Wednesday, 30 March 2016

To report or not to report?

Yesterday I had an interesting debate with someone on Twitter regarding the story published in The National about the latest scandal engulfing Natalie McGarry.  In essence the story is that the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) is unable to properly account for £4,127.62 of its funds.  Ms McGarry's involvement is that she was convener of the GRA from 2011 until last year and, as such, was the main signatory on the association's bank account.  The money appears in the accounts under 'Other payments', but there are no receipts to account for the spending.  Ms McGarry is reported to be being unco-operative regarding the matter.

Essentially there were two grounds for arguing that the article should not have been published in The National:
1. That the story was unsubstantiated gossip
2. That by publishing the story The National was undermining the independence movement

On the subject of unsubstantiated gossip, the main argument was that no-one is named as a source in the article.  This is true.  However, the article is very specific in some of its details, such as the amount of missing money and how it is presented in the accounts, not to mention the fact that the GRA is mentioned specifically, which would make it very easy to verify the story.  Judging by the information given, the meeting at which the matter was discussed seems to have become quite heated, so it would be understandable if people did not want to be named, but were happy to speak off-the-record.  Finally one would imagine that The National would have run the story past their lawyers in order to ensure that they would not be liable to a charge of defamation by Ms McGarry.  All these things would suggest that there is some basis for the story and that there is therefore a legitimate public interest in it.

As for the second point, that The National is undermining the independence movement by publishing the story, this is very much a slippery slope.  This is essentially demanding that The National, as a pro-independence newspaper, should censor its content, on the basis that the Unionist media will be undermining the independence movement anyway, so The National should refrain from adding fuel to the fire.  But where do you draw the line?  Are members of the pro-independence movement to be given what is, in essence, a free pass from any wrongdoing on their part being reported to their supporters by pro-independence media?  The Unionist media would have a field day with that one, using it as proof of their narrative of the SNP as a one-party state which controls the media in Scotland.  And why should independence supporters be shielded from any less-than-stellar behaviour by pro-independence 'superstars'?  Is support for independence so weak that any hint that leading figures in the movement are less than perfect will lead to mass desertion?  I don't think so.

On balance I think The National were right to publish the story.  The independence movement has a right to know how their public figures are behaving, good or bad.  What we don't need is a pro-independence media which is a mirror image of the Unionist media, colluding with the Establishment to cover up bad news and scandal.  The independence movement wants to see a better, fairer Scotland, and that includes allowing the pro-independence media to hold political figures to account where warranted.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

How do you solve a problem like oor Kezia?

How do you solve a problem like oor Kezia?  After this week's car crash of a First Minister's Questions (which even had me face-palming for her), we now get her big speech to her party faithful at the Spring conference.  Well, I say conference, but it was held in Glasgow's IMAX theater which has a maximum capacity of 370, which tells you a lot about the plight that Labour in Scotland finds itself.

Anyway, in her big speech she gives us her vision for what will happen if Labour gets into power in seven weeks time, something which she herself doesn't think will happen apparently.  And what do we get?  Not very much as it turns out.  Even Severin Carrell seems to be struggling here.

The 1p rise in income tax?  Oh yes, that was the one that was going to involve some sort of council rebate to the lowest earners.  Quite how it's going to work is still a bit of a mystery, but they've got at least seven weeks to come up with the answer. 

A guarantee of every Scottish resident being able to see a GP within 48 hours?  But that's already a target of the Scottish government, hampered by the fact that there aren't enough GPs to meet that target due to difficulties with GP recruitment.  So how does Kezia intend to implement her guarantee?  We're not told.

Strict fiscal rules to stop Holyrood from cutting taxes and spending at the same time?  A decent principle, but principles have a habit of being changed once faced with the reality of their implementation.

And that's it.  The rest is just jibes at the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgon in particular, a strategy which clearly isn't working, but it's all they've got.  And Kezia seems to have a particular jealousy of the First Minister.

 I want Nicola Sturgeon's chair, her desk and the possibility of all the powers she has at her finger tips .
she says, managing to sound both megalomaniacal and envious at the same time.  I can't help but think that Kezia would find 'all the powers' to be rather less than she imagines if she were to actually achieve this.  After all, that's what the independence referendum was all about.

Jibes about selfies?  One wonders how often Kezia gets asked for selfies by the public.  That's the point she misses.  Nicola Sturgeon takes selfies with people because people ask her to, not because she offers.  It's a bit like people who tut at someone saying 'I'm on the train' into their mobile.  It's because the person on the other end has almost certainly asked 'where are you?'

Sadly I think Kezia is a fine example of the Peter Principle, and has reached the level of her own incompetence.  And that's a bad thing because Scottish politics needs a decent opposition for the SNP.

Will Kezia hang on as leader after May?  I suspect she will, until after the council elections in 2017.  After that, all bets will be off.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

We're wide awake

Yesterday Wee Ginger Dug published a blog that captures superbly how it feels to be an independista in present-day Scotland.  The sense of possibility and yes, of our own power to effect change has never been stronger.

It's an unintended side-effect of the referendum in 2014.  We learned to question, to cast a critical eye over what we were told, whether by politicians or by the media, to stop taking things at face-value and to look for the hidden motives.  These skills have served us well since September 2014. A sleeping giant is awake, and one that is not inclined to simply turn over and go back to sleep. 

Jim Sillars told us that
 Between 7am and 10pm on the 18th September we are totally sovereign.  We have power in our hands for the first time in our history.  Whether at one minute past ten we remain sovereign and powerful or at one minute past ten we've given it all away and we're powerless.
A very large number of us watched as the small majority elected to give it all away and become powerless.  And instead of accepting defeat, those of us who voted Yes decided that it was worth fighting to get that sovereign power back again.  Initially we were sad and we mourned, but that sadness very quickly turned to rage, a rage that continues to burn within us.

The Unionist parties fully expected that things would go back to normal, where they could play their political games without troubling much about the electorate except when it came time for voting, and even then it was expected that votes were an entitlement that could be taken for granted.  Aghast, they realised the folly of this belief too late and watched powerless as safe seat after safe seat fell to the SNP in the General Election.  It was one of the best nights in my life.

Even now, they don't understand the enormity of what the referendum created.  They don't understand that a large proportion of the electorate finally realised what power we have and we are not inclined to give that power up.  They don't understand that a major part of the appeal of the SNP is the possibility of effecting change, of getting rid of the tired old political system and replacing it with something different.  It won't be perfect, but it would better serve our needs than the current system.

History may well come to the conclusion that David Cameron's primary error was to allow the referendum in the first place.  The law of unintended consequences was never better illustrated.