Search topics on this blog

Google+ Badge

Showing posts with label Michael Moore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Moore. Show all posts

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Negotiating issues after a YES vote

The two principal negotiating interfaces will be

1. With the UK Government to agree the processes leading to independence.

2. With the EU to consider the implications of an independent Scotland for Scotland’s EU membership

There will be many other negotiating interfaces, but until the key heads of agreement are reached with UK and EU, they will either be held in abeyance or very tentative in character, since they are in significant part dependent on the outcome of the two primary negotiations.

UK Government negotiations

Two main issues will dominate the negotiating agenda – defence (crucially the nuclear issue), and the division of assets and liabilities.

The two key secondary issues will be a currency union and the status of the Bank of England, and complex administrative issues across a wide range of topics, e.g. pensions, tax, benefits, records.

Classifying the issues as either conflicts of right or conflicts of interest, with the legal dimension (UK law, Scottish law, EU law, international law) of conflict of right issues potentially introducing unacceptable delay factors, will be crucial.

EU membership negotiations

These will focus principally on the Scottish government’s position that Scotland is still a member versus a possible EU view that they must re-apply for membership.

The reality is that independence is a game changer and nothing can be taken for granted, legally or otherwise.

The EU that negotiates after a 2014 YES vote is likely to be a very different EU from its present form (Europe is in near-chaos and a ferment for new possibilities, e.g. much tighter monetary union).

NEGOTIATING – DYNAMICS AND PROCESSES

Negotiating is a technique - one of many - for reaching agreement between parties - force, authority, legal process, joint problem solving, selling, persuasion, etc.

It may be used as part of a portfolio of techniques, and may or may not be the principal technique. It may be used alone.

Broadly, negotiations between parties can by classified as one of five types -

1. Negotiation between independent parties to reach a specific limited, one-off agreement

2. Negotiation between independent parties to create a new relationship for a limited period

3. Negotiations between independent parties to create a new, ongoing open-ended relationship

4. Negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship

5. Negotiation between parties to bring an existing relationship to an end.

(Another broad distinction can be made in dispute negotiations, that of conflict of right and conflict of interest, that is a dispute over claimed existing rights or an attempt to establish new rights. For example, a dispute over alleged breach of contract is a conflict of right, and a dispute over an attempt to redefine the terms and conditions of a contract e.g. a wage increase, is a conflict of interest.)

The first two types above characterise most commercial negotiations – one-off deals, deals delivered over time, short-term employment contracts, etc.

The last three are the ones that concern us in relations to Scotland’s independence. The Act of Union was type 3, the negotiations over the terms of Scotland’s EU membership will be type 4, and the negotiations over Scotland’s independence will be type 5.

With regard to the EU, type 4 is the one that interests us - negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship.

LOCKED RELATIONSHIPS

Many type 4 negotiations can be described as locked relationships from a negotiating perspective, that is to say, relationships that are expected to continue over time, and where negotiations that result in deadlock or failure to agree do not threaten the ultimate continuity of the relationship.

The technique falls into broad categories – analysis, structure, strategy and tactics and, crucially, behaviour, i.e. the face-to-face interaction of the negotiators.

Negotiators may be accountable to no one but themselves, that is to say, they are their own Principals and have absolute discretion over their side of the process.

Negotiators may also be accountable to a Principal (or Principals) who are not present at the face-to-face negotiation but who play an intimate role in preparation and strategy formulation and have ultimate authority to ratify or reject deals. In such cases the negotiator is the Agent of the Principal (like the lawyer/client relationship).

In a large organisation – or a democracy – the Principal will be accountable to a wider, larger group or groups – the Board, the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the politician to the Government, the Party and ultimately to the voters.

A negotiator may negotiate alone or as part of a team of negotiators. Negotiating team roles, discipline and behaviour are a crucial determinant of negotiating success.

In multi-element, complex negotiations, a back-up team of experts is a vital resources – lawyers, technical people, finance experts, etc. It is not unusual for complex negotiations to be modelled – i.e. to have computer based simulations and models – and to have complex spreadsheets and algorithms to compute the impact of possible changes.

A negotiation that that will take place in the public eye (government, major company or government terms and conditions bargaining, strikes and industrial action – actual or threatened) requires a sophisticated media strategy, not least because everything said – or not said(!) to media – communicates something to the other side of the negotiating table (whether intended or not).

DISTRIBUTIVE vs INTEGRATIVE BARGAINING IN NEGOTIATION

In zero sum games (Games Theory) what one negotiator gains the other loses and vice versa – a finite pot is divided unequally. This is sometimes called distributive bargaining (Walton & McKersie).

Such negotiations are possible, but are highly stressed, prone to deadlock and breakdown, and any deal reached is perceived as having a winner and a loser, relatively speaking. (The recent Fiscal Cliff negotiations are a good example)

Wherever possible, negotiators should strive to add value for both sides by showing new potential for gains to both sides that do not involve win/lose scenarios – the so-called integrative bargain or win/win scenario.

This demands lateral thinking, vision and creativity.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

La règle du jeu – Michael Moore and the independence negotiations

It’s easy to cast Michael Moore as a villain, the arch-enemy of the YES Campaign, the current Scottish Secretary whose predecessors had a remarkably consistent record in acting against the interests of Scots, with the honourable exception of Tom Johnson, probably the only Scottish Secretary who conceived of the role as Scotland’s man in the UK instead of the other way round.

I have done my share of teasing and criticising Michael Moore, but have radically revised my view of him after analysing in close detail his responses to Iain Davidson’s Select Committee and his performance in the negotiations with Nicola Sturgeon over the referendum deal. I have no doubt whatsoever that this Northern Ireland-born son of a British Army chaplain is a committed unionist in his heart, and intellectually as a Liberal Democrat, and that he is totally opposed to Scotland’s independence and will campaign vigorously against it.

But he is also what the independence debate desperately needs right now – a pragmatic realist with a sound grasp of the principles  of negotiation, and a budding diplomat of the highest order. (His destiny in the UK or rUK should be the Foreign Office, where he would do a better job than the pompously  inadequate William Hague.)

Having managed to upset Davidson’s Commons Committee by refusing to play their dirty little game, he has now repeated the trick with the Lords’ committee, which also has thinly concealed anti-independence motives. So far, I only have press reports to go on, but the signs are encouraging -  Michael Moore savaged by Unionist peers over EU row

What enraged the unelected Lords was Moore’s argument that that there was no need to engage in a dialogue with the European Commission because a considerable body of information was already in the public domain- including EC President Barroso’s letter to the Committee - suggesting Scotland, as a new member state, might have to reapply and negotiate its membership.

In reply to an increasingly frustrated Michael Forsyth – who one of these days is going to birl uncontrollably and fly up his kilt into his own orifice, such is his exasperation at the prospect of Scotland’s independence – Michael Moore offered the following gnomic reply, which baffled the parcel of Lords, but brought a knowing smile to the faces of experienced negotiators -

Michael Moore: "There will be elements of this which are, to put it mildly, inelegant in terms of how well-informed people can be at the time of that vote. But short of doing that pre-negotiation, which as the UK Government I don't think it's our place to do, I believe we cannot resolve some of those issues."

