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Showing posts with label Stewart Hosie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stewart Hosie. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Polls: Newsnight index and YouGov Nowcast - and average, April 9th 2015

Here’s the latest Newsnight Index poll and the YouGov Nowcast poll.

I averaged them, perhaps invalid, but polls are a snapshot with error margin, so probably gives a good idea of state of play.

Poll Ave April 9th 2015

Net out Sinn Fein and the Speaker leaves 644 voting maximum, so 323 minimum necessary for single party overall majority or voting deal combined majority, in coalition, confidence and supply or informal vote-by-vote, issue-by-issue basis.

Neither Ed Miliband nor David Cameron are remotely likely to have an overall seat majority as single party.

Any way you slice it – since SNP won’t do any deal with or vote with the Tories – Ed Miliband can’t ignore the SNP, whether Labour is the largest or second largest party.

If he leads the largest party, his choice is either minority government – with huge risk – or deal with SNP. If he’s not the largest party, his choice is either let the Tories in or deal with the SNP.

Quite simply, the SNP – with the help of Plaid and Greens as bloc - can make him PM on either outcome.

Since coalition is firmly ruled out, his options on an SNPbloc/Labour deal are therefore confidence and supplya pre-deal delivering support on negotiated conditions – or informal issue-by-issue, vote-by-vote haggling with SNP bloc.

Nicola has made her pre-deal conditions and voting intentions abundantly clear.  Stewart Hosie expertly analysed the various options today on the Daily Politics, eventually in the face of an increasingly agitated Andrew Neil on Trident/NATO aspect.

The Referendum and the opposition to Scotland’s independence has always centred on defence, (see link below) the nuclear deterrent and Trident, as I noted some years ago. We didn’t win our freedom on September 18th 2014, but now Scotland is playing the Westminster game on their ground – but fully democratically and constitutionally on our terms with our democratic voting independence.

It’s the nukes, stupid!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

SNP Spring Conference 2015 – there’s never been a party conference like this one!

Angus Robertson MP and Stewart Hosie MP, the two stalwarts of the lonely advance guard of six SNP MPs, who have spent years as a tiny embattled group on the Commons benches, surrounded by the hostile forces of unionism, alternately abused and patronised, facing the full wrath and hostility of all unionist parties, including abuse from their fellow Scots in Labour, LibDems and Tory ranks, exhausted by commuting to and from their constituencies and demanding party duties in Scotland.

Here they set the scene for Conference and for Nicola, and calmly nail – hopefully  once and for all(!) - the repetitive distortions and simplistic questions and soundbytes directed at us by hostile and often deeply confused unionists – on party leadership, on Westminster leadership and on Westminster strategy and the questions of a second independence referendum.

It is not a an exaggeration to say that no other political party has such clarity of policy, objectives and tight focus.

Scotland, the party and the massive new SNP membership owe them a debt of gratitude for their incalculable contribution to party strategy and the success of the SNP, especially to Angus Robertson, the modest hero of the SNP, the architect of so much of its success - our leader in Westminster. We owe so much to this man.

We won't forget - and after May, you'll never be lonely again, guys - massive reinforcements are coming!

There has never been a party conference like this. It let the world see what Scotland and Scots are really like - open and determined. There's a simple explanation for SNP's success and poll position - it understands Scots, Scotland and politics better than the opposition.

HUMZA: "We are nobody's branch office. Nobody puts Scotland in a box. No one puts Scotland in a corner." And so say all of us ...

If you're a lifelong Labour supporter (I was!) but increasingly realise that the SNP is the party that now represents your values - join us!

If you voted NO at #indyref but are having second thoughts, now's the time! Join the SNP - you'll be welcomed and immediately among friends.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Coalitus and coalascere

Coalitus? Sounds painful – maybe an inflammation caused by household fuel? Or is it a fancy name for the food craving of some pregnant women?

And coalascere ? Something Il commissario Montalbano might order as a side dish in his favourite Sicilian restaurant?

No – coalitus is the medieval Latin past participle of coalescere, meaning fusion or a coming together and coalesce and coalition derive from it.

A coalition is an alliance of some sort between two or more parties for combined action in concert in certain defined circumstances, one that is usually intended to be temporary.

Used in a political context, it is often for the purpose of forming a government.

(I am familiar with it in a negotiating context in voting behaviours with individuals and groups,  and the mathematical horrors of The Banzhaf Dilemma that I used to frighten senior managers with on negotiating skills courses.)


