Parliament: November 2008 Archives

Warm homes for all.

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andrewcooper.JPGIt's not often you read an article about a Green proposal which sets our ideas out with perfect clarity. 

David Maddox has a piece in today's Scotsman which does exactly that. The momentum is building, especially given the vote earlier this month.

Actually, in this case, the ideas are largely Andrew Cooper's (left). Credit where it's due.

Inviting the catastrophe.

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volcanolighning.jpgThe Chancellor on the radio this morning tried to persuade me that the "credit crunch" is a random global event, something Britain is best placed to deal with. 

It's unpredictable, like a lightning strike. It's incomprehensible and scary, like finding piranhas in your toilet bowl. 

The British Government wasn't involved. Perhaps not even there when it happened. And it's hitting every country around the world equally.

No. Pure hand-waving. Factually inaccurate. This crisis was spawned by three overlapping problems, two of which the UK Government actually promoted, and the third they merely failed to tackle. 

First, it's a housing bubble, and not just a US subprime bubble but a UK one too, egged on by the former Iron Chancellor. Second, and intertwined with that, it's a consequence of irresponsible market deregulation, backed by the same man. Third, it's a resource crunch, which triggered a summer oil price spike, which Brown singularly failed to prepare for by starting to decarbonise our economy.

Also, we're simply not best placed to deal with it. Darling claimed the Government has the lowest debt in the world. I make that the 4th highest in the OECD.

The genesis of the crisis is not a spooky mystery or something that puzzles economists. It was grimly inevitable, given Labour's policies. Their fingerprints are all over this fiasco as it affects us, and the best they can credibly claim is that it might have been worse if the Tories had been in charge. 

I give you a vainglorious Brown, from his 2005 Labour conference speech:

"Why has it been that at every point since 1997 faced with the Asian crisis, the IT collapse, a stock exchange crash, an American recession, last year a house price bubble, this year rising world oil prices, why has it been that at every point since 1997 Britain uniquely has continued to grow?

"In any other decade, a house price bubble would have pushed Britain from boom to bust.

"In any other decade, a doubling of oil prices would have put Britain first in last out and worst hit by a world downturn.

"I tell you, it is because with Bank of England independence, cutting debt, fiscal discipline and the New Deal this Labour government has shown the strength to take the tough long-term decisions, that inflation is low, interest rates are low, growth has been sustained in every year, and we are closer than ever to the goal which drives us forward: the goal of full employment for our generation. Labour, the natural party for economic strength in our country today."

Given that Labour was at that exact time actually working to reinforce the instabilities in our economic system, this speech should be understood as the equivalent of standing on the top of a mountain in the middle of an electrical storm, holding a sword over your head and shouting "all gods are bastards".

Landshare backed in Parliament.

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Yesterday in Parliament Patrick asked the Minister for Energy Enterprise and Tourism if the Scottish Goverment would support the Landshare campaign, promoted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who's apparently a television personality of some sort. 

The scheme takes unused and publicly-owned land, and makes it available to community groups for allotments, community gardens and greenspaces. It's a virtually free way to help people save money, grow healthy local food, and get to know their neighbours. Around the country there are massive waiting lists for allotments, so it makes perfect sense. You can sign up online at the Channel 4 site.

The response from the Scottish Government was pretty positive, and here's a clip of Patrick discussing the proposal on this morning's GMS. 

Nina Baker, one of Glasgow's Green Councillors, got the city to back the idea for their area last month. Here's STV's coverage of her good work, and here's the Evening Times piece.

Patrick interviewed.

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patrickharvie.jpgThe Times and Holyrood Magazine have two great interviews with Patrick out today. He's described in the first as "the man to watch", and Charlene Sweeney notes that "in the next few months Mr Harvie will, more than ever, need the resolve that has propelled him to the top". No problem there: I can reassure readers that Patrick is pretty much made of resolve..

Mandy Rhodes' much longer Holyrood interview is also worth a read. It quotes the Daily Mail's magnificently awful description of him from 2003: "the voice of the irresponsible, left led, anti-family, anti-Christian, gay whales against the bomb coalition". 

One of those occasions where it's hard to tell the Mail from the Mash parodies thereof, I reckon.
harperharvie.jpgToday is a great day for Scotland's environment and for those suffering in fuel poverty. By the substantial margin of 91 to 15 (i.e. with SNP & Labour support), Holyrood backed our energy efficiency pitch for this year's budget. 

The final motion, which passed by a similar margin, is at the end, with the Green text is in bold.

