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Showing posts with label Scottish Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Government. Show all posts

Friday, 14 February 2014

Alternative views of an independent Scotland – the reality of independence negotiations

A number of comments on my YouTube videos – and in the wider debate reflect different views on key policies in an independent Scotland, e.g. on currency, EU, monarchy, etc. This is because the YES campaign is broad-based and contains many views and many political parties – and those of no party. However, some supporters do not seem to have grasped the key dynamics  of what follows a YES vote and the current political realities and time scale.

Here is my response – and my understanding - offered to one such commentator offering multiple scenarios for independent Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

PETER CURRAN’S REPLY TO COMMENT

The independence negotiations will be conducted by the negotiating team selected by the Scottish government and on the basis of its White Paper policies. It will remain the government until May 2016, and an independent Scotland's position vis-a-vis the EU will therefore be determined by the outcome of their negotiations with EU.

Their policy and intent is to remain in the EU, and to negotiate terms of entry as an existing member under UK until independence day. All the options you detail are therefore academic - they will not form part of the negotiations.

Although the YES campaign is a widely-based campaign containing other parties (and those of no party) who have differing views of EU membership (and other issues), they will not influence that policy. The 2016 election campaign will commence March 2016, and all parties are then free to include in their campaign manifestos whatever policies they like, and the Scottish electorate will decide the Government of independent Scotland.

Whatever the outcome of that election, I would hope that the new government - if it is not an SNP government - will not start by wholesale repudiation of major agreements just reached with rUK and EU, nor with a rash of referendums. Such actions would sit very badly with world opinion.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Grangemouth, INEOS, Unite - and the point of freedom to act …

When and why would an employer want to end negotiations and present a trade union with a deadline?

The answer almost always relates to a pressing need to achieve changed working practices and reduce the paybill in times of recession, in the face of severe competition or challenging economic times. Quite simply, a company sees the management’s right to manage the business and react to market conditions as being unacceptably constrained by their inability to negotiate change with employee representatives.

From the union perspective, the failure to negotiate change lies with the employers and the negotiating stance they adopted. Unions are there to protect the jobs and the terms and conditions of their members, and their instinct is to resist any change that threatens these things, but unions can and do accept the need for change and have negotiated change – quite radical change – when they are convinced of the rationale for that change and have recognised that the alternatives to it are even more unacceptable - for example, failure and closure of the business.

(When there is a failure to negotiate a vital change agenda with a trade union, the roots of that failure can usually be traced to the nature of the management/union relationship over many years, and serious deficiencies in the company’s employee relations practices.)

From a union perspective, it is all too easy to confuse endless protracted discussion over management change proposals as negotiation, when in fact, it is not.

Negotiation requires reciprocal movement and concession, and a recognition of timescales and the inevitability of one or both side reaching the point of freedom to act - when negotiation ends, management implements and union strikes.

INEOS and Unite are at the point.

If Scottish Government can't help INEOS and Unite negotiate change, how the hell are they going to negotiate independence?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A couple of my comments on scotland-us.com

COMMENT ONE

The oft-repeated statement that there is a lack of information about independence, when it is not politically motivated, often comes from those who have made no real effort to find it, or prefer to ignore it when confronted with it.

There is more information about the independence choice available than has ever been available to electors and business in any political decision taken in centuries. Many calling for information are in fact seeking certainties about aspects of legislation, finance and banking that are not available in the UK as presently constituted, in a time of unprecedented global economic and social turmoil, never mind in 2016, after eighteen months of complex and wide-ranging negotiation between Scotland and rUK.

Leaving aside the fact that is obvious to professional negotiators such as myself, namely that the opposing parties in the referendum debate are not going to blow their respective strategies in advance of the Referendum vote in 2014 and before sitting round the table, the UK Government and notably the Ministry of Defence seem to be in a state of denial about the realities facing them if Scotland votes YES. They are terrified that an adult dialogue of key issues might imply acceptance of Scotland as an independent state with diplomatic autonomy.

The Scottish Government White Paper, due in late Oct/Nov will set out a clear prospectus for an independent Scotland, and will be met a massive hostile response from the full resources of the UK civil service and defence apparatus. Meanwhile, across Scotland, more and more ordinary Scots voters are informing themselves, with the help of complex online networks, active groups covering every profession, ethnic group and the Arts, and a countrywide series of events mounted by YES Scotland.

No electorate has ever been better informed, and by the end of the campaign, the Scottish electorate will be one of the most sophisticated in the world.

Unless some businesses break out of their complacent status quo bubble, they will find themselves competitively disadvantaged in the new reality of independent Scotland and rUK.

