Saturday 31 December 2011

The Death of Consumerism

The Silverburn shopping centre on Glasgow's south-side is the largest mall in Scotland, so they say. It's enormous. A huge cathedral-like structure of glass and tile, full of "units" and "outlets" and "franchises" and "supermarkets" and even just plain shops, with a Tesco at one end and a Marks and Spencer at the other, it's a vast modern bazaar with everything you might want, and all under one gigantic roof .

Yesterday I was diverted to the M&S shop at Silverburn to get some toddler food for my 3-year-old grandson, but unfortunately they didn't have what I wanted.

As I strode through the mall on my way back to the car it suddenly struck me that in all that corncuopia of goods and services, of clothes and hardware and software and printware and fast food and (for all I know) slow food, in all of it, there was not one thing that they could sell me that I really needed or even particularly wanted.

FREEDUM!! (as our nationlaist brethren are wont to exhale when facts and logic run out .....)

Monday 12 December 2011

An Act of Existential Cowardice

Or "Where's Wally", Parliamentary version....

If there is one policy, principle and philosophical stance that used to distinguish the Lib Dems from the other parties it is a firm attachment to Europe. But last week their coalition partner David Cameron pushed the UK dinghy away from the nearer European shores and drifted off on the long Eurosceptic journey to complete separation.Nick Clegg at first agreed and then demurred. "I'm for it.Oh no, I'm agin' it" he said of Mr Cameron's Euro brush off.

Today, when Mr Cameron came to attempt to justify his decision to the Commons, McAvity Clegg just wasn't there.

When Clegg and his party reneged on their cast iron promise to students to oppose rises in student fees it seemed that they had sunk as low as they could go. Not at all.

Now the Lib Dems have abandoned their keystone policy. The party of Europe is silent against the onslaught of the swivel eyed Tory right wing little Englander Euro-nutters. The same Euro-nutters who now believe they have won the day and have destroyed the Lib Dems raison d'etre.

And the leader of that party, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Nicholas Clegg MP, a man who has spent his political life in Europe and fighting for pro-European policies, was too cowardly to even attend the Parliamentary debate. Too afraid to face the well earned contempt of his peers and the derision of his colleagues. Too scared to give badly needed leadership to his party, he ran and he hid. Like a criminal. Like a fugitive.

While other Lib Dems stood and took defeat on the chin, and fought back with what spirit they could muster, their leader was in furtive hiding. He slunk out afterwards and tried to bluster his way through TV interviews without looking too shop-soiled, but he is damaged goods, no leader, and his party is, maybe fatally, wounded.

And what of the coalition? If it gets into trouble, will Nick Clegg stand up for it, for his Tory tormentors, for those who today called him and his party "lickspittles" while he, the brave party leader, cowered in the shadows, unable or unwilling to stand up for himself or his party or their, now tattered and torn, political principles.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Nationalist Crocodile in Tears

The SNP likes to portaray itself as, and it's activists like to believe it is, a left-wing party. To listen to the Nats, the Tories are demons, Labour and the Lib Dems are just Tories in drag and the only real left wing party in Scotland is the SNP. This despite their embracing of many Tory policies and Alex Salmond's very public endorsement of Thatcherite philosophy. Somehow, despite all the evidence, the Nationalists like to pretend that they are somehow of the left, politically.

Anyway. Here, from the Caledonian Mercury, is more evidence in the argument. The Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) has revealed that the SNP asked for even more swingeing chnages to public sector pensions than even the ToryDem coalition dared to do.

Among the suggestions that John Swinney put forward to the Hutton Commission on public sector pensions are;:

Moving to a "defined contribution" scheme which would be much more like most private sector schemes and would leave many public sector workers considerably worse off as a result.
Increasing the contributions from employees.
Reducing the benefits available to pensioners, but not reducing the size of their contributions.
Introducing later retirement ages.

Tomorrow you might see some SNP politicians issuing statements of support for the strikers. "Every sympathy". "Disgraceful Tories attacking poor public sector workers". "Lib Dem Tory poodles". That sort of stuff. When you do, remember the truth: the nats want to cut public sector pensions even more viciously than the Tories.

Given the nats known previous behaviour, I'm not surprised.

I wonder what those decent SNP members who take comfort in their party's "liberal", "left wing", credentials, make of it, when the evidence mounts that they are anything but.....

Sunday 27 November 2011

Devolution-Max: a dangerous Red-Herring

Devolution Max is a dangerous red herring for the country. Actually, looking at what I have just written gives pause for thought because I don’t actually know what is meant by the phrase, (should that be slogan?), “Devolution Max”.  Do you? Does anyone?
According to the political pundits and its supporters Devo Max is “more powers for Holyrood”. But which “more powers”? And how powerful are these “more powers”? And why do we need them? And what would we do with them? And what would be the effect on Scotland and the UK of Scotland having these magical but still undefined “more powers”? I have to admit, I don’t really know the full extent of it - nor does anyone, least of all the Scottish people.
I do know that Devo Max is not Labour policy. In fact it’s not anyone’s policy. It has never been through the furnace of proposal, analysis, consultation, revision, refinement, explanation, clarification and commitment to manifesto and voter acceptance that any policy needs to gain support and legitimacy. There is no party or democratic mandate for Devo Max.
So that’s the first question: why embrace an idea that is not fully defined, which has never been in anyone’s manifesto, which has no democratic mandate, which is little more than a slogan and of which we know only the outline but which has the potential to take us far beyond anything we have ever voted for? 
But of course we do know something of what its supporters want. They want “Full Fiscal Autonomy”. By that they mean that, broadly speaking, all taxes raised in Scotland will be kept in Scotland. By any analysis I have seen this would shrink the Scottish Executive’s income and the public sector even more than currently threatened by the coalition. They want to keep the Queen as Head of State and the British military as our national defence arm. They want other things, I’m sure, but that’s all I can really pin down from all the endless discussion of Devo Max and it’s suitability as a second question on the “independence” referendum. 
And that’s the other thing the Devo Max brigade wants: they want it as a second question on a referendum ballot on “independence”.

Question: “do you want “independence”?

Answer: no fear!

“OK then, do you want “more powers””?

“More powers”! That sounds wonderful. How can anyone turn down “more powers”?
OK we’ll have “more powers” taverymuch”

