Tag Archives: Scotland

Against comfort blanket constitutionalism

At Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I committed a cardinal liberal offence. I voted against a pro-federalism motion, moved by Robert Brown and Lord Purvis. I opposed in sorrow and anger at the Party’s stasis on the constitutional question. I was also annoyed that attempts some of us made to secure a more robust debate at Conference on federalism, were rebuffed by Conference Committee. We were made to feel that the party bureaucracy did not want a real clash of ideas for Conference to resolve democratically.

The motion didn’t take practical steps towards advancing federalism any further than the Party already had. Its tone, if anything, made federalism more difficult to advance. Siobhan Mathers was right when she said in the debate that Lib Dems are excessively high-minded, believing they had more influence than was the reality on further devolution. Though the Campbell Commission reported first, it was outflanked by the Tory proposals on critical areas like welfare. The Party seems reluctant just to admit that, whatever the proximate cause, we lost our radical edge. We did not adapt to the shifting constitutional landscape even before the independence referendum.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments

Willie Rennie to highlight gender balance in his Conference speech

We know that Willie Rennie is determined to improve the appalling gender balance record of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He has to persuade a party which has historically rejected any proposals for positive action in candidate selection to adopt proposals to be drawn up by a working group made up of himself, Jo Swinson, Sophie Bridger, Sheila Ritchie and Fred Mackintosh. The ultimate aim is for half of Scotland’s Liberal Democrat parliamentarians to be women within 6 years.

The proposals will be debated at the Scottish Party’s Spring Conference just a few weeks before next year’s Holyrood elections. You can’t accuse Willie of not being willing to take a risk. He will be talking about it in Saturday’s speech to Autumn Conference too:

I want our party to change.

All our MPs in the United Kingdom are men. And four out of our five MSPs are men too.

I know many in the party instinctively do not favour positive action but I need to be frank with you.  Nothing else has worked.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

No, the Liberal Democrats do not owe Police Scotland £800,000 (or any other sum for that matter)

Get into an argument with any cybernat and, sooner or later, when you’ve won the argument, you’ll have it thrown at you, a bit like a modern Godwin’s Law, that the Liberal Democrats should pay their £800,000 bill to Police Scotland.

This is all to do with the security arrangements for our conference in Glasgow in 2013. South of the Border, the Home Office picks up these costs. As policing is devolved, the Scottish Government had responsibility and refused to do so. That meant that, apart from a small contribution to cover the costs of accreditation from the UK Government, Police Scotland had to pick up the tab themselves. Nothing to do with us.

Every time I get this, I refer the cybernat in question to this response to a freedom of information request which comprehensively debunks the idea that we owe any money to Police Scotland at all. Read my lips,

By way of explanation, it has been reported in the media that there is an outstanding invoice of £800,000 for this conference; however, this is factually incorrect. No invoice for the policing costs of the conference was ever generated and the Liberal Democrats did not enter into any arrangement with Police Scotland to provide policing.

In case it wasn’t clear the first time:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 40 Comments

Vote “Leave” get “Yes” free

Generally, the status quo has the upper hand in referenda. However, in the wake of the global financial crisis and subsequent recession, the anti-incumbency trend might not just be contained to first-order elections, with voters punishing governing parties of all stripes for letting economic misery occur on their watches. It could be that this trend extends to the far more fixed and aggregate level. For example, in the Scottish Referendum, Better Together warned against Labour voters acting on this anti-incumbency impulse to end Tory rule permanently, as opposed to just temporarily at Westminster General Elections.

However, for a voter it is perfectly rational: if given the chance to either a) end something unpleasant for at least five years, with the possibility of it returning or b) end it permanently, any Rational-Choice model would dictate the latter. Many in the Scottish media laughed at a recent intervention by the UKIP Leader that he could persuade Scots to vote Leave. There have also been comparisons between the ‘Yes’ movement in Scotland in 2014 and UKIP and the wider Brexit campaign.

The English voter who was told to not vote for UKIP in May if they really wanted a referendum, and instead, vote Conservative, now has that chance to vote in that referendum.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

Gordon Brown shows Lib Dems must go further on federalism

I went to see a speech by Gordon Brown on the future of Scotland on Thursday evening. Given the current state of Scottish politics I might well have expected an impassioned attack on the SNP and a confident denunciation of independence.

