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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

The UK, not Scotland needs a Claim of Right.

September 4, 2013 4 comments

So on Saturday, Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats made a speech in Glasgow talking about the need to develop a new blueprint for a new constitutional settlement for a stronger Scotland within the United Kingdom.

Willie is right that a new constitutional settlement is needed but he is wrong as to who needs that new settlement.

It is the UK that needs a new constitutional settlement.

It is the UK that needs a Claim of Right.

A Claim of Right that says the British people are sovereign.

Historically, it has been the Scottish people who have been sovereign not the English.  Westminster has always been sovereign rather than the people Westminster sought to represent.

But that is the best thing about being in a union.

Scotland can take the best ideas from England & the rest of the UK and make them our own and the rest of the UK can do the same.

Scotland needs to lead in the UK for a new constitutional settlement not just for Scottish interests but for all of Britain’s interests as well.

The UK needs a Constitutional Convention that brings together wide-ranging views from across civic society and from all political parties.

It will be no doubt incredibly difficult to give balance to all sides of the debate and indeed all nations and regions of the UK, but that is my point.

A union that does not know or does not seek to know or understand how to best balance the interests of all is a union that is doomed to failure.

A union whose political leaders will do anything to appease one section or nation within it, whilst neglecting the needs of others is a union that is doomed to failure.

Our political leaders are at the moment throwing everything trying to keep the union together by trying to achieve a No vote in next year’s referendum.

Instead of proposing a bold, radical idea for a new political and constitutional settlement that will bring our systems of governance into the 21st century, our leaders prefer to tinker at the edges of a broken system. 

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A Reply to David Cameron’s speech on the United Kingdom

February 16, 2012 7 comments

Cameron came to Scotland today and gave an impassioned speech on why he believes in this United Kingdom.

It was a welcome change from his previous forays into the independence debate. He was positive about Scotland and Scotland’s contribution to the UK. He talked about how solidarity that the UK had, that we would lose if Scotland left. Yes, that’s right Dave Cameron went all Labour on us.

It was an impassioned speech and no doubt the Prime Minister believed in every word but it left me with questions and doubts.

Cameron spoke passionately about us being stronger together as a United Kingdom. He talked passionately about the solidarity it brings and the benefits it brings to all when you have 60 million people standing by you. Yet as Mark Pack points out, Dave can’t see that the same reasons he talks up the UK with are the same reasons why the European Union is so valuable.

I’ve talked to many Tories and UKIPers about this, and the only answer they can come up with is that the Uk is older and is therefore somehow better. Thats not true. The UK needs reform as does the EU but the UK isn’t better because its older. The older generation isn’t better than the younger because they are older. They have more experience but experience doesn’t equate to being better.

I would love to know what Cameron’s answer to this would be.

In his speech, he talked about Scotland and England’s shared values, shared identity, shared history. Yet his government amongst the huge education reforms that they are making, aren’t making provisions for our shared history to be taught in England. Cameron is happy for the vast majority of the English to remain ignorant of how the UK was formed.

In other nations, it is pretty much unthinkable to have a large swathe of its citizens not knowing how their country came to be. Yet in the UK, we are happy to let it slide that the English, 80% of the population aren’t taught about the Union of the Crowns and the Union of the Parliaments. In Scotland, we need to change our history curriculum so its less biased and focuses on how the whole UK was formed not just how Scotland formed a Union with England.

Cameron talked of his love of devolution and decentralisation and talks of wanting a settlement that works for everyone, yet his government is devolving power to Scotland, devolved powers to Wales and is setting up the West Lothian Commission without thinking about the possible negative impacts on the rest of the Uk.

I believe devolution in Scotland has some negative impacts on the rest of the UK as well as in Scotland (although a lot is positive for Scotland). The negative impact is biased towards England because they have no assemblies or their own parliament. This government has set up the West Lothian commission to solve it. What if that has negative consequences on rest of UK? Solve those issues on a case by case base, that has negative impact on the other nations etc. etc. Isn’t it better to have some joined up thinking on this?

