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Pants on fire

Indeed. Here is Eck quite clearly telling Andrew Neil that he sought the advice of his law officers and all but saying that that advice was that Scotland would remain in the EU without so much as a by your leave after a yes vote in the independence referendum.

Several points arise here.

The subsequent froth and spin from Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon proves that Eck was being economical with the truth, indeed profligate with the porkies, in that interview. I wonder too how the current line being put forward by the SNP, that an independent Scotland would remain in the EU but would continue to use the pound and have monetary policy dictated by the Bank of England will stack up?

I’ll bet it’s given the Eurocrats a few laughs.

In fact you can be sure that the EU will already have decided on which terms that an independent Scotland would be admitted and it sure as hell won’t be as a ‘successor state’ using the pound.

I am also still confused by what ‘independence’ will achieve. Fiscal autonomy? the ability to exceed budgets and borrow? Jeez! that is becoming a more frightening prospect by the day.

Not as frightening however as the prospect of membership of the Euro and the proposed EU veto on national budgets.

In fact the more I think about it, this referendum is a choice of which, or which combination of lord and master Scotland wishes to be subservient to.

The other point that arises is that having been presented with the political gift of Eck’s mendacious moment being caught on camera, Johann Lamont still managed to sound like the chairwoman of the guild complaining that there weren’t enough cakes at the previous week’s coffee morning.

As a leader of the opposition she simply won’t do and I fully expect London (Milibean and co) to engineer her removal and replacement some time soon.

It has come to something when the only person who seems able to challenge Eck and pin him down is an old Tory hack frae Paisley.


Weir’s Way

I see that Euromillions winners Colin and Chris Weir have donated £1,000,000 to the SNP for use in the forthcoming independence referendum. This comes a month after poet Edwin Morgan left a similar amount in his will to the party.

And of course there was the half million donated by Christian fundamentalist fruitcake respected businessman and moral campaigner, Brian Soutar.

The Nats are in the money and they are clearly riding the crest of the Zeitgeist.

I’m just conscious that donations and investments usually come with terms and conditions….

Independence Day?

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey published at the weekend shows growing support for independence.

Two particular items must make the unionist political blood run cold. The findings of the survey found that 61% of Scots said they trusted Holyrood to act in Scotland’s best interests always or most of the time, compared with 22% who said they trusted Westminster to do so. 74% of people thought the Holyrood Government ought to have most influence over how Scotland is run compared with 16% for Westminster.

Until recently I could never have envisaged the Scottish people voting for independence, independence ‘lite’ even, in a referendum. However the facts are that in poll after poll, the satisfaction ratings of the SNP continue to climb.

Part of this is due to the fact that the party doesn’t seem to act for one particular socio-economic group at the exclusion of others. That’s a neat trick. When you get top business people, trade unionists and the politically non committed on board, then it really is a formidable task to mount an opposition.

And really, there IS no opposition to speak of. The best Labour can come up with is a Westminster based hotch -potch of no talent. Their lame duck Scottish leader continues on his weary way sometimes getting into the press with rebarbative jibes at Salmond and Co. He’s like a footballer who’s been sent off, refusing to leave the field and mouthing at the opposition. He’d be as well shouting at the fish counter in Sainsbury’s – although in such an event he’d probably have a bigger audience.

The Tories continue to fight amongst themselves, with one of the leadership candidates standing on a ticket to abolish the party in Scotland!

And the Liberal Democrats know that their involvement in the UK coalition government and subsequent annihilation at the Scottish polls last year, has put them in a position from which it will be very difficult to return to their previous influential position in the short to medium term.

It is a sobering thought that if all Scotland’s opposition parties combined to fight a united ‘no’ campaign in a referendum, there is no candidate even remotely capable of leading such a campaign.

Having voted SNP in recent times, I remain to be wholly convinced on the issue of independence. However, were there to be a poll now, it is by no means certain how it would go. The Nats, and ergo independence, seem to have the X factor at the moment.

And therein lies the dilemma for the SNP who have declared that the referendum will take place in the second half of the parliament. They risk going the way of all elected governments anywhere and being less popular than a fart in a spacesuit by that time.

Or maybe the opposition will continue to present as pisspoor to the power of ten and will carry on assisting in paving the way for the biggest constitutional change here in over 300 years?

