Wednesday 17 October 2012

Wonderland Two: the benefits of the union

A couple of days ago I came across the image below on the Better Together website, showing that Scotland gets more back from the UK than it contributes in taxation.

Embedded image permalink

Scotland gets a full £10 billion a year more from Westminster than we delivere in taxation.

The SNP has just published what it apparently thinks is a refutation:

Embedded image permalink 

So: Scotland gets 20% more in spending than we pay in tax..... and that's a reason to break up the union which delivers this result?  

As the immortal philosopher Homer Simpson is wont to cry in moments of vexation: Duh!!

I mean...

What would they prefer? 10% more? 20% less?What can it mean when the No To the Union Campaign advertises this great benefit that befalls us by our membership of the very union they despise?

Is there a mole in their rapid rebuttal department?

We used to hear a lot about "Alex in Wonderland Economics". 

Is this the return? 

"Wonderland Two: the benefits of the union"
See the great 20% gift. ...Luxuiriate in the spectacular generosity of the benificient Union! 
Learn to love your fellow islanders!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Nationalists, the EU Membership and hidden advice, No. 99

There has been much controversy about the Nationalists and the advice they have bought, with our money, on the status of an "independent" Scotland vis-a-vis membership of the EU and the Euro.

Broadly speaking those who oppose the break up of the UK have been suggesting that EU membership would not be automatic for a newly independent Scotland and we would be forced to join the Euro, while the Nats have  been claiming that it's a foregone conclusion that the EU would welcome us with open arms and we could still be part of a "Sterling zone".

There has been legal opinion sought on these matters by the Nationalists, but they seem reluctant to publish it.

So, thanks to the Better Together website for this little image.....

....which gives a simple precis of all the public advice from the top experts.... ....all of which contradict the Nationalist politicians.

Whether it contradicts their legal advice, who knows?

Maybe they will let us, their constituents and paymasters, see it some day....

Friday 5 October 2012

A "promise them anything" coalition cannot prevail

Last month Jim Sillars branded the SNP the most totalitarian party... his contention being that the lack of any challenge, dissent or protest from its active politicians, particularly MSPs, and their kowtowing to the Party leadership, was a sign of weakness in the party and a sort of cowardice by its members.

 He has reurned to the theme in Holyrood Magazine, and is again attacking the lack of backbone evident in SNP MSPs

Jim Sillars berates SNP MSPs for failing to address openly the many policy questions that will require answers in an "independent" Scotland.

The problem for Mr Sillars and others who may be exasperated by the SNP's lack of opennes and challenge on policy is that the SNP has promised so many things to so many disparate groups that any honest discussion of policy would be poisonous to party unity and alienating of the various tranches of voters they have managed to attract by promising them whatever they wish.

It's all very well telling Nat MSPs to break ranks, but every time they do they reveal, not just that they have promised one constituency a particular thing, but that they have promised other constituencies conflicting even opposing, things.

So business friendly tax cutting to North East Tories, tax raising left-wing service deliverers to Central Belt working class voters, anti-nuclear to CNDers, pro-Nato to pragmatic defence realists, conservative Christans to the Archbishop's flock, supporters of gay marriage to liberal sentiment...right-wng in Tory constituencies, left wing elsewher. It's a balancing act that can only be maintained by never acknowledging that you are on the high wire in the first place. Even glance down once and you topple into the abbyss.

Any honest challenge or critical discussion of any of these positions and you alienate at least two groups and lose their votes. What's more you show the splits and dishonesty at the heart of the SNP project the more discredited the party becomes and the more tarnished its only real policy looks. 

Sillars is right that SNP MSPs are supine. But how could they be anything else given the contradictions inherent in their pro-independence coalition and the penalties in revealing those contradictions?

Monday 24 September 2012

500,000, 50,000, 5,000...whut!?

Masses fail to appear at Nationalist rally.

I was in Edinburgh on Saturday. I had organised a day visiting a few art galleries and a special evening meal for a family celebration. I had not realised that a huge Nationalist gathering, march and rally was planned for the same day, so it was with some trepidation that I approached the weekend: would our special day be compromised by gangs of woad encrusted warriors and boisterous tartan army refugees clogging up the streets and bars and restaurants of our fine capital city?

The problem was compounded by the fact that our chosen hotel was only a few hundred yards from the Meadows, where the invading army was scheduled to bivouac before taking over the town centre. And the route of the march was close to the walk we hoped to take to one of our planned exhibitions.

Around midday we set off to town, prepared to be beset or accosted and delayed by the occupying army on the march. As we walked our view of the Meadows showed no hordes a-gathering and no blocked streets, no hubbub, no hum, no skirl of the pipes, no drums and fifes, no music of any description, in fact nothing....

Edinburgh old town is a tightly formatted swirl of narrow street and connecting closes. Any celebrations or stramash of any size or volume would be seen and heard around the town. It would seem impossible to hide a march or expedition of any size, in this enclosed and echoing space, from detection.

But we saw nothing and we heard nothing.

I can't say I was disappointed at the non-appearance of the Nationalist convoy. Just a bit puzzled.

Anyway. We crossed the Royal Mile and headed for the City Arts Centre and an exhibition of the work of the Scottish Colourist Leslie Hunter. It was great.

Two hours later we emerged and headed past Waverley Station where we glimpsed a single face-painted Nat clumping along the pavement. We then walked through the eastern end of Princes Street Gardens. It was a beautiful autumn day and there were - at least - hundreds sitting, strolling, playing and even picnicking along the gardens.

At the National Gallery there were even more people sitting out having coffee and cake.  

We made our way to the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibition. Another fabulous two hours passed in a flash and we emerged blinking in the late afternoon sunshine onto the foot of the Mound.

By this time the march had passed and the rally was going on across the street, in the western end of the Gardens. I saw one man with a Saltire draped, football-fan-wise over his kilt-and-vest garb and another with a red and orange flag of Catalonia. An amplified voice carried from the rally, but no press or throng assaulted the streets. From what I could see, a not-very-large crowd were facing a stage. The space available was not taken up and, while respectable, the attendance was very obviously nowhere near the spectacular numbers (even pro rata) reported from Barcelona last week.

We walked up the mound and back to our hotel and saw no more of the Nationalist spectacular.

Truth to tell, Edinburgh was mobbed on Saturday, but not by political activists or galvanised voters intent on showing the strength of support for their chosen path. Edinburgh's throngs were tourists and shoppers and locals going about their business. 

Sunday dawned and the papers reported 5,000 people at the rally.  So few. No wonder they made no impression.

There were about a thousand people strolling and picnicking in the Gardens. There were tens of thousands mobbing Princes Street, the Royal Mile and the other main thoroughfares. 