Federalism has been a Lib Dem aim, quietly unspoken, never trumpeted, but lurking at the back of their policy locker for use in constitutional discussions when the need arises. Some Lib Dems are attracted to the possibility that Devo Max might be a Trojan horse for federalism. “We want change. Not more Devolution or “independence”. Federalism, that’s it”. And of course “federalism” has no democratic mandate either. And federalism isn’t Devolution or “independence”. Whereas Devolution is the enacted will of the Scottish people and while it could be argued that there is a democratic mandate for a referendum on “independence” (many legal questions still to be answered of course), federalism has no such justification.
So. We have “independence” which is sure to lose in any one-question referendum, and we have this slogan that no-one can (or wants to) define properly in any detail , that would make us worse off but is psychological catnip to the voters. Why on Earth would we want to muddy the waters by including it alongside the SNP’s losing proposition? After all it’s their ideal second prize. “Oh well, we lost this one, but look at the losing bonus....!! Almost everything we want and we didn’t even have to campaign for it, our opponents did that for us”. Quickly followed by: “Whit a buncha dopes”.
It’s even more bizarre that any of the major parties can contemplate offering Devo Max to the nats as a consolation prize when the Calman proposals for “more powers for Holyrood” are currently in the process of being enacted by Westminster. These are our “more powers”. We thought them through and campaigned on them. They are a sensible extension of the devolution powers that Labour and the other parties introduced against the opposition of the SNP. Why would we want another question on “more powers” with Calman on the stocks but not yet tested to see if the “more powers” included in the Scotland Bill actually work?
My old Grannie used to say “Cui bono, youngyin, cui bono”. And the cui who bonos from a second, Devo Max question on the referendum ballot, is one trader in oleum serpens who goes by the name of Eckus obesus. Imagine the grins on nationalist faces the day after they lose the “independence” referendum, but still walk away with a prize. And more importantly, the mood in the country: wily old Alex, he’s lost and yet still won and lives to fight another day. That Labour bunch, they know nothing.
Devolution Max is a dangerous red herring. It is ill-defined, it has no democratic mandate, its effects are unpredictable but very possibly dramatic, it drives towards a federalist position (something no-one wants), it will reduce the public sector in Scotland below even the current planned cuts, it has potential to cause much disruption within the UK, it opens the door to more possibilities for nationalist trouble making and it provides a nice “second prize” to the SNP for losing their referendum on “independence”
Apart from that....

Saturday 12 November 2011

A Manifesto for our Times...

Am I the only one that thinks it astonishing that unelected Prime Ministers have been foisted on Greece and Italy by the Germns and the French?

Even more bizarre is the fact that at least on of these new and unelected PMs is a financier......

I thought the financial crisis was the failure of the banking system, but it seems it's really the collapse of democratic systems...

On a lighter note, inducing and containing a real truth...

Hat tip tax research uk;

Thursday 10 November 2011

Trust me, I'm a Tory....

The Coalition Government has had a bumpy ride with its NHS "reforms". After campaigning as a lover of the NHS and eschewing "top down" reorganisations, David Cameron gave the NHS to Andrew Landsley, a man who had been planning for many years to commercialise (at least), and impose just such a top down reorganisation, on the NHS in England.

Whenever the question of whether they intend to privatise NHS services the Tories throw up their hands and roll their eyes: "Not me guv. Honest". Meanwhile American and other Healthcare companies slaver on the sidelines. The NHS is a plum they would very much like to swallow. If only the Government would let them...

Today it was announced that a company called Circle Healthcare has been awarded the contract to manage Hitchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. Not quite a full privatisation but very possibly a rehearsal for it. A trojan Horse, the thin end of a gold plated wedge.

Politics Home has declared an exclusive on the revalation that Circle Healthcare has strong links to the Tory Party. 

Individuals linked to Circle have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservatives over the last few years and a Tory MP is revealed as an ex-employee.

To add flavour, The False Economy Blog claims that Circle has never made a profit.

In which case, what of their magical management capability? If you can't make a profit running your own business, how do you qualify to run anyone else's? Let alone a huge, locally vital, public health facility?

We couldn't be looking at an example of that old fashioned Tory sleaze, could we..... you grease my palms, I'll put business your way. With the added bonus of privatising public property.....

Sunday 6 November 2011

Would Eck's referendum be legal?

Most recent discussion on the Nationalists' proposed referendum on "independence" has centred on when it will be and what the question(s) will be. TBH I'm beginning to doubt it will ever happen.

Lalands Peat Worrier has an interesting piece, linking to the UK Supreme Court  blog by Aiden O'Neill QC, questioning the legality of any referendum launched from Holyrood (whatever the question) and its openness to legal challenge.

The basic premise is that no referendum from Eck can be legal and any such referendum can and certasinly will be challenged....

Interesting reading.

Thursday 3 November 2011

From the "Why?" to the "How?" of "independence"....

Gerry Hassan has a with the headline "From the How to the Why of independence...."

Which is telling, IMHO.

Surely the sensible direction is the opposite "From the ‘Why’ to the ‘How’ of Scottish Independence"

Because, if there's no good reason "Why" then you don't need the "How".

As in;

Gerry: "We need independence"

Me: "Why?"

Gerry: "Because... (a whole list of compelling evidence)..."

Me: "Ok then, how do we get it?"


Gerry: "We need independence"

Me: "Why?"

Gerry: "Errmmm... don't really just seems like a good idea... Hrrrmmm kilts, bagpipes, London's miles away...Aaaarrghhh Alex Salmond told me...

Me: "Well, if you can't tell me "Why", we don't need to plan a "How" do we?

Which seems to me to nicely encapsulate the nationalist position so far...

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Wizard of Eck....

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the USA, famously stated during his inauguration speech that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself". Roosevelt spoke in relation to the great depression and the political dangers of the prevailing situation. Many films of that era tended to reflect the political and social issues of he time. One such is the 1939 children's classic The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy from Kansas, transported to the land of Oz, has to challenge the fearsome and all-powerful Wizard of Oz who can help her to return home.

After many adventures with, among others, the wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy discovers the Wizard to be a small man with a big megaphone, enforcing his will by outshouting everyone else. Behind the impressive front, the Wizard is revealed as a pompous and bombastic wimp. In Scottish terms, the great panjandrum is really a toom empty cloak.

Watching the events of last weekend unfold I could not help being struck by the parallels with current Scottish politics.

First, Alex Salmond claimed in a political magazine that only SNP politicians have the right to talk about "independence". His remarks were in the context of the decision by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee to investigate the implications to Scotland and the UK if Scottish "independence" was ever to be put in place. The FM declared that "there is no one on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that has a mandate to say anything about a referendum, apart Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)....". The master of bombast and bluster shows a small part of his hand...... the SNP is legitimate, everyone else is illegitimate, therefore questioning "independence" is also illegitimate and the Nats aren't playing that game, thankyouverymuch.

On Friday Alex Salmond gives an interview to the BBC in which he promises to have a two-question referendum on "independence" and "devolution max", and in which he warns the Prime Minister to steer clear of calling his own referendum. "The time has passed when Westminster can dictate to the Scottish people", says the Great Eck, thus dismissing the Wicked Witch of Westminster.

The Great Leader's speech, to be delivered the following day at the SNP Rally in Inverness, was much trailed in the papers and on TV. Again, we were told, there would be warnings to Westminster to lay off and again there would be the commitment to a two-question referendum.

But come the speech itself: it had the usual nationalist tropes about wha's like us and hands of our oil and how they are "Scotland's Party" and nobody else counts and London's imagined baleful influence. There was a lot about "independence" and the promised referendum, but, interestingly, no direct mention of the second, "devo max", question. It's attractions were hinted at, but there was no open commitment by the SNP, the party which runs the Parliament and which wants the referendum, to actually formulating and including a question on "devo max" in their referendum.

So. What happened to the SNP's desire for a fallback, second question, on "devo max"?

Fast forward to Tuesday night. On Newsnight Scotland Alex Salmond, Alex Neill and Derek McKay of the SNP lined up to insist that there must be a second question but it must be set by the other parties! This bizarre argument is pursued with much illogic, by Mr McKay in particular, on this clip from the programme.

Now the Scottish Affairs Select Committee returns centre stage: Eilidh Whiteford resigns from the committee claiming that she was threatened with a "doing" by committee chair Ian Davidsom MP (Labour). She's so distressed that she cannot carry on. The SNP says it will not be represented on the committee until Mr Davidson resigns as chair. But Mr Davidson has apologised while denying any threat, and  other members of the committee who were present at the meeting cannot recall Ms Whiteford being threatened at all. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Nationalists are seizing on it to uncouple and distance themselves from any public discussion of the "independence" question. When the Scottish Affairs Select Committee reports on the problems it finds with the SNP's main policy, the Nats will hold their hands in the air and say "Ah but, we don't accept it because we weren't consulted". Because they chose not to take part.....

