Tag Archives: Westminster

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.

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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,

 

Tom Clarke MP, Oil Fund and Election 2015 (Advertiser 11/01/15)

Letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser:

Dear Sir,

The glee which Tom Clarke revels in over the latest oil prices was barely concealed in his column in last weeks Advertiser. By his estimate around 35,000 jobs are now under threat of being lost. Yet these are 35,000 jobs which we were told by the likes of Mr Clarke and by his cronies in the Tory Party that would be safer under the “broad shoulders” of the UK. Well here we are, apparently not so Better Together. The crisis is here and those broad shoulders are shrugging and saying it is up to the SNP to come with a solution.

What is even more sickening is when the likes of Labour’s Jackie Baillie try to make capital out of this by demanding that the SNP set up a resilience fund to help cope for times when the oil price slumps. Ms Baillie has spent much of the last two years campaigning against an oil fund. Indeed a mere five months ago she on behalf of the Labour Party was stating that creating such a fund would strip money from essential public services. This clearly demonstrates that the problem with telling lies is that you have to remember which lies you have told, otherwise you end up contradicting yourself.

Since the 1970’s successive Labour and Tory governments have refused to set up any such fund, so why call for one now? The 1974 McCrone Report which was also covered up by successive Labour and Tory governments recommended setting up an oil fund, so again I wonder, why call for one now, and why call for one from a government which doesn’t actually control that revenue stream? The answer is simple. On May 7th Mr Clarke and all his colleagues are facing annihilation at the polls. Labours actual membership figures are so low that they will not release them while the SNP are now the 3rd largest party in the UK. You can almost smell the fear from Mr Clarke and his colleagues because this is a horror movie scenario for them. One by one they wait to be picked off, not knowing who is safe and who is next for the chop, so they run around wildly, panicking and shouting nonsense.

Mr Clarke’s last statement in his column was that the Scottish people aren’t daft. He’s right in that respect. We aren’t daft enough to fall for the flip-flopping lies that the Red Tories are throwing around, we aren’t daft enough to believe that voting Labour will keep the Tories out (which it didn’t in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992 or 2010) and we won’t be daft enough to vote Labour on May 7th.  

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

 

 

The Reinvigoration of Scottish Politics (Letter to The National, 08/12/14)

Dear Sir,

The referendum may not have given us the result that we wanted but a happy by-product is that it has completely reinvigorated Scottish politics. Many people have had their eyes opened to the workings of the political system and I don’t think interest in politics, across the spectrum, has ever been higher. I personally am delighted that such an experienced politician as Alex Salmond is not being lost to Scottish politics, but is instead planning to head to Westminster and “hold their feet to the fire”, and I wish him all the best. With hard work from the Yes Alliance he will hopefully be accompanied by a sizeable contingent ready to do battle to get the best deal for Scotland. While I am sure there may be a few old hands there I am absolutely delighted to see so many new people rising to the challenge and throwing their hat into the ring as candidates for Westminster. Philippa Whitford, who spoke so passionately about the threats to the NHS has announced that she is putting herself forward. Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights activist Craig Murray announced that he was interested in standing in Kirkaldy and within a few days Gordon Brown had announced he was standing down. Craig has now said that he is willing to stand in Airdrie and Shotts where another candidate, local man Tommy Montgomery has put himself forward. Tommy is no career politician but has a burning interest in social justice and a desire to see the people of Airdrie and Shotts put first, rather than treated in the traditional Labour manner which has put the interests of the party, the MP and their patrons before the people. If the level of interest and the calibre of candidate is replicated across the country as it is here in Airdrie then the people of Scotland will have an amazing array of talent to choose from in May 2015.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

Post Referendum Letters: 06/11/14 (Advertiser/RMT News)

Submitted to Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser and RMT News. Published in Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser. 

Dear Sir,

I see that last weeks Advertiser column by Elaine Smith MSP was almost the same as that published in the October issue of the Rail Maritime and Transport union magazine where she complains that the Scottish Government awarded the Scotrail franchise to Abellio. The RMT article was accompanied by the headline Scotrail Privatised By Scottish Government. Scotrail was privatised by the Tories in 1997, two years before the Scottish Parliament was even created and ten years before the SNP gained power, so why lie? Mrs Smith seeks to make political capital from the actions of the Scottish Government, and I was very disappointed to see the RMT joining in with her. Both the RMT and Elaine Smith called for the tendering process to be put on hold until the new devolution settlement was put in place. The question how long is a piece of string comes to mind as there is nothing agreed and no date by which anything must be delivered by. Would one year be sufficient? Two perhaps?

