First Nation People

An old Australian $5 banknote with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

This site has a good many Australian readers, (for whom the Grousist has a great deal of gratitude) most are second or third generation Scots plus a few politicians and academics. This article will be of interest to them and to Scots who are familiar with the question of what to put on paper – now polymer – currency.

Australia is having a debate about whether or not to put King Charles III’s portrait on their dollar bills. The debate arises out of the general wish of citizens to become a republic. Is a portrait of a colonial power fitting for a nation that understands and acknowledges what early settlers did to the indigenous people?

Scots know that not only did Scotland invent the paper pound note, but also we have featured Scots luminaries from the worlds of art and science on them, leaving faltering out-of-date portraits of England’s aristocracy to Bank of England notes. Our unschooled colonial masters often refuse to accept our notes, (as the South Georgia Post Office manager did some days back) but they are legal currency so we print them just the same, proud of our heritage and inventions.

The Australian Government backs its Bank’s decision to replace Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait with a design ‘honouring culture and history of First Australians’. Opposition to the change is not a winner, critics appearing racist or lackeys to the English monarchy. There are stirrings of a cultural revolution happening down under.

Aussie readers are free to add positive comments or advice on inaccuracies in the article.

King Charles III will not feature on Australia’s $5 note after a decision by the Reserve Bank to replace Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait with a design “that honours the culture and history of the First Australians”. With the Australian government backing the decision, the move to balk at the presumed tradition of having Australia’s head of state on the note has already generated fierce debate.

Australia’s opposition leader, Peter Dutton, weighed in shortly after the announcement on Thursday on Sydney radio station 2GB, saying the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, would “have been central” to not placing King Charles on the note and should “own” the decision. “I think it’s another attack on our systems, on our society and our institutions,” he said.

The Australian Monarchist League also disapproved, accusing Albanese – who is a long time supporter of Australia becoming a republic – of “trouncing Australian democracy. “It is virtually neo-communism in action,” said Philip Benwell, chair of the league.

However, Australian Greens party senator and Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman Lidia Thorpe called the change a “massive win for the grassroots, First Nations people who have been fighting to decolonise this country”. Thorpe has previously called for the Aboriginal actor and activist Uncle Jack Charles, who died in September, to feature on the note. “We just lost a king in our own country, who was subjected to colonial violence from the moment he was born,” Thorpe said at the time. “We owe it to him, and First Nations people, to remember King Jack Charles and end the stolen generation once and for all. Uncle Jack is a great candidate for the $5 note.”

The Australian treasurer, Jim Chalmers, told reporters on Thursday the change to the $5 note was the right decision. “This is a good opportunity to strike a good balance between the monarch on the coins and a First Nations design on the fiver,” he said.

The Australian Republic Movement chairman, Craig Foster, said Australians should only see themselves in national symbols. “To think that an unelected king should be on our currency in place of First Nations leaders and elders and eminent Australians is no longer justifiable at a time of truth telling,” he said.

According to polling in October by the Sydney Morning Herald, voters preferred the $5 note to feature an Australian, with 43% voting as such and only 34% saying King Charles was their choice.

In September when the debate on the $5 note initially flared, Albanese, refused to be drawn on his view. But he said advocates for Australia becoming a republic were urging that an Australian feature on the $5 note, which is the most widely used note in Australia. After the Queen’s death, the long-term debate on whether Australia should become a republic was reignited, with the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, using his condolence message upon the Queen’s death to push the cause. This was in contrast with the Australian Republican Movement, which temporarily suspended campaigning after her death. Fellow Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi also called a republic to be advanced but went further, saying she “cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire”.Bandt was described as “ignorant” and “graceless” by a former Coalition minister for his comments.

In 1999 Australia held a referendum that ultimately voted ‘no’ on whether Australia should become a republic. The change to the $5 note comes as Australia is expected to vote in another referendum by the end of the year – to recognise First Nations Australians in the constitution and enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament on policy matters that affect them. A spokesperson for Australia’s Reserve Bank said it “has a proud history of recognising the culture and history of the First Australians, including on Australia’s banknotes” and will consult with traditional owners on the design. They said the other side of the $5 banknote would continue to feature the Australian parliament.

“The new banknote will take a number of years to be designed and printed. In the meantime, the current $5 banknote will continue to be issued. It will be able to be used even after the new banknote is issued.”

Australia’s $50 banknote already features Ngarrindjeri man David Unaipon, who was an author, activist, inventor, musician and preacher. Before the introduction of polymer banknotes, paper $5 notes featured philanthropist Caroline Chisholm the 19th-century English humanitarian known mostly for her support of immigrant female and family welfare in Australia.

NOTE: Thanks are due to Jordyn Beazly for the facts.

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The Hanvey Bill

Neale Hanvey ALBA MP

Published below is Neale Hanvey’s Self-Determination Bill asserting the right of the Scottish people to hold an independence referendum whenever it suits the Scottish Parliament. Smoke them out: our oppressors vote for it, we get a referendum. Our oppressors vote against it, they let the world know the Union is a phony, a one-sided, treaty breaking, international law violating, act of colonisation. It’s presented with the support of SNP MPs Joanna Cherry KC MP, Douglas Chapman MP and Angus Brendan MacNeil MP.

ALBA Westminster Leader Neale Hanvey MP states:

Introduction

Mr. Speaker

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Scotland Act 1998 to transfer the power to legislate for a Scottish independence referendum to the Scottish Parliament; to provide that such power may only be exercised where the Scottish public has demonstrated its support for the holding of such a referendum; to provide that no such referendum may be held sooner than seven years following any previous such referendum; and for connected purposes.

The question of whether the ancient nation of Scotland should be an independent country once again continues to be the subject of much debate, indicating that the matter is far from settled. Of course, it is entirely proper for any country to review such matters because Scotland will only become independent, as and when, a majority of the people of Scotland choose that path. 

Yet this requires a democratic mechanism that is constitutional and satisfies international legal precedent. This Bill seeks to standardise and codify such a requirement in line with the motion passed by this House which endorsed the principles of the 1989 Claim of Right and which acknowledged “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”

The Bill is explicit on the necessary conditions to bring this mechanism into play.

Firstly, that the power to legislate for a referendum requires a democratic mandate from the Scottish public to do so. Since 2014 that criterion has been met in successive general elections to the Scottish Parliament, most recently in 2021 where a majority of MSPs were elected on a manifesto commitment to deliver an independence referendum. In addition to this a majority of the votes cast on the D’Hondt regional list were won by parties that support Independence – the SNP, the Scottish Green Party and ALBA party.

Secondly, This Bill states that no such referendum may be held any sooner than seven years after any previous such referendum. In terms of established UK precedent this would bring Scotland into line with the provisions for a border poll in Northern Ireland regarding the constitutional future of the island of Ireland.

And as Robert McCorquodale, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, sets out this would be in keeping with the UK’s international legal obligations applicable “to all states, including to peoples within states… worldwide to seek to exercise their right to self-determination.”

Mr. Speaker, it is necessary to put this Bill into its political and historical context. In 1707 a majority of Scottish Parliamentarians may have been persuaded, but the people were never consulted. The Acts of Union 1707 between England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain establishing a single political entity, yet preserving the territorial, legal and institutional integrity of each partner country.

The UK’s constitution is not codified in a single document, so the question of whether the Acts of Union can be unilaterally dissolved by one party is not clear. However, the accepted position hitherto is that the union is a voluntary association of equal partners, and that Scotland has an unquestioned right of self-determination. And, that is a right underpinned by Scots common law which rests not on the Magna Carta, but on the Claim of Right which continues to assert that it is the people who are sovereign.

