Across the water…. Some thoughts on Scotland.

Douglas Murray derided the Scottish parliament as a “Mickey Mouse” institution, staffed with “so-called” politicians who have “not much to do”. No less a figure than Baroness Deech provided the preamble for Murray’s predictable outrage with the clumsily constructed claim that “we’re all subsidising them I think, by way of benefits and all sorts of reasons”. What had got these commentators so excited?

It was the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, a decision taken by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill. According to Deech and Murray, this decision “embarrassed” the UK and was nothing to do with humanitarianism and everything to do with Scottish ministers wanting to show just how independent they are.

Such sentiments aren’t surprising from an attention seeking rent-a-reactionary like Murray, whose previous exhortations have led to a police complaint of racism, but Deech is a former governor of the BBC and an academic of some standing. Deech also suggested a by product of Scottish independence could be the removal from Westminster of all Scottish politicians, an extreme answer to the West Lothian question, perhaps.

MacAskill and Salmond were unusually quiet in the aftermath of this incident, but many complaints were made. One thing that this debacle did not cause was an intensification in the debate on Scottish nationalism – a debate that, if anything, seems more stifled than recent times, despite (or because of?) an SNP administration and the “Big Conversation”.

So just what is the current state of play in Scottish politics? Scottish Labour seem as stilted and stifled as their English counterparts – consumed by the election of a new leader and practically off the political radar. Iain Gray was unusually bombastic in Holyrood at the unveiling of the SNP’s latest – and for this parliament, final – programme for government. Gray said that Salmond had “run out of ideas” and was fast “running out of time”.

And he may have a point, whilst Scottish Labour have a ten point lead over the SNP, only 9% of Scottish voters think Iain Gray would make a good First Minister, compared with 31% who opt for Salmond. But Salmond’s popularity is down from 53% and Scottish Labour only need to overturn a majority of one.

The Holyrood election will be interesting – and it looks possible that another coalition will be formed north of the border. Where does that leave the independence debate? Probably where it is now; shelved.

Belfast boy, Edinburgh man.

  • English Republic

    Douglas Murray derided the Scottish parliament as a “Mickey Mouse” institution, staffed with “so-called” politicians who have “not much to do”.

    From what I can see the MSP’s do far more than their Scottish MP counterparts, unless Murray believes that interfering in England’s affairs is more important than looking after the interests of the Scottish electorate?

  • Where does that leave the independence debate? Probably where it is now; shelved.

    Who put in on the shelf?

    The tartan Tories of the SNP.

    The “debate” is “stifled” until a firm line on what Scottish separatism involves. Is it monarchist or republican? Is it separatist or devolved? Is it just another European statelet or a non-aligned tax-haven?

    Anyone who points to the deficiencies in the arguments of others should be giving a fair steer on his/her own definition of a national entity. So:

    I’ll hae nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur
    Extremes meet – it’s the only way I ken
    to dodge the curst conceit o bein richt
    That damns the vast majority o men.</blockquote

  • Seymour Major

    “Where does that leave the independence debate? Probably where it is now; shelved.”

    True, but only for the time being. Labour will form the next administration at Holyrood. The spending cuts will bite hard and the SNP will be chirping again, looking to convert more of the working classes towards favouring independence.

    The debate will have to come back, in any event, because more revenue – raising powers are to be devolved. The hope of Unionists is that fiscal responsibility will lead to a democratic accountability which is more balanced and less likely to perpetuate anti-Westminster populism.

  • Teri

    The Independence debate may be off the agenda in Holyrood but will be very much alive in the SNP’s election campaign. Alex Salmond had two choices: put it to the Scottish Parliament to have a referendum on indepence and have it booted right back in his face by the Unionists or circumvent this process. He has chosen the latter. He has decided since it would have been buried in parliament by the Unionists to make it the major thrust of the election campaign. He will argue that with Independence Scotland will be better off financially and will not need to face the savage cuts that are coming from the Tory/Libdem coalition. The voters will have the choice of voting unionist and endorsing the savage cuts or voting SNP and avoiding them through Independence. This is a massive gamble he is taking but he felt it was the only way that the Scottish people would get a chance to have their say on the issue. I personally dont see him pulling this one off. It will depend very much on how he’s going to prove that Scotland is better off on its own financially.

  • Dewi

    Malcolm – just because there’s a Scottish subject to discuss does not mean you are not allowed to comment on the Welsh stuff….

  • interested

    impressed with some of the renewable energy work they are sponsoring – mabye they could share it with NI Assembly

  • Dewi

    Salmond is being pretty quiet – the big issue is the future of thr Scottish Conservatives – a pro independence right wing Scottish party might get a niche,

  • Annabel Goldie and Cameron apparently not on speaking terms. See Hamish Macdonell in Scotland on Sunday, weekend before last:

    … senior figures in the UK Conservative Party no longer consult or communicate with their Scottish colleagues.

    As a result, Scottish party leaders have been virtually shut out of all decision-making roles and they are no longer invited to top-level strategy and policy meetings.

    Go to that link, and read comment #2 from “Fifi la Bonbon”. It’s a gem, especially rendered in Ms Goldie’s fragrant Renfrewshire.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Fair assessment Terry.

    Only problem is that the media in Scotland will never allow this kind of debate……never!

  • Prionsa Eoghann


    Thanks for this post even if the info and issue is weeks old.

    First off can we refrain from using unionist propoganda terms like ‘Scottish labour’. No such creature exists. It is but one strand of the multi-layered con job that the British labour party have succesfully done on the Scottish people, ably helped by their acolytes in the unionist media. What we heard on that radio 4 programme was the voice of the British establishment aghast at how uppity the jocks have become since the SNP came to power…………………I mean just look at how respected sluggerites like my *former* ;¬) pal Malky can refer to the only Scottish party worth voting for by the outdated, discredited and cringeworthy title of “tartan Tories”- get a grip Malky and get out of the 1970’s!

