Parliament: July 2008 Archives

While we wait for a result..

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kenmachete.jpgThe week Wendy quit I singled out three Labour MSPs as outside candidates for the leadership, none of whom had expressed any public interest in standing. I see from Friday's Herald that one of them, Ken Macintosh (seen here with a machete), is launching a campaign. There are plenty of issues where I don't agree with Ken, but he's bright and normal, and it always surprised me that Labour First Ministers never gave him a job. 

This isn't an endorsement, obviously, but I'm pleased to see him come into the race. Just so you know, you heard it here first. (disclaimer: I was press officer for the Parliament when Ken was on the Art Group)

Update: SNP Tactical Voting says he scooped me. Fair play. I didn't see his original post, and I think it's a bit ambiguous, but sure, he mentioned Ken in this context before I did.  

King Alex.

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SNP.jpgI have previously suggested that Salmond sees himself more as President to Swinney's PM than he does as First Minister. However, a leaflet I got through the door a while ago suggests an alternative interpretation (click for a larger image).

Leaving aside the fact that the couple shown are a little, shall we say, divergent in ages, I spotted that the wee banknote on the right shows a Salmond vision of the future, with Her Maj's face replaced by Wee Eck's. The Bank of Scotland, whose note the Nats have "improved", normally use Sir Walter Scott. 

Does Salmond have literary aspirations? I doubt it. His vanity is 100% political.

The more likely comparison is with the Bank of England. Their notes, unlike the Scottish imprints, do feature a living person on them: the Queen. Perhaps President isn't the limit of Salmond's ambitions come independence.

Pledges down the drain.

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tapsink.jpgThis article was sent in speculatively to the Scotsman around the half-anniversary of their green masthead edition. However, it didn't make the cut. I can see why. The tone didn't exactly fit with theirs.

"Six months ago The Scotsman made one of those very rare and striking changes to its masthead, turning the paper very visibly green, and partnering with the SNP government on the environment.

The public were invited to make ten modest pledges, from reducing car usage to turning the taps off while brushing their teeth.

Since then the paper has provided a substantial contribution to reporting about a range of environmental crises, including the threats to Scotland's seas, to the Balmedie dunes, and to our bees. One morning, readers were warned that the nuclear weapons at Faslane could explode in sequence as part of a phenomenon called "popcorning". Hardly a single issue has gone by without some discussion about climate change.

Those same six months have, however, seen almost total inactivity from the SNP government. Where is the environmental leadership they promised? On transport, they rammed through the M74 Extension despite opposition from the local community and every environmental group in the country, while letting bus fares rise and blocking progress on the railways.

Any occasional step forward is more than offset by some new step backwards. Several new wind projects have been cleared, and last week the SNP announced a renewables research joint project with the Irish Green Party's Minister for Energy. However, the previous press release had heralded "Scotland's largest ever coal supply contract", tying us into a long-term commitment to the dirtiest fossil fuel there is.

Most scandalously, the SNP manifesto pledged binding 3% annual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Before their Climate Change Bill even came to Parliament, that's been dropped. At best, Salmond and Swinney have gone native. At worst, they recognise that they could never make cuts even that timid with their current policies on energy, food, transport and so on.

It's now up to Parliament to improve this legislation, otherwise the best we can hope for is that SNP Ministers keep brushing their teeth with the taps off."

Where would we be without BT?

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BT.jpgBT is of course Brian Taylor, one of the few authoritative Scottish political commentators. He's famous also for his love of Dundee United, despite the evidence, and his affection for brightly coloured-braces (tartan at left: Disney is more usual). His blog is highly recommended, and always fair-minded, as per the football affiliation discussion here. However, nothing's appeared on it since July 5th.

And why the silence? I'll let Brian's out-of-office explain:

I am currently on leave. I will be back in the UK on Tuesday July 22. Just in time for the by-election. And the Labour leadership. And the LibDem leadership. And any other vacancies which may emerge. Urgent inquiries meantime should be addressed to the newsdesk on 0141-422 7800.
Brian Taylor

Personally, I think all of Scotland's other leaders are pretty secure, even Annabel. That's despite Brian Monteith (remember him?) calling for her to be deposed in favour of Murdo Fraser or Gavin Brown. Don't worry, Brian, I don't see your holiday being disturbed by that.

