Friday, 23 January 2015

New Tory poster bigs up the SNP vote

Conservative Central Offfice have just unveiled their latest wheeze, talking up the SNP in order to hammer down the Labour vote in across the UK.
The poster works two ways, trying to feed fear in English voters that the SNP will somehow "interfere" with the governance of the UK and selling the idea to Scotland that the SNP will support a Labour government, which is the last thing nationalists really want to do. 
It's an interesting message, revealing the Tories calculate they effectively burnt up Labour to vanquish Scottish nationalism. They think it is now safe to play with fire by encouraging SNP votes in Scotland while talking up the propsects of  reducing Scots MPs  to second-class Westminster status under Evel (English votes for...). All in all a short-cut formula to a second referendum
The Tories couldn't be more wrong if they think it is game over for nationalism but the cyncicism David Cameron demonstsrated for the Union on the morning after the referendum was won is now clear for all to see.
Cameron is quite happy for the SNP to win big in Scotland because this means Miliband is less likely to have a majority. He appears willing to risk the very Union he fought hard to keep for the short-term gain over Labour. Is he really that desperate? Yes, is the answer.
What the Tories want is exactly the outcome the SNP wants, a Conservative majority, although for different reasons. Here's a column from the Daily Record from last week that looks at the SNP strategy for May:

DEAL or no deal? Last weekend Ed Miliband doggedly avoided saying if he would go into coalition with the SNP.
He just wasn’t going there, leaving Sunday’s interview open to interpretation.
Miliband didn’t rule out an SNP deal for the simple reason that if he did (which he’d love to) then, a-ha, he must be preparing for coalition with the Lib Dems.
Regardless of whatever else he’d say, the idea of a Labour majority would fade from voters’ minds in an endless numbers game.
Labour strategists, at this point, talk a good game for a majority, though doubts rumble across their brows like winter storms.
They recall the horror of 1992, an election Labour looked like winning. Who can forget Kinnock’s “we’re awright” Sheffield rally cry?
Things were not all right. In the last furlong, support ebbed away. Labour began talking coalitions and voters felt the prospect of a majority was gone. They talked themselves out of government, so no loose tongues this year.
The polling could slip away from Miliband, though mini-Stalingrads being fought across marginals confound the idea of a universal swing.
Then, the question is not would Miliband make an SNP deal, it is could he?
No – and not just because he’d have Jim Murphy to answer to.
SNP bosses insist they would support Labour but giving succour to a mortal enemy is the last thing they want to do.
Hence, Nicola Sturgeon’s red line on scrapping Trident. No new British PM could allow themselves to be defenestrated on the world stage by a minority party. She knows this.
Alex Salmond’s crazy fiscal autonomy demand is no less agreeable. Who would sign up to terms that leave Scotland worse off?
Polls show that a third of Scots would prefer a Labour government with an SNP coalition – but that is not what the SNP leadership wants.
A Tory majority, preferably lashed together with UKIP, is what they want.
An EU referendum, creating an opening for another vote on independence, is what they dream of.
A weak Labour government, flapping for a majority, would be a second-best choice.
No, a Tory government is the ideal outcome for the SNP’s Westminster vanguard.
Obviously, voting for either party would help achieve it.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Bridezilla effect on soaring Scottish polls

 From the Daily Record 22/01/15

The polls in Scotland leave beaming smiles the faces of SNP politicians. But not even they can quite work out what is going on, far less predict the final effect on the general election.

Our own Daily Record polling shows that 47 per cent of people thought the SNP “did not tell the truth” on the economy during the referendum campaign. The evidence of plummeting oil prices and a consequent £7 billion gap in independence finances bear this out.

But Nicola Sturgeon emerges as the most trusted political leader by streets and the SNP appear to be on track to demolish Labour across Scotland in a few months.

To inject analysis into this topsy turvey world enter the not the voting experts, but the publishers of bridal magazines.

They explain that most young brides start buying their magazines a year before the big day.

But the business model relies on a huge percentage of readers continuing to buy the magazines up to a year after exchanging their bridal vows.

Recently married readers continue to buy into the product to maintain a link to an event in which they invested so much emotional energy.

Less generous people dismiss this as the bridezilla effect, but as an explanation of the SNP surge it serves as well as any other analogy.

The comparison breaks down in Scotland’s case, of course, because the groom said No at the alter in September.

The jilted bride, still with this huge emotional investment in the big day,is angry.

“People are in the mood to give us a kicking, it just depends how angry they are,” said one phlegmatic Scottish Labour MP, back in Westminster from a discouraging weekend on the doorsteps.

The job of defusing that anger falls on Jim Murphy and the footslogging determination of Labour activists.
For Murphy, so far so good. He has established himself as a credible figure with the Scottish media, but that is only one circle of influence.

