Friday 30 March 2007

Tha an t-àm ann!

Apologies to those who read this blog for the lack of updates lately - I've been very busy this week campaigning in the Western Isles.

The Scottish Parliamentary candidate for the Western Isles, Alasdair Allan, invited members of the Youth and Student wings of the SNP to come up to help his campaign, and a few of us (most people being very busy with their own campaigns) obliged. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were made very welcome and were very kindly put up in a lovely house in Back. From the reception we got from the people we met while leafleting in Stornoway, we should be on to a good one here.

I'd never really thought about visiting the Western Isles before; one of the truly great things about being part of the YSI is the opportunity to travel around Scotland and see the places I wouldn't normally get to. In case people outside of the SNP are wondering - we don't get paid to do this, although sometimes cakes are provided!

I really enjoyed the trip - although we worked hard (I have the blisters to prove it!), the scenery was so beautiful, the weather so unseasonably warm, and the people so welcoming, it feels as though I've been on holiday. I'm definitely going to go back, and I'd recommend a visit to anyone.

Tuesday 20 March 2007

The SNP can't be bought

Several people have already blogged about Brian Souter's donation of £500,000 to the SNP this weekend. Some in the press have implied that this means the SNP's loyalty can be bought or our policies influenced.

Call me naive, but I don't believe that the SNP would ever go down a route which allowed the size of someone's cheque book to undermine the internal democracy of the party. We have never had wealthy people falling over themselves to donate, perhaps we have no equivalent to the honours and influence that Labour and the Tories can bestow. We want people to come to us for the right reasons, and we've been selective about who gives us money - as Al Fayed found only last year. The only reason I'm comfortable with taking Souter's money is that I don't believe it will buy him any influence.

Last year, the YSI put forward a motion to annual Conference on bus re-regulation which was passed by acclaim. It read:

The SNP recognises the failures of bus deregulation across Scotland and reiterates its support for re-regulation of Scotland's buses. Since deregulation, passenger numbers have fallen and many essential services on less profitable routes have been cut.

A system of re-regulation will aim to simplify ticketing, halt the system of several companies competing for passengers on the same route and increase overall passenger numbers.

The SNP calls for an integrated public transport system for all modes of public transport in Scotland which will reverse the trends of deregulation – ultimately providing a world-leading and affordable transport system for Scotland's people and tourists alike.

I don't know what Brian Souter thinks of that; I don't know whether he's even an SNP member, but if he wanted to change the policy, the idea would have to come through the party. That brake on the power of wealthy donors is something which I am glad exists, and will always fight to protect (even if I have to write to The Herald).


SNP Conference was good. It was very very good. Policies outlined, inspirational speeches made, funds raised, spirits lifted for the final weeks to come. The YSI gained some keen new members and I got to catch up with folk I hadn't seen for a while.

More importantly, SNP spokespeople outlined the policies for government. Proper, sensible, forward thinking plans that will work and will improve people's lives.

The plans by the other parties don't compare - just this morning, in the Scotsman McConnell criticised the SNP's plans. His bright new shiny idea? Something different, inspired? An education bill.

"He (McConnell) simply stated what Labour would do in its first 100 days in office: introduce an education bill to improve the chances of children across Scotland.

He stressed the contrast: claiming the SNP would spend its first 100 days sparking disputes with Westminster while Labour would spend its first 100 days putting together a package for Scotland's children. Mr McConnell said this would take the form of a bill to create skills academies to provide more vocational training and make sure all 16-year-olds were given full-time formal education until the age of 18, to best suit their needs."

Aside from the fact that secondary teachers like my mum feel that "skills academies" are insulting and most likely unworkable, McConnell has had some eight years to come up with this bright idea. He used to be the Education Minister! If this idea is so wonderful and important now, why hasn't he introduced it already?!

This statement, however, was not my favourite part of the article. That would be when McConnell claimed that

"the SNP would get into rows for the sake of independence, not the good of Scotland"

Hmmm, I think he misses the point. Independence is for the good of Scotland, and everyone who lives here. For the sake of Scotland, we want independence!

Friday 16 March 2007

Twas the night before conference...

And I'm knackered! I've been working particularly hard this week - four nights of leafleting so far. SNP conference is tomorrow and Sunday, so I don't hold out any hope for any lie-ins or early nights this weekend!

