Monthly Archives: October 2015

Book Review: Project Fear by Joe Pike

Project Fear: Joe Pike

Project Fear: Joe Pike

Project Fear: How An Unlikely Alliance Left A Kingdom United But A Country Divided

Author: Joe Pike

£12.99, Biteback Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-84954-931-8

For anyone involved in the Yes campaign, Joe Pike’s examination of the inside works of the No campaign is required, if uncomfortable reading. It’s a book in two parts. The first part deals with the referendum itself, the creation of Better Together and the subsequent campaign. Alistair Darlings acquisition of the post of head of Better Together apparently came after a round of political hot potatoes; no one wanted the gig so it was left to Darling to take it forward. The author, a reporter to trade with good connections at the very heart of the No campaign, then details the next two years of Better Togethers operations, where they seemed to lurch from one mishap to another.

As a Yes campaigner I found some of the events differed from my recollection, and it is interesting to see how the same situation was viewed from the other camp. This was particularly notable in the chapter “Not Tonight, Darling” which deals in considerable detail with the two-legged debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling. Setting the scene, the author mentions Yes protestors outside Kelvingrove and there were a few, as I recall. The most memorable though was an African Better Together protestor exhorting those entering the hall to “Vote No for Jesus!” As someone who attended the debate and found myself seated next to a Northern Irish No voter and a Scottish No voter I would also have to disagree with the view that the audience were biased in favour of the Yes campaign. In the first debate Alex Salmond was shambolic. I think he would probably agree. Towards the end of that debate those audience members of a No persuasion found their voice and rounded on him with their cries of “Answer the question!” but it was too late in the debate and not pressed home fully. To be fair Alistair Darling had surprised everyone, his coaching staff included. Kelvingrove was a different beast and with the No campaigners having set the tone for audience participation the Yes campaigners took the baton and ran with it from the off. As soon as Darling began to rehash his previous debate it elicited loud and derisive laughter from the Yes campaigners. My view at the time was that there weren’t that many of us, but the difference was that we were more vocal, and kept up our attacks on Darling throughout the debate. My perception was that the Yes members in the audience had punched above our weight in relation to crowd numbers. The No campaign perceived the selection process to have been flawed, leading Darling to curse “The Fucking BBC”.

Of particular interest is the creation of “The Vow”, the No side’s infamous Daily Record driven Purdah defying last ditch effort to swing the vote back in their favour after throwing away a thirty point lead. What seems to seep through at every turn is just how inept and uncoordinated Better Together were internally and how internally fractured they were for much of the campaign, the book taking its title from one well publicised gaffe.

If part one of the book is hard reading for its obviously unwelcome outcome, part two is the proverbial happy ending, examining Labours implosion in the wake of the referendum and their historic Scottish wipeout at the Westminster 2015 election. Johann Lamont may have been a disaster for Labour’s Scottish Branch, but she appeared to have a far sounder grasp of their problems than her short lived successor Jim Murphy; when her General Secretary was sacked by London she is reported to have told them that “If you think the fucking problem with Scottish politics is who our General Secretary is, you have a lot to understand.”

With Johann Lamont out of the way the remainder of the book charts the downfall of both Jim Murphy and Labour, a tsunami of which there were plenty of signs of, but which no one wanted to believe was possible, right up until the early hours of May 8th.

This remarkably candid account of two campaigns and a revolution in Scottish politics is far removed from the usual puff piece analysis written by politicians to make them look good, and you have to occasionally remind yourself that this is real life and not a particularly foul mouthed account of a day in the life of Malcolm Tucker. The book is in the main even handed in its assessments and there are some clear lessons to be learned from it, lessons that by the look of things the Scottish Branch of Labour are still unwilling to learn.

My view: the queue to get in to Kelvingrove for the 2nd round of the Big Debate

My view: the queue to get in to Kelvingrove for the 2nd round of the Big Debate

The Debate Hall: A second hand set...

