Challenge Everyday Sexism

We are about to witness a defining moment in Scottish history; a woman is about to rule the people of Scotland. We are also about to witness an inevitable onslaught of sexism from the media, politicians and members of the public alike, a great deal of which will go unnoticed, let alone challenged.

There remains a common misconception that gender inequality exists only in a few socially conservative societies. Or that it is exclusive to particular religions. Or that it being worse elsewhere somehow diminishes the urgency to confront it here.

In reality, sexism exists in the realms of our everyday lives. Seldom is this more apparent than in politics. We can try to blame the right-wingers, but the painful truth of the matter is that in spite of progressive ideals, a very real strand of sexism exists in left wing politics too. It’s an ever-present, structural, global issue. And yes, it manifests in varying strands of severity, but regardless of this, it needs collectively confronted.

Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting for a second that Nicola can’t handle backlash – if people think we have a fragile leader on our hands, they’re sorely mistaken – but that shouldn’t stop us challenging everyday sexism. Seemingly insignificant, petty remarks or headlines are a tactical, strategic way of deliberately undermining women in politics by steering attention away from politics and onto appearance, or gender based stereotypes. Speaking out against seemingly trivial belittling in our political sphere is one of the many ways in which we can seek to preserve the socially just, progressive politics of the Yes movement.

There is however a fairly sizeable chunk of society who will acknowledge that this is problematic but deny that it is structural. A hard truth remains; our stale media and outmoded sectors of society aren’t ready for women in politics. They’re yet to come to terms with it. Here are just a few examples that remind us of just how far we have to go.

In 2011, the then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was subjected to a hideous attack from renowned red neck imbecile, Tony Abbott. Alongside claiming that women should stay home to iron and that men are by physiology and temperamentally more adapted than women, the opposition leader told Ms Gillard that she should “make an honest woman of herself”, labeling her a “man’s bitch”. To put the impact of this attack into perspective, Tony Abbott comfortably won the following election and is now Australian Prime Minister.

Only this year, #PatronisingBTLady happened. As much as we enjoyed laughing in the faces of those who thought this would actually appeal to women, it is genuinely scary that in this day and age women are seen as too dense to think.

Yet it is not just the archaic Eton bred dinosaurs that reduce women to gendered stereotypes. Love her or loath her, and I place myself firmly in the latter category, the problem with Maggie Thatcher was her deeply callous politics, not that her personality was not ‘Motherly’ enough. These gendered typecasts did not come from draconian Conservatives; ironically they came from those who define themselves as pro equality progressives. Speaking of Thatcher, I am extremely excited at the prospect of never hearing the words, “yeah but look what happened last time a woman was in charge” again.

If you thought for a second that this might have significantly improved in the decades to follow, think again. One recent example heard MP Austin Mitchell say that, “apart from obsessive feminism, women MPs are more amenable and leadable”. He continued, proclaiming that women are preoccupied with “family issues” and “small problems rather than big ideas.” In other words, get back to your cereal and focus on the wee things. Let the big shots handle the real politics.

Hop over the pond to America and in 2013 a Republican convention produced badges comparing Hillary Clinton to KFC that read, ‘2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts … left wing.’ They literally compared a globally influential woman to a bit of puny meat.

Here in Scotland, the Lamont versus Sturgeon televised debate aptly illustrated how backwards attitudes can be at home. Before they even spoke, comments about their hair, clothes and expressions erupted over social media. Before they even spoke, the very focus of their presence was thus on appearance, rather than their potential contribution to the debate. All of a sudden, these women were no longer authoritative, influential political figures. Nicola was bossy and irrational, and Johann was a troll with anger issues. ‘But people fixate on the appearance of men in politics too’, I hear some say. Yes, Salmond and Darling provide a good example of this, but there remained a general ability and willingness to differentiate their appearance from their politics.

Already, a particularly condescending headline referred to Nicola as “First Lady” – Apparently it’s much easier for our crusty tabloids to portray our soon-to-be First Minister as the wife of a leader, rather than the actual leader. When Nicola spoke at their conference, signaling a new direction for politics in Scotland, a headline read, ‘New Leader’s Natty Style: Nic Shoes the Way Forward.’ Don’t get me wrong; Nicola’s tartan heels were fabulous. They just weren’t quite as important as the content of her pioneering speech.