The Scotland Act of 1998 established the Scottish Parliament, which has the power to legislate on agreed devolved matters within Scotland, while the UK parliament retains legislative competency on matters reserved to Westminster. It is generally understood that for a country to gain independence there requires to be a legal process, such as a vote in a referendum. Such a process was established in 2012 through the Edinburgh Agreement which was signed by First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Edinburgh Agreement established a clear process whereby a Scottish General Election that returned a government with a mandate for an independence referendum would enable that government to petition for authority under Section 30 of the Scotland Act to respect the democratic force of that vote in a referendum.While respect for this established process has since been affirmed by the UK Government, in absence of any legal constitutional consensus the matter of Scottish Independence has reached a political impasse to the detriment of Scotland’s democratic process.

This Bill seeks to remedy that by setting out the process by which the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland can be respected and enacted. This would preserve their inalienable human rights as a distinct people of the ancient nation of Scotland in accordance with the constitutional tradition of Scotland, the UN Charter and extant international law.

Scotland’s Constitutional Tradition

Scotland’s distinct constitutional tradition is best expressed by Lord Cooper, in the case of MacCormick v Lord Advocate, “The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle, which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.”

And in the pleadings of the hon and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) in her prorogation case to the UK Supreme Court, it is noted that the 1707 parliamentary Union between England and Scotland may have created a new state but it did not create one nation.

The UK government enthusiastically claims it seeks to preserve democracy the world over, yet it has moved to block Scotland’s consistently expressed democratic aspirations, at each and every turn. Surely it is now time to move to eliminate accusations and counter accusations of brinkmanship and set out a clear pathway consistent with precedent across these islands where constitutional friction exists. Can Members opposite imagine the circumstances where, having entered the common market and ratified every, subsequent treaty – leading to the European Union – the EU Parliament moved to block or interfere with their Brexit vote, or set a limit on when and if such a vote could be held?  The notion is, of course, ludicrous, because democracy is not a single event but an evolving and continuous process. That is how civilised people behave, and how fundamental rights of freedom of thought and expression are peacefully demonstrated.

As a member of the EU, the UK Government possessed and exercised a veto, yet claimed its sovereignty was impeded by membership.  Scotland has no such equivalent mechanism available to our people and remains subject to the wiles of its larger neighbour, exemplified by Brexit. How does that constitute access to meaningful political process, as claimed in the recent UK Supreme Court judgement?

Self Determination

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s signing of the 1941 Atlantic charter brought into being the principle of self-determination of peoples, as now enshrined in the United Nations charter. Margaret Thatcher in her memoirs said of Scotland: “As a nation, they have an undoubted right to national self-determination.” John Major, when Prime Minister, said of Scotland: “No nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will.”

None of these senior conservative politicians’ sough to constrain the democratic right to self-determination. In the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, the all-party Smith commission agreement was signed by all of Scotland’s main political parties and it stated: “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

Northern Ireland

The effect of this bill should be uncontroversial for every member, it merely establishes in law an equivalent mechanism to the principle, already conceded by the UK Government, in relation to a border poll in Northern Ireland, that no such referendum may be held sooner than seven years after any previously mandated referendum.

In 1889 in this place the equality of UK Partner countries was asserted by one William Ewart Gladstone MP, saying “I am to suppose a case in which Scotland unanimously, or by a clearly preponderating voice, were to make the demand on the United Parliament to be treated, not only on the same principle, but in the same manner as Ireland, I could not deny the title of Scotland to urge such a claim.” This begs the question. Why would the UK Government deny democracy to Scotland but not to Northern Ireland?

Could the clue lie in the words of former Prime Minister John Major from 1993’s Downing Street Declaration that the UK has “no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland” whereas, in the case of Scotland the opposite is true, where unconstrained access to our vast resources, energy is transmitted south to millions at no cost.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, the decision on Scotland’s future ultimately and rightly must rest in the hands of the people of Scotland. And in the constitutional tradition of popular sovereignty in our great country, it is the Scottish people who remain sovereign. This Bill is neutral in its effect. It favours neither once side nor the other, but it seeks to codify the Scottish people’s right to choose their own constitutional future. 

To return to 1889, Dr Gavin Clark, MP for Caithness said “Everybody, even old Tories on the other side, must admit that some change is necessary. Then what is the remedy to be?”

If democracy matters at all, every member in this house should support the remedy contained in this Bill regardless of their view on Scottish independence.

I commend it to the House.

ENDS

NOTE:

Video link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=hBhSu0S5Vu8&feature=youtu.be

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The Disaster of Brexit

Eurostar deliberately leaves a third of its seats empty because of border delays

This is the anniversary of Brexit – that ugly word from an ugly government, spoken by ugly people. For Scotland, dragging us out of the European Union has been a disaster. You can be certain the British State analised it would reduce Scotland’s economy and render us cut off from trading rights. We have lost billions in farming grants, annual farm workers, nursing staff, university exchanges, free and open travel. Companies suffer massive amounts of bureacxracy and many have sold up or gone bankrupt. We suffer a great deal more than I can list here. It weakened the EU so much it is now caught up in an American-driven war with Ukraine. England loves being at war with Europe. It wants the Ukraine war to last a long time. The Republic of Ireland flourishes and it uses the Euro. It has twenty-seven other states watching its back. Scotland is now at the mercy of a brutal, racist, corrupt bastard of a British government.

Colonisation of Scotland’s land, institutions and rights continues unabated, nothing stemmed or stopped permanently by our weak nationalist government. We are to be a carbon copy of English society, except second-class and not in control of our own country, our own borders. We are forced to join EFTA (four other nations) and then negotiate an acceptable EU entry later. Sheesh! Writing these few lines has me spitting, blood pressure rising. Safer to leave it to Polly Toynbee.

A BITTER TASTE

by Polly Toynbee

Today’s Brexit anniversary marks three years of political mayhem and economic calamity. It is also 50 years since Britain joined the EEC. Ten years ago this month, David Cameron made his shameless Bloomberg speech pledging a referendum to placate his party and Ukippers, who he had previously called “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists”.

Cameron wrongly thought Brexiteers could be appeased, but they proved insatiable. The more harm their Brexit does, the more extreme versions they demand, chasing those impossible phantasms they mis-sold to the country.

“Remoaner” was a clever Brexit epithet for the 48% of us who voted remain. The heartbreak of this act of national self-harm left remainers keening in grief, in a long moan for the loss of an ideal, along with certain economic decline. The ache, too, was over the broken old Labour alliances of interest and belief, cities against towns, old against young, those with qualifications against those with few. With the sorrow there was rage, white-hot and vengeful, against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust.

Grief ebbs when looking to what comes next. David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, last week promised there would be a civilised friendship with Europe under a Labour government. There was talk of reconnecting “a tarnished UK” with its closest allies, “for security and prosperity”; “reducing friction” on trade; unblocking the Horizon schemestrengthening student links and pledging a “clean power alliance”.

But there is to be no rejoining, no way back to the customs union or single market, Labour says, so as to deny Tory strategists what they yearn for: a re-run of Brexit at the next general election to distract from the economy, the cost of living crisis and collapsed public services. Distressed Labour rejoiners point to how many leavers are now Bregretters. With this rapid shift still ongoing, the pollster John Curtice says that 57% of people are in favour of rejoining, with just 43% for staying out, while 49% think Brexit weakens the economy.

Remainer grief eases at signs of a country reuniting against the liars who pulled off this trick. But it’s rash to imagine that even a 14-point lead means a pro-EU referendum would be won: we know what referendums do. Besides, egocentric Britain forgets that Brussels, with a war on its doorstep and its own economic woes, might shun yet more negotiations with the UK. Let’s not forget the MEPs and envoys we insulted them with, the spite and mendacity spread by the likes of Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan in the European parliament or David Frost across the negotiating table.

