Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Tagged: politics

UK votes for Brexit

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy

As the UK dissects the results of the historic referendum on membership of the European Union and the decision of the British people to vote to leave, academic experts* from the University are providing comment and analysis on what this now means for politics, democracy, the economy, business and for the rest of the EU.

* Additional comments will be added to this blog throughout the day.

An uncertain future for the EU.

An uncertain future for the EU.

A far from united United Kingdom – Professor Charlie Lees

“In every single way you cut the cake the United Kingdom is far from united on this issue. We’re divided by age, by our countries and regions and by people with degrees and those without.  

“Many might have voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum with a view to protecting the UK from further encroachment of laws from Brussels. But now one of the unforeseen consequences will be that Scotland is likely to have another referendum on Independence, which the SNP is highly likely to win, and in Northern Ireland there will be renewed questions over Irish unification. In the long term it’s possible today’s result might actually be the first step in the break-up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Without doubt this is one of the most significant, momentous decisions in our lifetime. And reality is about to bite for the Brexit camp, especially with the Prime Minister’s decision to step down in the autumn.”

‘Europe’ at a crossroads: What lessons from a Brexit? - Dr Nick Startin 

"The UK’s vote to leave the EU is a symbolic turning point in the history of European integration and is already sending shockwaves through the institutions of the European Union. After an intensely fought campaign based largely around the issues of immigration and the economy ‘Europe’ finds itself at a crossroads. With Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty likely to be set in motion by the UK government formalising the process of leaving the EU, the result will serve to galvanise Eurosceptic voices across the continent. Far Right Front National leader Marine Le Pen is already calling for a referendum in France on EU membership and similar opinions are being espoused by other populist leaders such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

"Is this the end of the European project founded in the rubble of the Second-World War? This will depend on how the EU’s elites respond to a UK Brexit. EU elites have been slow to respond to dissenting voices in the past and have not engaged sufficiently with them. Eurobarometer data tells us that public support and trust for the EU has declined across the member states in recent years on the back of the 2004 EU enlargement and the more recent economic crisis. The appetite for ‘ever closer union’ has waned in many nation. If the EU is to survive, the reform agenda (of which we hear so much) must be embraced as a matter of urgency. Transparency, accountability and democracy are the key. There needs to be further recognition on the part of the EU’s elites that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will only serve to divide rather than unite.  Failure to learn this lesion from the UK Brexit vote could lead to an unravelling of the EU as we know it."

The economic ramifications of Brexit - Professor Chris Martin

"The shocking decision to leave the European Union has plunged the UK into a severe political crisis. There is a risk that this spills over into a major economic crisis. The exchange rate has had the largest fall for many years. This has good effects (exports are cheaper) and bad effects (imported goods are more expensive, leading to less demand and more inflation). Large falls in the share price of major housebuilders, suppliers of luxury goods and consumer electronics firms suggests that the markets expect the bad effects to outweigh the good. In addition, Brexit has plunged the UK into a long period of deep uncertainty; uncertainty leads to less demand from consumers and less investment by firms, multiplying the already adverse effects of the fall in share prices.

"But the greatest worry is the very sharp drop in the share price of major banks. The financial crisis of 2008-9 showed the almost existential dangers of a financially vulnerable banking system. Policymakers need to take immediate action to offset these risks and to stop the economy being dragged down further. We need action from the Bank of England. It needs to provide massive support for the banking system. We may feel uncomfortable about providing further support for a deeply unpopular banking system, but there is no choice. The fall in the exchange rate will increase inflation. The Bank of England must ignore this and state that it will not increase interest rates while instability lasts. And we need action from the Chancellor. An emergency budget that raises taxes would make a difficult situation much worse. We need a commitment to increase government expenditure, to support demand and employment for as long as this crisis lasts."

Remain campaign defined by diffuse anxieties and beliefs - Dr Susan Milner

"The EU referendum campaign left voters feeling confused and frustrated about Britain’s place within the European Union. By relying on ‘Project Fear’ over a clear-headed assessment of the benefits and limitations of membership, the Remain campaign allowed the campaign to be redefined by more diffuse anxieties and beliefs. In this context, two key patterns of voting behaviour appear to have emerged.

"First, anger and disappointment of those who felt left behind by economic development translated into a classic rejection vote. The voting count showed this starkly as a geographical divide. Second, the Leave campaign was able in the last few weeks to channel the sense of democratic renewal which had galvanised the earlier Scottish referendum campaign and to articulate it in the theme of ‘regaining control’. In this they were undoubtedly assisted by EU leaders’ own failure to frame European integration as a people’s rather than an elite project. With both main parties revealing deep divisions, Britain’s electoral politics have become highly volatile and internal cohesion is under heavy strain. On one hand, it is not clear where the referendum result leaves the pro-membership swathes of the population – Northern Ireland and Scotland, many urban centres, and younger people who appear increasingly disengaged from mainstream politics. On the other, populist politicians are evidently making gains from growing social inequality."

Vote to leave the EU has imperilled the union - Professor Nick Pearce 

"The 20th century was a story of the contraction of England and the end of Empire. But only now is the reverse logic of Seeley’s master narrative being fully realised. England has voted to leave the European Union and in so doing has imperilled her own union. The wound of Irish partition has been reopened and Scotland now faces the prospect of another independence referendum. Only Wales has stood with England in choosing to leave the European Union.

"Empire gave Britain command of the global economy, until hegemony passed to the US. Trade and finance flows kept Britain afloat as it ceded industrial leadership to the US and Germany. Foreign direct investment and the City played the same role after we de-industrialised. Today, our economic weaknesses stand brutally exposed: Brexit has caused mayhem in the markets and a run on the pound. As we adjust to the shock, we will become poorer.

"What is England now? What is her role in the world? Alas, the referendum debate told us nothing of these things; it was sour, parochial and mendacious. It has destroyed a Prime Minister and there is rubble everywhere."

Read more from Nick via the IPR blog.

To Brexit and beyond - Professor Bill Durodié

"The decision by a net majority of the eligible electorate in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is a triumph for our freedom and self-determination. It comes despite most predictions and the use of a politics of fear over more than twenty years on all issues from health and the environment to child safety and international security. The European Union as it was came into existence when the Cold War ended. Leaders the world over feared the uncertain consequences of the demise of the old politics of Left and Right. Avoiding risk rapidly became their new organising framework in a period devoid of other guiding principles. But their foremost though rarely stated fear, was always that of their own people. Despite the economic and migration concerns of the elites thrown up in the referendum debate it is those from whom power and authority truly derive who have now spoken the clearest. The European Union now stands discredited with an uncertain future as other electorates will surely take their lead from the United Kingdom and demand their own referenda to leave too. Of course, much remains to be done in the period ahead. This is only a first step. But it will lead to many other debates. It is those who do not fear change to whom the future belongs."

Read more from Bill via The Conversation.

The people have spoken - Professor Graham Room

"The people have spoken: they want out.  It is now incumbent on Parliament and Government to implement this decision: incumbent in a political – if not in a constitutional - sense. What terms of exit are likely to be agreed? What will the EU members be prepared to offer?  The Brexit campaigners argue that it will be in the interests of the EU to agree an early and generous exit agreement with the UK.  That is not self-evident.  Many expect the EU to negotiate a hard bargain, if only to discourage others who might think of heading for the exit, and in order to counter the right-wing nationalist elements which many of them face within their own countries.

"The key question is this: will the UK Parliament and Government feel themselves obliged to persist with exit, no matter how hard the terms which the EU offers?  Or will they take the view that under those conditions they would have no alternative but to put those terms to a new referendum?  Nothing in the EU Treaty would prevent the UK government from doing this: and then allowing the result of that second referendum to abort the withdrawal process. Is it not therefore possible that an informal alliance may now develop between the pro-European elites within the UK and their counterparts across Europe – aimed at ensuring that the deal which the EU offers is indeed meagre: in the knowledge that such a deal will oblige the government to put the terms on offer to a new referendum?"  

Read more from Graham via the IPR Blog.

