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Showing posts with label alcohol abuse Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alcohol abuse Scotland. Show all posts

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Get the facts, Scottish voters!

The following represents my individual understanding, as a voter, of some essential facts about the background to the referendum vote in Autumn 2014. Since I am not an expert in any of the subjects covered, my understanding may well be in error: it is undoubtedly simplified. I speak for no one but myself.

I have tried to exclude any personal value judgements from the details set out below – I believe them to be factual, and not coloured by personal beliefs or political orientation. I am happy to accept correction of factual errors, but please don’t offer complex interpretation, since my objective is to contribute as an individual to my Voters in The Village initiative, and I want to keep it simple – but not simplistic.

I would ask particularly that you do not offer legal interpretations or views: almost everything to do with the referendum is contested by legal and other experts, all highly vocal – and in some cases abusive(!) – in their assertion of the absolute rightness of their particular perspectives.

The dilemma of the referendum voter will be how to decide between alternative legal, political and ‘expert’ views in deciding how to vote. Faced with conflicting views and interpretation of ‘facts’, ultimately the voter decision will be based significantly on belief and trust.

That’s democracy  - that’s life …

MY UNDERSTANDING OF ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT THE REFERENDUM

In early 1706, Scotland and England were two independent kingdoms with the same monarch and had been since 1603. (If Scotland becomes independent, Scotland and England would again be two independent kingdoms with one monarch – the Queen will be retained as constitutional monarch, as will her lawful successors.)

Following negotiations between England and Scotland, a Treaty of Union was agreed on 22nd July 1706. The English Parliament then passed The Union with Scotland Act in 1706 and the Scottish Parliament passed The Union with England Act in 1707.

The two acts took effect on 1st May 1707, and both the Scottish and the English Parliaments united to become the Parliament of Great Britain based in the Palace of Westminster. (The two Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments.

IRELAND

Ireland, the third kingdom, was not included in the Union. Ireland was legally subordinate to England (until 1784) but had its own Parliament. It asked to join the new Union of Scotland and England, but was refused. It eventually was accepted into the Union (The UK) on 1st January 1801

Ireland was partitioned into two parts on 6th December 1922 by The Government of Ireland Act of 1920, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, known as The Irish Free State.

For a very brief period, Northern Ireland was no longer part of The United Kingdom, but was given the right to opt out of the Irish Free state and did so on 13th December 1922. In 1937, The Irish Free state was renamed Ireland, then in 1949, The Republic of Ireland.

WALES

Wales was conquered by England in 1282, had a brief period of independence early in the 14th century, but then was re-conquered and under the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535-1532 became completely part of the English legal system and Parliament.

DEVOLUTION

Scotland voted in a referendum for the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Wales voted in a referendum for the creation of The National Assembly of Wales in 1999.

The Northern Ireland Parliament dates from home rule in 1920/22, and is now the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive.

Scotland has certain devolved powers under the Scotland Act but many power are reserved to the Westminster Parliament (The UK Parliament). The Westminster Parliament is sovereign, i.e. only Westminster can devolve powers and only Westminster can amend the Scotland Act. Westminster can add devolved powers or revoke those already granted.

THE REFERENDUM

A referendum is a direct vote in which the total electorate is asked to accept or reject a direct proposal, usually one of major significance. It is direct democracy, as opposed to elective democracy, where elected representatives then vote on issue in on behalf of their constituents.

Referendums are binding in some countries – in certain circumstance they can be mandatory - but not in the UK. In the UK, a referendum is neither mandatory nor binding, but the result is usually respected by government.

Only two referendums have involved the entire UK electorate – The UK European communities membership referendum in 1975 and The UK Alternative Vote Referendum 2011

A devolution referendum for the creation of a Scottish Assembly was held in in 1977. The vote was 52% to 48%, with 63.6% of those eligible to vote (the turnout) casting their vote. This meant that 32.9% of the electorate had voted yes, and since a condition of the referendum was that at least 40% of the electorate must vote, The Scotland Act 1978, designed to introduce devolution, was repealed.

The Scottish Parliament Referendum the devolution referendum – was held in September 1997. 44.87% of the electorate voted and 74.3% of those voting voted for devolution. This means that 33.34% of those eligible to vote voted for devolution.

A referendum on the independence of Scotland will be held in the autumn of 2014. Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September. The earliest date for the referendum is therefore 23rd September 2014, and the latest date is 20th December 2014.