There is some cheer: these polls cause such alarm to the Brexit mis-leaders that they are the moaners now – the Bremoaners. Hannan, the ex-MEP and arch-purveyor of Brexit fabrications, is trying to scare defecting Brexit voters back. “There really does seem to be a plot to overturn Brexit,” he warns Telegraph readers. He uses Lammy’s speech as evidence, plus Labour’s resistance to the EU deregulation law. “There is little doubt the Europhile blob is giving it a go,” he writes, “to hold Britain within the EU’s regulatory orbit pending an attempt at re-entry.”

He also warns: “For their plan to have the slightest chance of success, they need to convince the country that Brexit has been an economic disaster.” But that ship has long sailed. Look what Brexit has done: a 4% shrinkage in long-run productivity relative to remaining in the EU, expects the Office for Budget Responsibility, inflation and energy prices are higher than in the EU, trade has fallen by almost a fifth, while the government itself says the much-trumpeted Australian deal will raise GDP by less than 0.1% a year by 2035. Brexit has raised food prices by 6% says the LSE, while draining the workforce. Eurostar also deliberately leaves a third of seats empty due to crippling EU/UK border delays.

The Brexit press can’t hide these inconvenient truths. Jeremy Warner, the Telegraph’s associate editor, challenges Jeremy Hunt’s bizarrely Pollyanna-ish assessment of the economy, writing “trade with our European neighbours is faltering badly,” due to Brexit, with “the rather awkward fact that the UK is the only G7 economy yet to recover to its pre-pandemic size”. “The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front” and “car production has fallen to its lowest since the 1950s”.

All that is why Prof Matthew Goodwin says that “Bregret is taking hold in Britain” with only one in five thinking it’s going well. Brexiters are now the minority, Bremoaning like hell because no amount of Brexit boosterism will bring back those lost supporters who know exactly whom to blame. Few will agree that their pet project has failed because it wasn’t “hard Brexit” enough. Eventually extreme Brexiters will subside back into their irrelevant coterie of cultists, unforgiven and moaning all the way.

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Nicola ‘Will Achieve Indy’

SNP MP Stephen Flynn, another John the Baptist – Nicola is Scotland’s Messiah

A too short, sparse and unchallenging PR puff of an interview with SNP’s House of Commons leader, Stephen Flynn appeared in the Huffington Post this week. It might be of interest to readers.

It’s full of certainties and platitudes illustrating the kind of airy-fairy wonderland that the risk-averse SNP hierarchy inhabit. The article is published in its entirety only to show Flynn has not a single idea in his head of how to achieve self-governance, nor how to decolonise Scotland. All he has is a faith in the statemanship of Oor Nicola. (Am too lazy to remove man from statesmanship to substitute an approved pronoun.)

Flynn is telling me (and the rest of us) Nicola is our saviour, and I must live to 2030 to see Nirvana. For me, that’s a big ask. The date signifying liberty and blessed freedom keeps shifting further and further away. To paraphrase: “The promises are near, Dugall, the reality is far, far away.”

UDI is fit to be declared legal tomorrow, the process of a new happier association with our thieving, belligerant, colonial neighbour begun. By 2030, a new deal could be signed by both sides, sealed by Charles III, all money earned by Scotland staying in Scotland, interior colonisation stemmed, Scottish passports issued to indigenous citizens, naturalisation open to settlers, Union Jacks removed from buildings, Scotland’s dignity restored, and all unionist parties, sects and cabals banned forever. Oh what a glorious path to a renewed nation. But Flynn the Flunker thinks we need more time.

The Huffington article begins: “Scotland will be independent by the end of the decade, the SNP’s leader at Westminster has predicted. Stephen Flynn told HuffPost UK he believed that the United Kingdom as we currently know it will have broken up by 2030.

In an exclusive interview seven weeks after he was elected to the top post, Flynn also said he believed that Nicola Sturgeon would be the leader to take Scotland out of the UK. Although Sturgeon has insisted that the SNP has a mandate to pursue a second independence referendum, party chiefs have been careful not to set a date for when they believe Scotland will leave the UK.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to organise a legal independence referendum without Westminster’s approval – something the UK government has consistently refused to give. But asked whether he believed Scotland would be independent by the end of the 2020s – less than seven years away – Flynn replied: “Yes.”

Flynn took over as the SNP’s Westminster leader after Ian Blackford stood down last month. It was seen as a blow to Nicola Sturgeon’s authority, but Flynn insisted he was fully behind his party leader. The Aberdeen South MP, who beat Alison Thewliss – another Sturgeon ally – in the race to replace Blackford said he believed the first minister was a “huge part” of why the party “has been so incredibly successful”. “I think that long into the future she’s going to be not just the first minister of Scotland within the United Kingdom, but first minister of an independent Scotland,” he said.

Flynn, who was only elected in 2019, also threw his weight behind Sturgeon’s plan to turn the next general election into a “de facto” independence referendum.Scotland’s first minister has said that if more than half of voters in Scotland back pro-independence parties, that should trigger the country’s exit from the UK.

The SNP will hold a special conference in March to decide the next steps in it a campaign for independence, with some of the party’s MPs opposed to Sturgeon’s proposal. However, Flynn said his “preference” was the Sturgeon plan, but he welcomed the fact there will be an “open debate” on it. “I think if we went into conference and said ‘this is what we think should happen’, we’d be criticised for doing that.”

Flynn also denied that the SNP’s Westminster group was split after his election as leader led to a rare display of public dissent. Veteran MP Pete Wishart quit the party’s frontbench, saying he was “bemused” by the change in leadership, while the highly-respected Stewart McDonald also stood down as the party’s defence spokesperson. Then, last week, Martin Docherty-Hughes quit as chief whip after just six weeks in the role.

Flynn rejects the idea the SNP is an “unhappy ship”, saying there had been a “really positive atmosphere these last few weeks. “There is always change when there is a change of leadership,” he said. “These things happen. Change happens in politics – it’s not a bad thing, it’s nothing to be afraid of.” ENDS

Flynn may have shifted a few SNP deadheads to a fear seat, but he is saying without knowing, by his emergence as Chief Angry Pointer, our colonial oppressors have seven more years of bringing their ‘sunny uplands’ to Scotland. Or put another way, seven more years of accrued pension for SNP MPs.

Aye, that’ll be right.

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SNP’s EU Influencers

The European Parliament

Folk determined to undermine the SNP as the main foundation for independence (separate from the SNP’s rancid hierarchy) must hope Nicola Sturgeon is about to do the same as the prime minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, resign to spend more time with her family. But up pops this rather embarrassing item of news from a friend in Brussels. Our many and varied gathered troops in Brussels are unwanted by a reforming EU Parliament.

The European Friends of Scotland, which is based at the Scottish Government’s Brussels Office in the aptly named Scotland House, is among other informal “friendship groups” similar to the Labour Party’s Friends of Russia. The latter is a group at one time organised by the late John Smith’s wife, now labouring under the decidely unsocialist title of Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill. (How she must be embarrassed nowadays.) Anyhow, the ambassadors of Scotland’s fortunes are probably about to be banned, the move made under new rules of ethics. Ethics are a doctrine junked by the Tories since Boorish Johnson took over the Great Greed franchise.

The Scottish group is caught up in the wake of the recent EU corruption scandal, a backsheesh operation the Tories are exploiting for all its worth as a reason never to go near the EU again, buy a German car, eat a pizza or drink sangria. Westminster is, as we know, a shining light of rectitude. The move follows frantic efforts by the European Parliament to show it is a place of honesty and transparency. (Transparency is a generic term meaning we can see everything done in our name. But in reality it actually means the entity holds no secrets.)

The EU wants to strengthen its whistle-blower protection systems, not quite to the point of being chased by a giant stone ball, Indiana Jones fashion, but more to stop access to third parties open to bribery asked to lobby MEPs. The turn of the screw is in response to the investigation looking into the money that swirled about around the footay World Cup hosted by mega-rich oil billionaires in Qatar. (Scotland should be mega-rich like Qatar but England syphons our oil profits from us. We are treated as Tourag Arabs, not worthy of wealth.)

