Parliament: March 2009 Archives

Delusional and pathological.

| | Comments (0)
alternativeroute.jpgThe Sunday Herald had an advance on today's landmark report from the Sustainable Development Commission (press release), which describes Ministers' attempts to rebuild the same failed economic system, built on growth at all costs, as "delusional" and "pathological". 

These are delusions and pathologies the SNP share with Westminster. The Nats describe their central purpose as "sustainable economic growth". Sustainable should mean "designed to work within our long-term ecological capacity", but here it's a proper weasel word, meaning something they would like to sustain.

In particular, they suffer from the delusion that they can engage on the biggest road-building and airport expansion programme Scotland has seen since the 1960s and still meet any kind of carbon emissions targets. New roads plus new public transport does not reduce emissions, and to think so displays a pathological misunderstanding of some pretty basic science and economics.

Although they're government-funded, the SDC have clearly had enough of being polite about abject government failures of this sort, both north and south of the border. In a quote that would fit well on the cover of a Green manifesto, Professor Jackson, the report's author, says:

"Prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is no foundation for a civilised society."

They're so on the same page as us that I even lifted their perfect image (above).

By coincidence, Holyrood debated the economy last Thursday. The patchy and limited understanding of sustainability across the chamber makes it pretty depressing fare - the usual exceptions apply. I fear we'll wait a long time before we have a Scottish Government which even understands the problems we face, let alone capable of pursuing constructive answers to them.

On gender balance.

| | Comments (7)
There's been a lot of hoohah on the blogosphere about all-women shortlists. (Against, mostly Nats like Jeff and Mr Macnumpty, also Political Dissuasion: for, Labour voices like Kez and Yousuf).

Without wishing to sound like a Liberal, I think they're both right. All-women shortlists are indeed a crude and anti-egalitarian way to try and build gender equality. 

However, I can't stomach the complacency, the desire of some to stick their fingers in their ears when others point out that Parliament is about 35% female, down from almost 40% in 2003.

The position in our local authorities is even worse, and declining. Less than 22% of Scottish councillors elected in 2007 were female, marginally down on 2003, and even further down on 1999 (pdf).

The Green approach is different - our constitution requires that at least 50% of our candidates for winnable seats are female. There's an exemption for sitting MSPs, which is one of the reasons both my MSP employers are male, true, but at the Council level we're exactly 50/50.

Looking beyond the obviously winnable seats, we balance there too, but not as tightly. 40% of all candidates, minimum, must be female, and 40%, minimum, must be male.

Now, this certainly makes it more complex to select candidates, as Green activists will tell you, but it can't be seen as discriminating against either gender, nor is it "positive discrimination". Indeed, in one branch there would have been an under-representation of men without this mechanism.

It's not a magic bullet. It should only be a transitional mechanism, although that transition might be lengthy. It doesn't cover other sorts of equalities, from transgender to race and class. 

This principle has, however, encouraged more women to put themselves forward, and through it we've selected more good women to fight and win elections, women who continue to grow in those roles and who inspire more good candidates to come forward each time we select.

I know it's also easier for us than it is for other parties, given our focus on PR elections like the Holyrood lists and local authority contests. But couldn't other parties try something that's not one of the two failed models the blogosphere has adopted, just as the other parties have? (Malc is an honourable exception here) 

It's a classic false opposition. Parties shouldn't be excluding men, but nor should selection meetings where the loudest and deepest voice wins be the norm.

Happy Patrick day.

| | Comments (0)
pheyepatch.jpgSome people partied yesterday, but today is not only Patrick's 36th birthday but also the day his bill on hate crimes was up for its Stage One debate in the chamber. 

Despite some hostile noises at an earlier stage, it was backed unanimously and now seems certain to pass into law. A good birthday present indeed.

The picture to the left shows Patrick preparing for a speech to a room full of intellectual property specialists, incidentally.

Liberal conference reviewed.

| | Comments (0)
liberalpartyconference.jpgThis unsolicited summary of Liberal conference (left) arrived from a journalist friend who shall remain nameless:

"Their conference - or more accurately lack of it - was truly a thing to behold, like some Taoist riddle about the enormity of nothingness."

It did strike me as odd that they would spend a weekend talking about how we shouldn't be talking about independence. Perhaps that's also some kind of kōan.

Doomsday averted?

| | Comments (0)
mistyforth.jpgYesterday's SoS covered some deft Swinney spin over spending levels. Although it had a new title - a "doomsday budget" - it was essentially a rehash of the usual SNP point-at-Westminster approach to spending matters. 

The prospect of Scottish budget cuts totalling £2.3bn was floated, a shortfall blamed on the recession, presumably spun as the Downing Street Downturn. The paper explains:

"After inflation, the freeze would be equivalent to a 10% cut in spending on education, health and transport in Scotland, threatening every school, hospital and road project in the country."

