Monday, March 19, 2007
Veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent today gave public backing to the SNP and said he wanted to see it win power. He told the SNP conference that Labour must be made to pay the price for the "foolish and dangerous" decision to replace Trident.
"Come May, I want an administration in Edinburgh in which your party, the SNP, either has a controlling voice or an absolute majority," he said.
The veteran anti-nuclear campaigner, who stood unsuccessfully as a Labour parliamentary candidate in 1992, told the conference he was brought up to understand Britain was England with the other component parts of the UK attached by "some sort of umbilical cord".
But he told the conference that recent trips to Scotland opened his eyes and his mind and that Scottish independence was "not a bad price to pay" for having another "peaceful and peace-minded and nuclear weapon-free" country in the world.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament vice-president went on to urge politicians to use Holyrood's devolved powers to make the anti-nuclear case. He said Holyrood could invite governments and other bodies to take part in talks on a nuclear weapons abolition treaty which already existed in draft form.
"Put such consultations under your education budget, or your citizenship budget, or call it part of the festival," he said. "There is more than one way of belling this cat.
"What is needed now is some practical evidence that we could eliminate these weapons. "Gorbachev might well be willing to chair such a consultation.
"If governments do not want to participate, then ask the most active NGOs from their country."
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:05 AM
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Letter to the Editor
Isn't Tony Blair the most awful hypocrite? Just because the SNP has dared to ask him some difficult questions at Westminster, about his alleged sale of seats in the House of Lords to big donors, he has the cheek to claim this makes the SNP unfit for Government!
There is little doubt that Blair is guilty of selling honours. His former colleague Frank Field admitted that it goes on, but claimed that it was OK because everyone does it! (By 'everyone' he means of course the equally discredited Conservatives.)
Blair claims independence would be 'crazy' but what would really be crazy is staying in a state where the legitimate aspirations of the Scottish people to independence are treated with utter contempt.
Notes: In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Field, a former social security minister, said the selling of honours "needs to be seen in context".
"It has always gone on and probably always will. Most people know that for the best part of two centuries that honours were appropriated by money," he told the newspaper.
'In the 18th century honours and cash for political parties were in effect the constitution. It is a different relationship now. But of course it is still going on today.'
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:21 PM
[More cracking letters from the Herald. JOE]
POOR old Wendy Alexander, MSP. She really ties herself in knots in her valiant efforts (March 6) to discredit Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett's earlier reasoned case for Scottish fiscal independence.
Her concluding statistical point about Scottish GDP per head surely negates the whole anti-independence case that she and her Labour colleagues are seeking to present in the run-up to the May election. For if it really is the case that Scottish GDP per head (which is an estimated $29,263) is actually higher than that of a quartet of the richest G7 countries on earth and including Japan, Germany and France, this single fact in itself makes a nonsense of Labour's boring mantra about an independent Scotland being an "economic basket case".
Against this background Ms Alexander has a clear responsibility to explain to the Scottish electorate exactly why she and her Labour colleagues - virtually alone among the parties represented at Holyrood - continue to resist the commonsense case for the Scottish Parliament to have complete control over all of the taxable sources of Scotland's obvious wealth.
Ian O Bayne, 8 Clarence Drive, Glasgow.
WITH the assuredness of a cat on a devolved roof, Wendy Alexander uses GDP per capita (ie, per human being) to paint a nuanced picture of Scotland's position in the EPL (Economic Premier League) being comparable with G7 countries such as France and Germany. This takes no account of the cost of living there, which would give a better picture of relative disposable wealth - the money one could actually spend for the betterment of one's self and family.
May I counter Wendy's Peter Pan argument using my own economic guru? Lemmy of Motorhead was recently asked why he, the archetypal British rocker, has now permanently based himself in the United States. His paraphrased response was: "Are you kidding? The weather's nicer, the service is nicer, the girls are nicer and everything is half price compared with Britain."
There is, I would contend, more to success than generating wealth for the City of London.
Paul Cochrane, 10 Grants Way, Paisley.
I CAN'T seriously believe Wendy Alexander, MSP (The success story of Scotland's GDP per head, March 7), wants us to believe that, because the GDP per capita figure for Scotland is allegedly a few dollars more than Germany and Japan, the Scottish economy is now suddenly a raging success.
I could be wrong, but I haven't actually noticed that Scotland is now in possession of a Siemens, a Volkswagen or a Porsche-type company, nor for that matter have I spotted the sudden emergence of a Scottish Sony, Panasonic or Toyota.
