Sorry seems to be the hardest word

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

Yeah, so the circus that is memogate rumbles on in the form of  a possible slap on the wrist for the Telegraph.

This is expected to be delivered by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) apparently. An article in today’s National (*) covers the ground on the whole ‘sorry’ mess far more effectively and comprehensively than needs repeated here, but that it should take such an effort to elicit any kind of apology from a member of the press says something in and of itself.

Where did it all go wrong with our fourth estate? When did they stop being our watchdogs, our guardians and start running with the foxes? Has it truly always been this way, or was there a time when they performed an essential public service? Have we simply in more recent times had the scales lifted from our eyes?

The media were meant to hold corrupt and inept politics to account. On the flip side, they were meant to bring to our notice the good as well as the bad in our governance, to provide balance. Except they don’t appear to do that, do they? Our media seems to be failing us badly just when we needed them most. Their owners and publishers allowed a heady mix of personal agendas and political affiliation to colour everything. Not unexpected you might say. Indeed there is absolutely nothing wrong in the press having their own editorial opinion/political direction. There’s no such thing as a truly objective point of view from anyone and it would surely take a will of iron to produce positive articles about people you consider to be your ideological opposition or whose policies may affect your corporate interests. But what happens when it runs out of control? What happens when caution and professionalism is thrown to the wind in favour of an editorial slant?

Isn’t an attempt to provide balance and professionalism the very thing which would give the press a moral authority? The ability to rise above personal beliefs and agendas, give credit where its due, report facts instead of unverified hearsay, empathize rather than sneer and dissect rather than smear. To put aside your personal beliefs and adhere to a professional standard. Aren’t these the very things that would give people a reason to trust and invest in their media?

We live in a sound bite age where the headline (or the bottom line) has become more important than the content and shock value more important than research and verification. This is a world where spads, politicians, self interest and personal agendas live. Its a world where public manipulation is easy, far easier than say professional, moral and ethical codes. Far easier than having those politicians produce better policy to combat their opposition or have a staff member verify a fact at source or as close to source as possible. Its a world where the powerful and influential live and a world where if you have the money and the connections, you rarely have to say sorry for the harm you may cause others.

Link (*)

http://www.thenational.scot/news/press-watchdog-to-rebuke-the-daily-telegraph-over-misleading-sturgeon-memo-story.4269

What’s in a name?

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

You know that veto, that’s not a veto? It seems that Mr Mundell couldn’t even wait for the new bill, debates, amendments, ratifications and/or ink to dry before exercising it. Apparently he’s no happy that after weeks of taunting the Scottish Government and electorate over the matter of fullfiscaldevoindylitemaxautonomy, those bounders representing the bulk of the Scottish electorate went and tabled an amendment openly asking for it (black hole an’ a) (*). Worse yet, it appears their idea of fullfiscalwossiname isn’t the same as HMG’s. True blue Tory central’s idea of ‘fiscal responsibility’ is entirely different and it certainly doesn’t include a Scottish government having control of all revenue streams, taxes, welfare or natural resources. Oh hell no. So after he had munched on some hastily made toast and jam, he screwed his courage up to the sticking point and with the full weight of all the big boys behind him, Mr Mundell made some statements prior to Commons debate.

“An amendment that kills off the Barnett formula and ends the sharing of resources across the UK is about as far away from sensible as one can get. It would be a full fiscal shambles that would cost every family in Scotland around £5,000.”

 To which Stewart Hosie (SNP deputy leader) had not unsurprisingly replied “The Tories must stop playing games with Scotland, and clarify whether or not David Cameron’s assurance that further changes to the Scotland Bill will be considered still stands.”

Now maybe just me, but that statement of Mr Mundell’s sounded about as far away from considered debate and negotiation as you can get really, but there’s a pertinent point which seems to have escaped Mr Mundell and his peers and we’ll come back to that later. Needless to say, it didn’t bode well for either the debate or the vote and pretty much set the tone for what was about to occur. The reality of Monday’s debate and vote confirmed everything many of us have argued on over the past several years. Westminster indeed could not be trusted to deliver on its referendum pledges. It began with Fluffy attempting to deny that home rule had ever been offered and ended with the usual suspects voting down any amendments, including FFA, which would see Scotland make its own economic decisions… Are we surprised?

What would it have cost them to honour a few pledges in good faith? What would it have cost to honour even one, the writing into the constitution of the permanence of the Scottish parliament? It would have sent a message to Scotland’s electorate, that despite our recent rocky political history, Westminster was at least attempting to look forward, win the peace or at least earn respect. It may even have extended the political union beyond their own expectations. Who knows? But no, the Westminster establishment doesn’t suffer any perceived threat to their hegemony or sovereignty.  A gesture which would have cost them nothing, eclipsed by a vote which may now in their arrogance, ignorance, greed and near as I can tell spite, will now probably cost them everything. I’d say they’ve sent a message alright and I would hope it has been received and understood loud and clear.