A Treaty Revision too far for many Eurosceptics - Dr Alim Baluch

"The campaign has been incredibly shallow in terms of addressing the undeniable democratic deficit of the EU. The British Eurosceptic position is remarkably inconsistent. It generally opposes the Treaty Revision of Lisbon which effectively strengthened the European Parliament, thus reducing the democratic deficit. But it is exactly this Treaty Revision which went too far for many Eurosceptics. Now there is a Leave Vote, the absurdity of article 50 of the EU Treaty might trigger further anger at the EU as it calls for a unanimous vote of all 28 member states to agree to the modalities of Britain leaving. UKIP or media like the Sun might very well create the impression that Britain has to ask Germany or Estonia for permission to leave despite the referendum. A sense of indignation might be tapped into (and therefore be encouraged) ahead of future elections. Good times for Boris Johnson."


Who do you trust?

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📥  Election 2015

Tonight's BBC Question Time Election Leaders Special marks the last of the televised set-pieces, with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg vying to win trust with voters just seven days before the country goes to the polls.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of our School of Management, has authored three reports on trustworthy leadership and takes us through an assessment of trustworthiness for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg.



Building bridges in the Koreas

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📥  Public Policy

Last week new international relations Professor Timo Kivimaki accompanied former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari in Seoul as part of an international effort aimed at building bridges between North and South Korea.

Here he blogs on his experiences in Korea and a distinguished career in peace and conflict resolution in East Asia.

What are the prospects for peace between North and South Korea? Our international relations Professor Timo Kivimaki blogs on his involvement in a new international effort.

What are the prospects for peace between North and South Korea?

‘As a scholar of conflicts and peace I have identified conflict resolution opportunities and investigated strategies for such processes for several prominent peace-makers.

‘My preparation of a peace process for Indonesia’s vice president, Jusuf Kalla, is reported in my book ‘Can Peace Research Make Peace’; whilst my work in Indonesia's rebellious Papua province, and my academic advisory role in Aceh peace process for Finland’s former president and Nobel laureate Ahtisaari, is reported in my book 'Initiating a Peace Process in Papua'.

Korean reunification?

‘In May 2014 a member of a committee that South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, set up for Korean peace - the ‘South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North’ - approached me and asked if I could investigate if there were any chances of involving Finnish President Ahtisaari in efforts to help direct communication between the two Koreas.

‘Having started work on this topic with President Ahtisaari last summer, last week I was invited to accompany him to Seoul for further discussions and a conference by the reunification committee.

‘During talks, President Ahtisaari was publicly asked to speculate on his opportunities to act as a mediator between North and South Korea. The suggestion was presented in a dinner panel in the presence of a large number of ambassadors and officials from several countries.

‘At this stage it is important to be clear this is not an official South Korean initiative and that North Korea has not yet participated in these speculations at all.

Prospects for reconcilliation

‘But it was the first time a member of the presidential committee for the unification of Koreas has publicly speculated about such an idea. My personal opinion is that President Ahtisaari would be able to help parties take several important steps towards peace and unification.

‘Whilst there may be challenges on the way - challenges I discuss in a new piece for The Conversation ‘Kim Jong Un is not the only obstruction to peace in Korea’ - this is an exciting project to be involved in and one I believe expertise from the University could be mobilized even further to support.’

If you are interested in finding out more please email Timo via T.A.Kivimaki@bath.ac.uk.



Bite the Ballot

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📥  Public Policy

Thursday 5 February marks National Voter Registration Day.  The Bite the Ballot campaign, which aims to raise awareness and understanding of politics in particular for young people, hopes to increase the numbers of people eligible to vote come the General Election in the UK to be held in May.

We asked two researchers from our Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies for their thoughts on the salient topic of how to engage young people in voting and issues of apathy and abstention.

Have you registered to vote?

Have you registered to vote?

Youth engagement in voting - PhD student Ben Bowman

What stands out about young people is that, while older generations have continued to vote despite their cynicism, young people seem to be rejecting the ballot box in favour of other methods of political action. Voting, after all, is a tool for representation and young people no longer consider it the only tool for political engagement. Young people can be voters, but also abstainers, dissenters, boycotters, online activists and charity workers. The diversity of political acts is one thing that characterises the newest generation of young citizens.

Young people are not a monolith, yet, for some reason in discussing young politics we tend to forget that young people do not give up their gender, race, religion, sexuality or disability to fit into the neat box “youth”. It is surprising, given the last five years have been years of cuts, protests and riots, that come the election young diversity appears to have dropped off the radar. To give one example of why this is a problem, young women continue to be under-represented and women, though they are the majority in our population, make up just 22.8 per cent of MPs.

2015 finds young people in a crisis of economic and political marginalisation. This is a generation for whom stable employment, full-time contracts and home ownership have been replaced by precarious work on part-time and temporary contracts, and even unpaid internships or forced work for free. Safety nets and services for the young have been slashed while support for older generations stay fortified. Young people’s responses to polls should be taken to reflect the burden of responsibility on politicians to represent young citizens, amid a dual crisis of economic hardship on the one hand, and marginalisation from politics on the other. Young people need stable contracts, a wage they can live on, and places they can afford to live. That improved mental health care and funding for the NHS are so high on the list of preferred policies should open eyes to the effect on young people of five years in austerity measures.

Read Ben's full analysis via this LSE blog Effective representation is key to getting young people to vote.

Listen to Ben's BBC radio interview on National Voter Registration Day exploring these issues.

Abstention - Dr Aurélien Mondon

Abstention receded in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections after falling to 59.1 per cent participation in 2001. In 2015, participation could increase further as a result of the close contest. However, this does not mean that we are witnessing a democratic revival and worrying trends point to a bleak assessment of what electoral participation or non-participation means.

Recent polls by Ipsos MORI suggest that discontentment with the democratic process is at an all-time high, with 69 per cent of respondents declaring in 2014 that the ‘present system of governing Britain’ ‘Could be improved quite a lot’ (-3) or ‘Needs a great deal of improvement’ (+10) (and only 2 per cent declaring it ‘Works extremely well and could not be improved’.)

The situation is similar across Europe. In 2014, when asked whether ‘on the whole’, they are ‘very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the way democracy works in [their country]’, 49 per cent of Eurobarometer respondents expressed a degree of dissatisfaction. While such results fluctuate between countries, and dissatisfaction can rest on various elements and degrees (electoral system or deeper resentment), it demonstrates that despite the hegemonic understanding of democracy and the apparent impossibility of alternatives to the current system, a consequent part of the population are unwilling or unhappy to join the fold.

Those most likely to be distrustful of representative democracy and abstain are typically to be found in the lower classes of society as well as in young people. While it is difficult to find a single reason behind abstention, what is clear is that increasingly voting no longer satisfies the democratic appetite for many (even though a vast majority sill consider it a duty). This disconnect with parties and elections demonstrates a real or perceived powerlessness in what is commonly referred to as the democratic process.

However, it would be a mistake to simply see in this disconnect apathy or anti-politics. For example, the way Russell Brand’s simple message resonates within various sections of society, despite being subject to ridicule, has demonstrated a certain hunger for a different kind of politics.

If a more inclusive democratic discussion is to take place, it will be crucial not to simplify the meaning of this discontentment or disillusion (witnessed in part through abstention or protest vote) to suit a grand narrative – or split it between positive and negative choices. Abstention is not merely apathy, nor is it simply protest. Abstention, which is likely to remain the ‘biggest party’, is not the result of the individualistic and nihilistic nature of human beings, nor is it the premise to a grand utopian revolution.

At present, it is a symbol of the current failings of liberal democracy, and its attempts at representation. It is the response to our current political debate centred on electoral politics, and based on a false choice between a rightful vote for the status quo, an irrational, condemned or ridiculed vote for populist parties, and remaining voiceless or unheard in abstention and other forms of political action. Therefore, if we are to take both politics and democracy seriously, discussing the democratic credentials of our current political system openly is urgent.

Watch Aurélien discuss these issues in this short film in relation to the 2014 European Elections.

Read Aurélien's piece for Policy Network Nuancing the right-wing populist hype.


Does it matter if we're playing Call of Duty?

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📥  Society

Should we be worried by the popular appeal of the video game Call of Duty? What impact could playing it have on the beliefs and values of its army of loyal fans around the world, in particular young people? Phd candidate Christopher McMahon, takes a look the politics behind the game.


