The BBC just works. We all pay our licence fee: in return we get TV without breaks for adverts: TV that pushes all the other TV companies in the UK to a higher standard.
If Scotland votes Yes in 2014 we may have cause to worry about Alex Salmond’s close relationship with the Murdochs and the plans News International may have for abolishing the BBC in an independent Scotland.
There is no reason to suppose we would have to lose the BBC. Indeed, as Jennifer Dempsie pointed out in March, the direct revenue from the licence fee to programmes made in Scotland at what I suppose we would then call the SBC, would actually go up.
Ian Smart is personally convinced that as the polls show no sign that the SNP have a hope of winning the referendum in 2014, there will be no referendum. Yesterday he added a post which he was referring to on Twitter as “Shock and Awe” about how the “Better Together” campaign will push their argument.
Well, here I propose to let them inside the briefing room. I expect the same “shocked and outraged” response from my SNP readers as some more naive Democrats expressed about Rove. But, while maybe not quite in the Axelrod and Plouffe class, the people around Eck are more street wise. They’ve already wargamed this and realise that they do not have the counter arguments. That’s why they are desperately trying to avoid having a Referendum at all. The good news is that the Tories are apparently coming round to imposing it upon them.
(For my own thinking about this, see
Yesterday the Sunday Herald ran a story about Alex Salmond which they attempted to dress up as a negative story, but which is actually pretty nice.
In autumn 2014, Scotland will vote on independence. Obviously, the SNP want to win. But realistically, the leaders of the party can read polling data as well as you or I: they know a majority yes for independence is not a likely outcome in 2014.
The SNP have said, ever since 2007, that they would have a referendum on independence only after they had won two elections.
In 2007 and 2011 they won, and so they have a democratic mandate and an obligation to hold a referendum. But they won both elections because of unexpected circumstances.
“Constitutional recognition of the role and principles of local government”
Scotland has about 5.2 million people spread across 78,782 square kilometers – and 1,222 elected councillors.
From the Jimmy Reid Foundation:
It is time we fully recognised the state of democracy in Scotland. Below the national level, Scotland is the least democratic country in the European Union; some have argued that it is the least democratic country in the developed world. We elect fewer people to make our decisions than anyone else and fewer people turn out to vote in those elections than anyone else. We have much bigger local councils that anyone else, representing many more people and vastly more land area than anyone else, even other countries with low density of population. In France one in 125 people is an elected community politicians. In Austria, one in 200. In Germany one in 400. In Finland one in 500. In Scotland it is one in 4,270 (even England manages one in 2,860). In Norway one in 81 people stand for election in their community. In Finland one in 140. In Sweden one in 145. In Scotland one in 2,071. In Norway 5.5 people contest each seat. In Sweden 4.4 people. In Finland 3.7 people. In Scotland 2.1. In every single indicator we were able to identify to show the health of local democracy, Scotland performs worst of any comparator we could find. (The Silent Crisis: Failure and Revival in Local Democracy in Scotland)
“Electoral Commission – independent, non-partisan body to oversee integrity of electoral process, and to ensure conformity with campaign finance legislation”
Today at the People’s Gathering, organised by the Electoral Reform Society, we were discussing how to get more people involved in politics – in voting turnout, but also in what goes on between elections.
This week I have been reading Greg Palast’s thoroughly unnerving book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The first chapter deals with how the Florida Presidential election was stolen: tens of thousands of voters banned from the electoral rolls, tens of thousands of votes not counted, the net result to give Jeb Bush’s older brother the Presidency even though Al Gore had actually won the election.
Now, of course, the US uses electronic voting machines, so everything’s all right then.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
“Guaranteed rights based on European Convention”
I love the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a religious person might love Scripture.
Drafted in 1948, sixty-four years old on 10th December this year, it is still a radical and inspirational document.
I find the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms less inspirational and less radical, even though it’s not even 5 years younger.
1. There is no democratic mandate for a referendum for anything but independence.
The SNP said in 2007 that they would hold a referendum on independence for Scotland after they’d won two elections. They won in 2007 and in 2011, so they have a clear democratic mandate to hold a referendum on independence in this term of the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish government has a right to set the date for the referendum.
There is no democratic mandate for a referendum on devo-plus or devo-max. This wasn’t part of anyone’s manifesto or pre-election statements.
2. There is no clear definition of devo-plus or devo-max.
“I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
“Judicial independence: judges appointed by independent commission having legal and lay representatives; judges removable only for misconduct etc”
From the Judiciary of Scotland website:
In Scotland, the principle was emphasised as long ago as 1599 when the Lord President of the Court of Session declared that the judges were independent of the king, “sworn to do justice according to our conscience”.
“Independent accountability mechanisms: Ombudsman and Auditor-General”
The Auditor-General is an office established to examine the government’s accounts. The South African Constitution provides that the Auditor-General is to:
annually produces audit reports on all government departments, public entities, municipalities and public institutions. Over and above these entity-specific reports, the audit outcomes are analysed in general reports that cover both the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) cycles. In addition, reports on discretionary audits, performance audits, and other special audits are also produced. The Auditor-General tables reports to the legislature with a direct interest in the audit, namely Parliament, provincial legislatures or municipal councils. These reports are then used in accordance with their own rules and procedures for oversight.
The Ombudsman Association defines ombudsmmen as:
an independent and impartial means of resolving certain disputes outside the courts.
They cover various public and private bodies and look into matters after a complaint has been made to the relevant body.
“Public Service Commission to ensure civil service impartiality”
There is a story about Clare Short when she was a senior civil servant, working as Private Secretary to Mark Carlisle, who was then Education Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s first Cabinet, that after working hard all day on Tory education policies, she would relieve the frustrations of the day by telling the Minister exactly what she thought of the Tory policies – an end-of-work break that apparently they both enjoyed.
The story does credit to both – Margaret Thatcher noted in her diary that when she had to dismiss Carlisle in her September 1981 cabinet reshuffle, he left with “courteousness and good humour” – and highlights the British civil service tradition of total political neutrality in office.