Saturday, 27 February 2016

Ending Trident

Corbyn, Sturgeon and Wood set to rally together for Trident protest

Corbyn, Sturgeon and Wood will all be speaking at Saturday's Trident protest Credit: PA
Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood will be putting political differences aside when they join together to support a major protest against the Trident nuclear system today.
The three party leaders will all speak at a protest rally in London as they argue that the nuclear weapons should be disarmed ahead of a Commons vote on the use of Trident, expected later this year.
The rally will protest against the use of nuclear weapon carrying Trident submarines Credit: Danny Lawson/PA
During the event Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is expected to say that nuclear weapons should be thrown into the "dustbin of history" as she argues "it is a disgrace that £100 billion and more will be diverted to nuclear weapons that no one should want and no one should ever use".
Just as war is a human-made construct, so too are weapons of mass destruction. It is the will of humanity that will secure their abolition.
– Leanne Wood
The government's defence minister Philip Dunne has argued that "disarming now would be a reckless gamble with our national security."
Disarming now would be a reckless gamble with our national security that would play into the hands of our enemies.
– Philip Dunne
The demonstration is expected to be the biggest of its kind in a generation with coaches full of union officials, faith leaders, anti-nuclear activists and anti-war campaigners expected to travel to the capital from across the UK, including Scotland, where the Trident submarines are based.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Alex Salmond, on the warpath

Is the First Minister lucky?

"I know he is a talented general but is he a lucky one?”
So Napoleon famously remarked about his generals.
The last two weeks tells us that his adage may also apply to our own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She is a brilliant politician certainly but also it appears a lucky one.
Nicola’s chief source of luck is in her opponents. In the space of a few days both Labour and Tory Parties have delivered a clear and dominating election theme into Nicola’s capable hands. They have virtually presented her with the Scottish election.
First the Tory London Treasury were caught making a clumsy attempt to fiddle Scotland’s finances.
Then the Labour Party suggested a tax rise for working people. Why either of these parties thought they could get away with such tactics on the eve of an election is beyond comprehension. Instead they have delivered Ms Sturgeon, already in a commanding position, an unbeatable platform for the forthcoming Scottish elections.
The Scotland Bill “fiscal framework” debate has been on slow burn for the last few months.
However it has now caught alight with a vengeance. In the blue saltire corner is Scottish Finance Minister, “honest John” Swinney. In the red, white and blue corner is Tory Chancellor “slippery Gideon” Osborne.
The underlying issues are serious, both in terms of the money but even more so in terms of the principle at issue.
In the last desperate days of the referendum campaign with the Yes campaign on the brink of victory the Westminster parties issued a last ditch attempt to convince people to vote No.
It was too important to be a mere promise and so it was called “a Vow”. The “Vow” was that Scotland would be delivered of huge powers of “devo to the max”, “home rule” or “near federalism” and keep the Barnett formula on Scotland’s spending. Too good to be true? Turns out it was!
With the vote safely in the Westminster bag, the “Vow” started to be watered down under the resultant Smith Commission and that realisation was one reason for the total rout of the unionist parties at last year’s general election. This was not the fault of the estimable Robert Smith.
The all-party commission was forced to proceed at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy and the unionist parties refused to sign up for anything that could be said to resemble “home rule” never mind “near federalism”.
However, Smith himself did insist on one crucial protection for Scotland and that was that any proposals on financial devolution should be delivered with “no detriment” to either side that there should be no financial advantage or disadvantage just by the delivery of additional powers.
Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, calculated a potential loss to Scotland of as much as £7 billion over a 10-year period certainly but still a fair amount of change and in total conflict with the “no detriment” principle.
At issue is whether future reductions from the Scottish Budget should follow the “Levels Deduction” system favoured by the Treasury or the “Per Capita Indexed Deduction” method proposed by the Scottish Government.
For the Tories in Scotland it is a PR disaster. After years of trying to shake off their anti-Scottish image, and months of boasting that they could catch Labour for second place, they have been caught with their sticky fingers well and truly stuck in the cookie jar.
Now also entering from stage right comes a totally gormless Labour Party.
Desperate to find an issue any issue on which to fight the election campaign they have proposed a general increase in the new 10 pence rate of income taxation. This 1p tax grab would hit 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers including almost 500,000 pensioners.
Even if we leave to one side the embarrassing fact that just a few weeks ago Labour were arguing against this move, forget that they are proposing a tax rise for people on incomes of £11,000 and upwards and also ignore their total inability to explain how their rebate system would work this is still a completely crazy policy.
It means that Labour’s “answer” to Tory austerity is to transfer the burden onto Scottish workers. Higher tax on working people is not an end to austerity. It is an example of austerity. That misunderstanding is at the heart of Labour’s muddle.
The Scottish Government should stand firm against the Tory fiddle and Labour’s muddle. Instead Nicola Sturgeon should take her case to the country, ask the people for their support and thank the gods of politics for her luck in having two such kamikaze opponents.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Brexit: Scotland to declare independence if Britain votes to leave EU, says Nicola Sturgeon

Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Published 20/02/2016 | 17:32
British Prime Minister David Cameron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Getty Images 1
British Prime Minister David Cameron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Getty Images
If Britain votes to leave the European Union against the wishes of Scotland than a second independence referendum is likely inevitable, says Nicola Sturgeon.
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The leader of the Scottish National Party and of Scotland's devolved government made the comment as British Prime Minister David Cameron announced June 23 as the date the UK would vote on its ongoing membership of the European Union.

