Monday, 30 May 2011

Who speaks for business in Scotland?

It has occurred to me (I'm obviously a bit slow) that there's an interesting point to be made about business in Scotland.  I've already made clear that I believe that the FSB has more business clout in Scotland than CBI Scotland or the Scottish Retail Consortium (not that you'd know it from the way lazy journalism treats these two self-appointed, self-interested and vacuous bodies as the font of all knowledge on Scottish business), that reform Scotland probably speaks more for business in Scotland than CBI Scotland, and that the Scottish Retail Consortium is a fictional body, having not actual base in Scotland nor any uniquely Scottish members.

What is, perhaps, even more striking, however, is that there are more Scottish businesspeople who pledged their support for the SNP in the recent election than there are members of CBI Scotland.  I think we should always remember who businesspeople in Scotland really turn to - the FSB, Reform Scotland and the SNP!

Here are some of the ones who pledged for the SNP during that election:

Harvey Aberdein
Aberdein Considine

Sandy Adam
Springfield Properties

Colin Adams
Hardies Bar

Lynn Adams
The George Bar

Mohammad Adrees
Hilltown Convenience Store

Mohammad Afzal
Bismallah Halal Food Store

Jameal Ahmed
Monktonhall Newsagency

Mohammed Ahmed
Bangla Spice

Tariq Ahmed
Chilli Cottage

Parvez Ali

Shahid Ali
Urban Togz

Kenny Anderson
Anderson Construction

Mohammed Ashraf
Station Garage

Umer Ashraf

Naveed Baksh

Rohail and Pauline Bari
Cafe Kisimul

Alistair Barron
Barron Wright

Ricky Bawa
Lighting Warehouse

Audrey Baxter

Ruari Beaton
Am Bothan Bunkhouse

John Bell
LSK Supplies

Glen Bennett

Crawford Beveridge CBE

Shaoib Bhatti
Lanark Post Office

Danny Bonnar
Bonnar Sand & Gravel Co Ltd

Roy Brett
Ondine Restaurant

David Brotchie
Saltire Print

Peter Broughan
Rob Roy Films

Bill Brown
W.D. Brown & Sons

Les & Gill Burkey

Saad Butt
Delicious Too

Chris Cairns

John Cameron
Balbuthie Farm,
Past President National Farmers Union of Scotland

Louise Cameron
Phase 3 UK Ltd

Shauna Cameron
Shauna Cameron Architect

Willie Cameron
Loch Ness Marketing
Colin Campbell & Jason Harvie
The Pelican

Fraser Campbell

Iain Campbell
Dungannon Petroleum Ltd

Joseph Cannon
Flava Coffee Company

June Carroll

Mary Case
Blackhall Framing Gallery

Ninian Cassidy & Hamish Mackay
Scotia Cars

Andrew Charles
J. Charles Fish Merchants

Ian Chisnall
Printing Services (Scotland) Ltd

Linda Christie
Cameron Guest House

Laurie Clark
Anglo Scottish Concrete Holdings

Hugh Clarkson
ARC Printing Ltd

Neil Corrall
E.A.R.L. on the Green

Michael Corby
Mackenzie Frain Ltd

Bob Costello
Sidlaw Executive Travel (Scotland) Ltd

Lindsay Cross
Kilts by Lindsay

Steve Cumming
Tayfield Investments Ltd

John De Rosa
Cafe Tino

Peter de Vink
Edinburgh Financial & General Holdings

Bill Dewar
Home Spring Ltd

Thomas Dover
The Garden Maintenance Company

Tom Duffin

Jeff Duncan
Pointblank Media

Brian Durkin
Braid Wines & Altar Supplies

Jennifer Easton

Barrie & Dane Elder
Bridgeview Station Café and Restaurant

Andrew Fairlie
Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles

Sir Tom Farmer

Mark Ferguson
D-Tech Graphic Design & Print Ltd

Athole Murray Fleming
Athole Design Publishing Ltd

Dave Forbes
Forbes Newsagents

Neil Forsyth
The Heatherbell Inn

Hebbie Fowlie
Bert Fowlie Butchers

Amanda Frazer
Larick House B&B

Billy Gallacher
GPM Estate Agents

Blair Geddes

Joseph Giacopazzi
Giacopazzi & Company Ltd

Martin Gilbert

Francis Gilhooley
Leadburn Manor Fly Fishing Centre

Ian Gillingham
Exordia Software Ltd

Kevan Gordon
Fix My Mac

George Grant
Grahams Road AutoShop

Kevin Greig

Abdul Hamid
Auto Gas Convertors

Michael Hance
Classic Camper Vans Scotland

Neil Harrison
Automatic Protection Ltd

Gordon Henderson
Foxlane Garden Centre

Stuart Hendrie
Torwood Landscapes

Julie Herd

Bobby & Stewart Hill

Sam Hinks

Steven Hobson
Hobson’s Choice, Shoe Repairs, Key Cutting & Engraving

Sarah-Jane Hunter
SJ Fitness Ltd

John Hunter-Paterson ACII
John Hunter-Paterson Chartered Insurance Brokers

Derrick Hutchison
Derrick Hutchison & Sons, Painters and Decorators

Shezad Ishtiaq
Mirch Masala Grill

Shabbir Jafri

Andrew Johnstone
J Terotech Ltd

John Keddie
Bogside Farm

Paul Keegan
Total Logistics Concepts Ltd

Patrick Kenny
The Mayflower

Norman Kerr
A and N Kerr Barvas Glebe Farm

Paul Kerr
P.K. Heating & Plumbing

Kevin Key
Enjoy-a-ball Coaching Ltd

Abdul Khaliq
Express Knitwear

Ozaer Khan
Halal Continental Food Store

James Kilday
Yankee at Home Ltd

Simon Kindlen

Ross Kirk
VK Timber

Aman Singh Kohli
Kohli Travel

John Laidlaw
The Blue Grotto

Steven Lawrence
TCD Architects

Andi Lothian Snr
Insights Learning and Development Training Ltd

Douglas Mabon
D M Roofing and Roughcasting

Dan Macdonald
Macdonald Estates Plc

Donald MacDonald CBE
Past President, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

