Monday, 10 April 2017

Scoland Info Ashcroft Poll - Leadership

Saturday, 8 April 2017

That Was The Week That Was.

Aye, so - it's been quite a week really. A week of contrasts starkly highlighting the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, or rather the Tory ruling elite and the right wing press led mob of the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon has been in America, making common purpose on climate change with California and helping further expose Trumps disastrous attitude to global warming, concluding trade deals to help economic growth and foster relationships with the US, showing real quality and world leadership in addressing the UN, highlighting our values and explaining Scotland's commitment to giving voice to women oppressed by war and politics globally, raising her profile talking to Women In The World on what it means to be a woman leader in politics and raising our profile by not avoiding talking about Scottish independence but also not making it the core principle of the visit. At the same time across Europe and the wider world people, people with clout and influence, people we may not know much about in our right wing, metrocentric, EU phobic, Empire 2.0 UK bubble are standing up and speaking out in positive terms about Scotland and our potential as an independent nation, as prospective members of the EU community, of our potential to begin to re-calibrate some, just some, of the issues affecting the politics of today with its popular shift to more right wing agenda.

The UK this week has also seen its politicians fly off to far flung corners of the world, meeting leaders of nations and commerce. But my, what a contrast. What a glaring insight into the post Brexit future Great Britain holds for us all if we fail to grasp independence by the throat this time. Arms deals with brutal regimes made increasingly crucial with Theresa May yet again in Saudia Arabia  touting smart bombs to the house of Faud for not so smart situations, Liam Fox sprouting about 'shared values' with The Philippines and its president Rodrigo Duterte, a man who incites the population to kill drug addicts and says he has killed 'suspected criminals'. Philip Hammond has been playing the old 'commonwealth card' in India.

Our very own Fluffy too has been dispatched to the far East, temporarily released from his mission of talking down Scotland's economy and potential and talking up why Nicola Sturgeon should take Indyref2 off the table, he has this week been off to sunnier climes where he was tasked to sell the strengths of the UK's oil and gas industry to those who might not realise that its Scotland's oil and gas industry he is talking about.

Meanwhile in Scotland our home grown Tories of every hue have been hard at work fomenting trouble and foaming at the mooth as economic figures reported saw a small shrinkage in GDP. Call of 'crisis' and 'recession' have been added to ' get on with the day job' and 'crisis in education' and 'what about our failing NHS', although notably not one of the 'opposition' parties has yet come out with any kind of suggestion as to how any of these SNPbad disasters should be tackled. Perhaps that's because where action is actually needed and can be taken measures are already in place and where the responsibility is reserved to Westminster the hypocrisy would be hard to conceal even with a compliant MSM. Still, they do love a soundbite.

And talking of soundbites up popped Michael Howard to suggest Gibraltar would be treated like the Falklands. Talk about how to win friends and influence people...

Of course this is classic Tory smoke and mirror diversion tactics. I don't for a minute think he really was suggesting that the UK would fight to defend Gibraltar 'sovereignty' but my goodness didn't the Uk media take it and run with it wall to wall for days, like Anglo-Saxon hooligans threatening to stage a maritime Agincourt against Johnny Foreigners who question London’s control of Europe’s premier low-tax gambling den and narcotics’ entrepôt. And that just when lots of negative comment was coming about keeping Scotland in its box, The Great Repeal Bill, from the EU about the credibility of the UK stance on negotiations and doing trade deals at the same time as conducting exit talks as well as criticism from at home about ignoring Scotland's position on Brexit. Brittania Rules The Waves Coincidence anyone?

And to crown it off this week has been the launch of this wonderful, compassionate piece of legislation.

Tellingly our First Minister brought this to the attention of Women In The World this way

This has been just some of Scotland this week. Scotland visible in the world and in its media. Scotland somehow a bit more bold and more confident in her skin. Scotland led not just by a politician but by a woman of vision, strength, humanity and character. Scotland increasingly atractive to the world. Scotland looking to be a signpost in the world for a different way, not just a weather vane turning in the wind looking to whore herself with despicable allies for a trade deal here and an arms deal there.

I wonder what next week will bring?