We live in a country where women lead two of our political parties and co-convene another two; a country where women, especially young women, have been actively engaging in politics throughout the celebration of democracy that was the referendum. As a society, we should embrace and encourage this.

To really do so, Scotland needs to acknowledge that petty belittling and seemingly trivial everyday comments and headlines are symptomatic of a wider, structural problem that needs tackled.

Many people say they want to challenge these kinds of attitudes, but seldom speak out when the perpetrators are on their side. Sexism transcends party boundaries; it’s bigger than any ideology, and it’s high time that we unite to challenge this embedded social problem.

Miriam Brett
National Collective

Image: Corey Oakley

Print Friendly

Source Article from
Challenge Everyday Sexism
National Collective

Conflicting accounts

Conflicting accounts

From an editorial in today’s Daily Record:

“The debate in the House of Commons yesterday proved once and for all that The Vow is doing its job.

David Cameron had to stick to his word under pressure from misguided backbenchers who demanded an end to the way Scotland is funded through the Barnett formula.

The Prime Minister insisted no review is ‘on the horizon’, saving valuable funds for Holyrood.”

Although that isn’t a very accurate report, because David Cameron wasn’t even there.

We watched the debate, and it’s recorded in Hansard. The Prime Minister wasn’t present for a single moment of the proceedings. Bizarrely, the debate actually ended in the middle of a sentence:

“My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) made a typically cogent speech and talked about the importance of addressing the West Lothian question and financial fairness for his constituents, and also about the balance that we need to seek and retain across the UK – “ (Col. 526)

That happened because someone had shouted for an adjournment and the Speaker immediately granted it, and the Commons moved onto other business – a debate about health services in Halifax which was attended by just four MPs.

No vote was actually taken on the devolution motion (which called for “English votes for English laws” and a review of Barnett to form part of the process of granting the Scottish Parliament more powers – see Appendix), so it was not defeated. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, the signatories of “The Vow”, had not been among the handful of MPs who actually showed up, nor had its architect Gordon Brown or the leader of the No campaign, Alistair Darling.


Cameron’s comments had in fact been made hours earlier, not in the chamber but before a committee. Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams raised them during the debate and got an interesting reply from Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who was the sponsor of the devolution motion:

“HYWEL WILLIAMS: Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister when he said in the Liaison Committee this morning that Barnett reform was ‘not on the horizon’?

DOMINIC RAAB: I suppose it depends on how broad, far and deep is one’s horizon.” (Col. 471)

And there was another revealing exchange between SNP MP Pete Wishart and Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth a short while later:

PETE WISHART: Is it the view of Tory backbenchers, therefore, that the vow is not even worth the price of the paper it was written on?

SIR GERALD HOWARTH: That is a very stupid question. The constitutional point is that the leaders of the three parties made a commitment, but they are not in a position to deliver upon that commitment, because it is both Houses of Parliament that make the laws. We do not live in a state where it is the divine right of kings to rule. It is subject to the will of Parliament, and Parliament therefore has to decide on these matters.” (Col. 492)

Alert readers will of course know that all of this is a diversion anyway, despite the rest of the Record’s increasingly frantic attempts at justifying its actions. The Barnett Formula itself can remain completely unchanged yet still see Scotland’s budget slashed by billions of pounds, because the formula will be applied to a far smaller percentage of Holyrood’s spending.

It’s nevertheless interesting to watch the Daily Record’s panic as it tries to mislead the Scottish public by pretending that the Prime Minister attended debates that he didn’t attend, and that the efforts of Tory backbenchers to impose conditions on “The Vow” had in some way been foiled when in fact they weren’t even voted on.

We look forward to the unfolding spectacle. And with the Smith Commission due to deliver its report in just six days’ time, there isn’t long to wait for the next chapter.



The motion discussed, in the name of Dominic Raab, was:

“I beg to move that this House recognises the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence; welcomes the freely expressed will of the people of Scotland to remain British; notes the proposals announced by Westminster party leaders for further devolution to Scotland; calls on the Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to bring forward proposals that are fair and reasonable for the whole of the United Kingdom, following a period of public consultation to enable people in all parts of the Union to express their views; and, in particular, calls on the Government to ensure such proposals include a review of the Barnett formula and legislative proposals to address the West Lothian question.”

Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

The time is right

The time is right

Last night, the Lib Dems outpolled the Monster Raving Loonies by just 198 votes.


(Well, the original Monster Raving Loonies, anyway. Not the ones who won.)

We’ve still got cash left over in the Wings kitty and it’s only £500 for an election deposit. We think it’s about time that we put up our own candidate, either at the next available by-election or at the 2015 general election. We’re not even joking. We’re going to do it. Because it looks like ANYONE can beat the Lib Dems now.

So what party should we stand as, readers? We’re liberal, independent, democratic and socialist (and of course I’m a Reverend), and we believe the rest of the UK should be a different country to Scotland, so there are all sorts of possibilities.

Loading ... Loading …


Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

Powers for a purpose versus retained for a reason

Powers for a purpose versus retained for a reason

Lord Smith of Kelvin

Lord Smith of Kelvin

As we all know the heads of the main Unionist parties (excluding UKIP) issued a vow on new powers The Vow contained the claim that: “The Scottish Parliament is permanent and extensive new powers for the Parliament will be delivered.” UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised on the 15th of September: “a major, unprecedented programme of devolution with additional powers”.  Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Scotland would be as close as possible to a federal state within one or two years and finally Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on the 13th of September spoke of  effective Home Rule”.

They didn’t put much detail on those vows so… 

A definition of extensive / unprecedented new devolved powers that amounts to effective home rule

Business for Scotland and our members still believe that independence is the optimum governance solution for Scotland along with the 45% that voted Yes in the referendum. However, we accept the political reality that a mandate exists for extensive new powers and we see this as an immensely positive step, when compared to the slow pace of minimum devolution that was being pursued by the Westminster parties prior to the referendum.

The definition of extensive new powers is the responsibility of the Smith Commission, but the starting point cannot be the previously stated promises of the Unionist parties, which lacked detail and any real commitment to extensive change. Those proposals offered the Scottish Government no more than 20-30% control of taxes raised, and given they were offered prior to the rise in the Yes vote in the polls, they were therefore effectively rejected during the campaign as not extensive enough by the Scottish voters.

Powers for a purpose v retained for a reason

In its advice on submissions the Smith Commission requested that people focus on the reasons for powers to be devolved, and that is right and proper. However, given the significant support for maximum devolution for Scotland within the United Kingdom a fair check and balance on the process is that there must be a reason for retaining a power at Westminster. If the retention of a power that falls within the agreed definition of maximum devolution or near federalism could have a negative effect on Scotland, it should be devolved. The Smith Commission should therefore not start its consideration from the point of view of what new powers can the Scottish government justify, but from the position that all powers should be devolved unless there is a mutually agreed reason for not devolving that power.

The principle of maximum devolution within the UK

The Scottish Parliament is directly elected by the people of Scotland via a fair and proportional electoral system. All of the decision makers represent Scottish constituencies and Scottish voters only. Those MSPs are closer to the problems, issues, opportunities, needs and wishes of the Scottish people and are therefore best placed to make the majority of the political decisions that affect the people of Scotland.

Will the parliament get the powers it needs?

Will the parliament get the powers it needs?

Substantial new powers for a purpose

Any form of maximum devolution must involve extensive fiscal responsibility for the Scottish Government. Current proposals from the Unionist parties only offer limited control – 20-30% of taxation raised by the Scottish Government. In business terms, running Scotland as an independent profit centre will provide the twin benefits of localised decision making leading to bespoke taxation and spending priorities for Scotland, whilst also ending years of confusion over who subsidises who, which will lead to better financial governance for all the constituent parts of the UK.

Extensive / full fiscal responsibility

All taxation raised in Scotland should be under the control of the democratically elected Scottish Government. This would also allow the Scottish Government to set taxation rates that are tailored to specific economic development, environmental and social welfare based needs.

For example: Scotland’s economy is more reliant on manufacturing and exports than the UK as whole, and because innovation policy is set for the whole of the UK it is not optimised for Scotland’s needs. Although there is leading research taking place in Scottish universities there is a disconnect with innovation in the private sector. Research by independent innovation-focused charity NESTA reported that by increasing R&D spend in Scotland to the same % of GDP in other small European nations (3.4%), Scotland’s economy would grow by up to £12bn over the next five years. With the power to reduce corporation tax for companies that invest more heavily in R&D, the Scottish Government could grow Scotland’s economy and in the medium term increase the level of corporation tax raised.

