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Showing posts with label Scottish Parliament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Parliament. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Survation polling - GE2015

I thought this might prove useful to those tracking the 2015 General election -

Survation Ltd

With 100 days to go until the general election, Survation on behalf of the Daily Mirror interviewed 1,014 Great British adults online about a range of political issues. (Fieldwork was conducted on Sunday 25 January.)

Headline voting intention (with change in brackets since 24 December 2014):

CON 31% (+2); LAB 30% (-2); UKIP 23% (+3); LD 7% (-4); SNP 5% (+2); GRE 3% (+1); OTHER 1% (0)

For the Daily Mirror's analysis, see here. For full questions put to respondents, weighted data tables and methodology see here.

This poll is the first in a new monthly series. We will be tracking a range of political views in the run up to the UK general election on 7 May. For any enquiries, please contact

0203 142 7642 or researchteam@survation.com.

Keep up to date with all of Survation’s research and analysis on our blog.

Follow us on Twitter@survation

Find out more about the services Survation provide by following this link.

For press enquiries, please call 0203 142 7642 or email enquiry@survation.com

Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

http://www.britishpollingcouncil.org

Survation Ltd  Registered in England & Wales Number 07143509

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Johann Lamont’s resignation–reflections

Johann Lamont has resigned as leader. Inevitable, and maybe overdue, given the flak she has taken from her own party. I wish her well, despite the inevitable bitterness she roused during the long referendum campaign by her ill-judged and often factually inaccurate  performances at FMQs. She never understood her role, and worse, never understood the sea change that had occurred in Scottish politics.

Undoubtedly she was badly advised, and the victim of that unique brand of back-stabbing Labour politics with its roots in the smoke filled backrooms of Glasgow and Monklands.

I was well-disposed towards her before and immediately after her election as leader, and more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I was wrong, and my assessment of her (and of Henry McLeish!) proved to be way off beam.

Here are some of my views from back then…

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An open letter to Johann Lamont

Dear Johann Lamont,

Congratulations on winning the leadership of your party in Scotland. I hope that your win gives you a clear mandate among all Scottish Labour supporters, and that it is perceived as a valid mandate to lead the main opposition to my party, the SNP, who received a very clear mandate to govern Scotland last May. It is vital that your mandate is seen in this way not only by Labour supporters but by the Scottish Government, by the SNP, by the other opposition parties and by the Scottish electorate.

The only way to ensure this is to publish as soon as possible the full, detailed breakdown of the votes cast in the leadership election, in the interests of transparency in Scottish politics. (I am confident that you will wish to do so, indeed, by the time this blog comes up, you may already have done so.)

I listened to your acceptance speech closely, because as a committed SNP supporter, voter and party member, I believe that the existence of an effective opposition in any Parliament is vital to democracy. I was a Labour supporter for most of my life, and I will never return to Labour because of the depth of the betrayal of all my hopes and expectations over decades by the Labour Party as constituted up until this election.

But I do believe that you, and at least some in the Scottish Labour Party want to make a new beginning and to place the interests of Scotland first. You outlined in your acceptance speech a vision statement for Scotland. Few Scots of any party would disagree with the bulk of its content, and for that reason, it could have been made by any party leader, at any time, in almost any country.

I don’t want to appear to suggest that it was an empty ‘motherhood and apple pie’ statement – I do believe that you are committed to these ideals and broad objectives, and so am I. And I am delighted that you and Scottish Labour appear to have rediscovered your Scottishness.

But given this consensus on what we all want for Scotland, it is evident that what gives our respective parties their identity is the means by which these objectives are to be achieved. If my memory serves me accurately, you and other members of the Labour Party have accused the SNP of stealing your vision. That was unfair and inaccurate – we have closely similar visions because we are both social democratic parties, committed to a strong, effective public sector and a vibrant, entrepreneurial private sector.

In a certain kind of Scotland, the SNP and the Labour Party could recognise a shared vision while differing vigorously on key aspects of achieving that vision. We both recognise that the Tory vision as presently exhibited in all its uncaring, incompetent awfulness, is inimical to the interests of Scotland, and indeed the peoples of the UK. The LibDem vision has been badly – perhaps fatally – compromised by their poisoned and supine alliance with the Tories in Coalition.

But there is a great yawning gulf between your vision as outlined today and the Scottish National Party’s vision, and that gulf is created by your commitment to keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom. At this moment, this profoundly mistaken policy – the only real one you have at the moment – is main barrier to your achievement of Labour’s new Scottish vision.

The reasons for this are plain to see, and the Scottish electorate understood them plainly last May, and voted accordingly. I accept that not all of that vote was a vote for Scotland's independence, but it was decisively a vote for Scotland holding all the economic levers necessary to transform Scotland, indeed the the pressing need at the moment is to have them to enable Scotland to survive the cold, cold global wind that is blowing.

But there are other great barriers between us while you and Scottish Labour are committed to the UK – they are nuclear weapons, i.e. weapons of mass destruction, foreign policy and the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords, now perceived by many Scots as the lucrative bolthole for failed politicians, including Scottish Labour politicians.

While Scottish Labour is committed to the UK, it will be seen by many Scots as the party that supports illegal or dubious wars that kill the flower of our young servicemen and women, the party that is committed to ruinously expensive WMDs that endanger Scotland by their presence - and pose an ever-present threat to world  peace - and the party that is committed to the undemocratic House of Lords, whatever hollow statements about reform, never acted upon, may say.

A great watershed in Scotland’s history is approaching – the referendum on Scotland’s independence – a pivotal moment in our history that will shape Scotland and the other three countries of the UK for a generation and perhaps for ever.

As we approach that fateful day, it is vital that all parties with a core shared vision for the people of Scotland approach the great debate that will be continuously conducted from now on with objectivity, with facts, with some degree of mutual respect, with the common objective of allowing the Scottish electorate all the information they need to make their great choice.

That need not – and will not – inhibit vigour in debate, but if we can draw on the great intellectual political and social traditions that have always characterised Scots and Scotland, we can offer Scottish voters a real, rational choice.

I wish you and your party well in this new and critical era. I cannot of course wish you electoral success in local elections next year, nor in the referendum when it comes.

from one Weegie tae another – awra’ best,

Peter Curran

Scottish Labour Leadership Results
December 17, 2011 2:59 pm

Leadership result:

Deputy Leadership result:

MORIDURA BLOG November 23rd- 2011

Johann Lamont at the moment looks like the favourite to win the Scottish Labour leadership contest. It’s either her or Ken MacintoshTom Harris is naewhere.

If I had to choose from what is available, I would choose Johann Lamont, because I think I see a kind of integrity there, the kind that has always existed in the Scottish Labour Party, but which usually gets buried alive in that self-serving sea of mediocrity and careerism. (I’m talking about the Labour politicians and the union leaders, not the long-suffering Labour voters and lay party and union members utterly betrayed by them for over half a century.)

Let me say that she is not First Minister material, but that would not deter the Scottish Labour Party if Scotland were ever unfortunate enough to have them in power again in Holyrood. After all, London – i.e. UK – Labour elected Ed Miliband, who is not Prime Ministerial material.

