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Scottish Independance

For the Scottish Government, Brexit (which most Scots opposed) marks a change in circumstances that justifies a second poll. So why does Scottish independence matter, both for Scotland and the UK?

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Scottish Independence – Why is it significant and what does it mean

Following the recent Scottish Parliament elections, the pro-independence parties (namely the SNP and Greens) have found themselves in the majority, with 72 out of 129 seats in the chamber. According to Nicola Sturgeon, this gives the Scottish Government a mandate to hold a second referendum on independence after the first in 2014 was defeated by ten percent in favour of the ‘No’ campaign. For the Scottish Government, Brexit (which most Scots opposed) marks a change in circumstances that justifies a second poll. So why does Scottish independence matter, both for Scotland and the UK?

Ever since the Labour government devolved power to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the country has had the ability to form a government that implements policies that are different to that pursued by the UK government. As of 2016, these pertain to health, education, income tax, council tax, stamp duty, business rates, law and order, local government, housing, and a few other policy areas. However, the Scottish Parliament has no power over defence, the constitution, employment, trade, immigration, and foreign policy, to name a few ‘reserved matters’, i.e., matters that only the Westminster Parliament can legislate on. This distinction in policies between the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament has been perhaps most notable during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, owing to health being a devolved matter, Scotland and England have had different dates for lockdowns and various restrictions throughout the pandemic. 

This may raise the question as to why many Scots and the Scottish government want full independence. On the one hand, this may be down to a feeling of distinct identity, especially considering England being a primarily pro-Tory and Eurosceptic country compared to Scotland being a more pro-SNP or liberal-leaning Europhilic country. Indeed this reasoning has been the primary and repeated justification used by Nicola Sturgeon in claiming that Scotland deserves to be given a second say. This is reinforced by opinion polling following the 2016 EU Referendum showing a jump in support for the ‘Yes’ side and in late 2020 following Brexit and unclarity over Britain leaving the single market at the end of the transition period. However, there are other factors pertaining to policy that the Scottish Parliament has no control over, such as defence. For example, a poll in 2015 suggested that a much larger number of people in Scotland supported scrapping Trident (Britain’s nuclear submarines that are based in Scotland) compared to in England, and the SNP have consistently raised their opposition to such defences being located in Scotland.

Thus, the SNP hope that an independent Scotland would look much different to how it is now, capitalising on the new found independence over the ‘reserved matters’ that the Conservative Government decides. Much of these aims were laid out in the 2014 White Paper that laid out a roadmap for an independent Scotland. Scotland would re-join as a member of the European Union and would have its codified constitution (unlike the uncodified one that currently governs the UK). It would scrap Trident and build a new Scottish Defence Force. Furthermore, it would be a more open country playing ‘a more socially responsible role in the world’ in terms of issues such as asylum. 

However, the challenges that faced the notion of Scottish Independence will continue to face the ‘Yes’ campaign in any future referendum. Most notably, the issue of what currency a future Scotland will have remains a contentious matter. The SNP has indicated that Scotland could use a new currency, but this may be destructive to Scotland’s existing economy. On the other hand, if Scotland continues to use pounds, they would lack any control over monetary policy, another unsavoury scenario. A second potential issue would be the prospect of a border between Scotland (within the European Union) and England (outside of the European Union). Again, this would no doubt have a negative impact on the Scottish economy and society, especially in the region near the English border. Thus, whereas there may be a political basis for a second referendum to go ahead, there will continue to be unanswered questions that would hang over a prospective second independence campaign.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Jibran Raja is a second year Philosophy, Politics, and Economics student at Kings College London. He is on Twitter @2015Jmr

