Monday, 31 December 2007
Instead, I shall concentrate on the closest Scottish Labour has come to a policy statement in at least a year - Wendy Alexander's speech at Edinburgh University on St Andrew's Day. I'm going to pick the bits I want to talk about and I'm a nationalist - if you want anything else, do it yourself. I've heard a lot about the intellectual genius of Wendy Alexander, but all the evidence points in the other direction.
And so to the speech of this fellow of the British-American Project for the Successor Generation:
Almost 30 years ago my first ever political campaign was stuffing envelopes during the 1979 Referendum.
Not for the 'yes' campaign though - according to sources in her former home town.
I firmly believe it is time for a review of the Scottish Constitutional Settlement.
I knew she'd want to join the National Conversation eventually ...
I have never been one of those who believes that, uniquely among the nations of the world, Scotland is incapable of standing on its own two feet.
About time she admitted this - she used to tell us it would cost us five grand each.
I believe that all component parts of the UK would be the losers should we split up an enduring and successful union.She never actually gives a justification for her statement that the UK is successful, nor does she lay out any rationale behind her belief in the union. The only coherent arguments I have ever heard for the continuation of the union have actually been made by nationalists acting as 'deil's advocate' - and usually in the wee sma hours. Why can no unionist politician give us a decent case for holding on to London rule?
England is a much bigger country than Scotland and its history as by far our largest trading partner cannot simply be wished away, even if that was desirable.
Whether or not you think that this is desirable, it might be true (there are no figures for trade between the two countries and I keep on speaking to businesses whose main customers are in Europe, but it might be true). Of course, so long as England is allowed to remain in the EU after independence, she will have the same rights to trade with Scotland as any other EU member state, and my English cousins will still be able to come north to visit. Call me an optimist, but I think that the Scottish Government would make provision to allow England to keep trading with us even if the rest of Europe threw them out, we're nice that way.
Dissolve the Union and England would still have a dominant say in the economic wellbeing of Scotland but without the Scots enjoying anything like the same degree of reciprocity which we currently enjoy through participation in our common democracy.Funny how it's nationalists who understand global interdependence and supranational organisations like the EU, isn't it? For the sake of not being cruel to the small one, let's ignore the fact that the other EU member states have more impact on our economy than England, and let's ask the questions - surely it's a bad thing for Scotland to have one country being a dominant force in our economic wellbeing? Would that remain the same under Independence? I'm even tempted to ask whether this first term of an SNP Government will see Scotland improve and no longer be held back by the English economy. This is, of course, Wendy Alexander displaying that normal trait of Labour members of seeing only what they're told is in front of them, never looking to see what the possibilities are - with the honourable exception of Pat Watters, obviously.
After more than three hundred years of Union, hundreds of thousands of Scots live in England and indeed hundreds of thousands of English people live here.
Hundreds of thousands? No real numbers to offer us? Of those people born in England and now living in Scotland, though, I'm sure Wendy Alexander will be delighted to know that a fair number of them are members of the SNP - including our seven MSPs who were born in England. Prize to anyone who can name them all.
Independence has never, and is unlikely ever, to gain majority support in Scotland and no Party committed to achieving a separate Scottish state is likely to secure majority support.
See that sneering at the right of the people to decide between the options which are put before them? That's why Labour's in so much trouble just now - refusing to address the issues at hand, determined instead to shout down the opinions of others and to insist that no-one else is allowed to agree with them. Labour must learn humility if it is ever to contribute anything to Scottish politics.
It is not possible to entirely reconcile the partisan interest of the Labour Party with the cause of home rule for Scotland.
Partisan interest of the Labour Party? Surely the concern is with the people of Scotland? Ach well, we can but hope. But is this Labour's leader in Scotland telling us that the reason Labour opposes independence is because it runs counter to the career interests of Labour politicians?
There is unfinished business from the 1999 Scotland Act and it is Labour’s job – in partnership with other parties - to fix it. As Donald Dewar once said “it would be absurd to pretend that ours is the last word on the constitutional settlement”
See that towering vanity that would have someone think that they had to say that they didn't have the last word on the constitution? That's the contempt for democracy we keep seeing running through the Labour Party. It's good to see, though, that Wendibles has accepted, finally, that Labour has to engage with the National Conversation at last.
For me and many in the Labour Party devolution was initially about ‘unfinished business’.
Okay, I give up - how can something be initially about unfinished business? Surely unfinished business suggests something that has already started.
there are many issues I believe are best dealt with on an all-island basis, such as tackling global warming
I think that the clue might be in the word global ...
Looking forward most Scots are looking to secure both the devolution settlement and their common UK citizenship. I would like to see a Commission endorsed by the Scottish Parliament, and parties and Parliamentarians at Westminster so that it can draw in the best ideas that the UK and Scotland have to offer.
