Tag Archives: snp

Scots need hope for a progressive United Kingdom

Boris Johnson has clearly demonstrated this week that he is a severe threat to Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom. Liberal Democrats need to consider any strategy which can give Scots a vision of a progressive United Kingdom freed from Boris Johnson’s “leadership”.

This is a speech I intended to deliver at Scottish conference last month, and I dearly hope this course can be seriously considered and deployed in good time to positively affect our performance in elections next May.

“I am deeply worried about Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. I see polls showing support for Independence at 58%. I see within those polls that younger generations support Independence at a rate close to 4 to 1.

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A sensible strategy for the Scottish election

The Liberal Democrats should be able to prosper mightily in the Scottish parliamentary election on 6th May. But only if we stop attacking the SNP.

The SNP are unassailable. They are riding at over 55 per cent in the opinion polls, boosted by Nicola Sturgeon’s impressive performance in the Covid-19 emergency. And by next spring, they will be able to surf the wave of anger over Brexit and the expected surge in unemployment.

The Nationalists will blame the Johnson government for all the problems and the lack of resources to tackle them. In that they are quite right and it would be counter-productive for the Lib Dems to take a different tack. It’s misleading and dishonest to suggest the Scottish government can fix our schools and hospitals, and the potholes in the roads, with the austerity budgets they’ve been given by Westminster. Yes, the SNP could put up taxes to raise more funds but not by a significant amount.

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All is not well in the SNP

Next year, the Scottish Parliament elections take place. Nicola Sturgeon’s minority SNP Government’s record will be up for the judgement of the electorate.  The SNP has been in power now for 13 years. The children who were done over by the exams fiasco up here have had their entire education with the SNP in charge. And, as 16 year olds have the vote in Scottish Parliament elections, they will have the chance to make their voices known.

Scotland’s public services are failing, local government is being undermined and underfunded and it’s hard to think of anything major that the SNP has done that has been as positively transformative as free personal care, land reform, free eye and dental checks and STV for local government introduced by the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition which governed for the first 8 years of devolution. And it’s the Liberal Democrats who were the driving force behind those reforms.

Nicola Sturgeon is getting a lot of credit for the way she has handled the Coronavirus crisis. Certainly her communications have been a lot clearer than the UK Government’s but she has faced the same issues in care homes. Willie Rennie highlighted lack of testing for new care home residents early on and, eventually, she had to change course. We have had a more cautious approach to the easing of lockdown up here, but I get the sense that people don’t really understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Conversations with parents of school age children set alarm bells ringing for me. Our schools have been back for two weeks. I’ve heard several accounts of there  being a few kids off with coughs at several schools. Their families didn’t seem to be self-isolating or getting tested, though…. You would think that one would be a no-brainer, but the message that the whole household should self isolate for 14 days unless there is a negative test result does not seem to be getting through.

Aside from the challenges of defending its record and managing the pandemic, the SNP has its own internal problems and divisions. They used to be, at least in public, suspiciously united. Any disagreements were kept private. Now there are fault lines between those who favour a more gradualist approach to independence and those who basically want to do a Catalonia, between those who favour a more progressive and equalities centred agenda and those who think feminism has gone too far and those who think that Alex Salmond’s behaviour towards women has been unacceptable and those who think that he is the innocent victim of a feminist conspiracy theory. The party’s internal civil war on transgender rights is a symptom of a much wider schism.

Two programmes this week are well worth your attention. Kirsty Wark’s BBC documentary on the trial of Alex Salmond is shocking and infuriating. The outcome of the trial did not really get the attention it deserved as it ended on the day that lockdown was announced. While no guilty verdicts were recorded on any of the charges, the evidence highlighted behaviour towards women in a professional environment that was at the very least questionable. On Tuesday journalist Dani Garavelli took a look at the history of the deepening divisions within the SNP in a programme for Radio 4, Scotland’s Uncivil War

Unsurprisingly, both women have been subject to abuse on social media for daring to investigate. And the abuse they have taken is nothing compared to what the women who actually complained about Salmond’s behaviour are getting. Garavelli mentions within her programme how some nationalists called for her to face criminal proceedings. Politicians calling for journalists to be prosecuted is not a good look. On Twitter, a couple of days after her programme was broadcast Garavelli spoke out about some of the criticism she had received:

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LibLink – Christine Jardine SNP’s policies on education have failed to make the grade

It’s been a hugely stressful week for thousands of Scottish teenagers and their parents.

