Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Three things you need to know about the new powers going to Scotland

There are some very interesting articles about the forthcoming Scotland Bill, the details of which were unveiled on Thursday, in today’s press.

The Tories were trying to back out and Clegg, Alexander and Carmichael wouldn’t let them

According to Michael Moore in Scotland on Sunday today.

 It is not a surprise to me that the Conservatives fought tooth and nail to remove some of the key elements of the Smith agreement.

We saw in the commission itself they adopted two or three different positions in the space of 48 hours on welfare and were clearly in touch with London colleagues at every stage.

We resisted it there and I am glad that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have resisted it in terms of the bill. There is no question in my mind that without Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg digging in on this over the last crucial 48 hours before the bill was published, we would have ended up with the whole Smith process unravelling.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #408

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 408th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (18 – 24 January  2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Surely it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to part company with Alex Carlile

alex carlile - house of lords
After much provocation over the years, I have finally reached the end of my patience with Alex Carlile. The sooner he and the Liberal Democrats part company the better.

It was embarrassing enough to watch him give the green light to so many of Labour’s illiberal anti-terror laws, but when he supports something which threatens to scupper a key concession won by the Liberal Democrats, it is time for us to actively campaign for him to go.

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Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

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UKIP’s official health spokesperson: “I have no experience in health whatsoever”

Louise Bours MEP, UKIP’s health spokesperson, made a startling admission to the Independent in an interview published today. She said:

One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.

I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.

So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever, she says.>

On one of the key battlegrounds of the election, UKIP’s designated spokesperson is basically saying she’s sorry, she doesn’t have a clue.

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Nick Clegg takes questions on Men’s Health UK’s Facebook page

Nick Clegg's men's health q and aOn Thursday, Nick Clegg took part in a question and answer session on the Men’s Health UK Facebook page. The magazine has published some of the session here.

He talked quite movingly about the need to tackle the stigma attached to mental health to make it easier for particularly men to talk about their illness:

 One of the keys to changing this is to ensure that mental health trusts work with families and friends of patients just as much as with the patients themselves. When I visited the superb Mersey Care trust last week I met a patient who told me that when he was in hospital for a heart operation he received a constant and welcome stream of visiting friends and family. Yet when he was in a mental health ward for five months he received only three visits during his whole time there. That says all we need to know about the crippling effect of the stigma that still surrounds mental health. That’s why campaigns like Time to Change are so vital.

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A sign of the trouble Labour faces in Scotland?

Liberal Democrats face their challenges in Scotland, there’s no doubt about that, but what about the party that that for so long dominated Scottish politics? The Evening News reported this week that the Labour Party has had to cancel a fundraiser due to lack of interest in one of their key seats in Edinburgh:

Deputy Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, local MP Sheila Gilmore and a shadow minister from Westminster were among the speakers lined up for the Edinburgh Eastern fundraising event on Saturday.

But after poor ticket sales, the local party executive decided to cancel the supper, promising refunds to those who had booked.

Former Edinburgh East Labour party chairman Paul Nolan said the event had been a popular fixture in the diary for many years and usually attracted up to 150 people.

But he said he understood fewer than 50 tickets had been sold and admitted the situation was embarrassing.

He said: “It is worrying that we can’t get members to come to a fundraising Burns Supper two or three months before an election.

“If we can’t get the activists motivated, it’s going to be even harder to get ordinary voters to turn out on polling day.”

Mr Nolan said last year’s Burns Supper had raised around £1000.

Edinburgh East will be a key constituency at the general election in May as Labour fights to stop a predicted advance by the SNP across Scotland.

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Flags at half mast – the right way to mark the passing of an illiberal despot?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding “No.” When I saw yesterday that Westminster Abbey of all places was flying the flag at half mast to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I was horrified. The vomit-inducing tone of the tributes portraying him as some sort of reformer added to my irritation. If he was a reformer, Brian from the Magic Roundabout is a world champion sprinter to rival Usain Bolt.

