I must admit to having been a wee bit surprised when news outlets began previewing this week’s visit to Belfast by Prime Minister Theresa May, and reporting hopeful noises about the prospects of the successful resolution of the current stalemate over power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.
By Steven Paterson, Former Stirling MP
It’s official: Scotland’s voice is finally being heard in the remotest corridors of power!
The BBC has finally presented the UK map in correct proportions ….but it is all a matter of perspective.
Yes, after a thirteen-year wait, the BBC’s Weather Forecast Department has finally relented to complaints from their distant licence-fee paying customers north of the border that Scotland is actually in reality somewhat bigger than Cornwall. In future, BBC weather forecasts will be presented on a map that accurately reflects the size of Scotland as compared to other parts of the British Isles, instead of being as a grossly-distorted virtual image of Britain as if filmed from a hot air balloon flying somewhere above Bordeaux, with Stirling appearing a billimetre above the Solway Firth in that wee speck at the top.
Every journey starts with a first step, I suppose.
Unfortunately, however, a mile or so down the road from Broadcasting House in Whitehall, the Tory UK Government continues to listen to nobody except itself.
This week, Number 10’s spin machine decided to bill special meetings of the Cabinet taking place to thrash out a common position on Brexit negotiations in the most valiant of terms, describing them as meetings of the “War Cabinet”. But it wasn’t long before expectations of what the “War Cabinet” might achieve were being drastically downgraded. As The Independent’s headline on Wednesday, revealed, “Brexit: Theresa May ‘War Cabinet’ unlikely to reach agreement on UK aims, admits Business Secretary Greg Clark”.
by Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
The frenzied speculation about how long Prime Minister Theresa May‘s ghostly apparition will haunt 10 Downing Street reached new heights this week, as Tory MPs engaged in increasingly bitter internecine warfare over the succession.
Mrs May herself must have been grateful to be jetting off to China in pursuit of trade deals, leaving the squabbling factions to tear one another apart in her absence instead of right in front of her. She cuts a lonely figure these days, convincing nobody she has any authority left or is in any realistic sense in charge.
Instead, we have governmental paralysis, despite vital Brexit negotiations restarting this week on which the future prosperity and trading status of the country depends. The hard-Brexit brigade, amongst whose esteemed members are such noted bigwigs as Boris Johnston, Michael Gove and the hyperactive Jacob Rees-Mogg, seem to spend more of their time slagging off members of the more pragmatic majority of the parliamentary Tory party, who were against Brexit to begin with but now feel compelled to follow through with it following the EU referendum. The hard-Brexit brigade is winning though, and no mistake.
by former Stirling MP Steven Paterson
It started with an SNP Party Political Broadcast. A refreshed version of a previous SNP concept inspired by the famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian asked: ‘What has the SNP ever done for us?’
I must concede I didn’t myself recognise political journalist David Torrance as the broadcast’s miserable party-bore naysayer, perhaps because I don’t think I’ve ever met the guy and perhaps because the brand of relentless negativity and criticism when it comes to anything SNP to be found in his work is hardly unique to him amongst Scottish political hacks.
However, I do admit to being amused by the furious wailing and gnashing of teeth from so many politicos at the perceived outrageousness of the slight to him in the Party Political Broadcast, and I’m sure everyone is especially grateful to the ever-eager Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton for lightening the mood with his comedy motion on Friday evening and hilarious complaint about the broadcast to Ofcom. I was also amused because it seems to me that far too many of these political journalists cling to the pretence that they are not active participants in our politics whilst happily engaging the boot – not in any noble endeavour to speak truth to power to the betterment of the public, but because it suits a particular political slant, or just as often, because its good sport and politicians are there.
by Grant Dunnery, President of the Stirling University Scottish Nationalist Association
While the rhetoric from Downing Street has alluded to a Hard Brexit, the reality will be very different. However, in order to understand why the UK will receive a weak deal, we must first uncover how we got here in the first place.
The vote to leave was deeply skewed, and based on a mistaken understanding of European integration. The vote to leave the EU was an attack against globalisation and all of its key traits.
It was an attack against free market principles however, voters really intended to attack the injustice of neoliberalism. It was an attack against immigrants and to those who spoke a different language, however, in reality, the UK is far more divided by wealth disparity and social class that it is nationality or race.
The misunderstanding of the virtues – and I believe necessity if you evaluate our bloody past – of European integration, have been masqueraded. A dangerous combination of misinformation, rising poverty, a lack of opportunities and voter frustration have led us to this point. In addition to this, the UK government’s plans are equally as flawed in nature.
It should have come as a surprise to precisely nobody when Tory promises to amend the Clause 11 attack on Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved powers were broken this week, as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons with the offending clause which takes 111 powers currently under the control of the Scottish Parliament back to Westminster still included.