So let’s cut through all the bullshit that we are being fed and get back to that pertinent point Mr Mundell has conveniently overlooked. ‘Home rule’ by any other name, the ‘federal solution’, providing Scotland with a ‘powerhouse parliament’… Sound familiar? In the weeks prior to the referendum vote, airwaves and column space were devoted to a fair old mixture of the terminology above. You couldn’t turn a page or change a channel but you’d run into a couch load of experts or politicians talking about FFA, indy lite or devo max. When Brown wasn’t terrifying pensioners he was ‘guaranteeing’ delivery of home rule, near federalism, constitutional conventions and a parliament secured permanently within the UK’s constitution. It was relentlessly and remorselessly rammed down the Scottish electorate’s throats for weeks in the run up to September 18th. None of it has come to pass and I sincerely doubt that any of it will, certainly not without a great deal of kicking and screaming on the part of the Westminster establishment. (An excellent highlighting by Wings Over Scotland, on this particular piece of duplicity, to be found in the links below *).

The Scottish electorate have been promised and denied home rule off and on for decades of course. Both parties and individuals have attempted to determine or shape what home rule means in pursuit of one agenda or another over this period of time (mainly the winning of votes) and all to no resolution. ‘The Vow’ and Brown’s ‘guarantees’ being only the most recent and frankly damning incarnation of all.

In the meantime and for the removal of all doubt, this is what constitutes the most commonly held definition of Full fiscal autonomy (FFA): – also known as devolution max, (devo-max), fiscal federalism, independence lite or independence-minus, – is a particular form of far-reaching devolution proposed for Scotland. The term has come to describe a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland; it would be responsible for most spending in Scotland but make payments to the UK government to cover Scotland’s share of the cost of providing certain UK-wide services, including at least defence and the conduct of foreign relations. Scottish fiscal autonomy – stopping short of full political independence – is usually promoted by advocates of a federal or confederal constitution for the United Kingdom. (Source WIKI)

Now as I said earlier, a bill of goods was sold to the Scottish electorate during the referendum. BT, Westminster’s established parties and the media played fast and loose with the terms home rule and devo max without (a.) promising a damn thing (b.) clearly defining what they considered either to be or (c.) fully explaining the processes involved which would of course have outlined the near impossibility of the pledges’ delivery in the first place. This allowed the Scottish electorate to conjure their own images of what they believed those terms to mean and led them to believe that pain free delivery was possible. It’s not and never was, as we are now seeing demonstrated in editorial after editorial and debate after debate in chambers. We are now at the place where expectation meets reality and where people will be forced to consider whether that bill of goods they were sold was worth the price they paid.

So what’s in a name?

It should have meant exactly what it says on the tin, yes? ‘HOME RULE’ or ‘DEVOLUTION TO THE MAX’, except nobody bothered to represent or define the position for the referendum process, not even the party of ‘home rule’ and federalism, the Lib thingies. As for the post referendum’s Smith Commission and its staggering ability to read through, debate and deliberate on fourteen thousand submissions in thirty days… least said the better eh? Heaven forefend it could actually have been perceived to simply be a party political jockeying process for the GE.

This should have been where the civic and political worlds met to determine the nature of a thing and, upon agreement, send our representation forward with the electorate’s proposal and unabridged, unadulterated definition. The agreed proposal to be placed before Westminster’s establishment who, as in any negotiation will also have their counter proposal/fixed position. That’s the debate/negotiation bit Mr Mundell seemed so over eager to dismiss out of hand pre the actual debate. But then home rule or devo to the max was never really on offer was it? It was always intended to be a confused and confusing mess for the public. A publicity stunt, a strategy, a blind defending an entrenched position and designed to fall apart as a process at the first hurdle, the Commons chamber, and stifle Scotland’s elected representation. The subsequent amendment attempting to rectify the Smith Commission deficiencies was effectively doomed long before it ever reached the debating chamber. In any case, if neither party can come to an agreement for the sake of carrying the whole forward, (and apparently we haven’t) then effectively the game is a bogey regardless. So, as yet, no home rule, no permanent parliament under law, no agreed progress on devolution… and we should consider the independence issue settled why?

Holyrood elections are next year and very soon our representatives will be asking us what we think should happen next in the light of the events of the past year. Plenty of time to take stock, assess, be patient and have a good think.

