Monday 31 December 2007

To be fair to be fair

In the spirit of the season, I shall not refer to the latent criminality that lurks within the Labour party. I shall refrain from reminding people that the Labour party is rotten to the core. I shall not mention those who have admitted that they break the law. I shall not intimate that I believe that most active members of the Labour party believe that the law does not apply to Labour.

Instead, I shall concentrate on the closest Scottish Labour has come to a policy statement in at least a year - Wendy Alexander's speech at Edinburgh University on St Andrew's Day. I'm going to pick the bits I want to talk about and I'm a nationalist - if you want anything else, do it yourself. I've heard a lot about the intellectual genius of Wendy Alexander, but all the evidence points in the other direction.

And so to the speech of this fellow of the British-American Project for the Successor Generation:
Almost 30 years ago my first ever political campaign was stuffing envelopes during the 1979 Referendum.

Not for the 'yes' campaign though - according to sources in her former home town.
I firmly believe it is time for a review of the Scottish Constitutional Settlement.

I knew she'd want to join the National Conversation eventually ...
I have never been one of those who believes that, uniquely among the nations of the world, Scotland is incapable of standing on its own two feet.

About time she admitted this - she used to tell us it would cost us five grand each.
I believe that all component parts of the UK would be the losers should we split up an enduring and successful union.
She never actually gives a justification for her statement that the UK is successful, nor does she lay out any rationale behind her belief in the union. The only coherent arguments I have ever heard for the continuation of the union have actually been made by nationalists acting as 'deil's advocate' - and usually in the wee sma hours. Why can no unionist politician give us a decent case for holding on to London rule?
England is a much bigger country than Scotland and its history as by far our largest trading partner cannot simply be wished away, even if that was desirable.

Whether or not you think that this is desirable, it might be true (there are no figures for trade between the two countries and I keep on speaking to businesses whose main customers are in Europe, but it might be true). Of course, so long as England is allowed to remain in the EU after independence, she will have the same rights to trade with Scotland as any other EU member state, and my English cousins will still be able to come north to visit. Call me an optimist, but I think that the Scottish Government would make provision to allow England to keep trading with us even if the rest of Europe threw them out, we're nice that way.
Dissolve the Union and England would still have a dominant say in the economic wellbeing of Scotland but without the Scots enjoying anything like the same degree of reciprocity which we currently enjoy through participation in our common democracy.
Funny how it's nationalists who understand global interdependence and supranational organisations like the EU, isn't it? For the sake of not being cruel to the small one, let's ignore the fact that the other EU member states have more impact on our economy than England, and let's ask the questions - surely it's a bad thing for Scotland to have one country being a dominant force in our economic wellbeing? Would that remain the same under Independence? I'm even tempted to ask whether this first term of an SNP Government will see Scotland improve and no longer be held back by the English economy. This is, of course, Wendy Alexander displaying that normal trait of Labour members of seeing only what they're told is in front of them, never looking to see what the possibilities are - with the honourable exception of Pat Watters, obviously.

After more than three hundred years of Union, hundreds of thousands of Scots live in England and indeed hundreds of thousands of English people live here.

Hundreds of thousands? No real numbers to offer us? Of those people born in England and now living in Scotland, though, I'm sure Wendy Alexander will be delighted to know that a fair number of them are members of the SNP - including our seven MSPs who were born in England. Prize to anyone who can name them all.
Independence has never, and is unlikely ever, to gain majority support in Scotland and no Party committed to achieving a separate Scottish state is likely to secure majority support.

See that sneering at the right of the people to decide between the options which are put before them? That's why Labour's in so much trouble just now - refusing to address the issues at hand, determined instead to shout down the opinions of others and to insist that no-one else is allowed to agree with them. Labour must learn humility if it is ever to contribute anything to Scottish politics.
It is not possible to entirely reconcile the partisan interest of the Labour Party with the cause of home rule for Scotland.

Partisan interest of the Labour Party? Surely the concern is with the people of Scotland? Ach well, we can but hope. But is this Labour's leader in Scotland telling us that the reason Labour opposes independence is because it runs counter to the career interests of Labour politicians?

There is unfinished business from the 1999 Scotland Act and it is Labour’s job – in partnership with other parties - to fix it. As Donald Dewar once said “it would be absurd to pretend that ours is the last word on the constitutional settlement”

See that towering vanity that would have someone think that they had to say that they didn't have the last word on the constitution? That's the contempt for democracy we keep seeing running through the Labour Party. It's good to see, though, that Wendibles has accepted, finally, that Labour has to engage with the National Conversation at last.
For me and many in the Labour Party devolution was initially about ‘unfinished business’.

