Author Archive

The Better Together Campaign launches

June 26, 2012 2 comments

The Better Together campaign launched yesterday. If you have zero interest in politics this is the no to independence campaign ahead of the referendum in 2014 although according to the Times, it might now be 2015. Depending how you read it, you either think Alex Salmond is running scared or Salmond wants to disrupt the 2015 general election as much as possible.

Andrew Page over at Scottish Liberal attacked the launch on several grounds. I agree with some of them but not all of them.

I didn’t see anyone but Alastair Darling speak purely because BBC News didn’t show anybody else, although I hear from Adam Stachura that Willie Rennie was very good with no spin. Being the Scottish Lib Dems Director of Campaigns, Adam would say that.

From what I heard, the no campaign was full of the same rather tired arguments. Darling used Miliband’s, a welshman created the NHS etc. and all the other examples could still hold true in an independent Scotland.

He talked of the SNP still having big questions to answer over what an independent Scotland would look like. What Darling doesn’t realise is that his big questions, on defence, on the monarchy, on EU, on currency etc. would actually by and large be our choice come an independent Scotland. Currency may have to be negotiated with other countries and if its the pound then we’d have to negotiate with the rest of the UK. Whether we are automatically in the EU is more up to the EU commission than it is Scotland, but by and large the decisions would be up to us.

Yes, they will be difficult decisions but they will be Scotland’s and yes the UK is facing difficult decisions right now and they are decided by the whole UK. The pro-indy camp want to take those decisions at a more local level.

The slogan unveiled the day before yesterday, “Join us to ensure a stronger Scotland, a United Kingdom” what does that even mean? The phrase “a United Kingdom” seems to be thrown in there, with no thought. It adds no meaning and actually confuses the sentence. Do they want Scotland to be a United Kingdom or within a United Kingdom?

The message seems to be we get the best of both worlds! What is the best of both worlds? What’s great about being Scottish and what’s great about being in the union? Is the best of both worlds, the current devolution settlement which quite frankly is not fit for purpose?

Darling and the website say they want to put the positive case for the union forward well so far, I’ve not heard a single positive thing about the Union. Where are we going as part of the union and if the union settlement is going to change shouldn’t we at least discuss it and shouldn’t we discuss it with the rest of the united kingdom as well as just ourselves?

If this article on the guardian is right and the unionists want to just beat Salmond. In the article a Whitehall source is quoted as saying “It’s all about beating Salmond. He can’t have any gain from this,” surely then the unionists have lost sight of what they are fighting for?

I believe the unionists have got so wrapped up in their own determination to protect the union, that they no longer can behave rationally and intellectually about this. They will defeat the enemy and at the moment the enemy is Alex Salmond and independence. Its no longer about whats best for Scotland or the United Kingdom but about beating the opponents.

Sorry, but for me I think this question is far too important to be used in a political tennis match. This is a question about who decides the important questions on the economy, on jobs, on defence etc.

This independence campaign has seen everything I hate about politics come to the fore. The debate is no longer about the decision we have to make or what is best for Scotland but has come down to who is more Scottish than who. Different sides slinging mud at each other and all trying to cover the same space in order to convince voters.

Whatever happened to having a belief and arguing your corner. The campaign has barely started. (In fact the campaigns shouldn’t have started yet as we don’t even know what the question is or when it will actually be held.) We are already down to the SNP trying not to offend anyone by saying anything and everything is possible and playing Schrodinger’s cat i.e. we’ll be in NATO and we won’t be in NATO, we’ll have the euro and we won’t have the euro, we’ll have the monarch and we won’t have the monarch. Like Schrodinger’s cat is both dead and alive until you open the lid and observe the cat, we won’t know what alliances or what currency we’ll have until we open the lid on independence and look inside. The unionists meanwhile seems to have empty rhetoric about how brilliant the UK is but if you look to hard at their arguments, they play look what the SNP are doing, isn’t that outrageous in the hope we don’t recognise the emptiness of their rhetoric.

