Tories crush SNP in glorious victory – BBC News

Yes, ladies and gents, if there is one thing to be learnt from the most recent council elections it’s that you shouldn’t trust the BBC with arithmetic. In the follow up from the election the BBC and the other mainstream media outlets took it upon themselves to announce that the Conservatives had scored a stunning victory in Scotland and beat the SNP into submission by coming in a blistering second place… behind the SNP. Good heavens.

On their website, the BBC put the SNP at -7 seats, on the news it was first -14 which was, itself, an advance on “a handful” of seats lost. The Guardian managed to confuse things further by stating in their graphic that the SNP were up 31 seats, but later on in the article said that they were actually down 31 seats. In fact, at the last council election, the SNP took 425 seats; in this election they took 431. That is an increase of six, please do check for yourselves on your pocket calculators.

The SNP had just over 56% more seats than their Conservatives, who came in second by 155 seats. The SNP increased their share of the vote on the last election, became the largest party in 19 councils (up by 10 on last time) and ousted Labour in Glasgow for the first time in about 40 years.

The Tories, meanwhile, came in second place – and a weaker second place than Labour who were runners up last time. Did Ruth Davidson concede defeat then? Of course not. She proclaimed her party the victors, the true winners of the election and the champions of Scotland. No, my dear Ruth, you came in second. In order to win, you must come in first, that’s how it generally works. That is, unless this is one of those school sports days, in which case, we’re all winners.

David Mundell even tweeted “@ScotTories have second most Councillors in Scotland. There is only one winner today.” Yep, Dave, it was the SNP. They came in first.

But, naturally, the mainstream media jumped on this too to portray the Tories as the sole victors in the local elections, the SNP have been trounced! Everywhere you looked it was the same, Tories triumph, SNP on the decline.

I hate to use terms like “mainstream media” sometimes as I feel it makes me sound like one of those conspiracy theorists with a wardrobe of tinfoil headgear and matching suits. But this result acts as further proof that our country’s media are showing blatant political bias. The newspapers, they can post what they like, that’s fine, but television and radio broadcasters have a legal obligation to remain politically neutral and impartial in the UK. By using their broadcasting power to favour one political party over another, they are not only abusing their power, but they are breaking the law, plain and simple.

Over and over again, the SNP and the wider pro-Independence movement, have been demonised by the British media outlets. If you wonder why the Tories are doing so well, it’s because the BBC is telling us that they are; they tell us Labour are inept and the SNP are vile separatists and only ‘Theresa May’s Party’ can put an end to their foolish game-playing.

Don’t get me wrong, the BBC are the only one’s at it; ITV, Channel Four are all at it too, but the Beeb, by virtue of being the largest broadcaster is also the largest culprit. Hence, they get the majority of my spite here.

I feel bad here because the BBC is a great service and does so much right, the likes of Just a Minute and Test Match Special… basically all of Radio Four… but this kind of nonsense if quite unacceptable. With so large a viewer and listener base, taking sides is a colossal abuse of power. Notably, when it comes to the entangling of national and local affairs.

At this point, I will turn my fire away from the BBC and back to the Tories and much of the printed media (though the odd bit of this will be quite relevant for our friends in Television Centre or wherever they currently reside). They painted this election out to be a battle between independence and the union…

They are fucking council elections you thick bastards!

This was not a question of independence, it was a question of who do you want to organise bins and fix the roads. Christ, it’s not like Motherwell is going to declare independence any time soon (though it may considerably increase the UK average life expectancy). The election was for local matters, to choose the folks we wanted to keep our towns and cities running at the most basic level for the next five years.

We keep hearing that the SNP are obsessed with independence. In my humble view there is only really one party with such an obsession at the moment and it’s Ruth Davidson’s Tories. While the SNP’s candidates in Glasgow spoke about the state of education, social care and the roads all we heard from the Tories was “save the union”.

The Tories have made this whole episode about Independence while the SNP have been getting on with the day job; yet as far as the media are concerned, the SNP are obsessing over IndyRef2 while the Tories tackle the real issues. Try to understand why I am so enraged when I read the “news”.

However, the Conservatives have obsessed over independence and come in second… strange how things work out, eh? I suppose you won’t mind then, Ruth, if we tell you to get over it and respect the result for what it is? And perhaps you should eat your cereal too, while you’re at it.

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Now is not the time…

Image Cre

May palpatine

am the parliament! – Credit: scottyjoycephotography.net

Now isn’t the time for political game playing. Now isn’t the time for divisive votes. Now isn’t the time for a snap election. Oh dear, oh dear… It would appear that now isn’t the time for democracy either, would it Theresa?

The reactions to the news this morning that Theresa May would be seeking a snap election were met with mixed reactions. Some, like Nicola Sturgeon, were left aghast at this monumental U-turn. Others were opposed to the idea saying that the government should be getting on with the business of dealing with Brexit, not ten weeks of distraction and destabilising an already wobbly political situation. Some were very much in favour of the idea; most surprisingly Jeremy Corbyn who, at the current projections from Electoral Calculus, stands to lose around 50 seats – surely this would be a career ender? Myself, I was confused as to why the Prime Minister would bother to call an early election; she has a mandate, what’s the use? Well, I can tell you why now, and it’s not great, really…

There is talk of wanting to ensure a smooth negotiating position with the EU, an easy path for the Brexit bills to float through parliament and the idea that an election now means that, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, three years after Brexit to work out the creases rather than one. Pish. It is a blatant disregard for the democratic process and little more. Forget the idea of opportunism given the current polls, that’s just a happy coincidence. May and her government are unhappy with opposition to the bill and have decided to obliterate it, and with Corbyn’s deeply underwhelming performance of late, that’s just what she’ll do.

