Mike Fenwick: Facts are chiels that winna ding…


CommonSpace columnist Mike Fenwick tries to separate a few facts from opinions

LOOK for the word “impossible” in the following three quotes, and ask yourself whether what was being said or written was a fact or an opinion.

Think back to 2014, remember Jose Manuel Barroso? Barroso said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to get the necessary approval from the member states for it to join the EU.

In 2017, David Mundell, quoted in a Herald article, said: “It would be impossible for people in the timescale suggested by Nicola Sturgeon to make a reasoned view and, therefore, have a legal, fair and decisive referendum.”

In 2017, just after the General Election results, this was a headline in the Financial Times: “Second independence referendum looks near impossible after SNP loses seats.”

In one of two deliveries I made to Holyrood at the end of June, was a note I delivered to each of the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) which raised the issue of what were facts and what were opinions, particularly when the word “impossible” is used. The note is here:

To each Member of the Scottish Parliament: Fact or opinion?

Fact or opinion?

Among the many arguments over Scottish independence, the phrase “too wee, too poor, too stupid” features heavily. Is that phrase a fact or an opinion?

Is this a fact or an opinion: The Isle of Man has its own currency, for use in and for the Isle of Man. In doing so it pays no seigniorage to the Bank of England. It has its own central bank, and its own system of financial regulation. It has a population of just over 85,000.

Is this a fact or an opinion: It is impossible for the people of Scotland, with its population of over five million people, to ever attempt, let alone achieve, anything similar to other countries of comparable size? The people of Scotland have to accept, and will always have to believe, they and Scotland are just too wee!

Fact or opinion?

Is this a fact or an opinion: Following the legal precedents established in Carr v Carr and Davaynes v Noble, in Foley v Hill, and more recently confirmed in a Supreme Court ruling – all moneys, all salaries, all wages and all pensions deposited into the safe custody of a banker, are, to all intents and purposes, the money of the banker, to do with it as he pleases.

Is this a fact or an opinion: It is impossible for the people of Scotland to create a legal alternative and thereby retain ownership of their own money, their own salaries, their own  wages and their own pensions. The people of Scotland have to accept, and will always have to believe, they and Scotland are just too poor, both financially and in their levels of imagination.

Fact or opinion?

Is this a fact or an opinion: Cash will remain a part of our day-to-day lives for decades, the Bank of England’s chief cashier has said. Victoria Cleland said that although the use of notes and coins in transactions is falling, cash is part of all the bank’s future plans. Coins are the only legal tender in Scotland, and the notes we may use are simply a form of IOU printed on either coloured bits of paper or plastic and within a fractional reserve regime for banks.

Is this a fact or an opinion: It is impossible for the people of Scotland to create a full reserve currency regime for adoption and use in and for Scotland, to create and operate such a system in a similar way to the adoption by over 30 million Kenyans of the M-Pesa currency outwith the involvement of any bank. 

The people of Scotland have to accept, and will always have to believe, they and Scotland, are just too stupid, not just to conceive of the potential  economic benefits that might accrue, but that they have no ability to implement anything of that nature.

When something is declared to be impossible – is that a fact or an opinion?

I also made a second delivery while at Holyrood that day; it was a sixth identical delivery. It was a bottle containing £1.00 coins (legal tender in Scotland).

The delivery was made into the safe custody of the first minister of Scotland, on behalf of those who recently and individually placed their £1.00 coin into the bottle, and also completed and signed promise that they would back the creation of an independent Scottish currency, for use in and for Scotland. That is a fact.

Earlier this year, on 1 January 2017, a presentation was made to the the first minister of an example, created by grassroots individuals across the length and breadth of Scotland, of the first independent Scottish currency in 300 years. That is also a fact.

Two facts – what do they illustrate? That ordinary people can establish a medium of exchange, a currency, for use in and for Scotland. It shows that when someone, anyone, offers you their opinion that something, anything, is impossible, maybe you can prove them wrong – not by offering an alternative opinion, but by just doing it. (You can find out more about that campaign here.)

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Whether it is currency, pensions or deficits, there are many who will offer the opinion that Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid to become independent. They are fully entitled to their opinion – but is it a fact?

Here is a fact. Over the coming months you will hear that you have to meekly accept that Scotland’s future is to be determined by Henry Vlll clauses from within an unwritten constitution, but that fact essentially comes from those who hold opinions you do not agree with, and where there is a legal opinion that the Sewel Convention is virtually worthless.

So, just as in establishing a Scottish currency, is now the time to begin to prepare an independent Scotland’s alternative constitution? A Scottish constitution that begins: “We, the people …” 

One that establishes who holds the sovereign power in Scotland, not as an opinion, but as a fact. If not now, when?

When, on this issue, and so many others, do we set aside the opinions of others, and very clearly establish the facts that will govern the future of Scotland? When, on all of the issues that confront us, do we together create our facts? When do we together just get on and do it?

Because it is facts, not opinions, that are chiels that winna ding!

Picture courtesy of duncan c

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