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Showing posts with label Scottish defence jobs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish defence jobs. Show all posts

Monday, 21 November 2011

The GUU debate and this and that

I may have given an unintended impression in my piece on the GUU debate on independence yesterday, namely that that members of the two teams reflected their real political views in debate.  I do understand clearly that principle of such debates, namely, that the position taken in relations to the motion does not necessarily reflect personal views.

My experience of formalised debating – as opposed to making my living from real life debating – is confined to one series of debates many years ago, jointly organised by the BBC and the local chamber of Commerce in Newcastle, and sponsored by the Newcastle Breweries(S&N). The debating teams included a BBC team, other media teams, lawyers, the University and the local debating teams, including the Wranglers, Newcastle’s oldest and most respected debating club, and other companies. We were offered an opportunity to form a team, but nobody expected much of a team of brewery managers. I was the team captain.

We won, defeating all comers.

The rules of that debate were that the team selecting the motion did not get the choice of either being the proposer of the motion or the opposer – that choice was given to the other team. It was therefore pointless choosing a motion that suited your personal views and strength since you might have to oppose it. This rule, I believe, is common in debates, but not universal. I have no idea how GUU set their rule or chose their motion and proposers and opposers.

My comments were about the nature of the arguments advanced, and the general atmosphere of the debate. However, I could not but observe that, however the choice was made, the team members of the anti-independence team contained three who were not eligible to vote in a Scottish referendum because of non-residency in Scotland, and that each team did seem to include individuals who tended to be identified with a viewpoint, e.g. Duncan Hamilton.

But I look forward to being proved wrong, and finding, say, Duncan Hamilton, Manus Blessing and Murray Pittock emerging as staunch supporters of the UK in the real life independence debate that is now raging in Scotland, and all the members of the GUU team who so vigorously opposed the motion on Saturday revealing themselves as passionate supporters of Scotland’s independence from the UK. They will then have shown themselves to be true devil’s advocates in debating terms.

Or maybe each team member actually passionately believed in what they were saying


In their page 13 piece – Devine forced to sell flat to pay off debt – the Sunday Herald reminded us yesterday that in the wake of the expenses scandal. four Labour MPs, including Devine were jailed and two Tory Lords. As for the rest of the Labour and Tory house flippers, pornographic video renters, excessive claimants etc. the phrase by the skin of their teeth comes to mind.


The spat between the UK Supreme Court and the Scottish Legal Establishment continues, with accusations being flung around, as senior legal figures, wigs askew and gowns a-flying, demonstrate that the law is not always above politics, especially where matters pertaining to the Union are concerned.

Cui bono? not to mention Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

They talk of little else in the working class communities of Dalmarnock, as ordinary people and small businesses contemplate the wreckage of their lives perpetrated by Glasgow City Council  in the name of the Commonwealth Games and urban regeneration, with the full majesty of the law firmly behind the perpetrators and the obscenely rich property developers and their speculative gains.

And while this was going on, the complacent professionals of Glasgow – journalists, lawyers, academics - turned their heads the other way, with a tiny number of shining exceptions. I wonder how many attended the GUU debate?


As terrified European countries abandon democracy for unelected technocracy, we hear similar voices here in Scotland, in the letters pages and in statements from the Scottish trades unions.

The shipbuilding unions have played along enthusiastically with the new Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition tactics of scaremongering over defence jobs – the defence-as-job-creation theme – with special reference to shipbuilding. LibDem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore (new friend of Margaret Curran and Willie Bain, Labour) with his ever loyal little sidekick, David Mundel have been warning – i.e. threatening – Scotland that it would not be in the front line of defence spending if Scotland left the UK.

Kenny Jordan, regional secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions wants to meet Philip Hammond, successor to Liam Fox (remember him?) as soon as possible.

We don’t have the time to play party politics with the situation,” says Kenny Jordan, “Our concern is for the future of our members’ jobs.”

When people say that they are not playing politics, they almost always are, and the politics are right-wing politics. So says Polly Toynbee of the Guardian, who is as close to left-wing royalty as one can get. And so say I, who am about as far from left-wing royalty as one can get …

Friday, 18 November 2011

FMQs, sketch writers, and hounding the Wee Lord of Islay

Most newspapers carry as part of their political coverage a political sketch column. These are intended as a lighter note to the portentously-titled analysis pieces, and usually try to strike a humorous or satirical note – often rather leaden humour – but they sometimes also serve as vehicles for the sketch writer and, who knows, the newspaper itself to give full rein to blatant bias under a cloak of jollity.