The real reason for the attack on Syria yesterday

Labour should stop indulging its Scottish party and broker a progressive alliance with the SNP

Labour could not have played its cards worse when it comes to Scotland. Years of neglect and complacency were accelerated by the decision to line up with the Tories in the 2014 independence referendum. This was the final straw. The party suddenly and dramatically saw its vote fall off the cliff. Labour's working-class base had a new home to go to - the Scottish National Party. By pitching independence against social justice Labour has made a terrible mistake.

In one sense what the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) does is up to them. But a small and diminishing tail is wagging the UK Labour dog when it comes to talking to the SNP. It can’t go on.

The argument trotted out by Labour in Scotland for decades was that the only way to stop the Tories and get a more progressive society was by voting Labour. Thirteen years of New Labour tested the second half of that offer almost to destruction. Nowhere near enough progress was made and by 2010 the Tories were back – thus fatally undermining the first half of the promise.

Exactly what the difference is in principle between UK nationalism and Scottish nationalism is beyond me. How can support for one patriotism trump another? And independence for Scotland was never about cultural nationalism but democratic nationalism – the right and ability to control your country. When you’ve decided that its impossible to control your country, to make it socially just, while it is tied to whims of the Mail, Murdoch and now May – then the step to independence is a but a small one. Add in Brexit and the prospect of a return to Europe – then what exactly is not to like? For many in Scotland independence and social justice now go hand in hand.

Now on the wrong side of not just the SNP but a myriad of civil society groups who carry the torch of hope in their country, the SLP looks like a rump of angry people who demand that the UK Party must never speak to the SNP. No surrender indeed! Meanwhile they look set to lose every council they run in May - not least Glasgow – with the SNP itching to open the books up on decades of council contracts. At the moment the SLP is fighting it out with the Greens for who is fourth in the polls. Having painted themselves into a corner, they stand holding the brush – furious with everyone who looks on.

For as long as Scotland is part of the union, it is manifestly obvious that Labour in Westminster must talk to the SNP. To believe Labour can revive from its dire polling position, boundary changes, Brexit splits and ever hope to be in government given the loss of its Scottish base stretches the imagination to breaking point.

Now there are two arguments spat back when you suggest this. The first is that the SNP politicians aren’t progressive, so we shouldn’t deal with them. The evidence on that is flimsy to say the least. Of course the SNP can do more - and needs to - on issues of public service delivery. It is handy having the excuse of being tethered to London – "if only we were free".  But that can’t be a block on talks that can defeat the Tories – who the SNP have vowed never to work with. Anyway, Labour should be looking to strip away the SNP excuses for any failure – not reinforce them by denying the only route to taking the Tories out. A progressive alliance committed to proportional representation would, at a stroke, end the prospect of Tory majority rule.

The second objection is that fear of the SNP frightens the English horses. We all remember the posters of Ed Miliband in the pocket of Alex Salmond at the last election. Yes it’s a problem – but it’s not going to go away whether we talk to the SNP or not. Last time Labour dealt with it by saying they would never go into government with the SNP. Well, that worked. Voters didn’t believe it and it shed even more votes north of the border.

Labour has no option but to talk to the SNP as part of the now much vaunted progressive alliance. Many in the SNP want to talk to Labour, and the other progressive parties, as SNP MPs Tommy Sheppard and Anne McLaughlin argue in a new pamphlet, The Progressive Alliance: why the SNP needs it.

The SLP should calm down and have a deep think about re-orientating itself – being principally a pro-social justice party that is ambivalent about independence.

If I had a vote in Scotland, I would vote to take a chance and determine my nation's fate, rather than have it settled by the Tory Prime Minister Theresa May in a context set by Rupert Murdoch, the Daily Mail and the demands of the City of London. I would hope for a return to Europe. Looking from the outside, I want Scotland to be as successfully left wing as it can possibly be. Whether in or out the UK, we need a story of success.

If the SLP don't want to wake up and smell the coffee, then fine. But why should they be allowed to take everyone down with them? Labour and the SNP should talk about devolution, proportional representation, fighting bad Brexit and everything that by working together could make peoples lives better. Anything less is indulgence.

