Monday, October 29, 2012

The Autonomous Province of Kosovo

Prishtina, February 17, 2008

Even the Siberian temperatures that have occupied the Balkans these days did not manage to stop the influx of the world media to Prishtina and Belgrade on this historic day, which is believed to be stabilising the region. Celebrations in the Mother Theresa Square and the Republic Square have started since the early morning.

Everyone is counting down to 3pm with eyes turned to RTS and RTK to watch the live broadcasting of the extraordinary session in the Parliament of Kosovo. The world is waiting for the historic moment when Tomislav Nikolic and Hashim Thaci address the world and deliver the great news from Prishtina.

The festivities in the parliament seem endless. Guests, friends and diplomats from across the world are waiting seated to witness this rare historic moment for humanity. The hospitality of Atifete Jahjaga and Ivica Dacic is quite evident while they escort Bill and Hillary Clinton, Milorad Dodik, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Marti Ahtisaari and Boris Tadic to their seats. Few yards further, one can see Edita Tahiri and Borko Stefanovic feeling proud that their negotiations were fruitful.

It is 3pm now and the Assembly Speaker Jakup Krasniqi kindly asks all the guests to stand, while Tomislav Nikolic and Hashim Thaci prepare their speech. The noise in the Mother Theresa Square in Prishtina and the Republic Square in Belgrade turns into silence as everyone listens to Catherine Ashton, who has just given the opening speech.

Tomislav Nikolic addresses the world by promising that equality and mutual understanding will be the main pillars between the two nations.

He publicly apologises for all the crimes, persecutions and damages caused by Serbia to Kosovo while adding that Serbia has already started paying war reparations and is returning the stolen pension funds.

Hashim Thaci reaffirms that Kosovo will continue to progress in its Euro-Atlantic path, even though it has now been transformed into a Serbian province. He stresses that the European perspective of Kosovo will be the engine of development and adds that the new Ahstisaari based Constitution is more glorious than the 1974 one.

Belgrade, March 2, 2008

Two weeks of celebrations, joy and music seem to have been enough for the Serbs in expressing their happiness for returning Kosovo to Serbia's sovereignty. Everyone, from retired grandmothers all the way to the Serb youngsters with 1389 tattoos on their chest, cannot hide their happiness that the cradle of their civilisation is back in the hands of Tsar Lazar's successors.

A Monday full of sunshine has dawned on Belgrade, where a new chapter for the institutions of Serbia commences.

Dozens of official cars arrive from Prishtina to Belgrade as the MPs convene for the first time after the enforcement of the new Constitution.

Hashim Thaci, who flew with JAT airways from Prishtina to Belgrade is taking the steps to parliament entrance.

The Deputy President of Serbia Atifete Jahjaga arrives in Belgrade by high-speed train, a generous donation of Japan to congratulate the reconciliation between the two nations. The Japanese were going to call it the Kosovo-Serbia Bullet Train, but decided there had been quite enough shooting between the two countries.

Jahjaga is accompanying Jakup Krasniqi, who is currently busy checking whether Albanian signs and denominations have been put in the parliament building.

According to the Ahtisaari Plan, Albanians as the biggest minority group in Serbia have 28 percent of the seats reserved for them in Serbia's parliament. The ministry of foreign affairs, education and health are governed by Albanian ministers, while the Albanian language has been installed as the joint official language in Serbia.

Serbia's flag has been changed to a blue background where the map of Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina is accompanied by six doves symbolising peace. The new Constitution strictly prohibits the use of the old Serbian flag in order not to provoke the Albanian minority and spread the message of a multiethnic Serbia.

Belgrade and Prishtina, June 21, 2008

Guided by the special rights guaranteed by the Ahtisaari Plan, Albanians managed to imprison Serbian Academic Dobrica Cosic, for being one of the drafters of the SANU Memorandum in 1986, which brought violence and terror to Albanians in Kosovo two decades ago.