We have lived with a coalition government in the UK for over four years in the form of the pernicious Tory/LibDem Coalition of 2010, formed in the aftermath of economic, social and foreign policy shambles left by the Blair/Brown governments of 1997 to 2010.

If we go back to 1852, the Peelites and the Whigs formed a coalition headed by Lord Aberdeen. It lasted till 1855. The noble Earl had a rash of Lords and knights in his cabinet, but he also had one William Ewart Gladstone, a fellow Peelite, of whom rather a lot was subsequently heard.

There was another short-lived LibTory coalition right in the middle of the Great War after the Gallipoli disaster: it collapsed and was promptly replaced by another under Lloyd George. It fell apart in 1922 over scandals, notoriously the blatant flogging of peerages for hard cash by Lloyd George.

The coalitions of 1931 to 1940 preferred to call themselves National Governments because by that time the term Coalition Government had a bad name(!)

The Second World War brought a Tory-led coalition under Churchill (1940-1945). It was referred to as the War Ministry, and last until May 1945, when Churchill resigned after the war ended.

It was replaced by the Churchill caretaker ministry until July 1945, when the general election resulted in a Labour landslide and the Attlee Government.

One might therefore say that the record of coalition governments has not been a stellar one, with the exception of the War Ministry Coalition of 1940-1945.

I’ve been alive during three of the six of them, witnessed the end of two of them and hope to witness the end of another on May 7th 2015.

The question is – will we see another coalition government sometime after May 8th 2015 – and should we want one?

SNP Westminster strategy

The SNP’s core strategy for GE2015 is to contest all Westminster Scottish seats and get as many SNP MPs elected as possible.

Its preferred outcome for the UK-wide ballot is Labour as the party with the largest number of seats, but without an overall majority, and the end of Cameron’s Tory/LibDem Coalition Government.

This outcome would leave UK Labour with three choices -

govern as a minority government, with no formal arrangement with any other party, but making ad hoc deals to secure a majority on specific votes with any party or group of MPs it could secure

enter into a confidence and supply arrangement with a party or parties to offer committed support on agreed issues

form a coalition government with one or more parties and form a cabinet that included ministers appointed from those parties

It would however be a mistake to think that this would all instantly be Ed Miliband’s choice to make. As Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary involved in the 2010 untidy and acrimonious negotiations that led to the Cameron/Clegg Coalition, has pointed out on Sky News, things were not as straightforward in 2010, and are unlikely to be straightforward after May 7th 2015.

But if it is Miliband’s choice, and he chooses a deal rather than minority government, and if the logic of that deal centres on a new and impressive bloc of SNP MPs, what deal might he choose – confidence and supply or coalition ?

If I were in his shoes, and I wanted to neuter the SNP influence in Westminster, I would unhesitatingly choose coalition.


Well, for a number of reasons.

1. I would invoke the spirit and the words of Lyndon Johnson when faced with having J.Edgar Hoover in or out of his government – “I’d rather have them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

2. Having the SNP in government, in cabinet – and with cabinet responsibility -could be presented as de facto acceptance of the finality of the 2014 independence referendum outcome and embracing the Union.

3. If the SNP broke ranks in coalition, and breached joint cabinet responsibility for a policy decision or action, they could be presented as deeply irresponsible and unfit for government.

4. In Miliband’s position, I would rely on the seductive influences of ministerial office, the status and perks, and the illusion of acting on an international stage to blunt the edge of the SNP’s ambitions for Scotland and damage their reputation and electoral standing with their core constituency.

In a nutshell, if I were Ed Miliband I would do to the SNP what Cameron has done to the LibDems – reduce them to an object of contempt and an electoral rump of a party.

In contrast, governing UK as a minority government would be a far more risky enterprise than governing Scotland in a devolved Parliament was for Alex Salmond 2007-2011, and a confidence and supply deal would place him in the mode of supplicant every time a significant vote arose and crucially, at every budget.


The SNP’s current position – as I understand it – is that they hope for a Labour win with no overall majority, and a subsequent confidence and supply deal. If - as many thought – Stewart Hosie was flying a cautious kite for coalition, then it is for the SNP to justify such a course of action.

But can they – and more importantly – will they?

The SNP could argue that it cannot commit to what it would and wouldn’t do until the result of GE2015 is known. That is true up to a point, and the SNP - and Alex Salmond’s - legendary pragmatism card would be played. It takes two to tango, and this tango might include more than two, and shift towards a threesome - or a foursome reel.