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Daily Brief

Russian Missile Sets Ukraine Shopping Center on Fire

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  • A busy shopping center in Ukraine was set on fire by Russian missiles on Monday, killing at least thirteen people and injuring dozens. The total number of casualties is still unknown.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that “The number of victims is impossible to imagine” and that there could have been up to 1,000 people in the mall.
  • The attack came during the G7 summit, where world leaders condemned recent atrocities and promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” in a joint statement. President Zelensky spoke to the leaders at the summit and stated that he wants the war to end before winter.
  • NATO has decided to increase the number of troops in its rapid reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000, more than eightfold. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated this move is part of the “biggest overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”
  • The United States has announced that it will provide Ukraine with advanced medium and long-range air defense capabilities.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Albanian Prime Minister expressed discontent over membership delays for the European Union

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On June 23rd, the leaders of the European Union had a meeting with six Western Balkan Countries. These countries, consisting of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, have all applied to become part of the EU for years now. 

This time they met to further their integration into the EU. 

The meeting took place amidst tensions between the countries, as Bulgaria’s veto on accession talk with North Macedonia.Bulgaria refuses to recognize Macedonia as a separate country and this veto also put Albanian negotiations on hold. 

Before the summit took place the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, criticised EU leader for their delay. 

“You are a mess guys, you are a big mess and you are a disgrace and I think it’s a shame that a NATO country kidnaps two other NATO countries while in the backyard of Europe there is a hot war and of course, it’s not good to see that 26 other countries sit still in a scary show of impotence,” Rama said.

This frustration came to be due to the long wait of being able to join the European Union. The longest-standing nation dates back to 2005, when North Macedonia applied for EU membership. 

While the Western Balkan country has been applying and waiting for years now, countries like Ukraine and Moldovia are moving in record speed to be granted the candidate status. Which furthers the frustration Western Balkans leaders feel. 

The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz responded:

“The most important [thing] is that the states from Western Balkans will have a good opportunity to become really members of the European Union,” adding “they’ve worked so hard, so it’s our common task this something that will happen.”

Bulgaria seemed to make progress until their opposition appeared to be wanting to advance with opening accession negotiations. Despite the hope it did not further any progress, due to dispute in the parliament. 

The Bulgarian Prime Minister called the opposition leader “most dishonest person I know.”

The European Council President Charles Michel stated that he was watching the development in Bulgaria closely and that starting the negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia were his top priority. 

By the end of the meeting Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama posted on Twitter:

“Nice place nice people nice words nice pictures and just imagine how much nicer could be if nice promises were followed by nice delivery. 
But we Albanians are not as nice as to give up nicely! So, we will keep going and working even harder to make Albania a nice EU member”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

Exclusive: John Pilger claims Julian Assange extradition is bad news for “truth-tellers”

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We spoke to veteran investigative journalist and documentarian John Pilger about what he thought Assange’s looming extradition meant for the state of the press in the UK, and the fate investigative journalists like him

Julian Assange –  the investigative journalist and whistleblower spent the last ten years fighting for freedom after having leaked secret documents regarding US human rights abuses. Most of those years were spent holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain where he was granted asylum by the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa in 2012. 

That asylum ended seven years later when Correa’s replacement, Lenin Moreno handed him over to the British authorities. On the morning of April 11th, 2019, Assange was dragged out of the embassy by British police in a brutal show of force, and taken to be locked up in Belmarsh prison, the detention centre known as the British Guantanamo Bay. He has remained there since.

Last week, Assange’s decade long battle was dealt a blow. British Home Secretary Priti Patel signed Assange’s extradition order to the United States, where he faces 18 federal counts of espionage for publishing secret state documents handed to him by the former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning; documents which exposed the atrocities, human rights abuses and war crimes committed by The United States, its allies, and their forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. 

Besides this, the documents showed the systematic human rights abuses and torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the controversial U.S Prison located in Cuba that held more than 150 prisoners, who were innocent without charge for years. And most of all, they confirmed that the pretext for the U.S led invasion of Iraq was a farce.

But in a country that lauds itself on its free press, especially when holding up its democratic values against its autocratic Middle-Eastern counterparts, what happens when a journalist exercises his right within the free press and is castigated the way Assange has been and for as long as he has?