The journalists report all this dutifully without trying to hold anyone to account or doing any investigative journalism as to what independence might actually mean. The mainstream media are all too happy to parrot the views of both camps at different times because their terrified of being seen as not being impartial. The media fail to realise that if you offend everybody, you are being perfectly impartial.

With, this launch I fail to see a positive vision going forward from anyone in the so called better together or indeed found out why indeed we are better together!

If you know why the UK is better together then please send your answers in on a postcard? Or better yet send them to the No campaign, it looks like they need all the help they can get.

Categories: Uncategorized

Rennie: Lets put Scotland in a Straitjacket

June 24, 2012 3 comments

Willie Rennie in today’s Scotland on Sunday came out attacking those who wish to see a second question on the ballot paper.

This goes against the latest Mori poll that shows 70% of Scots believe the referendum should consider a question on a more powerful devolved parliament.

Ironically, Rennie’s piece is titled “Let’s get question of Scotland’s future straight from the start” when its Willie that wants to put the Scottish people in a straitjacket  by only asking them whether they want full independence or to keep the security blanket of the status quo.

Rennie showcases his little riddle without realising that its quite easy to solve if you use approval voting instead of FPTP. He claims experts say it can’t be done but with all arguments, it depends on which experts you choose to listen to. Rennie should always remember the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

He then insults the people of Scotland by saying ” This tactic from the nationalists to pile on extra options is a way of confusing the debate and confusing the outcome.” Its only confusing, if you allow it to be confusing. We are quite capable of following several arguments, we do it all the time. We follow many different storylines in the many TV shows that we watch as well as within our own lives so the idea that we can’t follow separate arguments about how different groups of people wish to see Scotland governed in the future is quite frankly insulting.

As for the nationalist tactic to pile on extra options, Lallands Peat Worrier wrote an excellent piece this week on the potential different reasons why Salmond wants an extra questions. According to Lallands Peat Worrier, you have a 1 in 4 chance of being right, Mr Rennie.

Bringing in the 2000 US Election, took your argument from insulting to the I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that end of the ridiculous scale. Its now embarrassing that you lead my party. The reason why the result of the 2000 US Election went to the court wasn’t because of the confusing nature of the result but because of the rubbish nature of the way that Americans choose their President. Bush won the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote & in US elections, its the electoral college vote that matters when electing a President.

Because of Rennie’s Riddle, that is unlikely to happen if the questions and method of voting is decided by an independent party.

If I hadn’t made the decision to join the LibDems in the summer of 2010 and to be more involved in helping to shape the future of these lands, this piece and the whole nature of the independence debate so far, would have made me feel more disenfranchised than ever before.

At a time, when this country is gearing up to make the biggest decision in over 300 years, we are being led by a bunch of idiots who prefer to take pop shots at each other rather than listen to the people.

We need politicians who say, we want to hear your views, this is your referendum, lets get this right, lets take a decision that will last not just 20 years but 100 years or 200 years. If we vote for independence, that probably will happen but on the no side, its effectively a decision to have another mismanaged referendum in another 20 years.

The No campaign which officially launches tomorrow already has left me with a sense of hopelessness about the future. I agree with Kate Higgins in her post, The Audacity of Hope and the art of the possible that this debate should have a wide range of political and policy options.

We need a leader who is not scared, who doesn’t try to desperately hang on to something but is capable of being bold. To point us in a direction and offer to lead us there and at the same time say if we go off course, it doesn’t matter because we can still get to our destination.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Wannabe Chancellor Who Is Unable To Do Simple Fractions

June 23, 2012 2 comments

Ed Balls today re-posted on twitter via youtube an exchange between himself and Michael Gove from the House of Commons in 2009 when Ed Balls was Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

Now, rather than showing Michael Gove to be an idiot, he showed himself up as an idiot and unfit to be chancellor as he did not know the answer to the following GCSE Maths question:

3 3/4 – 1 2/5

Thats a simple question and hardly challenging.

