Friday, 23 November 2018

Sùil Eile air Ceòl 's Craic air a rèidio

'S E AN App is motha tha mi a' cleachdadh air a' fòn-làimhe 's e fear a' BhBC gus èisteachd ris an rèidio (sin nuair nach eil mi a' cleachdadh a' fòn airson craoladh air an rèidio).
Ach bho chionn ghoiridh tha mi air mo bheò-ghlacadh le làrach-lìn a chuir caraid thugam. Dealbh mòr den phlanaid agus bidh thu a' sguabadh thairis air le do chorrag.
Ge bith càite a bheil thu a' stad tha thu a' lorg stèisean rèidio ionadal an àite.
Tha mi air a bhith eadar Alasga agus Astràilia agus a h-uile àite air an t-slighe Tha "RadioGarden" coltach ri a bhith ag èisteachd ri Shortwave nuair a bha thu òg, an saoghal tighinn thugad fo na plaideachan.
Ach mar as àbhaist tha an combaist ga do stiùireadh dhachaigh.
Bho àm gu àm bidh mi a' lorg "Ceòl 's Craic" rèidio air Facebook, ceòl an t-saoghail tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig.
Le preasantair ùr, Alana NicAonghais, an t-eòlas ciùil aig an Dotair Raibeart agus an riochdaire, Laurie Cuffe, tha am prògram sgoinneal, ùr-nòsach agus farsaing an coimeas ri na tha ri fhaighinn air a BhBC.
Bha fiù's agallamh aice le seinneadair Killing Joke an t-seachdainn sa chaidh.
Tha iad airidh air luchd-èisteachd nas fharsainge.

Translation - The App I use most often on mobile phone is the BBC one for listening to the radio (when I'm not using the phone for broadcasting on the radio).
But recently I've been caught with a website a friend sent me. a big image of the planet that you sweep across with your finger. Wherever you stop you find the local radio station of the area. I've been from alaska to australia and everywhere in between .
"radiogarden" is like listening to shortwave when you were young, the world coming to you under the blankets. But as usual, the compass guides you home. From time to time, I find "Ceòl 's Craic" radio on Facebook, world music through the medium of gaelic.
With a new presenter, Alana MacInnes, the musical knowledge of Dr Robert and the producer, Laurie Cuffe, the programme is fantastic, innovative and wide-raingng compared to what is available on the BBC.
They even had an interview with the singer from Killing Joke last week. They deserve a wider audience .

