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Restless English and Quisling Scots
A compilation article by Jim Lynch


The Restless English

We are picking up quite a lot of material now about the restlessness of English people with the present constitutional arragements, now that the Scots are quite clearly fed up with them. This is particularly true in East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and the Home Counties, the heartlands of English England. The early answer to English concerns, real and imagined, regarding the Barnett formula is a negotiated deal between Holyrood and Westminster on North Sea Oil revenues. If Scottish ministers have to go into negotiations on this in the early future they must remember the political slogan which Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism who is just back from an official Canadian visit, tells us is dominating politics in Alberta. It is 'Albertan oil for the Albertans'. The Albertan government has just sent out a cheque for $400 to every man, woman and child in the province. 90% of oil revenues go to Alberta. We demand no less. Mediawatch would very much like a large and extremely polite number of responses to this as Graham Dines has invited reponses. He is at; [email protected]

East Anglian Daily Times

Time for English solution to devolution
31 October 2007 | 09:03
GRAHAM DINES

Labour claims Tory plans to solve the West Lothian question could result in the break up of the United Kingdom. But Political Editor Graham Dines argues it is no longer defensible for the dice to be loaded against England.

WHEN Scotland was granted devolution to look after domestic policy and services north of the border, nobody asked the English if they agreed.

Edinburgh gained its own parliament, and Cardiff and Belfast were also given devolved powers. Labour's solution for England was the cack-handed establishment of regional assemblies looking after some aspects of decision making, but with nothing like the spending powers enjoyed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

After the plans for England collapsed after rejected in a referendum in the North East, the Government abandoned the project, leaving London with its elected mayor and assembly - which have powers over the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London - as the only devolved authority in England.

But now the near simultaneous arrival of a Scottish Prime Minister in No 10 and a Scottish Nationalist administration in Edinburgh has lit a fuse under the constitutional bonfire that has been quietly smouldering away since devolution.

English MPs - and by no means are all of them Conservative - have finally twigged to the gross unfairness to England of devolution.

The conundrum at the heart of the matter - why Scottish MPs can vote on English matters while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters - has long been known as the West Lothian Question after the constituency of Tam Dalyell, the MP who had the foresight to recognise that a problem was looming.

Since Labour swept to power in 1997, the Cabinet has included Scottish MPs heading Government departments whose writ does not operate in Scotland. Dr John Reid, the MP for Airdrie and Shotts in Lanarkshire, was given control over the NHS in England, comfortable in the knowledge that no matter how unpopular his decisions were, there would be no political backlash from his own voters.

To make matters worse, England's taxpayers are funding free personal care for the elderly, free university education, and free bus transport for pensioners - and soon Scotland will have free prescription charges - while Scottish MPs vote to deny the same rights to England that are enjoyed by their own constituents.

Under an arcane measure known as the Barnet formula which was introduced by James Callaghan's government in the 1970s, Scotland enjoys an imbalance of public spending per capita compared with England.

It was Tory Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who last week brought matters to a head.

“Why,” he asked in the Commons, “should my constituents pay more tax so that the Prime Minister's constituents pay no prescription charges?”

A totally fair point, but one which Gordon Brown - who needs the votes of Labour's Scottish MPs to push legislation on England through the Commons - cannot, or more likely, will not see. He blustered and as so often when he replies, tries to spread the blame across all political parties.

“The Welsh Assembly made a decision on prescription charges, and the Scottish Parliament made a decision. They make decisions within their own budgets, and their budgets are allocated under a formula agreed by both parties in this House over the past 30 years,” said the Prime Minister.

“No more money goes to Scotland or Wales as a result of their decisions on prescriptions. That is the Barnett formula that has been agreed by all parties over the years. If the Conservative Party wishes to change its policy it should tell us now, but its policy throughout has been to support this funding formula.”

Labour then ratcheted up its attack on the Tories after senior backbencher Sir Malcolm Rifkind - who sat for Edinburgh Pentlands until the Conservatives were all but vanquished in Scotland - unveiled proposals to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English matters at Westminster.

Under the Tory proposals, a new English Grand Committee - open only to English MPs - would be established to deal with legislation, such as schools, roads and hospitals, relating solely to England. The Speaker would determine if proposed Bills came under the category “England only.”

MPs from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would continue to sit together in the Commons to vote on UK wide matters such as foreign policy, defence, social security, pensions, taxation, revenue, customs, excise and border controls.

