My MP (Part 2)

October 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm (Rosie B, scotland)

After the indy referendum in September 2014 we No voters – who were startled to find we’d been given a new identity, Unionists or Nawbags – thought we could forget about that interruption and get back to normality. Wrong. The SNP rode high, grabbed 56/59 (95%) of the Westminster seats in the general election and are likely to take as many in next year’s Holyrood election. Their opposition is fragmented into the old parties of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative, Labour has been broken and the only party that has gained are the Conservatives as the full-out Unionist party under the gutsy Ruth Davidson. So it’s been a gloomy time for us Negative lot, with constant threats of more referenda being waved at us in spite of the once in a generation, once in a life time, One Opportunity rhetoric during the indyref. One Snat tried to convince me that One Opportunity really meant An Opportunity. Meanwhile Sturgeon swans about doing photoshoots for Vogue – though credit where it’s due – she shows a good deal of bright style in her clothing in contrast to the grey frumpy Noes. “Bitter together” describes our mood.

But now something has happened to lift our spirits with schadenfreude. It concerns the MP for Edinburgh West, my MP, Michelle Thomson. As I said before Thomson headed up Business for Scotland, a group  which encapsulates the sham of Scottish politics because it is (a) an SNP front – as demonstrated by Thomson being given the Edinburgh West seat; (b) it was called Business for Scotland – and of course other (subtext and overt ) anti-indy businesses must be against Scotland; (c) it was a load of mickey-mouse consultancies, who employed few people and did little in the way of cross border trade with England. But it was treated like the CBI by the BBC. Thomson was elected in the SNP landslide and made Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation & Skills.


Business eh? Not software design, nor extracting oil nor wind turbine manufacture nor pharmaceuticals nor widgets nor sausages. No, the business spokesperson that the SNP appointed was a woman of property with a portfolio. i.e. a wheeler dealer. Not even a builder of houses. And she had wheeled and dealed – eg (allegation at this point) that she would buy a property at X grand one day and then flog it off the same day at 2X grand to her husband. .

The Sunday Times ran an article [paywall] on 20th September about Michelle Thomson’s company buying properties from people like cancer sufferers cheap and then selling them on for a good profit. Nasty, but not illegal.

The story grew arms and legs. Here’s a piece by Ian Smart on the likely fraudulence of Thomson’s dealings:-

“there was something in that initial article that seemed to the informed eye a bit more sinister. That was the suggestion that, in some of the transactions involved, the price actually paid by Thomson was less than that declared to the Land Registry. “That looks very like mortgage fraud”.

Thomson had figured as a “Mrs A” in the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which had struck off her solicitor Christopher Hales.

“Numerous examples of failing to inform lenders of undisclosed deposits, including examples of Mr Hales personally returning these to the purchasers, and several examples of back to backs, all equally undisclosed to the lenders.”

On behalf of Mrs A aka Michelle Thomson.

After a hearing in May 2014, the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal said Mr Hales failed to provide mortgage companies with key information used to prevent fraud and must have been aware that there was a possibility he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not it occurred.

In some cases, loans obtained for the properties were greater than the actual purchase price.

The Law Society, the regulating body of Scottish solicitors, did not send this information to the Crown Office until July 2015, after both the referendum and the general election. They claimed “pressure of work” (which Scottish lawyers observe they never accept as an excuse from solicitors who have not renewed their membership of the Law Society).

The Law Society’s chief executive, Lorna Jack, took the unusual step of arranging a hurried press conference to defend her organisation’s handling of the affair, and the conduct of Sheila Kirkwood, who is secretary to the society guarantee fund sub-committee which handled the Hales case but had delayed handing the papers over to the Crown Office.

It emerged that Kirkwood was, with her husband and fellow solicitor Paul Kirkwood, a founder of the pro-independence campaign Lawyers for Yes, and as an active nationalist had attended dinners for Thomson’s pro-independence campaign Business for Scotland. Kirkwood had also “liked” Thomson on her Facebook page.