For years now we've been told that Eck was the wizard of Scottish politics. Everyone was afraid to take him on because no-one could stand up to his scorn or match his rhetoric: he could win every argument by sheer volume of voice and he could blow away all opposition. One result has been that nobody, particularly the Scottish media, has questioned his position, or his policies, such as they are. The Wizard of Eck has megaphoned his way to domination over a fawning media and a bamboozled political class.

But is the very real Wizard of Eck any different in essence from the fictional Wizard of Oz?  

The Wizard of Eck's strategy is revealed: bluster, bombast, megaphone politics, threats and warnings. If these don't work, then blame everyone else and, when cornered, run away or plead for special treatment. Just like the Wizard of Oz.

How very familiar.... the question now becomes....who is to be the Scottish peoples' Dorothy to prick the imposter's bubble?

Wednesday 26 October 2011


The SNP won a mandate in May for their referendum on "independence". Since then they have been toying with something they call "devo max".... should there be a second question on the referendum form offereing "devo max"?

Problem is, they have no definition of their "devo max" idea.

Now they are demanding that the other parties define "devio max" and put the second question on the ballot....!!!

Lats night's Newsnight Scotland we had a succesion of senior nats: Alex Neill, Alex Salmond and someone called Derek McKay demanding that the other parties tell him what his second question should be!

Watch it here...

It's bizzare.

Monday 24 October 2011

Relaxed about the stinking rich....

When I was young the USA was viewed by one-and-all as the land of opportunity for the ordinary person. I knew a number of families, incuding relatives, who emigrated there in search of a better life: more jobs, better paid, a higher standard of living. And, importantly, a rising standard of living. If you worked you were better off every year, and there was no reason not to work. That was the promise of the USA to its citizens young and old, old and new.

And that was the message sent back but those who went there: a land of plenty where the working man could hold his head up and do as well as the next guy.

Which is why the graph below, (plucked from here) while not really a shock, carries a shocking message. 

It shows that the vast majority, 90%, of US citizens have had no real improvement in their wealth in 30 years. But the top 1% has increased its wealth by 224% and the top 0.1% has increased its wealth by a positively gargantuan 390%!

The promise of the USA to its citizens is, and as been for thirty years, a lie. The working man, and indeed that mythical American cadre, the "middle classes", gets stiffed in the wealth stakes. The bottom 90% have been betrayed and left behind while the top 1% have lapped up all the benefits of growth over that time.

The betrayal aligns exactly with the neo-con era, Thatcher/Regan voodoo economics and the sick joke of "trickle down", the theory that it's all right if the rich get richer because we all benefit from their greed. Well it isn't so and it never was. And all of this in a era when those same 1% of the extremely rich have paid a lot less tax. Something stinks, IMHO.

Peter Mandelson was famously "relaxed about some people being filthy rich".. Up to a point, Lord Copper, says I. But when the evidence for such a cash-grab is so stark and so prolonged, it's time to call a halt. No wonder there's the stirrings of a left-wing resistance movement building up in the USA. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm not jealous of rich people who work hard and who get rewards commensurate with their industry and their luck. Good for them I say, as long as the reward really is proportionate and as long as the rest of us do not get left behind. 

Would a similar analysis in the UK would show a similar result? I wouldn't be surprised: maybe someone will do the work....?

Monday 17 October 2011

Headlines, history and hysterics

When is a story not really a story, and what do headlines tell us?

The Herald is running this story, under the headline;

"Independence warning after SNP ‘historic shift’"

The story starts....
"THE SNP Government is to renew calls for greater economic powers north of the Border after claiming there had been a historic shift in the public’s attitude towards the party. The Nationalists were given a further boost after a poll showed a rise in support across the UK for independence."

It goes on to report that a poll has 39% UK-wide "supporting" "independence" for Scotland.

But look again: is the result so astonishing? We've been here before with even notional majorities in Scotland telling pollsters that they would support "independence", an outcome not reflected in any subsequent electio result.

And who says that it is "historic"? Well nobody really. To quote;

"THE SNP Government is to renew calls for greater economic powers north of the Border after claiming there had been a historic shift in the public’s attitude towards the party."

And there's even more confusion. Even if more people across the UK support "independence", that's no reason to say they would support any specific new or enhanced "economic powers" for Holyrood. It is quite possible that people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland might support "independence" for Scotland for any number of reasons. That's no guarantee that they would support more (or even less) tax raising power for Holyrood. And even if they did, so what? Within the Devolution settlement, Holyrood is quite entitled to ask for more powers from Westminster, but Westminster isn't obliged to grant those powers, particularly without a manifesto commitment to do so, a commitment which none of the UK parties has made.

So. Do we have an "Independence warning"? No. We have a demand for more tax powers, the same demand that has been made often enough in the last few months.

Do we have a "historic shift". Not really. We have an opinion poll. The results are as interesting and important as most polls, but they are not in any way "historic".

So what's it all about? It's all about selling newspapers. Many a nat wandering into the newsagents and not yet decided which paper to buy will have his/her eye caught by this "historic" breakthrough and eagerly buy the Herald to lap it up. What they lap up, the content of the article, will be a lot less nutritious and falvourfull than the hysterical headline has promised.

But hey, that's showbiz, as Alex Salmond regularly responds at FMQs.

Monday 3 October 2011

The reported £800 million the UK Government is spending to extend the Council Tax freeze in England is almost an exact match for the amount of fees support removed from universities, thus enforcing a £9000 annual fee on new undergraduates.

In effect grateful middle class parents and grandparents get a tax windfall from the Tories which they then immediately divert to a subsidy for their university bound offspring. In this manner university fees are privatised and council services are cut, and we willingly pay up. How cunning is that?

And what is the SNP Council Tax freeze costing us north of the border?

Friday 9 September 2011

Scottish Nationalist Police Force...

I’m not aware of all the arguments in favour of a national police force, but surely those who say that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) wants to create a Scottish National Police force (SNP) so that the new Scottish National Police force (SNP) can drive along our streets and highways with its snappy new acronym above a brand new badge, probably containing the Saltire, a flag that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) seems to consider its personal property rather than the flag of the country, are being too cynical. Aren’t they?

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Has you're Granny got a Heilan' Hame?

A common theme of yer actual cybernat is the blind assumption that everyone is like them. If you're not a Scot Nat, you must be a "unionist", and if you happen to be English and speak out against Scots Nats, that's because you're an English Nat. Have to be. Stands to reason. How can anyone not be  a Nat of some description?


I'm watching the T20 international between England and India from Old Trafford. And y'know, that little theory doesn't quite hold water.... The "English" team has no fewer than three South Africans, Pietersen. Keiswetter and Dernbach, and one Irishman, Eoin Morgan, in their eleven... 

And young Dernbach is half-Scottish into the bargain.

Now that's what I call sensible. Not "Where were you born?" or "Has you're Granny got a Heilan' hame?", or "Can you wave a flag?", but "Can you play?". Quite right too.

And when the United Nations helped England beat the Aussies and win the Ashes, wasn't that a great victory for English cricket...? I watched it. I loved it.