The long-running gravy train that is the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t want a people’s choice – they want to foist a candidate on the people who will stoke the boiler, oil the wheels and grease the rails for the high road to Westminster for its politicians, and to safe party sinecures for its union officials.

But if they do elect Johann, they may find that she is not as committed to that auld conspiracy against the electorate as they hope – she shows distinct signs of being a realist, and being her own wumman. However, her priority is to get elected, so she must be circumspect for the moment, as she reads the wildly conflicting signals from senior Labour figures such as Alexander, Murphy and Harris, who show signs of beginning to hedge their career bets as the prospect of an independent Scotland becomes ever more real. The strange noises being made around the Scotland Bill and devo max illustrate this clearly. (I do not include Henry McLeish in this. I respect him, and I think Scotland matters more to him than career, more perhaps than anything else. )

But on Monday night, she was pretty evasive and obscure, sent signals on devo max, but was caught flatfooted by Glenn Campbell on two questions –devo max, and the $64,000 question – could Labour deliver their objectives more easily in an independent Scotland?

She revealed more by what she didn’t say than by what she said, but my judgement is that she is keeping her options very much open on this possibility, having taken her cue from Alexander, Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all … She is “not going to let Alex Salmond define devo max”. He agrees with you, Johann – he has been trying to get Labour and their Tory and LibDem pals to define what they mean by it for some time now, and ideally participate in a cross-party discussion about it.

As for the smooth lizard on the rock, Macintosh – who Kens?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Osborne’s Big Bribe–the last minute desperate Big Lie on more powers

A few more powers

- if delivered(!)-

will give Scotland a few more powers

except that

We won’t control our foreign policy

We won’t have the revenues from our own oil

The UK Supreme Court can still overrule our own Scots law and our own judges

We will have no seat at the United Nations

We will have no independent membership of the European Union

Our voice will be stifled, marginalised, ignored in international forums

The UK Parliament will still be sovereign, and can revoke any devolved power any time it likes

The UK Parliament will still decide when our young people are sent to die on foreign fields

We will still be forced to have nuclear weapons of mass destruction in our waters

Scotland won’t a be a nation in any real sense

EPITAPH

Scots had their chance and they blew it

RIP Freedom

Osborne's Big Bribe Lie is the Union’s last throw of the dice to keep Scotland as a subject nation, to be bled of its resources and talent

If you vote for it, you will never again be allowed to vote for independence

 

Scots know exactly what they mean by independence – the UK Government knows exactly what it means by subjection and sovereignty

The Scottish Unionist parties know exactly what they are complicit in

HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH AS A FREE SCOT - REJECT BRIBE - VOTE YES TO INDEPENDENCE

 

 

Monday, 25 August 2014

John Swinney’s 10 Key Strengths on which independent Scotland can build

Ten economic strengths on which an independent Scotland can build:

‪Scotland’s Food and drink industry has a turnover of £13 billion a year

‪Our tourism industry generates more than £6 billion a year

‪We have more than 20% of Europe’s fisheries catch

‪Exports, from manufacturing alone, are worth around £15 billion a year

‪Life Sciences employ 16,000 people and turns over £1.9 billion

‪Our Creative Industries generate more than £5 billion a year

‪We have more universities, per head in the world’s top 200 than any other country

Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal potential

‪Scotland’s ICT sector contributes around £3.6 billion annually to the economy

‪Inward investment from overseas is at a 16-year high

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Eight months from today – the birth of a new nation, or something else …?

Eight calendar months from today, Scotland will know if it’s going to be an independent country or remain a region of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Eight months from today, Scots will wake up either to the realisation that they have made history and are privileged to be present at the birth of a new nation -  one that they themselves have created - or to the realisation that a pivotal moment in history has passed, and they have decided to reject a unique opportunity, one that will not come again in the lifetimes of many of them.

Eight months from today, Scots parents and grandparents will know whether they have bequeathed to their children and grandchildren a new nation, with a chance to make a new and better future, or have left them in an old, tired, corrupt nation and in subordination to the last vestige of an old failed empire.

Eight months from today, the young will look at their elders and know whether they have given them autonomy and hope, or whether, driven by personal fear of change and selfish motives, they have denied them that autonomy, that hope, and have denied them their future.

Eight months from today, either the world’s nation will be beating a path to Scotland’s door, fascinated by the birth of a new world nation – in fact, the rebirth of an ancient nation – or will be shaking their heads in bewilderment and thinly-concealed contempt for a people that elected to reject their independence.

What happens eight months from today is in your hands, Scottish voters – you have the chance to make history or let that chance slip away like sand through your fingers, to be blown away for a generation, and perhaps for ever.

Make the right choice

The right choice is to vote YES

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Scottish Better Together parties can’t deliver more powers to Scotland – and Westminster won’t. Devo negligible, zero or minus

As anyone who has followed my blog and tweets over recent years will know, I have argued every aspect of the devolution/more powers versus full independence arguments, and have expressed fears – and often astonishment – that the complex implications of the shifting currents of voter opinion and preferences on devo within UK, full independence, and the missing second question are being avoided or argued inadequately.

The way this argument is handled will impact crucially on the way the Scottish electorate will ultimately resolve this, faced with a simple YES/NO choice on September 18th 2014.

Although there seems to be a dawning recognition of just how this question will dominate the debate in the months remaining - and some evidence that both YES and No campaigns have at least grasped the essentials - there is still a flabby sogginess in the YES (and SNP) arguments, and continuing failure of media commentators and TV political news anchors to ask focused questions. This is allowing Better Together to pump out a miasma of vague promises to deliver more powers, without a shred of evidence of exactly how they could do this.

 

So let me reiterate again what I see as the fundamentals, with a plea that all parties to the public debate fully present and explore them, and that media commentators ask the key question again and again.

CORE ARGUMENTS

The Scottish Parliament exists only by the grace and favour of the sovereign UK Parliament under the Scotland Act, and its limited powers are  in the gift of Westminster. They can be amended, curtailed or withdrawn at any time by the Westminster UK government. Scottish MPs can vote against this but have not got the power to block it, given the massive disparity in their numbers versus rUK MPs.

In the lead-up to the Edinburgh Agreement, all polls and virtually all expressions of opinion by Civic Scotland indicated a majority for more powers for Scotland – devo max, devo plus and other variant – while remaining within UK, i.e. with defence and foreign affairs remaining under Westminster. (There is an inherent contradiction in this preference on defence and foreign affairs with the Scottish electorate and Civic Scotland’s wish for a nuclear-free Scotland. A WMD-free Scotland cannot be delivered under such devolution.)

The Scottish Government was open to a second question in the 2014 referendum, offering not just a binary choice between full independence and status quo, but a question on more powers within the UK. Civic Scotland was highly vocal in support of a second question.

(There were formidable, but not insuperable problems in framing such a ballot paper – or papers – and even more formidable problems in evaluating the various possible vote outcomes. During this period of the debate, the political parties and the media showed a spectacular naivety and ignorance in addressing these complex issues.)

