Saturday, October 31, 2009
Tavish Scott and his Lib Dem party have decided NOT to back an independence referendum next year despite (allegedly) considering a U-Turn on their policy.
I know, I know, devastating stuff but Nationalists will somehow just have to soldier on. Incidentally, there is a dream to cling onto but it involves the Greens increasing their Holyrood representation by 400%.
Seriously (because the suggestion that Tavish could make the SNP's drive for independence swerve let alone crash is ridiculous), the Scottish Lib Dems have missed an open goal this weekend.
I had suggested they were in a lose-lose position but there was a third option ahead of them this weekend which they haven't taken.
If the Lib Dems had backed a referendum next year then it would be a lose because their leader's position would be untenable. Someone who has time and again voiced his strong objections to a referendum could not reasonably lead his party during one which he had just delivered.
Another lose would have been if the Lib Dems had stuck to the status quo of no referendum, seemingly ever. They would (or will, given this is the option they have plumped for) fade back into irrelevance and consequently still do not have a stand out policy that gives people a reason to vote for them.
How long is it before the Lib Dems see single digit polling figures? Surely not too far away...
The third option, the one that they should have opted for to cling onto their fading liberal and democratic credentials, is to promise a referendum in the 2011-2015 parliamentary term. I mean, let's be honest, rightly or wrongly the question of independence has dominated the political agenda and the media ever since 2007 and will continue to do so. We're going to have to have a decisive vote on this.
Tavish might as well get on the front foot, deliver the referendum sooner rather than later and win some Holyrood votes along the way.
(In related news, Mike Crockart has been selected to contest the safe Edinburgh West seat for the Lib Dems. Given Mike is the local party convener one could argue that he was always looking good but former MSP Euan Robson and party policy convener Siobhan Mathers will be disappointed to have missed out, though they did finish 4th and 3rd respectively.
So congratulations Mike Crockart. Or Mike Crockart MP as we should probably get used to saying.)
For a start, had anyone heard of Professor David Nutt before yesterday? I am not disparaging the man at all but David gave an interview on the BBC on Thursday and it was, as far as I could tell, not picked up by the mainstream media in a significant way. There was no danger, no drama for Labour and then they created plenty by sacking the man for apparently seeking "a change in (drugs) policy".
Professor Nutt is surely considered an expert in the field and his views should be taken onboard. That is what he was there to do as a Government adviser. I can certainly understand the man's frustration if he knows that the Prime Minister's assertions that cannabis is lethal is false but for me he has conducted himself admirably throughout the whole affair. David was asked this morning what he would say to Gordon Brown if he met him today and there was no spitting of the dummy, he simply said that Brown should listen to the advice of the experts and place more trust in them. Absolutely fair comment anyone would agree.
So how does it look for a Home Secretary to sack an adviser simply because he doesn't agree with their opinion? Indeed, even calling it an 'opinion' is dubious as his position is surely based on scientific evidence and could be considered as facts.
And at the end of the day, we've surely all seen the West Wing episode where President Bartlett sacks the Surgeon General for suggesting legalisation of marijuana should be considered. Bartlett of course has to back down in the end as Aaron Sorkin articulately explains through his script why telling truth to power is an important factor for any Government, particularly in relation to science.
So another disappointing episode from an increasingly disappointing administration.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I don't know how likely the eventual appointment is but Gordon Brown looks reasonable in maturely campaigning for Tony Blair to be EU President while David Cameron's comments will surely be seen as childish.
To reduce the former PM of 10 years who won three back-to-back UK elections to an "all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting president" is poor form from the Tory leader. I reckon Dave needs to be a bit more careful with his comments, 'too many twits makes a twat' and the SNP being 'an irrelevance' are not the kind of weighty, considered views that I personally look for in a leader.
Crucially, they fail the Bartlett-test (that is, can you picture Martin Sheen saying them as President in the West Wing?)
At the end of the day, Tony Blair looking out for European interests, Hague (or Miliband) looking out for UK interests and Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond fighting for particular Scottish interests is a very strong position for a Scottish citizen to be in.
Yes there is a concern regarding the man's principles in that Tony seemingly only wants the job if it's big enough. We perhaps shouldn't be considering applicants if they'll only take the job on the basis that they'll get to shake Obama's hand four times a year.
Lord Owen called the proposed appointment of Tony Blair "a perfect disgrace" but the perfection outweighs the disgrace in my view and if the EU is going to be a global heavyweight, we need a global heavyweight to front it.
Tony Blair fits the bill.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It's May 2011 and 54 SNP MSPs have just been elected to Holyrood after a bumper election for the Nationalists. Labour has seen its tally dwindle to 38 MSPs while the Tories and Lib Dems are rooted on 13 MSPs each. The Greens have delivered an impressive 10 MSPs with climate change near the top of the agenda during the campaign.
The main topic however was an independence referendum. After the SNP was denied its preference of a November 2010 plebiscite, it took its claims of an injustice for Scotland to the Scottish people and were rewarded handsomely.
So one of the first calculations after all the votes were (finally) counted was, do the pro-referendum parties have enough MSPs to carry a Bill against the anti-referendum parties? And it's tight, very tight. SNP and the Greens have amassed 64 MSPs, equal to the unionist parties 64 MSPs.
All eyes then turn to the Glasgow MSP who scraped in as the 7th regional member. The unloved and unwanted BNP member of the Scottish Parliament.
If today's news in The Times is to be believed, this vote would go in favour of a referendum but would the SNP even want it? I think it's best to end the nightmare pontification there.
It is a worrying and not entirely infeasible prospect though, a BNP MSP holding the balance of power not just for an independence referendum but for many other devolved issues in the Parliament.
The BNP polled 4.4% of the vote in the Euro elections and the Greens only needed 5.2% of the vote in Glasgow to have Patrick Harvie elected as an MSP (the polar opposite of a BNP politician I hasten to add)
Hopefully it won't happen, hopefully the people of Glasgow in particular have enough sense to deny the fascists another foothold but there's no doubt that Nick Griffin will already be planning for this possible result. Well, maybe there is some doubt given that he didn't look like he'd even planned for his Question Time appearance last week.
It's just a relief that if the candidate for the Glasgow North East by-election is anything to go by (he apparently holds unpalatable views even for his own party) then the BNP won't be able to put up anyone even remotely electable enough to make a Scottish breakthrough.
And hey, I'm sure Tavish Scott will see sense and support an independence referendum this weekend anyway...