So the non SNP MSPs had for once a good time at First Minister’s Questions:-

THERE was a rumbling, gutteral soundtrack to much of FMQs today, as Nat MSPs desperately tried to drown out a series of questions about Michelle Thomson.

“Uurgrhnomorenomore,” went appalled groans when the dreaded name was uttered.

“Nananeverheardofher,” went a lip-smacking simian chatter as fingers were plugged in ears.

But despite these best efforts, the property-whizz-turned-SNP-nightmare dominated proceedings, with Labour and the Tories revelling in all the sleazy details.

The SNP now deny knowing anything about Thomson’s business deals – though before they had been lauding her business expertise:-


SNP Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil, whose portfolio includes welfare, affordable housing and other issues crucial to the poorest in society, claimed she would be a champion for such causes.

He said: ‘She had an excellent grasp of the economic picture, but also demonstrated commitment to how business can be used to support social justice.’

Both SNP Education Secretary Angela Constance and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed her business background would make her an ideal candidate.

Constance said: ‘Michelle has a proven track record. She would be an outstanding MP. Michelle is known for her grasp of finance, business and the economy.’

Hyslop said: ‘Her knowledge of business and her passion to make Scotland a better place make her an ideal candidate for Westminster in the forthcoming General Election.’

SNP MSP Colin Keir – who represents Edinburgh Western, the Holyrood equivalent of Thomson’s Westminster seat – said in the run-up to the General Election: ‘I worked with Michelle through the referendum campaign and have seen how talented she is. In her position as a director of Business for Scotland she was asked to take part in debates against Better Together. ’

Michelle Thomson has resigned the SNP whip and is now my independent MP. Her entry on the SNP site reads like this. The police are investigating her solicitor. It could be that she will be investigated herself and charged, which should lead to an interesting by-election.

Sturgeon has said she looks forward to reinstating her but now the Sunday Herald, which supports indy, is going to release emails which show that it was Thomson’s fault that Business for Scotland made such a bad economic case for independence (rather than that there wasn’t a good economic case, as we Nawbag quislings were abused for pointing out).  Business for Scotland’s predictions of untold wealth for an indy Scotland are still quoted by disgruntled Yesses, so at least they may shut up on that score.  And Thomson will be dumped altogether by the ever ruthless and opportunistic SNP.

Update:- the article in the Sunday Herald did not show that “the economic case for independence was undermined by scandal-hit MP” as the headline has it.”  What it show was that there was in-fighting among the board members of Business for Scotland.  The most salient points are:- Thomson, the Managing Director of Business for Scotland, had her consultancy payments stopped but was allowed to keep the title and still appear on the media – it would have looked bad to dump her before the referendum; and that the controlling hand behind Business for Scotland was Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, which should finally destroy BfS’s pretence of being a non-partisan think tank.

I can see that Thomson with her media presence might have been thought suitable as a candidate for Edinburgh West, which she won as part of the SNP landslide. But why appoint her as Shadow Minister for Business, Skills and Innovation and boost her business expertise?  Are they short of business background among the 56 55 MPs?


Collector’s item

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In Sneepland

October 2, 2015 at 8:10 pm (rosieb, scotland) ()

So what were we fearty goats of Unionists getting in a stooshie about today?

This on the Scots Language Centre, a site where the bairns are directed to learn about the Scots tongue:-


Of course we muzerable Nawbags’ faces were trippin’ us. We did our own sums. 1.6 million of the population voted for independence while the remaining 3.9 million either voted against independence, didn’t vote, or never had a vote.

So mibbe the dominie that scribed that was showing the weans how you can mess with numbers to tell what story you wanntae – something that we grown ups learned in the referendum especially with economic predictions of an indy Scotland involving the price of oil.

I was just starting to get a blog post going on the following lines:-

1. A Scots Language Centre which gets the folk into border ballads and Burns and all the sangs out there and James Hogg is a very good thing but; (2) why does everything cultural have to be politicised towards the same result i.e. being Scottish=being Nationalist; (3) with a caveat that though the Centre may be funded by the Scottish government it doesn’t follow that some apparatchik at Holyrood writes every entry any more than they check out every script produced by Creative Scotland (though I bet pro-Unionist projects wouldn’t get much sympathy).  And the Natz are control freaks keen to grasp their mitts round broadcasting and the universities.