The Bill was originally introduced to Parliament on the 13th of July last year, so excuses trotted out by the Scotland Office that it had simply run out of time to make the required amendment to the Bill ring a little hollow, to put it mildly. The Tory Government has known about this throughout and has utterly failed to act to address this offensive intrusion into the powers of Scotland’s devolved legislature.
This isn’t simply a case of today’s government repealing some legislation enacted by a previous government, because in this case, we have the small matter of a referendum of the Scottish people on the 11th of September 1997 in which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly determined that the Scottish Parliament would be reconvened. Now the powers of that referendum-endorsed institution are being stripped back by a Tory Government with just 13 seats in Scotland out of 59.
The Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle was supposed to be a re-launch of her flagging premiership but instead served as a New Year reminder that what serves as a Government at present is a zombie administration somehow continuing to exist despite having expired some time ago.
The omens were not good for the Prime Minister when an overeager staffer at Number 10 incorrectly broadcast to the world via Twitter that Transport Secretary had been moved to Tory Party Chairman. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before it had been widely promoted by the media.
After this early gaff, the live coverage of Theresa May attempting to exert her authority over her government quickly went from boring to utter tedium, as it became clear that there was precious little shuffling of ministerial posts going on. To nobody’s surprise, blunderbuss Boris couldn’t be moved for fear that on the backbenches, he would act as a magnet for the malcontents and quickly lead a challenge that would finally put the current Prime Minister out of her misery. It says it all about the wretched state of Westminster politics that this awful prospect is taken seriously by anyone, but it is.
And Boris’s fellow big beasts were also too powerful to be confronted. Hour after hour went by with the only updates from number ten confirming which Minister’s weren’t being shuffled about or out of the Government. Number 10’s Twitter account broke exclusive news with mundane regularity: “Philip Hammond to remain Chancellor of the Exchequer” – shock. “Amber Rudd to remain as Home Secretary” – stunning.
by Lee Robb, Vice Convener, City of Stirling SNP
Nobody can claim that Richard Leonard has had an easy time of it since he was elected Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. From ill-informed speeches on the public nature of agencies like Scottish Water to woeful contributions at First Minister’s Questions, it’s clear that the fortunes of Labour in Scotland are not set to improve any time soon.
However, since Mr Leonard finally got around to assembling his own frontbench team at Holyrood, he has come under fire for one appointment in particular: an anti-gay marriage campaigner as Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on equality.
Elaine Smith MSP spent much of her time in 2013 warning the country that gay people getting married would cause unforeseen “problems for society overall.” At the time, she also predicted the arrival of legal polygamy which, according to her calculations, would come as a direct result of same-sex couples entering into civil marriages.
As if this weren’t enough to make clear Smith’s views on same-sex relationships, she offered yet more to her ‘I’m not homophobic, but…’ tirade by criticising the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill for not providing “freedom of speech” protections to people who would otherwise discriminate against gay couples.
It is therefore alarming that a person with such strong views against equal rights for gay people is now the chief policymaker on equality for Scottish Labour.
by Steven Paterson former MP for Stirling
The extravagance and brazenness of that disgraceful affront to democracy, the House of Lords, was in the news again this week, with the latest revelations about its lavish spending on its privileged members.
These champions of the British State must be rewarded and looked after, of course, having bent the knee to the establishment.
And as I was cracking my knuckles ready to hammer out another angry diatribe against this anti-democratic, crooked, and pampered retirement home for failed politicians and cronies, I decided to have a look back at the speech I made in the House of Commons on the subject on 14 January 2016.
I’m glad I did, because I didn’t miss and hit the wall. My speech from that day is below.
Steven Paterson (Stirling) (SNP)
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I will start by reading an amendment that was moved in this place during a debate on the House of Lords by a former leader of the Labour party. It was to add the words,
“the Upper House, being an irresponsible part of the Legislature, and of necessity representative only of interests opposed to the general well-being is a hindrance to national progress and ought to be abolished”.
How will 2017 be remembered insofar as political developments are concerned?
Naturally, it will depend on one’s perspective, and I make no claim to be any more neutral than the next person.
Those whose goal is to frustrate the progress of Scottish political institutions and structures will no doubt celebrate a successful year in politics.
After all, although the snap General Election was a complete disaster for the Tories UK-wide, the return of 13 Tories in Scotland is the reason we still ‘enjoy’ a Tory Government at Westminster. Without them, there would not even have been the £1 billion bung of our money to buy the support of the DUP, as their ten votes would not have achieved a majority.
2017 was a crucial year constitutionally, with Brexit looming ominously in the distance, and yet month after month is going by with no measurable progress of much extent on what post-Brexit Scotland or post-Brexit UK will look like. In a year where a snap election was called explicitly because of Brexit, it is remarkable that so little has been determined and that, over eighteen months on since the EU referendum, we are still largely guessing at exactly what it is the UK has decisively and irrevocably chosen.