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Reform Scotlands Electoral System Petition: Holyrood Date Confirmed

My petition to reform the Scottish electoral system to prevent parties utilising the electoral list so that certain candidates cannot be deselected by the public will be heard by the Petitions Committee on Thursday 26th October 2017. Time TBC. The petition gained a total of 485 signatures, and I’d like to thank everyone who signed the petition and especially those who took the additional time to leave comments on it.

This will be live streamed and I’ll post a link to it nearer the time.

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It’s Airdrie’s Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To: The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Earlier this week Airdrie MP Neil Gray announced that the Scottish Government had announced that it had instructed NHS Lanarkshire to begin the process for replacement of Monklands Hospital. The SNP have repeatedly committed to keeping 3 A&E equipped hospitals in North Lanarkshire and his should silence all those who have said there are plans in place to completely close the hospital and the A&E, and should be good news for the town. I say should, but one thing did concern me about Neil Grays announcement, and that was the phrase “potential sites for the new hospital”. The people of Airdrie have fought long and hard to protect Airdrie’s hospital and the one commitment that must be made is that the hospital stays in Airdrie. A new build hospital on a greenfield site such as Newhouse would be a gross betrayal of the people of Airdrie. The current hospital has good public transport links and importantly is within walking distance from the town; indeed it’s part of the community. An out of town development would be as difficult to get to as Hairmyres or Wishaw and must be resisted by anyone with the towns best interest at heart. Somewhere within the town must be found, and I believe that Craigneuk Park is an ideal site for this. Often touted around as a potential site for another unnecessary supermarket, a hospital here would finally perhaps prompt the much needed and long promised road improvements which have failed to materialise here in the past. Such a move could perhaps even help relocate the football club to a smaller, more affordable stadium elsewhere back in the town. This venture would not only bring construction jobs directly to the town but would guarantee that there was long term employment in the Scottish health service in Airdrie for years to come.
This project is already looking as though it will fail to meet its initial 2023 delivery date, and it cannot be delayed any further as the current hospital is eating up millions of pounds in repair costs alone. I hope all our local politicians can put their differences aside and agree that whatever happens “It’s Airdrie’s Hospital” and that they fight tooth and nail to ensure that it remains that way.

Holyrood To Be Shut Down?

In August 2014 I wrote this in a letter to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser in relation to the just issued infamous Vow :

While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. We may have limited powers, so long as it suits Westminster, and when it no longer suits those powers will be taken back.

Fast forward just three years and I’m not one bit surprised that the above scenario has been begun being implemented writ large with the UK parliament approving the Great Repeal Bill/ AKA Taking Back Control (Scotland)/ AKA The Enabling Act 2017.

Following successive SNP wins at Holyrood and the ever present possibility of another independence referendum the logical Unionist response if you follow all options to their conclusion is to close down the Scottish Parliament itself. This was a view that has been circulated for some time in British Nationalist social media (see the above tweet by the Stronger United account).  The A Better Britain Unionist Party which came second in the Fortissat by-election have proposed the repealing of the Scottish Devolution Bill introduced by the Tony Blair Labour Government.

Aidan Kerr Tweet

What forments around the extremist fringes can however find roots in larger mainstream parties. STV’s political retweeter Aidan Kerr reported earlier this year that a fringe group at the Conservative party conference were  discussing the closure of Holyrood as a means to silence calls for Scottish independence.

The message that will now be HAMMERED, HAMMERED, HAMMERED into the brains of the British nationalists.

A recent poll showed that 19% of Scots now want Holyrood closed down entirely. That’s almost a fifth of respondents who want to sell out Scotland and its parliament to ensure the future of the union. This figure did not appear out of nowhere. It’s the result of persistent agitation by British Nationalists in print, radio, television and social media, as well as behind closed doors, in workplaces and pubs. The Tories and Labour have now spent years banging the Unionist drum. They have whipped up these people who are now doing what the Yes movement did- they are moulding the campaign in their image, not merely adopting the messages they have been given, which is why in Fortissat the Tories were beaten into 4th place: their support abandoned them for a more hardcore version.

While many independence supporters remain focused on fighting for and winning a second independence referendum they are oblivious to the fact that the foundations for that are being removed from under their feet and behind their back. The fight is now on two fronts: to protect the very existence of the Scottish Parliament and the fight for an independent nation for it to govern. With an emboldened and unrestricted Westminster let loose on the constitution our workload just got a whole lot heavier.