There was the usual Twittering including one from Ruth Davidson:-

and then Tom Martin from the Daily Express got in touch with the director of the Centre and now the page reads:-


There were the usual apologies for “causing offence”.


To be fair it might have been one wee chappie/wifey at the Language Centre making a bit of mischief and now I even find it funny that s/he sneaked in a cheeky political point among the language studies.

But today I spittit with despyte (to quote the great Scots poet Gavin Douglas) and Lord, you have to keep yir e’en on those Gnats. They’re a flock of corbies with beaks of blood desperate to feed on our unionist corse.

Update:- the Scots Language Centre is a den of nationalists.

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Freedom Unfreedom Square

September 26, 2015 at 8:23 am (Rosie B, scotland)

One of the by-products of the Scottish referendum was the re-emergence of Tommy Sheridan (name usually prefixed by “disgraced perjurer) who has refashioned himself from socialist to nationalist trying to lead a popular movement called Hope over Fear. Having been refused permission by Glasgow Council to hold a rally in George Square, Glasgow (which the Yessers like to call “Freedom Square”) the rally went ahead anyway.

I thought it mean of Glasgow Council to refuse permission. Yes rallies are not violent and don’t call for much policing. There’s plenty of music among the ranting, bouncy castles and a lot of it is a Yes family day out. However having taken over George Square, Sheridan’s gang then refused full access to journalists, even from the pro-indy Sunday Herald. Give that man territory…


Here is a sharp and observant – and rather moving – account of the event at A Thousand Flowers. I would guess the writer is a former colleague of Sheridan’s. S/he is anxious at the kind of nationalism arising in a movement which took pride in its distance from the blood and soil kind.

One speaker told the crowd about how “We had repelled the Vikings…and the Danes” coz obviously, a Scotland which gets rid of foreigners is something to be celebrating in the current context.  “Water is going over the border…whisky revenues are at an all time high.”As he furiously bellowed about “traitors”, a woman behind me shouted “burn the Witch” and I breathed a sigh in relief, realising I wasn’t alone in finding all this slightly troublesome.

We were then treated to a speech by “Irish Supporters of Hope over Fear” who talked of “a proud Celtic nation about to break with their foreign masters” and saluted “the bravery of the Scottish people in fighting for freedom throughout the world” (presumably in colonies like, erm, Ireland, where Scots have done a great job shooting the natives at the behest of the British state for the last 300 plus years).

Following Pat Lee delivering good wishes to “a 9 year old celebrating their 10th Birthday today” (perhaps a bit prematurely), we had a nice happy song about dying Westminster paedophiles followed by another one about Pandas, obviously. …

Most gallingly, as always, there was the lie that today represented “all of the Yes family.”   This didn’t feel like “the Yes movement” or “the independence movement” as was claimed, it felt like Tommy stoking a burgeoning nationalist movement, one which has strengthened significantly in the last year and which is being fed by Sheridan’s calculation that he can ride on its coattails to Holyrood in 2016.  The least he can do is sell T-shirts, CDs and beer to it for as long as he can.

There were no Greens, no SSP/RISE/socialists who weren’t in Solidarity, no representatives from Women for Independence, even Robin McAlpine was under orders not to show his face after the furore following his last appearance alongside the suntanned superman.   Come to think of it, there wasn’t a single SNP speaker either, at least not in an official capacity.…

As I fought back the tears this time last year I wrote, “My hope is that the independence we are creating in Scotland continues to resist the forces of nationalism.”  I sincerely hope it does – but after today’s event, I fear we’ve got a long fight ahead.

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An answer for everything, always the same answer

September 20, 2015 at 7:42 am (internationalism, Rosie B, scotland)

Though there has been a lot of noise in the media about the anniversary of the IndyRef I haven’t noticed it much in real life and social media except among the die-hards on both sides. I am hoping it will grow quieter as time goes by.

Here’s a study of the demographics of the voters.