The referendum will be a consultative referendum and will not in itself bring about independence. The Westminster Government and the UK Prime Minister have already confirmed that if the Scottish electorate vote for independence, the UK government will accept this outcome and will negotiate with the Scottish Government on the terms of independence. The negotiations are likely to take years to finalise.

The Scottish Government has an anti-nuclear weapons policy, and if the Scottish electorate vote for independence, nuclear weapons systems – i.e. the Trident weapons system - will be removed from Scotland and Scottish waters.

The anti-nuclear policy extends to any defence alliance committed to nuclear weapons. An independent Scotland will withdraw from NATO, but liaise with NATO through Partnership for Peace, a non-nuclear alliance involving other European countries.

An independent Scotland would have its own defence forces and its own foreign policy, and will participate in appropriate alliances and coalitions with other countries as circumstances dictate.

An independent Scotland will be a member of the European Union, but will not join the euro: it will continue to use sterling as a tradable currency, and will operate in a currency union. The Bank of England is independent of the UK government and sets its own interest rates and policy. England, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to accept the Bank of England in that role. Scotland will accept the Bank of England as the central bank in a currency union until such time as it decides to change to another currency. It is highly unlikely that this could happen within a decade.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The BBC – its role and its future. The SBC?

The title of this blog is too grand, and appears to signal a major analysis, when in fact it is just a brief comment. But perhaps I’ll get around to more …

One of the many classic Isabel Fraser interviews with Alex Salmond. The Nationalist BBC bashers tend to ignore the vital contribution of the BBC to democracy by giving regular exposure to the FM and the nationalist viewpoint.

So interviewers sometimes press politicians on points that they think are relevant, and act as devil's advocates? That's their job - searching for the truth, however elusive. Even Paxman - perhaps especially Paxman - in his blundering, hectoring, hostile, patronising style has made his contribution. That's democracy - that's what a free media should aspire to.

The BBC is not perfect, and can never satisfy the needs of any political party - nor should it. It is still the finest public service broadcaster in the world, and it now faces the greatest challenge in its history - the independence of Scotland and the constitutional changes it will bring to what is left of the UK, of the Britain as described in its name.

Can it still be The BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation? In point of fact, it could, in the sense of, say, a Scandinavian Broadcasting Corporation, or a Mediterranean Broadcasting Corporation. But I don't think it will be - the new independent Scotland will demand its SBC, the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation.

After all, if we're going to be "a beacon to the world", we need to be on the air!


Monday, 5 December 2011

Attitudes to independence – ScotCen and the economy

The September 2011 figures are out today on attitudes to independence from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey conducted by ScotCen, part of the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

Here’s the Guardian’s report Scots back independence – but at a price

And here's a trailer to tomorrow's Guardian - Look north, Scotland

The Herald carries a picture above the statistics of Michael Moore, who looks as if he had just been performing a strange dance – or even a strange act - with three other people who have suddenly been removed – probably David Mundel, Margaret Curran and Willie Bainthe Anti-Scotland Coalition.

As with all polls, the advocates for opposing sides rush in where angels fear to tread to offer their partisan interpretation of the figures, and lofty, disinterested academics lay claim to a dispassionate analysis. I am not always easily persuaded that those claiming heroic objectivity truly are objective: there are quite a few Scottish academics around who are anything but objective, not to mention one or two captains of industry, and it is true that an expert can usually be found to say whatever those seeking his or her services wish to be said, e.g. experts called as ‘objective’ trial witnesses for a fat fee.

However, over the years, there is at least one Scottish expert that I trust and that is Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, who is also a consultant for ScotCen.  He gives his objective view of the figures, one with which I don’t quarrel. It is that the appetite for a more powerful Scottish Parliament and for independence has grown in the last year, but it is still no higher than it has been on previous occasions since devolution, and the SNP has a long way to go before the referendum to persuade the electorate to vote for independence.

I will try to avoid the selective juggling with figures that goes after the publication of poll results, and simply focus on the three key facts, as I see them -

32% of those polled want full independence. So did 32% of Scots in 2004, and in 2005, 35% of Scots wanted out of the UK. Since devolution (1999) the figures have fluctuated narrowly around a low of 23% a year ago to the 2005 high of 35%.

58% of those polled want to stay in the UK with devolved powers to Scotland. Last year it was 61%. Since 1999, the figures have ranged from 44% in 2005 to that 61% figure last year.

Money matters – support for independence changes radically if voters believe they will be in pocket or out of pocket.