The Debate Hall: A second hand set…

Cycling and Road Safety

Letter published in The National, 22/10/15

Letter to The National

Letter to The National

Dear Sir, 

Sustrans research (Poll Finds Demand For Rise In Bike Fund, 21/10/15) which shows that people across the UK believe that more money should be invested in safer cycling is to be welcomed. An expansion of the limited amount of on road cycle lanes would be a good start, but simply throwing money at the creation of physical infrastructure is not the only answer. Changes in road traffic laws and a focus on education are required and this should be done sooner rather than later. Like many people I am a car driver, a cyclist and a pedestrian. I regularly see bad driving, bad cycling and pedestrians putting themselves in dangerous situations while on the road. No one group of road users can claim the moral high ground, and to do so usually leads to pointless argument rather than sensible debate. As cyclists there are many things that we as individuals can do to try to ensure that we are as visible as possible on the roads. Riding sensibly wearing bright reflective clothing and decent lights do help, but having done all that we have to consider other factors outwith our control. Most car drivers are considerate but there are those who pass cyclists and pedestrians at great speed and with very little clearance. Serious consideration must be given to a the creation of a “rolling speed limit” of, for discussions sake, 30 miles per hour around cyclists or people walking on roads with no pavements. On roads with higher speed limits if a vehicle driver could not give a whole two metres of clearance to a cyclist or pedestrian then they should reduce their speed to the rolling speed limit while passing until they are clear of them. As a regular walker and cyclist I can testify that being passed by a vehicle hammering along a country road at 60mph is extremely unpleasant and completely unnecessary. We need to educate people that 60mph on a country road is a limit, not a target. Creating a safe space around vulnerable road users would be a good start.

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

Vote Tory: Just Don’t Come Running To Me If You Break Your Leg…

Letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser: 19/10/15 (Published 21/10/15)

Letters Page, Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Letters Page, Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I was almost sympathetic to the plight of Airdrie and Shotts Conservative and Unionist candidate Eric Holford which he detailed in a letter last week. Having travelled to England to attend the Tory conference he was allegedly subjected to some name calling by protestors. Perhaps he would prefer it if we were to follow his example and only issue insults by keyboard on social media, where he brands supporters of independence as “Nicola’s Clowns”. Perhaps he should ask himself what has motivated these people to travel from far and wide to vent their anger in person. It could be that the media acts as a filter and that they feel their message is not getting through to the government. I agree with him that it is unlikely that these protestors will make him change his mind about the present Tory UK government’s changes to the benefits system or ‘cuts’ as the rest of the country would call them. As I said previously, I was almost sympathetic to Mr Holford, until he stated that he held up Ian Duncan Smith as a hero. Mr Duncan Smith is to welfare reform what King Herod was to babysitting; more psychotic than heroic in my opinion.

Mr Duncan Smith has overseen a system where around 90 people a month die shortly after being classed as fit to work. Mr Holford would have us believe that by somehow removing the benefits from disabled people they will magically find jobs which will give them money and self respect. Instead they are being left with no jobs and no benefits either. Fantastic institutions such as Remploy, which employed disabled people and people with learning difficulties who would often have found major difficulty in obtaining mainstream employment, have been closed down and their employees thrown on the scrapheap. Is this the policy of a heroic individual? To me it’s anything but.

The Conservative and Unionist Party have recently been making a lot of noise about how they are the only party still firmly supporting the union, and this will be a major selling point of theirs in the 2016 Holyrood elections. But to vote for Mr Holford or his party solely on the basis that they wave the union flag is a grave mistake. Tory poster girl Ruth Davidson says that she wants to scrap free prescriptions. Mr Holfords personal views on the NHS are available on social media. I get the impression he supports a freeze on NHS funding so as to create a real terms cut to funding, for has clearly said that the NHS should be subject to austerity until Britain’s debts are paid. He also stated that the more we spend on the NHS, the more peoples lives are extended, and the more survivors there are the more those people cost to care for. There is a real danger that Mr Holford could be an MSP next year, and with views like that people must seriously consider if he or his party are fit to be anywhere near government. If you have any concerns about you or your family’s long term health and wellbeing, you should bear that in mind before voting Tory. And if after that you do vote Tory, when the cuts come, and they will, please don’t complain. It’s what you signed up for.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy,

Scotland and the EU

Letter to The National, 14/10/15

Dear Sir,  

George Kerevan (National, Monday 12th October) greatly emphasised that Scotland remaining part of the EU was right and correct when he put forward the case for the UK (and if possible an independent Scotland) remaining in the EU. He then highlighted what he felt was wrong with the EU, and how to fix those faults. The EU is no more a self critical reformer than Westminster is, and the many faults it has are unlikely to be solved from within, especially when you examine its track record, and its conduct during the independence referendum where it was no friend to the Scottish interest cannot be overlooked either. Over recent weeks and months we have heard that Scotland’s railways cannot be publicly owned, that Caledonian MacBrayne must be run by the private sector and that part of Scottish Water must be handed to a company who are run for the benefit of shareholders and not the nation. In each and every case EU legislation has been cited as the reason these actions have been taken. One might think that the only way to defeat such legislation and start with a clean slate would be to leave the EU, and this is a tempting prospect, for while membership opens the door to trade it closes the door on public ownership of national assets for the national interest.

