Lack of Balance at the BBC

A general election is an important event and one which provides some education and entertainment on the night when the results come in so I watched those results. The BBC, a publicly maintained and financed broadcaster, had an election programme which I watched. I found it unbalanced and that it spent too much time concentrating on election results in Scotland, deeming these of overwhelming importance.  Continue reading

Nations that Manipulate Tax Rules

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has rightly been accused of manipulating its tax rates to enable large multinationals like Amazon to avoid paying corporation tax on the profits that they make on business in the jurisdictions where they make the profits. The main architect of this is the gentleman who now heads the European Parliament, Mr Juncker, which shows that if you have enough front you can get away with almost anything. Continue reading

“Influence”

The Scottish Referendum was a close run thing. The worse the Scots behaved the more concessions they wrung from the rest of the United Kingdom and matters will probably reach a state in which independence will be necessary; it will be achieved de facto, if not de jure. The independence movement was led in Scotland by Alex Salmond, who is a very talented politician. he was First Minister (there is no “prime” in Scotland) and has now resigned from that position. It seems he is likely to become a Member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament at the next election. That seems to me to be very odd. Continue reading

Catalonia

Catalonia is an important part of Spain, comprising four provinces in the north eastern part of the country. There are only 7.6 million folk who live there so when on 11 September Catalonia day 1.8 million of them form an eleven kilometre line in the shape of a “V” to symbolise their wish for a referendum to decide whether Catalonia should be an independent nation, then it is clear that there are strong independence feelings in that part of the world.

Spain resists the legitimacy of any call for independence. This was the same reaction that the European union had to the referendum in Crimea, even though it was clear that a legal referendum would have had no different result from the referendum that was alleged to be illegal. The European Union is interested in expanding its borders and the authority of its government and not interested in encouraging or facilitating independence movements, unless it can expand into new territory.

Spain also opposes any settlement which would reduce the size of span; politicians like to govern large numbers of people in preference to small numbers of people.

The forthcoming referendum vote in Scotland will inspire the Catalans to seek their own vote. No doubt parts of other nations will find that there are secessionists who will seek their own referendum. The world has become a small place. If Scotland Catalonia and others become small independent nations (genuinely independent that is and not quasi independent) then the world will become a bigger place and a better world for that.

Divorce in Haste, Repent at Leisure

It seems more likely now that the Scots will vote to separate from the Union of this island. I wish them well if they want to be independent as opposed to pseudo independent, which will merely enable a few politicians to exercise greater power than at present, but make no bones about it, a “yes” vote in the referendum will be the start of what will be several years of acrimony, argument and legal cases. No doubt the Scots will readily agree a constitution for a new state and the legal framework is already in hand; the Scots will simply have to decide whether their appellate system will incorporate the Supreme Court, or whether they will be happy to see divergence on the laws of the two jurisdictions with all the economic effect that would entail. Continue reading

Scottish Quasi Independence

The Scots are debating whether they should be independent or not. Good luck to them whatever they decide, but it strikes me that if they truly want to be independent then they should be; they should not be tethered to the pound sterling, but run their own currency, in exactly the same way that they wish to exploit their own assets and make their own laws.  Continue reading

The Legality of the Referendum in Crimea

I take an interest in international law, which is a mysterious branch of law, because so much of it seems to be made up by economic winners or military victors in order to oppress their competitors or the defeated. Nevertheless there is a large body of international law these days, but much of it is uncertain.

When various politicians and commentators claimed that the referendum that is being held in the Crimea today was illegal under international law, I could not understand the rationale of such claim. It may be that the referendum was called too hastily to enable a proper consideration of the issues or that there are fears that the referendum will be manipulated, corrupted or no more than a propaganda exercise.  I was at a loss to discover how the holding of a referendum can be illegal.

I think the answer is obvious: it is not illegal for part of a state to hold a referendum about independence or cessation. If it were then the forthcoming referendum in Scotland would be illegal and the referendum which decided the split of the Slovakia from Czechoslovakia would have been illegal but patently they were not.

Whether if following the results of a referendum the Crimea declared independence or Union with the Russian federation such moves would be illegal under international law is another question. In such matters international law usually takes a pragmatic view; those who control an area are recognised as the lawful government of it, usually but not always.

I suppose that what those who describe the referendum in Crimea fear is this: if it is shown that there was a free and fair referendum held according to ordinarily accepted principles of democracy and that referendum proved that the majority of Crimeans want to leave the Ukraine, then such a result would be inconvenient to those who oppose this happening. It is inconvenient for the western democracies to find that the Crimeans prefer Russia to the Ukraine, but inconvenience is not illegality.

Some argue that the illegality of the referendum is determined by Article 73 of the Ukrainian Constitution which states that alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by the All-Ukrainian referendum. However, that provision does not, as far as I can see prohibit the counting of votes, and what is illegal under the Ukrainian Constitution is not necessarily illegal under international law.

The referendum being held today is not a choice between all the options available to the people of the Crimea; they are only being allowed to vote on whether the Crimea should secede or be absorbed into the Russian Federation and there is no choice being given to remain part of the Ukraine. That certainly seems to me to designate the referendum as being undemocratic, but it is not against international law to hold undemocratic elections and if it were very few elections would be legal.

On that point one could argue that the forthcoming Scottish referendum is undemocratic because it allows only a choice of two options – the choice of a third option of more autonomy within the United Kingdom will not be available to the Scots.