The poll has been properly conducted by a reputable organisation of integrity, and its sampling procedures and methodology are sound. (The sample size is significantly lower this time than in every previous years, under 1200 as compared with the 1500/1600 of all previous years.)

Repeating the core conclusion -

The support for a fully independent Scotland has increased since the same poll last year,

The support for continued membership of the UK and for devolution has fallen since last year.

Economic perceptions matter a helluva lot.

SOME MORE OBSERVATIONS

Over the last 12 years, somewhere between a quarter and a third of Scottish voters polled wanted full independence.

Over the last 12 years, somewhere between half and 60% of Scottish voters want to stay in the UK and have a devolved Parliament.

Those who want to go back to pre-devolution status and remain in the UK are in the minority, say around one in ten

The don’t knows are about one in twenty.

Something odd happened to preferences around 2004 and 2005, and anybody who claims to know why is engaging in speculation.

Some unknown factor or factors are at work  when one tries to relate the figures to the election of a nationalist minority government in 2007 and the return of that government with a massive majority in 2010.

If this poll is predictive of how Scotland will vote in the referendum, the outcome would not be full independence.

Neither unionists nor nationalists can take unalloyed comfort from these figures.

THE BACKGROUND TO THE POLLS

The decade and a bit since devolution has been one of the most unpredictable periods in recent history, not just in the UK, but in Europe and globally.

Devolution, a radical enough event in its own right, designed by the Labour Party, still at their power peak after their landslide UK victory, to kill Scottish nationalism dead, failed in that primary objective, as forecast by the the likes of Michael Forsyth and Tam Dalziel.

On the 9th of September 2001, a single catastrophic event changed the nature of global politics, and led to the invasion of Afghanistan.

In 2003, the US and the UK launched an illegal war against Iraq, supported by an uneasy coalition of other nations.

In 2005, Tony Blair was returned as Prime Minister with Labour holding 355 MPs but with a popular vote of 35.2%, the lowest of any majority government in British history. (His popularity had been in decline even before the disastrous Iraq War.) Blair resigned in the same year, and Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.

In May 2007, the first ever Scottish Nationalist Government was elected by the Scottish electorate.

In 2008, the global financial and banking system went into near-meltdown, and catastrophe was narrowly averted by massive borrowing and effective nationalisation of some of the UK banks.

In May 2009, the UK Government and the UK Establishment finally failed in its long legal battle to prevent the British people knowing the truth about MPs – a blocking action led by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, a Scottish Labour MP - and the initial sordid facts of its investigation into MPs' expenses were published by The Telegraph, including claims by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw that they were forced to repay. The Speaker resigned in disgrace, and criminal prosecutions followed against MPs and members of the House of Lords, resulting in imprisonment in some cases.

In May 2010, a UK general election outcome created the potential of a hung Parliament, the radical difference between the voting patterns of Scotland and the rest of the UK became even more starkly apparent, with Scotland returning only one Tory MP. A Tory-led Coalition Government was hastily formed after John Reid, a Labour peer and others deliberately wrecked the possibility of a Rainbow Coalition involving Labour, the LibDems and the nationalist parties.

In May 2011, the Scottish electorate returned Alex Salmond and the SNP Government for a second term with a massive majority.

In England, serious criminal rioting that started in London spread to other English cities, but not to Scotland.

As of this moment, there is another European and global economic crisis that carries even greater dangers of economic meltdown than the 2008 crisis.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

All of the above is the context in which the Scottish peoples views on independence were canvassed. The Scottish electorate is one of the most sophisticated in the world. Having been betrayed by UK politicians, betrayed by Scottish Labour politicians and betrayed by the Liberal Democrats, they see a Tory-led government that they didn’t vote for attacking their living standards.

Sophisticated or not, they can be forgiven for being confused, and for feeling that no expert, media pundit or politician can be wholly trusted. But despite that, they made a massive act of trust in trusting the SNP, a party unequivocally committed to independence with their future for what will be five unpredictable and turbulent years. They also consciously and deliberately punished the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish LibDems for their betrayal of their hopes. They never trusted the Tory Party anyway, and never will again.

Anyone who tries to confidently explain the narrow fluctuations in the support for independence in polls over 12 years such as these is either a fool or a charlatan.

But the latest poll seems to confirm this– it’s the economy, stupid! It won’t be Braveheart politics or nostalgia for an imagined vanished golden age that determines how people will vote in the referendum, nor will it be intellectual and emotional commitment to the principle of independence – it will be their perception of which party has their economic and social interests at heart, can protect jobs and incomes and has the competence and the resolve to shield them from the global storm that is raging around them.

But can such a question as the independence of the nation really hinge on whether the voter is £10 a week better off or £10 a week worse off? I hae ma doots on that one – answering a simplistically loaded survey question is one thing – making the huge leap to freedom is a much bigger question. I believe the majority of Scots will decide based on a more complex argument than a tenner either way, even though the real difference between a YES or a NO might be £20 – not inconsiderable to many, and to a working family, £40 a week or more.

Since voters will be subjected to a barrage of contradictory statistics, whose version will they believe?

Will they gamble their future and that of their children and grandchildren on a crude monetary criterion? The demonstrably economically incompetent Labour, Tory and LibDem parties, or the party in which they placed their trust in May 2011?

In uncertain times, people have an instinct to “keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse” (Hilaire Belloc). But when they look at Nurse UK, they see something that all their instincts now tell them does not have their interests or Scotland’s at heart. Yet before they let go of that clammy embrace for ever, they will have to be certain that the new hand that they clasp will guide them through the storm.

The SNP has a window of somewhere over two years and a lot less than four to give the Scottish electorate the confidence they need to take that decisive step into an unpredictable, but exciting future.

The Scottish electorate will vote in the referendum as if their life depended on its outcome - because it does …

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The UK Supreme Court – constitutional and independence implications

In the light of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment (I spell it judgment against my instincts towards judgement because I believe this is legal practice) and certain remarks about what the Scottish Parliament can and cannot do - which some have interpreted as a shot across the SNP Government’s bows in relation to the referendum - a number of correspondents have asked me if I plan to comment. Firstly, this is properly Peat Worrier’s blog territory, and secondly, I have said pretty much what I wanted to say about the UK Supreme Court in the following blogs -

The UK Supreme Court and the Scottish legal system

The UK Supreme Court–FMQs 16th June 2011 – Holyrood

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions

 

There are very fundamental questions raised about constitutional issues and the rule of law arising from the very existence of the UK Supreme Court. I have no legal qualifications or training – I am simply a citizen under the law. But I believe that the setting up of the UK Supreme Court was a political act, and that law and legal systems and processes exist within a political concept and a state – in this case The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - but also within concepts of the rule of law that transcend the state, closely allied to concepts of justice that also transcend the state.

I have a simple, and some might say, a simplistic view of the Union. It was a contract, entered into under bribery and duress, but entered into nonetheless, that united two kingdoms under a single sovereign state. Each signatory to that agreement and subsequent relevant treaties and amendments surrendered their individual sovereignty as formerly independent nation states to the new state. It was, like any contract, intended to be to the mutual benefit of those who entered into it.

The question arises inevitably, as in any contract, how does one party terminate that contract if it no longer serves their interests? Since it cannot be argued that any treaty or contract is permanent, there must be a mechanism and a process, especially in a democracy in the 21st century.

It cannot be argued that all parties to the contract must have unanimity and consensus before one party has a right to withdraw. That would confer a right of veto on withdrawal.

The normal mechanism for withdrawal from a contract is to serve notice of intention to withdraw, discuss the terms of the withdrawal, and observe any notice periods and cancellation obligations that were part of the original contractual document, or were incurred by subsequent agreed amendments. Parallels can – and have been - drawn with ending an employment contract, a commercial contract or a contract of marriage, the latter to the point of tedium. However, when considering withdrawal from a state or empire, such parallels are not entirely adequate, and in any case, there are more appropriate real life models to consider, namely that of countries achieving their independence.

WITHDRAWAL FROM A STATE OR EMPIRE

The British Empire can draw on a long history of events, in the progressive loss of that empire, that demonstrate very clearly what the options have been, and how they have been exercised.

Without attempting to catalogue that particular history, the options that are evident from a wider history, as I see them, are as follow -

1. Negotiate a peaceful exit under the terms of the treaties and obligations that exist.

2. Unilaterally withdraw, but negotiate on the obligations.

3.  Unilaterally withdraw (unilateral declaration of independence. UDI) and wait to see what the other party does, i.e. secede. (When this is successful, it is called a velvet revolution.)

4. Unilaterally withdraw and repudiate all obligations as null and void.

Option One is the clear preferred option of the SNP. They are committed to achieving independence through democratic means.