However, the SNP has found no problem in specifically excluding any kind of a deal with the Tories or UKIP in stating its forward intentions for GE2015. There is nothing that I can see that stops them precluding a coalition with Labour either, but pursuing a confidence and supply deal.

My guess is that the SNP ministers, MSPs and the Parliamentary candidates have their brief by now on how to play this at the hustings and with the media, and it will be a stonewalling response – “impossible to say at this stage, situation will have to be evaluated after May 7th, wouldn’t want to tie the party’s hands, too much at stake …” etc.

The fate of Craig Murray over a vetting question will not have escaped the candidates, and I would guess they’ll be right on message on this hot potato. Not one will say they’re opposed on principle to a coalition.

Is this the right approach? Only the electorate can answer that. I’m opposed to a coalition, but even the SNP publicly stating they fully intended to pursue one wouldn’t stop me voting SNP on 7th May. But I’d be worried if they did, and I believe there are some former Labour voters who shifted painfully to the SNP, with many reservations and much personal agony, who might react differently.

As I said in a tweet on the day Stewart Hosie appeared to raise the coalition question – I want SNP arses on the green benches post-May 7th, but I don’t want them on the front benches of the Westminster Parliament we campaigned so hard to get out of.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Clash of the Experts – What is the “optimal currency arrangement" for Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK)?

UK’s answer isThe present arrangement is the best. Stay with the UK and keep the present arrangement – vote No!

Scottish Government’s answer isWe like many aspects of the present arrangement but we don’t like a host of other aspects of UK – let’s keep the best of the present currency arrangement, improve it - and vote YES to Scotland’s independence!

Murdo Fraser put this question to five experts on 12th March. They disagreed on the answer. This on the same day that the Treasury Committee was grilling Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and doing their level best – unsuccessfully - to bounce him out of his neutrality and objectivity on the the shape of a currency union after a YES vote, and on Scotland’s independence, as re-confirmed and re-asserted to Stewart Hosie MP.


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Sunday, 1 April 2012

“Events, dear boy, events …” A long, turbulent week in independence politics

I haven’t blogged for a while, although I’ve been active on Twitter and YouTube. The reason is that the events of the last week have been so egregious that not even the unionist media could ignore them, indeed, The Sunday Times – journalists first and unionists second, unlike, say, the Scotsman or Scotland on Sunday - have been the main vehicle for the revelations about our deeply corrupt political system in the United Kingdom. The media coverage has been intense and immense, so there was little I could add.


The Letters Page of the Scotsman provides a vehicle for panic-stricken unionists, especially the Tory variety, to give vent to inchoate cries of pain as they see Scotland moving towards independence. A new note has crept in, that of recognition of the inevitability of the process, which now manifests itself in the extraordinary demand that the SNP should voluntarily disband after independence.

The rationale for this is that the SNP was and is a one-issue party, and having achieved its aim now has no role, and should leave the way clear for Labour, Tories, LibDems to lick their wounds and resume business as usual in the new Scotland. Had, for example, India and Pakistan, two of the great nations who threw off the dead hand of the British Empire followed this route, one of the oldest political parties in the world, the party of Gandhi and Nehru – the Congress Party – would now not exist.

(I have some knowledge of the Congress Party. When I got married 52 years ago yesterday, few of the guests who attend our wedding in Drumchapel Parish Church and the subsequent modest, steak pie and chips reception above the City Bakeries in Great Western Road, Glasgow, would have known that the handsome young Indian guest Hari was the son of Lal Bahadur Shastri then Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, and subsequently the successor to Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister of India.)

The other argument advanced, including by  a tweeter yesterday, is that the SNP “contains left-wing, centre and right-wing politicians” and therefore should leave the field clear after independence for the ‘true’ left, right and centre parties. I had to gently point out that all large parties contain left-wing, centre and right-wing politicians, and therefore by this logic, they should all disband and leave the field clear for – what, exactly? The pure-as-the-driven-snow minor parties, riven by mini-feuds over obscure dogma points?

This also ignores the fact that there are no major left or right parties anymore – the Tories, Labour and the LibDems now all occupy a position somewhere right of centre, and are in effect one large Establishment Party, as the infamous Coalition to defend the Union against Scotland’s independence now exemplifies.

The Save England from the Tories theme

The other theme of the moment is that Scotland should stay in the Union to save the people of England from a permanent Tory hegemony caused by the loss of Scottish Labour MPs after independence.

