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Showing posts with label Newsnight Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Newsnight Scotland. Show all posts

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

An English MP from a minority party - George Galloway - debates with Jim Sillars on Newsnight Scotland special

George Galloway puts himself about as energetically as ever. MP for the English constituency of Bradford, and therefore an English MP (a description at which he takes great offence!) and leader of a minority party, Respect, he seems to find his constituency and Westminster duties so undemanding that he finds loads of time to tour Scotland campaigning against independence – not exactly a minister without portfolio but more opportunist with a carpetbag.

On this second of the Newsnicht specials, he and Jim Sillars are interviewed by three of BBC Scotland’s finest – Isabel Fraser, Gary Robertson and Laura Bicker, BBC network news correspondent based in Scotland who will be part of the new team for Scotland 2014, Newsnight’s replacement for the Referendum.

What can one usefully say about Galloway? He is unfailingly entertaining, the more so since he has lost any real relevance he ever had to British politics, and this doubtless explain the “thousands – thousands – who pay to hear me speak!”, as he boasts vaingloriously here.

In this intimate studio session, he fails to adapt his mass meeting style – loud blustering, hectoring – and totally inappropriate to such a setting – and trots out all the old rhetorical tricks, failed mantras and soundbytes in his trademark style of faux internationalist socialism that is as dead as the dodo. (It is now the stock-in-trade of the right-wing Labour Party that replaced the People’s Party around 1951, and achieved its apotheosis under Blair, Brown and Mandelson.)

Galloway is not only wrong, he “is wrong at the top of his voice”.

Jim Sillars retains his calm, and his considerable dignity in the face of Galloway’s Monkland’s Labour-backroom-style interruptions and attempts at point-scoring, and wins hands down in intellectual terms. Sillars’ reputation is secure in Scotland, as is his place in Scotland’s history. Galloway, in contrast, will be a footnote in UK history.

He can, of course, aspire to replace Tony Benn as a national treasure of the Old Left, to be patronised by people he affects to despise, but I think the affection quotient for this politician - who squandered his formidable oratorical talents in my view - will be sadly lacking.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Black Gold – Scotland’s Oil – media links from Moridura on YouTube

Scotland's Oil: David Bell, Robin McAlpine and Brian Wilson on GMS with Isabel Fraser

 Alex Salmond on Scotland's Oil GMS 23 Jul 2013

 Scottish economy snapshot - July 2013

 Scottish Oil - the manipulations and deceit of the UK to steal Scotland's natural resource

 Ken Macintosh grilled over Scottish economy - and dodgy donation!

 Humza versus Johann and Coalition allies - who fight like ferrets in a sack

 Alex Salmond on Marr Show - 21 Mar 2013

 Scotland's Financial Strength - John Swinney's closing speech at Holyrood

 Oil in the sea? Oil in the rocks? Scotland's natural resources

 Orkney and Shetland - and oil: home rule for Tavish?

Lamont and Davidson, the Bitter Together Sisters, get oil facts and timescale wrong

Two sides of the oil debate - Newsnicht. Swinney and Rennie

 Oil - the Latin American experience and relevance for Scotland - BBC Good Morning Scotland

 Oil and Scotland's Independence - BBC Good Morning Scotland - Isabel Fraser and Derek Bateman

Scotland's Oil and Scotland's future - Alex Salmond – FMQs

 Oil - a finite resource? Newsnicht 2013

 John Swinney and the Lords 6 - the economy, oil and gas - various Lords a-leaping

 Hosie and Macintosh on Scottish oil and the IFS report

 Scotland's oil and the IFS report - Douglas Fraser reports

 Darling and Hosie on oil and independence - Alistair talks down his country

 Gavin McCrone - assets, oil, pensions and embassies

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Sutherland Panel: How hard can it be to ask the Scottish electorate a question? Yet more experts ...

Yet another panel of experts under Lord Sutherland is commissioned to find a question that the Scottish electorate can be asked without being influenced on how they answer it. Panels of experts are always described as 'eminent', 'the best legal brains in the country" etc. by whoever commissions them, and this one is no exception. It is commissioned - or tasked if you like - by the three unionist parties who are opposed to Scotland's independence and who comprise the BetterTogether campaign.

Have they a right to do this? Indeed they have. Is anyone obliged to listen to them? No, they're not. Is the electoral Commission obliged to test their question? No, it's not, unless the UK Government decides to place its imprimatur on it.

What is the difference between this panel and their question, and Alex Salmond's question?

The difference is the Alex Salmond is the First Minister of Scotland in a Government elected with a massive mandate to run a consultative referendum and to frame the question, present it to the Scottish Parliament, vote on it, then implement it. That's democracy in action.


Lord Sutherland is a British Lord, a life peer and a Knight of the Thistle. He has had a distinguished career, and has chaired other enquiries. He may be reasonably described as a distinguished member of the British Establishment.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Scotland’s NATO membership – a deeply flawed concept and a retreat from principle

Five key facts -

1. NATO is firmly committed to nuclear weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence, and only a unanimous vote by all 28 member states can change that policy (29 member states if rUK remains a member and Scotland becomes a member after independence.) In other words, the three nuclear member states can veto any attempt to abandon nuclear weapons.

2. From NATO site: "Whilst the North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the ultimate authority within NATO, the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) which meets annually in Defence Ministers format is the ultimate authority within NATO with regard to nuclear policy issues."

3. A democratic vote or consent to use nuclear weapons by the member states is not required to launch a nuclear strike. (The authorisation of the Kosovo bombing provides a salutary example of how things might work. Effectively, the USA military decides, supported by UK and France)

4. The situation of Scotland is fundamentally different from that of any other member state - it hosts the UK nuclear deterrent, and if it insists on the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, rUK cannot host them and will cease to be a nuclear power. This poses a threat to NATO's nuclear stance that is posed by no other member state.

Although Scotland will reiterate its non-nuclear policy after independence, it must negotiate the manner and timescale of the removal of Trident and nuclear-armed submarines from Scottish waters.

5. The 25 non-nuclear member states are members of a defence alliance that can - and would - launch a nuclear strike in their name without their authority.  The 25 non-nuclear states cannot vote to remove nuclear weapons from NATO or make any changes to its policy because of the veto power of the three nuclear states.

What is the SNP proposing on NATO membership and why?

I posted the full Newsnight Scotland interview between Angus Robertson MP and Isabel Fraser, incl. the short but useful analysis that preceded it. In total it lasted 6m 40 secs, with the interview section being only 5m 10 secs. (For that edition of Newsnight Scotland, the producers clearly though same sex marriage was a much bigger topic than membership of a nuclear alliance that has the capacity to exterminate millions. But I believe they have a longer, more in-depth analysis planned of the SNP’s defence policy. God knows, such a programme is overdue – and vital.)

However, I have split the vital content up in edits to point up the individual contribution. Nothing has been edited out of these sections. Here is Angus Robertson’s full contribution – 3m 45 secs -  minus Isabel Fraser.