If negotiation fails, or any of the other three options are resisted by the existing state as constituted, the possibility exists of at least civil resistance and disobedience, or in the extreme case, violence, which may manifest itself as repressive violence by the larger state against the country attempting to achieve independence, or revolutionary violence by the smaller entity against the state.

The British State can look at both relatively peaceful and amicable examples, and also at notoriously violent examples. The island of Ireland offers many salutary lessons.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

A significant number of the Scottish electorate now wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom.

A significant number wish to remain in the UK.

An appreciable number have not yet made up their minds.

These numbers can only be estimated by polling methods, and can only be ultimately determined by a referendum. The Scottish electorate has twice elected a political party to govern them – the second time with a massive and decisive majority - called The Scottish National Party, one that is committed to the independence of Scotland as a nation state.

The Scottish electorate, in a general election a year earlier, elected a decisive majority of Labour MPS, a party that is committed to maintaining the Union, to govern them in the UK Parliament. (The UK electorate as a whole cast their votes in a manner that was not as clean cut or decisive, and produced a Coalition. Any analysis of the outcome of the 2010 General election revealed a deeply divided nation, with English voters favouring the Conservative and LibDem parties, two parties that were reduced to  a rump in Scotland.)

Just what the Scottish voters meant by their massive vote for a nationalist party is the subject of partisan interpretation and partisan debate by both sides, but what is accepted, I believe by all parties (and by me) is that not all Scots who voted for the SNP were voting for independence. But it also certain that all of the Scots who did not vote for the SNP in the General election, and voted for Labour, were  not necessarily against independence.

The only way to settle the question of what Scottish voters want is a referendum.

Bluntly, what English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters want Scotland to do is entirely irrelevant, whether they favour Scottish independence or are hostile to it – only the wishes of the Scottish people can and must be considered, and only Scottish voters may vote in such a referendum.

THE TIMING OF THE REFERENDUM

The world economy, the European economy, the UK economy and the Scottish economy are facing the greatest threat for generations. Two arguments can be advanced – one, that right now is the wrong time to call a referendum because the Government of Scotland must concentrate on facing the economic challenge, and two, that the referendum must be held as soon as possible, to secure control of Scottish resources and permit more effective action.

A third argument can be advanced in favour a calling the referendum now, namely that the uncertainty is damaging both Scotland’s and the UK’s economic response to the crisis, and it has to be got out of the way.

The First Minister of Scotland made it clear in the party manifesto and in every subsequent statement, that the referendum will be called in the second half of this Scottish Parliamentary term.

From a realpolitik standpoint, both nationalist and unionist camps have a vested interest in only calling a referendum when opinion polls suggest the time may be opportune for their desired outcome. Anyone who claims that the parties are not motivated by such a considerations is ether disingenuous or a damned fool.

The role of the pollsters is therefore crucial.

One hypothetical situation will suffice to illustrate this – if a series of reputable polls in the next week showed that there was a massive shift among the electorate towards an independent Scotland, the Unionist currently calling for an immediate referendum would suddenly find an enthusiasm for delay and obfuscation. If the polling situation were reversed, the First Minister need do nothing, except wait and hope that they  would shift again before the second half of his term.

DANGERS

At the very least, a substantial minority of Scottish voters are unhappy about their membership of the UK and want out, and a significant minority are undecided. Only a minority of Scots therefore profess themselves wholly satisfied with the status quo. No state, however constituted, can ignore such a situation, especially when those who want out are consumed by passionate conviction, are well organised, and constitute the devolved government of that state.

At a time like this, the people need clear-eyed democrats, both in politics, in the law, and in the media, committed to the rule of law, but also to internationally accepted principles of human rights, free speech and the right to self-determination of free people.

Failure to understand these aspirations, especially in a time of deep economic uncertainty, risks serious consequences, ones that could be profoundly damaging to the people of these islands. Sinister forces lurk on the margins of such situations, waiting their opportunity to de-stabilise the the situation, and exploit and profit from it. Once the levers of power slip into these hands, they cannot be prised off by rational argument and democratic processes.



POSTSCRIPT

Now read this in today's Telegraph, and tell me I have no need to worry.

