Cracks in the ice…?

RECENT CONVERSATIONS and internet posts have left me with the feeling that the independence argument is in fact won, and the ice-sheet of No that’s been stifling the hopes of younger generations is beginning to crack and break up. First up is the dog-walker, whom I reported on earlier, who had a visceral hatred of nationalists because of what they were doing to the country he loved. Leaving aside the question of why loving one’s country isn’t nationalism, this man is trapped in circular, content-free thinking:

– I love my country.

– How do we know you love your country?

– Because I want it to stay in the UK. That’s where it belongs.

– How do you know it belongs there?

– Because it does. And I love my country.

This isn’t political or social thinking, this is emotional masturbation. And the problem for these people at the high end of the No scale is that, when faced with facts or concrete thinking, they have nowhere to go: they can only retreat into vitriol. There’s a glorious instance of this in the comments to an article by Lesley Riddoch – surely the least vituperative of commentators – in today’s Scotsman , where the level of vilification is beyond belief, and is a disgrace to any society claiming to have a tradition of constructive debate. We should take heart from this. When the campaign gets going, the No side’s only resource will be evidence-free fervour, and that’s not going to withstand the well-argued set of benefits that the Yes side is going to be promoting.

Overall, the more closely the more you look at the Unionist output, the less content you find. Chokka Blog’s latest post (to take an example) rests its case on “the bonds of moral solidarity that bind us”, but he doesn’t tell us what they are: for that we have to wait for Part II, and it’s now three months since Chokka Blog posted anything. Perhaps he lost confidence in the bonds of moral solidarity when he saw the UK Conservative Government hounding immigrants, sanctioning benefits, murdering spies with nerve-gas, bombing Yemenis, and breaking up families by deporting foreign wives and mothers. The Scottish popular press has taken a different approach, inexorably trivialising the debate, with attacks on minimum alcohol pricing, the baby box, and the cost of the First Minister’s temporary accommodation – all stories that were deconstructed by the independence website Wings Over Scotland. Wings has time and again shown how empty the Unionist anti-SNP claims are, and for this is of course vilified daily – “vicious underbelly to the independence campaign”, “scum”, “bastard”. But the only substantive accusation made against the site is that the blogger, Stuart Campbell (it’s a one-man show) lives in Bath. These are not arguments, and none of this is a threat to the case for independence. You would expect Unionists to start rebutting the main planks of the independence case – you’d expect them to say what’s wrong with using our own resources to deliver prosperity, with having our own immigration policy, with creating a fairer society embodying social democratic values, with deciding for ourselves whether to leave the EU or to keep Trident, and with not being the submerged one-tenth of a voice in the all-UK Parliament. But none of these gets an airing.

Of course, to say the argument is won doesn’t mean the vote is won, and there will be varied opinions on how best to do that. It will be unpleasant on the personal level, because the Unionists will scream and have tantrums. It may also become unpleasant on the political level, if the UK Government starts removing devolved powers and abolishes the Scottish Parliament. But there’s nothing like knowing how good your case is to keep you engaged and moving forward.

Smile and be a Villain

This claim turned up in comments on The National yesterday, from John Stuart Wilson. Since it’s based on data, it needs to be taken seriously:

Our largest on-shore private sector employer is the finance industry. It accounts for, directly and indirectly, 1 in 12 jobs. It doesn’t want to be located in a foreign country from 90% of its customers. (Ask yourself: how many local authorities and SMEs currently send their monthly pension scheme payments to Belgium to have them managed there?) And it will not accept the loss of a LOLR [lender of last resort] backstop. So independence will cause major job losses in Scotland, as these firms relocate to the rUK.

However, there are a few points in the above claim which are not clear:

– the Scottish finance industry employs 160,000 people, out of a labour force of 2.6m. This is 1 in 16. Where does the writer get his figure of 1 in 12 from?

– the UK-wide finance industry employs about 2m people, out of a labour force of 32m. So the Scottish economy is no more dependent on financial services than the UK-wide economy is.

– some financial institutions focus on customers in foreign countries, which is why the London financial sector is so keen to retain its access to the EU. How does this square with the writer’s claim that banks don’t want their customers to be in a different country?

– What’s meant by ‘located in a foreign country’? Many financial institutions have staff in one country and owners in another: HSBC, Santander, RCI, Clydesdale Bank (until 2016), to give a few household names. If the author means that banks which are currently headquartered in Scotland will move their headquarters after independence, that isn’t a big deal. And if he means that they’ll move their staff away and close up shop, that’s implausible – why would any businessman with a brain walk away from a 5.2m customer base that has a reputation for financial probity?