By the minute, how a Corbyn-Sturgeon deal would work

From my Daily Record column
WANT to know what a Corbyn government would look like? The answer is not to be found by traipsing around the Palace of Westminster in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon, entertaining as the First Minister's day out to London was.
Making tentative arrangements with Labour to oppose Brexit was by far the most significant part of Sturgeon's visit.
But exercising power is a serious and more subtle business. A Labour administration which relies on some arrangement with the SNP is the least fantastic scenario available to a political imagination that puts the words "prime minister Corbyn" into a sentence.
What his government could really look like is to be found in a little clicked corner of the Cabinet Office website.
The department is the clearing house of government, the link between Downing Street and the world of Whitehall and beyond. In its online tomes lie the published minutes of all the private meetings between the Tory Government and the DUP on which, until recently at least, Theresa May relied in a confidence and supply arrangement for her Commons majority.
The records, to quote the Politico website, who first perused them, offer a "tantalising glimpse of the clout wielded by DUP leader Arlene Foster behind the scenes".
They detail the near-monthly meetings of the six-strong "coordination committee" of senior Tory and DUP MPs, set up last year to ensure the voting deal runs smoothly in Parliament.
It is chaired by May's de-facto deputy David Lidington, who sits alongside chief whip Julian Smith and Treasury minister Mel Stride on the Government side.
On the other side of the table are DUP leader at Westminster, Nigel Dodds, his chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson.
All boys together. Well, not quite.
The terms of reference state explicitly that neither Foster nor May should be members. "Neither party leader will sit on the committee but may attend from time to time on Privy Council terms."
That "but" is the unbolted stable door allowing Foster to attend every meeting bar one since the first gathering in July 2017.
Imagine, if you can, the credibility of a Scottish First Minister if Holyrood had not been sitting since January 2017 and MSPs were paid £8million salary in that time.
However, Foster, still under the shadow of the £500million "cash for ash" heating scandal during her stint as Stormont's enterprise minister, and the collapse of devolved government in Northern Ireland, has a regular audience with some of the most powerful figures in the UK Government.
According to the minutes of the meetings a succession of Brexit, defence and security ministers are dragged in every few weeks to give personal briefings to this DUP star chamber. It seems Foster is spending more time and exercising more power in Whitehall than she is in Belfast.
Given the way Whitehall works on precedent this is an entirely credible template for how a minority Labour government would be guided by the civil service to handle a confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP.
Sturgeon would be in Whitehall a lot more often, and not just appearing as a Westminster minx, sticking her head around the door of Tory Brexiteer meetings to give them a fright.
Sturgeon's visit to London had a twofold purpose - rappelling in to try to organise cross-party opposition to Brexit is important and burnishes her heavyweight image, of course.
But it also helps her twitchy MPs looking over their shoulder at the narrow gap back to Labour candidates in the 2017 snap election.
Why vote Labour in Scotland, they will argue on the doorstep, when we can have Nicola sorting them out?
Given the opposition operation is so disfunctional that Corbyn contrived this week to miss a Commons vote on child poverty, which he tabled himself, letting the Government win by just five votes, perhaps Labour could do with some help at Westminster.

Gove, a cabinet Hamlet snared by his Scottish past

From my Daily Record column today
A FELLOW journalist is researching a biography of Michael Gove, the Hamlet of the House ("to be or not to be") or parliament's Poundshop Macbeth ("stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires"), depending on your point of view.
I met the writer on a Commons staircase as Gove was at the despatch box in the chamber for the Fisheries Bill debate.
Rush to the reporters gallery, I urged him, where his opening chapter was being written in front of our eyes. There was Gove, the arch-Brexiteer, on the stump defending Theresa May's Brexit deal - which he does not believe in - to the hilt.
By doing so he invoked the memory of his family's experience of Britain joining the Common Fisheries Policy in the 70s, vowing there would be no "last-minute sell-out" of fishing interests this time.
Gove, the adopted son of an Aberdeen fish merchant, told MPs: "I was a boy then but the consequences had a profound impact on my family and on my father's business. There is no way I can ever forget what happened then."
There was laid bare the personal forces which left this brazen Brexiteer trapped in May's Cabinet as her political life hung by a thread.
This sensitive awareness of the totemic value of fishing, the consequences for Scottish Tories and May's "our precious union" left Gove hamstrung.
Instinctively, intellectually, he wanted to walk out.
But doing so would put him in the camp of recently resigned former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab in declaring the deal a threat to the Union, and walking into the SNP narrative.
Quitting as Environment Secretary would also condemn the Brexit fishing deal as a sell-out, a death sentence for Scottish Tory MPs.
So there is Michael Gove, a complex character, his destiny, his vision shaped and snared by his Scottish past.
Would you pass me that quill, Mr Shakespeare?

Friday, 26 October 2018

The Silver Darlings - the fishing Rich List pulling the strings on Scottish Tories

From my Daily Record column today:

Feeling the urge to join in the collective nervous breakdown of the Conservatives, Scottish Tories are going tonto about fishing.

The party’s Scottish MPs - a subsidiary of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation - wail how they will vote down Theresa May’s “transition” Brexit deal if it means fishermen have to stay in the Common Fisheries Policy a day beyond December 2020.

The date is important because the Tories would be slaughtered going into the 2021 Holyrood election without delivering on the Brexit pledge that won them Westminster seats in north-east Scotland.

Being a tartan version of the DUP might play in the north-east constituencies, but who are Scottish Tories actually willing to die in a ditch for in order to have the UK crash out in a no-deal Brexit?