Great thing about the English... they're not Nationalists.

Mind you, how many home-born Scots are there in the current Scottish football team? And the Tartan Army don't seem to care too much... good for them, I say.

Thursday 25 August 2011

You're 'avin' a Laffer....

I'm no economist, but I do know that the SNP's plans to compete within the UK on Corporation Tax are flawed, as I blogged here and as Richard Murphy blogged here. A separate Corporation Tax in Scotland is contrary to the interests of the UK, it doesn't create new jobs but it does cause distortions in the market and any claimed benefits are not certain and will take years to appear... if they ever do. 

Meanwhile the EU is moving towards harmonisation of business taxes, forcing Tax Pirate economies like the Irish to toe the line, and making the policy that the Nationalists want in a devolved UK, i.e.cutting business taxes in isolation, impossible to implement if they ever achieved their dream of "independent in Europe".
So it's already a dog's breakfast, a fact emphasised by John Swinney's incoherence when trying to defend it on Newsnicht. 

Nevertheless the bold John yesterday issued this press release.....and now he seems to have swallowed the whole right-wing Laffer Curve nonsense... y'know the bit where Tea Party Republicans claim that lowering taxes always increases government revenues...

"There is clear evidence from around the world of the benefits from lowering burdens on business....Lower corporation tax is a vital source of competitive advantage in an integrated global economy, helping to attract new businesses and highly-skilled jobs. ......Corporation Tax has a significant influence on increasing the size, competitive strength, productivity and ambition of Scotland's business base. Lower rates of corporation tax boost incentives to invest in human and physical capital, and research and development, increasing firms' profitability and the ability to compete.....cutting the headline tax rate would not necessarily reduce tax receipts."

Proponents of the Laffer Curve are always willing to admit that it is counter-intuitive (translation "illogical") to believe that cutting taxes increases the amount of tax revenues gathered, but even they will only claim that it works if a country is "over taxed" in the first place. Say what you want about the UK, but it's not a high tax country for business in the first place. Corporation Tax is only around 26% and there are plans to reduce it, so the theoretical gain from the Laffer analysis wouldn't happen here (even if you believed in Laffer, which most economists don't).

Frankly, what a so-called "left wing" party like the SNP pretends to be is doing calling up neo-liberal mumbo jumbo to support an already discredited policy proposal is beyond logic and consistency. But then logic and consistency never were a Nationalist strong points. 


Friday 19 August 2011

Where's Gordon.....? Where's Gideon...?

Yesterday and today global markets plummeted. Down like a stone... and no "dead cat bounce" to be seen. This particular cat is a dead cat and it ain't bouncing any time soon.... the outlook is bleak and the future is dark...

The economies of Europe and the USA are tanking. Confidence drains away like a summer downpour... not much left, it'll soon be gone...

And our leaders? How are they handling this dreadful situation?

Obama speaks words of reassurance. Merkel speaks. Sarkozy speaks. Merkel and Sarkozy speak together. They all speak in unison. But who is listening...? Not the markets. Not the investors or the financial analysts. The more our leaders speak, the worse the situation becomes.... (BTW, where's our Finance Minister in all of this? Gideon George Osborne is nowhere to be seen).

Here's a quote from Liberal England;
"For all Gordon Brown's faults, he was a considerable and reassuring presence on the international stage and would have been in his element in the current crisis. When it comes to international finance, our current prime minister has been the invisible man."
Halelujah! Absolutely true. If Gordon was in charge he would be calling summits, banging heads together, brokering deals, making a case, convincing markets, bolstering banks, exuding confidence, outmanouvreing hedge funds and, at least, attempting to control the crisis.

Where is he now? Well the UK public bought the Murdoch line that Gordon was difficult, Gordon was mulish, Gordon , the dour Scot, was somehow limited and not fit for leadership (unlike James Murdoch......).

And the public believed Murdoch, but not enough to vote for Dave, so the Lib Dems, when it came to the choice, chose Dave.... and his Bullingdon mate and economic illiterate, George

Where are they now that we need real leadership from really mature politicians? They are nowhere to be seen.

And where is Gordon when we need him....? Out of office and out of power.

Is that the real tragedy of the 2011 financial crisis?

Payback Time....

Brian Wilson has an interesting piece about the political influence in the honours system, in particular the knighthood awarded to the SNP's main paymaster, Brian Souter, the bus and rail billionaire. Was it a straight reward from Nationalist politicians to the man who puts so much cash into their party? It's hard to avoid the suspicion that it was.

Today's Herald reports that Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) is under threat of "review" by the Nationalist Administration. Is it a coincidence that SPT is a publicly owned transport organisation and that it has been calling for stronger regulation of the bus business, a regulation that might not be to the liking of Mr Souter or in the financial interests of businesses?

Call me an old cynic, but if a Labour or Tory benefactor was making such large contributions to the party and getting such obvious benefit from government actions, what would the average person think, never mind your cybernats?

The SNP's second most prominent donor is Sir Tom Farmer. What little gift can the Nats have lined up for him?

Thursday 18 August 2011

Open, Transparent, ...You kiddin?

I recently posted this on  the decision by the Nationalist Administration at Holyrood to go to law to block a number of Freedom Of Information Requests (FOI). They wanted to keep information on their proposed Local Income Tax from the public... the same public who would have to pay the tax if it ever came to fruition. It seemed to me that the SNP was deliberately delaying the information because of the Scottish elections which were ongoing at the time the FOIs were requested. Anyway, not very honest, open or democratic...

Today Catherine Stihler MEP reveals that she has raised an FOI asking about any legal advice the Nationalists have on whether an "independent" Scotland would be automatically accepted into the EU. The Nationalist Executive has refused to accept the FOI, and says that releasing the information would be "contrary to the public interest"!!! Honest! Contrary to the public interest! How can it be "contrary to the public interest" for the public to have the same legal information that the SNP has on such a key part of the Nationalist strategy?

Open and transparent are words which are obviously not in the vocabulary of our Nationalist brethren.

The Nats launched their attempt to get control of Corporation Tax this week. The aim is to reduce the tax in Scotland and give Scottish business a "competitive edge" against other British companies. it wouldn't work... see here for analysis.... but in any case, it's at odds with the EU's announcement that countries should harmonise and integrate business taxes, not the disintegration that the Nationalists seem to want.

P.S. I wonder which unfortunate SNP minister is (supposed to be) in control of the Nationalists EU strategy.....

Poor wee sowell, as ma grannie used to say..... 

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Unsafe is as Unsafe does.....

Today is the second anniversary of Kenny McAskill's decision to release Abdelbaset Al Megrahi. Sky has an interesting piece about the circumstances of his diagnosis and release, with a prominent cancer specialist who gave his opinion on Mrgrahi's health showing his unhappiness at how his opinion was used in the decision to release Megrahi. 

Today it is also announced that Nat Fraser has been charged and will face a retrial on charges of murdering his wife.

This coincidence prompts the thought: why is the Nationalist government happy to release Megrahi on doubts over the safety of his conviction but the same Nationalist government is incensed by the Supreme Court ordering a retrial of Nat Fraser over doubts about the safety of his conviction?

Does justice come into it all, or is it, like most things to do with SNP actions, explained by the usual Nationalist politicking and posturing?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

FFA's sake....