Instead he was remarkably conciliatory on nationalism, given the past positions of the Labour party. He came out as a third-questioner – the never-offered option that has consistently found majority support. He called for a constitutional convention to address what he sees as the big issue in British politics – the ability of England to dominate politics due to its sheer size. He set out the case for special protections for the smaller nations, like in almost every other devolved country. He believed that Scots want something “as close as possible to federalism”.

He made no attacks on the SNP and even gave them some backhanded praise – surely their support for keeping the pound means they realise that the UK is a natural economic grouping? Instead he attacked the Tories – for cutting welfare and playing politics with EVEL – what other country gives special protection to the majority over the minority? The ìVowî was at risk of being broken he warned; Westminster may yet maintain a veto over key welfare powers.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Two things about the EU campaign that strike fear into my heart

There are two things that scare the living daylights out of me about the two EU referendum campaign in general and the pro-EU campaign in particular.

The first is that I just wonder where on earth the women are. Jenny Jones and Kate Hoey are active on the Leave side but we hear more from the men and the campaign seems to be being run by men.

The pro-EU side will be led by Stuart Rose, Conservative peer and former head of Marks and Spencer. Will Straw and Ryan Coetzee are involved on a staff level. Laura Sandys from the European Movement will obviously be involved as well but the voices in favour are almost relentlessly male.

The problem is that that can lead to hideous mistakes being made. Like this horror from the Better Together campaign last year. I never thought I’d see the “Have you got the guts to vote SDP?” campaign beaten but this is truly one of the worst campaign adverts I have ever seen. It was Rosie Barnes and her rabbits without the political intelligence. Watch and cringe.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 50 Comments

Lib Dem Jim Hume’s Bill to stop smoking in cars with children present passes first Holyrood hurdle

Jim HumeThis week it’s become illegal to smoke in a car where there are children present in England. The responsibility for this area of law for Scotland lies with the Scottish Governemnt. For some time, Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland has been preparing to introduce legislation as a private member to do the same thing in Scotland. Today his bill passed its first Holyrood hurdle.

This is one of these controversial issues where you can come to agree with the proposal or disagree with it from liberal principles. We don’t like banning things unless there is a very good reason to do so and we also want to look at the enforceability of such a law. I take a very dim view of anyone who breathes poisonous fumes over children in a metal box, but I am worried about the slippery slope of such a measure. I’d have been happy with a massive public awareness campaign. However, JS Mill would, I feel, back the Bill. While people have the right to cause harm to themselves, do they have the right to inflict toxic by-products on to their children in a manner that it is proven causes much more damage than smoking at home or outside would do.

Jim’s speeches from the debate are reproduced in full below:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

Jim Hume questions Scottish Government on gender identity clinic waiting times

If you are a young transgender person still at school, struggling to come to terms with your gender identity, you need specialised help pretty quickly. You should not have to wait a minimum of 7 months to see a specialist. If you are older, you should not be told that the waiting list is a year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume has highlighted this as another area in which the Scottish Government is failing to meet its 18 week target for referrals. This one will take a lot of thinking about as there are so few specialists in the gender identity field. They will have to come up with some long term plans to recruit and train more.

Kaleidoscot reports on Jim’s call for the Scottish Health Secretary to review provision for transgender people:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments

A trio of embarrassments for the SNP

This week has not been a good one for Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson. For the third week running, the Sunday Times has reported on property transactions which are now being investigated by the Police. The solicitor who acted for Michelle Thomson’s company in many of these transactions was struck off last year. You can read the whole judgement in that matter here. It is also worth reading Labour blogger and solicitor Ian Smart’s commentary on the allegations contained within it.

Today’s paper highlights (£) a couple who had to sell their house after the husband was diagnosed with a bowel tumour which left him unable to work.

The inquiry is now likely to look into a transaction in 2009 that is unrelated to Hales. It involved a property firm linked to Michelle Thomson that arranged for her husband Peter to buy a flat in Edinburgh.

The sellers, Garry and Sandra Kelly, claim £32,000 was deducted from the purchase price of £105,000 to pay off a loan they say they never had. On Friday, this newspaper alerted Police Scotland’s financial crime unit to the transaction.