I fit the No voter template – female, right age bracket, average earner, Protestant (by birth), not born in Scotland.

Average earners don’t want to take risks.  You’re one pay packet away from not being able to meet your mortgage payment (not that that was my reason for voting No.)

It’s interesting though how the 16-24 year olds were more No inclined.  My guess is that they are less nationalistic minded. They’re in contact with their peers in other parts of the UK via social media. Shared interest in music, sport and films are more important than national identity. But that’s just a guess. A slight blow to one of the post ref hopes that the old curmudgeons would soon be tucked up safely into the crem well away from the ballot box.

The Yes/No split is notable on those born outwith Scotland   either in other parts of the UK or abroad were averaged at 65% voting No compared to the even split of native Scots.   Nicola Sturgeon might have to Think Again about encouraging immigration except that she has no powers over immigration and her pro-refugee and immigration noises are We’re Not Like the Horrible Tories noises just as her reaction to Corbyn’s elevation was to talk about his unelectability and so, Vote Independence.  No thought of allying with a proper Left Labour this time round.

2nd poll

The SNP – an answer to everything and always the same answer.

Oh, and when taken to task about the SNP’s various incompetences at Holyrood her answer was that the SNP had delivered for Scotland instead of carping from the sidelines like the Opposition!

Meanwhile a couple of good pieces – one about the SNP’s constant whingeing about The Vow (that pointless PR job which made me howl Oh Shut Up at the time) and the other Where Stands Scotland Now from the excellent Chris Deerin, whose writings were one of the best things that came out of the Indy debate.

Update. Corbyn in Scotland and trying to get back the Labour vote (no chance):-

It is easier – far easier – to find Labour MSPs and veteran members who believe Corbyn will be a disaster for the party. Those critics – like the few who are trying to remain optimistic – are wary of going on the record when discussing the new leader. There is a clear sense of unease about discussing life in Labour under Corbyn.

One Labour MSP said: “If anyone says this is good news because we can outflank the SNP on the left, then they’re not thinking straight.

“The SNP doesn’t really present a left-wing politics, it just says to people ‘you’re compassionate and wonderful’ and people lap it up.

“There isn’t a majority out there for paying more tax and hiking up benefits. If there was, then the SNP would be doing those things.

“There’s a majority out there that wants to feel good about themselves and to get on in life and the SNP absolutely talks to them.

“The rhetoric is left wing but the politics are centre ground. The SNP is New Labour with nationalism added and there’s no way an Old Labour offer is going to counter it. I despair at anyone who thinks that’s going to happen.

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Scotland: it’s about class not nationality

September 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm (class, labour party, posted by JD, scotland, socialism)

The SNP’s reactionary social policies are what Scottish Labour should focus on to counter the nationalist diversion of the threatened new referendum.

Elaine Smith MSP

By Elaine Smith

Labour MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston

One year on from the independence referendum campaign Scotland is again reflecting on it and whether there should be another referendum any time soon.

The referendum was a momentous exercise that saw me personally speak to a countless number of my constituents last year on the doorsteps, and it was a process that saw unprecedented numbers of people taking an interest in voting.

However, it was a process that also caused tensions and provoked some nasty behaviour on both sides.

In the weeks leading up to the independence referendum families were split between Yes and No, friends, work colleagues and even strangers had bitter arguments and indeed some relationships broke down never to be the same again.

In the aftermath, many who voted Yes feel cheated out of what they perceived as a better future and many who voted No feel that they are being viewed as less Scottish.

There is also an issue that the national flag is used by the SNP as a political symbol and the tensions remain while the “neverendum” hangs over us.

Still, for me the most concerning issue is the complete disregard by the SNP for democracy.

There was a massive turn-out to vote on September 18 last year so there can be no doubt that this was a democratically representative vote. The engagement of so many people in the vote was, of course, a positive outcome of the process and there was a clear 10 per cent differential, which resulted in a decision to reject independence.

There had also been clear statements by the then first minister and others in the Yes campaign that this was a “once in a generation” or “once in a lifetime” decision and that the result would be respected.