Yikes! If only there was a massive, dirty, flaweddisruptive and pointless project currently valued at an eye-catchingly similar sum that could be cancelled instead, which would enable the Scottish Government to provide the actual services they were elected to deliver. 

But what does this story mean? Are the two numbers really coincidental? John Swinney's too smart for that. It's just possible he's preparing an announcement that this white elephant will be cancelled, albeit one that will have to be billed as postponement or similar, and, obviously, blamed on London. Unlikely, perhaps, but it can't be ruled out.

In the speculative hot seat.

| | Comments (0)
gavel.jpgToday's YouGov poll isn't great for us, up just one seat to three, but with the caveats about polling firmly in place, the outcome is nonetheless interesting. Labour and the Tories are up as well, the Nats and the Liberals are down, but despite the oscillations we'd still be absolutely central on these numbers.

Labour as the largest party would be one seat short of a majority with their old love, the Liberals. They could make the numbers either with the Tories (ain't happening despite the lack of policy differences) or with the SNP (ditto). The Nats' preferred partners on current form remain the Tories, but the pair of them would be three seats short collectively, while the SNP/Liberal combination would be a substantial six seats short - sorry, Tavish.

Either way, barring some pretty ugly and unlikely combinations, we'd be in demand again in this scenario, only even more so. A minority adminstration might well be the most likely outcome again, but there are a couple of options that would only work with Green support either inside or outside Government. With numbers like this I think we could, if we wanted to, find out pretty quickly which of the other parties are most committed to the business-as-usual soggy middle they all get to sit in week after week. 

How much are we bid for cancellation of the AWPR? Any advance on 70% renewable electricity by 2020? Insulate every home in Scotland by 2025? Do I hear 2021?

Something must be done.

| | Comments (1)
Thumbnail image for BrewdogRake.jpgTwelve days ago, Labour's justice spokesperson in Holyrood, Richard Baker, described the SNP's drink proposals, including a minimum price for alcohol as "unfair, unworkable and unsupportable" at present. Despite concerns about European legality, presumably raised by the supermarkets, the UK Chief Medical Officer today floated a similar approach on behalf of the Labour government. 

Moving on from Labour's internal problems ("they never write, they never call"), I'm not convinced that a 50p per unit price would deter many people, and the main problem still appears to be the widespread flouting of existing licensing laws. Until that legislation is properly implemented, which even brave Kenny Macaskill seems unable or unwilling to deliver, there's little point changing its scope.

No-one's arguing about the problems drink causes, but this idea looks like Yes Prime Minister logic. Something must be done. This is something. Therefore it must be done.

There is one credible argument in favour, though. Good beer will always cost more than that. Dire chemical-tasting cooking lager is all that can undercut it. Perhaps we should instead set a minimum quality for drink? 

Update: See also Macnumpty's take on this.

The Member will sit down.

| | Comments (2)
When the occupant of the Presiding Officer's chair tells a Member his time is up, it's bad form to challenge it. When told again, it's certainly ill-advised to say: "With friends like you.."


A sense of perspective.

| | Comments (0)
desertskull.jpgLast week, Parliament backed a report on the National Planning Framework 2, which will exempt a list of "national projects" from planning objections. Top of this list is the superlatively unnecessary additional Forth Road Bridge, now defined by Parliament as necessary. The Liberals joined the SNP to vote it through, while the Tories joined us in voting against, I believe simply because the final text on energy wasn't nuclear enough. 

Although we Greens remain the only party in Parliament opposed to this project and to the airport expansions also being rammed through as part of the same process, I'd have thought this decision by Parliament would be newsworthy. Nope. Just one local story from the P&J.

Yesterday, Stewart Stevenson, Minister for More Of Everything, got grilled by Patrick's Committee on the Climate Change Bill, and according to PA, was "clueless". Did his hours being put on the spot get covered in the media? Nope. There's a bit of PA copy, then the previous mentions are all about him taking credit for new roads.

The policy debate gets ignored, even as scientists meeting in Copenhagen warn of even more radical acidification of the seas, and even greater sea level rises. Is it just me, or is the disconnect here absolutely terrifying?

Nuclear foundation.

| | Comments (1)
nuclearcake.jpgThe Renewable Energy Foundation sound like a nice lot, don't they? One imagines them funding labs full of researchers in white coats looking to make solar panels more efficient, or perhaps contemplating efficient grid connections for remote renewables projects to supply our cities.

Instead, they're actually a pro-nuke and anti-wind lobbying group, made respectable by their name and nothing more. They're backed by the radioactive Ian Fells, who some have harsher words for, and the demagogue Noel Edmonds.

They're also hosting a conference next week, with Tavish Scott as the keynote speaker. Could this be related to the fact that his former MSP colleague Euan Robson has also taken REF's irradiated shilling? Surely the Liberals aren't warming up to go nuclear as the basis for another ill-conceived line of attack on the SNP?

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Parliament category from March 2009.

Parliament: February 2009 is the previous archive.

Parliament: April 2009 is the next archive.