If Cameron wants to find a solution to how to best govern this United Kingdom, why doesn’t he set up a commission to find out the answer to that question.

Finally, Cameron talks about continuing the debate on devolution after the independence referendum. Well, Mr Cameron, I don’t believe you on that score.

There was a devolution referendum in 1979, which only failed due to a threshold and stalled the debate for a generation thanks to your idol Lady Thatcher. The 97 referendum whilst successful, there hasn’t been much debate on where we go from here other than independence from the SNP. No side has really pushed for further devolution faster or a different vision. Even the LibDems have been fairly silent.

In May of last year, you took the side of No to AV, a large section of that campaign had a Yes to PR, No To AV. I believe Cameron himself said that people who want PR should vote No so they can start fighting for something they believe in. Yet when the No vote was announced, Cameron, himself said that it was a Yes vote for FPTP and had killed the debate for electoral reform for a generation.

So unless you can give me and Scotland a cast-iron guarantee, I simply won’t believe that the debate will carry on. In fact the only guarantee, I’d except is a question on the ballot paper asking Scots if we want change to the current constitutional settlement but not independence.

Even after Cameron’s speech, I’m left wondering what is Cameron’s vision for the UK! Does he have one? I’ve got empty rhetoric, nothing else.

It is time, that the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems set out their vision for what a future UK would look like. If they can find one.

Is the Union Fit For Purpose?

January 15, 2012 4 comments

Well, that is the question doing the media rounds at the moment. It is another way of phrasing the independence debate that is happening in Scotland with the referendum due in autumn 2014.

Henry McLeish in yesterday’s Herald said that the union wasn’t “fit for purpose”.

I agree with the former First Minister, the current settlement is terrible but then again he helped draft it. There is all this talk about “saving” the Union. Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats today in the Sunday Herald called it “outdated and over centralised”

Is this Union worth saving?

I would say not.

Is independence worth fighting for?

I would say not.

Is devo-max or full fiscal autonomy worth fighting for?

I would say not.

What is worth fighting for?

A union where we all come together, as a nation of equals to make decisions that benefit the whole of these islands not just one part. As again, Willie Rennie said in the Herald today, a union which we look past “division and difference” in order to achieve for everyone not just a select group.

I don’t think the current settlement allows every part of the UK to fly. As I’ve blogged here. We need to do something radically different. I think the LibDems can capitalise on it, if we start arguing for a federal UK or even a settlement thats created by the whole of the UK. As I’ve blogged here.

In order to create a Union that is fit for purpose, we’ve got to realise that each part needs to strive for excellence whilst having the support and the collectivism of the rest of the United Kingdom. In order to create a union that works we need to find that balance of individualism and collectivism. It is that balance which liberals fight for in all areas of life.

Now more than ever we, liberals need to fight for that balance within the structure of governance of the United Kingdom so that individualism doesn’t break the collectivism and harm the whole of the United Kingdom.

Nationalist: If you’re a Unionist, you’re not loyal to Scotland

January 1, 2012 10 comments

I wanted to thank Tom Harris MP on twitter for bringing this to my attention.

The original tweets:

Now David Berry was the SNPs candidate in East Lothian in May last year. Yes, he was the guy who almost knocked the then Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray out of parliament.

What angers me about Berry’s comment is that the SNP still seem to think that the only people who want to see Scotland do well is them. That somehow wanting to be part of a union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland is somehow betraying Scotland. Its the same with the eurosceptics, that somehow if you are pro-EU, you are betraying the UK.

I know many nationalist will consider me a unionist because I think that we are stronger together and weaker apart. I believe in a Union, I do not believe in the current Union. I hate some of the arguments coming out of the coalition government and a lot of Labour heads as well. I hate the argument about economic benefits.

The SNP are incapable of grasping the idea that people of Scotland no matter their political views are all 100% loyal to Scotland. Everybody in Scotland wants to see Scotland fly.

