been independent. Let's assume for a minute RBS would have failed in the same way though. Firstly Better Together (BT) say that in an independent Scotland our banks like RBS would not be allowed to operate in England as they have and do now - they would have to have a separate bank based in England. Thus RBS in England would have been for the rUK government to save and nothing to do with Scotland. The key problem with the propaganda from the UK government is that it is based on contradictions which really turn their claims into lies. You only have to look at Ireland. The UK government gave Ireland £7billion to bail their banks out because the failure of their banks would affect the UK quite badly due to our links. More importantly there are examples round the world where cross border bail outs took place. RBS was bailed out to protect consumers and businesses throughout the UK, most of whom are in England due to the takeover of Natwest by RBS. If RBS had been set up in the same way then the rUK government and iScotland would have shared in the bail out just like others to protect their citizens and rUK would likely have contributed more than iScotland due to the business the bank does in England being far more substantial. The fact that the very man who presided over this has lied about this situation makes it understandable that people like Joanna believe the hype and lies.

If Joanne was really trying to find impartial evidence then she wouldn't rely on the IFS report using ONS data (their forecasts even for single years have bene proven badly wrong on nearly every occasion and it doesn't matter how independent the IFS is (?) if they are using biased and flawed data from others) and one written by someone who used to work as Private Secretary to Malcolm Rifkind. My key issue with the IFS report is simply that they have taken data on oil production from the UK Department for Energy but the predicted price from the worst predictor in the UK - the ONS. No one predicts oil price as low as they do in future and I must not be alone in knowing that the price of oil rising is about as certain as the fact that private energy companies operating in an oligopoly market will not pass on wholesale energy price falls to consumers. The more important point though is that Scotland has roughly the same GDP and national income as the UK as a whole WITHOUT OIL. If spending in Scotland is higher for any reason that means we need oil to pay for it then that is a system created by being in the UK and once out of it we will have 40 years of oil to sort it out. The Scottish government predictions were based on the production and price predictions available when they were produced. All the base line median figures were taken from industry bodies and the UK Department of Energy. Their new predictions are still good for Scotland, still based on predictions by experts (not the ONS) and although lower that is down to changes in forecasts by those same experts. Every prediction form the weather to inflation is more often wrong than it is right so having to revise it as the Scottish Government have done is not a surprise nor necessarily an indication of poor forecasting before.

I will not be fooled by reports that Scotland has performed well compared to the UK over the last 30 years but just as luck would have it everything falls apart as we try to gain our independence and the UK government predicts doom and the Scottish Economy failing over the next 25 years - nonsense.

As for medical research funding I am not an expert and it sounds like this is something she knows more about than me. I have seen some facts though. The extra Scotland gets as a share of the funding she refers to is just £35 million. I'm pretty sure that funding goes to the best place for the research and if the experts are here that is likely where it will go. EU funding is also important and doesn't necessarily get split on population shares. The key thing is that the SNP, should they also be the first government of iScotland, has promised to make up the shortfall and increase Scottish funding internally should the rUk decide not to continue the relationship. It isn't therefore very significant as an issue. Instead of Scottish Universities falling in World rankings perhaps we can reverse this with independence but only if we elect the right governments of course.

Very few intelligent people like Joanne are interested in ideas that we'll be punished for voting No. That isn't the point. What is likely to happen is that income tax raising will be devolved (and not the 10 other important taxes that I pay as a business or the tens of others collected by the UK Treasury). More devolution like this will only be a millstone round Holyrood's neck. It won't be long before English MPs looking at Barnett will say, hang on a minute: why is Scotland getting more money to spend than my region - let them raise any extra spending they wish by raising their own (income) taxes. Anytime Scotland has issues with the fairness of allocations form the Treasury we'll just be told to "get on and raise more (income tax) yourself if you need more". What happens during an economic cycle when income tax drops sharply as it did in 2008-now? Well - Scotland's budget will automatically decrease even if other tax revenue at the UK Treasury is rising and that would hardly be fair but we'll be told it is because we've got our own tax raising powers.