The 2nd question veto

The second question was effectively vetoed by David Cameron and the Better Together Parties, and their negotiator, Michal Moore, was mandated to treat this as a deal breaker in the Edinburgh Agreement negotiations.

The reason advanced by Cameron and the Better Together axis was that the will of the Scottish electorate had to be determined with absolute clarity on independence before any question of more powers could be addressed. This was a patently specious and self-serving argument, given that the will of the Scottish people seemed evident from the opinion polls and Civic Scotland.

The real reason – in my view – was that if a second question was offered and proved decisively to be the preferred option, the UK Government would be under major pressure to deliver more powers – and they had – and have - no intention of doing so.

The power realities of Scottish Better Together and Westminster parties

Scottish Labour, Scottish Tories and Scottish LibDems can have their little think tanks, commissions, etc. under various exciting and pompous titles, they can  pass resolutions at Scottish party conferences, they can make recommendations to their London party masters, they might even conceivably reach a core consensus – but they cannot deliver such powers.

Only the Westminster parties can decide whether or not to include all or any of these recommendations in their 2015 general election manifestos – and they won’t, because to do so would be electoral suicide, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and God’s gift to UKIP.

Here’s my analysis again from a recent posting on Scotland-US.

  • The only mechanism by which more powers can be delivered, now or after a No vote, is The Scotland Act. It has already delivered a dribble of powers after the Calman Commission. The Scotland Act leaves absolute control with the Westminster Parliament over Scotland’s devolved powers: it created the devolved Parliament, it has the power to vary its powers by adding to them or subtracting them. It has the power to end devolution and dissolve the Parliament by vote in which non-Scottish MPs massively outnumber the 59 Scots.

  • In other words, until and unless it votes for full independence, Scotland is wholly dependent on the grace and favour of the British Parliament for its Parliament and any powers it has.

  • There are powerful voices in the Commons and the unelected Lords who have always bitterly opposed the creation of a Scottish Parliament, regarding devolution as the thin edge of a wedge that would end the Union. There are a growing number of voices in England, notably the local authorities who bitterly resent what they see as Scotland privileged status in the Barnett Formula

  • There are strong voices, encapsulated by The West Lothian Question – coined by a Scot, Tam Dalyell – that questions the ability of Scots MPs to influence English legislation on purely English matters by their votes in Westminster, while English MPs cannot influence devolved matter in the Scottish Parliament. There are moves to reduce the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster. There is growing resentment in England and Wales about what they see as Scotland’s privileged position under devolution.

  • To grant more powers to Scotland after a No vote, or even promise them before one would be greeted with outrage by the English electorate and the Welsh Labour voters. It would be political suicide in the 2015 UK general election for any party that promised or committed such powers.

  • The Scottish electorate do not trust the UK on promises of more powers after a No vote in a referendum, because they have already reneged on just such a promise in 1979 after a referendum – they have form!

    But the decisive argument for Scots is that, had the UK Parliament and government any intentions to consider or grant more powers, they would not have opposed the second question in the Scottish referendum addressing the wish for devo max within UK revealed in poll after poll.

    Alex Salmond and the SNP government were willing to consider such a question and option, offering a middle road between independence and the status quo. The resolute opposition to the 2nd question – a deal breaker for the Edinburgh Agreement – by David Cameron and all the UK Better Together parties – told the Scottish electorate all they needed to know – that a No vote, far from producing more powers, was almost certain to produce a clawback of powers and a £4 billion reduction in the Barnett Formula.

    The Scottish electorate know that a No vote, in addition to attracting the astonishment and thinly veiled contempt of the world for a nation that rejected its chance to be independent, would result in either devo zero or devo minus.

    Only independence will deliver to Scotland and the Scottish people the freedom they need to determine their future in this uncertain world and the challenging times ahead.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Welfare and benefits – social protection – in an independent Scotland

Yet again, scare stories - unsubstantiated claims - by Better Together about Scotland's welfare systems after independence are exposed as untrue

There has been relative decline in welfare expenditure in Scotland as a proportion of that spent in UK from a peak of 9.7% in 2002/03 to 8.9% in 2011/12

Spending on social protection, including welfare as share of GDP is estimated as being lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK in each of the past five years

Independent report of the Expert Working Group on Welfare recommends a TRANSITIONAL PERIOD of shared administration. The Scottish Gov. agrees this would be sensible.

ALL options for the delivery of welfare at the point of independence, including a STAND-ALONE SCOTTISH SYSTEM of administration are possible

Scotland delivers almost ALL parts of the current UK benefits system to people living in Scotland from locations within Scotland.

Scotland also provides a wide range of welfare services to England. Some of these services are significant, with a claimant count in millions.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The cool logic of John Swinney in the face of a parcel of British Lords–1st tranche

Lord MacGregor

All of these quotes are from the Lords Committee on the Economic implications of Scottish Independence on 11th December 2012. This is my personal selection from a wide-ranging discussion. I hope to cover the full session in later blogs.

John Swinney MSP

The 2013 White Paper

The culmination of the information we shall put into the public domain will be our White Paper next autumn, setting out our proposals clearly for the people of Scotland.

The process of transition

From a YES vote in 2014 though to independence in 2016, Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom as we put in place the structure of an independent Scotland. That will be done through the Edinburgh Agreement and in particular Clause 30, which states that the two governments are committed to work together constructively in the light of the outcome – whatever it is – in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

(Lord MacGregor made it clear in his introduction that his committee was not considering the political and non-economic aspects of the referendum but solely the economic implications for both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom (rUK). To what degree the Lords present remained within the letter and spirit of those terms of reference in their questioning of John Swinney is something that must be judged by those viewing the full Parliament channel broadcast.)

John Swinney in responses to questions on EU

On Scotland’s EU membership re Barroso’s letter -

There is no provision within the Treaty on European Union that provides for the scenario that President Barroso has cited in that particular paragraph of his letter.

The course of action that we are proposing to take [the creation of an independent Scotland] is an unprecedented case – it is not something for which the Treaty has provided.

I don’t agree with the content of President Barroso’s letter for the reason that I do not see the basis within the treaty upon which that remark is founded.

On engaging in discussions with EU on the matter of an independent Scotland’s membership -

The Scottish Government accepts the importance of continued membership of the European Union for Scotland.

That is why we have continued to assert the belief that we have that Scotland is a part of the European Union, and we wish to remain part of the European Union after  independence.

The Scottish Government has taken forward informal dialogue with the Commission, but the Commission have been very clear for some considerable time that they would only consider a particular scenario if that particular scenario was put to them by a member state government.

We certainly would be very happy to participate  in  dialogue with the Commission around the question of resolving, in response to a request from a member state for clarity from the Commission on this point – and the very material point that I advance in that respect is the comment that I make about President Barroso’s comment not being founded in any part of the Treaty.

That therefore says to me – and this has long been a view that we have taken -  that this is a process which essentially would ultimately become a process of political dialogue and discussion between relevant member states to be resolved as a consequence of a YES vote in the referendum.

