Monthly Archives: July 2019

THE TOTAL HUMILIATION OF RUTH DAVIDSON.

pa-26675323_qtqpyw

The Scottish Tories are in trouble. Lumbered with a Prime Minister they never wanted and with their influence amongst the UK party at a new all time low. Their laughable plans to have Ruth Davidson inaugurated as First Minister now seem in tatters as tensions rise across her party and across Parliaments. ‘Civil war’ is a term readily traded in Scottish politics but we might see a bona fide example of the genre as the Scottish Tories prepare to split in to rival camps. 

At the heart of this is the new Prime MInister’s stricture that those who serve him sign up to a ‘do or die’ Brexit, including the now likely prospect of leaving with no deal. Already the career minded amongst the miserable troop of Scottish Conservative MPs have been careful not be be seen to be on the wrong side of this dictum. Only one of their number is apparently prepared to defy. 

The replacement of David Mundell by a little known, old school landed gentry Tory, notable only for his hard views on Brexit has shocked the Scottish Tories to the core. Ruth Davidson did everything possible to retain her old friend in post and fully expected Boris to acquiesce to her demand. The fact that he didn’t care a hoot about her representations smacks of a former adversary enjoying his revenge served particularly well chilled. Boris cares so little about her difficulties that he even bypassed all the Scottish MPs and appointed an English MP in the Scotland Office confirming the utter humiliation of Ruth. 

Next, there will be demands for ‘loyalty’ from the Scottish Conservatives to retain unity across the UK in the name of the ‘precious union’. The newly crowned ‘Minister of the Union’ will expect Ruth Davidson to perform another one of her now famous ‘flip-flops’ and sign the Boris ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge. If she does not it would be entirely reasonable for Boris to seek to secure a more loyal Scottish Lieutenant to do his Brexit bidding.

The Scottish Conservatives have only got themselves to blame for this embarrassing humbling. If they had made it clear to Boris that they would not countenance their authority being undermined then their bargaining power would at least have been worth a role of the dice. Threatening, then withdrawing, repeated resignation threats rendered them ridiculous and Boris rightly concluded that they did not have the bottle for the fight. Instead the only real defiance deployed was having Ruth back every defeated Boris opponent in the leadership contest until there was none left. How Boris must have been quaking in his boots at such ‘opposition’. 

The one thing that Ruth did get right is her assessment that the Scots will never take to our new Prime Minister. Apparently solid opinion polling evidence told the Scottish Tories that the blustering, Eton public schoolboy buffoonery jarred with the Scottish public. Soft Tory voters impressed with an illusory Ruth ‘detoxification’ and a media manufactured leadership myth are appalled at his previous unacceptable racist and misogynistic comments. Tory remain voters are terrified of his plans for a no deal Brexit and his general pitch for the Farage vote. His ‘Cabinet of all the horrors’ also reminds Scots of the worst excesses of high Thatcherism. Already there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the Tories will be heading into electoral free fall with 53% of Scots saying they will now vote for independence with Boris as Prime Minister. 

images

Knowing the electoral liability the Scots Tories were therefore right to throw every resource into the indelicately named ‘Operation Arse’ to stop him. The fact that they made such a total ‘arse’ of it just shows how ill prepared for anything approaching Government they really are. Pursuing this childishly monikered mission so ineptly has infuriated the Boris-ites and this Dad’s Army type defiance was never going to go unpunished. 

Ruth therefore will have to sign up to the ‘buffoon Brexit’ or do what that great Conservative visionary, Murdo Fraser, suggested a long time ago during her leadership contest, and strike out on her own. Declaring Scots Tory ‘independence’ might now be the only option but the window for that is closing quickly. MP colleagues with careers to protect are quickly being enticed into project Boris and then there’s the question as to what on earth do Scottish Conservatives do in another snap General Election? There’s also the obvious little question of ‘if independence is good enough for the Scots Toris then why, etc…..’?

How Ruth must long for Yesterday when all she had to do was ride a buffalo or blow the bagpipes to secure screeds and screeds of fulsome praise and attention. The tired record of ‘Opposing a second referendum’ won’t work anymore and the policy cupboard has been bare for years.