“There is no free press as we might imagine or mythologise it. A powerful, almost unconscious self-censorship routinely dominates the media, much of it run or influenced by an augmented extremism called Murdochism. Added to this are draconian laws that constrain our right to know and which allow the ‘intelligence services’ (known in the US as the ‘deep state’) to manipulate the press. Little of this is discussed publicly.”

According to Pilger, it was Julian Assange who “broke down this wall of censorship, on the public’s behalf.” It is no surprise then, that the whistleblower, Manning was pardoned by the US after seven years in prison, while the publisher could face confinement for the rest of his life. Currently, Assange faces up to ten years in prison for each federal count against him. But Assange is an Australian national, and just recently the former foreign minister of Australia, Bobb Carr, wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald that he believed that the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, should request the Biden administration for Assange’s freedom.

Pilger affirms that the Australian government should support their citizen, but that “rights and reality live in two different worlds. We should unite them!” 

Despite Carr’s suggestion, Australian Prime Minister publicly affirmed he stood by his previous remarks that Assange had “paid a big price for the publication of the information already” and that “I do not see what purpose is served by the ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange,”  but that he would not publicly ask Biden for a pardon for Assange. Speaking to the broadcaster Sky News, he said “We’re not going to conduct diplomacy by megaphone.” 

But what is it that makes such prominent world leaders so reluctant to directly support the plight of Assange?  For some it is the fact that he published secret state documents through his whistleblower site, Wikileaks. Was this really a violation of the official secret act, as has been alleged, or does the right of the public to know what governments are doing abroad with taxpayers money negate this? Is the country not put at risk when state secrets are made public?

“Wikileaks revealed grave state crimes,” he says, “The law should apply to governments as well as to individuals. Nazi leaders and officials were prosecuted and punished at the end of World War Two because they committed state crimes. The principle is the same.”

If Julian Assange’s team fails in its attempts to appeal and he is sent to the US, what will that entail for him? And what implications will it have on future whistleblowers and investigative journalists?

John Pilger is blunt. “For Julian it will be the end of his life. For truth-tellers, it will mean even greater risk than at present. The shadows of state control will spread until we call, ‘’stop.’

In fact, the veteran journalist is no stranger to censorship of his own work either. In 2014 his regular column for the oft-touted ‘independent’ paper the Guardian was axed, according to Pilger, “Without explanation.”

“I wrote a fortnightly piece for the Guardian which was axed in 2014 with the specious explanation that the paper ‘needed greater variety’: some such nonsense. There were (and are) warring political factions on the Guardian and under a new editor a virulent right-wing took control. At that time, I was writing about the Western-sponsored coup in Ukraine, which had just happened, and the war it beckoned.”

It is a grim state of affairs to which the future of journalism seems to be hurtling towards, painted darker by recent events. What hope does that leave to budding journalists who would wish to pursue a career like that of Pilger’s and other investigative journalists and whistleblowers, like Assange, who in their fearlessness can speak truth and expose the crimes and excesses of those in power? How can the fear of reprisal by the authorities be abated?“Keep going. Be resolute and follow your star. The times are difficult, but there are more independent outlets,online, than when I began. Try and stay away from the mis-named ‘mainstream’ which used to have space for independent minded journalists, but no more. Journalism is a wonderful craft: how it is practised and honoured is up to you.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

From witch-hunting to testimonies: Gambia’s transition to democracy 

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52nd Independence Anniversary Celebrations and Inauguration of His Excellency Mr. Adama Barrow President of the Republic of The Gambia Saturday 18th February 2017 scaled

Transitioning to a democracy can be a difficult move particularly for a country that has experienced a violent past. For 22 years the Gambia was ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, known for human rights abuses, gender-based violence, harassment, torture and in particular, witch hunts, but was finally toppled by Adama Barrow in 2016. 