Here is Isabel Fraser asking all of her five questions -

Here are the five questions individually -

Angus Robertson answered none of them to my satisfaction. His approach was what I call the torrent of words approach – a kind of mini-filibuster style adopted by politicians when they don’t want to be pinned down. It was partially effective, and perhaps understandable, given the ridiculously short time available, but to me it was consistent with the half-truths and evasions that have characterised the lead-up to this revelation of the SNP leadership’s real intentions on NATO membership.

But the questions still hang there, waiting for an answer.

Since Angus Robertson’s contribution did not fully answer my question above - What is the SNP proposing on NATO membership and why?I must try to fill the gaps myself.


“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and will remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.”

“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO.”

“ … An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations. In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. …”

The Faslane base will remain, as Joint Forces Headquarters, and will be central to the SNP’s defence structure.

I believe that summarises the essence of the SNP’s NATO position – the full defence paper contains a great deal more than this about other aspect of Scotland’s defence plans.

Before looking at why the SNP are doing this (and I believe that they are being disingenuous about at least some of their reasons for abandoning a long-held anti-NATO policy) let’s examine the feasibility of them achieving membership of NATO while removing Trident and maintaining a non-nuclear policy.

“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)”

Well, will it? On what is this assumption based? One would assume that it is legal advice based on examination of international law on newly independent countries.

I’m no lawyer, but the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties must be relevant here, however it is a deeply controversial document in its relevant clauses. (I am indebted to a Danish contact, Troels, for much information. Troels is interested in Scottish affairs but does not take a position on them, feeling that it is Scotland’s business.)

Article 16 states that newly independent states receive a "clean slate", whereas article 34(1) states that all other new states remain bound by the treaty obligations of the state from which they separated. Moreover, article 17 states that newly independent states may join multilateral treaties to which their former colonizers were a party without the consent of the other parties in most circumstances, whereas article 9 states that all other new states may only join multilateral treaties to which their predecessor states were a part with the consent of the other parties.

Scotland, in separating from the UK, would seem to come under article 34(1) and article 9. Among the many perceptions of this must be the possibility that Scotland would be bound to NATO obligations under article 34(1) but could be turfed out under article 9. If so, they presumably cease to be bound by NATO obligations.

Let’s look at what Lord (George) Robertson, a former general secretary of NATO says in today’s Herald. Under the headline Nationalists’ Nato policy shift branded a ‘cynical’ ploy the noble Lord of Islay is quoted as follows -

Lord Robertson, former secretary-general of Nato, was contemptuous of the SNP leadership's planned policy shift, saying: "This is a cynical exercise to get rid of another electoral albatross. Membership of Nato involves accepting its Strategic Concept, which clearly sets out a position and policy on nuclear defence, so countries in Nato will greet the Nationalist approach with derision."

Angus MacNeil, the co-signatory of the SNP NATO proposal has today reminded George Robertson of his  remarks during a speech to the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations in 2001 - "In the Founding Act, NATO committed itself to the famous three nuclear "no's" - no intention, no plan and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of the new members - a commitment still valid."

I think, Angus, that the wee Lord of Islay will speedily invoke the Vienna convention relevant articles (above) to refute that one – but we’ll see

NATO’s strategic concept includes the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and any member state signs up to that, even if they are non-nuclear. They cannot amend that, nor can they veto their use. NATO is not a democracy – it is  a military alliance dominated by three nuclear states.

A real question exists over whether NATO could demand that Scotland honour aspect of  its treaty obligations, e.g. provision of safe havens to nuclear-armed NATO submarines, while refusing to allow an independent Scotland to join or remain in  NATO. (Angus Robertson conspicuously avoided answering Isabel Fraser’s question on that topic.)

“An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations.”

I can see no problem with the second half of that, the right of Scotland to refuse to take part in non UN-sanctioned operations, but the first part – the key part – sure as hell does pose problems. The difficult question to address is the negotiating dynamics of such a negotiating objective – for that is what it is.

Put bluntly, the SNP leadership want to maintain their nuclear virginity by getting rid of Trident while joining a nuclear alliance committed to retaining and using it without Scotland’s permission, or that of the other 25 non-nuclear member countries. Bear in mind that if Scotland is successful in removing Trident, the high probability is that the rUK would cease to be a nuclear power. Angus Robertson stated on Newsnight Scotland, “nuclear weapons being stationed in another country is a matter of bi-lateral arrangements between the two countries concerned – it doesn’t involve NATO at all, and in this case, that would be the relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom – it’s not a matter for NATO at all …”

That is either naive or disingenuous. The idea that NATO would not have a significant influence on the rUK Ministry of Defence, and on any negotiations over Scotland’s NATO membership and Trident doesn’t stand up for a moment – in my view.

In essence, if we take the SNP’s negotiating stance at face value (I don’t) they will be saying to NATO – “Let us remain under the NATO defence umbrella and in return we will destroy rUK’s status as a nuclear power and remove at a stroke a major part of NATO European nuclear strike capacity.”

That is how it is being presented to the membership – it is how it will be presented at conference on October – a nice, clean-cut offer – or take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum, depending on your viewpoint. And from my Twitter exchanges, that is exactly the simplistic interpretation placed on it by many SNP supporters – Trident out and we’re in NATO – say no, and Trident goes anyway and Scotland joins Partnership for Peace (an organisation founded by NATO, incidentally).

My belief is that the SNP strategists’ position is far more complex than that – if it was not, they would be eaten alive in the negotiations. What I believe it really is disturbs me deeply, but whether it is or isn’t right now, here is my scenario of where we will wind up if we do go down this deeply misconceived route.

We will wind up in NATO, with at best, a token disarming of Trident warheads - something that can happen quickly and be reversed just as quickly – a commitment to a long period of theoretical decommissioning of ten to twenty years, and will be committed provide ‘safe haven’ to NATO nuclear-armed submarines. The high likelihood is that if a deeply unstable world survives 10/20 years without a nuclear war,  the vaporisation of Faslane and a large part of the West of Scotland and permanent pollution of the rest of it, the decommissioning will never happen, and Scotland will remain home to WMDs and Trident.

It is believed by many commentators that the SNP is going down this route solely because they believe that it will play well with a sector of the electorate for a YES vote in the referendum, and those opposed to NATO membership but supporting independence (like me) will still vote yes. They are right on the second assumption but perhaps not on the first. While I believe the referendum vote is part of the SNP’s rationale, I don’t believe it is anything like the prime reason. If I did, I would resign right now at such cynical expediency.

There is a lot more I could do – and may well do – on examining the negotiating strategy on defence, but for the moment I’ll wind up.

Here is the total Angus Robertson/Isabel Fraser interview -

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Scottish local election results - the inquest and the spin

In business and in consulting and training I was always fascinated by the behaviour of managers when faced with difficulties or failure to achieve objectives, especially when they involved interaction with others. Broadly, the reactions were of two kinds - blaming behaviour and objective analysis. The blamers never learned from their failures - they simply justified them by attributing failure to circumstances beyond their control, or the behaviour of their opponents, or went into denial, claiming that either no failure had occurred or that the outcome didn’t matter. Blamers then repeated their failures ad infinitum.

