Parliament: February 2008 Archives

donald trump.jpgSo The Donald's plan to trash the Balmedie dunes will go to an inquiry. Great news for the community, although we will wait and see whether they choose Jack Nicklaus or Sam Torrance to oversee the inquiry.

Salmond's on record as saying they'd abide by an Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route inquiry rejection of the road, and hopefully the same applies here.

Patrick asked the question, and John Swinney answered it (I think) for Glenn Campbell. I'll see in a minute. The last lot had a shocking record on this kind of issue.

However, this also makes it much harder for Edinburgh's sleazy decisions over Caltongate to remain unchallenged. The local campaigners agree, and it's hard to see any inquiry there not demonstrating to a national audience the scale of opposition, the absurdity of the current plan, and the dubious financial practices of Labour in particular over this issue.

He's the new messiah, inn'e?

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swinney.jpgMany years ago, in the early 1980s, there was apparently a punk band from Corstorphine called Nocturnal Vermin. They released one short record, which was named after an STD.

No trace of them appears on the internet, and I would certainly love to find out more if anyone else knows about them.

However, I have come into possession of a single track from that EP. It's named after one of their pals, at that time a young and enthusiastic SNP activist, now better known as the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. Warning: it's not very good, and that's from someone who likes a little bit of punk.

Hot air

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Stewart Stevenson debated my good friend Cllr Johnstone on Lesley Riddoch's show today. Challenged on how building motorways could reduce carbon emissions, he tried to broaden the issue by pointing out that "I'm breathing out carbon dioxide".

While the unkind might suggest a way to reduce those particular emissions, surely it would still be easier not to build all this soon-to-be-outdated infrastructure?

stevenson.jpgUpdate: 18 Feb
It's been pointed out to me that I used the wrong picture above. I should of course have used the one to the left.

Dark days

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roadsign.jpgSo the SNP are going ahead with the M74 with indecent haste, which suggests a couple of things.

First, the review we were promised can hardly have amounted to more than a quick call to the civil servant who designed the failed procurement process. "Hello Sir Humphrey, still happy with this single bidder business? Yes? Good, thanks awfully."

Second, John Swinney isn't worried about what would happen if the European Commission voided this contract, as they have the power to do. A pretty irresponsible position to put the Government in, and one that may come back to haunt them. As Sir Humphrey himself would have said, "a brave decision, Minister."

"Consequences for the timetable"

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M74protest.jpgIn case anyone was wondering what Ministers thought about the complaint to the European Commission about the M74, here's chapter and verse from John Swinney. "Consequences for the timetable" of course means "delays". I remain hopeful that this utterly failed scheme will not go through.

"We have spoken separately about the M74 and the government's position in relation to the complaint that has made to the European Commission.

"Clearly Scottish Ministers are in a unique position. The Scotland Act specifies that we must at all times act within European law. We are therefore taking this complaint seriously. We will co-operate fully with the European Commission (EC) if they decide to investigate the M74 procurement process and must comply with any instructions or conclusions even if that has consequences for the timetable. 

"We are confident that the process in relation to the M74 has been properly conducted but to ensure that our processes are robust and sound I have asked for them to be reviewed ahead of any potential investigation from the EC. The tender will not be signed before this internal review has been carried out.

"If the EC do intend to pursue this complaint, which could be a lengthy process, we will be required to re-examine our position. I am happy to expand on these points, on the record, in Parliament."

Also, if anyone can decipher this nonsense, please let me know.

Trumpling all over procedure

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donald trump.jpgFor those of you who've been confused by what the various parties are up to on the Trump application at Balmedie, here's a summary of the Holyrood positions:
SNP: we support the proposal, we support the process, and Ministers will make a fair decision even though everyone knows we'll bend over backwards to get it through.
Tories/Labour/Liberals: we support the proposal, but sense an opportunity to have a good square go at Alex Salmond over the process. (The Labour and Liberal Exec as was would also have done no better, incidentally, as we saw from McConnell's dealings with the Trump people).
Greens: we oppose the proposal in its current form, and believe planning law is being subverted for a rich bully. Bought and sold for Trump's gold, even.

Anyway, here's a couple of stories from another project elsewhere run by The Donald (depicted above left having his rug reinforced). Thanks to one of the staunch opponents of his Scottish plans for these.

Soho, New York. Local residents risk having to "spend their hard-earned money to try to force the city to enforce the law and treat billionaire developers by the same rules as everyone else." Sound familiar? The site is also (allegedly, my inner lawyer warns me to say) beset by accidents and shoddy workmanship.

Do keep up!

