The expression “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad” nearly always reminds me of the old joke; “I had to take my dog to the vet to have him put down” to be asked “Poor thing, was it mad?” Response “Well it wisna very pleased”.
It is difficult to know where to begin, as so many issues are cropping up with no answers, so a brief resume .
I hear that the Daily Record this week criticised the Scottish Labour Leader for stating that Nicola Sturgeon was as divisive as Margaret Thatcher; interesting that the Record took that line.
A furore also about the SNP Party Political Broadcast, but not over the content but about the Liberals perception that the chief antagonist was David Torrance. I watched the Broadcast, and while I have a nodding acquaintance with David Torrance I did not make that connection; MSPs look at the Press Gallery from afar so perhaps distance lends enchantment to the view. I was pleased with the Broadcast, it was different, factual and relevant. Some queries from political foes about free care for the elderly and bus passes both brought in under Henry McLeish as I recall. The political foes would like these things curtailed.
We made no comment about banning smoking in public places, as this was done by the Lib Lab lot; actually it was a Private Member’s Bill by Stewart Maxwell when an SNP MSP, but the Executive, as it was called then, threw it out, then published it in their Manifesto and claimed credit; it was ever thus.
And then another piece of nonsense about the Chief Constable of Police Scotland. The facts are as follows; the Chief Constable was suspended, put on the euphemistically titled “Gardening Leave” while allegations were investigated by the Police Investigative and Review Committee, known as PIRC. The Scottish Police Authority, a non-political body, then met after a few months and decided to re-instate the Chief Constable and phoned him to come back to work. Perhaps as an afterthought the retiring Chairman of the SPA mentioned to the Justice Secretary, Michael Mathieson, that they had done so. Michael Mathieson asked three questions ; had PIRC sent in their report, No, had the complainants been informed, No, and had the Interim Chief Constable been informed, No. He then asked that they reconsider their decision, so they reversed it.
There was a stushie, and Michael Mathieson made a statement to the Scottish Parliament and answered questions; this was not the end of the matter because at First Minister’s Questions on the following Thursday the Tory Leader asked all these questions again. This was to highlight the issue, grandstanding as if there was not enough going on. Nicola Sturgeon rightly pointed out that this was a Tory deflection of the fact that the 13
Scottish Tory MPs in Westminster who claimed they would always act in Scotland’s interests had meekly trotted into the Westminster Lobby; one assumes Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson concurred.
What a rumpus there would have been if Mr Mathieson had not stopped this action in its tracks, but any stick to beat the SNP is seized on by the Unionists. It is noted that Susan Deacon, new Chair of the SPA agrees with his action.
Most of us will remember December 2010 when the M8 was in chaos, and Stewart Stevenson was pilloried by a BBC Newsnight interviewer who kept asking Stewart the same question over and over. I don’t remember the reporter’s name but he subsequently went to work for the Tories. Anyway, we have now seen even worse weather and I think some numpty called for Humza Yussef to resign, him being responsible for snow, just like Stewart Stevenson. However these calls were muted as police warned “Do not drive”, and the chaos was caused by irresponsible drivers, no doubt all Unionists.
Incidentally there has been some correspondence in the media saying we should all have winter tyres; failure to use them in Germany is an offence. This got me thinking; I spent almost all of my working life in road transport, in Dundee, Peterhead, Edinburgh and West Lothian, and I never came across Winter Tyres. I was not a lorry driver, but an Accountant who paid all the bills!
Comparisons with Norway, Sweden , Denmark Finland etc are meaningless, as they have long periods of snow, whereas we get sunshine and showers. Send out a snowplough, then a blink of sunshine and the snow disappears. Everyone relaxes, then the snow comes back again.
