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Showing posts with label David Mundell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Mundell. Show all posts

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Scottish Tories fight like ferrets in a blue sack – but there’s a new Scottish Ballet in the making–‘The Blue Shoes’

Peter Duncan should have realised it was a tactical mistake to have Ruth Davidson as his sound engineer.

Ah, the Scottish Tories - what can one say?

Fighting like ferrets over the identity of an irrelevant party in Scotland?

Well, I believe the centre-right needs a proper voice, although I don't share their politics. 420,000 Scottish voters need somebody to speak for them, or we'll wind up with the far right filling the vacuum. I favour Murdo Fraser, but I don't have a vote, and I doubt if they would give a committed SNP supporter a say in the matter.

However, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at their antics on this programme - Stephanie Fraser should have brought along a choreographer from Scottish Ballet to bring some sort of grace to the uncoordinated movements.

The Wee Laird O'Drumlean will finance it ...

Scottish Tories wait nervously for the Great Schism – but hyphens could help …

What the Tories in Scotland - and this contest - need is more hyphenated surnames. A Tory without a hyphen is not a real Tory. But there's a hyphen on this panel, and one lady who sounds posh enough to have a hyphen but hasn't.

My suggestion is Murdo Fras-Er, Jackson Car-Law, Ruth David-Son, etc. - like Sir Malcolm Rif-Kind.

You'll never manage without a hyphen, Ruth ...

And David, it's not enough to put the stress on the last syllable of Mundell - it has to be Mun-Dell.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Glasgow, Labour, the SNP, and carpetbaggers …

I have had my moments with Gerry Braiden of the Herald, mainly over the reporting of the Dalmarnock outrages directed against the Jaconellis and other families, businesses and of course the shocking callousness of Glasgow City Council over the closure of the Accord Centre for disabled children.

But I believe in crediting good, objective journalism when it makes its rare appearances in the Scottish Press, and Gerry Braiden’s exclusive yesterday – Labour axes ‘old guard’ – was an example of that.

It reflects the inchoate panic of Glasgow Labour as it faces the terrible prospect of its control of Glasgow City Council being wrested away from them in next year's local elections, a fear that must be exacerbated by  the recent Ipsos MORI poll on Scottish Public Opinion and voting intentions.

However, Labour might take a crumb of comfort from alleged infighting among SNP Glasgow councillors, if Tom Gordon’s piece Fresh blow for SNP bid to take over Glasgow in today’s New Sunday Herald is accurate.

I can forgive my party many things, but if they blow their chances to remove Labour from the GCC, and wreck the last best hope of the people of Glasgow, I will find it hard to swallow. Maybe someone will reassure me …


I have had some fun on Twitter over Murdo Fraser’s plan for a new Scottish Greed and Privilege party -

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser's New Unionism sounds a bit New Labour-ish. Could he not have called it New Imperialism? New Jingoism? NeoConism? Naechanceism?

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser will outline plans to "kill independence" and "break the SNP" at his campaign launch next week. Who, the Tories? Aye, right …


However, Rosanna Cunningham calls for due seriousness, in case he is on the ‘right’ lines, to coin a phrase. David Mundel, on BBC News today, looking even more rabbit-in-the-headlights than usual over a grainy, out of synch link from Skype, clearly doesn’t like Murdo’s big idea. The virtual death of his party is as nothing to him compared to the fact that, as the sole Scottish Tory MP in Westminster from a party contemptuously rejected by Scots, he nonetheless is taken seriously by the big boys, and thinks he plays a significant role in government.

I have always found David Mundel to be faintly risible, and he did nothing to dispel this today. Quotes -

Membership of the Union ---- is a very strong suit in our armour ---“

A new party is not a silver bullet that turns the problems round …”

Wearing a suit under your armour is not to be recommended, David, although if anyone can carry it off, you could. Silver bullets are for killing werewolves, and they were used to great effect in recent years at the ballot box to kill off a great threat to the Scottish people, namely, the Scottish Tories.

