Category Archives: Politics

A Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons?

On 28 Feb 2018, the Scottish Government started the procedures for a Scottish EU Withdrawal Bill. A previous post, Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It
 has video coverage of Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister, introducing the Bill.  

However before the Bill 
proceedings began, the Presiding Officer, Ken Mackintosh, made a 
statement that in his opinion the Bill does not fall within the legal competency of the Parliament. And while the Presiding Officer does have a duty to say if he considers a Bill incompetent he has quite possibly released a Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons. Because of this the Lord Advocate of Scotland came to the Chamber to give his legal opinion. The video is further down this post.
Why bring in a Scottish Bill? The gist of why it’s happening comes back to the UKGov’s current failure to alter their own EU Bill at Westminster to safeguard the basis of the devolved governments of Scotland & Wales. (Possibly of Northern Ireland too but unfortunately Stormont has not been sitting since last year when DUP and Sein Fein could not agree to work together.) As it stands, neither Holyrood nor Cardiff are prepared to give their consent to the Westminster Bill. In their view, the Westminster Bill contains a “power grab” taking matters which are currently devolved back into Westminster’s remit. So both places have started the introduction of their own Bills which will bring all current EU Law covering devolved matters over into Scottish and Welsh law respectively. EU Law covering matters currently retained by Westminster will be dealt with under the Westminster Bill. 
Why now? Because it’s crucial that EU Law is transferred smoothly to Holyrood when UK leaves EU in March 2019 with no interruption of those Laws. If UKGov does not alter the Westminster Bill to Holyrood and Cardiff’s satisfaction then we run the risk of just such an interruption of legal continuity.. Both the Scottish and Welsh Bills prevent that possibility. But getting a Bill through takes time and if the process doesn’t start now it will be too late. If eventually UKGov alters the Westminster Bill in terms of the power grab section of it, then there will be no need for the Scottish and Welsh Bills and they will be revoked. 
Why is the Lord Advocate involved? It’s normal practice to take legal advice before introducing any Bill that Holyrood is competent to deal with it.  It needs to relate to something that is within Holyrood’s remit. The Lord Advocate (LA), James Wolff, was asked and gave his view on this Bill that it is within the legislative competence of Parliament.
What’s not normal is for him to come to the Chamber. This is unprecedented. He’s doing it because of the Presiding Officer’s very unexpected declaration. The Bill can still proceed but it is open to legal challenge by anyone so minded. We already know from the day before that Labour, Greens and LibDem MSPs support the bill. That only leaves the Scottish Conservative MSPs whose spokesman, Adam Tompkins, describes it as “unwelcome and unnecessary.” So it’s a fair bet that the Scottish Tories are probably going to be so minded to challenge it. But that’s for another day.
The video covers the Lord Advocate giving his considered opinion followed by questions deem MSPs. To make this easier to navigate through here are some times:
Lord Advocate’s Statement:
  • 14.11 He lays out the basics of how legal competency is decided. He also confirms that he considers it is with legal competency of the Parliament. 
  • 14.15 Any Bill has to be compatible with EU Law. Presiding Officer has said that this Bill is not so compatible. LA explains why he considers this to be wrong and why the Bill is compatible with EU Law.
  • 14.19 This Bill is modelled on UKGov Bill. If this Bill is not compatible, then neither is the Westminster Bill. 
  • 14.20 Nothing in this Bill comes into effect until we leave the EU. For this reason it is compatible and it is for this reason that the Welsh Presiding Officer has decided that it is compatible with EU and therefore that it falls within the legal competency of the Welsh Assembly

Questions from MSPs:

  • 14.22 to end.

#DebunkingUnionism_001: NHS Scotland

I’m a fan of John Robertson’s blog Talking Up Scotland. He scans stories in the Scottish media and where it’s needed – and it’s often needed – he debunks pro-Unionist propaganda: first of all by making it plain where the media outlets are using Labour, Tory or LibDem press releases verbatim and without any fact-checking and secondly by putting the information into context.

One of his posts  on NHS Staffing is about the run of anti-NHS Scotland stories about what a shambles the SNP is making of it. These stories are appearing all over  the Union-supporting Scottish media, which is to say most of the Scottish media.

I quite enjoy taking his info and putting it into visual format. Here are a couple I’ve just done. 

Denying the Facts

A couple of years back I did a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called Denial101x run by the University of Queensland. It is a very, very good introduction to how climate change deniers misrepresent and twist information about climate change to suit their agenda. Their agenda being that “it isn’t happening”, or at least “it’s not happening very quickly”, or “it’s not happening where we live”.  This will take you to my post on Denial 101X if you want to find out more.

These days that climate change denial industry has expanded to other subjects. Donald Trump is a master of using outright lies and misdirection to get his agenda across. Unfortunately social media allows his followers to spread that misdirection to a huge audience. In fact to a huu-uuge audience. Of course he has his own denial about climate change too: “It’s a hoax invented by the Chinese

Even more unfortunately, pro-Union supporters employ the same sort of tactics against the Scottish Independence campaigners. They’re just not so good at it.  Or maybe they think we have the attention span of a gold fish and won’t remember what they said on Twitter before they deleted what they said. Or maybe they just think our heid buttons up the back.



Wee Duggy Dug!!!

I have just discovered these wee videos made in 2014 by in the run-up to ScotRef and starring Duggy Dug. He knows everything about why Scotland should be an independent country. Thank you… Grrruff, grrufff.

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 




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:



Meet My MEP – Alyn Smith

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.

Continue reading Meet My MEP – Alyn Smith

Richard Murphy’s Journey to Yes

Richard Murphy is a political economist. You  might have come across his blog TaxResearchUK which is much, much more interesting reading than you might guess from it’s title! For example “It’s time the BBC learned that all money is made out of thin air.” and “Has Carney taken leave of his sense?” Carney being the Chairman of the Bank of England.

Recently he wrote about the inadequacies of the GERS (Governement Expenditure & Revenue Scotland) figures. If you read my blog you’ll have spotted me trying to makes me sense of them and what they say about the Scottish economy. According to Richard, I shouldn’t waste my time as they are not fit for purpose. Or to be more precise not fit if your purpose is to make sense of the Scottish economy. On the other hand if your purpose is to obfuscate the likely state of an independent Scottish economy, they do an admirable job. He has written several posts about GERS, for example “Why economic data provided by London will not help the Scottish independence debate” and  “More on Why GERS might properly be called crap data” .

In this video he talks about he see sees leaving the UK as the only way for Scotland to reach its full economic and human potential.  The prize is a better Scotland. He takes about the economic forces powering the Yes movement, he dismantles the case for GERS and looks at the key issues of currency, investment and taxation that must be addressed to win the independence argument. Worth a listen….

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.




An SNP Clean Sweep?

At present the SNP have a very healthy lead over the Scottish Tories in the opinion polls. Bigger than Mrs May’s lead over Labour in England. Labour are in third place. Their polling share halved since 2015 while the Tories’ share has doubled. The figures are taken from What Scotland Thinks. I’ve omitted some small party shares so the percentages don’t add up to exactly 100%.

So, how might that play out on June 8th? I’ve been looking at how things stand in the 59 Scottish constituencies after the 2015 election. SNP: 56 Lab, Con & LibDems: one each 🙂 Can the SNP take a clean sweep? Probably not, is what I think. They may even lose a few seats. Mind you that would still give them a huge mandate in Scotland. Here’s why I think that:

Continue reading An SNP Clean Sweep?

Not another election :-/

By June 9th we’ll be puggled …. after all her adamance that no election was necessary and she’d just get on with the job, blah, blah, unlike those Scottish Nat who are always calling for another election about independence, blah, blah, when now is not the time, blah, blah, she’s gone and called another election. Mind you, if I was 20% ahead of my main opponents in the polls, I’d probably do it too. 

I’ve been taking a look at Labour’s chances. I don’t think much of them. This is roughly how things stand as regards the % difference between Tory and Labour at the last election.   Continue reading Not another election :-/

Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?

A few weeks back I read a CommonWeal policy proposal on the subject of whether we need a second chamber to complement Holyrood and if so what kind of chamber do we want? The proposal is to set up a Citizens’ Assembly. It’s written by Brett Heddig who set up the Sortition Foundation exploring how we can do democracy differently. 

Democracy is about elections isn’t it? Voters vote, give a group of people a mandate to govern and let those people get on with it for a few years. Those people are our representatives and if we’re not happy with they do in our name, we vote for someone else next time. That’s pretty well how I  would describe democracy. Mind you it also needs a raft of supporting institutions like a free press, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech, freedom of association (eg Trade Union rights), signing up to the UN Human Rights Charter, etc, etc. 

Continue reading Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?