Donnie and Dena
MacDonald Rodel Hotel

Ewan and Shaun MacDonald
Conon Brae Farm

Claire Macdonald
Kinloch Lodge

Maggie Macdonald
Style Conscience

Marie Macklin
Klin Group

Johanna MacLellan
The Caledonian Hotel, Fort Augustus

David MacLeod

Asif Majid
Rite Property

Alex J. Martin
Alex J. Martin Builders

Sir George Mathewson

David Maxwell
Steel Engineering

Graham McCabe
Automotive Bodyshop

Tony McCaffrey
The Sloping Garden Company

Jim McColl
Clyde Blowers

Mark McCormack
The Tartan Shop

Richard McCulloch
Dem-Master Demolition Limited & Total Recycling

Alex McDonald
AMD Computer Services

Tom McGregor
McGregor McMahon & Associates

Jamie McGrellis
Bespoke Bikes

Gordon McLennan
The IT Set

Des McMullen
Holmlea Roofing Services

Ken McNab
The Travel Company Edinburgh

Grant McNeil
Green Mantle Pub

Andrew Meek
A.G. Crafts and Fabrics

David Miller
Miller Hair and Beauty

Marie Moffat
The Eildon Centre & Rebel Rouser Disco

Reid Moffat
E&R Moffat

Steven Moffat

Charles Morgan
House of Beauly

Rod Munro
Munro Newsagents Ltd

Andrew Murray
My Lawyers

Andrew Murray & Jane Brown
T/A Allan & Black Coach Hirers

Tracy Murray
Cove Boutique

John D. Murrie
East Highfield

James Nicholson
Tasty Bites

Sebastian Nonis
Forfas Road Service Station

Jim Norris
Solar Energy Systems

Sandy Orr
MacDonald Orr

Jack Paterson
Saltire Graphics

Don Patton
Manorhead Ltd

Andy Pearson
Tweed Homes Ltd

Andrew Perry
Flyer Scotland

Eric Rae
E. Rae & Son Electricals

Linda Rae
The Flower Shop

Abdul Raheem
VIP Functions

Aurelia Reymond-Laruinaz

Norman Richardson
Norjan Ltd

John Robertson
Burntisland Fabrications Ltd

Hermann Rodrigues
Suruchi Restaurants

Vivienne Rollo
Kishorn Seafood Bar

Ian Ruddick
Pedian Services
Bill Samuel

Ian Scarr-Hall
GSH Properties Plc

Ashfaq Shah
Shah Accountants

Mark Shaw

Yasin Sher

Bill & Johnetta Simpson
The Biggar Flower Shop

Faith Simpson
Faith Simpson Chartered Certified Accountants

Stewart Sinclair
Rainbow ink co

Nicky Singh
City Dry Cleaners

Hamish Smith
Hamish D Smith Jewellers

Jay Smith
Employment Enterprise

Thomas Smith
Stepper Technology Ltd

Brian Souter

Stewart Spence
Marcliffe Hotel & Spa

Alisdair Stephen
Hebridean Contemporary Homes

Neil Stephen
Dualchas Building Design

Hamish Steventon
Chocolate Emporium

George Stewart
Cross Keys

John & Iain Stirling

Andrew Symington
Edradour Distillery

Willie Tait
Klondyke Fishing Co

Andy Taylor
Norland Lettings

Anne Thomson
Ella Drinks

Billy Tosh
The Bakehouse Scotland Ltd
Alison Twaddle
Woodhill Pharmacy
Mahmood Ullah
Lets B Wise

David Urquhart
Urquhart Travel
Ricardo Varani
Varani’s Forum Cafe

Antonio Vastano
High Range

Abdul Wahid
Kashmir Foodstore

Ron Warbrick
The Frame Shop & Gallery
Vincent Waters
AllClean Scotland Ltd

Jim & Lorriane Waugh
Party Daze Ltd

Angus Whitton
Whitton Asset Management

Jim Williamson
Williamsons Design Florist Ltd

Dr Willie Wilson
Thistle Pharmacy

Len Woods
Ardtornish Consultants Ltd

Fraser revisited

I met last night with a lawer-type who is a friend of mine and speired aboot the Fraser case.  He drew himself up in his most lawyerly manner (he's good at that) and gave me a lesson in constitutional law, told me that Lords Hope and Roger were probably the two best minds in Scots law just now and then opined that perhaps the UK Supreme Court, if it was to fulfil the functions that it's supposed to fulfil rather than be another appeal court, should be an advisory court like the European courts.  Good point, I think.  I bow to his knowledge.  I still think it should be abolished but if the blight is to remin upon us, at least it should be defined properly!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The business of business

