All posts by mmhalliday

North Sea Oil – Still Game After All These Years?

Is the UK North Sea Oil Sector its Last Legs?
During the 2014 Scottish Independence campaign it certainly seemed that North Sea oil was at the end of its useful life. We kept being told that independence would be a disaster for Scotland. We’d be bankrupt, not least because the oil was about to run out.

The Scottish Government White Paper on Independence used the oil industry’s own estimates of 24billion barrels of still recoverable resources. Then Sir Ian Woods intervened in the debate  saying 15-18 billion barrels was more likely and that by 2050 an independent Scotland wouldn’t have any oil revenue income. (Ref: BBC, Aug 2014). Sir Ian doesn’t support Scottish Independence. That doesn’t mean he was being biassed in his estimate but his opinion was given a great deal of weight by the Unionist-supporting media (ie nearly all of the UK media) and less was given to the oil industry’s opinion.

Continue reading North Sea Oil – Still Game After All These Years?

Please, Norway, Could You Help Us Look After Our Oil?

Let’s start with this impressive statement of intent from Norway about its oil resources:

“The overall objective of Norway’s petroleum policy has always been to provide a framework for the profitable production of oil and gas in the long term.
It has also been considered important to ensure that as large as possible a share of the value creation accrues to the state, so that it can benefit society as a whole. This is partly obtained by the tax system.”
(Norsk Petroleum)

That’s called responsible stewardship.

Continue reading Please, Norway, Could You Help Us Look After Our Oil?

Experts? Bah Humbug!!

Michael Gove is famously quoted as saying – during a Brexit campaign interview with Sky News on 3 June 2016 – that “the people of this country have had enough of experts”. In fact that was the first half of a sentence which the interviewer interupted. The whole sentence was :

“I think that the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying – from organisations with acronyms – saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong, because these people – these people – are the same ones who got consistently wrong.”

Gove got handsome applause from the audience for this statement. But then I don’t suppose many of them were experts… 😉

Continue reading Experts? Bah Humbug!!

The Brexit Escalator …. Going Down!

At a recent EU Heads of Government meeting (minus the UK) Michel Barnier used this graphic to show how the UK Gov’s current Brexit policies – inasmuch as there are any – compare with current EU arrangements with non-EU member States. (European Council Meeting 19Dec 2017)  

 

Bascially, Westminster’s own stated aims for Brexit rule us out of

  • EFTA/EEC, ie the Norwegian, Iceland and Lichtenstein arrangements.
  • a Switzerland type arrangement,
  • a Ukraine arrangement,
  • and a Turkey arrangement.

That leaves us with a Canada or possibly a Japanese type trade arrangement. But neither of those agreements  include services, ie finance, banking, insurance. Services make up 80% of UK’s trade and much of it is done with the EU. London wants some kind of passporting arrangement to enable its finance hub to carry on as usual. And no doubt Edinburgh would push to be included in any special deal. But on 18 Dec, Michel Barnier was explaining that passport rights depend on being part of the single market, so if UK Gov leaves the single market, then no special deal for London is possible.

“There is no place [for financial services]. There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services. It doesn’t exist.” He said the outcome was a consequence of “the red lines that the British have chosen themselves. In leaving the single market, they lose the financial services passport.” (Ref the Guardian)

Where does that leave us? 

Failing all else, it leaves us with a No Deal, ie World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules are all that left. They would mean trade tariffs between UK and EU. They would disrupt the business of manufacturers who are part of EU-wide manufacturing chains because free movement of goods in and out of the UK would have gone.

Budget Day at Holyrood

Yesterday was Derek Mackay’s big day – presenting the Scottish Government’s proposed Budget for 2018/19. 

Photo credit should read: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA Wire

The Scottish Daily Mail headlined their Front Page with their take on what the budget means for Scots:

Scotland’s working population was 2,604,000 in Jan2017 (UKGov Source). The Mail says that  3/4million of them will be “hit” with paying more tax,

  • that is a bit less than 30 % of the working population. The 30% who are the highest earners in Scotland.
  • The Mail could have put it another way : 70% of the population will pay less income tax and the other 30%, who are the highest earners, will pay a bit more.
  • I guess that’s too many words for a snappy headline though.

