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Showing posts with label First Minister of Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Minister of Scotland. Show all posts

Friday, 1 May 2015

SNP 2016 manifesto and a second referendum – that is the question

It’s not on SNP’s agenda, it’s not on Nicola’s agenda, but it’s sure as hell is on the general election debate agenda, because the three main UK party leaders put it there. By using the question of a second Scottish independence referendum as an expedient political football, they have managed to score three own goals -

1. They’ve triggered a UK-wide debate on the independence question, a question that was at best dormant as Scots focused on trying to make UK democracy work for them after the Nationalists after lost the 2014 referendum.

2. They’ve effectively questioned the democratic right of Scots to vote for the party of their choice in a UK election.

3. They’ve catalysed English nationalism, and highlighted the political differences between Scotland and England at the very time they should have been emphasising what unites them.

The 2014 Referendum

The SNP, while reiterating its over-arching objective of independence for Scotland, did not commit to a referendum in its 2007 manifesto. During the four year life of that minority government, despite repeated “bring it on” challenges from Wendy Alexander, Alex Salmond did not set a date for a referendum or call for one, concentrating instead on the high-wire act of running the country as a minority government.

But as the 2011 Holyrood election approached, the strategy changed, and the manifesto included this explicit commitment, if elected, to a referendum bill during the lifetime of the 2011-2016 Parliament, later specified as in the second half of the term.


Now, what determined this decision in go for it? Was it a great, popular demand from Scots for a second referendum? Was it a landslide victory in 2007 conferring legitimacy? Was it the outcome of a consultation exercise with the Scottish electorate?

None of these things.  There was no YES campaign, no dynamic grassroots organisation of activists as yet. The 2007 win was narrow, and had shown the possibility of a nationalist government, a giant step in itself, but not a mandate for independence. The national conversation and consultation was in the future, and the great debate on the second question had yet to come. The will of the Scottish people, now much in the mouths of politicians, was anything but clear.

So the decision to go to the electorate with an explicit manifesto commitment to calling an independence referendum if elected was not driven by “the will of the Scottish people” but by a brave political calculation allied to a wish to make it clear to Scots that, if they voted SNP again. they were voting for a government  that was committed to offering them a legal referendum and a democratic choice over Scotland’s future somewhere around late 2013 to mid-2014. (In the event it was September 2014.)

The landslide victory of 2011 on this manifesto could not be interpreted as a mandate for independence, but it undoubtedly was a mandate to offer the people a democratic choice.

On the face of it, therefore, a similar political calculation could be made in drawing up the 2016 manifesto, with considerably more justification – a huge membership, a powerful grassroots organisation and possibly an unprecedented number of MPs elected to Westminster, an outcome that for years unionists repeatedly accepted would be a definitive expression of the will of the Scottish people because they thought it would never happen.

But Nicola Sturgeon, the most powerful and charismatic popular leader the SNP has ever had, now a national and international political figure, backed by a huge party membership, clearly has no such intent – and explicitly rejects the argument that a large bloc of SNP MPs returned to Westminster on May 8th would constitute an argument for independence or a mandate for a second referendum.

Why is this formidable and popular Nationalist politician adopting such a stance?

The answer lies squarely in the fact that there was a referendum in 2014 and we lost it. The Scottish electorate democratically rejected independence, and crying “We wuz robbed!” doesn’t alter that fact.

Nicola believed in 2014, Alex Salmond believed in 2014, (I believed in 2014!) most independence supporters believed in 2014 and most anti-independence supporters believed in 2014 that this was it – our one big chance for, if not a generation, for a helluva long time.

She recognises that, while nationalists feel a great sense of betrayal over the outcome of the referendum, given the sordid way in which the UK Government, the unionist media and Better Together conducted themselves during the campaign, Scots who voted for the Union – a majority – would feel a great sense of betrayal if they were asked to vote again on the question.

In that context, and the context that the independence movement has achieved more since losing the referendum than they did before it, I think Nicola and the SNP strategists have judged that the gradualism of the movement towards greater self-determination for Scotland is a safer bet than another throw of the dice.

Is she right? Are they right?

My answer is probably yes – and I trust her judgement absolutely over my own limited perspective as a voter.

But – and it’s a big but – I’m not sure that position can hold in the face of events changing at exponential speed: politicians do not control events – they respond dynamically to them.

Let’s get this election over, evaluate the outcome and the UK parties responses to it. Let’s give it a chance to work. Big things are at stake, big immediate issues, Trident renewal, austerity, the desperate need for investment to kick start the economy.

