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.
Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford engaged in discussions with UK Government Ministers and House of Lords Peers last week as part of a delegation of MSPs raising concerns about the urgent need to amend Brexit legislation.
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.
Tory tax proposals could mean cuts of up to £27.2 million in Forth Valley, according to new Scottish Government analysis.
With the Scottish Parliament set to vote on Stage 1 of the budget this month, the Tories are proposing tax cuts for high earners that would leave a £500 million hole in the budget.
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 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”.
As we move on towards the end of another year as ever here at Stirling SNP it is time to reflect on the year that was.
The announcement that Royal Bank of Scotland is to close 62 branches across the UK, including three – Bannockburn, Bridge of Allan and Dunblane – in the Stirling area, is particularly unwelcome.
The reaction of the UK Government, which owns a 73 percent stake in the bank bought with taxpayers’ money, is simply unacceptable.
Here’s why : many of the same taxpayers who were obliged to step in and save this corporate leviathan from collapse after it bit off more toxic debt than it could chew are the same taxpayers who rely on high street banking services on their own high streets. It is because many of the people who use these banking services are those who do not use the internet, who do not have smartphones and thus do not have any alternative but to travel greater distances to access high street banks.
And it is because the people own RBS, and the people are saying no to these closures.
Take the spontaneous grassroots campaign against the closure of the Bannockburn RBS branch, which has been able to generate over 2,700 signatures on a petition against the proposed closure through having volunteers including local SNP Councillor Alasdair MacPherson and MSP Bruce Crawford manning a table on the street outside the branch to gather signatures from people passing by.