What does ScotGov say? “7 out of 10 Scots to pay less tax.” That’s actually quite snappy.

So are middle class earners going to be “hammered” like wot the Mail says?

Here is what the changes Derek is proposing will do to your income tax bill: 

To explain the green graph – showing the difference between income tax paid this year compared to next year when the changes come into effect:

  • overall Scottish income tax revenue will be realigned so that less income tax comes from lower paid workers and more of it comes from those with higher incomes. 
  • average income in Scotland is around £24K. If you earn £33K or less and your income stays the same next year, then you will be paying LESS income tax next year than you are this year. (Mind you if you’re a nurse currently getting less than £30,000 then your income will in fact go up by 3% but that’s another story…)
  • from £33K upwards, you will be paying more income tax.
  • At £40K you’ll be paying about £40 more. At £90K, you’ll have £315 less in your pocket. Over the whole year.
  • To put that in context, £40K a year is about £150 per working day and you’ll be paying 15p more per day in tax next year. £90K a year is about £364 a working day and you’ll have an increased daily tax bill increase of  £1.20 or about half  a cappuccino.

To explain the blue graph – showing the difference next year between income tax paid in Scotland and in rUK:

  • it compares what someone living in Scotland will pay in income tax next year compared to someone with the same salary living in England.
  • it’s not quite the same as the green graph because there will be differences in when the various higher tax bands come into play. But overall if you’re living and working in Scotland and earning about £90K then you’ll contribute about £1100 more in income tax than if you worked in England. Thats about £4.23 a day out of your daily earnings of £364. 

 

Hammered? Nah …

Just helping build a civilised, decent and fairer society, 

as ALL of the increased tax revenue is spent in Scotland. 

And as Nicola tweeted earlier today…

"There is no Grinch in the 'Nightmare Before Christmas'!! Is this more evidence that you can't believe what you read in the Daily Mail? ;-)" @NicolaSturgeon 

 

 

 

I spent the day over in the Capital recently meeting a friend. She lives in Newcastle and we occasionally meet in the middle and have an ‘Edinburgh day’. After lunch at Henderson’s, we wandered up to the Castle Espanade and then down to Chamber Street to the National Museum. I didn’t realise it at the time but my camera was set to black and white. Its odd how the photos immediately look like they’re from the 50s! (Double-click to see larger photos)

 

 

 

Photo Flaneuse #4: Autumnal Forth& Clyde Canal

I’m changing the habit I’ve got into of being reasonably active on Mondays – pilates – and Tues – tai chi and a swim – and Wed – all day at Citizens Advice Bureau – but then being rather too inactive Thurs,  Fri, Sat, &  Sun. So today being a Friday I got out my Nordic walking poles and went for a walk along the Firth & Clyde Canal from Temple to the Maryhill Locks. There and back came in at 5235 steps or 2.8km according to my iPhone Health app. The Health app told the  My Fitness Pal app about the walk and MFP changed 5235 steps into 96 kcal expended. 

But the main reason I’m talking about the walk is to get to the photos I took along the way….

 

Scottish Political Parties: Social Media ratings

STV have just done an analysis of how good Scottish political parties are at using social media. I’m not surprised that SNP are way ahead of everyone else. I think that’s partly because they know that mainstream media do not accurately reflect the SNP activities, spokespeople and  policies. So they’ve had to get good at blawin’ therr ain trumpets!

But when I say they’re better than everyone else, I mean they are way, way better… Look at these comparisons:

 

 

The EU Parliament in Scotland runs regular events called Meet Your MEP. I went to one here in Glasgow with David Martin, Labour MEP. I really appreciated what he said and the Q&A session afterwards. The most recent event was in Edinburgh with Alyn Smith, SNP MEP. I’m on his weekly email list where he sends out a round-up of he’s been doing and what’s in the news regarding the EU, UK, Scotland…. These days most of that is dominated by Brexit. He posts links to the response to the Brexit negotiations in European media which I wouldn’t come across otherwise.