Down to business or down on business?  We have a newly re-elected SNP Scottish Government, the first to win a majority of the seats in Parliament since devolution in 1999 including a majority of constituencies, a party which took 876,421 Additional Member votes compared to the combined Labour/Conservative/LibDem total of 872,998, a party that topped the Additional Member vote in every single region in the country, and that won a majority of the constituencies in seven regions out of eight (one away from a majority in South of Scotland but still more constituencies there than any other party).  It seems to be a party that has a bit of a mandate but has chosen, quite rightly in my opinion, to set out on a second term of government with a degree of humility.

The plans for that second term are being laid out in front of people now and build on the record of the first term, a record that includes help for small businesses - the enterprises which will be the drivers of Scotland's future prosperity - and improvements to the business environment in Scotland.  That government, according to the Scotsman newspaper, has been "warned off" imposing a carrier bag tax by CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium even before the legislative programme has been announced.  Not that the SNP Government has ever advocated a carrier bag tax, it's being warned about implementing a policy it hasn't espoused - not because CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium actually believe that the bag tax is likely to be brought forward by the Government but because they want to pick a fight early in order to lay the ground for a battle on the large retailer levy which, hopefully, John Swinney will bring back.

The thing is, though, CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium don't speak for Scottish business.  I've written before about how CBI Scotland actually has very few members (62 Scottish companies compared to the 20,000+ members of the FSB in Scotland) and lacks the muscle of some serious Scottish businesses.  I've been told since then that Reform Scotland, a think-tank, has more members than CBI Scotland.  The Scottish Retail Consortium is even worse, though, it doesn't really exist.  It's a branding of the British Retail Consortium and is run out of London, it doesn't have Scottish members and doesn't list a Scottish membership.  Its Scottish corporate address is a PO box in Gullane (bottom of its home page) but its press releases have a contact phone number in London.  So the Scottish Retail Consortium is a front for the British Retail Consortium whose members are ... yes, that's right, the big supermarkets and the big High Street chains.  These are the two organisations who think that their unelected voices should carry more weight than the elected voices of Scotland's politicians, parliament and government - and the Scotsman carried their comments without making clear just how small their voices are.  The people of Scotland elected their MSPs, their Parliament, their Government, I look forward to that Government delivering.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Fraser Case

I’m not a legal expert, I’ll leave that to m’learned friend who waxes lyrical upon matters pertaining to the law and its asses. That doesn’t stop me from pontificating on bits that take my fancy, though, and the Fraser case is one which has attracted the focus of my gimlet eye (my other eye’s OK).