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QuestionMarks.jpgHere's a round of idiocy and point-missing for you. Iain Smith (Liberal) calls on Stagecoach to reduce their fares now the tolls have gone. Now, he says he's worried about the increased car usage from this marginal change in costs, even though he joined his Liberal chums in voting to cut the tolls. We were told by them that a marginal change wouldn't affect people's habits, so that's why it was OK. If you look closely enough at the Liberals you will find inconsistencies everywhere, so no surprise there.

Then the Stagecoach spokesman says it won't affect fares anyway because the Scottish Government froze the grants which keep fares down. Except, of course, that the Greens' budget deal meant it got almost a 7% increase, not counting inflation. Liberal talk achieves nothing. Green negotiation achieves wins across Scotland.


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Check out Mike Rumbles' quote on the Wendy non-acquittal acquittal here. And then read Robin's immediately thereafter. Thanks to the Beeb for making them fit so nicely.

Nat propaganda

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Now why would I circulate something like that? Particularly something as shamelessly negative as this? I'm afraid it's because it made me laugh out loud, as the internet people say.

Oh, but if I'd been doing it I'd have started at 42 seconds. There's a tip for free.

Still "impremissible"

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I have a lot of sympathy for the Electoral Commission, and indeed in the interests of full disclosure, briefly worked as an external PR person for them. Their role remains unclear, and they should definitely be given some more bite to go with their bark.

However, their decision to let an acknowledged breach of the law by the Scottish Labour leader go unprosecuted is peculiar, to say the least. Even the bark is absent today.

Their website was, when I visited it, headlined as follows:
Impremissible donation - leadership campaign of Wendy Alexander MSP

So does "impremissible" mean "illegal but not to be prosecuted"?

You win some, you lose some

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So that's the Budget done for this year. A pretty poor debate, apart of course from Patrick, John Swinney, and Derek Brownlee, who had the second best line of the night with the jibe against Labour - "not even fit for opposition". 

I'm clearly biased, but Patrick took it for me with: 
"Watching the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats trying to work together over recent weeks and months has reminded me of a documentary that I once saw that speculated on the mating habits of dinosaurs--academically quite interesting, but ultimately now futile."

Leaving the substance for another time, how did the politics of it break down by party?

Well, they got their first ever budget through, they get to keep being Ministers, and they made some significant concessions but nothing that stuck in their craw. Bruce Crawford and John Swinney had smiles that practically met at the back of their heads.

The Greens
Patrick's solid negotiations mean some major improvements, some real Green wins I think our activists will appreciate. We got the SNP to reverse planned cuts in bus services, with £4m more going in. And £4.3m more for the Climate Challenge Fund, which will let communities bid for money for good green projects like locally-owned renewables or low-carbon transport schemes. And carbon costing for future budgets (this is the most radical, but will no doubt get lost in the mix for the media). And a bunch of other good stuff too. 

Oh, and we managed to look constructive by.. actually being constructive. A good few months' work.

The Tories
They got more police and business rate cuts for (genuinely) small businesses. And they get to rewrite drug policy with Fergus Ewing, which is a bit worrying. Above all, their colleagues in London get to keep Labour in a total pincer, with Gordon Brown's writ not even running in his back yard. Admittedly they had to vote for, which has allowed the Liberals and others to work up some confected anger, but they're also well pleased.

Some of the hacks are saying that today's fiasco is worse for Wendy than the Electoral Commission's interminable investigation. Students of parliamentary process around the world will look back on Labour's handling of this process as the prime example of how not to oppose. Grandstanding, voting against at stage 1, proposing an amendment today which left the substance unchanged (and therefore went through easily) then abstaining on what they'd effectively made their own proposal. Imagine John Swinney and Iain Gray about to duel with each other, only Iain Gray cuts his own head off just getting his sword out. Total failure.

The Liberals
Like Labour, an utter shambles. They spent half the debate slagging the Greens off for our opposition to roads projects that they themselves pushed through as Ministers. Then they voted the same way as us, having achieved absolutely nothing. In Australia the Greens just finished off "the Aussie Democrats" at the last election, taking their last seat. It'll take us a while, but if tonight's anything to go by, we'll one day achieve the same thing here. I honestly understand why people might vote for every other party except them. This is a theme I think I'll come back to, perhaps.

Anyway, not a bad place to start blogging. Thanks for reading.

The pic is a thumbnail of David Cheskin's outstanding Iain Gray pic for PA, taken today following the vote. David: if you see this before I get hold of you, can I keep that pic up please?

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Parliament category from February 2008.

Parliament: March 2008 is the next archive.