– the lender of last resort would not be the Scottish government; if the economy went pear-shaped, the lender of last resort would be the IMF, and the banks would stay. Thirty countries in the world have become independent since 1984, and they all have banks. Greece, ranking 24th among European economies in terms of per-capita GDP, still has banks. Why does the writer believe that banks would leave if the lender of last resort were the IMF?

A more plausible explanation of John Stuart Wilson’s post is that an independent Scotland would properly regulate its financial sector, squeezing out malpractice, and making it more difficult for the sector to make money. So, as far as financial operators with that mindset are concerned, Scottish independence is a lousy option. Arguing against independence on that basis is of course a thoroughly villainous activity, but until we get answers to the questions above, we can’t be sure that John Stuart Wilson’s claims are honest and believable. Can we please get sufficient clarification from him to show that his stance on this is an honourable one?

 

Bang on the money, that needed saying!

Wow, this needed to be said, and here it is! This is a statement on the Catalonian referendum issued on 25th October 2017 by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. I show the link above, but I quote the statement in full anyway at the foot of this post.

The statement makes four main points, exposing the logical fudges used by those who support the Spanish government. These points are also highly pertinent to the Scottish situation, and we need to think of ways of addressing them. The four main points are:

  1. The right of self-determination belongs to the people, not the state, and the state cannot take it away.
  2. The right to self-determination overrides the principle of territorial integrity.
  3. Using force, making a referendum illegal, and annulling autonomy violate international covenants on civil and political rights.
  4. Dialogue and negotiation are the way forward.

The constitutional settlement for Scotland violates the first of these four points: we can’t hold a legally binding referendum without the consent of the UK government. Nor are the conditions clear under which the UK government can withhold consent. At least in Spain they know where they stand – it’s illegal, full-stop. In Britain it’s at the discretion of the government of the day, which is a way of giving us no rights but not admitting it. We need to say loudly and clearly that this is wrong, and basically ignore it.

On the second point, there is firstly the trivial jibe that we “want to break up the United Kingdom”. Yes, we do, because it basically f*cks us, and this UN statement tells us that we have the higher claim. Of more weight is the constant assertion in mainstream media that regions cannot become states because there is an international consensus – supported by the United Nations – that international borders are inviolable. This statement gives the lie to that.

Some commentators doubt that the UK government would use force to suppress an independence campaign, but I’m not persuaded that they wouldn’t. The Irish Civil War is less than 100 years old, and the Northern Ireland Troubles cost 3,000 lives. The UK government will surely exploit Yoon thuggery if it needs to.

Fourthly, dialogue is the way forward – yes, thank you, now pull the other one. The current UK government doesn’t engage in dialogue at the best of times, and the coming indy ref will not be the best of times. But if we can’t do it peacefully, by dialogue, and basically with agreement – including the grudging agreement of Scottish opponents – then, however good the consequences for our economy and well-being, we still face 100 years of bitterness, discord and hostility. Ideally we should be putting to the UK government an offer they can’t refuse, showing the benefits to them of a Scottish secession. That will mean some hard thinking and some forceful point-making.

[Title of this post changed 1/11/2017.]

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Statement on Catalonian autonomy from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights

GENEVA (25 October 2017) – The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, is calling on Spanish authorities to enter into negotiations in good faith with leaders in Catalonia following the announcement that the Spanish Government would suspend the region’s autonomy. On 19 October, the Spanish Government announced its intention to impose direct rule on the region after a deadline seeking an end to the Catalan independence campaign was not met. His statement is as follows:

“I deplore the decision of the Spanish Government to suspend Catalan autonomy. This action constitutes retrogression in human rights protection, incompatible with Articles 1, 19, 25 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Pursuant to Articles 10(2) and 96 of the Spanish Constitution, international treaties constitute the law of the land and, therefore, Spanish law must be interpreted in conformity with international treaties.

“Denying a people the right to express themselves on the issue of self-determination, denying the legality of a referendum, using force to prevent the holding of a referendum, and cancelling the limited autonomy of a people by way of punishment constitutes a violation of Article 1 of the ICCPR and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Alternatively, addressing the aspiration of peoples to self-determination in a timely fashion is an important conflict prevention measure, as is evidenced by the countless wars that have occurred since 1945 that found their origin in denial of self-determination. Dialogue and political negotiation should be encouraged to prevent violence.