Devolution Max, It's the kite being flown by the SNP in the knowledge that Scotland doesn't want "independence". DevoMax would incorporate Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA), the idea that all taxes raised in Scotland would be held and spent in Scotland, and that such charges as Corporation Tax could be varied  (i.e rduced) in Scotland so that businesses would move from England to Scotland to save money and increase profits.

Professor Arthur Midwinter has an interesting post here on the difficulties and general impracticality of FFA in a devolved Scotland. I have always suspected that FFA was independence in disguise. Prof Midwinter shows that it is inconsistent with devolution and with the UK's economic arrangements.

But it is also at odds with the SNP's other main policy of "independence in Europe" (itself a contradiction in terms, but that's another argument). Events in the Eurozone have resulted in pressure for much more fiscal integration, the exact opposite of the SNP's desire to be a tax haven economy, at fiscal war with its supposed partners in the UK and the EU. 

As for the Nats desire to be corporation tax pirates, here's what the the BBC reports is the Euro Leaders opinion of that...
In another initiative to increase tax revenues, the leaders advocated harmonising corporate tax rates across the single currency - something likely to be strongly opposed by the low-tax Republic of Ireland.
That'll be the economically crippled Ireland that Alex Salmond thinks should be the model for Scottish economic management. And that'll also be the death knell of any Nationalist plans for an "independent" Scotland to undercut corporation tax rates in the Eurozone.

P.S. I've been wasting my time... read this by Richard Murphy....

Friday 12 August 2011

The Plates Shift......

Peter Oborne is the Telegraph's chief political commentator. He is an ex-editor of the Spectator and is still (I believe) a contributing editor to that journal. In other words he's a pillar of the right-wing journalistic establishment and great defender of the conservative (and Conservative) cause.

So it appears (to me at least) highly significant when such a figure as Oborne writes this sort of stuff in his newsblog;

"...there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington..."

There's a lot more in that vein...he attacks Richard Branson for hinting that he wants to move abroad to avoid tax, and Philip Green for already doing so.....

But such behaviour has been common among businesses and businessmen for decades, encouraged by the dominant neo-liberal economic philosophy and the "me-first" and "no such thing as society" politics of the right. And right-wing journals and journalists have attacked or ignored calls from the left for fairer taxation and for more vigorous pursuit of tax evasion and tax avoidance. Being successful was not just, as in the past, a reason for reasonable reward. It had become an excuse to maximise income and minimise contribution and the hell with those at the bottom. We have not quite reached the situation in parts of the USA with gated communities to keep out the undesirable poor, but morally and practically, it sometimes feels very similar.

And now? Can it be that the moral bankruptcy of encouraging the rich to be greedy, to take the rewards and demand ever more, and insisting that the poor remain honest, pay their taxes and accept what they get, is finally becoming untenable and undeniable? Even those like Oborne, of a naturally right wing bent, and who until now have questioned the very need for taxation and celebrated tax cuts and service cuts, have woken up to the consequences of the glorification of greed. Those who encouraged the increases in inequality and the increasing physical and psychical distance between rich and poor, are now beginning to question the moral and practical basis of such a policy.

Is the neo-liberal right finally in retreat? Is Peter Oborne the first unlikely cuckoo of a new, fairer, more equal, less divided and divisive spring?

*hattip Richard Murphy at the excellent Tax Research UK

Wednesday 10 August 2011

David Discovers Broken Britain.....

David Cameron invented the phrase "Broken Britain" to describe a type of social collapse that he supposed characterised the Labour years and which was an outcome of Labour philosophy.

Irony of ironies, it seems to have taken only a year of Mr Cameron's Premiership to actually break Britain....

Cutting jobs and services and police numbers is coming home to roost, as  Nick Clegg predicted and Boris Johnson highlights...

London's burning... and so are Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Liverpool........

Parts of Britain are indeed broken... and the chickens are coming home to roost for the inventor of the slogan....

Sunday 7 August 2011

Whither Eck's tongue....

After the Sun won it for the SNP in May, Alex Salmond “had a celebratory dinner” with News International executives.  This, and Mr Salmond’s four-year courting of the Murdoch empire, may seem to make him no better than any other politician with his tongue firmly attached to the Murdoch anatomy. But, in fact, the sin would seem to be worse for Mr Salmond. The man who constantly claims to be “standing up for Scotland”, and picking fights with far-away London, is in bed with a media company whose interests are not those of Scotland or the UK, but are firmly corporate with a United States bias, and with a wholly conservative political agenda.

                Given the power-broking influence of News Corporation in the relatively large UK, one shudders at the effects on democracy of such power and influence in a smaller so-called "independent" country with fewer resources to withstand, and as Mr Salmond’s behaviour has revealed, no real will or wish to resist, the blandishments and threats of Mr Murdoch’s bleak hospitality.

Where are our "leaders"?

North London goes up in flames, stock markets crash and burn and national economies burn to a crisp, while David Cameron languishes in Tuscany and George Osborne lounges by a pool in Los Angeles.

Imagine, just imagine, the media outcry and the opposition "fury", if Labour leaders - Gordon Brown say, or Alisdair Darling - were to behave in this lazy, not to say insouciant, manner in the middle of miltiple crises.... 

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Scottish, British, Nationalist insecurity.....

A previously unknown Scottish Nationalist MP, one Peter Wishart, has put the cat among the Nat pigeons with this post on Better Nation. Wishart attempts to define "Britishness", and to reconcile his Nationalism with some of the aspects of "Britishness" that he finds attractive.

Whatever the MP's intention - IMO he's softening up Nat opinion for a "dev max" vote in a possible three-question referendum - he has caused a stir. The post has been commented upon on other blogs and was even discussed on "Newsnicht" last night. And it's the comments that I find most interesting. On the Nationalist blog, Newsnet, the sight of a Nationalist MP going soft on Britishness has caused near apoplexy with some of the commenting cybernats.

Given the levels of abuse and outright rejection of the mere suggestion that there could be some aspects of "Britishness" that are not vile and repulsive, I can't escape the suspicion that the cybernats are furious at Wishart, not so much at his suggestions and ideas on the subject of national identity, but at their being forced to think about it in other than the usual "ah hate the English" and "ah luv ma cuuntry" banalities so beloved of the average cybernat.

Sunday 24 July 2011

The Ultimate irony.....


Open, modern, progressive, democratic, socially cohesive, free in association and liberal in attitudes with highly educated population and a relaxed approach to personal relations, race and religion. For many people a model of how a modern democracy can and should be organised.

But it seems there are people for whom a society can be too free ...

How can that be understood...?

Friday 15 July 2011

SNP sleaze....

Yesterday the SNP dropped its legal challenge which attempted to stop details of its so-called Local Income Tax becoming public. A total of £100,000 of public money has been wasted in the courts to prevent the Scottish people finding out that the LIT would create a shortfall of £400 million if introduced this year.

FOIs from opposition parties were blocked by John Swinney to prevent the information becoming public during the Scottish election campaign. Now the campaign is over he has cynically removed his objections to publication. But we still pay the bill for the Nationalists preventing us see the information in time to influence our votes. 

During the Major administration "sleaze" became the media word of choice to describe any politically related misdemeanour. It grew out of the "back to basics" sloganeering of the Major government, and moved in meaning from describing personal/sexual laxity of prominent people to being attached to almost any dodgy moves by the Tory government in any sphere, including the spending of public money in inappropriate ways.

Does this cynical ploy to spend our money to stop us seeing the truth qualify as "sleaze" in the accepted sense? Mebbes aye, mebbes naw.