The analysers rapidly identified factors that were completely beyond their control, and went on to analyse those that were within their control, examining their own context, strategy, tactics and behaviour to pinpoint the weaknesses:  they then modified their approach, and learned the lesson for future events.

This is how true professionals behave. It is how successful people behave, whether they are doctors, surgeons, engineers, pilots, footballers, managers, lawyers, musicians, comedians - or politicians.

The professional approach does not ignore the behaviour of others - it takes it as a given, and considers how to effectively deal with it. In other words, it is “How do I play the hand I have been dealt most effectively?” not “The hand I was dealt was beyond my control therefore I am absolved of blame or responsibility for the way I play it.”

However, politicians  have to deal with the fact that perception is reality, perhaps to a higher degree than in other professions. While being objective and analytical in private, they must consider how their successes and failures are perceived in public, because that perception influences voting behaviour. The danger in this is a bit like the comedian facing a hostile or unreceptive audience - if he or she falls into the trap of seeming to blame the audience - or worse, laugh at own jokes and be self-congratulatory - the failure is fatally compounded.

Grace in defeat, and wry acknowledgement of failure are not qualities one normally associates with politicians. When it comes, it comes as a breath of fresh air, but is not always recognised as such by the majority, and is often exploited as a weakness by opponents. The supposed unofficial motto of Balliol College tends to be invoked - never apologise, never explain


Much of the above behaviour regrettably has been evident in SNP emails, tweets  and some blog responses to the election result in Glasgow, although not, thankfully, from the Party official spokespersons, nor in the main from the real activists who did the hard work of canvassing and leafleting. They welcomed the overall success of the SNP campaign across Scotland and pointed out that Glasgow Labour simply held what they had expected to lose, whereas the SNP had made significant gains in what was always going to be their most challenging fight.

The Great BBC Conspiracy Theorists are out in force of course, obsessed by the presentation of the results and the numbers on television, and apparently oblivious to the aspect of BBC coverage that has something relevant and vital to say, such as the clip I posted of the Scottish section of the Newsnicht panel who offered opinions on this. 

To try and reduce the amount of indignant “Did you know that …” emails and YouTube comments that I will soon have to delete relating to this clip, let me say that I know the backgrounds and previous incarnations and occupations of Lorraine Davidson and David Torrance (not to mention a rash of other information of the McCarthyite genre that I am regularly gratuitously offered) and I have closely followed the articles and commentaries of Iain Macwhirter over many years. My interest was in what they said, not in Machiavellian speculation as to why they said it: what they said was highly pertinent, and something that the SNP must evaluate carefully.

Lorraine Davidson:The SNP have had a good night, but because of the symbolism of Glasgow, and the headline that that is - in the same way that Boris/Ken show is the headline in the UK story, that’s the perception and the illusion that voters are left with.”

The report that followed addressed what clearly is a vital question - turnout - and the implications of low turnout for the perceived legitimacy of democratic processes, with Ross Martin’s (CSPP) view that we are in the ‘danger zone’ when we begin to fall below, say, 40%, and the results are “a little bit squeaky in democratic legitimacy terms”. (There are ominous portents for me in this statement on local elections for the crucial question of the ‘legitimacy’ of the Referendum outcome in 2014 an engagement in the referendum arguments and processes.) Ross Martin welcomed the local differences in turnout as perhaps a hopeful sign of engagement and localism. As he tellingly observed, when we go below 30%, “the game’s a bogey” and serious questions need to be asked.

Gordon Brewer positioned the discussion around the fact that both Labour and the SNP “seem to have legitimate claims to have done best” and a certain ambiguity in the outcome.

David Torrance:I think the SNP have clearly won this election …

Let me freeze frame on that statement for a moment, for the reason that those conspiracists who are convinced that David Torrance is a dyed-in-the-wool Tory and UK apologist and a planted lackey of the Great Beeb Conspiracy against Scotland’s Independence (instead of the biographer  of Alex Salmond, author of a number of respected political and historical works, and a thoughtful commentator on Scottish and UK politics) will have totally ignored or blanked out this statement - those of them who had not already announced their fear of watching the programme because of expectations of bias (as some did on Twitter)

David Torrance:I think the SNP have clearly won this election. Winning elections is measured by total number of seats and share of the vote, and they appear to have won both. And they have certainly won it. I think it was more of a psychological victory for the Labour Party, because they simply didn’t expect to do this well and indeed the SNP expected to do quite a bit better.

That’s it in a nutshell for me, and anyone who disagrees with that is grinding axes, spinning and not looking objectively at the facts and the numbers. That takes us to another fact that some nationalist supporters would dearly like to ignore - that the SNP had greater numbers of activists on the ground , were better organised and had better data about core support than Labour, yet did not do as well as they hoped and expected. There can only be one reason for that - something in the message, and in the behaviour of the SNP at senior policy level did not - and does not - resonate with a significant number of Glasgow Labour voters. But there were also local issues: every party member knows what they were, and I don’t intend to give them more airtime here.

Lorraine Davidson:I think the SNP have won the election but they have lost the expectations game. The problem that they had was that, with Glasgow - which was going to be a stunning prize for them, and an important part of the journey towards the referendum - they had to first of all put themselves in contention as serious players to win that election. Hence the Spring conference and the predictions that they were going to take Glasgow, a couple of months ago.

“The problem with that is that when you create that kind of expectation around an election, you’re then left trying to explain away why you didn’t pull that off. The reason they didn’t pull that off was that it was totally unrealistic - they were never going to be able to pull that off.”

Although I don’t agree with Lorraine’s last conclusion - that the SNP were never going to pull it off (remember May 2001?) - I think it is a fair and accurate assessment of why Labour were delirious and the media mesmerised by their success in holding off the challenge. The other key factor is of course the fact that the single transferrable vote is designed to reduce radically the likelihood of overall majorities, just as the dHondt method of voting for Holyrood elections was, and when an election leaps that formidable hurdle, it is seen as an achievement and a highly significant one, just as the SNP second term victory was. As Lorraine Davidson then rightly pointed out, the SNP strategists are going to have to look very hard at the implications of the Glasgow and the Edinburgh results for the Referendum.

Iain Macwhirter was next to comment. Of late, Iain Macwhirter has been uncharacteristically strident in his criticisms of the SNP. Normally the most relaxed and urbane of commentators, he suddenly became very forceful and a bit dogmatic, notably in his attacks on Alex Salmond (the Ewan Cameron/Gary Robertson radio exchange on Good Morning, Scotland being a case in point.). But here, he had reverted to the old style, and to my ear was almost anodyne in his analysis.