Tory Party chairman Caroline Spelman argues: “Having English MPs voting on laws that only pertain in England would address that sense of unfairness that English MPs had when the Labour Government only got its way on tuition fees and foundation hospitals because Scottish MPs were able to vote on that, even though those laws would not apply in Scotland.”

But to Labour, the Conservatives' proposals would break-up the United Kingdom. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said it was “recognition by the Conservatives that they are effectively now an English party. I don't think they see any prospect of building back their base in Scotland.”

Ms Kelly should think twice about being so cavalier. Her majority in Bolton West is a mere 2,064. It won't take many Lancastrians to be upset at funding free prescriptions in Scotland to see her turfed out at the next election.

I'm not a Little Englander. I regard myself as British, ahead of being English. (The Scots will say they are Scottish first - evidence for this are the Ecosse car stickers alongside the Saltire on cars rather than GB recognition plates - and then grudgingly admit they're British).

It would be a tragedy if the union broke up. We are better united than divided into a collection of small nations, which has happened following the collapse of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

The Tory plans are not perfect. For instance, if a Prime Minister is a Scottish MP, it is a nonsense that he should be prevented from voting on his own Government's legislation if it affects only England.

But it is quite clear that the financial chicanery and democratic deficit facing England is no longer sustainable.


And Quisling Scots

As predicted in Mediawatch yesterday, The Herald phoney poll has been picked up by the broadcast and print media. This is of course what was always intended by Fraser and McGhee in order to dampen the consequences of Conference. In a letter to The Herald Dave Hill makes it very clear that this so -called poll is cauld kail rehet.This has all the marks of course of Broon and although he is on the ropes just now he is still a master media manipulator.As far as every foot soldier and phone soldier in the SNP is concerned, for McGhee and Fraser there is a large 'unwelcome' sign on their door.

While Labour howls, the union is busy disintegrating

As globalisation weakens national governments, the break-up of Britain's homogenised state becomes inevitable

Simon Jenkins
Wednesday October 31, 2007
The Guardian

I cannot understand why any hint of Scots independence reduces the British establishment to apoplexy. Save the union, cried Margaret Thatcher and John Major, even as they did their best to undermine it. Save the union, cried Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as if population size were a matter of virility. Save the union, cries the London commentariat, to show its contempt for woad-wearing northerners.

These people have lately had trouble explaining away Alex Salmond. Since the advent of his nationalist government in Edinburgh in May he has enjoyed a honeymoon worthy of Hello! magazine. He is undeniably popular (helping postpone Gordon Brown's general election) and is therefore dismissed as a cheeky smile, a wolf in Celt's clothing, a one-man hidden agenda and a leech on the bum of the English taxpayer. His giveaway promises have sacrificed Scotland's reputation for prudence and his bid to grab "Scotland's oil" is nothing but rabble-rousing.

Article continues

Such truth as may lie in such abuse cannot explain the sea change the visitor to Scotland has detected over the six years since devolution and especially since Salmond's apotheosis. He is the first front-rank Scottish politician who has not emigrated to the bright lights of London, or at least who has returned not just as a colonial governor. He embodies Scotland as his Labour predecessors never did.

Today Edinburgh and Glasgow are emphatically no longer "English" places. As my colleague, Julian Glover, noted on this page yesterday, newspapers, broadcasts and public debates are Scottish, as are books, exhibitions, design and architecture. Scottish conversation with the English is not a long whinge, as once it was. It has confidence. This year's Edinburgh festival seemed for the first time to be in a country called Scotland, not in a part of Britain.

Though the powers of the Scottish parliament are limited and its economic management dependent on London, the very existence of a parliament has drained accountability from the House of Commons to Holyrood. Its eccentric home, as it acquires power, even seems to acquire architectural stature.

What is happening in Scotland is what has been happening throughout Europe. As globalisation makes national government ever less potent, sub-national government becomes stronger and more valued. Old arguments about viability, borders and sovereignties are left behind as centralist excuses, overwhelmed by both sentiment and realpolitik.

With 5 million people, Scotland is larger in population than New Zealand and comparable with Norway. The roots of its political union are historically finite. They lay in defence and commerce, particularly Scotland's eagerness to participate in England's colonial and trading empire. There is no reason why its people should not govern themselves if that is what they want. At present they still enjoy less autonomy from their "federal" capital than Jersey or the Isle of Man.