Last week, the Regional Court of Belgrade sentenced a Serb youngster from Kurshumlia to 5 years of imprisonment for singing the constitutionally banned "Boze Pravde" anthem in Kalemegdan. The sentence of the youngster in conjunction with the Vidovdan celebrations led to nationwide Serbian protests in Belgrade claiming that Albanians are occupying Serbia.

As a response to the Serbian demands, the Academy of Sciences of Belgrade drafted yet another memorandum expressing concern over the dangerous and miserable state of Serbians in Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina. The memorandum demands imminent imprisonment of all those that who pose a threat to this nation. Nearly 2 million Albanians are yet again faced with nationalism in Serbia and experience the 90s déjà-vu.

These events transform Prishtina into a nest of terror and police forces from Belgrade are raiding the University of Prishtina and expelling Albanian professors.

Dozens of engineers and journalists in Kosovo's public broadcaster RTK are physically assaulted and persecuted, while Albanian broadcasting is banned. Tomislav Nikolic initiates the amendment of the Constitution in order to revoke the autonomy of the provinces.

The West is finally convinced that Kosovo's return to Serbia would be successful only if it did not include those nearly 2 million people. The region heads towards a new wave of destabilisation as it becomes evident that Serbia is predisposed to repeat the crimes of 90s in the name of country's protection.

Reality, September 2012

Nowadays, the public opinion in Serbia has been taken by surprise with the potential referendum that could be called to decide between Kosovo and the EU.

The initiative surfaces at the time when pressures for a political dialogue on northern Kosovo are on the rise.

However, it would be more logical if, instead of nationalistic weeping, the Serbian nation was presented with a more pragmatic question: Do they want Kosovo as a province, when in this day and age it is evident that you cannot rule it with the oppression you imposed on Albanians for nearly two decades?

Are they prepared to have Albanian ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers due to proportional representation?

Or simply put, would Serbs accept an Ahtisaari Plan and a flag that substitutes the eagle and tricolour with six doves symbolising peace?

They must understand with the discrimination, violence and the state terror, which they imposed on Kosovar Albanians during the 90s, they lost Kosovo once and forever.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Kingdom Of Looting

There is a phenomenon that is readily associated with swathes of Kosovo's post war politicians. In diplomatic terms it is known as "corruption". For me and many of my fellow citizens it is nothing short of robbery.

Sadly, this phenomenon not only has become entrenched in our daily lives, but it has also been nurtured as a vital mechanism in state consolidation.

If the true scale of corruption in this country was fully known, I believe many of our 2 million people would be on the verge of packing everything up and heading towards the border.

The previous statement might sound melodramatic, especially because it brings bitter memories of the agony that Kosovo went through thirteen years ago, but it is unfortunately true.

Those close to the government would, of course, brush off the claims of widespread cronyism. They would even attempt to refute it by referring to the praise lavish on them by the international community as supervised independence officially ended.

During the two-day events in Prishtina, our international partners held up Kosovo as a role model of state building, social and inter-ethnic cohesion.

It is also interesting to note that international media resorted to putting these words in inverted commas, challenging subtlety the over-effusive claims.

In an interview given to the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, PDK's Arsim Bajrami claimed that the end of Kosovo's supervised independence means more responsibility for Kosovar institutions for combating organised crime and corruption.

The statement of Mr Bajrami is logical. However, the reality suggests that the government has neither the courage nor the interest to fight what it has tolerated and nurtured for years -robbery and looting.

The fact that this phenomenon has now reached uncontrollable levels is demonstrated with the hopelessness of Kosovo's youth. Most youngsters keep an eye out for the first opportunity to take a ticket abroad and head to the western world for employment. Others chose asylum-seeking or illegal immigration.

A senior politicians who decides to treat a group of women to a trip to Albania for International Women's day, costing tens of thousands of euro, could easily be seen as playing fast and loose with the Kosovo budget.

Using a private jet to return from holidays in Turkey at a cost of 20,000 euro is perhaps a worst example of excessive spending.

You might be wondering about the names of these protagonists. I purposefully choose not to name them in order to test our collective memory.

The examples refer to two different governments of Kosovo, the former currently in power and the latter of 2005. If we struggle to remember the names, our apathy is confirmed.