I guess what intensified my overall sense of injustice was the chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats. Surely at least one of our parliamentarians should have openly criticised such a ridiculous decision. The only honourable exceptions I can find are Meral Ece and Mike Thornton, both of whom have been retweeting human rights information about Saudi Arabia and wry observations about the reaction to Abdullah’s death:

Most annoying was that it fell to a TORY to heap the most condemnation on the flags decision:

It’s all so different from 2007 when Vince Cable as acting leader boycotted the State Visit of King Abdullah, saying:

Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

He said he had also been critical of the Saudi regime’s treatment of Britons.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 37 Comments

Julian Huppert’s Green opponent in trouble for Twitter transphobia

One of the best moments for me of the debate on the Same Sex Marriage Bill was when Cambridge’s Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert spoke out against elements of the Bill which would cause real heartache and injustice for transgender people and their partners. His understanding, sensitivity and eloquence on these matters was second to none. Of course he was well briefed by Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell among others but he put his head above the parapet to try and secure fairness for people who are all too often marginalised.

His expertise on this matter (and many others) is a …

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Debates plan disadvantages the Liberal Democrats

Well, the new debates plan is even worse than the old one for the Liberal Democrats.

The original plan was that there would be a series of three debates involving Cameron and Miliband, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband and Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage.

This led to David Cameron showing more empathy to anything Green than he has had since he hugged that husky and refusing to take part if the Greens were excluded.

The new proposals create  the worst of all possible worlds for the Liberal Democrats:

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Willie Rennie warns SNP over ID database

Willie Rennie got a pretty good splash of headlines yesterday after he raised his concerns over SNP plans to create a massive ID database in Scotland. The Scotsman has details:

The Scottish Government is considering an extension of the NHS central register, which is already the “most complete and authoritative record of individuals in Scotland”.

It currently covers about 30 per cent of people, but ministers want to extend this and share information stored with more than 100 government agencies – including HMRC for tax ­purposes.

A similar population register was ditched south of the Border when controversial and expensive plans for ID cards were scrapped in 2010.

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Another Lib Dem website brilliantly topical error message – a pity it’s out of date so quickly

I wish I had seen this yesterday.

Page 3 error message

 

A brilliant response to the debate over Page 3.

The party has been doing this a few times with its error messages recently. It’s very amusing and it also directs people to relevant policy on the website.

Unfortunately, as we’ve all found out, the Sun was trolling us all along. Former presidential candidate and new member of the Diversity Engagement Group Daisy Cooper said this about the Sun’s behaviour on Facebook:

So, pretending to stop Page 3 was just a bit of fun. Raising expectations then crushing them in a humiliating way. Classic abusive behaviour.

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Dr Cable, I presume…

I was a wee bit amused by this story from the Spectator about Vince Cable:

Word reaches Steerpike that a number of staff working with the Business Secretary, who has a PhD in Economics, have been advised to refer to him strictly as Dr Vince Cable in written correspondence.

‘We were a bit surprised that Vince Cable won’t do as that’s what we are used to but it apparently has to be Dr Vince,’ a mole whispers.

A Liberal Democrats source says that far from coming as a request from the business secretary himself it’s official guidance that in formal correspondence politicians are referred to by their full title.

The reason I’m amused, apart from the fact that this is obviously another of those “there must be an election coming on” stories, is that I’ve always found Vince to be one of the least pompous politicians I’ve ever met.

Posted in News | Tagged | 14 Comments

16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales have every right to be disappointed

This week the Scottish Parliament and Westminster both pass a Section 30 Order. Section 30 is the bit of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows powers to be given from Westminster to Holyrood. Two years ago a Section 30 Order gave the Scottish Government the power to hold the referendum on independence. This week’s transfers the power to the Scottish Parliament to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the next Holyrood elections which take place in May 2016. It will have to be confirmed by the Privy Council in March but that’s just a formality.

This means that young people in Scotland will have a say on the way their health, education, transport, justice and housing systems are run. We know that giving young people the vote was a massive success in the referendum. My heart swelled up seeing them head into the polling station with real excitement and pride on 18th September. There is surely no excuse for denying them the say at any level. Scottish 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote at Holyrood and local elections – but when it comes to Westminster, they will have no say. Of course this could all change if the next Parliament legislates. They surely can have no excuse to delay.