Reforming The Holyrood Electoral System: Petition Closing Soon

Mhairi Black, The National, 24/06/17

I recently submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament, asking for a review of the Holyrood electoral system. This was driven by seeing sitting MSP’s gaming the system in the last Holyrood election by having themselves placed high on the party list so that in the event of losing their seats they still remained an MSP. I found this process to be as unacceptable as having an unelected House of Lords, so when the petition went live I contacted every MSP who is active on social media and made them aware of the petition and asked for their support. Of all of those MSP’s only TWO responded, Andy Wightman and Ross Greer of the Green party responded. Not one other MSP acknowledged this.
Not any other acknowledgement of any kind. Our MSP’s in the main make great show of the fact they operate their own Twitter accounts. They’ll post pictures of themselves at surgeries, or meeting with residents, or any other activity that presents a photo opportunity. Seldom do they respond to genuine queries, especially contentious ones. It’s almost as if they are stuck on transmit and the receive setting is broken.
I also contacted some MP’s such as Mhairi Black who has herself written at length in this paper about politicians sneaking in the back door to the unelected House of Lords, also to no response.
Clearly turkeys do not vote for Christmas, and I have to ask, if our elected representatives won’t do anything about a system which they themselves are abusing, just who will?
My petition is available for signing or for comments on the Scottish Parliament website until the 28th August, at http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/reformthescottishelectoralsystem.

Holyrood Electoral Practices are as Undemocratic As the House of Lords

Mhairi Black, The National, 24/06/17

Recently Mhairi Black MP wrote in her column in The National of the scandalous decision by the Tory party to appoint rejected Westminster candidate Ian Duncan to the House of Lords so that he could take up a position in the Scottish Office. Ms Black said this of the House of Lords: “They are handpicked political cronies who don’t have to worry about being elected or even being kicked out when they perform poorly – it’s a secure job for life with no danger of redundancy or the sack.”

I agree. I also think that when political parties game the Holyrood list system so that their chosen placemen (and indeed women) can never be removed from office then that system is also in need of radical reform. As it is, it is in danger of becoming every bit as undemocratic as the UK government’s unelected second chamber.

I have begun to share my petition to reform the Holyrood electoral system with MSP’s and some MP’s. As yet (and as I expected) it has been by and large ignored by almost all who I have so far contacted, with the exceptions of Ross Greer MSP and Andy Wightman, both Green MSP’s.

If you agree with me that the Holyrood electoral system is in need of reform then please sign my petition which is currently lodged with the Scottish Parliament. It can be found HERE. You can also leave your comments which will be seen by the Petitions Committee. Additionally you can contact your own MSP and ask what they are doing to make our electoral system to make it more accountable and democratic. While you are waiting you can watch this…

The Father Dougal McGuire School of Politics

In the Westminster elections on June 8th the SNP lost 21 seats. That doesn’t sound like much if you say it quickly, and it could have been worse. Much worse. Stephen Gethins in Fife was elected with a majority of just TWO. Neil Gray in Airdrie went from a 9596 majority to a mere 195. Overall the SNP lost 476,867 votes. almost half a million people who previously voted SNP in 2015 either switched to other parties or failed to turn out. Examination of the figures shows that Labour gained almost 10,000 votes on their 2015 showing, yet the Tories gained a whopping 323,852 votes more than their last time out. Long Term Goals vs Short Term Aims

Last week RISE co-founder Cat Boyd revealed that she had voted for Labour in the 2017 Westminster elections to show her support for Jeremy Corbyn. The revelation that a well kent face of the Indy movement had gone back on her word and voted Labour (she previously stated she would “never” vote Labour again) was siezed upon by many, with some claiming it showed that Labour were winning back voters from the SNP. In all likelihood they were in a roundabout way. Many people wanted to show solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn in England and voted for “him”. In reality they were voting to endorse an anti independence manifesto and in some cases (like Ian Murray) anti-Corbyn candidates. Someone as well versed in politics as Cat Boyd, who has a weekly column in The National should have known this. Voting for a party is an endorsement of their manifesto. If you want to change that manifesto then you join the party and change it.

Putting that detail aside though, Cat, like many others looked at Labours UK manifesto and swung on behind, no doubt hoping to sweep the Tories out in the process. Even though they supported independence and as Cat herself said, she still does, they voted for a party which was offering something they felt was immediately achievable, even though it contradicted their long term goal. Why? That is simple; their long term goal wasn’t on offer. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP were intent on playing down talk of a second referendum to such an extent that not only did some of their core vote slip away to Labour, but many, many more just didn’t turn out at all. They weren’t fired up. They weren’t inspired. The message they received was clear: This election isn’t about independence. Their response? We’ll come back when it is.