They did not receive the results they were expecting for their HIgher exams after marks submitted by their teachers were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This has disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Willie Rennie supported pupil protests against the system used by the SQA.

Pupils who have worked hard for months have been marked down because of how previous students performed at their school. This is grossly unfair as it reinforces the inequity that has been growing for years.

The Education Secretary and the SQA were warned for months that their moderation process would damage the prospects of pupils for life. It’s no surprise that so many young people are out protesting. They feel as if their grades and their futures are being robbed by the SNP.

We can only hope that the appeals system is robust enough to deal with the tsunami of appeals heading its away. The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand and the Scottish Government must ensure teachers have the time they need to fully support the many appeals that will be required.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon apologised and today Education Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

But the problems in Scottish education go much deeper than this fiasco. Christine Jardine used her weekly Scotsman column to highlight how pupils leaving school this year have had their entire education under SNP Government – and the system is mired with problems with schools, colleges and universities.

International reports show Scottish education plummeting down the league tables which compare our schools with those abroad.

That proud boast that ours was the finest education in the world now seems empty, and out-dated.
Certainly for those at the chalk face it has long ceased to be the case, replaced by the reality that too many of our young people leave school functionally illiterate and the past few years have been to endure rather than enjoy.

Many of those who graduated from our universities this year are the same young people whose school years were disrupted by being the first to sit the new National 5 exams. Their teachers had to deliver a curriculum which was not only untried and untested but, by common consent, largely chaotic and stressful for all.

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The Scottish constitutional question

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The constitutional question has dominated Scottish Politics for years and shows little sign of going away. It’s something the Liberal Democrats should have total strength on – we have been interested in where power does and should lie for decades. Decentralisation in a system of cross-national cooperative government is in our DNA.

However, this period of constitutional obsession and wrangling has done little to support our party. Many across the UK may feel a similar sense of exhaustion talking about Brexit that we feel in Scotland about independence, except we have been doing it for nearly 10 years, not just the last 4.

It is for this reason that many in the Scottish Liberal Democrats feel tired and done with talking about the SNP, wishing that we would take a different stance to our pro-UK position. This often comes with the accusation that we risk looking like Tory-lite and we must talk about federalism as an alternative – a proposal that no Liberal Democrat I have ever met disagrees with. However, we also run the risk then of looking to be insufficiently pro-UK, or that we have qualifications to our support of the UK, which is unacceptable to the majority of our base or floating voters and risks alienating us from the Scottish electorate even further. 5 MSPs and 4 MPs are better than none.

However, both of these suggestions miss the point. Brexit and Scottish Independence are symptoms of a much larger problem. Those that would vote for these, come what may, are far from the majority of the Scottish or UK population. Focusing on the constitutional wrangling of the UK does not address that so many people vote for these because they feel they have nothing to lose, in an economic system of stagnant wages, few opportunities, an ageing working population lowering the promotional opportunities for them to advance. A housing market has allowed house prices and rents to rise for the majority of property owners, but priced out the young and low income earners from saving and buying a home of their own.

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Liberal Democrats – the Interdependence Party

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One of the things I like about our Party is our willingness to bounce ideas off one another.

On a Zoom meeting of our local party Exec this evening, once the formal business was out-the-way, we socialised over an optional drink. This was no epic drinking session of lore in the making, to be sung-about to our as-yet unspawned grandchildren, but a glass was nonetheless raised.

The frustrations of campaigning in Scotland, where the national dialogue is no longer Left vs Right, but Unionism vs Nationalism, came to the fore. In this common parlance, Liberalism doesn’t get much of a look-in. You might as well try to talk to people in the street about Confucianism.

Ask people why they voted SNP in their local council election, and they’ll go glassy-eyed and start bandying around words such as ‘Independence’ and ‘Freedom’, meanwhile their bins go unemptied. Even on a national scale, failings in Education and Health get brushed aside for this snake-oil cure for all ills, this panacea that is Independence. How exactly this constitutional change is supposed to improve their lives… well, let’s just say the detail starts to get a bit thin.