The problem for the Nationalists must be: why were these people, or even a small proportion of them, not on the march? What does it say for the attractiveness of the pro-independence message and the momentum behind the Yes Campaign that they couldn't even attract a crowd any bigger than either of the local SFL teams gets regularly, every Saturday, to watch their games?

Minister for the Referendum, Nicola Sturgeon, 
looking puzzled as to why nobody turned up at her party.

We enjoyed our weekend and it wasn't spoilt by the pressing mass of Nationalist marchers. Because, rather to my surprise and I suspect the chagrin of the organisers, there was no pressing mass.

Good news, IMO. What Eck and his Minister for the Referendum make of it, I would really like to know.


Wednesday 12 September 2012

Why not publish the advice?

The SNP claims that an "independent" Scotland would automatically accede to membership of the EU.

You would think that they would have taken legal advice on the possibility of this being so, any legal or constitutional problems or obstacles in the way of immediate accession identified by this advice and any arguments for or against that they have thought of, heard of, or have been advised might apply.

If you had a difficulty, perhaps unprecedented situation or problem that you were wrestling with, wouldn't you take advice? Legal advice if approriate? 

Maybe they have taken advice, but they refuse to tell us if they have. And if they have sought such advice at public cost, they will not tell us what advice they got.

So it's not clear to the voters whether the Nats are telling the truth or not: would an "independent" Scotland have to/not have to apply for EU membership.    

But we don't have to speculate any more. This week Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission, commenting on the situation in Catalunya, said that any secessionist region (Catalunya, Scotland) would have to re-apply for membership of the EU. They would not automatically accede to the Union, they would have to apply and meet any pre-conditions that would allow EU membership.

So there's the answer. An "independent" Scotland would not automatically be an EU member. It would have to apply and meet membership criteria. This would, of course, take time, maybe years.

So much for for Eck's "Och it'll be all right. Nae bother. No need to worry".

When will the Scottish Government tell us if it has any legal advice? And will it let us know what that advice tells them ..and us?

In the meantime...??

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Nat lack of ambition. No 99 and counting...

I've had a wee summer break.

Last week, after Alex Salmond's speech on the brave new world of Tartan TV, in which the bold First Minister made this vaulting claim...

"The First Minister said in a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival that a new public sector broadcaster would be modelled on Ireland's RTE station if his Government wins the 2014 referendum.
The new Scottish broadcaster would still take popular BBC programmes such as EastEnders but have a more distinctive voice through nationally focused shows, added Mr Salmond, citing the success of the Gaelic-language channel BBC Alba."
I tweeted this;
"So Eck wants to replace BBC with "Scottish RTE". Doesn't this just go to show the pathetic lack of ambition the Nats have for my country?"

So I have no hesitation in pointing you to this analysis by Brian Wilson, ex-MP and Government Minister, successful businessman in many spheres, and above all supreme journalist and scourge of all things dismal and Nationalist.

Wilson's a man who always gets to the heart of the matter and an excellent writer on top. Almost every time I read him I think; "Dead right. I wish I had thought of that first". So often he gets to the nub of the response while people like me are still mulling over the the question.

So, for once, it's nice to see I beat him to the punch on this single occassion (although he no doubt had to wait for his weekly deadline while I could shoot off as soon as Eck's "thoughts" were public).

But we're both right. To replace the BBC with an RTE clone with BBC Alba as the programming model.... it's just nuts. And it says so much about the parochialism of Nationalist thinking and the total lack of ambition they have for Scotland and its people.

Who in their right mind would substitute RTE (no offence to my Irish relatives) with its small budgets and small borders and small vision for the broad reach and rich depth of the BBC?

And who, wishing to do so, would dare to call it progress?

Monday 6 August 2012

How the London Olympics show we are better together

Today's Herald has a great cartoon by Stephen Camley. It shows a radiant sun made of GB gold medals over a sunny meadow with, in one corner, a  glum Alex Salmond soaking under his own personal rain cloud. It neatly encapsulates the Nationalists' problem with the Olympics: it represents a great UK achievement, with Scots, English, Irish and Welsh competitors playing for team GB. And the Scots are doing well, winning medals and even singing God Save the Queen. But how do the Nationalists react to this obviously good news story?

In contrast, the letters page is full of Nationalists claiming that it's all fine by them, there's no sour grapes and anyway it's not that important. The letter by Ruth Marr, a veteran Nat, is representative. She says;

".... would appear to have a touch of Olympicitis if he seriously believes the frenzy over London 2012 being whipped up by the media on a daily basis will seriously impact on the independence debate and result.......I cannot believe many voters will be lulled into the belief that the biggest factor in deciding whether or not Scotland should regain her independence is Team GB's performance at the Olympic games."
For me the cartoon is nearer the mark: the Games are giving the Nationalists a headache. If they ignore them or are dismissive it looks mulish and adolescent. If they endorse the spirit of the games they risk admitting that the Scots are part and parcel of the whole team, and team GB is doing great things. Since it's a foundation of Nationalist dogma that nothing good can come from anything UK, this is a real problem for them. Seeing the likes of Andy Murray and Chris Hoy, the pre-eminent Scottish sportsmen, fighting and winning and giving their all for team GB, bursting as gut and showing evident pride and emotion in their own and their team's achievements, must be galling for the party that thinks if you're not a Nat you can't be Scottish.

As for Ruth Marr: she's right that voters will not vote on sporting success or failure, but she's wrong to dismiss the Games, because the results are just part of  their significance. Andy Murray winning a tournament isn't really news. Andy Murray winning the Olympic Tennis Singles, draping himself in the Union Flag and even singing (or mumbling) the words of God Save the Queen are another thing altogether. It says: I'm the champ, I'm Scottish and British and I'm perfectly happy with that, thankyouverymuch.

And, crucially, the games are providing a narrative and reasons to be British with added emotional content.

In the context of the "independence" referendum the emotion, the feel-good factor, is vital. It's generally acknowledged that the Nats (like the Devil) have all the best tunes. Emotion rules their case. For them history = Braveheart, with nasty Englishmen in britches cheating and flogging honest Scots in kilts. Every Nationalist broadcast has skirling bagpipes and swirling kilts and people climbing Scottish hills to cry from the topmost point: Freedum! For Nationalists the facts are subsidiary to the conviction, and the conviction is cemented by the raw emotion. "I love my country, therefore I'm right and the majority is wrong".

The case for the UK tends to be more reasonable, less emotion-based. The logic is with the better together camp, now the Olympics are adding emotion to the case for the UK, making it the full package: head and heart.

Which can only be a good thing, IMHO.

Monday 30 July 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Three Cheers for the SNP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Cheers indeed!

Saturday 21 July 2012

More Nationalist Suppression and Secrecy....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 15 July 2012

The SNP, Secrecy, Your Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Better Together

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

Sensible really.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Coastguard lunacy

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 1 July 2012

SNP ambition (or lack of it)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 30 June 2012

A storm in a canteen tea-cup

I was in the audience at a BBC radio question time show last year. The usual ritual of political back and forth ensued, but one member of the audience, a member of the Pensioners Party, made what I thought was an acute observation. He accused the Nationalists of "stealing our flag".