Devolution is not just a constitution - which merited a referendum, please note - but an attitude of mind. It is an emotional as well as a political phenomenon. When Blair found the Scots opting for distinctive policies on health and education he told Paddy Ashdown he regretted devolution: "You can't have Scotland pursuing policies different from the rest of Britain." Blair never understood the concept, regarding it as politically cosmetic. When he saw it take root in local identity he lost interest, as he did in England's elected mayors. Blair and Brown were both metro-centralists, Blair by nature, Brown by acquired Treasury culture.

Salmond does not need an outsider to tell him he is playing with fire. His subdued performance and gradualist approach to independence were on display at his party conference in Aviemore at the weekend. He has made reckless promises based on British subsidies which no appeal to "Scotland's oil" will realise. The suggestion that Scotland is the third wealthiest nation in Europe is silly. Oil is a finite resource whose royalties should go into endowment, not be used to balance current account budgets. The truth of Scotland's economy is that, like most of Salmond's voters, it depends on London money and must be weaned off it.

This is not a clincher against independence. It merely means that each move to greater autonomy will involve time and pain. Many newly independent states have seen economic surges after taking control of their affairs. But Salmond is spending already. He wants to build roads, cut prescription charges, splurge on universities and employ more police, and he has not even activated his modest income-taxing powers. He may one day hack a deal with London, exchanging his annual subvention (27% more per citizen than in England) for a share of oil revenue. But it is home-grown private-sector enterprise that Scotland needs, not manna from heaven or the sea.

What Salmond has proved is that devolved democracy works. There is a real political accountability in Edinburgh (and to a lesser degree in Cardiff and Belfast). When proper power is delegated, the franchise bites. This suggests that were Gordon Brown to honour his pledge to restore civic autonomy to England, new political juices would start to run there too - which may explain his reluctance.

If England's cities and counties enjoyed the powers of the Scottish parliament, as they did until the second half of the 20th century, they would offer Brown a home-grown answer to the "West Lothian" conundrum. Scottish MPs would no longer be voting on England's health, education and social care policies because they would have been delegated to Cornwall, Yorkshire, Manchester and London - as they are to local government in most of Europe. Powers reserved to the "union parliament" would no longer be so contentious. They would embrace foreign policy and minimum welfare standards.

Even diehard unionists are finding ways of turning devolution to their advantage. The Tories, in the shape of Malcolm Rifkind, want to delegate domestic legislation not to local government but to an English grand committee where Scottish MPs would have no vote, as English MPs have no vote in Edinburgh. If this confused the accountability of the British cabinet, so be it. Blair depended on Tory votes for his education reforms last year. The sovereignty of parliament cannot be defined as the convenience of Her Majesty's government.

In whatever direction devolution now moves, a process is under way, the disintegration of Britain's homogenised state into its geographical components. Labour may bang the antique drum, howling, pleading, insulting and niggling, but the ball is rolling. It is rolling in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Tomorrow it might even roll in England.

[email protected]

The Fib Dems - fibbing as Ever

Lib Dems in favour of excluding Scots MPs
By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:23am GMT 30/10/2007

Pressure on Gordon Brown to cut the power of his fellow Scottish MPs grew last night as one of the contenders to lead the Liberal Democrats backed a policy of "English votes for English laws".

Chris Huhne called for England's 'unfair' position within the UK to be addressed

Chris Huhne did not back Tory proposals for an English Grand Committee at Westminster. However, he insisted that the "anomaly" that allows Scots MPs to vote on English matters — but not Scottish issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament — must be resolved.

Mr Huhne, the MP for Eastleigh, called for England's "unfair" position within the United Kingdom to be addressed as part of a wider constitutional settlement.

"It is an anomaly that Scots MPs vote on matters that affect England, but English MPs do not have similar influence over Scots law because it has been devolved to Holyrood.

"You cannot reform the UK constitution piece-meal. We need a constitutional convention reflecting not just the political class but civil society to come up with proposals fit for a modern, decentralised state."

Mr Brown is facing growing political unease about the advantages his homeland enjoys at the expense of English taxpayers. Yesterday, it emerged that the Prime Minister's decision to authorise the 16?billion Crossrail scheme will deliver a 500?million windfall to his homeland.