Listen to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning, go on, listen all the way through and you’ll see what I mean. For example she says; “in recent weeks, Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement…” The clue is in the name ‘Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition’. Or “the Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.” Again, this is one of their core party commitments; the SNP has been very much pro-EU for some time.

Listening to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning felt like listening to a dictator; “There is opposition to our policies and that shall not be tolerated. We will take the steps required to eliminate the opposition to our progress. Long live our glorious motherland… etc., etc.” With her current lead in the polls of roughly 20% – the highest in over twenty years – she is all but guaranteed success in this endeavour.

Surely, if so many of the opposition and your own party are opposed to a bill in its current form it can mean little other than the bill stinks! Surely if the idea of a hard Brexit is so widely hated, the bill should be redrafted, the parameters of our exit from the EU rethought? But that’s too close to a real democracy for Theresa May’s liking; no, it’s my way or bust – though it’s entirely possible that her way will mean bust anyway, but nevermind.

The sad thing is that she will get her way. As Labour voters either refuse to turn-out or vote another way as a protest at their leadership, UKIP voters will flock to the Conservatives again as the Tories are now the only party with a hope of achieving their own party’s goal of total separation from Europe. Across the whole country as well, political apathy will take hold too; with this being the second general election in two years and having had a referendum and council elections, voter fatigue will be a crucial factor. This will be even more pronounced in Northern Ireland where politics and trips to the polls have dominated daily life lately, especially following the collapse of talks for a power sharing agreement in Stormont.

In Scotland, we must make sure that this is not the case. By the time we go to the polls for the General Election, it will be the ninth time since 2010 that Scots have gone to vote – if ever there was a stage set for voter fatigue, this would be it. Rather than be turned off by the prospect of yet more elections, we need to grasp the opportunity to show Theresa May that, regardless of her attempts to subvert it, democracy is alive, well and cherished in Scotland. Regardless of what may happen to Labour, Scotland must unite as the source of political opposition to the austerity obsessed, hard-Brexit driving Tories in Westminster, pushing our country ever more to the political right.

It has become clear that May has no regard for democracy in the slightest in Scotland; this is shown by her total disregard for the Scottish Parliament’s request to hold another referendum on Independence prior to the UK’s actual departure from the EU. This, in spite of the Scottish Parliament agreeing on this course of action by a vote. This, in spite of the Scottish people electing a pro-independence majority to Holyrood in the Scottish General Election. There is not even any regard for the SNP’s 56 MPs as a mandate from the Scottish people for change. Indeed, when the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland ask the UK Government for an arrangement that would allow Scotland to remain within the single market post-Brexit, the ideas were thrown aside. Rather than regarding the SNP’s MPs as a legitimate request for a change in the relationship between Scotland and Westminster, they are regarded as a threat to Theresa May’s plans and must be eliminated. There is no room for compromise or discussion in Theresa May’s democracy.

In the last General Election, the pro-independence parties rallied behind the SNP and delivered a landslide for the Yes voters in Scotland, and we will need to see that again. Only that way, can Scotland’s voice in Westminster be assured. So the SNP will not be eliminated, the Scottish people’s desire to remain with the EU (or as close to it as possible given current circumstances) will see to it that the SNP hold their current domination of seats at Westminster. But without Labour holding the seats it did in England and Wales, the opposition will be badly diminished and make room for the Tories to bulldoze through.

So, how does Scotland get out of this one? With Britain speeding towards a hard-Brexit with Scotland sat helplessly in the back seat, it does look pretty hopeless. The question then is, how do we get out? The Prime Minister has ruled out another referendum before the UK has formally left the EU… though she did also rule out an early election so…? The SNP can continue pushing for a referendum, but it may not come, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “before it is too late.”

If now is not the time for a “divisive referendum” (how delightfully ironic), then perhaps another route has to be taken. Derek Bateman, on his personal blog, offers up an alternative. In his post this morning he asks; “shouldn’t we bypass the failed referendum route and upgrade our demand?” He asserts that the SNP should run on a manifesto pledge of an SNP majority means independence. This is not new, and I have seen it all over social media with friends and colleague suggesting the SNP could simply “declare independence” if the people of Scotland give them that mandate.

To be fair to them, the SNP have been riding a political steamroller since 2007 and are predicted to carry on doing so. The issue with just declaring independence is that, firstly they would be going against their whole pledge of “giving the people of Scotland a choice” and making that choice for them. This could be played by the “No” voters in quite a bad way. More importantly, Scotland would have to obtain permission from Westminster to make such a declaration legal, otherwise the Scottish government would be seen as illegitimate across the UK and the rest of the world.

What of simply holding a referendum anyway? Then you run into the issue of the result not being legally binding and the UK Government being well within its rights to refuse independence.

In short, the pro-independence movement have been driven into a corner with no real means of escape, and this is precisely what the May’s Government wanted. Silence the pro-Europeans, silence the pro-independence lot, and continue onto oblivion unobstructed.

That’s why we need now to shout louder than ever before for independence, for Europe and for opposition to Theresa May and her Tory juggernaut. We need to generate sympathy for our cause not only in Scotland and the UK, but also across Europe. The EU, the bastion of democracy and freedom, cannot surely stand by as a government seeks to eliminate all opposition, as the democratic will of a constituent part of a long time member is dragged out against its will. Surely Europe cannot stand by as European jobs and citizens are thrown out of a country and the citizens of that country simultaneously stripped of their EU citizenship and rights. So we must shout, kick and scream. We need to make as much noise as possible and attract as much attention as possible.

We can do this by electing our SNP MPs back to Westminster to ensure that we still have that voice of opposition.

