Thursday, 17 November 2011

Portillo Graciously Offers Scots Some of their Oil

According to the former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Michael Portillo, Scotland should get full fiscal autonomy with the authority to raise its own taxes and set the rate of corporation tax and income tax. He also proposes an end to the non-existent UK subsidy for Scotland and a resolution to the West Lothian Question.

There will be no argument here against removing the Barnett Formula, although those who think that this will increase and release any monies for the rest of the UK are in for a disappointment.

For if Portillo is really arguing for fiscal autonomy then the excise duty on fuel and alcohol will remain north of the border. This is particularly pertinent as figures recently released by the Tax Payers Alliance show that of the £2.5 billion collected by the UK Government in Scotland for 2009, only £1.1 billion was spent on transport infrastructure and tackling emissions. A further loss would be the £1.75 billion collected from whiskey.

The West Lothian Question is something that should have been addressed at the time of Devolution. It is a ridiculous and undemocratic situation that allows Scottish MPs to vote on purely English matters.

But the unique selling point of Portillo’s proposal is that the Scots should get an appropriate share of oil and gas revenues.

How very generous of you Michael. But, how absurd.

One supposes that the reasoning behind Mr Portillo’s argument is that oil and gas are shared resources and that some division, along the lines of population no doubt, is a fair and equitable arrangement.

But why stop at oil and gas? Every other resource must then be considered shared. That includes all the resources of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Or is it just those resources that obviously Scottish?

Another example, many may think, of an out of touch Tory.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rocky Road for Ruth

Will the election of Ruth Davidson as the Scottish Tory leader herald rocky times ahead for the Party?

A mere six months ago she was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP, that is – she got there on the “top-up” vote rather than the “first passed the post” preference. Now she leads the Party.

Launching an attack on Alex Salmond in her inaugural First Ministers Question Time, she certainly didn’t set the heather on fire. Choosing to continue with this week’s anti-independence mantra about the Euro and timing of the referendum.

Using the word “feart” came over as a bit patronising. We will all be listening for the first time she lapses back into “frightened”.

Those who supported her elevation to leadership in the belief that it would mean a new approach from the Party already know that nothing has changed in that department.

It was a case of “new face”, “same old”.

She has made it clear that the Scottish Tories will continue to be a loyal outpost at the fraying edges of London Party’s empire.

She will of course get an easy time from her old pals at the BBC and it is doubtful that the rest of the media will be any harder on her. As long a there is a referendum on the horizon she is unlikely to get it in the neck from the broadsheets and as Labour see the Tories as irrelevant, even their flagship rag the Daily Record might not bother her too much.

But can she count on support from her fellow MSPs?

Well, the majority didn’t vote for her. And she’s already had major problems forming her front bench. Elected politicians don’t take kindly to the party telling them who their boss is going to be and I don’t doubt there will be some on the back benches who don’t like this one in particular.

There is an argument that if the Party’s policies in Scotland are not going to change it would have been better off with a more experienced MSP at the helm.

Ruth Davidson has come from nowhere and risen to the top very quickly. There are many around her who, although their knives are sheathed for the moment, are waiting for her to fail.

The real test will not be her performance against Alex Salmond; I doubt she will win that one, but the Local Elections next year.

Its hard enough for the Tories in Scotland and the by next year it’s a stick-on that the Coalition will have scuppered any chances she has of increasing her Party’s standing. Doing as well as her predecessor might be the best she can manage. Whether that will be good enough remains to be seen. But she will have to do a wee bit more that parrot David Cameron to achieve even that.

And if the Tories do even worse will the knives be drawn?

If there is an iota of realism left in their ranks, perhaps not. But she will come under increasing pressure to change the Party north of the border. An internal review of what went wrong, again, is not going to do her or the Tories any favours in the run up to the “big vote”. And in the long run won’t change a thing.

We wish Ms Davidson well in her career and hope she’s still there for the referendum.

Although what it takes to lead the rump of Scottish politics, other than an impossible optimism, might well be the acceptance once and for all that the Tories are a spent force.

London Society or Civic Society

Those Scots, who at present, favour the continuation of the union with England, may wish to consider that, while common ground exists between Scotland and England, there are clear and irreconcilable differences which separate the two nations. The most overriding of these has been constant and contradictory societal attitudes. The civic society of Scotland and an English society driven by economics and market forces. The imposition of the latter as a model for the UK now seems likely if Scotland does not achieve fiscal autonomy.