All bets are off but a well known smug, portly punter has already been down to the bookies and he gives the impression of knowing what he’s doing.

Inexperienced gamblers look on nervously.

Did I Say Remarkable?

The enormity of the Scottish Parliamentary Election result continues to sink in. The following is my individual take on where we are. I freely admit that I could be completely wrong on many or all points because who can guess what Alex Salmond or his party will be thinking on the back of the tsunami which has engulfed the Scottish political landscape?

However here goes.

I think that independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom  is now highly likely. I also think that the most likely and best way for this to be achieved is in incremental steps. I simply don’t see it happening as a result of a single referendum and I would question that a referendum would be the best or even possible way to achieve it.

For such a referendum, three years from now as proposed, to succeed, the SNP would have to sustain the increase in their support which electorally has now been on an upward curve for eight years. Traditionally, governments which are elected on a landslide lose popularity. It is almost impossible to imagine that the heady support the SNP enjoyed in Thursday’s ballot will endure, even allowing for the almost total hopelessness of the opposition. The high watermark of a tsunami doesn’t last for long.

I am reminded of the referendum for the UK’s Common Market membership in 1975. That settled the country’s status the Common Market/EEC/EU, and although there would have been subsequent times when another referendum would have gone the other way, referendums are a once and for all settlement.

For example if, as I think is very unlikely, the Scots were to vote for independence in a referendum then this would be irreversible. By the same token, if  the electorate were to vote against independence in a referendum then that would be a result which would have to be abided by for the foreseeable future.

The only reason there was ever a second referendum on devolution was that the outcome of the first one was clearly rigged. Even that process took 20 years.

I haven’t even mentioned the AV referendum.

So, leaving the referendum aside for now, why do I think independence is inevitable?

The answer is that the comparative political landscapes of Scotland and the rest of the UK are now so different as to be seemingly irreconcilable. When the Condem coalition was formed last year understandably the Tories handed the Libdems the post of Scottish secretary. This was briefly occupied by Danny Alexander and now by Michael Moore. The thinking was that the Libdems, unlike the Tories enjoyed a historic, reasonable and seemingly sustainable level of support in Scotland. It should be pointed out however that this was in terms of seats rather than votes. The Tories in terms of votes, even in that party’s darkest days were usually slightly ahead of the Libdems.

On Thursday in the first past the post constituency vote, the Libdems polled 157,714 votes. This was nearly 120,000 fewer than the Tories. On the Regional List vote the Libdems total was 103,472. In 2003 the Scottish Socialist Party polled 128,026 on the Regional List. Imagine on the basis of that, that Tommy Sheridan had claimed a mandate to serve as Scottish Secretary?

So getting back to the referendum. It may be that gambler as he is, that Eck thinks he can stake the thing that he has strived for all his political life on a winner takes all gala day. It may be, but I seriously doubt it. It may be that he can turn the financial and monetary crisis, which is yet in its infancy, to the SNP’s advantage. Again I doubt that.

So how would the SNP wriggle out of what is a pretty strong commitment to hold a referendum? Well they could give a free vote on the enabling legislation (there would surely be a dozen from the 69 SNP MSPs who would vote against), or Eck could have discussions with David Cameron which he could claim were a timetable for independence thus making the referendum unnecessary. I simply don’t know how the SNP will do it.

Or maybe this is all a double bluff? Maybe the SNP DO want a referendum and want it to fail, thus keeping the comfort blanket of the union but being de facto independent and at the same time chipping away at the union?

Only one thing’s for sure in all this.

We live in interesting times.


By comparison, here is the map after the 2003 election:


Considering that at the turn of the year the SNP were trailing Labour in the polls, the outcome of the Scottish election looks like being a quite stunning success for the party.

In places like Glasgow and Paisley which have been Labour for as long as there has been a Labour party, there were huge swings to the Nats.

I’m delighted that the positive campaigning of the SNP won over the negative ‘fearmongering’ of Labour.

The Liberal vote as expected collapsed and the Tories continue their mediocrity.

The way that the Scottish parliament voting system was set up, it makes the achievement of an overall majority a very difficult task for any party but with swings of 10% being recorded in constituencies via first past the post, pending the results on the regional lists, an overall majority looks like a possibility.

