Monthly Archives: February 2017

Yoon Outrage Tactic No 376: The Twitter Retiral

Former Better Together activist Claire Heuchan wrote one of the most inflammatory attacks against the Scottish independence movement in the wake of Sadiq Khan’s ill fated attempt to kick start Project Smear on behalf of Kezia Dugdale.

I her article in the Guardian she wrote “The relentlessness of nationalists’ need to distance Scotland from the rest of the UK on the grounds that we were not like them filled me with anything but hope. The message of difference, that it must lead to separation, forced me to question how people of colour and migrants fitted into their idea of Scottish society at a time when purism governed understanding of Scottish identity and belonging.”

Purism? That old “Blood and Soil” line pushed by Alistair Darling now being delivered again, though this time not by a white, middle aged suit. I’ll leave you to read the responses which eloquently and passionately dismantled her argument and showed it up for what it was, a bilious attempt to tar those who believe that Scotland should be like other normal countries and govern itself as racists.

Having suffered the mother of all big riddies, Claire has apparently had to retire from Twitter “for her own safety” according to ultra-unionist hack Guardian hack Severin Carrell. In reality she will be following in the footsteps of the likes of the Herald’s David Torrance, who pulled the same stunt a while back. It gives their media chums an easy headline attacking Vile Cybernats for little or no effort and can be relied upon to be referenced for years to come (if not at FMQ’s on Thursday).

In a week or so Ms Heuchan will be back on Twitter. By then the debate will have moved on and we’ll have forgotten that we never even knew who she was in the first place…

Letter to The National: When You Are In A Hole, Why Not Ask A Friend To Grab A Shovel…

wp-1488203899280.jpg
Letter to The National (27/02/17)
Dear Sir,
As someone who had tweeted my support to Sadiq Khan when he was enduring racist attitudes in his bid to become Mayor of London, I was utterly sickened by his ignorant attack on supporters of Scottish independence, branding them as no better than racists. He can’t claim to have been misquoted as his office no doubt supplied the text of his speech to the Daily Record in advance. His attempt to play down the row was utterly sickening too, where he stated that he was a proud Brit and a proud Londoner. This was reinforced by the increasingly desperate Kezia Dugdale who tried to play down his xenophobic comments by trying to compare racist hatred with having a different view on political policies. Here’s news for you Kezia: politics is divisive by its very nature. It requires you to pick a side. If you think that division is wrong, and that once defeated you should meekly accept that your opponent was right all along, then what on earth are you still doing in your job? You lost the last election and by your own ill thought out logic should have walked away, or joined the SNP because they won. Instead you are pocketing the cash while twisting this way and that, taking doublethink to previously unheard of levels.
Kezia is one of the worst type of Scot. She is the type who will not only talk Scotland down whenever she can, but will defend anyone outwith Scotland who does likewise, no matter how vile their comments. If she truly stood up for Scotland she would never have allowed Sadiq Khan to be fed such a bile laden script to read, but as it was no doubt created with her approval all it reveals is how much of a British nationalist she really is, and that’s where the doublethink kicks in. Because being a proud Brit is good and that’s where it ends. She’ll accept borders, if they are British borders, she’ll accept division, if it’s British division, and she’ll accept pride in one’s country, so long as that country is Britain. The one thing that she won’t accept is that Scots can take pride in their country, want it do well and have the balls to stand up, be counted and work to make that happen. Just because she and her cronies lack the vision and the self-belief to see that an independent Scotland could thrive doesn’t mean we should succumb to her petty, spirit sapping ideal of a neutered Scotland.
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidywp-1488306322362.jpg

Letter to The National: Labour Party Doublethink

Letter to The National (23/02/17)

Dear National,

Last weekend The Labour party (Scotland Branch) took to the streets of Airdrie to campaign against the recent rises in council tax which were imposed by the Scottish Government. Labour have been demanding an end to the council tax freeze since the SNP introduced it, except in the immediate run up to elections when they have flip-flopped and supported it just in case it cost them the election. In 2008 they helped to scupper the SNP minority governments Local Income Tax plan; now almost ten years later they are making the SNP’s failure to scrap the council tax a major thrust of their attack for the 2017 council elections, despite being instrumental in ensuring that didn’t happen.

