HERE’S THE NEW CABINET

So, this is the new cabinet, with junior ministers to be announced tomorrow.

Personally, I’m sorry to see Shona Robison, my own MSP and a friend, go, but having read her letter of resignation, I can understand why she made the choice to resign.  Shona has had a hard year with the death of both her parents and a personal health scare to cope with. She is in a new relationship now and I wish her every happiness. I hope she’ll continue to be our MSP because she’s a damned good one.

Britain spends less than most of Europe on its health services, below the EU average, and way below countries like France and Germany, but for all that, Shona has managed to make NHSS the best of the four UK services. Jeane Freeman has big boots to fill, but her first-rate setting up of Social Security Scotland makes me sure we will be in safe hands.

Jackson Carlaw put out a generous and courteous tweet:

I shadowed for many years & appreciated her genuine concern for the NHS. A hugely challenging brief & while did not call for her to go, now is the time for fresh leadership & thinking. On a personal level, I wish her well & thank her for her courtesy.

Anas Sarwar, on the other hand, not only made a bit of a mess of the grammar but was left looking rather petty and silly by comparison:

A personal congratulations to Humza, too. I remember Munguin, he and I met on the Edinburgh March in 2012. He was busy, but he took time to meet with Munguin and have a photograph taken with him (which I have subsequently managed to mislay). He may have uttered a few words to me as well!

He’s done a great job with transport… again, Scottish trains, poor by EU standards, are the best in the UK. It is gratifying to see his promotion to Justice Secretary.

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Post Script:

Some comments on Sarwar’s tweet…

Anas, my husband is a hospital consultant and has been for decades. He is clear that under the NHS has never been better. He swears that under it was an utter shambles. So suggest you get help for your verbal diarrhoea (LMR)

Just spoke to a Senior Specialist Nurse in the NHS and I quote: “. needs to stop playing political football with the NHS. He’s just shown why Labour aren’t fit to govern” (Colin Alexander Storrier)

I work in the NHS in Glasgow. I have friends and relatives in Wales and England and I can tell you that the service we have up here in Scotland is miles ahead of what they have elsewhere. (Purple Monkey)

Factually incorrect and seriously lacking class. I give you Anas Sarwar, who luckily is destined never to be in charge of anything. ( )

Delete this, you poor excuse for a human being and public servant. Once you’ve deleted this, delete your account you quilt. The legacy of Ms Robison is the best NHS in UK and that really sticks in your craw! Now, sling your hook! (Davidlikesguys)

Well if failure is the best performing Health service in the U.K What the hell would you call what’s going on in And as far as funding goes It’s Central government to blame in but the SNP’s fault in Scotland? How would you square that? (Lez)

And there are many many more…

 TELT!

STOP CARRYING ON DICK

Today’s homelessness figures are a devastating reminder of the impact austerity has had on so many lives. There should be no excuse for failing to end homelessness in Scotland. This should be a priority for the Scottish Government, as it is for .

It seems to me that Richard Leonard is as calamity prone as Theresa Maybot. And that’s saying something.

Of course, Mr Leonard is quite right to be concerned about homelessness but his concern mixed with implied criticism of the government would have been more credible and believable if these uncomfortable facts hadn’t been immediately to hand.

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Rottweiler Reid, as Tweeter, Tradasro said,  might like to put some of them up at his £3 million house.

The there’s this embarrassment for the party of the people:

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Yes, there probably wouldn’t be nearly as many homeless people on the streets and in friends’ and relatives’ houses or bed and breakfasts, if only Labour hadn’t voted with the Tories for cuts of  £75 million, as Deryck de Rokesburge pointed out.

And, during the time that Labour and Liberal Democrats formed the government, they built somewhere around 6 council houses.

Perhaps if they had made that 60, or 600, or better still 6,000, there would be fewer people without a home?

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I really thought that Labour was wise to elect Mr Leonard. I knew absolutely nothing about him; had never seen him or heard him… or even heard OF him, but I reckoned he would be better for the country than Anas Sarwar, whom I had seen a few times in the London parliament. A less articulate or impressive speaker would be hard to find, I thought! However bad he was, Mr Leonard had to be better, thought I!

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But since the first hour of his election victory when he hot-footed across the country for a photo opportunity with some workers at Bi-Fab whose jobs the government had just saved, and tried to take credit for it… although the unions and the Greens were tweeting their thanks to Nicola Sturgeon, he has made mess after mess of his attacks on Nicola.

Now, I support the SNP, but I don’t believe that they get everything right all the time. So I would like to see a largely constructive opposition, which, in a minority government, is something you really need.