I read the judgement with interest, a wee “hmm” here and a wee “oh?” there, and I come to the conclusion that the UK Supreme Court has erred in law. Oh yes, little old me thinks it’s a duff judgement. The UK Supreme Court has no role in Scottish criminal law but it’s the ultimate UK court of appeal in civil cases and the Fraser case was brought to it as a devolution issue under paragraph 13 of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998 as amended. The plaintiff pursued the case on the basis that his Convention Rights had been infringed – the rights arising from Article 6 specifically. Having read the judgement, though, I’m of the opinion that the Supreme Court decided this case not on the basis of Article 6 but as a court of criminal appeal.

The judgement (or judgment as our legal friends seem to like) was written by Lord Hope who is one of the two Scottish judges in the UK Supreme Court, the other being Lord Roger, both with impressive Scots law CVs. They didn’t hear the case alone, though, Lords Kerr and Dyson also sat on the bench and agreed with the conclusions of Lord Hope while Lord Brown also sat and disagreed with, but fell short of dissenting from, the disposal of the case. Lord Brown has an interesting career history in English law, as has Lord Dyson, and Lord Kerr served his time in Northern Ireland. They’ve all been appeal court judges and I believe that their personal histories influenced them in this case far more than the points of law which they should have been considering.

Article 6 of the ECHR, enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, reads thusly:
Article 6
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

The challenge was not on the basis of any of the specific rights mentioned in paragraphs 2 or 3 but on the general right in paragraph 1 – the right to a fair trial – a right which, I believe, most people will agree should be an intrinsic part of our legal system. The basis upon which the learned judges concluded that Mr Fraser’s right to a fair trial was not upheld was Lord Hope’s disagreement with the opinion expressed by the Lord Justice Clerk at the original appeal.

In spite of claiming in paragraph 30 that he was about to concentrate on whether the tests applied by the Appeal Court were the right ones, in the following paragraphs Lord Hope went off on a diddle around whether the tests were satisfied. Interestingly, he appeared to use previous judgements in the UK Supreme Court by himself and by one of his fellow bench-sitters in this case as the locus classici. I suppose that it is only to be expected when the circle is so small but it remains an interesting aside (for me) that this moot referred back to itself.

Where the Lord Justice Clerk had considered that the new evidence presented to him was not of sufficient importance to have influenced the jury at the trial had it been led (indeed, the LJC suggested that it may not have been led even if the defence had been aware of it), Lord Hope held that it was of sufficient import, saying “it is impossible to reconcile the approach which the Appeal Court took to the threshold question that section 106 raises with the test for cases of non-disclosure in McInnes, para 19” (Hope’s own previous opinion). Hope wasn’t finding fault with the process of the trial, he was finding fault with the outcome of the appeal.

Having previously ruled in McInnes that evidence withheld from the defence had to be evidence which should have been disclosed and also have enough weight to have affected the course of the trial for it to be a breach of the defendant’s Convention Rights, Hope relied on his ruling in that case to say in this case that the import of the evidence wasn’t important; “It was information that ought to have been given to the defence, and the failure to do this was a breach of the appellant’s article 6 right.” (paragraph 33).

This, and a finding that the course of the trial would have been different had the evidence been disclosed led Hope to conclude that his McInnes threshold test had been met. He then goes on to consider the consequences and, in spite of noting that the LJC had considered that the weight of the other evidence would have been sufficient to convict, he opined that the disclosure may have resulted in a different course for the trial and that “There is a real possibility that this would have been sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt about the Crown’s case”. Again, Hope’s issue isn’t with the conduct of the trial – whether it was fair or not – but with the outcome.

Hope never addresses the actual case before him in this judgement, he does not examine whether Article 6 has been breached; he sits, instead, as a judge in a criminal appeal in clear breach of the role of the UK Supreme Court.

Hope in paragraph 29 and Brown in paragraph 47 indicate that it is for the High Court of Justiciary to decide what tests to apply in appeals where there is no devolution issue – and both then go on to ignore the devolution issue and discuss the details of the LJC’s judgement. In both cases, I believe, they erred in law by ruling on the outcome of the case rather than whether it was a fair trial. Given that the other three judges concurred with Lord Hope’s judgement, they too must be seen to have erred in law.