He started by saying that, given the landslide victory of May 2011, including winning a lot of Glasgow seats, that it was realistic of the SNP to think they could win the city in the local elections, or at least break Labour’s grip on the city. “Clearly they allowed their expectations to run away with them, but I don’t think it was unrealistic for them to make that attempt.”  He went on to make the important point about recovering momentum and enthusiasm.

Iain Macwhirter:The truth is that both Labour and the SNP won this election - they both made advances.”

Anyone who seriously challenges this statement, Labour or SNP, is being blinded by partisanship. As he said, both sides have been “picking over the carcass of the Liberal Democrats …”

David Torrance:You can read too much into these results, but the major effect is psychological …”

He went on to say that Labour had managed this result with, in the words of one Labour person, “a party machine that was broken.”

If the SNP don’t take these comments on board, they are in danger of losing not only momentum, but the referendum narrative. I believe that the Party strategists are clear about this, but in fuelling the “we won - Glasgow was just a disappointment” spin on the results among some of their supporters, they are taking a big risk.

I leave the last word with David Torrance, which will of course be interpreted by some as supporting Labour and attacking the SNP, which is ludicrous, given Torrance’s background. It is absolutely accurate, and should be a clarion call to the SNP to think hard about Glasgow and the West, and the psychology of the West of Scotland voter. Commenting on Labour’s management of this result with few resources, and against the formidable SNP machine, he said -

David Torrance:Just imagine what Labour can do with more money, when they have a greater confidence in what they are doing - and a better developed message.  It’s a slight, modest halt on the SNP advance - no more than that - but it gives Labour something to build on.”

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 ...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Referendum eye chart tidied up – with thanks to Garve
















It's that Old Devil Called Devo Max Again! - The Qvortrup/Salmond Duo

The name’s Max – Devo Max, licensed to talk nonsense about independence: my number is 1707-2014 – give me a call sometime …”

In moments of slight megalomania, I imagine that at least some of the things I write might have a tiny influence on the media, but I am rapidly brought down to earth by watching news and current affairs broadcasts. I gave a bit of well-meaning advice on the use of the inaccurate cliché “It may be … but …” as an all-purpose opener or/and closer to news items, but here is Glenn Campbell at it again on his second item on Newsnight Scotland on the Scottish Tories. “The election may be over …” says Glenn. No, it is over Glenn, hadn’t you noticed – the results are in, the winner is confirmed. Do they hand these conversation lozenges over the presenters just before the programme starts, to be chewed and then regurgitated? Or are they now in the DNA?

But my real concern was with the first item on, guess what, devo max and the referendum. BBC presenters are now akin to the Flying Dutchman, condemned to roam the ether, always asking the same questions – What is devo max?- When will the referendum be? - What could the questions be? To sustain them in this endless, fruitless quest, they have an unlimited supply of commentators and experts who don’t know the answers either, and they have a built-in deficiency which prevents them from hearing the answers when they are given, usually by Alex Salmond or Angus Robertson. What ******* chance have I got in offering some clarity?

The referendum and the Noon explanation

Referendum - initial follow-up

Referendum and questions


Here is my referendum eye chart. Please look at the chart and read each line from the top down. Don’t worry if you can’t read or understand it – you are part of a large group that has similar problems.
















Thank you – that concludes the test. I have to tell you that conventional spectacles are not going to prove sufficient to correct your disability, given that you didn’t get beyond the first line, and even understanding that caused you some difficulty. Laser surgery is, I’m afraid, the only option, but it does involve radical adjustment of your political perspective. But you have over two years to decide. Meanwhile, do try to get on with your life. Writing fantasy fiction can help.

May I suggest a couple of topics that will keep you safely shielded from reality? How about How to re-energise the Tory Party in Scotland – that could also be a fantasy comedy – and What Labour Must Do – that would, of course, be a tragedy …

Thursday, 3 November 2011

I’m finding it hard to defend BBC Scotland today …

I grew up with the BBC. My earliest memories are of the BBC in 1939 in the lead-up to war. I didn’t understand the significance of what the announcers were saying, but I saw the tension and sensed the apprehension among my older male relatives. The BBC was my ear on the world and in the 1950s it became my window on the world.  I am one of a declining minority of the population who heard William Joyce – Lord Haw Haw – live, and felt the chill at that braying voice saying “Germany calling, Germany calling”. My instinct is to defend the BBC, because it was the voice of freedom in a world infected by fascism.

Since becoming a nationalist, then a blogger and a YouTube clip poster, radio and television news broadcasts have become very important to me, and with this has come a highly-developed sensitivity to balance and bias in the media. In this period, I have to say that had I, or any Scottish voter, never mind any nationalist, relied on the Scottish or the UK press to get an idea of what was going on in Scottish politics, then the SNP governments would never have been elected, no matter how hard they campaigned on the doorsteps – their voice, and vitally, the image of their people and politicians would have been either completely absent or presented pejoratively.

It was television news and current affairs programmes that made the SNP what it is today, and the BBC, with all its failings, was in my view the major contributor to that, albeit sometimes in spite of themselves. Its nationalists critics – and by God, have they bent my ear – would never have been aware of most of the issues they were addressing without the BBC, their target. (Of course this was not true of party activists and insiders.)

Without the Politics Show Scotland, Newsnight Scotland, the weekly broadcast of FMQs, Channel 81 coverage, and, yes, the UK-level programmes like The Daily Politics, Newsnight, and Question Time, the Scottish National Party would not have had many of its best moments, its peak exposure, Alex Salmond would not have become the national and international figure he has become, nor in my view, I repeat, would the SNP have been elected to government.

Had the nationalist movement been reliant on NewsnetScotland and the army of bloggers like me, it would not remotely have been enough. The online community, vital though they are to our democracy and freedom of expression, would have had only marginal impact of they had not had the televised media to react to, to clip, to deride, to criticise, to comment on. And capable though many online commentators are, few, if any, can match the professionalism and the resources that professional journalists and commentators can bring to the debate.

But I have not been an uncritical defender of the BBC, or any media outlet, and anyone who thinks this should really take the trouble to trawl through my output over the last few years. I can say that I would have had no existence as a blogger, commentator or YouTube poster without the mainstream media. The relationship, whether I or anyone else likes it or not, is a symbiotic one.

But it has got harder and harder to ignore the blatant bias in the print media, the insidious practice of unionist propaganda by partisan headline in factual news items while a pretence at objectivity is maintained – one might say buried – in the main body of text. The Scotsman has become notorious in this regard. The Herald, often guilty of it, seems to be emerging into a period of relative objectivity, with periodic lapses.


The focus of much of the inchoate rage of some nationalists has been Newsnight Scotland, and I have to say they have sometimes deserved it. Their position is unenviable in the schedules, with 20 minutes after the big budget Newsnight. I’ll say no more on that, because it has been covered comprehensively and effectively by Pete Martin, creative director of the Gate Worldwide in the Scotsman today in his article STV’s new contender has BBC on the ropes. Pete Martin article – Scotsman

He is referring to Scotland Tonight, with John Mackay as frontman, scheduled at 10.30 p.m. Last night, the juxtaposition and content of these two programmes pointed up, as nothing has previously done, what has gone wrong with Newsnight Scotland recently.