I have spent my life in business, working for multi-national companies both in senior management and as an external consultant. Much of what is said by the C.B.I. Scotland is partisan political posturing on behalf of that lazy – and unrepresentative – status quo, and is seen as such by the key movers and shakers in Scotland and internationally.

COMMENT TWO

Ruth Davidson says “Alex Salmond doesn’t speak for a majority of Scots. In fact, he never has..” Alex Salmond speaks for all Scots because he was democratically elected with an overall majority in 2011 to do just that.

In 1997, Scotland was a Tory-free zone as far as Westminster MPs: now they have one – just one – MP. That was in part because Scottish Tories opposed devolution and a Scottish Parliament with ever fibre of their being.

Since 1945, Scottish Tories have only returned more MPs to Westminster than Labour once, in 1955 – 36 to 34, with the number declining inexorably since. Since then, the number of Tory MPs has steadily declined to its present parlous state of one MP.

Only once, in 1955 have they had a majority share of the Westminster vote – 50.1%. Despite Scotland voting for a Labour Government in every general election since 1945, with the exception of 1955 – Scotland has only had the UK/Westminster government it voted for in a minority of general elections.

Scotland elected its first SNP devolved Government in 2007 and in 2011 returned them with a massive majority – an overall majority of seats. Only proportional representation gives the Tories any real presence in the Scottish Parliament.

The Tories are almost moribund as a party in Scotland, yet Tory Governments in the UK destroyed Scottish industry and piloted the hated Poll Tax in Scotland, and are now engaged in an assault on the poor and vulnerable in Scotland. Scottish oil revenues since 1979 saved the Thatcher Government and the English economy, and bankrolled three foreign wars – Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ruth Davidson is accurate in one respect only – the Tories are the only party to have had a majority share of the Westminster vote in Scotland. That was 58 years ago. Since then, the Scottish electorate have seen through the Tories, but the structure of UK has prevented them from acting on it to dump them.

Only full independence for Scotland in 2016 will end this democratic deficit between two nations, and Scots will vote for that in 2014.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Scotland, the Booze and the Hippocratic Oath

Something I said during the peak of Labour and Tory blind, destructive opposition to minimum pricing back in November 2010

Moridura Blog - Friday, 12 November 2010

I have been aware of the existence of the Hippocratic Oath for most of my life, have probably glibly referred to it on occasion, but until last night, I have never actually read it or understood its exact place in modern medicine.

Events in the Scottish Parliament this week led me to find out a bit more about it, and I now realise that most of what I believed was based on various misconceptions.

1. I believed that it had existed in an unchanged form since Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine - first set it down several hundred years before the birth of Christ. It hasn’t,  and in fact Hippocrates may have had little to do with it …

2. I believed that every medical practitioner was obliged to take the Hippocratic oath. They are not, at least not in recent years …

In fact, the wording of the original Oath, in translation, astonished me. I had hoped to find something in it that would help me to understand what influence, if any, it might have on medical doctors who get involved in politics – say, Dr. Liam Fox, for example. (You may be able to think of others.)

Would anything in the Oath, in its original form or in the more modern principles favoured by the BMA, that try to hold on to some of the essential sense and principles of the original act as any guide to the ethical and moral behaviour of a doctor involved in the pragmatic and often dirty business of politics?

How, for example, could Liam Fox interpret his responsibilities under the oath when acting as a Defence Minister, commissioning weapons of death and mass destruction, and sending young men and women to kill other human beings, and perhaps to be killed or maimed themselves?

Would he take the ethical position that, since he was not practising medicine in this role, the oath was irrelevant? After all, doctors are not like priests, claiming to draw their authority from their god – they are high-level professionals, with high ethical standards, but ordinary mortals nonetheless.

No answer there – the question is beyond my philosophical and analytical abilities.

But how about, say for example, a doctor/politician who in his or her role is obliged to bring medical knowledge specifically to bear on decisions affecting the health of the population? A thorny question also, but perhaps more amenable to Hippocratic analysis, but certainly not hypocritical consideration.

Doctors, like scientists, often reach different conclusions faced with the same facts, the same evidence: doctors debate, discuss, in fact in recent months, I’ve heard them doing it many times at the end of my beds in St. John’s and the RIE, and at the beds of other critically ill patients. It struck me as a vital dialogue - not always between equals, because the medical profession is hierarchical in the extreme - but one where every view is invited, heard and weighed.

Back to the Hippocratic Oath …

I’ll take the classic version rather than the original, which frankly sounds more than a little odd to a modern ear. (It’s also a little odd in the classic version.)

It’s hard to seize on anything relevant to a modern topic such as, say, dealing with the enormous harm to the health, wellbeing, safety and economic strength of an entire nation because of abuse of a legal and freely available dangerous drug – alcohol.

I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

I couldn’t find dietic in my Oxford dictionary, so I presume it means dietetic – relating to diet, i.e. the nature of food and drink ingested.