“The Spanish Government appears to invoke the principle of territorial integrity to justify forceful attempts to silence political dissent and aspirations of self-determination. While the principle of territorial integrity is important, as understood in many United Nations Resolutions, including GA Resolutions 2625 and 3314, it is intended to be applied externally, to prohibit foreign threats or incursions into the territorial integrity of sovereign States. This principle cannot be invoked to quench the right of all people, guaranteed under Article 1 of the International Covenants on Human Rights, to express their desire to control their futures. The right of self-determination is a right of peoples and not a prerogative of States to grant or deny. In case of a conflict between the principle of territorial integrity and the human right to self-determination, it is the latter that prevails.

“Of course, there are many peoples worldwide who aspire to self-determination, whether internal in the form of autonomy or external in the form of independence. And while the realization of self-determination is not automatic or self-executing, it is a fundamental human right that the international community should help implement.

“The international law of self-determination has also progressed far beyond mere decolonization. Applying the 15 criteria contained in my 2014 report (paras 63-77), it is evident that no state can use the principle of territorial integrity to deny the right of self-determination and that arguments about the legality of actions taken by Catalonia’s elected parliament are immaterial. Such arguments do not nullify the ius cogens character of self-determination.

“The only democratic solution to the current impasse is to suspend repressive measures and to organize a referendum so as to determine the true wishes of the population concerned. Such a referendum should be monitored by the EU, OSCE and private observers including the Carter Center.”

Taming the Trolls – the Dog-walking BritNat Resurfaces

A while ago I reported on a mild-mannered, middle-aged dog-walker who accosted me insultingly while I was walking back from the dentist wearing an SNP badge. Today I went to the same dentist again, wearing the same SNP badge (it lives on the coat, stupid!), and lo and verily behold, same spot, same dog, same guy, same tactic, same spiel. He stopped as he was walking past me on the bridge over the Kelvin, made eye contact, said, “That’s a shame!” and waited.

One thing that will have occurred to readers already is that it’s not a good idea to regularly accost strangers when you walk your dog, because they’re likely to be the same people as you accosted when you last walked your dog. As they were in this case. Another thing that might occur to you is that if you’re going to accost the same stranger again, you could do yourself a favour by recognising them, which he obviously hadn’t. So I told him that he’d tried that trick on me before. He showed no reaction.

I wagged a finger in his face, and told him that if he wanted to talk, he should talk. He didn’t answer, but made to move on.

I put a hand up to his shoulder, to show that I would prefer him to wait. “That’s assault,” he said. He’d remembered who I was now.

Yes, we know that. I’m touching you, so that’s assault. And you initiated the confrontation, so you deal with it. But I didn’t say any of that. I just left my hand there.

“That’s assault,” he said again.

I dropped my hand, but I must have said something that opened his vocal floodgates, because as he walked off he turned and bellowed a torrent of hatred and despair. He despised the SNP and everything they had done to the country. He despised all nationalists. He despised what the SNP had done with education. He hated Alex Salmond, words could not express his contempt for Alex Salmond, who was, quite simply, “a mountebank”. I might be a quite reasonable chap, he said, but the SNP was beyond contempt and I should be ashamed to wear their badge. Then he made off, with his dog, leaving a bystander gobsmacked by the outburst she’d just witnessed, and a bit shaken, and not quite convinced that this was just a political discussion between strangers on a public path along the River Kelvin. We do political discussion robustly in Glasgow.

However, we can learn things from this – four things, perhaps:

  • The dog-walker’s tirade was hardly a political statement: it was rather an expression of deep personal unhappiness. We need to think about what that means.
  • His despair dates from 2014, not from more recent events. What has upset him is surely indy’s failure to go away after it lost, three years ago.
  • He’s no Billy-Boy thug, but a person of some education. I caught the distinct whiff of the professional classes.
  • You might think that there’s no talking to such people, but that would be wrong. He’s talked already. He’s given us quite a lot of insight in his tirade, and we can build on that.

Let’s look more closely at the above four points.

Firstly, there was no political content in what the dog-walker said, apart from the Scottish Government’s failure to maintain educational standards; everything else was emotional rant, basic bigotry. There’s a highly sympathetic account here of how life-experiences form our attitudes, which then freeze, so that any counter-evidence simply confirms our prejudice, and leaves us unable to move on. Sometimes not being able to move on is a sign of immaturity: I’m thinking of a neighbour’s teenage daughter who, when Glasgow taxis changed their decor from plain black to dayglow pink with exotic beach scenes, had a tantrum, screaming that “Taxis are black!” Different in scope (of course) from “Scotland is part of the UK”, but absolutely identical in feeling (and her family were all opinionated at the best of times). However, people do change and move on. If society is about anything, it’s about helping each other to grow, and political discourse needs to encompass that. That’s why we need to think about the dog-walker’s outburst not in terms of why he’s wrong, but in terms of why indy gives him the heebie-jeebies.

The ‘backfire effect’ referred to above tells us that when the counter-evidence becomes too great, our world-view closes up into an iron-hard shell, to save itself from collapsing completely. Since the dog-walker mentions Alex Salmond but not Nicola Sturgeon, nor any events under Sturgeon’s premiership, it seems likely that it was the 2014 referendum that left him in despair. His side won it, but the pressure for indy didn’t go away, and the SNP’s massive surge in 2015 must have left him devastated.

The dog-walker spoke with a middle-class accent, standard posh Scottish English, suggestive of a lecturer or lawyer or other professional person. So an educated person, not a yob: a pointer to this is the word he used to describe Wee Eck, “a mountebank”, a word which is not in wide circulation, and is certainly not a preferred term of abuse among the Twitter-stream Yoon thugs. So behind his tirade, if we dug around a bit, we might expect to find a well-thought-out set of anti-indy arguments.

And he’s talked, of course: he’s given us his pitch, he’s opened up his thoughts to us, he’s told us a bit about why he thinks the way he does. He’s taken (encouraged by me, I have to say) the first step towards dialogue, and we could pick at one or two of his viewpoints in the hope of opening them up a bit. We could for example ask why it’s OK to love your country (as presumably he does, because his complaint is that the SNP is destroying it), but not to be a nationalist, and what the difference is. That might get the mental-growth juices working.

Whatever else is to be said about this episode, it’s certainly true that wandering about and verbally assaulting any SNP badge-wearers you happen to meet is a lousy campaigning tactic, and speaks of deep personal disturbance. If that’s the best the anti-indy side can do, then we’ve already won the argument. What we have to do now is to win the vote, and that means winning the hearts and minds of people who currently oppose us.

Astounding piffle

The Catalonian referendum result was astonishingly pro-indy: 91% pro-indy, on a turnoutof 42%. If all those who stayed away had voted, it would have needed 79% of them to vote anti-indy to produce a 50-50 result. Hands-down win for indy, no question.

pie3

It is of course true that we don’t formally know the voting intentions of those who stayed away – that’s what staying away means. But we can make some reasonable assumptions:

  • Some of them were dead, or had moved house. All electoral rolls are out of date: in December 2015, 9% of the entries on the electoral rolls of the UK named people who were no longer there (Electoral Commission), and the Spanish registers will be comparable. So 9% of the alleged abstainers don’t in fact exist, and to get a 50-50 result, we actually need not 79% of those who stayed away, but 87% of them, to vote anti.
  • Some preferred not to be clubbed to bits by a cop dressed in a wall of plastic armour. Everything we know about human nature suggests that this fear would be evenly spread across pro- and anti- voters. But to get a 50-50 result, it would need to have deterred 87% of ‘anti-‘ voters.

It’s beyond implausible to say that 87% of those who stayed away would have voted against independence, and were only prevented from doing so by fear of violence. So our conclusion stands up: it was a hands-down win for indy.

However, there are still people who can’t stomach this result, among them Stephen Bush, who gives us this astounding piece of piffle in the New Statesman:

With the opposition parties and voters boycotting the vote, independence nonetheless took a share of the vote roughly equal to the total share achieved by Leave in the United Kingdom’s EU referendum.

So it’s likely, but not certain, that a referendum held with Madrid’s blessing would have been won anyway.

No, Stephen, they didn’t take a share of the vote, they took a share of the potential vote, i.e. the names on the register. The abstainers didn’t vote against, they didn’t vote at all. It’s not like the EU referendum, where those who voted against didn’t just not vote, they voted against. I know educational standards are slipping, but you’d expect a lead journalist on a publication with the stature of the New Statesman to know the difference between share of the electoral roll and share of the actual votes. Or then again, perhaps you wouldn’t.

Yoon Truth

For those who haven’t heard of Kevin Hague and his rabidly anti-independence blog (What is he scared of? Why does he hate independence so much? Is he misinformed, or just greedy? And if greedy, what for?), this is a chilling post:

https://chokkablog.blogspot.co.uk/
28 August 2017 at 01:14
Comments to “Professor Murphy and the Deckchairs”

Anonymous Drew said…

Here’s a tricky one for anti-independence campaigners. While you want the Conservatives and/or Labour to win control of Holyrood in 2021, you wouldn’t want them doing too well.