The transactions are now under police investigation and, earlier this week, Thomson stepped down from her role as the SNP’s business spokesperson and temporarily resigned from the whip. However, it appears that even if there were no illegality, the accounts from the people whose houses were bought by her company are damaging on their own. From today’s Sunday Mail:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 15 Comments

Does Scotland need Home Rule, or just to use the powers it has?

Siobhan Mathers, Scottish Liberal Democrat activist, former (and, I hope, future) parliamentary candidate and policy convener argues in today’s Sunday Times (£) that it’s time that Scotland got a full home rule settlement. She sets out what she means by that:

I will use the fiscal definition that Scotland under home rule should raise what it spends — self-sufficiency — and the sovereignty-focused philosophical definition of Steel: “The principle of home rule is different from devolution. Under home rule, sovereignty lies with the Scottish people and we decide when it is sensible to give powers to the centre on issues like foreign affairs and defence.”

She says that there is no point waiting for the UK to sort out a federal structure for itself because it’s just not going to happen any time soon and that it’s in Scotland’s “enlightened self interest” to pursue full home rule to see off the demand for independence:

It strikes me as an act of misguided altruism to wait for the constitutional laggards, our bedfellows in the UK. Yes, it would be nice to help sort everyone else’s problems in how they relate to the constitutional parents in London, but it is not a priority for many.

During an air emergency, passengers are advised to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others. I would argue that Scotland’s relationship with Westminster is at such an emergency point and we need to pursue enlightened self-interest by focusing on our own problems first.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 13 Comments

Do not abandon us


Of the three Unionist parties, it has fallen to the Liberal Democrats to save encircled Scots fending off the militant hard leftists of the SNP frontline infantry. The Conservative and Unionist Party is useless in Scotland, and the once-paternal Labour Party has gone from noble guardian angel to patronising champagne socialist to near-death this May. Unionists have a ramshackle current incarnation: one MP per Unionist Party. SNP high command could not have believed their luck in May by not getting the grand slam all Scottish seats landslide; with three MPs, one from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats, the “bad things come in sets of three” mantra writes itself. The plan now must be to prove that the Union cannot work. “Look, the only three Unionists cannot even work together, they’re so tribal,” the SNP will no doubt say in the coming months. Political POWs actually make for better propaganda than a full landslide massacre.

The Liberal Democrats are now destined for a faceoff with the SNP. The Tories had ruined themselves in Scotland years ago. Labour morphed into the “Red Tory” Party. Now, the Liberal Democrats are the only brand left.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

In full: Willie’s story

We gave you the preview yesterday, now here’s the whole thing. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have finally found some production values in a very well produced Party Political Broadcast:

The transcript is below:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Preview: Scottish Liberal Democrats Broadcast: Willie Rennie’s story

Scottish Liberal Democrat party broadcasts have previously been in the, shall we say, Blake’s 7 school of production values. That’s not to say that there wasn’t great content, but it came across as homely.

Well, all that’s changed with the new broadcast being aired tonight.

Here’s a tiny snippet. You’ll be able to watch it on tv and on here later.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Willie Rennie on “dark, secretive” Better Together and “despicable” Cameron

Willie Rennie has gone to town on the Better Together pro-UK campaign in an interview for the Sunday Herald. He described it as “dark” and “secretive.”

Labour had a dark campaigning style. It was very secretive. Everything would be last minute. You would never be told much about what was going on until it happened. We all suffered. The Tories and ourselves suffered more, but some in Labour were out of the loop as well.”

You mean an inner circle ran everything? “Yes. It was Blair and Rob . People like that were making decisions and had this addiction to secrecy.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

The Borders railway is a massive Liberal Democrat achievement – why are we not shouting it from the rooftops?

This weekend the first journeys take place on the new Borders railway. Originally shut in 1969 under the Beeching cuts, it was rebuilt thanks to the Scottish Liberal Democrats in Government. Trains will now run again on a 30 mile stretch from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank.

It was Liberal Democrat transport ministers Tavish Scott and Nicol Stephen before him, who fought the battles within the Scottish Executive on this against Labour’s distinct lack of enthusiasm.  In fact, one of their MSPs tried to wreck the project by putting an amendment for it to only go as far as Midlothian but that was defeated. Special Adviser at the time Sam Ghibaldan has been talking on Facebook about the fight the Liberal Democrats had to get the project up and running:

I’m really delighted the Borders Railway is up and running. When the Lib Dems were in the Scottish government we had to battle to get the Borders Railway through against Labour and civil service opposition. One particular incident that sticks in my mind is being told by the then head of the transport division (shortly after the railway had been included in the 2003 coalition agreement), that that made no difference as the project was not one of the agreed transport priorities. Which it turned out had been set pre devolution….