If one thing in recent times has highlighted the difference between Scottish and English society, it was the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.

While voters in England returned her party to Government in three consecutive ballots, her fortunes north of the border dwindled to almost nothing. By the time the reconstructed “New” Labour Party came to power the Tories were a spent force in Scotland. To this day they return only one MP to the Westminster Parliament.

Thatcher’s vision was the destruction of the very idea of “society”. It was to be replaced by a disparate nation of individuals and family units cutting each other’s throats to survive. They would, in her mind, happily do so in the knowledge that they were living in some Panglossian “best of all worlds”. They would also however, when the clarion called, gather together as a cohesive confirmation of Britishness.

As we know this was rejected in Scotland.

Devolution means that those fortunate enough to be domicile north of the border will be spared David Cameron’s “Big Society”. The solutions he offers through social policy are English-specific. Something he and other Westminster politicians avoid reference to at all times. This is what gives rise to the feeling that such policies are UK wide while those instigated at Holyrood, and enjoyed exclusively by the Scots, are extra benefits denied the English. This misconception is often encouraged by insignificant Tory backbenchers, hackneyed opportunists such as Kelvin McKenzie and the terminally deluded Boris Johnson.

No one should be fooled by Cameron’s softer approach. While it may well be disguised as the devolution of power to communities, it will be nothing more than an abrogation of responsibility to many communities.    

The problem for Scotland though, is the economic policies that are pursued by London. While they are not the drivers of the Scottish perspective of what constitutes a society, they can undermine those aspirations. Treasury Minister, Danny Alexander, has made it abundantly clear that this will be the case as he implements the Tory economic policies that will penalise all but those responsible for the economic mess that the UK is in.

By embracing the Coalition, the Lib-Dems signalled confirmation, if any was required, that they not only have nothing better to offer but are willing to connive in an unprecedented purge not only on the people of the UK, but those things which they have strived to achieve within their communities.

As for the Labour Party? As a British Party, it long ago abandoned any pretence of creating a fair society preferring instead to court, and eventually submit to, the very forces that it was formed to oppose. As a Scottish Party, it has to an extent resisted this. But, as a Scottish Party, it has been plagued by an inability to understand the changes in the political landscape and to distance itself from the ambitions of those in London.  

If the people of Scotland wish to retain a civic society, then perhaps separation is the alternative to the creeping imposition of the English model. Now, more than ever, these differences stand in stark contrast.

The ability to use revenue and resources to the benefit of all without recourse to monetary gain is the mark of a civic society. Only full fiscal autonomy and an unhindered decision making process can achieve this.

If that sounds like independence it is probably no coincidence.

Counting Past 10 is Not Ruth’s Forte

It would appear that when it comes to dodgy arithmetic, the Coalition’s cartoon character in Scotland, Michael Moore, has competition from the new Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson.

After receiving her inaugural orders from David Cameron, reiterating the independence of the Scottish Conservatives by saying that she would do nothing that the leader might disapprove of and regurgitating the same old message that has seen Tories decimated in Scotland; she proclaimed to the world that she had a mandate to speak for the people of Scotland.

Before you waste any time wondering how she worked that one out, let me explain.

She claimed that the Coalition parties had won more votes at the UK General election in Scotland than the SNP did to win their historic majority at Holyrood. As such, she spoke for the nation.

But alas for Ms Davidson, in the undoubted excitement of having an audience with her hero, got it wrong.

For the record, the combined vote for the Tories and Lib-Dems in Scotland at the General Election was 878,326 which was 35.6% of the popular vote. In the elections for Holyrood the SNP polled 902,915 or 45.5% of the vote.

Not hard to work out who got more, you’ll agree.

While a competent grasp of numeracy might not have been required in a previous life as a journalist at BBC Scotland, it is generally thought to be a prerequisite of a sitting politician and party leader.

That aside, adding the votes of those who opposed you during an election after they join you in a coalition is surely a sign of desperation. I’m pretty sure that those who supported the Lib-Dems certainly don’t want their votes propping up the inane and out of touch policies of the Scottish Tories.