The idea that Scotland will vote differently from the rest of the UK to trigger another independence referendum is an interesting one, but one that will ask many Scots perhaps to deny their instincts and vote to stay in the EU when they feel Scotland would be better off outside it. It would be doubly sickening if having done so the other countries in the UK also voted to stay in the EU. This would mean that within three years Scots would have voted to remain both in the UK and the EU. Where then for independence? 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

 

 

Cap In Hand

Letter To The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 11/10/15

Airdrie and coatbridge Advertiser, 07/10/15

Airdrie and coatbridge Advertiser, 07/10/15

Dear Sir, 

If I say something which is patently false over and over does that make it true? This seems to be Anti-Scottish Labours latest tactic, and seems to be working as well as the previous ones, and by that I mean it can easily be disproved by any reasonably intelligent adult within a few minutes.

Ursula Craigs letter in last weeks Advertiser made the claim that because the current Scottish Government had a £350 Million budgetary underspend in the last financial year they are somehow withholding money from areas where it is needed to exaggerate the effects of austerity so that Westminster can be blamed. One of the problems in trying to run a country which voted not to stand on its own two feet in the world is that finances are “pooled and shared” and without real tax raising powers there’s little that can be done to change things. Our wealth goes south to Westminster and we get a bit of it (not all of it mind) back to spend as we see fit. 

Imagine if you will that the Scottish Government managed to budget right down to the last penny. What reserves would it have to deal with emergencies? Where would the money come from if there is an exceptionally severe winter and the country grinds to a halt because the grit has run out and there is no cash to procure more? Where would the cash come from if there was a medical emergency which required the purchase of a huge amount of vaccine? Where would the money come from if Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems teamed up to force through a major construction project in our capital city, only to mismanage it to such an extent it needed someone to bail it out? Would people be happy if the Scottish Government had to go cap in hand to Westminster saying “We’ve spent our allowance, please Sir, can we have some more?” Because that is exactly what would happen if every last penny was spent. The Scottish Government, no matter which party controls it, cannot borrow money as other countries do. It cannot create or raise taxes as other countries do. It can simply cut and reallocate its pocket money. 

In it’s time in power Labour managed to create a peak budgetary underspend of around £718 million pounds; that’s over twice the amount of cash that the SNP have in reserve. In fact a smaller underspend indicates that the SNP Scottish Government are squeezing more out of the budget and making sure that more money makes its way to where it is needed than the previous Labour dominated administrations did. Which is why it’s a bit rich to see so called political heavyweights like Jackie Baillie talking mince on this subject to any media outlet which will carry her words. This is the same Jackie Baillie who complained that the Scottish Government would have no money for emergencies “in case Orkney sank”. Only last year was she herself reported to have claimed a whole fifth of the total annual expenses of all other MSPs COMBINED for food and drink for hosting meetings. It would perhaps be more fitting if Ms Baillie stopped talking Scotland down and at the same time reined in her own out of control spending. She campaigned for a pocket money parliament, it’s time she started pulling her weight to make it work. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

 

SNP FAIL TO BACK AIRDRIE MOTION

Why would the local SNP group totally abstain on this? I can understand Labour voting against it, but the people’s party?

Councillor Alan Beveridge

Last Thursday at the full council meeting I proposed that the money given by Boots  following the closure of the factory in 2004 be spent for regeneration purposes in Airdrie and not distributed as it is just now throughout North Lanarkshire.

Background to this motion, following the closure of the factory Boots gave 3.7 million pounds to mitigate for the loss of jobs in the area and to promote regeneration. NLC established Fusion Assets at that time, together with a further million pound from Scottish Enterprise.  Fusion Assets didn’t do much till 2010 following managerial issues. However Fusion are now involved in Speculative Developing throughout North Lanarkshire. It is my assertion that this investment would be better spent in and for the residents of Airdrie and its immediate area.

My motion was defeated, basically the ruling labour group  voted against it, independent councillors voted in favour of it. I was disappointed, and cannot understand…

View original post 13 more words

Letter to SNP National Secretary: 02/10/15

Dear Mr Grady,

In your letter of 02/09/15 you acknowledged my Data Protection request and stated that you would respond within the prescribed timescales.

I am aware that a subject data request must be dealt with within 40 days; however my letter was not a subject data request, but a complaint about a possible Data Protection breach. As such I am unaware of any prescribed timetable in which a complaint should be dealt with, indeed the Data Protection Act website states “it is very hard to say in advance how long each (investigation) will take”.

I do hope that you can update me as soon as possible about your progress, and that I am not being made wait 40 days and 40 nights before being deigned with your next response.

Yours,

James Cassidy