If we are serious about remaining with Europe and gaining our independence, we need to make sure that Theresa May cannot ignore us. Given her recent demonstrations, that may be quite difficult, but we have to give it a go. Whether we go for independence by referendum or declaration, Mrs. May needs to hear us loud and clear. We have a little over six weeks to do it, so let’s get started.

 

Scotland’s Brexit future? A tartan theme park largely populated by pensioners.

Iain Macwhirter

Read Iain in the Herald and Sunday Herald.

Shortly before the 2014 referendum, I was asked what I thought Scotland might look like in the long term if it didn’t seize the opportunity of independence in Europe.  I replied that it might resemble a tartan theme park with a shrinking population largely composed of pensioners eking out a marginal living in a post-industrial tourism economy. I hate to sound negative, but I fear that future may be upon us sooner than anyone expected.

Unionists used to say that Scotland dodged a bullet by voting No to independence in 2014 just as the oil price collapse got underway in earnest. Unfortunately, the Brexit bullet has hit Scotland in the vitals. The Scottish economy shrank in the last three months of last year and it looks like a recession cannot be avoided.

Conservative politicians have argued that the First Minister’s talk of an independence…

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Independence for Science

With the impending British Exit from the European Union (I’m sure there is some kind of abbreviated name for it… it’s been in the papers, I think), much of the UK and Europe is in a bit of a flap. It’s understandable, both the UK and the EU get so much from their continued partnership – free trade and free movement of people to name only a couple. This is not to mention the funding for local projects, for example the road and infrastructure projects along Scotland’s north coast, or the massive wind farms built with EU money. Local communities, businesses and innovators stand to lose so much more than most people would think.

This is especially true of the scientific community who, through the EU, have prospered like never before. With funding, free movement and free trading, scientific collaboration across Europe has never been stronger and, as such, Europe is leading the way in many areas of research; from particle physics to renewable and sustainable energy. As a physicist, I can only really comment with certainty on the physics aspect of scientific research in Europe, but in this field alone, we have seen great leaps forward.

And before people leap in with, “how does landing a probe on a moving asteroid or finding new particles help me?”, there have been great leaps forward in fields directly related to making life more comfortable for you. For example, new generations of nuclear power stations such as the “Evolutionary Pressurised-water Reactors” (EPR) or the AP1000 advanced passive pressurised water reactors (PWR) that are being planned for construction across Britain are the product of collaborations with French companies such as EDF and ENGIE. These power plants will produce clean energy in quantities that conventional production methods, such as fossil fuel plants, could only dream of.

With such an emphasis on collaboration, it’s no wonder scientists are worried about the UK’s imminent departure from the EU; but it’s not only companies across the channel that are worried about the potential loss of British expertise, but universities in the UK are also at risk. As Physics World pointed out in their April 2017 issue (Vol. 30 No. 4), non-UK EU nationals make up 24% of research and teaching staff within physics departments at UK universities. With the UK government refusing to comment on its commitment to ensuring the rights of EU citizens living within the UK after Brexit, universities are and their staff are becoming increasingly concerned over the security of their staffs’ positions. Much of this worry has prompted universities across the country to issue statements saying that they will do everything they can to ensure that staff and students are able to continue on in their current positions – but with a government that seems to be ploughing ahead at full tilt with little actual knowledge of where it is going, these messages can be of little comfort.

To be concise, then, as far as scientific research, education, collaboration and development is concerned, leaving the EU is the equivalent of deciding to replace the coolant in our nuclear reactors with ginger beer – a fun sounding, exciting, British idea, but with very little research or knowledge behind it and with the likelihood of catastrophic results for all involved.

So, how then, I hear you ask, does Scottish independence fit into all of this? Well for a start, much like the scientific community, Scotland was quite happy in the EU as it provided a lot of benefits but is now being dragged, screaming and protesting, out of it. This is happening despite the Scottish government offering multiple compromises and suggestions that would allow Scotland to retain access to the single market while the rest of the UK began the process of substituting heavy water for ginger beer. All of these suggestions were thrown out of the window by the UK government, who declared that they were implementing a UK-wide strategy for leaving the EU regardless of whether the various bits of the UK agreed to it. Cue Nicola Sturgeon and her bout for a second independence referendum.

The first referendum, in 2014, saw Scotland remain within the UK and chief among the UK government’s arguments for retaining the Union was EU membership. Scotland, a predominantly euro-friendly nation was told on no uncertain terms by the Better Together campaign that leaving the UK would put Scotland outside of the EU where we would have to spend years renegotiating our membership. Cited as proof was the Spanish position that Spain would apparently veto Scotland’s membership ensuring that Scotland would never get in again. This particular argument has fallen apart in recent weeks with Spain saying it would not stand in the way of allowing Scotland entry to the EU again. (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/02/spain-drops-plan-to-impose-veto-if-scotland-tries-to-join-eu)

In fact, since the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government have been engaged in talks with the EU, its officials and its various member states, engaging in the first independent diplomacy by Scotland in over three hundred years. The results of this outreach have been incredibly positive, with EU member states vouching for Scotland’s entry and a letter signed by 50 MEPs to the Scottish Government outlining their support for Scotland having continued membership. Indeed Lord Kerr, the man who wrote Article 50, pointed out that the idea that Scotland would have to reapply from scratch and spend years outside the EU was nonsense, saying that an independent Scotland could “get in pretty quickly through the door marked accession” following application. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-37852628)

All of this puts Scotland in a very strong position to regain EU membership fairly swiftly following an independence vote. This, then, is good news for science in Scotland and in Europe. Since the Scottish Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, Scottish scientists and engineers have led the way in so many fields. In the early days, Scottish physicists such as Maxwell laid new ground in thermodynamics and electromagnetism. Nowadays, Scotland is paving the way in terms of new renewable energy technologies and has world leading research in pioneering fields like particle physics, gravitational waves, nanotechnology… the list goes on.

We’ve already been told that Scotland won’t be able to continue its access to the single market as part of the UK, so the only chance at continuing to prosper with the rest of Europe is via independence. And with a country so dedicated to scientific R and D as Scotland, surely research is bound to flourish.

It may not come as huge comfort to those who have based themselves in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, but for the large numbers of EU nationals working in Scotland and for the European collaborations who would otherwise stand to lose out, it is something.

This also offers us a chance to make ourselves competitive as a country; it is a chance to say to Europe that we have been the hotbed of science and discovery for centuries and now we want to ensure that continues with you guys! Recently, the European Space Agency (ESA) have voiced their concern over the loss of British input, we need to be saying come, have Scottish workers and scientists, collaborate with our institutions! This comes as the European Commission debates being able to cancel contracts with companies based outside of the EU without penalty (https://www.ft.com/content/2f0e7a6e-1eff-11e7-a454-ab04428977f9). This is bad news for UK business, but presents an opportunity for Scottish business should Scotland leave the UK and opt to join the EU as an independent nation.

There is no doubt that science contributes greatly to any economy, be that putting probes on asteroids or developing new technologies that can do directly to consumers. Collaboration with our European partners in science has helped us to make some huge leaps in progress and has also allowed for new companies to spring up, creating jobs in R and D and manufacture. All of these businesses have been helped by the UK’s access to the single market, giving businesses access to the best skilled workers from around Europe. Our leaving the EU makes it less certain that we will have access to such skills and, as a result, could fall behind our global competitors.

If we want to ensure that collaboration with European institutions, companies and facilities continue to drive our own scientific community and economy, we need to seriously consider independence as a primary option.

Time to stop playing games?

Yesterday morning, at about ten to twelve, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, fired the starting pistol on the race to a second referendum on Scottish Independence. In truth, everyone in Scotland knew this was coming, and if there were those who did not, the announcement that the First Minister would be giving a major press conference in the run-up to the UK Government triggering article 50 would have been a major clue. Regardless of this, however, there was certainly some shock factor.

In the Yes Camp, supporters jumped into the air, finally able to start dusting off their old campaign gear, put stickers in the window and wonder – when exactly will it be? In the No Camp, the faux surprise of “wasn’t this once in a generation” is being pedalled out in typical broken record fashion. In a way, whilst expecting this to come, nobody was quite prepared for it actually happening. But now it is happening and there is a lot of work to be done indeed!

The Yes supporters have sprung into action, relishing the chance to set about it once more and already a campaign fund has raised tens of thousands of pounds to champion the cause for independence. With all the enthusiasm, though, it is easy to forget what exactly lies ahead and that is a campaign far grittier and far shorter than the previous one. By the first referendum, Scotland had been preparing for pretty much seven years and the atmosphere was one of optimism. In this case, the referendum could be upon us in as little as eighteen months and the atmosphere this time is one of a much more serious choice.

With Brexit looming, the political future of Britain has never been so uncertain – this hard Brexit will see the UK (including Scotland) wrenched away from the EU, dragged screaming out of the single market and will have EU nationals living in the UK fearing for their own futures. All this is despite the Scottish population voting overwhelmingly to remain within the Europe. So, for all those of you booing that “we voted ‘No’!” and that it was meant to be “once in a generation”, this is a totally different ball game – not least because we were told the only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU was to vote “No”.

The road ahead for the UK is one substantially different than the one we were on in 2014; there are more potholes, bumps and obstacles to navigate and the passengers are becoming increasingly agitated that nobody up front seems to know where we are going. The UK government has taken so long to come up with its plan for Brexit, giving us little other than Brexit  means Brexit for so long, and has now decided to simply cut all ties and sail off into the North Sea. Not to mention the House of Commons and the House of Lords have spent so long rejecting each others proposals that we’re not entirely sure what Brexit will actually look like, other than sudden and poorly thought through. Oh, and Empire 2.0, yes! The Foreign Office seems to think that outside of the EU we can just scrape the Empire back together and once more Britannia will rule the waves!

God almighty.

But rest assured, Mrs. May is on the case as politics is not a game! That’s right, from the Government that brought you the Brexit Omnishambles, Empire 2.0 and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Boris Johnson, the news that politics is not a game and that we Scots should just let the grownups handle it.

If any of you were of the opinion, then that Westminster had learned its lesson from last time, then fret ye not, as they have done no such thing. Scotland is still too wee, too poor and much too stupid to make its own decisions. Most notably we shouldn’t be allowed to call referenda that the government deems divisive; and Mrs.May’s government is certainly an expert field when it comes to divisive referenda.

In essence, ever since the EU referendum, the Scottish people have been told to sit down and eat their porridge, mummy and daddy will handle things.

Scotland has tried hard to be mature about things in the face of all the fannying around too, searching for a solution that would allow Scotland to remain within the single market while the rest of the UK withdrew completely. Following the referendum, the Scottish Parliament voted to open Scotland’s first independent diplomatic mission in three hundred years, starting a dialogue with the EU regarding Scotland’s future in it. Scotland has been in talks with the EU and the rest of the UK offering solutions, ideas and compromise from day one in order to reach some kind of deal. Meanwhile the UK Government has stuck its fingers in its ears and run around the room shouting “la, la, la!” It’s no wonder the Scottish people are so fed up!

So, the inevitable happens, the Scottish First Minister sets out her plan to seek Section 30 approval, to give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence. Suddenly, Scotland is the one playing a political game. Nevermind that Westminster kept changing the rules, moving the goal post and ignoring whenever the Scots wanted to come up with a reasonable idea. Nevermind that the democratic will of the Scottish people was thrown out the window after the EU vote… Nope, Scotland is the one playing political games by deciding it wants to decide its own future. Don’t do that Scotland, that’s for the adults to decide, away and play with your bagpipes.

Even in setting out the plans for a referendum the First Minister has shown the maturity that May cannot, accepting that the political atmosphere has changed, that we need to be upfront about the challenges that would be facing us.

The First Minister is right, we need to accept that the future is not going to be all rosy, that there is a difficult choice ahead and that we owe it to the people of Scotland to be upfront. But we also need to reinforce the opportunities that are up for grabs – EU Membership, control of our own finances and natural resources, control of our own health, education, energy, trade agendas and so on.

Any Mrs. May is right as well. Politics is not a game and it’s time for Scotland to show the rest of the UK how it’s done; maturely, calmly and efficiently.

So let this referendum roll on, let’s put Scotland’s future back into Scotland’s hands!

Bugger

There wasn’t much else I could say this morning, I must confess, better eloquence simply was not forthcoming when I saw the results of yesterday’s referendum. For those who are blissfully unaware of the current goings-on in the United Kingdom, a referendum was held yesterday on Britain’s membership of the European Union and the result was in favour of the UK leaving.

By a margin of 52% to 48%, the UK voted for Brexit and, as such, has cast the whole of Britain and the European Union into complete chaos. European leaders are calling for ‘consequences’ for this result and Germany and France specifically say that the UK cannot be allowed to cherry-pick the bits it wants and doesn’t. The attitude on the continent, therefore, is very much a case of cheery-bye but don’t expect any favours from us later. Meanwhile the FTSE has taken a substantial dip and Sterling has hit its lowest level since 1985… It is, quite frankly, not looking good.

And why should it? The EU provides the UK with so much; access to the world’s largest common market, protection of workers’ rights, protection of civil liberties, the free movement of people, goods, and labour. As it stands, an EU citizen can establish a company in any EU country and begin trading in any EU country, employing people from any EU country… etc.

At the moment, there are millions of EU citizens resident in Britain who work here and make great contributions to our country through things like our NHS, scientific R&D, industry, schools, universities and so on. There are also 2.2 million British nationals living elsewhere in the EU, what is going to happen to them?

No, the EU is not perfect, but if you honestly think that the United Kingdom will fare better on its own, you are deluding yourself. What we have done now is to open the doors to allow the far right of the Tory party to do whatever they like with the country without Europe to tell them when they’ve gone too far. All those nice laws protecting workers’ rights and civil liberties, ensuring equal work for equal pay, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, etc… came from Europe.

If you also think that leaving the EU will allow the left to overturn capitalism and create a glorious socialist utopia, you’re also kidding yourself. Just remember what country you’re living in – the U.K. has led the way for capitalism from the very beginning and, if anything, Europe held us back on that one.

We are now in a position where the far right is set to take over governance of our splintered country. The whole idea of voting out to bring public services back into direct public ownership is set up to backfire wonderfully as Boris and his pals look to set about the total dismantling of the NHS.

So what for the UK now? Well, it looks pretty much set to fall apart itself. England and Wales will be pretty happy with the result, so short of Tunbridge Wells declaring independence, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about there. But Northern Ireland has been interesting to say the least, due to it’s net benefit from EU funding. Europe was instrumental in securing peace in the North and, as such, NI has some very strong feelings towards the EU, as noted by it’s strong majority Remain vote. However, it looks set to be dragged kicking and screaming away with the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland also provides an interesting situation as it is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with the EU – through the Republic of Ireland. At the moment that border is open, but there has already been speculation as to what might happen on that border now. There have even been calls from within Northern Ireland’s legislative assembly leaders to seek reunification with the ROI. Whilst this has to be taken with a rather large pinch (tablespoon) of salt, it’s likely these calls will reverberate as people begin to come to terms with what the future may hold.

And then, of course, Scotland. In 2014 we were told that the only way to guarantee our EU membership (which the majority of Scots favour) was to vote No to independence. A year later and we are plunged into uncertainty over that too as an In-Out referendum is announced. So, in Scotland the vote reflected the Scottish favour of EU membership with a 62% majority in favour of remaining within the EU.

As Scotland voted No to independence, and in favour of the EU, whose membership we were told was guaranteed by staying with the UK, we’d rightly expect to see the UK remain in the EU, yes? Nope. Sorry Scotland, Big brother England has made the decision and you’re coming with us. Nevermind the subsidies for farming, fishing science, education, renewable energy, conservation, cultural preservation, etc… nope, we can’t have Johnny Foreigner coming here anymore so we’re dragging you out.

Understandably, the Scottish electorate is a bit pissed off (could you tell) that we have, in effect, been cheated and deceived. As such, the Scottish electorate, including many previous No voters are calling for Scottish independence, indeed, the First Minister is expected to make a statement later today on the result.

It has always been clear that Scotland and the rest of the UK have had differing political views, but this can be seen no clearer than today with Scotland showing a clean sweep for Remain, with every counting area having a clear Remain majority. Today, Scotland has shown itself to be a nation open to working with the rest of the world to create a better place for all of us to live and work, rather than a closed off island, hiding from progress.

It is no secret that I am a supporter of Scottish Independence and I will campaign tirelessly for it should we come to another referendum, but to see it come about in this way is not something I ever wanted. I did not want to see Britain, ravaged by xenophobic populism, be torn apart, with England and Wales thrust into obscurity and a Northern Ireland with divides opening up anew. I did not want to see Scotland thrust into political turmoil again as it fights to keep its people from being dragged out of a union they wanted to be a part of for the sake of staying in one they were never asked about.

At the moment, things look very uncertain and quite bleak, but life goes on and we must remain optimistic.

SNP Celebrate Historic Third Term, Labour Reel at Historic Third Place

It’s likely that you noticed there was an election yesterday in Scotland; even if the disturbing lack of coverage in the run-up to the election left you in the dark, the wall to wall coverage this morning should make you aware. In some ways, it was the night we expected, but in many others it was a night full of some unexpected developments.

Across the country, the Conservatives made gains in SNP and Labour seats, in Glasgow the SNP wiped Labour out completely and in the list vote, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale managed to hold onto a seat by a hair’s breadth. The Greens made significant inroads too, taking 6 seats and forming a fully fledged parliamentary group for the first time since 2003.

BBC results

SNP the largest party – Image Credit: BBC News

The main story is, of course, that of the Scottish National Party, securing an historic third term in office. They pulled out 63 seats, falling shy of the 65 required for a majority and the 69 they held after the 2011 election. Many were speculating that the SNP would be looking at a majority again, seeking to replicate 2011’s monumental achievement, with many treating is as a given; however, very early on in the night and prior to even the first declarations, Alex Salmond said that it was, “by no means a foregone conclusion”.

Sturgeon

Nicola gets five more years – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

Indeed, the Scottish Parliament’s additional member system is specifically designed to prevent a single party majority. Many spectators even referred to the SNP as having “broken the system” in 2011, with it now returning to normal. This morning’s result, then, should not be seen as a defeat for the SNP, rather as a fantastic “vote of confidence” -as Nicola Sturgeon said following the counts – for the SNP to continue in government for another three years.

Rtuhie

Ruth Davidson become leader of the opposition – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

However, if there are any real winners this morning, it is, rather unexpectedly too, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, who thumped Labour across the board to become the largest opposition party in Holyrood. There had been the odd speculation from the pundits throughout the campaign that the Tories could be the second largest party, pushing Labour into third, but it was largely laughed off by most of us. It was, however, the platform upon which Ruth Davidson based her whole campaign – “A Strong Opposition”. Credit must go to Ruth Davidson too, she has turned the Scottish Tories around spectacularly achieving their best Scottish Parliament result to date.

The real losers, after the dust settled, were indeed the Scottish Labour Party. Most were convinced that Labour would still hold onto second place, after all, how could Scotland ever places the Tories above Labour? However, it wasn’t to be; the traditional Labour heartlands of Scotland fell and Labour were put into a horrifying third place, behind the Tories for the first time in generations.

Kez

Kezia Dugdale “heartbroken” by results – Image Credit: Press Association via BBC News

Well, some may argue that the proposals for raises to various bands of income tax were to blame; but a 1p rise for middle income earners was hardly going to turn the entire country against them and those affected by a hike to the highest levels were probably not voting Labour to start with. By and large, the reason for Labour’s downfall seems to be on the question of independence.

It’s this constitutional question that has rattled Labour then, with Kezia Dugdale trying to stay out of the whole rotten business and giving neither a clear yes or no to support for independence. This maybes aye maybes naw approach, compared to the staunch defence for the Union only a couple of years ago, has hurt the Labour Party more deeply than they could have imagined.

Those blaming the SNP for the demise of Labour should take a look at the results; whilst in Yes strongholds such as Glasgow and Dundee the SNP routed Labour, increasing majorities or making gains, the SNP vote stayed largely level across the country. The Yes vote has shifted to the SNP, but most of them were there to begin with in 2011, however a large number of Labour’s Yes voters have stayed with Labour.

Instead, it’s the No voters that appear to have deserted Labour. The Scottish Tories ran their campaign on the idea of a “Strong Opposition”, but that was not only to Nicola Sturgeon’s government, but also to any further push for independence. It was the Tories who drove home the idea of continued campaigning to preserve the centuries long Union with the rest of the UK. Whilst Labour try to brush the whole idea under the carpet, the Tories have recognised that this issue will not go away.

Now, I am a Yes supporter, as many may have gathered by reading this blog, but it is pointless to disregard those who support the Union and their opinions. Labour, however inadvertently, did just this by trying to ignore the whole constitutional question. The result was that those who had supported Labour and who wished to remain as part of the United Kingdom felt that their party was not going to deliver the commitment to that cause.

Now, regardless of one’s position, one cannot fail to realise that this issue is going to be at the forefront of Scottish politics for quite some time to come and will remain the dominant issue throughout this parliament and possibly the next. So, where then do Labour’s No voters go? They go to the only mainstream party that is fully committed to fighting for the Union, the Conservatives.

If you want proof of this, you need only look at individual constituency results which mostly sit around SNP level (or up slightly) Labour down dramatically, and Conservative up dramatically.

Whilst it was always assumed that the SNP would win overall, the real battle was the traditional one of Conservative vs. Labour. And the Tories punished Labour in a way we haven’t ever seen in the Scottish Parliament. In just about every seat, the Tories gained what Labour lost and it was for the very simple reason that the Labour party have tried to ignore the question of Scotland’s constitutional future.

Where now for Labour, in that case? Having been thumped into a humiliating third place with their own supporters crossing over to the traditional enemies of the Tory party, there is a lot of building to do. As a party they need to show strength and unity – two horrid buzzwords, but it’s true. They need to stand behind Kezia Dugdale and the leadership, knuckle under and push forward a unified policy front on all the issues including independence and, sorry Jackie, Trident. Only then can they even hope to become a serious political establishment in Scotland again and regain the voters they lost to Ruth Davidson.

As for the SNP, they’ll form a minority government. It’s what the Additional Member System was made to do. With 63 MSPs, however, they should have no real difficulty in pushing forward their agenda.