The referendum will take place in the autumn of 2014. We have always made clear there would have to be a process of negotiation transition that followed that decision in principle by people in Scotland that they wished to proceed to independence.

In that window, between a decision in the referendum in the autumn of 2014 and the establishment of an independent country – which we believe would be possible through the elections to the Scottish Parliament in May of 2016 – there is the opportunity to essentially resolve that particular question.

In response to query from Lord MacGregor as to whether it was to resolve the question of whether an independent Scotland would have to make a new membership application or the terms in which it would be made.

The terms of Scotland’s membership of the European Union. We are currently part of the EU .. through our membership of the UK – and we would making it very clear that we wished continuity of that membership to be available for Scotland, and as a consequence of that, we would be negotiating the details of terms around that membership.

Lord MacGregor offered his view that it was “a bit late to have come up with this answer overnight in response to Mr. Barroso’s letter …” He asked if there was independent legal advice to justify John Swinney’s assertion.

There are a variety of expressions of legal opinion. There was one just the other day there which was expressed by the professor of law for the University Glasgow who made the point in a broadcast interview. Professor Tom Mullen says there is no specific provision in the treaty that expressly deals with the situation of a member state breaking up and both parts wanting to stay in, and that confirms the view that I am taking.

I cited the House of Commons library paper earlier … The Lord Advocate of Scotland’s opinion has ben taken on this particular question, and that will be available when the Lord Advocate has completed the formulation of that opinion.

On being asked if he was “absolutely disagreeing with the fourth paragraph of Mr. Barroso’s letter …”

That is point which is the nub of this letter from the President of the European Commission … there is no foundation in treaty for that position to be supported.

Lord MacGregor queried if the Scottish Government had taken this point up informally with the EC. He “assumed that this letter had been extremely carefully considered and drafted.”

Well, as for its drafting by the European Commission – that’s a very interesting point because it seemed to be available to the wider media in Scotland before it was available even to this committee, from the press reports I saw last week – essentially, this reply being available to The Scotsman newspaper one day last week when it was not available to the Committee. So I think the drafting of the letter is a question of some interest I think to the wider debate on how ….

Lord MacGregor interrupts, saying his question is being ignored …

What I’m simply saying is that I think the point that’s made here is a point for which I do not believe there is foundation in treaty – and that’s  the issue – well, certainly one of the issues that we want to discuss very clearly with the Commission.

Lord MacGregor says that it’s late to be discussing this, and it will create even more uncertainty in the business community.

I don’t think it’s late all, Lord Chairman, because the Scottish Government – as I set out in my opening remarks – is going through a process which is about ensuring the public are properly informed about the issues in connection with the referendum in good time for the referendum in the autumn of 2014, and that will involve the production of a White Paper which will be available to people in the autumn of 2013.

That’s the process that we’re involved in – that’s our timescale for making sure that the public are able to form that view. If I look back at the documents that the Scottish Government has provided and produced over time on this whole question - whether it’s the original documents being produced after our election in 2007 or subsequent reports that we have produced – we have made the point that there would have to be a negotiation about the terms of Scotland’s membership of the European Union and that would be pursued with the European Union. We’ve always acknowledged the importance of a dialogue with the European Union on that question.

Lord MacGregor asks if the studies referred to included a Clear study of the views of the Scottish Government to the terms of entry that it might have to negotiate with the EU.

Clearly that would be the material substance of the discussions that we would take forward with the European Union. There would be a range of questions to be resolved about the terms of membership, and a Scottish Government would willingly participate in those discussions.

There followed the exchange with Lord Lipsey, and his contemptible “last refuge of a scoundrel” insult to Scotland’s Finance Minister. John Swinney responded with characteristic restraint and courtesy. On Lipsey asking if the Scottish government’s position on Barroso’s statement “could be sustained for a single second”, the Finance Minister responded -

Yes, because I think the point the Committee should be very interested in is the fact that there is no foundation in treaty for the point that President Barroso has made in that letter. I can’t see where that come from, and I think the sources and comments that I have cited to the Committee are designed to help the Committee to share the view that I have.

And I think it’s very interesting in the presentation of the letter that President Barroso – just on the start of the second page – gives a very clear treaty reference to the terms of a country applying to become a member of the EU (at the top of the page, Article 49 The Treaty on European Union: any European state which respects the principles set out in Article 2 of the Treaty of European Union may apply to become a member of the EU) and I completely accept that treaty reference and that comment.

But my point is that in the preceding paragraph, which is – and I agree with the Lord Chairman – a very significant paragraph – there is no treaty reference; and the reason why there is no treaty reference is that there cannot be any treaty reference because such provisions do not exist in treaty.

Lord Lipsey responds that there is a reference to the treaty as it only applies to member states, so it’s irrelevant whether there’s a treaty reference – of course there isn’t, because you’re not a member state. Now, I don’t understand this , why you don’t take the following line– “Yes, we accept what Dr. Barroso said; of course we wish to apply for membership to the European Community and I’m sure this will be solved politically … “ That seems to me a perfectly straightforward, sensible and defensible proposition. To retreat into what are clearly implausible reference to what’s referred to in the treaty to which you would no longer be signature, because you’re no longer part of the EU – that seems to me to be the last refuge of a scoundrel, if I may say so …"”

I think what that misses, Lord Lipsey, is the point that as Scotland is taking this particular course in the aftermath of a referendum in the autumn of 2014, Scotland remains  part of the European Union because we would still be part of the United Kingdom . We would not have enacted  the Act of Independence, and therefore in that period – after a referendum, before the establishment of an independent state in the spring of 2016, Scotland would be involved in a process of settling the independence process and conducting negotiations with the United Kingdom government, and also with the European Union about the terms of Scottish membership of the EU. In that context, I think it is an entirely appropriate way for us to proceed with the discussions that we must take forward.

Lord MacGregor asks if the negotiating process was unsatisfactory from his' [presumably meaning the Scottish Government negotiating team!] point of view, would he [they] would withdraw the desire for independence.

MY COMMENT (can’t resist it!) Only a British Lord could have framed and asked such a crass and patently stupid question!

JOHN SWINNEY: The people of Scotland will have decided in the autumn of 2014 whether or not Scotland is going to be an independent country – that decision will have been taken by people in a referendum – and what it is up to the political leaders of Scotland to do is to give effect to the decision the people of Scotland have taken.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Holyrood Budget - Labour arithmetic 2+2=5

John Swinney responds to Tory and Labour demands for budget changes demanded without their offering any idea about where the money could come from - except for Jackie Baillie's ludicrous suggestion that the cost of the referendum (£10m) could pay for them.

The Finance Minister has plaudits for Willie Rennie's responsible approach, and brickbats for Labour and the Tories. The Scottish Labour Party has learned nothing from their repetition of their blind opposition during the 2007/2011 Holyrood term. Then they managed - in conjunction with the LibDems and the Tories - to block major items of legislation that would have benefited Scotland, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol.