This specious nonsense was first propounded recently by Douglas Alexander, and has subsequently been taken up enthusiastically by Johann Lamont and, amongst others, Kenny Farquarson, political editor of Scotland on Sunday. Kenny appears to be convinced that a large number of Scots share this unselfish democratic concern for the fate of poor England if Westminster loses its Scottish Labour MPs.

It is a proposition – I will not dignify it by calling it an argument – which most English voters would consider risible, if not deeply insulting. Most Scots fall about laughing at the proposition.

What it says is that the democratic preferences of a country of some 60 million people should be perverted by the political fiat of a country of some 5 million people.

Of course, this is exactly what has happened to Scotland from 1979 to 1997, with a Tory Government that they had decisively rejected.

In 1997, Scotland got a UK Labour Government, and was a Tory-free zone for a time. Unfortunately, this Labour Government out-Toried the Tories, led us into two disastrous conflicts and almost bankrupted the economy, while making many of its ministers filthy rich in the process.

Then in 2010, Scotland again decisively rejected the Tories, returning only one MP, yet thanks to John Reid’s TV interview destroying Gordon Brown’s attempts to stitch together a Rainbow Coalition, we wound up with the present incompetent Tory/LibDem administration.


This blew up this morning because of the competing UK and SNP Government online consultations in progress, with allegations by Labour that the SNP online poll is deeply flawed, because it permits multiple responses, anonymous responses, etc. (I call it a poll, because it is online polling through a series of questions to establish the opinions of individual voters).

In a word, it is deeply flawed, and although Labour’s attack is motivated by jealousy over the high responses rate versus that to the UK poll, and they are grinding axes, and are clearly the pot calling the kettle black, my feeling is that the referendum consultation outcome is now badly damaged by this debacle.

I could kick myself for not seeing the consultation’s inadequacies when I completed it, and for not testing its robustness – as I routinely do with other online polls/consultations – by trying additional submissions, etc. Only last night, I was urging voters to respond to the consultation on Twitter, and supplying the link.

I have done this today, and the flaws are patently and belatedly evident to me.

At base, the criticisms come down to failure to require registration or any proof of identity, failure to block multiple submissions under the same or alternative identities, allowing anonymity, etc. I have completed online polls and questionnaires by reputable newspapers, e.g. Financial Times and Guardian, where none of these things were possible, so the technology clearly exists to avoid them.

My spirits rose when Stewart Hosie appeared for the SNP to answer Anas Sarwar’s criticisms (originating with Labour’s Patricia Ferguson) but were speedily dashed when it became evident that he was ill-prepared and had no answers and, most uncharacteristically for this most considered and calm of SNP ministers, resorted to bluster to defend the indefensible.

His arguments came down to that this was how it had been done previously on other consultations by other parties, that some mysterious process by an unknown organisation after the consultation would scrutinise the responses, weed out the problem, and all would be well, and in effect, that we were no better and no worse than the unionist parties, so there – yah boo!

Not remotely good enough as answers for a process on which the SNP, Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government have all placed great significance, and one which will critically influence the structuring of the referendum ballot paper and the referendum process.

I am also deeply disappointed that my party, the SNP, has not appeared big enough to acknowledge their inadequacies on this issue, and that many online SNP supporters seem to prefer bland cover-up to addressing something that matters to Scotland’s democracy.

The rigging allegation by Sarwar is offensive, but some SNP supporters have asked how an online consultation – or indeed any consultation – can be rigged?

The answer is in the analysis of the responses and the acceptance/rejection criteria. I don’t believe for one moment the SNP would do such a thing as rigging the response, but we have left ourselves wide open to such an allegation, and no matter what we do or say now, the outcome will be fiercely disputed and the results possibly discredited – an insult to, and a betrayal of all those who honestly completed the online survey.

Friday, 21 October 2011

It’s that indy thing–ye cannae rattle a Nat

Every time Andrew Neil questions a Scottish Nationalist politician, it's worth 1000 votes for independence. Gordon Brewer knows, understands, but has to go through the motions of Paxo-like faux naivety.

But the metropolitan media just don't get it, and persist in the same ludicrous, simplistic questions.

You can't rattle a Nat, Andrew. Historical inevitability - and their country - is on their side. But keep it up, please, you're doing a fine job for the independence of your country - that was Scotland, wasn't it? Or is all that long forgotten?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Moridura’s contribution to the Ipsos Mori debate

YOUR QUOTE: "Other polls have shown higher levels of support for ‘independence’; crucially however, respondents in these polls are not presented with a definition of what independence means, possibly because such a definition has yet to be fully articulated."