In the meantime, despite this week’s unfolding drama, all is not lost. I believe concessions can be won by our current representation and, in my opinion, any competence that can be used to better the lot of the people in the face of this punitive system of government is one worth pursuing. Any harmful legislation that can be fought or delayed is worth the effort and any duplicity on the part of Westminster that can be uncovered and brought to our notice a job well done and a service performed. Just to be clear though, in my opinion, I seriously doubt that gifting the Scottish parliament all powers barring foreign affairs and defence has ever been or will ever be on any parliamentary to do list, it’s simply not in the nature of the beast.

Links (*):

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/george-kerevan-scottish-fiscal-autonomy-is-best-option-for-all.4059

http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-keeping-of-record/

http://legacy.holyrood.com/2011/09/lib-dems-to-float-commission-on-home-rule-for-scotland/

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/miliband-100-day-‘home-rule’-pledge

It’s only a game

A short story, guest blog by Elizabeth Angus

So there we ur at the gemme, Denny an me, and it’s bloody great. Ma furst Old Firm game – it took me ages tae get ma maw tae let me go. But ahm no a daft wee boy, ahm nearly fourteen, an ah went tae hunners a games last season. An she likes Denny; she thinks he’s a ‘nice sensible lad’. Denny nearly pished himsel when ah telt him she said that. But ma maw’s right, Denny’ll make sure we don’t get oursels intae bother.

It’s some gemme, this. Ahm lovin it. Bobby Lennox opened the scoring fur Celtic just afore half time, and the place went bananas. There’s been loadsa action since, and we’ve been all over them. It’s only a matter of time before we score again. Denny an me ur standin in the bit of The Jungle right next tae the Rangers End. The Jungle’s whit everyone calls the North Enclosure. Ah telt ma maw it’s because the railings ur painted green, like creepers, but that’s no why at all. The singin’s mental. We’re chantin at the Rangers supporters, and they’re chantin back at us. Ah catch wan wee Hun starin at me an ah shoot him the vicky. Sometimes folk throw things. It’s all dead loud, and kinda – ah dunno – vitriolic. That’s a crackin word, that. Ah read it somewhere and had tae look it up. Wish ah hud the nerve tae use it.

Ahm still staring intae space, jus kinda thinkin about how good that vitriolic word is, and lettin it roll about on ma tongue, when ah notice the singin’s stopped. There’s just a big noise instead. Ah lean right intae Denny so’s ah kin see past the big fat guy in front of me, an the Huns have got the ba’. Tommy Burns is lyin on the deck, an The Jungle’s growling, an Derek Johnstone’s lumberin up the pitch straight at Peter Latchford. Ah canny watch, so ah stare at the plook on the back o Fat Guy’s neck, an then the Rangers End starts howlin an Denny’s clutching his heid an ah cannae believe it. The Huns have scored.

An that’s how it finishes. Wan each.

The walk up to the Gallowgate’s mental. It always is a bit, after the gemme, but this seems super-mental. It’s like the whole crowd’s walkin up the middle of the road. Most drivers don’t come near Parkheid at coming-out time, but there’s one or two stuck like wee islands in among all the people. They have to go dead slow. Some poor sod’s come down here in a John Player Special Capri. It’s a black one, gold pinstripes, really neat lookin motor. Someone bumps intae Denny as we go past, an Denny bumps intae me, an ah bump intae the Capri’s wing mirror. Aw, shite. Ah kin see the driver’s gettin aw uptight, but the crowd’s that thick he’ll no be able tae get oot his motor. He’s probably no got the bottle, anyway.

There’s a 61 bus waitin. Ah love gettin on the bus efter the gemme. There’s that many folk pilin intae it at wance that ye kin take yer feet aff the grun an jus get carried on. Ah telt ma maw, an she didny think it wis funny, jus kept goin on about how it sounded dead dangerous an she wisny sure ah wis old enough tae be goin wi just ma mates. So ah didny bother tellin her that the windaes o the bus get panned in oan a regular basis, cuz that didny seem circumspect.

By the time we get up town there’s only been wan brick heaved through a windae, and it’s providin some much-needed ventilation. There’s a bit o a rumble goin on just afore wur stoap. A crowd o Rangers fans ur gettin ladled intae some o oors. It’s lookin a bit messy an Denny sez we’d be better stayin’ oan the bus the noo. Ahm about tae protest that ah promised ma mammy ah widny be late. She keeps goin on about how ahm that young tae be oot masel. Ah need tae change buses an get hame. An then ah see the Hun gettin glessed, an ah hink Denny might huv a point. Man, that’s no pretty. Ah mean, ah know he’s a Hun but naebody deserves that. He’s aw hunched over, an there’s all blood pishin between his fingers where he’s haudin his face. His mates urny runnin away either, they’re lookin nasty an wan o them’s reachin intae his inside poaket. Ah look away before anyone catches me starin, ah don’t want tae draw attention tae masel. Ahm proper scared now, an ah just want tae be aff this bus an on mah way hame.

