Tag Archives: Holyrood

The Rejected Elected

The manipulation of the party list system is an affront to democracy, a corruption of the system. Election are our chance to get rid of failed politicians, and the use of the list to avoid being sacked is just morally wrong. Either stand on one or the other, and if you are the incumbent you defend your seat with no safety net.

Of the 21 Labour MSP’s elected in the 2016 election by the regional list, 17 of those had been either been voted out of office or otherwise rejected by the electorate.

Of the 24 Conservative list MSP’s elected on the same day, all 24 had been rejected by the voters in their respective constituencies.

The SNP retained one MSP in the above manner, the Greens 2 and the Liberals Democrats 1.
As for the manipulation of the list by the parties, this must stop. Parties should be allowed to submit a list of candidates, but that list should be a pool from which candidates are selected at random. If a party gets 4 list seats then stick the names in a bowl, like the FA Cup, and draw 4 names.
No more fiddling the system so that there are permanently unsackable characters placed forever at the top of the list. To me this practice is akin to Westminsters habit of sending rejected MP’s to the Lords: it’s two fingers up to the electorate, nothing less.

The Council, The Budget and The Black, Black Hole (Full Version)

The following is the full version of a letter that was sent to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 22/11/15.

Dear Sir,

A few days ago I received in the mail North Lanarkshire Council’s “Our Budget Challenge” booklet. This glossy (and no doubt costly) rag is a mixture of misdirection and spin and it’s genuinely a wonder it can actually passed off as a council publication and not a Labour Party one. The booklet attempts to show that North Lanarkshire’s budget is being cut by Holyrood and is trying to lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the SNP government. It illustrates it’s claims with a graph showing funding being cut by £2.5 billion, hoping perhaps that people won’t notice that this refers to Scotland as a whole and this doesn’t reflect the fact that in the same time period the Scottish Government has taken over funding of police and fire services, so local authorities no longer have to fund these from their own budgets, and that their available funding has remained broadly the same. In September 2015 the Daily Record actually reported that impartial researchers have calculated that the Scottish Government have actually OVERFUNDED the council tax freeze and notes that the Scottish Government have put in £165 million to local authorities to compensate local authorities. Labour’s Jackie Baillie and Kezia Dugdale are no strangers to figures that don’t add up and I sense their input to the council’s booklet. In fact there’s barely a mention of Westminster cuts at all! These are the at the very root of austerity for goodness sakes!

The booklet then goes on to detail some options and invites you to go online and indicate which budget cuts you support. These are a mixture of the vague and the distasteful. For example removing 4 posts from the Chief Executives office would save £170,000. Which posts? It doesn’t say. Probably not the Chief Executive’s…

It states they could save £92,000 by forcing employees to pay for their own disclosure checks so they can do their own jobs! Or how about being asked to review community learning and development services to save over £3 million? Tick the box and see 85 souls hit the dole. Just click your mouse, it’s easy. Only it isn’t. The decisions to be made are horrific and will have an impact across North Lanarkshire. From nursery schools to pensioners, no one will be unaffected. But cynical North Lanarkshire Council have thought of a way to help spread the blame; they are asking YOU to make the decisions. When the cuts start to bite they can always turn round and claim that ‘you, the public endorsed these cuts’. The answer then is NOT to endorse the cuts, to go online and vote no to every last one and make these councillors do what they were elected to do, and what’s more to make them take responsibility for what they are about to do.

One thing which has been avoided by everyone including the SNP opposition group, and this is the most important point of all this debate is the fact these £45 million of cuts follow hard on the heels of North Lanarkshire Council losing a £70 million court battle over equal pay. Surely this explains the black hole in the budget? In any other walk of life the people responsible would be sacked: in North Lanarkshire they retire with pensions which would sicken you. If this was Iceland the people responsible would heading for jail, not holiday homes, and we are forced to pick up the tab. It’s an utter scandal that his happens, the only scandal greater than this is that we accept it, we allow it, and do nothing about it. We deserve everything we get in that case.

