Monday, December 20, 2010

"Of Course, They Know They Can Trust Us Not To Be Really Impartial"

The above is a quote from Lord Reith, who wrote those words in his diary following the decision by the Cabinet not to take control over the Corporation during the 1926 General Strike. In light of some of the bare-faced faleshoods perpetuated by the Corporation's Scottish outpost over weather and tax powers, as well as the belligerence of certain presenters when confronted with the existence of SNP Ministers, little seems to change.

The piece below is due to appear shortly in the Scots Independent. As the noise against the SNP reaches a shrillness unparallelled since Gordon Brown's baseball-bat approach of 1999, it's time to start returning a few of these serves with interest...

Winter's Here – So Let's Get The Gloves Off

Summer, according to the Rolling Stones, was the time for fighting in the streets. Clearly no-one had bothered to share this information with the student demonstrators in sleepy London town just before Christmas, as a minority opted to vent their anger by rioting against the coalition government's plans to lift the cap on tuition fees in England's universities.

As the debris is cleared up and a winter of discontent falls upon us as surely as snow which the BBC fails to forecast, the time is right for the SNP to get the gloves off. For make no mistake, a thoroughly competent and responsible SNP Government which has played scrupulously by the rules since coming to office, needs to start punching back hard against a political and media establishment which seems willing to stoop to any level of misinformation in order to try and discredit it.

In all the talk of enhanced powers for Holyrood, who amongst us knew that weather and the freezing point of salted water had been secretly devolved to become the responsibility of the Scottish Government? The ministerial demise of Stewart Stevenson, together with the nonsense over the readiness of Holyrood's pocket money tax powers which no-one planned to use, has given us an object lesson, as if any were needed, in the willingness of the Holyrood opposition and the Westminster government to grandstand when it suits.

All's fair in love and politics, though, and thanks to the talents of the SNP ministerial team, navigating the choppy waters of minority government has been made to look rather easier at times than it actually is. The opposition has, of course, always been able to bring proceedings to a grinding halt whenever they wanted. Increasingly, the temptation will be, as over minimum alcohol pricing, to try and do the same in the remainder of this parliamentary session, trying to claim as many apologies and ministerial scalps as they can along the way, whether justified or not.

The overhet nonsense over Holyrood's useless tax powers, just as with the Megrahi release, allowed the opposition to pull together motions compiling a list of grievances against the government, while declining to put forward the alternative proposals which would have surely fractured their little coalitions of convenience. Parliament can unite to pass a motion declaring the moon is made of cream cheese if it so desires. It doesn't make it so, yet the resulting fall out from these occasions generates headlines for days afterwards, which our friends in the media are then only too happy to try and draw wider inferences from.

The election will be won outside parliament, but it can certainly be lost in the television studios. The ridiculous slant of certain BBC Scotland presenters over the weather was as nothing compared to their partisan fanning of the flames over the 'lapsing' of the tax powers. No thanks to the BBC, we now know that the powers had been mothballed by the previous Lib/Lab coalition, long before the SNP took office. We also know that the Secretary of State for Scotland was on maneuvers, as he tried in vain to cut the feet from the SNP critique of the inadequate Calman tax proposals, while attempting to circumvent long-standing Treasury funding statements to leave Holyrood with the bill for paying to administer them.

However, the willingness of an obedient BBC Scotland to run after this particular stick the instant that Moore bellowed 'fetch!', ought to give any remaining supporters of the licence fee pause for thought about whether the Corporation can any longer be trusted to report impartially. Mike Russell's recent demolition of Gordon Brewer on Newsnight had nationalists cheering into their cocoa - we need to see more of this in the weeks and months ahead, and to tackle square-on the confrontational approach and apparent determination of certain programmes not to give the SNP position a fair crack of the whip.

The opposition, as well as the BBC, is in danger of crossing a line in public credibility. Whether over Megrahi, tax powers which no party intended to use and which are soon for the chop anyway, or indeed the weather, voters can spot nonsense and opportunism a mile off. As they decide who to praise and who to blame in May, we need to be making our case vigourously, without giving any of the quarter that our opponents are clearly not prepared to give to us.