    For a bunch of amatuers with no experience of governing-hardly even a local council, the SNP by any standard have performed well. It did help that we are compared to previous labour administrations who took their medicine from London and done what they were told, and if truth be said few were in positions of power through merit……………indeed watch this space, it is not only ‘West Baltimore’ AKA Glasgow city council who have much to fear by slow off the ground, almost reluctant police investigations over corruption. The biggest corruption in my view being the often complete lack of reporting by the Scottish media, leaving the London media to question their reasoning for not doing so. I suppose editors and labourites regular drinkies sessions may have helped a little (ahem)

    The SNP have failed, yep failed over promises to wipe student debt, we had a whole new generation of students, young people voting SNP who probably will not do so this time bacause they are still lumbered with student debt, and justifiably angry. We had promises of reducing class sizes to 18 for primaries 1 to 3, which has happened in many parts of Scotland but in the main population areas like North Lanarkshire and ‘West Baltimore’ the labour councils did not use the cash for the purposes agreed when the Scottish govt. handed it over. The irony of Labour at Holyrood lambasting the SNP for this failure was not lost on many outwith labour circles.

    Where we really went wrong fundamentally was not putting up the Bill to abolish the council tax which like the referendum Bill the unionist parties had promised to vetoe. The SNP campaigned hard on these two issues yet wouldn’t put them on the board because of what? No-one has explained the wimping out over the council tax Bill but the idea that the SNP with the Greens could get enough seats next election to force through a referendum Bill is utterly ludicrous, and whilst I get the strategy it is simply unachievable.

    For my money too many SNPers have embroiled themselves in domestic policy rather than screaming from the rooftops just why we are in the position we are in……………….that being that bloodsucking money grabbing entity called the union. The only way Salmonds policy can work is if we effectively link how unfair the union is with the devastating effects of the current and ongoing cuts and downturn in the economy. Alas the media will be as hostile as ever, that is why we needed the scores on the board and pointed to yet more unionist hypocrisy. Case in point the stated reason previously why some unionist parties were against holding a referendum on independence was because they said we neede to focus on jobs and not waste money. Yet now we have the prospect of 90 million quid being spent on an AV referendum that nobody wants, and a referendum on further powers for Wales that won’t be cheap.

  • Teri

    You’re right the Biased Broadcasting Corporation wont. It will take Salmond’s foot soldiers to get the message out. One thing the SNP have been good at in the past is organising good election campaigns and I’m sure that will be the main means of getting the message across. However, many who support SNP do so, only as an alternative to Labour, but dont support Independence. It’s possible SNP will lose this section of their vote unless they really do spell out in monetary terms how Scotland would be better off financially if out of the UK. So far I havent seen any figures that show how that is possible. I think they should use their budget as a means of doing this, ie. show the budget from the UK once is is known and how it will be spent and alongside it show an Independence budget. I for one would like to see how they know the country would be financially better off.

  • Stephen

    @ Prionsa Eoghann

    Thanks for your comments – though that’s the first time that I’ve been accused of using Unionist propoganda!

    Yes, the SNP have done a fairly steady job. Although, like you say, the early broken promise on student debt is something that some embittered former students (like me) find very difficult to accept.

    The SNP aren’t Labour. They aren’t tarnished by the previous administrations Westminster excesses and also haven’t appeared to be as focused on independence as some thought they would be. I think that this will be their best chance at re-election.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Somethin weird goin on Stephen……… not the week to respond the fact that I just received the e-mail today. A whole week after the response.

    The charge of using using Unionist lexicon stands, most of which amounts to silly propoganda. Hence we have charges amounting to splitting Scotland asunder from the UK………..separatists etc. which bring to mind a negative whilst the idea of an independent Scotland is a positive. Thus if you are using language like the Scottish labour party when in actuality no such party exists then you are playing their game that consists entirely of fooling an electorate into the understanding that they are distinctly Scottish, whereas anyone with the remotest understanding of Scottish politics knows they are not.

    Sure the media are happy willing acolytes to this game, much the same way that they call the stealing of Palestinian land by the temperate and and almost nurturing name of ‘settlements’. In reality they are enclosed colonies surrounded by free fire zones which include much Palestinian farmland now unused through threat of death.

    I am also in the same boat regarding student debt and remember young students back at the last election enthusiastically disscussing voting SNP because they were specifically going to address student debt, some of which is higher than 15 grand. These young people will now be disabused of the notion that the SNP are in fact much different from the labour party who are up to their ears in West Baltimore type corruption.

    Saying all that I have recently took the bull by the horns and have recently involved myself with the local party branch(new young blood and aw that) rather than just dipping in and out to deliver leaflets at elections.

    My overwhelming thoughts are that too many sheep are feart of the Tories and will believe anything labour say.

  • Stephen

    @ Prionsa Eoghann

    I accept the general point about terms like splitting, and especially endorse your comments about Palestine. I was taken aback at the charge of using Unionist propoganda but think that, yes, perhaps I too readily and uncritically took to using a term that has a meaning I did not immediately see.

    Thanks for your comments.

    And my debt is 30k… Though I was an eternal student!

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Wow!, Me I am too scared to look at the student debt letters as the interest seems to grow exponentially. I take it that your debt is PHD debt Stephen or does the ‘eternal’ part equate to SAAS or it’s equivilent allowing you a long leash?

    I took a gamble and thought getting my honours would help my prospects and even considered an invitation for a PHD but with 4 weans and a sizeable mortgage the idea of 3 years on 6 and a half grand on top of the other (seemingly wasted) years were my earning power was limited did not appeal. Besides I’m not really an establishment type ;¬)