Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What can we learn from Christopher Hitchens?

(This article was prepared for Newsnet Scotland)

Over the last week the media intellectuals have all been out ‘celebrating’ the life of Christopher Hitchens on television with Stephen Fry and his mewling guests, on radio or in the ‘broadsheets’.  The gist of what was said is that Christopher Hitchens, as opposed to most of the journalistic and media paying homage, asked hard questions about what was going on around him. He was in newspaper terms the ‘Robin Day’ of the last two or three decades. Unlike Paxman, Hitchen’s was never more important than the issue and could, at times, be precise and vacillating in the same sentence. A style of writing which, I believe was unconscious and unpretentious while reflecting the normal conversations we have with ourselves (and others) over the big and small issues of the day.

So why was Hitchens so highly regarded as an essayist?

It could hardly be for his self acclaimed hedonistic life style which he recognised as destructive. He was an outspoken atheist but that would not count for much amongst his readership. I consider he was highly regarded simply because, like Robin Day or Richard Dimbleby, he asked real questions and sought solid answers and was not bought off by political or any other ‘spin merchant’.  He did not mind upsetting people in power and would not write the sort of articles which would open doors at Tony Blair’s or encourage ‘Labour Lovies’ nominate him for some gong or other reward. This is the ‘fearlessness’ the pundits have been talking about in their column inches or Radio 4 media reviews.  Their sadness is reflected in the reality that few who have been gushing over Hitchens, now he is dead, have the ability to do much more than spin what ever the party or editorial line states. They have lost or never had the ability to see through to what is real and asks the simple and obvious questions as their quest for patronage and insider gossip has a far higher priority.

This brings me to Newsnet Scotland. This on line media site has come a very long way in the last two or three years. It has seen its ups and downs, its internal arguments and site problems while operating on a shoe string with volunteers carrying out a lot of the workload. The site has a few ‘weel kent’ journalists and essayists who publish on the site, yet at times the news content is beginning to drift towards the self same style of ‘party press releases as news’ it was originally devised, in part, to counter act. I understand this has to do with the site being run by volunteers and lack of resources to get different view points but as the popularity of the site grows the inability to ask the hard questions of ourselves and the independence campaign has the potential to undo a lot of the good the site has already achieved.

Given the routine slating the pro-independence camp receives from the Scottish media it is nice and very comfortable to have the space provided by Newsnet Scotland to chunter about the ‘daft Unionists’, bemoan our lot and rage against the Westminster machine. I would like to suggest as the opposition to the SNP are not going to ask the hard questions on independence which need answering, for the successful ‘yes’ vote we are seeking, it becomes vital these concerns are expressed somewhere and I am proposing that Newsnet Scotland could be a good place to start. A place to identify where our own concerns lie about the process of independence and seek to engage in discussion and produce answers which will create an even more powerful argument for the ‘yes’ vote than we already hold.

This is where my opening reference to Christopher Hitchens becomes applicable. We need to contribute to the discussion and argument with out fear of upsetting what is seen as the ‘norm’ because unless the ‘norm’ is upset, change and development will not happen.  It has happened in the past on Newsnet over whether or not a newly independent Scotland should join the EU and Eurozone, for example. Two years ago it was the ‘norm’ we would join the EU and Euro on independence; yet now the SNP are clearly having second thoughts. I would like to think the open and frank discussions on the Newsnet site on the EFTA vs EU argument have had an impact on the SNP’s longer term policy in this matter.  Alyn Smith MEP has posted some interesting insights from the perspective of the EU for Newsnet Scotland and possibly we all would benefit from a similar approach from a MP and a MSP to provide the same from Westminster and Holyrood – not necessarily just SNP.

Think about it: we are far more powerful, as an individual, when arguing for what we ‘know’ to be true based on reasoned argument and knowledge against when we are spouting propaganda or ‘on message spin’.
Rather than rail against the BBC and other Unionist media we all need to contribute in what ever way we can to Newsnet Scotland and I suggest the most important way is to continue to add your tuppence worth to the comments no matter how ‘ignorant’ you may consider yourself to be on the issue. I worked in a sector where I was paid a lot of money to ask the bleeding obvious; because the obvious often gets lost in the detail.

Happy Christmas, Beltane, Hogsfather  ...... and for the Scrooge sector – have a grumpy ‘Bah Humbug!’

Hows Your Political Compass Boxed?

I came across The Political Compass web site serendipitously. For fun I did the test, human interest being what it is, and discovered I came our as a left wing libertarian; a stance that did not surprise me in the slightest, as folk who may have read my odd offerings to Newsnet in the past might attest.

 It was as I went through the analysis first in general then looking at the UK in particular I saw patterns in the academic data on the UK’s political parties that made sense, if sometimes in some surprising ways but made sense. The ipsative test asks you questions, number crunches the different permutations of the questions and the answers you gave into statistical means and pitches your result according to where on the political scale you lie (Left /Right) and whether you are Authoritarian (fascist) or Liberal (anarchist). The result ends up in a ‘quadrant’ hence the test defined me as a leftwing liberal.

If you score a zero for both axes then you have no political view as you move out along either axis you are becoming more and more extreme.  Hitler, unsurprisingly scores big on the authoritarian / Fascist axis but surprisingly turns out to be less right wing than the current Libdems, Labour or Tory parties being only just on the right wing side. Stalin also scores as high on the Authoritarian axis but is also quite a way along the left wing axis, level with the SSP and ‘Respect’ when you superimpose the UK party graph over historical and political figures.

Given my own results Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and I should be supporters of the Greens but I am not; so there is clearly a difference between how you see yourself as a political animal and how you vote. The graphs produced can thus only give you a guide to the party nearest your political aims.

If you look at Labour and the Tories you do find that Labour remain left of the Tories but to the right of the Libdems and all three are on the right wing side of the graph. The number crunching suggests the last time Labour were meeting the requirements of a socialist party was in 1982 prior to their thumping in 1983. There after their drift rightwards accelerated and closed the gap between them and the Tories and by 1999 any left wing assertions Labour had were well and truly dead. As Labour came to the right the Tories drifted further to the right. The Libdems had, surprisingly, stayed fairly true to themselves moved slightly to the right but remained in the liberal quadrant until 2008 when the mouse tried an authoritarian roar.

By 2010 the three main parties were all presenting themselves as right wing, authoritarian parties. The most authoritarian right wing party overall being Labour with UKIP and the Tories battling to be the most authoritarian extreme right party. It is not that difficult to understand from this data why many on the left of this political graph could hardly tell where Labour stopped and the Tories/UKIP started. A sufficient number of the UK electorate did not like the stridency coming from either main party so opted for the Libdems in the hope this would pull UK back to slightly right of centre authoritarian politics the UK electorate appear to desire.

So where are the SNP?

The Political Compass site only started tracking the SNP in the run in to the 2010 election so the data available is small but their number crunching puts the SNP on the lightly authoritarian, slightly left wing side of the graph well to the right of the SSP and Respect, firmly in Social Democrat country. A quick straw poll of half a dozen friends indicates they share similar political views to me but all support the SNP. Given the expectation that the Scots electorate spread is reflected in the May 2011 results which were about ‘What is best for Scotland’ you can estimate the vast bulk of Scots live on the left wing side of the quadrant graph with probably most in the lower, left wing / liberal sector. The Scottish vote should you would think be spread amongst the two Authoritarian left wing parties (Respect and the SSP), the left wing/ liberal greens and the SNP. This did not happen - the SNP acted as the focus, the other authoritarian parties all lost out and the Greens picked up fewer seats than maybe they should have.

Based on this data it is unsurprising the SNP did so well because Scotland is a conservative socialist country, much happier voting for parties around the zero datum point on the graph, parties which are not to left or right wing and have a bit of gumption but not too much. This explains the Liberals long love affair in Scotland to some extent and why by 2011 their move to right was so disastrous for their Scottish region. The Tories drift rightwards has alienated even their core Scottish vote as has Labour’s attempts to follow them.  The main parties have moved themselves away from a Scottish electorate which still, by and large, is not enamoured by political excess in any direction. The Tories, Labour and the Libdems are now as far to the right as the SSP and Respect are to the left. The impact on vote share does not lie about how Scots see themselves and the main Westminster parties.

For me this says something different about the 2011 election win. While it was a strong endorsement of the SNP Government as a safe pair of hands, working in Scotland’s best interests I do not think it was any sort of full endorsement for independence. In this the SNP are right to wait to do what it said on the tin and hold their referendum in 2014. To have rushed in to an independence referendum could have back fired with the Scots reacting to what they may have considered as SNP hubris and slapped them down. Westminster forcing their hand could have been a boon though if Beltie George Foulkes and his pal Jim Wallace get their way, the Scotland Act Amendment Bill may yet become the starting gun as constitutional issues begin to untangle.

While the majority of readers on Newsnet are sure that independence is the right and only way ahead for Scotland there are still too many of our fellow Scots that are sitting on the fence sucking their soor plooms with their paper under their arm watching the way the wind is blowing not just in Scotland but across the world. We have to go at the pace of the slowest if we wish to bring Scotland’s sovereign people with us, yet over the next financial quarter there are a number of nasty looking fiscal storms of hurricane proportions  heading the UK’s way and only time will tell if they back behind independence or veer away to give Westminster sea room.

My New Year’ s resolution for all bloggers on Newsnet is patience, smile at your opponents, listen to them with grace, answer them with humour and if you have not got something valid and informative to say to them, keep your counsel.
Data taken from The Political Compass web site:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Rennie Panda’s to Chinese Human Rights.

Commenting as the First Minister begins his week-long trip to China, and the pandas arrive at their new home at Edinburgh zoo, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said:

“There is understandable excitement about the pandas arriving from China this weekend.
“But we must be careful to treat this as an opportunity to engage with Chinese authorities over human rights.
“The pandas have caught the public’s imagination. Now is the time to put human rights front and centre of the political debate while people are listening.
“Alex Salmond has been curiously silent over human rights issue. He must tell us what discussions he has had about human rights during his trip.
“We must make this about more than the cuddly and cute.”

In the meantime, down in London, the Libdems are crowing that the panda’s arrival to the UK and Scotland is thanks to the hard work of the Deputy Prime Minister, Rennie’s own Mr Clegg, and a Union benefit.

Hud oan a minute - Nick Clegg claims it was him who did the deal for the panda's yet according to Rennie its Wee Eck's fault that Chinese Human Rights are atrocious.

So Rennie is basically saying that what he sees as merely a UK regional government at Holyrood should have greater powers of influence over Communist China than his own boss at Westminster. Or is he saying Wee Eck should turn down the offer of the panda's because of China's human rights record which is routinely ignored by Westminster?

Or is the only reason Rennie wants Eck to turn away the pandas is so Rennie can come up with yet another discombobulated “J' accuse” tale this time of the parochially minded SNP’s rudeness towards the Chinese Government and people?

It makes you wonder just exactly what the genii behind the Libdems in Scotland political statements are actually attempting to achieve as they sit in the boot of the taxi which is now the Libdem MSP’s Party HQ.

Maybe part of the problem is they think these great wheezes up in the dark by the diesel fuel inlet pipe and by the time they reach the spare tyre it becomes the ‘one’ that will break the SNP. Rennie hears the excitement coming from the boot so stops the cab and opens the boot wherein he is overwhelmed in equal proportions by the BO and the hubris. He starts up mouth with out engaging brain and ‘whammo’ he is deep in the thick and steaming all over again trying to explain away how Eck was able to negotiate the panda’s from China without the Westminster Government’s knowledge or approval. Worse, the question that should be asked, but wont, by the MSM in Scotland: Mr Rennie, was it not your leader in Westminster who set up the deal for the pandas and is guilty of ignoring China’s Human Rights record in the first place?  Have you registered your disgust at this pandering to China and ignoring of the human rights issues to Mr Clegg?

In the meantime amidst the smell of diesel, BO and festering tyres in the boot of the taxi, the Scottish Libdem campaign team is in their very own dimension of space and time dreaming up their next Alex Salmond - j’accuse - story.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cheese Ho! Ah Hav’n’y a Doacky? (Trans: I'm sorry, I haven't a clue)

“Welcome to another hilarious program from BBC Scotland’s news broadcasting unit it’s The Jelly’s Big Debacle. Tonight we are in beautiful Balingry (sounds of chairs being smashed along with the occasional window) and our randomly chosen audience is in fine fettle (Quick burst of the ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Come Labour Fair’ sung by the Balingry Male voice choir from the nearby Tawse Heid ‘snug’ bar). Tonight we have our usual selection of panellists covering the political spectrum in Scotland to play this game of wit, dash and humour. On my left, Glasgow’s new ‘Stairheid Rammy’ all comers champion, the delightful Johann Lamont MSP, and with her is the self justifying, part time Scotsman of all the airts -Tom Harris MP. While on my right, the eponymous ‘Beaker’ and his partner in crime at Westminster  - Mr Mundaine himself.” (Sounds of the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ crowd cheering to drown out Balingry audience’s subdued mutterings  - “Quhit a eedjit yon is! Am awa fir a pint! “  - and like local appreciation “Quhit a load of effin sh... s, the lot aa them! ”.)

The first round is the ever popular ‘Political sayings you can get away with on BBC Scotland’; Beaker?


Mundaine?   - “I believe Scotland is far stronger under Westminster rule.”

Stairheid?  -  “The Scottish Labour Party is the only party that stands for what Scots truly believe in.”

Mr Harris? – “The SNP Party machine controls all the cybernat posters in the world. Scotland’s daft if it thinks it can survive being independent, vote for me as ruler of the Scottish ruling party ....”

The Jelly: “Thanks Mr Harris .....”

“...... I will not be Ed Milliband’s stooge ....”

The Jelly:  “Mr Harris .. hud yer wheesht....”

“..... I accuse the SNP of scaring Gordon Brown into keeping quiet about the radioactive dump in his constituency...”

The Jelly:  “Mr Harris – desist! The next round  .....”

“... I accuse the SNP of conning the Scottish people into voting for them under false pretences that their political aim is for Scottish Independence ....”

There is a sound of wood against wood as Stairheid takes her rolling pin to T Harris....

The Jelly: “Thank you Ms Lamont for that humorous interjection and to the next round where I ask the panel to complete a well known political saying or statement, Johann the first one is; If Alex Salmond was run over by a bus I would....

“Complete the job with a steam roller?”

“Beaker?” – “Me,me,me,me,me?”

“Mr Mundaine?” – “Make sure I was out the country in case I got the blame?”

“Mr Harris?” – “Accuse the driver of being a member of the SNP?”

The Jelly: “The correct answer is - not even ask the driver his name!”

This is immediately followed by the House of Common’s fake laughter being dubbed over by the BBC engineers to cover the sound of police sirens and rioting as it is time for the U16 Balingry Palais de Dance to kick out.

The Jelly: “And now we come to the final round so popular with our mass Unionist supporting audience here in sunny Balingry .... who is to blame for the mess we are in. I give each contestant a situation and they have to tell me ‘Who is to blame!’

Johann – Nobody is listening to Labour’s Scottish region’s brilliant and progressive politics anymore?”

“ Alex Salmond!”

“Correct – Mr Mundaine, The Tory party in Scotland would not be in such a state of derision if only the Scots would listen to their betters?”

“Alex Salmond!”

“Correct – Mr Harris – If ....Labour Scottish region’s MPs lose their jobs and noses in the Westminster expenses trough after 2014?

“Alex Salmond! I would like just add - vote for me as the undisputed Labour regional champion for Scotland.”

“Correct – Beaker, whose fault is it that investment in the North Sea oil and gas sector is collapsing?”


“Wrong! The correct answer is, of course, ‘Alex Salmond’. Well that is all we have time for tonight, tune in to the Jelly’s Big Debacle next week which is coming from the Govan Cage Fighting and Leisure Club when our panellists will be the Kelly Brothers, the innocent Stephen Purcell and the equally squeaky clean, attender of Labour Scottish region fund raisers - Louis Rodden of Barlinne. Good night from the Jelly and tonight’s panellists in BBC Scotland’s politically impartial and totally balanced, ‘Big Debacle!”

There is a hint of light machine gun fire and burst of the odd hand grenade in the background as the Great Debacle’s theme tune begins.

Sae deif, sae blin .....

Objective A: to examine and comment on the policy of the department
Task 1. To examine policy proposals from the UK Government and the
European Commission in Green Papers, White Papers, draft
guidance etc, and to inquire further where the Committee
considers it appropriate.
Task 2. To identify and examine areas of emerging policy, or where existing
policy is deficient, and make proposals.
Task 3. To conduct scrutiny of any published draft bill within the
Committee’s responsibilitie s.
Task 4. To examine specific output from the department expressed in
documents or other decisions.
Objective B: to examine the expenditure of the department
Task 5. To examine the expenditure plans and out-turn of the department,
its agencies and principal NDPBs.
Objective C: to examine the administration of the department
Task 6. To examine the department’s Public Service Agreements, the
associated targets and the statistical measurements employed, and
report if appropriate.1
Task 7. To monitor the work of the department’s Executive Agencies,
NDPBs, regulators and other associated public bodies.
Task 8. To scrutinise major appointments made by the department.
Task 9. To examine the implementation of legislation and major policy
Objective D: to assist the House in debate and decision
Task 10. To produce reports which are suitable for debate in the House,
including Westminster Hall, or debating committee's work and setting the agenda.

So Mr Davidson MP is sitting trousering his £15k on top of his own MP salary and expenses claims for being Chair of a Select Committee, enhancing his MP’s pension while he randomly makes up jobs for his committee to do.  Above are the House of Commons own guidelines as to how and what the Scottish Affairs Committee should be doing – the question: is it, how well, and does it reflect value for money for the Scottish tax payers who foot the bill for this committee along with the Department it is supposed to hold to account – the Scottish Office.

The Chair of a Select committee does not have a vote except where there is a tie but is allowed to set the agenda for the committee with in the select committee’s remit. There are regulations about the pre-release of committee reports (leaking in other words) which says it is very naughty thing to do and possibly the Speaker will put you on the naughty step for a day if you are caught. Compared with the Code of Conduct our MSP’s follow at Holyrood while in committee, Westminster is more akin to ‘Lord of the Flies’ than ‘mother of parliaments’.

Code of Conduct:
In carrying out their parliamentary and public duties, Members will be expected to observe the following general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its First Report as applying to holders of public office.[1] These principles will be taken into consideration when any complaint is received of breaches of the provisions in other sections of the Code.

"Selflessness:   Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity:  Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity:  In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability:  Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty:  Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership : Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example."

Leadership – just what principles are being defined?  As one of my sidelines, I have been involved in leadership training for young people, one way or another, since I was in my early 20’s. So I have thought long and hard about how best to describe how to be an effective leader and the skills required. You basically lump together three types of leadership style:

T     The Dictator       Hitler, Gadahfi, Mugabwe all examples of a leadership style that only ends in tears for both the leader and the lead. It seems powerful at first, total control but the problem is as more central control is imposed all that can come next is even more central control until there is no one left to question what is being done in the dictator’s name because they are too scared or dead.  The end result is often war ending the atrocity like the rape of Berlin (Hilter said the people had failed him and it was all they deserved) Gadahfi in his drain pipe (what is it with middle eastern despots and drain pipes?) and Mugabwe who is teetering on the brink and just manages to pull back before he is deposed while Zimbabwe once the bread basket of Africa becomes a basket case state.
T    Then there is the Woodehousian Boy Scout Leader who is full of enthusiasm, likes to micromanage, tends to be a bit ‘gung ho’ and ‘follow me chaps it will be fun’ whose plans are meticulous but rarely is the impact on others thought through and rarely, if ever, will this leader consult with his team because though they are great chaps, you can not trust them to think for themselves. Patton and Montgomery were general’s who lead in this way which tended to leave their staff in a constant state of chaos and disorganisation when things did not go to plan as Kasserine Pass proved to Patton and Caen was to Montgomery. I would tend to put both Milliband and Cameron is this style of leadership as it is always some one else’s fault when the ‘plan’ does not work, never them.
t     Finally  here is the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde leader or in leadership parlance the ‘servant leader’. This is the leadership style where you have a clear idea where you want to get to but accept you can not do it on your own. This is the style of leadership prominent in the Royal Navy, it puts the main emphasis on the team not on the leader. Its main statement of intent is to get ordinary people to do extraordinary things in an ordinary manner. Mostly this is achieved by consensus, utilising the skills and knowledge of the team and establishing a clear time line to achieve a task which is reasonable in the circumstance – the ‘Dr Jekyll’ part. This style of leader also knows sometimes people will just have to do what you say and consensus will come afterwards at the ‘debrief’ when operating to a tight deadline. You still trust folk to do their job properly and to their best endeavours and you rely on the team to get the task done. – the ‘Mr Hyde’ part.  Most servant leaders will only get their hands dirty when it is appropriate and they have something to contribute as their main task is to encourage and problem solve.

 I will leave for you to decide what sort of leader Mr Davidson appears to be from his petulant out bursts but for me one day it is all going to end up in tears for him when some one hits him either legally or physically.
As to behaviour towards fellow MP’s the Code of Conduct has only this to say:

“Members shall at all time’s conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute.”

The rest of the ‘Code’ is to do with or about money, see for yourselves at: 
The current SAC investigation is into the ‘Referendum on the separation of Scotland’.
This raises the first question:

Are any Scots out there aware of Scotland wishing to break up into the small clannish fiefdoms of yore suggested by the title of the inquiry?

Now look back at the Core Tasks for Select Committee’s right at the start and what they are supposed to do. The question at the forefront is: 

“Does the Scottish Office have any intent to have a referendum on the subject - The Separation of Scotland – and are there any Green or White papers on this issue released by the Scottish Office or HM Government which the SAC is required to review under its ‘Core Task A1’”

To which the answer is most certainly not. All that is before Parliament is the Scottish Office’s ‘Scotland Act Amendment Bill’ on which SAC has already had a detailed investigation and excluded all evidence that clearly has demonstrated what a pig’s breakfast it is. So how can SAC carry out an investigation on legislation from the Scottish Office which does not exist nor how can Mr Davidson come up with the agenda for the investigation he has, as it is clear none of the electorate in Scotland want to break it up into smaller parts or have expressed any desire to do so and his questions are not relevant to such an outcome.

Maybe it is justifiable under Core Task A4 or C7 (with a bit of word juggling) investigating the relationship between the Scottish Office and the Scottish Parliament?

No  - because it has nothing to do with this relationship which is clearly strained and becoming worse by the day. The Scottish Office has no say in bills that are raised by the Scottish Parliament on issues pertaining only to Scotland. The Scottish Office now know they can not interfere as the Axa et al vs the Scottish Government  Supreme Court  judgement stated that laws and statutes enacted by the Scottish Parliament must be respected (are considered as made by a sovereign parliament)

How about under core task A2, this will be the one:

To identify and examine areas of emerging policy, or where existing policy is deficient, and make proposals.

Yet A1 only allows the committee to scrutinise bills and policies from the EU or HM Government plus it is clear the Scottish Office, the EU and HM Government at large have no new emerging policies for Scotland but they certainly have quite a few policies which are truly deficient and SAC is happy to ignore.

This leaves me with a series of questions:
1.       How can the House of Commons fund an investigation which is outside the core task of this Select Committee and out with the committee’s legal competency to do so?
2.      Why should the Scottish tax payer fund a jolly for Davidson and his pals which in the current straightened time can not be value for money?
3.       Where is the SAC objective evidence that this is a subject requiring investigation and is important enough at this time of financial restraint to need to be carried out - outside of Mr Davidson’s own whim?
4.       Will the UK Government even bother to read any such costly report from SAC given they rarely take into account any select committee report that is outside their own parliamentary agenda?

Answers to BBC Scotland ‘Blubber with Flubber’ – you know it make’s as much sense as this SAC ‘investigation’.

(The title refers to the old saying: thir’s nane sae blin as wilna see, nane sae deif as wilna list.)

No Where Man

Beaker is a no where man
Living in a nowhere land
Doing lots of no where things
For nobody

Doesn't have point of view,
Doesn't mind who he can screw,
Hasn't got a single clue
What he can do to nobody.

No where man stop living,
No where man stop breathing,
No where man there's not a Scot
In the land that you command.

Beaker is a no where man,
Seeking Cameron's no where land,
Doing all that is so bland
For nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view
Doesn't mind who he can screw
Hasn't got a single clue
What he can do for nobody.

Can Scottish Socialism rediscover itself?

“Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"           Jimmy Reid - Rector’s address 1971

As I look at main stream socialist activity and thinking it becomes clear that Jimmy Reid’s brilliant exposition should be read and read again by Labour’s Scottish Region MPs, MSPs and councillors, as the supposed standard bearers of socialism in Scotland, the accusation is easily made: they are now just part of the Westminster political ‘rat pack’.

My grandfather’s were both present at Glasgow Cross and George Square in 1919 (one a 18 year old engineering apprentice and the other just demobbed from the Western Front) were died in the wool, Presbyterian socialists, steeped in the Scottish Labour tradition of ‘Home rule’ and fired by the speeches of John MacLean who had been recently released from prison while stating their socialist principles in biblical terms, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘You are your brother’s keeper’ while living their lives, as far as humanly possible, to express these fundamental rights they held true. My own father was an unassuming man and only when settling his affairs after his death did I discover just how much of his life had been exercised in being his ‘brother’s keeper’ through his involvement in GPO trade unions and numerous charities. This was the Scottish socialism I was brought up in: work a day, pragmatic, focussed on people and their needs.

In 1974 I became the first of our family to go to University and looked to join the Labour Students Group. My membership lasted half a term. The politics being played out in that group were all about climbing the greasy pole of political ambition. Decisions were made from positions of self interest and self aggrandisement rather than public good or logic. Contrary positions were taken as the mood required, cohesion was not a word that could be used to describe the group:  in practice for their lives as Labour politicians back stabbing was the norm and Animal Farm the reality.

I made the choice to disengage from politics as I watched Heath (three day week) then Callaghan (public service strikes) wreck what was left of social cohesion in the UK, ramp up the ‘them and us politics’ while ignoring by and large what the electorate were actually saying to them in favour of the views of the ‘City’ or the ‘Unions’ respectively. I voted ‘No’ to Scottish Independence in the referendum because I believed in the ‘Union’ and took the view until the Soviet bloc threat diminished the UK needed to stand together for its own safety. By that time I was a RN officer and was directed by insider knowledge while unaware, as were all Scots, of the findings of the McCrone Report. It is through this prism my views of the current state of socialism should be read.

With Labour’s move ever rightwards and fully engaged in Westminster ‘rat pack’ politics just where is socialism in Scotland?

On the one hand we have the intellectual Scottish socialism of the likes of Gerry Hassan, full of longing, wish lists and a sense of hurt that few actually act on their analysis of what is wrong with socialism in the UK today and politics in general: as they chunter back and forth on blogs such as ‘openDemocracy’ or in column inches in the Guardian.  On the other hand a small rump Scottish Socialist Party which given its very public ‘knives in the back’ operating mode, recriminations over Tommy Sheridan and ‘splitist tendencies’ reminded me of the student Labour group of my youth. If I want to support a form of Scottish socialism I can identify with by active involvement just where can I go?

The answer is there is no such effective beast operating in Scotland. There is not even an identifiable Liberal Party as their erstwhile representatives are engaged in the same Westminster ‘rat pack’ politics as Labour, on the right of the political divide.

Having worked in Nepal off and on for eight years from 2000 onwards, I have found peace in Buddhist philosophy which is focussed on how you lead your life rather than what you believe in. This in turn (coupled with age) has tamped down the fires of angst, anguish and any need to ‘belong’ to any group to ‘prove’ you are a ‘believer’. Core to the Buddhist philosophy is the ‘doing of more good than harm’ which I would suggest is a concept alien to Westminster’s ‘rat pack’ politics and those that hold to them. I am seeking to act as Jimmy Reid persuaded over 40 years ago to: Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings.”

I am persuaded the only future that has any chance of breaking free from ‘rat pack’ politics, the ability to realign Scottish politics and create a positive future for Scotland and generations yet to come is independence. At one time I considered fiscal autonomy within a federal UK as the best solution but the evidence of the current Scotland Act Amendment Bill,  its contortions  and abominations within the unelected House of Lords, is evidence enough for me that Westminster’s ‘rat pack’ will do all in its powers to prevent any idea of an UK Federation because it has too much to lose in terms of prestige, pomp and power as Jimmy Reid so accurately identified:  “........that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack.”

This leaves only one course for me, independence. I currently support the SNP to achieve this end. As a bonus the SNP’s social democratic leanings are acting as the only fender to keep socialist Scotland safe while rubbing up against the unremitting neo conservatism of the Westminster rat pack.  Like any two ships tied together eventually the fenders will wear out and before that point a decision has to be made: do we let go and sail away or renew the chains and fenders until the next time?

As the mark two fender on offer is a pitiable thing which will lessen our protection rather than improve it and the mark three version has yet to be designed I would suggest the safest route is to gain some sea room before we are terminally holed below the water line. Only then will the opportunity for new politics in Scotland have any chance to be defined, hopefully along with it a socialist party I can once more believe in.

A Wee Constitutional

Since it is open season on ‘cybernats’ I thought I would help stir up some more keech to keep our Unionist friends slapping, scratching, itching and swelling as the cybernat swarms encircle and bite – the political version of the famous Scottish Midge.

I have become wearisome reading all the ‘too stupid’ propaganda that appears even on Newsnet Scotland from time to time. The ‘too stupid’ line that constantly irks is the idea we can not risk being independent because we have no written constitution and, by inference, Wee Eck is planning a Hitler style take over of an independent Scotland if we do not.  It does not seem to matter if you point them towards the SNP’s draft constitution for an independent Scotland the irritating noise still floats around the room – you are too stupid to work out your own constitution Scotland. Worse from the likes of Mr O’Neill QC who seems to consider the sovereign Scots are legally incompetent to decide what Scots Law should look like – we are that stupid.
So I thought why not take a wee constitutional around a Scottish Constitution and what I think it could look like. The first and most important part will be:

Item one:

In accordance with over 700 years of constitutional principle and right the people of Scotland are and will remain sovereign

Item two:
The Scottish Parliament will be unicameral and proportional in election. The Scottish Parliament will be lent the people of Scotland’s sovereignty for a fixed period of four years to enact laws and bills and pursue policy at home and abroad in the best interests of the Realm of Scotland and the common weal of the sovereign people. When a set number of sovereign Scots raise concern over Parliament’s direction they can raise petition for a referendum to hold Parliament in check until the matter is settled.

Item three:
The constitutional head of state will continue to reside in the agreement established by the 1689 ‘Claim of Right’ with regards the ‘Honours of Scotland’ until such time as the sovereign people of Scotland decide otherwise

Item four:
An all arms defence force will be duly constituted and commissioned to protect Scotland’s borders and territorial rights. Its make up to reflect Realm of Scotland’s needs and political alliances. They will swear allegiance to the constitutional head of state as the representative of the sovereign people of Scotland from whom the Head of State is given right. The defence force’s sole loyalty is to the sovereign people of Scotland.

Item five:
Scots Law will retain its independence from the body politic while enacting such laws which are handed down by Parliament. The justices and all others engaged in the application of Scots Law are enjoined to ensure Scots Law is applied with rigour, accuracy and - above all – equality; whether base or moneyed, parliamentarian or common criminal. Scots Law sees no person only the objective evidence in law, placed before it, in making its decision of Guilty, Not Guilty or Not Proven. Scots Law will continue with its reliance for criminal conviction or release by the right of jury trial by their peers, long established in this realm.

Item six:
The Treasury Bank of Scotland will be established and tasked to ensure the fiscal status of the Scottish Realm is not prejudiced by speculation, high parliamentary debt to repayment ratios or inadequate funding of pensions and the Scottish currency is set at an exchange level to enable Scots commerce to compete worldwide. The regulation of commercial banks and other financial services registered to operate in Scotland to ensure they carry sufficient reserves to cover lending and other risks for their operations in Scotland. The Treasury Bank of Scotland will not hold any liability in the situation where any commercial bank or financial services find themselves over-extended or insolvent. The liability will be the sole burden of the company’s own shareholders.

The point about any constitution is it must be straight forward, clear and applicable by all folk. It must reflect the needs and expectations of the country and state what actually happens, not some wish list. Keeping a constitution to one sheet of A4 makes it far easier to implement and for the sovereign people to police. Strangely the simpler and more precise a constitution is written the harder it is for people to find or create loop holes to wiggle through.

There was an old adage when I was writing ISO 9000 process and quality management systems; the more complex they are made the less likely are they to be applied and kept to.

If you take item six for instance. It is common knowledge the Bank of England was well aware of the CDO problem, the associated unsupportable speculation yet did little or nothing to reign in the likes of Northern Rock or the Halifax’s over use of, over exposure to CDOs and we are now suffering the consequences. Item six states the role of a future Treasury Bank of Scotland is to ensure such excessive speculation is prevented as it is a threat to the security of the Scottish Realm, further more item six gives the Treasury Bank the right to regulate to ensure the risk is minimal while making clear the shareholders will be liable in total for any misadventure by their bank, they can not expect the Scottish Treasury to bail them out. In turn this statement spikes the Unionist line of too poor Scotland could not afford to bail out its banks and makes the commercial banks more prudent in the conduct of their Scottish operations.

So there you have it - a short constitutional around a draft constitution. Have fun playing with this draft, experimenting with what the clauses mean and how they impact on how an independent Scotland could be. 

The three magic questions are:
What is it you do?
How are you supposed to do it?
Please show me what you actually do?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Toxic Union

Gerry Hassan’s article in the ‘Open Democracy – our kingdom blog’ clearly poured not just salt but vinegar on the wounds of a number of English bloggers whose grasp of the history of the Union is clearly sketchy at best.  So let us deal with the myths that inform this asymmetric assessment by the English side of English largess.

Myth number one – Scotland was bankrupt in 1707.

Well , no, it was not.

The Burghs were cash rich and the Scottish economy in the decade prior to 1707 was growing at 2.5% per annum according to research by the historian Michael Lynch. So who was bankrupt? Well that was the Scottish land owners who had mortgaged their lands to fund the Darien Scheme and if they had not been bailed out by Westminster, the Burgh middle classes would have taken control of Scotland – something the English Government could not allow. The ‘Whig’ English Government had also been buying off the Jacobite Lords in Scotland to ensure the Hanoverian succession at the cost of a £1 million a year ( £1 billion in today’s money). Further the Jacobite Lords were playing the ‘we could ask the French for help’ card which meant  ‘Horse Guards’ had to keep English Regiments on the Scottish Border that were needed by Marlborough in continental Europe to prop up England’s war against France.

What actually happened was the incoming Tory Government of the day decided they were not gaining anything as Defoe quickly reported that most of the ‘Jacobite Lords’ were unlikely to support James’ VIIth claim on the thrones of Scotland and England so shifted the bribes from the ‘Jacobite Lords’ to the Tory inclined Scottish Lowland Lords who were in trouble with their Darien mortgage repayments coming due and being in danger of defaulting – the ‘parcel o rogues’ of Burns poem. The English Parliament needed the Union to secure their Northern border once and for all and created pressure to persuade the Scots that ‘Union’ was a good idea – one of which was siding with the Spanish to ensure Darien failed and another passing laws to exclude Scottish traders from all England’s colonies by imposing excessive duties.

Myth Number two – The English Parliament absorbed the Scottish Parliament

Well, no, it did not. The Treaty of Union makes clear that both parliaments were suspended and a new UK parliament formed with a new seal. The Treaty of Union does preserve a number of important issues with respect to each nation’s sovereignty, laws, freedoms and liberties. The importance of this is that in Scotland sovereignty lies with the people and not the crown or Parliament and is what modern political theory would call a representative democracy. The sovereignty of the Scottish people was established by law in 1328 when the Declaration of Arbroath was entrenched in Scots Law. The 1698 Claim of Right (Scotland) reaffirmed this important difference as it was made clear that James VIIth was actually kicked off the throne of Scotland by the sovereign Scottish people – he did not abdicate – and restated the Scottish people as being sovereign. Unlike the English Claim of Right which declared the English Parliament sovereign.

The Treaty of Union preserves the sovereignty of the people of Scotland for all time. In a judgement on a case in 1953 the then Lord President of the Court of Session made clear that where the Treaty of Union says ‘for all time’ that is exactly what it means. During the restructuring of Scottish Councils in the early 70’s the people of the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ appealed to the crown that to split Fife between Tayside and Lothian was a breach of their longstanding sovereignty, liberties, rights and freedoms. The result was that the Crown ensured that the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ remained intact.

Myth number three – The union of the crowns.

There never was any union of the crowns. The current Queen swore a separate oath to the sovereign people of Scotland the night before her English coronation and uses the ‘Honours of Scotland’ when north of the border - as required by the 1689 Scottish Claim of Right.

Myth number four – England Subsidises Scotland

The Treasury’s own figures show that Scotland has returned a tax surplus every year in the last 30. Last year it was £1.6 billion - not including any tax take from the North Sea - an estimated £32 billion a year from the Scottish sector. It is difficult to be precise as the actual figures for oil and gas income are hidden in the Treasury’s extra-territorial account. If you crunch the numbers you find that for every £100 that is ‘spent’ on Scotland by the UK Government, £170 is ‘spent’ in the Greater London area for the same population.
You can add the money that should have come to Scotland as part of our pocket money which the Treasury is sitting on for one pretence or another  - some £500 million a year at the last counting – which still shows on the Treasury Accounts as ‘going to Scotland’.

Myth Number Five – Its Scotland’s fault when England gets a Labour Government

No that’s all England’s doing as Scotland returns, at present, 65 MPs (Cameron is looking to cut that to 59) of whom currently 40 are Labour MPs out of some 650 MP’s in total. The political volatility is all England’s.

Myth Number Six – the bank rescue.

The UK banks are regulated by the UK Government so their failing is the responsibility of the UK Government.

If the two nations were separate then the losses incurred by those parts of RBOS, HBOS, Lloyds TSB and the rest are the responsibility of the country in which they operate. The RBOS Merchant Bank loss makers with the CDO toxic loan bundles were all registered as English companies trading in the ‘City of London’. The profitable parts of RBOS, such as traditional banking, were Scottish registered and, in the year after the ‘City of London’ crash, a part of a Scottish finance and insurance sector which grew by 7% according to CBI Scotland.  NatWest and its subsidiaries remained an English registered company. As for HBOS – again it was the high level of toxic CDO exposure in the ‘Halifax Bank’ section that brought about its downfall. This was made worse by Brown and Darling’s clumsy attempt to shore HBOS up with Labour’s great Lloyds TSB take over which turned a solvent Lloyds Bank into another fiscal basket case.

Currently the only difference between Westminster and Dublin is the mortgaging of North Sea Oil and Gas income by the Treasury to shore up foreign exchange deals. Meanwhile the Tory austerity package is killing the UK economy as reflected in the rising unemployment figures in England. Yet in Scotland the reverse is happening, unemployment is falling, how can that be?

The difference is that Scotland still has a mixed economy far beyond the Westminster peddled myth of Scotland’s dependence on the public sector. In the last six months the SNP Government has encouraged nearly £120 million in inward investment to build and install the first generation of tidal power stations and develop the next generation. The financial and services sector in Scotland only represents 21% of our productive economy.

What is not a myth is that Scotland spends the pocket money it gets back from Westminster in a way that best reflects the sovereign people of Scotland’s needs and expectations. The SNP Government has, for the last four years, in spite of the actual pocket money being cut by 3.5% in real terms year on year, balanced its books – something the UK Parliament has conspicuously failed to do.

In poll after poll when the question has been asked of the Scots whether Scotland should be fiscally autonomous, 56% of Scots have said ‘yes’. Now for the first time support for full independence has risen above the 40% tipping point while those wishing the Union to be preserved has dropped below 45% for the first time.

So where does this leave the political union that is known as the United Kingdom?

There is a massive imbalance in UK political and financial accountability across the constituent nations and English regions, an imbalance which has been ignored by every UK government since 1999 and devolution began. The Westminster politicians and their associated chattering classes pretend that it is not happening and turn ever inwards  on themselves like modern day ‘ostriches’,  certain that there is only wilderness beyond the M25.  Westminster appears to hope that by sacrificing a few of the worst expense fiddling politicians and throwing them to the masses we will allow the incipient inertia of Westminster politics and their self serving media circus, to carry on as before.

The best way to achieve this end is for Westminster to spin the worst excesses of the Scots, Welsh or Irish and present them as ungrateful spongers to the English something the tame Westminster media is only too happy to do.

My view is simple. The political union, as represented by Westminster, is now a suppurating ulcer, gnawing away at the souls of all who live on this island. It is making us all sick, angry and frustrated because it is no longer fit for purpose as we enter the 22nd Century.

Westminster has no intention of reforming itself, so must be broken up. It is time to return Westminster to its core purpose as the Parliament of England. Devolution is not going to be reversed and any attempt to, such as Cameron’s current Scotland Act Amendments Bill, are doomed to merely increase the tension, anger and the potential for violent action on all sides. Senior Scottish Thatcherites have already called Cameron’s Amendment Bill, ‘the midwife of Scottish Independence’.  I do not know about you but I would rather have a reasoned separation in mutual understanding and peace than the messy, angry divorce Westminster is heading us all for.