It’s another three stops before we get aff, an ahm no sure where we ur. Denny reckons he knows, but, so we start walking. We traipse round a corner an smack bang intae a bunch of Huns. We’re still wearing our Celtic scarves, an ah’ve got a wee wan tied roun mah wrist an aw. This display of green and white hoopery seems to inflame the Huns, who call us Fenian bastards, an we leg it.

Denny an me ur baith pretty speedy, so we outrun them nae bother, but we kinda lose our direction and end up at the Clyde. Our bus is away up at George Square. It takes forever to get there, what with lookin behind us all the time in case of trouble. And keekin round corners like thae private eyes do on the telly. Ah’ve taken aff mah scarves an stuffed them inside mah jaiket, but Denny says he’s a proper Tim an his isny coming aff his neck till he’s deid.
When the Number 2 draps us at the chippy it’s late. Man, ah mean late. Mah maw’s gonny kill me. Worse, she’s gonny no let me go tae the fitba again. Denny says ahm jus bein paranoid, and wonders if ahm comin roon tae Wee Kev’s with him – Wee Kev’s got the new AC/DC album and Denny’s goin tae tape it. Let There Be Rock. Denny’s awready heard some of it, and he swears Bon Scott’s wrote this song, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, about our big fat maths teacher, Roseanna McCracken.

Ah really want tae hear the song about Big McCracken, but ah tell him ah canny. Mah maw’ll be goin spare. She gets super-worried about me now there’s just the two of us. Besides, ahm supposed tae be takin a fish supper hame fur tea. So she’s gonny be worried an starvin, an that’s no a good combination.

Ah head up the road wi mah cargo. The bottom o the packet’s warm, an the newsprint’s comin aff on mah hands cos mah palms ur a bit sweaty. Probably cos ahm scared about gettin intae trouble. The chips smell magic. Ah sniff dead deep so’s the vinegar smell catches at the back of ma throat. Ah poke aboot wi the paper until ah kin ease wan o the chips out. It’s too hot and it burns mah tongue a bit, but ah don’t care. There’s no much of mah share left when ah reach the front door.

Ah go intae the hoose an say hello kinda quietly, waitin for a bollockin. Mammy, ahm hame… an ah’ve goat yer tea. Ah huv a quick check – aye, ah dae huv her tea, ah’ve no tanned it aw. There’s nae reply, but the telly’s on. Ah kin hear Nicholas Parsons on Sale of the Century so it must be efter eight o’clock. Ahm deid. Maw! A bit louder. It’s me…

The living room door’s open a wee bit. Ah go in, tryin tae look casual, feart o whit she’ll say tae me. And at furst ah hink she’s no there, ah canny see her. And then a contestant gets a question right, an ah kin see ma maw’s legs oan the flair, an the audience start clappin like mad, an ah just staun there an ah kin feel aw mah insides turn intae a big cauld lump that draps right tae the bottom o mah stomach. Ah canny move.

Maw? Mah feet step forward by themselves. Ah canny look. Maw? Aw, shite – maw! Whit the fuck dae ah dae? Her eyes ur shut, an ah canny tell if she’s breathin. Some bit o me knows to dial 999, so ah grab the receiver an then find ah huvny goat a spare haun cos ahm still huggin the fish suppers. I put the parcel down carefully oan the sideboard, an then worry that it might leave a mark. Mah fingers seem too fat tae dial the numbers, an each 9 takes a lifetime. Some wumman asks me which service ah require, an ah tell her it’s ma maw, she’s just lyin oan the flair, an she puts me through tae the ambulance gadgies. Another wumman speaks tae me, ah manage tae remember where we live an she asks me loads of questions. Ah don’t know if ahm gettin any right. Ah try tae tell her it’s mah fault fur bein late hame, an she tells me it isnae, but whit the fuck does she know?

An then the wumman says the ambulance is oan its way, an she stays oan the line, jus talkin tae me, but ahm no listening tae her. Ahm talkin tae mah mammy, an ahm promisin her that ah’ll never go tae the fitba ever again.

~ 0 ~

This wee story was first published in 2013, in Octavius magazine. It was inspired by my husband’s reminisces of going to the fitba as a kid in the 1970s. Much of the detail is true apart from the ending: I can reassure everybody that nothing like that ever happened to his mammy.

I have very recently entered World of Blog, but if you want to read any more of my scribblings please drop in and say hello: elizabethangus.wordpress.com. It’s an eclectic mix – something for everyone!

Much gratitude to the Wee Dug for letting me share his airspace and shamelessly plug myself…

Labour’s number 2s

This article should have been published a few hours ago, but when I heard the news that Gordon Matheson thought he could be a great deputy leader for the Labour party in Scotland I had to go and change my underwear because I was laughing so much.