What I do know is that if a Labour administration behaved in this way the newspapers and blogs would be humming with the buzz of Nationalist fury at yet another example of the degeneracy and corruption the politics of the union. Will we see the letters pages and the blogs flooded with cybernat discussion of this particular piece of Nationalist corruption?

My advice: don't hold your breath.

Thursday 14 July 2011

John Major, Nationalist Icon...

A recent speech at the Ditchley Foundation by John Major in which he appeared to endorse a sort "devolution max" approach to the constitution has been greeted with much excitement in Nationalist circles, and frenzied applause from nationalist bloggers and cybernats on the merits of Mr Major's arguments. "Look" they cry, "that wondeful Mr Major has come over to our side. How right and clever he is".

John Major himself must be a bit surprised by the praise, as he and other Prime Ministers, from whichever party, tend to be anti-Christs in Nationalist world-view. Mr Major is not as unpopular among Nats as Maggie or Tony, mainly because, until now, they wouldn't waste their energy having an opinion on the wimpish ex-PM, never nind envisage him as some sort of intellectual giant of the separatist movement. His fate has been to be not so much hated as derided.

Not now. Mr Major has, with one short speech, placed himself in the pantheon of Nationalist mythology as the Tory unionist who finally bought Nationalist separatism.

But has he? Mr Major's opinion on devolution is contained in this section of the speech;

"Devolution can also reduce the Westminster workload. But there is some groundwork to be cleared first. The present quasi-federalist settlement with Scotland is unsustainable. Each year of devolution has moved Scotland further from England. Scottish ambition is fraying English tolerance. This is a tie that will snap – unless the issue is resolved.
The Union between England and Scotland cannot be maintained by constant aggravation in Scotland and appeasement in London. I believe it is time to confront the argument head on. I opposed Devolution because I am a Unionist. I believed it would be a stepping stone to Separation.
That danger still exists. Separatists are proud Scots who believe Scotland can govern itself: in this, they are surely right. So they point up grievances because their case thrives on discontent with the status quo. But even master magicians need props for their illusions: remove the props, and the illusion vanishes.
The props are grievances about power retained at Westminster. The present Scotland Bill does offer more power to the Scottish Parliament. But why not go further? Why not devolve all responsibilities except foreign policy, defence and management of the economy?
Why not let Scotland have wider tax-raising powers to pay for their policies and, in return, abolish the present block grant settlement, reduce Scottish representation in the Commons, and cut the legislative burden at Westminster?
My own view on Scottish independence is very straightforward: it would be folly – bad for Scotland and bad for England – but, if Scots insist on it, England cannot – and should not – deny them. England is their partner in the Union, not their overlord. But Unionists have a responsibility to tell Scotland what independence entails.
A referendum in favour of separation is only the beginning. The terms must then be negotiated and a further referendum held.
These terms might deter many Scots. No Barnett Formula. No Block Grant. No more representation at Westminster. No automatic help with crises such as Royal Bank of Scotland. I daresay free prescriptions would end and tuition fees begin.
And there is no certainty of membership of the EU. Scotland would have to apply, meet tough criteria, await lengthy negotiations and would find countries like Spain – concerned at losing Catalonia – might not hold out a welcome for Separatists. And, even if Scotland were admitted, they would find their voice of 5 million is lost and powerless in a Union of 500 million."

The bold section is the bit that has the Nationalists excited. But it is a piece of rhetorical questioning to which Mr Major offers no detailed response, appearing only to see giving Holyrood more powers as a ploy to reduce the numbers of Scots MPs and the workload at Westminster. He follows it up with his opinion on "independence" which he sees, quite rightly IMO, as  a bad deal all round. Not surprisingly, this part of the speech gets a royal ignoral from our Nationalist brethren.

So does John Major deserve his newly acquired inclusion on the Nationalist  roll of honour?

Not IMHO. He may have placed a few rhetorical questions on the record, but he has no history as an envoy or forerunner for David Cameron, placing ideas in the public domain to road test them for popularity or viability. Nor is he a respected Tory "thinker" with a history of floating ideas that eventually become policy. He is not, as far as I know, particularly close to the present Tory leadership.

And crucially, his speech can in no way be interpreted as in support of the Nationalists real aims of breaking up the UK. In fact the speech shows an obvious and well expressed disdain for the notion that "independence" would be of any practical advantage to the people of Scotland or the rest of the UK.

So why have the Nationalists leapt on Mr Major with such alacrity? My own suspicion is that the enthusiasm has its roots in Nationalist self-doubt. Like a lot of Nationalist positions, "devolution max" is more of a slogan than a policy and they have no real conviction in it. When Nats promote devolution max, they describe it with the usual Nationalist broad brush..... nowhere is it explained in detail and nowhere is it shown that it will work at all, let alone be better than the current settlement. So they grab with glee the revelation that someone else has bought the idea. "Oh good", thinks your average Nationalist, "John Major understands it, even if I don't. Maybe it might work after all". 

Whatever the reasoning behind Mr Major's speech it seems to that his co-option into the Nationalist hall of fame the sort of surprise elevation that is followed by a swift fall from grace as the real meaning of his position is realised, understood, absorbed and rejected by both parties.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Ed's victory, Dave's retreat, Rupert's Humiliation

A few days ago I blogged that Ed Miliband was having a good hacking scandal. At that time he had taken on News International and forced David Cameron to do a number of flipflops in policy and position.

At PMQs last Wednesday David Cameron and then his Culture Secretary both insisted that the BSkyB bid was legally unrouchable. 

Then Ed booked a day's debate designed to force Murdoch to drop his bid for BSkyB. Cue a swift realignment of PM and Tory Party.... "We're behind you Ed" The bid is no longer legally untouchable, came the Tory cry of retreat..

Just two minitues go, before the debate could get under way, News Corp announced it was withdrawing the bid!!!!!!

A palpable hit for ED and a black eye for Cameron and the Tory press. And a defeat of vast proportions for News Corporation and Murdoch.

All of it begging the question: if Murdoch is not a fit person to buy more shares in BSkyB is he a fit and proper person to own any shares in the company in the first place?

Indeed, is he a fit and proper person to own any influential media outlets?

Tuesday 12 July 2011

What is Full Fiscal Autonomy ?

 In all the din about the upcoming (when?) referendum on "independence" and how many questions can/will be asked, one of the possible options being posited is something called "Devolution Max". Devolution Max, as far as I can tell, is co-terminus with the idea of "Full Fiscal Autonomy", the idea that all revenues raised in Scotland are spent in Scotland.

I have to say, I have never been clear how this idea was supposed to work. I have never actually seen a definition of the main elements, not least how we define the limits of the separate "Scottish" economy, what we should treat as "Scottish" income for tax purposes, and how the implied different tax structures in Scotland and England can be accommodated within a single UK fiscal and monetary framework.

Today there is a letter in the Herald by Prof. Arthur Midwinter, a seasoned and respected economist and commentator on Scottish economic affairs. He says, inter alia, that;   

"....devolution max..... is a theoretical model, unworkable in practice. Devolving all tax powers is incompatible with the central management of the economy, and the principles of the UK’s fiscal framework..."
Which is what I always suspected.... It is not clear to Prof Midwinter how this theory can be lifted off the page and turned into a real-life, everyday, working economic framework.

I suspect if it is ever pursued, the result will be years of confusion and the divesrion of energy away from spending and investing the fruits of the economy toward arguments about frontiers between actual income streams, who owns them and to what extent, and who and how they were to be taxed and at what levels.

