Thursday, February 14, 2008

In the footsteps of Oscar Wilde....

The erstwhile bastion of Protestant Unionism in Dublin had a visitor last night from Scotland, none other than its First Minister, Alex Salmond; you can read his full speech here.

Four brief points:

1.The Republic is quite clearly Mr Salmond’s third favourite country (after Scotland and Norway). The ROI has got to where it is today by making quite a lot of difficult economic and social sacrifices- are these the sacrifices which Salmond envisages an independent Scotland having to make? If so, it would be nice to have a few more details.And what happens, as is predicted, the ROI suffers an economic downturn over the next few years- will it be quietly forgotten as his shining example?

2.“Celtic Lion economy to match the Celtic Tiger"

Could he not have chosen something a bit more original to describe his "vision" of a future Scotland (and no, you can’t have "Pussy-Cat", that’s been copyrighted for Ulster).

3."The road to Irish independence was long, steep and far from straight. But having made this momentous journey, you would certainly not go back. Scotland has a different history and a different constitution. But our aspirations for our nation are no different from those that inspired generations of Irish people to independence and prosperity that you enjoy today."

Who is that “our” you’re speaking about? The percentage of Scots wanting independence remains stubbornly below 30%, so that particular comparison is being a bit presumptious there Alex.

4."And looking across Europe, even to nations emerging from Communism such as Slovakia and Estonia, we can see that a rapid transition to independence even from the most unpromising of circumstances can succeed"

Slovakia is not the example I’d have used. Since breaking away from the old Czechslovakia,it was firstly "governed' by a fascist, corrupt megalomaniac (Mecier) and now contains two outright racist and xenophobic parties in its ruling coalition. The two main ethnic minorities (the Roma and the Magyar) continue to suffer institutional discrimination, its economy after a couple of promising years is in a downward spiral....is that really the kind of nation Salmond wishes Scotland to become?

5 comments:

beano said...

"its economy after a couple of promising years is in a downward spiral....is that really the kind of nation Salmond wishes Scotland to become?"

Does it really matter if these tiny EU countries implement consistently f**ked up economic policies when the EU's taxpayers are going to be there to bail them out anyway?

The Aberdonian said...

Big economies can screw up as well you know. Pace the UK for much of the first half (and beyond into the mid eighties) of the post-war period. And for most of that period the UK was outside of Europe doing its splendid isolation routine.

Concerning your points in reverse:-

4. Fascist corrupt meglomaniac operating within the UK never!:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Brooke%2C_1st_Viscount_Brookeborough

Remember his "Cromwell Clubs" - nice touch for a man "loyal to the crown".

Merciar was in office for just over a year in an independent Slovakia. Brooke was in office for 20 years using a skewed voting system and gerrymandered electoral boundaries amongst other tools.

Propped up by outright bigoted organisations:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_order

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprentice_boys_of_derry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Black_Institution

Practicing discrimination against a minority. Never! And within the shadow of the mother of the free.

Concerning the discrimination against Roma and Magyr, whilst unacceptable, is not exactly unique to Slovakia. Roma are discriminated against everywhere. I am yet to see a country that actually does not treat them with a pair of tongs. Even in the UK the wave of Romanian gypsies that came over recently have hardly been welcomed with open arms by the UK media or indeed society.

In the Czech Republic Roma children are put in schools for the mentally handicapped as a matter of course. In many Eastern European countries Roma face discrimination in jobs and housing. When I was in Russia four years ago and was walking with my group in Moscow our guide caught sight of two gypsy women, shouted "gypsies, keep away from them, run!" and started to gallop off.

The tension between the Hungarians and the Slovaks is not unique. In Romania there is also a lot of tension, particuarly in Cluj-Napoca. Cluj has seen some really nasty riots whipped up by the then mayor and Romanian ultra nationalist. Some Romanians broke into the local university and tried to gorge out the eyes of one of its leading Magyr academics. They were unsuccessful but he was left half blind as a result.

Interestingly the Hungarian and Romanian leaders held a meeting and decided that the whole thing was the fault of ---- local gypsies!!!!!!!

The conflict between the Hungarians and their former subject peoples in the Habsburg Empire dates back to the days of Lajos Kossuth (ironically half-Slovak) and his amigos who discriminated against the Slovaks, Romanians, Croats and Serbs under their rule. They deliberately under-represented them in the Budapest Parliament and banned Romanian etc as the language of instruction in schools and universities.

Many Hungarians were and still are very angry at the Treaty of Trianon which carved up "the lands of the Crown of St Stephen" and still believe that these lands should still be part of Hungary. I was in Budapest during the anti-government protests in 2006 and literature and T-shirts protesting against Tiranon (signed 1920) was selling like hotcakes.

Hungary during the inter-period had tried to reverse Trianon and the Nazis gave them part of Czechoslovakia and Romania during the war for signing up to the Axis. This has left a bitter legacy which is still being sorted out.

Much of the problems go way back and have little to do with countries recently becoming independent. Transylvania and the Banat have been in Romania for the past 90 years.

Another example are the Czech-Romanians. During the Habsburg Empire, the authorities encouraged the diverse populations to mix and move about. Czechs settled en-masse in what is now Austria, Croatia, Serbia, the Ukraine and Western Romania. In 1945 50,000 Romanians of Czech descent were "repatriated" to Czechoslovakia as part of Stalin's "ethinc homogenisation" progamme.

These unfortunate people were forced to leave their homes and settle in a land their forbears their ancestors had left for a better life (usually cheap, fertile farmland) in the Banat. In their new home they were persecuted as "gypsies" by their "fellow Czechs".

