Tuesday 29 September 2009

SNP: learning from the past

Clearly 1975 is further back in history than the 80s, but I believe learning from the past is pretty important. Councillor Owen Thomson just popped an article up on facebook which reminded me why.

Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor of the Telegraph, brings news of recently released details from the National Archives of Scotland.

Records from 1975, just released, show Government officials admitted that the discovery of oil had transformed the economic case for separation.

They calculated that Scots’ average income would increase by up to 30 per cent per head and it could be “credibly argued” that repealing the Act of Union was to Scotland’s advantage.

I would love to have the time to nip through to the capital and have a look through the papers to see what other gems are there; it sounds from the article that the team of eleven civil servants in the room had quite mixed views on the matter.

It also makes you wonder - if Labour and the Tories could both conspire to hide this from us then, what are they hiding now?

Labour: living in the past

It's quite remarkable that Labour have slipped to third place in the polls, behind the Lib Dems. This article in the Scotsman claims that this is the first time this has happened since February 1982 - before I was born. A different world in many respects!

I made mention yesterday about Labour's tendency to fall back on
dark days of Thatcher rhetoric. It's getting increasingly tiresome, and less relevant every day. The other side of the '80s coin turned up in the Scotsman article, reminding the world of part of the reason why the Tories were able to dominate for so long. The fault was in the Labour party, as much as the Tories.

The poll result can be partly written off due to the Lib Dems conference bounce, yet it demonstrates just how far Labour have fallen in a UK context. Labour's momentum has completely abandoned them, and they have no idea where to go next. Patching up and repairing the party is no good - it needs gutting and re-building.

The article acknowledges also that the situation in Scotland is different, and I wouldn't expect the Lib Dems or the Tories to have a strong enough foothold here to make significant gains.

This does highlight the slight difficulty of the UK media prism which will determine how Scottish voters see Election 2010.
Jim Murphy refered to this prism when he

"warned that a vote for the SNP could usher in a Conservative government through the back door.

He suggested the campaign slogan could be "Vote Salmond, Get Cameron", adding: "But we will put Vote Labour first.""

Lously slogan of course, but the issue for me is that while the UK General Election is of course important to Scotland, the 59 MPs we elect are unlikely to be a decisive factor in who forms the UK Government.

I see in my mind's eye the computer graphic of the seats in the south of England tumbling to Labour in 1997, and wonder if these voters will now return to the Tories. I think about middle class English voters in their thirties and forties, whose working life has been largely under a Labour Government, and wonder if they have an ideological reason not to switch to the Tories. Are the Lib Dems a factor to them? The British Election Panel Study believes that Lib Dem switchers were a significant factor in 1997, and I suspect they may be again.

These large swathes of voters in middle England will determine the colour of the UK Government. It's blatant self-interested scaremongering by Murphy, Gray and co. to suggest that those who vote SNP are ushering in a Tory government; Labour are almost certainly out of office regardless. I believe Scotland's interests will be better served by SNP MPs, who will fight to put Scotland first rather than continue the bickering Labour-Tory tribalism as Government and Opposition swap places.

Labour are, of course, doing their best to hang on in there and fight to the last. Events Dear Boy, Events, highlights that Bloomberg have got their mitts on 'the plan', which "gives activists specific tasks to perform on every day, granting them 17 days off between Oct. 1 and March 31." I don't see it, frankly, but I'm sure many of their MPs will have the opportunity to have a nice long rest aftert the results come in on election night next year.

PS Alistair Darling, also in the Scotsman article, gave me a wee giggle:

"The next election, he said, would see Britain facing a choice – "maturity and experience against the politics of the playground"."

This from the party of "bring it on" and "I dare you"....

Monday 28 September 2009

A dreich, Gray speech

There's a report on the BBC website today about the effectiveness of subliminal messaging. The Professor behind the study states:

"We have shown that people can perceive the emotional value of subliminal messages and have demonstrated conclusively that people are much more attuned to negative words."

I've just been reading Iain Gray's speech to the Labour party conference, and suspect he had an advance copy of the report...

David Cameron has come a long way. He isn’t hugging hoodies and huskies any more. He is embracing Europe’s extremists.

In Scotland we are not surprised at the company Tories keep. We have watched them nuzzling up to the nationalist government from day one.

Not so subtly conflating the left of centre, social democratic party I'm proud to be a member of in this way is wrong, misleading, and deeply dirty. It upsets me.

I'm more deeply disturbed though that the leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament would use the tragic death of a child as a stick to beat the Government with.

My Scotland would not be a country where two year-old Brandon Muir dies at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend and the First Minister says “everyone did all they could.” My Scotland would be a country where we would not give up on the 20,000 children living as Brandon Muir lived.