The answers are:

1. Lipase

2 By gaining an electron. Fluorine has 7 in its outermost electron cloud but it really wants to be full by having 8 so really wants to either steal or share an electron  from another atom.

3. 47/20 or 2 7/20

To me, its shocking that our leaders don’t know the answer to these simple questions.

Using Standard Grades from the same year and subjects as Ed Balls is using, we’ll compare which system is better:

Mathematics, paper 1 (non-calculator) first question is:


24.7 -0.63 X 30


Hydrogen reacts with other elements to form molecules such as hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chloride.

(a) Name the family to which fluorine and chlorine belong.

(b) The atoms in these molecules are held together by a covalent bond. Circle the correct words to complete the sentence.

A covalent bond forms when two (positive / neutral / negative) nuclei are held together by their common attraction for a shared pair of (protons/ neutrons / electrons)

(c) Describe how the size of element X affects the energy needed to break the bond in the molecule.

N.B (c) also has a table with it that didn’t want to copy over.


A comparison was made between the types of invertebrate animals living on the branches and leaves on an oak tree with those living on a beech tree.

Samples were collected as shown below.

(i) Give two variables which should be kept constant to make the comparison valid when using this technique.

(ii) The samples collected were not representative of all the invertebrates living on the trees. Suggest a reason for this.

(iii) Measurement of abiotic factors such as light intensity may be recorded at the same time as sampling. Identify a possible source of error for a named measurement technique and explain how it might be minimised.

Now which one is harder and which one gives kids critical thinking and problem solving skills. For me it is easy, its the Standard Grade.

I find it worrying that the Shadow Chancellor can’t do simple Maths, but even more worrying is that he thinks those GCSE questions are hard.

Personally, I welcome some of Gove’s recent announcements for the English Education system in the creation of a singular exam board. I’m in favour of scrapping the national curriculum but if all schools go in for the exams written by the English Qualification Authority as I assume a singular exam board might be called then all schools will be following the same curriculum as if it was national anyway.

I don’t agree with going back to a two -tier system like O-Levels and CSE but perhaps suggest a more tiered structure within the GCSE like Standard Grades with the Credit, General and foundation level papers or do what the more recent NQs do and split the qualification levels down further for example Intermediate 1 is of the same level as a Standard Grade at General level and intermediate 2 is similar to Standard Grade at credit level. Of course the difference between Int 2 and SG credit varies between subjects and schools will choose whichever one they feel best prepares their students for the Higher in the same subject.

That is possibly another problem with the English system because A Levels are from my knowledge generally taught in separate sixth form colleges from where GCSEs are taught in school. This means there is no incentive for the school to prepare kids for A Levels as the schools standing does not take into account A-Level results by the schools former pupils who went on to A-levels.

Neither system is perfect but I do know with the English system under the control of idiots, I doubt GCSEs will get more rigorous any time soon. Also if Ed Balls ever gets to become Chancellor, Britain’s economy will get worse rather than better.

Categories: Uncategorized

Miliband: I’ll put England first

June 8, 2012 1 comment

That seemed to be the sentiment of Miliband’s speech yesterday on Scottish Independence, Future of UK and Englishness all rolled into one.

I complained on twitter to Andrew Page over at Scottish Liberal that Clegg’s speech on Social Mobility like a “public school boy formulaic speech” using that analogy, Miliband’s speech was like listening to a speech written by a poor to average state school kid. There was no coherent structure and the themes were very broad within to the point that I didn’t get what the point of the speech was.

Some newspapers and broadcasters have said that it was his speech on Scottish Independence, if it was, it was a very odd way to address the subject. He barely mentioned Scotland in the speech, how Scotland should move forward or how the UK should move forward and discuss the question of how do we govern these islands.