I've heard people talking about independence and I've heard people talking about remaining part of the UK, but I've never heard anyone asking how they secure their place in the current devolution settlement. Maybe it's a Paisley thing? On the second point - how does the endorsement of political parties in Edinburgh and London ensure that this fabled Commission draws in the best ideas from around Scotland? Another thing - let me pose the West Lothian question in another way - why should someone living in Basingstoke have a say in how Scotland governs herself?
stay focussed on our key goal – what constitutional changes devolution might need to make Scotland a better place in which to live and work in
That's easy - independence. The more perspicacious amongst you will appreciate the irony of the ease of that statement.
There are areas from welfare to work to road transport where there is merit in considering greater powers for the Scottish Parliament.
I look forward to Wendy Alexander's support for these powers to be repatriated.
the financing of the Parliament almost wholly through grant funding does not provide the proper incentives to make the right decisions. Hence strengthening the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament by moving to a mixture of assigned and devolved taxes and grant is something the Commission should consider.
Here's a very interesting point - a woman who was a Minister on and off for the first eight years of devolution, who was the Special Advisor on the Scotland Act, and who keeps telling us she knows the way forward doesn't know how the Scottish Parliament is funded. (It's a top-slice from the consolidated fund). If I was going to be fair, I'd let on that I knew she meant Scottish Government when she said Scottish Parliament - but where's the fun in being fair to her?
It is these principles of resource, revenue and risk sharing – that underpin the partnership that is the UK. Those 3 Rs – of resource, revenue and risk sharing – also secure for Scots our social citizenship i.e. our access to the welfare state, our right to benefits and pensions as well as access to free schooling and healthcare through the NHS.The benefit of the doubt just went out the window. If it's membership of the UK that secures us access to these benefits of society (ignoring the omission of economic drivers there), how do other nations deliver them for their people? Or is she arguing that an independent Scotland would get rid of each of them?
The case for the UK remains the common interests of its constituent parts. It is better to work together and share risk and resources than to seek to manage a volatile environment separately.
So the reason Scotland can't make her own decisions is that the world is a wee bit scary? Intellectually vacant is about the most polite phrasing I can think of. Perhaps the agility of a medium-sized country like Scotland would actually be a benefit in a volatile environment?
the issue of Corporation tax variation within a state also raises issues of compliance with EU rules (the Azores judgement) as well as potentially distorted transfer pricing.
Alyn Smith MEP has already declared himself "a tad ungallant" in pointing out that she has no idea what she's talking about here, no need for me to add more.
England is not just any other country for most Scots.My mother was born in England, most of my cousins live in England. I still don't see the point she's making.
Risk, revenues and resources are shared across the UK to deliver common services and benefits - access to the main elements of the welfare state - social security and pensions, access to healthcare free at the point of need and free schooling
She's off again. I wonder if this was meant to be some kind of scare tactic? There is absolutely no intellectual underpinning to this stuff - it's quite shockingly bad.
we should support and welcome greater local and regional decentralisation in England, allowing voices in different parts of England to be heard on their issues just as we have sought that for ourselves. Looking to the future the so called English question is properly for UK colleagues to consider.
See, maybe it's just the way nationalists think, but I'm of the opinion that it's up the people of England to decide how their country is governed, I don't think I have the right to impose my opinions on them.
That's about the extent of the content of her speech. She really has to go now.
Saturday, 29 December 2007
Funnily enough, I spent the first Christmas of SNP Government in the Republic of Geordieland - someone has to keep an eye on them - and, while having a wee walk one evening, passed the house of one David Abrahams. Can I say, Mr Abrahams, that the extension is truly horrendous and completely out of character with the neighbourhood. I don't know - Labour donors - nae taste.
I was most interested in Kezia Dugdale's call for a clean-up of politics
if politics achieves anything in 2008, it must be to clear up this almighty mess, clean up it's image and give people something to trust again.Is that a former spinner for Wendy Alexander calling on the miniature one to resign? I can wholeheartedly support that call, it would be infra dignitatum for Parliament to have another Labour member get sent to jail while still an MSP. Yes, Kezia, I agree - Wendy Alexander should resign her seat now to help get the mess cleaned up.
While I'm on the subject, I chuckled at Mark McDonald's scurrilous accusation that the opposition coalition parties have organised themselves so that they aren't putting out news releases on the same day during the break.
We can't blame 'em for trying at least, but it seems a little coincidental that the former coalition partners have taken it turn about to put out their press releases.Almost as if there was some behind the scenes cooperation...Going by their recent performances, though, I suspect that they might just not have anything much to say, they're pretty incompetent - as Chris Stephens points out,
They must be really bitter at their gubbing in the elections in May, and with Nicol Stephen holding a marginal constituency his attacks look like the desperate actions of a desperate man.I'd wager a pound or two, though, that they won't be as bitter as Kerron Cross who was, as you will remember, supposed to become Wendy Alexander's new spinner but the job offer was withdrawn, and so we have the fascinating scenario of a trade union taking on Labour's Scottish leader in an employment dispute. I admit I wondered how the leader of the Labour group of 6 (out of 48) on Three Rivers Council (London) would manage the commute to work in Scotland. Turns out he'd bought a flat in Motherwell:
We went to see Motherwell play at the weekend. We now have a flat locally and I'm all for supporting my local team, wherever that is.I bet that hurts. Mind you, Mr Cross is used to being sandpapered by Labour 'dignitaries' - Labour leader hopeful John McDonnell MP once even threatened him with all kinds of bad things for letting people know what the answering machine message in McDonnell's Parliamentary office said.