Moore, in this and other revealing remarks, displays an real understanding of the dynamics and tactics of the pre-negotiation phase of negotiation, especially one that is going to be conducted in under a media searchlight and in a atmosphere of fevered and often highly ill-informed speculation and comment. He seems to have acquired a sophisticated understanding of such matters, matters that most politicians and media commentators are involved with throughout their entire careers without ever grasping their essence. Either he has an innate grasp of the fundamentals, or has had formative experiences in politics and government that shaped him, or – perhaps and/or – he is being advised by someone who can tell shit from Shinola.

These are qualities and skills that will be vital in the run-up to 2014 and in the negotiations that follow a YES vote. But relaxing in the knowledge that the Scottish Government negotiators will have a worthy opponent who understands La règle du jeuwith a nod to a great filmmaker, Jean Renoir – nationalists must also brace themselves to face a formidable opponent, one they must treat with wary respect.

Michael Moore will be, I hope, the last incumbent of the post of Scottish Secretary, but I entertain the hope that he will acquit himself honourably, in the spirit of the great Tom Johnson, lose with honour and with the respect of nationalists, and go on to a long and successful career wherever he choses to pursue it. For my part, I would like to seem him join in building the new Scotland after independence.

Sadly, if the Forsyths of this world have their way, he will be eclipsed or supplanted by some bumbling but highly vocal primitive Tory placeman, and the negotiations will be a bitter experience with a negative fallout.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The lead-up to the Referendum Deal – panic sets in among Iain Davidson’s Committee

The deal is now done - these clips of 17th Sept 2012 show the mindset of Iain Davidson's committee in the lead-up to the critical negotiations. It is a mixture of macho posturing and sarcasm by Davidson, worried queries by others, and a pervasive sense of control of the process slipping away from them.

Michael Moore's opening summary of the vital importance of the referendum and the process is concise and effective .To my complete surprise and admiration, he demonstrates a calm understanding of the process of negotiation, and expertly blocks and circumvents the lunacies of the committee's approach. These Scottish MPs arguing against the independence of their native land are not a pretty sight. Moore has risen enormously in my estimation. Unionist or not, he is a superb politician and, on this showing, a diplomat, and one who despite his solid unionism, could play a significant role in the New Scotland.

As a staunch unionist, totally opposed to independence, we must not underrate him. But he will be a worthy, honourable opponent, and he deserves credit for his role in these fraught negotiations.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bruce Crawford to Michael Moore on Referendum Consultation

A letter - Tuesday 3 April 2012 - from Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore today, urging Mr Moore to submit responses to the Scotland Office consultation on the independence referendum to external analysis, as the Scottish Government is doing in respect of its consultation.

The text of Bruce Crawford’s letter is as follows -

I am writing with regard to the analysis of the UK Government's consultation on Scotland’s independence referendum, publicised over the weekend, and note that a full summary of results is to be made available shortly.

Can I ask whether the Scotland Office intends to submit its consultation responses, which reportedly number less than 3,000, to independent analysis – as the Scottish Government are doing with ours – and that an independent evaluation will be published?

On Newsnight Scotland last night, a Labour MSP appeared to accept as “true” that submissions from the Labour Party website could account for anything up to half of the responses to the UK Government consultation.

Let me be clear that we encourage such participation in consultations by political parties and other organisations and individuals. However, given the small number of responses to the UK Government consultation – in contrast to the Scottish Government process – this factor makes it even more important that these 3,000 responses are independently analysed, with appropriate break-downs provided, otherwise there will be a lack of confidence in the robustness of the Westminster exercise.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Cash for access and influence–don’t forget the LibDems–the ‘squeaky clean’ party!


This is the party most distrusted by the electorate, reduced to a pathetic rump in Holyrood by the Scottish electorate last May, and who would be obliterated by the UK electorate if the Coalition fell tomorrow.

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …

This is the party that accepted “in good faith” a £2.4m donation from a convicted fraudster, Michael Brown, which they refused to repay to the people who had been defrauded when the facts became known because “the money was already spent”. (BBC report)

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …

Here they are at their conference in September 2011, allowing access for cash - £800 a head for lunch – with influential LibDem ministers to tobacco companies and God know who else. Here they are trying to prevent Channel Four News reporter Michael Crick from gaining access for truth.

Meanwhile, Tavish Scott bleated bitterly last year about how his party, not to mention his career, was blighted by the LibDem pact with the Tories. Tavish, throughout his feeble leadership of the Scottish LibDems conspicuously failed to distance himself from the UK party because of his pro-Union and virulently anti-SNP views. He now favours remaining in the UK for Orkney and Shetland - or UDI from an independent Scotland.

We have a LibDem, Danny Alexander as a member of the notorious Coalition sofa government cabal, the Quad, and Michael Moore, a LibDem, as Scottish Colonial Governor – and in Scotland, Willie Rennie

They are all – needless to say – deeply committed to remaining within the UK, and implacably hostile to their country’s independence …

THE TORY CASH FOR ACCESS SCANDAL






ALEX SALMOND - Letter to DAVID CAMERON


"Yesterday’s Sunday Times report regarding Peter Cruddas is a matter of substantial public concern.

One important aspect is that Mr Cruddas is reported to have discussed the issue of Scottish independence with you, in somewhat pejorative terms. I would like to know directly from you the details of this discussion.

The paper reports that Mr Cruddas personally was a major donor to the “No to AV” campaign, reportedly funding the campaign to the tune of £1.2 million.

You will also have noted that Mr Cruddas was willing to discuss accepting political donations with persons purporting to represent an overseas wealth fund, which of course is prohibited by law from making a donation to a political party in the United Kingdom.

As you know, the Scottish Government’s proposals for a referendum on independence in autumn 2014 set out clear rules about donations to the campaigning groups for the referendum. These rules are based on established electoral law, and our consultation document proposes that they would be rigorously enforced by the Electoral Commission.

Given the revelations in the Sunday Times and subsequent resignation of Mr Cruddas, I am asking you to agree that there is now even more reason to ensure that the terms governing the conduct of the referendum are determined by the Scottish Parliament, and are not dictated by Westminster – a threat that was discussed by senior Conservative Party representatives as recently as last weekend at your Scottish Party conference.

You will realise the importance we attach to holding a referendum which is beyond reproach and free of the sort of impropriety which is so clearly pointed to in the Sunday Times report."

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Scotland’s independence referendum–the law and the Supreme Court

An extract from what I had to say on the law and Scotland on 13th October UK Supreme Court - constitutional and independence implications

This also contains links to a number of earlier blogs on Scottish Law and the Supreme Court – see URL links.

EXTRACT

Thursday, 13 October 2011

In the light of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment (I spell it judgment against my instincts towards judgement because I believe this is legal practice) and certain remarks about what the Scottish Parliament can and cannot do - which some have interpreted as a shot across the SNP Government’s bows in relation to the referendum - a number of correspondents have asked me if I plan to comment. Firstly, this is properly Peat Worrier’s blog territory, and secondly, I have said pretty much what I wanted to say about the UK Supreme Court in the following blogs -

The UK Supreme Court and the Scottish legal system

The UK Supreme Court–FMQs 16th June 2011 – Holyrood

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions

DAVID CAMERON’S STATEMENT, COMMONS DEBATE 10th Jan. AND SUBSEQUENT FALLOUT

I am not a lawyer. Fortunately, nationalists have a lawyer who blogs – Lallands Peat Worrier, who recently outed himself on television, revealing a long-haired young man – Andrew Tickell who was not at all like the image built up by many readers of his superb blog, who may have fondly imagined him, as I did, as a crusty old Edinburgh lawyer in a old leather armchair, with whisky in hand.