It made me think. Particularly since 1997, the Nats have tried to establish an equivalence between and among the Scottish Government, the Scottish Nationalist Party and the flag of St Andrew, or Saltire as it is sometimes called.

On coming to power they bought, with our tax money, hundreds of thousands of small saltires to hand out at events. They had the saltire put on all official papers and websites etc. at enormous cost (not to themselves). SNP leaflets are covered in the Scottish flag.You can't see a Nationalist minister anywhere near a camera without a Scottish flag somewhere in the background.

So the pensioner was right: the Nationalists have stolen, or at least are attempting to steal, "our flag". It's all part of the not-so-subliminal message: if you're not a Nat you're not Scottish. Wave the flag or be left out, but if you do wave the flag, then you are "one of us".

But is it important?

I have no time for flag waving. It's a substitute for thought, IMO: this is who we are and if you don't join in you're an outcast, a traitor or Quisling.

Football teams do it, and other associations and sodalities. In some ways it's attractive. It shows solidarity and support for common aims, as when countries compete at sports or in Trades Union banners.. we're all in this together. But it is also used to exclude: think of the English Defence League and it's anti-immigrant anti-coloured message wrapped in the flag of England or, in earlier times, the National Front and its appropriation of the Union Flag.

Which leads to this little spat and its significance.

The Holyrood canteen had an Olympic themed lunch, and the staff decorated the tables  with red, white and blue balloons and union flags because, presumably, Britain is holding the Olympics this time and the Great Britain team is competing for us all.

But the appearance of a non-saltire on a canteen table was seen as an afront by some Nationalist MSPs. The Evening News and the Sun report on the, one can only say, childish behaviour of these people, named in the Sun as George Adam and Linda Fabiani. The union flags were taken away from the tables and the r balloon display was made multi-coloured. 

So how significant? On the one hand it's, almost literally, a storm in a canteen teacup. Some silly people took umbrage at a few rags of decoration and harrumphed the staff into changing it to suit their tastes.

But while it's not as significant as, say, the banking crisis or the economic recession, it is a signifier, and what it signifies the strange mentality of even senior Nationalists that they can be upset so easily and take offence at nothing. It also says that they think the Holyrood Parliament is theirs, not ours, and it shows their arrogant side, bullying the poor canteen staff over such a trifle.

It shows their besetting pettyness. They can steal our flag with impunity, put out leaflets calling themselves "Scotland's Party" (as if all the other parties were not) and call people who don't support them "anti-Scottish", but they can't take the reality that Scotland is part of the UK, most Scots support and agree wth that union and the flag of the union is the symbol of the British Olympic team - a team which includes many proud Scots.

In recent years the anti-English rhetoric of senior Nats has gone underground. The SNP presents itself as relaxed and tolerant about our English neighbours. But this little vignette in the catering department of Holyrod gives the lie to that image.

If senior Nationalists are so alergic to union flags that they get sick just looking at them, what price their "tolerance" and  their "Ah luv the English me" just-for-the-media act?

And what size of brain do you need to kick up a stink about your own flag celebrating your own Olympic team in the year the Olympics are hosted in your own country?

Tolerance, my bahookie. 

Thursday 28 June 2012

SNP Council rejects help for low paid workers

North Ayrshire Council is led by a minority SNP Group with backing from a single Tory and some independents.

At yesterday's Council Meeting, Labour Councillor Joe Cullinane proposed a motion on a measure of relief for low-paid council workers.

This measure, to give workers on less than £21,000 a £250 payment, has already been enacted at Holyrood by the SNP Government, at Westminster and by at least one Scottish local authority.

The SNP opposed it citing various spurious reasons.

Funny how the Nats are always a left wing party until the get some power, then they turn Tory.

Tartan, even.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Brave George Osborne Sacrifices Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith, a Treasury Minister sent out to cover for George Osborne's U-turn on Fuel Duty, gets fillited, twice!

First on Channel 4 News, where she appears to be the least well-briefed UK Government Minister in history and stumbles through the interview like a lame show-jumper, blundering into every jump and clearing no obstacles on her way to a far-from-clear round.

Three hours later, on Newsnight, Paxo's contempt is palpable. Chloe, despite the earlier roasting, has no more answers and is even more embarrassingly inept. 

Is it Chloe's fault? I would guess not: she seems a moderately intelligent you woman but she had no defence, no ammunition and no coherent argument to deploy. The fault here is all the Chancellor's, as he twists and turns and shreds his budget commitments one by one, leaving only the tax cuts for the rich.

In all justice and honesty, George Osborne should have been on Channel 4 and Newsnight last night. It's his budget and his long series of flip-flops. But he lacks the backbone to take the flak for his own decisions, so he sends an innocent, unprepared and under briefed young woman to face the music.

Incompetence is one thing in a politician, and who can get everything right after all? But cowardice is another thing altogether, and George Osborne, in sending his underlings to greet the firing squad, has shown his weakness - political, economic and personal, the greatest of which is personal.

Friday 22 June 2012

Boris's Copper

The Tories are the party of lor'norder.... or so they claim.

Boris Johnson has ideas on policing. He elbowed out the previous head of the Met, got his own man in and and appointed one Stephen Greenhalgh to "oversee" the operation of the Metropilitan Force.

This painful video reveals the skills of Boris's choice....oh dear....

If you have seen a more incompetent display from any employee of any organisation at any level you must be very unlucky. The man is astonishingly inept.

Think the worst ever contestant on The Apprentice and square it....

All that's missing is Surallan jumping up and proclaiming "You're fired!".

On the other hand, Mr Greenhalgh is a Tory Councillor and placeman, so sympathy rationed.....

Sunday 17 June 2012

Don't mention the independence....

A hilarious episode of Fawlty Towers had John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, owner of the worst hotel in the world, anxious not to insult some German guests by "not mentioning the war". Of course this leads to the blurting out of dozens of war-fixated insults by the bold  Basil.

Today it has been revealed that our Nationalist brethren have been advised: "don't mention independence".

The Nats have endorsed and abandoned the Euro, then the Pound, they have been Republican and then Monarchists, anti-Trident but pro-Nato, proudly Scottish and then whynotBritish?... but .... how the hell can the Nationalist Party, the party which has lived for eighty years on the claim for "independence", not mention "independence"?

If the Scottish Nationalist Party is too timid to argue for "independence", what is the justification for their existence? What do the stand for? What are they working towards? Why do they bother? And why, if they have abandoned the very reason for their existence, should anyone vote for them or their referendum?

The campaign for a vote for "independence" has got off to a rotten start, and it has just got a lot worse....