The No side were also challenged to respect any decision and the irony is that had this vote gone the other way, even by 1 per cent, then we would have been independent by next April with no second chances.

The No campaign has been accused of scaremongering on issues like the currency, pensions and oil prices. Since there was no clear plan I actually found these issues, along with many others, very worrying and, of course, we now know that concern about oil prices were certainly no scare story but all too real in their predictions of the possibility of the price plummeting.

However, having thought long and hard about it, my main motivation for voting against separation was a class-based one. I believe in solidarity and I have more in common with people in Blackpool than those in Braemar.

It’s not a change of constitution that is needed but a change of government to achieve the fairer, more equal and redistributive society that I want to live in and that Labour would implement.

Ironically the success of the SNP in Scotland and the threat of some kind of coalition down south was enough to deliver a return of the Tories.

There is an argument now about whether the so-called “Vow” is being delivered in full, although later analysis shows that it seemed to have had little effect on the vote.

The Scottish Parliament always had vast powers which were never fully used and we were getting major extra powers over tax prior to the referendum campaign even starting. Like others I expect the Smith Commission recommendations to be fully implemented since they were agreed to on a cross-party basis by all the main parties in Scotland including the SNP.

Even if the so-called vow is not implemented in its entirety we will still have one of the most powerful devolved administrations anywhere in the world.

When Labour delivered the referendum to establish the Scottish Parliament there were two clear votes: Yes to devolution and Yes to tax varying powers. The latter issue, therefore, had a mandate of the Scottish people agreed to by a democratic vote.

Interestingly, the SNP disregarded that democratic vote when John Swinney their finance minister gave up the ability to use the tax varying power in 2010 without even consulting the Scottish Parliament, never mind the people.

The vote for the SNP last May was undoubtedly in part an anti-establishment vote and an expression of displeasure with the perception of Westminster politics. Added to this their very effective propaganda machine was working overtime on the theme of “Standing up for Scotland.”

The reality is that there were always 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

What amazes me though is the SNP’s ability to act like the opposition when they have been the government in Scotland for over eight years. Given the chaos in the police service, the savage cuts to local government, the problems in education and the crisis in our health service to mention just a few areas I am amazed that any police officer, teacher, lecturer, nurse, doctor, paramedic or any other public-sector employee votes for them.

It will take time for Labour to regain the trust of the Scottish people but we have made a good start this week by electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The negative tag of “Red Tories” was always nonsense but it was SNP spin that stuck with some people — it clearly cannot be levelled at Labour now.

In Scotland, Kezia Dugdale has started to further democratise the party, giving power to ordinary members and changing conference. Together our labour leadership team can show that, unlike the SNP, we don’t just talk about socialism, we act. The SNP have not implemented one single policy to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor in society and have actually done the opposite with their damaging council tax freeze and vicious cuts to council budgets.

Rather than spend time, energy and another £15.8 million on another referendum, the SNP should get on with sorting out the problems they are fully responsible for here in Scotland with the vast swathe of powers they now have.

Scottish Labour will get on with our job of holding the SNP government in Edinburgh accountable for their many failures.

And given time maybe the wounds can heal in families, with friends and across the country and we can all once again be proud confident Scots, living in a tolerant, friendly and inclusive nation.

  • This article also appears in today’s Morning Star. It is republished here with the permission of the author

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August 23, 2015 at 8:29 am (Rosie B, scotland)

Thomson: smooth-talking pro-business voice of nationalism

During the Scottish independence referendum there was an organisation called Business for Scotland, whose schtick was that independence would be good for Scotland’s businesses. Their words were treated as if from the CBI or some other big business guns though in fact they were a slug pistol of one-man bands and consultants who did not trade with England. For an estimate of their general puniness check out Chokkablog:-

Given that the potential impact on this £47.6bn of trade is one of the big issues for business in the Independence debate I think we can agree that any “Scottish Business” voice would need to include representation from businesses involved in this trade to have any credibility.

This is why I’m amazed that “Business for Scotland” gets any airtime at all. As I show in painful detail in this post, the identified Members of Business for Scotland can be fairly summarised as;
•30 “business professionals”

•28 people who have Small Company directorships; businesses with no declared turnover or employee figures. These are predominantly consultancies, property companies and service companies; I can’t identify any material trading links with rUK and none can be considered major employers.