As a result of that, the Scottish electorate gave a resounding and historic mandate to the SNP, an outcome that Scottish Labour has still failed to understand. But they can no longer mindlessly block budgets, or anything else.  If only the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour could have been big enough to grasp the olive branch held out to them by the SNP - the manifest willingness of the Scottish Government to work for consensus in the Parliament, despite their majority.

But that would have required a political approach from Labour and Tories that rose above political expediency - and a grasp of basic arithmetic ...


Sunday, 5 February 2012

How can the electorate become engaged with the referendum debate? A Voters in the Village initiative.

The referendum ballot is the most significant choice the Scottish electorate will have made for over 300 years. It cannot and must not be viewed as just another election, because it is not an election like a council election, a Scottish Parliamentary election or a general election.

It can only be compared to other referendums, and the only ones remotely comparable in scale and significance were the 1975 referendum on the UK remaining in Europe and the referendum on Scottish devolution in 1997 that led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

But the 2014 Scottish independence referendum dwarfs both of these in its ramifications and its implications for Scotland, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia and in a wider sense, the entire world, in its nuclear and defence ramifications.

Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September. The earliest date for the referendum is 23rd September 2014, and the latest date before the winter solstice is 20th December 2014. We have between  32 months and 35 months to go until the most important decision facing Scots since 1707 arrives.

It will also be the most important event facing the United Kingdom, a highly significant event for the Republic of Ireland, an event of vital interest for the European Union, and an event major interest for the rest of the world. It may spell the end of Britain as a nuclear power, and therefore the end of the US/Britain links on the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, it will have a fundamental and incalculable effect on NATO, and on the perception of the rest of the world of ‘Britain’, in the sense that it still exists, as a world power.

It matters profoundly to the future of the people of Scotland, and will determine the nature of Scottish society for at least a generation, and almost certainly for far, far longer. For everyone alive today in Scotland, this will be the most significant determinant of their future.

VOTING IN THE REFERENDUM

The first choice facing those eligible to vote is to vote or not to vote. A failure to vote can result from many causes – apathy, failure to establish eligibility to vote, factors beyond the control of someone who wished to vote and couldn’t (this happened to large numbers of voters in the last general election), absence, illness, disability, etc. A conscious decision not to vote is usually based on one of two factors – a view that the vote doesn’t matter, or that the voting process is less important than other priorities, or a decision to boycott a ballot.

For those who do vote – the ones who will determine the outcome – the exact nature of the choice or choices they will have to make at the ballot box has not yet been finalised.

It is therefore essential that there is consensus or near consensus that the framing of the question or questions is fair: only then will the ballot outcome be seen as just and equitable.

The higher the turnout, the greater the legitimacy of the ultimate choice – a low turnout would result in a referendum outcome that would be challenged by those opposed to the decision as being unrepresentative of the will of the Scottish people.

(It is desirable, but not essential, that the outcome should not be subject to legal challenge. The reality is that however constructed, any ballot can be the subject of legal challenge, the only question being how valid the challenge is.)

THE KEY FACTORS

1. Clarity on who is eligible to vote. Because this referendum is different from anything that preceded it, eligibility to vote is a contentious issue and has not yet been fully resolved. None of the arguments being advanced or the criteria being offered are wholly objective, since those advancing them have a political view on the outcome. There will be clarity before the referendum, and the criteria of eligibility will be fixed, but they are likely remain contentious. Just how contentious will affect views of the validity of the outcome of the referendum.

2. The question or questions. How the question(s) is/are worded, the mode of response to it/them (e.g. YES/NO, tick for agreement, etc.) how the ballot paper is structured, the sequence of questions (if more than one), conditionality between questions, and a range of other issues remain to be determined. All are contentious, and again, the method adopted must be seen to be fair for the ballot outcome to be perceived as just and equitable.

3. The information electors require to make an informed choice. Ballot questions and ballot papers must be a simple and straightforward as possible, and must be readily understandable to ensure that choices are clear and easily and accurately recorded.

Traditionally, they have been – voters make choices of great significance on simple questions because they believe they understand the import of the question or questions. The reason they believe this is because they have been exposed to a campaign prior to the ballot, setting out issues and policies, and also information that is intended to be objective. An informed electorate is the pre-requisite of a successful democracy. The media play a crucial role in this information process, especially the public service broadcaster, which in Britain is the BBC.

Impartiality can only be an ideal that information providers strive towards – the very nature of democratic politics is the espousing of a political viewpoint, and a sophisticated electorate knows that it is being asked to choose between conflicting arguments and different perspectives of facts, and that the perspective and interpretation of a fact is not the same thing as the fact itself.

Our political system is adversarial in its nature, as is our legal system. Expert and qualified people will argue widely differing interpretations of the same facts and events, and then a judge and/or jury will decide which version it chooses to accept. In democratic politics, the people are both judge and jury, and are sovereign in their choices and wishes.

THE REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN

To date, the referendum debate has  been characterised by acrimony, ultimatum, negativity, and a great deal of misinformation. Because of what I want to say here, it would be counter-productive to say where most of that was emanating from. Suffice to say that it has not helped the vitally necessary process of open, rational debate, nor has it served to make electors better informed.

In a real sense, it has been a phoney war, and the debate proper should now have started with the naming of the referendum date – Autumn 2014 – and the identification of the Scottish Government’s preferred question – “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

It is essential that the great debate from now on is conducted in a more civilised and structured manner. It will be political, it will be partisan, and debate will – and must be – vigorous and energised, but it must be placed on a calmer, more objective footing. The electorate must be given the information necessary to make an informed choice. To facilitate the provision of such information, and to enable them to weigh the relative merits of the arguments, the electorate must become more aware and more involved than they have been in any previous election in their lifetimes.

I have some ideas on how that might be done …

CREATING AN INFORMED ELECTORATE

The political parties will campaign using a range of traditional techniques – leafleting, door-to-door, public meetings and road shows, press releases and media interviews – and specialised focused approaches developed uniquely and specifically for the referendum.

Both the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government will make pronouncements, engage in debates: both will use the law and the services of experts and advisors, and in so doing will be theoretically constrained from using public resources, public servants and public money for overtly political campaigning. Both will claim to be governing and acting in the interests of the entire nation and not the interests of the governing party. The Westminster government will define the nation as the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and the Scottish Government will define the nation as Scotland.

Various bodies and organisations will claim to speak for their members, e.g. businesses, the professions, the churches, the representatives of ethnic and national groups, individual trades unions, bodies such as the STUC, representing a group of trades unions, bodies such as the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), thinks tanks, campaigning groups, etc. Civic Scotland has emerged as a coalition claiming to represent many of these groups.

Few, if any of these organisations will be fully democratic in their structures, although some may have elements of democratic procedures. None will have a true right to claim to speak on behalf of all of their members.

For example, the CBI cannot claim to speak for all businesses in Scotland (there are other business organisations), it cannot claim to speak authoritatively for all members of the CBI, and it most certainly cannot claim to speak for all employees of its member businesses. The think tanks are self-appointed groups: some are funded by special interests, some are openly political in their views and objectives. The churches are not democratic in their structures, although some have strong elements of democratic structures.