Whatever there was in the way of a ‘Conservative revival’ is all but but sunk in blond ambition. For the Scottish Tories it wasn’t even fun while it lasted

Advertisements

SCOTLAND – THE DRUG DEATHS CAPITAL OF EUROPE. HOW OTHER NATIONS DEALT WITH THEIR DRUG EMERGENCIES.

fullsizeoutput_737f

The drugs death capital of Europe, with 1% of the population heroin addicts. Half the prison population on drug-related charges. Sound familiar? This isn’t Scotland in 2019, this is Portugal in the early 1990s, a nation which experienced a drugs epidemic on an even bigger scale than what we are currently observing in Scotland. In the early 90s every Portuguese family either had someone caught in heroin’s grip or knew a family affected by its scourge. 

What they did about it was something remarkable. 

As a nation they collectively decided that this could not go on and initiated a national debate assembling a Government led commission to address the crisis. The result was almost as bold as it was pioneering. They decided that a criminal justice approach simply didn’t work and that the response to problem drug use had to be exclusively health based. 

They decriminalised all drugs for personal use. But they didn’t just leave it at that… they assembled what they now call a ‘dissuasion commission’ to address all drug users brought to the attention of the authorities. Here their drug use was to be addressed, assistance offered, or if necessary sanctions applied. Money saved in criminal justice interventions have been reinvested into drug treatments and services. Twenty eight years later Portugal has just about the lowest rates of drugs deaths and problem drug use in Europe. 

I was in Portugal with members of the Scottish Affairs committee and Westminster’s Health and Social Care Committee last week and we listened in amazement to how this traditional small c Conservative nation addressed their drugs emergency. Where there was the usual resistance to embarking on such a radical approach there in now a national political consensus around this policy. Problem drug users secure support without the societal stigma that treats drug users as outcasts and criminals. Today they are discussing the next steps forward with proposals such as full legalisation of certain drugs and making the treatment of problematic drug use not just a health issue but a human right. 

fullsizeoutput_737d

Before we got to Lisbon we stopped in at Frankfurt, another fascinating international example. Roughly at the same time as Portugal was experiencing its difficulties Frankfurt had an unusual and disturbing heroin emergency. The financial sector in the city centre was almost besieged with problem drug users who were shooting up in public, dealing and even dying in the streets through overdose. Hundreds of heroin users turned the Gallusanlage into the biggest collection of problem drug users in Europe. From this crisis the ‘Frankfurt Way’ was born. An approach that put harm reduction at its centre by putting in place measures exclusively against the dealing of illegal drugs.

Central to its approach was getting problem drug users better or stabilised. This involved taking the problem off the streets and into safe spaces where treatment could be offered. Drug Consumption Rooms were opened and addicts encouraged to seek help. We visited three of Frankfurt’s 4 consumption rooms and could not believe what was on offer. I know that for some these facilities are still seen as ‘shooting galleries’ but nothing could be further from the truth. One DRC offered sheltered accommodation to addicts and had workshops on site to encourage problem drug users back into the world of work. All of them had wrap around services such as counselling, medical support and treatment options. Frankfurts drugs deaths have since fallen from 147 in 1992 to 22 last year. The Galluslanage has been re-dug to get rid of the discarded needles and debris. There remains a plaque to the many who died in the park due to their addictions.

Could any or all of this work in Scotland? What we probably need more than anything else is ‘the Scottish way’. We need our own approach to address out particular issues and recognise our own cultural values and national debate. What we most definitely need to do is to asses the international examples and be exclusively evidence based. Things can not be ruled out because of a personal ideology or even a deeply held political conviction. The evidence we have received in the Scottish Affairs inquiry has been fascinating, instructive and profound. We will now factor in what we have found in Europe into our inquiry.

What seems to be happening in Scotland now is a refusal to accept our appalling current drug deaths figures. We also probably now find a public ahead of the Government in being able to consider the big levers of change and more prepared to consider the radical and creative solutions. Scotland now has the worst record in Europe for drug deaths and we must look beyond our shores and learn how other nations have dealt with their emergencies.