Anyone who wants an informed and authoritative account of the law as it relates to Scottish and UK affairs, independence and referendums should go to his blog Lallands Peat Worrier

My perspective of the law as it affect Scotland’s independence is that of an informed voter, with a special knowledge of negotiation and the dynamics of reaching agreement in situations of conflict, especially ones that are defined by formal and perhaps legally binding agreements and contracts. In other words, my expertise lies in defining how a party to a dispute should regard the law and how that party or parties may - or may not - use the law to resolve disputes, i.e. a client perspective.

FUNDAMENTALS AS I SEE THEM

The law as it applies to political and constitutional matters is a very different beast to the criminal law and civil law, especially when that law reaches beyond the nation state, e.g. European Law, international law and human rights legislation.

The issue between Scotland and the UK involves Scottish Law, UK Law, especially as it relates to devolution, European Law and potentially international law.

Two ancient legal systems exist side by side, and have done for over 300 years in the United Kingdom. The Union made one aspect of that law supreme across the UK through the UK Parliament, Westminster. Scotland has its Parliament and its devolved administration by courtesy of that law, The Scotland Act, and the extent of the Scottish Parliament’s powers are determined by that Act, and can be altered or revoked by the UK Parliament.

The UK and Scotland are also bound by European law and by the European Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.

Until the establishment of the UK Supreme Court, appeals on certain matters of law went to Strasbourg. The UK Supreme Court was set up to provide a UK Court of Appeal on Human Rights matters, but also to rule on constitutional matters.

It was no coincidence that the UK Supreme Court was set up with such powers at the same time as the Westminster Government became aware that the independence of Scotland had become a very real possibility, with huge constitutional implications.

Scotland’s wish to be independent means that it wishes to be independent of all UK law, and therefore of the UK Supreme Court. But that system of law, and specifically that court – the UK Supreme Court - can restrict or frustrate Scotland’s attempts to be secure its independence – or at least, it can attempt to do so.

It can be argued that it was set up at this time to permit it to do exactly that, and no amount of high rhetoric about the rule of law can obscure that stark possibility. All the indicators in the dispute that has built up since the UK Prime Minister’s ill-judged intervention into Scottish affairs tend to support that conclusion.

That is not to say that the UK Supreme Court would accept this attempt to politicise its role – one can hope that they wouldn’t - but remember the the UK decided to go into an illegal war in Iraq on very dubious grounds, based on legal advice at the highest level, advice that was changed at the last moment.

The message is – We, the UK Government, will use the legal system that Scotland’s independence seeks to be free of to control and limit its right to consult the Scottish people. Unless Scotland accepts the UK Parliament’s conditions for the referendum and its right to control and monitor it with its own designated bodies, the UK Supreme Court will be used to challenge, delay and block the referendum, and declare it illegal.

In other words, the interest group that wants to keep Scotland in the Union, and bound by this framework of law, will attempt to use that law to stop Scotland from determining whether the voters of Scotland wish to remain a part of that legal system.

Of course, all of this mumbo-jumbo is cloaked in language that suggest that the UK has Scotland’s best interests at heart, and that they wish to facilitate the referendum. No one who watched and listened to all of yesterday’s one-and-a-quarter hour debate in the Commons could seriously entertain such a proposition.

This is a stark, high-stakes political game, with the law being used as a tool in that game to maintain the dominant power structure.

The UK Government -

- did not want a Nationalist Government – the devolved settlement and the electoral system were specifically designed to prevent nationalists from ever gaining power

- did not want a referendum at all, and frustrated attempts by the minority Scottish Government to call one in the last term of SNP Government

- now, faced with the inevitability of a referendum being called, the UK Government wants it to be held at a time and in a manner that will ensure that independence is rejected, and are willing to use the law and specifically the new UK Supreme Court to block or delay the referendum if their conditions are not met.

The Scottish Government, in contrast, wants to hold the referendum on their timescale, identified broadly in the election campaign as the second half of the Parliamentary term, and now specifically confirmed as Autumn 2014, with the Scottish Government determining the timing, eligibility to vote, the questions and the question formulation. They also want to win.

This is not a legal dispute – it is naked power politics, with a willingness to use the law to further the political objectives of each party to the dispute.

But the SNP Government can claim the moral high ground, because their wish is to determine the will of the Scottish electorate democratically, and to accept their verdict.

The last thing the UK Government want is to allow the Scottish people their voice, because the Scottish people have decisively rejected the two parties that now constitute the UK Government.

The last thing the Labour Party wants is for the voice of the Scottish people to be heard, because the Scottish people decisively rejected them on May 5th 2011, as the people of the UK decisively rejected them in May 2010.

The UK Labour Party will have a dismal future when Scotland becomes independent. All Scottish Labour politicians (MPS) in Westminster (and all Scottish Tory and LibDems MPs) would become redundant overnight, Scottish Lords would be in a very strange place indeed, and only Scottish Labour politicians in Holyrood, i.e. MSPs, would have a political future, and perhaps a bright one, in the new Scotland.

Some are beginning to recognise this.

COMMERCIAL AND CIVIL ANALOGIES

Consider what happens if a breakdown occurs in a a civil contract of long duration. Firstly, let it be clearly stated that it does not take both parties to end the relationship – it only requires that one is determined to end that relationship. The only question then is the manner in which the relationship is ended. It can be done amicably and legally by agreement and by observing the previously agreed terms of the relationship, or one party can simply walk away unilaterally, leaving the other party to determine how they will react.

The other party cannot stop the relationship ending – they can only attempt to penalise the party walking away, by either invoking legal penalties provided for in the original contract, or attempting to secure damages by law.

Ideally, parties negotiate the terms of the breakup without invoking the law, or perhaps use the law to assist in the negotiations and the drafting of the agreed settlement.

The decision on whether or not to use the law in such dispute is made by the parties to the dispute, unlike under the criminal law, where if a breach occurs, the prosecuting authorities may decide to invoke the law whether or not the parties agree.

(If I murder another person, the decision to invoke the law and to prosecute does not lie with the dependants of the deceased. If I rob a bank, the bank can’t decide to let me off – a crime has been committed and the law will act regardless of the will of the parties.)

The way in which disputes over the independence of nations are resolved follow loosely the same principles – independence can be achieved by negotiation, with reference to the law, it can be achieved by force, ignoring the law – i.e by revolution - or it can be achieved by UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. If this is not challenged, it is called a velvet revolution, e.g Slovenia.

There is are abundant historical examples of countries achieving their independence, some very recent, many from the British Empire, and there are current examples that are works in progress, e.g. the Arab Spring.

Of one thing you can be sure – the law will not be the key determinant in Scotland’s future – it will be the will of the people, and, I hope, the good sense of the politicians, with minimal reference to the law.

Read my previous blogs (see links above) for more information. If the law itself interests you, read the estimable Lallands Peat Worrier.

Saor Alba!

Monday, 21 November 2011

The GUU debate and this and that

I may have given an unintended impression in my piece on the GUU debate on independence yesterday, namely that that members of the two teams reflected their real political views in debate.  I do understand clearly that principle of such debates, namely, that the position taken in relations to the motion does not necessarily reflect personal views.