This is not to say that the above bodies and organisations should not have a voice, or that they do not have a place in a democracy – they should and do, providing the limitations of their mandates are recognised, and that the sovereign, democratic voice is that of the people at the ballot box.

The electorate are involved in all of the above, but they have the trump card, which is their individual, unique democratic vote.

MY IDEA – THE VOTER IN THE VILLAGE

I intend to launch an initiative in my own village – Kirkliston, in West Lothian – an ancient village with a proud place in Scottish history. Kirkliston was the location of the first recorded Parliament in Scottish history. The Estates of Scotland met there in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II of Scotland. We can also claim that the The West Lothian Question, a fundamental question in Scotland/Westminster relations, has given the UK and the world a wider recognition of our region.

Kirkliston has a strong and active sense of community, with two churches, a bowling club, and a community centre playing a central role. It has a number of small businesses located in the village.

My initiative is in its infancy, and may come to nothing, but I am breaching – with considerable trepidation - the old taboo of not talking politics or religion with my neighbours in an an attempt to get something going. The Voter in the Village initiative will focus solely on the independence referendum, with the following objectives and constraints -

1. To create a wider awareness of the purpose of the referendum, its significance to Scotland, its wider significance, and its possible outcomes and their implications.

2. To create opportunities to discuss the referendum and its implications for anyone in the village, focusing on those who believe they will be eligible to vote at the time of the referendum, or who believe they should be eligible to vote at the time of the referendum.

3. To offer an initial forum in a village venue for that purpose, which will take the form of a facilitated workshop discussion.

4. No elected politician, e.g. councillor, MSP or MP will be permitted to attend the initial meeting or meetings. No one may act as representative of the views of any specific political party or organisations at the initial meetings, although it is hoped that those attending will represent the widest range of personal political and social views possible.

There will be no platform speakers, no speeches, no defence of, or attack on political beliefs – the format will be that of a facilitated workshop, with the emphasis being on discussion in small groups, followed by feedback and comment. Some will be familiar with this structure and approach from industry and commercial experience, many will not.

I will facilitate the initial meeting and workshop, supported, I hope by one other person. Both of us are highly experienced in this type of workshop, but not in a political context. There will be no committee, no elected officers, and no minutes. There will be no agenda in advance, other than the broad purpose and framework.

I will meet all initial costs, to get the initiative started. If it continues, some way of meeting what I hope will be very low costs will have to be considered. No funds will be accepted from political parties, nor from any organisation that has a specific political agenda.

I have strong views on the independence of Scotland, available to anyone to read on my blog, I am a member of a political party, but hold no office in that party, but I will not be advocating my personal viewpoint in this Voters in the Village initiative.

It is vital to the success of the approach that I get people who hold very different views to myself at the initial and subsequent meetings, and the widest possible sample of views in the village, including those who have not yet formed an opinion on the referendum.

MEDIA

I have already been filmed by a BBC reporter for The Sunday Politics Scotland for a possible, but by no means guaranteed 30 second clip inclusion in a feature on the show on Sunday, 12th of February. The BBC has indicated that if we do get the initiative going in Kirkliston, they would be interested in covering it.

FINAL THOUGHT …

I leave you with this thought – the 2014 referendum will take place, with or without your participation and involvement, and even without your vote, and there will be an outcome that will radically affect your future, that of your family, friends and colleagues for a least a generation, and this will happen during very challenging social and economic times for Scotland.

Ask yourself if you need to know more, and want to contribute to this momentous decision with a clear idea of the issues and arguments involved. If your answer is yes, come along when the date is fixed.

And can I emphasise again that this is for residents of Kirkliston only, is not for elected politicians even if they live in Kirkliston, nor is it a platform for those acting on behalf of a political party. However, members of political parties who do not hold elected office are welcome. In other words, you represent only yourself …

If these initial constraints don’t suit you, then arrange your own initiative, find your own venue and set your own rules - it’s a free country.

Who knows, I might like your approach better than mine and come and join you!

Friday, 3 February 2012

The butterfly emerges, flaps its wings and triggers – what?

Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September, so  the earliest date for the referendum is 23rd September 2014, and the latest date before the winter solstice is 20th December 2014. Seasons calculator (Don’t ask me about the shortfall of two days 2012-2014 – ask an astronomer.) So we have between  32 months and 35 months to go until the most important decision facing Scots since 1707 arrives.

It will also be the most important event facing the United Kingdom, a highly significant event for the Republic of Ireland, an event of vital interest for the European Union, and an event major interest for the rest of the world. It may spell the end of Britain as a nuclear power, and therefore the end of the US/Britain links on the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, it will have a fundamental and incalculable effect on NATO, and on the perception of the rest of the world of ‘Britain’, in the sense that it still exists, as a world power.

Is this responsibility one that is too great to bear for a little nation at the north end of Europe with a population of just over 5 million?

Chaos theory often uses the metaphor of the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, Lorenz having postulated that this tiny event could lead to a hurricane.

Already there are those in the UK - and on the right-wing of American politics - who are asking if this emergent butterfly should even be allowed out of the chrysalis, much less flap its wings.

A coalition of the British right-wing - that is the Labour Party allied to the Tory/LibDem Government - has formed to frustrate the efforts of Scotland to achieve self-determination as a nation.

But because of a highly inconvenient commitment to at least the semblance of democratic politics, in nations that have long since neutered the voice of the people in a conspiracy of wealth, privilege and power, this is proving hard to do.

And the global financial crisis, allied to the manifest failure and incompetence of the UK government, and the increasing tendency of the US government to retreat from international entanglements and put its own shaky house in order, not to mention the great upheaval of the Arab Spring haven’t helped. Confusion reigns in the corridors of power.

And so there is to be a great public debate. But behind the scenes, the profoundly undemocratic forces of patronage, threat and bribe, the military industrial complex and structurally undemocratic organisations and ad hoc groupings formed for this purpose alone, will exert an insidious influence on that debate.

What will counterbalance this? The crisis of capitalism has now arrived with a vengeance, and the brutal impact of the attempts of the rich to solve it by attacking the poor and vulnerable are just beginning to be felt, with the full horror yet to unfold. The UK Party that should have been poised to be the defenders of the ordinary people, the Labour Party, has for half a century or more instead been a fundamental part of the power structure, and is impotent because it has fundamentally and fatally compromised its core values.

England is left bereft of a political voice, and has only the trades unions, themselves compromised by their links to Labour, as their last best hope. There are some welcome signs that the trades unions recognise this, and are beginning the painful process of extricating themselves from the Labour Party’s dead grasp.

Scotland, in contrast, has a political voice, has a political party, and a vibrant new spirit is emerging, a new awareness, and a new resolve to embrace the spirit of the age - the zeitgeist -and make a new nation.

This butterfly will flap its wings, will fly freely, and its flight will not trigger a destructive hurricane, but a great, cleansing wind of positive change.

Saor Alba

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Last chance saloon for Scottish Labour leadership candidates–Newsnicht

Here they are for the last throw of the die - those who would lead Scottish Labour. A policy and ideas vacuum.

