The Scottish Labour Goodbye

The Scottish Labour Goodbye

Iain Gray, leader of Scottish Labour, at First Minister’s Questions in March 2011:

After 92 times at this, you would think the First Minister would have realised by now that I get to choose what the questions are about. But his turn is coming soon enough!”

A few weeks later, Gray had resigned after just barely holding onto his own seat by around 150 votes as Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic landslide victory.

Luckily, Gray’s successor learned from his embarrassing hubris, for if there’s one thing Scottish Labour ensure us they’re really good at, it’s learning lessons.

So here’s Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, at FMQs in September 2014:

“When the First Minister is long gone, I will still be doing my job on behalf of the people of Scotland.”

A few weeks later Mr Salmond had indeed handed in his notice, but will still be in office at next week’s session and for more beyond it, while Ms Lamont… well, we already know how this one ends.


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Source: Wing Over Scotland

The parting shot

The parting shot

Our undercover agent inside Labour (whose identity we can’t reveal, other than their codename “Nasa Warsar”) just leaked us this internal security-camera footage from both the Scottish and UK party HQs at the time of Johann Lamont’s resignation.

We’re sure readers can work out who’s who.

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

From Hell’s heart I stab at thee

We have many faults, but we try our hardest to ensure that hypocrisy isn’t one of them, so we’re not about to turn round and pay tribute to Johann Lamont just because she’s quit her job. We’re sure she’s a nice person in real life, but for three years the Scottish Labour “leader” has lived a lie, railing bitterly against London control while doing everything she could to impose that very fate on the people of Scotland.

(And ultimately succeeding, in so far as one could say that the mainly-absent Lamont could claim to have played any meaningful part in the referendum campaign.)

She leaves her party in the same abject state she found it, its position in the polls if anything slightly worse than it was after the SNP’s historic landslide victory in 2011. Her only achievement was to give Scottish Labour’s bitter, spiteful, tribal hatred of the Nats an accurate-looking corporeal manifestation, her face invariably contorted at First Minister’s Questions into a snarl of naked loathing for an opponent who’d done nothing other than successfully adopt what used to be considered traditional “Labour values”.


But we will say one thing for her – she went out with a bang.

Because the grenade Lamont lobbed over her shoulder as she walked out of the door is probably the most honest thing she’s ever done in her political life. For once acting on her true feelings, she’s left both the Westminster leadership and the Scottish branch office with an almighty mess to clear up, and a softer-hearted website than this one could almost pity them as they try to pick their way through the wreckage.

Her final comments, laden with barbs at Ed Miliband, ought in any sane world to make it impossible for any Westminster MP to take over the leadership of the Scottish “party”. To put Jim Murphy or Gordon Brown in remote charge would make Labour in Holyrood a laughing stock, its proclamations of autonomy a public joke. It would hand new FM Nicola Sturgeon a stick with which to relentlessly beat whichever hapless stooge drew the short straw of being the glove puppet.

Of course, if we’ve learned anything in the last seven years it’s that just because something would utterly obviously be an act of complete lunacy doesn’t mean it’s possible to rule out Scottish Labour doing it. But if the party chooses an MP to take over Lamont’s job it’ll have done something we no longer believed possible, namely being even stupider than we thought.

But what are the alternatives? At this point in time, leadership of Scottish Labour is a political death sentence. Whoever gets the gig will inherit a seething nest of vipers, riven by internal wars, bitterness and distrust. (It seems to be the general view this morning that Lamont was betrayed by Margaret Curran, her best friend for decades.)

And while 18 months is a long time in politics, a heavy defeat in the 2016 Holyrood election currently looks inevitable. Whoever’s in the hot seat at that time will be expected to resign. So they’ll have spent a miserable year and a half in charge of a civil war, followed by a humiliating thrashing. That doesn’t look good on the CV of any ambitious young up-and-comer, which is why we can’t see the likes of Jenny Marra or Kezia Dugdale – the early hot tip of many Scottish political hacks – wanting the job.

(And can anyone really see Labour putting her forward as a potential leader of Scotland with a straight face? First Minister Dugdale? Seriously?)


But who’s left? The party’s MSP lineup is a talent and charisma vacuum. When we scanned the list for potential candidates we found people picking up taxpayer-funded salaries who we’d never even heard of. (Mark Griffin? Claudia Beamish?) Most of them couldn’t get elected in their own right – the majority are list MPs.

There’s certainly no standout who could be reasonably be expected to turn the party’s Scottish fortunes around. The position on offer is, then, that of a caretaker to try to steady the ship and hope for better conditions. Eliminating the ambitious and the too-obviously useless seat-warmers leaves only a handful of senior figures in the twilight of their careers – Malcolm Chisholm is probably a bit too independently-minded, so someone more like Hugh Henry or Sarah Boyack could be plausible.