Alcohol, misused, clearly does harm, and undoubtedly causes injustice, in its supply to people who are by age, immaturity or predisposition to addiction and excess vulnerable to this drug, and to others, who are harmed by violence, by disturbance in public places, in the home, by the overstretching of the caring and public order services, by economic factors – the list is a long one.

Keeping them all from harm and injustice due to alcohol abuse seems to me an appropriate interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make suggestion to this effect.”

A difficult one to interpret in the context of a licensed drug and a licensed trade, especially when that drug forms a central part of the economy of my country. One might reasonably expect a doctor to recognise that the drug is only deadly under certain circumstances, and consumed in moderation may actually be beneficial, but to look long and hard at it becoming available too cheaply and too easily to vulnerable groups especially the young and immature.

But where there is a widespread consensus, in the society of which that doctor is a part, by virtually all doctors, the professional association that represents doctors, by the police force of that society, by the established Church of that society, by health workers, addiction workers, careworkers in that country, one might reasonably expect that a doctor/politician would tend to follow that consensus, a consensus of his or her peers and virtually every authoritative voice.

Of course, one must allow for the fact the majority are not always right; that lone voices, driven by burning personal conviction, must follow their consciences, and speak out against the majority if necessary. Such men and women have rendered invaluable service to their profession and to society at great personal cost on occasion.

It would of course be unthinkable that anyone would be influenced significantly or even totally by purely political considerations in going against that consensus, would it not? Let’s hope it never happens …

Well, I am not a doctor, but I owe my life to the medical profession in Scotland, not once, but several times over the last year, and I experienced their dedication,  professionalism and deep humanity at first hand. I also saw how the abuse of alcohol in Scottish society overstretched them, consumed an inappropriate amount of scarce resources, and exposed them personally to violence and intimidation.

So in that respect at least, I feel that I have a right – and a duty - to speak.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Scottish Government press release on the consultation exercise


From: The Scottish Government

April 2, 2012

CONSULTATION ON SCOTLAND'S REFERENDUM

Scottish Government confirms just 3.5 per cent of responses given anonymously – none will be included in independent analysis

The Scottish Government has published details of the referendum consultation responses as at first thing this morning, which show that only 414 responses out of a total of 11,986 were anonymous – just 3.5 per cent of the total.

The figures demonstrate there is no evidence that the process is being skewed by anonymous contributions, Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford said.

Neither is there any evidence of multiple identical responses from the same person.

The Scottish Government’s consultation will be independently analysed in order to underline the robustness of the process, and the contract was advertised last Friday. The contract for the analysis is being competitively tendered in the usual way for large consultations, using standard Scottish Government procurement procedures.

The Scottish Government always intended that anonymous responses would be separately identified in the independent analysis. Now, in order to prevent significant numbers of anonymous responses – given the media coverage generated about the issue – responses will only be accepted and included in the analysis if they provide personal identification details, and the Scottish Government’s online portal has already been amended to introduce this further robust procedure.

Furthermore, while there is no evidence of multiple identical responses from the same person, any duplicate identical responses which appear to be from the same computer will be excluded from the analysis so that their view is only represented once.

Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford said:

The Scottish Government’s referendum consultation is gathering huge levels of public interest as we debate and discuss Scotland’s future – and the robustness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that the consultation will be subject to independent analysis. This stands in stark contrast to the much smaller UK Government consultation, which was not put to independent analysis.

“As the figures we have published demonstrate, there is absolutely no evidence of anonymous responses skewing the process – quite the reverse – but we can and will make the process stronger still by requiring all submissions to have personal identification details before they are taken into account.  While anonymous contributions would always have been separately identified, we will now ensure that no anonymous submissions are included in the analysis at all. And while there is no evidence of duplicate identical responses from the same person, we can and will ensure that any received are also excluded from the independent analysis so that their view is only represented once.

“These changes address any conceivable concerns about the Scottish Government consultation – while there still remain questions about the Westminster exercise.

“Our public consultation is going from strength to strength, and I encourage everyone with an interest to make their contribution to this vitally important discussion on Scotland’s future.”

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Megrahi Release decision and questions of guilt or innocence

The comments that followed my blog yesterday on Megrahi attempted to focus on his guilt or innocence. As always when the Megrahi Release is discussed, those who are passionately committed to either supporting or challenging the Megrahi verdict and hold strong views on his guilt or innocence want to have their say. Nothing of what I have said about Megrahi's release focuses on this aspect, other than incidentally.

I therefore must make it clear that if you have something to say on his guilt or innocence, you must do it elsewhere – however important the issue of his guilt, it is off topic and irrelevant to the release decision.