The final and most cynical of all the questions on NLC’s budget challenge is a simple Yes or No tick the box one. Innocuously worded, it asks if you would be willing to pay more council tax to help protect public services. Who wouldn’t? But the question doesn’t say how much extra they want you to pay, or what these services are. This question is part of a co-ordinated effort by Labour as a bitter opposition to end the council tax freeze which has helped protect so many Scots over the last few years. None of us need reminded of the extravagant spending by NLC in the past, on folly after folly. Public sculptures and roadside decorations (1.5 million pound for Cumbernauld’s Waves for example), monuments to Labour’s own self indulgence. Labour have railed against this freeze for years, only to backtrack whenever we are in sniffing distance of an election. But the Tory cuts are getting deeper and it cannot last forever. Labour have supported austerity at UK level for years, yet have been trying to end it in Scotland through heavier taxation. This week Labour are sending a group of councillors to protest outside our national parliament calling on them to end the council tax freeze, and the arguments they shall use are those false ones I have mentioned above. They should hang their heads in shame because they will be there parroting Labour falsehoods and turning a blind eye to their own criminal loss of £70 million. It’s time the people of North Lanarkshire took the protest to their door in Motherwell and called on them to answer for the financial storm which is about to hit us all.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy,

 

The Electoral Commission Report into the Referendum Vote (The National, 18/12/14)

Published in ‘The National’

Dear Sir,

I was surprised to read in the article on Wednesday’s National that the referendum was a ‘model for future campaigns’ and that 94% of voters and 98% of postal voters were happy with the process. It was however no surprise to see those figures came from a report commissioned by the Electoral Commission themselves, and I’d be interested to know just what group was polled as it doesn’t quite ring true. At present there is an ongoing criminal investigation into postal voting irregularities. I raised the issue of electoral fraud with the Scottish Government prior to the referendum who at the time were confident in the process. As a polling agent on the day and as a counting agent I was lucky enough to see first hand the count take place in North Lanarkshire. This has given me some insight into the process, certainly enough to discount some of the more ‘tinfoil hat’ variety of claims which were prominent on social media immediately after the referendum. But that is not to say there are no problems. I have submitted letters to Alex Neil MSP asking that the Scottish Government hold an inquiry into voting practices, and I have submitted freedom of information requests to the Electoral Commission at both local and national level. As yet the Scottish Government has no plans to hold any inquiry, but I am pleased to see that the Electoral Commission is looking at introducing the requirement for secondary identification for voters to prevent personification. This is for me too little, too late though. Transportation of uncounted ballot papers, allowing polling agents to also be counting agents, and the many cases of people turning up to vote in person who were told they had already voted by post, all of these point to a system riddled with scope for error and manipulation. Similarly the Commission’s reply to me regarding postal voting, stating that ease of voting was a higher priority than the integrity of the system, is one the Scottish Government should be challenging.

Whether for a local government election, Holyrood, Westminster or a referendum, our electoral system should be transparent, fair and secure. At present, despite the Electoral Commission’s self satisfaction, it clearly is not.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

 

 

Post Referendum Letters: 28/11/14 (Advertiser)

An edited version of this appeared in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

It seems that this will be my last letter to the advertiser on the subject of Scottish independence. Yesterday I sat outside the Scottish Parliament and watched the great and the good troop inside, where they announced that the Vow had been delivered, with Michael Moore MP describing it as “Home Rule for Scotland”. With home rule recommended by the Smith Commission I have nothing left to campaign for.

It’s a great pity that newspapers don’t include smiley’s on the letters page, as that first paragraph would have been accompanied by a sarcastic one. A really big one. 

Home rule? It’s far from it. The list of reserved powers is substantial. The minimum wage, VAT, fuel duty, equality, pensions, child benefits, foreign policy, weapons of mass destruction, the list goes on and on. We were promised “Near Federalism” and “Devo-Max”. We have been palmed off with ‘Devo Hee-Haw’ and it has to be remembered that these are just proposals. They still have to go in front of our Imperial Masters in London where they will no doubt be picked apart and further reduced.

After all the noise coming from Jim Murphy as he flip-flopped on the subject of tax, the reality was disappointing to say the least: 70% of taxes and 85% of welfare spending remains under London’s control. Oh, and the Scottish Government will be allowed to bid for (not renationalise) the rail franchise in Scotland. Given that it isn’t allowed to raise extra money and everything it does raise will simply reduce the block grant of our own money that we get back anyway, I’m mystified as to how it could get the funding for this without stripping it from elsewhere.  

The simple fact is we have been offered a few token changes to meet the so called Vow, which according to a Freedom of Information request made recently, the UK Cabinet Office has no record of. It would seem that with nae power comes great responsibility. We can gather in and distribute money on behalf of London and pretend it is power. But how can we do anything about poverty when we cannot even set a minimum wage? The simple answer is we cannot. We can tinker with the edges, fiddle here and there but the power to change anything in real, meaningful terms is not available to us. Former leader of the Labour Party  (Scotland branch) Iain Grey said that “any politician seeing these powers coming to them should be excited about the possibilities…” I’d suggest that if that’s what excites him he should perhaps call it a day, like many other Labour high-heidyins.  

On the upside, the Smith Commission has recommended that we are given control over road signs. Unsurprisingly I’d like them to be tartan… 

Yours Sincerely 

Jim Cassidy