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.....