Such figures are, of course, utterly useless unless they are broken down properly, and I would suggest that in Scotland's case they are skewed heavily because of the increasing dominance of the financial services sector. Having one or two banks producing profits in the tens of billions in a country as small as ours makes for an imbalance in the calculations and Wendy should know that and stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It doesn't become her.
Dick Winchester, The Old Schoolhouse, Old Rayne, Aberdeenshire.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:18 PM
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Today UK Westminster MP's voted for a 100% elected upper house. A step towards democracy? A momentous day in history? A blow against class privilege?
Sadly no, it looks like British MP's are merely playing daft games. Put forward an unworkable plan and then when the Lords send it back, kick it into the long grass where it won't trouble new proposed PM Gordon Brown. Brown doesn;t want to consider doing anything which might democratise society, no he wants to Be King Gordon, after King Tony, his career comes first, as always.
Blair made some half hearted attempts at reform early on in his administration, clearing out a layer of hereditary peers. Unfortunately the modern hangers on (dubbed Tony's Cronies by the tabloids) are no better than the hereditary ones - in fact sometimes worse - after all sometimes an evil individual can have a decent son or daughter. If you are reliant on the patronage of the current PM it hardly encourages dissent!
The house of Lords is of course an anachronism. MP's like to pretend to consider reforms but they really prefer it as it is. A house of irrelevant idiots in ermine robes who put on a show for the tourists but who are rightly ignored by the media.
The only problem with electing the House of Lords is that it would effectively become a rival to the House of Commons and with two elected houses there would be little to choose between either. The 'upper house' would be much more tempted to meddle in the other chamber and there would be no clearly dominent parliament. 'We've been elected as well' they would cry.
A second chamber is not actually required at all.
The real underlying problem is that the FPTP system used to elect the British Parliament's House of Commons leads to absolute dictatorships by minority parties. The Blair Government only attracted 30 odd percent of the vote at the last UK elections. Despite this fact FPTP delivered Labour a workable majority. The second chamber in theory acts as a balancing mechanism, it stops the Government's more absurd proposals and ensures all legislation is properly scrutinised. Unfortunately it doesn't actually do any of these things.
Yes, the Lords can make slight amendments and can send laws back (three times) but ultimately the 'lower house' can overrule it and any determined Government can push through any draconian law. This has been proven on numerous occasions.
The simple answer for Scotland is of course to get independence and then we don't need to worry about the anachronistic institutions and the non existent constitution of Britain any more. It can't happen soon enough.
The powers wielded by Tony Blair (on behalf of the monarch) are considerable and in reality the Blair Government is a dictatorship which rules MP's like sheep through the whipping system. (A highly appropriate term).
The only way the undemocratic constitution of Britain can be unraveled is by setting up a new one under a democratic republic. This could happen in Scotland with independence but it won't happen for the foreseeable future in England.
The answer to the question of Lords reform is very simple. Dump it and elect one chamber by PR. At one stroke the problem of undemocratic minority Governments is solved. In future all legislation would have to be passed by parties representing the majority of the people. They will still get it wrong occasionally which is why all parliaments have regular elections.
Anyone who suggested a second chamber for Holyrood or for our future independent Government (or a new monarchy for that matter) would be laughed out of the room. Sure the quality of MP's and MSP's is poor and certainly some of the relics in the House of Lords have useful experience but while these people are appointed to rule over others (usually by naked bribery or by patronage) then a country is not free.
Most peers are completely out of touch with reality and they ignore the views of absolutely everyone. Most are has beens with no more sense than any other person in the street. All have lived lifes of extraordinary privilege and most cannot imagine anything better than the status quo.
Every former minister can get their place in the Lords and few refuse. Lord Lang, Lord Forsyth, failed Governor generals for Scotland, politicians who chose to sell their soul to England and made a career out of running down their own country. These characters are a total waste of space.
If any of the Lords want to represent the people they should stand for election. If they won't do that then they are not fit to help run any Government.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:51 PM
Monday, March 05, 2007
(from Scotland on Sunday)
What a disgrace - JOE
Scottish Labour have 'given up' on positive electioneering
Plans to discredit SNP are revealed by party sources Independence bashing will be at centre of campaign
"There is nothing that Labour can say that will change peoples' minds about Labour. There is no point in having a positive campaign because it doesn't wash. There isn't a bit of evidence to suggest that going positive will make any difference. They don't know Jack and they don't like Labour." - Labour campaign source
Story in full
JACK McConnell is to gamble his election chances on a relentlessly negative campaign against the SNP, after party chiefs admitted they were giving up their bid to persuade people to back him on his record.
According to senior party sources, internal polling evidence within the Labour camp has concluded that a positive campaign based on Labour's policies is doomed because the public are no longer listening.