Back to Scottish Labour, who, if the Glasgow SNP can get their act together, will face a hail of silver bullets at the 2012 local elections. Murdo Fraser’s New Unionism leaves the way clear for Scottish Labour to re-brand itself as The Scottish Labour and Unionist Party, under the leadership of one or another of the carpetbagging hacks from Westminster. The name change would simply formalise things, for this is what they have been for some time now.

For those not versed in American history, the carpetbaggers were cynical and opportunistic politicians who move from the North to exploit the South. Labour is busy reversing the compass in this respect.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Scottish Office in action as the debate intensifies–Moore and Mundel defend their country–the UK

The Colonial Governor, Michael Moore talks down his country, or rather, the country whose interests he is supposed to represent. His country is, of course, the United Kingdom - a failed state.

He 'wholeheartedly' supports the union, as does his questioner - but it is not a Scottish heart, nor is it a brave heart.

  A Tory MP, Ann McIntosh and another Establishment figure, Sir Menzies Campbell (LibDem) make planned mischief over the UK Supreme Court and the Scottish Expert Group headed by Lord McCluskey.

The hoary spectre of Jim Sillars, yesterday's man (1992!) is invoked by David Mundel as a "former Deputy Leader of the SNP". It is left to Pete Wishart SNP to defend his country, Scotland and his Parliament to these two Scottish unionists acting in concert with a unionist Tory.


The West Lothian Question, the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament and the two Assemblies, the the UK Supreme Court debacle - the contradictions mount, the English get restive and the Unionists begin to panic.

Ah, the decline of an empire! What a pathetic spectacle it presents ...


I should have some affinity with Jim Sillars. He is of my generation, two years younger than I am: he is a Scot, his politics have always been of the left, he is a former Labour man, he moved from Labour to the SNP and he comes from the Scottish working class. There the similarities end.

He also has a record of significant political action (which I do not), and was a pivotal figure at key points in the history of the SNP, and is a former Deputy Leader of the Party. For that legacy, he retains a certain respect among SNP members and activists.

But he has, in my view, been recklessly squandering that legacy since he lost his Govan seat in 1992, at which point he effectively ceased to have any real relevance to Scottish politics. His pejorative comment about Scots being “90 minute patriots” became a kind a epitaph for his political career.

His recent interventions into the Scottish political debate have, in my view, been at best unhelpful, and at worst, damaging to the cause of Scotland’s independence, especially at this crucial time. He has become a kind of icon for the unionists, who quote him at every opportunity (see David Mundel in the above clip) and is a favourite choice for inclusion in television news discussions for the same reasons. He chose recently to mount one of his more intemperate attacks on the Scottish Government through the medium of a letter to The Telegraph, the Pravda of the Tory Party and the Union.

I do wish he would shut up, but I fear he won’t – he probably sees himself as the prophet in the wilderness, and the Union is more than happy to accommodate him in this role.

Oh, Jim …

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions

I wrote yesterday’s blog (see below) last night, prompted by an email from John Higgins, as a kind of rumination on the issues. But this morning, this debate takes on a new form, given extensive coverage on the front page of Sunday Herald leading to a five-page analysis on pages 10 to 14. The debate is not entirely balanced, but I am not a great fan of the concept of balance if it suggests equivalence where none exists. I would class the Sunday Herald as partisan on the side of the Union (I am partisan on the side of independence) and be in no doubt, in spite of much high-minded protestations to the contrary, this debate is about the Union and about the impending referendum that threatens it.

The battle lines are being drawn, and the professional classes of Scotland, including the legal profession, are deciding on which side of those lines they will stand. To say that they are not influenced by their party affiliations and their stake in the survival of the Union is disingenuous. The Scottish Parliamentary election result of 2007 was an unpleasant surprise to the UK Establishment, to Westminster, to unionism and to the Labour Party in particular: the 2011 election result has been a profound and unsettling shock to them.

In deciding where we, the people of Scotland stand in this debate, it is important not to confuse the concept of justice and the rule of law with the system of justice and those who administer it – the courts, the lawyers, the advocates, the judges. The justice system is just that – a system and a process that attempts to dispense justice, but often fails, as all processes sometimes do, because they are operated by fallible human beings, who have personal objectives, personal ideals, personal political orientations and affiliations, ambitions and careers.

The law, as a profession, is in substantial part, a commercial enterprise, one that seeks to uphold high ideals and principles within the context of making money and securing career advancement. The professional bodies that represent the lawyers are like any other professional body, e.g. the medical profession, the police, architects, accountants, estate agents(!) – part high-minded defenders of ethics and principles, part trade union, attempting to maximise, secure and defend the privileges and earnings of its members.

In this latter role, they have always been spectacularly successful, and that success is in no small part due to their influence on the political process through their dominance in the UK Parliament and the Lords, and their ability to accommodate themselves to the influence of the political process on them. The legal profession across the globe operates in this way. To the degree that they achieve a balance between these often competing roles, the society of which they are a part is a just one.

The Sunday Herald story and report – and a bit from Scotland on Sunday

In the first column of Tom Gordon’s report a grenade is thrown into the debate -

But the Sunday Herald can reveal the present row may be just a warm-up act for a far bigger constitutional battle. For while MSPs were getting in a lather over Salmond’s street fighting style, the Supreme Court was  last week being asked to kill off an entire act of the Scottish Parliament.

Over three days, QCs acting for Britain’s biggest insurers argued a 2009 Act allowing people to sue for asbestos exposure should be struck down.

No high-minded defence of human rights here – this is a defence of commercial profits at the expenses of human rights.

And if we jump across to Scotland on Sunday, we get this little nugget from Eddie Barnes -

UK Ministers have warned Alex Salmond he must seek their support on the wording of his independence referendum or face the possibility of a legal challenge that could end up in the Supreme Court.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said a dispute over the crucial wording of the question could end up in the courts, as Unionist supporters would probably challenge it.

It looks like Alex Salmond is going to need what Tom Gordon (above) calls his “street fighting style”. In fact, if the unionists keep this line up, a “street fighting style” may be called for on a wider front than just Holyrood.

Back to the Herald, and on pages 12 and 13, the combatants line up, or rather, they are lined up in the way the Sunday Herald sees as most advantageous to the union case. Tom Gordon has a whole page described as “Analysis”, a label that requires scrutiny in the light of the content.

The first part is effectively an attempt to suggest that Kenny MacAskill’s reputation in the legal profession is threatened by his stated position on the UK Supreme Court. (Kenny Mac Askill also has a street fighting style, and I for one am glad of it – Scotland is going to need it in the years ahead of us.).

There is a very sour grapes reference to the Megrahi release – a belated recognition by the Herald that the best efforts of unionists to besmirch the Justice Secretary’s reputation on that issue had miserably failed, quoting Solicitor Advocate John Scott as saying that

… Salmond and MacAskill had squandered a huge amount of goodwill built up by the SNP government in a remarkably short period of time with their “cheap” personal attacks.

“I think the Megrahi decision played well with the legal profession, as did trying to scrap short-term sentences …”

“ … Uniting the legal profession against them is something that has happened remarkably quickly. The only way to draw a line under it is to apologise.”

Ian Smart, a past president of the Law Society, joins the chorus against Salmond and MacAskill, but revealingly refers to “the micro-politics of the legal profession”.

They don’t look so micro from where I’m sitting …

Later in the Analysis piece, we discover that Ian Smart helped found the Labour Action movement in the 1980s.  Nae politics there, then …

Paul McBride, QC gets a reference and is quoted here (and also gets a few column inches on the next page) as a defender of the First Minister’s position, but is described by Tom Gordon as “an isolated voice.” (He is not, except in the pages of the Herald and in the minds of the unionist opposition in Holyrood.)

Page 13 is headed Legal Opinion, and Colin Boyd, a former Solicitor General for Scotland (1997-2000)  and former Lord Advocate (2000-2006) gets more than three quarters of the column inches. He is now a Labour Life Peer in the House of Lords. Nae politics there, then …

Colin Boyd is very high-minded in his opening statements, as befits an eminent lawyer who has held two of the highest legal offices in Scotland and is now a peer of the realm, the realm being the United Kingdom.

It’s about “the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”. Aye, so it is …

But it is more than that. It is a debate about our values and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

So it is. It’s about my values as a Scot, and my fundamental rights and freedoms as a Scot, under the law of Scotland, under the Act of Union, and under the Declaration of Arbroath. So far so good, Lord Boyd of Duncansby – ye’ll get nae argument frae me there, so long as whoever you mean by “our” doesn’t refer to some concept of Britishness, or British identity, a concept I don’t subscribe to.

Lord Boyd goes on to say that “Judges are not above criticism and in a free society, the idea that they can be immune from criticism is clearly wrong.”

Wait for the but, as my old boss used to say in negotiations when someone on the other side said something I agreed with – wait for the disjunctive coordinating conjunction.

And the but arrives, right on cue …

But a free society is one underpinned and guaranteed by the rule of law and the independent judiciary. Judges must be able to take decisions free from outside influence.

Well, I agree with that too, as a democrat must. But I have a but too, Lord Boyd. Without wishing to fall into the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, I ask the following question – why was the UK Supreme Court set up in the first place and who exactly who made the decision to set it up in 2009?

The simple answer to that, which tells us little about the political processes behind the scenes is that The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and started work on 1 October 2009.


The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases. It hears appeals in criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

The Court was not set up to be the final court of appeal for criminal cases in Scotland, but it has now used the Human Rights Act to question key judgements of the Scottish High Court, to open cell doors, and to lay the Scottish Government open to huge financial liabilities. And its express right to be the final court of appeal for civil cases in the UK, including Scotland, now looks likely to be significant too, in the light of today’s asbestos report.

There is no UK law, but this sure as hell is beginning to look like it …

But it’s that bit highlighted in red that worries me - It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

What is the referendum on Scottish independence but a question of the greatest public and constitutional importance? And what is the definition of ‘the whole population’ going to be? I define it as the electorate of Scotland, and their absolute right to bring to an end the Union, but ‘the whole population’ in the minds of the Colonial Office – sorry, the Scottish Office, and in the minds of the Colonial Governor – sorry, Secretary of state for Scotland, Michael Moore and his assistant, David Mundel seems to be the population and the electorate of the UK.

Lord Boyd now goes on to a number of very revealing statements. He quotes Brian Taylor, the BBC’s Scottish political editor – “He said it seems probable that Mr. Salmond’s rhetoric will encourage the Supreme Court to be yet more minimalistic in the scope of its involvement in Scottish criminal law”.

Lord Boyd sees this as “the danger” – I see it as the highly desirable outcome, not of “rhetoric”, but of the legitimate call of the First Minister of Scotland, with  a renewed and enhanced mandate from the people of Scotland to the UK to be very careful about how they act in relation to the Scottish legal system and Scots law.

Lord Boyd gives passing reference to Lord McCluskey’s opposition to the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, i.e. in my words, UK law – for it is hard to see it as anything else.

Lord Boyd quotes Lord McCluskey’s description of the European Convention on Human Rights as “offering a field day for crackpots, a pain in the neck for judges and legislators, and a gold mine for lawyers.”

Gaun yersel, Lord McCluskey! Alex Salmond now faces a threat of legal action for saying much the same thing about gold mines and lawyers.

Lord Boyd then goes on to say many things about the Scottish legal system, and its role in preserving Scottish identity “during nearly three centuries of Union with England.” Of course, I applaud that, although I thought it was just over three centuries, but I bow to Lord Boyd's superior knowledge of these things.

But he then goes on to the now familiar unionist argument that Strasbourg is overburdened and the UK Supreme Court is simply helping them out to speed up the justice system.  I think I may safely describe this as a unionist argument, although Lord Boyd clearly advances it as a legal argument, and of course can maintain an absolute distinction between the political and the legal arguments. (Lord Boyd sits as a Labour peer in the House of Lords and Labour is a unionist party.)

Lord Boyd closes his Herald piece by saying that “It matters not whether one believes in an independent Scotland or Scotland within a Union”.

Oh, aye, it does, Lord Boyd – it matters to me, because I believe in an independent Scotland, and I would have thought it matters to you, as a Labour Lord and a member of a Unionist political party. I don’t think the great debate will be served by claims from either camp that they are heroically objective about these fundamental constitutional issues. And I believe, as I hope you believe, that it is harmful to the very ideals and values you and I do share to obscure this stark political reality.

You say “This debate is about who we are and what we stand for.” I agree – but we must be clear about that ‘we’, and whether it is we, the Scottish people in favour of independence, or we, the Scottish people who favour the Union, or we, the population of the UK, who may well have even more complex and contradictory stances on the matter.

I am a Scot and I stand for the independence of Scotland, and the elected Scottish Government’s right to put that fundamental choice to the Scottish electorate without interference from the UK in any of its many manifestations, from Westminster to the Supreme Court.

You ask three other fundamental question, Lord Boyd -

Do we aspire to be a society which is governed by the rule of law, upholding fundamental rights and freedoms?

Are we prepared to test our laws against international standards and conventions?

Do we respect the independence of the judiciary in upholding the rule of law and protecting our rights and freedoms?

To all three, I answer Yes, as a Scot, under Scottish and European law and the International Convention on Human Rights, as represented by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The judiciary I respect  is the Scottish Judiciary, operating under the law of Scotland, and the European judiciary in Strasbourg.

I did not wish the UK Supreme Court to be set up, but while it exists as a reality so long as the UK exists, I will respect its rulings, but feel entirely free to question their relevance, validity, and their wisdom.

If I feel as a citizen, that the UK Supreme Court is being politicised by those attempting to preserve the Union and the UK at all costs, I will defend its right to resist such an insidious process. If it seems to be yielding to such political pressures, I will not respect its independence, nor will I respect the judiciary who are part of such a perversion of The Act of Union and of democracy.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Alex Salmond on Calman–and Mundell has trouble with the numbers–again …

Alex Salmond offers a careful, considered critique of the Calman tax proposals, their weaknesses and speaks of his wish to find a way to improve them. This is a statesman – and an economist – speaking, with the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people at heart.

David Mundell, under Gordon Brewer's questioning, waffles frantically about Calman, and displays an almost total inability to come to grips with the numbers and hard facts. Instead, he relies on political generalities and attacks on the SNP.

This is Moore's man in the Scottish Office. He had high hopes of being Scottish Secretary under a Cameron Government (as the Scottish Tories' sole MP, there was little choice!) but the coalition, plus perhaps a little local difficulty with his election expenses (those pesky numbers again, David!) put paid to that.

He had to watch two young LibDems fill the post he had coveted - first Danny Alexander and now Michael Moore.

Not that numeracy - or anything much else - is required of a Scottish Secretary - only blind loyalty to the Union and the willingness to be Westminster's man in Scotland instead of Scotland's man in Westminster.

Colonial governors never did require much between their ears, only the ability to salute the Union Jack.

The last three incumbents of this ignoble role - Murphy, Alexander and now Moore - have filled the role in the way required by their UK bosses. Scots expects nothing from the office of Scottish Secretary, and nothing is what they get, except regular protestations of loyalty to the Union.