Referendums or Even Referenda

The time would appear to be ripe for further government by the people. In spite of being a representative democracy the UK members of parliament have decided to honour the result of the EU referendum whatever their own positions on the desirability of Brexit; this even though the referendum was advisory.

While Westminster is in the mood to meekly accept the result of any referendum how about some more…

  • one to ban drinking on Sunday
  • one banning Fox Hunting
  • another to abolish the House of Lords
  • another to bring back the death penalty
  • even one to turn the UK into a republic so we can have a Trump like president of our own.
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Hardworking MPs?

For many years we have been fed the line that the paucity of MPs actually visible in the HoC chamber is because they are all so frantically busy elsewhere looking after the concerns of their constituents. As the blog Ripped Off Briton points out the vast majority of MPs sit for safe seats and as their official voting record shows that 36% average do even not turn up to vote, are we being fed a line of misinformation?

I don’t know anybody who has ever consulted their MP. As a volunteer for a party a long time ago, I don’t recall any frantic MP surgeries or concern over the constituents’ problems. The new SNP MPs are managing to spend a lot of time in the Chamber. As newbies might they not be finding the burden of all their other duties too time consuming to also sit for long hours listening to the debates or are they exploding the myth?

Where Do We Go From Here? #GE15

The 2015 General Election result did not feature in any of the pre-election scenarios so the rhetoric of the various campaigns becomes in some ways redundant.

A Tory majority gives Cameron a free hand. An SNP landslide could constrain him but will it? Best for Scotland would be some form of compromise which would allow the SNP Scottish Government wriggle room to pursue some of their anti-austerity agenda. This would give the SNP some credibility and pave the way for electoral success in the 2016 Holyrood elections. Would that suit the Tories? At worst they could hand Scotland a totally poisoned chalice of an imbalance of powers which if they are used will make the social and economic climate worse but if not used will leave the SNP with a loss of credibility.

So what should the 56 MPs and Nicola Sturgeon be negotiating for?

First and foremost the approach needs to be entirely pragmatic. Bandstanding on issues such as Trident will get them nowhere. Even the emasculated parliamentary Labour Party will not support that. We need to reduce the poverty and  dependence of a significant proportion of the Scottish population. Not as Iain Duncan Smith would wish to do it. It will be a slow process but we have to start soon and somewhere. We need better education, not the academic variety but cultural and life-enhancing. Every young person leaving our education system should be kitted out with the skills to make a positive contribution and to be employable. It is a disgrace that we have so many young people unemployed or under employed. A decent society should have as a given that youngsters are able to find work when they leave education or training. Apart from their own well-being, leaving them unemployed for any length of time risks them becoming a permanent burden on society. Our population is getting older. We cannot afford not to make certain that all young people become usefully employed. It is in the self-interest of the older members of our society. Succeed with this and it follows that we can reduce the total costs of  some benefits.

Tax Credits are a subsidy to employers not the benefit recipients. Scotland needs to control its own minimum wage. The money not spent on tax credits can be used to attract socially useful employers and to keep them in Scotland. Essentially we need manufacturing industries in the broadest sense; industries that produce goods which can be sold. It is clear that financial services do not bring benefits to the whole population and can cause havoc.

We need powers to make sure that we can gather all taxes due. We need to be able to close the many loopholes that allow the uber-rich and international corporations to avoid taxes.Some may depart abroad but if they are not paying taxes we might be better off without them.

We should be addressing our chronic housing problems. Cameron mentioned One Nation Conservatism. MacMillan, a true one nation Tory, oversaw the building of 200,000 houses per annum.

We need powers to protect the NHS from the effects of TTIP. In a Tory regime it is certain that the NHS will become entirely privatised and insurance based. What is more it will cost more. Our present NHS is not an expensive health service but it needs to be protected and nurtured.

Recent governments have played havoc with the pensions of many workers. We need the power to make certain that on retirement nobody falls into poverty. In a decent wealthy society such as Scotland there should be no need for any individual to be without shelter and food. In particular anybody in full time employment should not need a subsidy from the state to provide for their own and their family’s needs.

None of the above is unobtainable or unreasonable. However our new MPs must make certain that the powers granted under new Scotland Act actually allow us the freedom to achieve them.

English Votes for English Laws

Amazing, the Tories have done it again – produced a poisoned chalice. William Hague on the Radio 4 Today Programme announce their proposal for EV EL. The Committee stages of an English only Bill would be voted on by just English MPs but the final 3rd Reading vote would be open to all MPs.

He stressed that this would give English MPs the power of veto over English only legislation. He never mentioned that non-English MPs might have a similar veto at 3rd Reading. What great spin. But also what a waste of time if a Bill were to fall at the last hurdle. So there would be great pressure and  massive negative publicity if a Bill were to be voted down. Hence the poisoned chalice. What is more Hague never mentioned the House of Lords nor what would happen to a Bill which with some amendment might have passed into law.

It is quite possible after GE15 that Labour will be able to govern with the help of non-English MPs. If English MPs have a Tory majority then they could amend English legislation as it went through the committee stage so that it was unacceptable to Labour. What then? Effectively the Labour government would have no jurisdiction over English law making. What a nonsense.

Why can no politician have the guts or the vision to see that a federal solution is now the only solution as an alternative to Scottish Independence..