Instead, party chiefs now think their only chance of winning them round is to destroy the Nationalists' credibility.
The behind-the-scenes moves came as McConnell yesterday launched an unprecedented personal attack on SNP leader Alex Salmond, accusing him of having "walked out" on the people of Scotland when he left Holyrood prior to the last election.
The speech was intended to kick-start McConnell's bid for re-election following sniping from the SNP last week that he had become "the invisible man".
But Scotland on Sunday can reveal that the turmoil within Labour's ranks is continuing. Last week, Kirsty O'Brien, the party's UK head of policy, was parachuted into the campaign from London, as party chiefs desperately try to haul in the SNP's clear lead in the polls.
Tony Blair's polling guru Philip Gould is also now heavily involved in the Scottish campaign, in a clear sign of the UK party's growing fears over the May 3 vote.
One campaign source said that the party's polling evidence showed clearly that people were tired of Labour's own record and were not for turning. The insider said: "There is nothing that Labour can say that will change peoples' minds about Labour. There is no point in having a positive campaign because it doesn't wash. There isn't a bit of evidence to suggest that going positive will make any difference. They don't know Jack and they don't like Labour."
McConnell yesterday vowed to fight toe-to-toe with Salmond on his record in office. But he then issued a tirade against the SNP leader, accusing him of being a quitter. He told Labour candidates at a conference in Dunblane: "Building Scotland needs staying, not quitting. You don't build a great nation with glib soundbites and self-satisfied smirks, but by hard work and tough choices. You don't build hospitals by talking, but by doing. You don't build schools in Scotland scoring cheap points in Westminster."
McConnell also appealed to voters whose concerns over the SNP may have been softened by the Nationalists' plan to hold a referendum on independence.
The SNP say they will run Scotland as it is until around 2009. Scotland would only become independent if it backed a referendum which Salmond would hold at that time. But McConnell said an SNP victory would lead immediately to "paralysis, conflict, uncertainty and cost".
He added: "It would start immediately. The body politic of not just Scotland but the UK would be convulsed by 'the Scottish question'."
He went on: "If you don't believe it, don't vote for the SNP. There isn't a half-way house."
McConnell's attack comes after a torrid week for Labour in which McConnell was pursued over his refusal to agree to a TV debate with Salmond. A poll in the Scotsman, meanwhile, showed that the Nationalists had a 5% lead over Labour.
McConnell has now agreed to take on Salmond and the other party leaders in a televised debate on April 1.
An SNP spokesman said: "The SNP are campaigning positively on the policies, showing how an SNP administration can make Scotland more successful. That is what the people of Scotland want to hear."
He added: "Personal attacks from Mr McConnell are unworthy of the Scottish election process, and only show that Labour have nothing constructive to say in this campaign."
What the other parties said
THE Scottish Green party yesterday set out their plan to become "the green backbone" of government at Holyrood.
Campaign director Mark Ruskell MSP said the Greens would back a "stable minority government" from the opposition benches.
He said: "We will be instead the green backbone, forcing government to act now and put our agenda first."
At the Scottish Socialists' meeting, leader Colin Fox said the party would back free public transport for all. He also said the party had recovered from its split and the fall-out from former leader Tommy Sheridan's defamation case against the News of the World, insisting the SSP was still "the biggest, best and most successful" socialist party in Scotland.
But at another meeting Sheridan claimed his breakaway Solidarity party - formed after his case last year - would trounce his former colleagues and win seven seats in May's elections.
Sheridan claimed that the lower-than-inflation NHS pay rises announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown last week could scupper Labour's chances.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 2:04 PM
Friday, March 02, 2007
The story in the Herald re Ming Campbell today is interesting as it shows up his utter hypocrisy - pity they don't allow any comments.
The Scotsman is more biased (the Herald is biased as well but is slightly more subtle) but at least you get a chance to comeback.
Check this out:
'Sir Ming' [who obviously has a vested interest in the status quo] argued Scotland would forfeit much international influence if it went independent, for instance losing a seat on the UN Security Council. "Our ability to influence the kind of world we live in would be very severely dented," he stressed.
Is he really so stupid? It's not SCOTLAND's seat at the UN security council. Scotland is not represented in the UN at all.
Jack Straw was a hell of a lot more honest when he said he was worried England would lose their seat at the UN Security council if Scotland became independent.
Straw is quoted by the BBC as saying: "Historically, England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among others things, of amplifying England's power worldwide. And the reverse would certainly be true. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England."
He adds, "Our [England's] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We'd slip down in the world league GDP tables. Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN." [Security Council]