We need to understand the fact that even if these acts have now faded into history this does not dilute them, nor does it legitimise the situation Kosovo is in. But, what legitimises this Kosovo-wide looting is the apathy of society, which allows this phenomena to turn into a lifestyle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

US Patent 6630507: The Nail in the Drug War Coffin?

The nail in the coffin of the US War on Drugs is a medical marijuana patent owned by the federal government. At least, it should have been the fatal mistake of a dying concept, but it wasn't. Instead, the War on Drugs has sloshed onward, buoyed largely by the predation of the government on marijuana users based on the claim that the plant has no medical value. At the very least the feds could change their argument to the reality of the situation, which essentially boils down to the idea that even if marijuana does have medical uses, the government has secured a monopoly on any potential profits.

Of course, this all makes perfect business sense. After all, the War on Drugs is extremely lucrative, so hedging one's bets by securing a patent on medical marijuana will alleviate any pressure applied by an inevitable change in federal policy. That change will of course come on the heels of public outrage, but by then it won't matter: Patent 6630507 ensures that the government will continue to profit handsomely by heavy-handed control of suddenly legal medical marijuana.

What is US Patent 6630507?

The Department of Health and Human Services filed for this patent in 2001 after apparently extensive medical marijuana research where the government claimed, among other things, that;

"Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases."

The US DHHS provides evidence for a number of specific medicines and treatments to be included as part of the patent, and stated in the patent filing's "Summary of the Invention" that;

"It is an object of this invention to provide a new class of antioxidant drugs that have particular application as neuroprotectants, although they are generally useful in the treatment of many oxidation associated diseases."

(Patent Storm: Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, Patent #6630507, Issued 10/07/2003, Expires 02/02/2021)

What this means is that not only does the government hold a patent on various types of medical marijuana treatments, it also shows clear support for and evidence of its usefulness in many oxidation associated diseases. This is shocking news considering that oxidation associated diseases are those that we struggle with - and die from - every day. This includes conditions such as heart failure, cancer, bipolar, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, sickle cell anemia, autism and many other troubling diseases.

This gives rise to the thought that if the government clearly and enthusiastically admits that marijuana is a useful weapon in the battle against these diseases, but then simultaneously persecutes those who use marijuana to treat those same conditions, then it doesn't seem logical to suggest that the DHHS is acting in the best interest of the American people. Unless, of course, we're talking about the best financial interest of some Americans.

But regardless of the fact that the government's medical marijuana patent was filed and granted more than a decade ago, it hasn't caused much of a stir despite several short bouts of ineffective media coverage. Of course, it could be argued that the stance of the government has changed, considering the fact that 16 states have passed medical marijuana legislation.

However, this argument only adds further insult to injury considering that starting in the spring of 2011 the federal government began an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and suppliers that continues to this day. The reason these law-abiding citizens are being arrested and incarcerated? Because there are no medically accepted uses for marijuana.

Of course, pointing out that patent 6630507 is a blatant, potentially criminal contradiction to this stance invariably leads to the tired excuse of "if we legalize pot for medical use, we'll have to legalize everything else as well."

This argument is correct but flawed considering that we already have legalized most of the other illicit chemicals for medical use. Opiates are possibly the largest class of drug on the planet, and include substances like Vicodin, Morphine, Methadone, Percocet and many others. Cocaine is used for medical purposes including pain management and as an anesthetic, and amphetamines are found in many drugs including popular prescription medications like Adderall, Benzedrine and Dexedrine.

So in reality, this argument only points out the fact that medical marijuana is actually behind the times of perilous street drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth. Of course, even in the filing documentation for Patent 6630507 it's clear that the government tried - unsuccessfully - to patent a class of drugs that were non-psychoactive. However, why should this matter? Prescription drugs are dangerously addictive because they are highly psychoactive, while medical marijuana - even if habit forming - isn't viewed as dangerous by anyone, including the people who demonize it.