Its early days yet but with a start like this, Ms Davidson and her inability to count past the  number 10, promises to entertain if not inspire.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Nation Shall Speak Unto Region

This is the BBC i-Player.

Here we find Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales listed as regions. But regions of what and where? It surely cannot be the UK. For that to be the case then England would also have to be on this list.

Unless, of course, England is the UK.

Ignorance? Arrogance? Indifference? Take your pick. The BBC are guilty of all three.

So, while London is calling to the far away world, the idea that “British” should not be confused with “English” still remains lost to those at the Anglo-Saxonphone.

Where Now for Paul McBride?

High-profile QC, Paul McBride, has left the Scottish Conservatives following the election of former BBC journalist Ruth Davidson as the party's new leader. And he didn’t go quietly.

McBride was scathing in his criticism of the Scottish Tories.

As someone who has suffered first hand from the actions of brain-dead religious bigots, his main concern centred on The Party’s opposition to the SNP's legislation to tackle sectarianism and he has been highly critical of Ms Davidson's campaign manager, MSP John Lamont, who is also the party's justice spokesman.

Describing the party as "a bunch of unreconstructed morons", he said, "They have replaced one nice woman with one not so very nice woman."

Mr McBride later released a statement which added: "The Scottish Tories are no friends of the people of Scotland.

Rounding on the MSP group at Holyrood he added that they were, “divided and dysfunctional.” And that “Their only policy is to oppose everything and contribute nothing.”

"Half the membership wants the party abolished and 87% of the electorate despise them.

"Their naked opportunism regarding the minimum pricing bill and the offensive behaviour bill demonstrates why they will remain unelectable.

Well, better late than ever from the man who abandoned his lifelong support for the Labour Party just two short years ago, after deciding that they too were a useless bunch. Although not quite as useless as the lot that he’s just left. Why he ever thought that either had the potential to be anything else is a mystery.

By and large, all opposition parties in Holyrood contribute little and oppose the SNP as a matter of course. It has nothing to do with the Government’s policies, rather that the Government is the SNP and cannot be seen to succeed.

But where now for BBC Scotland’s favourite lawyer?

I get the impression that he is a political animal and seemed as stick-on to some day move into that arena. But he has now burned two pretty big bridges, as far as such a career in Scotland is concerned.

I doubt that there is much mileage to be had from the near extinct Lib-Dems or the Greens (the Party that is, not his beloved Celtic). And as a strong opponent of independence it would be inconceivable that the SNP would get his support. He has come away with some daft pro-unionist guff in the past. Remarks which now seem somewhat contradictory.

But, as it is the Unionist Parties that oppose the introduction of the legislation that he so wishes to see passed into law, he now finds himself in an increasing group of high-profile Scots such as Sir David Murray who are pro-unionists who have had to accept that the SNP are the best equipped Party to govern Scotland.

If only those pesky nationalists didn’t want independence.

How Can the Unionists Run a Referendum That They Do Not Want?

We are still waiting on the reasoned argument for the retention of the Union. Believe you me. If there was an overwhelming argument that outlined the benefits to Scotland remaining in the Union we would have heard it by now. Instead what we have had are the tactics of fear and intimidation.

The scaremongering can easily be shown as just that. Whether it comes from politicians or their friends such as Citigroup, who’s clumsy and remarkably stupid outburst about investing in an independent Scotland might have made for fleeting headlines in the Unionist media, they are along with the rest of the invective, easily shot down.

When it comes to Scotland, Westminster’s track record of playing fast and loose with democracy should not be forgotten. The manipulation of the first devolution referendum and the consistent use of the civil service to produce spurious statistics to give a less than truthful picture of an independent Scotland are well documented. And I would be surprised if they are finished with the use of the latter.

But its not so easy now. People no longer have to rely on a biased media. Those who wouldn’t be seen dead in the corridors of the Daily Record, the Scotsman or the BBC can, and do, make legitimate challenges to the propagandists through the internet.

So, having lost the argument so far, it would appear that the hijacking of the referendum is becoming the favoured policy of many at Westminster and their subordinates north of the border.

The idea is not new. But as the main London parties seem to be accepting that they are losing ground, this last-ditch tactic is surfacing surprisingly early.