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Lynne Featherstone: Good riddance to Page 3

There’s some interesting discussion on my social media timeline about  the Sun’s decision to stop printing clothes of topless women on Page 3. On one hand you have the male dominated group of people who think this is a dreadful infringement of liberty enacted by sinister feminists with An Agenda. Just you wait, they’ll be after your porn yet, they warn. They don’t like the fact that the No More Page 3 campaign started by Lucy-Anne Holmes and backed by more than 200,000 people has got what it wanted. It’s illiberal, they scream, for one group of people to interfere with the freedoms of others. That’s interesting. Presumably they would also be in favour of continuing to use the deeply racist language that was deemed acceptable when I was a child. Perhaps they’d oppose interfering in employers’ rights to send children up chimneys.

I just wonder how some of the men complaining about this decision if, every single day, there were pictures of naked men in a newspaper in a society where most of the positions of power were occupied by women who were never depicted in such a way. I don’t think they’d like it very much.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #407

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 407th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (-, 2014), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Willie Rennie makes fair student finance a Scottish budget priority

There is no doubt that Willie Rennie is being brave in his choice of priorities for this year’s Scottish budget. In truth, the SNP have an overall majority at Holyrood so they don’t need to give any sort of ground.They have done the last few years, though. Last year, they gave extra money for childcare and free school meals in response to Willie Rennie’s persistent pestering. The year before it was college places.

This year, he’s taking a bigger risk. There’s an issue which in the context of the Holyrood parliament represents one of our finest hours and in the context of Westminster our worst. It’s tuition fees. Way back in 1999, Liberal Democrats fought an election saying tuition fees would be dead if they were in government and they kept that promise. We know what happened in 2010. We shouldn’t have done what we did, but, as I wrote at the time, Vince had actually managed to create a system that was fairer than the one it replaced:

However, if there were a way to get it wrong well, he’s probably done that.

Imagine for a moment if the Tories had been in power alone. I very much doubt that their Business Secretary would have tracked down Lord Browne and bent his ear about the importance of the recommendations being fair and progressive. And they are to a point. To play Devil’s Advocate a bit here, if we can’t have no tuition fees (and I’m not conceding that we can’t), then isn’t this a better option than anything else? Nobody has to pay out anything to actually go to university so access isn’t denied to those from less affluent backgrounds in the way it would be today.

And Labour? Would they, still in Government, be talking about a Graduate Tax? Of course they wouldn’t. They’d bung on the fees – although I’m not so convinced that they would have necessarily covered all the angles.  I mean, it’s coming to something when it takes a Tory to bring up the issue I blogged about earlier about interest accruing if someone takes time out to look after children. He confirmed in the House today that interest would not accrue under these circumstances.

Annoyed though I might be with him, I have to at least give some credit to Vince for taking an hour’s worth of utter tripe from the Labour benches with patience and humour. I’d rate him above just about any Labour minister you might care to mention and definitely any Tory. I loved his line about the road to Westminster having the skid marks of unenacted pledges all over it.

Y

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Clegg: “Liberalism youthful, optimistic philosophy”, Ashdown threatens to eat Murnaghan & Grender reminds us of Labour’s NHS deals with private sector

It’s been a marathon this morning. Nick Clegg has been on the Andrew Marr Show and Pienaar’s Politics, Paddy Ashdown has been on Murnaghan talking about the debates and the Counter Terrorism Bill and Olly Grender took part in a panel on Pienaar’s Politics.

I have done a Storify thingy of all my tweets from all the interviews here but I shall outline the key themes in this post.

This was a morning when, as we’ve seen, there have been two powerful initiatives from the party on ending illiteracy by 2025 and improving mental health crisis care so that people don’t end up in police cells. These weren’t mentioned very much in any of the interviews.

Clegg – Lib Dems in Government have been obsessed with ensuring kids get best start in life

Clegg really came into his own in the Pienaar interview where he had more opportunity to talk about Lib Dem values and priorities than on the Marr Show. He outlined how initiatives like protecting the schools budget and giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school had started to close the attainment gap. He talked about liberalism being a “youthful, optimistic philosophy which seeks to create a society where everybody can get ahead.

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What do you listen to while leafletting?

Today Liberal Democrat campaigners will have been out doing what they do most weeks – getting out and about on the doorsteps or with the leaflets. By now, I expect they’ll be thawing out with a nice cup of tea.