Ultimately, the entire War on Drugs is propped up by the marijuana trade. By removing this component from the "War," the federal government wouldn't have any legs to stand on. This is because while the demand for drugs like cocaine and heroin is high, it pales in comparison with the demand for marijuana - medical and otherwise. Additionally, it's likely that the more difficult marijuana is to obtain - as in a high interdiction rate - the more users will turn to other drugs.

But at the base of this issue is the two-sidedness of the US stance on medical marijuana: the government harasses, persecutes and imprisons those who take part in state-sanctioned, legitimate medical marijuana programs by citing the "fact" that marijuana has no medical uses while holding a medical marijuana medicine patent behind their backs.

In fact, even the government's studies have found that this is a useless policy and one that can't hope to survive. The conclusion of a federally-funded study on drug demand and supply stated that;

"Given experiences since the beginning of the war on drugs, which initiated major expansions in expenditures on supply-based programs, it seems more reasonable to conclude that the Nation will not be able to have any large future influence on decreasing the availability and increasing the price of illicit drugs." (William Rhodes; Patrick Johnston; Song Han;Quentin McMullen; Lynne Hozik, Illicit Drugs: Price Elasticity of Demand and Supply January 10, 2002)

Overall, any sane person who examines this issue subjectively will come to the same conclusion: you can't have your cake and eat it too. But for some reason, we the American people have allowed our government to do exactly that. And because of our ineffectiveness at collaboration, dissemination, organization and action, even if we do succeed in ending the War on Drugs, we'll be at the mercy of a highly controlled, government-monopolized program for marijuana - a weed that can grow in any ditch or backyard. The government is playing its people like a game of chess: Exit the War on Drugs, enter Patent 6630507.

Want to do something about it? Spread the news. Create a fire. Share this article, and tell anyone who will listen that there is clear, easy to obtain proof that our government is soldiering on both sides of the War on Drugs. This means that no matter what side you're on personally, you're battling a hypocritical traitor.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do Blue States Subsidies of Red States Indicate Their Fiscal Superiority?

The realization that nearly 40% of President Obama's electoral support came from the five fiscally disastrous and chronically blue states of California, Illinois, Michigan, New York and New Jersey apparently hit some raw nerves. Some critics countered with the fair point that red states recover more federal tax dollars then they pay and are consequently subsidized by blue states that pay more than they receive. That assertion is arithmetically correct but the interpretation that somehow red states should be thankful for the generosity of blue states and are financially or fiscally inferior is fanciful.

First, a significant portion of federal tax revenues flow back to residents of all states as Social Security and Medicare payments, which for the most part have been earned by recipients who paid into those programs during their entire working lives, so they should never be confused as gifts of charity and are certainly not the result of the beneficence of blue states. States also receive significant federal tax revenues for national defense and military spending, which protect everyone, especially coastal blue states, at least more so than interior red states.

Second, blue states generally pay more federal taxes than they receive because their residents and businesses are more affluent. Ironically, if President Obama wins the fiscal cliff negotiations and raises taxes on the wealthy, that tax disparity will widen, but the effect should be short-lived as long term trends show that affluent folks continue to leave high tax/high cost blue states for red states; over time the disparity should narrow.

Third, blue states, not red states, need a financial overhaul. The five states identified herein recover federal tax revenues ranging from only 61 cents (New Jersey) to 92 cents (Michigan) per dollar their residents pay in federal taxes, with the remaining three states receiving approximately 75-80 cents per tax dollar they pay. Those states are trying desperately to stay financially solvent by raising state and local taxes, which for New York, New Jersey and California are already among the nation's highest.

Those states carry enormous debt epitomized in the extreme by California's whopping $618 billion; they carry debilitating budget deficits, epitomized by the nation's worst at $44 billion in Illinois; and carry smothering unfunded state government worker pension and healthcare liabilities that amount to as much as 43%, 37% and 31% of the respective state GDP's of Illinois, New Jersey and California.