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
"I think that there is a respect agenda, about respecting Scotland's position in the United Kingdom. I want UK ministers appearing in front of the Holyrood parliament, Scottish Ministers appearing before Westminster parliament and regular meetings between the First Minister and the Prime Minister."
David Cameron, 27th October 2009:
"People in Scotland will be going to the polls to vote for a British Government and there are two potential outcomes: Gordon Brown and Labour continuing in office or the Conservatives bringing the change the UK needs to see.
"The one outcome there can't be in a British general election is an SNP government."
Alex Salmond isn't even standing in this election, so he knows he is quite irrelevant in this election."
He is battling for relevance and trying to say that somehow he is going to have a pivotal role when it is not an election that even involves him. That is why he is saying what he is saying."
For a start, Alex Salmond is the leader of a party that is contesting every one of the 59 seats in Scotland so to suggest he is not relevant to the contest is pretty ludicrous. Secondly, an SNP Government is not "the one outcome there can't be in a British general election". I reckon the Cornish Nationalist Party forming the next Government is pretty unlikely too.
More importantly however, it is becoming increasingly clear that Cameron is going to make a right dog's breakfast of trying to find that thin line where he can get away with treating the SNP with 'respect' on one hand and bashing them as 'irrelevant' on the other.
The man who would be Prime Minister has already carelessly pulled the rug from under Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie by ruling out the Calman proposals until after 2015, despite Goldie pushing for this review of the devolved settlement right from its start.
Dave is now labelling the party that is leading the polls in Scotland an irrelevance. Indirectly therefore, he is also calling Scotland an irrelevance and I don't think one north of the border has to be an SNP supporter to take umbrage at that suggestion.
Cameron doesn't have the instincts for Scotland and he's not going to have the luxury of time to properly take on Salmond. The suggestion that the Tory leader will be the last Prime Minister of the UK must surely be gaining more and more traction with every passing month.
If he continues to tread with so little care and regard, David Cameron will soon not only find that Salmond is an irrelevance for the UK Tory party but also perhaps that the UK is an irrelevance for Scotland.
(Note that 'Ca canny but ca awa' is the Scots motto of my home town Kirkintilloch. It means 'Carry on carefully but keep carrying on'. I thought I'd adapt it for this post as it seemed to fit rather neatly in more ways than one)
I'm no expert on what is and what isn't allowed to go on behind the scenes at Holyrood and how frequent any wrongdoing may be from any of the various parties currently residing there but I'm reasonably certain that parliamentary resources are not meant to be used for party political purposes.
So I was surprised to receive a copy of an email that was distributed to Labour MSPs and Labour MSPs' researchers earlier today urging readers to assist with the party's efforts in the campaign for the Glasgow North East by-election. Don't these people have hotmail or gmail addresses that could be used instead?
The email sent was as shown below (with some redaction to avoid a couple of red faces):
From: XXXXXXX X On Behalf Of XXXXXXXXXX X , MSP
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:XX AM
To: DL MSPs; DL MSP Researchers
Subject: Telephone Canvassing for Glasgow North East
Just a reminder that Usdaw have agreed to open their Edinburgh Office on Wednesday night for MSPs/ MSP researchers to help with telephone canvassing for the Glasgow North East by election. The office will be open between 5.30pm and 8pm. If you can spare an hour or so to help out, please let me know ASAP - a voting button is attached. Usdaw will also be opening up next Wednesday evening so if you could help then, please let me know.
Despite specific guidance issued earlier in the year that email accounts should not be used in relation to elections, it is a shame that parliamentary resources in this instance were misjudged as parliamentary recourses.
(I see David Maddox has marginally beaten me to the punch thanks in no small part to a long day at the office for me, not to mention shown me up for being so needlessly circumspect. Yes, it was Karen Whitefield's researcher wot done it)
The initial reaction to the credit crunch and subsequent recession amongst businesses seemed to be to bulk up with bigger players to absorb themselves from the many risks out there at the moment. Arguably, the better approach is for companies to demerge and become smaller, more nimble organisations that can adapt to changing market conditions and ensure healthy competition.
On the back of Scottish Power, Scottish & Newcastle, Tennents, HBOS and many more Scottish entities being lost to non-Scottish owners, one can't help but treat the news of another Scottish bank heading south as a potential cause for concern. I don't have time to check but I am sure there are many European countries who have safeguards to ensure that key sectors are represented by home-grown companies with no risk of foreign takeovers.
Standard Life Bank may have lost its direction and may not be much of a loss but I wonder if our policy for keeping Scottish companies in Scottish hands is similarly rudderless...
Monday, October 26, 2009
The vilifcation of Nick Griffin and his right-wing BNP party has been loud and shrill.
People are right to be self-righteous and there is dignity in the indignation but beneath the clamour and amidst the din we should not lose sight of the fact that the BNP has a valid point to make. Not a point that I agree with I hasten to add, but valid nonetheless.
The argument that the 'indigenous British' should have more rights than more recent immigrants is the policy that needs addressed and then duly crushed, rather than the distinctly shallow and generic cry of 'we need to tackle the BNP'.
For me, there is no argument to be had. I can think of no reason why I should feel more affinity with someone from Cumbernauld than someone from Kettering. Or Krakow or Cameroon for that matter. If we're going to let more people into our country as new citizens (which we should) then we should treat them as equal citizens and not second-class.
We're all just people trying to get along as best we can from the cradle to the grave after all and that should be at the forefront of our minds when taking immigration-related decisions.
However, if the strongest defence against the BNP's rise in popularity is to render borders meaningless then there is a risk for the SNP that its cherished aim of independence will get caught in the crossfire.
The philosophy that it's not time to focus on territorial borders may well seep into the voting public's mindset and set a tone for the elections to come.
'It's Britain's welfare state' would sit very awkwardly against 'It's Scotland's oil' on campaign literature dropping onto doormats across the country.
This is not to mention the common misconception amongst non-Brits living in Scotland that the Scottish National Party is fascist simply because the 'x National Parties' in their home countries are fascist, a misconception that I have seen first hand thanks to a Greek ex-flatmate. (In the end she actually voted SNP on the back of a strong regard for Nicola Sturgeon and a setting straight of what the SNP is all about from myself)
The BNP has dominated the media for the past week (partly due to journalists' jumbled priorities) so there is no reason why the right-wing party couldn't continue to hit the headlines right up to May 2010 with the collective, concerted effort to keep the BNP down stretching out to inadvertently stymie the Nationalists' arguments in favour of separation.