Make sure, by the way, that you send us your pictures from the campaign trail as many of you trudge out in snowy conditions. Tweet them to @libdemvoice or email to [email protected]

Smartphone or iPod and headphones are as common a part of  leafletters’ attire these days as the cloth bag with the bird on it and the spatula to help negotiate stubborn letterboxes with dogs on the other side of them.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

Asylum system continues to fail LGBT people

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

The Greens: the Lib Dem fightback begins

Yesterday’s news that the Greens had overtaken the Liberal Democrats in terms of membership – their 44713, compared to our 44680 – has, from what I’ve seen on my social media, galvanised our activists rather than demoralised them. And so we should be proud of ourselves. For a party in government in the most trying economic circumstances since the 30s to have grown for 6 quarters in a row is nothing short of miraculous. The Labour party couldn’t manage that and they had the most benign economic circumstances in years.

The Green’s figures include Northern Ireland which ours don’t so like for like it’s more neck and neck.  (Update: Adam Ramsay on Twitter assures me that the Greens figures do not include Northern Ireland).  I’ve also seen some people say that it’s not fair because the Scottish Greens and the Green Party of England and Wales are two separate organisations. There’s no point in splitting hairs, though.

The Party has been making a bit of a concerted effort to make sure that the Greens don’t have the stage for themselves. Tim Farron has written an article of the New Statesman in which he emphasises what the Liberal Democrats have done in government to protect the environment:

The Conservatives’ approach to the environment in Europe shows what sort of approach they would take if they are allowed to govern alone. In coalition, Liberal Democrats have fought to make sure that the environment has stayed at the top of the agenda. We’ve doubled the amount of energy generated from offshore wind and stopped the Tories from slashing support for renewable energy. And while senior Conservative politicians voice their doubts about man-made climate change, Energy Secretary Ed Davey has been busy paving the way for a global deal to cut carbon emissions. Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories from lurching to the right on the environment. The truth is, the only way to make blue go green is by adding yellow.

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Warning: This post may damage your health – but, it’s ok, Sal Brinton will make it better

Sal BrintonIt’s not often we put health warnings on posts, but we do need to today. It’s not the post that’s the problem, it’s more the programme we’re suggesting you watch. Last night’s Question Time had one of its most habitually annoying contributors, David Starkey and if you watch it here on BBC iPlayer, he will make you very cross indeed.

I was quite amazed that I managed to get through the whole hour without either wine or even swearing out loud, even though the historian did everything he possibly could to live down to his reputation and beyond. His personal nadir was when he was trying to make out that children could have some responsibility for their own sexual assaults. And calling Mehdi Hasan Ahmed wasn’t much better.

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Friday fun: what’s your pet hate?

I woke up this morning to see two grown men griping and groaning about, wait for it, Comic Sans, on social media. Really, font geekery before breakfast is going too far. If that makes me not a proper Lib Dem for saying that, then so be it. I will not be enslaved by this conformity.

I have to say I don’t really get the problem with Comic Sans, particularly as it’s supposed to be good for people with Dyslexia to read. Clearly I am not the cool kid on the block as my Teenager also has severe issues with that font.

Getting wound up about fonts when there are misplaced apostrophes and your/you’re and its/it’s mix-ups in the world is just silly.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

Have you sorted out how you are getting to Liverpool yet?

It’s just 8 short weeks till we all gather in Liverpool for Spring Conference. What’s even scarier is that it’s only another 8 weeks until we know the result of the general election.

On the party website, there’s information about all sorts of deals to help you plan your transport. I actually managed to get very cheap first class tickets ages ago. It means leaving in the middle of the bloomin’ night, but I’ll live with it.

Anyway, Virgin are apparently offering 20% off on fares from London (cos, clearly, that’s the only direction we’d go in to get there – rage) and if you’re going by coach, National Express are offering a 50% discount.

You can find all the details here.

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The West Wing cast back together again

Ten years ago the West Wing was the show for political geeks to watch. How we all wished we could have Jed Bartlet (the odd slip up with the death penalty notwithstanding) instead of George W Bush.

Yesterday, some of the cast reunited to record a video for the Funny or Die website. One of the West Wing writers, Eli Attie, tweeted this picture:

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Playground, panto and poultry – a day in the life of a debate about a debate

I have to say I’m completely over this debate talk. I’m starting to think that we should just lock every party leader in the country in the Big Brother house after the current occupants have departed and leave them there till they start behaving like adults rather than 9 year olds in the playground.