If allowing those states to keep more of their federal tax dollars would enhance their financially viable, such a policy should be considered, but let's not kid ourselves, there will be no quick fixes to their problems.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How the SNP Uses Anglophobia to Split the Union

Imagine if the English national anthem were about Flodden, the battle which took place in 1513, when James IV's army invaded England, while Henry VIII was away fighting in France. It could go something like this:

Oh flower of England,
When will we see
your like again,
that fought and died for
your field at fair Flodden
and stood against him
proud James' army
and sent him homeward
in his own coffin.

Can you imagine how the SNP would react if such a song were sung at rugby matches? Can you imagine how they would cry about bias if the anniversary of Flodden were to be used for political purposes 400 years later? Yet they wish to do exactly this with regard to the anniversary of a battle which took place in 1314.

Any Scot, who is not in self denial, knows that there is widespread anti-Englishness in our country. If someone were to go into a Scottish pub, when England were playing football, wearing an England shirt, he would at the very least receive unpleasant comments, assuming he could hear them over and above the abuse directed at the television screen.

Ordinary kind, decent Scots, including nearly all of us at one time or another, unthinkingly say things about England and the English that we simply would not dream of saying about any other country or people. At times this is just banter and is the sort of humour that everyone enjoys including the English, who equally crack jokes about the French, while remaining very Francophile. But we Scots know of many instances when anti-English comments are not just banter, when such comments and actions really have the power to wound and hurt, when someone is made to feel unwelcome and insulted because of his accent and the place he comes from.

The one thing that this is not, of course, is racism. White English people are the same race as white Scottish people. The experience of racism, which black and Asian people feel in both England and Scotland, is qualitatively different from Anglophobia and far more severe. Few Scots would be unwilling to be friends with, or fall in love with, someone from England. English people are not discriminated against in employment. But many English people do find the common, everyday instances of anti-Englishness, which occur in Scotland, unpleasant and distasteful. Even if these experiences should not be confused with racism, they make the English person feel as if he does not belong.

Let's look at an English person in Scotland. Can someone born in England, of English parents and with an English accent, can such a person be a Scot? I would contend that the vast majority of Scots make it quite clear that such a person cannot be a Scot, no matter how long he has lived here. What counts as being a Scot is that you are born and bred here and that your accent fits. The key criteria looks very much like family lineage and this is confirmed when we come to that piece of Scottish national dress called the kilt.

Until recently almost no one in Scotland wore a kilt apart from soldiers and deer stalkers, but now at weddings they are becoming universal. Many Scots don't have a particularly Scottish name. Such Scots might pick a kilt they like and wear it with pride, but there's always someone who wants to ask what clan are you from, and are you entitled to wear that kilt. It's as if, unless you can trace your lineage to Culloden, you're not quite entitled to be a Scot at all. But if someone with a name like Walker or Robinson is not entitled, how is someone with a name like Khan or a name like Kowalski going to gain his entitlement?

To their credit the SNP maintain that they are civic nationalists and not ethnic nationalists. Therefore if asked can someone born in Pakistan, India or Jamaica be a Scot, they would answer yes. But does anyone really believe this? If the English can't be Scots how can the Poles or the Pakistanis? The SNP's civic nationalism is founded on their ethnic nationalism and would collapse without the ethnic nationalism. But this is really the case with all nationalisms. Why do many people in Quebec want independence? Because they speak French, have French names and are descended from people who came from France. Quebec nationalism is almost exclusively felt by these people. Those people living in Quebec who speak English or who are descended from places other than France do not want independence. They want to be Canadians. Quebec nationalists are also civic nationalists, but the foundation of their nationalism like all nationalisms including Scottish nationalism is ethnic nationalism. It is based on membership of a clan, opposed to those who do not belong to the clan.