My experience of formalised debating – as opposed to making my living from real life debating – is confined to one series of debates many years ago, jointly organised by the BBC and the local chamber of Commerce in Newcastle, and sponsored by the Newcastle Breweries(S&N). The debating teams included a BBC team, other media teams, lawyers, the University and the local debating teams, including the Wranglers, Newcastle’s oldest and most respected debating club, and other companies. We were offered an opportunity to form a team, but nobody expected much of a team of brewery managers. I was the team captain.

We won, defeating all comers.

The rules of that debate were that the team selecting the motion did not get the choice of either being the proposer of the motion or the opposer – that choice was given to the other team. It was therefore pointless choosing a motion that suited your personal views and strength since you might have to oppose it. This rule, I believe, is common in debates, but not universal. I have no idea how GUU set their rule or chose their motion and proposers and opposers.

My comments were about the nature of the arguments advanced, and the general atmosphere of the debate. However, I could not but observe that, however the choice was made, the team members of the anti-independence team contained three who were not eligible to vote in a Scottish referendum because of non-residency in Scotland, and that each team did seem to include individuals who tended to be identified with a viewpoint, e.g. Duncan Hamilton.

But I look forward to being proved wrong, and finding, say, Duncan Hamilton, Manus Blessing and Murray Pittock emerging as staunch supporters of the UK in the real life independence debate that is now raging in Scotland, and all the members of the GUU team who so vigorously opposed the motion on Saturday revealing themselves as passionate supporters of Scotland’s independence from the UK. They will then have shown themselves to be true devil’s advocates in debating terms.

Or maybe each team member actually passionately believed in what they were saying

LABOUR AND TORIES – GUARDIANS OF THE PEOPLE’S TAXES

In their page 13 piece – Devine forced to sell flat to pay off debt – the Sunday Herald reminded us yesterday that in the wake of the expenses scandal. four Labour MPs, including Devine were jailed and two Tory Lords. As for the rest of the Labour and Tory house flippers, pornographic video renters, excessive claimants etc. the phrase by the skin of their teeth comes to mind.

THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW

The spat between the UK Supreme Court and the Scottish Legal Establishment continues, with accusations being flung around, as senior legal figures, wigs askew and gowns a-flying, demonstrate that the law is not always above politics, especially where matters pertaining to the Union are concerned.

Cui bono? not to mention Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

They talk of little else in the working class communities of Dalmarnock, as ordinary people and small businesses contemplate the wreckage of their lives perpetrated by Glasgow City Council  in the name of the Commonwealth Games and urban regeneration, with the full majesty of the law firmly behind the perpetrators and the obscenely rich property developers and their speculative gains.

And while this was going on, the complacent professionals of Glasgow – journalists, lawyers, academics - turned their heads the other way, with a tiny number of shining exceptions. I wonder how many attended the GUU debate?

ABOVE POLITICS?

As terrified European countries abandon democracy for unelected technocracy, we hear similar voices here in Scotland, in the letters pages and in statements from the Scottish trades unions.

The shipbuilding unions have played along enthusiastically with the new Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition tactics of scaremongering over defence jobs – the defence-as-job-creation theme – with special reference to shipbuilding. LibDem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore (new friend of Margaret Curran and Willie Bain, Labour) with his ever loyal little sidekick, David Mundel have been warning – i.e. threatening – Scotland that it would not be in the front line of defence spending if Scotland left the UK.

Kenny Jordan, regional secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions wants to meet Philip Hammond, successor to Liam Fox (remember him?) as soon as possible.

We don’t have the time to play party politics with the situation,” says Kenny Jordan, “Our concern is for the future of our members’ jobs.”

When people say that they are not playing politics, they almost always are, and the politics are right-wing politics. So says Polly Toynbee of the Guardian, who is as close to left-wing royalty as one can get. And so say I, who am about as far from left-wing royalty as one can get …


Thursday, 10 November 2011

The sordid attack by Scottish MPs on Scotland's freedom - with help from English MPs

Here they are – the sordid little gang of high-road-to-England Tory, Labour and LibDem MPs (the SNP MPs participate in Westminster of reluctantly and of necessity while it lasts) who know their careers will vanish like snaw aff a dyke when the Union ends.

We have Margaret Curran, Labour MP for Glasgow East since 2010, formerly an MSP, now Shadow Scottish Secretary, and Willie Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, now Shadow Scottish Minister. Both of them come from constituencies that are among the most deprived in Scotland, a decline and deprivation that Labour has presided over for well over half a century. Willie Bain is the successor in this Labour poverty-stricken fiefdom of Michael Martin, formerly the Speaker of the House of Commons who was forced to resign in disgrace after the expenses scandal, and who is now a  Lord, safely distanced from from the poverty and deprivation of Springburn, from whence he and Oor Wullie both sprang.

Margaret and Willie sit cheek by jowl on the green benches, smiling supportively at each other – a kind of fairy tale hybrid couple. Across the gangway from them sit Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary and David Mundel, Scottish minister.

Both of these MPs are entirely unrepresentative of Scottish politics today, although they both represent the bad judgement of those who elected them. Both are members of political parties who face near extinction in Scotland. In Michael Moore’s case, were there a general election tomorrow, he and his party would almost certainly vanish. David Mundel’s party is already in self-destruct mode, something an endangered species can do without, but in a general election, the electorate of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale might well continue to display the execrable taste in politicians that has characterised them for a long time, so he might survive. (Maybe they’re too close to the Border …)

These two joined-at-the-hip double acts collectively form a discordant quartet at Scottish questions, given that their parties detest each other, but are united in their common desperate quest for survival in the face of their county’s independence. In this, they get support from sundry backbench – and backwoods – Tories, in this outing Norman Bone, who fancies himself as a wag, a hard-faced Essex Tory girl and a Scot who is MP for the English constituency of Fylde, so he’s alright, Jock when independence comes.

But let them speak for themselves, and try not to feel nausea and utter contempt as you listen – it won’t be long …


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ius naturale, independence and negotiation


I made my living for many years as a negotiator, in employee relations, then as a consultant and trainer in negotiation and negotiating skills. Negotiation is a very ancient art, and when it takes place between nations, it is called diplomacy. The Romans, who you will remember once had an empire and then lost it, almost never negotiated – they relied on brute force or law to resolve disputes. In law, they made a major contribution to civilisation, and they saw the law as falling into three type ius civile, applicable to Roman citizens, ius gentium, between citizens and foreigners and ius naturale, what we tend to call international human rights – the natural law.

The latter applied to all races and in all circumstances, and in particular it emphasised that, when interpreting treaties under the law, regard must be taken of equity and reason, not just the letter of the treaty – what is sometime called the spirit of the law.

What brought all this to mind? Well, when I was a young negotiator in American industry, the negotiating literature was not as plentiful as it later became, and I was reliant on American guidelines from very senior negotiators who had cut their teeth in the hard school of American industry and specifically the automobile industry. (One of my senior American bosses was a veteran of the Battle of the Overpass in 1937, when the  Ford Motor Company security goons clashed with union organisers, where extreme violence was used in an industrial dispute. Battle of the Overpass One of the two union organisers – the other was Walter Reuther -  was called Frankensteen!)