Monday 4 June 2012

1001 reasons to support independence...

Number 336...

They don't understand us, dae they?

Ah mean the English. Really, they don't understand us Scots. 

"This man walks intae a cake shop and points to one o' the items on display.

'Is that a doughnut or a meringue?' he asks?

'Naw ye're right, it's a doughnut' says the woman behind the counter."

Ah mean. Is that funny or no'?

Well, ah telt it tae mah mate fae Liverpool. He didnae get it!!!

They jist don't understand us......
It's nae wunder we want to destroy the UK, is it?

As for that Geordie accent... don't get me startit man!!!

a doughnut

a meringue

........or am I wrong?

Monday 28 May 2012

Will there now be a referendum in 2014?

The launch of the "Yes to independence" campaign on Friday 25th May was generally seen as lacklustre and a bit of a misfire. The emotional endorsement of American based celebrities and the singing of lachrymose "patriotic" lyrics failed to impress, even less persuade, anyone. Certainly not the press or the undecided. The publication of an opinion poll showing that 57% opposed "independence" and even that 28% of those who voted SNP in 2011 would not vote for "independence" revealed the scale of the mountain the Nationalists have to climb. They countered by setting out a strategy to get a million signatures on a web-petition in support of their position.

Yesterday, 27th May, at lunch time, the BBC Scotland's Economics Editor Douglas Fraser published this critique of the "yes" campaign's known positions on a number of vitally important matters in an "independent" Scotland. It was not at all reassuring for Nationalists: a number of their claims on the economy and on green issues were seen to be flaky or at least under challenge.

Last night the BBC ran one of its occasional series of "Big Debate" programmes on Scotland's Future. The result was revealing. Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon for the "yes" team disagreed on some fundamentals, with Harvie not enamoured with the SNP's certainty that "it'll be alright on the night", he didn't want to join the Euro (the SNP does) nor was he enamoured of their right-wing micro policies, e.g. low-competitive business rates.

The BBC iplayer only runs for 7 days.  I include below YouTube versions Part1 and Part2 of the debate

Part 1

Part 2

Anas Anwar and Ruth Davidson made good clear points but their job was made a lot easier by the contributions from the audience. On the economy Nicola got slaughtered. The continued use of the pound and/or the Euro was dismissed with contempt from many voters. She became more and more defensive and ended up looking peevish and rattled. Ruth Davidson made a very good point when she revealed that the SNP had never even asked the EU for legal opinion on the status of Scotland asking to join the European Union and/or the Euro.

Even on Defence and jobs, Nato membership and Trident, the Nationalist position was not accepted uncritically by the audience. The loss of shipbuilding jobs and the credibility of the Nationalists' military planning were exposed to ridicule. Trident is unpopular, no doubt, but the fact that it could be moved to the north of England was seen as not a real solution to the problem.  

On the Monarchy and the retention of the Queen as the head of state, the SNP's hypocrisy was revealed in all its glory. From full "independence" with a republican stance, elected head of state to "let's keep the Queen, it'll retain us a few Tory votes, maybe", it was emblematic of all the other u-turns on the economy, the Arc of Prosperity, joining the Euro, keeping the pound, pretend progressive while adopting neo-liberal policies and all the other contradictions and contortions that mark the Nationalist journey. 

All-in-all, the programme, and the events of the last weekend, must be profoundly depressing for the "yes" camp. It seems to me that, after the failed ballyhoo of their launch, with the revelation of the basic and manifold weaknesses in their case, they are in a much worse position now than they were last Thursday.

The other thing that occurred to me during the debate was the dread thought that there is 2.5 years more of this stuff before the referendum is actually conducted.

The final batsqueak of a suspicion was: given the disarray of the "yes" campaign and the evident weakness of their case thus early in their endeavour, maybe we won't get the referendum at all. The SNP has run away from the possibility of a referendum before, when Wendy Alexander challenged Alex Salmond to "bring it on" and he failed to do so. 

Maybe the bold Eck will find a reason not to have a referendum in 2014, a referendum which, on current evidence, he will surely lose. And that's the last thing he would want or ever allow to happen.

Monday 21 May 2012

The Spirit Level, the documentary

On 1st September 2010 I published this post about a new book called The Spirit Level which I thought contained a vital message for society and for politicians.

That message was simply that equality matters. Unequal societies are less cohesive and more miserable than more equal societies, the implications for politics being profound but obvious.

On Jan 21 2011 I followed it up with this .. a link to video and presentation material backing up the message of he book.

Now the authors of the book, Kate Willetts and Richard Wilkinson, are planning a film to spread the message. They are looking for support to get the project moving and their website is here.

It's well worth a read and it's a project well worth supporting in any way you can. If not with cash, then with blogging and tweeting and retweeting and in any way you can.

Monday 14 May 2012

Nationalist Inarticulacy

For years I have been debating with Nationalists about their faith in Scottish "independence" as the cure for what ills us as a society. Their arguments fall into two broad categories: Scotland gets a raw deal from London and would be better off without England dragging us down, and Scotland is the 6th (or 4th, or 14th) richest country in the world and we don't need the English to "survive".

It can be seen that these are conflicting positions: either we are impoverished by the Union or we are so well off we can leave tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock with no adverse impact.

It's also notable that, in discussion with Nats you get lots of opinion but not a lot of fact. Emotion is never in short supply but argument and reason and logic are. And you find that the Nationalist appetite for debate fades the more hard facts impinges on the debate.

There is another, extremely popular, Nat position which is designed to remove facts from the discussion altogether:  "I refuse to explain, I don't need to and I will not indulge in any discussion, so there!".
Today, on this thread, I got an almost perfect paradigm of that aspect of the Nationalist mentality.

It was from someone calling themselves jarfun and it is a classic of its kind;

"I support Independence although I perhaps would not vote SNP in an Independent Scotland. I support the SNP at the moment because they are the main party proposing Independence.
I support Independence mainly because I have lived through the last fifty years of rule from London,both tory and labour and I feel,honestly that Scotland has been let down by both of them.
I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree.
It seems to me that doing the same thing and expecting a different result seems kinda silly (as a very clever man once said)
There just comes a time when you have to grow up leave the nest and take your own decisions and ,yes,make your own mistakes and make the best job you can with what you have. Alternatively you could just stay 'safe' with mummy and daddy and not realise what it is to be a grown up person taking charge of your own future.
Don't be afraid 'BRAVEHEART'"
The preamble is common; I vote SNP but I'm not a Nationalist. I'm a Nationalist because everyone else has let me down. Already you can sense the illogic of the position, in fact the first three sentences are by way of being a preemptive defence against the charge of weakness they see coming. Anyone who has really lived through the last fifty years has seen many changes and improvements in British life. No doubt there have been disappointments, but since our Nationalist friends won't tell us what they think they are it's difficult to quantify the impact of these "disappointments". I have certainly seen great changes and many improvements in my life and that of my children. What is unarguable is that both improvements and "disappointments" have been equally and randomly distributed across the UK and are not the result of any malevolence against any country or region. But since these nameless "disappointments" are never detailed, it is not easy to refute them.