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The crude reality of independence and the renewal of federalism

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Hopefully come 2021 we will be in a position to hold elections again, which must mean a return of focus to our message in Scotland. What’s our message and why is it both unique and important for the people of Scotland?

In 1992, James Carville was a strategist in the successful Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters that read:

  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don’t forget health care

We know fine well where both the SNP and Conservatives stand in their message going into next year’s election, it’s a straight fight between IndyRef2 and Unionism. The Scottish Liberal Democrats can cut through all that white noise by sticking to Carville’s sign.

In 2014, independence campaigners failed because they couldn’t produce a clear and credible economic narrative. I find little evidence to suggest that narrative has found new ground, in fact quite the opposite. There is a crude reality for IndyRef2 supporters and it’s the price of crude oil.

In 2014 the price of crude oil was over $110 per barrel and was the economic basis for the ‘White Paper for Scotland’. At the beginning of this year that price fell by a half and then stabilised at roughly $60 per barrel; the industry itself survived on a round of deep cost cutting and slashing employment in the North Sea on a large scale.

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Weaker for Scotland!

In 2015 while an election agent in my hometown of Inverclyde, I watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP swept the board with one clear simple mantra: Stronger for Scotland. Five years on from that election and thirteen years into SNP government that’s simply untrue. The SNP have been weak, ineffective and downright scandalous in it’s handling of affairs in Scotland.

I’ve sat by and watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government receive praise from their supporters for it’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The reality is it’s been an absolute disaster and this slopey shouldered, pass-the-buck attitude of ‘Well we did a bit better than the Tories’ is just simply not good enough.

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Christine Jardine challenges SNP to back People’s Vote

As everybody from Gary Lineker to the Independent is now backing the People’s Vote campaign for  a referendum on the final Brexit deal – which started out as a Lib Dem idea in the Summer two years ago – there is one notable exception.

The SNP is the third largest party in Parliament. It could make the difference. Yet it continues to sit on its hands on this most important question.

Nicola Sturgeon could have used her meeting with Theresa May to say that the SNP will block the deal and push for a People’s Vote, but she didn’t. It was all …

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SNP stunt kills off chance of devolution debate

Well, I suppose a bit of drama at PMQs brightens up the day, but what exactly was the point of the SNP’s mass walkout and their leader depriving himself of a vote as one of the most crucial pieces of legislation ever to go through the Commons. Not only that, but he had an application in for an emergency debate on the devolution related issues that everyone except the Scottish Tories are livid about. That fell because he was no longer allowed to be there. Presumably the SNP decided that a walkout would get them more attention on the news than a 3 hour debate. It did, but when this news cycle is over, what have they actually achieved? The square root of bugger all, to be honest.

At the heart of all the fuss is the issue of what happens to powers that were enacted by the EU when/if we leave. There is no agreement between the two governments about what should come to Westminster and what should come to Holyrood. The Scottish people don’t seem to give two hoots either way, to be honest. However, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large majority (everyone except the Tories) for the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill rather than give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. This means that the two Governments are not in agreement and the Tories think that the way to resolve that is for Westminster just to dictate what happens. That is simply not acceptable.

However, there isn’t likely to be a settlement that satisfies the SNP. Their prime motivation is to drive as many wedges as they can between the two Parliaments. The clue is in their name. Everything they do is about trying to get independence.

So today, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, had a justified go at May at PMQs and then pulled one of the biggest diversionary Parliamentary stunts in the book – moving a procedural motion for Parliament to sit in private. That would have meant that the public galleries would have been emptied and that the broadcast would have been stopped, but only if MPs had voted for it. Speaker John Bercow decided to flambe the situation rather than calm it down. He was all over the place on the procedure. First of all he said that the vote should happen straight away. Then he said he was minded to have it at the end of PMQs. Then he gave the SNP a choice. They all said they wanted it there and then and he insisted it would happen later. If he had just held the vote in the middle of PMQs, the SNP would have lost it and normal service would have been restored. Instead, Bercow went over the top and threw Blackford out. I know I’m always saying that Bercow should be throwing people out, but not like this. I meant the people who jeer and behave like toddlers.

The result was that Bercow’s dithering gave the SNP much bigger headlines than they were expecting. The Speaker isn’t usually so ignorant of procedure. You might be forgiven for thinking that he knew exactly what he was doing. He certainly seemed quite chuffed with himself.