Under the Barnett Formula, the complex Treasury arrangement for allocating public money around the United Kingdom, Scotland receives a proportionate share of money spent in London.
The Crossrail project, to run mainline trains across the city, will therefore have the side effect of boosting the budget of the Scottish National Party administration in Edinburgh.

Yesterday's revelation came after David Cameron, the Conservative leader, signalled a review of the controversial formula, which was devised as a temporary measure in the 1970s but has remained in use. Mr Brown has repeatedly refused to allow a review or a recalculation of the formula. According to the Treasury's figures, 1,500 more is spent per capita on public services in Scotland than in England.

The extra money that is available to Scotland's devolved rulers has allowed successive administrations in Edinburgh to be far more generous with services than those available to people in England. Scotland now enjoys free personal care for the elderly and its students do not pay the same tuition fees as those from England.

The Treasury insisted the extra money for Scotland was simply a function of the funding formula. "The Barnett formula means that there is an automatic consequential expenditure for Scotland," said a spokesman.


Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright

Way Ahead

The need for a limited amount of Council house building is obvious. There are dangers however. The perception in the 80s and 90s that Council house occupancy was being subsidised by domestic rates was widespread. It led to Thatcher making the disastrous error of judgment of the Poll Tax. To be handled with circumspection this one.

Government to scrap right to buy

The right of council housing tenants in Scotland to buy their homes is to end, BBC Scotland understands.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also expected to tell MSPs that a new generation of council houses will tackle Scotland's housing crisis.

A number of local authorities have already been given permission to suspend right to buy amid shortages.

Ms Sturgeon will say that the government intends to see new house building rise by almost 50%.

This would take the figure to 35,000 a year by 2015.

At the centre of the strategy will be the reversal of 30 years of "running down the role of local authorities", with new incentives to encourage the construction of a new generation of council houses.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament later, Ms Sturgeon is expected to unveil a range of measures aimed at assisting first time buyers, including government grants, while laying down a challenge to housing associations to improve their operations.

She will also say that the government intends to press ahead with the controversial single survey plan for house sales, which was backed by the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration despite its low take-up during a pilot scheme.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/7070070.stm
Published: 2007/10/31 01:08:43 GMT
BBC MMVII

Feedback and Comment

From Craig Munro,Glasgow SNP

Top article from Macwhirter in the Guardian today that you may wish to circulate

Don't drive Scotland away, Cameron

Alex Salmond is emerging as an unlikely consensus builder in Scotland, while the Conservatives appear to be turning their backs on the union.

Iain Macwhirter

October 31, 2007 3:30 PM

Now here's a funny thing. According to the Scottish Centre for Social Research (SCSR), support for independence has actually gone down in Scotland since the SNP won power in May. Professor John Curtice's unit, which interviewed 1300 voters between June and August, says that support for independence is down to 23% - a ten year low. The popularity of the first minister, Alex Salmond, however, has never been higher, with 44% of respondents giving him seven out of ten or more.

This is the latest illustration of what could be called the Great Caledonian Paradox: that support for separation has declined as support for the party advocating it has risen. The SCSR numbers confirm what we have been seeing in opinion polls over the last five years. It is one of the reasons why the SNP conference in Aviemore at the weekend - its first ever as a governing party - was rather less triumphalist than many expected. Kilts were conspicuously absent, as were claymores - and far from declaring UDI, Alex Salmond called for a cross-party coalition of those willing to seek further constitutional change.
Incredibly, the nationalist first minister has invited the opposition parties to back a referendum in which independence would only be one of several options, along with the status quo and federalism, or "devolution max" in which the Scottish parliament would remain in the UK with enhanced tax powers. On the face of it, this is political suicide. John Curtice's research indicates that federalism is overwhelmingly the favoured option of Scottish voters, with 55% advocating it, against 8% for the status quo and 23% for independence. Would Alex Salmond really want to mark his first term in office by inviting a colossal popular rejection of his own political creed?

I must say I am amazed at the open minded and consensual way the SNP is approaching the constitutional issue, which is making Labour look positively negligent. He really means it too, having faced down the independence fundamentalists in his own party who believe the SNP should be provoking conflict with England. Why on earth, you might ask, has Labour not leapt at this opportunity to resolve the question of independence for a generation? Alex Salmond has himself promised that he would not expect another referendum for fifteen years or so, which means that the risk of a Quebec-style neverendum is not on the cards.