We could be wrong, of course. Scotland has just 8% of the UK population but provides Labour with 16% of its Westminster MPs, and Miliband might be willing to sacrifice any last shreds of Holyrood credibility in order to send someone who might carry enough weight to paper over the cracks and get most of the party’s 41 MPs returned again in 2015 to bolster his fading hopes of becoming Prime Minister.

But Lamont’s explosive departure makes those cracks much wider, and leaves the future of Labour on both sides of the border shrouded in smoke. The next few weeks are going to be a lot more interesting than we’d been anticipating.

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

You just can’t make this stuff up

You just can’t make this stuff up

The Daily Record last month:


But that’s not even the funny bit.

Because according to the BBC:

“Johann Lamont is to stand down as leader of the Scottish Labour Party after accusing some of her colleagues of trying to run Scotland ‘like a branch office of London.’

She is said to have become disillusioned with internal criticism of her leadership and interference by the UK Labour party in the running of Scottish Labour.”

You read that right, folks – Johann’s quitting her job because she doesn’t want her affairs being run by London. If only there’d recently been some sort of way of putting a guaranteed and permanent stop to that, eh?

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

From our community reporter

It’s been a very slow news day today and it’s chucking it down outside, so we found ourselves stuck for entertainment. Earlier this afternoon alert readers will have noticed us tweeting about breaking through 35,000 Twitter followers, and while we were comparing that to various other entities for our own amusement (eg it’s over 10,000 more followers than Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Lib Dems put together), we stumbled across this feature from 16 months ago.


And because – as readers of our Panelbase polling features will know – there’s nothing we like more than the occasional wallow in some stats, we got to work.

Last July’s piece recorded the 50 most prominent and prolific Twitter accounts on the Scottish politics scene, or at least the ones we knew about. Mainly eschewing actual politicians (who tend to tweet rarely and say little of note), it comprised bloggers, activists, mainstream journalists, commentators, newspapers and broadcasters.

We figured it would be of interest (to us, at least) to see how things had changed.


Above is the top 50 for 2014. We’ve used the same accounts, so any exciting newcomers on the scene, or anyone we forgot last year, aren’t included. Three accounts have been closed since then – Labour MP Tom Harris (ironically the party’s former “Twitter czar”, who blotted his social-media copybook with a badly-judged “Downfall” spoof aimed at Alex Salmond and vanished from the web), The Herald’s main account (it’s hard to be sure which one has replaced it), and that of Eddie Barnes, who left the Scotsman to work for the Scottish Tories.

The big story is the spectacular social-media success of Yes Scotland, which added over 100,000 new followers to its 2013 total to become by far the most-followed account, with almost double the number of the SNP, both of them knocking 2013’s table-topper (the Daily Record) into third spot.

Sorting the chart by who’s gathered the most new followers is enlightening:


Yes Scotland and the SNP come out top again, but at No. 3 is a website you may have heard of, which added a whacking 31,295 followers to its tally. And if you sort by percentage increase, it’s an even prettier picture.


Way out in front with an 845% increase in followers is little old us, but it’s hard not to notice the political alignment of all the top performers. Wings, Business For Scotland, Radical Independence, National Collective, Yes Scotland, the Scottish Greens, Pat Kane, the SSP, Bella Caledonia and the Sunday Herald make a clean sweep of the top 10 for Yes-supporting sites (along with four of the next five).

It’s hard not to also note the inverse relationship between either of the last two charts and the voices which get to appear on broadcast media. The top echelons of any of the charts above are notable for the near-total absence of any of the people in them from the nation’s airwaves, with the exceptions of Lesley Riddoch and (to a lesser extent) Pat Kane.

The talking heads employed by the BBC and STV and others are almost unfailingly people with a tiny fraction of the following of those higher up in the listings – basically the further down the chart you go and the less popular a pundit or journalist is with the online public, the more you’ll see of them on air.

Finally, for completeness, the chart sorted by position change on 2013:


Other than the rocketing up the table of ourselves and Business For Scotland, the main feature of note here is the appearance of Daily Record political editor Davie Clegg at No. 8, interrupting the otherwise all-Yes make-up of the top 10 again despite a modest total of 4372 followers, barely a third as many as anyone else in the first dozen but representing a respectable climb of nine places on last year – albeit from a starting position of No. 49, which is kinda hard NOT to improve on.

So that was our afternoon. Fingers crossed for some major events soon, eh readers?

