Tag Archives: Holyrood

Do Scots Understand How Devolution Works?

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 20/11/19

I feel I must reply to Kenneth MacKintosh’s letter in this weeks Advertiser as it contains some basic errors and inaccuracies, so much so that it really makes me wonder how it even got published. Who needs fake news when you have fake views.

Mr MacKintosh said that the Labour Party must fight this election on our health service and education. It is disappointing to still be seeing that people do not seem to understand the different levels of government which we have in Scotland, and what responsibilities each one has. Both health and education are devolved and come under the auspices of our parliament in Holyrood, and the correct time to debate them will be at the Holyrood elections in 2021. This is a Westminster election, and due to devolution and the Tory “English Votes for English Laws” legislation the parties in Scotland should be concentrating on those areas in which they are allowed a say in at Westminster; this would cover such issues as immigration, foreign policy, employment law, defence and the constitution.

Too many of the Labour/Tory/Lib-Dem politicians are happy talking about health, education, etc because this mirrors what their main parties are talking about and will be in line with what will appear in the main UK news broadcasts. For example, if London Labour is discussing transport then the Scottish branch of the party will do likewise, even though it’s a Holyrood issue and their policies aren’t applicable in Scotland. This can only happen due to the public’s own misunderstanding of our politics, but it’s a misunderstanding all parties are happy to exploit, and you must ask what they stand to gain by doing that.

Finally Mr MacKintosh notes that the Scottish Government underspent its budget last year. This has happened every year since the creation of our parliament and is necessary as Scotland runs a “pocket-money parliament” and is not permitted to build up a deficit. Everything has to be accounted for and our country cannot go over. Were the Scottish Government to spend its entire budget and then experience an unforeseen event which required a large amount of funding they would be forced to go cap in hand to London to be bailed out. Given that many English voters already view us as spongers who live off their generosity it’s unlikely that this would be popular. Prior to 2007 the Labour Party were in the habit of returning the underspend to London, but since they lost power that money has been carried forward to future years so it isn’t lost completely and can then be spent the next year. Of course the Britnats label this as a “slush fund”.

It would of course be far easier if we simply removed the most wasteful and remote of these levels of government; to give Scots a parliament which controlled its own economy and could legislate, borrow and build a better country without having to ask permission from our neighbours first. Then our success or failure would be our own, with no need to “blame” someone else as Mr MacKintosh puts it. But that would mean taking some responsibility for our own actions, wouldn’t it?

Reform The Scottish Electoral System Petition: To Be Heard On Thursday 26th October 2017

The Scottish Parliaments Petitions Committee will be considering a number of petitions this coming Thursday. One of those petitions is the one I submitted some time back calling for a reform of the Scottish electoral system to prevent misuse and manipulation of the party list system by political parties to ensure that certain candidates are guaranteed a seat.

The papers for the committee meeting can be found HERE.

The meeting will be broadcast live and can be viewed at the THIS link from 0915hrs on Thursday morning.

There has been some very good feedback to the petition and I hope this will be discussed and taken on board when the committee meet. Given that the petition directly affects the electoral prospects of the MSP’s who are deliberating, as well as their close colleagues, I think it unlikely that will go any further, but stranger things have happened. Roll on Thursday!

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.

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.

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