On June 23rd 2016, Scotland voted overwhelmingly – by 62% – to remain in the European Union. Indeed, my own constituency voted by more than two-thirds to remain. The Scottish Government’s position is that the will of the Scottish people must be upheld.
In 2014, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum, Westminster unionist political parties told the people of Scotland that a No vote would secure our nation’s place in the European Union as part of the UK. Whilst claims that Scotland choosing to become independent would result in the country being ejected from the EU are completely baseless and false, nevertheless it is undeniable that this was a major plank of the No campaign and many people in Scotland rightly feel that they were sold a falsehood as they voted by a small margin to stay in the UK and by a large majority to stay in the EU.
Whilst the wishes of the people of Scotland were clear in last year’s referendum, the Scottish Government has lobbied the UK Government for a compromised approach that would ensure that Scotland would be able to retain the rights and privileges of the European Single Market and the Customs Union once the UK leaves the EU. However, to date, the UK Government has stubbornly refused to make such a commitment, instead aiming for what is known as a ‘Hard Brexit’ where we leave the Single Market too.
Comment By Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
It was reported at the time that when the Exit Poll was revealed at the close of polls at the General Election in June, projecting (fairly accurately as it turned out) the result that would be confirmed in the hours to follow, Prime Minister Theresa May burst into tears.
Not only was the loss of the slim Tory majority a personal humiliation for the Prime Minister who, after all, hadn’t had any real need to call the election in the first place, but it also made the intensely difficult job of negotiating a favourable Brexit deal with the EU27 much, much tougher.
It would also have been obvious to the Prime Minister at that moment that unless the Exit Poll was very wide of the mark, the remainder of her premiership would be in the gift of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. No wonder she cried.
However, there was little time to wallow on the election failure. With so much wasted time since the EU referendum, Brexit negotiations had to be the top priority for the weakened Prime Minister once the £1 billion bung of our money was agreed to buy the DUP’s ten votes. The most pressing agreement required was over the conundrum of reconciling having a soft border between the UK and the Irish Republic with a hard Brexit that meant the UK being out with the single market and the customs union.
By Stirling Constituency MSP, Bruce Crawford
Last week, the Tory Chancellor detailed a Budget with an economic forecast for the UK that, to say the least was gloomy in its outlook. UK growth is set to slow down considerably – meaning that, in terms of growth, the UK is lagging behind much of Europe and the rest of the economically developed world.
One major issue that emerged from the Budget that must be must be addressed, head on, is the phantom £2 billion of additional funding to be given to Scotland. After 10 years of cuts to Scotland’s budget totalling £2.9 billion, I would have welcomed any real increase in funding for our public services. That said, the Tory con of such a large amount of cash may have scored a couple of headlines, but the reality is quite stark and different on the ground.
For a start, by far the majority of money allocated by the Chancellor is specifically for financial transactions that must be paid back to the Treasury. This means that this money cannot be used for the day-to-day running of Scotland’s vital public services (e.g. Health, education, fire and rescue).
So far from being a funding increase, the money allocated from Westminster to Scotland is actually to be reduced by £213 billion, in real terms, and this will create additional real strain for Scotland’s public services. We should of course always remember this is our own money being returned to us with a cut.
By Steven Paterson, Former MP for Stirling
The minority Tory Government at Westminster has survived another week, but the sense of utter shambles and paralysis at the heart of Whitehall has only been reinforced.
The week started with the news strategically leaked to the media that the Government was prepared to up its divorce offer to the EU to €50 billion. This vast sum is to cover existing financial commitments entered into by the UK as a current member of the EU, a pre-requisite for the EU 27 before any detailed trade negotiations can take place.
By leaking it (and therefore having plausible deniability), the Government was subsequently able to dispute the veracity of the story in order to allow it to better manage some of the more rabid and frothing anti-EU MPs marauding the Tory backbenches who think that walking over the abyss with no deal makes any kind of sense. It says it all about this ludicrous process that the Government is intent on paying out this colossal sum to leave the world’s largest trading bloc in order then to be able to negotiate terms to retain maximum access to the very same trading bloc at significantly inferior terms.
By former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson
Police have issued the description of a man they want to speak to in connection with the brazen theft of £140 million from Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
He is white, around 6”2 in height, aged in his early sixties with grey hair, and is sometimes seen posing for photographs in the vicinity of Westminster with a red briefcase. Police have warned the public not to approach this individual, as he is extremely dangerous to household budgets.