I have therefore re-stated my position on Megrahi below, as already expressed to a regular, welcome and respected contributor to my blog.

MY POSITION ON MEGRAHI

I don't want to discuss Megrahi's guilt or innocence because I have nothing useful to contribute to the torrent of 'facts', opinions and conspiracy theories that abound. I want to believe that justice was done, and if it wasn't, or there are other guilty men, I want to see them brought to justice. I support Dr. Jim Swire in his clear-eyed search for that truth, but I can add nothing useful to his detailed arguments or research.

But whatever Megrahi's guilt or innocence, I hold no brief for the man - he was a member of the intelligence services of a brutal murderous regime for decades, a regime that, given his position, he must have known the exact nature of, yet remained with and profited from.

No one can be a member of the intelligence services of such a regime and not commit appalling acts that offend against humanity.

In spite of all that, I supported the decision to release him on compassionate grounds. In conflating the argument over his guilt or innocence with that decision, we blur the essence of the debate on the release decision, when it fact it is starkly simple - he was released under Scots law on compassionate grounds in the firm belief that he was guilty.

It is that single act of humanity and compassion, expressed through Scots law by a Scottish Justice Minister that above all else distinguished us, our civilisation and our values from the regimes that we abhor. It is a source of sadness and regret to me that Scottish politicians representing the unionist parties in the Scottish Parliament were, and still are, unable to make that vital distinction, any more than their masters in the UK parties at Westminster are, and the Scottish Press and media.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Megrahi, The Scotsman and the Unionists.

The Scotsman is in no doubt what the big story is today – Megrahi’s death bed ‘confession’. It puts confession in quotes, but it’s a nod and a wink – we know what they really believe. The justification for this is in the sub header – Lockerbie bomber: ‘My name was exaggerated’. The Unionist logic on Megrahi – and the Scotsman is a unionist paper, whatever its pretensions to objectivity and its token inclusion of nationalist commentators – goes something like this -

The SNP Government, in their first term, made a damaging political error in releasing Megrahi, an error that had to be ruthlessly exploited by Scottish and Unionist UK politicians. The fundamental political error lay in releasing him on compassionate grounds, even if he was dying, since Unionist realpolitik would never have let compassion - or indeed the facts of Scottish Law on compassionate release - get in the way of political expediency.

But just in case the Scottish public - who have an unhappy tendency to be more humane and compassionate than the Labour and Tory hegemonies that have hitherto ruled them - shared the humanity of Kenny MacAskill and the SNP Government, the question had to be raised if Megrahi was really dying or not, and here they had the advantage that estimates of life expectancy in terminal illness often prove to be too short, and many terminally ill patients live for much longer than forecast. This bet was promptly hedged. If he died as forecast in three months, they could still argue bad judgement: if he lived longer, they could argue that it was a fix.

There were also a few other inconvenient factors for the Unionist parties to consider in the exploitation of a dying man for political purposes.

A significant number of Scots did not believe Megrahi was guilty, and some believed that he was involved but did not act alone. This was compounded by the fact that Doctor Jim Swire, who had lost his daughter in the Lockerbie atrocity - and was a prominent voice among the bereaved - did not believe that Megrahi was guilty.

Tony Blair had muddied the water by the abortive attempt to secure the deal in the desert with Gadaffi to release Megrahi for cynical political gain over oil, a deal that he had no power to make constitutionally, given the devolved settlement. This meant that a potential fault line lay between the Tories and LibDems on one side and UK Labour on the other. This was compounded by the fact that the American critics of the release believed that UK Labour had stitched up a deal with the SNP Government, a proposition that was utterly ludicrous to all who knew the total hostility of the Labour Party, at both UK and Scottish levels to the elected Government of the people of Scotland, and was more than a little inconvenient for Labour, less so for Cameron.

The most inconvenient factor of all was that Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government took the decision in the firm belief that Megrahi was guilty under the verdict reached at the trial. (This, for the record, is also my belief – I support the compassionate release decision although I believe Megrahi was guilty, although I do not believe that he acted alone.)

The pristine clarity of Kenny MacAskill’s decision rested on the fact that he believed Megrahi was guilty, had been properly found guilty as charged under Scots Law, but nevertheless was eligible for compassionate release. The Scottish Justice Minster, in the full knowledge that he would unleash a volley of critical fire, nonetheless did what was right, rather than what was expedient. No Scottish unionist politician  had either the political or moral courage to take such a decision, and Scottish Labour were clearly kept out of the Machiavellian Blair/UK Labour loop and their machinations.

As the Gadaffi regime began its bloody collapse and Libya moved towards freedom from a brutal dictatorship, the unionist camp lived in hope of new disclosures that would confirm Megrahi’s guilt and somehow implicate the Scottish Government, still consumed by their faulty analysis of the dynamics of the situation.