The Captain enters the fray.

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mainwaring.jpgRoss Finnie (seen left phoning his nomination in) is, say what you like, a serious contender for the Liberal leadership.

He's got an absolutely magnificent bass-baritone, and those of us who attended the SPJA dinner found his jokes hilarious despite the absence of any actual punchlines.

Despite the odd appearance of scandal in his past, one incident of being seriously inaccurate with Parliament, and his obsessive support for GM crops against the will of his party, he's still probably their best bet. Having said which, like Tavish Scott, he's apparently committed to the non-constructive opposition the party has made its post-May-2007 trademark, hardly the way to change their fortunes.

Anyway, he'll probably come a respectable second to Tavish, but when the votes are counted, there is a chance we could see a scene rather like this one:

Note: even the BBC acknowledge the resemblance!

Choose Tavish?

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tavish.jpgSo let's have a look at the runners and riders for the booby prize of Scottish politics. 

Tavish Scott is known for three things: his bear mask, blocking any possible progressive coalition in May 2007, and forcing through the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, a massive expansion of the motorway network misleadingly described by some as a bypass.

He's the continuity choice, the candidate for no change in the Liberal party, the same old pretend-environmentalism and divisiveness. Being good at FMQs won't fix that.

Mike Rumbles would also be an interesting choice. As in, "a brave choice, Minister". Any turf accountant offering anything less than 500/1 on Rumbles should be ignored.

And Purvis is just laying down a marker for a top job or for leadership contender when Tavish (for it will be he, I guarantee it) fails to make an impact. Liam McArthur probably isn't even ready to do that. Incidentally, both these two have only ever worked as lobbyists, hacks, researchers and/or special advisors for other Liberals. 

Can you feel the drama yet?

Dropping like flies.

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bearresignation.jpgAs others have pointed out, the first week of recess has proved way more dramatic than the last week of session, and a bad time for political hacks and amateur bloggers to take time off. 

I suppose anyone who's followed post-devolution politics could have expected the Liberals to follow close behind Labour but nevertheless it's odd to read that Nicol Stephen has gone (see left). Was he ever here? 

Let's start with Labour, though. There's an inevitable runners-and-riders debate, and I considered even offering odds, except where prohibited by law, but the bigger question is "what is the Labour Party now for?" 

The post being offered isn't even the Leader of Scottish Labour, it's simply the Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament. What a narrow ambition. To lead only in the chamber, in the committees, and in the canteen. There's a whole nation out there, admittedly one no longer crying out for Labour leadership.

Is Scottish Labour just to be the voice of New Labour in Scotland? Is it simply to tinker at the edges of a Westminster Labour government's policies, or to try and hang onto them in the face of a Tory government down south? Or is Scottish Labour prepared to innovate, where that doesn't always mean privatise?

Even within the Scottish Parliament, is Labour interested in being an organised and competent opposition now? It certainly hasn't been one since May, shocked by the loss of power, unable to reach out to make a majority in the chamber, talking only to the Liberals, and bereft of purpose. (clue: that purposelessness is why they lost)

I think anyone who wants to take this job on needs answers to these questions. And they need to say "I will stand for the post of Scottish Labour leader, not just the Parliamentary leader, after all I will be selected by the MPs, councillors, MEPs, and activists as well as the MSPs. Or, alternatively, stuff your impotent post."

Also, they need to decide whether "bring it on" remains policy. I've got a tip there: if Wendy's successor abandons it, their troubles will be without end. Salmond's Plan A was to cause Labour massive electoral difficulty by bringing forward a bill for a referendum and having them vote it down. How much weaker even than that anti-democratic position would Labour's be if another U-turn intervened?

Anyway, I can't resist offering a few "outside the box" suggestions. Not many Labour MSPs stand out from the masses, but three of those that do are Patricia Ferguson, Lewis Macdonald and Ken Macintosh.

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About this Archive

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

Parliament: June 2008 is the previous archive.

Parliament: August 2008 is the next archive.