By Neal Lawson in The New Statesman

Scotland falls back into recession screams Unionist media

Cartoon by Chris Cairns.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Brexit is the total collapse of UK’s global influence

EVERY so often in some other country, someone we regard as a completely unhinged hard liner or populist political moron takes control and we find it both a little frightening and sometimes even a little funny. Remember Boris Yeltsin’s drunken dancing and brass band conducting; George W Bush-isms that must not be misunderestimated; Australia’s ex-PM Tony Abott’s excruciatingly embarrassing interview where he just stood nodding and refused to speak; or Trump’s glaikit look every time he has to read a speech that he doesn’t seem to understand and that often completely contradicts his recent tweets.

It can be funny, frightening, and in the UK’s case daft. Especially when you see people in the UK leadership team spouting militaristic nonsense, Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, hinting that Britain is ready to go to war to defend the sovereignty of Gibraltar, vowing to go “all the way” to protect their territory.

In the past we always managed to kid ourselves that it couldn’t happen here, that the UK is a stable democracy immune to populism and unstable and unhinged political leadership. That was a key component of the certainty offered by the Union. However I think people across these islands must question if the UK is now becoming an international joke?

Theresa May thinks it’s OK to answer serious questions about what type of Brexit she was aiming for by saying it will be a “red white and blue one”, or repeating robot-like “Now is not the time” when actually nobody was suggesting we have a referendum now.

There was also Andrea Leadsom’s “we can trade more internationally as the Japanese have a taste for traditional British goods like afternoon tea”; Boris Johnson likening French President Francois Hollande to a Second World War Nazi prison guard wanting to give the United Kingdom “punishment beatings” over Brexit; or his mixing up of Egypt and Turkey or ... well it’s like a pick-and-mix bag of insults and gaffes with Johnson.

The UK (excluding Scotland) seems to have decided to elect a whole leadership team that is dysfunctional and detached from reality. The impact of this is clearly seen in Whitehall officials publicly referring to the post-Brexit trade situation as Empire 2.0.

An unworkable nostalgic delusion that will put the UK on the back foot in all future trade talks, thus damaging international trade even more than would naturally happen when you take yourself out of the world’s largest single market with no motivation other than negative British nationalism.

Nigel Farage, although not part of the UK’s leadership, has done the most to set the current tone, recently referring to the EU as acting like the Mafia, simply for pointing out the UK has made spending commitments that need to be paid. The man is a dangerous embarrassment and the absolute epitome all that is going wrong with British culture, identity and hubris. Hubris indeed, that leads to stupid claims about military action.

During the EU referendum campaign I travelled the length and breadth of Scotland making the case for Remain. Something that really stood out in those debates was the constant references to the EU having its own army (it doesn’t) and claims that it wasn’t acceptable for the UK through the EU Common Defence Policy to be called upon to attack any aggressor to a fellow EU member. There is a similar clause in Nato membership – so let’s get this straight, if the UK were to attack Spain over Gibraltar it wouldn’t just be Spain the UK would be in conflict with but the whole of the EU and Nato. Not only that, through the UK’s current membership of the EU and Nato we would be required to attack ourselves – and I don’t think Boris Johnson’s constantly shooting himself in the foot counts.

Brexit is an attempt to “Make Britain Great Again” and to establish Empire 2.0 but it only took a few days after Article 50 was triggered for the UK to lose control of Gibraltar’s future. In time it will become obvious that the UK will have to beg for trade deals with major markets around the world, to make concession after concession and be a trade-rule taker not a trade-rule maker. All deals done with major powers will be worse that those we currently have with the EU or with others through the EU. Brexit is a capitulation of the UK’s global power, not a power grab.

I guess the absolute irony is that the delusion that “Great Britain is still a global trade and military power”, is about to be undone by Brexit.

If any hint of that impending reality has dawned on the UK Prime Minister then she will move heaven and earth to stop Scotland being given an option to chose a better, more progressive, international and egalitarian national culture than post-Brexit Britain can offer.

Not least since without Scotland, the UK’s balance of payments deficit would collapse the UK economy and Sterling would sink below the dollar without Scottish exports of food and drink and oil and gas. She will also know that the EU wants to end the UK’s financial passporting rights and that will rip up to 100,000 jobs out of London to the remaining EU states.

If Scotland’s independence referendum is announced before the Brexit negotiations complete, then the only bargaining chip Theresa May has to retain financial passporting, is offering access to Scottish fishing waters, and if Scotland is to become independent with an option to be fast tracked to full EU membership after a period of EFTA/EEA single market access (if we want it) then May will enter the Brexit negotiations empty handed while simultaneously facing ScotRef, where the economic certainty of the single market, and potentially hundreds of thousands of new jobs would be on offer to an independent Scotland.

By Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp in The National Newspaper

Monday, 3 April 2017

Labour lies and misdirection undermine credibility

The Scottish Labour Party’s central proposition at the moment is that we should accept Brexit and long-term Tory rule because these are simply distractions from key policy issues we aren’t tackling properly in Scotland. They’ve hired a Daily Mail guy not just as a regular staffer, but to personally lead their case in the media. Like Eddie Barnes, another journo hired by the Tories to do exactly the same thing, the Labour Party Daily Mail guy is using his new job to improve his own public profile. So he puts out the stuff of his day job in his own name, like leaders do. A lot of his stuff naturally reflects his Daily Mail values. Yesterday, he used Twitter to flag a Scottish Daily Express headline which in turn seemed to justify Scottish Labour’s present concern about a Scottish education system apparently in such a parlous state that we should ignore literally everything else to fix it. The tweet’s below.
Inside, the report is headed; “SNP accused of ‘failing our children'”. The article references a new report on education delivery by Scotland’s local authorities, published by The Improvement Service and the accusation the article refers to comes from Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray.  The central feature of the Daily Express article is Gray telling us that the Improvement Service document shows that the Scottish Government is letting everyone down on Education in schools.
Well, here’s how the actual Improvement Service source document Iain Gray refers to summarises its report on educational progress in Scottish schools over the last six years:
“Despite real reductions in the education budget since 2010/11, the number of pre-school and primary places in Scotland has increased by over 30,000 and measures of educational outcome continue to show positive progress, particularly for children from the most deprived areas….the trend on senior phase attainment shows a very strong improving trend. Overall attainment (average tariff score) improved by around 14% but, within that, the most deprived pupils improved the most (25.5%)”. 
You can read the report and make your mind up for yourself. But the report categorically says that local authorities, schools and professionals across Scotland have done a fine job over the reported period. Pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools have all made considerable progress and most progress of all has been made in the education of children from more deprived backgrounds. All of this has been done against  a backdrop of difficult economic circumstances. By any standards, we should be proud of our schools and teachers.
What’s not in doubt is that early on in its time in UK government, The Labour Party radically increased expenditure on Education and Health, and this directly impacted upon the Scottish government’s budget and helped the Scottish government to prioritise it too.  Now that the Tories in UK government are slashing public spending as a matter of ideological priority, then all public expenditure is under continuous and extreme pressure across the UK.  Our education system in Scotland is doing well in spite of that. Would it do better without a Tory government slashing public expenditure across the board? Probably. But in the meantime, it’s quite clear that the Scottish government is funding education, in competition with other public services battling for public resources, well enough to ensure year-on-year improvement. And of course it’s equally clear that our educational professionals are doing us all proud.
It’s undeniable, then, that in this episode Scottish Labour and Iain Gray (Education spokesman, remember, not Finance) deliberately misdirected the Scottish public on schools performance through a cheap-crap piece in the Daily Express put up by the Daily Mail guy they’ve hired. And that’s literally the best they can do, because remember that this ‘educational mess’ they’ve made up is the reason they give for telling us to ignore Brexit and long-term Tory rule.
It’s not complicated. If you want cheap crap, misdirection and Tory values then you hire a Daily Mail guy who’ll likely go back there once he’s used the wee bit of profile to boost his future earning power. Disastrously for Labour, but bang-on for the Daily Mail and the Tories that paper supports, that cunning plan will also involve marginalising criticism of the ideological, public-expenditure slashing Tory government and instead actually being their support act on the dominant political issue of the day.
There are plenty of folk in Scottish Labour who think that neglecting a serious political critique in opposition and instead cosying up to the Tories is a terrible thing. And they know why this present effort at opposition is so dire. It’s  because Scottish Labour’s present leadership has made ultra-unionism – not Education, Health, the deprived or any other area of public policy – its signature feature.
The present Scottish Labour leadership’s obsession with supporting the Tory position on the constitution to the exclusion of all else is turning the Scottish Labour Party into just another mouthpiece of the Tory-supporting Daily Mail. There’s time to change yet; but not much.

Reblogged from 'From No To Yes' by Eric Joyce