They seized upon every panic-stricken defector who was prepared to say whatever was necessary to the US and UK governments to gain asylum and immunity from prosecution.

What emerged was in fact embarrassing revelations of just how close Blair, the Labour Government and now the Coalition had been to Gadaffi till the eleventh hour, when Cameron grasped his Maggie moment and found his war by joining France in supporting the rebels.

And so to yesterday at Megrahi’s sick bed and today at The Scotsman and elsewhere

What conclusions may we draw from Megrahi’s statement, and what does it signal for the future? The possibilities are easy to set out -

Megrahi is either feigning illness – the unstated sub-text of much unionist media comment – or he is dying. If the first is true, why would a man feted by the regime as a hero not be with Gadaffi in his final bunker in Sirte, instead a lying in a bed without any protection other than unarmed immediate family? To secure asylum to the West or the US by trading information? Such an explanation has zero credibility. He is pretty clearly seriously ill, has been abandoned by the regime, and does not have the drugs or medical care to alleviate his pain or prolong his life.

What would a guilty man do in such circumstances? He would admit his guilt, as other senior figures have done, and try to trade information for immunity.

What would an innocent man do in such circumstances? He would try and clear his name.

Since I believe Megrahi is guilty at least of complicity in the Lockerbie bombing, my conclusion is that he is terminally ill, has been abandoned by the regime, expects to die, expects nothing of the West, but wants to make the exact nature of his role in the atrocity clear before he dies.

Can we conclude anything from his statement, accurately reported in The Scotsman’s sub-header – “My name was exaggerated”. If this strange formulation is accurate, nothing can be concluded from it – it could mean anything. But The Scotsman, the unionist media and the bandwagon jumpers such as Johann Lamont have rapidly translated Megrahi’s gnomic statement into – “My role was exaggerated”.

Megrahi could have meant that – he equally could have meant that his name and identity, as an acknowledged senior member of the Libyan security apparatus, were seized upon by the media, even though he had no direct involvement in the plot.

But none of the this changes the analysis vis a vis Kenny MacAskill’s release decision. The situation is now as it has always been, crystal clear.

1. If conclusive evidence is found of Megrahi’s guilt, even if it confirmed him as the sole architect of the Lockerbie bombing atrocity, that would simply confirm the belief in which the Scottish Justice Minister made his decision, namely that Megrahi was guilty as charged.

2. If conclusive evidence is found that Megrahi was completely innocent of the charge, or complicit and not the prime mover, or that he was guilty but did not act alone, then the world must recognise that a compassionate decision, made in the belief that he was guilty, in fact had averted a grave miscarriage of justice.

3. If conclusive evidence was found that, in the face of all rationality and all that we know, that the Labour Government and the British intelligence services somehow conspired with Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill to find a spurious rational for releasing Megrahi, then the American Republican Right would be ecstatic, Labour's already deeply damaged reputation would be dealt a terminal blow, and the UK would be seriously damaged because of the continuity of exactly the same people in the shadowy world of intelligence across both the Brown and Cameron/Clegg regimes, a conspiracy to defeat the legitimate wishes of the American people and the families of the American victims to see justice done to the murder of their loved ones.

But we have conclusive evidence – evidence of  Blair’s Deal (a non-deal) in the Desert, of the Brown Government’s complicity and of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition’s close, intimate relations with a brutal, probably insane dictator up to the eleventh hour, while human rights were being brutally violated with the UK’s full knowledge in Gadaffi’s torture chambers and dungeons, all in the name of realpolitik and oil.

The Megrahi Affair teaches us a lot about the Scottish Government and its Justice Minister - who acted unselfishly and upheld the highest principle of law, justice and human compassion - and successive UK Governments and the three Unionist parties that comprised them at various times – who acted in the most despicable traditions of  a brutal, expedient and values-free colonial imperialism.

Saor Alba!





Friday, 25 February 2011

Did Gadaffi order the Lockerbie Bombing?

Certain things cannot be re-stated too often -

1. Megrahi was found guilty by a Scottish Court.

2. Megrahi was released under Scottish Law on compassionate grounds only, in the belief that the verdict was sound and that he was guilty.

3. No commercial considerations influenced the Scottish Government: there were no negotiations over his release with the UK government: Scotland was not influenced by the UK Government of Tony Blair or  Gordon Brown.

These are the only crystal clear facts in the whole Megrahi/Libya affair. The behaviour of the last UK Labour government was deceitful and contemptible throughout its term in office, influenced by expediency and commercial considerations.

The hypocritical behaviour of the Scottish Labour group in the Scottish Parliament has  been beneath contempt, characterised by utter hypocrisy and political posturing.