You can see me scribbling down some notes during Alyn’s talk and the Q&A afterwards. Most of what was spoken about referred to Brexit, its consequences for UK and in particular for Scotland. Here is the gist of my scribbles as accurately as I can make them.

  • What happened in the Brexit vote?
    Basically voters gave the Establishment a skelp, for many it was the first time they felt their vote counted, especially in England. The leave vote wasn’t very much to do with pros and cons of the EU and how it works. A lot of it was telling the established politicians that people feel left out, overlooked. 
  • And of course then there were the 350,000 EU citizens in Scotland, 2.5 million in UK overall, who didn’t get to vote in Brexit referendum.

 

  • Role of the media
    They are not telling us about what Europe actually does and how it operates. They see their job as pandering to the prejudices of their readership, not to inform them
  • Our print media is owned by oligarchs like Evgeny Levedev (The Independent), Viscount Rothemere (The Daily Mail), Rupert Murdoch (The Times). They have influence about what and how is reported. That influence is then multiplied by the way broadcasting media, especially the BBC use it. Eg BBC News late night The Papers slot….
  • But the English media is widely read in EU and we look pretty bad to EU countries. It doesn’t help wider atmosphere outside the negotiations along if our media are seen to be pouring out toxic, misleading headlines about the EU. It certainly wouldn’t help our reception in EU if we moved to revoke Article 50 and the whole Brexit process.
  • Euromyths
    They used to be jokey… They have become shriller and nastier now. The nastiness was built up by Farage and UKIP, but also by Boris Johnson when he was working as a journalist in Europe.
  • Farage is most successful political in UK. In twenty years, he has brought about a Tory Party that has lost its reason, and an opposition party, Labour, that is having to appease its Remainers and Leavers at the same time and which therefore won’t be able to take a sane stance on retaining membership of single market and customs union. It’s comparable to the similar effect in US politics brought about Tea Party on the Republicans
  • Alyn says it’s true that Farage applied for German citizenship after Brexit vote. There has certainly been a lot of media speculation about it as in this article in Politico.

 

  • Can Article 50 be revoked?
    Yes, if UK asks for it to be revoked. See various articles by John Kerr, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who drafted Article 50.
  • There’s no guarantee that the current opt-outs that UK enjoys would all still be on offer. But Euro and Schengen opt-outs would still be in place for UK. And probably the budget rebate, at least until the next budget talks, which happen every five years

 

  • Devolution under attack with the retaining of devolved powers
    111 powers of Holyrood are removed to Westminster in the current Bill. Smith doesn’t buy it that they’ll be returned to Holyrood. UK is going in a different direction by using the Henry VIII laws. SNP have produced this video of what those 111 powers are…. 
  • With loss of devolved powers,  the power of Holyrood is under sustained attack. What could Holyrood do? Devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales can refuse their approval for the EU Withdrawal Bill. Westminster could go ahead and pass it anyway. That would provoke a constitutional crisis.

 

  • Scotland’s economy
    Freedom of movement and access to single market is crucial for our economy. Yet currently Tories are pursuing a “hostile environment” policy to discourage EU immigration
  • It’s also crucial that we, and UK, keep access to EU Open Skies legislation which enables hassle free flights throughout Europe. Similarly important to stay part of Euratom; all of the radioactive isotopes used in NHS are made in Netherlands. We also need to keep access to EU university research funding
  • Our fish and meat industries have a huge reliance on EU people. For every one job on a fishing boat, there are seven associated jobs onshore.
  • Trade deals: CETA has been agreed only after a very long process. TTIP was seen off in EU remember . But after Brexit, Westminster could approve a ‘TTIP on steroids’ deal with US. Smith fears that UK will have a ‘fire sale’ under the pretence of Brexit and deregulate the economy.

