Monday, 30 July 2012

SNP trains Civil Service to keep secrets (from you!)

Two weeks ago I published this article, decrying the Nationalists' propensity to hide vital public information from the voters and their tactic using our own money to keep us in the dark about some key facts and information which Alex Salmond doesn't want us to know. 

Today we find out in the Telegraph that Civil Servants at Holyrood are being schooled in maintaining that veil of secrecy, particularly over the "constitution" aka  "independence", and information vital to an open debate in the run up to the referendum.

According to the report;
"Ministers are expecting a flurry of requests from journalists and members of the public about their preparations for a separate country on such issues as defence, state benefits and currency."
In an effort to reveal as little as possible, the taxpayer-funded workshops;
".....will teach civil servants, who are supposed to be politically neutral, how to deal with such questions." 
 So, not content with obstructing the Information Commissioner at every turn, and spending your money to keep you in the dark, the SNP now wants to openly guide civil servants in the art of not answering the questions we might want the answers to in order to judge the vitally important issues that surround the SNP's own referendum!

If there was ever a practical definition of undemocratic, un-transperent, obstructive and obfuscatory behaviour by a Scottish Government, this is surely it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Three Cheers for the SNP!

Not a headline I expected to write....and, I have to say, slightly qualified even as I do so.

The Scotsman reports that SNP Ministers came under pressure at a meeting in Skye to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage. They refused, which is admirable, and it seems that they are still determined to go ahead with the legislation they promised on the matter.

My only slight concern is the indeterminate nature of the language, as reported, in which that determination is couched. The Scotsman says;
"Mr Salmond dismissed the calls for a referendum and repeated his pledge to allow a free vote among SNP MSPs if the issue comes before the Scottish Parliament........“We’re very clear that if we decided to go down this road, that it will be done on the basis of protection offered to not only churches, but also individual celebrants,
Any decision to proceed will be accompanied by protection. This is not a meaningless commitment and has been part of the consultation.”
I have highlighted in bold the potentially weasel words.....

So the SNP is determined, if it goes ahead with legislation, that there will not be a referendum. Which is fine.

It's just that it would be a lot better if the statements left absolutely no doubt at all that the legislation will go ahead.

Even more so in the light of the remarks of  new Archbishopof Glasgow, Phillip Tartaglia, on the unfortunate early death of David Cairns MP, which can be seen in this video at about 1hr and 4mins in.

It seems to me that any equivocation in the face of the AB's medieval mindset is wrong, even cowardly, for any modern and forward thinking person or organisation.

So maybe the Nats don't deserve the whole Hurrah!, the full Three Cheers. Perhaps, in the absence of absolute clarity and conviction from Nationalist ministers in the face of organised religious opposition, I should change the headline to "Two cheers for the SNP!" or maybe "Two-and-a-wee-bit Cheers for the SNP!".

My friends and political opponents would say even that would be something to note.... 

HOLD THE PRESSES! Ten minutes after posting.... This has just come in.... The SNP Government is to bring in legislation to legalise same-sex marriage. Good for them.

Three Cheers indeed!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

More Nationalist Suppression and Secrecy....

A few days ago I published this....  detailing how Nationalist ministers are ignoring Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) and using public money to suppress the publication of information that they have, and that you have paid for, but which they don't want you to know.

The two specific cases in point are the suppression of the costs of implementing the SNP's ill-fated Local Income Tax and the question of what legal advice our rulers have sought on the status of an "independent" Scotland within/outwith the EU.

Nationalist ministers didn't want you to know any of the details on these matters and they had no qualms about spending your money to keep you in the dark.

Today comes more evidence of Nationalist cover-up of information the public has paid for and is entitled to know, but Nationalist ministers, in this case Nicola Sturgeon, want to keep to themselves.

This time it's the results of internal NHS audits that the Health Minister doesn't want you to learn the results of.  Ministers were found to have withheld 18 Health and Social Care Directorate internal audit reports from publication, despite "strongly worded advice" from Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew to reconsider.

Yet again the Information Commissioner has to intervene, and to twist the arm of a Nationalist politician, to ensure the results of these audits, conducted under publicly enacted legislation for the purpose of providing clarity on the performance of public bodies and paid for out of the public purse, actually reaches the public domain.

In the past the Nats have held out as long as they can against the requirement for openness on a range of matters. I wonder what Nicola will do this time. Will she publish? Will the public get to see the data we paid for? Or will we to see more attempts at suppression and secrecy and avoidance from the most secretive Scottish Government ever?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The SNP, Secrecy, Your Money

What is it with the SNP, secrecy and public money? Last year they spent £100,000 keeping secret the internal Civil Service documents relating to the costs of implementing their ill-fated Local Income Tax.  Labour had claimed that the tax would cost in the region of £350-£400 million to implement. The SNP denied this, but refused to release their own calculations. Labour asked for the information under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunnion ruled that the informationshould be revealed but still the Nats refused, preferring to go to appeal at the High Court in Edinburgh and spend £100,000 of public money to delay the publication of the facts until after the 2011 election. In July 2011, after the Scottish elections, the figures were conveniently “leaked” and were confirmed at £380million.