The point about negotiation is quite right in some ways but the detail is always important. It may sound like Alex Salmond being his usual confident and perhaps sometimes over confident self but on the key issues she raises and about our being in a weak position negotiating them she is wrong. Mentioning the Queen is just daft. She is head of state for tens of Commonwealth countries flowing into Scotland right now for the Games. She is already Queen of Scots as a separate entity so mentioning it is a bit silly. On EU membership I know it is all politics and so on on both sides but at the end of the day we will be in the EU from the start on roughly the same terms. We may not get all the share of the so called "Thatcher rebate" but that ignores how the EU spending works. I used to work with EU Objective 5B funding which has delivered new infrastructure in deprived areas throughout Scotland. That type of funding would still flow in and would be higher due to deprivation in Scotland being higher than the rest of the UK. The GDP and income in Scotland is as big without oil as the UK or bigger including it yet we still have more deprivation. The EU was part of the proceedings in the Ukraine because they were trying to create more free trade and would love to have the Ukraine as a member. Anyone suggesting Scotland would be booted out when we already comply with everything they demand is being ridiculous. Note how the text from the UK Government and BT has moved from "we will be booted out" or "we won't get in" or "we'd have to apply and join a long queue" to one based on whether we can negotiate as good a deal or not as the UK has. Well, the UK may have a good deal but Scotland does not get their fair share of it. Is J K Rowling really happy to see food banks in Scotland AND the UK government refusing help from the EU for them? FGS! Alistair Darling said we'd be forced to use the Euro when he knows this is factually incorrect and impossible.

The key thing Joanne fails to account for is the inequality we are part of and the failure of Westminster to adequately focus on Scotland and English regions like the North East. The biggest UK Treasury Report (using made up data and flawed forecasts) did predict quite happily just a couple of weeks ago that Scotland is, currently, not a subsidy junkie. We pay our way, we generate more GDP and national income in revenue than we receive back in taxes. What the UK report does next is predict that over the next 25 years Scotland will become a basket case. We'll be a subsidy junkie. We'll need our #uniondividend as they call it to buy all our fish and chips and hot dogs. In what kind of weird parallel universe is this a statement to support the success of the Union for Scotland. We have been in the UK for over 300 years, Scotland has raised more oil from the ground than Dubai and Norway and here we are 40 years later with our UK Government predicting that we are finished economically. There's nothing they could do with the billions in extra revenue raised in Scotland to stop this happening and we'll just have to become junkies. Well, for me: not without a fight.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Extract of Alasdair Gray's New Novel

THINK of good things enjoyed by other nations, some with fewer people than Scotland.

