Scotland’s Brexit

Mostly the media commentary about Brexit is conjecture. However as far as Scotland is concerned there is a fact that should not be ignored. The devolved government in Holyrood was set up by a UK Act of Parliament and could just as easily be done away by the MPs at Westminster as Pete Wishart MP writes. The Tories have a majority there and Theresa May could get rid of the thorn of the Scottish Parliament if she judged that to be in her interests vis a vis Brexit. That would leave Scotland unable to influence or decide its own future.

Brexit at the moment is all politics, nothing decided and all to play for so Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit plan is part of the political chess game she is playing with the UK government. So are her visits to European leaders and to Dublin. By giving Scotland such a high profile on the Brexit scene she is hoping to make any foul play by Theresa May more difficult to carry out. To date her reasonable and practicable ideas and plans have found much favour and will be hard to ignore. What is more she is keeping alive the sense of destiny that grips many Scots at the present time.

Commentators saying she will not achieve what she would like are probably right but better to play for high stakes than tamely give in to a lifetime of Tory rule direct from Westminster.

For a very detailed look at the Scottish parliaments powers and the fact that in UN terms the UK is defined as two countries read the Grouse Beater.

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Better Together?

Anybody who thought that with the Smith Commission and the new Tory government Scotland would somehow get a Christmas hamper of devolved powers must be very naïve.  At last Iain MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald http://t.co/8zBWeFrJ4j has brought it to the fore. I first used the words “poisoned chalice” in relation to the devolution of taxes in August 2014 where I said that devolution of all taxes might be acceptable. Nobody should be under any illusion that the established parties, Tory, Labour and Lib Dem, will forego any opportunity to ambush the SNP.

Tommy Sheppard MP in his maiden speech set out the SNP position in a nutshell and it should be referred to at every opportunity. The video also highlights the very few members of other parties who bother to attend debates. A key weapon in the SNP 56’s armoury should be be their attendance. If they can keep up that level of attendance sooner or later discontented voters in other parts of the UK will begin to ask where their own MPs are? The SNP contingent must stick with it as a key ingredient of their Westminster campaign. Sweet reasonableness is another weapon. They should also always bear in mind that they have no friends in the House except just possibly Speaker Bercow if you listen to his remarks at the end of Tommy Sheppard’s speech.

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.