The 2008 defeat for the SNP was a solid one and as we have come to expect, the unionist parties were strongly backed by the press and other media, meaning that any attempt to reintroduce a Local Income Tax would receive a hostile reception. The SNP in an attempt either at testing the waters for change or simply trying to be seen to do something formed the cross-party (sans Conservatives, who declined to contribute) Commission on Local Tax Reform in 2015, which was tasked to explore alternatives to the council tax. Part of their recommendations were to end the present system of council tax and to explore introducing an income based element alongside a property based element, however there were no hard and fast recommendations, and the report acknowledged that each party was liable to have a different answer to the problem. In the meantime, it recommended a transitional approach and acknowledged that a long term solution would not be done overnight. The recent end to the council tax freeze has possibly seen the first move towards that, with the higher rated bands (E-H) seeing rises of between £2 and £10 a week. That’s between 28p and £1.42 a day. Or if you are Labour that can be summarised as a 22% hike which will cost you £517 a year. Because what they are concentrating on is that top figure. Some council tax payers WILL pay an extra 22%, but I’m concerned that this is the only figure they’ll be using. Telling people on the doorstep that their council tax will rise by 28p a day doesn’t make people’s blood boil. Telling them that the Scottish Government is hiking their “council tax” by 22% (or £517) possibly will, even more so when you aren’t ascertaining if they are affected or not. According to Scottish Government statistics from 2011, 1% of householders in Scotland are in Band H homes which are valued (at 1991 rates) at over £212,001. For North Lanarkshire that was 120 homes, and unless there has been any great change, a spate of lottery wins for example, that figure isn’t going to be radically different, perhaps (and I’m being generous here) there are around 200 homes valued at over £212,001. That’s the reality. 1% of what may be broadly viewed as the wealthiest households will see a rise of £10 a week. Yet Labour are saying this figure so often that one might be mistaken for thinking that everyone is being hit with a 22% rise.

From the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 until 2007, Labour ran the Scottish Parliament. At the same time Labour were in charge at Westminster and controlled the majority of Scotland’s local authorities. In that time council tax rose year on year. In 2007 the average Band D council tax payer, on average income in a middle of the table house was paying 30% more council tax than they had in 1999, while some of the higher bands apparently saw as much as a 60% hike! We aren’t talking 120 homes here, we are talking about every council tax payer across the board, paying more every year to keep Labour local authorities in the manner to which they had become accustomed to. Had Labour remained in power that pattern of continual tax rises would have no doubt continued, hitting everyone, across the board, rich and poor alike. I’d say that a 22% rise after 10 years to 1% of council tax payers is pretty good going in comparison, and I wonder how Labour can complain about such a rise to the top rate, considering they spent years stating that the freeze only benefited the richest in society!

The term Doublethink was coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984, and it refers to the ability to hold and espouse two contradictory views at the same time. Scottish Labour are demanding that the general rate of income tax be raised for everyone in Scotland by 1p, while simultaneously complaining that the four highest council tax bands will see a rise of between 7.5% and 22%. So someone on a salary of about £30,000 a year would pay around than £4 a week (£208 a year) extra under its plan, and someone on the same wage as the First Minister would pay an extra £28 a week (£1,447 a year). So Labour are comfortable taking an extra £208 off someone earning about £30,000 a year, but are outraged if that same person has to pay an extra £2 on council tax? Or that someone earning £140,000 a year is paying an extra £10 a week council tax yet fail to mention that they would pay an extra £28 in income tax if Labour were in government? I wonder if their outrage is more at the fact that they see people not being squeezed for every last drop of cash they can get or if their outrage is because they simply aren’t in power and can’t effect change to the extent they would like.