The answer is not the port communities they represent but the super-rich fishing barons, who own the rights to all the fish in the sea.

Some great investigative work by Greenpeace confirms what some of us have long believed - a tight millionaires’ club run Scottish fishing.

The records show 45 per cent of all Scottish fishing quotas are controlled by just five wealthy families, all of whom feature on the Sunday Times “Rich List” of Britain’s millionaires.

This Silver Darlings circle includes Alexander Buchan and family, ranked 804 in the 2018 Rich List, with an estimated net worth of £147million. Their Lunar Fishing Company are not just Peterhead’s biggest quota holders, they are the UK’s biggest quota holders, controlling 8.9 per cent of all catches.

Coming in at 980th on the Rich List are Robert Tait and family, whose Klondyke Fishing Company are the UK’s third-largest quota holders, with 6.1 per cent of the UK total.

Incidentally, in England, nearly 80 per cent of fishing quota is held by foreign owners or Rich List families.

The records also show 13 of the top 25 quota holders were convicted for offences in Scotland’s £63million “black fish” scam in the 1990s.

This sophisticated fraud, involving false holds and secret landings, demonstrated it was Scots themselves who fished out our coastal waters.

After years of denial, the industry acknowledged their guilt and are making amends with conservation measures, simply because fishing faced extinction if they carried on as they did.

As stocks depleted and skippers left, the quota ownership became concentrated in fewer hands. But fish stocks are a national asset and not the preserve of a rich elite who would now manipulate the fate of the nation to maintain their wealth.

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government fisheries Cabinet Secretary, wants full powers over setting fishing quotas in the Brexit Fisheries Bill. To do what with exactly, Fergus?

The Scottish Government already manage quotas yet the concentration of fishing quota ownership dwarves land ownership statistics.

Fewer than 500 people possess half of all privately owned land in Scotland and there is constant demand for reform.

When it comes to fish stocks, a privatised national asset belonging to us all, there should be talk of revolution.

Any politician with a claim to be radical (that’s you, Michael Gove, and you, Nicola Sturgeon) would seize departure from the Common Fisheries Policy as a year zero on fishing quotas.

There ought to be a redistribution of quotas to encourage new entrants and break up the Silver Darlings circle.

Licence to fish must be tied to specific ports to revive towns, and inshore fishing protected from the big netters.

The barons and their political puppets say it wouldn’t work. Well, they would, the rigged system works well for them as it is.

Pelagic fishing for mackerel and herring is a lot of the Scottish quota and it is argued only the super-trawlers are geared up to fish for those in dangerous waters.

Yet with redistribution, with restructuring, fishing could be the one transformative positive of Brexit.

But don’t bet on any politician showing the Silver Darlings what “taking back control” actually means.

Friday, 5 October 2018

A tale of two visions of Scotland's future

From my Daily Record column

THIS is a tale of two commissions, two rival visions of the future which collide over the SNP conference in Glasgow, though neither are on the agenda.

The first, the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission report will be the embarrassing uncle, talked about but kept away from fireplace conversations.

Andrew Wilson’s independence blueprint has not aged well over the six months since it hatched.

The vision of a low tax Scotland where austerity would last at least another 10 years look very unfashionable now.

In contrast, the IPPR Commission on Social Justice, a landmark report with radical solutions for the broken economics that have left so many people behind, set the weather for the political conference season.

The IPPR recommendations translated straight into platform speeches for McDonnell and Corbyn, capturing the mood of voters to the extent that Theresa May was forced to claim she will abandon austerity.

With calls for a decent living wage and workers on company boards, the “prosperity and justice” report really did spark a national conversation.

It spat out ideas like a £10,000 “universal minimum inheritance” for all young people. It proposed to double the number of workers covered by collective bargaining, to auto-enrol gig economy workers into trade unions, to give the self-employed work-related benefits.

The Wilson Commission didn’t even consult the Scottish Trade Union Congress.