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Of course, it takes an intelligent and mature opposition party, and party leader, to manage that. To an extent, Annabel Goldie was such a leader. Although I profoundly disagreed with her politics, she was sensible and intelligent enough to realise that the way to get things done was to accept that not everything that Alex Salmond’s government did was necessarily wrong. To criticise where criticism was due (I saw her do that at FMQs) and to encourage and enable by working together, when there was a good idea. (Incidentally, I met her once at parliament and she was utterly charming.)

 ruth£

Unfortunately, the quality of leadership of the main opposition parties, Tory and Labour alike, have since these days, deteriorated drastically.

They seem to have one policy between them. And that is SNP BAAAAAD.

So if Dick wants to carry on any longer than the average for a Labour leader (around 2.5 years), maybe he should sit down with his team of advisors and think before he blasts off in the SNP BAAAAAAAAD mode.

The SNP may be imperfect, but it would take some doing the beat the hypocrisy and lack of policies from this rump of a party.

I’ll let John have the final word…

Give us policy detail or are you just carping on again from the sidelines?

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CONGRATULATIONS…

…to Richard Leonard

aal

I really know nothing about him. In fact, I’d never heard of him before this year’s contest.

I read that he is genuinely in the Corbyn Camp (unlike Kezia and Anas, who just said they were when Corbyn was on the up, and said they weren’t when he was on the down). If he takes the party to the left, it will be a new experience for the SNP to have an ally on many of the social justice questions. It will also, of course, create competition for the left vote. That could damage the SNP and it might boost the Tory vote as Blairite voters melt away from a Leonard-led Labour Party.

It will be interesting to see what his view on Europe turns out to be, and how likely he is to want to work with Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon to stop Scotland and Wales being dragged into a disastrous hard Brexit.

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The contest was apparently divisive and accusations of cheating and talking “pish” abounded. Of course, people always say that it is all behind them as the loser swears allegiance to the winner… but it never REALLY is behind them, so Leonard will have to watch his back. Jackie Baillie may be a figure of fun, but I suspect she could still be a dangerous enemy. One of his first jobs will be to unite a parliamentary party that may largely have voted for his opponent.

He takes power at a difficult time in any case. At the same time as learning his new job, he will have to manage the fall out from the Alex Rowley business ensuring above all that Mr Rowley gets a fair hearing. We must be mindful that lack of opportunity to clear his name may have contributed to the death of an AM in Wales.

And, it can’t help that one of his MSPs has decided to absent herself for a month or so to take part in reality tv in Australia. People might ask, which other public servants could simply decide to do that all by themselves… teachers, doctors, rent rebate clerks, social workers?

UP YOUR GAME A BIT, ANAS; WE WANT YOU TO WIN

 

 

aanus
Let’s be fair, it could happen to anyone who doesn’t check their leaflets!

 

OK, Anas. Let’s be fair, we all know it’s a typo, someone putting it together got it the wrong ways round. Maybe, though, it would be an idea to ensure a bit more careful proofreading of your leaflets. There is a certain carelessness in your team over that!

 

aaaf
I’ve heard of singing from the same hymn sheet, but goodness me, a word for word endorsement. It’s almost like you wrote it yourself!

 

But, in any case, I don’t want to put you down at the moment. I really, really hope that you get the job.

Although you almost certainly won’t do the tax thing, whatever it is, because you have very little power to do anything at all with taxes, I have to agree with the sentiments behind it. Tax is a mess. It favours the rich. It needs reform.

The trouble is that I can quite honestly see that at least some in your party would love to be able to do it. But when the reshaping of the responsibilities of the Scottish parliament was being discussed, you guys in Labour did nothing to push for a wider range of tax-raising powers to be devolved…as was the case with so many other powers, including minimum wage (we think we have your measure on that). Even the Tories were prepared to devolve more than you were. You guys were pretty much against all of it.

aaasm

So tax raising remains largely the prerogative of Philip Hammond, a Tory, and a rather rich one, who sees no need to change the system which massively favours the rich…ie him and his mates.

We all know that the Scottish parliament can increase income tax… indeed they already announced that, although they were not going to do that, they were going to resist the UK decision to take some tax off those earning over £45,000, described as the largest tax reduction since the time of Mrs Thatcher. So not a rise, but not a decrease for the well off either. And we’re pretty much hobbled every other way.

Alas, tax-free thresholds are not within the remit of the Scottish government or parliament, because that could make a huge difference to the worst off people. A tax-free allowance of maybe £16,000 a year would make a huge difference to those on poverty wages.

Of course, a country can be bold with tax reform, but it absolutely has to have a wide range of tax powers within which to work, to balance the need for spending, with the absolute right for people to keep as much of what they earn as possible. Of course, if folk earned a bit more and shareholders took rather less, that would help too.