I am not saying for one second that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant' for the SNP as it is for the BNP, as Alan Cochrane tiresomely put it. On the contrary, I suspect that the full unbiased facts of what independence would entail for Scotland could see the SNP in front, particularly given the continued reticence shown by unionist parties with regard to a referendum. But GE2010 will not be a full, substantive debate on independence and the BNP can expect to fill more column inches over the next few months than a positive case for independence will.
I know that a vote for the inclusive, ethinically-diverse, world-aware, outward-looking SNP is an effective vote against the BNP. To a less-informed public that is being instructed to care less and less about where our borders lie, it might be a much tougher sell.
Friday, October 23, 2009
A press release came out today proclaiming 'LIBDEM MEMBERS 4 TO 1 IN FAVOUR OF A REFERENDUM', a very clever and timely angle to take from a YouGov poll from early September which considered Scottish attitudes to a vote on independence.
The results of the poll were as follows:
I support a referendum on Scottish independence: 63%
I oppose a referendum on Scottish independence: 26%
Don’t know/ no opinion: 11%
For Lib Dem voters it was:
65% for a referendum
A strong majority in favour of that elusive referendum but according to one Lib Dem insider quoted in the Daily Mail: "It's four-to-one in the membership in favour of a referendum".
So Tavish Scott (a staunch opponent of the SNP's main policy) has a very difficult decision on his hands next weekend. To deny 80% of party members (including Paddy Ashdown, George Lyon and no doubt many more senior figures) the referendum they prefer, he would be setting a damaging and potentially fatal undemocratic precedent for his party as it looks ahead to two elections.
Sadly next weekend's meeting will be held behind closed doors so we won't know what went on unless a Lib Dem blogger or Tweeter breaks ranks to lift the lid. (*hint hint Stephen*)
One thing is sure though, if the SNP doesn't get its coveted referendum, it will be a solid gold policy to take to the people in 2011 and some of the many Lib Dem seats where the SNP are poised in second place like Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, Edinburgh West, Aberdeen South and Ross, Skye & Inverness West could fall into Nationalist hands as a result.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Anyway, given the scourge of alcohol costs Scotland £2.25bn a year, it's getting to the stage where anything that sounds plausible is worth a shot so since both Chief Medical Officers in Scotland and the UK are in favour of minimum pricing, this policy seems a good start.
However, it turns out there could be an unavoidable obstacle. Per The Herald:
Scottish Government plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing have been damaged by a European Court ruling that similar policies on tobacco are "illegal".
The decision was made against Austria, France and Ireland, where minimum pricing had been set on tobacco - partly on health reasons.
Nicola Sturgeon is putting a brave face on it:
"It is entirely inappropriate and irrelevant to translate an opinion on tobacco to the totally different issue of minimum pricing of alcoholic products per unit of alcohol for public health reasons."
I'm no lawyer but I'm not sure I agree.
I don't know the detail of the plans in Ireland, France and Austria but if you can't apply minimum pricing on fags, one has to admit there will probably be similar problems for minimum pricing on booze. Shame, I was looking forward to that Bill becoming law.
I'll just have to think of a traditional way to drown my sorrows....
However, most of it is negative, most of it is condemning the BBC for their 'attention-grabbing, ratings-chasing' move so I figured there was still space for another voice saying that not only should we have Griffin on the show but we should give him a fair hearing.
I get the impression that whatever happens tonight the audience, the other panellists and even Dimbleby himself see it as their duty to 'get' Nick Griffin, to beat him up with arguments and to finish him off with a sucker-punch near the end. It's simply not going to work that way. Indeed, the ultimate insult for Griffin would be that 'his' show is just as forgettable as so many editions of the Thursday night programme.
Don't get me wrong, in the unlikely event of the BNP leader talking about throwing non-whites out of the country then I'll be indulging in the pantomime booing as much as the next person but the man is far too savvy to give others that kind of material to work with.
If, as is more likely, Nick Griffin makes some valid points about immigration I hope the audience, onscreen and offscreen, hear him out. I know I will respectfully disagree as my immigration preference is about as open-door as you can get. However, the last interview that I caught with him had a snippet involving amputeed ex-servicemen having to pay for TV in the respite centres they were living at. A fine political point to make and the first I'd heard of it so credit has to be given where credit is due, even if such moments are few and far between.
There seems to be an expectation that Griffin will talk in a reasonable manner and make reasonable points but that we should still be outraged that he is on the show. I'm afraid I can't square that circle.
Politicians of other parties come on the show and make reasonable points without wanting to talk about the murkier goings-on of their own parties. I'm not suggesting that other parties are as unpalatable as the BNP but it's the same game that is being played by all panellists so we should keep the rule book open long enough for Griffin to have a reasonable chance to make his points.
If he crosses the line of #bbcqt decency only then is it right that we pick up that rule book and throw it at him as hard as we can.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"THE head of education at Glasgow City Council, who stepped down unexpectedly from her post, has walked away with a pay off of over a quarter of a million pounds.
Margaret Doran, the council's former director of children and families, was given a combined redundancy package of £278,000."
278 grand? A £185 lump sum from the pension fund? Margaret only got the job in 2007!
I'm not sure if I'll be able to put my outrage into words but surely this is a prime example of where the public sector is going horribly, horribly wrong.
Upon hiring Ms Doran, Council leader Steven Purcell had this to say:
"Glasgow is committed to providing the very best Education and Social Work services to its people and the appointment of Margaret Doran is a huge step towards that goal ."
Two years later she steps down "unexpectedly", Purcell has clearly got it wrong and it has cost the taxpayer over half a million pounds in total. And if Ms Doran resigned (as is suggested by the article's wording), why is she even getting anything?
At least the Save our Schools campaign is happy:
“Margaret Doran was a critical player in drafting the butchery of our kids’ education and community facilities – but under orders from the Chief Axe-man himself, Labour Council leader Stephen Purcell."
“So when Labour councillors sing hymns of praise for her ‘leaving a tremendous legacy’ for Glasgow kids’ education, it’s enough to make you vomit."
I think the worst part of this is that many people upon learning of this situation will simultaneously be thinking 'that is an outrage' and 'how can I get a piece of this action'.
We need to bolt shut the wide open flapping door of public sector profligacy. On this evidence, it will continue to be a huge task.
Oh yes, and Ms Doran is the wife of Labour MP Michael Connarty.