My last boss in the old Goodyear Plant in Glasgow, the delightful Clarence Adkins Junior had been a former union official, and often spoke of carrying a turkey gun – a kind of blunderbuss – inside his long coat when picketing the factories during  what he called ‘difficult’ strikes. The Americans were wedded firmly to the piecework system of payment by results, which worked well enough in the context of American business unionism, but eventually proved lethal to the Scottish plant at Garscadden. Piecework gave rise to something called fractional bargaining – haggling over everything – and, while it could be managed, tended to be very destructive. In America, it had co-existed in a kind of dynamic tension with complex contract negotiations, but these were viewed in a very different way in the arcane world of UK industrial relations in the 1960s and 1970s.

But I went beyond this limited adversarial model in my reading, and discovered, in a second hand bookshop, a little book called Diplomacy by Harold Nicolson. Harold Nicolson – Wikipedia As well as being a British diplomat, wee Harold led, shall we say, a colourful life, some of which has been dramatised on television, but whatever his adventures were outside of diplomacy, my interest was in his little book – which I still have – and what it had to say about negotiation. My little reprise above on the Romans and negotiation was prompted by Harold, who is as relevant today as he was when the book was first published in the late 1930s. (It was revised in the 1950s, and of course, the sixty years since have been a little hectic.)

(I later had a long involvement, both in industry and later in consultancy with Professor Gavin Kennedy, who wrote a number of definitive popular works on negotiation. Gavin, who had a thorough distaste for politicians, although he was a Scot Nat, in a discussion with the late Douglas Henderson of the SNP and me on  a course, laughed at the idea of politicians negotiating, and he was right, in the main – it should be left to the professional diplomats like Sir Christopher Myer.)

What has all this got to do with a pound of mince?



THE REFERENDUM

The SNP win in May 2011 caused a collective outbreak of hysteria and disbelief in the metropolitan media and among unionist politicians. In the case of the Labour Party, this approached what used to be called a nervous breakdown, especially among Scottish labour politicians. It also spawned a torrent of superficial analysis and comment, most of it unbelievably ill-informed, and an outbreak of factoids (I use the word as defined by the man who coined it, Norman MailerSomething that everybody knows is true except it ain’t! ) - that went way beyond the reach of mere suppositories, and now requires urgent surgery.

The backwoodsmen and women of the Tory Party huffed and puffed patronisingly – one eejit in Ian Davidson’s little cabal known euphemistically as The Scottish Affairs Committee suggested recently that Scotland withdrawing from the Union was equivalent to a member resigning from a club – shouldn’t the other members have a say, old boy? – and the Colonial Governor, Michael Moore demonstrates at regular interval’s – last outing today on the Politics Show – that he understands neither Scotland nor the Act of Union, never mind plain English, especially when it is spoken by Alex Salmond, wearily but affably  saying for the umpteenth time when the referendum will be, and what is meant by independence and full fiscal autonomy. I understand, our American cousins understand, an intelligent eight-year old would understand, my two Westies, Angus and Dougal, understand, but Michael Moore doesn’t. A bad case of earwax, maybe?

The Act of Union was a treaty between two independent kingdoms. It doesn’t take two to end a treaty or an agreement, it only takes one, either by negotiating the terms of exit or unilaterally. The ius civile and the ius gentium are undoubtedly relevant, but so is the ius naturale, especially after 300 plus years. If the UK Government wilfully misunderstands this, and continues to act like the Romans in decline, then the Scots will become less civil and move towards acting naturale take note, gentlemen

Independence is a beautifully simple concept, and needs no complex definition – it means a nation doing its own thing, in every aspect of its affairs. Full fiscal autonomy doesn’t need Ming Campbell’s version of the Steel Committee to tell us what it is – it’s independence in everything except the ultimate sovereignty of Westminster, foreign policy and defence, the nuclear deterrent and membership of the EU and the UN.

The timing of the referendum is in the second half of this Scottish Parliamentary term, and the date is when we’re ready, not when you’re ready, Michael Moore. But keep pushing and Alex might just give you a nasty surprise. You’re bluffing, Michael, and bluffs sometimes get called when the time is right.

If you really expect us to blow our negotiating hand in advance of the referendum outcome on the detail of the negotiation that will inevitable follow, dream on, Michael. But by all means set out what you see as the detailed agenda for that negotiation, and we’ll let you know what we think of the items that might be up for discussion.

And lastly, if you want to go down in history as a statesman, rather than a pompous young windbag, you might consider addressing the issues in an adult, statesmanlike fashion. Try and act in the spirit of the ius naturale. The Roman Empire first began to negotiate seriously when it was near to collapse – maybe the UK can make a better job of it in similar circumstances …

We know what side you’re on – the UK’s side – and you know what side we’re on – Scotland’s. Talk calmly about the issues that lie ahead and stop your ridiculous posturing and grandstanding – it cuts nae ice wi’ Scots. Frankly, it gie’s us the boke


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Two men who claim to speak for Scotland–but only one does …




LibDems - the failed, bitter, vengeful UK party that attacks the SNP

This is the failed, discredited party that attacks the most successful party in Britain - the Scottish National Party.

It has five - yes, 5 - MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. It would be obliterated if a UK general election was called now. It has lied to the electorate. It has failed to deliver in Coalition. It is now Tory in all but name.

Its former Scottish leader, Tavish Scott, is now bitter, vengeful towards the SNP, and blames his own UK party for wrecking his political career. Well, they helped, Tavish, but you did a pretty good job of wrecking it yourself ....

And the Colonial Governor of Scotland, Michael Moore, a LibDem, attacks the SNP. the decisively elected government of Scotland, and in doing so, attacks the Scottish people.

Adjectives for LibDems - ineffectual, naive, expedient - and vicious in failure ...



Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cash for access – the LibDems are at it again …

Yesterday, a trio of LibDems attacked the SNP, they were at it again in their conference yesterday at Birmingham and Michael Moore will be at it again today. This is the party most distrusted by the electorate, reduced to a pathetic rump in Holyrood by the Scottish electorate last May, and who would be obliterated by the UK electorate if the Coalition fell tomorrow.

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …



This is the party that accepted “in good faith” a £2.4m donation from a convicted fraudster, Michael Brown, which they refused to repay to the people who had been defrauded when the facts became known because “the money was already spent”. BBC report

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …

Here they are again yesterday, at their conference, allowing access for cash - £800 a head for lunch – with influential LibDem ministers to tobacco companies and God know who else. Here they are trying to prevent Channel Four News reporter Michael Crick from gaining access for truth.

Meanwhile, Tavish Scott bleats bitterly about how his party, not to mention his career, was blighted by the LibDem pact with the Tories. Tavish, throughout his feeble leadership of the Scottish LibDems conspicuously failed to distance himself from the UK party because of his pro-Union and virulently anti-SNP views.

And now we have a LibDem, Danny Alexander as a member of the notorious Coalition sofa government cabal, the Quad, and Michael Moore, a LibDem, as Scottish Colonial Governor – and in Scotland, Willie Rennie, who is not only squeaky clean, but squeaky …

What have you got to say about all this, Willie?

Long Live the Union? Long Live the Dirty Money?