We believe £100m more a year from the Scottish Government can fund free energy audits for everyone in Scotland, and provide free insulation and financial support on micro-renewables for everyone who can benefit. 

The Green scheme is designed to deal with fuel poverty (although it obviously can't tackle all of the pure poverty element of that), improve health, cut carbon emissions, boost green collar jobs in the construction sector, bring bills down.. well, you get the idea.

We went public with the bid just under a month ago, and it appeared on page 2 of the Daily Record (sorry, proud press officer moment). Although this vote doesn't guarantee we'll see this money allocated, it's a great step in the right direction. 

Labour and the SNP get a warm welcome here for backing this call. I'd love to see more constructive politics in Holyrood on crucial issues like this, issues that should be cross-party, and perhaps MSPs have made a start today towards that.

The Tories voted against, despite Alex Johnstone's offer to consider it on the floor of the chamber. I think they could be won round, but I'll have a look at the official report tomorrow to see exactly what they said. Disappointing and inconsistent (see below).

The Liberals abstained. Now, some say the fence is just where they're comfortable, but it's pretty extraordinary on this issue. They're separately backing £800m of unfunded tax cuts, so I suppose they can't be seen to want to spend yet more money on top of that. 

It looks pretty weak, though, and when the vans go round insulating everyone's house for free (touch wood) we are likely to be pointing out that they couldn't support it. The party may claim to be Greens Lite, but the truth is they're now looking like Tories Lite instead.

The irony is this project is largely based on ideas tested out in Kirklees (watch the video) by Green councillors, working with the Tories and the Liberals. I'm staggered that they both want to be on the wrong side of the issue up here. Hopefully they'll get on board, but for now, I'll take 91-15 in favour.

Final motion as passed: That the Parliament recognises the significant role that energy efficiency and microgeneration measures could have in reducing energy costs for householders and businesses, in achieving urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 80% by 2050 and contributing to the eradication of fuel poverty by 2016; notes that research carried out by the Energy Savings Trust suggests that widespread installation of microgeneration could provide 30 to 40% of our electricity needs by 2050 but that current investment in energy efficiency and microgeneration measures is insufficient to achieve these goals, and calls on the Scottish Government to take steps, as set out in the Energy Efficiency and Microgeneration Bill proposals, such as fiscal incentives for householders and businesses, to ensure that microgeneration technologies become widely available and used and to consider other energy efficiency measures for new and existing housing stock to tackle fuel poverty, climate change and security of energy supply; notes the evidence given by Friends of the Earth Scotland to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee suggesting that an additional £100 million per annum would be a welcome change to the draft budget for 2009-10, and calls on the Scottish Government to consider a comprehensive and fully funded Scotland-wide scheme on this scale to provide energy audits, insulation provision and financial support for micro-renewables where appropriate.

Shabby reflections.

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salmondyeswecan.jpgAcross British politics, everyone wants to be associated with Obama, no matter how absurd or tenuous the claim may be. 

David Cameron thinks the change agenda is his, despite having backed McCain, while Brown thinks Obama shares his progressive politics

That must be why Obama was so desperate to share in Brown's reflected glory during his campaign.

The Liberals want to submit to his leadership, and, absurdly, think his main policy is to cut taxes. Right. That's why he got the young people so motivated.

Even Nick Griffin backed Obama, for some obscure and presumably racialist reason I can't begin to understand. 

That's the most jarring claim, obviously, with a staggering bullshit quota, but I make the SNP's claim the most empty. The only bit they've taken is "Yes we can", as per the picture above. In the process the phrase has been gutted of vision so entirely that all it now means is "Yes we can win in Glenrothes", which would send a reluctant SNP MP to a Parliament he doesn't believe in. There must surely be SNP supporters squirming at the absurdity of this photo.

The way Obama uses it (and it was the part of his speech on Tuesday night I liked least) at least each time it followed a slice of historical political vision (see the full text). Women fought for the vote. Yes we can. FDR tackled the Depression. Yes we can. And so on. He touched on a wide range of important issues in his speech, including poverty, climate change, gay rights and peace.

All the SNP have is a vision of a single constitutional change. I agree with independence, but I'm not a nationalist. One of the reasons for that is that I cannot understand why anyone would find the (admittedly inadequate) constitutional settlement their key political motivation. 

It's the broader spectrum of policies which are more important to Greens, including all those from Obama's list above. Not that I'm trying shamelessly to associate us with the President-elect, you understand.

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About this Archive

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

Parliament: October 2008 is the previous archive.

Parliament: December 2008 is the next archive.