By Steven Paterson former MP for Stirling
The omnipresence of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage in our politics is one of those things in life that must be endured, it seems.
I mean, every time one thinks this shallow character has finally shuffled off the political coil, he pops up once again on network news programmes like some oily car salesman, still somehow in business pushing his well-practiced pitch and damning the beastly European Union and the freedom of movement it brings for its citizens.
Perhaps as a society, we have just become inured to his grinning face beaming at us from television screens during an endless series of publicity stunts blaming overbearing Brussels bureaucrats for trying to ban bendy bananas and the likes to the extent that we’ll tolerate his view being necessary on any story on Brexit and taking back control of Britain’s borders.
By former MP for Stirling, Steven Paterson
The UK’s media establishment was positively gushing with praise for the UK Government’s victorious Brexit Ministers at the beginning of the week, as Brexit Secretary of State David Davies and the EU27’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier shook hands on a draft transition deal in Brussels.
If one had been inclined to believe the near-universal media hype on Monday, critics like me should have been not only silenced but confounded that, out of the blue, we were suddenly well on the way to the bespoke deal the Brexiters always claimed we’d get. However, predictably enough, once the fanfare had passed and we could have a closer look at the draft agreement that had been signed off and now apparently confirmed, it turns out that the transition deal is not the resounding Tory victory it first appeared.
The most glaring omission, of course, was of any agreement on border arrangements on the island of Ireland. Although the EU27 had previously insisted that no further progress could be made on negotiations until the issue of the future of the Irish border had been resolved, in the event they allowed a fairly modest concession by Mr Davies and his team on this issue to be progress enough for now.
By Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
This week, we should finally get some actual answers on what the Brexit experiment actually means. Prime Minister Theresa May will attend the EU summit, and the crucial phase two of negotiations will be completed, one way or another.
A public which must be completely bored with all things Brexit is going to have to brace itself for yet more torture, but we’re probably on the verge of this becoming real. No longer will we have endless assertions from government ministers of how all this will work and make things inestimably better for us all; instead we’ll face the reality that UK government ministers have been talking through holes in their heads for eighteen months, and that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has no god given entitlement to be treated as anything special.
By Steven Paterson former Stirling MP
In a written statement issued by the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley this week, the first instalment of the billion pound bung of our money to be allocated to Northern Ireland was dished out.
No less than £410 million has been paid from UK Treasury coffers, explicitly part of the confidence and supply arrangement that ensures that the Tory Government remains afloat thanks to paying off the DUP. Although ostensibly this is direct rule from Westminster over devolved issues in Northern Ireland, in reality, the DUP is in complete control of this process thanks to the present arithmetic in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, the UK Government is seeking to assume direct rule over one of the other devolved legislatures: Holyrood. Although altogether different in scale, at least for the moment, the attack on Scotland’s devolved parliament resulting from the Brexit vote could have far-reaching and unwelcome implications for the future. In short, if this power grab is allowed to proceed and a precedent is set, this could be merely the thin end of the wedge leading to the aggressive reassertion of London supremacy over hitherto devolved competences.
This is why the Scottish Government is entirely correct to fight this Westminster power grab all the way. Since 1999, the principle of consent has been adhered to when it comes to Westminster legislating on devolved areas and agreement with the Scottish Parliament has been required whenever legislation is being considered at Westminster that has crossed into a devolved area.
By Steven Paterson former MP for Stirling
We’re all familiar with the great postal vote conspiracy, right? The industrial scale deception perpetrated by agents unknown to ensure the Yes side didn’t win the 2014 Independence Referendum?
After all, the evidence was overwhelming, and all over social media afterwards, so it must be true. All those piles of votes being shifted about: it was fixed!
Except there’s one wee problem with this particular conspiracy theory, which it shares with other whoppers such as the well-known faked moon landings: its complete and utter nonsense. There would have had to have been fleets of bin lorries transporting hundreds of thousands of ballot papers to be incinerated somewhere – at every count nationwide – and nobody talking about it afterwards, or else we would have to believe that the many experienced SNP counting agents witnessing the count somehow missed hundreds of thousands of votes being deliberately miscounted.
So what? Well, the perpetuation of the ridiculous independence referendum ballot paper conspiracy continues to have an unwelcome consequence for those of us who support the SNP and independence for Scotland. It’s this: due to mistrust of the system this fiction encourages, supporters of the SNP are far less likely to sign up for postal votes than supporters of other parties, and especially the Tories. And since postal voters are 96 percent likely to vote versus non-postal voters at 73 percent likely to vote in any given election, this gives a clear advantage to our opponents, and especially to our Tory opponents.
Comment by Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
Late on Tuesday evening, news began to leak out that a letter signed by no fewer than 62 of the most zealous hard Brexit-fanatic Tory MPs – including Stirling’s redoubtable champion Tory MP Stephen Kerr – had been sent to the Prime Minister.
I mean “leaked” in the loosest of terms, of course. Virtually every newspaper in the land had stumbled upon a copy of it somehow, so this hadn’t been accidentally dropped out someone’s briefcase. It had been deliberately placed with various media outlets and timed to crank up the pressure on tortured Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of the meeting of important Cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s official retreat Chequers on Thursday. (Predictably, this “War Cabinet” of important ministers meeting at Chequers did not include the Secretary of State for Scotland, but did include the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – strange who is deemed important these days eh?)
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.