Business for Scotland was an SNP front group and now the managing director, Michelle Thomson, is my MP for Edinburgh West after the great Sneep Sweep last election. This piece from Private Eye shows the general contradictions of a party that tries to be all things to all people, except for the common thread of nationalism:-

NEVER let it be said the SNP gang at Westminster lacks ideological diversity. When Mhairi Black, the 20-year-old left-wing firebrand whose maiden speech recently went viral on the internet, attacks the wicked Tories and their tax-cutting ways, many of the SNP MPs nod and cheer her on.

Yet the awkward truth is that it is SNP policy to slash corporation tax and the SNP leadership has made strenuous efforts to crawl to big business, offering desperate reassurance that an independent Scotland would not be the left-wing, high-tax utopia that Black and many of the party’s hard left activists envisage.

At the forefront of that Nationalist push during the Scottish referendum to convince business that it had nothing to fear from independence was Michelle Thomson, then the managing director of an SNP-front called Business for Scotland. She won the Edinburgh West seat for the party in May, defeating Lib Dem Mike Crockart and securing a 3,210 majority.

Thomson was somewhat less successful in the referendum campaign last year, where she was deployed on radio and television as the theoretically smooth-talking pro-business voice of moderate nationalism trying to sell separation to business leaders and their employees. Many of them remained sceptical.

As one of the seven signatories of a letter to the Financial Times weeks before the referendum, Thomson proclaimed that Scotland’s financial sector would always prosper, contrary to the warnings from Unionists about the potential economic risks of independence.

One of Thomson’s fellow signatories to that letter was a banker who knows a great deal about the prosperity or otherwise of the Scottish financial sector. Sir George Mathewson, friend and adviser to Alex Salmond, was the buccaneering chief executive and chairman of RBS who expanded the bank aggressively, hired Fred Goodwin and then from the sidelines cheered on his old bank as it bought the Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, in one of the worst deals of the century.

Despite Thomson making a lot of noise and being invited on air by broadcasters in Scotland and London who did too little to probe the credentials of Business for Scotland, it was never clear that the organisation she ran had many serious businesses on board. The tenacious economics blogger Kevin Hague incurred the wrath of Thomson and the Nationalists by conducting an in-depth investigation last year into the group’s membership. Despite the claims that it represented Scottish business, only a few of those involved had major company directorships, Hague discovered, and many more ran tiny firms or no firms at all.

Thomson continued to be presented as a voice of business, and when she won her seat she was hailed by the National, the SNP fanzine that is a weekend offshoot of the once respected Glasgow Herald, as a “breath of fresh air” because she has enjoyed “a broad-based life experience”.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow in 1985, she worked as a musician before joining Standard Life working in IT, moving to RBS and then setting up on her own in 2009. But her subsequent business career cannot be counted as stellar. At the time she ran Business for Scotland, she had one active directorship, in a small Fife-based outfit called Your Property Shop Ltd, providing property investment services. Her other property business, Edinburgh Global Property Investments, was dissolved.

At Westminster, in the SNP team, Thomson now has the lofty business, innovation and skills portfolio from which to pontificate about the great economic issues of the day. She may also have to explain to Mhairi Black and other left-wingers on the Nationalist benches that when they joined the SNP, if they thought they were signing up to a party in favour of punitively taxing the boss class, they were sorely mistaken.

The semi-official economic adviser to the Yessers is Stu Campbell of Wings for Scotland. He and Kevin Hague of Chokkablog are at loggerheads on twitter. Wings is notorious for his abusiveness and instead of countering Hague’s graphs and stats goes very very personal:-


This refers to some personal stuff Kevin Hague put on his blog about the various “dads” that floated through his difficult childhood. I can’t parse Wings’ numbers but he really is a prize shit.