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 16 Comments

Jim Hume MSP: SNP risks making GPs an exclusive service that many can’t access

I was interested to see this report in today’s Scotsman which featured Labour and the SNP slugging it out over cuts to GP training posts. People are finding it more and more difficult to get an early appointment with their GPs. You would think that the service that is the most common way for us to access the NHS would be better funded, but primary care now accounts for just 7.8% of healthcare funding, down from 9.8% in 2011.

It is causing a fairly massive amount of concern. You’d think that they’d want to discuss it in Parliament.

Oh wait – they did, but the Scotsman didn’t feel the need to talk about the debate initiated by Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume just yesterday afternoon.

Jim warned that the failure to recruit and train sufficient GPs risked the service becoming inaccessible to many people. He cited a survey carried out by the Scottish Liberal Democrats which showed that 4 in 10 respondents found their workload unmanageable and a third would choose a different career path.  An SNP MSP typically intervened to blame Westminster for increasing contributions to public sector pensions. In fact, it was day to day work concerns that upset GPs most:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Willie Rennie: Lib Dems are for aspirational Scots with a social conscience

In a speech to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Aberdeen yesterday, Willie Rennie claimed the radical centre ground for the Liberal Democrats, talking about Labour and the SNP fighting it out on the left, while the Conservatives move further to the right. He outlined a position that championed social justice while making sure that we lived within our means.

Willie now finds himself as the oldest political leader in Scotland at just 47 years old. Nicola Sturgeon is 46, Ruth Davidson 36, Patrick Harvie 42 and Kezia Dugdale 33. It’s certainly different from when I was growing up when most political leaders were in their 50s and 60s and the President of the USA was in his 70s.

The challenges for the Scottish Liberal Democrats are obvious. Standing firm in our own space and talking in a unique way about our issues is very important in post-coalition Scotland. I say standing firm, and not finding our own space as we have always been a radical centre ground party which champions individual freedom. Willie looks back to Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Russell Johnston, David Steel and Charles Kennedy as liberal inspiration.

There’s an interesting turn of phrase about our years in government:

There are some things I would soon forget about our time in government but our decision to put country before party for economic recovery is not one of them.

He then goes on to talk about the good things we did in Government and indeed the changes in SNP policy that his own parliamentary group of just 5 MSPs have driven.

Here is Willie’s speech in full:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

Christine Jardine selected to fight Aberdeenshire East for Holyrood election

Christine jardineChristine Jardine put up one hell of a fight against Alex Salmond in the Gordon constituency this year. She got 1500 more votes than Malcolm Bruce had 5 years earlier and is in a very clear second place to challenge the SNP in the future.

She has now been selected to fight the Aberdeenshire East constituency in May next year for the Scottish Parliament.

The Ellon Times has the story:

A delighted Christine said: “Its very humbling to know that people are prepared to put their faith in you. I had a lot of support in the general election – 19,030 votes – and, while it’s clear we have a lot of work to do, I know those people, and the many others who have joined the party, are looking to us to repair the health service, improve education and protect jobs.

I am determined that the next Scottish Government will give us here in the North East a better deal on health, education, housing and more.

I’m a Liberal. I believe politics is not about nations or states it’s about people, about individuals and should always put them first.

Nobody should have to travel to another town to find a GP, or to the central belt for an operation or wonder if their child will have a teacher when the term resumes.

Those are the things I want to change. That I will work to change and I will ask the electorate to help by making me their next MSP.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Willie Rennie backs all women shortlists

Willie Rennie has announced that he supports the use of all women shortlists and quotas to improve the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ appalling record on gender balance. He is to lead a group which will draw up specific proposals for the 2019 European, 2020 Westminster and 2021 Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Party looked on in shock when members in the North East did not place highly effective Justice Spokesperson at the top of the list when it was selected at the end of last year. Since then, and particularly following the General Election, there have been strong calls for much stronger action on gender balance. Willie has consulted widely within the party and he announced his plans at the Scottish Party’s and Scottish Liberal Democrat Women’s Everyday Sexism Open Mic event in Edinburgh yesterday.