It should be a good one, and as it's being held at the Science Centre next to Glasgow's new "media quarter" (BBC Scotland and STV's new offices), we ought to get some decent coverage too.

Better, I hope, than the press reaction to Blair's comments on the SNP's latest backer. This morning, the radio news trumpeted the announcement that Sir George Mathewson, the former Chair of RBS, had voiced his support for independence, the SNP, and Alex Salmond in a letter to the Scotsman (see also this article).

All brilliant, and big smiles all round.

By the afternoon, the story had changed somewhat - Blair had spoken. The story now was that:

Prime Minister Tony Blair has dismissed a top businessman's support for the Scottish National Party as "self-indulgent and absurd"

Blair also flew a bit close to the wind by implying that RBS - that's the fifth biggest bank in the world by the way - isn't a "real business"

You talk to real businesses, talk to the types of people I have just been addressing, and look at the impact of separation on real businesses and real families.

Whether or not anyone believes what Blair has to say on the matter, I was pretty disappointed at the afternoon and evening coverage of this really positive SNP story. Glasgow's Evening Times, unsurprisingly, gave much more coverage to Blair's side of the story. I suppose we just have to hope that the public see right through this weak attack on a prominent, influential, and successful businessman.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Attacked for something I didn't really say

I'm not sure whether to be amused or angry today - I think I've been quoted out of context!

Those who follow the Scotsman letters page might have noticed a to and fro of letters from one Mr Hamilton D Wilkin and I, concerning independence. So far, he's been fretting over whether or not the sky will fall on his head, and I've been (I think) fairly sensible. Today, however, Mr Wilkin took things too far.

Alison Thewliss (Letters, 9 March) uses the word "illogical". What an appropriate word to describe the policy of the SNP towards corporation tax. It proposes to reduce this tax by a third, thus giving Scottish businesses such a boost that eventually so much more profit is made that the revenue from this tax actually increases.

Can anyone name a chancellor who has actually reduced a tax to increase revenue or, presumably, increased a tax to reduce revenue? A few other words come to mind that may apply to this policy such as "ill-considered", "ill-founded", "illusioned", etc.

HAMILTON D WILKIN, Sauchenbush Road, Kirkcaldy

I never mentioned corporation tax in any of my previous letters. What I actually said was:

Hamilton D Wilkin (Letters, 8 March) persists in his illogical line of argument. If companies leave Scotland, fail to grow, or stay away, that does not make our economy a success; it reflects poorly on the role of the Union in our economy. I am sure it is no coincidence that the International Monetary Fund finds the wealthiest European nations, per head of population, are the small but independent nations of Luxembourg, Norway, Ireland, Iceland, and Denmark. The UK isn't even in the top ten.

Alison Thewliss Glasgow

Not quite sure how to respond to this eejit, but I think I have to! Suggestions on a postcard please...

Previous letters between Mr Wilkin and I here:
8th March, 3rd March, and his original letter, 1st March

Saturday 10 March 2007

Hope and Independence

This advert I saw on the subway tonight reminded me of just why it is that I believe in independence - no, not because of the beer and football, but because of hope.

None of us know exactly what independence will bring. It might well be a long road, and many many people have trodden that road before me.

I've realised that the best way I know to get around whatever uncertainty is thrown at me is by thinking of the possibilities, the things that will be better and the changes that will come. Hoping for the best, and feeling that I'm doing the right thing.

It's the hope that keeps me going up the tenement closes and down the stairs in the high flats; allows me to ignore the barking dogs and the stenches; makes me forgive the people who rip up our leaflets and slam the door in my face.

And it's hope that we offer people, the chance to grasp an opportunity and do something really radical. The other parties can't offer that special something, and some people are scared to come to us because they don't quite believe in themselves and in Scotland's ability to do well. I hope to convince a fair few more that taking a step into the unknown isn't so scary. If our national football team can do well, it might even help.

Thursday 1 March 2007

When's a withdrawal not a withdrawal?

That'll be when it's a redeployment. It seems from news reports that while UK troops are being withdrawn from Iraq (as mentioned below) and Bosnia, there are some 1,400 troops being sent to Afghanistan.

Margaret Beckett has been quick to deny that the events aren't linked, but if you've only got a certain number of troops then
surely the troops who are coming home will eventually find themselves in Afghanistan? One to watch, I think.