Monday, 19 September 2011

The M.A.D. Men of the Unionist parties

THE FUNDAMENTALS

The Scotsman is in full unionist mode today – it might as well have put the Union Jack on its masthead, given the space it devotes to the anti-independence voices now clamouring to be heard. Before I come to that – and other matters – let me re-state what I consider to be the fundamentals of the current state of the union -

The choice has to all intents and purposes come down to devolution max or full independence. All the talk of economic factors, of the currency, of borrowing powers, of taxation and of the detail of independence is smoke and mirrors – the last redoubt is defence and foreign policy.

Why?

Because no country can truly be a nation unless it controls its own foreign policy and defence.

No country can be a nation if it lets another nation decide in what cause - and when - to place its servicemen and women in harm’s way, and to sacrifice their lives if necessary.

No country can be a nation if it permits another to determine its fate in the most fundamental areas of nationhood.

Scotland cannot be a nation again unless it is fully independent.

The above principles are entirely distinct from defence alliances and treaties, which can be entered into voluntarily and exited from at will. (An independent Scotland would undoubtedly enter into such alliances, and would also have a range of flexible and common sense areas of cooperation with other nations short of formal alliance.)

Do all of my fellow Scots men and women agree with me on the above principles?

I don’t know the answer to that – I don’t even know if my fellow nationalists agree with them. I don’t know if every member of the Scottish Nationalist Government agrees with them. I must assume that Scots committed to the Union don’t agree with them, or if they do, they only do so for the entity that claims to be a nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Only a referendum will determine the answer, and that is why the Scottish electorate must be very clear on the fundamentals – not the detail – of what independence means before they answer a question - or questions - at the referendum ballot.

 

WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS

A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.

 

THE MUNDANE AND THE QUOTIDIAN

Back to worldly matters and today …

Scotsman headlines –

I’ll get the whole Cabinet to make the case for Scotland staying in the UK – Moore.

We can’t allow Salmond & Co to shut down opposition (Tavish Scott)

Blair’s secret Libya talks reopen Lockerbie row

So we have Michael Moore – the Colonial Governor, a member of a party reduced to a pathetic rump in Scotland and wholly discredited in the UK, and a failed and bitter former leader of that party in Scotland, Tavish Scott, spewing their bile and frustration against the choice of the Scottish people and the decisive democratic mandate they gave to a party committed to Scotland’s independence. This from the federalist party, while the two solidly unionist parties desperately proclaim their independence from Westminster, wrapping themselves hastily in an ersatz kilt. And the Blair/Libya story appears, fairly presented by David Maddox, while the unionist spinners are doubtless trying to revive the tired lie that somehow the Megrahi release was a result of connivance between Blair, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, a fiction so bizarre that it beats Fonzie jumping the shark.

A few days ago the Institute for Public Policy Research tried - in a letter to the Scotsman by Tony Dolphin - to correct the distortions that the Scotsman had placed on their report on the public sector in Scotland. The IPPR denied that report had described the Scottish public sector as bloated, that it relied on out-of-date figures and was an attack on the SNP’s proposals for lower corporation tax. Needless to say, in the best traditions of Hearst-style yellow journalism, The Scotsman (was ever a paper so misnamed?) did not give the prominence to these denials that it did to its original anti-SNP coverage.

But in the Scottish Perspective section, Lesley Riddoch has interesting and objective things to say - Politicians failing to focus on now especially in this mordant paragraph -

Bizarrely, the people talking most about independence right now are the politicians who viscerally oppose it - helpfully pre-airing independence scenarios, pumping the oxygen of publicity into the whole project and making sure that a once inconceivable future can now be visualised by many voters with some clarity. And the SNP haven't even started campaigning yet.”

Gaun yersel, Lesley … that’s journalism! That’s comment!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Tom Harris, Calman – and toppling elected dictatorships …

My piece on Calman yesterday had an interesting sequel. Tom Harris MP - Westminster’s answer to the danger’s of a Scottish Labour UDI - having formerly opposed the Calman Commission, is now in favour of re-establishing it on a permanent basis  -  I quote Kate Devlin in the Herald – “to constantly review the devolution settlement, even if it recommends handing back some powers to Westminster”. Tom Harris says he wants to ensure that Scotland is not forced to undergo major constitutional upheaval every decade or so.

Modesty doesn’t inhibit me from saying that Tom Harris was clearly impressed by my definition yesterday of the Calman Commission as a Commission set up by a unionist opposition to defend the Union and to limit and inhibit the elected Scottish Government, and has belatedly realised the value of establishing such an instrument of colonial control on a permanent basis.

I feel he should go the whole hog and nominate himself as the chairman of the new commission, a post he would hold together with his leadership of the new Scottish Labour Party. There may be some niggling constitutional quibbles over such a dual mandate, but this solution is better than simply announcing Michael Moore as head of the new commission. To celebrate the New Scottish Labour & Unionist Party’s birth, Tom Harris should be presented with a bound copy of John McTernan’s Collected Essays, What Labour Must Do. The new party and the new Commission will of, course, need a spin doctor – one will do for both – and although a token recruitment procedure will be undertaken, there can be no doubt of identity of the successful candidate. (I offer my condolences to Lorraine Davidson, The Times and the Sunday Post.)

If I may offer a word to Tom Harris …

Scotland won’t be undergoing “major constitutional upheaval every decade or so”, it will be independent. It will achieve its independence democratically in a single referendum in which only Scottish voters will participate. I’m sure you understand that, Tom – we wouldn’t want David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy to have to intervene to ensure that Scots achieve their democratic freedom from a corrupt and unrepresentative dictatorship of wealth, power and privilege masquerading as a democracy, one that was trying to manipulate their democratic rights, would we? Or would their notorious expediency and partiality  in which dictatorships they chose to topple come into force?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Taxing our brains – Calman and Moore

Let’s remind ourselves what The Calman Commission actually was, because it’s all too easy to forget. It was cobbled together by the three unionist opposition parties in an attempt to sidetrack the SNP Government’s attempts to get more powers for Scotland. It was a pre-emptive strike to control the direction and pace of change to a unionist agenda, and remove control of Scotland’s destiny from its elected government. The driving force behind it was Wendy Alexander – remember her? Here’s what I wrote in June 2009 -

 

MORIDURA BLOG 14th JUNE 2009

The Sunday Times, that bastion of Unionist values, carried an article by Gillian Bowditch entitled Sleepless over Scotland, with the sub-heading Sir Kenneth Calman is stressed about devolution.

Sir Kenneth has been taking flak in his capacity of Chancellor of Glasgow University over his chairmanship of the Calman commission, perceived as a 'dirty commission' by many - including me - and he doesn't like it.

The worthy knight of the realm (the UK realm) does not consider himself political.

No, the Commission is not at all political, Sir Kenneth, and the fact that it includes one knight and three peers of the realm - the United Kingdom realm - should not be taken as evidence of lack of objectivity about Scotland's place within that realm, nor about its claims for independence of that realm, nor about its wish to let the People of Scotland makes their wishes known, nor as having a vested interest in the continuation of the realm that ennobled them.
Heaven forfend that anyone should entertain such thoughts.

Political? Of course not - no knight, peer, baroness or Dame would stoop to such activity.