Since losing power in Scotland, then in the UK, Labour have become the most petty of oppositions. While in Westminster they will happily support the Tories on many issues, or abstain when not wanting to appear to be openly supportive, they have no such trouble in Scotland. If the SNP propose it, we’ll oppose it is their mantra. Opposition for opposition’s sake is as bad as unrestrained majority government, and their opposition in 2008 to council tax reform killed off what was a real chance to radically change the system. Their hubris is a major stumbling block to reform, and if they could overcome that then it’s possible that we could see a more progressive and radical form of taxation introduced in Scotland. Unfortunately there appears to be no sign of that day coming any time soon, and it looks as though decoding Labour doublethink will be a necessity for some time to come.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Sound of Silence: Advertiser Embargo On McMafia Mentions Continues

A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of any in depth analysis of the Monklands McMafia affair in the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser. I was expecting a flood of letters of support from tame party hacks, along with an update on the protest which had been cobbled together. I thought it may be nice if the Advertiser had a letter with a differing viewpoint to balance things up. I was mystified to find no mention of it at all, anywhere in the pages of the paper, not even in their summary of social media comments. My letter is reproduced below.

With nominations closing on 29th March 2017 at 4pm, I’m fairly sure that this will drag on for a few weeks yet. By that time we’ll know if SNP HQ has stuck to their guns or have capitulated. If the former, it’ll be interesting to see if the deselected councillors stand as independents against the SNP, or swing behind the new candidates. were I at SNP HQ I’d certainly be looking to bring in candidates from outside the branch as it may be difficult to gain volunteers from a branch which has saw kind of treatment which lead to the resignation of Councillor Alan Beveridge and candidate Tommy Montgomery.

With rumours of more scandal to come involving the branch, an impending court case with Councillor Alan O’Brien, senior SNP figures trying to bring former SNP Councillors back into the fold and the little matter of an election for which the local party has no candidates, no strategy and increasingly no chance of winning, things are looking more interesting by the minute. Will the Advertiser cover it though? There’s the $50,000 question!

Dear Sir,
The article in last week’s Advertiser regarding the deselection of the husband and wife team of Councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle made no mention of why this situation came about, and from reading it one may have got the impression that this came out of the blue, which clearly isn’t the case. Two years of political infighting, with many allegations made to SNP HQ of bullying, cronyism and nepotism across Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill were summed up in a mere 29 words. The article made no mention of the numerous complaints made about the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray installed as SNP candidate for MP and saw Councillor Alan Beveridge resign in disgust. I am aware that there have been other complaints from many other now ex-members and the vetting process which led to the deselection of these councillors no doubt considered all these factors plus much more which obviously I am not privy to.
It was interesting to note that it was left to Graham Russell, the president of the constituency group, to speak on their behalf and that their council group leader David Stocks was silent on the matter. Another point which perhaps went unnoticed was that the emergency meeting of the branch mustered a mere 60 members out of a claimed membership of over 1100 people.  That’s only around 5% of their members. I’d imagine that I could probably get more disaffected members to sign a petition supporting headquarters decision than actually attended the branch meeting itself!
I’m glad that SNP HQ has finally addressed the issues raised by myself and others. It’s unfortunate that to have action taken many members had to resign, and they had to take their grievances to the press rather than have the SNP deal with them fairly and honestly. For my part, I have to say that I am utterly disappointed in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader. I contacted many people at SNP HQ regularly during and after the Westminster selection process debacle, and Nicola Sturgeon was copied into emails where possible and mailed by hand, directly to SNP HQ. My attempts to have this issue acknowledged on Twitter saw me blocked by her and for me this action in deselecting a few councillors is in some ways too little, too late, and she must share a huge portion of the blame for the shambles in North Lanarkshire. If she is to go any way towards redeeming herself she must take a far quicker, fairer and firmer grip on rogue branches. The demotion of Alex Neil, Michael Coyle and Agnes Coyle is a positive step in the right direction. I now hope that those decent members remaining in the Airdrie branch have the spirit to seize the day and show everyone that they want a fresh start, though they will need to rid themselves of the remnants of the old guard to do so. They can still salvage something from the wreckage if they have the will to, although this may be difficult as there is always the possibility that these deselected councillors will stand against the SNP themselves, as many Labour councillors are now doing against their own party in retribution for being deselected.
This begs the question: if councillors are deselected by their party and immediately stand against that party, where was their loyalty all along; to themselves or to their constituents?
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidy

Labours Council Tax Doublethink

Labour have demanded an end to the Council Tax freeze- now they complain that these are the wrong kind of rises...

Labour have demanded an end to the Council Tax freeze- now they complain that these are the wrong kind of rises…

Politicians lie and if you don’t believe me, ask Alistair Carmichael. We now expect it and are unsurprised by politicians having a distant relationship with the truth. Once upon a time it seemed that a small lie was enough to see a politician having to resign in disgrace. Nowadays even a £350 Million lie can be glossed over as merely part of the cut and thrust of the debate, after all if you are going to tell a lie, make it a big one, right? So in the age of fake news and the big lie, why should I be concerned over a mere £517? That’s less than two days bum warming in the House of Lords after all. It’s because last weekend in the lead up to the May 2017 council elections, The Labour party (Scotland Branch) took to the streets of Airdrie to campaign against recent rises in council tax which were imposed by the Scottish Government. But wait, I hear you cry! Haven’t Labour been demanding an end to the council tax freeze since the SNP introduced it? The answer is both yes and no. Between elections labour have railed against the council tax freeze, except for the period in the immediate run up to elections when they have flip-flopped and supported it, you know, just in case it cost them the election.

Before that, in 2008 they helped to scupper the SNP minority governments Local Income Tax plan; almost ten years later they are now campaigning on the basis that the SNP didn’t scrap the council tax…

The 2008 defeat for the SNP was a solid one and as we have come to expect, the unionist parties were strongly backed by the press and other media, meaning that any attempt to reintroduce a Local Income Tax would receive a hostile reception, and instead eventually led to the formation of the cross-party (sans Conservatives, who declined to contribute) Commission on Local Tax Reform in 2015, which was tasked to explore alternatives to the council tax. Part of their recommendations were to end the present system of council tax and to explore introducing an income based element alongside a property based element, however there were no hard and fast recommendations, and the report acknowledged that each party was liable to have a different answer to the problem.

The Scottish Government have imposed changes to the top four highest council tax bands. Councils can raise council tax on all bands by a maximum of 3%.

The Scottish Government have imposed changes to the top four highest council tax bands. Councils can raise council tax on all bands by a maximum of 3%.

wp-1487572848978.jpg

Most recent figures show a combined band F-H figure. 2011 figures show that only 1% of households are in band H. In 2011 that figure was recorded as 120 homes in North Lanarkshire.

In the meantime, it recommended a transitional approach and acknowledged that a long term solution would not be done overnight. The recent end to the council tax freeze has seen the first move towards that, with the higher rated bands (E-H) seeing rises of between £2 and £10 a week. That’s between 28p and £1.42 a day. Or if you are Labour that can be summarised as a 22% hike which will cost you £517 a year. Because what they are concentrating on is that top figure. Some council tax payers WILL pay an extra 22%, but I’m concerned that this is the only figure they’ll be using. Telling people on the doorstep that their council tax will rise by 28p a day doesn’t make people’s blood boil. Telling them that the Scottish Government is hiking their “council tax” by 22% (or £517) possibly will, even more so when you aren’t ascertaining if they are affected or not..wp-1487572834314.jpg

So who will be paying that £517 a year rise? According to Scottish Government statistics from 2011, 1% of householders in Scotland are in Band H homes which are valued (at 1991 rates) at over £212,001. For North Lanarkshire that was 120 homes, and unless there has been any great change, a spate of lottery wins for example, that figure isn’t going to be radically different, perhaps (and I’m being generous here) there are around 200 homes valued at over £212,001. That’s the reality. 1% of what may be broadly viewed as the wealthiest households will see a rise of £10 a week. Yet Labour are saying this figure so often that one might be mistaken for thinking that everyone is being hit with a 22% rise.