The video game Call of Duty (CoD) looks likely to top many teenagers’ Christmas wishlists this year. For those settling down on Christmas Day to try out the latest instalment of the franchise – which began in 2003 and has since amassed a legion of dedicated fans worldwide and grossed over £10 billion in sales – they will not be alone. There are over 40 million active players across all of the CoD titles each of whom spend countless hours immersed in the action of the battlefield from the comfort of their homes.

The latest instalment in the CoD series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, takes a jump from reality in terms of its story and content. The campaign sees a Kevin Spacey-headed private army, more powerful than any state and with imperial ambition, attempt to flex its muscles on the international stage drawing on a vast arsenal of state-of-the-art weaponry.

Much is made of the realism of CoD and it’s been no different for the latest in the series.  A review by IGN stated that CoD reflects ‘real world news’ and that ‘there’s a layer of truth beneath it all that’s genuinely scary.’ Such realism in the game has been used as a key theme in its marketing.  Michael Condrey, co-founder of Sledgehammer Games, the company behind the series, was candid in divulging how a scenario planner from within the Pentagon was enlisted to create the most realistic gaming experiencing, showcasing technologies that will one day be used in real warfare.

Videogames, like TV and cinema in the way they reach a wide audience, shape our perceptions of what they depict.  Through its realism, CoD paints a damaging portrait of warfare and the world in which it takes place. The franchise has always reveled in post-9/11 paranoia and that mindset is still present in the latest game. Through the battles and scenarios it presents, it manages to normalise torture and rendition, and makes light of the impact of gung ho military forces in civilian areas. This depiction of warfare becomes especially important when you consider how many young people play CoD games.  It can be claimed that exposure to this depiction of warfare in your formative years can go on to shape your politics in the same ways as the other forms of media that influence you.

Yet it is not the intent of this blog to say that it is the depiction of violence itself in games like CoD that cause problems in our perceptions of warfare per se. There’s been a long history of overreaction in this area, when it comes to violence in videogames, and the violent television, cinema and literature before them. Indeed videogames can be violent and it’s not the violence that’s the issue.  Spec Ops: The Line is one example of how a videogame can simultaneously be violent whilst depicting warfare in a way that does not shy away from civilian cost and other brutal realities of warfare.

The depiction of warfare in CoD games is just one way in which videogames, and the wider culture, can be influencing young people.  The recent GamerGate controversy has revealed the extent of misogyny and sexism present in gaming circles. Games can be used to help create a better society through what they represent, so more should be done to cut out content that can further enforce beliefs like violent misogyny.  There’s nothing wrong with fantasy violence itself but videogames should not belittle or target already marginalised and victimised groups or the real violence towards them won’t change.  Not being allowed to violently murder a member of a group you don’t like in a videogame is not a form of Orwellian censorship.

The content of videogames can affect how we think, especially the young people that grow up with them.  Videogames have the potential to be an incredibly positive influence, the Mario and Zelda franchises can get people playing in groups, the Mass Effect series has great representation and series like Total War and Age of Empires can spark interests in history.

So it matters that people are playing CoD because of its politics.  Videogames influence, so the beliefs they portray matter. If Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is on your Christmas list this year, think about the politics in the game and realise that videogames can be as ideologically charged as other forms of popular media.

To follow Chris on Twitter via @Chris_E_McMahon.


What would be the impact of a Scottish ‘Yes’ vote for the rest of the UK?

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📥  Public Policy

This week voters north of the border get to have their say in a landmark referendum on whether Scotland should stay part of the United Kingdom.

With latest opinion polls indicating that the campaigns for and against are neck-and-neck, what are the prospects for the rest of UK if Scotland says ‘yes’ to independence?

We asked researchers from the University’s Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies and Department of Economics for their take on what’s at stake and the potential political and economic fallout for the rest of the UK in the event of a yes vote. We also headed into the Bath to find out what local Bathonians and tourists in the City thought about independence and what impact, if any, it could have on their lives.

Dr David Moon - Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies: The impact on UK politics

"The major focus at present is understandably on what the result of the forthcoming referendum on independence itself will be. That outcome, however, will also have a huge impact on next year's General Election, defining, as it will, the very terms of engagement for all parties. While it is often noted that Labour and Liberals will be hit disproportionately hard by the loss of their seats at Westminster in Scotland, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, it is possible that the 2015 general election could see a resultant swing to the right even before these seats disappear.

"This is because the election would be transformed, in England specifically, from a campaign focused on living standards and coalition failures, into a campaign on the question ‘who do you want to negotiate the independence deal with the Scots?’ That could be good news for the Conservatives and UKIP. Portraying Labour and Liberals as 'soft touches' when it comes to Scotland, both parties would be better positioned to draw upon the wellspring of nationalist resentment among a spurned and rejected public in England which may develop, to win support for a programme based around austerity, not only in public spending in the UK, but in what is offered to a departing Scotland as well. For those within England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who are already looking forward to or fearing the promise of a post-election referendum on leaving the EU, there are additional reasons to pay attention to the referendum on Scotland leaving the UK."

(Read David's recent Conversation article: How Scottish referendum could push English politics to the right. Also listen to David's recent radio interviews on the topic with BBC Bristol and BBC Somerset).

Professor Chris Martin - Department of Economics: Counting the economic costs

“Although hard facts are scarce in the partisan debate on the economic effects of independence, the costs seem high and the benefits too dependent on a high price for oil. Some argue that independence will lead to a dynamic knowledge driven economy. But although Scotland has a strong science base and has the heritage of the enlightenment, the ‘Scottish tiger’ scenario seems reliant on wishful thinking. Recent evidence on the dominance of non-Scottish companies (accounting for 70 per cent of Scottish GDP and for 83 per cent of larger firms) reinforces the economic argument against independence. It suggests that the Scottish tax base may be quite weak.  This may result in a higher premium on Scottish sovereign debt.  So on narrow economic grounds, I would give a strong "no".

“But the desire for independence seems to be driven by romantic views of a separate Scottish identity and culture rather than by cold economic logic. If Scotland were to become an independent country, I do not think the UK government's position of ruling out a monetary union is in the economic interests of the continuing UK. Economic theory suggests that a currency union benefits both parties so long as labour and capital markets are highly integrated, business cycles are synchronised and there is a mechanism to equalise wealth across areas suffering different short-term economic conditions. The residual UK and an independent Scotland seems as close as anyone to satisfying the first three conditions. No currency union between states has ever satisfied the fourth. At a less abstract level, Scotland would be a significant export market for the UK rump, similar in size to Belgium. Imposing a separate currency would damage this.

“This conclusion is contingent on it being clear that the UK rump is not responsible for the debts of an independent Scotland and on a credible mechanism for the exit of Scotland from the currency union. A Scottish exit would be unfortunate but probably not critical for the rest of the UK.”

Dr Bruce Morley - Department of Economics: Managing monetary union

“The problem that Scotland faces with sharing a currency with the rest of the UK is the same as the current problems in the Eurozone. If Scotland becomes independent it would have its own fiscal policy, in terms of government spending and taxes.

“At the moment, Scotland and the rest of the UK have a common fiscal policy to a large extent, so if there is a problem with the Scottish economy for example, the rest of the UK can come to its aid with fiscal transfers to it. In the event of a much looser fiscal union, this would be more difficult. Scotland would have to issue its own debt to fund increased government spending. As this debt increases it would adversely affect all the other members of the shared currency, i.e. the rest of the UK. In the event of Scotland defaulting on its debt, this would have serious implications for the currency and its other members, so as in the Eurozone with Germany is bailing out Greece, the rest of the UK would be forced to bail them out.

“However if Scotland is forced to leave the pound it would lose the Bank of England acting as the lender of last resort. This ensured the Scottish banks didn't collapse during the financial crisis as the Bank of England provided them with large amounts of liquidity. So it is potentially problematic if they stay in the pound and if they leave, this would mean that trying to join the Euro would be the other main option.”

(Read Bruce's recent article in the Conversation 'Could choppy markets see currency deal done before Scotland independence vote?' . Also listen to Bruce's interview with BBC Bristol on the topic).

