Parliament: May 2008 Archives

Reviewing the debate.

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scotsmanlogo.jpgLast night I went to the first of the Scotsman's current round of big debates, topic: the constitutional future of Scotland. Even though the paper's editor admitted these events are a cynical attempt to boost circulation, they are also a good contribution to the gaiety of the nation. Here's how I think all the participants did, in order of appearance.

  1. Michael Crow (moderating). After a very funny introduction, equally scathing about all the politicians on the panel, he adopted a pretty hands-off approach. This worked well, except where it didn't. See #9 below.
  2. Malcolm Chisholm (Labour). Having been described as "a serial resigner", with all the licence that implies, Malcolm gave a pretty wet performance. Under the vagueness, I believe a man of principle lurks, but he didn't even make hay when invited to oppose Trident. Also claimed it was now clear what Labour's policy is on the referendum. How we laughed.
  3. Patrick Harvie (Green). My unbiased view.. no, wait, I can't pretend I have one. Best line of argument: if Scotland and the rump UK were both EU members, we'd have twice the voice when we agree, and when we don't, the UK wouldn't be making the case against us on our behalf. Backed this up with Eurovision argument that an ex-UK could be a powerful voting block.
  4. Prof Tom Devine (History). Very interesting, the only outsider perspective and all the more valuable for it. Also worked out that if you more or less swallow the microphone you can intervene on anyone. His book's for sale.Tom, now you owe me a tenner.
  5. Margo Macdonald (Margo). I always think Margo comes across as persuasive, much as I find her politics frustrating. However, a voice next to me, when asked about her, said simply "demagogue". Certainly speaks her mind clearly, which makes her more interesting to listen to than many on the panel.
  6. Nicola Sturgeon (SNP). Didn't set the heather alight, but a decent performance from the Deputy First Minister. Spent too long talking about the ins and outs of various polls, though, and wasn't clear about whether she wanted a low-tax, low-services Scotland, the Irish model, or a more Scandinavian approach. They do talk about both, but we can't have both. Did her best to be conciliatory with others on the panel.
  7. Nicol Stephen (Liberal). Again, it's hard to be unbiased. Patrick pointed out that the Calman Commission is a creature purely of three parties, not the people, and Nicol more or less agreed. He made the odd argument that the Liberals wouldn't necessarily even back a referendum on that Commission's own proposals. Incoherent, unpersuasive, and only had one friend with him, if the clapping is anything to go by.
  8. Murdo Fraser (Tory). Michael Crow told us Murdo had gotten into politics because his school was short a Tory for a mock election, and it did indeed feel like inertia had carried him all the way from that to the party's deputy leadership in Scotland. He had a good moment where he declared himself a devolutionist heretic, but wouldn't go further for fear of a handbagging.
  9. The Audience (SNP). With a few honourable exceptions, like the young man to my left who put the panel on the spot over nuclear weapons (an actual issue, an issue, thank God!), the audience were poorly prepared, confused, or just plain bonkers.
We got interminable history lessons about the Claim of Right instead of questions about what independence should be for, we got discussion of a sticker from the window of a British Midlands flight (no, I don't know either), we got what would have been a run-through of every historical event since the Darien project. We got depressed and dispirited listening to people who simply adored the sound of their own voice.

At least half of the questions reminded me of the approach taken by the SWP and the SSP in their heyday - monomaniacal oddballs entirely unaware of the effect of their approach. It was like seeing the Herald's and Scotsman's online comments sections in person.
Other than that, though, I had a good time, a decent busman's night out. Thanks to the organisers for their efforts.

Here's today's short piece about the debate, and I think David's doing a longer one for tomorrow. Links to other blog reviews will follow. Come on Kez, don't tell me you're actually working today!

Telling it how it is

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I meant to stick this up yesterday, but was too busy blogging other things working. Patrick put in another great appearance on Newsnight on Monday night, trying to drum into the SNP's head the idea that oil is running out, and that's why prices will inexorably continue to rise. Why worry about that, though, when you can make a short-term cut the costs of fuel and postpone any efforts to tackle the root causes? That seems to be the Nats' position.

Note that it took Patrick to explain the role of the Competition Commission. Enjoy the muted ramblings of his SNP debating partner at the end too.


Epic fail

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shipment_of_fail.jpgApparently there were developments at the Labour Group meeting today. How could there not be more chaos?

Some people say this is another substantial u-turn, and Labour are now going to vote down a referendum. Brian Taylor isn't sure. Calum thought this was just a rehash of yesterday's u-turn. Who knows?

It all starts to remind me of a recent internet meme, the uncharitable FAIL. The classic is to the left. More examples are here (or if that's down, here). Anyone fancy doing one for Wendy?

Quick thought

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margaret_mitchell.jpgRead this list of all the Tories in the Parliament here. Anything stand out? In short, what has she done wrong? Everyone else got a job..
chilevolcano1.jpgI keep meaning to write about the endless contortions and disasters that the Labour Party have wrought since Wendy's rush of blood to the head. Countless drafts got binned because they were out of date within hours.

One says "for a party that pushed through the ban on foxhunting, Labour are very keen to shoot this so-called Nationalist fox". Then they weren't so keen. Then they were again. I won't bore you with the other drafts that got superceded by yet more u-turns, bickering and confusion.

However, based on conversations around and about, it's clear that things are, if you can imagine this, actually even worse inside Labour than they look from the outside. I thought of them when I saw the amazing pic (above) of lightning striking a volcano in Chile. Click it for a bigger image. I thought: that's what the end of the world looks like. If I had to choose one image to sum up their situation it's this, not Wendy with her head in her hands or even pulling this face in her weird FMQ baby smock.

chilevolcano2.jpgWendy's triggered this apocalypse, and those of us who think the Labour party long ago ceased to be a force for progressive politics must welcome her apparent attempt to destroy it. I can only hope that whatever rises from the ashes is something more principled, more responsive to Scotland, perhaps more interested in social justice. It'll take a while, I imagine.

The second pic is what Scottish Labour look like from space, incidentally.

North Sea Oil. So 1999.

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Over successive election campaigns, if you listened to the SNP you'd think Scotland's seas were brimming with fish and oil. However, the numbers tell a different story, especially on oil. Output peaked in 1999, and it's since down about 58% (the arrow on the graph to the left actually points to 2010, for reference).

Unlike properly protected fish stocks, not that we have those, it's simply a finite resource. As Robin said in the chamber today, it's like a pint of beer. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it, the quicker it's gone. The difference is that you can't just go back to the bar for another one.

And the prices will rise and rise. In 2004 the BBC ran a good story about the issue, given contemporary worries about the $40 barrel. Now we're at $120, and predictions of $200 seem almost cautious. The $500 predictions for 2015 also seem pretty realistic, depending on how badly the American economy tanks and takes us all with it.

Whether it's Scotland's oil or the UK's oil, though, given that there's less and less of it all the time I think it'd be great if we used the last dregs of it to help make ourselves independent of oil (as opposed to the 20th century strivings for independence based on oil). A kind of Apollo Programme for clean energy. A Marshall Plan for public transport. A Manhattan Project for insulation.. no, wait..

Anyway, today we have good news. Today all the parties in the Scottish Parliament agreed to a Green amendment that says we need to take account of peak oil when planning food strategies. I'm just not sure how many in the other parties understand how radical that might be, the costs of failing to do so, or the opportunities a relocalised economy could bring. But yet again we now have the perfect way to hold the SNP to account.

Also, here's one more prediction. The media will ignore it completely tomorrow.

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About this Archive

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

Parliament: April 2008 is the previous archive.

Parliament: June 2008 is the next archive.