Other tragedies have occurred in England, but I don't believe that I heard anyone saying Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, or even previous governments were directly accountable for these. There has been an investigation, and responsibility taken. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest that in Scotland we are 'giving up' on vulnerable children, and it's irresponsible for Iain Gray to suggest so.

Next, on to the spectre of Thatcher. Spooky stuff, especially for the 18 year-old first-time voters weren't even born when she was in office.

"The SNP believe that the unemployment, the social division, the fractured lives that the Tories would bring are all a price worth paying for their campaign for separation."

Utter rubbish. For one, we work for the betterment of Scotland's people and would never be so cynical and cruel. Secondly, there's no proof that this will actually happen. Thirdly, and most significantly, the widest gap between rich and poor in this country has opened up under a Labour Government. This following quote comes from the Guardian, and the figures are drawn from the Department of Work and Pensions own figures. I don't think I need say any more.

"The data shows that the second poorest 10% of households has also had to make do with less since 2005. Overall, the poorest 20% saw real income fall by 2.6% in the three years to 2007-08, while those in the top fifth of the income distribution enjoyed a rise of 3.3%. As a result, income inequality at the end of Labour's 11th year in power was higher than at any time during Margaret Thatcher's premiership."

What would Labour do differently?

"We began to heal the Tory legacy in places like Ravenscraig."

Oh really? My grandparents live in Motherwell and Wishaw, the place their MSP Jack McConnell described as a "pigsty". I don't see any evidence of healing on the part of the Labour Council in North Lanarkshire. I see my grandparents struggle to get their choice of food in towns with fewer and fewer quality shops - neither town now has a fishmonger, and Wishaw's post office is now at the back of the Spar. It used to have an additional one at the bottom of the town, but this was closed under the last round of Labour's cuts.

What have the SNP done? I don't have a complete list to hand, but Motherwell and Wishaw should see some benefit from the £2,745,000 awarded to North Lanarkshire Council under the Town Centre Regeneration Fund which certain Labour bloggers have claimed is a cynical ploy. Money has also gone to social housing, and to support local businesses.

Mr Gray then moves on to the politics of the playground. Oooooh, go on. I double dare you...

"Alex Salmond refused to debate with Jim Murphy – because, he said, he debates with me, every Thursday.

What’s so special about Thursdays Alex? How about St Andrews day? Clear your diary. Debate my vision of Scotland against yours. Tell us which side you are on. I dare you."

The First Minister is on Scotland's side; Mr Grey on Jim Murphy's.

The parting shot by Mr Grey is really something. Having given no evidence through his speech of what Labour are really for - what they would do differently, what their movement is about, he completes his speech thus:

"Last year conference, I said that Labour MSPs would stand shoulder to shoulder with MP colleagues, and with our Prime Minister in the Glenrothes by election and we would elect Lindsay Roy the new Labour MP.

We did.

And together we can do the same in Glasgow North East and make Willie Bain a Labour MP. And then we will make Gordon Brown Prime Minister again.

Together we will defeat those whose sole creed is self interest, whose sole purpose is division whose sole principle is expediency. Whether they are Tories, or Nationalists."

Nothing about what Mr Roy has achieved, nothing about why Willie Bain would do a better job in Glasgow North East than Michael Martin, and nothing about why Gordon Brown should be allowed to drag the UK further into the mire. It's for their own self interest, power for power's sake.

It's not for nothing that he has, peppered liberally through the speech the phrase:

"That is what happens when Labour loses power."

Iain Gray has seen it, and is at Labour conference to warn his colleagues how frustrating it is to be there.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Clydeslide - one week to go!

I've got a week to go now before I do the Clydeslide for Action for Children. I'm looking forward to it, and would like to thank all the friends and colleagues who have sponsored me so far, both online and in person. It's not too late to donate! I intend to list all the nice elected people who have been so generous.

I've not yet received the exact time and place for the slide, but it'll be on Saturday. I'll let you know!


I've changed my photo. The one I had was from early 2007 and I was getting fed up looking at it! The new photo was taken by the very talented Stuart Crawford.

Monday 21 September 2009

It's Norway's Oil

Like Leaves on the Line, I'm always interested to see the progress of small independent nations. I think this news rips the arc out of the Daily Record's oh-so-amusing pun.

True, Ireland and Iceland have some way to go on their road to recovery, but I note that EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said the "international perception was that Ireland's economic problems were worse than they are". Wonder what he'd say to certain Labour politicians in Scotland?

Before one of the cynical unionists appears to make a comment - I appreciate that a lot of our oil revenues have been squandered over the years, but the recent discovery of new gas reserves would suggest that all is certainly not lost.