The SNP love to talk about Unionists talking down Scotland but the real people who talk Scotland down are the nationalists. The SNP talk down the UK government without realising that to talk down the UK government is to talk Scotland down. To talk down Northern Ireland is to talk down Scotland. To talk down Wales is to talk down Scotland. To talk down England is to talk down Scotland. To talk down the EU is to talk down Scotland.

The UK is a team and to talk down one player is to talk down the whole team. We can criticise the UK government, we can challenge them but to talk them down is to talk us down as well.

I recently watched the movie Miracle(2004). Inspirational movie. Highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it. The one thing it teaches and shows incredibly clear that if your thinking about yourself and not about the team, then you can’t be great. To me, it shows the dangers of being divisive. If you harbour rivalries, if you have an us vs them attitude then you can never be great.

The thing the nationalists are great at is creating this Scotland vs the rest of the UK attitude. They are great at creating a rivalry along an abstract border. The SNP are great at talking about the sovereignty of the Scottish people and about this nation called Scotland but what is a nation? Shared culture, shared language, shared history? Cumbria used to be part of the Kingdom of Scotland should we allow them to become part of Scotland again? I’m from Strathclyde which used to be a Kingdom, which means it was once a sovereign nation. What if in an independent Scotland, I don’t fancy being run by holyrood? I want to have more powers for Strathclyde. I don’t feel I have that much in common with the east coasters or the highlanders so can Strathclyde become an independent nation?

Nationalists use abstract concepts of nationhood to divide and weaken countries. The SNP love to blame Westminster for Scotland’s ills but Westminster hasn’t just failed Scotland but the whole of the UK. We need to devolve power away from Westminster and in my opinion devolve some up towards Westminster so that we can build a country of individuals, but we can also build a team from the centre as well.

In my opinion, the only party that can deliver on this is a Liberal Democrat one, which is why I want to see a LibDem majority government in Westminster in 2015 and a LibDem-led/majority government in Scotland in 2016.

Should LibDems be proposing something different than EMA and its successor?

December 2, 2011 2 comments

Much has been made about the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England. Its replacement is £180m bursary scheme to children in the lowest-income households. LibDems and of course Conservatives say this is better as it targets those on the lowest incomes rather than giving money to the slightly better off who spend the EMA on CDs/DVDs or video games.

I think we as Liberal Democrats should be taking a rather different approach to this than Labour and the Conservatives. Instead of paying kids to stay on in school by providing them money in order to buy books/stationery/transport etc. lets actually provide them with the necessary tools that they need to stay on in school.

There are a couple of reasons why the current approach of paying the kids directly is bad so let me explain:

First, when people are paid money whether its theirs or someone else lending money to them, they begin to take ownership of the money and they therefore feel entitled to the money even though it isn’t this. So if in this case the state decides that the money we hand to slightly less well-off would be better off going to the neediest. The slightly less well off get annoyed and angry that the state is taking money away from them.
These kids feel entitled to this money even though it isn’t theirs and partly because it is now their money, they can spend it on what they want rather than what the money was provided for.

Second, every company provides the books, stationery and if its required travel expenses for the employees in order to do their job. They do this as they want their employees thinking about their job. A kids job is to learn and be creative so that they learn to be the innovators of tomorrow yet we as a nation seem incapable of providing them with the tools they need to do that.

Textbooks and stationery should be provided so that they don’t have to worry about the cost. They can use the time worrying about cost and put it into their studies. School buses should be easily accessible or public transport should be free to and from school.

As a country, we should be doing everything we can to make sure the next generation can fulfill their potential.

Are We Sleepwalking into a Pound Crisis?

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

There is an awful lot of talk right now about the euro at the moment. Understandable since the euro is in the midst of a crisis at the moment.