Of course anti-Englishness is not exclusive to nationalists. Many unionists, unconscious of the contradiction, will express anti-English sentiments such as the commonly expressed idea that when I go on holiday the French or Germans or Italians don't much like the British, but when I point out that I'm Scottish, they are much more pleasant. Anyone who thinks like this, who is willing to drop their Britishness when it is convenient, should be voting for Alex Salmond. The strength of the union is that we are all in it together, that no matter where we come from we're all fundamentally the same. We're all British. Without that feeling, the union begins to creak and will inevitably fall apart. When Scots express Anglophobia they are saying that those people are not the same as me, they are foreigners. Furthermore this gives rise to ever increasing levels of anti-Scottish sentiments among the English, and so in turn with the Welsh and the Northern Irish. It is for this reason that Mr Salmond seeks to subtly stir up anti-Englishness by continually complaining about rule from London, code for England, saying such people have no right to have a say about what goes on in Scotland. He is saying that such people are not us, they are foreign. When every country in the union hates those who live in every other country, there will no longer be a union; there will just be a small island full of enmity. And that will be a fine legacy for Mr Salmond.

The great thing about Britain is that it enables us to be both Scottish and British. Britishness is inclusive and it is something anyone can feel no matter where their parents came from. It is for this reason that people in Scotland, who were not born and bred here, overwhelmingly support the union. They know that in an independent Scotland, they will not be Scots, not really and neither will they be British. Civic nationalism will allow them to remain, will give them a passport, but the ethnic nationalism which underpins that civic nationalism, will mean that incomers will forever feel like foreigners in their own country. They will live here, but without an identity. They will not really be Scots, they will not quite be entitled. They'll not get to wear the kilt as they have no clan.

Anglophobia is not a nationalist ideology, but it is the foundation of nationalism. Why else choose an anti-English song as an anthem? Why else go on and on about how the English did this and that to us, about how the English oppressed us, how the English say British when we win, Scottish when we lose? Why the chip on our shoulder about the English going on about 1966 when we go on about 1314? In the end the reason that nationalists want to reject Britain is because they can't bear to be associated with the English. The reason they hate the Union Jack is because it contains the cross of Saint George.

Naturally nationalists frequently claim never to have met an SNP member, who is anti-English, but this is like claiming never to have met anti-Englishness in Scotland; a case of self-denial. The virulence and hatred of the cybernats, resembles very closely that Anglophobia, which many English people, to our shame, meet in Scotland, for it springs from the same source. Scots who are willing to abuse someone because of his accent or his parentage, are just as liable to abuse someone who is opposed to the one thing the cybernat wants above all others an independent Scotland free from England, a Scotland where the English have been sent homeward to think again.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is There a Contradiction Between Euroscepticism and Unionism?

Is there something contradictory about being in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but being against Scotland leaving the UK? Eurosceptics cite that they don't want to be ruled from Brussels, but likewise the SNP does not want to be ruled from London. Are unionist eurosceptics not being hypocritical in denying to the Scots what they want for themselves?

Not at all. Firstly Scotland is going to have a referendum on independence. The first thing that eurosceptics want is a referendum on the EU membership. If we lose we will accept the result just as we will accept the result of the referendum on independence.

Why are eurosceptics against the EU? Personally I'm against the EU not because I'm against unions in general. The United States, for instance, strikes me as an ideal multi state union. Why does it work? Because there is a common identity, a common language and there are common political parties which stand in every state. Each state has a lot of devolved power and each state devolves that power still further so that a great number of decisions are taken by politicians who are close to the people who elect them and who can easily be voted out if they go against the wishes of the electorate. Overseeing all of this is a strong national government, with responsibility over matters, which affect the country as a whole. Of course there are faults with American democracy, but on the whole it is an enviable model.

If the European Union were like that, there might be a case for being a member. But the EU can never be a free, democratic multi state country like the United States, because it lacks the conditions for being a successful nation, a common identity and a common language. It is for this reason primarily that the Eurozone is failing as an optimum currency union. Whereas someone from New York can easily seek work in California, someone from Greece cannot easily seek work in Germany. Whereas richer parts of the United States are happy to transfer money to poorer parts, richer parts of the EU resent the idea of subsidising people who they consider to be foreigners.

Britain already is an optimum currency union, because we have the conditions for being an optimum nation. We have a common language, culture and identity. We do not see people from other parts of the UK as foreigners. We have in Britain what the United States has, a fully democratic country, we have what the EU lacks and can never have.

It is for this reason that I am opposed to breaking up the union of the UK, while being in favour of breaking up the EU. There is no contradiction here.