Instead, it recommended workers prepare for independence with something called “flexicurity”, a term so loaded with low expectancy, low wages and globalised exploitation that it will be the shameful headstone for the Wilson report when it is buried.

The IPPR Commission recommended reversing cuts to corporation tax, which have failed to increase investment as promised.

The Wilson commission argued indy-Scotland should match the UK’s low corporation tax step for step in a race to the bottom.

Given the preferred Tory model for Brexit Britain is to slash tax and diminish work protections, this is deeply worrying.

Tackling poverty and inter-generational opportunity are at the heart of the IPPR report.

In the Wilson Commission these issues, central to what politics is for, get little more than wishful thinking.

The IFS, the highly regarded economics research institute, concluded Wilson’s plans would leave Scotland facing an extra 10 years of austerity.

Yet, the SNP national assemblies convened to debate the Wilson vision reportedly spent their time obsessing over what currency Scotland should use.

Instead of wishing for money they don’t have, SNP members would do better for social justice by asking their leader questions about the money she does have.

Anyone going to the Glasgow conference will know the city has the highest levels of deprivation and lowest life expectancy in Scotland.

The council, now SNP run, have to tackle this with £233 per head less to spend on services than five years ago.

In the rural Western Isles, where public services are harder to provide, council funding has reduced by £504 per head of population over the same time.

These are not Tory cuts, this is austerity minted in St Andrew’s House.

The Scottish Parliament’s own research unit show that since 2013 council budgets have been cut by £744million, or 7.1 per cent compared to the Scottish Government’s own UK grant, which decreased by 1.3 per cent over the same time period.

Theresa May could end austerity with the stroke of a pen. So could Nicola Sturgeon but she backs the Wilson blueprint for independence and she’d double down on austerity.

Anyone who believes in tackling economic injustice, that's anyone on the left really, ought to look at Sturgeon’s council cuts and should compare the Wilson and IPPR reports.

Only one has the answers for a fairer future.

Friday, 28 September 2018

So what happens to UK politics under Brexit? Read Scotland's menu.

From my Daily Record column after the Labour conference
To find out what's happening in the UK, Westminster politicians really ought to pay much closer attention to events in Scotland.
Everything the political class in London are wrestling with - the backlash of anti-politics, the explosion of nationalism clothed as patriotism, post-truth news, a vile online debate, the triumph of emotion over economics, the unresolved schism of a referendum that warps all policy debate in its wake, the very divided self - we own all that.
Welcome to Scotland, you guys, your lunch was our square sausage political breakfast.
All the signs are there that a Scottish lunch is now being served to British politics.
The Labour Party conference in Liverpool gave us a glimpse of the starter menu.
Delegates would have gone home with the impression that a general election campaign is kicking off next week and that a personal thank-you card from Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn will be in the post before Christmas.
Yes, it might happen. A cold mid-November election to match the gloominess of the "when the lights went out" Britain of 1974 is possible. But the chances of it actually taking place are slim.
The Tory party wouldn't give Corbyn the opportunity. The Tory right will, by all means, rail against the Chequers Brexit plan. But lose a vote of confidence that would trigger a prime ministerial resignation? Not yet.
Labour strategists know this but they also know the transformed party that Corbynism has created demands permanent revolution.
The enthusiasm of the thousands of new and "old left" members has to be maintained by promising Heaven is just one more step away.
The same situation confronts Nicola Sturgeon on an annual basis.
Having been gifted one of the most energetic and motivated political mass movements in Europe, she now has to find new ways of telling them the same story - that independence is just around the corner.
The SNP leader is good at keeping the ball in the air, often with the help of opponents. And Corbyn will be looking, learning and hoping that no one remembers that he promised conference they would next year be gathering under a Labour government.
That said, the Scottish experience offers Labour few lessons in how to move politics beyond the dominant divide created by the referendum (either referendum - Brexit or independence).
Labour had some good, strong policies this week, selling socialism as a retail offer, making Karl Marx sound like Marks & Spencer.
Tories like Robert Halfon MP, who understand constituencies that are key to a Commons majority, are worried. So they should be when you see the slick video about "rebuilding Britain" that Labour released.
Labour's ideas for a rebalanced economy are popular and the Tories have no response to a change agenda that wins elections.
But that doesn't matter to the Tories. As long as they occupy themselves with Europe, nothing else will matter. And that's the Scottish-flavoured main course we'll see at their party conference in Birmingham. In Scotland, nothing matters except the constitution.
Michael Gove doesn't believe in a Chequers deal any more than Alex Salmond believed in a devolved Scottish parliament.
But like the SNP in the late 90s, the astute on the Tory right are willing to get any Brexit deal over the line and then start dismantling it later on.
Like the SNP on devolution, the Tory Brexiteers will take the Chequers deal for now, as a means to an end.
Like the SNP, they can then start a tug of war and keep pulling the constitutional cables until, they hope, connections with Europe, or the UK in the case of the SNP, are severed.
If they chew through the ropes, we'll bring the UK the dessert menu, too.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Corbyn - the speech he won't make

