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

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Scottish unionists–and Michael Moore - inch towards their exit strategy

Someone once said that a Scotsman would do almost anything except harm his career. That is certainly true of Scottish unionist politicians – Scotland and the Scottish people have always come a poor second for most of them in their scale of priorities, with the high road to England and Westminster and a place on the gravy train way up front.

In fairness, some have not started out that way: the insidious lure of preferment, high office and money, money, money has come later, then that ultimate flight from all things Scottish - ennoblement, the ermine and the Lords - and freedom from the tedious business of getting elected every so often, not to mention listening to constituents. And the strange satisfactions of the title – Lord Poodle of Auchterselloot

A tiny number have believed in Scotland, albeit within the Union, and have consistently stood up for their ain folk. Wha was like them, but maist o’ them are deid. But among the living I would certainly number Henry McLeish and he is not alone.

But the rest of them are now looking at a career abyss when independence comes – they would say if it comes. The political agenda in Scotland has been totally dominated by the Scottish National Party and its vision and values since 2007: the unionists have moved through stunned denial to vitriolic opposition, but now, faced with the stark reality of the May 2011 election result, to moving inexorably towards a reluctant recognition of the inevitability of change.

It is astonishing to consider that the Scottish Labour Party is only now at the point of electing a new leader seven and a half months after the resignation of Iain Gray. What was left of the Lib/Dems at least got off their erses and elected a leader, and the Tories, having almost rent themselves apart in the process, managed to get someone in post. Neither of these two leaders exactly looks like the kind of leader their respective parties needed if they were to have any hope of restoring their fortunes.

Consider the fate of Scottish unionist MPs after independence.

At a stroke, they cease to be MPs. Those among them who are ministers – a single Tory and some LibDems – will probably cease to be ministers, although being an MP is not a requirement of being a government minister. The Scottish Lords are in a strange no-man’s land. The Queen is still the Queen, and in theory at least they owe their position to her, instead of the sordid reality of a political appointment.

But can they sit in a chamber that no longer has any relevance to Scotland, part of the democratic process of UK Minus?

How will the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people regard the Lairds of Auchterselloot voting on legislation and drawing their expenses?

The Scottish MPs who lose their seats - among them some very significant individuals for their parties - could look to the party managers to find them a safe seat. But who will have them? The good electors of England are unlikely to look kindly on having a Scot parachuted into their constituency, and the risk for the party of putting a Scot up for election in the period immediately after independence would be to great an electoral risk.

It is even less likely that some obscure but worthy English MP is going give up his or her seat to make way for a big Scottish beast. It will be difficult enough in all conscience for Scottish MPs in English constituencies if they face re-nomination and a campaign soon after independence – or perhaps before it.

But some might take comfort in the fact that if an independence referendum in say 2015 resulted in a YES vote, it would take years to reach that bright day when Scotland will again be a nation.

However, another spectre looms for the Scottish unionist MPs …

As yesterday’s PMQs demonstrated very clearly, David Cameron’s coat is on a very shaky nail over Europe. The future of the Coalition looks increasingly uncertain, and the LibDem mice, while not exactly roaring, did emit a cheeky squeak in their recent Commons vote against the Government. Not quite a rebellion, but certainly a fart in church …

If the Coalition falls, especially in the context of global uncertainty, most of the nightmare for Scottish unionists MPs would come early, and the Douglas Alexanders, the Murphys, the Tom Harrises, the Danny Alexanders - and the sole Mundel - would risk being oot on their erses in a general election.

So all of this brings me to today, and that extraordinary manifestation of the Union, Michael Moore, the Scottish Colonial Governor. If there is a figurehead for Scotland in the UK, it is oor Michael. But his job – and his MP status – both end with independence, as does the Scottish Office. In a general election, he might well lose his seat as a Scottish LibDem. Lordships will be hard to come by for such as he in the present climate.

And so to the Herald’s astonished headline - Surprise as Moore says that he is not a ‘Unionist’.

Is the Pope not a Catholic? Is King Billy not an Orangeman?

In the tones of Peter Kay and garlic bread, I say “Not a unionist? Not a unionist?