If all this seems a bit cloudy, it simply means, the Scottish group are probably free from filthy corruption, but the EU Parliament feels such folk are a bit like bringing in a friend of a friend to private parliamentary business when they have no authority to be there, and human nature being what it is, one of them might find a way of making money out of the association.

According to the Scottish Government’s website, the Brussels Office provides a secretariat function to support the running of the group. Hands are raised in protest. Scottish based EU expert Anthony Salamone said: “The banning of the European Friends of Scotland group would cut off an important avenue for the Scottish government to engage with EU decision-makers. This episode demonstrates that Scotland, regardless of its pro-EU sentiment, is subject to the internal politics of the EU – in this case, the European Parliament’s efforts to shore up its own reputation. It is also a reminder that sentiment alone counts for little when it comes to Scotland’s relationships with the EU.” His last sentence is a leaden warning re-entry to the EU might be lined by land and sea mines.

The measures have been set out by Roberta Metsola, president of the parliament, with the reforms due to be brought in this year. Under a package of proposals MEPs’ financial interests will be scrutinised and a new regime to track all meetings with third-country representatives. All these new measures are the outcome of Belgian police who have charged four people, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili, after raids at politicians’ homes uncovered about €1.5mn in cash, allegedly part of a bribery campaign by Doha. 

Ms Metsola, told the EU’s 27 leaders last month that she would overhaul the parliament’s regulations to ensure the chamber was “not for sale to foreign actors that seek to undermine us. This will include the strengthening of the parliament’s whistle-blower protection systems, a ban on all unofficial friendships groups, a review of the policing of our code of conduct rules and a complete and in-depth look of how we interact with third countries.”

Our side, on its website, announced: “The European Friends of Scotland friendship group serves as an informal network of MEPs representing different political groups of the European Parliament with the objective of helping to facilitate dialogue (‘faciliate dialogue’ – how clunky can we get?) on specific areas of mutual interest, and to ensure as close a relationship as possible between Scotland and the EU now that the UK has left the European Union. The UK’s departure from the EU means that Scotland is no longer represented in the European Parliament. Scotland remains committed to maintaining and developing a positive relationship with our European friends and partners. Given the European and global challenges we all face, close links between the European Parliament and Scotland are important as we work together to tackle crises such as the climate emergency. This group is neutral in regard to Scotland’s constitutional status within the UK and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”

All this storm in an EU teacup had me wonder who are the individials in our group, how many, what do they do in practical terms, what are their achievements so far, individually and collectively, and who gets paid expenses? I could find no track record. I did discover their names, printed below, that’s the easy part. And then I got to wondering why Nicola Sturgeon, eschewer of strategies, had not created a similar august group in Scotland and England for the same role and purpose.

Around three of four meetings of the European Friends of Scotland group are held annually. Their agenda can be anything they wish, any topic related to Scotland and Europe based on suggestions from members or with the consent of members. “An important role of the group will be to facilitate contacts with MSPs from all political parties after the UK has left the EU. The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament will be the primary contact for MEPs wishing to reach out to MSPs if they are to visit the Scottish Parliament. The group will also help where possible when MSPs visit the European Parliament.” And where are the Minutes of the meetings? The decisions? I am not of a mind Minutes should be kept, not if discussing revolution.

That all sounds terribly important, or if things European bore, unimportant. My point is, there’s no mention of what moved independence a step closer. Creating and looking after supportive friends is a great idea. This is what I thought was happening when after 2014’s letting slip our liberty the SNP announced over 100,000 folk had joined the party … and even after friendly warnings – found nothing for them to do, the party becoming obsessive chasing trivialities and tiny minority group interests. The swell of membership drifted away, like a QVC live auction where the goods are returned just as fast as the sales folk sell them.

So, I am no wiser than when I first had a look at the stramash and flicked a few pages of information. What I think is happening is what we have seen with our own parties in the past, bans on special groups within parties. You adhere to the party line or you get booted out, as happened to Alex Salmond when an SNP member. Neverthless, admitting defeat, here are the influencial, the wise, and the unknown, committed to help Scotland re-emerge a nation again. One hopes if disbanded they will regroup under a different banner to discuss which brand of malt whisky is best, should we send more expats to Spain, and should we send violent men to European prisons who pretend to be women, so’s not to embarrass Oor Nicola?

The Scottish Government lists the following MEPs as members of European Friends of Scotland:

Andris Ameriks, Latvia; Rasmus Andresen, Germany; Erik Bergkvist, Sweden; Vlad-Marius Botoş, Romania; Udo Bullmann, Germany; Asger Christensen, Denmark; Toni Comín, Spain; Corina Cretu, Romania; Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, France; Pascal Durand, France; Cyrus Engerer, Malta;Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland; Gianna Gancia, Italy; Christophe Grudler, France; Hannes Heide, Austria; Eero Heinaluoma, Finland; Danuta Hübner, Poland;Sophia In’ t Veld, Netherlands; Marina Kaljurand, Estonia
Pierre Karleskind, France; Manolis Kefalogiannis, Greece; Łukasz Kohut, Poland;Petros Kokkalis, Greece; Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Finland; Nathalie Loiseau, France; David McAllister, Germany; Tilly Metz, Luxembourg; Niklas Nienass, Germany; Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Germany; Urmas Paet, Estonia; Clara Ponsati, Spain; Carles Puigdemont, Spain; Terry  Reintke, Germany; Diana Riba i Giner, Spain; Manuela Ripa, Germany; Nacho Sánchez Amor, Spain; Michaela Šojdrová, Czechia; Jordi  Solé, Spain; Nils Torvalds, Finland; István Ujhelyi, Hungary; Kathleen Van Brempt, Belgium; Loránt Vincze, Romania; Sarah Wiener, Austria; Željana Zovko, Croatia.

Outlining the new ethics proposals Ms Metsola said what was needed is “a new mandatory transparency register of all meetings with any third country actor”. So there you have it; not only is Scotland a third world country while attached to a phony English Union, but anybody in support of our cause is automatically a third country actor. Maybe that makes then fourth.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 5 Comments

Science or Fudge

Swimmers pose together for Lia Thomas’ win, fuelling controversy of eligibility to compete

The sports world is facing the entrance of more and more transgender athletes, men signing up to compete in all-women challenges. World Athletes President Sebastian Coe promised to be ‘guided by science’ when it comes to sport’s most divisive issue. However, World Athletics’ solution is designed to protect it from legal action; Coe’s certainty has given way to fear of legal challenge. Sport fixtures are the casualty – fans and spectators are falling away from attendance at events. Who wants to see a 6-foot 6-inch man claiming to be a woman andwin all the events? The question arises, motivated by the compulsive liar Lance Armstrong causing honest and fine cyclists to miss out on prizes for the history books – are transgender men doing the same to top female athletes.

WORLD ATHLETICS TRANSGENDER REGULATIONS

by Sean Ingle

During a star-spangled athletics career, Sebastian Coe rarely snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The most famous exception came at the Olympic 800m final in Moscow where he made so many tactical missteps that his father and coach, Peter, used a coarse four-letter word to describe his run. However this weekend Coe became reacquainted with similar levels of opprobrium after World Athletics’ proposed solution to sport’s most divisive issue became public.

For months, the World Athletics president Coe has strongly hinted that trans women and athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), who are 46 XY with male testes but were reported female at birth, should only compete in female sport if the science shows it is fair. “Biology trumps identity,” he said in the summer. “If we ever get pushed into a corner to that point where we’re making a judgment about fairness or inclusion, I will always fall down on the side of fairness.” Just in case there was any doubt, Coe also promised to “be guided by the science”, before adding: “Fairness is non-negotiable.”