3. If you had held a referendum on Irish independence in what is now the ROI 100 years ago, I doubt there would have been support for independence. All the main parties in one form or other were pro-union from Carsonites to Redmondites in some form or another. Even Arthur Griffith's Sinn Feinn (a mere side party in those days) argued for Ireland to retain a single defence, monetary, trade and foriegn policy.

But like many countries, the ROI was created in a crisis (like the UK with both the 1707 and 1800 union - Darien, Anne having no heirs, War of Spanish Succession, Scotland refusing to pass Scottish equivalent of the Act of Settlement, Scotland passing the Act of Security promising to break the personal union when Anne died, England follows up with the Aliens Act etc ). Intransigance from hardline unionists forced nationalists with a small "n" to become sympathetic with the militants of the IRB and their schemes. The rest is history.

As I said before, it is remarkable how the British state and its stupidity managed to turn much of pro-unionish Ireland against it. No wonder it is never discussed in mainstream British society. Biggest political f£$% up of the twentieth century and quite an achievement for the unionist movement!

2. He should of thought of something more original.

1. As Ian Rankin said last year, Scotland cannot do it the Norwegian way or the Irish way. It will do it the Scottish way, reflecting our resources, history, prejudices and strengths.

The ROI might be heading for trouble. But things in the UK are not exactly looking hunky dory either with galloping inflation, housing repossessions and probable job losses, particuarly in the financial sector (speculation that it will be at least 800 jobs in the City to start).

Concerning shining examples, the Republic has got ahead. Scotland is getting behind. It can still run but it sometimes resembles Rab C Nesbitt trying to run a marathon at times.

At university I studied the economic models of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. They came from knowhere in the post-war period to becoming serious economic players. Yes the wheels fell off at times, but I think the average citizen of that country would rather be where they are than lets say in Bangladesh.

O'Neill said...

So:
You’re falling into the old N.Irish trap of whataboutery (granted it’s the first time I’ve heard Stormont 22-71 compared to Slovakia 90-99).
It’s Salmond, not I, that has used Slovakia and Estonia as examples of what is achievable as small independent states. As I said before, Slovakia today has a government which contains two openly xenophobic and racist parties. Meciar was actually PM AND president twice, for a total of 8 years he effectively held power in Slovakia. The difference with the discrimination against the Roma and other minorities within Slovakia and that which undoubtedly exists elsewhere in the EU, is that it is to a large extent officially sanctioned within Slovakia. I’m not obviously saying that is the kind of regime Salmond is aiming for in Scotland, but holding it up as an example is very lazy debating at best, dishonesty at worst. And I haven’t even touched Estonia whose treatment of its ethnic Russian minority and judicial independence also leaves a lot to be desired.

3. “If you had held a referendum on Irish independence in what is now the ROI 100 years ago, I doubt there would have been support for independence.”

Probably true. So if Griffiths, Pearse or whomever had claimed to be speaking on behalf of "our" people when demanding Irish independence they would have been being presumptious. Which is exactly my point about Salmond here.

1. The ROI might be heading for trouble. But things in the UK are not exactly looking hunky dory either with galloping inflation, housing repossessions and probable job losses, particuarly in the financial sector (speculation that it will be at least 800 jobs in the City to start).

Quite possibly true.
But the question is which country will have the resources and will be better placed to cope with such an economic crisis?

At university I studied the economic models of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. They came from knowhere in the post-war period to becoming serious economic players. Yes the wheels fell off at times, but I think the average citizen of that country would rather be where they are than lets say in Bangladesh.

That’s a strange comparison. The point is that all three countries did start from nothing(although with a fair bit of help financially from the US) there was enormous spare capacity in the economy of all three countries; both the infrastructure and bureaucracy needed to be built up. And a good theoretical question: economically would Bangladesh have been better off remaining a part of Pakistan or even originally India than breaking off on its own?

The Aberdonian said...

Salmond is looking for easy examples of newly created countries to show the sky will not fall in. If he talked about Slovenia then apart from the shadow of Yugoslavia etc, there would have been questions of how the Slovenes treated Croats and other non-Slovene Yugoslav nationals living in its territory immediately after independence.

Very few countries of course become independent without teething problems. The Americans to give an example persecuted loyalists and those who stayed alive had to flee to Canada, the Bahamas, Bermuda or even the mother country.

Concerning the Asian economies mentioned, undoubtedly the Americans putting a lot of money in helped. But also there was a will. The Americans one way or another have been pouring money into client states in the Americas for years and they are still do not have the same success stories as the Far East. Indeed you should note that actually South Korea actually got on its feet after barring US investment during the 1960's when the military regime of Park Chung-Hee restricted foreign investment while using autarkik methods to build their economy. Pretty much the Yanks were reduced down to providing defence.

With Bangladesh, quite possibly it would have thrived as part of India. A united Pakistan however would have been more difficult, especially as the political structure/culture prevented a stable state.

I once discussed Bangladesh with some former Bangladeshi colleagues of mine. Their view was that a "Greater Bangladeshi" state should have been set up at partition. This state would have included present day Bangladesh and the Bengali-speaking areas of what is now India with the capital of this country being Calcutta. It did not happen as Jinna and Nerhu undermined the Bengali leaders and carved up the region for themselves. My former colleagues seemed convinced that such a solution would have produced a more stable situation in the region and a more prosperous Bengali region. Maybe.

O'Neill said...

Salmond is looking for easy examples of newly created countries to show the sky will not fall in

But there aren't any, at least not in Europe over the last twenty years.

Re the Asian economies, I haven't done any kind of reading on the subject, but I guess that especially Japan, for example, had to be rebuilt almost from scratch, which must have given momentum for their later economic miracle? Scotland's got roads, everybody's got houses, there is an adequate bureaucracy already in place, in other words there would be no similar momentum post independence...new economic and business opportunities would have to be found, which is obviously not impossible, but still pretty difficult in the modern globalised world-economy.