The demise of Lothian Road seems to be gathering in pace with two restaurants next door to each other closing down, Pizza Hut and The Great Wall, the latter unable to sustain the £3k of rent a week that was required to stay in place.
So what is to be done?
Well, perhaps we could save two streets with one stone, that stone being the pedestrianisation of Princes St. No cars, no buses, just one long public thoroughfare much likes Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
It would look particularly beautiful to have sleek trams snaking along Edinburgh's main street against the backdrop of the castle, the mound and Arthur's Seat while tourists and locals alike sat outside eating their croque monsieur and drinking little glasses of Staropramen or Duvell.
No more Noble's Amusements, no more empty storefronts and no more tartan tat shops along Princes St. We may even be so spoiled for choice of traders and restauranteurs that we could cut down on the number of Carphone Warehouses as there are a hefty 3 on the one street. (Nothing wrong with Carphone Warehouse, excellent store that one)
But Princes St needs a shot in the arm and if bars and eateries can move in then maybe some of the retail stores can move round the corner to Lothian Road to plug some of the gaps there.
Oh yeah, and there might even be an environmental benefit in doing this too.
Anyway, just an idea...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
We shouldn't be too surprised I suppose, this is the Prime Miniser who one year had ended boom and bust but the next year it turned out he hadn't. Spectacularly hadn't.
None of this really matters though, it's just Politics. Everyone knows it and noone seems to care.
Anyway, Gordon is right to campaign in next month's by-election and hopefully with him he will bring some relevant issues to discuss. So far, on that score, Glasgow North East is grossly under-represented.
For example we just have to look at Willie Bain kicking off Labour's campaign from his front door this week.
The Labour candidate talked about knife crime and the cancelling of GARL. Given these areas are devolved to Holyrood and Willie is standing for Westminster, one can only assume that the only remotely relevant message he was sending out was 'vote for me because I live here'.
I learned over the weekend that Willie Bain is taking media presentation classes at a Glasgow College. Nothing wrong with that* but one has to have a relevant message to present before requiring such skills.
I have looked on Willie Bain's (very impressive) website for policies on Westminster issues and I can't find any.
On Trident for example the Labour campaign is silent. I can think of 100 billion reasons to scrap Trident, Willie Bain can't even proffer one to save it.
So to knife crime it is, a subject totally irrelevant to this election.
Willie Bain had this key quote from yesterday's speech: "If you carry a knife, you should go to jail"
It's clear, it's tough, it's macho and it's also not been properly costed out unless Willie has a spare £300m to give to his MSP colleagues for implementation.
Where did my £300m come from? Well, thanks to Indy:
Labour supports mandatory jail sentences for all those caught carrying a knife. According to the head of Strathclyde Police that would mean another 5000 people would go to jail in Strathclyde area alone.
The average daily prison population in Scotland is 7,376.
You want to add to that population by 5000 just in Strathclyde.
The annual cost of the Scottish prison service is almost 500 million pounds. How much would it cost to expand the number of prisons and take on additional prison officers to accommodate the thousands of extra prisoners you want to be locked up?
In the absence of anything more concrete from Labour, £300m looks reasonable to me....
With no Westminster policies for interviewers to work with, the question of how Willie Bain will pay for this knife crime policy should be in every interview from now to the by-election date. Between the PM being present in Springburn and Willie's newly learned TV skills, I'm sure we'll get an answer to this key pledge before too long. But for now we can only guess at £300m. (Maybe that's why Labour want to bring GARL back, so they can scrap it again in order to pay for the 5,000 prison places he'd need to see this knife crime policy through in Strathclyde alone?)
I am, of course, being a bit facetious here but it does annoy me that this is a Westminster seat and Westminster issues are not being discussed.
Glasgow North East voters are being taken for fools and the sad reality is, I grudgingly expect them to vote in Labour again for four more years of the same.
* There is nothing wrong with a prospective MP taking media presentation classes but it does suggest that ex-BBC man David Kerr is winning the TV battle at the moment.
Monday, October 19, 2009
A 'hate fest'? A 'hate fest' for goodness sake! It's such an odd choice of phrase.
I was in attendence at the SNP Conference (as it is otherwise known) for only two of the four scheduled days so does that mean I was part of a 'dislike gala'?
Another thought that springs to mind is why do so many people out there, of all parties, find it so difficult to contemplate that there is more than one decent party to choose from? Where's the credit where credit's due? If most parties spend most of the time trying to find the middle ground that is fast becoming the size of a 5 pence piece then surely there can't be that much between them. Certainly not enough to call one odious and hateful . (Are Norway and Sweden "odious" because they refuse to create a Scandinavian state?)
I think I would even struggle to call a BNP Conference a 'hate fest'. Genuinely. People are entitled to all opinions, all views and if we disagree with those views then we have a certain incumbency to argue our opponents into submission or agree to disagree, hence why all arguments this weekend that the BNP should never have been allowed on Question Time fall down in my eyes.
I tell you what though, if opponents of the SNP, particularly visceral ones in the shape of Tom Harris MP (and, while I'm on the subject, perhaps even Yousuf Hamid), think the party of the Scottish Government are going to quietly slip back into the mid teens of support once the Scottish public belatedly sees the light then they have another thought coming.
I know I am biased but the ideas and goodwill bursting out of the SNP is very impressive indeed and the regularity with which they hit that thin line between too-right and too-left with their policies is certainly the reason they get my vote.
This weekend saw delegate after delegate taking to the stage to push a resolution or a motion with an eloquence and a sense of purpose that makes you sit up and take notice.
Personally I just go to Conferences as I am interested in how they work and you've got to pass the time somehow; I'm not looking for political advancement nor realising the independence dream but male or female, white or non-white, gay or straight, young or old, these SNP councillors and MSPs who are looking to get ahead and take their country with them are not only clearly on a mission but they have the bit between their teeth.
The sense of purpose is streamlining them and there is a pretty awesome pool of talent sitting underneath the Swinneys, Salmonds, Sturgeons and MacAskills waiting to be drawn upon.
Tom Harris & co, underestime them at your peril...
(NOTE - Sunday Times columnist Joan McAlpine discusses Tom's description on her Go Lassie Go blog)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
One problem is, we're now running out of social housing so we can't very well give our housing stock away for a knock-down price.
And when 'hard working' people are struggling to get on the property ladder, a struggle that will only get harder as Governments seek to pass the penalty of default mortgage payments to banks rather than individuals, the balance has to shift.
So Nicola Sturgeon's announcement today is welcome news, very welcome news.