They were against a referendum. They’re still against a referendum. However, some now seem to think that, as its going to happen, they should be in charge of it. Of course the raison d’etre for this is no more convincing than the argument for the status quo.

Are we to have a referendum, that is the sole result of the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, run from another country by those who don’t want it in the first place?

The referendum was in the SNP’s election manifesto. But the Unionists chose to ignore this in the sure and certain knowledge that the voting system devised by Westminster would never return a majority SNP Government. Now they are scratching around the rubbish for some way of denying the implementation of that manifesto.

Calling on the UK Parliament and the courts to declare the referendum illegal at such an early stage in the debate shows that the Unionist argument is pretty much lost before it starts.

I doubt this will worry the Scottish Government. It will not be the SNP who will be portrayed as interfering, arrogant draconian bullies.

As much as David Cameron is detached fro the realities of Scotland, I doubt he is a stupid as some in his party.

But, I might be wrong.

Iain Grey Bows Out With Predictable Vitriol

After Labour’s defeat in the last Scottish Parliamentary Election, Iain Grey did the decent thing. He took the blame and fell on his political sword. But in his final speech to the Scottish Labour Party it was a return to the empty anti-nationalist rhetoric which has done so much damage to his Party. It came as no surprise that this would be the basis of his farewell address to the conference. It really has been all that the Party has had to offer during his stewardship.

He accuses the SNP of bringing “vile poison” into politics.

He warned the candidates for the post he has now vacated, that the “cybernats” and “bed-sit bloggers” will “call you traitor, quisling, lapdog and worse”. They can also expect to have their appearance, integrity and sexuality questioned. He told them that they can also expect their families and their faith to be dragged into what he calls “the vitriol”. And, he says, it will be worse if you are a woman. (Presumably women will be threatened with a “doing”.)

Why this has anything to do with the SNP is unclear. Argument by association might work at a Party conference but it fails every test of critical thinking. That however, has never been a strong point of Mr Grey’s Labour Party. Would it be considered legitimate to tar Labour with the same brush as the BNP, the Scottish Defence League or the sundry pro-unionist knuckle-dragging groups and individuals found on the internet simply because they oppose independence. Of course not. That would be stupid.

Of course Iain Grey has never been a traitor. The use of that word is emotive, not reasonable. However, it is difficult for any UK Party to convincingly deny being influenced from London. That is something that they have to live with. Labour however, have the added problem that many perceive the Party to be under the undue influence of those outwith Holyrood. On more than one occasion during Iain Grey’s leadership it appeared to dance to the tune of its members on Glasgow City Council.

In the past Iain Grey has been criticised here. But never for his “appearance”. I couldn’t care less if he went around in a string vest and pink tutu. As for his sexuality? Well, that’s just simply, none of my business. Attacks on his family should be roundly condemned as insidious and cowardly, with those involved being tracked down and prosecuted where possible.

What he has been criticised for was leading a Party of negativity. A Party of considerable arrogance. A Party that took its support for granted. A Party that thought that all it had to do was continually rubbish the nationalists, at the expense of all else, and the votes would come tumbling out of the ballot box.

The negative campaign that Labour waged against the SNP is recognised as one of the main reasons for their humbling at the hands of the Nationalists.

Labour has to move on from “Nat-bashing”. The people of Scotland have shown that they will not be swayed by a constant mantra that is really nothing more than accusing them of gross stupidity for voting SNP. The Party has to stop reacting to what the SNP do. It has put forward alternatives. They have to stop depending on their friends in the media. People have long since seen through the constant rubbishing of Scotland and the Scottish Government by such as the Daily Record, the Scotsman and BBC Scotland.

Many thought that they had seen and heard the last of this. We can only hope that Iain Grey’s speech will be the end of it. Let’s hear about what is right with Labour and not what is wrong with the SNP. But let’s hear it in the form of an alternative vision for Scotland.  

Whether the Party has such a vision remains to be seen. It certainly did not while Iain Grey was at the helm.

Tories Should Back Scottish Referendum if They Want EU Changes

Nice to see so many in the Conservative Party demanding a referendum on leaving a union.

However, the referendum that they should be backing is on their doorstep.

One sure-fire way that the Eurosceptics in the Tory Party and elsewhere could renegotiate the terms of EU membership would be to back Scottish independence.