But this excitement will die down. And we’ll be no further forward.

Tim Farron has form for this sort of stuff and he thought they’d made a mistake:

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Actually, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP could help win a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon was on the Peston show today talking about various aspects of Brexit. One thing struck me when she was pressed on the issue of a People’s vote of the Brexit deal. She said that the SNP won’t be the block to that but if there was to be another EU referendum, the big question for Scotland would be what would happen if we got the same outcome, where Scotland voted to remain and Wales and England voted to leave.

To be honest, I think it would be so much better if the SNP threw their massive campaigning energy behind securing a vote that means we can all stay in the EU. I reckon we could do a lot better than the 62-38 result. To be honest, the SNP sat the last one out. Our local SNP didn’t do much because they said they were tired after the Scottish elections.  It was the Lib Dems who ran the street stalls and did all the work.

It is unlike the SNP to be tired. For three years up to the Independence referendum in 2014 they were everywhere. They campaigned their hearts out. For the last month of the campaign, you couldn’t go to the shops to buy your rolls in the morning without seeing a posse with saltires and Yes leaflets. In that referendum, there was an 84.6% turnout. In the EU referendum, only 67% of people voted.

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Willie Rennie to hold talks with SNP over support for Brexit deal referendum

The quest to build a case for an “exit from Brexit” referendum continues. In his speech to the Bournemouth Conference, Willie Rennie said he would be trying to work with the SNP to build support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign for an “exit from Brexit” referendum.

He wrote to the First Minister and she has agreed that this merits discussion.

Willie will now meet the Scottish Government Minister Mike Russell for talks on this issue. He welcomed this invitation:

This is a welcome step forward from the Scottish Government and shows that there is support from across the political spectrum for a clear approach to Brexit that gives the British people a final say.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have shown support for our campaign to give the public the final say but this can only be achieved if parties are willing to work together to protect the UK’s relationship with the EU. I know that there are colleagues across all UK parties who support this position and I urge them to join this movement and build the momentum further.

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The SNP and the Tories are using the same playbook to delegitimise opposition and checks on their power

There has been a very unfortunate trend in recent years of those in power condemning anyone who stands in their way. We all remember the failure of the Conservative Justice Secretary Liz Truss to stand up for the Supreme Court judges who upheld the law after the “enemies of the people” headline. However, that wasn’t the first time the judiciary had come under such attack. Back in 2011, Alex Salmond insulted Lord Hope, a judge who had found the Scottish Government to be wanting on human rights. As I wrote at the time:

Peter Cadder, whose case sparked the SNP’s casual quadrupling of pre-charge detention time in an afternoon last year, won his human rights case because, then a teenager, he had not had access to a lawyer before a police interrogation that led to his conviction for assault.  Now, to me, it seems eminently reasonable that people should have access to lawyers. A system that does not allow that is flawed. Rather than slag off judges and court judgements, surely the Scottish Justice Department would be better off comparing Scots law with European human rights law and sorting out where there could be problems. You could argue this should have been done years ago.

Alex Salmond is pandering to a Daily Fail type agenda with is comments and he needs to catch himself on.

The Tories and the right wing press are playing from the same playbook with their “saboteurs” and “enemies of the people” narrative as if they alone are the true diviners of the will of the people as if that is as immovable as Mount Everest. There’s a certain irony about those who claim to be all about enacting the will of the people zealously ensuring that the people don’t get a chance to mark their homework.

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats

A couple of years ago, the SNP was planning to make this super ID database which made what Labour’s planned ID cards from 2008 look positively timid. They intended allowing 120 public bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Quality Meat Scotland, access to the NHS Central Register.

Alison McInnes, our then Justice spokesperson was on it straight away, as was Willie Rennie and made such a big fuss that the idea has now firmly been consigned to the dustbin.

Following parliamentary questions from Liam McArthur, our new Justice Spokesperson, the Scottish Government admitted that it had “decided it would not …

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Rennie calls on SNP to back Lib Dem efforts on Brexit deal referendum

The Scottish Government consults on all sorts of important things. At the moment, it’s consulting on expanding early learning and childcare in Scotland and on the best way to empower teachers. What could possibly be more important than that?