Be kind to the man – as a kind of Scot, one who will do anything rather than harm his career, he is simply gearing up for his exit strategy, as is Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all.

Because there is nothing so terrifying as being alienated from your ain folk, and finding that you have nowhere to go. Being on the wrong side at a pivotal moment in your country’s history is not a happy place to be.

But don’t despair, guys – somebody will have you. The new Scotland won’t keep you out – it’s an inclusive, forgiving nation. You may have to spend some time in the wilderness doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, but you have talents and experience and providing your contrition is genuine, Scotland will find a place for you.

But don’t submit yourself to the electorate for say, twenty years or so. After all, we haven’t forgiven Maggie, and she wreaked her havoc on Scotland a generation ago. Scots have long memories …

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Michael Moore pose 6 questions–but I have only one for him …

Examining Michael Moore’s voting record, (Voting record) I see a principled man – or at least one who voted as I might have done on most – but not all – key issues. Then I remind myself that most of this voting was done in opposition, when the LibDems had – or claimed to have – liberal, democratic principles. All of that, as we now to know, vanished when they entered the Coalition, and the thin veneer of principle was rapidly stripped off, revealing the rotten Tory woodwork underneath.

And of course, there’s nothing like a ministerial car, salary and perks, not to mention the hollow trapping of being a colonial governor, to erode principle and give free rein to a natural inclination towards pomposity. But, as a leading member of a party that has welshed on its manifesto commitments, betrayed those who voted for it in May 2010, and which has reduced the party in Scotland to a pathetic little group in Holyrood, Michael Moore entertains no self-doubt about his right to lecture the Scottish Government, elected by a decisive mandate by the people of Scotland, who also gave the LibDems and Tavish Scott two fingers in May 2011.

If he had taken the trouble to read Your Scotland, Your Voice Nov. 2009 he would have found most of the answers in a document almost two years old, produced as part of a conversation with the people of Scotland. And of course, that thinking has been developed and refined and is the subject of on-going research and development within the party in the lead-up to the referendum on independence.

But Michael Moore’s imperial mind has been focused by the prospect of losing his plumed hat and his white horse when the Scottish Office becomes redundant and is consigned to a sordid footnote in history (except for Niall Ferguson, who may wish to publish several tedious volumes on its glorious past) and by the fact that if a general election was conducted in the next year, his party would face UK-wide obliteration, and even the border voters of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk might wish to think again about their MP.

What does the Scotsman have to say about all of this? Michael Kelly, in an article on sectarianism and the deeply non-productive and unfortunate comments by Paul McBride, QC has, for once many considered and important things to say, and I am in broad agreement with him – a first for me! But Oor Michael cannot risk being thought to be in favour of independence when he rightly criticises McBride’s doomsday scenario, so he has a little disclaimer in his second paragraph. I quote -

I am as keen as the next home rule unionist to prevent the creation of a state, socially, economically and politically inferior to the one we have in which we currently enjoy living.”

The state “in which we currently enjoy living” – the UK – is the one that is nearly bankrupt, bleeding itself to death with foreign wars and interventions, corrupt in its Parliament, in its institutions, in its banking, and in its unelected power and privilege.

This is the state that for over 300 years has exploited Scotland, its people and its resources, a state that is still being disproportionately funded by Scotland, not only in economic terms but in the blood of its servicemen and women, who have consistently sustained a casualty rate, proportionate to population, higher than the rest of the UK. Their reward has been to be called heroes – which they are – and to have their ancient regiments eliminated, merged, in a sustained attempt to remove their Scottish identity, to be inadequately equipped by an incompetent M.O.D. Ask Rose Gentle, a Scottish mother whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004.

Scotland’s reward for the rape of its people, talent and resources has been poverty, poor housing, destruction of its industrial infrastructure, and a lower life expectancy for men and women than the rest of the UK. This lethal colonial ravaging of Scotland has only begun to be ameliorated by the Scottish National Party, who in just over four years of government - most of it in minority government, blocked at every opportunity by a cynical and expedient unionist opposition – have given news spirit and new hope to the Scottish people, who have rewarded them with a giant vote of confidence.