I would suggest that Scottish voters have a very clear and straightforward idea of what independence means, in a definition that has repeatedly and clearly been articulated by the First Minister and others, e.g. Stewart Hosie MP.

Independence is the full autonomy of Scotland as a nation, with control of foreign policy, defence, taxation, resources, all revenue and expenditure, membership of the EU and membership of the UN. In other words, what every independent nation in Europe defines as independence. Scotland will be a sovereign state, but it will retain the Queen - and her rightful heirs - as constitutional monarch.


What flows naturally from that, as any school child can understand, never mind adult voters, is that Scotland, as an independent state in the modern world will also be interdependent with other nations, and will enter freely into treaties and agreements, and will freely incur obligations and responsibilities and other arrangements that are in Scotland's interests and yield corresponding benefits.

Such agreement will naturally focus on mutual cooperation with our near neighbours and long-time friends in these Islands - England, Wales, Northern, Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - and with the European Union. They will also include the obligations of membership of the United Nations.

Such treaties and agreements will be freely entered into, and crucially, freely terminated under the terms of the agreement when they no longer meet Scotland's interests. They will include matters relating to defence and the armed forces, and any other matter where cooperation and sharing of resources is in  Scotland's interests.

There will be one over-riding proviso in any defence agreements - that Scotland will not be a party to the use of nuclear weapons, and will reject absolutely any basing of nuclear weapons or nuclear delivery weapons systems within the boundaries of Scotland. That resolutely non-nuclear position will be a deal-breaker in any defence-related agreements or treaties.

Any other options such as the so-called devo-max option, i.e. full fiscal autonomy, are not independence options - and they do not represent the core objective of The Scottish National Party. While the UK exists, and is the sovereign state, the Scottish government will continue to press for the maximum autonomy within the devolved settlement, and progressive extension of its fiscal powers and control of resources.

However, what the SNP and supporters of independence want is not necessarily what all of the Scottish people want - determining that is the intent and purpose of the referendum. What questions will be posed and what options offered in the referendum ballot remain to be determined, and will be determined - by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament alone - before the ballot.

What the opponents of the independence of Scotland appear to be doing is making the patently ridiculous demand that the Scottish government should present to the people the full complex detail of the negotiations that will follow the independence referendum, not precede it. Leaving aside the fact that doing this would prejudice the Scottish governments negotiating position, it would be totally and utterly impracticable. No other nation seeking its independence has ever proceeded in such a fashion, Nor will Scotland.

If I may mix a Scottish saying with an American one - the Scottish voter didnae come up the Clyde/Forth/Tay on a bike, and he or she can tell **** from Shinola when it comes to evaluating the case for their country's independence.

Saor Alba!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

It’s that independence thing … Letters to The Herald

I haven’t written to The Herald is some time, but a letter yesterday from Alex Gallagher of Largs on the definition of independence and devo max, focusing on the recent Newsnight Scotland programme featuring Stewart Hosie and George Kerevan caught my eye. Since I had clipped this programme and offered blog comment on it already, I thought I’d try a punt with a reply.

It didn’t make it into today’s paper for the good reason that Iain AD Mann, a prolific and formidable contributor to The Herald Letters page, who has argued in an always erudite and informed way for Scotland and independence over many years, had offered his reply, as had another contributor, and the ratio was two to one on the SNP side of the argument, which was well covered.

The anti-SNP letter today from John Milne was interesting, not for its content, but for the fact that he had submitted a closely similar letter to The Scotsman yesterday. Insofar as there is an etiquette in these matters, it is not the done thing to submit essentially similar letter content to two papers at the same time. Of course, the newspaper has no way of knowing this has been done until after the event if the letters are published on the same day, but I would have thought that the Herald might have been aware of what The Scotsman Letters page carried yesterday.

Anyway, here is my unpublished reply to Alex Gallagher, for what it is worth …

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO HERALD – sent 18th October 2011

Dear Sir,

Let me offer some help to Alex Gallagher (Letters 17 October 2011) with the definition of independence, and also UK unionist politicians who seem to be having trouble with a concept the rest of the world understands clearly, and has done so since time immemorial.