Okay, I give up - how can something be initially about unfinished business? Surely unfinished business suggests something that has already started.
there are many issues I believe are best dealt with on an all-island basis, such as tackling global warming

I think that the clue might be in the word global ...
Looking forward most Scots are looking to secure both the devolution settlement and their common UK citizenship. I would like to see a Commission endorsed by the Scottish Parliament, and parties and Parliamentarians at Westminster so that it can draw in the best ideas that the UK and Scotland have to offer.

I've heard people talking about independence and I've heard people talking about remaining part of the UK, but I've never heard anyone asking how they secure their place in the current devolution settlement. Maybe it's a Paisley thing? On the second point - how does the endorsement of political parties in Edinburgh and London ensure that this fabled Commission draws in the best ideas from around Scotland? Another thing - let me pose the West Lothian question in another way - why should someone living in Basingstoke have a say in how Scotland governs herself?
stay focussed on our key goal – what constitutional changes devolution might need to make Scotland a better place in which to live and work in

That's easy - independence. The more perspicacious amongst you will appreciate the irony of the ease of that statement.
There are areas from welfare to work to road transport where there is merit in considering greater powers for the Scottish Parliament.

I look forward to Wendy Alexander's support for these powers to be repatriated.
the financing of the Parliament almost wholly through grant funding does not provide the proper incentives to make the right decisions. Hence strengthening the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament by moving to a mixture of assigned and devolved taxes and grant is something the Commission should consider.

Here's a very interesting point - a woman who was a Minister on and off for the first eight years of devolution, who was the Special Advisor on the Scotland Act, and who keeps telling us she knows the way forward doesn't know how the Scottish Parliament is funded. (It's a top-slice from the consolidated fund). If I was going to be fair, I'd let on that I knew she meant Scottish Government when she said Scottish Parliament - but where's the fun in being fair to her?
It is these principles of resource, revenue and risk sharing – that underpin the partnership that is the UK. Those 3 Rs – of resource, revenue and risk sharing – also secure for Scots our social citizenship i.e. our access to the welfare state, our right to benefits and pensions as well as access to free schooling and healthcare through the NHS.
The benefit of the doubt just went out the window. If it's membership of the UK that secures us access to these benefits of society (ignoring the omission of economic drivers there), how do other nations deliver them for their people? Or is she arguing that an independent Scotland would get rid of each of them?
The case for the UK remains the common interests of its constituent parts. It is better to work together and share risk and resources than to seek to manage a volatile environment separately.

So the reason Scotland can't make her own decisions is that the world is a wee bit scary? Intellectually vacant is about the most polite phrasing I can think of. Perhaps the agility of a medium-sized country like Scotland would actually be a benefit in a volatile environment?
the issue of Corporation tax variation within a state also raises issues of compliance with EU rules (the Azores judgement) as well as potentially distorted transfer pricing.

Alyn Smith MEP has already declared himself "a tad ungallant" in pointing out that she has no idea what she's talking about here, no need for me to add more.
England is not just any other country for most Scots.
My mother was born in England, most of my cousins live in England. I still don't see the point she's making.
Risk, revenues and resources are shared across the UK to deliver common services and benefits - access to the main elements of the welfare state - social security and pensions, access to healthcare free at the point of need and free schooling

She's off again. I wonder if this was meant to be some kind of scare tactic? There is absolutely no intellectual underpinning to this stuff - it's quite shockingly bad.

we should support and welcome greater local and regional decentralisation in England, allowing voices in different parts of England to be heard on their issues just as we have sought that for ourselves. Looking to the future the so called English question is properly for UK colleagues to consider.

See, maybe it's just the way nationalists think, but I'm of the opinion that it's up the people of England to decide how their country is governed, I don't think I have the right to impose my opinions on them.

That's about the extent of the content of her speech. She really has to go now.


Anonymous said...

1 Mike Russell
2 Christine Grahame
3 Stuart McMillan
4 Ian Mckee
5 Shona Robison
6 Nigel Don

Stuck on the last one...

Calum Cashley said...

Not bad, not bad - one more MSP to get - not someone who is shy and retiring.

For a bonus point, which SNP MP was born in England?

Anseo said...

The last MSP would have to be...

7. Fiona Hyslop

And MP...

Mike Weir? Although thats just a guess (20% chance!)