Witch hunting started in 2009 when President Jammeh claimed that the cause of his aunt’s death was witchcraft. As a result, several witch hunts took place throughout the country. Those who were suspected of witchcraft were forced into detention centres where they would be stripped naked and beaten until they would confess that they had carried out murders using witchcraft. Additionally, they were forced to drink a herbal concoction which caused many to fall sick and some to even die. The elderly who were mostly suspected of witchcraft faced the worst of the beatings.

However, it was not just witch hunting that defined Jammeh’s leadership. Human rights abuses, the lack of freedom of press and harassment of political opponents shaped a significant amount of his leadership. Deyda Hydara, editor of the daily The Point newspaper, had previously spoken up against the dictatorial regime. In 2004 Hydara was killed in a drive by shooting. Despite many pointing their fingers at Jammeh, he denied any link to the murder of the respected journalist. But in 2019 as part of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Malick Jatta, a member of the Junglers – a death squad known to have done the ‘dirtiest work’ for the former President – confessed to Hydara’s murder at the behest of Jammeh.

When the former President lost the 2016 election to Adama Barrow, a property developer who achieved a 45.5% majority compared to Jammeh’s 36.7% Jammeh refused to accept the result. However, he was forced into exile to Equatorial Guinea. 

Adama Barrow’s win has been a turning point for the Gambia. He was the first President to start the country’s transition to democracy and freedom after Jammeh. Barrow was a favourite and was easily re-elected in December 2021 with a 53% majority. Under his Presidency, Barrow established the TRRC and hearings began in January 2019. It was set up to seek justice and a sense of peace for the victims of Yahya Jammeh. The commission included a large number of testimonies with hundreds of victims and perpetrators stating their personal accounts on what had taken place under the 22 years of the dictatorship. 

Alongside the TRRC,, the UN has supported 2,000 victims through the Victim Participation Support Fund. The fund provides ‘psychosocial support and essential medical interventions’. Furthermore, approximately 30 people who testified during the TRRC were provided with witness protection. The TRRC concluded on 28thMay 2021 and was a way to close the door on Gambia’s traumatic past. Despite the conclusion of the commission, many Gambians to this day live in fear as the reward promised for those who confessed to crimes under Jammeh and who were previously part of the Junglers, was release from jail. This decision not only stops victims achieving justice but also gives them a life where they will continually live in fear. Many of Jammeh’s ‘henchmen’ remain in positions of authority in the Gambia including in the army, the Government and the national intelligence service ensuring victims remain uneasy. Yahya Jammeh may have left and lost his power over the Gambia, but the harsh impact of his rule still lingers within many people today.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

World Food Programme suspends food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan

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Conflict combined with poor weather in South Sudan has led to 7.74 million people facing a hunger crisis.

Despite the country facing food insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food assistance to 1.7 million people in South Sudan. They require $426 million to be able to feed 6 million people in South Sudan throughout 2022. At the start of 2022, the WFP projected that it would be able to assist 6.2 million people in the country but has failed at achieving this target. This suspension of funding comes at one of the worst times for South Sudan, a newly independent country which not only has been facing internal conflicts for many years but also faced three years of flooding, a localised drought and like the rest of the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring global food prices. Therefore, not only is food not available in the country, but it also comes at a much higher price making the country food insecure. This cut also comes at a time where South Sudan is facing lean season, which is the season between planting crops and harvesting them. During this season, food is already scarce.

The suspension of aid by the WFP is due to a funding shortage of $426 million. It is important to note that the primary source of WFP’s funding comes from governments around the world. This funding is entirely voluntary, meaning that the countries have the freedom to cut anytime they wish.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a human rights group recently ruled that the world’s 10 most neglected crises are all in Africa with South Sudan being the 4th most neglected crisis. The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland said “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore,”

The hunger crisis the people of South Sudan face is not new, rather food insecurity has been a challenge for years now. In 2017, South Sudan faced a famine and now another famine is predicted by the WFP this year if funding is not organised. Furthermore, South Sudan has recently been facing unrest which has only intensified the issue, leading to brutal violence upon civilians, including targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. This has led to nearly 2.3 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries whilst 1.87 million people remain internally displaced. Displacement continues to exacerbate the hunger crisis in South Sudan as many rely on food from their own land, something which is not possible during displacement. Internal conflict has thus meant that people have had to rely heavily on food assistance.