Independence, in the context of an individual or a nation, is freedom to run one's affairs - all of them, within a framework of freely entered into - and freely exited - relationships and agreements. Stewart Hosie, who speaks for the SNP, gave a concise and absolutely clear response to every question about independence put to him. So-called devo max is a colloquial term, meaning loosely full fiscal autonomy but without independence, within the state of the UK. George Kerevan made a dog's breakfast of trying to define devo max. Kerevan is a member of a political party and has been identified with it in the past - this would also describe most commentators and journalists in Scottish politics. He was on this programme in his commentator/journalist capacity, and is not a spokesperson for the SNP, anymore than say, Bernard Ponsonby of STV is, or I am ,or Lorraine Davidson of The Times (a former Labour spin doctor) is for Labour.

The SNP wants independence - that is the party's raison d'etre, and the First Minister is totally committed to that objective. He also realises that not every one of the voters who gave his party such a decisive majority last May want full independence. Some will undoubtedly wish to remain in the UK, and must be given that choice: some may want more autonomy for a devolved Parliament while remaining in the UK. The referendum is at least two, maybe three years or more away. A considered debate is taking place in the Scottish Government and in the SNP about what choices the Scottish people should be offered in the referendum. That debate is in marked contrast to the near-hysteria and increasingly contradictory demands emanating from the unionist parties.

What is abundantly clear is that the electorate do not want to be buried alive in the detail that necessarily will constitute the negotiating agenda after a YES vote to independence. Neither do I.

As a Scottish voter, what I want is crystal clear - to the opportunity to vote for a completely independent Scotland, free to do everything that any independent nation in the world is free to do, within a framework of cooperation with our near neighbours and long-term friends in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including sensible sharing of resource and defence commitments, but with a firmly non-nuclear context for Scotland. Such agreements will extend to Europe, with Scotland as an independent member of the EU, and the world, with Scotland having a seat in the United Nations.

Like any independent nation, Scotland will be free to make agreements and treaties, and to terminate them under agreed terms when they no longer meet the needs of the people of Scotland. We made one such agreement in 1707, not entirely freely, not unanimously, but under threat, intimidation and bribery. Nevertheless, we made it and have honoured it, and paid a price in blood for 300 years. Now is the time to end it, in my view. I hope my fellow Scots agree.

yours faithfully,

Peter Curran

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Independence – Newsnight Scotland

The UK Supreme Court will make a ruling at 10 0’clock this morning. The outcome will be significant, and it will say a lot about the UK’s relationship to Scotland and the ultimate fate of the Union.

Cadder – UK Supreme Court overrules Scots Law and Scottish judges

Fraser – UK Supreme Court overrules Scots Law and Scottish judges

Pleural Plaques – ?

If the UK Supreme Court does overrule Scots Law again – we hope it won’t - it will be a victory for cynical commercial interest over human values and the rights of vulnerable Scots whose lives have been threatened by forces beyond their control.

After the ruling is known, the Scottish Government will speak for Scots, either welcoming the decision of Scottish Judges being upheld, or against a decision that upholds the interests of big companies and profit against common humanity. In the latter case, the pseudo-Scots who call themselves the Unionist Opposition, with dreary predictability, will call this principled stance ‘Alex Salmond making mischief against the Union’.


The programme was one of those occasions when Newsnight Scotland rose to the issue and to the moment. This, however, was true only of the programme makers, and of Gordon Brewer, Eddie Barnes and Stewart Hosie. I never expect Scottish Labour, least of all Willie Bain, to rise to any occasion, but I had expected more of George Kerevan.

The programme was in three parts – a piece by Catriona Renton on the history of Labour’s negative campaigning against the aspirations of Scots to secure the independence of their nation, which was well-constructed, highly professional and crucially,  informative, in the way these scene-setting Newsnight Scotland pieces almost invariably are.

The second part was a debate between Willie Bain, one of the new Team Scotland group of Labour MPs set up to prevent their countrymen and women from gaining their freedom (I am entirely free of bias on the matter) and Stewart Hosie MP, one of the most economical and effective SNP spokespersons, with the ability to reduce a discussion to its essentials while remaining in command of the detail, a quality that is not universally displayed by SNP spokespersons, as George Kerevan later made evident.

Willie Bain was weak in argument – what little he had – and obscure on just what was new in the new Team Scotland, managing to sound like a bad Iain Gray tribute act.

Stewart Hosie was a model of clarity, as he patiently answered the questions that Gordon Brewer was obliged to ask about the exact meaning of independence, but clearly already knew the answers to.