Do you believe in Fairies?

Its is Saturday morning 16th April in just under 19 days until Scotland goes to the polls in an election that could see the end of the Union within five years. That being the case you would expect some comment on this potentially Westminster breaking vote in the big four national papers.
Sadly you will look in vain.

In today’s Times you will get a free ‘Kings and Queens of England’ wall chart to help you understand the forth coming royal nuptials. In the Independent they are running a story about the growing support for the Yes2AV campaign. The Gruaniad has a leading article on a ‘kiss in’ outside a homosexual club in London while the Telegraph is all concerned about George Michael’s song for the ‘Royal Wedding’.

How about the politics sections?

Independent – nothing: the same in all the other ‘national papers’. The main stream media are so encapsulated by the Westminster bubble that clearly they do not see the potential trouble ahead if the SNP gain another term. I presume it is because the ‘off the record briefings’ have told them that Cameron’s amendment bill will kill the SNP off, for certain, this time.

There is a clear picture that the Westminster machine and its hangers on are so wrapped up in their belief in the supremacy of ‘London’ that this ‘pretendy election’ to Holyrood does not really matter on the big ‘British’ stage. The media is still peddling the idea that Labour are in a bit of trouble in Scotland but there is no worry because they will be returned as the biggest party come May 5th. Even when the classic establishment ploy of putting Alex Salmond in a BBC Question time program in England to ‘humble him’ back fires there remains this mind boggling complacency. There is a subliminal message from the ‘establishment’ that the Scots may toy with the idea of an SNP vote but they will see sense in the end. There is only one word to describe what is going on at present in the Westminster bubble and that is ‘complacency’.

It struck me strange that today’s Herald ran a piece by Rab McNeil which referred to the ‘always voted Labour, man and boy’ vote as the ‘stupid vote’ and highlighted Fudd’s cowardice in the face of protest at Glasgow Labour’s cuts to disabled services and Fudd’s whining because Wee Eck agreed to meet them so he ‘wis nae ambushed’ like brave Sir Iain.

Yet still there is no one in the main stream media who is starting to say the unthinkable, the serious ‘What if?’: a second term for the SNP will mean the end of the Union.

The impact on England and the rump Westminster Parliament of a Scottish exit are not being discussed by the pundits in any shape or form. It is almost as if they are frightened to because in doing so they will let the very genie out of the bottle they are steadfastly trying to ignore. It is almost as they now have bought their own too wee, too stupid, too poor propaganda as the truth and repeat it, not because there is any truth in the conjecture but because it makes them feel safe.

Ultimately the only way they can sustain their own propaganda is to peddle stories that support their view of the truth or wheel out ‘experts’ like the Scottish CBI stooge, McMillian, to tell the good people of Toryshire; “Salmond is lying and that Scotland needs to build nuclear plants or it will have to import power from England.” while completely ignoring the reality that Scotland’s nuclear plants are needed to keep the lights on in the North of England and Northern Ireland or that reopening Hunterston and Cockenzie coal plants would easily replace the closure of nuclear Hunterston and Torness at little real cost – except to the North of England and Northern Ireland that would have to source their additional needs elsewhere.

So why are the UK’s national pundits choosing to ignore the giant elephant sitting in the room on England’s northern border?

It is almost as if they think if they do not believe in the SNP and Scottish autonomy - it will die, just like the fairies in a pantomime production of ‘Peter Pan’. In doing so they miss J M Barrie’s point completely - if enough people believe in fairies, desires and a wish for independence; the idea will never die.

They see Salmond as Captain Hook and Cameron’s amendment bill as the crocodile. Yet for those of us who believe in ‘independence fairies’ the story takes a different view point that Cameron is Captain Hook, Nick Clegg is ‘Smee’ but the crocodile that will do for them is the same beast and they all live in a ‘Never-never Land’ called Westminster.

After May the 5th we will discover which story is the correct one – I hope the crocodile’s clock is ticking for Cameron.

BBC Scotland - Labour's propaganda arm

To The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty
in Council.

THE HUMBLE PETITION OF:  person’s who are from Sovereign People of Scotland

SHEWETH as follows:-

1.    We are exercising our right to petition your majesty as stated in the Claim of Right 1698: “That it is the right of the subjects to petition the King and that all Imprisonments and prosecutiones for such petitioning are Contrary to law” 
2.     The reason for this petition is that we believe the rights, freedoms, liberties and laws of the sovereign people of Scotland are now under direct threat by the failure of the British Broadcasting Corporation to uphold their royal charter requirement to be a balanced source in its reporting of political matters within the ‘United Kingdom’.
3.     That the corporation, through the acts of its agents in Scotland, are subverting freedom of speech and by seeking to hold undue influence over the outcome of the Holyrood Election due in May 2011 by favouring one political position over others are attacking and abusing those rights, freedoms, liberties and privileges that the sovereign people of Scotland hold dear.
4.    That the BBC in Scotland is further in breech of its Royal Charter as during an election period the BBC is not allowed to commission voting intention polls.  However the BBC released a voting intention poll on the 10th April was commissioned from pollsters ICM within the election period.
5.    That on numerous other occasions in the last year the BBC in Scotland have exceeded the Charter requirements to prevent views that do not support their particular political position from appearing in programs and other media under their control
6.    The BBC in Scotland abused their position as a public broadcaster to hound a Minster of the Scottish Government from Office for the political gain of other parties

YOUR PETITIONERS therefore most humbly pray that Your Majesty will seek advice and take action to stop this grievous assault on the sovereign people of Scotland’s rights, freedoms, laws and privileges by calling in your Royal Charter to the British Broadcasting Corporation until such times as it restores a proper balance in its organisation in Scotland or such other terms as may to Your Majesty seem proper.

AND YOUR PETITIONERS will ever pray etc.

THE SIGNATURES OF THE sovereign people of Scotland were
made hereunto this… day of… Two Thousand and Eleven.