The Labour leadership contest in Scotland has only just started, and it’s already descended into farce. Concerned that the resignation of Jim Murphy had left Scotland’s satirists and twitter parodyists without a suitably balloon like target for their ridicule, the always reliable Labour party has stepped up to the plate and provided us with the zeppelin ego of Gordon Matheson. Just as Jeremy Corbyn is a no hoper on the UK leadership ticket as a service to Labour to disguise the fact that it is now a right wing party, the leader of Glesca Cooncil has likewise announced his intention to stand as a no hoper on the deputy leader ticket as a service to Labour, because this will disguise the fact that the other candidates are deeply unappealing and implausibly ridiculous buffoons as well.

Gordie’s announcement is not, and I repeat not, remotely connected with any new Labour rule that the deputy leader gets prime billing in the list for the Scottish elections next year and will be virtually guaranteed an MSP seat. How could you possibly imagine that the leader of Glesca Cooncil could ever contemplate being self-serving.

Well I say announced, in fact Gordie shouted it excitedly like a demented garden gnome on speed. After all this is a man who almost wet himself with excitement on witnessing John Barrowman’s performance at the opening of the Commonwealth Games and forgot that microphones had been invented. These were games which, we were told, were going to bring lasting benefits to the people of the East End of Glasgow, and which gave us a swimming pool and a park. Only now we’re told that the park in Dalmarnock is to be sold off to property developers – the only people who have gained lasting cash based benefits, as indeed they have been throughout Labour’s decades in power in Glasgow.

Glesca Labour likes to sell things off. They’ve rezoned public parks allowing them to rent them out for corporate events, and now they’re hell bent on removing the steps on Buchanan Street, one of the few public spaces in the city centre, because what the city centre really needs is more retail units.

Gordie’s candidacy brings a number of advantages. The other big advantage of course is that unlike Labour MSPs who will struggle to stay in post in less than a year’s time, Gordie is a cooncillor and will still have a job all the way through to 2017. This also proves that, contrary to popular belief, a coffin can indeed have more than one last nail. Gordie is the B&Q of last nails, supplying a huge selection of last nails to suit all of Labour’s coffin requirements. He can bury Labour more deeply than the Scottish media buried the true story of his predecessor’s fall from grace.

Gordie took over leadership of Glesca Cooncil after its previous leader self-destructed in a cocaine based frenzy in ways never properly investigated by Scotland’s media. But then not properly investigating the goings on in Glesca Cooncil is a Scottish media tradition as hoary as seven days hard with Francis Gay. Back in the 1961, the Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni canned his crap and sold it as art, he got the idea from Glesca Cooncil, which has been canning crap and selling it to the Glesca public for far longer. Now Gordie has taken the concept to its logical conclusion and wants to be Labour’s number 2s. There are those of us who’d suggest that he already has been for quite a long time.

Gordie says he has a track record in success – but since he successfully body swerved Labour’s cooncil manifesto commitment to introduce free city wide wi-fi, no one can Google it to find out so we’re expected just to take his word for it. Gordie’s wi-fi track record probably disappeared down the non existent tunnels of the East End Subway extension that the party promised when they were touting for the Commonwealth Games.

It should be pointed out, in the interests of fairness, that Glesca Cooncil has been promising an extension of the Subway into the East End since the 1940s. It took Labour almost 100 years from the foundation of the party to 1997 to fulfil its promise of a Scottish Parliament, so it’s unfair to expect the Subway extension any time before 2040.

Amongst Gordie’s other achievements is the competition to revamp George Square. The design that the other judges favoured lost out because Gordie didn’t like it, so he cancelled the competition at a cost to the public which ran into the tens of thousands. Apparently the favourite design wasn’t suitable for citrus based celebrations and didn’t provide enough landing space for zeppelin sized egos floating above lawn ornament sized bodies.

It’s just as well that the out-going leader of Labour in Scotland has said that Scottish politics have a “post-truth” atmosphere. Labour ought to know all about that, as they took truth and blew it into a thousand pieces with just about every blood stained Iraqi press release that ever issued from the offices of John McTernan and Alistair Campbell. Gordon Matheson has been an enthusiastic exponent of the Labour art of removing truth from public statements and leaving only truthiness. It’s his ability to fabricate dissembling out of collected bits and pieces of rubbish like an over-egged womble that’s his main, his only, selling point.

For the SNP and the Greens, who are rapidly gaining credibility as the replacement for Labour as the main opposition party in Scotland, a Labour party led by Kezia Dugdale with Gordon Matheson as her deputy must be all their Christmasses at once.

See that. I got through an entire 1000 word article about how the SNP and the Greens are the only people who are going to be thankful that Gordon Matheson wants to be the deputy leader of the Labour Party in Scotland – and I didn’t even mention dogging and car parks.