One conclusion is that leaps from this approach is that the "disappointments" are internal, they are failings of the individual and that feeling of inadequacy is assuaged and targeted against the "them" that stop us from achieving whatever it is we failed to achieve in life. Better to blame "the English" than blame ourselves.

In the next section jarfun get the heart of how so many Nationalists address (or refuse to address) the constitutional question: "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree". 

Nationalist Democracy

Vote for me, I have no desire to list 
the reasons for asking for your vote. 

This is known as the Monty Python and the Holy Grail argument; when faced with an argument you can't defeat issue the order....  "Run away! Run away!"

The implication is that us Nats, we're too lofty to indulge in mere explanation. We believe in "independence" and that's that. Why should we try to persuade the Scottish people? Who do they think they are to demand explanations? "independence" will solve all our problems and if you don't believe it, we don't care. Look at them with all their questions and concerns. Well, I know the answers they want, but I'm blowed if I'm going to waste my breath actually telling them why I think what I think...

Actually it's an admission that they have no defensible position. At least not any position based on reason and logic. Facts, who needs 'em? says jarfun. I'm convinced and that's good enough for me. I want to get involved in your argument (otherwise why post here), but not to the extent of actually saying anything meaningful. I'm above that (actually, that's beyond me).

Having based their position on illogic and evasion, the next step is to add a veneer of intellectual respectability.... "..It seems to me that doing the same thing and expecting a different result seems kinda silly (as a very clever man once said)"

Einstein did say such a thing (in many powerpoint presentations). But to call the scientific method in justification of "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way" is a grotesque distortion and misunderstanding of the meaning of that method. Einstein, and indeed any scientist, would laugh out of court a petitioner who said ""I have no desire to list the reasons i have for believing that Gravity acts in this way or light does this or that in such and such a situation". In scientific terms it's a pathetic avoidance and a refusal to face the problem. Just as it is a pathetic avoidance in political terms when our Nationalist brethren claim "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way"    It's too tempting to conclude that you have no desire to list the reasons because you have no reasons to list.

The rest is just rhetoric. Of course adults leave the nest. Adults also take responsibility for their actions and beliefs. No self respecting adult would say, apropos an important political and constitutional question, "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree".

That sort of avoiding the conflict is the very essence of adolescent barrack-room-lawyer-speak. Ha! Those adults, they think they're smart but little do they realise that they're up against the greatest intellect that ever failed an o-level. They think they can beat me but I'll just give them my enigmatic stare. That'll bamboozle them, and I'll follow it up with my unanswerable broadside...."I have no desire to list the reasons nananananana, see!". Retires to bedroom to play high intellect computer games.

It's interesting that this version of the higher inarticulacy is so widespread in Nationalist circles. It's more interesting that even the most prominent Nationalists, from Alex Salmond down, have no real factual argument in favour of "independence" that they deploy in any public forum that I have seen or heard. 

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Why oh why, what's the point?

My profile states....

"Me, I'm just a sensible, moderate, fellow, who thinks that the Tories have the wrong recipe for a decent society. Even when they correctly identify the problem, they always get the wrong solution. I also believe that chasing Scottish independence is a sad waste of time and energy. It's a great sorrow to me that I have spent so much of my political energy opposing Tory wrong headedness about the Welfare State and Nationalist wrong headedness about the constitution, rather than concentrating on addressing the real problems in our country. Please blog politely and on subject. Anything abusive, obscene or too far off-subject will not be posted."
 Last year I posted this "Ah Luv Ma Cuuntry" ..... In which I bewailed the fact that Labour and the Nats have so much in common but we waste our energies on the futile battleground of "independence". After pointing this out to a Nationalist acquaintance, and getting a nod of agreement, I asked why, in that case, we were always at each others throats. I got the response "but ah luv ma cuuntry".... Depressing is not the word....
I've just seen the BBC report on the fact that Labour and the SNP are to form a coalition to run Edinburgh City Council. The leader of the SNP Group Steve Cardownie said "Labour is a Social Democrat Party and so are we (the SNP), so we should be able to work together".


We don't need "independence" to address the problems that beset our people. We just need to work together in the here and now. Instead we waste time and political energy pursuing the whole pointless idea, while those who need us wait and suffer.

It's a crime, IMO. A disaster which is absolutely and utterly avoidable. If only our Nationalist brethren would give up their obsession with abstract constitutional questions which solve nothing and help no-one. Why don't they realise that if we always work together and concentrate on solving the real and immediate problems which affect our communities we could, and probably would, make real progress to a better society.      

After all that's what we all want, isn't it?

Friday 4 May 2012

Hubris, all uninvited....

The Nats said they would take Glasgow. They said it would be proof of the onward march of "independence".

Eck campaigned for it.

Nicola campaigned for it. 

Political pundits campaigned for it (what a juicy story).

The Sun campaigned for it over tea and tunnocks.

The speeches were written, the limousines were ordered, the tartan bunting was bought, the champagne was on ice and the SNP's ghostly rabbit logo was all but projected onto the walls of Glasgow City Hall. Rupe was invited and the streets were scoured for any other passing American billionaire to add lustre to the celebrations.....
Alas, hubris, all uninvited turned up first.... sorry lads, time to burst a balloon or not you Eck, the thought of that just doesn't bear thinking.
No, the balloon that we have to burst is the one emblazoned "SNP over all control in Glasgow". Let's prick it now, it's getting in the way of that big red balloon with "Labour over all control in Glasgow" thats pushing its way in.... "pop" gosh, hardly a sound...the ghostly rabbit has crumbled.....pffssssssss the air's all out now....

There there Eck, don't cry. You'll still get your chance to lie to, sorry explain all about whether your phone was hacked by your new mate Rupert to the Leveson Inquiry in front of all those TV cameras.

Just ignore those dismal Jimmies who think you should explain yourself to merely elected politicians at Holyrood. What do they mistake you for: someone who cares about the voice of the people?

Oh look, a big balloon with the word "Democracy" on it.... Eck, give me back my pin! Eck!!! 


Wednesday 2 May 2012

The King is in the altogether...

It has been noticeable from Alex Salmond's performances in Holyrod that he (until recently) has had nothing but contempt for his opponents, the leaders of the other parties, the parties themselves, MSPs, Parliamentary processes and the Parliament generally.