There are many other policy options and such policies will be decided by future Scottish Governments but the power to operate with maximum fiscal responsibility is very definitely one with the purpose of growing Scotland’s economy, creating jobs and prosperity and raising the Scottish tax take.

Full fiscal responsibility would also require control not only of tax raising policy but control over all domestic spending powers, including pensions and welfare, given the interconnectivity of tax, spend and powers that can be combined to provide maximum benefit to the people of Scotland.

With full fiscal responsibility all future debt generated in Scotland should be allocated to Scotland and all sovereign debt generated outside Scotland should be allocated to the rest of the UK. Scotland cannot exercise full fiscal responsibility when it is possible that a situation may arise where paying a population percentage of the debt interest on debts generated outside Scotland may severally impact on Scotland’s budget in years when Scotland’s accounts might be in surplus. Likewise all historical debt and share of debt interest payments should be allocated to Scotland’s accounts on a contribution basis, not a population percentage basis. In this way Scotland does not start to manage its own finances either paying less debt than it actually generated, nor would it pay more than it was responsible for.


Constitutional change for Scotland is as yet still “unfinished business”. There may not be a fully developed list of what actual powers should be devolved until after the report of the Smith commission but the voters will be able to tell easily if it meets the definition of unprecedented devolution, substantial new powers and effective home rule or federalism.

If the powers on offer end up weak, watered down or worse still are effectively blocked by Westminster MP’s as seems likely then we can expect both support for independence to rise substantially and for an opportunity to finish this business sooner rather than later.

Join Business for Scotland today – click here

Official Business for Scotland Smith Commission Submission – Download Now

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

Category: Smith Commission, Uncategorized
Original Source: BusinessForScotland

Not quite getting it

Not quite getting it

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale today marked the historic nomination of Scotland’s first female First Minister with a Daily Record column in characteristically sour style, which waited until the second paragraph before sticking in a Margaret Thatcher comparison.


It wasn’t until later that it got confusing.

(Actually, that’s not quite true – the very first paragraph opened with the line “I haven’t seen a coronation quite like it since, well, the coronation”. The Coronation happened in 1953, while Kezia Dugdale was born in 1981. But we’ll let that one slide.)

After a stream of disingenuous waffle that we won’t bother going into here, Dugdale challenged Nicola Sturgeon to act on three polices in her First Ministership:

“Take on the big six energy firms, forcing them to freeze bills and rein in eye-watering profits earned on the backs of working people.”

“Bring back the 50p tax rate for top earners, so those with the broadest shoulders carry their fair share.”

“Tax [bankers’] bonuses and use the cash to create jobs for young people.”

Alert readers will of course have noticed the small problem with all of those: NONE of them are within the current competence of the Scottish Parliament. Holyrood has no power whatsoever to force energy firms to freeze bills, tax bankers’ bonuses or change the top rate of tax. All are reserved to Westminster.

(It took Labour almost all of their 13 years in power to raise the top rate of income tax to 50p – the rate wasn’t introduced until just before the 2010 election and was in force for only a few weeks of Labour’s administration – so hectoring Sturgeon to get it done on her first day would seem a touch impatient anyway.)

Only one of the three powers even has a chance of being devolved to Holyrood in the forseeable future, so we’re a bit bemused as to what Kezia Dugdale expects Nicola Sturgeon to do about them. Indeed, she goes on to point out that:

“When Nicola Sturgeon says Labour is a barrier to progress, she’s right. Because the only progress she wants to make is towards independence.”

In other words, Dugdale is proudly trumpeting the fact that it’s Labour which prevented Nicola Sturgeon from having the power to do the very things Dugdale is now stridently demanding that she does. Which seems, y’know, odd.

Kezia Dugdale is widely (for reasons which we must confess still escape our ongoing enquiries) regarded as the brightest of Scottish Labour’s young minds. God help them.

Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

The faithful lie

Last night’s bizarre edition of Scotland 2014, in which three Scottish Labour “leadership” candidates were quizzed by the daughter of a former Labour leader in front of an audience of the candidates’ own supporters (comprising MSPs, councillors and activists), saw all three stick doggedly to what’s clearly going to be the party’s main pitch in the 2015 general election – “Vote SNP, get Tories”.