I'm afraid this is just another illustration of the extraordinary political dexterity of Alex Salmond. He has realised that his own party's policy is currently unsellable in Scotland. The Scottish people are intensely conservative and unwilling to embark on risky revolutionary ventures. They don't want to appear anti-English either, despite what Kelvin Mackenzie says, and loathe the idea of setting "family against family" by provoking cross-border antagonisms. There may be no need for Scottish independence to lead to customs posts at the border - but Scots just don't want to take the risk.

So, seeing a gap in the market, Salmond has decided to trade in his policy for what should the opposition's. He has aligned himself with the Liberal Democrats' policy of federalism which was elegantly laid out in the report on the constitution by Lord Steel two years ago. This seminal document has gathered dust on the shelves as the Lib Dems sought to play bottom to Scottish Labour's pantomime horse. It is a blueprint for a Scottish parliament with full autonomy and a range of fiscal powers. Ironically, the new leader of the Scottish Labour party, Wendy Alexander, has implicitly endorsed similar ideas in the past, but has been struck dumb since she took office in August.

Now, what this means is that the whole constitutional debate has been turned upside down. It is the SNP which is behaving like a unionist party right now, seeking to meet its manifesto pledges within the powers of the Scottish parliament and within extremely tight budgetary constraints. Meanwhile the party of the union - the Conservative and Unionist Party as it is known in Scotland - is advocating a form of independence. David Cameron has reportedly agreed with Malcolm Rifkind's suggestion to create an English grand committee in Westminster which would effectively have legislative powers for England. Scottish MPs would become second-class members of parliament.

But worse, he has called for the Barnett formula on Scottish spending to be reviewed to cut supposed subsidies to Scotland. The argument that Scotland is featherbedded by the English taxpayers was always dubious, but it is now patently ridiculous. Scotland's budget will go up 0.5% next year, down from 11.5% in 2003/4. Scottish oil, approaching $90 a barrel, is pumping billions into the UK treasury at a time when the Barnett Formula is actually causing fiscal convergence between Scotland and England.

By adopting a punitive unionism, at the moment when Alex Salmond is adopting moderate and consensual home rule, David Cameron risks preparing the ground for a "velvet divorce" of the kind experienced in the 1990s by the former Czechoslovakia. It is hardly surprising that the most enthusiastic advocates of an English parliament in the UK are the SNP, or that Alex Salmond also wants the Barnett formula to be scrapped. The first minister is a first-rate politician playing a brilliant political game, which the unionist parties seem unable to understand. And the supreme irony is that it is the Salmond who is playing by the rules while the supposed defenders of the union cry foul


From Gus Abraham

Dear Mediawatch

Copies of Bella Caledonia, Scotland's new paper for the republican libertarian socialist left, are available from Wordpower Bookshop in Edinburgh (http://www.word-power.co.uk/) and the DCA in Dundee from today and will be available in Glasgow, Aberdeen and elsewhere later this week.

The paper is pro-independence pro-referendum and wants to expand the idea of self-determination. It has an initial print run of 10,000.

# 1 features Brian Quail on our history of violence, Kevin Williamson on Scotland's Libertarian Left, an interview with historian James Young, Lesley Riddoch on women in the Western Isles and the Brigid Bride lore, and Muhammad Idress Ahmad on an ethical foreign policy for Scotland.

More distribution points, and news of the web launch to follow or for hard copies more information or to support distribution, email: [email protected]


It would be great to feature this in your Mediawatch.

yours in solidarity
on behalf of Mike Small, Kevin Wiliamson
Gus Abraham
www.1820.org.uk

From Clydebuilt

Herald Poll Wasn't as bad as the BBC Coverage

Would it affect the Herald sales figures significantly if we boycotted it.... In the Herald article the SNP were allowed to point out that a more recent poll showed support for independence had increased by 12% up from the low of 23% quoted in the Herald Poll. The BBC were trumpeting this poll all morninig, However they didn't managed to pick up on the SNP statement.

So you could argue that the Heralds reporting was more balanced than the BBC's.

Last week the Record did a reasonable article on Alex Salmond. The only reason it was reasonable was they must think it's a long time to go before the next election.

News coverage in Scotland, is in my opinion becoming more biased against the SNP & independence since the election.

All to often we hear how well the Scottish government have started. However if you relied on the existing Scottish media for your information I doubt you'd share that opinion.


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