I believe that it is this contempt that has allowed him the psychological space to relax and swipe away any question on any subject and give him his dominance over Scottish politics. If you don't respect the the questioner, the question or even the forum in which the question is asked, then it's easy to be dismissive. People of no account asking pointless questions in an irrelevant assembly: who cares? Say anything or nothing. Insult, reject, ignore. Hold me to account will you? We'll see about that, here's the back of my hand? Smack! Which he has been his attitude to all and sundry for a very long time.

But that was then....

REcently, Labour leader Johann Lamont has been getting under the First Minister's unexpectedly sensitive skin.
At today's FMQs, Johann Lamont conducted a forensic dismantling of Salmond's defence of the FM's  relationship with Rupert Murdoch. As well as revealing the SNP leader's too familiar relations with the man declared unfit to run his own corporation, she asked the killer question: has the FM's phone been hacked?

Answer came there none.

Ruth Davidson asked the same question, as did Willie Rennie.

Eck dealt with their interventions more confidently, after all they are even less significant than the puny eected leader of Scottish Labour, but still he didn't answer.

Because he doesn't care. It's only the pretendy Parliament, why should someone as important as the Eck himself have any concern with the petty questions of merely elected Scottish Parliamentarians? After all, he's the Eckus Maximus, the Fat First Minister, the top dog, the law-unto-himself, the boss, the Natfather, friend of Murdoch and Trump and master all he surveys. Who are these elected politicians to question him? Much less why should elected politicians expect any sort of honest answer from the great Eck?

But it no longer holds water. Not only has Johann Lamont punctured Eck's balloon on too many occasions for the myth of the FM's invincibility to be maintained but the confidence of his demeanour is no longer enough to carry the day.

The king is naked and the crowd can clearly see his embarrassment. They laugh. They point. They aren't taken in any more. The crown is squinty and about to be knocked off.

The contempt has been turned around 180 degrees. Now it's pointing at Salmond himself. And the Murdoch-lover is crouching down and covering his nudity and his vulnerable privacy. No longer the crowned head of contempt, he has become the epitome of naked contemptibility.

 Contempt from such  creature is no longer contempt: it's a joke, a fleabite. Laughable .

And when the tyrant's contempt is ignorable he is no longer tyrannical or to be feared.

The Wettest Drought on Record

Neat headline in the Guardian today "The Wettest Drought on Record" (hardcopy, not online for some reason) over an analysis by their Environment Correspondent John Vidal. It highlights the irony of half of southern England being under feet of floodwater while the water companies maintain drought alerts and hosepipe bans.

The exasperating contradiction is too evident to stress, but it reminds me of a conversation I had with an MSP just after Devolution so it must be 12 years ago approximately.

I noted the predictions of climate-change driven weather patterns that there would be more rain in the north and less in the south and asked why we couldn't do something practical to address it.

My suggestion (I'm no expert so it might be nuts) was to put 6 or 8 feet (or whatever) on top of the retaining walls of all Norther English and Scottish reservoirs and to find a way, perhaps some sort of water grid or fleet of tankers) of delivering the excess we had to our southern neighbours.

Would it work?

Huvnae a clue, but nothing else has been done meantime....

Is it too late?

Dunno, but shouldn't someone be asking/trying/doing something?

Just a thought....

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Nationalist Omnishambles goes Uncommented

So many things going wrong with the Nats these days....where to start


Wife beating?

Anti-Catholic rants?

Nato membership?

Keeping secrets from Parliament?

Tartan Tories?

hospitals with no blankets?

Murdoch is today's shambles.

When Eck hitched his star to the waggon the esteemed Australian-American patriot and billionaire phone hacker, many predicted disaster.....

And it wasn't long in arriving. Today's session of the Leveson Inquiry had many revelations, including emails showing the Blessed Eck offering to lobby for Murdoch's empire to be increased with the addition of BskyB, an outcome positively abhored by thinking Scots.

Never mind, "it wasn't for any sort of quid-pro-quo" according to the FFM. So that's all right then.... that nice Mr Murdoch wouldn't be so corrupt, would he? Nor the oily one.

I could expand on all the other issues on the list, but it's late....

But just one thing: where are the

"SNP in Meltdown" headlines..?

Certainly not in the Sun...

But actually, nowhere else either. Strange. If it was Labour there would be no end of edmusgo and johannsanumpty, but it's the Nats, so the revered Scottsh Media doesn't see the problem......

The public, now there's a different kettle of beans....

Friday 20 April 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and Doosan

When I was a boy in west-central Scotland and making my first Holy Communion, we were told by Father O'Connell that sin was not only omnipresent, it was also omni-featured. There were "sins of commission" and "sins of omission". There's a straightforward lie: "Jimmie done it" when you knew that he didn't do it. And a sleekit obfuscation: keeping schtum when you knew that Jimmie had done it but for some reason you (he'll give you a thump) weren't willing to point the finger.

So telling the whole truth includes not hiding a truth, however inconvenient it may be. And, conversely, lying can be hiding that inconvenient truth.

Yesterday at FMQs, Johann Lamont caught the FFM in the act of concealing an inconvenient truth: what Father O'Connell would have called "a lie of omission".

I have to say I find it astonishing that our First Minister and his cabinet would sit on this piece of information for so long.

They even allowed two Budget debates to pass with the Doosan investment as a Budget line.... and they let Parliament believe the project was still a live possibility.

What's all that about?

It's more than astonishing, it's bizarre: what could the Nationalists possibly think they could get out of this type of behaviour? Where/what/who benefits?

And even more surprising is the reaction of the press and the broadcasters. There has been no condemnation at all of this passive lying behaviour. It made no splash (beyond a few "questions were raised" bland reporting) on the TV news or the news pages and it will be dead and buried by tonight.

It's as if the press cannot see the problem or, more likely, they see it and don't think it is remarkable that a head of an elected Parliament can blithely keep economic news secret from that Parliament, its Finance and Development Committees, its members and its officials, the press and the public for month after month, only to release the news in an aside in an interview. 

And not expect any (and not to get very much) comeback!

Maybe the truth is that nobody expects the truth from our Scottish Government any more. If so, that's depressing. Almost as depressing as the lack of fuss with which this tale of lying by omission is so quickly passing from public scrutiny.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Salmond "the Craig Whyte of Politics"

Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour, is in that probationary period to which all new leaders are subject. Her performances at FMQs has been encouraging, with a quietly sensible persona, well chosen questions and the odd shaft of wit to puncture Alex Salmond's ego-driven pomposity. You can see that Salmond is more afraid of her than any previous FMQs opponent.

In TV interviews her schoolmatronly presentation (she actually is a school teacher) commands a hearing and limits interruption allowing her to her meassage across. Respect.

Another aspect of leadership is the ability to generate a good phrase or slogan that captures and communicates an idea (this can be the work of the leader or her advisers, it doesn't really matter as long as it is  appropriate and sums up a situation succinctly and memorably).