I was at it again on 24th June of that year – here’s what I wrote -

 

MORIDURA BLOG 24th JUNE 2009

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Calman Commission, an invention of the Unionist Opposition Parties in Holyrood, specifically set up to strengthen the Union and frustrate the progress of the Scottish People towards full independence, has made its report.
Anyone who doubted the thrust of the Calman Report only had to look at who commissioned it (the Unionist Opposition Parties) and the composition of the Commission itself.
Its fifteen members included -
Two Knights
Five Lords
One MBE
Three CBEs
One OBE
The three non-ennobled, non-knighted or non-gonged members included - 
A youth activist and former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament
A professor of Islamic studies from Glasgow University
The Chief Executive of the Telegraph Media Group
For those who don't know what the BE part of CBE, OBE, MBE etc. means, it stands for British Empire. This committee was firmly in the grip of the British Government and the UK Establishment, through the power of patronage. But it reported honestly, within its overarching constraint, to protect and preserve the Union - and within its Unionist mindset - and most of its recommendations are relevant and useful.
Most of Calman's recommendations have been accepted by the Scottish Government, and can be implemented immediately, but its tax proposals are causing concern to independent commentators across party lines, and the SNP government has problems with them.
This has rather taken the wind out of the sails of the Unionist Opposition, and they have cobbled together a so-called Steering Group to try to wrest control of the implementation process from the elected Government of Scotland.
They argue that the Calman proposals are a package. They are not - as stated unequivocally by Calman in the report - and no 'steering group' is required to implement those measures on which all parties are agreed.
The Unionist versus Independence debate is at its starkest on this issue. Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, and the Unionists can't abide the spectacle of the elected government of Scotland actually governing - they see control inexorably slipping away from Westminster towards Holyrood.
Devolution is a process - a process towards full independence and a nuclear-free future for Scotland.

 

Fast forward to the present -

SEPTEMBER 2011 – CALMAN, MOORE and the TAX DEBACLE

Yesterday (14th Sept. 2011) The Scotsman’s front page carried the banner headline Triple blow for key SNP policies, which turned out to be Professor Tom Devine complaining about the anti-sectarian legislation, the Institute for Public Policy Research questioning the value of giving the SNP Government control over corporation tax and Professor Calman - who else – weighing in on corporation tax and extra powers backed by – God help us – Iain McMillan of the CBI.

(Professor Devine, an eminent Scottish historian, gives further proof that historians should stick to the past, and rarely have much of value to say about the present (other examples – Niall Ferguson, David Starkey, et al), The Institute for Public Policy Research’s Director is Nick Pearce, former head of the Downing Street Policy Unit at Number 10 for two years of the Labour Government that wrecked the UK economy and widened the poverty gap, and other directors of IPPR have held similar UK government policy roles. The less said about Iain McMillan and the CBI the better – it has all been said over the last week or so.)

Back to Sir Kenneth Calman. The Scotsman, after all the front page hooha, carried a tiny piece on page 6 that was, shall we say, economical with the actualité. It refers to the “bad-tempered exchange with nationalist MSPs at a Holyrood committee”, but gives little detail other than Prof. Calman’s criticism. Fortunately, we are no longer reliant on the likes of The Scotsman to tell us the facts about our nation – Scotland – and NewsnetScotland, that indispensable source of the truth about Scottish political life, carries a piece by G.A.Ponsonby, Blow for Scotland Bill as Calman admits tax figure based on ‘guesswork’ that tells us what really happened.

It reveals that the key tax proposal, the cut in the block grant of 10p to offset the Scottish Government’s tax-raising powers, in  an admission by Prof. Calman, was a figure that had “no evidential basis”.

This prompted the following comment from Stewart Maxwell, the MSP who questioned Sir Kenneth -

“The more we discover about this tax plan the more it looks like it was drawn up on the back of an envelope.

“The Calman Commission and the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory Governments who have endorsed this tax bombshell simply picked a figure out of thin air.

“There is not a shred of evidence behind this 10p plan they are so desperately clinging too, if they have evidence for the 10p rate then they must produce it.

“The tax plans from the UK Government look increasingly like they are intended to push income tax in Scotland up and to cost the Scottish taxpayer a fortune to run.”

And what of the Scottish Colonial Governor, Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary?

What was he saying on the 27th of January 2011 in Westminster on Calman and The Scotland Bill? Here are some excerpts from his speech -

MICHAEL MOORE

After the first decade of devolution, it was right to review the Scotland Act, to assess how devolution was working, and to ensure that the Scottish Parliament had the right powers to deliver for people in Scotland. In December 2007, the Commission on Scottish Devolution was established by a vote in the Scottish Parliament. Chaired by Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, the commission included Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat representatives, but it was independent of any political party and embraced representatives from business, education, the wider public sector and across civic Scotland. It gathered evidence from a wide range of sources and engaged directly with people in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, through detailed consultation, public engagement events, oral evidence from a spectrum of interests in Scottish public and business life and survey evidence. Let me record my thanks to Professor Sir Kenneth Calman and his commissioners for their thorough, inclusive and well-evidenced work. I would also like to acknowledge the impressive and detailed work of Professor Anton Muscatelli and the independent expert group on finance, which supported the commission.

Thorough? Inclusive? Well-evidenced?  More from Moore -

 

MICHAEL MOORE

The Scottish Parliament can determine policy on a wide range of subjects and how and where money is spent, but at present it cannot be held effectively to account for raising the money it spends. The commission recognised this imbalance. The Bill addresses that imbalance by providing a package of taxation and borrowing powers that will see the Scottish Parliament become accountable for more than a third of the money it spends. In doing so, the Bill represents the largest transfer of fiscal powers from central Government since the creation of the United Kingdom. It is a radical but responsible step. Most significantly, we will create a Scottish income tax. We will create that tax by cutting 10p off the basic, higher and 50p rates for Scottish taxpayers, adjusting the block grant in proportion and allowing the Scottish Parliament-indeed, obliging it-to apply a Scottish income tax at a level of its choosing to meet its spending plans.

 

If the central figure, the core of the tax proposals was plucked from the air by Kenneth Calman, and could just as easily have been 15p - or the circumference of Michael Moore head - how can this most fundamental of the provisions of the Scotland Bill be well-founded?  And how can a Scottish Secretary stand up in Parliament and say that it is?

I won’t rehearse again the trenchant criticisms of the tax proposals in the Scotland Bill – they have been comprehensively set out by others. Suffice it to say that the Calman Commission was set up by a unionist opposition to defend the Union and to limit and inhibit the elected Scottish Government. In spite of that, and in spite of its solidly unionist composition, good things came out of it, because responsible unionists are not strangers to the truth or oblivious to facts. But on this most central of provisions for the growing autonomy of our nation – Scotland – they are deeply flawed, because they serve the agenda of another, dying nation state – the United Kingdom.