Since abandoning the Scotsman to its fate, a paper which is in decline into irrelevance as a serious newspaper, I have for the moment replaced it with the Times. This choice was dictated by the fact that its layout is impeccable, and it comes in a Scottish edition, whose Scottishness unfortunately does not extend to its Letters page.

It also comes with Angus Macleod, who rarely lets his unionism get in the way of facts, because he is a fine journalist.

But back to the sketch columns, which today in the Herald and the Times both cover yesterday’s FMQs at Holyrood. Holyrood FMQs, for all its vigour, is a model of good democratic theatre, as contrasted with the baying mobs on the green benches of Westminster, and in the last term, 2007-2011, it had four fine lead actors in the weekly mini-soap, expertly cast – the rumbustious hero/villain (dependent on your political orientation) Alex Salmond, the dour, humourless villain/hero Iain Gray, a feisty heroine in Annabel Goldie and a smoothly irrelevant nice guy in Tavish Scott.

These four principals, together with some interesting support actors, provided ready material for the sketch writers, as did the finely balanced plot of a minority government struggling to stay afloat in a boat where the three other parties were in a semi-permanent state of near-mutiny, conspiring against the Captain, who despite his vulnerability, kept lashing them unmercifully. Annabel seemed to like this, Tavish didn’t and Iain Gray took it with a sullen stoicism.

Alas, the soap is now based on a new ship, with the Captain firmly in charge, having decisively put down the mutineers and packed the vessel with his own loyal crew. Iain Gray has been told by his party that he has been written out of the script, and just has the residual role of dying in a suitable spectacular manner until a replacement is found. Annabel has been replaced by a Parliamentary newcomer, a young actress who made her name in kung-fu movies, but is otherwise inexperienced. Her fellow actors didn’t want her – the one they wanted is sullenly hiding at the back of the boat – and this leaves her expecting attack from the rear as well as the front.

In replacing Tavish, the casting director has gone for someone at least as ineffectual but also lacking in presence. The fact that he is named after a popular brand of antacid hasn’t helped, and he leads a tiny, shrunken, demoralised band. Not much for the sketch writers yet.

Magnus Linklater in the Times deals with this by pretending he has watched a different FMQs to the rest of us, which I suppose was the only coping strategy open to a unionist. In the episode he watched, which nobody else has seen, Iain Gray is the hero – serious, with an air of decency about him, he rise to the challenge, and delivers rejoinders with great passion and great effect. The First Minister of Scotland, the overwhelming choice of the electorate, in contrast, has weaknesses in his truculent arguments, is supported by a backbench clique – he bridles at criticism deliver by our hero Iain, he has standard Salmond lines, etc.

The only problem with your review of this episode of FMQs, Magnus, is that no one else has seen it, only you. It must have been a discarded pilot, run by mistake on a minority channel. Or perhaps it was a Dallas fantasy dream sequence, and you and Iain will now awaken to the Gray reality on November 2011. The electorate may view the real episode for themselves, in fact, I may link – later

Ian Bell does a more objective job in the Herald, and keeps his powder dry. Rather like Angus Macleod, he does not let his nostalgia for that old-time socialist religion get in the way of the facts. But Ian is unhappy about the way that Scotland is going – he just makes a better job of hiding it than Magnus Linklater.


I am delighted to support the wee Lord of Islay’s claim that SNP critics hound him. Here I come Geordie, baying after your scent …

The noble Lord, whose life has been immeasurably enriched by his close association with the weapons of war and the merchants of death, especially the nuclear deterrent aka weapons of mass destruction, sees NATO as a job creation scheme for Scottish industry, rather than as a paranoid defence organisation. Why question the purpose of the armaments or their relationship to any real defence need, or the price in blood that must be paid for them when they are such an unfailing source of jobs to Scotland, not to mention lucrative directorships and consultancies to politicians? How else is a wee boy from Islay going to get to be a Lord? Ask John Reid, he knows – or ask Liam Fox, a wee boy from East Kilbride. No, on second thought, don’t ask Liam Fox – he never made it to the Lords, although he was well on his way. Shame, that …

So he warns Scotland of the terrible consequences of attempting to be a free nation, to have defence forces appropriate to its real defence needs, to be free of the intolerable financial and moral burdens of WMDs, to stop sending its young men and women to die in the foreign wars that are so necessary to the profit machine called the military/industrial complex.

Of course, they are not consequences, they are empty threats, designed to intimidate a free people and suppress their democratic instincts .