At the very least, it would provide fertile ground for conflict between Scottish politicians and the "English" Treasury and Westminster generally. So even if it fails, and Scotland's economy and political discourse hamstrung for years, the Nats would be quite happy at the outcomes.

News Values (?) of the Current Bun...

I was in the newsagents this morning and I was struck by the unanimity of the front pages. All except one. Can you guess which one...?

Yes, it was the supersoarawaysun that somehow missed the story that newspapers had been hacking the phones of everyone and anyone in illegal attempts to generate "news" stories. The supersoarawaysun even managed to miss the fact that the supersoarawaysun had accessed and revealed the medical records of a sick child and published the story against the wishes of the child's parents, who just happened to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time....

Instead they led with a suggestive headline about about an over-the-hill footballer ... Says it all really: sleazy, nasty, cruel and cowardly and way off target in terms of news and information.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Ed's balls.....

Ed Miliband has had a good hacking scandal..... His calls for Rebekah Brookes' resignation and a judge-led inquiry have captured the public mood and wrong footed call-me-Dave. Now it is reported that he will support a Parliamentary motion to refuse the News International takeover of BSkyB, another excellent judgement call which mirrors public opinion.

But it's not just his judgement and timing that looks good... it's his courage, both personal and political.

On Wdnesday's 10 O'Clock News, after Miliband had filleted Cameron at PMQs, Nick Robinson closed his report with quotes from unnamed NI executives to the effect of "if Ed thinks he can attack us and get off Scot-free, he has another think coming". Not so veiled threats from a source that carries out its threats.

But of course that's what makes this matter so important to our democracy and our society: the fact that the organisation under attack is the very organisation that is so used to attacking others, and using the threat of attack, and support, and withholding support, to keep politicians in line and on the side of the organisation.

There are very few people whose lives can withstand the sort of scrutiny that the feral tabloids can put you under, and threats from NI are usually enough to make politicians swallow their words, disguise their thoughts and censor their actions. Not so this week. Not so with Ed Miliband.

With his actions on the News International scandal, Ed has obviously earned his, ahem, spurs...

Friday 1 July 2011

The Balloon Bursts....

It's interesting how the media changes its angle to suit (its interpretation of) the facts......

From yesterday's Herald... Labour Jitters....    Alex Salmond was apparently, "homing in" on the voters of Inverclyde. Seven (or is it eight) visits to the constituency by the FM, (and even reports that yesterday he was touring polling stations as if he was the candidate), had woven that special Eck magic. The SNP was poised for another stunning victory, Labour was on the run and politics in Scotland would (for the umpteenth time) never be the same again....

Then, the actual result...... Labour takes 54% of the vote, the SNP challenge is respectable rather than sensational or even dramatic. The  Herald opines Labour relief...SNP surge...

According to their report ....
".... the result allows Mr Salmond to claim the momentum of May’s Scottish Parliament victory is still behind the Nationalists. He will say the result strengthens his case for increasing the scope of the Scotland Bill and that there is a groundswell in favour of the additional powers he wants. It will also be a confidence-builder for his planned independence referendum..."
But that's not how I see it. Labour needed to hold to feel better about itself, but the Nats needed to come a lot closer to keep their momentum going.

Labour will take more from this result than the Nationalist Party.

People who voted SNP in May voted Labour in June, which tells me that, whatever their reason for voting Nationalist in May, it was not to give the SNP a carte blanche to do what they want. And in particular it says "independence" is not on the agenda.

It also says that the people may have intended to give Labour a bloody nose in May, but they never thought that the consequence would be an SNP majority in a parliament that was designed to ensure that no party would ever get a majority. They voted Nationalist for any number of reasons, an anti-Labour vote being one of them, but they didn't vote for a triumphalist Nationalist Party to attack the courts or to rush through and consequently cock-up anti-sectarianism legislation and they certainly didn't vote for "independence".

Cuts are coming and the SNP, having been in power for four years, can no longer blame everyone else for the outcomes. They're the government and they will have to begin to govern and take their share of responsibility for the state of the country.

The SNP may wish to take whatever encouragement they can from the Inverclyde result, and the Herald may wish to encourage them, but it was not a good result for the Nationalist Party and it signals, IMO, the bursting of the SNP bubble, or at least the first hiss of escaping gas.....

Thursday 23 June 2011

How many makes a majority...???

A few weeks ago I posted this ....One referendum, etc....  Including this statement;
" cannot change the constitution of any organisation (golf club, drama group, whatever) without a solid majority in favour. A 51% vote in favour of change leaves just too many supporters of the status quo feeling denied and frustrated. You have to demonstrate a solid majority if you want to take everyone with you. Freqently in these cases a two-thirds majority is needed to bring about radical change...."
Today the Herald publishes an article by arch-nationalist columnist Ian McWhirter in which he writes ....

"...Well, in Canada....the Supreme Court did indeed rule on the wording of the independence referendum in the French-speaking province of Quebec in 1998. a landmark ruling now internationally recognised as a definitive statement on the rights of secession by disgruntled minorities, it ruled there was no right at all in international or domestic law for one part of a state to leave unilaterally. And even if independence were to be agreed by the other parts of the state, there would have to be absolute clarity over what the independence question meant, and a substantial majority in favour of independence, not just a simple majority..."
Earlier this month the Scottish Football Association (SFA) changed its constitution to allow a different voting structure. The change required a 75% majority. The SFA is an important organisation in Scottish life, and many people have an interest in its effective operation, but its governance is far less important than the governance of the state itself or the country.It therefore seems unacceptable that the currently effective governance of the country could be overturned by a simple majority of Scots voting in a one-off referendum. 

If the turnout  at a referendum was at the same level as recent elections, a 51% vote in favour of independence would need the actual votes of less than a third, maybe even a quarter, of the electorate. This is no basis to create a new country. If the referendum is to go ahead there must be a threshold  - two-thirds of votes cast or 45% of the electorate, or some similar substantial proportion – that would secure the acquiescence of the minority in the upheaval implied by breaking up the UK. 

After all, if a majority threshold is a necessary requirement to change the constitution of the SFA, or your local golf club, it’s not a lot to ask in respect of radical changes to the governance of Scotland.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Has Eck Finally lost it....?

I've blogged previously on the SNP's attacks on judicial independence.

Last night I came across this. It's an article in Holyrood Magazine which has Alex Salmond saying some quite astonishing things about the eminent Scottish Judge Lord Hope and the Human Rights Lawyer, Professor Tony Kelly. The tone is nasty and querulous and shows Eck in a light you don't often see but which I suspect is a private mood he keeps hidden from his public persona.

I meant to blog on it, but it was late and other things were going on, so I left it for this morning to follow up......

Imagine my surprise to pick up the Herald this morning and read this "Leading Lawyer to sue First Minister". It appears that Professor Kelly has had enough of Nationalist posturing on the justice system and ad hominem attacks on people within the system and he has decided to take the FM to task, and to court, to enforce some respect.

We all know that Alex Salmond has a streak of arrogance a mile wide, and he shows no respect for Holyrood or people who disagree with him, at Holyrood or anywhere else. The question now must be: has Eck finally lost it? Has the real, arrogant, posturing, contemptuous Salmond finally ememrged from the behind the hail-fellow-well-met false bonhomie that he has been trying to cultivate as First Minister?

Wednesday 8 June 2011

One referendum, two referendums, three referendums, four...