The behaviour of the UK Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government has been no less hypocritical and expedient. As cynical arms dealers to Middle Eastern dictatorships and suppliers of instrument of repression and death to be used against to their people by dictators, Cameron's government - driven into action by the Wikileaks revelations - has been motivated by a wish to secure short term political advantage against the Labour Opposition, and a parallel wish to smear the Scottish Nationalist government with lies about their role in the Megrahi Affair.

In this shameful politicking, they have been aided by the Cabinet Secretary to both the previous and the current UK  governments, Sir Gus O'Donnell.

The latest allegation by a Libyan politician,  that Gadaffi ordered the Lockerbie bombing, which to date is not supported by any facts, and may well be driven by a simple wish to gain favour in the US and UK when his political career is threatened, comes as no surprise to the Scottish Government, who believed that anyway throughout, based on the Scottish Court's guilty verdict.

However, it is not what those who believe Megrahi is innocent wanted to hear, and they are likely to retain their belief that he was either innocent, or did not act alone.

The majority of British newspapers seized on the so far unsupported allegation of Gadaffi's involvement with glee, and published it as a fact on their front pages, motivated by God  knows what agenda, since their thinking  has been marked by a lack of clarity and a total disregard for the facts so far.

One can only assume that the ConLib supporting press hope it will damage UK Labour, the Labour Press hope it will damage Scotland, and both of them think it will somehow protect the rotten, failing political entity known as the United Kingdom.

(Some prominent Scottish bloggers, who ought to know better, have also accepted the Libyan politician's unsupported allegation at face value.)

Whatever the outcome, the central clarity and human compassion of the Scottish Government's decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, and on that alone, will remain unaffected - the only clear, principled decision in the whole sorry affair.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Michael Portillo on Megrahi: "The little Scottish government would not have dared ...”

A totally patronising, inaccurate and superficial view of the Megrahi issue from Michael Portillo, failed Tory politician. "The little Scottish government would not have dared ... to take such a decision ... without being pushed by this Government."

An equally patronising view of devolved government by a Labour woman - whose name I can't be bothered to find out. Devolved administrations  " ... don't always understand how significant some of their decisions are."


There speak two archetypal representatives of a failed political culture and structure and  a discredited, dying United Kingdom. In their little Westminster village, and blinkered media bubble, they are completely unable to understand the feelings, aspirations and significance of other countries such as Scotland.

No wonder the Egyptian revolution caught such people in the UK Government and diplomatic services with their collective knickers down.

And Andrew Neil, a Scot, sat there and swallowed the insults, with only the most feeble of rebuttals. This is what  UK politicians and their media hacks think of Scotland, the Scots  and their elected government.

Reach for your forelock, smile ingratiatingly, Scots, or for God's sake stand up and do something about it on May 5th - and beyond.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Scottish Census 2011 and the Military/Industrial complex

At the end of November, I became aware that the UK government had awarded a contract for data gathering for the 2011 census in England and Wales to Lockheed Martin Corporation of Maryland USA - Trident missile manufacturer.

There were a number of reasons to be concerned about this, and my concern was shared by  a group of eminent scientists and other interested parties.

Firstly, Lockheed Martin Corporation of Maryland USA is the manufacturer of Trident Missiles for the UK Government. Given the Scottish Government’s resolute opposition to Trident missiles and to their being based in Scotland, this alone in my view was reason enough not to award Scottish government contracts to Lockheed Martin or to any subsidiary company owned by it.

Secondly, American companies are obliged by law to disclose on request to US Government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, any confidential information held by them that might be deemed relevant to national security, i.e. anything.

But my third and most serious concern is the insidious way in which the military/industrial complex subverts the moral consciousness of governments, trades unions and ordinary voters, and the very nature of democracy itself  by the offer of industrial investment and jobs.

I believe in legitimate defence of the Scottish nation, and in conventional defence forces and armaments, but I abhor the use of defence jobs as job creation schemes to induce tacit participation in, and compliance with the foreign policy of the United States and of the UK as its compliant ally. This is exactly the insidious perversion of democracy that former US President and distinguished American WW2 general Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against when he pointed out the dangers of the military/industrial complex.

 Moridura Twitter/blog on the Census

26th Nov. 2010 - email from moridura@gmail.com to the Office for National Statistics, which was referred by them to the Census Director for Scotland - Peter.Scrimgeour@gro-scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Can you please let me know if Lockheed Martin Corporation of Maryland, USA has been awarded the contract for data gathering for the 2011 census?

I assume that I don't need to submit a freedom of information request to obtain this information. If for any reason you are unable to confirm who has been awarded this contract, please tell me how I may find the information.

As a citizen and householder in the UK who will be required to complete the census form, I believe I am legally entitled to this information.