This week, another FOI followed by another SNP refusal to submit to a decision by the Commissioner.

Labour MEP Catherine Stihler asked Scottish Ministers what advice they have received on Scottish membership of the EU (supposing a “yes” vote in a referendum to break up the UK). The SNP insists that Scottish membership of the Union (European) would be a shoo-in, a mere formality with no possible barriers or delays to taking immediate membership of the EU, but they refused to answer Stihler’s direct question, so she put in an FOI request asking if they had received advice on the matter, and what the advice was. The Information Commissioner said that the Nationalists should at least reveal if they had sought and been given legal advice on EU membership. The SNP Government immediately appealed the Commissioner’s decision..... More delay, more cost to the public purse, more obfuscation and less information from the Nationalist Goverment which must be setting a record as the least transparent administration ever to sit in Holyrood.   
The Nationalist refusal to be open with the Scottish people is even more striking in this case as the UK Government has released its own legal advice. It says that the legal advice it received was that Scotland is only part of the EU by virtue of the UK's membership and could not automatically assume membership of the EU. There are other conditions including adopting the Euro as the currency of the new member state. This last is a real headache for the Nats as they gave up their attachment to the Euro due to the current problems of the Euro-zone and switched back to being in the “pound zone”*. In their defence Nationalists quote Westminster convention that legal advice is never disclosed – as if the SNP has ever taken a minutes notice of “Westminster convention”! And if the UK Government can release its legal advice, why can the Nationalists not release theirs?

The strong suspicion is that the Nationalists have never sought any legal advice on the position vis-a-vis the EU post referendum. Which would be very strange of a party which has been in existence for nearly 80 years and has only one real defining policy – that of “independence” from the UK. Especially in light of the Nationalist policy of “independence in Europe”, it is beyond belief that they would not seek legal clarification on such an important issue.

The other suspicion is that the Nationalists did seek legal guidance and the advice they received is at odds with their stated policy and that there would be significant obstacles to immediate EU membership for an “independent” Scotland.  

Either way it is absolutely ridiculous that a Nationalist party which has long standing policy positions on Europe and the Euro has not sought any legal advice on the viability of that policy. To use public money to keep this information from Scottish voters is verging on maladministration.

* incidentally they never asked the Bank of England if this was a possibility – are we seeing a  pattern here?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Better Together

I have no clue of Andy Murray's politics, and I hope he doesn't mind this picture being used here, but he seems quite comfortable being Scottish and British.

Sensible really.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Coastguard lunacy

Last week Clyde coastguard attended two emergencies at Largs, one of which involved rescuing a man from the water at the pier.   The Marine Rescue services are a vital component of safety on the Clyde and on the West Coast of Scotland.

Last September I attended a meeting in Greenock, hosted by Inverclyde Council, at which it was revealed that the coalition Government had plans to close the Marine Rescue Centre at Greenock and transfer the workload to Belfast and Stornoway. To be honest it sounded daft to me. Greenock handles much more traffic and twice as many calls as these two stations put together. Belfast is smaller, with no plans to increase manpower, and it lacks the vital local knowledge of Clyde and Western waters built up over many years by the Greenock staff. Belfast also operates on the Irish mapping system, which is different from UK mapping and charting standards.

Despite protests from all the affected Councils and the trades unions, it has recently been confirmed that operational control of the service provided at the Greenock site will close in December 2012.

It seems to me that safety on the Clyde is being sacrificed to a hasty and cost-driven decision by UK Ministers, and that this decision must be overturned.

Katy Clark MP has a good article here on the issue and the PCS union has a campaign called Coastguard SOS. Please visit and support this campaign. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

SNP ambition (or lack of it)

Last autumn I posted this ...  about the emerging notion that somehow there should be a second question on a referendum ballot, as suggested by Alex Salmond. It is a warning and a question about so-called Devo Max and why the Nats need it and Scotland does not.

Since then the Nationalists have been pretending that the whole question of Devo Max and extra powers for Holyrood was nothing to do with them, it came from a call from the people for more, if vaguely defined, powers, and the Nats were only thinking about it because they wanted the to respect those calls and wishes.

Everybody else, perhaps cynicaly, has been convinced that Eck wants a second question because he knows he would lose a single, yes/no, in/out referendum, and he wants to hedge his bets.  It has certainly been noticeable that the people who keep bringing it up are Nationalists, and no-one else.

Today the FFM moves again. The Scottish people have "a right" to his second question and are calling even louder for that right.

 Funny that, I talk to people all the time about politics. The referendum isn't the first thing they mention: that's usually bread and butter issues like jobs, earnings, housing, schools.

And even when the referendum does come up, it's a low priority. So a two-question referendum? High on peoples' agendas? Not in my experience.

The second question is the "saving FM Eck" strategy. A ploy to claim victory even in defeat.

I'm surprised that Nationalist activists buy it: if successful it means no "independence" in anyone's lifetime. It's an admission of defeat and a preparation for the world of neverendums, where the Nats never quite win, but real politics is stymied and neutered by the constitutional question.....

The limit of Alex Salmond's ambition, apparently....