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Bye bye Jim

Bye bye Jim Murphy, he shall coyote no more and shall be sadly missed by a couple of dozen parody accounts on Twitter. Jim has finally given up the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland, or to be more accurate, it was clawed out of the cold dead hands of his extinct career by the sheer and utter ignominy of the deep dark chasm into which he’s thrown the party. It’s a defeat from which Labour may never recover, and Jim has secured himself a small footnote in the annals of Scottish political history as the man who made Michael Forsyth look like he was competent.

Forward thinking, dignified and statesmanlike, analytic in his searing political insights, and generous and magnanimous in spirit – these are just a few of the descriptions that no one would ever use with reference to Jim. He won’t be missed by the punters, although he will be missed by the SNP. His resignation is the first major setback that Nicola Sturgeon has faced. Jim’s most notable, and indeed only, achievement was being the greatest recruiting tool that the SNP have ever known.

Jim’s a political magician, he made the Labour party disappear. He clawed his way into the leadership after briefing against and undermining Johann Lamont in private, combined with pious and sanctimonious statements in public condemning Labour infighting. It was the aftermath of the referendum and Labour was staring disaster in the face. But Jim had stood on an Irn Bru crate and bravely faced down an egg, and he was confident that he could turn around the party’s fortunes. True to his word Jim did exactly that, he turned the party round. Unfortunately he turned them round so that they were staring at an apocalypse and an extinction level event. Asteroids hurtling to the ground at 60,000 mph have been less destructive to the survival prospects of dinosaurs, and Jim managed an almost total wipe out of Labour’s expensaurus wrecks. It really would be fitting if, in tribute to Jim’s service to dinosaur extinction, an airless barren rock orbiting in the cold dark lonely depths of space where no one ever visits and no life is to be found was to be named after him. After all, that’s a pretty accurate description of Labour’s Scottish headquarters now that Jim has worked his magic.

Jim’s resignation speech was notable mainly for its digs at Alicsammin. Jim slated the former First Minister for not shutting up and going away and crawling under a rock, but of course there isn’t enough space there what with all the former Labour MPs scurrying out of the light. And of course there is also the consideration that whereas Alicsammin is universally hailed as one of the most competent and capable politicians in the UK, most Labour MPs from Scotland were never capable of joined up sentences, or indeed joined up thinking, to begin with.

That’s what I will miss most about Jim. Alicsammin is an arrogant politician, but he’s an arrogant politician who has got a great deal to be arrogant about. Jim matched him in arrogance but there was nothing behind it except Jim’s estimation of himself and the vacuous bubble of media hype. That’s the mismatch that makes Jim God’s gift to satire. The media was convinced that Jim was going to put the fear of Gord into the SNP, and the howls of derisory laughter from independence supporters were really an attempt to hide how afraid we were of Jim’s galactic abilities. But in fact they were just howls of derisory laughter.

Ostensibly the resignation speech was a speech about the way forward for the Labour party. After losing the party all but one of its seats in what was formerly regarded as its homeland and impregnable stronghold, for some bizarre reason Labour thinks that the guy who threw the party off a cliff is the best person to develop a strategy for them to move forward. It’s a bit like trusting a financial advisor who bet all your money on a blind three legged horse to restore your fortunes because this time round a drunk journalist in the pub has told him about a three legged horse with one eye. But then you really shouldn’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail, believing what the Daily Mail says has been Labour’s downfall.

Jim does have a bright idea. He’s used the past month well and scribbled down a few ideas that a GCSE politics student could have come up with on the bus into school after spending the night out on the town instead of doing their homework. And appropriately enough a GCSE is also Jim’s highest educational qualification.

Now, because he believes the Daily Mail, he’s spotted a one-eyed three legged horse with its snout firmly ensconced in the trough. The bright idea is for Labour to open up the party list for Holyrood MSPs so the MPs who lost their seats in May can get back on the gravy train again. Because what Labour really needs right now is a bunch of discredited politicians that the voters kicked out of office just a few weeks ago. Jim managed to screw up the pitiful remnants of the Labour party, and he’s determined to ensure that it continues along the same miserable path.

He’s set his face against Labour in Scotland becoming a Scottish Labour party, ensuring that it will continue to ride on the coat tails of a UK party that is drifting ever rightwards in search of votes in leafy constituencies in Toryshire. But then Jim always did approve of Labour’s drift to the right, his great mistake was to imagine that he could take the rest of us with him.

It’s really very simple what Labour’s plan ought to be in Scotland. They should study very carefully what Jim has done. They should look upon his tenure in office and examine it in detail. They should list each of his actions and policy announcements. And then they should do the exact opposite.

Bye bye Jim. You won’t be missed.