Here's a wee thought for you - it's now more than a month since Wendy Alexander went into purdah. Her self-imposed gag is her attempt to hide from the consequences of her actions during her leadership non-election. What a politician, eh? Better for all of Scotland if the miniature one resigns now and gets on with it.
Happy winterval and an abstemious new year to you!
Sunday, 23 December 2007
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Only in Scotland and Wales has the Tory revival faltered: the party is up just three points since the summer. But Labour is also in trouble in Scotland, trailing the SNP by three points, 39% to 36%.
Friday, 21 December 2007
The SNP is trying to use the abolition of the graduate endowment to fulfil its manifesto commitment
Thursday, 20 December 2007
I'm delighted to see Allan Wilson back in harness, eh, and, eh, I'll, eh, be loving, eh, watching what he, eh, gets up to. Mainly because of what was written in the Herald (fine organ):
Yesterday, he began a three-month contract as a consultant in the Labour group's support unit with the remit of developing the party's policies in the run-up to their Scottish conference in March.
In particular, Mr Wilson will liaise with grassroots party members on plans for a constitutional commission to look at extra powers for the parliament.
What? Surely not! I'm shocked! Working on party policy, liaising with the grassroots of the party ...
Surely that's party work rather than Parliamentary work? Surely Wendy (to whom he now belongs) wouldn't be using Parliamentary resources for party political purposes? Not with her reputation, surely?
Here's Allan with a big cake:
Fair enough, except for the argument they're using. It goes like this - removing the tolls will increase congestion.
In a house in Fife - "I say darling, how do you fancy a day out shopping in Edinburgh?"
"Marvellous idea, darling, shall we take the car?"
"Well, let's see - that will be a few pounds in fuel, the parking charges in Edinburgh are extortionate - probably another tenner, we'll be spending an absolute fortune in the shops, we'll probably have a coffee in one of those eye-wateringly expensive coffee shops - say a fiver for two coffees and a couple of miniscule cakes. That's all very well, but adding on a pound for the bridge tolls is taking it a bit far - let's get the train."
Fast forward to post-removal and the house next door - "Fancy a day shopping in Edinburgh?"
"Oh no, I strongly dislike going to Edinburgh."
"But there's no bridge tolls anymore."
"Oh well, in that case, let's take the car."
Aye, right. The current bridge tolls are not a disincentive to travelling across the bridge and their removal will not increase congestion. In fact, there is a case to argue that the overbraking caused by vehicles slowing down at the toll plaza to pay creates a traffic queue which makes pollution at the bridge site worse than it would otherwise be.
See Greens? Grand folks, but you wouldn't eat all of them.
Monday, 17 December 2007
There were people in that party who broke the law - some of them went to jail, as politicians who break the law should - and there were others who appeared to think that the rules - the rules of the institution they were members of, the rules of politics, and the rules of common decency - didn't apply to them. That government found itself in the gutter and it collapsed into nothingness in 1997, there's an argument that it would have been better all round had it collapsed in 1992. At the end, Major found himself nostril deep in the crap, but those few who dragged Major's Government into the gutter (only a few) acted on their own.
The vicious dishonesty of the Labour party since 1997 has far outreached anything that went on under Major. There has been an organisation to the gutter in this instance, taking money into the Labour party, into the corporation of Labour, in a way unheard of before - an organisation of base corruption from the petty and the cheap to the extremes.
The list is enormous, but a few aides memoire; Ecclestone, Hinduja, Mandelson's loans, Lanarkshire Red Rose Dinners, Swan Hunter, Blunkett's amour, cash for access, cash for honours, David Abrahams, Wendy Alexander. It's organised cash-gathering, it's the political equivalent of racket-running, it's absolutely dishonest, and it has to end. From local government to UK government, the Labour party is rotten and rotting - and that's a crying shame for a party that came from a proud tradition.
The Sunday Times carried another tale this week about a Labour practice of diverting public funds into Labour campaigning. Incredibly, if you speak to a Labour party member they can see nothing wrong with this low-level, ignorant and casual corruption - the corruption is endemic as well as systemic. From sneaking a few hundred quid in under the radar to channelling millions the attitude equates to an attitude of "the law does not apply to Labour".
There's immorality and illegality walking hand-in-hand there, and blind eyes are swivelling in their sockets. Labour's Scottish leadership has admitted illegal practices - Wendy Alexander has admitted breaking the law - why can they not just resign now, get out of the way, let their party rebuild itself, and let Scottish politics get back to politics?
There is currently, of course, a chorus of "you lot are at it" with allegations being made that Alex Salmond did not play strictly by the rules over the Trump proposed £1 billion investment in the North East. This has, of course, proven to be flannel, as even Scottish Tory Boy has said - not only has there been no wrongdoing proven, the accusers cannot even decide what wrongdoing they want to look for - as shown by Nicol Stephen in the interview with Glenn Campbell.