The Working Group to be led by Willie will consider all options including:

•         All women shortlists

•         Making gender a part of the party’s electoral strategy

•         Quota systems

Willie said:

I have lost patience with the current system and its inability to ensure proper representation of women.  It is now time to take the necessary action to deliver change.

A fresh start for the Liberal Democrats requires us to change.  We need to be more reflective of the people we seek to represent and to perform at our best we need to deploy our best people to make the case for our cause.

Despite an abundance of talented women the party has been unable to put enough in positions to get elected.   It is difficult to make the case for opportunity for everyone when only one of our parliamentarians is a woman.

Twenty years ago my party agreed in the Constitutional Convention to work towards a gender balance in our Scottish Parliamentary representation. Yet since the Scottish Parliament was created we have elected no more than two women at the four elections to Holyrood.   I determined to finally deliver the commitment made to the Constitutional Convention.

Encouragement and organisational support is simply insufficient to overcome the barriers to electing women.

That is why I will lead a working group to finalise proposals to put to the Spring Conference of the Scottish Liberal Democrats that will break down those barriers and increase the representation of women Liberal Democrats in Parliament.

It is my intention that the new arrangements will be in place for the European Election in 2019 and will also apply to the 2020 General Election and 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 57 Comments

LibLink: Jim Hume MSP: Out of sight, out of mind? Why the SNP need to get serious on mental health

Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume has been writing on the Scottish Liberal Democrat website about the crisis in mental health care in Scotland, where they haven’t had a Norman Lamb in power transforming mental health provision.

In Scotland during the last 5 years, over 4000 people were treated outside their own health board. Jim says that’s not good enough:

Despite the number of patients being discharged from psychiatric hospitals in Scotland falling dramatically in the past decade, hundreds of patients are still facing being treated away from their families and communities.

There will always be some patients who need to be sent to specialist clinics outside of their health board for treatment. But it is clear that mental health units across the country are struggling to cope with demand on their services.

We know that sending patients out of area can isolate them from their support networks, including friends, families and their community care team.

The life-changing nature of such a move means it could also have implications for the civil liberties of an indidividual – which must be considered under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (ScotlandAct 2003.

It can be detrimental to a persons recovery.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

How to Beat the SNP


I don’t know when the SNP will be toppled, but I am confident it will happen eventually. I also seriously doubt people will flock en masse back to Labour, a party that took Scotland for granted for years and, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve the return of unwavering support. There will be a gap that we could perceivably fill, but we have to earn the right of that space, not make Labour’s mistake of taking it as a given.

Here are some things I have been trying to keep in mind over the past few months talking to SNP voters:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 70 Comments

Jim Hume MSP: Scottish mental health units ‘struggling to cope’

From the Scotsman today:

More than 4,000 patients have been sent for mental health treatment outside their health board area in the past five years, according to latest figures.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures through parliamentary questions, have warned that mental health units across Scotland are struggling to cope with demand.

The figures show that, in 2013-14, a total of 799 patients were discharged from a psychiatric hospital in a different area from where they live. This compares with 793 in 2012-13 and 855 the year before that.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 4 Comments

“Opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind.” Willie Rennie’s liberal values for today’s Scotland

On Sunday night, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made a speech in St John’s Church in Edinburgh. He talked about his vision of liberalism and what it means for today’s world. He looked at the consistency of liberal values in practice through the ages and quoted Charles Kennedy on finding the way forward from the history books.

There’s nothing particularly new in there, and I’m not sure about this “militant for the reasonable person” phrase. Reasonable, is, after all, a very subjective phrase. I’m sure Nigel Farage thinks he’s being reasonable, but generally liberals find what he says deeply unpleasant. Nor am I sure about militant. Maybe that’s because I remember the Labour lefties in the 1980s. We liberals are passionate, certainly, but militant? I’m not so sure. I prefer his summary of liberal values – opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind. Those are very consistent themes for him and he’s been talking about them ever since he became leader. What he now needs to do is show how these values underpin all our policy ideas.

I also liked the bit where he praised the Church’s strong support for equal marriage, saying that they had shown that tolerance, faith and love were “comfortable allies.”

He also talks about how he and Tim Farron come from similar backgrounds and have similar perspectives on liberalism. He ended with a list of things that his small team had done. What he needs to add when he does that is to say how these have actually persuaded or provoked changes in SNP government policy. It’s not a bad record for a small team of 5 MSPs out of 129.