The talking points and the reasons that economists and politicians give for the crisis are:

  • Nobody followed the rules. Wasn’t enough enforcement of the rules governing euro membership etc.
  • Not enough fiscal integration
Its this second point that is incredibly interesting.
The Conservatives and UKIPers pretty much all say that supra-national currencies are an intrinsically bad idea unless backed with common economic policy.
Iain Duncan Smith had this to say about a single supra-national currency and integration on BBC question time on the 27th of October:
The point is reality has struck in that you cannot have a single currency without full political union which is where you have centralised taxation, centralised control from a centralised organisation of government.
Now, Iain Duncan Smith may well be right when it comes to the eurozone that there wasn’t enough fiscal and political integration. If he is right then that poses an interesting question for us here in the UK.
Its not should we join the euro in the distant future when the present crisis is over and there is greater fiscal and political integration. I can tell you how that will go down with the country right now. Not well.
The interesting question comes from looking at the structure of the United Kingdom itself and where its heading.
From 1707-1997, we had exactly what IDS described on Question Time, a full political and economic union. Since ’97 though, this union is slowly becoming less and less centralised as we devolve more and more power to the home nations with the largest devolution of power to Scotland. The Scotland Bill currently going through parliament gives the Scottish Parliament even more power and significantly more financial powers.
The SNP sometime in the latter stages of this Scottish Parliament, will be holding a referendum on independence. Salmond has said that if Scotland were to go independent, that Scotland would keep the pound until it was in Scotland’s interest to join the euro so indefinitely.
An independent Scotland would have full tax and spend powers but they would be in a single currency either with the other eurozone countries or with the rest of the UK. How the euro will be controlled after the current crisis is resolved is anyone’s guess but the pound’s interest rates with an independent Scotland would still be controlled by the Bank of England.
The question I have is this: Is having interest rates, inflation controlled by the Bank of England enough fiscal integration to stop a pound crisis happening in the UK with an independent Scotland like that we are seeing unfold in the eurozone at the moment?
Thankfully, Scotland won’t vote for independence so we don’t have to worry about that, I hear you cry.
Actually, we still do need to answer the question because even without independence, there is a cry in Scotland for what is termed “devolution max” or full fiscal automony or independence lite or Home Rule.
These are names for a settlement which no one quite knows what it entails. What we do is that it does call for greater fiscal and economic powers to be devolved to Holyrood.
Whether we like it or not, the pound is a supra-national currency where there are calls for the fiscal integration of the countries economies to be significantly reduced.
The questions I have are:
  • Does this mean we are heading for a pound crisis if we continue down this path without learning from the eurozone?
  • How much fiscal and political integration is needed to prevent a crisis like the eurozone happening in the UK with the pound?
I support financial devolution especially at the moment with the Scottish economy lagging behind the rest of the UK’s we need Scottish solutions. I also don’t think its right for any parliament to exist on handouts from another.
The eurozone crisis has made me think though what are the consequences of devolving financial powers to Scotland. What mechanisms need to be in place to stop the pound going like the eurozone.
I think we need to tread carefully here so we avoid sleepwalking into a pound crisis.

Why is there no Daily Politics Scotland?

September 15, 2011 2 comments

I tuned into First Minister Questions (FMQs) today for the first time in ages. I mistakenly thought that Daily Politics was going to be on (spent far too much time in England and forgot that BBC2 Scotland shows FMQs on Thursdays and not Daily Politics). I was particularly looking forwards to today’s show as Jo Coburn yesterday and Giles Dilnot (@reporterboy) on twitter were teasing a segment about “nudging”. I was curious.

Not only do we miss an episode of Andrew Neil putting politicians under pressure as well as the occasional interesting side piece, but FMQs itself is presented in a rather poor way.

Prime Minister Question’s (PMQs) on Wednesday is given an hour and a half on BBC2 by the Daily Politics team comprising:

  • 30 mins of PMQs
  • 30 mins analysis of PMQs (15 minutes before and after PMQs)
  • 30 mins for the top stories of the day
Scottish coverage of the FMQs is just FMQs! There is no:
  • analysis of the First Minister’s performance
  • analysis of the leaders from the other 3 main political parties performance
  • Putting FMQs into a UK political context
  • Putting FMQs into a global political context
The real question is why don’t we have this? Are there no decent political commentators north of the border? Or have they like Andrew Neil flocked south?