He did talk about England a lot, but he didn’t really describe what Englishness was, or how it differed from Britishness, Scottishness, Welshness and Northern Irishness. Even in a channel 4 interview after the speech, he was stuck as to how to describe what Englishness is and what makes him English other than the fact that he was born in England, and grew up in various English places and now represents Doncaster. In that interview he mixes Britain and England up not good when talking about Scottish Independence. Miliband believes that Keir Hardie sat in an English Parliament. I think you’ll find Mr Miliband that the UK was in full swing and full health at the time Keir Hardie sat in Parliament.

Its often said that slips of the tongue, reveal what a person really thinks. Does that mean Ed’s slip into using English when he means UK means he thinks English are better. Is it English arrogance or English ignorance that is to blame for Ed’s little slip?

He described the traditions of English Labour about the Living wage, a responsible capitalism but this is what Scottish politics has always been about and in Ed’s speech, I got the sense when he talked of English Labour traditions that he was talking about those things for England alone.

I very much got the impression through his speech, that he’ll stick up for England but won’t stick up for the rest of us.

Whilst Englishness, and how to govern England needs to be talked about, any speech on the subject has to be thought about incredibly carefully, but it felt like this was written on the back of a napkin without any thought what so ever.

No thought went into how to structure the speech, when to emphasis Englishness on its own when to emphasise the rest of the “nations” of the UK, when to emphasise Britishness etc. No thought went into the tone, or language, how do you describe Englishness so it can be seen as separate from Britishness, Scottishness, Welshness, Northern Irelandness, how do you use your words carefully so you don’t alienate other parts of the UK.

It was a very bad speech but most of Miliband’s speeches are confusing and badly written – anyone remember the predator and producer speech and has anyone worked out what he meant so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The leaders of the UK parties need to be very careful as to how and when they intervene over the next two years.

Categories: Uncategorized

Differences and Similarities between EU and the UK

May 18, 2012 4 comments

People’s pledge campaign & UKIPs leader Nigel Farage were on the Daily Politics today talking about an EU referendum. Nigel was on longer talking also about the huge Euro crisis/meltdown going on.

Nigel made a comment or rather a series of comments that made me think how ridiculous most EU sceptics and nothing embodies the eurosceptic better than UKIP and Nigel Farage.

One of his points can be seen at the end of this clip. The point being that 37 years ago, his parents voted on whether to join the Common Market which is very different from the EU that we have today. His second point not in the clip was about how 2/3rds of the population (of the EU) being against the EU and had they had a choice in whether the EU was created or not, it wouldn’t have been created. And if the people of the EU had a choice to vote or stay in that a majority would vote to leave.

How true or not that statement is, isn’t the point of this post but rather the difference between the UK and the EU.

The EU or a diluted form in the Common Market has had a referendum, it may have changed considerably but thats beside the point. The United Kingdom or should I point out that the former kingdoms within it have never in 307 years of existence ever had a vote on whether the UK should even exist.

Ask any historian and they’ll say that if democracy like we know it had existed in 1707 and a referendum on Scotland joining a union with England and of England joining a union with Scotland, then the vote would have been lost by a bigger margin I would expect than 2/3rds against on both sides of the border.

Yet over 300 years later it still exists and people like Nigel Farage claim that the UK is the most successful political and economic union ever.

If the independence referendum happens in 2014, then it will have taken 307 years for one part of the union to have an in/out referendum as opposed to the EU’s 37 and counting. If the referendum goes the way polls are suggesting it will then it looks like it might be a 70-30 split in favour of the union.

That is dramatically different than what would have happened 305 years ago. The UK has evolved particularly in the last 15 years or so with the creation of a Scottish Parliament and continuing devolution of powers.

The EU, if it survives in 15 years will look dramatically different. Now, I would hazard a guess, that in 305 years in 2317 that many people will be saying that the EU/eurozone or whatever its called in 2317 is the one of the most successful political & economic unions ever.

