Monthly Archives: June 2012

Blairgowrie Advertiser – 21st June 2012

The debate about Scottish independence took a rather bizarre turn last week when Labour leader, Ed Miliband, tried to suggest what my identity would be after independence.  This is when Ed Miliband revealed that the referendum for independence would be a choice between Scottishness and Britishness.

Not only is this ridiculous, it is geographically impossible.  That is, unless Ed Miliband intends to take his party’s obsession with “separation” to a new level by building a channel across the border after independence.

I am British because I live in the northern part of the island of Great or Greater Britain. I am British in the same way that someone from Stockholm is Scandinavian and in the same way that Ed Miliband is also British because he lives in the southern part of this island.  It’s basic geography and it is astounding he is unaware of that.  He also has absolutely no right to tell me what I can call myself after independence, when I will, of course, still be both Scottish and British.

To be charitable, what Ed, in his confusion, was perhaps trying to suggest, is that I would no longer be “culturally” British because I would be changing my nationality from UK to Scottish.  After independence, we will continue with a social union with England and we will also celebrate all the amazing achievements and relationships we have shared.

This is a basic failure to understand what independence is striving to achieve. What independence will mean is that Scotland will leave the UK state with the return of currently reserved powers to the Scottish Parliament.  The referendum on independence will be – or at least ought to be – about where power should reside.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Britishness or Britain, just as the UK state also has nothing to do with Britishness.

Ed Miliband, like so many other unionists, is becoming increasingly obsessed with identity, flags and nationality, and in being so, is seeking to deny us our geography and our shared culture and heritage. What we will do is to continue to invest in our cultural ties with the rest of the United Kingdom and we will build on our social union in a spirit of co-operation, equality and self respect.

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Scots Independent – June 2012

Do you ever feel you’re living in a parallel universe? Well being an SNP MP at Westminster is sometimes quite like that. You see, Westminster doesn’t like the idea of Scottish independence. In fact it doesn’t like the idea of it a lot. Out of the 650 MPs in the Commons 640 of them are totally hostile to the suggestion. In the House of Lords it’s probably even worse. All 786 members would probably take exception to the notion, apart from Plaid Cymru peer, Dafydd Wigley, and the Liberal, but indy-supporting, Earl of Mar. That’s an awful lot of indy-loathing parliamentarians. In fact, that is about 1,400 unionist MPs or Lords and Ladies determined to let Scotland know how they feel about the whole proposition.

With these sort of numbers, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the debate about Scottish independence is just a little bit different in London than it is in Scotland.

Any cursory look at Scottish Questions will give you a flavour of how they approach the debate. Unionist MP after unionist MP will rise to give Scotland the benefit of the strength of his or her unionist passion. The prospect of an independent Scotland has to be talked down and the wonders and joy of the union repeatedly spelled out – ad nauseam.

In the House of Lords it’s even worse. Now, I know that it should never be recommended, but watching the Lords debate Scottish issues is almost funny. During the passing of the Scotland Bill former Scottish Ministers, both Tory and Labour, would practically be fulminating at the gall of the people to vote for an SNP Government. Such is the surreal quality of the Lords that the ever popular Michael Forsyth is the star turn at these events!

Then there’s the Scottish Affairs Committee, all unionists, who can’t even bring themselves to mention the word “independence”. They are accompanied by the (at least) other 4 Westminster select committees, again all entirely unionist, and all looking at issues to do with “separation”.

Should we care what Westminster thinks about Scottish independence? Should we try and accommodate its view and take on board its concerns? Well, if it’s going to be reasonable, then yes, we should. But if it can’t bring itself to even say the word independence, if it believes that the whole concept of independence is somehow illegitimate, and if it attempts to try and shout down the few of us who take a contrary view in London, then Westminster diminishes its contribution. We want a constructive debate about independence in the next couple of years and Westminster needs to engage constructively and sensibly.

Breadalbane Quair – June 2012

As I write my Quair column, I look forward to joining together with Robbie McIntosh, Marie Curie’s Scottish Events Manager, to officially open the Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Caledonia which starts in Pitlochry.

This year’s event is going to be the most popular year to date, selling out in record time, with more than 5000 participants signed up to take part in the UK’s biggest closed road cycling event.  I am delighted to be opening this year’s Etape. I have watched this event grow and blossom over the past six years and it is undoubtedly a flagship event, not just for British cycling but for Highland Perthshire as a destination. With thousands of participants raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, this event creates a long lasting legacy that will be appreciated by many for years to come.

I was very concerned to hear of plans to do away entirely with the Black Watch name, as well as those of Scotland’s other historic regiments.  To suggest that units like the Black Watch no longer have close ties to their traditional recruiting grounds is absolute nonsense and a slur both on the soldiers of the Black Watch and the communities from which they come.

The numbers that came out recently to welcome the Black Watch home from Afghanistan are testament to the link that still exists.  Perthshire is – and will always be – proud to be the home of the Black Watch and Aberfeldy holds a particularly close bond with the regiment.

These brave soldiers are sent off to war, but we have to understand the things that are really important in bonding them together into the efficient, effective fighting force that they are.  This is precisely what was warned would happen when the merging of the historic Scottish infantry regiments took place.  We were assured that, despite the merger, regimental distinctiveness and traditions would be retained – the ‘golden thread’ as it was called.  Well, that thread has been well and truly snapped and frankly was a fraud from the very start.

Another thing that has made me angry recently, has been the hike in the cost of stamps and first class stamps in particular.  The rise of more than 30 percent in the cost of first class stamps from 46p to 60p is around 10 times the rate of inflation. The increase comes as Ofcom suggests there should be no cap on prices for the vast majority of Royal Mail’s services, including business post, bulk mail, and large letters or parcels sent second class.

For Highland Perthshire businesses and individuals who rely on the postal service, this is a serious blow. A 30 percent hike in first class postal costs is very significant and could make rural businesses less competitive through no fault of their own.

The SNP group at Westminster has led calls for Ofcom to better protect consumers and have repeatedly warned of the risks, particularly to rural communities, of eroding the Universal Service Obligation, the mechanism that makes postal costs the same regardless of the point of origin or the destination in the UK.

Our local businesses are already under pressure from ever increasing costs, especially of fuel, and a lack of access to lending from the banks, so this latest blow is far from ideal. The situation may yet get worse, with Ofcom proposals to allow Royal Mail to charge whatever it wants for first class services, while the cost of second-class postage could eventually rise by more than 50 per cent.  This increase may well be a sign of things to come, and we now need coherent and strategic action from the UK Government to protect Scottish postal services.

I can be contacted at my office in Blairgowrie at 35 Perth Street, Blairgowrie, PH10 6DL, you can call me on 01250 876 576 or email me at wishartp@ parliament.uk