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Good morning Scotland

August 16, 2015 at 8:15 pm (Beyond parody, Rosie B, scotland)

Here in Scotland politics sings its same auld sang, with full overbearing chorus from the Nats. For nature of the political discourse of our present representatives, check out this by the Flying Rodent:-

Good Morning The People Of Scotland

Presenter:  …Derek McSmug is the SNP spokesperson for Really Complaining About Things.  Derek, thanks for joining us on the show.

Derek McSmug:  Thank you, Gary.

Presenter:  Derek, you said yesterday that a second Scottish independence referendum is “terrifyingly inevitable”.  Does your party intend to bring forward plans for another referendum in the near future?

Derek McSmug:  Well Gary, I think it’s no secret that we’re in favour of Scottish independence!  (Laughs)  But no, we have no plans to hold a second referendum in the foreseeable future.  We’re focusing on standing up for the people of Scotland against the Tories’ swingeing cuts to public services, which the Labour Party is fully –

Presenter:  Well, if you’re focusing on standing up to the Tories, why do you keep talking about a second referendum?  Why not move past that and focus on your work at Westminster, or on governing here in Scotland?

Derek McSmug:  Frankly Gary, I’m shocked and disappointed that you’ve said that.  You know that it’s for the people of Scotland to decide whether there should be a second referendum and I don’t think it’s for the media to tell the people of Scotland that they mustn’t discuss their constitutional future.

Presenter:  With respect Derek, it’s you that keeps talking up a referendum, not the people of Scotland.

Read the rest. It’s brilliant. Also good comments underneath.

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Scottish Labour: turn outwards … or close down?

June 18, 2015 at 11:46 am (labour party, posted by JD, scotland, Sheridan, SSP, unions)

Letter from Scotland, by Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)

Kezia Dugdale
Above: Kezia Dugdale voted for Murphy’s “reforms”

“Can the Scottish Labour Party listen and learn from its defeat on 7 May?” asked Katy Clark, former Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, at last Saturday’s Campaign for Socialism (CfS) conference in Glasgow.

The 70-plus Scottish Labour members attending the event were clear about some of the things that Labour needed to do in response to that question. The same cannot be said of the Scottish Labour Executive Committee, meeting at the same time.

Speakers at the CfS conference emphasised the need for local Labour Party branches to turn outwards and campaign alongside of trade unionists and community groups, instead of just going door-knocking and asking for people’s votes.

As an appeal from one of the strikers in the Glasgow City Council homelessness caseworkers dispute highlighted, this includes campaigning against Labour-controlled local authorities which implement Westminster and Holyrood austerity dictates.

The need to expose the SNP’s record in power at Holyrood since 2007 was also emphasised: cuts in Further Education, growing inequalities in educational attainment in schools, real cuts in NHS spending, undemocratic centralisation, and not a single redistributive policy.

(Other than the council tax freeze, which serves as a tax cut for the better off.)

In fact, the SNP’s only real achievement over the past decade has been to replace class-based political affiliations and voting patterns by ones based on Scottish national identity, for which the enemy is not unaccountable wealth and power but “Westminster”.

In a conference session on trade unionism in Scotland a speaker from the Fire Brigades Union highlighted the reality of what the “left-wing” SNP and its policies mean for unions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scotland takes the Left road, England takes the Right?

May 23, 2015 at 2:53 pm (AWL, elections, left, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, Tory scum)

The Tories put out an election poster last week claiming Ed Miliband could be propped up in Number 10 by the SNP and Sinn Fein

Rhodri Evans (of Workers Liberty) responds to a lot of current nonsense about Scotland somehow being essentially more “left-wing” than England:

One story being told about the 7 May election is that Scotland has become left-wing, and England right-wing. Labour lost, so they say, because it was too left-wing for England and too right-wing for Scotland.

A likelier explanation is that the SNP was able to project itself as both a bit left-wing, and safe, whereas Labour’s combination of general talk against “predators” with extravagantly cautious and tiny policies left it looking neither really left-wing nor really safe.

The SNP was able to scoop up a swathe of middle-of-the-road, disaffected-leftish, or left-on-some-things-right-on-others voters who in England voted Green, Ukip, or even Tory, or didn’t vote. Turnout in Scotland, 71%, was significantly higher than overall, 66%.

