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Tartan trimmings

Douglas Fraser | 10:07 UK time, Sunday, 12 April 2009

There's been less fuss about Tartan Week than we've seen in previous years, perhaps because Alex Salmond has been in China, where there's less Scottish diaspora, so slightly less kitsch.

It's in North America that the celebration of the 6 April anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath brings on an annual outbreak of tartanalia. And that's where ministers have been more quietly flying the Saltire there over the past week.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Enterprise Minister Jim Mather have had separate visits to the United States, while Mike Russell, the new external affairs minister, has been in Canada.

In his travels round Ontario, Mr Russell has not only been learning what Toronto can teach Scotland in attracting film-shooting business, but he's been chatting to some local journalists too.

And some of the comments about Scotland's economic and banking sector make for provocative reading.

In Hamilton, we learn Mr Russell said: "I'm intrigued by the Canadian banking system. It's a prudent and Scottish model, but we haven't listened to ourselves."

The Toronto Star newspaper went for a particularly inane line of questioning:

Q: Have you heard of Toronto's Mike Myers?

A: Yes, he's great.

Q: What do you think of his send-ups of Scots?

A: It's quite good to laugh at ourselves. There are a lot of stereotypes in Scotland, like we allegedly have the capacity to drink beyond the normal person and we dress in these funny traditional clothes.

When those stereotypes are exaggerated it's very funny. If most Scots just read the material they would probably be offended, but it's all in the delivery and Mike Myers is very good at the delivery.

So Mike R diplomatically avoided offending anyone there.

But look what he was quoted as saying in Canada's National Post, when asked about the problems with Scotland's banks:

"Had Scotland been independent, I suspect the circumstances would have been different. You've got to remember that the Royal Bank was paying very substantial taxes to the UK Treasury. Had Scotland been independent, we'd have been a good deal wealthier. We would also have had a sovereign oil fund to support us. I don't think the collapse of RBS is in any sense an argument against independence. Indeed, it may be an argument for independence. I think we'd have been able to regulate things in a way that would have suited us better".

Like Ireland, for instance, Scotland's former role model as Celtic Tiger?


  • Comment number 1.

    here dougie what do you think about the email scandal at number ten.

    I heard them described as vermin on guidos blog?

    wisnae you wis it?

  • Comment number 2.

    "Like Ireland, for instance, Scotland's former role model as Celtic Tiger?"

    I've checked the CIA handbook Douglas and Ireland doesn't have a sovereign oil fund to support it. However, Norway does, and are even considering goving $5 billion to the IMF...

    As to the Canadian banking system, founded by Scots it has consistently shown profit after profit, not high yield but substantive.

    If you wanted to know more about Scotland Week then you should have just read Mike Russell's blog?

  • Comment number 3.

    "Like Ireland, for instance, Scotland's former role model as Celtic Tiger?"

    What quite was the point of such an inane comment Douglas? Did you suddenly remember who you report to?

  • Comment number 4.

    Truth is Ireland will be out of the recession and recovered long before debt-ridden Britain (which may yet go cap in hand to the IMF) is beginning to turn the corner.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Karinm

    I think that the NuLabour project and Douglas's hopes are unravelling before our very eyes.

    Isn't ironic that its internet vermin that may prove to be their downfall...Brown rats to be specific.

  • Comment number 6.

    Don't you just love those sophisticates who think it is cool to rubbish Scotland. Personally I think they are shallow clowns. Mike Russell of the SNP is correct when he says Scotland would be so much better off if it were independent like Norway. Even Ireland and Iceland will recover before Team GB!

  • Comment number 7.

    Douglas, you are slipping into your old partisan ways. I thought your remit now was Business and Economics.

    "Like Ireland, for instance, Scotland's former role model as Celtic Tiger?"

    This is a very snide closing quote from you. The answer though is in your very blog. The answer is no, not like Ireland, because Scotland would have a sovereign oil fund.

  • Comment number 8.

    a lot of people forget that the oil that all all hold so dear to us is in international waters. it can be accessed from anywhere in the EU. it is not scottish.

  • Comment number 9.

    There is a lot more to the difference between Scotland and Ireland than just oil (as #7 and others seem to suggest). The SNP have never looked at replicating the Irish model in isolation. The whole point of the arc of prosperity was looking for best practice amongst a range of countries around us and to fit those to our unique situation. That still needs to happen. At the moment we're stuck with just one model - the British model. Care to comment of how that is working out for us Douglas? (And I mean all of us... because individuals like yourself clearly do very well out of defending the status quo).

  • Comment number 10.

    Craig Murray here and lets hope that this comes to something positive.

  • Comment number 11.

    #8 thomasmcalonan

    For all the controversy and debate surrounding entitlement to and allocation of oil revenues, the physical location of the oilfields is in UK, not international, waters - hence London's entitlement to the revenues.

    The bulk of that falls well within the Scottish sector - a point now well established and accepted by most observers - and hence an asset of the Scottish people - its remote collection by the UK Treasury entirely subject to our continued (mis-)governance by Westminster.


  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    #4; "truth is,..."

    Please can you enlighten us all in how you can possibly come to this conclusion; you're not a financial gnat are you?