There have been many attempts for a peace agreement in the country, but so far, all these attempts have failed.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Is Rwanda a dumping ground for the UK?

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The UK is planning to send its illegal immigrants to Rwanda. In return, the country is paying the Government £120 million in the form of an economic development program. This controversial decision was made to deter any future illegal immigrants from entering the country via dangerous routes.

The East African country suffered genocide and civil war in 1994 and has been trying to recover since. The effort made by the country, however, was halted due to the pandemic.

Only recently, authorities in Rwanda prosecuted opposition members, commentators, and journalists for voicing their opinion. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the government is thrown in jail and threatened, and people have even mysteriously disappeared.

However President Kagame defended his country’s human rights track record: “As far as values are concerned, we don’t need any lessons from BBC or from anyone” adding that no one has better values than Rwanda. He went on to say: “There is nobody in Rwanda who is in prison that should not be there, because we have a justice system that is actually functional, and fair.” 

Rwanda is also one of the smallest countries in the world and the rate of population growth is already more than the country can handle. With 10,000 square miles and a population density of more than 1,000 per square mile, starvation and malnutrition is prevalent because the country struggles to feed its growing population. Accusations abound that the government has burned farmers’ fields that could not produce an adequate amount of crops. The country is obsessed with modernising whilst ignoring its internal issues.

Poverty is a huge concern. Its true extent is unknown as the government has been accused of misinterpreting the actual data. Similarly, the education level of children is low with a high drop-out rate.

Rwanda is struggling with its own domestic problems, and now the UK is seen to be turning the country into a dumping ground for illegal immigrants which could possibly set the economy back. The plan has been accused of being unethical and cruel.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Siobhán Mullally talked about the dangers of increased human trafficking when large numbers of people are transferred from one country to another and how easy it is for traffickers to pick vulnerable victims in this situation when they have no control over where they are going. “People seeking international protection, fleeing conflict, and persecution, have the right to seek and enjoy asylum – a fundamental tenet of international human rights and refugee law,” she said. Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne criticised the decision made by the government calling it “appalling”.

There have also been accusations that the UK is not playing its part in its handling of its refugee problem. Chief Executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton said that the government was “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

Meanwhile, UK-based non-profits run by Congolese nationals in the Diaspora sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which they expressed their fear that the money sent by the UK government could be used to propagate the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo instead of improving Rwanda.

According to Phil Clark, Professor of International Politics at SOAS University of London, the government of Rwanda could use this deal as leverage. So whenever the government is accused of human rights violations they can threaten to pull out of the deal. Already once, the country has “threatened to pull its peacekeepers out of Darfur when foreign donors were threatening to pull foreign aid out of Rwanda.”

Whilst the focus is on Rwanda violating human rights, the country is known however, for looking after its refugees well enough. The problem is that the UK is using the country to shed itself of its own responsibility while Rwanda is not equipped to deal with a large number of refugees.

Numerous British celebrities, such as, Olivia Coleman, David Harewood, Robert Rinder, Emma Thompson, Sophie Okonedo, Lemn Sissay and Benjamin Zephaniah have taken a definitive stance with an open letter sent from Together with Refugees, which states: “The prospect of being transported to Rwanda, and African countries like it, is enough to put off even the most desperate people fleeing war and persecution from coming to the UK.

“This tells us much about the British government’s colonial and insulting view of Africa, as a place that is no better than a dumping ground for things – in this case people – it considers a problem.” 

The irony of the situation cannot be lost to global observers as one commentator wrote: “Only a couple of hundred years ago, the situation was reversed. Ships full of Africans were being forcefully deported from their homeland to Britain, Europe, and the Americas. Now, the descendants of slave traders are paying the descendants of their would-be slaves to take a burden off their hands.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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