The basis for this SNP success is the surge of nationalism in Scotland, which allows those who see an independent Scotland as a welfare oasis and those who see it as a low-corporate-tax destination for global capital to imagine a common cause.

The British and Scottish Social Attitudes surveys are the nearest we have to statistics. They show Scottish people to be a shade more leftish than England, but no more than we would expect from the fact that Scotland’s population is more concentrated in big cities than England’s.

Trade union density is a bit higher in Scotland than in England. Like Wales, whose union density is a shade higher again, it has a higher percentage of public-sector employment. Two-thirds of Scotland’s population is in its five biggest city areas, and only 33% of England’s. 35% of Wales’s population is in three city areas.

36% of voters in England and Wales wanted more tax and more social spending; 52% of voters wanted to stay the same; 7% wanted tax cuts and spending cuts. In Scotland it was 44%, 48%, 5%.

Although Scotland has no university tuition fees, 73% in Scotland said it should have; 78% in England and Wales supported fees.

40% in Scotland want the EU to have looser powers, but to stay in; 17% want out. In England and Wales it was 39% and 25%.

Such opinion surveys are always unreliable, because dependent on exactly how questions are phrased and in what context. But they fit with other evidence: Scotland does not necessarily have (proportionately) bigger demonstrations or anti-cuts campaigns or strikes than England.

The best guess from the evidence is that opinion in Scotland, as in England and Wales, edged to the right during the Blair years and has continued that way, but it is fluid and by no means hardened.

Two conclusions follow for the labour movement. A shift back to full-on Blairite politics by Labour in England would have damaging results as in Scotland, even if the impact is less immediately spectacular because no party in England has the SNP’s ability to scoop up a range of the disaffected.

Secondly, the idea that unions disaffiliating from Labour in Scotland (as some suggest) will allow a new left surge there is fantasy.

The Labour Party was formed in Britain thanks to long efforts by growing socialist organisations who pulled unions, at first a minority of unions, with them. In Scotland, the last decade has seen a spectacular decline of the socialist left, much greater than any damage we have suffered in England.

In the 2001 general election the Scottish Socialist Party – the activist core of which came from the former Scottish organisation of Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal — got between 6% and 10% of the vote in every constituency in Glasgow, bar one where it got 4.5%.

This time the SSP, much weaker in activists than it was in 2001, ran in only four constituencies in Scotland, two in Glasgow, averaging 0.5%. Elsewhere it advised voters to back the bourgeois SNP. TUSC, the other attempt to run left-of-Labour candidates in Scotland, did worse in Glasgow (average 0.5%) than its poor average across Britain (0.6%).

If unions were about to disaffiliate because they had waged a real left-wing battle against Labour’s leaders had reached breaking point, things would be different.

In fact it’s more a matter of union leaders being bothered by their members swinging to the SNP, and disaffiliation would almost surely lead to unions’ politics in Scotland being reduced to client-relationship-type haggling for deals with SNP and the Labour rump.

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Scottish Labour and Unite: Murphy and the Blairites are the “kiss of death”, not McCluskey!

May 18, 2015 at 8:03 am (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, unions, Unite the union)

By Dale Street

When Jim Murphy announced last Saturday that he was standing down as Scottish Labour Party leader, he took it as an opportunity to lambast Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey for his supposedly “destructive behaviour” towards the Labour Party.

Murphy claimed that he had been “at the centre of a campaign by the London leadership of Unite the Union, (who) blame myself or the Scottish Labour Party for the defeat of the UK Labour Party in the general election.”

He continued:

“Sometimes people see it as a badge of honour to have Mr. McCluskey’s support. I see it as a kiss of death to be supported by that type of politics. … We cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.”

“The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”

Len McCluskey has twice been elected Unite’s General Secretary, in 2010 and again in 2013.

If McCluskey really is guilty of “destructive behaviour” and his politics the “kiss of death”, then the Unite members who have twice elected him their General Secretary must be either: really thick not to have seen through him; or willing accomplices of his destructive behaviour.   Read the rest of this entry »

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