  • Comment number 14.

    #11; folk go bananas when Russia drops a flag to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean claiming ownership; yet it's "Scoa'lan's ile" ?


  • Comment number 15.

    For an editor, paid for by the public purse and responsible for content on business and economic issues in Scotland, I expect more than a snide one liner comparison with Ireland. No analysis of what is attractive about the Canadian banking system Mr Fraser? What about an exploration of the options for an independent Scottish banking system? Too much like hard work I suppose.

  • Comment number 16.

    You will have to restrict the multiple bloggers who have nothing to say, as in 11,12 and 13.

    Saddened to see your banal comment about Ireland which has no oil and no oil.

    Do you imagine that there will now be a mass movement to bring ould Ireland under the Union Flag?

  • Comment number 17.

    I agre with most of the forum on this one Douglas, you dropped the ball.

    Ireland had never had an oil fund, Norway has. In almost 20 years of my support of the SNP it's always been crystal clear to me that the SNP has looked to our scandinavian brethren for inspiration and guidance.

    As an oil worker who has seen every continents fiscal system (I'm a measurment engineer) with regards to oil and gas taxation, Norway and Venezuela are the two who's oil wealth is channeled to benefit the people at large.

    Indeed, anyone who has ever read into this issue will know that in the UK - the law states that the oil reserves belong to the crown and are administered on her behalf by the UK government. In Norway - the law states that the oil belongs to the people and King Harald's government adminsters it on behalf of the people.

    A Stark contrast indeed.

    But don't take my word for it, familiarise yourself with the speech of Svein Gjedrem, the Governor of the Bank of norway during his address to Llyods of London in 2005.

  • Comment number 18.


    You are talking utter rubbish.

    If what you said were true, Germany would be entitled to taxation of norwegian oil assets, something it doesn't because the very notion of it is nonesense.

    I have first hand experience of who does and doesn't get paid oil revenue taxation, and whether it is the former DTI (then B.E.R.R) (Then D.E.C.C) of the norweigian NPD - everyone KNOWS that where the oil lies is where the taxation is set.

    Most North Sea assets lie in scottish waters and would belong to Scotland in the event of independence and no amount of moronic, childish posting from you will ever change that.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's sensible for SNP supporters to focus on Norway, but disingenuous to pretend that Ireland and Iceland were not also major inspirations as well. A hybrid 'best practice' system would have been a complete and utter disaster.

    Using oil money to create a 'competitive' tax environment is a policy used by Mexico, and it has failed for them. An eroded tax base for short term gains is a bad idea.

  • Comment number 20.

    A lot of people have been comparing and contrasting Scoptland and Ireland, rightly so.

    What has long puzzled me is, why are British politicans happy to meet with Sinn Fein at the drop of a hat and to pay them plaudits. But, British politicans will not communicate with Scottish nationaists and seek to undemine them at every opportunity, along with their friends in the British media, most of all BBC.

    Both Scotland and United Ireland free, we can but hope!


  • Comment number 21.

    Ah, the rising chorus of indignant cyber-Nats.

    Mike Russell's argument, like that of most of the SNP, requires time travel for it to work. He wants us to go back to the 70s, become independent, start an oil fund, and then restrict our economic growth through the boom years of the 80s by having a far more restrictive financial regulation system than London. And people actually buy that? What would have happened to Scotland's financial services industry in that circumstance? We wouldn't have had it!


  • Comment number 22.

    #21- what, you mean the choice is between having really low growth or having a boom followed by a hideously costly bust?
    You don't think there might be a third, Canadian way?

  • Comment number 23.

    #2 EwanfromDumfries,
    #6 donaldbrose,
    #17 GAberdeen,
    Good posts.

    "Like Ireland, for instance, Scotland's former role model as Celtic Tiger?"

    The "arc of prosperity" was Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

    In this recession I've yet to find a unionist comparing Scotland to Norway or to Sweden, it's always to Iceland or to Ireland which is a a variation of the, "Too small, too poor and too stupid to be a proper country", theme. Scotland is always done down and compared to the worst.

    "Like Norway, for instance, Scotland's role model as Scandinavian Tiger?", is what you could and should have written and it would have matched Mike Russell's comment perfectly.

    Scotland is never compared to the more realistic example of Norway which has a similar population size and comparable natural resources of oil, wind and hydro power because that would show up how badly we've done under the Union.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's the "Little Scotlander" in Douglas that's so disappointing.

    Has he never been in the USA on St Patrick's Day? The Americans go over the top for these things. They know it, enjoy it and it doesn't embarrass them.

    But Douglas can only see something Scottish as smaller - less important - embarrassing. A little mind sees a little Scotland and cringes.

    He must be so disappointed that the USA does'nt have a "British" day, when all these nice English stereotypes can be celebrated (because there is no "Britishness" to celebrate.

    Nice to see the English beginning to celebrate St George's Day for themselves. Once they've remembered who they are, then maybe the USA will have an English day.

  • Comment number 25.

    What did Douglas Fraser cover in the past (ie before BBC Scotland)? I know it wasn't business or the economy, as he demonstrates regularly in this blog.

    Was it education? Genuine question.


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