Tag Archives: SNP

Me and Lord Snooty

There are certain things you don’t do in this job and one of them is to swear at a policeman and call him a “pleb”. This though, is exactly what the Chief Whip unbelievably did a few short weeks ago. As well as being unacceptable behaviour I think this incident demonstrated that the issue of class is well and truly alive in our Westminster politics.

Andrew Mitchell has now gone, only to be replaced by a baronet who once famously declared that the “homeless are the people you step over on the way out of the opera”.  This is the Conservative way of taking the heat out of the story. On top of that we had the story of the millionaire Chancellor of the Exchequer attempting to blag his way into a first class carriage with a second class ticket.

In fact, most of the Tory front bench are millionaires and 54% of their MPs went to private schools. Now, I’m sure that the public are more concerned about their ability to govern as opposed to their ability to speak with silver spoons stuck in their mouths. But isn’t it amazing that in the 2010s we are still governed by a social elite so remarkably different from the rest of us? Alex Salmond was actually spot on at the SNP conference when he said that sometimes it feels like we’re being governed by a “bunch of incompetent Lord Snootys”. If anything this shows disrespect to the famous Beano character who probably could have made a better fist of running the country than this privileged shower.

“We’re all in this together” they famously told us a couple of years ago, except of course it was their millionaire pals that got the tax breaks. The lowering of the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p was a clear indication that some of us are more in it together than others, and it’s not the baronets and Eton old boys. Meanwhile for those on the lowest incomes it’s austerity, wage freezes and price increases.

This almost “other worldy” Tory Government run our Defence, Foreign Affairs and incredibly our welfare state and economy. They are different from you and I and their priorities reflect their curious world view.

One of the things that independence will achieve is that never again will our country be run by the likes of them.

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Devo-Max?

What do we do about devo-max? This peculiar, but simple, constitutional option seems to be causing a great deal of consternation amongst all sides in the independence debate and no-one seems to know what to do with this most impertinent of proposals.

Devo-max is either a legitimate aspiration of the Scottish people, or it is an evil nationalist ploy. It is either, what most people seem to want, or it is a sinister “nat-filled” Trojan horse.

It is, of course, the anti-independence parties that have the greatest issue with devo-max. For them, devo-max has become a totally toxic proposal, which must not get anywhere near a constitutional ballot paper. They are prepared to give up all their other “conditions” to get this removed and they have poured scorn over any suggestion that it be considered.

Their main contention is that devo-max is a consolation prize if the main goal of independence isn’t achieved. They want no succour or comfort for us in the SNP in the event of a failure to secure independence.

But we’re supposed to all be for more powers aren’t we? Eh, well yes, but just not now. The Unionists, as one, seem to put forward the consolidated view that the independence question has to be resolved before we can start to deal with the question of more powers. This, therefore, leaves them in the rather uncomfortable position of opposing independence, but offering what can only be referred to as “jam tomorrow”. This isn’t a good place to be and they know it. It would also mean a great leap of faith by the Scottish people who seem to be doing a collective “aye right” after having the hindsight of having been here before.

But what exactly is devo-max? “It is a proposal without a home, which no-one can define” are the usual well rehearsed gripes! Well, let me try and attempt a little clumsy definition of my own. For me, devo-max would be the devolution of all remaining powers at Westminster, barring defence, foreign affairs and international treaty obligations. We would remain part of the United Kingdom, but effectively run our own affairs, including all financial ones. Simple, and surely if this is what the Scottish people want, this is what they should have regardless of any constitutional niceties.

And what about devo-max and the SNP? It is, of course, not our position, we want independence. We also want more powers for our Parliament, so we don’t have the inbuilt hostility of the anti-independence parties to devo-max. We are also democrats, who believe that the Scottish people are sovereign and they are the ultimate masters of their constitutional progress.

I, therefore, have absolutely no problem about a devo-max option being on the ballot paper and would look forward to engaging with “devo-maxers” about the short journey between what we want with independence and the maximum powers they support.

But we are all bound by the Scottish people, and in the Scotland I believe in, they should always secure what they desire.

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This post is Pete’s new article for the Scots Independent newspaper. More information on the Scots Independent can be found on their website at http://www.scotsindependent.org/

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.

Blairgowrie Advertiser – 10th May 2012

First of all, congratulations to Councillors Bob Ellis, Liz Grant and Caroline Shires, as well as Councillors Ian Miller, Alan Grant, Lewis Simpson, and Dennis Melloy. By mainly securing re-election on the first vote clearly demonstrates that the people of East Perthshire value the work they have done over the past five years and I am certain that they will work together for the best interests of everyone in the Blaire area.

Very little changed last Thursday for us in the SNP on Perth and Kinross Council. We remain the largest party with 18 councillors, three short of that elusive overall majority, having increased our share of the vote by 3% and coming very close to adding 2 seats to our tally. We won councillors in every ward in Perth and Kinross and, this week, councillors are now busy working on securing a deal that will deliver a new administration.

It was not so good for the Liberals or Conservatives. The Liberals, following the example of the Liberals nationally, lost two councillors, including their group leader. The Conservatives also lost one councillor and failed to re-take the seat where one of their number became an independent. This was a calamitous result for the Tories in what was once described as their “heartland”.

Nationally, we in the SNP had our best ever council result. We won the election, securing the most councillors and securing the largest share of the vote. We also had the most gains and have ended up with majorities in neighbouring Angus and Dundee. Where the media, as usual, concentrated on Glasgow, the SNP gained councillors in every part of Scotland. We have now won four out of the last five national elections and this sets us up perfectly for the next electoral test, the independence referendum.

Where there were concerns about the low turnout, Perth and Kinross surpassed the national average with an average turnout of 44 %. This was the first stand-alone council election since 1995 and with the lack of media coverage and debates, this was actually quite a respectable turnout.

All our new councillors now face a range of diverse challenges. Councils now have a number of new responsibilities and the decisions that are made in council chambers impact on all aspects of our community. I am looking forward to working constructively with all new and returning councillors and wish them all the best in their important task.