But of the three, it is clear that Ken Macintosh, on this showing, is the most intellectually able and articulate. If only he had something to say ...

Johann Lamont repeats her mantra of "better life chances for children". Who does she think was in power in Scotland for 50 years or so before 1997. Who was in power in the UK for 13 of the last fourteen years? Why, Labour of course! Who then destroyed their life chances in the first place?

Nobody asked that question, although a couple of questioners came close. Not even the redoubtable Raymond Buchanan, who was otherwise excellent and incisive, asked it.

AN EDIT



FULL CLIPS


Monday, 10 October 2011

Blog mailing list

I received a request from an SNP MSP today to remove the MSP from the mailing list, as the person concerned felt unable to make a positive response to my blogs. I immediately agreed, of course.  (I do welcome comment, positive or negative, and will publish where requested comments that meet normal criteria and are on topic.)

I have a very limited blog circulation active mailing list. I circulate SNP MSPs simply as a courtesy to inform them that a new blog has been posted, together with a small number of SNP officials – they do not represent my target audience, which is anyone interested in Scottish politics.

(I also circulate a very small number of friends and one or two other contacts who expressed an interest).

To avoid similar unwelcome emailing, I have therefore closed this list. Even on the unlikely premise that everyone on it reads every blog posting, it represent a small proportion of my readership, based on my blog monitoring statistics and incoming emails and comments.

If anyone who was in receipt of blog notification emails wishes me to continue, please let me know by email or directly.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

TWITTER and politicians - Tweets, sambas,weddings …

There’s a wedding today. Somehow, I can’t raise the same animosity towards it that I felt for the last one. If the happy couple wanted to turn it into a truly popular event, they could exit Canongate Kirk and samba down to Holyrood Palace. Even a crusty old republican like me would turn out for that. But I'll come back to Edmundo in a different context later ...



TWITTER AND MSPs

Alternative media and social media have transformed politics and power structures. We’ve had the Obama campaign and subsequent election, Wikileaks, the Arab Spring, and most recently, the Chinese Government being forced into an apology over the rail crash they tried to bury.

Twitter, of course, was initially a rather trivial medium, and in some respects still is - the vacuous celebrity tweeting continues unabated - but there is another side to it, one that was revealed to me by the eye-opening, mind-expanding PiCamp event in Edinburgh last year, for which I am eternally indebted to Mick Fealty of the influential Irish blog Slugger O'Toole.

Politicians and political parties were at first slow to realise Twitter’s potential, but then leapt on the bandwagon, often with risible results. We expected - and got - banality from most celebrities, but when the poverty of the minds of some of our politicians and media commentators was revealed in all its comical inadequacy, some were shocked, including me.

The Scottish political parties (a misnomer, since there is really only one, the SNP) were slower than most, but they got their act together after a fashion, even though for a time they seemed not to have grasped the essence of this new medium of communication. Some still haven’t got a handle on it, and the failure ranges from trivialising the medium to not recognising its manifest dangers.

TWEET TYPES

I have looked at some of the tweets of MSPs and they fall into various types. Here are some examples, taken as typical in their format, but not specific to any particular MSP -

The Political Reporting Tweet:

“Spent the day visiting my constituents in Aberbaldy.”

“Scheduled for evening session on local amenities with residents in Aberbaldy Community Centre.”

The Political Link Tweet:

“You really must read/view Alex McCrumpshy’s piece on independence - see link $%678XZW”

(This type includes retweets of politically relevant material.)

The Political Opinion or viewpoint Tweet:

“I think the Party should redefine its policy on xxxxxxxx.”

“I tend towards the view that we (the Party) should change course on xxxxxxx.”

“I agree with Alex McCrumpshy’s stance on xxxxxxx.”

The Call for Support Tweet:

“Please try to show up for the march against the cuts/in favour of the cuts in George Square on Monday.”

“Make sure you vote YES to the question of xxxxxx.”

“Vote for me!”

The Campaign for an obscure cause safely outside of Scotland Tweet:

“The international artist Arundel Magundel has been imprisoned unjustly in Outer Mongolia because of his opposition to levitation. Please show your support by throwing a cocktail party, and inviting as many middle-class professionals as you can find among your network.”

The Insider Conversation Tweet:

“Had a wonderful time after today’s street campaign in Aberbaldy - thanks for the tea/beer/wine or other unmentionable substance. Big Willie was on top form …”

The Personal Tweet:

“I love cookery programmes on TV”

“Went to see my niece today. My, hasn’t she grown up …”

“Relaxing with a glass of wine after a long hard day.”

“Don’t you just love the Wild Protruding Bagpipers - I think their music should have wider exposure.”

“Had a wonderful meal at Jakie’s themed Meth and CherryBlossom bar/restaurant last night - can’t recommend it enough.”

(This type includes retweets of items with no political relevance whatsoever.)

TWITTER IDENTITIES

There is no problem in having more than one Twitter identity. The choices are more or less infinite, from presenting yourself by real name, by pseudonym, by pseudonym and real name, by organisation, and so on. The political parties are upfront with party identity and sub-categories of that identity, news commentators present themselves either personally under their own name or with news organisation appended, e.g. jonsnowC4 Jon Snow, afneil Andrew Neil.

(I use the dual formulation, moridura Peter Curran and, for example, Peat Worrier LallandsPeatWorrier uses a dual format but preserves anonymity.)

So the choice is how to present yourself, and this choice is an important one - or ought to be - for politicians. Let me focus on Scottish MPs and MSPs.

If you place MP or MSP after your name in a public communication (and tweeting on Twitter is just that) you are calling attention to your role as a public servant.

MP/MSP is not a title, like Dr. before a name, or a qualification after it, e.g. MD, MA, WS, nor is it a title that is part of your name like OBE, MBE, etc. It is a job title, nor more, no less, for an elected office, and if you communicate under that advertised identity, the communication should be directly relevant to it.

An MP or MSP should not behave like a minor celebrity on Twitter, touting music preferences, favourite restaurants, or detailing the minutiae and often trivia of their personal lives.

This, when not done out of misplaced vanity, appears to be an attempt to somehow humanise the politician, to give evidence that they are just ordinary folk. But they are not. When a politician is elected, he or she accepts the onerous responsibility of representing the people effectively. Humanity and compassion is best demonstrated by political action, not by trivial toadying to popular trends and fashions.

The political reporting tweet, the political link tweet, the call for support tweet are all legitimate. The political opinion tweet is regrettably as rare as hen’s teeth from MSPs, who seem to wish to demonstrate as much bland conformity as Blair’s Babes (male or female).

But I could do with a lot less of the Campaign for an obscure cause safely outside of Scotland Tweet: there are more than enough urgent and demanding causes close to home, with vulnerable constituents desperately in need of their MP or MSP’s voice, support and action. Of course such issues, involving as they do real people on your doorstep, such as the abandoned families and businesses of Dalmarnock being destroyed by the Games Juggernaut, involve uncomfortable levels of commitment and some risk to political advancement and preferment, and they won’t be solved by cosy insider cocktail parties - they involve taking a stand, adopting a position.