Locally Jackie Baillie managed to hold on to the Dumbarton seat for Labour and bucking the trend she actually increased her majority. She will now no doubt be one of the candidates to succeed Iain Gray.

Independence Day?

Back at referendum time in 1997, I voted no on both counts. No to a Scottish parliament and no to giving that parliament tax varying powers. I was very much of the opinion in those days that I had grown up with one parliament churning out laws and that was a sufficiency of the bastards.

Here we were in Scotland about to vote a third legislature (In addition to Westminster and Strasbourg) into existence. Much as I have derided George Robertson for his comment that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead, actually at the time it had some validity. After all, Scottish politics had been dominated by the Labour party since the 70s and in the central belt it was very difficult to see Labour’s domination diminishing any time soon.

The devolution bill was Labour’s project or rather it was seen very much as Donald Dewar’s project. All that ‘Father of the nation stuff’ made me want to boak because it seemed to me that history had been extremely kind to Donald. Fair play to him though, unlike his contemporaries who chose the glittering career path with Blair in London, he made the establishing of the parliament his priority.

As time went on I became more convinced that my initial instincts had been right. Spiralling costs for the parliament building, (Dewar and co proving they hadn’t a clue about such projects) second rate representation, failed Westminster candidates and jumped up cooncilors all taking part in a big talking shop as far as I could see.

Tommy Sheridan’s SSP made a reasonable impact by having seven MSPs at one stage. Their bill to end warrant sales garnered enough support for it to become law. The idea of humiliating families who had fallen into poverty and irretrievable debt by selling off their remaining possessions for a pittance was never a good one in the most egalitarian part of the UK. That legislation was Tommy and the SSP’s legacy.

There was a horrible inevitability of what happened to him and them. The 2010 perjury trial revealed that quite apart from Tommy’s personal shenanigans, the left were doing what the left always do – i.e. arguing amongst themselves on idealistic minutiae, significant only to a tiny minority.

Something changed in 2007. Against all odds the SNP became the largest single party in the Scottish parliament. They formed a minority administration and gradually began to introduce quite radical legislation.

The thing which has wrong footed the opposition is that the Nats don’t appear to be working to some idealistic agenda for one particular section of society. They genuinely seem to be trying to help the ordinary voter and delivering measures which help them and their communities. That might read like naive bullshit, but with the council tax freeze, the small business bonus scheme (before anyone seizes on that my business did not benefit from it), the abolishing of student fees and prescription charges and 1000 more police on the beat what conclusion is one to come to?

There’s also the Town Centres regeneration fund and serious climate change legislation amongst other measures.

The Nats also identified early on what a disaster the Edinburgh trams project was going to be and they tried unsuccessfully to scrap it. However with the combined opposition of the other parties, that failed.

Alex Salmond has I think proved himself to be the most able political leader, not only in Scotland but in the UK as a whole.

The other parties are floundering seriously. Labour are almost impossible to parody. They criticise the SNP for broken promises despite the fact that much of the stuff they couldn’t deliver was because they were a minority government and it was voted down by the other parties of which the biggest is er….Labour. The popular SNP policies they have nabbed for themselves.

Iain Gray and Labour seemed to wake up half way through the campaign to the fact that this wasn’t a UK election. The guns they then turned on the SNP were as effective as a water pistol.

The Tories’ campaign has been beyond satire. One broadcast I heard was claiming credit for much of the SNP programme. “Without the help of Scottish Conservatives, these measures would not have gone through” which as a statement of fact I suppose is true but of course not in the way they are suggesting.

The Liberals? lets just leave it there.

I’m still not entirely convinced about independence and it will be interesting to see if, as looks likely, the SNP form a working majority government (perhaps with the help of the Greens) how they will handle the referendum issue? I wouldn’t be surprised to see that commitment kicked into the long grass and some compromise being reached on more powers for Holyrood. However, Eck, bold as brass, has said that the referendum will be held in the second half of the next parliament.

If pushed and despite many misgivings, I’d probably vote yes to that. It’d at least get rid of one lot of politicians.

So I’ll be voting SNP today and I can only hope that if they are elected they continue on the promising path of the last few years.

If you are in Scotland and whoever you intend voting for, then please at least vote

Oh aye, there’s the AV vote today as well. This was the Libdem’s pay off for supporting the Tories in the coalition.

Poor old Nick eh?