Nicola Sturgeon will be elected as First Minister. She said this morning that she would not seek to form any formal coalition government, but with the common ground shared with all parties on varying issues, it’s likely that cooperation will be the key word in this parliament. The minority will also make for more balanced debates and perhaps a more rigorous examination of policy in the chamber.

And it’s this minority that may offer Labour a second chance at convincing voters to back them in the future as they try to hold the SNP to account. It also brings the Green Party into place again as they expect to push the SNP on issues such as fracking and taxation.

Yes, we expected the SNP to govern and yes, we expected Labour to suffer slightly, but, as usual, there was so much we didn’t expect. All that can be said for certain is that the next five years will definitely be interesting for all parties and for everyone in Scotland. We will likely see questions over reform to the NHS, education, housing, taxation, jobs, the economy and benefits. We may even see the independence question thrown up again, but who knows.

We now just have to look forward to 2017 for the local elections, this will be the next real challenge for all parties and should provide an interesting indicator of how they are all doing in the public’s opinion.

Until then, though, we’ll just have to wait and see what the new government looks like and what the first year in parliament brings. It will be many things, but it shouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure.

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 7: A Brighter Future for Scotland

In this series I have spoken about the record of the SNP in Government, and it’s a strong record indeed. You can view it in its entirety at snp.org/record . But what is also important is to see how the SNP are planning ahead for Scotland and just how they are going to build on their record for the future.

Ever since the referendum in 2014, Scots have become more politically engaged than ever before. For the first time, Scots are looking ahead to the future, the possibilities of what could be, as opposed to looking back and remembering what was. The SNP are the embodiment of that spirit – whereas Labour harks back to the days of Red Clydeside, the Conservatives look back to the glory days of Thatcher or the late 19th century and the Lib Dems try desperately to remember a time when they were of any use whatsoever.

Instead, the SNP looks forward, to a brighter future for Scotland; where the NHS will see £500 million more above inflation to their budget, where university students won’t pay a penny towards their tuition, where job grants are introduced to our young people to help them into work, where we seek to boost productivity of businesses and help small businesses grow, where we make land ownership more transparent, where we work towards ambitious and world leading climate change target and where we work towards convincing the people of Scotland that we can and should be an independent country.

In the past term, the SNP have proven that the are the strongest party to represent Scotland. When the UK Government decided that it would ignore the “no detriment” ideals of the Smith Commission report and decided that Scotland’s budget should be slashed by £7 million, John Swinney sent them packing. Then they came back with a cut of £3 million, we sent them back again. Finally, £2.5 million, and still Mr. Swinney would have none of it.

The SNP stood up for the people of Scotland, with John Swinney saying we would not stand by and watch as Westminster ripped the money from out of the Scottish people’s pockets. As Nicola Sturgeon so well put it at the spring conference; “we gubbed them!”

The SNP are the party with the boldest plans to revitalise the NHS with increases in funding of £500 million above inflation. With reforms to primary care and a £1.3 billion investment in health and social care partnerships, we can meet the changing challenges faced by an ageing population. A new set of five elective treatment centres coupled with a £200 million investment to expand the Golden Jubilee Hospital will increase our capacity to care for the sick and injured. The SNP are also proposing an overhaul of mental health services, coupled with a £150 million investment, to treat mental health care with the same level of care and commitment as physical healthcare.

In eduction, the SNP are planning to implement the National Improvement Framework to close the attainment gaps in schools. New plans will give teachers more of a say over how their schools are run, putting teachers and parents in the centre of their school’s improvement. The Scottish attainment fund is set to increase by £750 million, with more money going directly to headteachers to help them make the right decisions for their school. Crucially, the SNP vow to maintain free university tuition, making sure that all who meet the minimum entry criteria are able to study at university if they so wish – regardless of financial circumstance.

In areas of housing, the SNP are proposing more support in Help to Buy and shared equity schemes to help first time buyers onto the property ladder. £3 billion will be invested to build 50,000 new affordable homes, 70% of which will be for social housing.

A new Scottish Social Security Agency will be established to administer benefits devolved to the Scottish government with the principles of fairness, dignity and respect as its core values. The current level of disability payments will be maintained with the assessment process made fairer. As well as this, the SNP will abolish totally the unfair and unjust Bedroom Tax as soon as it has the power to do so.

They SNP have other bold plans for tackling climate change, domestic abuse, crime, child poverty and so many more of the issues that affect our society today, but to tell you of all of them would take too long. That’s because the SNP are committed to doing everything in their power to make Scotland fairer, stronger, safer, greener, wealthier, healthier and so much more. They are committed to securing more powers for Scotland to improve in areas currently reserved by Westminster, such as much of our social security and fiscal policy.

They have a sterling record to work on and some bold promises which they will, no doubt, follow through on. But they can only follow through on these with a majority government, and a strong one at that.

To get the Scotland we all want and that our people deserve, we need a strong government. We need a government that can hold a strong majority in Holyrood and that can send a strong message to Westminster when they try to tell us we’re too wee and stupid to manage things ourselves. We need a strong government that will stand up for everyone in Scotland, from the bottom to the top.

To get that government, all you have to do is vote for it. On Thursday, for a Stronger Scotland and a Brighter Scotland, make it #BothVotesSNP

 

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 6: A Greener Scotland

In Scotland, we are lucky to have the spectacular scenery, beaches, mountains, forests and wildlife that make our country truly unique. From the lush, green, rolling hills of the lowlands to the rugged moorland and mountains of our highlands, Scotland’s environment is stunning. It’s little wonder, then, that we work so hard to preserve that environment with efforts to look after our countryside as well as doing our bit to tackle climate change.