I received a reply on the 2nd of December, as follows -

Your email of 26 November to  2011censusmedia@ONS has been passed to me since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) took the view that, being a Scottish resident, it was the Census in Scotland that you were likely to be interested in. In Scotland the Census  is the responsibility of the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), not the ONS. GROS has awarded no contract in relation to the 2011 Census to the Lockheed Martin Corporation of Maryland, USA.

If, on the other hand, it is the Census in England and Wales that you are interested in, I suggest that you email 2011censusmedia@ONS again, stressing this point.

Yours sincerely,
Peter Scrimgeour
Census Director
GROS

I was reassured by this, and while my concern remained for the English and Welsh census, I felt sure that Scotland would not be so foolish as to award a contract to a company with such links. I should have looked more closely at the list of British companies who were being considered for the census contract. Among them was a company called CACI. The first link below makes it clear what CACI is and what it does: the second is CACI in 2009  referring to Scottish suppliers ( brightsolid and dns) which it had chosen to to deliver data gathering and processing for the Scottish census after CACI (UK)'s appointment last year by the General Register Office for Scotland which is responsible for taking Scotland's census.

What are we left with? I had initially believed that CACI (UK) was a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, but I can find no evidence of this. It is, however, a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International Inc. which is subject  to exactly the same requirements of data disclosure by the US Government.

However admirable the two Scottish companies, brightsolid and dns are, however high their ethical policies are, and however apparently stringent the legislation is prohibiting the disclosure of confidential information from the census, they are now inextricably linked, as is the Scottish Government, to the highest levels of the US military industrial complex through CACI (UK) and CACI International Inc. - to a giant defence corporation with its HQ in Arlington, Virginia, a company that was deeply involved in American operations in Iraq, notably in the notorious Abu Ghraib.

There are those who will respond with some irritation to all this by saying that this is the reality of global business in the modern world, and that the UK and Scotland must be involved or risk being marginalised economically.

I say that it cannot be beyond the technical ability of independent Scottish companies to carry out the data gathering requirements and the analytical requirements of the Scottish census without being sucked into this web of dependency upon a foreign power with a foreign policy of total and perpetual conflict and war, and it cannot be beyond the competence, wit and ingenuity of the Scottish Government to avoid such entanglements.   And I do not want my personal data to be in the hands of these companies.

CACI defence contracts

CACI on the Scottish census

Here’s what CACI have to say about security of data -

EXTRACT

As part of their contracts, brightsolid and dns - like CACI (UK) - will abide by confidentiality guarantees, mandated by Scotland's census legislation and the Data Protection Act. These are designed to ensure that people can be certain that the personal information they provide for the census will be kept absolutely secure.

And here’s what CACI (UK) says about job creation -

EXTRACT

The appointments fit with CACI (UK)'s policy to purposely choose Scottish suppliers to ensure the census is delivered where possible by local organisations, keeping the economic benefits in Scotland. The census will be the first in Scotland to use both traditional paper and online questionnaires.

Since all the processing work will be carried out locally, over 200 new jobs will be created by CACI (UK) in Scotland to help deliver the census. Those employed will be trained in new IT and data processing skills which can be transferred to other roles once the census is completed.

CACI (UK) - what it says about itself

CACI was founded in 1975 in the UK and operates from several offices across the country.


Headquartered in London, CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International Inc. CACI International Inc. is a publicly listed company on the NYSE with an annual revenue in excess of US $2.73bn and approx 13,100 people worldwide.

We offer an unrivalled range of marketing solutions and information systems to local and central government and to businesses from most industry sectors.
CACI Limited. Registered in England & Wales. Registration No. 1649776. CACI House, Avonmore Road, London, W14 8TS

EXTRACT from CACI International’s website.

The Department of Defense accounted for more than half of CACI's revenues. CACI was poised to profit from the intensive IT demands of the homeland defense industry after 9/11. The company posted record revenues in 2001 ($564 million) and 2002 ($682 million) and showed no signs of slowing. In 2002, the company's shares migrated from the NASDAQ to the Big Board on the New York Stock Exchange. CACI then had about 5,000 employees at its 90 offices in the United States and Europe.

In 2002, the company acquired Condor Technology Solutions, Inc.'s Government Solutions Division for $16 million and the IT firm Acton Burnell, Inc. for $29 million. Another intelligence specialist, Premier Technology Group, Inc., was acquired for $49 million in 2003. Also purchased in 2003 were Applied Technology Solutions of Northern VA, Inc. for $13 million, C-Cubed Corporation, a producer of mobile command centers and reconnaissance equipment, for $36 million, and Britain's Rochester Information Systems, Ltd. for $2 million.

The acquisition of Premier brought with it a $500 million blanket U.S. Army contract that included, in addition to IT services, supplying interrogators at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. CACI was soon faced with a worldwide media frenzy after an early army report implicated one of its employees in the torture there.