The Tory climb down on VAT charged to Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Philip Hammond, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that the deliberate and discriminate imposition of VAT on these emergency services is to end next April – but why was this unwarranted tax ever imposed by the UK Government in the first place?
At present, Scotland’s police and fire brigades are uniquely targeted for liability for this tax because they are funded directly by central government. Police forces and fire and rescue services in England and Wales are exempted on the grounds that they are funded through local authorities, although these local authorities themselves are funded primarily from central government. This is, then, a fairly obvious and deliberate bureaucratic mechanism being applied perniciously by the Tory UK Government as a method of imposing an unfair tax on Scottish emergency services, simply because they can.
By former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson
It’s a Kind of Magic
It occurs to me that magic may be involved in the remarkable political phenomenon we are presently living through, known by those with deep knowledge of the magic circle as ‘Brexit’.
Professional magicians call the technique being employed here ‘cognitive illusion’: a trick whereby mental illusions fool our subconscious to the extent that we incorrectly process the sensory information being gathered, and form an incorrect conclusion of what has been witnessed.
Coin tricks are a common example of this technique. A good exponent of the magic arts persuades you to pay close attention to the wrong things, usually after the subtle switch has already taken place, and the coin thus disappears, magically appearing somewhere else to the amazement of those watching.
Yet the scale of the current Brexit deception seems set to break all previous records in this regard. This is no cheap coin trick; rather it is an enormous swindle taking place in plain sight, so gargantuan that the Great British public shrug and conclude, contrary to all the evidence in front of their faces, that it couldn’t possibly be so catastrophic.
Even a cursory review of the Brexit story to date reveals all kinds of hocus-pocus.
Take the shameless claim about £350 million per week we would all save by voting to leave the world’s largest trading bloc and instead spend it on the NHS. Although it was only a small part of a nasty, bitter campaign dominated by anti-immigration undertones, it was obvious that this claim was ludicrous nonsense the instant it was plastered to the side of Vote Leave buses, yet at the time many of the supposed political big beasts who have led us down this garden path were happy to see this claim unchallenged.
Now it’s as if we’re being absurdly asked to simply erase all the promises and claims pulled out a hat from our memories, and get behind the Prime Minister and her Government as they deliver the Brexit divorce following that appalling referendum campaign in which we were clearly lied to.
By former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson
The metaphor “death by a thousand cuts” probably has its origin in the tortuous and brutal form of execution known as Ling Chi, which was used in medieval China for heinous crimes such as treason.
The phrase which is now commonplace in English means a slow, painful, incremental and inevitable demise. Such a certain death can hardly be more accurately applied than to the slow collapse of the present UK Tory Government.
We have had Tory Governments imposed on us here in Scotland for the majority of my lifetime, and democracy for Scotland is at the heart of my politics. In the most basic of terms, Scotland should always get the government Scotland votes for.
Unfortunately, the cherished Union means that in governance terms, “we get what we’re telt”. Or to put it more bluntly, “shut up, Scotland, and eat your cereal”. However, even comparing the present incarnation of the Tory regime with its predecessors, Theresa May’s class of 2017 is as weak as dishwater to a degree unprecedented.
by former Stirling MP Steven Paterson
The world of politics is never far away from the next scandal.
In 2009, I recall how surprised I was that most people in the country seemed not to know that some Members of Parliament were abusing the system of financial support meant to allow them to do their jobs and represent their constituents, in what would come to be known as the Expenses Scandal.
I’d worked in politics for a few years by then, and been elected to local government as a Stirling councillor two years previously, and I was regularly hearing stories about some of the brazen antics of certain Scottish Labour politicians at the time. As if I needed a reason to be cynical of a secretive Westminster club that operated with little, if any, serious scrutiny or accountability.
The past two weeks have seen heated debates in the House of Commons and beyond on the subject of Universal Credit, because as opposition parties at Westminster have rightly argued, there are serious flaws in the way this is being rolled out.
Here in the Stirling area, where Universal Credit was implemented over the summer, we have witnessed all too clearly the shortcomings of the policy in its current form, and ample evidence for why the rollout should be halted until the serious deficiencies can be addressed.
Steven Paterson “My successor as Member of Parliament for the Stirling Constituency, Tory Stephen Kerr, distinguished himself in Parliament this week, but not in the way he intended.”