Here’s his speech in full. What do you think?

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Rennie tackles Justice Secretary on allegations that Police Scotland spied illegally on journalists

Today’s Sunday Herald reports that Police Scotland has illegally spied on journalists to try to identify their sources, citing the Interception of Communication Commissioner’s Office:

However, IOCCO last month revealed that two unnamed forces had breached the revised Code since March 25.

It said: “Two police forces have acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources in two investigations without obtaining judicial approval.

“These breaches were identified during our inspections. In these cases the normal RIPA process was used and the data was approved by a designated person.”

In one of the cases, a force acquired the data of a newspaper’s suspected source and of a former police employee believed to be acting as an intermediary.

Willie Rennie has been quick to seek answers from the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson. He wrote:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

Opinion: My problem with Scotland’s “Named Person” plan

The other day I commented on a Facebook post about areas we share with the SNP, mentioning my concerns about the SNPs plans for every child in Scotland to have a “named person” who is their point of contact with the social services. Caron Lindsay mentioned that Euan Davidson had written for this site in support of the measures, and invited me to post a response. I made sure I had the facts right (some of which I had to be corrected on but didn’t change my overall view) and got started. To the best of my understanding, the named person would be someone the child could contact if they had a problem that they needed confidential help from. It could also be to obtain information on subjects that may be either too sensitive or too awkward to discuss with parents. I agree with what is trying to be achieved here, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. Here is why.

On May 15th 2015, I finished my final secondary school exam. I was finished school. I was an adult? I would never have a teacher again. Lecturers, sure, but I would never again be in the situation where I would have to ask someone if I was allowed to go to the bathroom. Some of my teachers I would miss more than others because I had grown to trust them enough to act in the same way around them as I would around my friends. Some teachers I still showed restraint around, as if I was an employee of theirs. You would think that my guidance teacher, whom I was supposed to approach with any problems, would belong to the first category. This was far from the case.
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

LIbLink: Willie Rennie: We need the facts on the M9 tragedy

Ten days ago, a small blue car crashed just off the M9 near Stirling. A call was made to the Police reporting the incident. Nothing was done for three days. The driver of the car, John Yuill, was already dead. His partner, Lamara Bell was still alive but, sadly, she too died on Sunday.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is one of the MSPs for the area. He has called for a comprehensive and wide-ranging enquiry to which all police staff should be free to contribute without fear of repercussions. He is concerned at attempts by the Chief Constable to pre-judge the existing smaller scale enquiry. Sir Stephen House apologised for Police Scotland’s failures but made it sound as though the fault was down to an individual. That seems to me to be grossly unfair to a member of staff. We know that pressure on staff has increased as control rooms have been closed and we need to look properly at the impact that these measures have had on staff wellbeing and their ability to provide the service we need from them. 

Posted in LibLink and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

Alistair Carmichael wants Orkney and Shetland to control their share of the Crown Estates

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TAlistair Carmichael has tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill which would devolve control of the Crown Estates revenues to local level for Orkney and Shetland and, interestingly, the Western Isles. The Independent has the story:

Mr Carmichael said that the SNP administration is “in practice and instinct a highly centralised government” and did not want “devolution downwards”. Under his plan, the islands would have their own commissioners deciding how Crown Estate land is run.

He added that the Crown Estate owns and manages the seabed, which is of great importance to islands that rely heavily on the fishing industry, with salmon and trout farms. Mr Carmichael said these farms have to pay a percentage of their turnover to lease these areas, which is “a tax by any other name”.

This should present a challenge to Angus Brendan McNeil, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar which includes the Outer Hebrides, because he should support the extra revenue for his local community. He won’t, of course, because the SNP likes to keep everything nice and centralised in Holyrood. Even if he violently disagreed with their policy, he would be forbidden from criticising it in public thanks to particularly draconian standing orders by which nationalist MPs have to abide.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

Opinion: In defence of the Scottish Government’s plan for named persons for every child

I am writing this article after becoming increasingly frustrated at the tone and level of debate with which many people in our party are subjecting the Scottish Children and Young People’s bill and in particular the provision for a “named person” for every child.