Read More: British Prime Minister sets June 23 date for Britain's in/out EU referendum

Ms Sturgeon said she supports staying in the EU, and that polls show the majority of Scots also back this view.
"Across the UK the polls suggest this campaign is on a knife-edge and that's why I think it's important for the in-campaign to be positive," Sturgeon said.
The Scottish vote, which is about 5 million, however is dwarfed by that of England which represents about 84 pc of the population of the United Kingdom.

Read More: Irish workers in UK will not be affected by EU reform bid - Kenny

"If we get into the situation, where Scotland votes to stay in, the rest of the UK votes to come out, then people in Scotland will have big questions they will want to look at again about whether Scotland should be independent."
Scots rejected independence by 55-45 pc in a vote in 2014 but since then the SNP has gained further strength, taking 56 of the 59 seats representing Scotland in the national parliament in London in last May's election.
Mr Cameron has come out in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, saying that he had securing a deal from other EU leaders that would give Britain "a special place within Europe".

Read More: Merkel: British EU demands are 'justified' and 'necessary'

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said he did not rate the EU deal that Cameron had secured.
If "we were dragged out against our will by the votes of a much larger English (electorate), then the pressure for another independence referendum in Scotland would be irresistible and I think very rapid," Mr Salmond said.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Independence if UK leaves the EU

Almost six in ten Scots would vote for independence if UK quits EU

European Union flag. Cropped.
Brussels break-up: Scots are not keen on quitting the EU. Fdecomite,

By Stephen Daisley

Almost 60% of Scots would vote to quit the United Kingdom if Britain leaves the European Union, a new poll finds.
The survey commissioned by STV News shows strong Scottish support for Britain’s continuing membership of the EU and suggests a correlation between splitting from Brussels and increased backing for independence.
The research also finds a towering lead for the SNP ahead of May's Holyrood election and firm opposition to raising income tax.
Some 62% of Scots are inclined to support the remain campaign in the EU referendum, 26% expect to support the leave effort and 12% say they don’t know.
Across the nation as a whole, 55% of Britons will vote to stay while 36% will endorse Brexit, with 9% putting themselves down as don’t knows.
A further six in ten told pollsters from Ipsos MORI Scotland they had “definitely decided” how they would cast their ballot, while 36% admitted they may still change their mind.
In findings that will cause concern at Westminster, support for independence would receive a boost from a European breakaway.
Posed a hypothetical scenario in which Scotland votes to stay in the EU but the country overall votes to leave, 54% would subsequently back independence compared to 39% who would vote to keep the UK together. A further 7% did not know how they would vote.
Scots continue to hold contrasting attitudes towards London and Brussels. While a clear majority wish to pool sovereignty with the latter, most want to secede from the UK.
If a second independence referendum were held tomorrow, without any change in Britain’s relationship to the EU, 49% of Scots would cast their ballot for Yes, 45% for No and 5% said they didn't know. With don’t knows stripped out, 52% of Scots back independence while 48% oppose it.
The Ipsos MORI research also indicates the SNP is on course for another landslide victory in the Scottish Parliament election in May.
Among those likely to vote in May, 53% will give their constituency vote to the SNP, 20% to Scottish Labour, 16% to the Scottish Conservatives, 6% to the Scottish Liberal Democrats and 4% to other parties. This translates to a 33-point SNP lead over Labour.
This is largely in line with how Scots intend to cast their second ballot for regional MSPs, except for the level of support seen for the Scottish Greens.
Almost half (49%) say they will favour the SNP on the regional list, 19% will back Labour, 15% will support the Tories, 8% the Lib Dems and 6% the Greens. A further 2% will back other parties. Here the Nationalists enjoy a 30-point lead over the main opposition party.
The findings confirm the SNP’s unassailable electoral position north of the border and will make painful reading for Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who appears not to have dented the unprecedented popularity of the Nationalists and Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister remains far and away the most popular politician in Scotland, with a net satisfaction rating of +39, an almost mirror image of attitudes to David Cameron, who scores -38.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has still not won round voters in Scotland, where his net satisfaction sits at -13, although Kezia Dugdale rates at +5.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson sits on +8 while Scottish Lib Dem boss Willie Rennie is on -4. The public’s second-favourite political figure after Sturgeon is Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, who enjoys a +19 approval score.
The poll also calls into question assumptions about Scotland's attachment to social democratic principles. Asked their preferred policy on income tax, 54% said they wanted it to remain at the current level while a further 10% wish to see it cut by 1p in the pound. Less than a third (30%) support raising the levy by 1p and a further 7% said they did not know.
The results suggest Scottish Labour's proposal to hike income tax by 1p to offset Scottish Government cuts to council budgets will struggle to gain traction with the electorate.
Ipsos MORI conducted telephone interviews with 1000 people over the age of 16 between February 1 and 7. Where figures do not tally to 100%, this may be due to computer rounding or the exclusion of don’t knows.