Yet a curious feat of alchemy takes place when you read World Athletics’ proposed new DSD and transgender regulations, as scientific rigour gives way to a fudge worthy of a master confectioner. There is certainly science in the document and, as Coe often points out, no international federation has studied this issue more closely. In one section, World Athletics stresses that trans women and athletes with a DSD “retain an advantage in muscle mass, volume and strength over cis women after 12 months” of hormone treatment – and that “limited experimental data” suggests the advantages continue after that. In another it notes male puberty leads to anatomical differences that still “provide an athletic advantage” after transitioning.

But instead of going down the road taken by swimming, rugby union and rugby league, which have barred anyone who has gone through male puberty from elite female competition on fairness grounds, World Athletics has surprisingly taken another path. Its “preferred option” involves allowing athletes with a DSD and trans women to still compete in the female category, as long as they reduce their amount of blood testosterone from 5 nmol/L to below 2.5 nmol/L and stay below this permitted threshold for two years, not one as before. However World Athletics accepts this does not level the playing field, given “the preferred option would allow significant (although not full) reduction in anaerobic, aerobic and body composition changes.”

As with all international sports leaders, Coe finds himself in a difficult position. But to his critics he has made fairness negotiable after all. They also question whether the science is being absolutely followed given the lack of evidence that a 24-month reduction in testosterone removes the advantages of male puberty. Mara Yamauchi, the third fastest British marathon runner ever, succinctly described World Athletics’ proposals as: “Suck it up, female athletes.”

Sebastian Coe, World Athletes President “Fairness is non-negotiable’. Photo:Monicah Mwangi

So far only one current British female athlete, the shot putter Amelia Strickler, has spoken out, saying: “I hope more of us band together to prevent this because it is going to be the end.” But can you blame others for staying quiet, given the vicious amount of social media abuse this issue generates?

Strickler’s view was backed by the two-time European indoor 800m medallist, Jamie Webb, who tweeted his proposed solution. “With this and other things, I’ve lost a lot of faith in the sport. Sad to see. Make the male category open. Male athletes won’t be affected whatsoever.”

However as much as it frustrates campaigners, there are a million reasons for World Athletics’ decision. It still retains the scars of its expensive and protracted legal battle with South African Caster Semenya. It won the case, with the court of arbitration for sport accepting that athletes with a DSD “enjoy a significant sporting advantage … over 46 XX athletes without such DSD” due to biology. But it was still left with a legal bill of over £1m.

Crucially, Cas put the onus on World Athletics to prove that what it was doing was fair, reasonable and proportionate. Those words still reverberate in every international federation every time DSD or transgender policies come up. No wonder Coe is being cautious.

There is another factor at play here. In its document World Athletics reveals that 10 athletes with a DSD are competing at elite level, while 17 new potential DSD cases have been under review since July. As things stand those athletes, who have gone through male puberty, can compete in the female category without taking medication in every event except those between 400m to a mile – something Coe has long maintained is deeply unfair.

That partly explains why World Athletics’ new proposals are more focused on the DSD issue, especially as there are currently no elite transgender athletes in track and field. However the rise to prominence the likes of Lia Thomas, who went from being an modest male college swimmer to an NCAA women’s champion after transitioning, along with the cyclist Emily Bridges and the weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, suggests it will inevitably that will change.

Meanwhile there are some in sport who believe that World Athletics’ decision reflects a broader trend among administrators to talk up women’s sport but not back it up with enough money or support. As one leading coach put it to me on Sunday: “I’m not sure female sport is seen as a viable business by these types, despite female sport participation and viewing figures increasing every month in all sports.”

World Athletics is better than most in this regard and they also point out that they are planning to consult with female athletes over the coming weeks. Nevertheless there is a lingering disappointment in some quarters that Coe’s bold pronouncements last summer have been filed down on the altar of realpolitik.

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Scots Law Officers and Child Abuse

The Scottish legal establishment has not exactly covered itself in glory defending Scotland’s Law from English incursion, nor helped civil rights, nor for that matter, promoted independence when its preferred to have key figures in the struggle find themselves in court on trumped-up charges. And it appears feckless and weak providing a critical submission on referenda to the usurping London-based UK Supreme Court, a document weighed down befopre it was read with the fluttering proviso that our Lord Advocate, Doroth Bain KC, was not sure of its validity.

Now we know that Scotland cannot claim, pre-new-state independence, we are better than our neighbour, we learn our law establishment, ‘some legal figures’ to be exact, are under investigation accused of child abuse and child trafficking. The rumour of such perversion has been around a very long time, right back intio the Sixties, but only recently the subject of a formal police investigation. Four years after the claims involving children in care were made, the disclosure of an inquiry has prompted criticism of its secrecy. If a politician, there is no secrecy; the process of transparicy is simple: a journalist sleeps with a ScotGov civil servant who is a colleague very close to the First Minister – and the tabloids have the story next day.

An investigation into claims that senior members of the legal establishment were linked to the sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse of children in care is under way in Scotland, it has emerged. The disclosure was made by Ruth Charteris KC, the solicitor-general, to Russell Findlay, the Scottish Conservative MSP, last month.

Four years ago John Halley, a former advocate and part-time sheriff, raised concerns about alleged connections between senior Scottish legal figures and the sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse of children in care.

Halley detailed his concerns in a 43-page “note” to Scottish prosecutors in 2019 but only now has it emerged that they were taken seriously. The disclosure has prompted Findlay to write to John Swinney, the deputy first minister, calling for details of the investigation to be made public.

“I was surprised to be told by the solicitor-general that some form of investigation is apparently taking place,” said Findlay. “This has only now been disclosed, four years after Mr Halley submitted his important and concerning note. However, [the solicitor general’s] response raises far more questions than answers, which is why I’ve asked John Swinney for a full explanation about what exactly is going on.” Findlay tabled questions in parliament last month amid concern that senior figures in the government and judiciary had failed to act on Halley’s note. The solicitor-general responded that it would be inappropriate to comment” as “investigations into this matter are ongoing”.

In a letter to the deputy first minister, Findlay criticises the apparent secrecy around the investigation. The Conservative politician said the solicitor-general’s response “did not explain what these investigations comprise, their status or who is conducting them”.

He has asked Swinney to provide “a full and proper response”, including details of action taken by the Scottish government “in respect of the note, including the contacting of Police Scotland. I would also like to know the nature of the ongoing investigations referred to by the solicitor general”.

Halley was appointed as a lead junior counsel to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in 2015 and maintains that his extensive research found evidence of “child trafficking through prostitution of children in care in Scotland”.

He warned that vulnerable young people in care had been let down by a prosecution policy that he believes failed to prevent sexual exploitation through prostitution. The policy, introduced in 1991, concluded that it was not in the public interest to pursue clients of male prostitutes as young as 16 who had previously engaged in homosexual acts.

Halley’s note called for deeper investigation of Tam Paton, the former Bay City Rollers manager who died in 2009. Paton owned an Edinburgh flat where a 16-year-old boy from a care home was held over 10 days, drugged and raped by a number of men in the early 1990s.

It triggered a police investigation, Operation Planet, which initially resulted in 57 charges against ten men, later reduced to ten charges against five men, whose not guilty pleas were accepted by a court in February 1991.

Halley, who has not returned to the child abuse inquiry since suffering from cancer in 2016., said it should investigate the Operation Planet scandal.

Last month, an associate of Paton’s, John “Sticky” Wilson, 81, was jailed for 12 years at the High Court in Edinburgh, for sexual offences spanning more than half a century. A BBC Disclosure documentary about Operation Planet will be broadcast next month.

The Crown Office said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on ongoing investigations.”

John Halley former advocate and sheriff: “The manner in which children are safeguarded from harm and exploitation by the unscrupulous is one way to measure progress in civilised society.

NOTE: With thanks and credit to Mark Macaskill and the Times.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 2 Comments

Brexit, Lies and Damned Lies

One key pledge, a thumping lie, was emblazoned along the side of Johnson’s chariot.

As the Disunited Kingdom struggles to survive after junking the international partnership and single market of the European Union, losing freedom of travel, Brexit is seen for the catastrophe it was destined to become. As a member, England held a veto over rules and regulations it disliked, (or thought anti-English) but only eight new regulations required its use. Figures published recently show us the truth, it has cost us way more to leave the EU and all its benefits than stay in.

The EU saw no wars among its members, a miracle after hundreds of years of wars England with everybody on the continent one time or another, and some European countries with their neighbour. Peace meant prosperity, a future where the chance that a parent might out-live their chilren, no longer sent to fight in a war. English Tories now get us dragged into a war in order to ingratiate us with the USA for trade deals they ain’t securing. They hand out money to friendly burghs, funds no match for those awarded and guaranteed annually by the EU. The EU outlaws tax havens a few days before the UK leaves the EU in the nick of corrupt time to endorse tax havens as a legitimate right. Money must trickle upwards, the neoliberal creed being, money in the hands of the masses will only be squandered. Put another way, the best intellects are always the rich.

Brexiteers are running around still telling big fat porkies: ‘Brexit will revitalises a moribund Britain,’ they claim without offering a shred of evidence. Instead, the plotters plotted, knowing leaving the EU would help emasculate Scotland as a self-sufficient nation, forcing Scots to rely on trading with England. It left England free to plunder the resources of its neighbour in good old fashioned colonial style. And in addition, Scotland’s colonisation could continue unabated without the protection of the control of EU human rights.

A thoroughly disgruntled and very English Andrew Rawnsley, here concerned with England’s ills – writing of ‘this country’ as if one homogenous nation – illuminates the disasterous delusions of the Tory party led by a fanatical liar and narcissist more worried about his tonsure showing than what the nations of the UK would suffer as a consequence of his far-right certainty that English is and always will be best.

If No voters in 2014 are looking at the desperate mess Scotland faces, including a main nationalist party that is effectively leaderless, obsessed with chasing squirrels, it’s sovereignty challenged, it’s people belittled daily, they must surely have profound regrets now.

WHERE IS THE GOLDEN AGE THEY PROMISED US?
by Andrew Rawnsley

At 11pm on the last day of January, it will be precisely three years since the UK departed the European Union, an anniversary that prompts me to ask: how are you enjoying the “new golden age”?

That’s what we were promised by the proselytisers of Brexit, none with more hyperbole than Jacob Rees-Mogg. “The moment of national renewal has come,” he ejaculated on the pages of the Mail on Sunday. “We can embark on this new age with confidence and excitement. Over two millenniums since mighty Augustus quelled the unrest and strife in ancient Rome… our auriferous prime minister is bringing in a new era of revitalisation to our nation.”

The prognostications of Mystic Mogg have proved to be crystal balls. His sleazy Caesar has since been dethroned. Unrest is not quelled. Revitalised is not a word anyone is using to describe a nation stricken with strife. This anniversary will be an occasion for Remainers to lament a tragedy foretold and for Brexiters to – well, what exactly will they do? Recant? Some are beginning to confess that they were wrong. More are looking for someone other than themselves to blame.

They won’t want to be reminded of the sunny uplands shimmering with ripening fruits promised by Mr Rees-Mogg and the rest of the Brexit mob’s false prophets. One of their signature pledges was emblazoned on the side of the chariot that bussed Emperor Johnson – never an Augustus, more of a Caligula – around the realm. You will remember his claim that the subs paid to the EU only had to be redirected to the NHS to transform it into a world-envied health service. Strike one. What we actually have is a collapsing NHS.

Another of their boasts was that the UK would “take back control” of its borders. Strike two. Unmanaged migration is not falling, but rising. The most critical promise was that the economy would roar like a liberated lion just as soon as the UK was “unshackled” from the “sclerotic” EU. Strike three. The UK is the sick man of the G7, the only member with an economy that is still smaller than it was before the pandemic.

As for that fabled vista of fantastic exporting opportunities for “Global Britain”, businesses are writhing in all the red tape generated by Brexit while the UK has yet to secure a single better trade deal with a significant partner than we had as members of the EU.

Quitting has not been empowering, but enervating. Every credible study concludes that Brexit has introduced new impediments to prosperity while aggravating pre-existing problems. Our trade has had a feebler recovery from the Covid-induced global slump than comparable countries and the inflationary surge fuelled by the war in Ukraine is sharper on these shores than elsewhere.

The self-harms inflicted by Brexit also include the suppression of investment and shortages of workers in key sectors. Nothing in the Brexit prospectus has survived contact with reality. Never has there been such a bonfire of vanities.

Prognostications of Mystic Mogg were crystal bollocks. Photo: Daniel Leal

Some of the advocates for the project now recognise that it has failed and have begun to admit as much. Alex Hickman, a business adviser at Number 10 during the Johnson premiership, recently wrote: “Those of us who backed Leave must acknowledge that Brexit isn’t working… It is not clear to most people what Brexit is actually for.” Some of the champions of Brexit can see it has been a disaster, but can’t publicly admit it – a category that includes members of the cabinet. The Brexit-supporting Tory peer and boss of Next, Simon Wolfson, is among the many who grizzle that this is “not the Brexit I wanted”.

Even Brexiters know it looks ridiculous to point the finger at recalcitrant “Remoaners” when Brexiters have been running the government for nearly four years. So now they turn the accusation of sabotage on their own gang by blaming the Tories for messing it up by not doing it “properly”, whatever properly is supposed to be. They sound like those ultra-leftists who claim that Marxism only became discredited as a method of government because none of the various experiments with that creed applied it correctly.

Brexiters in denial can’t admit to themselves that a project founded in delusion, marinated in fantasy, riddled with contradictions and marketed with mendacities was never going to “work”. David Cameron walked off the job rather than try. Theresa May spent three miserable years pursuing a mirage. Boris Johnson lied that he had an “oven-ready deal” and then repudiated the agreement he had himself negotiated. Liz Truss sold herself to her party on the basis that she knew where to find the end of the rainbow containing the pot of mythical Brexit treasure. Her excursion to la-la land was so ruinous that she became the briefest prime minister in our history.

The last and craziest hurrah of the Brextremists is the Retained EU Law bill, conceived by the ineffable Mr Rees-Mogg when he was still in the cabinet and Mr Johnson was still at Number 10. This proposes a mass cull of the EU laws that were turned into British law in the haste to get Brexit “done” and to do so by the end of this year – preserving only those laws that ministers choose to keep or adapt. The promoters of this undemocratic, rushed and reckless scheme are the same people who said that we had all the advantages in the withdrawal negotiations, that we would secure a superb deal and that Brexit would be brilliant for Britain.

Now they propose a mission impossible, to review about 4,000 laws, covering everything from environmental protections to consumer rights, in less than a year at a time when the strains on the state are already acute. Business, the trade unions, civil servants and the government’s own assessor agree that it is madness.

This is but the latest example of how government has spent years wrangling dementedly and fruitlessly over how to make Brexit “work”, time and energy that would have been better spent trying to address our shortage of affordable housing, or improving our chronically poor growth rate, or thinking seriously about how to remedy social care. Mr Sunak and the relevant ministers and officials are presently expending a lot of their capacity attempting to negotiate improvements to the Northern Ireland protocol, which Mr Johnson signed not understanding or not caring how much grief it would cause. I wish success to this quest, but any breakthrough must not be mistaken for a triumph. This is a sticking-plaster operation that will not make things lovely, just a bit less awful. It wouldn’t be necessary at all but for Brexit.