Leaving aside the fact that the global finance system appears to be approaching meltdown, the EU is in crisis, and the spectacularly incompetent UK Coalition government has no idea where to position itself in this maelstrom, the big story for Scotland yesterday was the ‘confidential’ advice given by Cititgroup, an international banking giant, to its investment clients which found its way at remarkable speed on to the media and into PMQs in Westminster, to avoid investment in renewable technology in Scotland while “the uncertainty created by the referendum” – a line that could not have been bettered by an uber-unionist – continued.

A correspondent yesterday, Joe Boyle, offered me this analysis of David Cameron’s delight, as he seized  upon this, an analysis that I cannot better -

Joe Boyle (by email)

It may also interest you to know that David Cameron is possibly the only head of state of the UK parliament to ever suggest ( in or out of the Parliament) that it is a bad idea for investors to invest in a part of the British Isles. Not even at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland was such a suggestion ever proposed. In fact this may well be a world first for Mr Cameron..... so potentially Guinness Book of records stuff

This statement was instantly picked up by all the news media, and uncritically reported in news bulletins from lunchtime onwards. The SNP’s response was frankly, underwhelming. In fairness, they were flat-footed initially by this bolt from the blue, and simply pointed out that the knowledge of the referendum had not deterred investment up to this point. But there could be little doubt that it was damaging – the unionist pack clearly thought so, and I for one felt that the recent SNP stance on negative stories, of lofty disdain and “we don’t do negative – keep your eyes uplifted to the shining future ..” might be a bit inadequate to cope with this.

So I dug a bit on Citigroup, relying on memory and significantly on Wikipedia – always  a risky course – and banged up a hasty blog early in the evening in the slight hope of influencing the late night media programmes Scotland Tonight and Newsnight Scotland. I realised that this was almost certainly futile, since the programmes were probably being recorded at that moment, but I retained a touching faith in powerful, albeit regional broadcasters, well-resourced, to shift gear rapidly in the face of breaking stories.

This faith was partly vindicated by Scotland Tonight and utterly betrayed by Newsnight Scotland.

Scotland Tonight led with the Citigroup story and had a former Scottish power supremo pitted against Fergus Ewing, the relevant SNP minister. Fergus Ewing was as unimpressive as the earlier SNP responses, seemed unprepared factually, and both he and Scotland Tonight did not see fit to address the elephant in the room – the facts about Citigroup, its monumental failures, losses, bailouts by the US government, strange relationships with powerful regulatory officials in the US government, etc.  Something of an open goal for Fergus Ewing, the SNP and a great story hook for any journalist worthy of the name, one would have thought. But no – not a whisper.

But at least Scotland Tonight covered the story. Newsnight Scotland seemed to have suffered an attack of amnesia about that second word in its programme title – Scotland. Instead, it chose to do its own little derivative coverage of the big European crisis, a story already covered in depth and highly professionally across the entire UK and international media all day, and by Newsnight just before Gordon Brewer launched in to his Ladybird Book of the European financial crisis.

He had chosen to aid him in this little copycat venture three arch unionists – Bill Jamieson, John McFall and Alf Young. Of the Scottish Government, a government recently elected with a massive majority and a firm mandate, not a sign, nor of anyone that could put the European story in the crucial context of Scotland at this pivotal point in its history. Of the Citigroup/renewable investment story – not a dicky bird.

This programme, by omission and by cack-handed selection of topic and panel members was, last night, an embarrassment to the BBC as a public service broadcaster, to Scottish democracy, and frankly to journalistic values.

I’m finding it hard to defend BBC Scotland today …

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What Scots thought about government in 2010 - Scottish Social Attitudes Survey

A fascinating document, the findings of which are not as easily attacked by the Unionists as the ComRes poll and other samples.

But the big question is where does Scotland stand today? And where will it stand on the fateful day when its electors cast their votes on independence?

On that day, be on the right side of history, Scots - vote YES for freedom.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The London riots - the Commons debate and the media

When events go wrong in a country, the government feels under pressure. If it is a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans in 2005, the government cannot be held responsible for the hurricane, but they are responsible for dealing with it, and not only their actions in handling the crisis can be called into question, but also their foresight - or lack of it - in preparing for it, not only in the period when it was known to be imminent, but in previous long-term preparations for ‘known unknowns’, the knowledge that there will be hurricanes and floods, although the exact timing cannot be predicted far  in advance.

When things go wrong that seem to be clearly linked to either the action or the inaction of government, for example the failure of an economic or social policy or programme - or the lack of one - or a diplomatic or defence initiative, or the lack of one, governments are subject to even greater direct criticism. To take an example that is half a century old - currently being dramatised in The Hour on BBC - Prime Minister Anthony Eden was criticised by the United States and the USSR for supporting Israel by bombing Egypt in the Suez crisis (The Tripartite Aggression) in 1956, and he resigned in January 1957. He would also have come under heavy criticism from allies France and Israel and from some sections of his own party had he not acted.

(The posture of the US and President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles was highly ambivalent, as revealed by subsequent unguarded remarks by Dulles.)

The measure of a government, a politician, or an industrialist - or indeed any man or woman - may be gauged by their willingness to take unpopular decisions, either to act or refrain from action. But refraining from action as a conscious choice is not inaction - the failure to act out of cowardice, political expediency or lack of imagination or vision most certainly is inaction.


They can be summarised as -

No one could have foreseen this - it was totally unexpected.

This is caused by global factors beyond our control.

This was caused by the actions of the last government (when it wasn’t us) or, in the event that we were the last government, by the irresponsibility of our political opponents.

This is not representative - it was one rogue individual, company or group.

This is a failure of personal morality, family, schools, academics, i.e. anybody or anything but us, the government. Government policies and actions never lead to bad outcomes, except when our opponents are in government.

This was an act of nature - or God - and we now must deal with it.


The Westminster response, from the headless chicken initial response of Cameron, Clegg and the Coalition  to the response of Parliament in the debate yesterday, with the political solidarity characteristic of a threat of war rather than an outbreak of civil unrest, contained elements of almost all of the above defences with the exception of global factors, and they would have thrown that into the  excuse pot if they could have got away with it.

The consensus analysis seems to be, in a classic exercise in doublethink, that the riots just happened, could not have been predicted, had no contributory causes that in any way could be attributed to government policies or actions, past or present, but nevertheless were the entirely predictable result of a long-term decline in family values, loss of parental control, marriage, personal morality, a failure of discipline at all levels, the Human Rights Act, social media - the list goes on.

I watched the first hour and a half of the debate, gave up in disgust, recorded the rest and sampled it. Here are a few of my increasingly exasperated tweets as the debate droned on.

TWITTER 11th August 2011 @moridura

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

It's the gangs - but why did young people join gangs? Always the same reasons: failure of government to provide jobs, hope, and purpose

It's all about crime and criminals - blame the culture, the parents, social media - everything and everybody except Government

Cameron/riots: Will the de-masking deal with religious masking?

Cameron catalogues what he will do - concentrating on compensation for damages

Police may remove face coverings - I agree with that - no one should be allowed to go masked in public - no one

Cameron/riots. What does a government do when public order fails as a result of their policies - attack human rights. And there will be more

Cameron: "The riots are not in any way representative of our country" Not representative but symptomatic...


Ed Miliband - usual preamble - true face of Britain, etc. Wait for the beef ... Where's the beef?

Get past the clichés, Ed - say something for god's sake ...

Ed M. Go out and listen to the people. Explain how their voices will be heard. Independent commission of enquiry - reaching out ...

Ed M: Deeper reasons - "To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse" Good one, Ed ...

Ed M: Will there be a cap on help fund?

The PM and the police cuts - will he think again? Swifter justice system - capacity of courts? Tough sentence deserved and expected.

Ed M: The Army? Funding of operational costs? Increased police presence? How long?

Ed M: Questions of hope and aspiration. Not about any one government. You're right there, Ed - it's about the 13years of Labour too


Cameron: Cosy regards to Ed - all sweetness and light - for the moment ...

DC: Tear up the manual of public order

DC: Not about resources - about deep moral issues. (Growls from House)

House starts to growl and mutter at police cuts. DC begins to face the flak

DC: Vague rabbiting on. Gets to operational costs - vague, evasive answers. Police budgets - cash reductions over 4 years - 6%!


Pompous old Scots git Malcolm Rifkind -

DC: Stonewall on police numbers - but it won't wash, David ...

Jack Straw: PMs repetition of Treasury lines about numbers not good enough

David Lammy: Lost homes -where were the police? PM must speak to Tottenham victims. Public enquiry - skirmishes led chaos

David Davis: Ethnic tension over young Asian deaths. Measures?

Wee Hazel Blears. Criminality, etc. Like the criminality of MPs over expenses? Where were the polis then, Hazel?

They're all sliding away from reality into denial of accountability of any government, any UK policy. I've had enough - lunch!

Oh, God! Nadine Dorris - water cannon, tear gas - the whole right-wing repression, dangerous crap. Go ahead, UK - attack the people!

Now more than 1.5 hrs into 'debate' - a cosy consensus between the parties - it was Blackberries, crooks, parents, morality, etc.

(At this point, the tedious sequence of predictable, formulaic contributions led me to produce a few stereotypes -)

Fragrant Tory babe Penny: "No moral compass, positive role models." e.g. Sir RS Likr, XBE, YBE, ZBE

Sir RS Liker,XBE, RBE, ZBE (etc), failed Scots Tory: "May I - etc. etc." Oh, God ...

Tory Babe: May I welcome - congratulate the PM - praise police - blame parents and Blackberries - demand the police are set free ...

Sir RightWing Nutter, KBE: Give the police flame throwers, grenades, napalm etc. These teenagers must be dealt with. Rule Brittannia!


Making political capital out of the riots. It is political, stupid - it's the bloody UK in operation

DC: Admiration for Strathclyde police. They'll be even better when Scotland is free of the UK - and you, Dave -

No real debate - Commons is the UK in denial and complacent conspiracy of silence. Why? Because the three main parties are culpable.

RW F.Luent Tory: Thugs, hooligans, etc. Compensate businesses.

Speaker reprimands Cameron!

SNP leader Angus Roberston is told PM not aware of any conversations with Scottish gov on riots, but Cameron praises police co-operation.

(At this point, I gave up in disgust, and went for lunch.)


A special edition of Question Time was scheduled. I looked forward to it eagerly - I should have known better. Essentially it mirrored the vacuity of Westminster, but with some flashes of real insight from Fraser Nelson, whose politics I don’t share, and whose persona is that of one of the kind of Establishment Scots that I can’t stand. But he does talk some very hard sense at times, and I delighted in his demolition of the increasingly ridiculous John Prescott, who lathered up with synthetic indignation in his plain-spoken, man-of-the people Lord Something or Other style, seemingly unaware that he was part of the group who are supposed to be governing the country.

Newsnight Scotland again was a deep disappointment - what can I say that I haven’t already said? They also missed the point completely on the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the Scottish Left, who apparently feel left oot!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Legacy? - What Legacy? - The Commonwealth Games

Newsnight Scotland’s first half last night was devoted to the question of what lasting benefit, if any, will result from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It started well, asked the right questions of the right people, including Dr. Libby Porter of Glasgow University, who as far as I know is Scotland’s only expert on international urban regeneration projects, and John Beattie, former rugby internationalist and now a broadcaster.

Both made highly relevant contributions: both questioned if there was any real legacy of such events. Dr. Porter asked what should be the central questions in this debate - who benefits by such projects, and the one that is never asked - who suffers because of them? The answer is clear - property developers, athletes and politicians benefit, and the local people - the beating heart of the area being ‘developed’ - suffer, and are, on occasion, destroyed economically and emotionally by the development juggernaut.

This first part of the Newsnight item occupied one third of the total time budget - the remaining two thirds were devoted to a talking heads studio discussion of mind-bending banality and irrelevancy between Gordon Brewer and Doug Gillen, a sports journalist, and Professor Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University.

Newsnight Scotland had the choice, of course, of including real people, ordinary Scots whose lives had been turned upside down by Glasgow City Council and the Commonwealth Games developers - the Dalmarnock families and small businesses, who have been forced out of their homes and have received no compensation whatsoever because they had the temerity to challenge the derisory sums offered to them, while already rich property developers were having millions thrown at them by GCC - or the mothers of the disabled children who are wholly dependent on The Accord Centre, which is being taken away from them, with no satisfactory replacement.

But such an injection of real life and real people into the debate would have been emotional, untidy and difficult to manage, whereas a couple a talking heads, however, irrelevant to the debate, was the infinitely easier option, the default choice of lazy journalists and lazy producers everywhere.

Alternatively, Newsnight Scotland could have given Libby Porter a place on the panel, or even the total slot, because she has lived and breathed the Dalmarnock experience, got involved with the real, vulnerable human beings who are obscured by the glib PR of politicians and Glasgow Council, and their ever-compliant companions, the Scottish Press. Libby, an Australian, didn’t just theorise in the groves of academe, she was there on the streets, and behind the barricades, sharing the pain when the full force of the Glasgow City Council, the law and the Glasgow Police were thrown against one of the families, the Jaconellis.

The Sun's horrifying eviction report and video

I look forward to the New Scotland after independence, but some of its people and its institutions are going to have to take a long, hard look at themselves if they are to be a part of it. The people of Dalmarnock have been betrayed by their media, their press and above all, by the professional classes of Scotland, with a tiny number of glowing exceptions.