The weeks leading up to party conferences are when speechwriters really earn their corn. A leader’s speech is a moment of high jeopardy, able to transform or confirm voters’ impressions. So I suspect these discarded “notes” won’t make it to Corbyn’s speech to conference this week: 

“Comrades. I think it is safe enough to say that now the shadow cabinet and the NEC have our MPs surrounded. Comrades it is, then.

Let’s not forget, united we stand, divided we fall. If the Tories finish off Theresa May, we face an election in a few weeks. Polls show we would win.

On the brink of a Labour government, we need the best to fight the battle. So read my lips – no re-selections, only victory.

"But today I want to speak beyond Labour, directly to Britain’s Jewish community, and say this: If I gave offence to you, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart. I apologise.

I learned that from John McDonnell. He knew that to be taken seriously, he had to sever his past history with the IRA, just as today I repudiate my connection with anyone seeking to dismantle the state of Israel.

A Labour government will not back enemies of peace. We will ensure the peace (and I will not mention Trident for a few years).

And on national security, let me just say this about Vladimir Putin – any friend of Donald Trump’s is not a friend of mine.

In a divided world, people see enemies everywhere. The right-wing press have me as an enemy. They threw everything at me, only some of it stuck. Now, they will try to engender fear of Labour’s economic plans.

All my life, I’ve been saying capitalism is broken. The last 10 years have proved it.

Of course, Labour will stand for the poor, will re-order national priorities.

But I want to reassure you, if you enjoy a glass of prosecco, if you drive a Nissan Qashqai, I am not your enemy.

My data crunchers tell me this is the key demographic. And I thought being middle-class was having an allotment.

To people who want to improve their lives and their children’s lives, I say we are the party who will give your children a chance, who will close the wealth gap, give them homes of their own and a future.

But if your choice is Champagne, if your car is a Bentley driven to the City bank by a chauffeur, look out.

If you are a tax haven multi-national, we will come for you with a corporation tax to make you pay on your UK profits.

The world is moving left. Remember Ed Miliband’s so called “Marxist” energy price cap – the Tories have brought it in.

But rotten, divided Tories can’t deliver fairness and, to borrow a phrase, if we can’t take this lot apart, we shouldn’t be in politics at all.

Labour can do much more. We are socialists but we are not Venezuela.

My Build It In Britain slogan is not narrow patriotism, it’s a plan to use the power of the government to create jobs and invest in communities. It’s not communism, it’s common sense.

On slogans, I now realise, as you do, there is no Jobs First Brexit. Any Brexit will damage the economy.

People ask if I am for a second referendum? I am not for a second referendum, do you hear me, Nicola Sturgeon?

But I will lead a Labour government who lead in Europe. A Labour government who keep Britain in...”

The notes run out there, so who knows how this draft ends. But it is so out of tune with the country’s mood that none of the passages will make it to the leader’s real speech.