We have Dave who doesn’t want to take on Nige who’s wooing his more prejudiced voters. And wasn’t he talking about “green crap” not so long ago. More opportunistic posturing than repenting sinner, though.

We have Nige who thinks he can come across as the man of the people and wipe the floor with everyone, except his stats are dodgy and his views based on misinformation and prejudice.

We have Ed who must know he’s more cut out for writing worthy books in a dusty attic than slugging it out in a tv studio where he’s going to look as uncomfortable as hell. He has something to fear from everyone. Nige and Nicola are after his vote, Dave can give him a pasting on the economy, Nick has done more for disadvantaged kids in 5 years than his party did in 13 and he knows his vote is vulnerable to the Greens on the left. He must be very grateful to Dave for giving him a get out of jail free card. All he needs to do is utter the magic words “let the Greens in” and Dave will have no choice but to find another excuse to avoid debating.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Some personal perspectives on non binary gender identity

I’ve read a couple of really interesting and illuminating articles recently in which people who don’t identify as either male or female talk about what that means for them. In yesterday’s Daily Record, there was an interview with NUS Scotland’s transgender representative Drew O’Donnell.

And while Drew says they know many people may find their ever-changing gender difficult to understand, they say people need to learn to be more understanding.

Drew, 23, of Paisley, said: “I’ve been told there are 37 different types of gender – a lot more than simply male and female.

“Even I can’t remember them all but when people ask me about it, I try to explain to them that sex and gender are two different things.

“The singer Cher has a transgender son who said, ‘Gender is between your ears, not between your legs’ and for me that describes it well. Gender is what you feel – and sometimes I might feel two thirds male and only one third female while the next day, I might feel two thirds female and only one third male.

“Some days I feel absolutely gender neutral – neither more male nor more female and that is totally fine too. I have three genders – the more feminine me, the more masculine me and the gender neutral me – but I am still the same one person.

“When I am feeling more feminine I will wear more feminine clothes – not skirts or dresses but clothes that have a more feminine than masculine look to them.

“I will wear make-up – I like eye shadow, eye liner and nail polish. And I have even coached my voice to sound more feminine.

“On days where I feel more masculine, my clothes are much more boyish and I won’t wear make-up. On gender neutral days, I’m somewhere in the middle.”

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Government concedes key points on judicial review

As you know, we’ve been following the parliamentary ping pong on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Today it comes back before the Commons and, as the Guardian reports, the Government has made concessions on three points:

The first concession, not related to judicial review, was over the introduction of disciplinary powers to be used for confining convicted boys under the age of 15 and women in secure colleges. The Ministry of Justice amendment has accepted that there would have to be a further vote on a statutory instrument before the powers could come into force – a safeguard

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Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill under further Committee scrutiny

Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill has been considered today by the Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This is the Committee which is taking the lead on the Bill, although the Justice Committee has also taken evidence on the legal aspects of the proposed reform.  The Bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald in November 2013 and has been taken forward since her death last April by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The Committee took evidence this morning from legal and medical professionals. I was surprised to see the Scotsman report say that the Law Society of Scotland is suggesting that the law as drafted might be against the European Convention on Human Rights. They say it’s in conflict with Article 2, the Right to Life. That hasn’t seemed to have been a problem for the Netherlands and Belgium, where similar legislation was introduced over a decade ago. The point, surely, is that the law gives people the choice about what they want to do faced with a terminal illness. What could be more liberal?

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Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg oppose Cameron’s Snoopers’ Charter plans – or do they?

Last night, Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Simon Hughes expressed his opposition to David Cameron’s plans to legislate to give security services the right to intercept the internet communications of suspected terrorists.

He said:

It is vital that the police and intelligence agencies are able to investigate and prosecute terrorists, including surveillance of communications. The Liberal Democrats have moved quickly in Government to plug the gaps in existing legislation to bolster these abilities.

Future security measures must be proportionate, justified and necessary – and not trample on our civil liberties. The so-called Snoopers’ Charter, which would see the internet browsing of every single citizen stored for a year, fails these very reasonable precautions.

The idea that you protect free speech by spying on every law-abiding person in this country is a contradiction in terms. You can’t have an open society if you are constantly worried that the state is prying into your daily life.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments
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