The national mood has become one of Bregret. Pollsters report that those who think Brexit has had a negative impact outnumber those who reckon it positive by more than two to one. Six years on from the referendum, a chunky segment of those who supported Leave are suffering buyer’s remorse. A rising majority of the public now say that it was wrong to leave the EU.

The Brexit headbangers apart, everyone at Westminster knows that we need to mitigate the egregious damage that has been inflicted on this country. The likeliest future is one in which the UK incrementally develops a more sensible agreement with its continent and the rock-hard form of Brexit chosen by the Johnson government is gradually adjusted to a version with less jagged edges. That will be inferior to the terms we enjoyed as a member, but better than the dismal state of affairs now. Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, would move in that direction, as probably would Rishi Sunak, but they are stymied by fear of the reaction from the crackpots in their party. A closer relationship with the EU would be the ambition of a government led by Sir Keir Starmer. It is the subtext of the Labour leader’s slogan “make Brexit work”.

That’s a disappointment to those who think that what the UK should really be asking itself is whether there is a way to turn back the clock and return to an EU we should never have left. Another product of Bregret is that pollsters now report that a majority of the public say that, given the choice, they would like to rejoin.

There’s a vanishingly slight chance of that happening in the foreseeable future because, even supposing that the EU would welcome us back, the politics of negotiating re-entry and then holding another referendum are so incredibly difficult. The sad and cruel truth is that strategic blunders as colossal as Brexit can’t be corrected easily or swiftly. Some mistakes have to be paid for over many years. This, alas, is the UK’s fate. Not a golden age, but ages of regret.

NOTE: Andrew Rawnsley is Chief Political Commentator of the Observer.

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SNP: Pork Barrel Bribes

Alister Union Jack reminds the SNP division in the Commons they are toothless

The SNP now resembles its seriously flawed ferries, dominating the shipyard for too long but badly designed for their role, costing the taxpaper millions and nowhere ready to take passengers or vehicles anywhere. Communication must have been dire for that to happen, but it sounds hellishly like the SNP under the Murrells.

Columnist Kevin McKenna is as scunnered as the next person. He thinks the SNP is straining its democratic credentials. In any other party, its leader would have stepped down as soon as the ferries were stamped ‘unfit, not seaworthy’, and Sturgeon’s star policy, the GRR Bill dismissed as mumbo-jumbo, six years of genital surveys for nothing, stopped in its tracks as a lollipop lady can stop traffic at a school children’s crossing. If Sturgeon is ever to be credited with political guile it’s of the soap opera variety. Yet, she is still leading a nationalist party and a fed up nation.

All the great achievements of Sturgeon’s predecessor and mentor, Alex Salmond, and the fine team he assembled, are pissed away like a drunk pissing whisky and beer in the alley side of the pub. People talk openly wondering if the entire SNP should be voted out of office, independence left fallow for a few more years, rather than the hierachy deposed and wiser folk take the reins. Matters are desperate when liberty and individual rights are considered worth junking for a better administration.

Meanwhile, the British State moves into Scotland tightening its grip on life, ignoring devolution protocol, handing largesse called ‘levelling up’, which is no more than plain old pork barrel bribes to councils and companies that favour a right-wing agenda. Then again, what do we call the thousands of pounds handed out to trans organisations and the odious Stonewall by the Scottish government? Something has to give – soon.

SNP’S FAILURE ON GENDER REFORM

By Kevin McKenna

In a normal, fully functioning democracy, it’s reasonable to suggest that the SNP would have been pitched from office some time ago. And with them, the last hopes for an independent Scotland in the lifetimes of most of us.

Scotland right now though, is not, by any measure, a fully functioning democracy. Instead, it’s come to resemble an endless political pantomime where a small but anointed cast of players performs the roles assigned to them. If you can get a part in this production you’re more or less made for life. If the electorate (the only group in this drama whose behaviour is unpredictable) compels you to take some time out then there’s an assortment of dependable and secure gigs in academia, civic authorities and lobbying firms available to help maintain you in the style to which Holyrood has made you accustomed.

The SNP, by virtue of the constitutional impasse which exists in the UK, are assured all the main roles. They’ve won the last 10 elections across the UK’s four main electoral jurisdictions: all of them by handsome majorities. A combination of factors has acted as guarantor for the virtual certainty of SNP victories. The work done by Alex Salmond and the skilled team of strategists he assembled over the course of a decade laid the foundations for the remarkable victory at the 2015 UK General Election where the party won all but three of the 62 Scottish seats. In 2010, they’d taken only six seats.

In the years since, the remorselessly right-wing route taken by the UK Tories has provided the SNP with an array of heaven-sent electoral campaigning tools. This reached its apotheosis in a Brexit campaign which unleashed the far-rights dogs of war: racism, militarism and empire. And then, just as the effects of Brexit were beginning to wear off, along came Boris Johnson, perhaps the most corrupt and unworthy incumbent of Number 10 Downing Street in its nearly 200-year-old history. In the three years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, an eye-watering array of malfeasances and sharp practices by Johnson and his chief lieutenants – all fuelled by greed on the grand scale – have been uncovered.

And they keep on coming.

Yet, perhaps the most significant factor guaranteeing the eternal hegemony of the SNP has been the bizarre behaviour of the Labour Party in Scotland. Their inexplicable refusal even to countenance a second referendum on Scottish independence has turned them into a marginal force in Scottish politics. The party exists now as a collection of memories and old slogans which they shout from time to time to remind us of what they once were. They are good for nothing more than rewarding long service and diligence of those who have worked hard to get a decent position in the listings.

The Scottish Tories, save for a few weeks in the sun during Ruth Davidson’s tenure, are also there merely to provide an approximation of electoral diversity. And, as some of us had long suspected, the Scottish Greens were nothing more than a convenient vehicle for Patrick Harvie to secure a ministerial position on the coattails of independence.

So long as these moving parts all perform their assigned functions in the correct formations, everyone gets to keep their jobs and their gilded lifestyles. Merely by pledging referendums before each Scottish and UK election and seeking Section 30 Orders from Westminster, the SNP – unopposed by extraordinarily weak oppositions – romp to victories that are fuelled by whipped-up waves of “our-day-has-come” optimism among the Yes movement. That and each freshly revealed layer of corruption at the top of the UK Government.

This week’s intervention by the UK Government on the GRR Bill maintains the pattern of the last seven years. Just as the SNP were beginning to feel the heat from their own members about leading them up the hill yet again only to take them back down, along come those perfidious Tories and their attempts to undermine devolution.

It transpired that the SNP’s “special conference” next month had been nothing more than a closely stage-managed production to kick the referendum into even longer grass. The Holyrood 2026 option carried unprecedented risks. It means the pro-independence coalition would need to win two elections by an overall majority.

Yet, for those at the top of the SNP-Green coalition and all those whose jobs depend on it, the price of failure would have been more than acceptable. By then, 12 years of unbroken and unchallenged power – and all the accoutrements and emoluments they’ve wrought – will have passed. They tried their best but an undemocratic UK Government made it impossible. At least though, they’ve all secured a level of pension entitlement out of the very top bracket. Gradually, it was beginning to dawn on even the most supine of Sturgeon loyalists that perhaps they were being played here.

Yet, within the space of a week, the UK Tories had blocked GRR and everyone’s back on the independence message. It doesn’t matter that the Section 35 order they’ve deployed was supported by the SNP government. Or that it’s been triggered because the GRR legislation adversely impacts the 2010 UK Equality Act. This was an “attack on Scottish democracy”.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 5 Comments

Tories Block GRR Bill

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, bereft of statecraft

Little Rishi Sunak’s government has blocked legislation passed by the Scottish parliament that will make Scotland the first part of the UK to introduce a self-identification system for people who want to change gender. The Scottish secretary, Alister ‘Union’ Jack, announced that he will use section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 for the first time to halt the gender recognition Bill and throw it back to the Scottish Parliament to ‘think again’. He took the advice of his government lawyers.