But then, that’s what British foreign policy is all about, isn’t it, Geordie?

Oh, my sweet Lord – with apologies to George Harrison.

EXTRACT FROM 24th September 2011 BLOG

But of course, the high road to England has been the glittering prize for ambitious Scottish Labour Party politicians, and indeed all Scottish politicians with the exception of the SNP – a route to Westminster, ministerial office and ultimately the Lords, the final escape from democracy and the tedious need to get elected to make money. They have the shining Labour examples from the past to inspire them – Lord George Foulkes, Lord Martin, the disgraced former Speaker, Lord McConnell, Lord Watson, convicted of fire-raising in a Scottish hotel, Baroness Adams, once distinguished as having the highest expenses of any member of the Lords, despite having spoken in the Upper chamber only once (2009), Lord Reid, Lord Robertson – the list goes on.

However, the last two are interesting, since they were both Scottish Labour MPs who became UK Secretaries of State for Defence, and in Lord Robertson’s case, grasped the even more glittering prize of Secretary General of NATO.

It is fair to say that no such exalted – and highly lucrative – posts would ever be open to a Scottish MP who decided to devote himself or herself solely to the interests of the people who elected them to Westminster, and are certainly not open to those who decided to become MSPS and serve the Scottish people in Scotland.

Now the most ambitious Labour MPs – and MSPs - grasp these essential facts very rapidly indeed, and at the earliest opportunity get the hell out of Scotland and as far away from the realities of the day-to-day lives of their constituents as possible. While Springburn crumbled into even greater dereliction and poverty than that which had been the legacy of decades as a Labour fiefdom, Michael Martin was sitting in the Speaker’s chair, acting as shop steward for the MPs who were ripping off the taxpayer through the expenses system.

George Islay MacNeill Robertson left Islay as fast as possible, and despite being elected six times as MP for either Hamilton or Hamilton South, moved swiftly to more exalted UK posts, and ultimately to NATO. He now bristles with directorships and consultancies.

John Reid, MP of Motherwell North and then Airdrie and Shotts soon saw the attractions of the classic route to power – Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence, and held numerous other Cabinet posts besides. A former Communist and a product of a very rough realpolitik Labour environment, he once described the Labour Party in 1983 as "Leaderless, unpatriotic, dominated by demagogues, policies 15 years out of date". Twenty eight years on, his description still more or less fits. But he saw the light and the road to power, prestige, wealth and a Lordship very clearly indeed, and the rewards have been substantial indeed for the Baron of Cardowan.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Scotland treated with contempt by Cameron and Blunkett at PMQs

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): In a few weeks’ time, the Prime Minister will decide whether he will close RAF Lossiemouth, in addition to closing RAF Kinloss, which would lead to the biggest loss of jobs in Scotland since the Tories closed manufacturing industry in the 1980s. As a consequence, that would mean that Scotland would have fewer service personnel, fewer military bases, aircraft, vessels and Army battalions and less defence spending than all our independent Scandinavian neighbours of comparable size. Will the Prime Minister explain why he is concentrating defence spending in the south and cutting defence spending disproportionately in Scotland?

The Prime Minister: We are going ahead with the aircraft carriers, which are being built in Scotland. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that if we had an independent Scotland, he would not be flying planes but flying by the seat of his pants.
(My thanks to Conan the Librarian for the Hansard text, not quite verbatim, as Conan pointed out.)

Note the glib, contemptuous, Oxbridge-debating society style with which this rich Tory dismisses a serious, well-formulated question that affects the lives of thousands of Scots.

Scots, for God's sake, get your hands off your forelocks, and recognise that Westminster and the UK don't give a damn about Scotland. The Unionists parties (Labour, Tories, LibDems) can't and won't help you - only the Scottish National Party has your real interests at heart

Vote for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for independence - vote SNP.

A former Labour minister attacks the Scottish and Welsh settlement at PMQs and compares them with Yorkshire. That's what Scotland is to the London-based parties - just another subordinate region of the UK, to be treated with either envy or contempt as the mood takes them.

But they can't win -

Blunkett achieves the triple whammy of upsetting the Scots, the Welsh and the English in one ill-considered question, reinforcing the belief of the Scots and the Welsh that they should be fully independent, and making the English feel that they too should have their own Parliament and recover their country from this poisoned Union, and stand again proudly as England - an ancient, proud nation.

Vote in May 2011 for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for the only party that can deliver what Scotland needs - the Scottish National Party. Vote SNP.