Nicol Stephen's latest attempt to try to make this a story by demanding that Parliament sets up a commission to examine the issue (how many commissions does Nicol Stephen want?) is, as has been said elsewhere, making him look ridiculous, but I say it's worse than that.
I say that anyone who wants a motion in Parliament to instruct the Corporate body to set up a commission to investigate something within the power of the Scottish Government and calls on the Government to hand over papers and suchlike does not understand the scope of government, considering that Salmond has already said that he met the Trump supporters and opponents in the course of his duties as an MSP rather than as First Minister. Considering that Nicol Stephen was part of the coalition government for the first eight years of devolution it's a bit worrying that he doesn't know where government ends and MSP duties begin.
It's more worrying, though, that a trained lawyer who was in government for eight years and is a senior MSP can submit a motion of that nature - it suggests an ignorance of the Scotland Act, either through not reading it or not understanding it.
Can we get back to politics now?
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Iain Macwhirter came to the conclusion that, if there was any wrongdoing by Salmond, it was the use of the Ministerial car (he was leaving a Ministerial engagement, so that's not a wrongdoing).
Scotland on Sunday has dug out a 'planning expert' to warn that Swinney calling in the application will bring about the Apocalypse. Dr Veronica Burbridge is her name - I've no idea what her doctorate is in, but her appearance as a planning expert appears to stem from her having worked for the Royal Town Planning Institute for a couple of years after having worked for Scottish Natural Heritage. I can't quite work out whether she is naive or politically partial. I know, I know, you want to know what the Royal Town Planning Institute is - I was desperate to investigate it myself but I have to admit I got bored. They have 20,000 members (across the UK) in 9 classifications, only one of which requires a professional qualification and you can look at their policy development for yourself.
There was even a tale that some terrible opposition spinner had tried to suggest that John Swinney had played a free round of golf when he was at a Globalscots event paid for by Scottish Enterprise which was held at one of Trump's premises in the US. If it had been a mountain-biking centre, maybe see a round getting played, but golf and John Swinney? Dinna be daft.
Then there's the Lib Dems intending to ask Parliament to spend money on a Commission to exonerate the SNP in addition to the Commission they want Parliament to set up to examine the case for independence. Parliament is on a limited budget - how much of its money do they want to spend on their commissions and will they be willing to give up their salaries and allowances to fund them?
Useless, the lot of them! For a large fee I'm prepared to show them how to be an opposition, though - all such tenders will be subject to a donation to the cause of independence, right enough.
I have been made aware of one or two people asking why Nicol Stephen jumped up and down and stamped his feet like an infant over Alex Salmond but didn't utter a peep when Wendy Alexander admitted breaking the law. Good question - if I get half a chance I'll start having a look at his allowances and expenses - just for a laugh.
Cheer up, we could be back to politics soon. Wendy Alexander, the woman who admitted breaking the law but is hanging on to clear her name will be gone soon (does she intend to resign as soon as she's 'cleared her name'?), Nicol Stephen will be back counting milk tokens, and we could, perhaps, have some real debate in Parliament.
Do you think the Labour MSPs and the Lib Dem peers who are in favour of independence should declare their hand?
Ach, come on, it would be fun at least.
Friday, 14 December 2007
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): May we have a debate on local democracy and devolution? I ask that because of the growing scandal in Scotland, where the Scottish National party Government have been interfering in an unprecedented way in the local planning process in support of a development proposed by the Trump Organisation. Should not the First Minister be reminded that the point of devolution was to bring power closer to the people, not to have power devolved to Edinburgh, only to have it taken away from local government and centralised in Edinburgh?
13 Dec 2007 :
Ms Harman: I will take up my hon. Friend’s point with the Secretary of State for Scotland. The whole point of having a Scottish Parliament was to devolve power from Westminster to people in Scotland, not to suck up power from local authorities in Scotland and place it in Edinburgh instead.
The only consolation was that any credibility Edinburgh MP Mark Lazarowicz hoped to gain by seeking the high moral ground was instantly nullified by the support of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, that doyenne of political propriety. Politicians should learn when to keep their mouths shut and, where this issue is concerned, that time is now.
Thursday, 13 December 2007
Everybody's favourite milk monitor was in finger-wagging mood today, claiming that the Salmond chappie had broken the rules. Apparently there's an American with a really bad heid rug who wants to build some stuff in Salmond's constituency and has had a meeting with the First Minister.
No-one disagrees that the abolition of tuition fees is not the only matter of concern in Scottish higher education - many of us would like to see a wide range of developments in the ways which both universities and students are funded. ... We are asking the politicians to re-establish an important principle; thereafter we can start the examination of additional means of addressing student debt and poverty.
Universities have told us they don't have the funds to increase student numbers, which begs the question, how can this bill widen access when there won't be more places for students to take up?