Saturday, 3 September 2011

The CBI and the Ipsos MORI poll - panic in the Union, silence in the Press

THE CBI

I thought of doing a piece on the C.B.I. today, but thanks to a Twitter link from Ewan Crawford, I find that Calum Cashley has already done all the heavy-lifting in his piece on 5th January 2011, an-in depth analysis that effectively demolishes the C.B.I. claim to be representative of anything significant in Scottish industry, except perhaps the personal political orientation of some if its senior officers, past and present. Calum Cashley also trenchantly makes the point that if the C.B.I. made the same sustained, quietly productive contribution to the economic debate as the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, instead of acting as a cheerleader for the Union, it might actually claim to have a real role in Scottish life. I had thought than when Linda Urquhart replaced Iain McMillan things might change for the better. On this week’s showing, they haven’t

 

Ipsos MORI POLL – Scottish Public Opinion Monitor

Yesterday’s Ipsos MORI poll – the Scottish Public Opinion Monitor – was greeted with rapturous delight by nationalists, and to date, if not quite a deafening silence, a muted response by the Herald and the Scotsman, who give it minimal coverage. The superb graphical presentation of the damning statistics for the Union of the sampled will of the Scottish people, which would have been reproduced lovingly in double-paged spreads by both newspapers had they told a different story, have been ignored, and the figures made as dull as possible.

The Scottish public will have to access the original - Scottish Public Opinion Monitor – online, or buy a printed copy to feel the full impact of the statistics.

This is doubtless in sharp contrast to the panic-stricken quacking that will be taking place in various inner sanctums of the Union, as the deeply confused and deeply threatened Coalition demands explanations of its tame Scotsmen – Alexander, Moore, et al - as to why the natives of the northern province are refusing to recognise their Britishness, and that we are stronger together and weaker apart, etc.  The Colonial governor, the hapless Moore, will take most of the flak.

In the Labour Party, with even more to lose when Scotland says bye-bye to the UK , another Alexander, Douglas of that ilk, and other Scottish Labour MPs who lose no opportunity to pledge their undying allegiance to the regime that offered them the high road to England – Jim Sheridan, Ann McKechin, Tom Harris, Cathy Jamieson, etc. – are being asked what the hell is going on.

Jim Murphy will be exasperated that what he thought was his final escape from Scotland to safer pastures in the deep South - and a cosy niche as Shadow Defence Secretary - keeps being threatened by demands that he involve himself in the messy and confused processes of trying to revive the corpse of Scottish Labour.

And that strange, motley band, the Scottish Lords, will squirm on the leather benches and wonder what will become of them if the people of Scotland have their way.

Lord, Lord! We didnae ken … they cry. Aye, weel, ye ken noo! replies the Lord

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Michael Moore pose 6 questions–but I have only one for him …


Examining Michael Moore’s voting record, (Voting record) I see a principled man – or at least one who voted as I might have done on most – but not all – key issues. Then I remind myself that most of this voting was done in opposition, when the LibDems had – or claimed to have – liberal, democratic principles. All of that, as we now to know, vanished when they entered the Coalition, and the thin veneer of principle was rapidly stripped off, revealing the rotten Tory woodwork underneath.

And of course, there’s nothing like a ministerial car, salary and perks, not to mention the hollow trapping of being a colonial governor, to erode principle and give free rein to a natural inclination towards pomposity. But, as a leading member of a party that has welshed on its manifesto commitments, betrayed those who voted for it in May 2010, and which has reduced the party in Scotland to a pathetic little group in Holyrood, Michael Moore entertains no self-doubt about his right to lecture the Scottish Government, elected by a decisive mandate by the people of Scotland, who also gave the LibDems and Tavish Scott two fingers in May 2011.

If he had taken the trouble to read Your Scotland, Your Voice Nov. 2009 he would have found most of the answers in a document almost two years old, produced as part of a conversation with the people of Scotland. And of course, that thinking has been developed and refined and is the subject of on-going research and development within the party in the lead-up to the referendum on independence.

But Michael Moore’s imperial mind has been focused by the prospect of losing his plumed hat and his white horse when the Scottish Office becomes redundant and is consigned to a sordid footnote in history (except for Niall Ferguson, who may wish to publish several tedious volumes on its glorious past) and by the fact that if a general election was conducted in the next year, his party would face UK-wide obliteration, and even the border voters of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk might wish to think again about their MP.

What does the Scotsman have to say about all of this? Michael Kelly, in an article on sectarianism and the deeply non-productive and unfortunate comments by Paul McBride, QC has, for once many considered and important things to say, and I am in broad agreement with him – a first for me! But Oor Michael cannot risk being thought to be in favour of independence when he rightly criticises McBride’s doomsday scenario, so he has a little disclaimer in his second paragraph. I quote -

I am as keen as the next home rule unionist to prevent the creation of a state, socially, economically and politically inferior to the one we have in which we currently enjoy living.”

The state “in which we currently enjoy living” – the UK – is the one that is nearly bankrupt, bleeding itself to death with foreign wars and interventions, corrupt in its Parliament, in its institutions, in its banking, and in its unelected power and privilege.

This is the state that for over 300 years has exploited Scotland, its people and its resources, a state that is still being disproportionately funded by Scotland, not only in economic terms but in the blood of its servicemen and women, who have consistently sustained a casualty rate, proportionate to population, higher than the rest of the UK. Their reward has been to be called heroes – which they are – and to have their ancient regiments eliminated, merged, in a sustained attempt to remove their Scottish identity, to be inadequately equipped by an incompetent M.O.D. Ask Rose Gentle, a Scottish mother whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004.



Scotland’s reward for the rape of its people, talent and resources has been poverty, poor housing, destruction of its industrial infrastructure, and a lower life expectancy for men and women than the rest of the UK. This lethal colonial ravaging of Scotland has only begun to be ameliorated by the Scottish National Party, who in just over four years of government - most of it in minority government, blocked at every opportunity by a cynical and expedient unionist opposition – have given news spirit and new hope to the Scottish people, who have rewarded them with a giant vote of confidence.

Michael Kelly’s party, in contrast, presided over the decline of Scotland for half a century, until their dead and cynical hegemony was successfully challenged by the SNP in 2007. Before the Scottish Labour Party we had an equally dead hand, that of the party of empire, blood, death and privilege, the Tory Party, now an irrelevancy in Scotland.

And what of the Scotsman lead article? It has the front to talk of honest answers. Under its present editorial team and proprietorship, it rarely asks honest questions – they are loaded unionist propaganda - and even more rarely provides honest answers. In its instincts it is Tory, but recognises the death of that party in Scotland. It is now in a dilemma – it is anti-Labour, but pro-Union, but the only hope for the Union is Labour. It was forced, in a fit of realism during the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary campaign, to recognise that the SNP had the only managerially competent politicians in Scotland, so it backed them, but was emphatically not backing an independent Scotland.

It was utterly taken aback by the election results, and now is in an even greater dilemma, trying to balance the twin threats of declining circulation caused by its progressive irrelevance as a voice for Scotland, and its irrational and emotional attachment to the Union. It gives occasional – and very welcome - space to real Scottish voices such as Joan McAlpine, but the balance is never in doubt, with columnists such as Alan Massie, Michael Kelly, et al, and of course the consistently unionist voice of its editor, Bill Jamieson. The Scotsman has never really recovered from Andrew Neil, Thatcherite and Unionist par excellence.

So let me close with a message to Michael Moore. If you care for Scotland, resign from your post as Scottish Secretary, ask Willie Rennie to stand down as leader of his tiny group, and lead your party in Holyrood. God knows, the Scottish LibDems need a leader, after Tavish Scott - and now Willie Rennie. They will welcome you with open arms. The spirit of Joe Grimond will be with you, instead of the ghost of Jeremy Thorpe. You can keep the plumed helmet …

Meanwhile, stop asking stupid questions – you can render that service at least to your adopted country.