As a country, we have recognised that climate change affects us all and it’s up to all of us to do our bit to keep our planet, and our own wee corner of it, greener. By working with renewables to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to recycling more to help prevent pollution in our countryside, rivers, lochs and seas, Scotland is doing its bit to tidy up.

Leading the charge has been the SNP government, with funding and incentives across the board to help companies and individuals do their bit.

Campaigns to save electricity and so on have seen the targets for energy consumption reduction of 12% by 2020 already surpassed, with an overall reduction in usage of 13.3% between 2006 and 2013. More of this energy than ever before is now coming from renewable sources, with renewables being the largest source of electricity contribution in Scotland – this is due to renewable output more than doubling since 2007.

The SNP has remained committed to reducing the impact of fossil fuels too, with the Scottish Government on set to reach its ambitions and world leading targets of a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. As well as this, the Scottish Government is safeguarding our countryside and holding off further dependence on fossil fuels with its moratorium on underground liquid coal gasification and hydraulic fracturing.

As a result of SNP policies, we are now managing our waste better. In Scotland, recycling levels are at an all-time high and climbing, with 43% of household waste being recycled in 2014. As more councils roll out easier ways to recycle too, this number will only increase, decreasing the size of landfill sites and our pollution to our environment. Disposable arrier bags, the bane of the environment, have been seeing a decline lately, since the SNP introduced a 5p bag levy in Scotland. The 5p carrier bag charge as seen usage of disposable carrier bags fall and more people opting for reusable bags. As another result of this charge, over £7 million has been raised by shops and supermarkets for numerous good causes. This model has since been used by the Westminster Government and rolled out across England.

Our waterside communities are now safer from flooding than ever before, with the Scottish Government brining investment for new flood defences and counter flooding measures as well as the new measures to be implemented under the Flooding Act. Floods are becoming more and more of a regular occurrence as a result of climate change and have the power to destroy homes and livelihoods, devastating families and wreaking havoc on the local economy; the SNP are committed to doing everything possible to mitigating these disasters.

These policies and other besides them are just part of the SNP’s record on making Scotland greener and helping Scotland to become a global leader on issues of climate change and environmental protection. In Scotland, our environment is truly dear to us; the idea of living in a rugged environment, braving the rain and wintry weather (be it December of July) is part of our national identity, our natural environment brings tourists from all across the world and brings millions to our economy.

It truly is worth protecting.

And it’s the SNP who’ve been doing that for the past nine years. So, if you want to see a greener Scotland, a Scotland paving the way for international action and standards on saving the planet, it has to be Both Votes SNP.

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 5: A Fairer Scotland

Until comparatively recently, Scotland was a fairly socially conservative country – it wasn’t until the 1980s that Scotland decriminalised homosexuality, whereas it had been decriminalised in England since the late 60s. For a long time we held onto many of our more traditional values, but in the recent past, that has all changed.

Scotland has become a world leader in social progression, fighting to help those faced with injustice. We are now one of the most gay friendly countries in the world, we have championed workers rights, fought hard to tackle gender inequality, opposed right-wing policies aimed at penalising our poorest and most vulnerable and worked tirelessly for an inclusive society at all levels. This has not come easily and it did not happen over night. It is the result of a decades-long battle to make Scotland a fairer place to live, work and learn.

In the past nine years, the SNP has stood on the front line of this particular fight, ensuring that we work hard to tackle inequality at every opportunity.

With new incentives to businesses to pay the living wage of £8.25 per hour to their staff and having become the first government in the UK to pay their staff the living wage in 2011, the SNP has seen more than 80% of Scots now paid the living wage.

Following the introduction of the bedroom tax, the SNP government made a pledge that nobody in Scotland would ever have to pay it. More than £90 million has been invested to mitigate the bedroom tax in Scotland. With no person in Scotland paying the bedroom tax, more than 72,000 households have been saved from the threat of eviction and homelessness.

Cuts to Council Tax Support, imposed by Westminster, have been mitigated as well, protecting over half a million of our most vulnerable households, including 200,000 pensioners and 86,000 single parents. Without support like this, many of our societies most hard-up would be facing difficult choices between feeding their children or heating their homes. Likewise, the Independent Living Fund Scotland was set up after Westminster ditched its support has allowed the Scottish Government to support almost 3,000 disabled people to live independently.

With these supports, poverty in Scotland is falling too, with more than a quarter of a million fewer people in poverty in 2014 than in 2000.

The government is also working to promote fairness in businesses too, with more than 200 companies signing up to the new Scottish Business Pledge. This voluntary code ensures that companies work hard to promote fairness and equality, increase diversity and boost their productivity. This has come alongside the SNP’s 50:50 campaign that is working to ensure that private sector and third sector companies work towards gender-balance at their top levels by 2020.

To mark the Scottish Government’s commitment to bridging the gender gap, Nicola Sturgeon appointed Scotland’s first gender balanced cabinet.

Following on from Scotland’s hesitation over the decriminalising of homosexuality, Scotland has become one of the most LGBTI friendly countries in the world, with an SNP government presiding over Scotland’s equal marriage bill. Scotland now enjoys some of the most progressive equal marriage laws of any country in the world.

The Scottish Government has also remained committed to helping those worst off in our society and across the world, with more than £75 million spent since 2007 to provide help and support to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

It’s clear to see that Scotland has come a long way in the recent past and we are working hard to become a world leader in socially progressive policies, promoting fairness and equality for all. The SNP’s record in this area is evidence of just how far we have come since 2007 as well.

With an ageing population and poverty still remaining a large issue across Scotland, though, we will have to be clever about how we tackle unfairness and injustice across a wide spectrum of social issues and demographics. However, with their current record to back them up and with a clear plan of action to continue to lead the world in the fight for fairness, it’s the SNP that can truly make a fairer Scotland for all.

 

 

 

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