As well as robustly defending our positives, the SNP also needs to rediscover the ability to showcase the paucity of its opponents. Writing of First Minister's Questions recently in The Herald, Rab McNeil put it superbly in describing the way Labour members conduct themselves: “Every week, starey-eyed, purple-faced, vein-straining hatred abounds.” And that's before you even consider averting your gaze from the supposed better performers on Labour's front bench to what lies beyond.

The SNP government has a great story to tell about how it has protected services and prioritised public investment in the face of deep Westminster cuts. However, a record of competence and mild-mannered pointing out of the error of the ways of others will not be enough to defend this against a sea of belligerence, feral opportunism and lack-wit populism. To get our message across and advance next May, we need to leave the emollience of the civil service briefs behind more often and start putting to good use the cold political steel we developed from years of hard opposition slog.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hammond Must Go!

From BBC News:

North-west England travel warning after heavy snowfall

Hundreds of vehicles spent the night stranded on the M6 after a lorry jack-knifed in the snowy conditions.

Ambulance bosses warned of delays reaching patients in some areas, while transport operators said there was severe disruption to services.

Liverpool's Premier League match against Fulham and Wigan versus Aston Villa are both called off.

Up to 10in of snow fell in parts of Cheshire, Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside on Friday night.

It caused widespread disruption on the roads and the M6 crash happened at about 0030 GMT, leading to tailbacks and stranded vehicles on the M61, M62 and M58.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick are shut too. Since snow was forecast, there's really only one honourable route for the transport minister to take. Following the inevitable tabloid hounding, and with BBC North West presenters baying for blood at the head of the charge, Phillip Hammond must surely do the decent thing and resign immediately.

What? Hammond's a Tory Minister and this happened in England, you say? And the BBC has done its job of reporting the facts without the greetin-faced editorialising we normally expect from the Scottish outpost? Oh, that's all right, then. As you were...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tomorrow's News, Today

As support for Scottish Independence hits 40%, with 44% against, an early draft of a political story certain to appear in tomorrow's Daily Mail/Daily Record/Scotsman etc reaches me. I hope they won't mind if I steal their thunder by posting it up here in advance...


The SNP was left reeling last night after a fresh opinion poll showed that a majority of Scots continue to resist their separatist agenda to rip Scotland out of the UK.

In a political body blow to First Minister Alex Salmond, the results of the survey, newly released by pollsters TNS, show that support for independence has soared by a disastrous 9% since 2009, rising from 31% to 40%. Support for the union meanwhile continues to remain steady, dropping to 44%, with 16% of respondents unsure.

Phillip McCludgie, Labour MSP for Brigadoon Central, last night said that the result was 'another nail in the coffin' for the SNP's dreams of a separate Scotland.

“Alex Salmond will be choking on his porridge this morning. These results are a disaster for the SNP, and confirm that even after his Mugabe style power-grab in 2007 when he unfairly managed to persuade more people to vote SNP than Labour, he still hasn't managed to convince Scots to back his mad plans.

“Everyone knows that independence would be a disaster, with higher debt and spending cuts needed to bail out global banks with the word Scotland somewhere in their name. This would obviously be different from the higher debt and spending cuts of the LibCon Coalition, and very different from the much fairer higher debt and spending cuts which Labour would have brought in if we'd won the election.

“A referendum would just be an excuse for those haggis-bashing wierdos to run around shouting 'och aye the noo' at one another, and distract everyone from the important task of sorting out the complete hash Gordon Brown made of running the economy... er, I mean securing recovery in these difficult times for hard-working families.”

Scottish Conservative Leader Annabel Doily welcomed the results as a boost ahead of next year's elections, and said it proved how 'obvious' it was that Scots continued to reject independence.

“These figures just go to show that the SNP is living in a fantasy land”, she said. “It's obvious that independence remains hugely unpopular with ordinary Scots. That's why we're right not to have a referendum, because if people did vote for independence, then it would upset the overwhelming majority who time and time again say in these polls that they oppose separatism.

“It's time that Scots stood on their own two feet and took some responsibility for their future. We in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will never resile from our long-standing and solemn commitment to do everything we can to get in the way of that happening.”

We couldn't be bothered to get a quote from anyone in the SNP at the time of going to press.

© All Scottish Newspapers, between now and May.