How predictable. I don’t expect the SNP to give up on their quest for independence, but do they really have to give it the top billing? The SNP take comfort from a poll which shows support for independence still pretty much where it was at the referendum – but ignore that more than 50% of those asked really don’t want to do it all over again.

In the aftermath of the EU Referendum, it seemed like Nicola Sturgeon was building a pretty big tent to try to find a way forward for Scotland. Sadly, though, it seems that the SNP are unable to find a road that doesn’t lead to independence whereas the Lib Dems are focused on keeping Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU. If the SNP were to work with us, then we might well have the parliamentary numbers to ensure a key part of that – a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Willie Rennie called on them to do just that today:

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Nothing of public interest in lurid headlines about SNP MPs

Pick up any newspaper today, particularly the Scottish ones, and you’ll find a whole load of froth about two SNP MPs who have apparently had relationships, not at the same time, with the same woman. Both MPs have separated from their wives, most recently Deputy Leader Stewart Hosie from Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison at the weekend.

Those events will be particularly traumatic for the people involved and most especially for their children. I can’t however, see why it is any of our business. If either of them had shown hypocrisy and sought to curb others’ personal freedom, then perhaps calling them out for that would be relevant. Where is the public interest in this?

Much of the reporting is sensationalised and, more importantly, misogynistic on all sorts of levels. The woman concerned is cast as the “home wrecker” and extensive scrutiny is made of her blogs she has written which are simply not relevant. Nor is it appropriate to compare with the SNP MPs who have had to resign the whip and sit as independents. They have had to do because of various allegations of financial misconduct which are being investigated, not their personal lives

We really don’t need to know all of this stuff, and I wish editors would think about the effects of their articles on everyone affected. It’s hard enough for kids to come to terms with parents’ separation without their schoolmates hearing all sorts of lurid, unverifiable speculation. Maybe people who buy these papers and enjoy reading these stories should ask themselves how they would feel if it was their child going through it. We need to remember that behind each wild headline are lots of people having a really hard time. Our demand for such coverage makes their lives worse and it’s not necessary.

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WATCH: Alex Cole-Hamilton on tax, education, glaciers and the SNP’s “magic tractor”

This week, Edinburgh Western candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton took part in a debate on Scotland 2016 on tax.

Here are his highlights. I think my favourite was the “magic tractor.”

Scotland 2016 Tax Debate

Last night Alex Cole-Hamilton took part in the Scotland 2016 Tax Debate. If you missed it – catch the highlights below, including John Swinney's magic money tractor and our plan for education:

Posted by Scottish Liberal Democrats on Wednesday, 6 April 2016

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Willie Rennie stands up for Scottish farmers let down by the SNP’s CAP payments failure

Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. We know that Willie has had his issues with farm animals recently.  I know it’s kind of hard to stop laughing, but try for a second, because this is important.

Before Willie had even set foot in that city farm yesterday, he’d been standing up for farmers across Scotland. As we told you earlier this week, the SNP has totally failed on delivering payments to farmers on time. This has caused our farmers tremendous difficulty. To add insult to injury, apparently whacking rates of interest will be charged on the emergency loans farmers were given by the Scottish Government. Tavish Scott highlighted this the other day. Willie made it clear in yesterday’s Press and Journal that the SNP Government should be compensating farmers for its failures:

Speaking on his visit to Fife, which came after the Press and Journal revealed farmers could be charged extortionate interest rates on state loans they have only received because of the CAP payment bungle, Mr Rennie said: “Farmers should not be footing the bill for SNP incompetence.

“Liberal Democrats will guarantee to increase the resources deployed in advance of the future rounds of CAP payments to ensure there is no repeat of the shambles we have seen this year.

“We will also establish an immediate restitution scheme to compensate farmers who incurred extra banking costs because of the delay in their CAP payment.

“That is the right, fair thing to do.”

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Tavish Scott slams SNP’s “slap in the face” to Scottish farmers

You really could not make it up. Farmers have been struggling for months because of delays in getting their CAP payments to them. For months the failures of an £178 million IT system have stopped farmers being paid, causing them serious cash flow issues.

The SNP Government, after too long, issued them with emergency cash advances.

If those advances turn out to be more than the payment they were due, it has now emerged that farmers will have just 7 days to repay the difference or be charged a whopping rate of interest.