Dr Simon Smith - Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies: The nuclear question

“The Naval Base Clyde is home to the four Vanguard-class Trident equipped submarines, at Faslane, as well as the storage depot for the nuclear warheads, at Coulport.  Although all four submarines are based on Scottish territory, one submarine is also on patrol at any one time - referred to as the UK’s Continuous at Sea Deterrence or CASD.  Furthermore, the entire Royal Navy nuclear powered submarine fleet is due to be stationed at Faslane by 2017 and the current Vanguard-class submarines are due for replacement starting in 2028 at an estimated total cost of £20 billion.

“In 2013, the SNP passed a resolution in favour of a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. The desire to rid Scotland of Trident is thus a principled position for the SNP and, according Nicola Sturgeon, one that is ‘not negotiable’. Of course, the position of the UK government is the exact opposite. Therefore, the issue of Trident directly affects the debate over Scottish independence.

“Scottish independence would not only have significant implications for the UK’s current ability to operate CASD.  The relocation of Trident is not a simple matter and should a sovereign Scotland insist on a swift removal there might be no alternative but to decommission.

“The most likely replacements - in a rump UK - for Faslane would be Barrow, Milford Haven or Devonport. However, all of them bring safety, logistical and, therefore, political drawbacks - and replacing Coulport, even more so. Some have suggested that it could take a ‘minimum’ of twenty years to construct replacement facilities. Other options have been proposed including ‘sharing facilities’ either in the United States or France. However, the UK Government is on record as saying that ‘operations from any base in the US or France would greatly compromise the independence of the deterrent and there would be significant political and legal obstacles’.”

(Read Simon's recent article in the Conversation 'An independent Scotland might have to agree a deal on Trident to get into NATO'  . Also listen to Simon talking on the topic to BBC Bristol).

When an act of war might still be an accident

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📥  Public Policy

On 17 July 2014, a Malaysia Airlines flight out of Amsterdam was shot down over the disputed region of Eastern Ukraine. As investigators search for evidence into exactly what happened to bring down the plane, political leaders grapple with the geopolitical fallout and likely ramifications, in particular for the disputed Eastern region of the Ukraine.

A University of Bath expert in international security, Professor David Galbreath, is analysing the developing situation, looking at evidence that the plane was shot down by rebel forces and is exploring the possible consequences for the region and further afield.

shutterstock_196906772Commenting Professor Galbreath said: “Debates about weapons will be short lived as evidence suggest rebel forces have Buk surface-to-air missile systems capable of carrying out this kind of attack. Debates about the intention, however, will be much harder to determine.

“In this instance two pieces of evidence seem to point the direction of culpability of the Pro-Russian rebel forces. The first is the screen shot of a rebel web page detailing the shooting down of what was thought to be a Ukrainian transport plane. The second is the intercepted phone conversations that appear to celebrate, then turn to shock, as details of what has happened come in.

“The problem for analysis is understanding the nature of command and control, known as C2 in the military. C2 allows for coordinated and sustained operations, with executive decision being taken by a division, above a commanding officer. In respect to the pro-Russian forces, there is little evidence to suggest that command and control is at a level that would have been able to make a better informed decision about what sort of aircraft was being flown over the region. The fact that the plane was travelling well above 10,000 metres should have highlighted to military intelligence that this was not a Ukrainian military aircraft.

“The situation points to training in the use of such equipment. Whilst Ukrainian and Russian military forces would be able to use such assets, a typical rebel more than likely would not. So, we have either former Ukrainian soldiers or, as are being argued by the United States, Russian Spetsnaz (Special Purpose Forces) forces training or operating the surface-to-air missiles.

Yesterday’s tragedy points to a bigger problem, however. This lack of command and control has the potential to further increase the intensity of war.”

Professor Galbreath will continue to monitor the situation and give us updates which we'll share with you here.

If you're a journalist and would like to speak to Professor Galbreath about the current situation please contact our press team.

Antibiotic resistance a major global problem

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📥  Heath Science & Technology, Public Policy

MRSA ResearchDavid Cameron has today highlighted the challenges of the over use of antibiotics, stressing the dangers of how medicine could soon be "cast back into the dark ages" unless action is taken to tackle the growing resistance to antibiotics.