(CACI's larger rival Titan Corp. was also embroiled in the scandal.) In July 2004, another U.S. Army report cleared CACI's ten interrogator



Thursday, 30 September 2010

More Megrahi nonsense from Menendez

Nobody came to Senator Menendez's kangaroo court in the US - a publicity stunt masquerading as a Congressional enquiry - so he had to make things up. His representative who came to Scotland - and failed to take notes at a meeting with Scottish Government officials - has total recall of a load of nonsense.

Fortunately our government officials did take notes. Of course, Holyrood's ****hole in residence, Richard Baker, predictably aligned himself with the US and Menendez. Perhaps he should have consulted his new boss, Ed Miliband, who if he has any sense will rapidly distance himself and the Labour Party from the Deal in the Desert/BP conspiracy theory - Jack Straw certainly did.


Sunday, 29 August 2010

Megrahi’s life expectancy

The controversy rumbles on, fuelled in significant part by indignation (in reality, secret delight) that Megrahi has not died within the three month prognosis.

The arguments that follow from this fact, from the critics of the Scottish Justice Minister’s decision, usually include one or more of the following statements -

1. This proves the medical evidence was flawed.

It doesn’t – what it demonstrates is that offering a prognosis of death from a terminal illness is not an exact science, as abundant examples from medical statistics demonstrate. A rudimentary knowledge of statistics and probability show that forecasts based on probability include percentage confidence levels and confidence limits. In other words, doctors don’t have crystal balls, even though some of their critics have wooden heads and hearts of stone – they offer the best forecast they can, based on the evidence they have and their best clinical judgement.

2. This proves that Kenny MacAskill was selective in the medical evidence he chose to act on, in pursuit of some unknown political agenda of his own – or the Scottish Government’s - to release Megrahi.

This is patently nonsense. Kenny MacAskill took the decision in the full knowledge that, if he released Megrahi, he would be subjected to a wave of hostility that could well be electorally damaging to the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party and to relationships with some sectors of American political and public opinion. The First Minister was fully aware of these implications and of the price that would have to be paid for a legal and principled stand, but rightly allowed his Justice Minister to do his job, free from interference or political pressure.

3. The decision was a dirty deal cooked up with the Scottish Government by Jack Straw, BP, Tony Blair and the Libyan Government after their abortive attempt to secure release under the PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement).

The idea that the SNP Government, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would be part of such a deal is nothing short of risible to anyone with even the most superficial understanding of the relationship between the Scottish Government and the UK Labour Government, especially with these particular representatives of it.

Not even the promise of immediate independence for Scotland, the refund of all stolen oil revenues,  full restitution for the havoc wreaked in Scotland by Thatcher and the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang, and a full apology to William Wallace would have bought such a deal.

4. The decision was taken because the Justice Minister secretly knows that Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing, and is defending the Scottish Justice system, the Scottish police and the shadowy US interests who perverted the course of justice.

Kenny MacAskill has indeed said that he took the decision in the belief that Megrahi was guilty – he could not have done otherwise and remained Scottish Justice Minister. If he ever entertained such doubts, he could have, should have and would have thrown his considerable authority behind calls for an enquiry into the Megrahi conviction. He certainly would not have chosen such a ludicrous and risky route to righting a judicial wrong and overturning an unsafe conviction.

(For the record, I believe that Megrahi did not act alone, and that the US bought, and may thus have compromised evidence advanced at the trial. I believe on balance that Megrahi was guilty, but allow for some possibility that he is innocent.)

However, it would appear that the only solution that might satisfy some of the more extreme critics of compassionate release based on medical prognostications of death in terminal illness would run as follows -

The dying man must sign a document saying that, if he does not die within three calendar months of the medical judgement and subsequent release, he will either return voluntarily to be executed by the releasing authority or alternatively have all medical care withdrawn. The doctors who made the initial prognosis should be struck off the medical register and the law officer who ordered the compassionate release should publicly resign in disgrace, wearing a sack and scattering ashes over his head, with full media coverage.

Any leading cleric who supported the release decision should be reduced to the lowest rank of their denomination and sent to a remote, and ideally dangerous and unhealthy part of the world.  All who contested the release decision in the UK should be given a lifetime subscription to the Daily Mail. The leading opponent of the decision in the UK should be given a life peerage (Lord X of Vengeful) and the leading opponent in the US should be given a position as a Fox News presenter, thus ensuring that he or she will be a Republican Presidential candidate for the next election.

Provisions such as the above would provide conclusive proof that the United Kingdom and the USA were still Christian countries, and that their Christian/Judaic values were still intact.

 

PORTIA:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd - it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice ---

William Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice