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Showing posts with label Herald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Herald. Show all posts

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Spin by headline and the Herald.

Today was the second time the Herald rejected an online comment of mine. The common factor seems to be that both comments criticised the way the Herald was using headlines.

Today’s article by Kate Devlin was the case in point.

Here is the comment I posted, so far unpublished.


Your headline Cameron: no change to Barnett and the first line of the report DAVID CAMERON has ruled out making changes to the controversial Barnett formula are partial and misleading. The truth lies in the line "The Coalition announced that there were no plans to review the formula before the next general election"

The YES Campaign assertion (and mine) is that whatever government is in power after a No vote in the 2014 referendum will cut the Barnett formula. The pressures to do this from English voters and organisations, including local authorities - not to mention senior politicians - will be irresistible.

But with the referendum vote in September 2014, it is clearly impossible for the Coalition to do this before a general election in 2015. Labour is unlikely to include this in their manifesto, relying still on the Scottish Labour vote, but the Tories have little to lose by offering this vote winner to their English supporters, since the party is dead in Scotland.

A No vote in 2014 will not lead to more devolution - it will inevitably lead to, at best, devo zero, and at worse, a clawback, devo minus.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Magnus Gardham and the currency question

I thought Magnus Gardham would have let his non-story of yesterday die quietly to avoid further embarrassment. But no, today he unwisely tries to justify it, to give the wee thing legs ...

Putting our money where its mouth is

It should not fall to me, a voter with no background in journalism or politics to offer the political editor of the Herald some basic concepts from The Ladybird Book of Politics, but sadly, it seems necessary.

There is a fundamental  difference between the position of the devolved Scottish Government setting out its policy - and effectively its opening negotiating platform for an independent Scotland after a YES vote - in a White Paper, and a UK Government publishing a White Paper for implementation through its majority in Parliament. In the first context, setting out a "definitive position" on policies defines a negotiating position and a set of beliefs that underpin it: in the second context, it is simply the intention to legislate using a Parliamentary majority.

In his first few paragraphs, Magnus Gardham shows that that he understands this, yet he chooses to reject the reality because it does not suit his story or his agenda - that the Scottish Government is in some way misleading a gullible Scottish electorate over the currency. He might have taken some account of the calm, and faintly amused reaction of Brian Taylor of the BBC (and others) - a man who does understand politics - at the farrago of nonsense thrown up around Colin McKay's entirely unexceptional statement - that no one can guarantee the position of the UK Government or UK Treasury in negotiations after a YES vote, especially since that Government may well change in 2015, halfway through the most complex set of negotiations British politicians have ever undertaken in centuries.

If Magnus Gardham hopes to make the contribution to the great debate on Scotland's independence that some of his journalistic contemporaries are already making, he must outgrow his fondness for conspiracy theories and great unmaskings of secret policies and hidden beliefs, and buckle down to some real journalism in the 300 or so days left to us.

I may add that it is patently evident to anyone who can rise above the adversarial pre-negotiating macho talk that the de facto rUK governments (of whatever political colour) who take part in the negotiation will agree to a sterling-based currency union because it makes eminently good sense.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Johann Lamont and Gary Robertson interview – Sunday Politics Scotland

LETTERS 30th Oct 2013 "TV interviewers must do better" John Kelly

I took issue with John Kelly on a number of observations and facts, and sent a letter to the Herald setting out my core point. It wasn’t published, probably because the Letters page was full of much more topical and vital material on subsequent days, so I have no complaints about the Herald’s priorities and editorial decision.

However, I thought my more extended analysis of the Lamont/Robertson interview might be worth setting out here.


Reading John Kelly's letter I wondered if he watched the same Sunday Politics Scotland broadcast as I did.  The anchorman was not Andrew Kerr, as stated by Mr. Kelly, but Gary Robertson, a highly experienced television and radio journalist and expert political interviewer. In just over eight and a half minutes, while allowing Johann Lamont every opportunity to answer questions and make her case, he managed to reveal the gaping holes and contradictions in her position on welfare and benefits, and a misleading an inaccurate campaign leaflet distributed in the Dunfermline by-election by Labour.

It is not the purpose of daily newspapers to hold our elected representatives to account - that is the job of the electorate and, where appropriate, the law. The role of newspapers and the media in general is to tell the truth to power by informing the electorate of the facts that politicians often do not wish the public to know. One of the most powerful tools for doing that is the televised political interview.

A television interviewer’s job is not to act as a a chat show host, allowing his or her celebrity guest to use the 'interview' as a platform for their unchallenged views or as a party political broadcast - the interviewer's role is to explore with penetrating questions the contradictions inherent in all political policy and to elicit answers to questions that the politicians do not want answered, or at least make it starkly evident that the politician is either unable or unwilling to give such answers.

Reading John Kelly's letter I wondered if he watched the same broadcast I did. The anchorman was not Andrew Kerr but Gary Robertson, a highly experienced television and radio journalist and expert political interviewer.

Robertson, on the Grangemouth crisis, asked: "Had you been in Alex Salmond's position, would you have been compromised by being a member of Unite?"and also Lamont’s position on the central role of Stephen Deans in the dispute and police involvement over emails.

She denied seeing the emails, and tried to move away from the issue, denying that the shambles in Falkirk was over the manipulation of candidate selection. It patently was.

Robertson's question on the Dunfermline by-election victory margin and its significance produced an extended reply, with only one minor query from Robertson, and the observation that by-elections rarely change anything, adding that an IpsosMori poll showed 57% electorate support for the Scottish government, and that they seemed to be doing well. Lamont said it "didn't feel like that" to her. Robertson put all his questions briefly, courteously and concisely and Lamont was given every opportunity to respond, which she did at length.

Robertson went on by saying that Labour had said what it was against - independence and the bedroom tax ("eventually") - but what was it for, what was it pro? He interjected - as any competent interviewer would - to try penetrate vague generalities that came in response, asking "What are the issues you are for, then?" Lamont simply persisted with a recitation of problems - all without offering a single policy or what Labour would do about them.

Robertson then moved to the contradictions inherent in the election leaflet put out in Dunfermline, and Lamont's own position on welfare, the welfare budget and her Cuts Commission, contradictions between Labour’s and their key policy adviser Professor Midwinter's views on welfare, council tax, and his position that it was an inefficient use of public funds.

In just over eight and a half minutes - while allowing Johann Lamont every opportunity to answer questions fully and make her case - he managed to reveal the absence of any coherent Labour policy, and gaping holes and contradictions in her position on welfare and benefits.

Gary Robertson did his job superbly well – perhaps that is what really bothered Mr. Kelly.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Farage Affair at the Canons' Gait

If a politician from another country comes to Scotland and offers an alien political philosophy to Scots, especially one containing homophobic or racist elements or overtones, they may reasonable be asked to go home, i.e. back to their country of residence, where they vote and live.

I would not hesitate to offer that advice to one from America, England, Wales, Ireland or indeed any country across the globe. I would not hesitate to offer it to a Scot who was an MP for an English constituency and resident in England who chose to interfere in Scottish politics, e.g. Eleanor Laing MP.

(N.B. I do not suggest for a moment that Eleanor Laing is either racist or homophobic, or a sympathiser with UKIP – simply that she is a Scot who is a Tory MP for an English constituency who has made various anti-independence, pro-union comments in the Commons.)

This is not on the basis of race or nationality, but on the basis of politics and country of residence, i.e. where their home is.

But a nasty attempt was made across the media today to conflate this legitimate advice, in the Farage case - who would have been told exactly the same if he had been a Scot - with the undoubted racism of telling someone who lives, works, votes and is domiciled in a country to "Go back where you came from!" based on ethnic or geographical origin.

It was implied by Magnus Gardham in the Herald - “Anti-racists shouted, apparently without irony: ‘Leave Scotland, go back to England” - (approvingly(?) retweeted by Torcuil Crichton of The Record) and by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics. (see video clip)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Referendum voting rights, residence qualification and citizenship aspects

I am not a lawyer, just a voter trying to stay informed in the lead-up to the most important event in Scotland for three centuries. Don’t treat my understanding as authoritative – check your own facts!


Service and Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the armed forces, or with Her Majesty's Government, who are registered to vote in Scotland are eligible to vote in the referendum. This is consistent with local election residential criteria and previous referendums.

The criterion of residence in Scotland is fundamental, and any attempt to extend or ignore it in a referendum would be challenged by other nations, as the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear.

I lived and worked for nine years in England, and voted in local and national elections in my English constituencies. As a resident in England in 1979, I took a keen interest in the Scottish referendum, but never felt or claimed entitlement to vote in it. I have Scottish-born family living in England and abroad – none of them feel an entitlement or claim a right to vote in 2014.

Richard Mowbray is an Englishman resident in Scotland, one who, I am sure, has made his full contribution to Scottish society, voted in elections and perhaps a previous referendum based on the existing residential criterion. I support and defend his right to do that – and comment on and take a position on Scotland's independence, and vote accordingly in 2014. I also support the same rights for the Romanian Big Issue seller in Glasgow, participating in an admirable social initiative to give him or her a foothold in Scottish economic activity, and the rights of the French financial analyst in Edinburgh, both of whose rights Mr Mowbray appears to challenge.