The Human cost of the commonwealth Games

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A great Scot speaks bluntly – Ian Hamilton QC, the man who stole the Stone of Destiny

What a wonderful, hard-headed, and inspirational Scot! Tommy and Gail Sheridan are lucky to count him as a friend, and certainly deserve to do so. He supports them, not from political sympathy, but from a deep and fundamental concern for justice, humanity, the law and for Scotland.

I don't agree with his evaluation of Kenny MacAskill, nor do I agree that Alex Salmond should have pursued independence earlier. I believe that the SNP might still have been out of government if he had.

But what is my view against such a distinguished lawyer and great nationalist's perceptions? I salute him, and he won't give damn for my plaudits or endorsement, nor should he …

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Alex Salmond and Gordon Brewer – Independence, Wins, Minority, Coalition?

From The Scottish Sun - Poll 20th April 2011



With a politician as confident and straightforward as this, comment is superfluous. What could I add, except my unqualified admiration for one of the greatest statesmen Scotland has ever produced.

Vote SNP! Alex Salmond for First Minister.

Saor Alba!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Annabel Goldie – evasive and confused on Newsnight. Gordon Brewer wields the scalpel

Annabel Goldie - self-proclaimed straight talker, and claims to tell it like it is. But not much evidence of that in this evasive and confused performance. Another fine dissection by Gordon Brewer on Newsnight Scotland. There is some very muddy thinking at the heart of Tory policy, rivalling Labour for incoherence – and that’s saying something …

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tavish the Doublethink–a train wreck interview with Gordon Brewer

Tavish Scott is a pathetic spectacle these days, reflecting all the pressures that are destroying his boss Nick Clegg’s credibility and morale, but with the certain knowledge that he and his Scottish ‘party’ will face the wrath of the electorate just over three week, while the architect of his misfortunes and his fellow jerry builders may be able to defer the consequences of their folly for year or so.

Tavish and the Scottish LibDems quite simply are expendable in the Cleggite game plan, and Danny Alexander and Michael Moore, having tasted the heady delights of the illusion of power, are focused firmly on their Westminster fortunes, and the next general election. Poor Tavish, a nice guy in the LibDem feeble and ineffectual LibDem mould of niceness, knows this all too well, and could be forgiven for looking enviously at his predecessor Nicol Stephen, now Baron Stephen of Lower Deeside in the City of Aberdeen, sitting comfortably in the Lords. Retreat to the farm must be a seductive prospect for Tavish the Panicking.

But he puts a brave, if logically incoherent face on things, because what he ‘hears on the doorstep’ – the politician’s last defence when all around him is crumbling – is different from what the polls say, from what the media says, from what the pundits say.

I don’t doubt it – faced with this shy boyish grin and self-deprecating style, exuding vulnerability and lack of confidence, it would take a heart of stone not to try to say something reassuring lest he burst into tears. And last night’s Twitter comments towards the end and just after the interview tended to the Poor Tavish, nasty Gordon Brewer type, including from those who did not share his politics.

I have a heart of stone (in political, if not in cardiac terms) when it comes to ineffectual politicians. I don’t want nice guys crying in their beers – I want robust, decisive, analytical politicians with sound values, pragmatism and a belief in Scots and Scotland.

Go back to the farm gracefully, Tavish, and live happily ever after – the political kitchen has got too hot for you, and you just can’t stand the heat. Otherwise, you may find that the American phrase he bought the farm, meaning a sudden end, may acquire a certain resonance.

And my thanks to Gordon Brewer for this political dissection.

It is the job of political interviewers to reveal the inconsistencies, evasions, factual inaccuracies and policy contradictions in politicians, a job that democratic accountability demands they do well. Like all dissections, it is not always a pretty sight, but nonetheless vital to a healthy democracy and a free press. Last night Gordon Brewer did it clinically and professionally, without giving way to either disgust or pity.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Alex Salmond on minority government, Megrahi and the calibre of Scottish Labour politicians


ALEX SALMOND: Obviously my overall preference would be to win an absolute majority, but short of that, I think that minority government has shown itself to be good for Scotland over the last four years. I’d like to have more than a plurality of one - I’d like a majority of more than one over our leading opponents, but I think minority government has been good for Scotland.


ALEX SALMOND: You asked me what my preference was, and my preference is that minority government is bestows a number of advantages. Am I ruling out a coalition? No, I’m not ruling out a coalition, but as a preference, we want to win the election, and if we don’t get a majority, then I think a minority government …

For example, if we win re-election, Gordon, (Gordon Brewer - Newsnight Scotland) then on some of the issues which the other parties combined to stop, you would have certainly a moral authority and a mandate to progress. For example, minimum pricing on alcohol … The rest of the parties combined to stop it. My judgement would be - if we win re-election - that is a policy we’ll be able to pursue in the next Parliament, with the support of the people behind us. A referendum on independence for Scotland would be another policy - with our fresh mandate, we’d have the ability to get it through the Parliament.


Gordon Brewer: “Some things you’ve been saying recently, I guess boil down to saying - me and my pals are better than Iain Gray and his pals”

ALEX SALMOND: I’m not - I’d like to fight the election on the basis that we’ve got a cracking record as a government over the last four years, we’ve got a great team to put the next record into operation, and we’ve got a vision for the future of this country as an independent Scotland as an energy powerhouse of the European continent - and that’s how I want to fight the election.

We’re fighting on out record, the team and a vision - I think our team, yes, has more calibre than their team, and I think that most fair-minded people in Scotland would accept that.

Gordon Brewer: “Are you suggesting that Labour, somehow, isn’t competent to run the country?”

ALEX SALMOND:  Oh,  I think there  is a number of people in the Labour Party who don’t seem to me the sort of people I would trust to run the Country. The Health Service - who would you rather have running the health service in Scotland? Would you rather have Nicola Sturgeon or Jackie Baillie? I think most people in Scotland would say they would rather have Nicola Sturgeon.

Gordon Brewer: “I can understand that you would rather not have Jackie Baillie running the Health Service because you don’t agree with her policies - are you saying the Jackie Baillie and others on the Labour front bench are somehow not competent to do what your ministers would do?”

ALEX SALMOND:  “Well, if we take health - and I’ll try not to personalise this - I think the protection of the Health Service and the Scottish budget over the next few years is going to be extremely important. We know that the Labour Party has been, at best, equivocal as to whether the Health Service would have protection, as to whether it would be ring-fenced. I think it was on this very programme that Iain Gray failed to commit to that.

Therefore, a party which can’t protect the Health Service in my view, … shouldn’t be trusted to run the country, and the  health spokesperson of that party shouldn’t be trusted to run the Health Service.

Gordon Brewer: “From the nationalist point of view, the biggest problem  with your period in government, surely, is that the whole point of the SNP is to get independence, and you’re no nearer to getting it than when you became First Minister. That’s pretty shocking stuff, isn’t it?”