There’s a danger for opponents of independence that if Scotland’s economy ever improves to the extent that tax revenues increase and spending on poverty, health and social problems decrease, then the situation with GERS might show Scotland could prosper with greater control over the economy.

This would risk doing the SNP’s job for it. The parties against independence need to be able to show that Scotland is economically weak enough to need the Union.

Lab/Cons would need the economy to do well enough in Scotland to remain in power at Holyrood but have a poor enough fiscal position through GERS to show that the economic case for independence remains in trouble.

That’s a bit of a Catch 22.

…and complete contempt for the well-being of 5.4m Scots.

We’ve won the argument. Let’s win the peace.

Well, everyone says it happens to them at some time: they get insulted for wearing a pro-indy badge. Walking to the dentist across the park this afternoon I was approached by a mild-looking middle-aged man walking his dog, who stopped me as if to speak, said “That’s a shame,” and left the remark hanging.

“What’s a shame?” I asked, baffled. Here was a complete stranger, stopping me to offer an opinion about nothing that I could identify. Weird.

“That you’re a nationalist,” he spat out, and turned his back and walked swiftly on.

So there I was, completely set up and verbally mugged. With hindsight, the first answer I thought of, to give him a quick and nasty smack around the head, was of course not the right one, and in any case I was too late for it. The right answer would have been to tell him, in terms, that if he wanted to engage in dialogue there was no point in walking away, and if he didn’t want to engage in dialogue then he should shut his arsehole face – but of course I was too late for that as well. Only much later did it occur to me that I could have run after him, detained him, and told him at that point to either talk or shut his arsehole face, so by then it was too late for that too. Net result: a feel-good victory for the unionist thug.

Still, at least it’s only a feel-good victory – it’s not a victory in the unionist argument or the eventual vote. On the contrary, of course – if this is the level of discussion, then we’ve already won the argument, and by a long margin. But it continues to baffle me why anti-independence supporters are so blindly attached to a union of countries where the advantage is (to say the least) questionable, and what the source is of this deep well of resentment that makes them lose their heads whenever the hint of a threat to it surfaces. What exactly do they hate, and why?

If we knew the answer to that question, then we could move into dialogue. And we need dialogue, because these people are going to be part of our new country, and we need them onside.

 

Why GERS is a pile of pants

An open letter to Kevin Hague

Dear Kevin,

BloggerKevin Hague said…

yes – unclouded by anger and not troubled with supporting data that is an excellent summary, thank you

31 August 2017 at 07:24

I’m glad you agree that I gave (here) an excellent summary of your post about GERS on your blog. I summarised your post because I wanted to get behind your vituperation and your avalanche of data, and look at the merit of your arguments. I have to say I’m not impressed. Let’s take your five main points:-

1. Professor Murphy asks why the Scottish deficit is so much larger than that of the rest of the UK (the ‘deficit gap’). You reply that it’s because the difference between what Scotland spends on services and what it collects in revenue is larger that that of the rest of the UK. This answer is vapid: it doesn’t explain, it just restates the phenomenon. If you asked an employee of yours why they were late, and they said it was because they hadn’t arrived at the stated time, you wouldn’t think you’d been given an explanation, you’d think you’d been handed a bunch of insolence, and fire them on the spot. Your response to Professor Murphy is like that bunch of insolence.

2. Regarding non-identifiable expenditure, you say that Murphy’s claim is false, because non-identifiable expenditure is allocated fairly, by population. But Murphy doesn’t claim that it’s allocated unfairly: he claims that the revenue it generates is not allocated to Scotland.

3. You say that Murphy is wrong in saying that expenditure figures rely on estimates: expenditure, you say, is all supported by known data. But Murphy doesn’t claim that expenditure is estimated: he says that revenue is estimated (which you partly agree with).