 

  • Damage to Third Sector
    We will lose direct EU funding to charities ; EU works round central governments to fund local projects. It will do damage to civic society which is already muffled by the lobbying act. And although EU funding could be replicated by UK, ministers are not doing anything about putting that into place

 

  • Holding a Second EU referendum
    Even if rest of Uk doesn’t get the opportunity to vote on whether they want to go ahead with whatever Brexit deal is reached, we can give Scots a vote on the Brexit deal. If we do that, it can only be a choice of Brexit or Independence because we can’t offer anything else. And there will be no other other choice unless something shifts in English political thinking.
  • NI and Scotland: NI is going to need a special status in order to avoid a physical border in Ireland. And if it’s possible for NI, then it’s possible for Scotland too

 

  • Is EFTA a good option for an independent Scotland?
    Would be OK half way house as an interim option . Smith thinks the best option longterm is to be a full EU member. EFTA is being promoted by Alex Salmond just now and he’s doing it to move the discussion in Scotland on to possibilities post-independence, ie promoting a discussion that takes independence as a given

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey to Yes

In 2014 we Scots voted in a referendum. Either Yes! we wanted Scotland to be an independent nation once more after more than 300 years of political union with England. Or No, we wanted to remain in that union. At the beginning of the campaign opinion polls showed a Yes vote at about 25%. By 14 Sept 2014 the day of the vote it was 45%. That’s a big increase. But not a big enough increase. 

Since then the promises made to us by the Unionist politicians to get us to vote No have mostly been shown to be empty. In particular the No campaign took a strong line over EU: the only way to be sure of remaining in the EU was to stay in the Union; an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to join the EU; Spain would veto us; we’d be out in the economic cold. Aye, right. It was not correct then and it sure as hell isn’t right now after England voted to leave the EU last June. Scotland voted to remain by 62% : 38%. That isn’t important apparently and we should just be quiet and let our kindly Westminster Government get on with sorting things out for us.

Not surprisingly, some people who supported the No campaign in 2014 have shifted their view and now support Yes. Here are some videos made by Phantom Power which tell the stories of those Journeys to Yes.

 

 

Electoral Calculus

I really like the Electoral Calculus website. It follows opinion polls and comes up with overall election predictions but also seat by seat predictions. It’s run by Martin Baxter. More about him here.

His current UK prediction is for a Tory majority of 74 seats. If she gets that, Mrs May will no doubt think it was worth all the stresses, strains, insults, lapses of memory, innumerable speeches to sparse hand-picked audiences, missed debates, etc etc and including the wee dash up to Crathes in Aberdeenshire to the local community centre where the event had been booked as a children’s party.

Current prediction for Scotland is an SNP majority of 41, i.e. 50 seats out of 59, which is six down on their currently held seats.

I don’t agree with the Scottish prediction. I know Angus Robertson is vulnerable to the Tories but I think his well deserved reputation and standing at Westminster as the leader of the SNP group will help him hold on. I hope the same happens in Perth for Pete Wishart. Oh and I so hope that we manage to get rid of Fluffy Mundell from Dumfriesshire. Also I’m not sure that this prediction takes into account the latest polling which has Labour and Tory at 25% each in Scotland. That will help SNP if it’s maintained.

Fingers crossed!!!

Tory Graphics Go Haywire

 

I was looking at a bit of Tory election campaign bumff that came through our door. It was the same as the one above except that it had the name and photo of the Tory candidate in my constituency. Now that’s fair enough. It makes sense to have a central campaigning theme with your local candidate added. You’ll see that it has the claim that “Labour and LibDems are now too weak to stand up to the SNP”. On the reverse it said “Tory Revival on Course to Foil Independence.” That’s standard for this Scottish Tory campaign – they are the champions of the Union holding their ground against hordes of divisive Nationalists. 

Now I usually just bin anything from the Conservatives immediately but the graphic which supposedly showed a Panelbase poll result from April to back up that first claim seemed a bit off to me. So I redrew the actual poll figures and compared them with the Tory leaflet version by measuring the height of the columns on the leaflet. The blue columns show the real spread of support as reported in the Panelbase poll and the green columns are what the Tories would have us see : the results are skewed to exaggerate the position of both SNP and Tory whilst under-representing Labour and LibDems. Now Labour is weak and LibDems are showing no signs of recovery but they’re not this weak!! 