If this bill goes ahead, competition for places is likely to be even fiercer for students from poorer backgrounds, most of whom don't pay the endowment.
The committee remains unconvinced that the removal of graduate endowment goes far enough in removing barriers to access higher education.
Jeremy Purvis of the Lib Dems voted for the Bill but wants to make it a wider student and higher education funding bill. The whole point is to get this bit done and then look at what else needs done.
Conservative Liz Smith who voted against the Bill said:
Abolishing the graduate endowment would do nothing to improve either the teaching capacity or the research facilities in higher education.
And that's not what it's intended to do either!
Remember all those students demonstrating and asking for the abolition of the Graduate Endowment?What do you think they think of Labour betraying them again?
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): A police officer in Linlithgow is now paid more than a police officer in Lichfield for doing exactly the same job. Is that fair? Is that right?
The Prime Minister: What is happening in Scotland is this: to pay the police more, the planned increase of 500 policemen has been suspended. I know what my constituents and the hon. Gentleman’s constituents would prefer—that there were police on the streets. We have more police in this country on the streets, helping us, than at any time in our history. I more than anybody would like to be able to say to the police that we could pay their wages and their salary rise in full, but I have to say to them that no policeman and no person across the country would thank us if their pay rise was wiped out by inflation—and no party should know that better than the Opposition, given that there was 10 per cent. inflation in the 1990s. That is why the awards are being staged. Over the last 10 years, police pay has risen by 39 per cent., and by 9 per cent. in real terms. We have managed to combine that with having rises in police numbers and the biggest police force in history. That is the policy of the Government.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The police in Scotland are receiving a full pay rise, including back pay, from the—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.
Angus Robertson: I will enjoy saying this again. The police in Scotland are receiving a full pay rise, including back pay, from the Scottish National Party Government. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to congratulate First Minister Salmond on that fair decision?
The Prime Minister: No. The SNP said in its manifesto: “we will set out plans in our first Budget for Scotland for 1000 more police”. It did not honour its promises; there were only 500, not 1,000. The hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of his party.
You end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour Prime Minister - a Labour Prime Minister - hiring a Home Secretary to scuttle round a country handing out refusal notices to its own workers.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Why, when that expert on electoral law, Edinburgh University public law lecturer Navraj Ghaleigh, was Labour's candidate in 2005 in Edinburgh West (suggesting that he is at least sympathetic to Labour) did Wendy Alexander not ask his advice before committing her crimes?
Why did David Cameron come to Edinburgh to speak to an environment charity and make a speech that was all about the coming of Scottish independence? I take it he was made aware of the rules under which charities operate and he hasn't landed this charity in trouble with OSCR?
Why, since it's meant to be in a UK context, is the Labour scheme to take us towards Independence not reaching out for participation from Wales and Northern Ireland?
OK, so it was a prial of questions rather than a couple (four if you count the Cameron question as two), but I'm allowed a bit of leeway...
Monday, 10 December 2007
Firstly, Gordon Brown's speech to the Newspaper Society gave a signal that he wasn't about to allow devolved governments the power that they need to be competitive. The Belfast Telegraph reported him ruling out allowing Stormont any control over Corporation Tax - and that's before the Varney Review.
That kind of cuts right across Wendy Alexander's Magic Commission since Brown appears to be ruling out the transfer of fiscal powers to the devolved nations. That, coming on top of one of her councillors in Edinburgh criticising her scheme for its elitism, can't be helping her to ease the hurt any.
Now that more and more people are looking closely at donations, there are questions being asked about all kinds of things like why a business organisation like the Scottish Industry Forum, supposedly free of all party political affiliation when it commissions political opinion polls gave Wendy Alexander £10,000 in November 2002 and another £2,000 four months later. Some are also asking why this organisation which is or was quite obviously politically active was never registered as a 'third party' with the Electoral Commission. It hasn't been heard of for a couple of years - has it gone, will it be brought back to life whenever Labour needs an 'independent business organisation', or was it just a front in the first place?
There's also a problem which will continue to grow for Labour in Scotland, and it's not easy to pin it down, but I'll give it a go. Scotland has a minority SNP Government, and the voters see that Government as doing a decent job, so they are prepared to give that Government and the SNP the benefit of the doubt.
That means that they will give us a bit more leeway than they would a party that was in majority Government, and it also means that they'll defend us because we are standing up for Scotland. The most obvious examples have been canvassing after the two defeats the Scottish Government has suffered - on trams and on a devolution commission. On each of those occasions, we received a better welcome than we were expecting in Edinburgh North and Leith.
Switchers to us are in fairly healthy numbers in any case, but after these two parliamentary votes they were in even finer fettle. I don't for a minute believe that great numbers of people sit glued to the reporting of Holyrood (I'll be delighted if I'm wrong), so I take it that the news comes out through the usual media channels. If we're getting people who used to vote Lib Dem telling us that they're supporting us immediately after the party they supported has been part of a coalition that defeated us in a vote, what does that tell us? I suspect that it's simply that the 'ganging-up' required to defeat us leaves a bad taste in Scots' mouths - beating up on a minority Government and registering victories which leave the electors feeling like Pyrrhus isn't helpful to any of the opposition parties. I suspect the Conservatives picked up on this after the trams vote and that's partly why they've been so reluctant to engage in the tomfoolery of Wendy Alexander and Nicol Stephen.
Making that mistake today was David Cameron, jumping in where he can't see and doesn't understand. On his tour of this northern wilderness we call home he told us that "We must confront and defeat the ugly stain of separatism that is seeping through the Union Flag." He wants to be Churchill, that one. He went on to say "Better an imperfect Union than a broken one. Better an imperfect Union than a perfect divorce." Better to sit in a car with no engine than to get out and get where you need to be?
As people across Scotland look at what can be achieved by a minority Government which is short of the power it needs but truly believes in its nation, they're not seeing any ugly stain, they're getting a glimpse of how their country could be if it retook its independence. The other parties are now all playing the SNP's game now, to some degree or another, but they don't understand the rules - it's not hyperbole that brings converts, nor does it become a politician talking about the future of our nation to seek to impose their will on us.
Perhaps they should look to a unionist whose credentials as a unionist are most certainly not in question, a young fella by the name of Ian Paisley who is reported to have said today that "The First Minister of Scotland has views on the future constitutional position of Scotland and of course they are well known. Those are entirely matters for him and his party to take forward with the people of Scotland. Scotland has a right to decide for itself and if that is the way it wants to decide, it is not our business."
Speak up Rhodri Morgan, let's hear you!
So with that wee sojourn around the other parts of these islands, let's take a fresh pair of eyes to Scotland and the inhibitions facing the opposition here.
Adding to all the problems that have beset Wendy Alexander over the last wee while was the withdrawal from party funding of one of Labour's biggest Scottish donors, Willie Haughey, and the police investigating a senior member of her constituency party after he was sacked by Glasgow Council. It never rains but it flings in doon in massive sheets.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
She only became leader in mid September, so to have lost three spinners is quite some going. This one's special though - he didn't even get started and now has a trade union fighting his case. Full story in the Sunday Mail.
Having read his blog, though, Wendy might have got off lightly...
Saturday, 8 December 2007
The 'shoplifter returns' defence of "We've paid it back, so that's okay" allied to the idiot's defence of "I never knew it was wrong to break the law - I never meant it" and the bizarre self-hagiography "Yes, I broke the law but no-one will question my integrity, I'm beyond reproach."
There's one today where they've been caught using Parliamentary facilities to do their fund-raising. Their justification was that it was a minor breach of the rules. Can I be the first to say: no it's not a minor breach, you've broken the trust of the people who elected you. Those rules about not using public assets for party political activity are very important, and Labour's casual disregard for those rules is a symptom of a greater malaise.
Labour's casual attitude to petty corruption and the sneering contempt Labour members have for the law is shameful.
Perhaps that's why they have so many problems with communications staff.
Steven Lawther walked during the election when London started interfering.
Brian Lironi resigned within a couple of weeks of Wendy Alexander taking over.
Matthew Marr's stunning attempts to get Labour onto the front pages led to his demise.
Gavin Yates was revealed to have little respect for his new employer, describing her as abrasive (but at least he'll have the support of his mother-in-law Helen Eadie when Wendy comes for him)
Currently there is an Iain Bundred seconded from London to try to keep a lid on the nonsense. I wonder whether he's the same Iain Bundred who once said: "I'm no Bush fan - I hate the fucker in fact, but for us to take the YL banner along without a proper debate at a national committee meeting would, for me, be the wrong protest, at the wrong time, in the wrong way."?
I hear that there is more pain coming for Labour in the spin-doctor stakes, my heart goes out to them ...
Friday, 7 December 2007
The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body
The Scottish Parliament
Dear Sir Gus,
I note from the BBC website that a meeting took place yesterday, 5th November, in the Scotland Office premises in Edinburgh, which was attended by the Secretary of State for Scotland, his Conservative and Liberal Democrat shadows and the Leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties in the Scottish Parliament.
Apparently the purpose of the meeting was to agree on a common stance in opposition to the minority Scottish National Party devolved government of Scotland.
This meeting seems to have been entirely about partisan political interests, not about matters of Government either at UK or Scottish level.
I shall be grateful if you will advise whether, in your view, such a meeting should properly have taken place in government premises, possibly with civil service input. Should the political parties involved have contributed to the cost of making provision for such a meeting? I look forward to hearing from you in reply at an early date.
All very good, you say. Here's the reply he got:
Sir Gus O'Donnell has asked me to thank you for your email of 7 November 2007 and to respond on his behalf.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Rt Hon Des Browne MP convened discussions, as you say, with political leaders from Holyrood and Westminster in Melville Crescent in Edinburgh on 5 November. Melville Crescent is the Edinburgh office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Devolution settlement in Scotland. This is a specific responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is Government business. The Cabinet Secretary is satisfied that the meeting was within the rules.