4. You say that Murphy needs to consider why the Scottish spend is higher, and claim that there are two causes: (a) Scotland’s population is more spread out than in the rest of the UK, and (b) “slightly more” benefit claimants in Scotland suffer from long-term health problems. But the numbers here don’t support your case:

  • Two-thirds of Scotland’s population live in the Central Belt, which has normal density, and only one third is spread out. Scotland’s per-person spend is 12percent higher than in rUK, so for the low population density to account for the increase, every single service provided outside the Central Belt would have to cost 36% more than the norm, irrespective of its nature. I’m getting a futon bed delivered to Glasgow this week at a price of £130 + £10 delivery; your scenario says that if I lived in Dunoon, the whole bed would have to cost me £190. That’s nonsense.
  • You don’t say what “slightly more benefit claimants” amounts to, but let’s guess (unreasonably, in my view, but let’s start there) that the number of benefit claimants who suffer from from long-term ill health amounts to 10percent more of the population than in the rest of the UK. Here your scenario is even more implausible: every single service delivered to those people would have to cost 120% more than the norm (i.e. more than twice as much}. So if my auntie in Dunoon had dementia, she would have to pay £308 for the self-same futon bed as cost me £140.
  • Yes, I know I’ve accounted for the difference twice here, and the truth (if any) must lie somewhere between the two, but if you’re going to argue that these two features account for the higher Scottish spend, you’re going to have to provide some credible numbers. I put it to you that such numbers don’t exist.

5. Your last point is that the yearly revisions of GERS, which present amended figures for earlier years, consistently show that the earlier deficit was in fact higher than was first reported, and this, you say, demonstrates that there can no hidden agenda to overstate the deficit. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Your creditor says to you, “Bad news. You owe me thirty grand,” but you suspect he’s lying, you don’t owe him that much. A month later he comes along and says, “I’m sorry, I got the figures wrong. You owe me thirty-one grand,” and you conclude from that that he can’t have been lying the first time. Really? How exactly does that work? You must let me know some time.

So let’s look again at your five-point rebuttal of Murphy. On the first point, that the deficit gap is baffling, you say that it’s not baffling, the reason for the deficit gap is that there’s a gap in the deficit. On the second point, that non-identifiable revenue does not accrue to Scotland, you say that non-identifiable expenditure is allocated fairly. On the third point, that revenue is estimated, you say that expenditure is not estimated. On the fourth point, that Scottish spend is necessarily higher, there is no credible way in which Scotland’s different circumstances could skew spending by the amount you say it does. And your last point, that the yearly GERS revisions show that there is no hidden aim of overstating the deficit, don’t show anything of the sort.

If I were feeling generous, I would call your alleged rebuttal of Murphy a pile of pants, and I’m sure you’re bright enough to see that. I therefore assume you wrote it in a tearing hurry. However, early intervention of this sort makes the Union side look panicky, as though it knows it’s losing the debate and has no more shots in its locker. Indies are already saying that Unionists no longer believe in their own economic case, they just jump up and down and scream when it’s challenged, and I’m sure you’re bright enough to see that too. It will be interesting to see how you deal with it as the debate unfolds.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Derek

Flying Pigs and Porky Pies

Astounding stuff on BBC Radio Four News tonight: “Scotland’s whisky producers see new opportunity in Brexit,” were the words headlining the item in the opening overview of stories. Goody, something new and good is happening! What’s the new development, what’s changed, what’s the new opportunity? After 18 minutes we got the detail:

1. David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, has visited a distillery on Islay. Hardly a new Brexit opportunity.

2. Sarah Smith, our BBC Scotland editor, said that the Scottish whisky industry had seen Brexit as unwelcome, but that now “the mood appears to be changing”. However, she didn’t present any interview in which anybody said the mood was changing, she didn’t play any clips of anybody saying it, in fact she didn’t offer any evidence of it at all. She might as well have made it up, and given her lack of evidence, the conclusion that she did is pretty inescapable.

3. A Scotch whisky spokesman said that the industry had always seen Brexit as posing a challenge. He didn’t say anything about anything having changed in that regard.

4. Sarah Smith came back and said that “the industry can also see big opportunities beyond the EU.” However, she didn’t present any interview in which anybody said the industry saw big opportunities beyond the EU, she didn’t play any clips of anybody saying it, in fact she didn’t offer any evidence of it at all. She might as well have made it up, and given her lack of evidence, the conclusion that she did is pretty inescapable.

5. The Indian Government imposes a 150percent duty on whisky. David Mundell told us that freeing ourselves from EU restrictions gives us an “opportunity to change” that. This is like saying that the benefit of falling down a crevasse is that it gives you the opportunity to clutch at a flying pig.

A lie is an utterance which the person producing it does not believe is true. So this is a lying headline, supported by two further lies from the BBC correspondent, contradicted by an industry spokesman, hitched on to the facts that a member of the government has visited an island and is chasing pie in the sky. Why do we pay the BBC a licence fee for this, and why do they think we’ll believe it?

UPDATE 3rd August 2017: Complaint lodged with BBC. All things are possible.