Yesterday, at the launch of the Labour local election campaign, she delivered such a bon mot: Alex Salmond, she said was "the Craig Whyte of Scottish politics".

And it's spot on. A snake oil salesman selling a false prospectus based on nothing but misdirection, grandiose but empty promises and the monstrous ego of the self-addicted confidence trickster.

I had previously labelled the Salmond as "the Wizard of Eck" .

Maybe we've found our Dorothy....

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Georgy Porgy Porkie Pie

George Osborne is reported, in the Telegraph, to be "shocked" that rich people employ expensive accountants to avoid paying their share of income tax.

Mr Osborne told The Daily Telegraph: “I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it’s within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don’t think that’s right."

But of course rich people avoid tax...... that's what they do, that's how they stay rich and that's how they can afford to be above the modest concerns of the other 99%. Mr Osborne is one of them, so it is passing strange that he seems to be the only person in the country who wasn't in on the secret.....  

People drink blood? Eeeeuuuugghh!

However, if Georgie Boy really didn't know that the rich play tax games, then the question has to be: "How did such a fool ever become Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Monday 9 April 2012

Glasgow -v- Edinburgh

There's been a lot of comment recently on Amazon's tax avoidance (see this Guardian article).

By structuring the company in such a way that all the revenues are controlled via Luxembourg it seems that Amazon has created a position where £billions of its UK sales are not subject to UK corporation tax. The result is that Amazon's profits increase and the company pays hardly any tax in the UK.  So when you buy through "" you are actually contributing plenty to "amazon" but not a lot to "uk".

Some would say that this is merely clever accounting by Amazon and good luck to them. Others might point out that, if UK sales are not subject to UK taxes then the UK Government has less than it would/should have to pay off debt, support Government costs, cut other taxes, improve schools, hospitals and etc. etc.

Tax Research UK linked the Guardian story to one in The Scotsman last year in which Alex Salmond fronted a £10million grant to Amazon to open up a warehouse in Fife. There followed criticism of the SNP's stance, but also a defence from Professor Brian Ashcroft.

Far be it for me to argue with an economist as eminent as Prof Ashcroft, but I think he rather misses the point. By concentrating on the narrow point that some jobs have been created in Scotland and that's a good thing (which it is), he does not address the wider position of the SNP: the introduction of competitive corporation tax levels into;

a) a unitary devolved state.  

b) an "independent" Scotland (if it ever happens) on the island of Great Britain.

To take the second instance first: an "independent" Scotland which tried to reduce corporation tax would face several barriers. If it was a member of the EU then that organisation has made its displeasure with the tactic clear. Neither Ireland nor any other EU country will ever again be allowed the previous laxity to compete with other EU members on company taxation, nor would an "independent in Europe" Scotland. The recession has put paid to that scam. So an "independent" Scotland accepts the rules of the EU and tholes its punishment or it is no longer an EU state. So much for "independence" in Europe.

It would also face the wrath of its biggest trading partner and neighbour, the UK. It is unlikely that England Wales and Northern Ireland would sit back and take a tax avoiding strategy from their new neighbour. What sanctions there would be is not clear, but there would certainly be diplomatic pressure and other (overt and covert) sanctions.

As for option a): can you imagine a situation where Glasgow could cut corporation tax to compete with Edinburgh?

All of Edinburgh's businesses would hightail it along the M8 in short order and reap the rewards.  Fine for Glasgow and bad for Edinburgh.....if Edinburgh cannot respond. But what happens if Edinburgh cuts even lower?

We get a predictable and destructive downward spiral. Competition creates cutthroats: businesses bounce back and forth, changing the address of their HQs, and benefiting from a continuous reduction in its contributions to society while the cities face a reduced tax income and an unstable business base.

That's what the Nationalists want to do with Edinburgh and Newcastle and Glasgow and Birmingham and the ret of the UK landmass.

It's nuts and it's nasty.

To return to the original argument: are the Nationalists wise to give a subsidy to Amazon to create new jobs in Fife?

Answer: probably not. The short term boost is welcome of course, but history shows that companies like Amazon are ruthless in taking any grant or subsidy on offer locally but they have no commitment to any particular country or people.

They may stay in Fife for the duration, but they may not. And it won't be our £10million that decides that. Amazon have got our money already and their behaviour shows that they could not care less about the exact location of their workers or the morality of accepting UK tax-payers money while avoiding UK taxes.

That's a perennial for those who wish to encourage inward investment, an its one to which no-one has found a completely satisfactory answer. The SNP's particular folly is to invest in Amazon when it has been known for years that the company has a predatory stance toward paying its taxes in jurisdictions like the UK and other, non shelter, economies.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Not altogether wicked, merely unteachable...

Two weeks ago I quoted from George Orwell's 1941 essay, Notes on Nationalism.  He skewered so much of Nationalist attitude and stupidity, he got them so bang to rights, that it could have been written yesterday.

I don't know if it's coincidence, but this came up a few days ago. Again it's from 70 years ago. This time the Tories are his target and, in light of the Budget and the current Downing Street Dinners scandal, it rings so so so true.

From The Lion and the Unicorn , 1941

"It is important not to misunderstand their motives, or one cannot predict their actions. What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in."

The bit that hits home is "...They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable...".  

Absolutely true. Bullseye. On the money. Fresh as this morning's dew. It could be lifted without changing a dot or comma and put straight in to the political profiles of the Tory cabinet.

Plus, of course, Clegg and Huhne and other so-called Orange Book so-called Liberal Democrats.


Monday 26 March 2012

Straws in the wind

In the last couple of months I have noticed a small trend: a number of people he been approaching me, unprompted and  unasked, to question the drift toward "independence". Typically they say "This independence stuff. Surely it's not going to happen, is it? What do you think?".

To which I respond: not if I can help it, but what are you doing about it?

From a local clergymen to my hairdresser, these acquaintances express disbelief that we could ever be silly enough to break up the UK. They are generally not politically active but they have noticed the recent activity stemming from David Cameron's offer to facilitate the legality of the SNP's much delayed referendum. It has made them stop and think, and what they think is: it can't be happening. Are we mad?

One of them even told me he had voted SNP last year, but remarked that he had no intention of voting for "independence" in the referendum.

A number of them also bring up their dislike of Alex Salmond. There is quite an active dislike of Mr Salmond from many who oppose "independence" or who are not politically engaged. He may be popular among supporters of "independence" but for others he's a bumptious blob of pomposity.

Does this mean that SNP support is falling? Not if you look at the opinion polls.

But, if you look at it the way some people sense economic indicators before they show up in statistics, i.e. the town centre or shoping mall suddenly looks deserted, you can get a parking space or a queue-less checkout in your favourite supermarket, then it could be an early indicator of a changing situation.

Last year the SNP swept up public opinion in a surge of support at the Scottish Elections. They did it by keeping "independence" off the agenda.