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Nous ne vivons pas au Québec

Scotland isn’t Quebec. We don’t speak French, we think poutine is the homophobic president of Russia, and Celine Dion is not a national hero. And it’s because we’re not Quebec that Scottish independence is inevitable whereas Quebecois independence is far less certain. This is about the only observation that Gordie Broon got right in his article in the Guardian on Friday, in which he blamed the Tories for the impending demise of the United Kingdom. True to form, Gordie spectacularly failed to recognise his own role in bringing about the end of the Union, but we’ll get to that later.

Canada has very good reasons for wanting Quebec to remain a part of Canada. Without Quebec the future of Canada is gravely threatened. Without Quebec, Canada would be divided into two geographically distinct regions 1000 miles apart, and all they’d have to distinguish themselves from their southern neighbours in the USA would be Mounties and Dan Ackroyd.

Since all they’d have would be the less animated Blues Brother, the chances are that one or other of Canada’s bits would then decide they might as well apply to become the 51st state, assuming Puerto Rico doesn’t beat them to it. This simple geographic truth gives Ottawa an existential reason to want to make sure that Quebec stays Canadian. Existential, see, that’s all Jean Paul Satre-ish, and he was French too. So it’s all tres appropriate. Quebec is all that stops Canada from sitting morosely in a café with a croissant and a Gaulois and debating the meaning of existence.

This doesn’t hold true with Scotland and the UK. Should Scotland leave the UK, there is of course no UK anymore, seeing as how the UK was formed by the union of the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England and its associated bits. Of course the rest of the UK might very well decide that they were still going to be the UK and no one in Scotland would really bat much of an eyelid. However due to the continuing confusion between the terms England and Britain, the loss of Scotland would not make the UK sit morosely in a café, or even a chip shop.

The point is that England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain England, Wales and Northern Ireland with or without Scotland. The independence of Scotland does not make it likely that Kent might apply to become a part of France. Although they should, if for no other reason than it would really piss off Nigel Farage.

Scottish independence might be a blow to the pride of Westminster, and the loss of Scottish resources a blow to the UK Treasury, but the continuance of Westminster and its Treasury are not threatened in the same way.

All this means that the stakes are far higher for the rest of Canada than they are for the rest of the UK. The Tories can afford to play fast and loose with the Union, and their voters will tolerate it, in a way that isn’t politically possible in Canada. Canada has to make accommodations to Quebec because it needs Quebec in order for there still to be a Canada. The UK doesn’t have to make the same accommodations to Scotland, and you only have to look at the actions of the Unionist parties over the past thirty years to see that they’ve given the least amount of devolution possible. And they’ve given it grudgingly, with immense ill will, and hedged about with caveats, booby traps and restrictions. The Unionist parties have never viewed devolution for Scotland as something that’s worthwhile, as something that is a response to the desire of the electorate of Scotland. They’ve only ever seen it as a political tool for defeating the SNP.

And they’re still doing it. Even though the voters of Scotland have dumped a bucket of ice cold SNP water over their heads, the Unionist parties have still not woken up. They’re still playing the party politics game, they’re still viewing devolution as a tool to use to defeat the SNP and not as an answer to the legitimate demands of the voters of Scotland. We’ve told them we want devo max, but they’re still not listening.

And that’s the big blind spot in Gordie’s rant that the Tories are risking the Union. Gordie has been equally guilty in Union risking. If he’d really been so concerned about the future of the UK you’d think that once he was no longer burdened with the demands of high office on his time and he returned to the back benches he might have made it his mission. But he didn’t. He couldn’t even be bothered to turn up. You’d think he might just have done something about it when he was Prime Minister, or when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he didn’t. He was too interested in plotting and smearing his way into the top job to worry about what he was going to do once he got there and was quite happy to impose a form of devolution that was designed to provide Labour with a Parliament it could still be in power in even if the Tories returned to power in Westminster. That was Labour’s thinking in 1997, and now Gordie is upset because it’s bit Labour on the bum.

Now that Gordie is no longer in office and no longer has to turn up to anything, he wants everyone else to turn up to a convention so everyone else can do what Gordie should have done twenty years ago, and devise a lasting settlement for the Union. He even thinks the SNP should be invited, so that’s nice. But it’s not going to happen, because the SNP have nothing to gain from helping Labour devise a constitutional settlement to keep the Union, the Lib Dems don’t exist any more, Labour is a headless chicken and the Tories still don’t need to listen. It’s too little, too late, parce que nous ne vivons pas au Québec.