In 1979, Mrs Thatcher made huge changes to the rate of income tax. Massive cuts for the rich, and small but noticeable cuts for the poor. The reforms reduced the income tax take by a massive amount.

But, of course, the money that was lost had to be found elsewhere. Hospitals still need running, schools have to operate. And Mrs Thatcher chose to almost double VAT to make up her shortfall. So VAT rose from 8% to 15%, a massive blow to people who had only the compensation of a few pence extra in their pay packets.

Income tax, VAT, fuel duty, alcohol duty, tobacco tax make vast sums of money. It is important to have the range of powers to be able to balance the needs of every member of our society.

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I’m sure you’ll agree with that. I’m sure that you regret that your party was against almost every single proposal to devolve responsibility for taxes. And I’m sure that you will press the UK government for more freedom to make changes in the future.

As I said, I wholeheartedly wish you the very best of luck in your attempt to become branch leader.

 

 

SO WHERE DOES THE (PROBABLE) NEXT LABOUR BRANCH OFFICE LEADER STAND?

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Anas Sarwar is standing for the leadership of the Scottish Branch of the Labour Party. We reckon that it is highly likely he will win. Odd in a way though, as he not so long ago rather stumblingly denounced the Scottish parliament as a dictatorship.

Just a year after demanding, as a co-signatory of a letter to Mr Corbyn,  that Jeremy quit as leader of the party, and backing Owen Smith for leader, he has now decided that JC is the man to be the next prime minister.

Of course, it’s not fair to single him out for criticism on this matter. Many of Jeremy’s lieutenants were critics before they became devoted followers. Kezia Dugdale has, herself has had an up and down relationship with Mr C and heaven knows, she wasn’t the worst.

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Mr Sarwar seems to me to be a strange choice for leader of the Scottish branch given that Scotland is generally accepted to be a little more left wing than most of the English branches. Indeed just after the Scottish referendum, Maggie Curran, then an MP and Shadow Scottish Secretary,  promised us a more left-wing approach to politics as she sadly surveyed the areas which had most staunchly voted for independence and found so many of them to be traditional working class, solidly Labour voting areas.

(Then they elected Blairite, Jim Murphy, a man to the right of many Tories… So much for left-wing…so much for Curran’s promises.)

Mr Sarwar is a dentist and a businessman with a multi-million-pound stake in the family business. He was privately educated as are his children. He can’t claim like Mr Murphy to have slept in a drawer as a wean. That said, no one doubted Tony Benn’s socialist credentials despite him being the son of a Viscount!

But now it has come to light that there is no trade union recognition at Sarwar’s family firm,  which is a bit embarrassing because only a few days before that it was reported that his firm doesn’t pay the real living wage, a wage policy on which Labour has been campaigning.

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The message seems to be rather inconsistent, doesn’t it?

Does he believe the parliament in which he serves to be a dictatorship?

Does he, or does he not, really support Mr Corbyn?

Does he or does he not support trade union involvement in companies?

Does he, or does he not, support the real living wage upon which Mr Corbyn has been campaigning?

If he still believes that Scotland is run by a dictatorship, and he became first minister, what steps would he take to ensure that Holyrood became democratic (remembering that the whole Edinburgh system was set up by the Labour Party under Blair and Dewar)?

If he doesn’t support trades unions, why is he in the Labour Party? If he does, why doesn’t he invite them into his company to ensure the best deal for his employees? I mean employees deserve the best conditions affordable, even if they work for Sarwar, right?

If he doesn’t support the real living wage, why is he campaigning on it? If he does, why isn’t he insisting his company pay it? After all, surely his employees are just as important as other employees, and just as likely to be in need of a living wage, right?

Signed: Confused of Minguin Towers.

*In the interests of fairness we should say that there is an alternative candidate, whose name has been mentioned by the press on so few occasions that we can’t remember it. This reminds us of the election of Jim Murphy when Neil Findlay and a couple of others also stood, but no-one much paid any attention to them.

GETTING ON WITH THE DAY JOB

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So, what can we look forward to?

Scottish National Investment Bank will be set up.

There will be a public sector rail bid.

There will be an investment in electric cars. This will including looking at getting charging points up and running (and particularly at how to provide them outside blocks of flats) and with a target of 2032 for all new sales to be electric or hybrid.

Good start?

So then, as already announced, the public sector pay cap will go. (I believe Mrs May is doing this in England too).

Free sanitary products will be provided in schools and there will be research into the possibility of making them free for everyone.

Free personal care will be extended to under 65s.

A South of Scotland Enterprise board will be set up and there will be investment in manufacturing and R&D.

