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, this....smile 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 post...here... 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 know..Urrrrmmm...it 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...