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OBR – Osborne’s basketcase reasons

I’m still struggling with the premise of the Unionist argument against Full Fiscal Autonomy. When the UK runs a deficit, this is normal, but if Scotland were to do it it would be the end of civilisation as we know it and fiscalmageddon. We’d be so poor that we’d have to sleep in a drawer alongside Jim Murphy, and you’d all be sorry then Scottish nationalist types. You wouldn’t even be able to afford the bill for the counselling you’d require because the NHS won’t cover it. Funny how no one asks whether the UK and its permadecifit can afford to be fiscally autonomous. Apparently that’s different – just because – right. Now shut up and eat your wheatos.

Clearly, like the country I come from, I’m too stupid to understand why we’re too poor and too wee. Not like the OBR, which is supposed to stand for the Office for Budget Responsibility but where Scotland is concerned really stands for Osborne’s Basketcase Reasons. Osborne’s Basketcases can always give Reasons why Scotland is too wee too poor and too stupid.

Entirely coincidentally and totally independently, the OBR has produced some more figures showing how basketcasish Scotland is on the very day that the SNP table an amendment to the Scotland Bill to give Scotland Full Fiscal Autonomy. See all that oil in the North Sea? Well now it’s worth three buttons, two five Euro cent coins from the back of the sofa, and an ocean of sneers from the UK media. You’ll have had your North Sea bonanza then, and it’s all been spent on tax cuts for rich people, transport infrastructure for London, and editorials in the Tory press telling Scotland it ought to be grateful. We should be feeling suitably chastised by now.

In what was described as a significant blow against Scotland’s hopes for Full Fiscal Autonomy, the OBR has revised its forecast for oil taxation revenues from £37 billion to a mere £2 billion, downgrading their previous predicition by a factor of 17.5. Which if you ask me sounds rather more like a significant blow against the prediction credibility of the OBR.

Whether Scotland can afford FFA depends in no small part on what Scotland will be spending its money on. Let’s leave aside the fact that the Unionist parties appear to believe that under FFA Scotland would still be paying a share of England only projects like the high speed railway line between London and Birmingham, London Crossrail, and the lovely new London sewer. Let’s leave aside that the financial arguments are predicated on a fiscally autonomous Scotland maintaining Tory spending plans. Let’s leave aside the unseemly pleasure they take from the supposed fact that they have left the country that they have governed for decades a helpless basketcase which can’t pay it’s own way in the world. Labour and the Tories ruled Scotland for decades, they gloat about how poor Scotland is, and then they wonder why people don’t want to vote for them. Now that’s the Unionist version of too wee too poor stupid, a special kind of small minded poverty of spirit stupid.

But that’s not what gets me. Even that heady hypocrisy is not what gets my goat and makes me hurl a shoe at the telly in a howl of helplessness. What really gets me is the Groundhog Day of it all, the never ending circularity of pointless mediocrity. The grinding round and down of the Westminster millstone on Scottish expectations. We are constantly told that we have an unsustainable deficit and Scotland’s is greater and less sustainable than most. And having produced this state of affairs the Unionists cry that this is precisely the reason why things should forever remain unchanged and the people who lumbered us with this unsustainable deficit should keep their jobs and keep producing the unsustainability. Producing unsustainability is apparently the only thing that the Unionist parties can reliably sustain.

The Unionist parties offer no way out of this cycle of despair and circle of hell. They have no small ideas, never mind big ones. There are no dreams, no plans, no proposals, not even a whiff of a suggestion. There is nothing in their box of miserabilist tricks which proposes a means of growing Scotland’s economy out of the dependency which they tell us they have created for us. There are no answers from them about our ageing population, about what to do when the oil runs out, or how to maintain our public services without the handouts they insist we need from London’s financial sector.

We’re too wee too poor and too stupid and are doomed to remain so for ever more. The Unionist parties need Scotland to remain in this lamentable state so that they can score rhetorical points off the SNP. It’s the politics of the infant school. On Thursday in the Scottish Parliament, the Labour party insisted that Scotland needs the price of oil to be US$200 million per barrel, or some such ludicrous figure. But then this is the party that told us that if they won the election they’d give Scotland 1000 more nurses than the SNP would, irrespective of how many the SNP paid for. So numeracy is clearly not their strong point.

There shouldn’t be any argument about this. Scotland has already voted in favour of full fiscal autonomy, or devo max or whatever it’s called these days. The electorate of Scotland put their crosses next to the SNP candidate. And by a peculiar quirk of fate, it’s the SNP which is the party that campaigned on a manifesto promising Scotland what the Unionist parties promised they’d give us in the frantic final days of the independence referendum.

Actually it’s not really a peculiar quirk of fate, it’s yet another consequence of the Unionist parties being lying manipulative gits who’ll promise absolutely anything and then renege on it. This is not unconnected with the reason why they got slaughtered in the election in Scotland. If they lie repeatedly about what they’re going to do in office, they can hardly complain that people in Scotland are increasingly disinclined to believe their dire warnings of full fiscal doom.

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