Out in the real world people haven’t really heard his reforming message and, 104 days to go, time is his enemy. He has made a priority of oil, jobs and the economy, issues that connect with the voters.

The SNP, having bet on black gold and lost, cannot go on the economy. It is back to core vote issues like Trident and being Scotland’s defenders.

Which approach will woo this jilted bride, none can yet tell.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Vow swung ten per cent - really Mr Salmond?

It is flattering that Alex Salmond declares in his Spectator interview today that the Daily Record Vow front page changed the minds of ten per cent of the voters in the Scottish referendum.
That's something like 400,000 votes changed by a single front page. That is not just flattering, it is amazing if it were near true.
It is also, coincidentally, about the same number of votes that Alex Salmond lost the referendum by.
Instead of accepting he himself might be in some way responsible for losing he has tried to displace the defeat.
The Vow is now Mr Salmond's spur for a return to Westminster where he promises to hold feet to the fire if the terms are not delivered, which he already claims they are not.
That is all a matter for robust political debate which I'm sure will be reflected in the pages of the Daily Record, whose readers, incidentally, were a keen and vital part of the referendum and well able to make up their own minds.
It is re-assuring that the First Minister describes The Record as a paper with "credibility".
That credibility and even-handedness was displayed in other front pages during the campaign and when we handed over editorial control for a day to each of the Yes and No sides to put their arguments across to our readers.
It's worth noting that apart from one poll none of the surveys put the Yes side ahead at any time in the campaign. It would be good to see Salmond's evidence that many people were on their way to the Yes side but were stopped by the Daily Record coverage of the Vow.
Yes Scotland had it's own private, Canadian pollsters for the campaign and they confidently predicted a 54-46 win for the Yes side, basing their prediction on soundings from social networks and online activity.
They were badly wrong and despite the sound and fury created online by the Yes side, Alex Salmond has now admitted an old-fashioned truth about political campaigns - print is king.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Fracking up Scotland's back yard

From today's Daily Record column.

Scottish environmentalists are celebrating renewables overtaking nuclear as the biggest source of electricity production. 

Sure, every turn of the turbine blades is one less unit of carbon produced. 
But rows over windfarms in the landscape will be a summer picnic compared to the forthcoming war over fracking. 
Fracking, extracting shale gas and oil by drilling underground, is a very messy business. Just ask them in boomtime North Dakota where land and lives around the one million barrels a day industry are ruined.
Fracking is going to be big business in Scotland.
Ineos, the operators of Grangemouth chemicals works, have staked the future of the plant on shale gas.
The company has ambitious plans to ship shale gas from the USA.
But Ineos has also bought two big licences to frack in Scotland, covering 700 square kilometres around Grangemouth and stretching across the central belt like the coalmines once did.
It has also applied for further licences from the UK government.
Under Smith licencing is to be devolved to Holyrood, but the Scottish government already has an effective veto on fracking.
Planning permission is local and the permit regime, to drill a hole you need about nine of them, is managed by SEPA, the arms-length Scottish environmental agency.
Scottish politicians just need to tweak the planning regime and the permit conditions to stop the industry in it’s tracks. But will they?
Both governments bent over backwards to keep the Grangemouth open two years ago despite the atrocious treatment of trade union reps.
So where will they stand when fracking wars start? This is not a problem we can park at Westminster’s door. The solution is in our own back yard.

Not a good look

The SNP numpties who set fire to the Smith Commission report need to read more, not less.
How about starting with “The Complete Idiot’s guide to Nazi Germany”?
The last time people started burning books in Europe it didn’t end well. Suspension isn’t enough.
Mags MacLaran, warming her fingers by the blaze, is twice-paid from the public purse - as a councillor and staffer for Cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay. Book-burning or democracy, which does he endorse?

Choose a tune to play

One minute she’s comparing herself to civil rights legend Rosa Parks and the next Nicola Sturgeon is assuring businesses they have nothing to fear from her conversion to land reform.
Two weeks in the job and she’s playing more tunes than the accordionist at my birthday party.
When friends in the north of England look at the SNP they don’t see nationalists, they just see right-wing politicians waving a Saltire.
No surprise to them that John Swinney didn’t welcome the Smith Commission’s tax-raising powers

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A very political mini-budget