Our first minister had plenty of warning that the Bill would clash with the UK Equalities Act, but as with seemingly everything else, she brushed the informed advice aside, even when it came from highly qualified sources such as the EHRC chair, Kishwer Falkner, pointing out the potential conflict with the Equalities Act. Hard to name a Bill submitted under Nicola Sturgeon’s guidance that was not seriously flawed, or that caused confusion and division. Most people in an executive post would lose their job after a second disaster, but our FM soldiers on triumphant.

There is no doubt the highly contentious GRR Bill ought to have been an occasion for discussion and negotiation with the English government of Tories. Hard to swallow, I know, but Nicola Sturgeon did say she looked forward to a ‘positive relationship’ with each new Tory leader as each popped up on a regular basis. What happened to the goodwill?

The secretary of state for the renewal of the British Empire, Alister Union Jack has offered to sit down with everybody to refashion the content of the Bill to avoid the clash with the Equalities Act, but loyal to the first minister Shona Robison rejects the offer, our social justice secretary in the Scottish government who took the Bill through the Scottish Parliament. She expressed the view that the Scottish government does not accept that the Bill does impact on UK equality legislation – it even includes a clause specifically saying it has no impact on the Equality Act – and Robison added that she did not think Jack’s offer was sincere. What a fight to make for a tiny percentage of the population while our struggle for full self-governance gets trampled underfoot. The ker-ching of legal fee tills rings loud and clear – back to the usurper Supreme Court again, and massive legal costs dumped on the Scottish taxpayer.

The Tories expressed anxiety months ago, worried about the precedent it might cause under English law. That the Tory party has stepped in to stop the Bill and demand the Scottish Government reconsider the worst aspects, tells us they did this knowing Nicola Sturgeon’s pet project is intensely disliked by women in Scotland because of the human rights they are losing, wiped out by a slow-witted, callous SNP hierarchy.

The Tories spotted her weakness, the lack of electoral support, and have struck where it hurts. As a colonial power, they know how to cause division, to part Scot from Scot. Their intention is to be seen as the heroes of the hour, the reasoning intervention. And yet, the Bill surfed along on the back of the UK Parliament’s open admiration and promotion of Stonewall’s half-baked ideology.

The winners of this fiasco won’t be the Scottish Parliament, but the KCs and law staff piling up fat fees. In other words, the British establishment. The losers will be the Scottish taxpayer paying for those costs. The SNP has taken Scotland back to the courts for the third time having lost the first two cases. What confidence Sturgeon retains to make it third time lucky is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, the main nationalist party’s determination to secure Scotland self-governance is once more up for a lashing. But who knows, the go-to pollster, Sir John Curtice was unsure if the UKGov would dare make the move it has actually taken. He might have reckoned without their majority in the Commons, or he might have done his homework.

The counter-school of thought says Sturgeon is playing smart by taking the UK Parliament to court and if she wins, can then claim a referendum on independence is street legal, it also being a responsibility wholly of the Scottish Parliament. It is hard to find sound evidence to suppose that such ultra-clever political guile has a track-record. To be blunt, Sturgeon’s reputation is one of ignoring wise counsel, as she did in the Salmond case, and ploughing on regardless, propelled by her own certainties. If only Gordon Brown’s view of the most powerfully devolved parliament in the world, if not the galaxy, really had super-duper devo max powers. Instead, all Westminster has to do is chuck a lump of kryptonite at it and Holyrood is grounded, panting for breath.

The article below appeared in the press (5pm, UK time) and is republished here for the benefit of our international readers and anybody who wishes to leave a comment. The notion that those vociforious few who demanded a man can alter his sex by dint of a certificate will not understand the stress and costs of their actions, nor the national party admit it is led by donkeys.

The SNP failed to understand, from independence flows all things. a new Scotland. While still in the colonial hands of its oppressor, Holyrood legislation is for the birds. (For Maggie Chapman interview see NOTES below.)

SUNAK BLOCKS GENDER RECOGNITION ACT

Westminster’s decision to use the “nuclear option” of blocking the bill from going for royal assent represents a significant escalation of tensions around the changes, and will enrage supporters of the changes and nationalists. UK ministers, who met in Westminster on Monday to consider how to approach the legislation, are concerned the bill will have an “adverse impact” on UK-wide equalities law. Sources said blocking it would protect the devolution settlement and denied claims they were trying to inflame tensions as part of a culture war.

Nicola Sturgeon has said there were “no grounds” for the UK government to block the legislation, claiming that it did not affect the operation of the Equality Act. Scotland’s first minister has said her government was likely to mount a legal challenge in response, saying the use of section 35 would create a “very, very slippery slope indeed” and would embolden the UK government to do the same in other areas. After the announcement, she tweeted:

This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish parliament and it’s ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters. Scotgov will defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland’s parliament. If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be first of many.”

A court battle would inevitably be presented by the SNP as Westminster denying Holyrood its democratic right to make its own laws – hot on the heels of the supreme court verdict on another referendum – and could bolster the independence cause. The Scottish secretary, who will lay the order in the Commons on Tuesday, said: “After thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications, I am concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation.

“Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support and understanding. My decision today is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters. I have not taken this decision lightly. The bill would have a significant impact on, amongst other things, GB-wide equalities matters in Scotland, England and Wales. I have concluded, therefore, that this is the necessary and correct course of action. If the Scottish government chooses to bring an amended bill back for reconsideration in the Scottish parliament, I hope we can work together to find a constructive way forward that both respects devolution and the operation of UK parliament legislation.”

The law, first proposed by Sturgeon six years ago, was passed by the Scottish parliament by 86 votes to 39, with the overwhelming support of the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems in December, after years of consultation and debate.During the bill process, which culminated in an unprecedented two days of late night sittings as MSPs worked cross-party to address concerns about abusive males potentially taking advantage of the new system, questions were also raised about how the new legislation would affect UK-wide equality law. This became a particular concern after a judgment from Scotland’s highest court, only a few weeks before the final vote, which ruled that – for the purposes of the 2010 Equality Act, the meaning of “sex” should include transgender women in possession of a gender recognition certificate.

The legislation would make it easier for transgender people to obtain official gender recognition certificates, including by reducing waiting times, removing the need for a medical diagnosis and bringing the minimum age down from 18 to 16.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said on Monday that 16-year-olds should not legally be able to change gender, putting him at odds with his party in Scotland.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Monday, Sturgeon accused Sunak’s government of “using trans people as a political weapon”. UK government sources, however, claimed that the legislation could have an adverse impact across the UK in areas like equal pay, single sex spaces and prison transfers. They believe that Sturgeon underestimated the degree of opposition to her bill. A YouGov poll for the Times after the law was passed claimed that two-thirds of Scots are opposed to its main features. Some Tories believe they can boost their vote in Scotland at the next election if they reduce politics to culture wars.

The Scottish Greens, who made gender recognition reform one of their red lines for going into partnership with the SNP government after 2021 Holyrood election, said that it was “a dark day for devolution, democracy and trans rights”. Green MSP Maggie Chapman said: “Only one month ago, MSPs voted overwhelmingly for gender recognition reform. It was a proud day for equality, and for our parliament. To see a reactionary Tory government trying to block or overturn it is nothing short of outrageous, and we will resist them every step of the way.”

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said: “It is a matter of grave and profound regret that the prime minister has allowed trans people’s lives to be used as a political football. This is not governing with compassion.”

NOTES:

Article by Pippa Crerar and Libby Brooks, published in the UK Guardian. The Scottish-unionist press has largely reported the same things.

Interview: Here is the Green’s Maggie Chapman demonstrating how confused and inarticulate a politician should not be when faced by a well prepared inquisitor. https://youtu.be/TDRyJzPUAKg

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