Tag Archives: Yes Scotland campaign

Shock and awe is for losers

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

You’re welcome.)

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.
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Today is positive Twitter day

So I did my bit to subvert it:

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Charities and politics

A charity is allowed to engage in politics. A charity is not allowed to do party-political campaigning.

The distinction is made clearest whenever there’s an election. If a charity wants to comment on any one party’s manifesto, they have to comment on them all. They may possibly just get away with only commenting on the five major parties – the ones with seats in Parliament – but they cannot pick and choose.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is a registered charity. Their mission is “To support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.” Continue reading

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Why two questions?

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.
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Our constitution, July 2012: Public ethics

“Code of Conduct / Public Ethics”

There are, according to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, seven principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership.

I have to say – having taken part in many protests in Edinburgh over the years – that I have never felt afraid of Lothian and Borders Police. I warily arranged a phone contact before going to the SPUC OFF protest, because I did not know for sure that SPUC would stay non-violent and away from us and I wasn’t confident that the police would necessarily pick out the prolife aggressors over us feminist hippy weirdos with our hand-painted signs: but I was sure that so long as no one started any aggro, Lothian and Borders Police would simply allow both sides to have our peaceful protest. And I was very glad they were there at the BNP protest at Meadowbank.

But I have felt afraid on several protests in London – because I was part of a large crowd engaged in peaceful public protest, and the Metropolitan Police seemed by that to assume I was the enemy. They did not seem to regard any part of the crowd of protesters as the people whom it was their obligation to protect. We were, at best, there by their tolerance: and I only felt at risk in any crowd when I saw the Met Police in their riot gear.

I heard by unsubstantiated rumour that when the Metropolitan Police offered to send a detachment to Scotland to “help” police the G8 protest in 2005, the Scottish police forces gave the Met a joint dubious look, muttered “aye, that’ll be right”, and politely declined the offer, on the grounds that they wanted to keep the peace, not stir up trouble.

The UK Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up in October 1994 and issued its first report in 1995, under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan. It was established in order to investigate concerns about the conduct of members of parliament, after allegations that MPs had taken cash for putting down parliamentary questions. The Committee Report set out seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. The ‘Nolan reforms’ established a new post of Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (see ombudsman) whose job was to maintain the Register of Members’ Interests and investigate the conduct of MPs; to set up a House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges; and to set down a Code of Conduct for MPs. In 1998 the Committee issued a report on the funding of political parties, which rejected calls for state funding. — Alistair McMillan, Oxford Dictionary of Politics

There is a Ministerial Code, which is – we discovered with Jeremy Huntharder to break than the Enigma Code. Apparently the unwritten “constitution” of the UK requires ministers to be accountable to the Prime Minister, not to anyone like the “independent” adviser on the ministerial code:

The current holder of this well-paid and undemanding sinecure, Sir Alex Allan, tried to convince the select committee that he would be proactive and would not be sidelined.

Giving evidence, he said he would quit if he were marginalised, and promised not to be anyone’s “poodle”. He even came up with proposals for how he could conduct inquiries more quickly than his predecessor, Sir Philip Mawer. But he was clear that the prime minister had no plans to change the fundamental tripwire: that only the prime minister could ask him to conduct an inquiry.

Arguably, constitutional propriety requires ministers to be accountable to the prime minister, and not to a Whitehall bureaucrat. But it is notable that neither the cabinet secretary nor the prime minister have been keen to pass any issue to the independent adviser. Indeed, David Cameron has never referred a single case, making one wonder how Allan spends his days.

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Our constitution, July 2012: European Convention of Human Rights

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.
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Our constitution, July 2012: Ombudsman and Auditor-General

“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.

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Our constitution, July 2012: Treaties and war

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980: War is murder writ large.

“Parliamentary control of treaties and war-making power, etc”

Today, a Higgs boson particle was discovered – a scientific discovery that confirms the Standard Model physics uses to explain the structure of the universe, first proposed by Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University. This is a great day, and not one I would have wanted to use to discuss treaties and war.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980

There is no other species on the Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be.