 For the Daily Record, reaction to the Autumn Statement
To the Autumn Statement, delivered as weird Commons convention dictates, on a cold day in December.
These occasions are more about the political theatre than hard economics and this mini-budget was Osborne’s last chance to use his office to set the weather before the General Election
But if was a concert hall piece and he’d asked us what we thought of the show so far, we’d all have shouted back: “rubbish”.
Bullish as he might be, there is no disguising George Osborne as a failed chancellor. 
He has missed just about every target he set for himself four years ago.
Growth not rising as fast as he needed, spending more than he budgeted for, deficit not paid off - fail, fail, fail.
The main message from Osborne has to be if you think that was bad, just wait for the next four years.
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility, that assesses what the government’s plans mean for public spending, say 60 per cent of the cuts are yet to come.
Gulp, and gulp again if you are a public sector worker on an effectively frozen pay grade, or if you are someone who relies on public services because you are old, a child or a patient.  
For Scotland there are mixed messages. True, there is more than £200 million more at the drop of a hat into the Scottish budget because of the Barnett consequentials.
Surely that is shovelled straight into an NHS creaking because of under-investment on the SNP’s watch?
There will inevitable nationalist anger over devolving Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland when the idea has been rejected for Scotland.
Several reasons are proffered for this tax anomaly: Northern Ireland has a land border with another EU country and the deal is dependent on the Peace Talks and the Northern Irish Executive getting it’s finances in order.
Also Northern Ireland is much poorer than the rest of the UK with a huge over-reliance on the public sector, so private corporations have to be encouraged. 
Add that no compelling case was made to the Smith Commission to devolve corporation tax to Scotland, other than the SNP wanting to start a cross-border spiral to the bottom. Glad to see the STUC endorsing that view yesterday.
The real reason though for tax devolution to Northern Ireland is that David Cameron might need Democratic Unionist Party MPs to shore up a minority Tory government after the next election.
Like I said, nothing to do with economics, everything to do with politics. 

Sùil Eile air ceist an Fhearainn

Sùil Eile airson an Daily Record

‘S math gu bheil ceist an fhearainn air ais air clàr-gnothaich an riaghaltais; tha mi a’ cur fàilte air Nicola Sturgeon dhan a’ champa bheag a tha ag iomairt airson na cùise.

Mar as àbhaist leis an SNP, cha chanadh tu gu robh riaghaltas sam bith eile an sàs anns a’ ghnothach bho Ghladstone. Thàinig a’ mhòr-chuid de leudachadh air ceist an fhearainn fo riaghaltas Làbarach.

Ach leig sin seachad agus gluais air adhart còmhla, chanainnsa.

A thaobh chùisean mar chìsean dha oighreachdan spòrs, tha sin ciallach agus cothromach, chan e radaigeach.

Agus ‘s ann practaigeach a bu chòir dhan riaghaltas a bhith. Chan eil càil a dh’fheum air ath-nuadhachadh air an fhearann gun daoine anns na bailtean croitearachd.

Sa chiad àite dh’fhaodadh Sturgeon an taic-airgid airson taigheadas croitearachd a dhùblachadh agus an sgeama a leudachadh airson spionnadh a thoirt do bhailtean iomallach.

Tha an t-airgead ann. Tha croitearan an-dràsta a’ sporghail airson beagan taic-airgid airson nan lotaichean aca, agus na milleanan air an sgrios a’ toirt taic dha tuathanaich agus uachdarain mhòra gun fheum sam bith.

English translation

It is good that the land question is back on the government agenda; I welcome Nicola Sturgeon to the small camp campaigning on the issue.

As usual with the SNP you wouldn’t think any other government had been involved in the business since Gladstone’s time. Most of the movement on the land question came from a Labour government.

But let that pass and move forwards together, I’d say.

On issues like tax on sporting estates, that is just sensible and fair, not radical.

And practical is what the government ought to be. There is no point in renewing the land without people living in the crofting villages.

In the first place Sturgeon could double the financial support for crofter housing and widen the scheme to give a boost to remote villages.

The money is there. Crofters are scrabbling around just now for a little grant money for their lots, and millions are wasted giving financial support to big farmers and landlords for no use at all.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Post-referendum Big Bang - the Smith Commission reports

Immediate reaction to the Smith Commssion in today's Daily Record

We've had the vow, now the wow.

The rollercoaster that is Scottish politics just took another twist with the arrival of the Smith Commission today.

This is the Big Bang of devolution that Scotland has been waiting for.

Before, during and after the very long referendum campaign the majority of Scots expressed a desire for two things -  more power for the Scottish parliament and the continuation of the United Kingdom.

People voted to stay together in September and now in November they are being given a devolution package that exceeds expectations and is being delivered faster and with more surety than independence could have delivered.  

Power to set tax rates,  higher or lower depending on what voters demand, the ability to change and shape welfare budgets, borrowing powers, a wedge of VAT receipts to do as we please with - it looks like a big slice of devolutionary cake whichever way you want to cut it.

For some it won't be enough power, for others it will raise fears of unbinding the very Union that they fought so hard to maintain just a few months ago.

What effect this package will do to the volatile mood of the electorate when it is digested no one can predict.

But this we do know, this massive transfer of powers out of Westminster into the hands of the Scottish people will change Holyrood and the rest of the UK dramatically.