Voting for the future

I'm proud that the SNP has long held the policy of extending the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year-olds. It is, as far as I'm concerned, the final democratic deficit in our electoral system. If you subscribe to the right of this age group to vote, you ought to believe in it for every election.

It's consistent and logicical therefore that the SNP advocate a vote for this age group in the independence referendum. This has recently been confirmed by Michael Russell in a letter to Scotland's youngest MSP, Aileen Campbell. Fellow blogger Euan Purchase made the initial inquiry, which he talks about here.

Linda Fabiani put across the case succinctly and reasonably on the Politics Show on sunday, saying:

"We have young people in this country who really are in tune with politics, they are entitled to get married, they pay taxes, why can't they vote?

"This referendum's about Scotland's future - these young people are Scotland's future, so, to me, it's perfectly logical, perfectly right they should be asked to vote in this referendum."

By contrast, Pauline McNeill looked sour and petty, giving no real reason why not. She denied it was because young people might be more inclined to support indepenence, saying this view was predominately held by older men. The suggestion by Jeff that the principle is the main thing seems to have escaped Ms McNeill.

All the arguments against this proposal seem to be forgetting that extending the franchise has been our policy for years, accusing us of opportunism, and some even practially suggesting the idea is invalid because it's come from the SNP. According to the Votes at 16 coalition's website, it's also the policy of the Labour party and the Lib Dems, not that you'd know it from their responses.

Reform of the voting age has been on the agenda for ages, out for consultation and a response made, but I would very much doubt that Gordon Brown will agree to any changes before the General Election. Labour have had twelve years to change this, and have delivered nothing at all. The taxes paid by those under-18s over the years must be quite considerable by now.

The newspapers also seem to hum and haw curiously over the issue, taking the Labour line on opportunism - yet surely if any party suggests extending the franchise, this could be seen as a chance to woo younger voters? Given that there are elections almost every year, when is the right time to extend the voting age? If you were to follow the sore-bum-from-sitting-on-the-fence-so-long line of the newspaper editorials, the real opportune moment for our disenfranchised young people will never come.

The Press and Journal:

"There is much to be said for involving people at a younger age in the voting process, but that should be taken in the round and not on one narrow stage."

The Scotsman:

"There is a serious case for lowering the voting age, but it should be debated in depth, as a major constitutional reform, it should not be different for different votes. This move, despite the strong arguments in its favour, should fall simply because it is political opportunism."

The Herald:

"There are sound arguments for enfranchising 16-year-olds. The decreasing turnout at elections is a democratic deficit which must be put right and engaging young people at an early age is the best hope for the future, but party politics should never dictate such a significant change."

*UPDATE* I've just come across Joan McAlpine's rather excellent blog, which has this article quoting Gordon Brown's views on Votes at 16. Demonstrates Labour's opportunistic hypocrisy on this issue rather well!

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Glum Councillors

Esther has just pointed me in the direction of this blog: http://glumcouncillors.tumblr.com/

I know I've posted some grimly boring pictures of bits of road in the past, and I feel I should apologise if these made you lose the will to live. I tend not to feature in the photos as I don't drag someone around with me to take the picture! My husband suggests I'm a bit tragic... he may well be right!

Savings on a rainy day

I read with interest this article on the BBC website about David Cameron's plans to make savings by cutting back on MPs privileges. He has various proposals, including decentralisation, cutting quangos, increased transparency, reducing the number of MPs and cutting back on what it costs to run Westminster. This is all laudable stuff, and it should be done. I hope that the special interests who would oppose many of these can be defeated.

I would like to make clear at the beginning that I wouldn't mind at all (and apparently, neither would some of his own candidates) if David Cameron wanted to reduce the number of MPs by 59 and remove the unnecessary Westminster tier from Scotland altogether.

Anyway, what caught my eye in Cameron's speech is this:

There are currently 169 government ministerial posts and 3 opposition party posts that receive additional taxpayer funded salaries, on top of the standard MP salary.

These ministerial salaries range from £26,624 to £132,923.

It's only right, at a time when the country has to share in financial pain, that they make their sacrifice.

So we will cut all Ministerial salaries - that's the money they get on top of their MPs' salary - by an immediate five percent.

This means a pay cut of £6,500 for the Prime Minister and a £4 ,000 pay cut for Cabinet Ministers.

169 government ministerial posts is an eye watering number. What do they all do? Do we need them? Who are these people, because this clearly isn't all of them. Why not as well as cutting their top up, reduce the number of ministerial posts? If scrutiny is to be applied to the worth of all quangos, why not to ministers?