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

Driven demented

It’s the beaten side who are supposed to lose their minds. But we couldn’t resist sharing with you two articles by Labour activists today whose authors have studied the last decade of Scottish politics and arrived at the conclusion that the salvation of Scottish Labour lies in… ramping up the arrogance and hating the SNP more.


Oh, you’re going to love these.

Remarkably, the less mad of the two is our old pal John McTernan in the Scotsman:

“Turning referendum win into a defeat”

In a virtuoso display of black-is-white doublethink, our favourite passage is this one:

“There is no electoral victory available by moving to the Left of the Labour Party – the Bennites tested that theory to destruction in the Eighties, and the Lib Dems proved it again and again in 2005 and 2010.”

Curiously, the former spin-doctor who assured Scots in May 2011 that “there will be no referendum” appears to think the SNP fight elections in England, and we must conclude that he simply didn’t notice them winning Holyrood contests in 2007 and 2011 on a “left of Labour” platform where they took seats all over Labour’s working-class heartlands.

But for once, McTernan’s bonkers rantings pale in comparison to another. Over on LabourList, allegedly the most influential politics blog in the UK (two places ahead of the one you’re reading now), we find a piece by longterm party apparatchik Peter A Russell, which might be the most magnificently deranged one-stop distillation of the mindset that’s got Scottish Labour in such a godawful mess that we’ve ever read.

“What should Scottish Labour do?”

Pretty much every paragraph is solid gold, but two stand out especially:

“There is much talk in the Scottish media about a crisis in Scottish Labour. Some of it is of course froth (is the Scottish Daily Mail where we would seek advice in our best interest?). But some of it is substantial – based on the post-poll evidence, anything between 30-40% of Labour voters voted Yes in the referendum.”

Shortly followed by:

“Most immediately, we must make it clear that as part of the winning side in the referendum, we can and will act to safeguard the outcome. It should therefore be announced as soon as possible as a headline commitment in next May’s General Election manifesto that no Labour government will agree to a new Scottish independence referendum: not in the next Parliament, not ever.”

 (Our emphasis both times.)

That’s right, folks – faced with the realisation that over a third of their own supporters back independence, Peter’s genius masterplan to revive the party and stem the critical haemorrhaging of its support is to proclaim that the thing they just voted for will never, ever be permitted to happen under any circumstances, regardless of the democratic will of either Labour voters or the wider Scottish electorate.

We’ll let you enjoy the rest for yourself, except this wonderful line:

“We can and must show up Yes for what it is: a zombie movement, running around causing havoc after life expired from its cause in the early morning of 19th September.” 

Your eyes don’t deceive you, readers – that really is a member of Scottish Labour (membership approximately 5,000 and in a quickening long-term decline while the SNP has just tripled in size in a month) telling the Yes camp (membership 1.6 MILLION) that it’s a “zombie movement”. What next? Ally McCoist issues a press statement criticising somebody else’s football club for bad financial management?

It’s Friday afternoon, readers. Kick back and just enjoy a chuckle.

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

Triple boost for Scottish economy

Triple boost for Scottish economy

The Scottish economy is continuing to defy adverse headwinds from the eurozone and elsewhere and is showing robust growth in a number of key areas. Three separate reports released over the last few days have highlighted the strength of the Scottish economy and emphasised again that Scotland is a wealthy nation. With youth unemployment down, manufacturing exports up and tourism returning to pre-2008 levels, there are reasons for continuing optimism about Scotland’s economic prospects.


Lower unemployment and increases in tourism and manufacturing lead to greater wealth in Scotland.


Youth Unemployment Down

The first report, released this week by the Scottish Government, revealed that youth unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 5.6% over the last year. Welcoming these figures the First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Scotland now has a higher employment rate, lower unemployment rate and lower inactivity rate for young people than the rest of the UK. Now, the number of young people unemployed in Scotland is at the lowest level for six years.

These figures also show that Scotland compares well internationally and remains among the top ten best performing countries in the European Union for youth unemployment. These statistics further reinforce the position that Scotland’s economy is going from strength to strength – last week alone we had confirmation that our GDP is increasing further beyond its pre-recession peak and employment levels are the highest since records began.”

Business for Scotland welcomes this news on lower youth unemployment. Being either employed or in education or training is especially important between the age of 16 – 24 as studies have shown that long periods of inactivity at this age can result in lower wages and increased chances of unemployment in the future.