From the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 until 2007, Labour ran the Scottish Parliament. At the same time Labour were in charge at Westminster and controlled the majority of Scotland’s local authorities. In that time council tax rose year on year. In 2007 the average Band D council tax payer, on average income in a middle of the table house was paying 30% more council tax than they had in 1999, while some of the higher bands apparently saw as much as a 60% hike! We aren’t talking 120 homes here, we are talking about every council tax payer across the board, paying more every year to keep Labour local authorities in the manner to which they had become accustomed to. Had Labour remained in power that pattern of continual tax rises would have no doubt continued, hitting everyone, across the board, rich and poor alike. I’d say that a 22% rise after 10 years to 1% of council tax payers is pretty good going in comparison, and I wonder how Labour can complain, considering they spent years stating that the freeze only benefited the richest in society!

The term Doublethink was coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984, and it refers to the ability to hold and espouse two contradictory views at the same time. Scottish Labour are demanding that the general rate of income tax be raised for everyone in Scotland by 1p, while complaining that the four highest bands will see a rise of between 7.5% and 22%

From the BBC:
Labour said someone on a salary of about £30,000 a year would pay less than £4 a week extra under its plan.
But someone on the same £144,687 wage as the first minister would pay an extra £28 a week (£1,447 a year), it said.

So Labour are comfortable taking an extra £208 off someone earning about £30,000 a year, but are outraged if that same person has to pay an extra £2 on council tax? Or that someone earning £140,000 a year is paying an extra £10 a week council tax yet fail to mention that they would pay an extra £28 in income tax if Labour were in government? I wonder if their outrage is more at the fact that they see people not being squeezed for every last drop of cash they can get or if their outrage is because they simply aren’t in power and can’t effect change to the extent they would like.

Since losing power in Scotland, then in the UK, Labour have become the most petty of oppositions. While in Westminster they will happily support the Tories on many issues, or abstain when not wanting to appear to be openly supportive, they have no such trouble in Scotland. If the SNP propose it, we’ll oppose it is their mantra. Opposition for opposition’s sake is as bad as unrestrained majority government, and their opposition in 2008 to council tax reform killed off what was a real chance to radically change the system. Their hubris is a major stumbling block to reform, and if they could overcome that then it’s possible that we could see a more progressive and radical form of taxation introduced in Scotland. Unfortunately there appears to be no sign of that day coming any time soon, and it looks as though decoding Labour doublethink will be a necessity for some time to come.

Source material:

Council Tax Bands

Average Band D Rates 1996-2014

Local Tax Commission Report

Chargeable Dwellings in Scotland by band (2011)

2008 Defeat of SNP Scottish Local Income Tax

Scottish Labour Income Tax Plans

George Foulkes: Council Tax Freeze only helps richest

Wings Over Scotland: Summary of Labours various Positions on Council Tax

 

Airdrie SNP: An Omnishambles Wrapped In A Disaster, Tied Up In A Debacle

wp-1487169002404.jpgThe relatively tame article in today’s Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser regarding the deselection of the husband and wife team of Councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle is enough to make you despair of proper journalism. This being the first Advertiser article on their deselection, one might have expected a mention of why this situation came about. From reading this one may have got the impression that this came out of the blue. Some time back I contacted the Advertiser to ask why it appeared to be difficult, if not impossible to find any mention of what I felt was the biggest political story in Monklands since the original Monklands Mafia story many years ago, and the response was not promising. In November 2015 Councillor Sophia Coyle was in the news over an interview in which she vociferously opposed gay marriage. Ms Coyle refused to respond to The Advertiser, yet only a few weeks later was again appearing in the newspaper promoting some local initiative she was involved in. You might think that the paper might have asked her views when they finally did contact her, but that wasn’t the case. So to see around two years of political infighting summarised in 29 words was no surprise.

wp-1487169382461.jpg

One glaring point (and there are so many) which has been missed is this: how can a branch with a claimed membership of almost 1100 people only muster around 60 people to attend an emergency meeting? I’d imagine that I could get more disaffected members to sign a petition SUPPORTING headquarters decision than actually attended the branch meeting!