Given that they are in the mess …

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Katy Gordon compares Lib Dem & SNP tax plans: “SNP fiddle at margins, Lib Dems choose to make Scotland great again”

Katy GordonYesterday the SNP revealed their tax plans for Scotland. They were, to be honest, the plans of a Government that’s cosy with being the Establishment, not of an insurgent movement wanting to bring change.  You’d have thought, after all their moaning about the 50p rat being reduced to 45p, that they’d have put it straight back up but, no. Having said that you could argue that we could have done the same thing given that we were forced into it by the Tories in coalition in exchange for the raising of the tax threshold for the lowest paid. However, in our defence, our Scottish plans for a zero rate for the lowest paid will involve tax rises for the richest.

The SNP plans not to raise the higher rate tax threshold – but that’s it. Other than that they will keep tax rates where they are. They wanted powers but when they are given them, they choose to tinker around the edges rather than use them for good. The cuts they have lumped on local authorities make their assertion that they are anti austerity sound hollow.

Over at the Scottish Lib Dems’ website, Katy Gordon, our lead candidate for the West of Scotland,  has given her analysis of the SNP’s proposals compared to ours. 

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Lib Dems should be criticising SNP as well as Labour over failure to oppose Snoopers’ Charter

The Party has produced a couple of graphic quite rightly having a go at Labour over their abstention on the IP Bill.

Labour right to privacy

and

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Lib Dem MPs split 3 ways over Sunday Trading laws

Our band of 8 split 3 ways last night in the Sunday trading debate which saw the Government defeated. That is not actually as bad as it sounds. Alistair Carmichael quite rightly decided it was none of his business as it was relating to England and Wales only. The SNP voted against, presumably to distract attention of the London media from the disastrous figures which showed that the oil price would have an independent Scotland with a massive £15 billion deficit. Maybe that will make people realise the bullet we dodged when we voted against independence. I won’t hold my breath, though. The SNP seem to be on a mission to upset England, too. Their excuse was that they were protecting workers’ rights in Scotland, a spurious assertion given that shop workers don’t generally get paid more for working Sundays, which are not restricted here. And if they were that bothered about workers’ rights, surely Nicola Sturgeon wouldn’t be quite as snarky with Willie Rennie when he brings up working conditions at Amazon. Let’s not forget that SNP cuts to local government are going to mean thousands of council workers losing their jobs, too.

A cynic might think that they were actively creating such antipathy towards them in the hope that it would encourage England to vote to leave the EU, even though they are in favour of and are campaigning for a Remain vote. It’s like when they said they wanted Ed Miliband as PM last year but told everyone in England and Wales to vote for the Greens and Plaid.

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How could David Cameron keep a straight face?

So, David Cameron accuses the SNP of being a one-party state and says the Conservatives are the people to stop them. The BBC reports:

Only the Tories can challenge the SNP and prevent Scotland becoming a “one party state”, David Cameron has said.

In a speech to the Scottish Conservative conference, the prime minister insisted his party was the only one that could challenge the Nationalists.

How he said that with a straight face, I’ll never know. These comments come from the man who is doing his damnedest to stitch up the political system for himself. He blocks any attempts at electoral reform. He changes the rules the boundaries with the result that his party has an advantage. He does everything he can to avoid parliamentary scrutiny, limiting the power of the Lords and Scottish MPs. The changes he pushed for on electoral registration mean that a million fewer people can vote. Then there’s the denial of the vote to 16 year olds at every level and trying to limit opposition funds through the Trade Union Bill.

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SNP’s Council Tax reform: timid, unfair and ill-thought through

Back in December, the Local Tax Commission in Scotland published its report which looked at various ways of raising local taxes. Political parties were urged to bring forward their own proposals. Scottish Conference had a consultation on a well-researched and thorough document. An indicative vote at the end favoured a progressive, fair property and land based tax, which, if formally adopted, would replace our proposal for a local income tax.

The basic principles that you would expect from a local tax is that it’s fair, progressive and takes into account the ability to pay. I have to say I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a property tax, although I can see the arguments for taxing property as opposed to income.  The proposals outlined in the Scottish Lib Dems’ policy document do mean that those in the least valuable properties paying significantly less.

The SNP announced their preferred solution yesterday. They have the choice of so many new powers and all they did was tinker at the edges, putting up the rate for the four highest bands.  Is this really the best they can come up with, embedding the inherent unfairness of the Council Tax yet further?