Thats not to say, the EU is perfect, of course it isn’t but neither is the UK. I believe in a more federal UK & EU, with power concentrated as locally as possible.

I believe the UK can learn from the EU and the EU can learn from the UK.

Categories: Politics

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine disrespects parliament and her constituents

One of my regional MSPs, Joan McAlpine was ordered to apologise to Parliament today after showing discourtesy to parliament.

The parliamentary aide to the First Minister missed her opportunity to question ministers on cases due to osteoarthritis and its impact on the NHS because of a dinner date with Big Eck.

I understand that McAlpine had smoked venison and I really hope it was worth letting down her constituents for.

As a Doctor’s daughter, her question was an important one in holding ministers to account.

Whilst she has since apologised to parliament for allowing time to run away from her whilst lunching with the First Minister, my fellow South of Scotland constituents and I sent her to the Scottish Parliament to represent us and to question ministers on our behalf. Therefore by not turning up to parliament she is not only showing discourtesy to the Scottish Parliament, she is failing to represent her constituents and hold this government to account.

Instead of questioning & challenging ministers of this government in the interests of her constituents she is having lunch with the First Minister to further her career and her own interests.

This is of course not the first time she has not shown up to parliament to question ministers but the FIFTH time she has not shown up.

Whilst she may have apologised to parliament for disrespecting the chamber and her fellow MSPs, I think she should apologise to her constituents for not doing the job she was elected to do.

Categories: Uncategorized

Labour sell-out by forming coalition with Tories in South Ayrshire!

Image Credit: Paul Wild

Today was the first meeting of South Ayrshire council where “the ten Conservative Councillors – the largest political group within the Council – formed a minority administration working in a Partnership Agreement with the nine Labour Councillors.” i.e. a coalition by another name.

Labour after giving the LibDems hell for working in partnership with the only party they could falling the 2010 general election, choose to go into coalition with the Conservatives in South Ayrshire when they could have provided a stable administration with the SNP.

For going into coalition with the Conservative, the Labour group gained the Provost, the deputy leader of the council as well as the portfolios for Social Services and Housing & Customer Services as well as the opportunity to chair a number of the panels within the council.

Full details of who got what below:

Provost Helen Moonie (Lab)

Depute Provost Mary Kilpatrick (Con)

Leadership Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Bill McIntosh (Con), Portfolio Holder for Corporate, Strategic & Community Planning
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor John McDowall (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Sustainability & the Environment
  • Councillor Margaret Toner (Con), Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning
  • Councillor Bill Grant (Con), Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Leisure & Tourism
  • Councillor Robin Reid (Con), Portfolio Holder for Resource & Performance
  • Councillor Rita Miller (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Social Services
  • Councillor Philip Saxton (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Housing and Customer First

Scrutiny/Governance Management Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Brian McGinley (Lab)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Hugh Hunter (Con)

Development and Environment Standing Scrutiny Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Kirsty Darwent (Lab)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Ann Galbraith (Con)

Corporate and Community Planning Standing Scrutiny Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Brian Connolly (Ind)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Alec Clark (Ind)

Community Services Standing Scrutiny Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor John Hampton (Con)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Andy Campbell (Lab)

Appeals Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Ian Cavana (Lab)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor John Hampton (Con)

Chief Officers’ Appointments/Appraisals Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Bill McIntosh (Con)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor John McDowall (Lab)

Regulatory Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Peter Convery (Con)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Sandra Goldie (Lab)

Local Review Body

  • (Chair) Councillor Peter Convery (Con)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Sandra Goldie (Lab)

Rural Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Alec Clark (Ind)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Hywel Davies (Con)

General Purposes Panel

  • (Chair) Councillor Mary Kilpatrick (Con)
  • (Vice-Chair) Councillor Ian Cavana (Lab)
Categories: Uncategorized

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 840 other followers