Scottish independence makes no more sense than Texan independence. Of course each of these formerly independent States could function successfully on their own, but they each benefit from being in a political fiscal and currency union with other people who speak the same language as them, have similar values and cultures and just as a Texan benefits from not being a foreigner in Washington, so a Scot benefits from not being a foreigner in London.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alex Salmond Wants Independence in the UK

I've been trying to make sense of the ever changing models of independence put forward by the SNP and have come to the conclusion that what they want amounts to "Independence in the UK". Of course they're not using that slogan, but it pretty much equates to the vision they are putting forward of an independent Scotland.

The SNP want to maintain a currency union with the rest of the UK post independence. They want the Bank of England to act as Scotland's central bank and lender of last resort. They want to maintain many of the UK national institutions, such as the DVLA, and they want to maintain a "Social union" of the countries, which make up the UK. Most important of all they want to maintain the monarchy, the union of the crowns, which has existed since 1603. Logically this would mean they would maintain the Union Flag introduced by James VI.

I've been trying to come up with an example of an analogous relationship between countries. The closest I can get is the relationship between Denmark and the Faeroe Islands, but that does not work as the Faeroe Islands are autonomous, but are not independent.

Perhaps a model might be the relationship that Puerto Rico has to the United States. It too has autonomy, as an unincorporated part of the United States, but likewise it is not independent.

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that what Alex Salmond is offering the Scottish people is not independence at all, but rather autonomy within the UK.

The condition for being in a currency union with the rest of the UK would certainly be that the rest of the UK's chancellor would have a say and in the end a veto over the Scottish budget. Scotland would raise all of its own taxes, would receive a greater share of oil revenues, but would lose the money from the Barnett formula. It would be regulated both by London and by Brussels, assuming Scotland would remain an EU member, not least because London and Brussels are going to exact a price for cooperating so fully with Mr Salmond's dream.

For the life of me I can't see the advantage. At the moment we in Scotland have representation both in Edinburgh and in London. Being "Independent in the UK" means we would only have representation in Edinburgh, but would still be regulated on financial matters by London.

Moreover we know that currency unions have a tendency to bring their members into an ever closer fiscal and political union. Scotland would still have elastic bands tying it to London, but would no longer have the parliamentary representation to have its say there.

Alternatively if Scotland strove to maintain real independence in this currency union with the rest of the UK, the likelihood is that eventually the tensions would be so great that Scotland would be forced out, leading to a messy exist and devaluation on the lines that looks likely for Greece.

Salmond's is offering a vision of independence, which is as close as is possible to remaining in the union so that he can gain as much support as possible from those Scots who otherwise would be scared of independence. But it is not clear that this model of independence is something he is really able to offer. The reason is that the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK post independence, would not be a matter solely for Mr Salmond, but would also be a matter for whoever at that time led the rest of the UK. What would they gain from having a semi-detached autonomous/independent Scotland? We know the difficulties in the Eurozone of having independent countries who are in a monetary, but not a fiscal, nor a political union. Why would the rest of the UK put itself in the position of Germany in relation to Scotland's Greece? What if the rest of the UK reacts to Scotland's independence by saying goodbye, but don't expect any cooperation from us. The trouble with "Social Unions" is that they require that both sides want to cooperate. I doubt there would be much goodwill towards Scotland if there really were a divorce.

Independence within the UK is the latest attempt by the SNP to kid the Scottish public that independence would only amount to nice things, like a UN seat and some extra flag waving, but we really need to hear from the leaders of the rest of the UK before we can be sure what a post independent Scotland, in a currency union with the rest of the UK, would be like, for the nature of such a relationship would not solely be up to Mr Salmond no matter how much he likes to dictate.

In the meantime might not supporters of independence reflect on what they are being offered? Does it not seem just a bit faint hearted? Even tiny Latvia and Lithuania set up their own currencies post independence. Can Scotland really not manage its own currency, set up its own central bank? Is the desire for independence so shallow, so lacking in courage that we can't even emulate far away countries of which we know nothing. It all seems slightly humiliating when you put it like that.