There you have it - the Chappie in charge of the Civil Service believes it to be Government business, so inside the rules. My friend, a thoughtful type fellow with a cheery demeanour and a penchant for discussing the finer details of everything which comes into his view, took it upon himself to enquire further. He sent an epistle to the Scotland Office, and here it is reproduced:
Subject: Review of Scottish Devolution
I shall be grateful if you will, under the Freedom of Information legislation, supply me with copies of all correspondence, meeting notes and minutes relating to a possible review of Scottish devolution since May, 2005. This information should include, but not be confined to, all such correspondence, meeting notes, memos and full minutes relating to the meeting held today (5th November) in the Edinburgh base of the Scotland Office attended by the Secretary of State for Scotland; David Mundell, MP; Alastair Carmichael, MP; Annabel Goldie, MSP; Nicol Stephen, MSP; and Wendy Alexander, MSP.
I look forward to hearing from you in reply within 20 days. An e-mail reply would be preferable. Kindly acknowledge receipt of this message.
Cracking cheese, Grommit! An FOI request and he's not even Davie Hutchison!
Here's the reply:
Thank you for your e-mail of 5 November to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The UK Government has not instituted any review of Scottish Devolution since May 2005 and accordingly no papers are held on that topic.
As regards the meeting held on 5 November, the discussions were held amongst political parties and a news release was issued following the discussions. No papers on these discussions are held by the Scotland Office.
I hope this reply is helpful.
Oho! Oho, aha and uhuh! A party political meeting held in Government premises and at our expense! Shameful, I say. Disgraceful, you say.
What's to be done, that's the question. What would your next step be? Isn't that what the comments function is for?
Cash (13 donations) totalling: £ 1,061,776.00
He's a very generous fellow.
Thursday, 6 December 2007
Yes, quickly end tuition fees
THERE appears to be some confusion on whether or not student representatives are in favour of tuition fees. We would like to attempt to clarify this matter.
No-one disagrees that the abolition of tuition fees is not the only matter of concern in Scottish higher education - many of us would like to see a wide range of developments in the ways which both universities and students are funded. We may
disagree about what those reforms should be.
However, in answer to the simple question, "Are you in favour of the early abolition of tuition fees?" we can speak with one, resounding voice. The answer is "Yes".
We hope this has put things in terms clear enough for all We are asking the politicians to re-establish an important principle; thereafter we can start the examination of additional means of addressing student debt and poverty.
Meanwhile, I hear Wendy Alexander's been on a shopping trip:
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Here's the latest, she tells me that Charlie Gordon was recently an extremely effective laxative in Labour party HQ recently.
"How so?" says I.
Well, I'm told, that wee threat to make a statement caused a fit of the vapours straight out of a Harold Lloyd film. We all thought that Charlie was being forced to stand down, he was being booted out of the door to save the career of the Wendy.
The alternate version of the tale from the depths of John Smith House has a different colour. That version has Mr Gordon's announcement that he intended to make a statement coming as a complete surprise - they didn't know it was coming, so they suffered sudden evacuation problems.
The phones went a wee bit busy, and the emails were wheeching all over the place. No-one could find out what the Honourable Member for Cathcart was up to. The Bat-phone was lifted and London was called.
Strangely, Charlie Gordon found his phone when The Clash started playing. The man who ran Glasgow knows how to play down among the big boys - and he's not prepared to settle for less.
Anyway, the upshot is, I'm told, that Charlie boy has been asked to make sure that his statement isn't a resignation because Labour can't be sure of holding any seat in Scotland now. The wee man has the Broon in a very uncomfortable position and isn't letting go easily.
Perhaps a wee sinecure just won't be enough? The question I'm asking now is what does Charlie have that they are so frightened of? No-one would expect Labour to hold Cathcart, and that would only adjust in the SNP's favour a tiny wee bit. Labour's credibility is already shot, Wendy's dignity doesn't exist anymore, Gordon Brown really can't be all that worried about all this when he has the world exploding around his ears.
What's Charlie got? Why is the Labour party worried? Answers in the usual manner...
My only worry is that she was smiling and she might be winding me up.
Does that mean that we shouldn't give them a grant? The transformation from loans to grants is to begin with part-time students. Scotland is changing for the better, lets keep going.
Here's the briefing which Kezia said was factually accurate (cheers for your support, by the way):
What the SNP Scottish Government is doing in Higher Education
The SNP believes that access to education should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.
Scrapping the Graduate Endowment Tuition Fee
The SNP Government intends to scrap the Graduate Endowment Tuition Fee introduced by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Bill to do this is before Parliament now. To get this Bill passed and remove this unfair burden from Scottish students will need the support of other parties. MSPs from those other parties should be encouraged to support the SNP Government in this.
Grants not Loans
John Swinney’s budget statement made it clear that the SNP Government is continuing to move towards grants instead of loans for Scotland’s students, starting with part-time students.
Investing in our students
The SNP Government is investing £509.1 million in the Student Awards Agency for Scotland this year.
Investing in our Universities and Colleges
The SNP Government will be investing £1.673 billion in the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council this year - £40 million more than was invested last year.