One potato,
Two potatoes,
Three potatoes,

Five potatoes,
Six potatoes,
Seven potatoes,

The old children's rhyme springs to mind at the Scottish Secratary's announcement that he wants two referendums on independence. One, from Holyrood, would be "advisory", and the other, from Westminster would be decisive or "binding" as they call it. The justification for this position is that Westminster has the reserved power on referendums, and that any binding referendum would have to originate from there. While Holyrood could ask the question, no-one would be legally bound by the answer.

All very well, but it ignores the politics. If the result is decisive (say above 60% in favour of independence) of those who voted, the "binding" refrendum, while legally justifiable would be just a waste of time. The same people who voted would vote the same way again, with maybe even some who felt enraged at being asked to vote again changing their vote the second time.

IMO, the way round this is obvious and sensible: you cannot change the constitution of any organisation (golf club, drama group, whatever) without a solid majority in favour. A 51% vote in favour of change leaves just too many supporters of the status quo feeling denied and frustrated. You have to demonstrate a solid majority if you want to take everyone with you. Freqently in these cases a two-thirds majority is needed to bring about radical change.

The solution is that any referendum which is considered as binding should have a built-in threshold: two-thirds of those who vote, or 50% of the registered electorate, or some number, must vote in favour of the change. That would help to ensure that the defeated side is convinced of the suppport for, and goes along with, the proposed change.

There should also be a condition in any accompanying legislation that, if the "independence" side loses, the vote will not be repeated for a long period of time, say 25 years. Scottish and UK politics has been dogged for too long by constitutional issues. If the Nats lose their referendum they shoud show some respect to the people and call it a day. Normal politics is, or should be, about schools and houses and jobs, not about constant worrying over constitutional details.

Friday 3 June 2011

SNP Opposes "foreign control" of Media... mebbies..

The current SNP war against the UK Supreme Court as described here  and here is just the latest battle by the Nationalist Party to oppose anything to do with the UK, particularly anything that is an undoubted success. There has been a long running war against other British institutions, including the BBC, which is routinely accused of "bias" against the Nationalists. The underlying problem seems to be that any successful UK institution is a threat to the Nationalist obsession with trying to prove that the UK is a "failed state", a proposition so ridiculous that it defies all reason and all the evidence but which, nevertheless, must be proved.

Anyway, in their one-eyed obsession with trying to convince themselves that the BBC, a UK institution in UK ownership, is somehow "biased" against them, the Nationalists miss the point. Spectacularly. The BBC has a mission to remain "neutral" in its political coverage, a stance that benefits the Nats on many occassions when their position is treated with a respect it does not deserve or earn.

During the recent Scottish Parliamentary Elections Alex Salmond was never off the BBC. He appeared on Question Time (no other Scottish party leader did) in the middle of the campaign, on the UK section of Newsnight (no other Scottish party leader did) and he profited by blanket coverage of the sectarian bombs issue which was a national story and widely covered on the BBC with copious quotes from Eck at all times of night and day. No bias there, except against the other main parties in Scotland.

But what the Nationalists also ignore is that they newspapers which supported them in the latest Scottish Parliamentary elections, most eminently the "Scottish" Sun and the Herald, are both American owned...!!!

So we have the ridiculous position of the SNP complaining that the BBC, a British nationalised institution with a mission to report politics in a balanced fashion, and which offered their leader a highly visible platform in the recent elections, is "biased" against the Nats. But the same SNP is quite willing to accept the overt and covert support of American owned media outlets... no complaints of "bias" on that score.

I have to say that its a strange world where a British political party can complain about the (non-existent) bias and the British ownership of a British media outlet, while accepting with equanimity the bias (in their favour) of foreign owned newspapers, with a total lack of embarrassment or even comment.

It seems that The Nationalists don't really oppose foreign control of UK media at all. They are quite happy with American control of Scottish media. In practice, they are only opposed to British control of British media...

Hypocrisy or what?

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Supreme Idiocy

The argument that the Nationalist government has stirred up over the UK Supreme Court has been given a lot of air time, mostly concentrating on the legal aspects of the case.

But for me the most interesting thing about the spat is the cracking of the veneer of tolerance that has disguised the SNP's anti-English heart for the past four years. Having spent 70 years stirring up anti-English feeling, and having been at last elected to power on the back of it, the newly "responsible" SNP decided that it didn't look good to the honest voters of Scotland, so the message has gone out to tone it down. And for the last few years, all has been quiet on that front: "Hate the English? No' me, laddie. Never did. How could you think that!!??" has been the Nationalist chorus.

Now the mask is slipping. The SNP doesn't seem to mind if Scottish decisions are sent to Brussels for French/German etc. judges to examine. But to London!!?? for English judges!!?? that's an ethnicity too far for our newly "tolerant" civic Nationalists. And the Brussels route takes 4 - 5 years, while the London route takes a few months. Why would anyone of sound mind make such a bizarre choice?

As for the actual case against the Supreme Court: I'm no lawyer, but I would think that any jurisdiction of any integrity would deem the withholding of evidence from the Defence as a good reason to allow an appeal in most cases. Or is it SNP policy to allow the Prosecution to try any dirty rick to get a conviction? Not exactly a great precedent for an independent Scotland, is it? "Vote for us and we'll fit you up, guilty or not"., and you'll have to wait 5 years for an actual foreign judge in an actual foreign country to hear the appeal... it's nuts, frankly.

Kenny McAskill has always been the SNP administration's weak link. From the Lockerbie bomber to the sectarion legislation fiasco, he has shown a lack of judgement and a poor grasp of the job.

Now he has lost it altogether. His anti-sectarian knne jerk legislation is on course to crash and burn and his rants against the judges (two of whom are Scots, BTW!), have left him looking silly, peevish and anti-English all at once.

He must be the favourite for the first minister to be dumped by this administration....

Thursday 12 May 2011

Promises promises....

The nats made many promises to get elected. We'll see how many they keep this time, but among them is a reduced corporation tax to attract overseas investment.

Richard Murphy has an interesting post on his blog, Tax Research UK. It is primarily about the Irish desire to keep low corporaton tax (and the resultant tax-haven status), and the EU's competing requirement that the Irish ditch low tax as part of the deal for a financial bail-out.

As if the Irish financial fiasco, and the collapse of the so-called "Arc of Prosperity", wasn't enough evidence that beggaring your neighbour is a limited strategy, the SNP is still planning (or so they say) to follow the low tax/tax-haven route. So the blog has some relevance, and a warning, for Scotland.

It's not the panacea it seems and the EU won't stand for it..... and it doesn't work anyway.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Eck and the Currant Bun

Today the Scottish Sun has come out in favour of the SNP. It's not a surprise, they've been edging towards the nats for weeks now, and have been soft on Eck and his colleagues for months.

The reason is obvious: the Tories want to damage Labour, the Sun wants to do what the Tories want and Rupert Murdoch wants David Cameron, his boy, to stay in power.

Rup wants Cameron and Cameron wants cuts. So, just like his UK buddy and his AmerAusie mentor, Eck wants cuts. It's as simple as that.

Today's Sun Editorial gave the game away, the Sun supports the SNP because the SNP is:
" ......  tackling the economic crisis head-on by cutting public spending faster than anywhere else in the UK...."

Tory cuts. SNP cuts. Whatever and whoever, it's the man in the street that suffers, whether the cuts are made by the Tartan Tories or the real Tories.