No confidence vote
A recent debate in the Scottish Parliament threw up some hilarious moments. Labour called the debate on the proposed Budget with highfaluting aims to rubbish the aforesaid Budget. Labour MSP James Kelly in his introductory remarks quoted a figure of £700 million; John Mason of the SNP (described as a mild mannered accountant) asked where this would come from, and James Kelly equivocated “We’ll find it somewhere” . I paraphrase. The SNP benches dissolved into laughter. Richard Leonard (Labour I think) was abashed, don’t know what the Tories thought, nor the Liberals, who have a sense of grievance, not humour.
Anyway the SNP lost the vote, which is not binding, but was merely grandstanding. The latest state of affairs is that the Tories want to reduce taxes by giving to the Haves, Labour want to increase taxes on the Haves, the Liberals are undecided and the Greens trying to extract as much as they can.
Readers might remember one Scottish Budget when it failed. There was a terrible hoohah from Local Government as they realised their money would be cut and the Budget was passed posthaste. This was in the first SNP Government when we were a minority government; the Greens had been on about insulation I think.
In any event a new expression emerged “The first time a vote of no confidence brought down the Opposition”
I have heard that David Lidlington, the Tory MP who replaced Damian Green, has stated that he is alert to the possibility of the UK wishing to rejoin the EU after the dust has settled. This I find ridiculous. Is it the intention to go through all the convoluted rigmarole and complexities of leaving the EU only to turn around and say “OK we didn’t really mean it”. Or do they think their contribution is so important that all 27 nations will say “Welcome, we knew you did not mean it.”
I have just heard that Prime Minister Theresa May is setting up a committee to fight “fake news” – I thought that it already had one.
Independence – nothing less
The other day I came across a car sticker in a drawer; it said “Independence nothing less.”
The issue of devolution has slowed down the Independence Movement, as we may have many who just wish us to continue in a cosy devolved state and not make too much of a fuss. Certainly our Unionist opponents are advocating that approach; they believe “1999 Referendum – Job done”.
I remember my own attitude at the previous Referendum. In 1979 I was the Parliamentary Candidate for Central Fife (Now Glenrothes) and was unhappy at our support for a path that was designed to halt the SNP. I made this point clear at a Candidates and Agents meeting in the Cowane Centre in Stirling, to the horror of many of my colleagues who visibly put distance between myself and them. After the meeting I called Billy Wolfe our then Chairman, and he expressed the view that we had to take anything given otherwise we would be accused of blocking any progress. I took his advice but did not use any of the Yes literature; I produced a leaflet stating “This is not what I want but it will do for a start”; incidentally those who shrank away from my original comments did not do any work in the Referendum and I did.
The upshot: in the 1979 General Election the SNP fought all 73 seats, but only saved its deposit in 19 – 11 of whom had been MPs- I was one of the other 8. Work works!
Afterthought – only today I discovered that the 40% rule put forward by MP George Cunningham was actually the creation of Robin Cook, who did not wish his ownership to be seen. (Wings over Scotland).
The Carillion disaster is a consequence of PFI, and this company must be unique in losing money; the private purse was meant to take all the risks, and in this case the public purse is going to be hit, unless the government assumes responsibility – Oh wait, is that not supposed to happen? These schemes, piloted by John Major then condemned by Labour, who changed the name to Public Private Partnership and went willy nilly ahead.
Remember Hairmyres Hospital – one hospital for the price of two, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Ninewells Hospital Dundee? To name but a few. These three hospitals have exorbitant car parking charges; the rest of hospitals have free parking, but the PFI element in this would need millions upon millions for them to be bought out.
In this, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard` is talking about buying them out; he does not have a magic money tree – he needs a forest. He is surprisingly ignorant of the state of play in financial affairs which is why he appointed James Kelly as his Finance Spokesman – he knows even less.
No solution for PFI in the short term , but it can be tackled after Independence. It is apparent that some laws can be amended and post dated; it is my thought that we change the law on PFI and nationalise these public assets. No compensation will be paid. We will also close down all LLPs, and instruct owners to remove their assets after fining them heftily for use of Scottish laws. Nice thought, most of the PFI cash will now be in the hands of organised crime so let us get our mitts on that. All this is possible, but only with Independence.