Now "independence" is back, and it may just be turning the tide in the other direction.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Freedum!!!!!! ..and blankets

I rack my brains. I really do. But for the life of me I can't recall when Labour was in charge of the NHS in Scotland there ever being a shortage of blankets!!!! Of all things.... a hospital with no blankets... it's bizarre. How incompetent does he SNP have to be to engineer a shortage of blankets in a flagship hospital...??????

Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon makes much of her background in nursing. You wonder what the reaction of nippy sweetie Staff Nurse Sturgeon would be to a political leadership that left her bare of something so basic as wrappings to keep the sick warm.... in Britain! In the 21st century!

Actually, when Labour was in charge there were years of increased investment and rising satisfaction with the NHS in Scotland. Those days have gone. Unfortunately. But not for long.....

As for this fiasco...has Ms Sturgeon been sleeping on the job?

We've sold off the blankets. Now we're flogging the ointments.
Buy one get one free. Tempted?

Wednesday 21 March 2012

The good ship Lib Dem lurches beneath the waves...

HMS ship-of-the-line Liberal Democrat Hopes has been holed on a number of occasions, almost always on account of its stout attempts to defend Admiral Dave's flagship The Coalition from serious damage.

One thinks of the Battle of Tuition Fees Bay, where the Liberal Democrat Hopes change tack 180 degrees and heaved itself bravely across the path of Coalition giving priceless protective cover from enemy fire. The damage from that encounter was considerable but Liberal Democrat Hopes stayed afloat and seemingly still under the control of Lieutenant Clegg, its flawed but once-promising First Officer.

Before that there was the volley of defensive cover that the ship fired, allowing Coalition to launch its gunboat Too far Too fast with devastating effect on an unsuspecting economy.

There have been a number of skirmishes since, in many of which the selfless sacrifices of the Liberal Democrat Hopes have been vital to keeping The Coalition afloat.

This week has seen some decisive action that threatens to sink the valiant vessel at last. The first serious damage, and it is below the water line, comes from Tuesday's all out volley on the good ship the NHS Bill. The rebel Labour crew had battled through a series of bloody encounters to sink the poisonous Bill. Many times it seemed that emissaries from Labour were close to subverting the crew of the Liberal Democrat Hopes to support their efforts, but each time the officers of the Liberal Democrat Hopes have succeeded in whipping their recalcitrant crew into line.

Yesterday they were given one last chance to sink the NHS Bill with an effort being made by Labour to release the sealed orders governing its passage and revealing the risks to life and limb of staying on the chosen course. They failed to grasp the chance: there were of course the usual wavering speeches and wringing of hands and voices from the back whispering "we're agin' it". But, when the crew cast its vote, they stayed faithful to their flagship and cast in their lot with the commanders of The Coalition. Thanks to the intervention of the Liberal Democrat Hopes the NHS Bill sailed safely into port with its cargo of cutters and a full complement of privatisers.

Today Liberal Democrat Hope limps into the Battle of the Budget, seriously damaged and with all hands bailing as fast and as furiously as they can, but still defiant in its stubborn defence of the flagship Coalition. It seems that promises from Admiral Dave and Commander Gideon on an increase in pay and rations of the cabin boys and lower deck hands has been bartered in favour of the Liberal Democrat Hopes' flying the flag for the abolition of the ten bob tax, which The Coalition sees as an odious imposition on rich people.

Will they do it? Will Lieutenant Clegg sail his ship through the choppy waters of Tory Canyon to sail to the rescue of plutocrats and oligarchs and wallpaper millionaires? The betting is that they will. But at what cost?

Can Liberal Democrat Hopes recover from the damage it is inflicting upon itself, its officers and its crew in defence of the indefensible? Is the battle worth the injury? Or will today's encounter be the final salvo, the valedictory, for the brave but ultimately suicidal crew of Liberal Democrat Hopes?

P.S. (or should that be P.B. for Post Budget?)...  the ship's rats ratted.... predicable but sad. What now for any of the LibDem crew who still have a residue of backbone...??

Sunday 18 March 2012

A Pig in a Poke with added Devo-Max

I remember many years ago on holiday in Torquay my friend asked a shopkeeper to put a purchase "in a poke" to take away. The shopkeeper was baffled. She had no idea what a "poke" might be.

In Scotland of course, we have no problem. Everyone knows that a poke is a small bag. The derivation is from the French "poque", and it still in use for that purpose in Scotland (just like French "asciette" is used in Scotland as in "ashett pie") as a hangover of Scotland's historically close links with France.

So what does the saying "a pig in a poke" actually mean?

As defined here it's "an offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first". In other words the pig might be in the poke, as advertised, or it might not. Or it might not be exactly as described, scrawny, unhealthy, might not be a pig at all. The poke might even be empty.

"Look missus, there's a nice fat pig in this poke. That'll be fifty quid".

"But I can't tell if there is or there isn't".

"There is all right. It's a nice juicy pig. Fat. Feed the family for a whole winter.

"Sounds nice. Are you really really sure?" 

"Trust me, I'm a snake-oil sorry fat pig salesman".

"Oh all right then I'll buy that".

Isn't that exactly what we are being offered by the Nationalists?
"Independence" is offered but never clearly defined and/or the definition changes depending on circumstances.

 Buy this independent pig and we'll throw 
in some added devolution at no extra cost

If you are a long time SNP member and/or activist you might think that "independence" means, well, "independence", i.e. Scotland is a completely seperate country with a different system of government, different citizenship, a different head of state (perhaps a republic), different currency (pound/euro), fiscal rules, diplomatic systems, military readiness and alliances, borders, immigration laws and so on aand so on. After all that's what you have been campaigning for all your adult life.

But if you listen to senior Nationalist politicians, none of these things is "in" or "out". The Queen could/maybe not be head of state. Sterling might/might not be the continued currency as might the Euro. Fiscal autonomy might be ceded to the Bank of England or the European Central Bank (but it will be ceded). The SNP has been reported as considering NATO membership....

As for "devo max", don't get me started. If you wanted to create a model of lack of clarity you couldn't do better than throw in this fuzzy, ill-defined, deliberately created political red herring. 

"Maybes aye maybes naw" would seem to be the new "Scotland free in '83" (or was that '93...? can't remember now...).   

As for the effects of "independence": these are never explained, or questions are dismissed with spurious flannel. In cases where the questions get too near the bone the questioner is accused of beng "anti-Scottish".

So the underlying message of the pro-"independence" lobby, that everything will improve, is never justified.

There are huge questions about the costs of "independence", the economy, existing commitments and debts, the organisation of the state, diplomacy, culture,and a myriad practical consideratons. But there has been no explanation, and very little discussion of, and no consensus on, how these matters are to be resolved, and if they are resolved, in what way will anyone be "better off"?

The pig stays very firmly in its poke. Why should we buy it?