The big question is how long can Michael Coyle hang on to his jobs with Alex Neil and Neil Gray? Again, no mention of this in the “in-depth” analysis.

Over the weekend I saw that Labour candidates were out canvassing around Airdrie. Bless them, they are poor deluded fools, but I’ll say this for them: they are organised. With only around 10 weeks to the 2017 Council elections the SNP don’t even have candidates.

This appears set to run and run, just don’t expect the details in the local press…

 

Deselection Day: The Monklands McMafia Row Rumbles On

On Saturday The Herald and The National both printed articles, (the Herald also printed an editorial by senior political editor Tom Gordon) regarding the deselection of four SNP councillors, including two in the Airdrie branch; Michael and Agnes Coyle. The release of this news came a week later than I expected, however the timing was exactly as I anticipated. A late Friday release for such news means it will escape the attention of most of the papers, Reporting Scotland and Newsdrive, so there’s no embarrassing TV or radio coverage to contend with.

On reading the Herald article I was struck by the following passage:

The ‘McMafia’ councillors who failed vetting were husband and wife Michael and Agnes Coyle and Dr Imtiaz Majid, while the councillor close to Mr Boswell was David Baird.

Nicknamed “Don Coyleone”, Mr Coyle last year denied being linked to organised crime after a former SNP member’s car was destroyed in a fire, and claimed the police had exonerated him.

He said: “I’ve been accused of gangsterism and having links to organised crime. It’s outrageous. The police conducted a thorough investigation then sent me a letter saying the allegations are not true.”

I’m concerned that this is being presented as one of the major reasons for the decision which has been made to deselect these councillors, and it could be seen to overshadow the many allegations made to HQ of bullying, cronyism and nepotism across Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill. The article makes no mention of the numerous complaints made about the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray installed as candidate for MP and saw Councillor Alan Beveridge resign in disgust. There have been other complaints from many other now ex-members and the vetting process which led to the deselection of these councillors no doubt considered all these factors plus much more which I am not privy to.

In regards to the attack on my car, I have nothing to add to this letter which I wrote last year, and as I said to  in response to a post I made on Facebook, the only person to link the damage to my car with Councillor Michael Coyle was Councillor Coyle himself in an article in the Scottish Sun.

I’m glad that SNP HQ has finally addressed the issues raised by myself and others. It’s unfortunate that to have action taken many members had to resign, and they had to take their grievances to the press rather than have the SNP deal with them fairly and honestly. For my part, I have to say that I am utterly disappointed in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader. I contacted many people at SNP HQ regularly during and after the Westminster selection process debacle, and Nicola Sturgeon was copied into emails where possible and mailed by hand, directly to SNP HQ. My attempts to have this issue acknowledged on Twitter saw me blocked by her, and for me this action in deselecting a few councillors is in some ways too little, too late, and she must share a huge portion of the blame for the shambles in North Lanarkshire. If she is to go any way towards redeeming herself she must take a far quicker, fairer and firmer grip on rogue branches. The removal of Alex Neil, Michael Coyle and Agnes Coyle is a positive step in the right direction. I now hope that those decent members remaining in the Airdrie branch have the balls to step up to the mark, seize the day and show everyone that they want a fresh start, though they will need to rid themselves of the remnants of the old guard such as Councillor David Stocks to do so. They can still salvage something from the wreckage if they have the will to.