Money will be provided for research into providing a universal basic income, currently being trialed in areas of Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands.

The Land Reform Commission will consider a land value tax.

There will be an investment in carbon capture technology.

There should be a presumption against jail sentences of under 12 months. Other punishments will be preferred, leaving prison for more serious offenders.

A fund set up for action on homelessness.

A Local Democracy Bill

Other plans, already announced, include increasing carers allowance in Scotland to the same level as Job Seekers’ Allowance, a funeral grant (means-tested) so that the poorest can afford a decent funeral. The baby box and help for the poorest when their children start school.

anas

And Sarwar, the branch manager elect(?) (Jackie Baillie says the SNP are terrified of him…remember like they said we were of Six-Month Murphy!!!) says it’s the same old tired stuff??

I’m seriously surprised that Labour can suggest that the SNP is doing nothing to mitigate Tory austerity. If you add the above package to the extra help with rent and the abolition of the hated bedroom tax… well, it’s just a lie.

I read somewhere that Willie Rennie had whined that the SNP was still obsessed with the Constitution, although I don’t remember it dominating the FM’s speech today.  (Ironic given that the Constitution is almost the only thing that the British government is occupying itself with. The great repeal bill will take most of parliament’s time in the coming year, even though most of it won’t ever be seen by the Commons or Lords. Ministers will use royal prerogative to make changes they see fit. So much for taking back control, eh?

Come on, let’s have some serious opposition that will help improve the policies of the SNP, not this idiotic carping at everything, no matter how inaccurate it is as long as it criticises the SNP.

https://www.snp.org/the_snp_scottish_government_s_programme_for_government

 

ANAS SARWAR HAS A DREAM

So, Anas says that the SNP hates the Labour Party and thinks that its (Labour’s) destruction is the way to gain independence.

Odd really because the best way to gain independence and have a socially just Scotland, would be for Labour and the SNP to work together to counter at least some of the horrific effects of Tory rule in the UK, and the rise of the Tories in Scotland. So I think “hate” is a bit strong. The SNP is certainly mystified about a party which is supposed to represent the poorer people in society, but which sides so often with the Tories on matters that affect the poor. But hatred? I don’t think so.

But, bless him, he says that their solution is to unite the Labour Party.

Good luck with that, Anas. I suppose we could really just stop there. After all, as parties go, Labour, “across the United Kingdom”, is about as far as you can get from being united.

In the UK parliament they don’t have time to be in opposition to the Tories. They are far too busy being in opposition to themselves.

Their members want Corbyn by a massive record breaking majority; 75% of their MPs don’t. When the membership voted decisively for Corbyn, after years of Tory-lite leadership from Blair, Brown (and Mandelson) and then Miliband, the MPs insisted on another leadership battle. Knowing what the odds were, no one remotely serious stood (Angela Eagle or Owen Smith as prime minister???? Oh please!), and Corbyn was re-elected with an increased majority.

But instead of listening to the votes of members and supporters, the PLP decided that they knew better and embarked on a policy of undermining the leader, and to hell with being the opposition. That inspires no confidence at all in a  party of potential government.

A civil war is going on inside the party, and if the Fabian Society is to be believed, they can look forward to a crushing defeat in 2020, and we can look forward to yet another 5 year period of Tory rule, despite the pitiful quality of leadership.

I can’t see any way around that problem, but then I’m not Anas Sarwar!

In Scotland Labour has reached what must be close to “core vote”: a presumably ageing and diminishing group who have voted Labour all their lives, through Labour’s socialist days and their Tory-lite days, and are too old to change. Hard to believe these people were in government 10 years ago. The leader and deputy leader disagree about the way forward and Dugdale has just handed Riley a job at which he can only fail dismally: Campaign Manager for the 2017 elections.

Again, I see no way through this, but I’m not possessed of Anas’s intellect.

In the meantime, the UK is facing the biggest challenge in it history since the second world war, and it is in the hands of Theresa, Boris, David, and Foxy. And her majesty’s loyal opposition is too busy tearing chunks out of itself to bother much about the mess they have made so far.

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Scotland voted firmly against leaving the EU. Nicola Sturgeon has put forward reasonable membership proposals to keep the country in the single market, enjoying some of the benefits of EU. She’s one of very few leaders in the UK to come up with ideas (along with the Deputy First Minister of NI, and the First Minister of Gibraltar).

Kezia Dugdale’s response has been to say that Nicola HAS to rule out any possibility of a seocnd referendum on independence, which of course, she knows will never happen.

Anas is probably the next leader in Scotland. He has to be positioning himself for a take over in the summer, so we should get used to that. It’s a pity that they won’t pick someone a little more open to listening to what Labour supporters seem to want.