The third part was Eddie Barnes of the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, who also displayed great clarity and insight into what was meant by independence and exactly where we were at, and where we might be at, come the referendum.

And then we had George Kerevan, journalist, commentator, former SNP candidate, and SNP supporter. I shot from the hip on Twitter exchanges last night on this, and thought the cold light of today might dispel my reservations about his input. They haven’t, but here are the clips – judge for yourself.

I will be back gnawing at the bone either later today or tomorrow …

I close with a reprise of Stewart Hosie’s definition of what the independence of a nation means, which is exactly what I hope the independence of my nation, Scotland, will mean.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Labour hypocrisy unabated - put up or shut up, Johann Lamont


Put up or shut up, Johann Lamont. You have full disclosure from the SNP - and there was nothing to hide.

Let Labour do the same, both for the McConnell administration and at Westminster level. Nae chance - but then perhaps Labour and the wee Baron of Glenscorrodale do have something to hide ...


The contrasting treatment of this minor story by the Scotsman and the Herald are instructive, especially when compared with Newsnight Scotland’s coverage of the matter.

The Scotsman has no doubt that this is the big story, leads with it on page one, while virtually relegating the real big story, the Eurozone crisis, to the business section, with only a single column on page one pointing to this. It devotes all of pages 4 and 5 to it.

In stark contrast, the Herald leads with the £50m global meltdown, and has an objective headline below it, Salmond reveals News International Meetings.

Newsnight Scotland’s Isabel Fraser interviewed Johann Lamont and Stewart Hosie on this last night, and, as always, asked all the right questions of both. The programme started with an objective and fairly detailed summary of the meetings and correspondence between the First Minister and News Corp executives, setting the scene.

Isabel Fraser opened by asking Johann Lamont what Labour meant by accusing the First Minister of Scotland of “highly questionable behaviour”.

Johan Lamont said that it was “remarkable” that 40% of all Alex Salmond’s media contacts in the last four years were with News International, and he met with them on more occasions than other media groups, but she then retreated into admissions that all – or most – politicians had courted Murdoch, and came out of it badly. She touchingly thought that “a line had been drawn under it” by Ed Miliband, and piously hoped that Alex Salmond “would recognise that he had an inappropriately close relationship” with News International.

Isabel Fraser then administered the Vulcan death grip.

“So what you are saying in effect is that Alex Salmond’s behaviour was as craven and as sycophantic as Tony Blair’s, Gordon Brown’s, Ed Miliband's, Ed Balls' – the list goes on and on from the Labour Side”.

Johann was not exactly tickled pink (Labour’s favourite colour these days?) by this, and gave the muted reply that nobody came out of this well. She then, however, grabbed the spade again and began digging furiously. Other First Ministers – Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell – did not behave in this way. The way she took the bait reminded me of spinning for mackerel, or as Americans say, shooting fish in a barrel. The line was snapped taut instantly by Isabel Fraser, who reeled in calmly.

She detailed Jack McConnell’s meeting with News International executives or journalists – three as Finance Minister, one as Education Minister and ten as First Minister. “Are you saying that is inaccurate?”

No, replied Johann, but it was not 40% of all media contact in his time, nor was he offering opportunities to go to the Ryder Cup at taxpayers’ expense.

Isabel Fraser picked up on this in her first question to Stewart Hosie. Some of the offers made would have been paid from the public purse, but were they actually about developing a personal relationship between the First Minister and Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch?

Stewart Hosie chose to focus initially on the level of disclosure by the Government – not just one year of meetings between the FM and News International but four years of the contacts between the entire Government and all parts of the media.

Like for like year, Alex Salmond met nine time compared to Ed Miliband’s fifteen times and David Cameron’s twenty seven times.

The entire Scottish Government met with News International in four years on less than half the occasions that Labour met with them in a single year in opposition.

Labour were up to their necks in hypocrisy. At a time when the Scottish government had been incredibly transparent, we still don’t know a single thing, other than the information that Isobel Fraser had just read out about Jack McConnell, nor about the meetings held by Labour in 2007, 2008 and 2009 when the Operation Motorman Report was sitting on Gordon Brown’s desk.

(Operation Motorman was a 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into allegations of offences under the Data Protection Act by the British press.)

Isobel Fraser returned to her question – could Stewart Hosie clarify what his thoughts were on whether or not it was appropriate for the First Minister to offer hospitality to Rupert Murdoch at the taxpayers’ expense?