As for the The Insider Conversation Tweet and the Personal Tweet, well, if you need this kind of thing, do it under a personal identity, not as an MP or MSP, please.

At a time when Scotland is facing desperately challenging and threatening economic challenges, the world’s economy may collapse next Tuesday if the US defaults on its debt repayments, the UK is engage in lunatic foreign adventures that are killing young Scots among many others, and when the question of independence is central to the political debate, I don’t want to hear about your favourite TV programme, or your glass of wine after dinner, nor do I want to follow your cosy insider conversations - I want to know what you are doing and how you are contributing to political solutions.

And to return, as promised, to Edmundo Ros … In the 1950s, the BBC was rather more innocent than it is today. After all, the significance of the news reporter character’s name on The Goon Show - Hugh Jampton - escaped them completely (connoisseurs of Cockney rhyming slang and residents of Hampton Wick understood), so when Edmundo Ros engaged in shameless advertising plugs with rendition of the song Torremolinos, they were blissfully unconcerned. The holiday resort of Torremolinos was discreetly and suitably grateful to Edmundo.

So, with the MPs’ expenses scandal fresh in all our minds, could I ask MPs and MSPs to stop tweeting on the favourite restaurants, watering holes, pop groups etc. under their appellation of MP or MSP. Remain above suspicion - as I am sure you are - by using a purely personal Twitter identity for this stuff. I can then ‘follow’ you in your political identity on Twitter for the real stuff, and ignore your irrelevant chaff.

I, of course, am completely free to do these things, because I am not a public servant on salary and expenses, but just an individual voter, with a viewpoint - and maybe a bit of an attitude …

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Reactions to the victory

I’m still in the woodshed on independence, but popping my head out from time to time to see what’s happening in the big, wide, new Scotland.

The winners - let’s not avoid the word - fall into two broad groups, those who are part of the new Parliament and those who put them there. Those in the Parliament are savouring their triumph today, enjoying the ritual, experiencing the warm feeling that comes from being part of a team that won against what at times seemed overwhelming odds against them. They have a right to enjoy these historical moments, because they worked very hard for them, and in many cases made personal sacrifices and took career risks that no one outside of the political process can ever fully understand.

Those who put them there fall into two sub-groups, the first being those who tirelessly gave of their time and energies to support the campaign on the ground - the canvassers, the leafleters, the envelope stuffers, the telephone teams -with no expectation of reward, no salaried post to look forward to, no expenses, no trappings of status.

I am not a part of that sub-group, but they have my unqualified respect, admiration and gratitude - they won this historic election for me and for Scotland. I am one of the other sub-group, which of course, since it embraces every member of the electorate who voted SNP,  isn’t really a sub-group at all. (A Venn diagram is needed!)

And this total group, the group that put the winners into Holyrood, watches, rejoices - but waits …

I have experienced this moment before, as a ten-year old in 1945, when a war-weary generation threw out the hero of the nation, Winston Churchill, and elected a Labour Government - the Attlee Government - to the incredulity and terror of the British Establishment. While the privileged inhabitants of countless Downton Abbey’s muttered fearfully around their dinner tables and looked suspiciously at their servants, the rest of the nation, exhausted physically and emotionally from the long conflict, rejoiced briefly - then waited …

That government did not betray them but it did not deliver the revolution that some expected - the destruction of a privileged establishment - but it did deliver better housing, the NHS, the welfare state, nationalisation, and it ushered in a period of unparalleled prosperity - the 1950s. It used its mandate and its power to revolutionise British society.

The Attlee Government did not betray the people, but the people betrayed them in 1951. Their failure to destroy the British Establishment left them vulnerable to that pernicious web of privilege and influence - it re-grouped and destroyed them.

Clement Attlee was the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century, and his Government was a Labour government. Its demise marked the end of the Labour Party as it was conceived by its founders, and the Labour Governments that followed were Labour in name only - the insidious decline in values and morality that led to the thing that the Labour Party became under Blair and Brown began.

Today, Scotland has its bright new day, and its elected representatives have their moment in the sunshine - the Scottish spring has begun, but so has the testing time. The eyes of Scotland are upon you, Holyrood - don’t disappoint us …

Saturday, 30 April 2011

You got it right in 2008, Glasgow voters - now get it right again in May 2011

This was my first YouTube video in 2008 - a cry of pain over the lost Labour Party, and a cry of hope for Glasgow East voters to do the right thing - vote SNP.

You did do the right thing, Glasgow East, overturning a 20,000 Labour majority, voting for John Mason, one of your ain folk.

But you panicked in May 2010, Glasgow East - fear of the Tories made you let Labour in again - the party that wrecked the economy and wrecked your hopes and dreams. They bottled their chance to form a Rainbow Coalition, and thus let the appalling ConLib Coalition into power.

Now Labour says "It wisnae us - big boys did it and ran away ..."

But it was you that ran away, Labour - a contemptible act. Since then the corruption of GCC, the Purcell Affair, the obscene profits of developers in Dalmarnock and the unforgivable persecution of Margaret Jaconelli in her own home have all exemplified the rotten thing Glasgow Labour has become.

Don't repeat your 2010 mistake at the critical Holyrood elections in May. BOTH VOTES SNP - Glasgow and Scotland's - real, best hope for the future.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Labour’s minnows in a stagnant Scots pool - Harry Reid’s devastating Herald indictment of Scottish Labour

Worth a blog just to give the link, in case you missed the newspaper - and my Tweet. You’ll have to register to read it all, but registration at The Herald online is free.

(I unaccountably missed Harry Reid as one of my journalist heroes in my piece the other day, but he is.)

 Labour's minnows ... by Harry Reid - The Herald

A quote -

Labour has taken Scotland for granted twice over. Its big hitters have pursued their careers hundreds of miles to the south, treating their own base with disdain; those left behind have become complacent, stagnating smugly and maybe not even minding too much if they are seen as inferior.

Harry Reid - The Herald 1st March 2011

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

You got it right in 2008, Glasgow voters - now get it right in May 2011

This was my first YouTube video in 2008 - a cry of pain over the lost Labour Party, and a cry of hope for Glasgow East voters to do the right thing - vote SNP.


You did, Glasgow East, overturning a 20,000 Labour majority, voting for John Mason, one of your ain folk.

But you panicked in May 2010, Glasgow East - fear of the Tories made you let Labour in again - the party that wrecked the economy and wrecked your hopes and dreams. They bottled their chance to form a Rainbow Coalition, and thus let the appalling ConLib Coalition into power.

Now Labour says "It wisnae us - big boys did it and ran away ..."

But it was you that ran away, Labour - a contemptible act.Since then the corruption of GCC, the Purcell Affair, the obscene profits of developers in Dalmarnock and the unforgivable persecution of Margaret Jaconelli in her own home.

Don't repeat your 2010 mistake at the critical Holyrood elections in May. VOTE SNP - Glasgow and Scotland's - real, best hope for the future.