How do we have a Genuine People’s Democracy?
Sunday Mail, January 25th 2015
It was UK Democracy Day last week – 800 years since Magna Carta. And on the same day of the announcement that the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war would not be published until after the May general election – hardly an advert for British democracy.
Then it was the debate about the on-off TV election debates. Was Cameron or Miliband more chicken? Will the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens finally get their place on the UK platform?
There was also the publication of draft legislation deriving from the recent Smith Commission, identifying more promised devolved powers to Scotland: income tax, some welfare powers, and, not insubstantial, areas such as the Crown Estate.
The usual party politicking broke out. David Cameron said this would result in one of the most powerful devolved institutions in the world. Margaret Curran spoke of a ‘Powerhouse Parliament’. Pro-union politicians claimed that the ‘Vow’ had been delivered. Read the rest of this entry »
Scotland and the UK after the Oil Bubble
Sunday Mail, January 18th 2015
Ever since its discovery, North Sea oil has played an important part in Scottish and British political and economic calculations.
In recent months, the falling oil price has challenged many assumptions. These include the SNP’s version of independence and the lack of long termism in the UK Government, while producing shockwaves to the Scottish economy and wider UK and global consequences.
Most immediately, there is the threat to jobs and livelihoods. The North Sea oil and gas sector directly employs 450,000 people and makes a huge contribution to the Scottish and UK economies. And with decreasing returns thousands of jobs, production, and future investment are now at risk.
This has an impact on Scottish independence. Alex Salmond’s prospectus offered last year was based on Scottish Government figures of $113 a barrel for North Sea Brent. By the time of the referendum it was trading at $97 a barrel, and currently is below $50. Read the rest of this entry »
Jim Murphy’s ‘Clause Four’ Moment and ‘Putting Scotland First’
Sunday Mail, January 11th 2015
Jim Murphy has to do some simple things right now – as well as some difficult ones. He has to get noticed, cause a noise and get up certain people’s noses.
Murphy faces some significant challenges. He has a short time span in which to make an impact on, and make a difference to, Labour’s electoral prospects for the May 7th UK general election – and how it is seen by the electorate.
Both are tough asks. Who was the last Scottish Labour leader who made his or her mark on Scotland? A whole host of figures have passed through the last decade – leaving barely a mark on the public consciousness.
Murphy knows all this, and that he desperately needs to kick against the state of Scottish politics post-referendum: an insurgent, popular SNP – and a Labour Party which is struggling to come to terms with how to oppose it. Read the rest of this entry »
A Great Moment for Scotland and Equality: Now Let’s Get Serious About It
Sunday Mail, January 4th 2015
As the clocks this week marked Hogmanay, Scotland’s first ever same sex marriage ceremonies took place.
Each of the couples had their own unique and personal histories and backstories. Many had lived through times less enlightened and more repressive where people often had to hide their love, feelings and identities from family, friends and work colleagues.
On that momentous night, at the Bell and Felix bistro in Glasgow’s Southside I had the honour of being amongst those who saw Gerrie and Susan Douglas-Scott’s public declaration of their love and commitment as they got married when the clock hit midnight.
With two other same sex couples marrying, surrounded by a small band of families and friends, witnessed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie, people were aware this was history in the making. Read the rest of this entry »
The Battle for Britain 2015
Sunday Mail, December 28th 2014
Britain has had a tumultuous year. And 2015 will be as dramatic and difficult to predict.
The UK general election will take place on Thursday May 7th. None of the three established Westminster parties are popular and nor are their leaders. Cameron’s poll ratings at least run ahead of Tory support, whereas Miliband and Clegg are massively unpopular with 22% and 13% satisfaction ratings respectively; and Miliband is more unpopular in Scotland than the Tory Prime Minister.
At the last UK election in 2010, the Conservatives finished 20 seats short of a majority, but 48 seats ahead of Labour. Combining with the Lib Dems in coalition produced a comfortable majority, but any Labour-Lib Dem potential deal would have been scuppered as they were 11 seats short of a majority.
The politics of parliamentary arithmetic matters. 2015 may well see both Labour and Tories unable to form a majority by themselves, or in association with the Lib Dems. This will produce either a three party coalition government, or more likely, a weak minority government of either Labour or Tories needing to win individual parliamentary votes on an issue-by-issue basis. Read the rest of this entry »