Scotland’s laws are being changed by the UK Supreme Court, by judges without Scottish legal training, with little or no experience of Scots law and whose judgements appear to be self-fulfilling. The UK Supreme Court was supposed to take over the House of Lords legal functions and, in relation to Scotland, to rule on only civil cases. It has taken it upon itself to sit as a criminal court in relation to Scotland in breach of that role and has, I believe, acted ultra vires – its strength should not extend to Scots criminal law. I would hope that there was sufficient courage in Scotland’s Supreme Courts to refuse to follow the direction in this case to quash the conviction and to refuse it on the grounds that the UK Supreme Court acted outwith its jurisdiction. I would hope for that but without any real promise.

It’s time to remove all of Scots law from the grasping hands of the UK Supreme Court. It has failed.

Murmuring a judge you say?

Monday, 16 May 2011

Scotland's President

In days of yore the person who kept order in the Scots Parliament was known as the President, these days it's the more prosaic title Presiding Officer and much tickled have I been by the fuss and flutter from Labour over the democratic election of a new Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. Intrigued am I by the shortness of the collective Labour memory that conveniently forgets that it was the party which refused to provide a Presiding Officer in 2007 – a refusal which resulted in Hercules being dragged up to the chair and forced into it. I think he’s done a fine job over the past four years but you could sense that he was laying down what was a heavy burden when he passed over to Tricia Marwick and the grace with which he did so speaks volumes about him.

In electing Tricia, though, Parliament has done more than just elect the first female PO, it also elected the first PO who didn’t attend a private school – David Steel went to the Prince of Wales School in Nairobi and to George Watson’s in Edinburgh; George Reid went to Dollar Academy; Alex Fergusson went to Eton. Tricia, the daughter of a mining family in Cowdenbeath, went to the local council-run school. She’s also the first Presiding Officer to have gone straight from school to work, eschewing tertiary education; and I think that she’s probably the first to have had working-class parents.

She knows she’s got a task on her hands which no-one has faced before – each of the Presiding Officers has faced different challenges. David Steel had to steer the institution through its set-up phase; George Reid had the building project and turning the institution into an internationally recognised body; Alex Fergusson had the first minority government and the arrival of George Foulkes; Tricia Marwick has the independence referendum, a host of newbie MSPs, the changing of the guard in the opposition parties and the tensions of a Parliament with a single-party majority for the first time. You might think she’s got an easier time than the others but I’m thinking it might not be as easy as it sounds.

It was good to learn that she had support from members of each of the main parties for her election and that people know that she’ll be fair and even-handed and fears no-one, I look forward to seeing how she fares. In the meantime, did you hear what one PO said to the other PO?

The Presiding Officer: In the second round of voting in the election of the Presiding Officer, the number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows: Hugh Henry 55, Tricia Marwick 73. Accordingly, as Tricia Marwick received more votes than the total number of votes that the other candidate received, and as more than 25 per cent of members voted, Tricia Marwick is elected as the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer. [Applause.]

I thank all the candidates in the election of the Presiding Officer, as we come to yet another first in the series of firsts that have come to the fore in the past week. Scotland’s electorate seem to take great delight in delivering a Parliament with significantly different challenges at each and every election.

First, in 1999, the electorate delivered our first coalition Government. In 2003, they delivered what became known as the rainbow Parliament, with originally six and, ultimately, seven parties and groupings recognised on the Parliamentary Bureau. In 2007, they delivered our first minority Government and now, in 2011, they have delivered yet another first—a single party has gained an outright majority for the first time.

The Parliament itself seems to have taken the road of firsts to heart by electing a female member as the Presiding Officer for the first time. Furthermore, it has elected a member from the likely party of Government for the first time. In itself, that will present fresh challenges.

Having worked with Tricia Marwick on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body over the past four years, I can testify to her ability to put the Parliament’s interests before the interests of any party in it. I know that I join all members in wishing her, her husband Frank, and her family our very best wishes as she takes on this vitally important role.

I would not dream of offering my successor any advice—except perhaps this: if, Tricia, you find after a few months that you are not quite as well known to the public as you would like to be, get yourself involved in a live television draw for a football cup semi-final and make a complete hash of it. I guarantee that you will be a household name after that. [Laughter.]

More seriously, the role of Presiding Officer carries with it a cloak of great privilege and even greater responsibility. It is one that I have worn to the best of my ability, but I am now delighted to pass it on to my elected successor. I have great pleasure in inviting the Presiding Officer to come forward and take the chair for the fourth session of our Scottish Parliament. [Applause.]

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): First, I thank all my parliamentary colleagues from all parties for their support today. I also thank my predecessor, Alex Fergusson, for his work in the past four years. His was a most difficult period, with the potential to have to use the casting vote every day. I hope to be spared that difficulty. He was a class act and a difficult one to follow; I will do my very, very best.