Overall Labour gained only 9860 more votes than 2017. That’s a fraction more than the total votes lost by Neil Gray alone! So while the SNP were failing to motivate their supporters they were also losing votes to Labour. Labour’s problem was of course that they were losing voters in even bigger numbers to the Tories. The Tories had set themselves out as defenders of the union and employed the same tactic they had employed in the council elections: treat every election as a mini-referendum, motivate the voters and get them out. Which they did, pulling in an extra 323,852 votes on 2015, in an election where the turnout was down overall by over a quarter of a million votes.

That was never more evident than in the SNP’s vote, and if there’s a lesson they need to learn it’s that they too have to treat every election as a referendum, because every defeat will be used to hammer away at not only the SNP but at the cause of independence. Because although supporting independence doesn’t mean you automatically support the SNP, we need to recognise that every defeat for the SNP, any deficiency in their policy as a party is, by unionist logic, reason against independence. If the SNP are poor on education then an independent Scotland by default would also be poor. Repeat ad nauseum.

In the last 12 months Cat Boyd has revealed that despite her strong opinions on the subject she didn’t vote in the EU referendum and then followed this with her revealing she voted Labour has left many to ask why she is given a political column at all and if there’s anything they can learn (or indeed want to learn) from her, and there is. It’s this: If you give people something to vote for or against, and make your case, then they will turn out and vote. If you don’t motivate them, then forget about it. Because they won’t show.

Kevin McKenna’s Attack on the Territorial Army (and Ruth Davidson)

They always say you should write about what you know. What a pity Kevin McKenna failed to heed this basic guideline when writing his attack on Ruth Davidson for taking up the post of Honorary Colonel of 32 Sigs regiment, as clearly he knows little or nothing about the Territorial Army and fell back on the much worn stereotypes of it being a Dad’s Army type organisation, wandering aimlessly around the Campsies playing dress up. As someone who spent a total of 17 years in the TA let me try and put Kevin straight on the “part-time professionals”. When the regular soldiers were going off duty on a Friday night many TA soldiers were finishing shifts at their normal Monday to Friday jobs, they would then spend a weekend training, often on exercise with little or no sleep in all conditions, before returning to work on Monday. The training we would carry out was virtually the same as that carried out by regular soldiers, so much so that on the occasions where we were trained or deployed alongside regular soldiers you would be hard pushed to tell the difference. I attended many training courses where I and other TA soldiers not only equalled but outperformed our regular counterparts, and the TA soldiers I served with included some of the finest soldiers I know, regular or otherwise. TA soldiers have been deployed alongside their regular colleagues more and more in recent years, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea that they are somehow all in the Private Pike mould couldn’t be further from the truth, and perhaps Kevin McKenna should take the time to visit a TA deployment and maybe he’d learn something.

As for the real subject of his article, I as an ex-serviceman was left slack jawed at the appointment of Ruth Davidson as Honorary Colonel to her former regiment, as it showed a complete lack of tact from the MOD for offering the role and from her in accepting it. Once upon a time for an ex-serviceman to become an Honorary Colonel was a sign of your contribution to your regiment, a reward for perhaps long and distinguished service; as far as I am aware Ruth Davidson only spent some two years as an officer cadet before leaving through injury, and was never actually commissioned. Nowadays the role of Honorary Colonel is dished out to all and sundry and is perhaps on par with those gaudily attired Regimental Goats that are wheeled out for ceremonial occasions.

These are however the least of my concerns. Davidson has spent the last few years rallying the forces of unionism to rebuild the Conservative Party. She’s wrapped herself in the union flag and banged on about “no divisive second referendum” above all else. She has successfully managed to convince hard core British Nationalists that her party will protect the union and by exploiting Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent support for the IRA has also seen the Orange Order come back to the fold en-masse, with many abandoning Labour and any pretence of concerns over policies as they do so.

I was told recently of a soldier who decided to run in the council elections, who was told that if he was successful he would have to leave the military. The military is supposed to be impartial, to represent all of us equally, but this appointment blurs the lines of impartiality, and instead subliminally invites us to draw a line between supporting the union, the military and the Orange Order/ the far right and the Conservatives.   Army regulations clearly forbid the wearing of uniform where it may infer some sort of support by the MOD. The fact that Ruth Davidson is not actually a serving soldier means the rules don’t actually apply in this case, however the spirit of the rules should be adhered to as they exist for good reason and their minutiae is not known to the average person. Most people will simply see the Tory leader being endorsed by the Army, nothing less.

Someone, somewhere has played up to Ruth Davidsons vanity, allowing her to extend her repertoire from prancing around on a tank to actually playing dress up as Colonel Gadaftie. If Davidson had any sense she’d have politely refused the offer until she had left politics, instead she has grabbed it and will milk it for all its worth, and as we see from Kevin’s article, will taint the armed forces reputation in the process.