Scotland's wish to stand as an autonomous, independent nation state does not rely on a concept of Scotland based on romantic ideas of blood ties, empire, monarchy and valiant deaths on foreign fields. Scotland is an open, welcoming country, granting the right to full political participation in its democracy to all who chose to live, work and contribute, as Mr Mowbray has done.

Peter Curran,


Alex Sloan and John F. Crawford et al seem a little confused over citizenship.

Citizenship and eligibility to vote in referendums are different, but related concepts. For example, British citizenship on its own does not create eligibility to vote in a UK election - one must be over 18 years of age on polling day and registered to vote. Eligibility to register to vote requires that you are 16 years old or over and a British citizen or an Irish, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizen resident in the UK. If you are 16 or 17, you can only register if you will be 18 within the lifetime of the electoral register. You cannot vote until you are 18. 16-17 years olds will be eligible to vote in the referendum, subject to similar constraints and requirements

There are exclusion from the right to vote among British citizens, e.g. members of House of Lords, convicted prisoners serving their sentences, anyone guilty within five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election.

EU citizens resident in the UK may not vote in UK general elections, but can vote in local elections, devolved elections - e.g. Scottish Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland devolved assemblies and of course in European Parliamentary elections.

I am not a lawyer, but the above represents my best understanding of an often confusing subject. I try not to allow my commitment to an independent Scotland to blind me to objective facts. Better Together supporters might try for the same commitment - it will keep the debate rational and objective, in line with the great debating traditions of Scotland.

It is worth bearing in mind that much British legislation on citizenship and voting rights is simply the fragmented legacy of a global empire that has progressively fallen apart, because of its component nations seeking - and achieving - their independence, because they didn't feel they were better together.

Happy to be corrected on factual errors in my understanding!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Holyrood Labour and nuclear issues - and Margaret Jaconelli

The UK and Scottish news channels and media carried the story of the wonderful, world-class, groundbreaking renewable energy development in Caol Ila, the Sound of Islay. The world, the UK and the people of Scotland welcome this pivotal project, the beginning of a new era.

I will raise a small glass of Caol Isla, the little-known Islay malt to celebrate this event.

But not Iain Gray, or the Scottish Labour Party …

Iain Gray - what a negative politician, regrettably epitomising what his party has now become - a values-free, ideas-free, vision-free, talent-free, imagination-free zone of expedient political apparatchiks.

But how many of the reflex Labour voters see these performances? How many know what they will inflict on Scotland and themselves if they elect this bunch on May 5th?

But disenchanted LibDems in search of a new political home won't find it here, unless they too have abandoned everything they ever believed in.

Wake up, Scotland - and fast! Vote SNP on May 5th.


The enormity of the suffering visited on the Japanese people by the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunamai was bad enough, but the escalating nuclear emergency is now compounding their misery, creating a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. This latest threat may spread beyond the shores of Japan, threatening a much wider population.

A debate about nuclear power has inevitably been triggered by this, as the growing international consensus of recent years over the inevitability of nuclear power as a global response to the energy crisis. A massive rethink is underway, as government after government, nation after nation calls into question their nuclear programmes.

Some questions may legitimately be asked about the objectivity of many of the commentators who now abound on the media. They may reasonably be divided into those opposed to nuclear power because of scientific and environmental concerns, those who support nuclear power because they believe that the safety and environmental concerns are exaggerated,  that nuclear technology has now developed to the point that it is essentially safe and clean, and there is no real alternative to the energy crisis.

But the old, old question must be asked when considering those advancing the arguments - cui bono? - who benefits?

It can reasonably be said that no one benefits, in the sense of career, profits or narrow self-interest from opposing nuclear power. An argument could be made that companies researching and manufacturing green technology and renewables benefit, but since this research technology is also supported by the proponents of nuclear power, it is a rather weak argument.

But the nuclear industry itself is a vast, global aggregation of self-interest - economic, political, research-based and career based, and most importantly of all, is linked inextricable to the defence industry and to nuclear weapons and the policy of nuclear deterrence. It is bad enough for nuclear politicians that the public may distrust civil nuclear power because of its potential to fatally damage the environment and the health of the nation through generations, but when they inevitably follow-though on this logic to distrusting the manufacture, movement and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction within their borders, and the basing and movement of these agents of unimaginable destruction in and through their bays, lochs and international waters, then they know they have a problem on their hands.