Furthermore, it's a solid 'leftie' policy that will have the Labour opposition on the backfoot and Tories screaming blue murder (which will happily disrupt the 'vote SNP, get Tory' slogan).
So does Cathy Jamieson admit it's a good idea or does she go down that old road of attack for attack's sake? So far Cathy has accused the SNP of "missing the point".
As Labour can neither agree nor disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on this matter, it makes sense that they merely change the subject.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
However, there has been a little uncertainty in a few of the votes, and not just because regular SNP enfant terrible Gerry Fisher seems intent on stepping up to be a thorn in the side of every other motion put forward. (Gerry's comments on asylum seekers don't bear repeating but drew some excellent Daily Mail comparisons from an exasperated James Dornan)
Anyway, there was some good debate over the Euro. Basically, should an independent Scotland join the Euro and, if so, should it put the matter to the Scottish public.
For me, it's a no-brainer that Scotland should join the Euro when it becomes independent. It's a no-brainer that the UK should join the Euro now for that matter. However, it is also pretty obvious that it is politically expedient to give a referendum to the people for such a big decision.
I can see Alyn Smith's point when he said: "“We are a pro-euro party. We can be too conditional about what we want an independent Scotland to look like. Let us get into the euro. If we are for the euro, let us be full-throated about it.”
But you have to take the majority of the people with you even if you are confident you are correct. And rightful indignation about not being given a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would pale in comparison with no vote on joining the Euro.
(I would also say that, as opposed to the "rising MEP" status awarded by The Times, Alyn is a 'risen MEP' in a very many peoples' eyes. Indeed, upon chairing one session in the Parliament he was addressed as Simon Cowell which must be the highest accolade one can aspire to these days)
The other big story of the day seems to be Kenny MacAskill and his standing ovations. He has been accused of 'bragging' about releasing Al-Megrahi, a charge that is usually followed with the contradiction that he is bragging about a decision he got wrong.
It's a tricky question this one I reckon. At the time, it didn't seem unseemly to rise to our feet and applaud a man who all party members agree is doing an excellent job but in the cold light of day maybe there is an argument that the whole emotive issue should be put to one side.
However, in terms of what was said about Al-Megrahi, there was nothing new, save for the revelation that some Labour MPs and MSPs have privately voiced their support for his decision and given the earnest attacks that MacAskill has faced from the Scottish Labour party over this, particularly when Brown and Miliband appear to be on his side, who can blame the man for pointing out the hypocrisy.
So I don't know where the Lockerbie victims' families' fury comes from, as mentioned in today's Scotsman. The crux of what they say in the article is that they don't agree with MacAskill's decision and they want more medical reports released. Of course we can all understand their unique position in all of this but that doesn't sound like a new position from
The suggestion that the Justice Minister shouldn't mention Al-Megrahi forever more and that an audience shouldn't clap even if he does seems a little far-fetched to me. I personally particularly enjoy MacAskill's speeches, there is a quality to them (not necessarily a classic quality) that has me fully engaged although it should be noted that there was a person interpreting for the deaf at one fringe event which MacAskill was at and he simply gave up at one point during Kenny's unique oral deliver.
You can't please all of the people all of the time it seems, however business-like you go about your business.
For today, there is no doubt that Alex Salmond's 3pm speech will be the highlight. The hall is shaped perfectly to create a great atmosphere for it with balconies and a wonderful bowl-shape.
Friday, October 16, 2009
The tweet was: "Thought it would have been a more interesting PMQs first day back. Yawn..!" and the suggestion was that this was insensitive given that the Prime Minister had just read out the names of soldiers’ who had lost their lives in Afghanistan.
To suggest that Wishart’s online ‘yawn’ was a direct reference to those names being read out is pretty shabby. I fell asleep soon after the questions started in PMQs and after a quick check of the blogs, it seems I wasn’t alone in fighting to stay awake through it. A dull session with, incredibly, no reference to the Sir Thomas Legg review means Pete Wishart was perfectly within his rights, and within the bounds of decency, to regret how boring an affair PMQs was.
So job done from Labour. A shabby press release, picked up by the red tops and, depressingly, the Scotsman and a small hit is gained during conference season.
But there is a bigger question to address here. Taking the (big) assumption that people are going to be genuinely insulted by such comments, is it not more irresponsible to splash headlines repeating them across the front pages? Which is more acceptable, an off-the-cuff tweet that only a handful of people will read or exposure in a national newspaper that thousands will read?
I had the same thoughts regarding Al-Megrahi returning to Tripoli in Libya and the scenes of crowds with their saltires lining up to cheer the man home. ‘LOOK HOW OFFENSIVE THIS IS’ the headlines screamed and the news channels beamed ‘LOOK AT IT. HERE, WE’LL SHOW IT TO YOU AGAIN IN CASE YOU MISSED IT’
Personally it didn’t bother me, the Libyan exuberation all seemed rather natural given Al-Megrahi has protested his innocence for the whole time he has been in custody but if the sight of a dying man being welcomed home is offensive then why show it? What is the purpose of replaying images or reproducing lines that media outlets themselves have already deemed offensive?
I’ve read a few newspapers on my way up to Inverness this morning and I have to conclude that those that covered this silly non-story are in a lower league to the quality publications that don’t indulge in such nonsense, reserving their outrage for weightier matters.
And while I'm on the subject, I can't help but think that Jan Moir will be sitting back this evening and thinking 'job done'. Her admittedly ignorant and insulting post on Stephen Gateley resulted in a predictably shrill and self-indulgent bout of protests on Twitter when an uncaring silence would have been a more appropriate response. Furthermore, doesn't tolerance work both ways? Extending to freedom of any and all opinions?
Maybe Tweeters were already feeling overly motivated to let out the untapped outrage after the #Trafigura affair.
By all means be outraged by Tweets, released convicts and Daily Mail columnists, but knowing what to do with that outrage is the difficult part.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
My confusion was compounded when it was confirmed, by Wikipedia, that 'the United Kingdom was one of the first countries which took part in Operation Enduring Freedom to topple the Taliban regime in autumn 2001.'
That confusion turned to dismay when I read that Sergeant Robert Busuttil, Corporal John Gregory and Private John Darren George died in Kabul in 2002, Private Jonathan Kitulagoda died in Kabul in 2004 and Lance Corporal Steven Sherwood died in Mazari Sharif in 2005.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the quote or maybe the Home Secretary indulged in some slight misdirection, but either way it's a shame that five soldiers' death were glossed over so cheaply.