Many of you will be asking what a “named person” is. If you choose to listen to the Daily Mail, the Christian institute and an assortment of other hysterical social conservatives this represents the introduction of state sponsored guardians whose mission in life is to spy on families and enforce political correctness. However I choose not to listen to these groups. I choose to listen to the countless social workers, teachers, child protections professionals, youth workers and other professionals who are backing this legislation.

What this legislation actually does is provide for a single point of contact for every young person from the ages of zero to eighteen so if ever that young person requires support from services or a welfare issue is raised by professionals, these organisations are operating in tandem rather than working in isolation. This will operate in a similar manner as health visitors supporting mothers and infants. For the vast majority of young people the named person will be a midwife then a health visitor followed by their primary school headteacher and finally their secondary guidance teacher.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Willie Rennie and Greens’ Patrick Harvie support launch of Open Rights Group Scotland

WR  at ORG Scotland LaunchScottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and Greens’ co-convener Patrick Harvie both attended the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland yesterday. Immediately after First Minister’s Questions, they gathered in a smoke-filled Garden lobby (the cafe was having an indoor barbecue to celebrate the start of the Summer holidays) to talk to journalists and pose for photographs.

As the SNP Government ramps up its plans for a National ID database that’s more powerful and intrusive than anything Labour ever came up with, and as Edinburgh plans to integrate all its CCTV systems, there is a lot for the digital rights organisation to do.

Willie Rennie said:

The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed dramatically since the digital revolution.

But government and politicians have responded at a snail’s pace and have failed to ensure the rights of citizens, consumers, journalists, businesses and children are protected online.

I am delighted to be part of the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland. It will help drive digital rights up the agenda in Scotland so that we can build a fairer society which enshrines civil liberties in every part of our lives.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 6 Comments

A row with a Labour MP and a wonky crystal ball

Facebook is now giving you more reason to waste time on it by reminding you what you posted on this day in previous years. I’m mostly enjoying it. A random bit of cheek from the much missed Andrew Reeves made me laugh and cry yesterday. Today I was reminded about a post on my own blog from five years ago.

Tom Harris, then MP for Glasgow South had been whinging something chronic about the (then) new IPSA, the body which administers parliamentary expenses, set up in the wake of the scandal. I wrote a post in response which said, basically: Tom, you have a point, but this is how public services generally treat ordinary, often vulnerable people. I then went off on one giving many examples of such horrors.

There might be some who take a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing MPs being treated like that. I’m not one of them, although I have no objection to them having to provide documentary evidence of things. You try claiming benefits or tax credits without providing supporting documents and see how far you get. Most MPs, as I have repeatedly said, are good people – but then so are most people who deal with the Department of Work and Pensions, the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs – and nobody should have to put up with poor systems and bad service.

One thing IPSA hasn’t done yet is lost any confidential data, unlike HMRC under Labour where the details of Child Benefit claimants went missing.

I do have a slight concern about the way in which one MP spoke to the IPSA officials (apparently interns, who have no power in the organisation) when asked to file his children’s birth certificates:

It is not yet known whether the IPSA official in question is even physically capable of performing the act the MP then requested of him, or even if it is legal within the United Kingdom.

.I wonder if this is a bit of poetic licence on Tom’s part but if a benefit or tax credit claimant had spoken to a Government official like that, they would have suffered some fairly severe consequences and perhaps been denied service, however understandable the grievance. I also think Tom would be the first to stand up and defend the relevant Government agency in that instance.

Tom was none too pleased and took me to task in the comments:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 25th Nov - 12:02pm
    It is truly depressing Geoffrey. I have been reading posts on here hoping to find comments from wise heads like your own but too often,...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 25th Nov - 11:56am
    I will say the same here that I said on Labour List about Labours 5 Tests - such tests are usually an excuse to do...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 25th Nov - 11:55am
    The quotation is only attributed to Einstein. It is unlikely that he would have said anything that so conflicts with practical experience. Think of a...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 25th Nov - 11:40am
    I could not disagree more if I tried. All this whataboutery is irrelevent, the Islamist coalition has laid down the gauntlet to the West &...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 25th Nov - 11:20am
    Sorry, Erika.. We have a 500 word limit on comments. Would you like to turn it into an article for the site?
  • User AvatarErika Bell 25th Nov - 11:11am
    I have a lot to say on this subject. Just spent half an hour writing a response but sadly it is "too long". I will...