Alex Salmond faces Commons grilling over Scottish separation

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Purple Gang – Labour looks for its lost soul

The Purple Gang operated out of Detroit, Michigan during Prohibition, running bootleg alcohol. gangsters and outlaws 

We’ve had Old Red Labour and New Labour, and Blue Labour, an attempt to recover something from the wreckage of the Party left by the Blair, Brown, Mandelson Gang. Now we have Purple Labour - an attempt to salvage the reputation and influence of New Labour, whilst accommodating itself to Ed Miliband’s view of the Party, which in an attempt to reflect his customary crystalline clarity, could be described as

“I hate New Labour, but the bastards are still around and rich, and my brother is one of them, and I‘d love to dump them, but I can’t, and I can’t go back to the old cloth cap Labour, so I’ll have to pretend to go back to Old Labour, but I’ll call it Blue Labour, because we’re closer to the Tories really, and we can’t apologies for our murderous, incompetent foreign and economic policies, but we must move forward, so maybe we should call it Purple Labour, just to give the idea that we’re somewhere between New Labour and Tories, but with a tiny, nostalgic bit of red in there for the proles, and I’ll get a former Home Secretary who was dumped for expenses scandals and porno videos – no, that was her husband – to front end it …”

I have done my best to paraphrase what goes on in Miliband Minor’s wee heid, which is not an easy task believe me.

In times like these, one must have recourse to Machiavelli, but this is always dangerous, because Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli has had a bad press over the centuries, and picking quotes invites others to cherry pick as well. Machiavelli was trying to stay afloat in early 16th century Italy, having lost his place as Secretary of the Republic of Florence when the Medici took power.

He was a true Renaissance man, literate, musical – a composer and playwright as well as a diplomat, and probably wanted to be left alone, but the Medici were not to be messed with, and Niccolò was not their pal. Having been tortured by the Medici by strappado – being pulled up on a rope affixed to his hands tied behind his back, and with Cesare Borgia around, not to mention his nice sister Lucrezia, whose Dad became Pope, Machiavelli had to be careful. Diplomat though he was, he could have used a spin doctor to get him a better press. A medieval John McTernan could have helped, by writing articles for the Florentian equivalent of the Scotsman along the lines of What the Medici Must Do!

But enough of this historical musing, let’s get to what the man said, and pick a quote or two -

“ … it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Take heed, Edward – you number your brother among this group, and the Milibands have been about as familial as the Borgia’s of late. As for the New Labour Gang, well, they’re not going to lie down and die while the new Blue Gang muscles in on their territory, and the Purple Gang merger is not bonded by anything resembling values, principles or common humanity, just a lust for power at any price. And as has been observed, when red, blue and purples get mashed together on the palette of desperation, it tends to turn into merde – and the Merde Gang has even more unfortunate overtones than the others, however apposite the title might be.

THE BOOZE AND FAGS BIG FOUR

While we’re on the subject of Prohibition and the abuse of alcohol, we must remind ourselves that booze and fags are a major problem for Scotland. I support the responsible alcohol industry (I made my living from it for many years), and properly regulated public house and a properly regulated alcohol industry are important parts of our social fabric. Exports of Scotch whisky are of major importance to Scotland’s economy. But the abuse of alcohol is not an abuse significantly linked to the expensive blends and single malts  beloved by the connoisseurs – it is principally caused by the amoral marketing of cheap booze by the big supermarket chains, often by loss-leading on price.

Minimum pricing will soon have its positive impact on that, now that a principled government with a majority can legislate in the way that they were blocked from doing in the last Parliament by an unprincipled opposition, including the tartan branch of the Purple Gang. But while the damage persists, and its consequence have to be paid for, it is fair and just that the obscenely rich and profitable big chains who peddle the cheap booze and the lethal fags should contribute to limiting the damage they have done to our society. The cost to them will be about 0.3% of their huge turnovers, and the amount it will yield is only £5m more than the £33m combined salaries of the CEOs of the Big Four.

In fact if they want to avoid the tax, since they are already fabulously rich men, they can donate their salaries to the health and crime programmes required by the damage they have done. The remaining £5m can be found in the face of such a magnanimous and long overdue gesture.



Today, on The Politics Show on BBC, Kenneth Gibson patiently explained the rationale for the Scottish Government’s Tesco Tax on large retailers of booze and fags to a group of metropolitan numpties, including a PR front man for the industry by the name of Opie, and a former Blair speechwriter.

They wilfully misunderstood and misrepresented the purpose of the tax in their comments - or were just plain stupid - but were genuinely baffled by a government that puts its people and human values before the greed and cynicism of the peddlers of cheap drink and cigarettes who obscenely enrich their top executives, aided as always by the complicit and values-free London political parties.


That's why the Scottish people elected this government, you a******** - that's why they want out of the big money client state - the UK.