Let’s look at my street as an example. Under the SNP’s plan, a professional couple in a band D house earning two substantial incomes would pay no more yet a family in a slightly larger property up the street with one worker on a much lower income would pay more. That doesn’t make sense. There has to be a way to deal with that sort of anomaly.

Secondly, the Council Tax is based on property values that, by 2021, will be 30 years old. This is not the fundamental reform that the SNP promised. 

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: SNP obduracy on using tax powers shows party is no champion of progressive politics

Willie Rennie’s ambition for better education and health services in Scotland has been clear and so has his ambition to use the tax raising powers given to the Scottish Parliament. His plan for a penny on income tax for an almost half billion investment in education to introduce the Pupil Premium, extend nursery education and reverse cuts to college and schools funding.

The SNP, having squealed blue murder for years about not having enough powers to do anything, fails to use them when they are given them.

Willie often says these days that the SNP “talk left and walk right” and he has written a damning critique of the SNP’s approach in the Herald.

As it was a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State who delivered these new tax powers, it is perhaps not surprising that we were the first to propose using them to transform education in Scotland. By putting a penny for education onto income tax bands, we would raise £475 million a year.

Willie’s proposals have brought outrage from SNP and Tories alike. Finance Minister John Swinney said he would rather sacrifice public sector jobs (which in turn affects the most vulnerable) than raise tax rates. The Resolution Foundation says a tax rise is progressive. Willie challenges the SNP:

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Yes campaigner who said No voters were bad parents announced as SNP list candidate for Holyrood election

Lloyd Quinan was an SNP MSP from 1999-2003. Since then, he’s left the SNP, flirted with the Socialists and caused controversy during last year’s independence referendum when he said that No voters were bad parents. From the Huffington Post:

Lloyd Quinan, who served as a MSP between 1999 and 2003 told a meeting in North Berwick on 9 June that the Scottish people “have an opportunity to change the lives and life chances of our children for he future”.

He added: “I will be partisan about it, if you vote ‘No’ you leave them with more of the same, then you’re a bad parent.”

Quinan quit the SNP after losing his seat in the Scottish parliament and was then briefly a member of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), before quitting that party too in 2005.

A spokesperson for Alex Salmond told The Herald: “Abuse has no place in the referendum campaign, whether from Yes or No supporters. Lloyd Quinan is not a member of the SNP – and indeed hasn’t been for over a decade.”

Note how quick the SNP were to distance themselves from him.  Nothing to do with us, they said.

Except, just 14 months later, he has gained approval as a parliamentary candidate for the SNP for next year’s Holyrood elections. So, they are quite happy to put up someone in my region who thinks that I and the majority of people who voted against independence are bad parents. Ok, so he’s 9th on the list so he has virtually no chance of getting elected, but that’s not the point. It’s his acceptance into the fold so soon after he expressed those views. We can’t even put that down to local mavericks. We know that the SNP has a deeply centralising candidate approval system. Remember when they rejected Craig Murray for being too much of a free spirit? They must have known of his comments yet chose to approve him anyway. 

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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:

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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.

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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.

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SNP Scottish Parliament selections – 2 MSPs deselected so far as Salmond endorses one challenger

The SNP is currently choosing its candidates for the Scottish Parliament. Like the Liberal Democrats, they allow challenges of sitting parliamentarians. Two MSPs have been deselected so far. Of greatest interest to Liberal Democrat fortunes is the deselection of Colin Keir in Edinburgh Western. The seat will now be fought by Toni Giulani who had the backing of former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond. In our party it would simply not be permitted for a senior, powerful party figure to take such an influential public stance in a selection.

SNP parliamentarians already have a fairly draconian disciplinary code to obey. They are not allowed to publicly criticise any decisions of the group and have had very few rebels in parliamentary votes. Their MSPs are, on the whole, pretty compliant. When two of them voted against the party’s new position on NATO in a vote at their conference, they resigned from the party. It now seems that if their faces don’t fit, key players will contribute to your demise.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is our candidate in Edinburgh Western. He also tops the party’s Lothian regional list. Although we lost Mike Crockart in Edinburgh West in May, the SNP’s margin of victory was comparatively small, our West campaign organisation is pretty strong and the SNP have given up any benefits of incumbency. 

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