Manufacturing exports grow

Building on this positive news, the Scottish Government also announced that manufactured export sales grew by 2.8% over the last quarter, despite a disappointing drop in food and drink exports, on an annual basis exports are up by 0.5%. This was mostly offset by strong performances from the chemical and engineering sectors.  Food and drink exports have shown strong growth over the last few years (a 52% increase to £5.4 billion between 2007 and 2012) so while a drop is disappointing, it should be considered in its wider context.

Growth Rates, Rolling Annual 4q on 4q basis

Scottish Government index of manufactured exports –

International visitor numbers grow

Finally, Visit Britain also released new figures that showed the number of tourists visiting Scotland is almost back to its pre 2008 peak, with 1,118,000 visits to Scotland from overseas between January and June 2014, up 16% on the 2013 figures and just within touching distance of record highs.

Amongst the tourism figures there was even more good news, with record highs on spending from Chinese tourists (£20 million) and a 41% increase in business visits. Chinese tourists are increasingly lucrative to countries worldwide with nearly one in ten international tourists coming from China despite only 5% of its population owning passports. Scotland would do well to attract more of these tourists as they have shown an appetite for spending more than any other nationality while abroad. Sadly, Westminster’s constant antagonism towards the EU has hampered efforts to attract more Chinese tourists as the UK refuses to join Schengen and many Chinese tourists are put off visiting Scotland by the need to apply for a separate UK Visa.


Edinburgh, a major draw for tourists.

It should be noted as well that these figures do not include the number of tourists from the successful Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup or future events this year such as the MTV Europe Music Awards that will be held in Glasgow in November. When you consider that many people may have put off a trip to Scotland to coincide with one of these major events, the figures for July to December should hopefully break previous records.

Malcolm Roughead, the CEO of Visit Scotland said: “Since 2012, development efforts have delivered over 80 new routes to Scottish airports with more and more announced year on year. In the last year alone, major inbound routes will have delivered hundreds of thousands of additional seats, bringing a remarkable number of new visitors to Scotland. The events, activity and worldwide attention in 2014 has taken Scotland’s profile and reputation to great heights and we are determined to make the most of this for the future.”

These are great figures for Scottish tourism and we would be delighted if they could be improved upon by cutting Air Passenger Duty, so that Scotland could compete with London for international flights. As the CEOs of both Ryanair and the International Airlines Group have suggested they would be open to starting new routes from Scotland if APD was cut and we believe this is a power that should certainly be devolved so that the Scottish Government can take action to boost tourism numbers further.

Business for Scotland welcomes this economic good news that highlights the enduring strength of Scotland’s economy. As we move forward with the Smith Commission and proposals for more devolution, we will continue to make the case that Scotland could grow its economy and create more jobs if it had greater control over its own economic affairs.

Tags: ‘featured’, Business for Scotland, Smith Commission

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Original Source: BusinessForScotland

Trouble with numbers and words

Trouble with numbers and words

From the Twitter account of the Aberdeen Conservative and Unionist Association last night, during the First Minister’s appearance on Question Time from Liverpool:


Just a couple of things.

It seems fairly reasonable to say that at worst, Alex Salmond “speaks for” either Yes supporters and/or SNP voters. (As the FM one could easily contend that he officially DOES speak for all of Scotland, but let’s be kind to the Tories.)

In either case, that’s about 45% of the Scottish electorate. Given that anything above 49% is in fact a majority, 45% is in fact one of the biggest minorities it’s arithmetically possible to have, not a “small” one.

It’s also somewhat curious to call a vote where you cleared the finish line by just 5% an “overwhelming” victory. A victory it is, but we suspect that, say, a rugby team that lost a high-scoring match 55-45 (perhaps to a last-gasp converted try, having been within three points with a minute to go) wouldn’t feel like they’d been thrashed.

But more to the point, we can’t help but wonder if the Aberdeen Conservatives are making an approved policy statement for their party when they say “Scotland did not vote for more powers”. Because we’re sure we remember David Cameron’s signature being appended to a document that promised:

“The people of Scotland want to know that all three main parties will deliver change for Scotland.

We are agreed that:

The Scottish Parliament is permanent and extensive new powers for the Parliament will be delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed and announced by our three parties, starting on 19th September.

People want to see change. A No vote will deliver faster, safer and better change than separation.”

12 hours later Aberdeen Tories have neither deleted nor retracted their tweet. We’re off to ask Ruth Davidson if her line in the sand has magically come back.

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

An incredible achievement

An incredible achievement

From today’s Media Guardian:

“Despite the huge interest and debate around the Scottish independence referendum, BBC Radio Scotland saw its figures fall for the third quarter of this year.

The station had a weekly reach of 870,000 listeners between 23 June and 14 September (the period accounted for by these audience figures) ahead of the independence vote on 18 September.