Michael Kelly’s party, in contrast, presided over the decline of Scotland for half a century, until their dead and cynical hegemony was successfully challenged by the SNP in 2007. Before the Scottish Labour Party we had an equally dead hand, that of the party of empire, blood, death and privilege, the Tory Party, now an irrelevancy in Scotland.

And what of the Scotsman lead article? It has the front to talk of honest answers. Under its present editorial team and proprietorship, it rarely asks honest questions – they are loaded unionist propaganda - and even more rarely provides honest answers. In its instincts it is Tory, but recognises the death of that party in Scotland. It is now in a dilemma – it is anti-Labour, but pro-Union, but the only hope for the Union is Labour. It was forced, in a fit of realism during the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary campaign, to recognise that the SNP had the only managerially competent politicians in Scotland, so it backed them, but was emphatically not backing an independent Scotland.

It was utterly taken aback by the election results, and now is in an even greater dilemma, trying to balance the twin threats of declining circulation caused by its progressive irrelevance as a voice for Scotland, and its irrational and emotional attachment to the Union. It gives occasional – and very welcome - space to real Scottish voices such as Joan McAlpine, but the balance is never in doubt, with columnists such as Alan Massie, Michael Kelly, et al, and of course the consistently unionist voice of its editor, Bill Jamieson. The Scotsman has never really recovered from Andrew Neil, Thatcherite and Unionist par excellence.

So let me close with a message to Michael Moore. If you care for Scotland, resign from your post as Scottish Secretary, ask Willie Rennie to stand down as leader of his tiny group, and lead your party in Holyrood. God knows, the Scottish LibDems need a leader, after Tavish Scott - and now Willie Rennie. They will welcome you with open arms. The spirit of Joe Grimond will be with you, instead of the ghost of Jeremy Thorpe. You can keep the plumed helmet …

Meanwhile, stop asking stupid questions – you can render that service at least to your adopted country.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Jim …

Friday, 19 November 2010

Alex Salmond on Scottish tax powers

The undernoted was published by the SNP today, and includes a letter to the Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, by the First Minister today – the highlights in colour of certain passages are mine, and were not in the original document.

Salmond puts UK straight on Scottish tax power


Alex Salmond has set the UK Government straight over the tax powers available to the Scottish Parliament.  In a public letter to the Scottish Secretary Mr Salmond responds to a series of inaccurate claims from the Scottish secretary about the future of the 3p tax power.

The SNP has always made clear that the current tartan tax is an unfair and regressive tax.

The full letter is below:


Your letter of 18 November about the Scottish variable rate of income tax (SVR) is a travesty of the position. The reality is as follows.

The then Scottish Executive paid the UK Government £12 million in 2000 to add SVR functionality to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax collection systems. Thereafter, an annual fee of £50,000 was paid.

HMRC said in 2007 that additional work was needed to maintain the readiness of the IT system, and in summer 2008 made clear that they would be installing a new IT platform. Scottish Government officials attempted to elicit information on what this meant for Scotland and the functionality of the 3p tax power.

We were finally asked on 28 July this year to pay over the sum of £7 million to HMRC for this purpose. Why nowhere in your letter did you mention this.demand?

Anyone proposing paying this £7 million to HMRC would need to explain where the equivalent cuts would be made in Scottish public spending.

And even if we had paid it - at a time when Scotland is on the receiving end of massive cuts to our budget from your government - the SVR under the new system could not have been implemented until 2012/13: another key point which you failed to mention.

In any case, at that stage it seemed an academic debate because the SVR itself is set to be replaced under any version of the legislation which you intend to introduce in the next few weeks.

On 20 August, Scottish Government officials offered talks with HMRC on the issue of the SVR - an offer which has not been responded to. The first we have heard from the UK government on the matter since 20 August is your letter of yesterday.

It is clearly unacceptable that Scotland should be asked to pay, again, for something which millions of pounds have previously been paid for. If HMRC choose to replace their IT systems, that is clearly a matter for them. However, anyone would expect them in specifying their new systems to replicate the functionality of the old.