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Money money money

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me

If you have a car, you’ll have noticed your petrol costs have been going up. When you do your shopping, food costs are terrible these days. Everything’s more expensive, money just doesn’t seem to go as far as it did.

Ian Bell wrote on 30th June
:

So who still believes that the cost of petrol, food or credit, for nations or individuals, rises or falls because of the pure, dispassionate action of market forces? Speculative attacks, such as “aggressive tax avoidance”, are hardly in the spirit of the thing; the fiddling of interest rates is another malignity entirely. It strikes at the heart of capitalism. When prices cannot be trusted – for such is the effect – there is no free market.

In the case of Barclays, and perhaps 20 other household names trading on the public trust, that was the whole idea. The London interbank offered rate (Libor) and its European equivalent were supposed to act as guarantees that bankers’ claims matched reality, that they described accurately commerce between banks and, by extension, the wider world. For the sake of their bonuses and their bank, traders at Barclays decided to dispense with annoying, unhelpful reality. Time and again, for years, under the alleged instruction of “senior management”, they lied.

You don’t need to understand how Libor is constructed as a global benchmark, with highest and lowest figures discarded and averages compiled, to grasp what was done. Bankers were taken at their word. Instead of regarding this as a solemn responsibility, they took it as an opportunity, offered by suckers. The simple analogy is discovering, after a day at the races, that every nag was doped. Forget the casino economy: these characters were controlling the roulette wheel.

Do you remember the Occupy movement? I don’t know why I say “do you remember”: it’s not so long ago that they were camped out on the steps of St Pauls in London, the small area of the Square Mile that is owned by the Church, not Mammon: not so long since the tents disappeared from Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, where they were a daily reminder of the banks that own so many of the buildings around them. They were wild-eyed radical tent-dwelling hippies, who’d listen to them?

But they were right.

Ian Fraser, writing on 5th December 2011 in QFinance:

What disturbed me the most about the November 1 session was the regulators’ seeming nonchalance about criminality in the UK’s banking sector. At times, using the tortured and obfuscatory phraseology, the financial regulators almost seemed to want to pretend that criminality and fraud didn’t, or couldn’t exist in the domain they are supposed to police. This struck me as very strange.

When I wrote “Helicopter Money and Stephen Hester“, it was meant to be an account of what happened to the rich instigators and their victims – to describe the links between Paula Daly, who became homeless after the bank foreclosed on her business in September 2008, and Jeffrey Verschleiser, head of the sub-prime mortgage operations at Bear Stearns, who had just booked a 93-room luxury hotel for a family weekend.

Despite sub-prime mortgage operations having led to a wave of criminal repossessions across the US (including, quite literally, a special court system so that fraudulent and predatory loans could be resolved in the lenders’ favour and the houses attached to them sold again with clean paperwork) Jeffrey Verschleiser wasn’t worried he might get prosecuted any more than he had money worries. I noted this in passing, citing Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?, which opens with Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, and a former Senate investigator in a Washington bar in January 2011:

“Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

“That’s right,” he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.”

A fortnight ago, Matt Taibbi wrote about the conclusion of the first criminal trial which has sent Wall Street staff to jail: Continue reading

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Our constitution, July 2012: independence and devolution

I decided in at the end of June to do a series of posts through July on my thoughts about a Scottish Constitution, using as a framework an excellent summary I was given at A state fit for the 21st Century.

I am not a lawyer. I am not employed by otherwise connected with or speaking on behalf of the Constitutional Commission. I welcome objections, caveats, better-informed comments clarifying or correcting any misunderstandings or mistakes I’ve made, references to other sources of information, and if you start blogging about this too, links to other blogposts.

As for the independence referendum – I’m undecided. As yet neither Yes Scotland nor Better Together have particularly convinced me. I don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. I’d like a campaign for a constitution to be independent of either campaign, and not tied to any party.

Aim:

“To establish the Scottish State as a stable, effective parliamentary democracy that upholds fundamental rights and serves the common-weal of the people.”

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