Investing in the Future for Universities and Colleges
By 2010/11, investment in our universities and colleges through the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council will be £1.812 billion per year – higher than it has ever been before, thanks to the SNP Government – £5.24 billion over the CSR period, and £100 million capital investment in the first year
All of this in spite of the tightest spending settlement Scotland has ever had under devolution and in spite of the opposition parties wasting £500 million on one tramline in Edinburgh earlier this year.
Briefing by SNP research staff. Figures from Scottish Government budget - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/11/13092240/0
See the woman standing to the right with the yellow umbrella? She thinks I'm cynical. Me - cynical - I ask you!
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Come back from Neverland!
With the furore looking like it will be dying down, here's just a few things done recently:
Better financial support for foster and kinship carers
Move to re-establish the Campbelltown to Ballycastle Ferry
Schools dental service
£10 million investment in eyecare services
£1.6 billion rural development programme
Increase in funding for voluntary organisations
Asking people to submit their views to the broadcasting commission
Housing supply task force meets
Malawi vocational education project launched
New fisheries money
More effective community penalties
Action plan to tackle hospital infections
Acting for the people of Scotland instead of for politicians. Not a bad wee record in a week.
Monday, 3 December 2007
Wendy Alexander, a former Minister who fell from favour with the so-called Labour ‘West-Coast Mafia’ is in pole position but her abrasive style might not prove popular with everyone. Also, she is seen very much as a Brown acolyte and that won’t go down well with MSPs that want a separate Scottish Labour identity from Westminster.
Meanwhile, Labour find themselves still stuck in a post -electoral malaise with a lame-duck leader.
the risks of becoming ill from smoking cheap resin cannabis are more realistic than developing mental health problems from smoking skunk
Sunday, 2 December 2007
It's simply not so. The problem is Labour's problem - not politics' problem. Labour's contempt for Scotland and for the people they are supposed to represent is incredible and is matched only by the disdain they have for proper procedure and an obvious opinion that they have a divine right to rule and to browbeat the rest of us.
The casual attitude to lying is symptomatic of the systemic corruption of the Labour party. The vitriol and sneering derision that Labour pours at people on the other side of any debate indicate an organisation with tendencies equivalent to sociopathy.
The sociopath will tend to exhibit glibness and superficial charm, while being manipulative and underhand. They will have a grandiose sense of themselves, have a lack of remorse, shame or guilt, and be pathological liars who are callous and irresponsible. Their shallow emotions and poor behavioural controls often lead to uncontrolled verbal outbursts, a contempt for people around them and a criminal versatility. Just like the Labour party - which is sad because there are still a lot of people in that party who believe in what it used to stand for and who would like it to return to those core beliefs.
Lets look at the case - today's revelations that Wendy Alexander knew about the invalidity of the donations to her campaign fund is merely further evidence of the guilt that many of us suspected she bore. Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor, blogs about Wendy today and suggests that she has integrity. I think Brian is being too generous in believing the best of her, I think she has no integrity at all.
It is now clear that Wendy Alexander and her campaign team conspired to evade scrutiny and deceive the Electoral Commission. The donations solicited under the £1,000 threshold for public declaration, the ghost body set up to run her leadership campaign to try (unsuccessfully) to avoid declaring donations to Parliament, the donor shifting in reporting to the Commission, the soliciting and accepting of donations from people who were not allowed to donate, the evasiveness when challenged on it, the sheer full-face lies in answer to questions, the sacrificing of one of their number, the hiding from journalists, and the continued insistence that there was no "intentional wrong" in spite of the overwhelming evidence are indicative of a woman lacking personal integrity and a party lacking collective integrity.
That defence of 'no intentional wrong' - the apparent belief that they can do no wrong - is incredible. Applied to any other crime it would appear as fatuous as it is (except, of course, in the case of burthensack). Put quite simply, Wendy Alexander and her campaign team sought to avoid the law, they have admitted to committing crimes in the pursuit of the leadership of the Labour party, and it would appear that the particular methods they used are not unknown elsewhere in the Labour party.
An interesting aside was the rebuke from Labour party HQ delivered to Charlie Gordon et al regarding Paul Green. The implication was that the donations would never have been accepted had party HQ known about them. This, of course, simply points to the fact that Labour's internal reporting systems are not operative or party HQ would have known about at least one of the donations.
The entire farce smacks of the same kind of contempt that epitomised the Lanarkshire Red Rose dinners - see here, here, here, here, and here for more information on those. Similarly, the impromptu press conference held by Labour last week was party political in nature but was held on Scottish Parliament premises - against the rules - and was convened by Tom McCabe - Labour's representative on the Corporate Body, responsible for the running of Parliament.
It's the casual and easy way they indulge in petty corruption that suggests a far deeper and far more cynical attitude that is at odds with representing the people of Scotland.
Let's get this over with, for Scotland's sake - Wendy Alexander's political career is over and the corpse is lying in state. For the sake of decency, bury the body now and have done with it all.