ALEX SALMOND:  Actually, the last opinion poll on Scottish independence was the highest for four years -

Gordon Brewer: “These things go up and down - there’s no substantial progress …”

ALEX SALMOND:  The substantial progress that we look for, in terms of achieving independence is twofold -

One, as a gradualist party, we seek to acquire powers and responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament to take us nearer the goal of national independence.

And secondly, as a democratic party, we wish to have a referendum to allow the people of Scotland the right to decide.

You say we are no nearer - I think, to have an SNP administration in a Scottish Parliament is dramatically nearer independence than we’ve been ever before in Scotland,  for  two reasons - one, there is a Scottish Parliament, which we didn’t have for about 300 years, and secondly, as an SNP administration, the party of independence, which we never had.

Ergo, we’re closer to independence than we ever were.


Gordon Brewer: “Do you have any regret about that? Are you really happy that the main thing, actually, probably that any Scottish Administration has done since devolution is let a mass murderer go free?”

ALEX SALMOND:  I don’t agree that it is the main thing that any Scottish administration has done since devolution, but I am satisfied that we took a decision based on good faith and due process. And when you get difficult decisions to take, that is what is the most most important thing to be able to say. Now, if you say to me, Gordon …

Gordon Brewer: “The most important thing is to get them right.”

ALEX SALMOND: Well, I believe we did make the right decision - that Kenny MacAskill did make the right decision according to the due process of Scots law. I believe that absolutely. But I think it’s even more important, incidentally,  for people to know that we made that decision in good faith, and I would suggest to you that everything that’s been published in this last week vindicate the position that the Scottish Government took - that we were taking a decision in due process, in good faith and for no other reason.

I think the revelation this week is that we now know, beyond peradventure, that the Labour Party in Scotland were guilty of the most outstanding hypocrisy I can remember in my period in public life.

Gordon Brewer: “From the point of view of families of victims, both here and in the United States - I mean, the politics of this are neither here nor there. what they want to say to you is, look, you let this man who was convicted of killing family members, out of jail, and he’s now alive - if not well - in Libya a year later. This is just wrong - it’s outrageous.”

ALEX SALMOND:  Gordon, I’ve got nothing but respect for the Lockerbie families, whether they’re in the UK or America, and 19 other countries which were affected by the atrocity. But you are wrong to suggest that all families have the same opinion. I’m not disputing that a lot of families, particularly in America, would have that opinion. I’m merely pointing out to you that many families, particularly in the UK, have a different opinion - who’ve supported the decision on compassionate release.

But I’ve got nothing but respect for the families, and I would always listen and pay attention to their point of view, and you’ll never hear a word of criticism from me of any of the views of any of the families, who are entitled to make their views known.

My criticism is solely designed and aimed at those politicians who attacked Kenny MacAskill and the SNP in Scotland, I believe in the full knowledge that their own colleagues in London were supporting release, not for due process, not for compassionate reasons, but for economic and political considerations.


Gordon Brewer: “Given the whole silly history of this, why not do something positive with this. I know there are problems with jurisdiction, getting witnesses and all the rest, but why not say now - because the families in Britain who support what you have just said on the decision - have also been asking you to set up a public enquiry, so that we can at least try to get to the bottom of what actually happened. Why not say now that you will do that, despite all the problems it might have, it might at least have a chance of getting somewhere?”

ALEX SALMOND:  There would be manifest problems - but can I say to you I think more important than a public enquiry, in my view - which would be necessarily (?)in the full settlement(?) in Scotland be  hugely limited in what it could do - is the full publication of the statement of reasons of the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission made to the courts in Scotland. We’ve already made one attempt to have that published in full.

What I can say to you tonight  is that we’ll be introducing primary legislation to enable that report to be published in full. It was an investigation that took several years, and I believe the full statement of reasons - not answering every question about this affair  - nonetheless will shed substantial light and give information  that the families and indeed the general public are entitled to have.

Gordon Brewer: “So you will legislate in the Scottish Parliament so that those documents will be published?”


Gordon Brewer: “Will you follow on the publication of those documents … logically would be then to have an enquiry, dependent on what they come up with?”

ALEX SALMOND: I think, Gordon, they should see what the full statement of reasons of  the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission is. I still think there are difficulties with a public enquiry because it would be hugely limited in terms of the documents it could obtain, in terms of the witnesses, in terms  of the  nature and in terms of the international politics. We’ve already seen …

Gordon Brewer: “It’s something you could do, limited as it is. no one else is going to do it …”

ALEX SALMOND:  Can I just point out to you that, say as far as the interchange between the United Kingdom and the United States governments is concerned, then I think that Wikileaks, over the last few weeks, has shed more light on these exchanges, than for example and enquiry would be able  to do, since it wouldn’t be able to summon any of the witnesses, since now we know from Wikileaks what their true opinion was.

First Minister Alex Salmond on the choices facing Scotland

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Paxman gets a Welsh spear right up him – and he doesn’t like it …

Jeremy Paxman's hostility to all things Celtic, Scottish and Welsh is notorious, but he met his match in a formidable Welshman, Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym, Welsh Plaid Cymru politician, and Deputy Chairman of the Principality Building Society.

Paxman had his usual simple and deeply superficial agenda when dealing with Welsh or Scottish nationalists - portray them as mendicants, dependent on British handouts, happy to take the English shilling while aspiring to romantic and unrealistic dreams of independence.

Paxman's repertoire includes repetition of his core questions, usually yes/no-type questions, a patronising manner that rapidly descends into bullying if he meets any resistance, and rapid, brutal agenda shifts if he encounters real arguments he can't handle.

Unfortunately for him, none of these worked with the well-informed, dignified and calmly assertive Eurfyl, who was not going to be intimidated by an English media creature who manifestly had not done his homework. In spite of the fact that Paxman had the Treasury report that he had misunderstood and was misquoting from in front of him and Dr. Eurfyl didn't, he was reduced to muttering incoherence, shuffling his papers with increasing agitation as the magisterial Welshman repeatedly put him on the back foot with a series of killer-diller ripostes.

The received wisdom for many years has been that politicians facing the Paxman's of this world  should be polite to the point of obsequiousness, allowing the interruptions, and giving way to the bullying. This is inculcated in politicians by their spin doctors - don't alienate the media man, we need his goodwill. It is a craven posture, one that has devalued political debate, turning into a kind of Ladybird Book of Politics, with simplistic soundbites and superfical policy statements.

Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym would have none of it. He maintained his calm, unruffled dignity, rooted in his being a successful businessman, in command of his facts, and a pragmatic realists, albeit one with a dream of Welsh independence. He disposed of the dragon Paxman without breaking intellectual sweat, and without losing his impeccable Welsh dignity and courtesy for a second. Paxman's behavioural body gloss flaked off, and the curtain was whipped away from the Wizard of Newsnight, revealing an ill-prepared and ultimately deeply ill-at-ease little man behind the bluster and the bravado.

He got a Welsh sword right up his ****, and in the words of Corporal Jones, he didn’t like it up ‘im …