BBC Radio Scotland was down 2% on the year and 8.9% on the previous three months.

The BBC faced intense criticism of bias in its coverage of the referendum from pro-independence supporters, with a demonstration outside the corporation’s Glasgow headquarters and participants unfurling a banner calling for political editor Nick Robinson to be sacked.”

It’s worth taking just a few lines to examine those stats more closely.

Because what they show is that given the golden journalistic opportunity to cover the most important Scottish news story in 300 years, the state broadcaster’s national arm did such an atrocious job that not only did it lose listeners year-on-year, but during the most vital three months directly leading up to the vote, when public interest in the referendum was at its peak, it managed to shed almost a tenth of its audience.

It’s difficult to even begin trying to find an excuse for such an abject performance. The referendum wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime chance for any journalist or news outlet worthy of the name, it was a once-in-several-lifetimes one. Yet the only broadcaster with a legally-mandated duty of impartiality couldn’t secure the faith of the Scottish electorate that it would discharge its responsibilities fairly and help them make the most important decision of their lives by providing honest and balanced coverage.

The people’s judgement is one we can’t find fault with. BBC Scotland will have to live with its shame for a long time to come. It worked hard to earn it.

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

Lord Smith And The Seven Magic Beans

Today’s Herald carries a report from the initial meeting of the Smith Commission on “enhanced devolution” for the Scottish Parliament. The paper quotes from what seems to be a press release issued by the Commission, in which it explains that it thinks the people of Scotland are idiotic, drooling simpletons who’ll swallow anything.


“The key yesterday was the agreement on the seven principles, which were accepted unanimously.

These are:

- A ‘substantial and cohesive package of powers, meaningful to the people of Scotland';

- Strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the UK, including its financial accountability;

- A ‘durable but responsive democratic constitutional settlement’ within the UK, enhancing mutual co-operation and partnership;

- Not being conditional on other UK political negotiations;

- Not causing detriment to the “UK nor to any constituent parts”;

- Causing neither the UK nor Scottish Governments to gain or lose financially;

- Being implementable, compatible with international obligations, including EU law; and with a broad understanding of the potential associated costs.”

Let’s just look at those for a moment. The first three are basically all the same piece of empty rhetoric repeated with different wording, and the fourth is a pointless aspiration – the Commission’s reports will not be binding on any government, which can make its recommendations as conditional as it wants. And #7 is just ludicrous – the proposals should be implementable and legal? As opposed to what? Was the Commission previously considering unimplementable plans? Are they morons?

(Yeah, okay, Tavish Scott and Iain Gray are in there. The jury’s out.)

That leaves us with clauses #5 and #6, which again seem to actually be a single point repeated with different wording in an attempt to puff out the press release a bit. But what a toweringly, stupendously fatuous point it is.

Call us crazy rudimentalists if you will, but we’re going to go ahead and start from the premise that there’s a finite amount of money available in the UK. And that’s what economists call a “zero-sum game”: to give one side of the equation more money, you have to take the same amount of money AWAY from the other side.

In other words, the only way to ensure that none of the UK’s constituent parts gain or lose financially is to change nothing. The minute you make Scotland raise some or all of its own income tax, say, you massively alter the financial balance (because of the differential levels of spending in different parts of the UK, because – for example – Scotland’s landscape and more widely spread population make it more expensive to provide public services).

The only way you can restore the balance is to hand over extra cash from the Treasury. And if you do that, of course, you’ve blown the entire point of the exercise – Holyrood ISN’T any more accountable or (in reality) any more devolved, because whatever it does Westminster will fill in the financial gaps.

(The alternative – forcing the Scottish Government to impose higher taxes or extra cuts on the people of Scotland to make good the difference – is plainly a detriment and a financial loss to Scotland, and therefore contrary to the Commission’s goals.)

And if you DON’T do it, then you can’t say that there’s no detriment or financial loss to anyone, because there will be. That’s why the Barnett Formula exists.

The stated principles of the Smith Commission, then, are so staggeringly obviously impossible to realise, from day one, as an empirical arithmetical fact, that sane people will find themselves struggling to understand why they’re being reported in the press with a straight face.

One of only two things must be true: it’s either an utterly pointless exercise (because by its own claims it’ll change nothing), or it cannot possibly uphold its aims, because any changes WILL, inescapably, be to SOMEONE’S detriment.

The statement quoted by the Herald is a colossal insult to the intelligence of everyone not just in Scotland but the whole United Kingdom. It makes slightly less intellectual sense, and bears less relation to reality, than the story of Jack And The Beanstalk. Are we really the only people who can see that?

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Source: Wing Over Scotland

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