The Ryder Cup wouldn’t have been at the taxpayers’ expense, replied Stewart Hosie. Looking at all of the correspondence between the FM and News International – all of it – it was about jobs, economic development, inward investment, and it was about promoting Scotland abroad. One would have thought that the general public would expect their First Minister to be seeking media outlets to promote Scotland.

Isabel Fraser:Johann Lamont – will now Labour publish all correspondence, and all details of the last four years between Labour Ministers, Labour Prime Ministers and Labour advisers?”

Johann Lamont:Well, I certainly think that Ed Miliband has made it clear that he recognised that there was an inap … it was … we have … we’re in the wrong place, I think in relationship – all of us, across the board, in relation to News International.”

Isabel Fraser: Will you publish the sort of information that allows the public to make an assessment of the nature of that relationship in the way the SNP has done today?”

Johann Lamont: Well, I understand that the SNP gave the information, which was under Freedom of Information Act – clearly, under if under Freedom of Information request, the same information would be provided. I don’t think that there’s …”

Isabel Fraser: Well, why wait for that? If you’re acting in good faith, why actually wait for that – why wait for that trigger? Why not just say ‘We want to put a line underneath this …’ – just get it all out there.”

Johann Lamont: “I don’t want to sound defensive about something that’s not within my remit.” (simultaneous cross talk) “It feels very much to me at this time, in order to build trust – rebuild trust - with people you do have to be transparent. There will be a bit of to and fro’ing amongst the parties on this question – who has been open and who has not. But at the heart of this, for too long, people – given our experience in ‘92, when the party realised what happens when you’re up against something like News International – and people realise you have to have a relationship with newspapers – we understand that – but there was a recognition then that it’s gone to far. I now think Alex Salmond should recognise that there was a mixing together of two things – a bit about jobs, but an awful lot about Alex Salmond on the world stage.”

Isabel Fraser: (to Stewart Hosie) “Do you now think that Alex Salmond has to recognise that the relationship was inappropriate?”

Stewart Hosie: I think the transparency the Scottish Government showed today in publishing all of this material is first class – that’s the best disinfectant for any allegations. I think it’s time Labour came off their high horse and publish the same over the last four years.”


In just under nine minutes, Isobel Fraser and Newsnight Scotland got to the heart of this matter, in contrast to the Scotsman, which succeeded only in demonstrating why politicians get paranoid about the press, and why its circulation and influence are inexorably - and probably terminally - declining.

To those Scottish nationalist critics who think the BBC is the Great Satan, I ask where they think objective coverage of this story, and a forensic questioning of the party spokespersons would have come from, if not from the BBC?

But we are left with the fact that television journalism, powerful though it is, can be ephemeral in a way that print journalism is not.

Why is it left to a rank amateur like me – a blogger with a political agenda, but trying to be objective – to try to capture the essence of this vital analysis by Isabel Fraser and the Newsnight team in print when we have professional print journalists and supposedly ‘quality’ newspapers to do a proper, balanced analysis and ask the right questions?

(I know the answer – it’s the bloody Union, stupid – and the referendum.)


If I may join the assembled masses of commentators offering advice to the Scottish Labour Party, may I suggest that Johann Lamont does her homework before she comes on television, and that she strives for a delivery style that owes less to Lord Prescott’s fractured syntax and more to better models from her party, however hard to find they are these days?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Labour would Balls-up Scotland - the SNP won't let them

Iain Gray calls on yet another English MP to try to bail out his failing campaign. Whom does he choose, or perhaps more accurately, who did his Westminster bosses tell him he must have?

Why none other than Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, economic whizz-kid thrown out of power because he played a major role in Ballsing-up the UK economy.

Labour and Balls continue to flog their doomed notion that rubbishing Scotland's independence and the right of Scots to vote on it is an electoral winner for them. Poor old Willie Bain (successor to the disgraced former Speaker Michael Martin who presided over the expenses rip-off, but is now a Lord) and MP for one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, Springburn - wriggles uncomfortably under Andrew Neil's question about where he stands on independence.

Poor old Ming - unionist, Royalist establishment figure - tries to make a brave fist of the LibDem meltdown.

Stewart Hosie quietly makes nonsense of Neil's ridiculous question - a false assertion rather than a question - about the SNP's commitments to the Scottish people by explaining patiently that the budget figures and the costings have already been laid out and the commitments will be kept in full.

Ed Ball's won't give Iain Gray the cojones he plainly lacks, and which were evident by their absence in the Great Flight to the Sandwich Bar in Central Station.