And there is the self-interest of those whose finances, jobs and careers are intimately bound up with the continuation of nuclear energy generation and also nuclear weaponry. The danger with such people is denial, doublethink, and the insidious loss of objectivity and judgement. Asking them if they believe in nuclear power and nuclear weaponry and a defence policy based on nuclear deterrence and WMDs is akin to asking a priest, a minister of religion, a rabbi or an imam if they believe in God and churches, synagogues and mosques - if they answer no, their whole raison d’etre vanishes.

Let’s consider, as an example, Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland and a shadow environment minister. One interesting aspect of Jamie Reed is that, according to a recent BBC programme - if I heard right - on which he argued in favour of nuclear power, is that he is a 3rd generation Sellafield worker. I would not dream of suggesting that this pedigree influenced his appointment by a party firmly committed at top level (rather different among the grassroots supporters) to nuclear power, nuclear deterrence and WMDs, nor that the fact that he and two previous generations of his family were dependent for their livelihood on the nuclear shilling might overtly affect his decision making.

What I do say is that in any other area of politics or business, this would have required a declaration of interest, and that his objectivity might just, wholly unconsciously, be affected by this familial background.

Or we might look at a piece in today’s Herald by Anne Johnstone, headlined Why I will speak up for nuclear power.

She makes her case, as she has a right to do, albeit with some rather coloured terms, and her closing paragraph starts with “It’s time we got real.” I agree with that, if not with Anne’s interpretation of getting real.

About half way through, Anne says -

My father, a nuclear physicist,  died last month content in the knowledge that after a generation out in the cold, nuclear power was back on the global agenda.”

I’m sorry for your loss, Anne, I respect your loyalty and your respect for your father’s memory, and don’t want to seem insensitive, but since you refer to his profession and his views, I must retain the same scepticism about your ability to remain objective about nuclear power, the industry that presumably delivered a large part of your family’s income during your formative years. Had you been the daughter of an anti-nuclear protagonists or a Greenpeace activist, I might have been more  inclined to pay significant attention to  your arguments in favour of nuclear power.

Another piece in the Scotsman in the last few days was headlined, with a crassness that defies belief in the light of what Japan is going through - Such accidents may be the price we pay to keep the light on.

This comment was the work of one Malcolm Grimston, described as ‘an energy expert at Chatham House and Imperial College London’.

He trots out the now familiar, feeble, and entirely irrelevant argument that renewable technology such as wave, tidal or offshore wind power ‘would simply have been ripped from the floor of the ocean bed by the earthquake, and washed away by the tsunamai …’

No anti-nuclear protagonist or advocate of wind and wave power has ever suggested otherwise.

What they can say with absolute certainty is that they would not have also represented a nightmare threat to the environment, with evacuation zones measuring tens of miles at minimum, exposing human beings to radiation sickness and cancers that almost certainly would pass through the generations, and pose a threat to the wider global community.

Is this expert, and those of his persuasion, deaf and blind to what is happening in Japan and to the agonised and fearful comments of the ordinary Japanese people, and those beyond its shores who are also at risk? Or are they too ‘part of the price we pay to keep the light on’?


Yet again the law has found for Glasgow City Council and against Margaret Jaconelli, today at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Is this the end for Margaret? Not if she can help it, not if Mike Dailly her solicitor can help it, and not if her friends can help it.

Somehow, the law must be made to see the gross nature of the injustice perpetrated against this Glasgow grandmother by the City of Glasgow.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction after 16th February unless she gets help - legal, political and media help

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. Why? Ask John Reid, Chairman, former Labour Minister. He used to care about people.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. What community are they in? The one of wealth, celebrity & huge developer profits?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Where are the human values of Glasgow's Valuations Department? How do they value the life of a Glasgow grandmother?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli One developer alone made profit of £5.5m on a plot 200 yards from her home. Mactaggart & Mickel will profit from building

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Lived in her home since 1976 - her home, her neighbourhood, her finances destroyed by GCC. All she wants is a fair price

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Compulsory purchase law - a legal maze of conflicting, outmoded legislation. Ordinary Glaswegians destroyed by it, developers make millions

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli She's not refusing to move, nor to negotiate - she only wants a fair price. The developers have made millions from GCC.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Predictably failed by Labour, ConLibs, The Herald, The Record - failed by Glasgow City Councillors. But surely not deserted by SNP???

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli If ever there was a case for MEDIATION, this is it. Can someone act NOW before 16th Feb court eviction appearance?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@David_Mc_Donald Thanks for that David - the family are alone, vulnerable, without legal representation. They need help now from their party

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#SNP Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction in 11 days. Labour, LibDems and Tories predictably silent. But the SNP? John Mason? Alison Thewliss?