The Netherlands have over three times our population, but that well-cultivated, partly submarine kingdom has so good a national health service that even the wealthy know they will not get better treatment by privately paying for it. Germany has now about 82 million people, almost one-quarter more than those in our United Kingdom, but before unification a West German friend told me that where he came from only the rich parents of mentally impaired children paid to give them a special education: normal children of the rich would not get a better education than in the common state schools.
What was, and I think still is, good healthcare and education in the Netherlands and Germany still exists in six Scandinavian nations, half of which are monarchies, though their royal families are not like ours. Their children go to the common state schools or have jobs in offices before assuming the throne. The king or queen can go shopping without being mobbed. How strange these foreigners are!
It is easy for governments to spend taxpayers' money on healthcare and education where every citizen is not taxed to pay for big armed forces and nuclear weapon bases, like the UK, the US and China.
But if Scotland could tax its offshore oil companies as Shetland does, and people here were not taxed to keep military forces and nuclear weapons, which most of the world's nations do not have (partly because Britain and the US would declare war on them if they were suspected of it), then a Scottish government chosen by folk living here could make this a more decent country.
Switzerland has no coastline, but is so sub-divided by mountains that its internal diversity resembles Scotland. It has four different national languages; a great part of it once adopted the Calvinist religion, and another part is Roman Catholic. In some ways it is the most democratic of modern nations, being ruled by perpetual referendums. Each canton, or voting district, has a perpetual polling booth where citizens can vote for or against acts being discussed in Bern, seat of the Swiss parliament. Swiss women were denied the vote before 1951 because it was said that good ones were too busy with housework and their children to bother with politics and voting.
I only suggest Scotland adopt the Swiss practice of everyone expecting to know what their government is doing and being able to influence it more often than once every five years. The Chartists were a democratic movement of labourers, tradesmen and professional folk who tried to get parliamentary reform between 1838 and 1848. One of their demands was for a new parliamentary election every year but, after the Reform Bill gave the vote to most of the wealthy middle class, this demand was found inconvenient. The UK, the US and other nations who think themselves democratic are now mostly content with governments whose minds the voters can only change by a general election every five years unless they run riot. This happened in England over the poll tax, and in the US over segregation and, to a lesser extent, the Vietnam War. The Swiss perpetual referendum idea is a safer idea. The voting station could also be the local district councillor and member of parliament's local surgery. The building should be rent-free to the users and a secretarial staff's salary paid by the taxpayer, though when councillors and members change through an election they should be allowed to give these jobs to friends or relations.
Here is another Utopian idea not in use nowadays, though once it was taken for granted. With modern means of communication it could be easily practised in Scotland. When kings were the highest judges in every land, the government had to be wherever the king lived, so the Scottish capital kept shifting between Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Falkland, Stirling and Perth. Scottish kings were Lowlanders so did not risk taking the capital as far north as Inverness, the former Pictish king's main seat. With the help of smartphones there is no reason why parliament should not sometimes convene in any town with a railway station. It would be inconvenient for Lowland MPs to assemble at Inverness once in a while, but no more than for Highlands and Islands MPs to meet in Edinburgh.
Since 1707, the curse of Scotland has been the fact that our MPs and lords have met in Westminster. I was told by Norman Buchan, once a true socialist: "As soon as you get to London and enter the House of Commons you see Scotland from a completely different perspective." We first met when campaigning in Dunoon against Holy Loch becoming an American nuclear weapons base. Later, as the Labour Party's Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, he was totally opposed to the Scottish independence that in 1892 had been one of Labour's aims.
The problem of every nation is being governed by folk with a completely different view of life from those who elect them. This superior attitude is an occupational hazard or disease of any people with more power than most of us. It let Baroness Thatcher when a mere prime minister say, "It is my job to make life difficult for these people", when speaking of folk who mainly live in transport vehicles and had come together for a festival at Glastonbury. No politician should feel secure enough to talk like that about a minority, whether the minority is Gypsy, Jewish, Wee Free or even criminal. It is the job of the police to make life hard for criminals. I believe they do their best without politicians pressing them to be harder.
Like most other nations, Scotland should have a written constitution. The US was established with a fairly good one, though more and more amendments have been made to it. The UK is famous for having none, which allows any long-lasting parliamentary majority to do what it likes. Most states that were once part of the USSR empire had written constitutions, with clauses to guarantee democratic opposition, which their governments ignored. It is now forgotten that the main opposers who brought down the East German Republic were not enthusiasts for capitalist governments, but socialists who objected to a single-party dictatorship.
The Republic of Ireland has a constitution which declares its government must be neutral - meaning take no side - in conflicts between other governments. Between 2001 and 2005, it became known Shannon airport was being used by the US for extraordinary rendition - the transport of captured people suspected of terrorism to jails where they could be held without trial and tortured. Because this violated the Republic's constitutional neutrality, some Irish broke into and damaged a US aircraft and were arrested for this. Before the case was tried in an Irish court, ex-president Carter announced that he would appear as a witness for the defence, as he thought extraordinary rendition was in itself a crime. So the matter was never brought to court. I wish Scotland would get a constitution asserting its neutrality.