After separation, both Scotland and the remaining parts of the old union would have, as new nation states, reapply for membership.

The Tories however, have never seen the benefit of a separate Scotland which would rid them of all those irritating Scottish Labour MPs and give them the chance to rule in perpetuity.

And as fellow members of the EU, their students could study at Scotland’s universities for free.

Just a thought.

Time to Give the Unionist Bullies a “Doing”.

Meanwhile, over at "Barristers and Boilermakers Club", the Labour Party’s Iain Davidson has been throwing his considerable weight about.

During a private hearing of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee he threatened to give the SNP’s Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, a “doing” if the discussions were leaked to the media.

For those unfamiliar with the parlance of Scotland, what Davidson meant by this remark was that he would physically assault Dr Whiteford and give her a beating.

For those unfamiliar with Iain Davidson, he has already had to make an apology for calling the SNP neo-fascists during a parliamentary debate.

For those unfamiliar with the Labour Party’s tactics when it comes to dealing with Scotland, this will come as no surprise. Threats and intimidation of the Scottish people is the hallmark of its approach to the impending referendum on independence.

Its no surprise that when a Party attempts to bully a country that one of its members should see it appropriate to bully an individual.

The apologists for this most boorish behaviour claim that the phrase was taken out of context and did not refer to a “physical assault”. What kind of assault it we are supposed consign to it then, remains a mystery. Unless it is something along the lines of the “doing” that the Labour Party got at the hands of the SNP in the last Scottish Parliamentary election.

There was no apology, only an excuse.

Unable to provide a cogent rationale for remaining in the Union, the tactics, as with all Unionists, continue to be grounded in fanciful apocalyptic scenarios which see an independent Scotland as a Third World Country, rife with religious persecution and a haven for terrorists. (What! – no cannibalism?)

Basically they think the people of Scotland cannot be trusted. And, if they cannot do what they told, they will be threatened with punishment. Logically then, the next step will be some sort of punishment.

Whether that takes the form of the promised and petty fiscal sanctions or indeed a “doing”, its perhaps time that the people who choose to make their lives in Scotland and wish control over those lives, called the Unionist bluff.

Who knows, the ultimate sanction might be getting thrown out of the UK. Probably by some Westminster playground bully.

Coalition Needs to Get Little Man Moore out of the Deep End

One wonders if the Coalition’s overlord in North Britain, Michael Moore, is secretly on the side of those wishing for independence. There can be little doubt that he is well out of his depth. And that is quite astonishing when you consider that he has a seriously diddy job.

The latest desperate utterings from the “Man with no Brain” have been as daft, if not dafter, that any that have preceded them.

Overlumpenstupidfucher Moore’s new argument for remaining part of the Union is that an independent Scotland would have been too small a nation to have contributed to the liberation of Libya. In doing so, he not only alienated even more Scots but successfully insulted the “smaller” nations that did take part in the NATO operation to protect the Libyan people in their struggle to topple Gaddafi.

NATO was quick to confirm and commend the role of the countries that are not as big as huge countries such as England. 

But more than anything, it shows the depths to which this man will plumb. To hitch his ill-considered rhetoric onto the back of a people’s fight to overthrow a murdering tyrant shows just how far “Liberal” values have sunk since they became the junior Tories. A statement as inaccurate as it is offensive.

And it appears that he is no better than Danny Alexander when it comes to arithmetic.

According to the moronic Moore, an independent Scotland’s spending over the last 30 years would have left it with a £41 billion deficit. The actual figures, released by the Scottish Office (which Moore claims to be in charge of) reveal that, by being part of the Union, Scotland has incurred a share of the UK debt that is in fact £60 billion.

Therefore, and this might just be a wee bit tricky for the Lib-Dem dunderhead to grasp, an independent Scotland would have been almost £20 billion better off.

What the Union has done during this period is to burden every Scot with an extra £3,800 worth of debt that they would not have incurred had the country been independent.

This however, is the man that the coalition chose. They can ditch him. Unfortunately though, many of those who elected him will have to suffer in embarrassment for a few years yet.

Scotland may well be a “little” country. But it has sent giants forth into the world to be remembered by posterity. Moore is a little man who will soon be sent south to surely find his rightful place in obscurity.