Lesley does analyse Salmond's speech from this afternoon, and analyse it very well as far as I can see, but, since the question of the weekend will be these 20 seats, I thought I'd take the time to see which constituencies the SNP can expect to win (and nick Ms Riddoch's headline while I'm at it).
I know I've done this before, and I know I'll do it again, but practise makes perfect if nothing else...
(7 seats) - The SNP can reasonably expect to maintain the seven seats they currently hold. Banff & Buchan (despite the exiting Salmond), Angus, Dundee East, Perth & North Perthshire, Moray, Western Isles and Glasgow East.
I hadn't previously countenanced the possibility of John Mason holding onto the Glasgow East seat that he won in last year's by-election but the more I see of him on TV and hear how popular he is locally, the more I think he's a shoo-in for another parliamentary term. At least.
Kilmarnock & Loudon - A relatively small swing is required for the SNP to take this seat and it's reasonable to expect it will go the same way as the Holyrood constituency.
Ochil & South Perthshire - With only a 700 majority to overhaul, this the surest of sure gains for the SNP.
East Lothian - With Anne Moffat's support within her own party famously low and now refusing to make public her letter from Sir Thomas Legg. I simply can't see this seat going Labour in 2010. With the SNP winning the constituency in the European elections, Andrew Sharp is in the driving seat to win through.
Livingston - Jim Devine may have escaped having to pay money back after the Legg review but that was only because his shelving crime was not part of the remit. The Labour man's past demeanours have blown this constituency wide open and even if Jim stands as an independent or not, the SNP is favourite to win based on the national swing in the polls.
Edinburgh North & Leith - I've always had a sense that Mark Lazarowicz is running out of steam in this constituency and, despite a strong push from the Lib Dems, the SNP can be confident of taking this seat.
Edinburgh East - The seat of Kenny MacAskill at Holyrood. There is a strong likelihood that the SNP will take this one next year based on the Euro elections.
Gordon - Malcolm Bruce is beginning to feel the heat from the expenses scandal, pointedly refusing to disclose what was in his Legg letter. With Nick Clegg pushing for more investigation into expenses, the Lib Dem MP could be in for an uneasy 6 months. Even without that, this 2-horse race could well go the way of the SNP.
Stirling - An SNP council and a surprise win for Bruce Crawford in May 2007, all of this adds up to an SNP win in 2010 being somewhat less of a surprise.
Falkirk - Eric Joyce does not have his problems to seek with his resignation over Afghanistan, dodgy Newsnight performances and eye-wateringly high expenses costs. Come to think of it, do we know yet what Legg has asked him to pay back? A probable scalp for the Nationalists.
Linlithgow & East Falkirk - Current Labour incumbent Michael Connarty is facing an uphill struggle in the aftermath of the expenses scandal where he made a few headlines, much like his constituency neighbour Major Joyce. The SNP are looking good to win here, again based on the national swing.
East Kilbride - With Adam Ingram stepping down, the door is open for the SNP to take the constituency and is often mentioned in polls of marginals as an SNP gain.
Argyll & Bute - A tough battle this one but with the SNP holding the Holyrood seat and winning the vote at the Euro elections, they should be confident.
Aberdeen North - Based on the national swing and recent polls, the SNP should win by a few thousand votes.
And then any 20+ extras from the following: North Ayrshire & Arran, Glasgow Central, Paisley & Renfrewshire North, Midlothian, Inverclyde, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East and no doubt even more beyond.
So, can the SNP win 20+ seats? Yes, of course it can.
UPDATE - Thanks to Ross in the comments for mentioning my Dundee West omission. Make that 21+
The only people who tucked in were Scottish while the Aussies and Europeans could barely disguise their disdain at such piggery so early in the morning.
And yet, it's entirely understandable that the Scots wouldn't think twice about tucking into a big chocolate eclair so soon after their Frosties only a couple of hours earlier.
At school I can't remember being taught that we needed 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, I can't remember being taught that we should drink 2 litres of water a day, I can't remember being taught what protein, carbohydrates and vitamins are and I can't remember being taught what the negative impacts of a big fudge doughtnut at 10am would be to your body in the immediate short-term and in the long-term.
I do, however, remember at Primary School scraping my vegetables into the bin and somehow surviving the afternoons on a sticky bun and a can of Irn-Bru.
Thankfully action is finally being taken to try to reverse this collective mindset but the Free School Meals policy is often dismissed as one of the SNP's populist policies which we shouldn't be able to afford in these tough time, a 'tartan frill' no less.
I say nonsense. It should be one of the first things pencilled into any budget for the next decade.
It would ensure an improvement in our childrens' health (not to mention our future adults' health), an improvement in school performance, much-needed savings for the NHS, fitter pupils all across the country and perhaps even a knock-on effect into our local economies as present and/or future families buy more from local farmers rather than drab supermarkets if kids are taught about produce that sits on our doorstep.
So I'm glad to see there's a Conference Resolution on this matter for Saturday morning, Bob Doris MSP pushing for the successful pilot for p1 to p3 to be extended across a wider age range at an appropriate time.
I'm also glad to see that there has been a successful pilot programme down south, two schools showing a remarkable 98% take-up in the free meals to all primary pupils. So with valuable cross-border and cross-party support, perhaps partisan positioning won't get in the way of this policy realising its potential as it has in the past.
With Scotland slumped at the bottom of most European health tables, it's beetroots and butternut squash rather than doughnuts and chips that will pull us up through the ranks.
With a by-election, two parliament elections and perhaps even an independence referendum in the next two years, I'm sure this has to go down as a rather special Autumn Conference indeed. It's not often the very real prospect of 20+ MPs, beating Labour in the popular vote,and holding the balance of power at Westminster has been in the SNP's hands.
Against that backdrop, sunny Inverness will see an impressive range of fringe events, 'Nat factor' karaoke and various key speeches, not least Salmond's on Saturday at 3pm.
So I'm sure it'll be a grand weekend and, now that I've (just about) fought off a very basty cold, I'm looking forward to jumping on the train tomorrow morning and getting up there to take part.
UPDATE: Salmond's had his opening speech and although I've not seen it, the text looks great.
This line in particular will surely have gone down well:
“I want a hung parliament because a Westminster parliament that is hung on Scottish votes will at long last swing in Scotland’s direction."