No Scottish administration has used the 3p tax power, none of the main parties in Scotland advocate using it now, and it is intended to be overtaken by the Tory/Lib Dem Calman financial proposals - flawed measures which, had they been established for the start of the current spending review, would have resulted in the Scottish Budget being £900 million lower in 2009/10.

The real issue, therefore, would appear to be about the future.

You stated - as did Danny Alexander in his letter to me of 20 October this year about the Spending Review settlement - that: "it is an established principle that the costs of devolution should be met from the Scottish Budget."

This is not the case - in fact, the opposite is true.

HM Treasury's recently-updated Statement of Funding Policy states at paragraph 3.2.8 that:

"Where decisions of United Kingdom departments or agencies lead to additional costs for any of the devolved administrations, where other arrangements do not exist automatically to adjust for such extra costs, the body whose decision leads to the additional cost will meet that cost."

The clear impression can only be that your letter was not about the cost of financial powers that are going to be superseded, but rather about establishing a precedent for the Scottish Government paying to install and administer the Calman tax proposals - which unlike the SVR will require to be used every year.

Given the huge pressures on the Scottish public purse because of your government's spending cuts - and the further threat to our budget from the Calman proposals themselves - we need answers to these key questions as a matter of urgency:

How much is the UK Government intending to ask the Scottish Government to pay for the Calman tax powers - measures which could reduce Scotland's budget, as indicated above?

When do you propose asking the Scottish Government, and therefore the Scottish people, to pay?

Exactly when would these financial powers be capable of being implemented?

A copy of this letter goes like yours to Annabel Goldie MSP, Iain Gray MSP, Margo MacDonald MSP, Tavish Scott MSP and Patrick Harvie MSP, and David Gauke MP, and also to the leaders of the Scottish parties at Westminster: Angus Robertson MP, Ann McKechin MP, and David Mundell MP. I am also sending copies to John Swinney and Fiona Hyslop.

Given that you released your letter to the media, I am also releasing this.


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ann McKechin MP – Shadow Scottish Secretary

I ought to like and respect someone like Ann McKechin – a guid Scots lassie, a lawyer by profession (Scots Law  at Strathclyde University), widely experienced in politics and representing the Glasgow North constituency.

But I find it hard to do either. She has been in Westminster since 2001 – the year of the Afghanistan invasion, and has been a loyal member of the Blair and Brown governments. No MP survived and prospered in either regime, as she has done, without submerging their liberal instincts and the values that used to be held by the People’s Party.

Who can touch pitch, and not be defiled by it ?


Her voting record shows the contradictions and the struggle with conscience that bedevilled some of the members of the Blair/Brown regimes’ more principled MPs.

She supported gay rights, was anti-hunting, sort of against Trident, and wanted an elected House of Lords, and to her credit, three years into her career, voted strongly against the Iraq War. I applaud her unreservedly for that.

But when the career chips were down – and you can bet they were down - she supported the most illiberal Labour regimes ever to have disgraced their party, Westminster and betrayed the country in the other contemptible things that defined Blair, Brown and New Labour.

She voted strongly

for Labour’s anti-terrorism laws

for a stricter asylum system

for allowing ministers to intervene in (i.e. intimidate) inquests

for ID cards

against laws to stop climate change

and she voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq War.

She was Jim Murphy’s right-hand woman in the Scottish Office, and together with the series of Labour apparatchiks - Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray - who replaced the men of stature who once led Labour in Holyrood - Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish – she actively participated and supported the blocking of almost every initiative by the SNP government under Alex Salmond to address the fundamental problems facing the Scottish people.

Here she is, attempting to justify the contemptible, politically expedient opposition to minimum pricing on alcohol, something supported by just about every objective Scottish institution – the Police, the Health Service, the  churches, etc.

Ann McKechin has now been rewarded for all of this by Ed Miliband by becoming the Shadow Scottish Secretary, and will sit beside the members of the New Labour Scottish Old Guard who were up to their necks in that betrayal of Scotland, – Murphy, Alexander et al – and will become Westminster’s woman in Scotland, if Labour are re-elected instead of being Scotland’s woman in Westminster.