It’s a long, long way from May 2015 to May 2016. We have time on our side, and Nicola on our side. Let her play the ball – she has done it superbly so far, and her best days have still to come.

Vote SNP and put your faith in our party leader and Scotland’s First Minister to do the right thing –because doing the right thing is always the right thing to do!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Nicola versus The Union Mob – democratic politics?


This is a light-hearted edit of the BBC Scottish Leaders' 'Debate' on Sunday Politics Scotland today - nothing changed in sequence or content - just left the action in!

Nicola is an oasis of calm intelligence in this Unionist desert. This is what passes for a moderated (sic) debate at not-very-Pacific Quay!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Alex Salmond – the most popular political leader in the UK–but not with Daily Record and Better Together–or Jim Sillars!


Hard to escape the conclusion that this interview is just part of a Better Together, Daily Record-fuelled "Get Salmond" last ditch initiative, doomed to failure as all the others have been. That's because they're based on three false premises, i.e.

1. All YES supporters like Alex Salmond.
(They don't - large blocks of them don't want him as a leader of an independent Scotland - but they recognise the main reason they will have a choice at all on the future of their country is Alex Salmond - and they'll vote YES).

2. Alex Salmond is unpopular.
(He's not - his popularity rating are higher than any other Scottish or UK leader, and higher than most EU leaders)

3. The YES campaign's success is totally down to Alex Salmond.
(It's not - it's down to hard core, passionate commitment across of range of political parties, organisations and individuals, all working dynamically in a wide range of initiatives and grassroots organisation for a YES vote.)

Given that something upwards of 45% of Scots say they are No voters at the moment, it would be a minor miracle of at least 32% of them didn't like Alex Salmond.

But if Better Together really believe that the undecideds and No voters contain 32% who are only held back from voting YES by a dislike of Alex Salmond, then they have real trouble in River City!

What the increasingly desperate faux concern addressed to the First Minister to change his style is based on is a transparent attempt to knobble a style that has been spectacularly successful.

    Thursday, 11 April 2013

    Brookings: Scotland as a Good Global Citizen – Alex Salmond lecture and Q&A

    My YouTube audios clips of the Brookings lecture by the First Minister were an attempt to get the audio up fast in YouTube format in manageable chunks. However, in the process, I had a glitch at the 2.5m mark on Part 4.

    Here is the full Brookings site link to Scotland as a Good Global Citizen.

    I have also used the embed code supplied by Brookings. The section referred to above occurs around the 1hr 10m mark for those who want to fill the gap in the YouTube video.

    Tuesday, 19 June 2012

    Alex Salmond tells San Francisco about independence on 15th June 2012

    San Francisco Chronicle

    “The eyes of the world have been on Scotland as we move toward independence, and since the start of this year we have taken important steps forward on that historic journey to rejoin the family of independent nations, many of whom have themselves become independent in recent decades.

    When the United Nations was formed, there were only around 50 independent countries in the world - now there are almost 200, many of them smaller than Scotland. And of the 10 countries that joined the European Union in its most recent big expansion in 2004, half a dozen have become independent since 1990, all of them smaller than Scotland.

    So, far from running counter to international trends of integration and cooperation, as some of the anti-independence camp try to assert, Scotland's constitutional progress is clearly running with the grain of history as more nations seek independence in an interdependent world.

    With independence, Scotland will take its place as a member of that international community while continuing as a friend and good neighbor to the other nations of the United Kingdom.

    Independence will mean that decisions about what happens in Scotland and for Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - that is, the people living, working and bringing up their families here. No one else can do a better job.

    The people of Scotland will be in charge. Our future, our resources, our opportunities will be in our hands. Independence will give us, the people of Scotland, the opportunity to make decisions in Scotland's best interests. And that means we will be able to make Scotland the country we all know it can be - a wealthier and fairer nation, a country that speaks with its own voice, stands taller in the world and takes responsibility for its own future.

    Independence is about Scotland rejoining the family of nations in our own right. We can be both independent and interdependent - we can stand on our own two feet while working closely with other nations, our friends and neighbors. Independence is what we seek as individuals. It is the natural state for people and nations around the world. Not being independent is the exception.

    The Parliament in Edinburgh already makes all the important decisions when it comes to running our schools, hospitals, police and much else. Independence will mean we are also responsible for raising our own money.

    Scotland is a land of unlimited potential. Our culture, history and reputation for innovation are renowned throughout the world, our universities are world-class, and our energy resources are unrivalled in Europe. Indeed, as an independent nation, we would have the sixth-highest wealth per capita in the developed world. At the same time, as the United Kingdom's debt has now smashed through the 1 trillion pound barrier, Scotland has a 1 trillion pound asset base in the shape of North Sea oil and gas.

    With independence, we will have a new social union with the other nations of these islands. We will keep the pound and will continue to share Her Majesty the Queen as head of state. But we won't have our young servicemen and women dragged into illegal wars like Iraq, and we won't have nuclear weapons based in Scottish waters.

    I want Scotland to be independent, not because I think we are better than any other country, but because I know we are just as good as any other country.”

    Gaun yersel, Alex! 3000 miles away from the language polis and you can say that word as many times as ye like …

    (with my thanks to Anthony Little for drawing my attention to the interview.)

    Wednesday, 25 January 2012

    Paxman with Alex Salmond - " certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman" - Irish Times

    Paxo never learns - like the UK, he's past his sell by date, out of touch with the constitutional realities. As Mark Hennessy of the Irish Times dryly observes "Most people watching that  interview with Jeremy Paxman - I'm sure Alex Salmond would be very, very glad if he was to get more interviews like that by English presenters. It's certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman, and that's going to feed into the debate both in Scotland and indeed in the attitudes that perhaps will be taken abroad when people are looking at this from an outside audience."

    Paxman's opening remarks - " ... what his country might be like if he get's his way and manages to bust up the United Kingdom. ..... But fear not: while Moses, sorry - Alex Salmond - didn't quite promise a land flowing with milk and honey, he did claim it would be a beacon of what he called progressiveness."  Not quite the respect agenda that David Cameron or indeed the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation is supposed to be pursuing with the First Minister of Scotland - nor was the comparison of Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe later in the interview.

    But Scots are long past being offended by a relic of empire - a UK dinosaur - like Paxman. Like our First Minister, we are amused by him, and will find Paxo a place on the sofa of a chat show in the new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation to remind us of days past ...

    Thursday, 19 January 2012

    Lamentable Labour and lamentable Lamont – and a master class from Alex Salmond in the economics of independence

    This lamentable performance from Johann Lamont, with its laboured scripted one-liners and prepared insults, demonstrates why Labour is unfit to govern Scotland, and indeed has been for a very long time. She has learned nothing from the disastrous mistakes of her predecessor, Iain Gray, and seems locked in the same style and script.

    The contrast with the First Minister's responses is painful. Alex Salmond delivers a master class in the economics of dependence on the UK versus the freedom from constraints that would come with independence, which would deliver the economic tools to liberate Scots from the economic stagnation and now near-collapse that Labour and now the Coalition have wreaked upon the UK.

    The inherent contradictions built in to the dependency relationship between Scottish Labour, UK Labour and the Tory-led Coalition are evident every time Johann Lamont opens her mouth.

    The Scottish people have recognised this in the May 2011 election, Scottish trades union members clearly must have recognised it also. UK trades union leaders are facing up to it, with some of the most damning indictments ever delivered by trade union barons against a Labour Party Leader and Labour Opposition, the voters of England recognise it.

    But as yet, Scottish trades union leader cannot find the courage to speak up for their members, for severing the political link with Labour, for ending the political levy, and most of all, for throwing their weight behind the independence of their country.

    Thursday, 21 April 2011

    Alex Salmond bluntly tells Cameron the Cutter to go home …

    From Cartoon by Alisdair Smith

    SNP surging ahead in the polls.

    The First Minister is realistic and honest about working towards achieving manifesto commitments. An independence referendum within the life of the next Scottish Parliament..

    Re the cuts, David Cameron tells the Scots they've never had it so good.

    The First Minister says rubbish - Scotland is bankrolling the UK with £13 billion pounds of Scottish Oil revenues.

    Alex tells Cameron the Cutter to go home - and think again ...

    Wednesday, 20 April 2011

    Alex Salmond effortlessly deals with Paxman's predictable questions

    Paxman deploys his usual repertoire of sarcasm, simplistic questioning and patronising manner. Alex has heard it all before, and deals with him rather in the way Spencer Tracy dealt with Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock - effortlessly and with one hand. The same old unionist script from Paxman, now a caricature of himself, like an old variety artist flogging the same tired old act round the Moss Empire circuit.

    Some blog readers expected me to run the Newsnight Scotland Iain Gray interview. It was unutterably boring, and to listen to Gray’s evasion and excuses all over again is just embarrassing and is just to much to ask. So I passed gratefully on to the First Minister …

    Of course, Paxman could have listened to John Swinney. But he didn't want to be confused by the facts. Fortunately Scottish voters do care about facts ...

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    Senior LibDem endorses Alex Salmond for First Minister

    The message couldn't be clearer - any disillusioned LibDems thinking of voting Labour - Don't!

    Things are bad enough without finding Iain Gray as FM of Scotland. Your core values are safer with Alex Salmond and the SNP than with the nuclear, anti-renewables, expedient, warmongering  Labour nonentities.

    Their Government destroyed the British economy - don't let them ruin Scotland.

    Judge carefully how you vote, depending on your constituency - John Farquhar Munro's message doesn't need much decoding ...

    Vote tactically if that's how you see it, but for God's sake, don't vote Labour.

    Vote for Scotland and what you believe in.

    Wednesday, 12 January 2011

    Iain Gray – First Minister in-waiting?

    Last night we had the first of the Newsnight Scotland interviews with the Holyrood party leaders in the run-up to the May election. We must remind ourselves that Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott are not, in fact, the leaders of their respective parties – they are the leaders of their party groups in Holyrood, and are totally subservient  to the leaders of their London-based parties, despite protestations of Scottish solutions and Scottish dimensions. Only Alex Salmond is the leader of his party. He is accountable only to the people of Scotland.

    Iain Gray was the first in the hot seat last night, and I am glad that it was Isobel Fraser in the interviewer’s chair, because her style is entirely free from either the Paxman-clone, simplistic hectoring and bullying or the sycophantic, Marr-clone approaches that sometimes characterises the extremes of the Scottish media political interviewing styles.

    The interview was preceded by a short biography of Iain Gray, and this was a timely reminder – at least to me – that we should not resort to simplistic abuse and caricature when considering a man who could be the next First Minister of Scotland, for better or worse.

    A physics graduate from Edinburgh University cannot be accused of being lacking in intellectual ability. Someone who has taught for seven years in an Edinburgh school, chose to take his teaching skills to Mozambique, and was subsequently Scottish Campaigns Director for Oxfam, cannot be said to be lacking in experience of the real world or in social commitment.

    He was almost 42 years of age when he first entered the Scottish Parliament, an age that many people - including myself - believe is about the right age to offer oneself to the nation, rather than the direct-entry-after- graduation, PPE-type career path of the professional career politician that represents so many of our elected representatives today. (That clock won’t be turned back, something that I personally regret.)

    His political career has embraced a range of roles and responsibilities, all of them relevant to someone who aspires to lead the Scottish nation.

    Why then, in the light of this assessment, do I think that Iain Gray is totally unfitted to be Scotland’s next first Minister?

    The first negative attribute applies not only to Iain Gray, but also to Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott, and lies in their subservience to their Westminster party leaders. Quite simply, they cannot lead the Scottish nation because they do not regard Scotland as a nation, but as a devolved region of the United Kingdom. In devolved policy matters, they will always be at the mercy of their UK party, whether in government, coalition or opposition, and their need to avoid egregious differences in policy between Scotland and England.

    These contradictions and conflicts are exemplified by the increasing bitter mud-slinging over tuition fees, leading to expressions of frustrated outrage from the likes of Boris Johnson’s sister, Rachel Johnson (memorably dealt with by Kenny Gibson), and the ludicrous – and entirely predictable – accusations of racism by Professor Tom Gallagher (Professor of the Study of Ethnic Conflict and Peace in Bradford University), by an increasing Westminster resentment - driven by embarrassment - of the Scottish Government’s humane social policies which sharply contrast with those in England, and by the ever-present West Lothian Question over the voting right of Scottish MPs on specifically English issues.

    The pressures on Gray, Goldie or Scott to flatten out these embarrassing differences and contradictions  would be almost irresistible, and would insidiously negate the very purpose of a devolved Scottish Parliament.

    On non-devolved matters, especially defence, foreign policy and taxation - all of them utterly vital to the interests of the Scottish people, to their very lives and security - Gray, Goldie and Scott would remain the Three UK Stooges – utterly powerless and ineffectual. On the great ethical and moral issues facing the world, Scotland would have no voice, no capacity to assert its unique perspective within Europe or in international forums.


    The second set of considerations relate to Iain Gray himself. I do not wish to be seen to be damning him with faint praise, so let me say unequivocally that I believe Iain Gray to be a decent man, with a moral and social conscience, with considerable experience of real life and politics, with good intellectual ability – a man who has contributed to Scottish society and to the wider world in an admirable way deserving of respect. I believe he can - and will continue to make - that significant contribution within politics and perhaps in other roles.

    But he is totally unfitted for the role he now occupies, as Holyrood leader of his party, and even less fitted for the role of First Minister of Scotland, because he is devoid of the personal qualities of leadership, personality, and to some degree, political judgment that these roles demand.

    He is, to any disinterested observer (I am not disinterested: I am partisan, but I hope with a sense of balance, fairness and objectivity) a man deeply unhappy in these roles because of the contradictions inherent in what is demanded of him, and by his recognition of his own limitations. A lesser man – a more expedient career politician – would not be troubled by these contradictions, and it is to Iain Gray’s credit that he patently is bothered by them.

    One only has to look at the recent performances by Iain Gray at First Minister’s Questions, where he is pitted every week against a man who exemplifies the political and personal qualities Iain Gray lacks. And one must remember that this is supposed to be the new Iain Gray, having undergone, at some expense to his party, the attentions of the image makers and PR presentation consultants.

    Now FMQs, like the Westminster PMQs, is a bear pit, and unrepresentative of the everyday work of party leaders and the processes of  the Holyrood Parliament, but it is a public showcase, for better or worse, for the essential qualities that are demanded by our modern media-dominated world.

    Iain Gray does not exhibit any of these qualities, and to me, is manifestly unfitted to be First Minister of Scotland, even when the structural disability of his unionism and subservience to Westminster is left out of the equation.



    In the last few weeks, Iain Gray has managed to insult Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Norway, and most recently Montenegro. This reflects a serious lack of judgment from one who aspires to be the face of Scotland on an international stage, a Scotland that is heavily dependent, not only on international markets, but on tourism and inward investment.

    I don’t believe Iain Gray dreamed up his increasingly dated attacks on the Arc of Prosperity concept himself – I believe that he was urged and advised to pursue this sterile and dangerous line of attack by other less responsible voices within his party. But in accepting that advice, he was guilty of a grave error of judgement.

    Here is a letter to the Scotsman from the Montenegro Embassy about Iain Gray’s comments. Similar sentiments were earlier expressed in other forums about Gray’s unguarded attacks on the Irish economy at a time when the Republic of Ireland were most vulnerable, and when the UK government was expressing support for them, both vocally and practically.

    Scotsman letter – 1st January 2011

    I feel compelled to respond to your report (24 December) which describes Montenegro as "the war-ravaged country". Montenegro, in fact, was the only former Yugoslav republic where neither war nor devastation took place in the last decade of the 20th century.

    And not only was there no ethnic cleansing in the country, as proposed by Scottish Labour leader Mr Iain Gray in the same article, but Montenegro opened its doors to the refugees of all nations.
    At one point in 1999, refugees made up one fourth of the population of Montenegro, when - in just two days - we provided shelter to more than 100,000 Albanians fleeing from Kosovo.
    And, crucially, Montenegro was the first country in the Balkans that renewed its statehood by peaceful means in a democratic referendum organised in full co-operation with the European Union.

    Marijana Zivkovic
    Embassy of Montenegro

    In last night’s interview, Iain Gray desperately tried to say that his comments had been misrepresented and misinterpreted. Having viewed again and listened again to his intemperate attack at FMQs, the best I can say in his favour is that it was inevitable that the comments would cause deep offence, whatever the intention of Gray in uttering them, and it was a serious error of judgment to make them.

    Wednesday, 8 September 2010

    Alex Salmond – Holyrood 8th September 2010 – legislative programme 2010/2011

    The First Minister sets out his legislative programme.

    Alex Salmond is a towering figure - a statesman, unlike the political pygmies of the Holyrood Tory, Labour and LibDem unionist opposition leaders Goldie, Gray and Scott.

    The Tory Party is almost dead in Scotland, and the LibDems have shot themselves in the foot - if not the head - by joining the ill-fated UK coalition.

    The real opposition is the Labour Party in Scotland - they represent the real threat in the 2011 election, despite their Scottish feeble leader, values-free political expediency and the legacy of their destructive policies while in Government at Westminster.

    If the Scottish electorate don't recognise that the tsunami of cuts coming at them is the fault of Labour and Gordon Brown while in government, they will reap the social and economic whirlwind and undo all the real achievements of their ain folk - the SNP - since the historic election of 2007.

    The Scottish Trades Unions at least understand the threat, especially the public service unions, but they don't yet appreciate the lethal irrelevancy of their affiliation to Labour, a party that no longer represents the Scottish people.