Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Parliament’
It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland
Scottish Review, September 15th 2016
These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.
Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.
Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.
Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.
If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »
Who will make the big, bold decisions if Nicola won’t?
Sunday Mail, March 6th 2016
These are supposedly exciting times in the broad sweep of Scottish history. There’s the epic spectacle of the referendum; a union questioned and nearly broken; and an upsurge of political engagement, activism and hopes.
Yet, sometimes the predominant story of any period belies much of what it is going on. Take the art of government and making decisions as an example.
How local government is paid for might sound arcane and boring, but it is one that politicians have long been wary of tinkering with. The Scottish rates revaluation of the 1980s brought in the poll tax, and the tax’s introduction in England helped seal the fate of Margaret Thatcher’s Premiership.
No one loves the council tax. It was introduced in 1993 to replace the controversial poll tax – being a return to a property-based tax, without calling it domestic rates. It is supposedly easy to understand, easy to collect, and more difficult to avoid than most of the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »
Where does real political power sit in Scotland? And where do we want it?
Sunday Mail, September 6th 2015
The Scottish Parliament is one of the central pillars of public life.
It has become the unquestioned landmark and focus of domestic politics in the country. People look to it, want it to have more powers, and generally trust it much more to look after their interests than Westminster.
That is all good and well. Yet, when people think of the Scottish Parliament what they tend to have a vision of is not the reality, but the broad idea.
The idea of the Scottish Parliament is an unqualified positive. It has changed Scotland, how we think of ourselves and how we want to be governed. But because people follow little of the debates at Parliament they don’t know much about what it actually does.
The reality of the Scottish Parliament’s actions is that it hasn’t directly done that much to change Scotland – in its decisions or debates. And nor is it where political power can be found. Read the rest of this entry »
Time for an Independence of the Scottish Mind
Sunday Mail, August 9th 2015
A second independence may be off the agenda of SNP conference for now, but Alex Salmond regards it as ‘inevitable’.
Such are the pressures and tensions of success. Where do you take a movement which came close to winning independence last September? How do you balance pragmatic and idealist hopes? What do you after the SNP ‘tartan tsunami’ of May this year which carried nearly all before it – and, when your opponents are so weak and disorientated?
There is talk in places of a second referendum sooner rather than later – of the SNP returning to it in 2016, or of a conditional clause in next year’s SNP manifesto predicated on a EU withdrawal vote in England which clashes with Scotland’s popular will.
These are tumultuous times. First, despite the referendum result, the ‘idea’ of independence won the debate last year – something very different from the SNP’s actual offer. Second, the SNP have dominated and defined the post-indyref environment and transition from Salmond to Sturgeon. They have done so by continuing the ‘Big Tent’ politics which have served them so well. Read the rest of this entry »
Making the Debate on More Scottish Powers Real
Sunday Mail, July 5th 2015
Another week has seen more turbulence and uncertainty across Europe, north Africa and the Middle East. The unprecedented Greek vote on European Union intransigence will, whatever its outcome, have huge continental implications.
In this frenetic period, what have Scottish politics been dominated by, since the May general election? From nearly every corner and political persuasion – from the SNP to Labour, Tories, Lib Dems and Greens – the incessant talk has been of ‘more powers’ and whether the Smith Commission and ‘the Vow’ is being implemented in full, watered down, or even worse, betrayed.
Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA) is impenetrable to most people. It involves huge and contested sums of monies. It is about projections into the future. In a culture and politics, where most people are confused by the difference between ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’, and are unsure what ‘austerity’ means, that isn’t surprising. Read the rest of this entry »