Forgive my if my calculations are off (percentages were never my thing), but I think that 169 out of 646 is an incredible 26% of the UK Parliament who have posts. Compare this to the Scottish Parliament, which has 16 Governmental posts, (18, if you include the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General). This is only 12% of the Scottish Parliamentarians.

Cameron also wants to cut the number of MPs - given the scale of the constituencies, I'm not convinced this is a great idea; he also wants to cut back on staff, which would make covering these huge areas properly far more challenging.

On another matter entirely, there's also a slightly odd comparison in his speech with the Electoral Commission and India's Election Commission which I'm not entirely convinced is fair. Cameron points out that India has "twice as many people to oversee sixteen times as many voters". For a start, the difference in salaries and the cost of doing business is somewhat lower in India. While I don't doubt the numbers quoted in the speech, I'm sure national officials will be working with many thousands of local officials in India to make sure the biggest democracy on earth can pull off fair and free elections.

Cameron also seems to conflate decreasing turnout with the work done by the Electoral Commission, rather than disillusionment with politicians... The Electoral Commission isn't perfect, but the work they do in trying to encourage voter turnout against rising apathy can be innovative and is definitely important.

While I find all this interesting from a theoretical viewpoint, I don't believe that the Westminster system has much to offer Scotland. Our devolved Parliament already has a better set up, and is surely evolving yet further. A real Parliament in Scotland with real powers to improve the lives of our people is a far better prospect for the future.

Update: I have found a better list of Ministers! http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page19564

Sunday 6 September 2009

Weekend of football

I've had a pretty enjoyable, if busy, weekend of football. Saturday of course was Hampden - for me, every Scotland game is a huge must-win game. Macedonia was particularly so.

I love going to Scotland games, and can't stand watching them on the tv. The atmosphere can be breathtaking, and I had a we
ird feeling as the team ran out, and as we sang Flower of Scotland, that everything would be ok. It took an agonisingly long time for the goal to come (and yet longer for McFadden to find the back of the net), but I was satisfied with the result. I can't wait 'til Wednesday night.

I got back home, and watched some of the England game with my husband, then went out for dinner with my mum and auntie Carol at Celinos on Ally Parade. I love going there, and I'm delighted they've started opening late Thursday - Sunday. I watched the second half of the Denmark - Portugal game when I got back.

This morning, I decided to forgo a Sunday morning lie-in to head out and see my Gran in Wishaw. My Gran White served in the Wrens in the Second World War, but had never been in contact with them after she was demobbed. An item in a Committee paper had led me to discover a contact for the Wrens Association in Glasgow, who had kindly dropped off some info for my Gran. She was very excited to find out they were still going, and I hope to take her along to their meeting on Thursday.

After a quick pit-stop back home for lunch, I headed down to Glasgow Green Football Centre, where I had been invited to the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the memory of the founders of Rangers FC. The plaque was unveiled by Heather Lang, the grand-daughter of Peter McNeil.

Speaking to some of the attendees, it was interesting to find out that relatively little had been known about the roots of the club and that even Heather wasn't aware of her family connection. The investigative work of journalist Gary Ralston and club historian David Mason
had brought a lot of the history to light, culminating in a book and the beautiful plaque itself. The plaque is obviously engraved metal, but this should give you an idea of what it says!

Later in the afternoon, I attended the finals of the UK Asian football championships at Celtic Park. This event was organised by the Scottish Ethnic Minority Sports Association, and was contested by Sporting Bengal and Punjabi Wolves. The very competitive match ended in a 1-1 draw, and went to penalties. Sadly for Punjabi Wolves, their final player to take a penalty missed his second of the afternoon, and the trophy went to Sporting Bengal.

It was a
really nice event, well assembled by Dilawer Singh, President of SEMSA, and Culture and Sport Glasgow. To give the players even more credit, many of them were fasting for Ramadan and had also played in the preliminary games yesterday and Friday. Not many professional players would cope with that! There are so few players of ethnic minority origin in Scottish (and English) football, but given the talent on show today, I'm sure there will be plenty coming through.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Just the ticket!

I booked tickets for next week's Scotland - Netherlands match yesterday morning with some trepidation. I usually go and buy football tickets in person, or get someone I trust to buy them for me.

I wasn't confident that my £1 booking fee would allow the tickets to wing their way to me before kick-off, and had a vision of me stalking my postie all week.

I'm very chuffed to report that my worries were completely unfounded!

When I got home tonight, there they were, two crisp and lovely Scotland tickets. Hats off to the people at ticketlink. Simple service, done correctly. I wonder though, if I'd paid £5.50 for the special delivery option, would James McFadden have dropped round to hand them in?