Had the Scottish Government taken the steps of putting the process on hold both the Mrs Smiths Labour Party and the RMT would be complaining about the uncertainty which would be created, and would no doubt also complain at any compensation which was paid to the bidders. Incidentally where was this compensation to come from? The ever shrinking Scottish budget which is about to be cut by £4 Billion irrespective of which party gets in at Westminster, thats where. Labours answer at every turn is that the Scottish Government should pay for others mistakes. The Labour proposed, Tory imposed bedroom tax saw the SNP strip £35 Million from other areas to pay for that debacle. Which area of the budget would be the next one to be stripped to pay for dithering? Health, education, housing? Do tell us Elaine.

Mrs Smith and her party have spent two years campaigning against the Scottish Government having full powers over Scotland. The Scottish Government in their white paper Scotlands Future stated that with independence they could pursue public supported or not-for-profit models in future, after the new franchise is completed. She can hardly then complain that the Scottish Government has to abide by the restraints imposed upon it. She has even less cause to complain when it is revealed that the Labour Partys own plan laid out in the document Powers For A Purpose stated that they would look at a new approach after the end of the franchise which starts in 2015. This means they would have done exactly as the Scottish Government has done! What would they have done afterwards though? What would the new approach to railways in Scotland be? It would be whatever London tells them it will be, and if London Labour is still pursuing privatisation you can be damn sure the Labour branch in Scotland would be told to fall in line.

Profit now goes into private hands, irrespective of nationality. Whether those hands are Dutch, French or German, the effect is the same. The money does not go back in to the system. It goes to shareholders. Labour had 13 years to call a halt to that. Instead they dug themselves deeper into the trough. Whether it is energy companies or rail companies, the concept of foreign companies owning UK national assets is one that red and blue Tories both subscribe to. Labour will gripe about it when it suits them politically but when given the chance to change it do nothing. Her Party helped buy the rope to bind the SNPs hands; she can hardly complain they are now tied tightly.  

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

 

The Referendum Letters: 06/08/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

This week Unionist politicians appeared in Glasgow to sign a pledge declaring that Scotland would be given more powers in the event of a No vote in the forthcoming referendum. One of the signatories was Nick Clegg who as many will recall, has form for signing pledges in public and acting differently when push comes to shove. It has already been stated by some Unionist politicians that the Scottish Parliament only operates because Westminster permits it to do so. They tell us what powers we can have, and what powers we cannot have. Sometimes they even sneak powers back under their own control.

In December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewable energy by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government and in July 2014 they announced a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even our national parks weren’t kept off the target list. The Scottish Wild Land Core Map, which the Scottish Government had agreed to respect was bypassed at a stroke, and there isn’t a thing that can be done about it. 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.

As someone who supports independence but opposes windfarms that concerns me greatly. With the Tories and the Lib-Dems both supporting “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour supporting more wind turbines, and the Conservatives vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today, it seems as clear as crystal that on examination there is absolutely no likelihood that a No vote in the independence referendum or a change of Scottish Government from the SNP with end the industrialisation of our wild places. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the order of the day where renewables is concerned.

I truly believe that the battle against windfarms has been lost. There are no doubt victories still to be had. Small windfarms with a good amount of reasonable objection, grounded in fact, can be defeated. I know this, because I have helped defeat such developments. But the larger developments, and these are generally the ones which occupy larger areas, are harder nuts to crack, and due to the sheer amount of money involved are likely to succeed. Should Scotland vote No in the forthcoming referendum it will be a signal to Westminster, not for more powers for Scotland, but to draw more power from Scotland. The National Planning Act which applies to England and Wales could quite easily be extended to cover Scotland. If we currently have any safeguards in Scotland against development they can be removed by Westminster to fall in line with those south of the border, and which will make a presumption in favour of large developments which are deemed in the national interest, the HS2 rail link being a case in point. Our own system is by no means perfect, but at least we had some mechanisms of protest, if not prevention. We need to protect this system just as strongly as we would like the wild land itself to be protected, and that will not be be done within a union that cannot be trusted to keep it’s word on which powers it permits us to have.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy