Friday, 22 January 2010

Adam Ingram MP Saves The Queen

As a convinced republican, who doesn't think we should select our head of state from one particular (and extremely dysfunctional) family, I take a close interest in matters monarchical.

Now, Roseanna Cunningham is unashamedly republican. Nothing wrong with that. So why, do you imagine that a random Labour backbencher, Adam Ingram MP, with no locus whatsoever to interfere in this matter, was so quick to call for her resignation over the Balmoral path episode, when she so patently has no case to answer?

Could it perhaps be Mr Ingram's background as a proud, flute-playing member of the avowedly loyalist Orange Order?

No surrender!

R of S

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Constitutional Law According To Annabel Goldie

I was fascinated by Annabel Goldie's speech last night to the Royal College of Surgeons, reported in today's Scotsman. She reportedly said:-

"If the Conservatives do win the next British general election and we have more seats in Scotland, some will try to argue that we have no mandate…..Let me nail this nonsense now. This is a British general election, to elect a British government and a British prime minister. People in Scotland want devolution, but they also want to be part of Britain, and that means they want to be part of the Westminster democratic process".

Now, Wikipedia informs me that Ms Goldie graduated from Strathclyde Uni in 1971 with an LLB and went on to practice as a solicitor. You have to wonder what she was doing (boozing? chasing men?) the day when her Constitutional Law lecturer discussed McCormick –v- Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), a seminal case in Scots constitutional law which contained the following judgement of Lord Cooper, the then Lord President. He said:-

"The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law. It derives its origin from Coke and Blackstone, and was widely popularised during the nineteenth century by Bagehot and Dicey, the latter having stated the doctrine in its classic form in his Law of the Constitution. Considering that the Union legislation extinguished the Parliaments of Scotland and England and replaced them by a new Parliament, I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. That is not what was done."

So Annabel, here's a free refresher for you.

1. The Union did not displace the traditional Scottish constitutional law principle of the sovereignty of the people.
2. The English doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament has no application in Scotland.
3. The Conservatives will very probably win the election without needing Scottish votes.
4. But, with a small handful of seats out of 59, the sovereign Scottish people will have rejected them, and they will have no democratic mandate to govern Scotland.
5. There will, again, be a grotesque democratic deficit. Like in the 80s and 90s.
6. And people like me will not let you forget it. Not for a moment. Neither, I hope, will our MSPs.

The Tories - they STILL don't get it, do they?

R of S

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Let's Go Down the Pub

So, the minimum pricing/what-to-do-about-the bevvy 'debate' continues, with the SNP, the police, the medical profession (and the English labour party) on one side and the Labour party, their Lib-Dem mini-me partners, the Tories, the drinks industry and the entire Scottish media on the other.

Enough has been said elsewhere about the antics of the opposition parties and their media wing – suffice it to say that, had the SNP had the 'oppose anything at any cost' mindset which the current opposition parties do, then smoking would still be legal in public places. I believe that Labour, in particular, should hang their heads in shame at their attitude to this issue.

No, I'm much more interested in the attitude of the drinks lobby, because I think they're missing a trick here. Minimum pricing or some other sort of crackdown on drinking is going to happen at some point soon, and I think they'd be well-advised to adopt a more nuanced approach. If I were advising them, I'd be trying to win concessions for pubs to counterbalance the inevitable regulatory hit which the off-trade will receive. They should be saying something like this:-

1. OK, we admit that alcohol abuse causes social problems;
2. We think that excessive consumption at home/in streets is caused not by price per se, but by the price differential between off-sales and on-sales ie pubs and clubs.
3. Pubs/clubs are, generally, a safe and well-regulated drinking environment where the behaviour and consumption of patrons is influenced by the pub staff and fellow customers.
4. Accordingly, there should be an equalisation of price between on sales and off-sales (perhaps even a reversal, so that drinks in pubs are cheaper) in order to get more people into pubs and fewer drinking at home/on the street.
5. This creates jobs, community spirit etc.

Just my view of course, but I think this would be a positive development. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I reckon that cheaper drinks inside pubs than outside them is the way to go.

It also has tactical merits which might prove useful to the Government. For starters, it would divide the drinks lobby, in that some of them would be supportive of this kind of reform. Pub landlords, CAMRA etc. would come onside instantly. To divide is to conquer…..It would also play well with the small business vote and with your average respectable pub-going voter.


R of S

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Humiliation of Ian Gray

Poor old Ian Gray. As the Telegraph reports today, UK Health Secretary Andy Burnham has come out in favour of minimum pricing for alcohol. His proposals appear to be identical to the SNP's, although not surprisingly he has failed to admit that…..more surprisingly, though, he seems to have completely ignored the settled policy of his party in Scotland. You can imagine the conversation:-

Civil Servant: Er, minister, this minimum pricing thing, I wonder whether we should consult the Scottish Government?
Andy Burnham: No way. I nicked the idea from them.
Civil Servant : What about your Labour colleagues in Scotland?
Andy Burnham : I don't care what McConnell thinks.
Civil Servant : It's Ian Gray now.
Andy Burnham : Who?

What will Gray do now? Humiliated by his own party. Sole tactic appears to be opposing everything the SNP do, regardless of merit, with zero success. Can't make a dent in Salmond at FMQs or any other time. Lanarkshire labour mafia plotting against him. Jim Murphy interfering at every turn. Zero profile with the public. Labour about to lose Westminster.

Zero chance of victory in Scotland in 2011 unless they can somehow raise their game – which looks highly unlikely given the calibre of individuals on the Labour benches.

How much worse can it get?

R of S

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Law and the BBC

As a practising lawyer (cue old joke about not practising hard enough) I have followed the saga of the General Election debates with interest. My view, having looked at the relevant broadcasting codes/guidelines and relevant case law is that the SNP would succeed in preventing the debate being broadcast in Scotland if they were not treated equally with the other three major parties.

The more interesting question is whether the BBC and others were aware when they announced the debates that they would be unlawful in Scotland, or whether they were simply ignorant of the rules. I'd like to think it was the latter, but I have heard on the legal grapevine that the BBC's original proposal was to hold the debates before the writ was moved for the GE, thus avoiding the issue by holding the debates outside the election period.

If true, this means that the BBC, Sky and ITV are guilty of one of more of the following acts:-

1. Knowingly proposing an unlawful event, in breach of the relevant rules; and/or
2. Ignorance of electoral or broadcasting law; and/or
3. Seeking to circumvent electoral and broadcasting law by scheduling debates immediately prior to an election period i.e. during the 'phoney war'.

Now, I don't really care about ITV's or Sky's conduct in all of this. They're commercial organisations, don't get public money and can be expected to push boundaries in pursuit of profit. The BBC, on the other hand, is paid for by us on a mandatory basis through the TV licence. Failure to pay the licence fee results in criminal proceedings. Meantime, they act as the media wing of the Labour party in Scotland and entirely fail to represent huge swathes of the country either geographically or politically.

This is where I think it gets interesting. Whilst power of broadcasting is reserved to Westminster, enforcement of the TV licence depends on the administration of criminal justice, which is devolved. As far as I can see, there is nothing that the BBC can do if the SNP decide to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee. Imagine – Kenny Macaskill announces a press conference at which he advises Scots that, should they decide not to renew their TV licences, they will not be prosecuted. There would be joy unconfined, and each household would be given a personal fiscal boost of £142.50. Perhaps it might even leave room for an unbiased national media to grow afresh.

That should be the stick with which Salmond threatens to beat the BBC, unless they promise to provide a level playing field from now on. It's time to take the gloves off, Alex.

R of S

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Top Ten for 2010

Welcome to my new Scottish politics blog! I've never blogged before, but it's time to scratch that itch. Will anyone take any notice? We'll see....

I thought I'd kick off with my top 10 political predictions for 2010.

1. David Cameron becomes PM after Labour are annihilated in England. Majority of 29.

2. Labour win the popular vote in Scotland, but an inevitably-marginalised SNP do better than expected with 13 seats.

3. The Conservatives double their Scottish representation with 2 seats and instal Lord McLetchie as their colonial governor.

4. The increasingly pointless LibDems are squeezed north and south of the border, with resultant pressure on Clegg and Tavish.

5. Expenses fallout claims the egregious Eric Joyce MP, with the SNP as beneficiary.

6. Cameron introduces Calman-lite, with no meaningful power being transferred, under advice from Lord Forsyth

7. Brown is replaced by Harman, with none of the young guns being willing to be leader at the start of an inevitable 8-12 year spell in the wilderness.

8. A Labour MSP crosses the floor to join the the SNP.

9. The primary Scottish political issue becomes, once more, democratic deficit and the Labour party get on the devo-max bandwagon thus ensuring a Holyrood majority in favour of it.

10. A record number of Scots decline to pay television tax in response to the BBC's increasingly hysterical pro-union bias.

Comments welcome!!

R of S