(Certainly better than the misguided Westminster will be "hung by a Scottish rope")
And calling out for 20 MPs and reiterating the reasonable call for a Scottish representative at Copenhagen were clever messages to kick the Conference off with.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Latest developments include the SNP promising to publish their Legg letters in full. A particularly welcome move and one that will no doubt put pressure on other parties to take the same approach in the spirit of transparency. The unfortunate consequence of this move of course is that The Scotsman gets to run stories with an SNP MP by SNP MP breakdown of repayments with no mention of any other Scottish MP, as if the Nationalists are the only party to pay money back.
The Lib Dems however have already stated that they will not be following the SNP's lead and their letters will remain out of the public domain. It's remarkable that the Lib Dems have pushed so hard on the Trafigura affair to ensure that press freedom is ensured and yet will keep these letters private. So much for Nick Clegg's "politics free of corruption in which power is shifted to the people."
There seems a little bit of hypocrisy that we have the right to hear everything the Lib Dems have to say in the parliamentary chamber but we don't get to know what the Lib Dems overcharged the taxpayer for.
Specifically, Malcolm Bruce has apparently made a pointed refusal to disclose what was in his letter which will surely raise a few eyebrows. The Gordon MP, up against the SNP's Richard Thomson in the forthcoming General Election, has claimed £3k for conservatory blinds, £3k for conservatory repair work, a suspiciously high £700 for heat and light for a one room office and £8,500 to rewire his flat. And that's all we know about at this juncture, no thanks to the man himself.
And then there's the remarkable situation regarding Jim Devine. Hounded by the Sunday Herald and hauled up in front of the Labour's 'Star Chamber' for £4,000 of rewiring costs and odd storage claims, it seems Sir Thomas Legg has given him a clean bill of health and not asked for any money to be paid back. I'm not wishing to suggest that Devine is an expenses angel but the Livingston MP will be delighted with this outcome.
According to The Scotsman, Devine might even take legal action against the Labour party and the question of him standing as an independent (where he is a popular MP despite this story) will no doubt have crossed the man's mind.
Herald journalist Torcuil Crichton even has the text from Devine's letter over at his blog.
So it seems to be the case that if you receive relatively good news then you are quick to get the contents of the letter into the media eye and if it's bad news then you not only keep the letter private but you consider a legal challenge as many Labour MPs seem foolishly intent on doing.
I can't help but think that there are several MPs nervously clutching their letters who know full well that the public knowledge of its contents would be explosive and electorally catastrophic for them.
But if we're truly going to draw a line under this (admittedly entertaining) expenses saga, then, at the very least, every single one of these Legg letters needs to be in the public domain.
After a spate of media articles in the past few days, we know that the SNP's policy on defence will include allowing English military forces being based north of the border, scrapping the Trident programme and keeping existing Scottish bases.
The SNP's political opponents, many of which see defence as the weak-link in the SNP's independence arguments, were quick to list problems with the plans. These are shwon below with my rebuttals underneath.
We don't know how dangerous the world will be in 10 years time
We do however know that the world is a lot safer than it was the last time a world war broke out. We have the EU and the UN as effective safeguards and that togetherness ensures that an attack on any individual country would see many friendly nations coming to their aid. Would we assist Ireland or Norway or Iceland if it was attacked? Of course we would. The same would go in the highly unlikely event that Scotland would be invaded.
Trident provides hundreds of jobs that won't be replaced if it were to be scrapped
Given that these jobs are costing billions of pounds to make weapons that will never be fired, the workers could be building a giant snowman for all the difference it will make. The money saved from scrapping Trident would ensure that workers could be retrained and re-employed and we'd still have a lot of change left over.
There will be no Royal Navy contracts for Rosyth
Not necessarily true. EU regulations require open tendering for procurement contracts. Rosyth would have as much chance as before to win such contracts. Furthermore, as a break-up settlement, we would inherit a significant percentage of the Royal Navy.
The SNP can't be taken seriously for as long as they want out of NATO
What is NATO? I've never fully understood it. We have the UN and we have the EU, what is NATO for? If it is just an outdated club that countered Russia's threat during the Cold War years then I think it's a sensible move to leave it behind and look forward.
Scotland can't afford an army separate from the UK
Per Wikipedia, the most recent records for defence spending had the UK cost at $65bn, Ireland $1.3bn, Sweden $5.7bn, Belgium $4bn, Portugal $3.5bn, New Zealand $1.5bn and Slovenia $0.4bn.
Not only can Scotland afford a separate army, it would realise a saving of around £3bn per year which could pay for a new Forth Road Bridge, GARL and the Edinburgh trams all in one go.
It's nothing more than the politics of fear to suggest that Scotland can't sustain it's own defence policy when every other of our similar-sized counterparts can.
Furthermore, to suggest that a country that has contributed the Black Watch, RAF Kinloss, Lossiemouth and Leuchars, Scots Guards, Coldstream Guards, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Highland Fusiliers amongst many others cannot sustain its own defence policy is surely nonsense.
If you ask me, a Tartan Army would do just fine and I look forward to hearing Angus Robertson deliver his lecture this weekend.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sir Thomas Legg will no doubt have examined the expense claims in much greater detail than I and he has decided that £12,415.10 needs to be repaid.
There really does seem to be a remarkable amount of activity today surrounding this:
- The other two main party leaders have faced questions with Cameron asked to provide more information on his mortgage arrangement and Clegg having to pay £910 for gardening.
- From questions over whether Legg sent letters via internal mail or Royal Mail or (as suggested by @BBCLauraK) both.
- Jacqui Smith's drawn out apology in the Chamber making herself out to be a victim rather than the swindling chancer that she clearly was.
- 50 Labour MPs have been reported as being happy to chip in £2,000 in legal costs to challenge the Legg report.
- Even Sir Thomas' character has come into question with SNP MP Pete Wishart suggesting he is an "attention-seeker"
My first instinct was that if MPs had only broken the 'spirit' of the rules then they shouldn't have to repay what they had claimed. However, I am now thinking that Sir Thomas Legg is working in the public's interest more than he is prescriptively following a rulebook that is decades out of date. The public interest will generally be better served with repayment rather than mere apologies.
So changing the rules retrospectively is acceptable in my book given that it is public servants and their question of judgment that is under the spotlight.
Such an approach should include the 'unflipping' of homes, an honest assessment of what should be a person's second home and a recalculation of what an appropriate claim would be. This would mean an enormous invoice being sent to Alastair Darling and Jacqui Smith (£42k according to Tory pressure group SCOP) and no doubt many others but so be it. It seems wrong that Brown has to pay back £12k for a relatively innocuous cleaning claim while Smith doesn't have to pay back a penny for a claim built on a clear deception.
Despite this, in many ways I think the biggest loser so far today isn't Smith, Brown or Cameron but Clegg. The Lib Dem leader (looking ashen-faced on Channel 4 News as I type) had been building an election campaign around his party not being as tarnished by the expenses scandal as the other two but that will be a much tougher sell now that Nick personally has had to pay back almost £1,000.
Overall, the whole day must call into question the judgement of our next Prime Minister, be it Cameron or Brown.
There is no smoke without fire and given both men are finding themselves engulfed in eye-piercingly damaging expenses fumes, one has to wonder if we are on a lose-lose situation whichever man ends up leading the country after the next election.
It makes you wonder, particularly with Ladbrokes slashing the odds of Brown leading his party into the next election to 9/4, will Ed Miliband or Alan Johnson have to pay any money back?
UPDATE: Nick Clegg can't remember what he paid his gardener or whether he paid his National Insurance. That is surely unacceptable and unbelievable in light of today's news and how briefed the Lib Dem leader should have been in advance of this interview.
Friday, October 9, 2009
"the camerons got good nhs care thanks to Labour's investment and reform. is this the "big government" he derides?"
Needless to say, the world of Twitter has gone absolutely mental.
If Brown's chances rest on the Labour team being seen as 'the good guys' and the Tory team being seen as 'the bad guys', then senior Labour MPs will have to reign in this type of chat.
Given that the Tories are planning on safeguarding NHS spending, the comment doesn't even make logical sense. The NHS sits outside what Cameron meant as 'big Government' in his speech. Even still, to link the death of a young child to party policy just to score a political point is breathtakingly insensitive.
So a shockingly low blow from the Culture, Media and Sport Minister, borne no doubt out of desperation at his party's poor poll showing, but Ben hasn't taken the tweet down preferring to defend himself with this:
it wasn't meant to be offensive. Point is they will the ends but not the means. Need positive government to deliver these things.
I'm not buying it myself. 'Positive' Government surely doesn't include such comments.
The question is, if the mainstream media picks this up, will it be a resigning/sacking issue?
Looks like the press have picked it up after all.
The Sun - Minister makes 'callous' gaffe over Cam's son
Telegraph - Ben Bradshaw’s ‘callous’ twitter attack on David Cameron condemned
Daily Mail - Now Ben Bradshaw uses Twitter for personal attack on Cameron by using Tory leader's dead son Ivan to make point about NHS (typically snappy headline)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Well, I had that enjoyable experience today when I saw that the Lib Dems are holding an emergency summit* to establish whether they will or will not back the SNP's Referendum Bill next year. Ross Finnie will lead the review which will canvass opinion right down to member level during a special closed-door session at their Scottish conference on 30th of October.
(*ok, it might just be 'an official review')
However, given that I never really expected an independence referendum to take place in 2010, I am not really getting my hopes up that the Scottish public will get to settle this question next year.
Also, there was a timely reminder today that the Lib Dems are not always as they seem with their Glasgow North East candidate making the ludicrous claim that she wants to see trams scrapped in Edinburgh to pay for GARL in Glasgow. Local candidates pandering to local voters to the detriment of the national party approach is surely a shabby way to conduct themselves.
If the Lib Dems are trying to win support from the pro-independence camp for the 2011 election by merely considering supporting the SNP while still ultimately opposing a referendum then the half-way approach just won't work and they'll fall between two stools.
Nor can the Lib Dems get away with promising support in the next term. They have the opportunity to back a plebiscite now, the recession will be out of the way and I can't imagine there's many pro-independence supporters who will back the Lib Dems over the SNP to make real their Nationalist dreams. If it's a good idea in three years then it's a good idea next year.
A further concern is that this is just a clever way for party leader Tavish Scott to slap down the "young thrusting energetic candidates" who are "desperate to het their faces on television". Once he can say he has heard out the other options then Tavish can rule them out, which is perhaps what he is planning on doing all along so vociferously is the man opposed to the idea of an independent Scotland.
But despite the above concerns, I am holding the Lib Dems in a higher regard tonight. On face value the party is letting go of the more centralist approach it has adopted recently and just throwing the policy open to the membership.
Personally, I think it's a no-brainer for them to go with the referendum option next year. It puts Labour and the Tories well and truly on the backfoot, it confirms the democratics credentials of the party and it gives them a stronger sense of identity which they desperately need. And if it is a multi-option referendum then there is little doubt that their preferred option of more powers will be the ultimate winner.
But with the SNP Conference kicking off a week from today, Salmond could not have been given a better warm-up act than this - knowing that by the end of this very month his independence dreams could be a giant step forward, if the Lib Dems commit to backing the SNP.
Now that would be 'breaking news' that would make more people than just me sit up and take notice...
When Westminster reconvenes next week, the writ will be moved for a by-election date of Nov 12th. A by-election that, even if Labour lose it, won't significantly affect the run-up to the General Election next year.
Labour, as suggested already by several commenters on this blog (and no doubt many other people), are going to try to continue the "anti-Glasgow" line that arose as a result of Swinney cancelling GARL as part of his draft budget.
In The Herald, Labour's Willie Bain had this to say:
"“People here are furious because Glasgow is being ripped off the by SNP. They cancelled Glasgow’s trains. They’ve cut money from Glasgow’s housing and regeneration. They want to build schools in other parts of Scotland but none in Glasgow.”
Of course, with the schools, Glasgow council itself designated all of its schools as Band A, the best category available. So to now claim that they want their schools rebuilt sounds a tad strange. And again, they receive the most spending per head of any council area in Scotland so the "ripped off" claim sounds very hollow indeed.
The SNP's David Kerr had this:
“Around the constituency people are looking to the SNP as a party that is on their side and for an MP that will give them a strong voice in London and in Glasgow.
“The SNP are supporting the people of Glasgow North East through these tough times by freezing the council tax, phasing out prescription charges, taking real action on crime and investing billions in infrastructure to support local jobs while Labour let people down.
“The SNP has got what it takes for Glasgow North East.”
All pretty standard fare really.
The Lib Dem candidate Eileen Baxendale vowed to fight for “the issues that matter to local people” which must be the most anodyne campaign statement I have yet heard. Still, at least she knew the contest had begun, unlike some.
Note that the Green party has announced David Doherty as its candidate.
So we're off! Though given that the campaigning began in earnest months ago, it seems like a token gesture to say it.