 

The Electoral Commission have powers to oversee fair play in UK election. They have a section on making complaints but it says they don’t have authority over election campaign content : 

Political advertising or campaign election material:

We frequently receive complaints about political advertising or campaign material and the behaviour of candidates, especially in the period before an election. These are not within the scope of the complaints policy and will be referred to our Public Information Team.

While we have regulatory duties relating to campaign spending, including in relation to political advertising/election material, we have very few powers to deal with the content of material published by candidates and parties, or their general conduct. In most cases we will not be able to deal with such complaints, which should instead be made directly to the party or candidate responsible for the material.

So there didn’t seem much point in contacting them.  Instead I sent emails to the four candidates standing in my constituency containing a copy of the graph comparisons. Well I tried to. The email address given for my LibDems candidate returned undeliverable – which is about the same as his chances of being elected. The Tory candidate hasn’t replied – which is maybe to be expected. I did come clean and tell him that I was never going to vote for him anyway.

This is my email:

Dear ….
Yesterday the Conservative campaigners dropped a leaflet through my door. It has the claim that “Labour and LibDems are now too weak to stand up to the SNP” alongside “Tory Revival on Course to Foil Independence.” I usually just bin them immediately but the graphic which supposedly showed a poll result from April backing up that first claim seemed a bit off to me. 

So I redrew the actual poll figures and compared them with the Tory leaflet version. The blue columns show the real spread of support and the green columns are what the Tories would have you see : the results are skewed to exaggerate the position of both SNP and Tory whilst under-representing Labour and LibDems. Now Labour is weak and LibDems are showing no signs of recovery but they’re not this weak!! 

I suspect that they’ve chopped off the bottom section of the polling graph, possibly to fit it on their handout. Perhaps it’s more malicious than that. Either way it needs stopped. 

I’m sure you’d want to check my figures but I’m pretty confident in them. Maybe you can do something to halt this sort of deliberate misinformation. Or at least use it to oppose Ms Davidson’s cohorts 😈

My MP is Carol Monaghan SNP. Here’s her reply to my email:

Many thanks for getting in touch regarding the graphic on the Tory leaflet. You and I must have had the same thoughts when we saw that particular graphic! Of course in my former life as a physics teacher, any of my students producing a graph such as this would have been sent back to correct their errors. I am delighted that you have done this correction for the local Tory candidate. Unfortunately it is difficult to prevent a misleading message being spread. It is something in that I am becoming increasingly used to, and of course politicians love challenging each other on the particular way in which they choose to present information. I will of course refer to your correct graph at appropriate opportunities and I would suggest that you do likewise.

Thanks again for getting in touch and for displaying your un-Torylike numeracy skills.

I also got a reply from the Labour candidate though I’d inadvertently not included an attachment with my graph so he hadn’t seen the comparison. He took the time to reply even so which was good of him. 

Thanks very much for your email – lovely to hear from you. I can’t see anything attached but I can imagine the graph you are talking about. Of course it’s also based on a national projection and has no relevance to what is the possible outcome in this constituency – where the Conservatives have zero chance. I find the whole graphs on leaflets obsession a bit frustrating – especially when there are so many other issues we could be talking about.

For my part, I’ve been running a positive campaign about our plan to make Britain a fairer and more socially just country – an economy that works for all not just the wealthiest few. I work with children in the care system and I see day in day out the impact of austerity and cuts on families across this constituency – that’s what has motivated me to stand to be your MP.

Thanks again for getting in touch and I hope we see the end of the ‘fake graphs’ soon!

He doesn’t seem to mind the Tory skewing of his electoral position since they have zero chance of winning this seat. Of course that’s ignoring the fact  that this skewed information has been posted through letter boxes all over Scotland not just in this constituency. Still he is right that they have zero chance of winning in Glasgow NW. For Labour to win they’d need to overcome the SNP’s 24% lead after the 2015 election. Compare that to when I moved into this constituency: in 1978 this was the only Tory seat in Glasgow. It changed to Social Democrat when they split from Labour in 1980s and we had Roy Jenkins as our MP, then it went to Labour and George Galloway was MP. It stayed Labour under John Robertson until 2015 when Carol won for SNP. I don’t think Carol has much to worry about being returned for a second time.