One of our Senior Lecturers in Biology & Biochemistry, Dr Ruth Massey, has spoken to us about her work following warnings given by the Prime Minister today of the dangers of antibiotic resistance.

For the past 15 years Dr Massey has been working on the MRSA superbug and developing new ways to diagnose and treat infections which would rely less on antibiotics.

On today's comments by the Prime Minister, she said: "Antibiotic resistance is indeed a major global health problem. In the EU it causes approximately 400,000 infections a year, and on average 25,000 of these people die.

"There is also a huge cost associated with this - estimated to be EURO 1.5 billion annually. Until now it has been a problem largely ignored by governments and big pharma, so it is with hopes of it not being too late that the community greets this funding news."

Ruth Massey is available for media today until 2.30pm, including via ISDN. If you're a journalist and you'd like to speak to her please contact our press team on 01225-386319 or by email.


D-Day teaches us about struggle against tyranny & oppression

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📥  Public Policy

Dr Hanna Diamond, a leading Second World War expert from our Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies says the anniversary of French liberation is an important date to mark and reflect on. 

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the French Liberation, when over 130,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy to drive invading armies from France and re-establish the Republic on French soil.

Dr Diamond’s research has focused on the experience of war by ordinary people living in France at the time and in particular the role of women in liberation efforts. She is the author of ‘Women and the Second World War in France’ and ‘Fleeing Hitler – France 1940’ and its accompanying website www.fleeinghitler.org .Fleeing children

Speaking to our press officer Andrew Dunne, Hanna said: “The 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of France is an important anniversary to mark and reflect upon.

“This is the story of the liberation from Nazism of a major European country both through its own efforts and with the help of the Allies. Seventy years on from D-Day, it teaches us lessons about the struggle against tyranny and oppression and about the need for solidarity in the cause of freedom. These messages are as pertinent today as they were 70 years ago.”

Dr Diamond is currently involved in organising a major international conference, The Liberation of France: Histories and Memories, taking place at the Institut français in London on Friday 13 – Saturday 14 June. This event will be an opportunity to understand more about fighting in France and the role of ‘non- French’ – foreigners who were members of the Free French Forces – in the Liberation. It will also be an opportunity to discuss the ‘other occupation’ in France, of US forces.

The event features contributions from Lord Paddy Ashdown, author of the new book ‘The Cruel Victory – The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for the Vercors 1944’, and from Madame Rol-Tanguy, surviving widow of the Commander-in-Chief of the French Resistance forces who helped to liberate Paris.

Dr Diamond added: “Through first-hand accounts, visual records and new research emerging in the field, our upcoming event will help us to understand the Liberation not so much in terms of conflicts and armies and governments, but through the experiences of ordinary people who lived through it.”

Read Hanna's latest article published in today’s The Conversation, 70 years after D-Day, women of the French Resistance are finally being recognised”.


What is the future for UKIP?

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📥  Public Policy

From Thursday 22 May to Sunday 25 May 2014, elections to the European Parliament will take place across the European Union (EU). The 2014 elections, to elect 751 MEPs, mark the eighth time Europeans have gone to the polls since the first direct elections to the Parliament in 1979.

Here in Britain, UKIP are expected to be highly successful in the MEP elections. Dr David Cutts, from our Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies discusses the popular appeal of Nigel Farage, political campaigning, electoral behaviour and party politics:

“UKIP has been able to broaden its appeal to those voters ‘left behind’ and alarmed by the extent of social and economic change – concerns about European immigration – while retaining their mainstream political legitimacy on the European issue.

“UKIP has two distinct groups of voters: core support from blue collar, financially insecure working class men, whose traditional loyalties lie with Labour but have been ‘left behind’ in modern Britain as mainstream parties have sought the middle class vote; and strategic Conservative sympathisers, who express hostility to the European Union, but are less loyal to UKIP in general elections. Farage has a unique appeal as a charismatic leader, seen as being able to articulate to both sets of voters.

“The problem however for UKIP moving forward is that they have to keep that uneasy coalition satisfied. They also do not possess the local infrastructure, resources, targeting experience and tactical nouse on the ground to mount successful constituency campaigns. This is crucial in a general election if UKIP is going to turn growing support into parliamentary seats.”