There are some special people who deserve my thanks, because it is only with their support and love that I can do this job: my husband Frankie, my children Louise and Steven, and my lovely grandchildren Róisín and Odhrán. I love you all.

As Presiding Officer, I will be fair to all members. I will always act in the interests of the Scottish Parliament. Now we have work to do. Thank you. [Applause.]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The empty bells

I’ve been a bit busy recently; a lot of walking, a lot of chatting, carrying heavy loads and worrying – especially the worrying. These things happen, you get caught up in some bizarre plan to win a majority at Holyrood, you know, the thing that’s impossible because the system was set up in a way that made it impossible in the same way that devolution will kill nationalism stone dead.
The SNP ran a fantastic campaign with excellent candidates and tremendous energy – in stark contrast to our opponents – and our campaign was well- managed and never looked like jumping the rails, it was always heading in the right direction. We faced a barrage of Labour mailshots, telephone calls and ‘high profile’ visits and we held them off. It felt, sometimes, like Thermopylae – except our cause was never defence of what we had but the advancement of the nation.
We did well, really well, and I find myself left with but one regret: While we were watching seat after seat across the country fall to Scotland’s Party and eight of the nine seats in the Lothians come home to the SNP Shirley-Anne Somerville was losing out because we’d done so fantastically well and yet not quite well enough. She narrowly missed unseating Malcolm Chisholm in Edinburgh Northern and Leith and we were just a little too far out on the additional member vote to have her elected from the list. Shirley-Anne was a fantastic MSP, she’s intelligent, talented, witty, hard-working and able and she’ll be a loss to Parliament. I was impressed by the grace with which Malcolm Chisholm praised her during his victory speech, saying that he hoped she would get returned as an additional member although he didn’t hold out much hope as a result of our excellent constituency performance and he was proven correct. Shirley-Anne is, quite clearly, an excellent politician and I hope she comes back in the future. I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her return to the political fray when she’s ready.
Meanwhile, the recriminations in other parties have started, including the resignations of the leaders of the three opposition groups. Labour’s Iain Gray has promised to conduct a review of his party’s organisation and election campaign while his MSPs have variously described the campaign as inept, complacent, misdirected and sloppy, and we’ve now learned that the review is actually the creation of Milliband and that he’s determined that Labour’s MPs will be running their campaigns in the future but they’ve all missed the point. It wasn’t the dash into a sandwich shop that lost Labour this election, nor was it the quality of the election material distributed (they need new designers – some who known something about design would be handy), it wasn’t that there wasn’t a message nor that they just couldn’t engage with the electorate. Labour’s problem is that they have nothing to say anymore because they don’t believe in anything any more. Labour sold its soul some time ago and it spent so long in the pursuit of power that its members have forgotten why they sought it in the first place. There is no sense from Labour that it seeks power to do good, to bring justice or prosperity or equality to the country, the sense is that it seeks power to be in office. There was no rhyme nor reason to their campaign because there was no principle underpinning it. There was no purpose to their campaign because they themselves have no purpose, no belief. It wasn’t that their ‘carry a knife, go to jail’ campaign was guff and based on poor founds (it was), it was that it had no substance it looked exactly like what it was – a naked bid for a knee-jerk vote. Labour’s attacks on the SNP and on independence failed to hit any target because there is no backbone to the Labour party as much as because the attacks were bizarre and ill-targeted.
Their campaign fell flat on its nose because there is no purpose to their party. The same applied to the Lib Dem campaign. Strange warnings of doom echoed around Tavish Towers during the campaign – “cutting the number of police forces would cut the number of police officers” was particularly daft – and, like Labour’s campaign, not believed because there was no substance left to their party. The Conservatives likewise failed to rumble because they had nothing to offer. A few soundbites and good gags aren’t enough. The Greens, well, Patrick took them off away from their core beliefs and into the swamp more commonly associated with the SSP and the like – a decision that I’m sure cost them votes across the country.
The lesson for all politicians is that you have to stand by your core values – and first you have to know what they are. I truly have no idea why anybody would wade into politics without having a belief that drove them in there, this can’t be a pleasant game to be in if you’re just here for the scenery, but it appears that many people have made that conscious decision. My pompous homily comes to an end here with the observation that the election campaign of a political party without a core purpose is like a bell without a clapper – though the crown be sound and the waist be firm it can swing endlessly and will not chime.
Mind how you go!