It’s a line the party has trotted out at every election for decades, and which has been getting pumped out almost daily since Johann Lamont’s resignation – former deputy “leader” Anas Sarwar (who oddly declined to stand for the actual job when it became available) penned a column for the Evening Times on Monday, for example, entitled “Every vote for an SNP candidate is a vote to help elect David Cameron”, and he said the same thing in the Commons this very afternoon.


As alert readers will know, we like to check the facts on these things.

So we had a look at the figures for some UK general elections in the modern era, to try to ascertain whether there was any relationship between the SNP vote and the likelihood of a Conservative government being elected. Those of you familiar with the veracity of Scottish Labour claims will, perhaps, be less than stunned by the results.


Alert readers will have noticed several things from the graph above.

One is that Labour’s vote in Scotland has been remarkably consistent for the last 70 years, only once dipping below 1 million and only once exceeding 1.3 million (including the years we haven’t put on the graph). Another is that the SNP’s is far more volatile, even if you only count from the 1970s when the party became a serious force. In the 1970s alone it rocketed from 360,000 to 840,000 and then fell back to 504,000.

(The span between Labour’s biggest and smallest Scottish votes since 1970 is just 289,000. The gulf between the SNP’s best and worst over the same period, however, is a whopping 508,000 – a figure that’s even more dramatic considering the SNP’s average vote is less than half of Labour’s.)

But our elite band of super-alert readers will have spotted something else. Of the ten elections we’ve selected above, eight of them resulted in Conservative governments. The only two Labour won – 1974 and 1997 – were the ones with the highest and third-highest SNP votes.

(We initially selected eight years because they were all the Conservative wins since 1945 and we wanted to see if there was any correlation between Tory victories and the size of the SNP vote. We then included 1974 and 1997 because in compiling the data we noticed how strikingly large the SNP vote was in those years. The elections we’ve left out don’t change the overall picture at all.)

When voters abandoned the SNP in large numbers to stick with Labour, the Tories still got in. Labour got almost triple the SNP vote in Scotland in 1983, but it didn’t stop Mrs Thatcher securing the biggest landslide in Tory history with 397 seats to Labour’s 208. By the 1997 election the SNP vote almost doubled in size, but Tony Blair got an even bigger Westminster landslide, even though Labour’s own Scottish vote had only grown by 20,000 from their 1987 thrashing.

So the demonstrable, empirical truth is that voting SNP rather than Labour in Scotland does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in practice to make Conservative UK governments more likely. Indeed, statistically the exact opposite is true – the years with the lowest SNP votes are the years the Tories do best in and vice versa.

The four UK elections with the highest SNP votes (1974a, 1974b, 1992 and 1997) saw three Labour governments and the Tory government with the lowest majority. The four with the lowest SNP votes (1970, 1983, 1987 and 2010), conversely, were all Tory wins, including their two highest majorities ever.

The assertion on which Labour are fighting and will fight the 2015 election, then, is a flat-out lie comprehensively disproved by the facts. If you want a Conservative government in London, the best thing you can do in Scotland is vote Labour.

Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

When losing is really winning

When losing is really winning

By Claire Howell

It is said that if you were to interview the gold, silver and bronze medalists in any competition after they stand down from the podium you would be given three very distinct views on their results. The person who won bronze would be ecstatic, after all the difference for them is a medal or not. The gold medalist feels a fleeting sense of euphoria but after that mainly relief. The poor old silver medalist though, feels crushing disappointment that they haven’t won the gold, for them there is a sense of lost opportunity with the hope they can have another go at grabbing top spot in the future. For the athlete their time is limited, they have a sell by date and a limited amount of future to reach that gold medal.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband could learn from the Yes campaign

Step forward to two months after the referendum and that palpable sense of relief still swirls around the No campaign’s victory. They didn’t celebrate their success well enough and it hardly feels like a win at all so soon after the vote. The polls for the No parties are dire and the backlash towards Labour makes even non Labour voters squirm in embarrassment. No one in the UK can possibly envy Ed Milliband whose personal ratings in Scotland are almost unbelievable.

Yet what about the runners up? For the Yes campaign are not being seen in a losing light, at least not by them. So successful have their members been recently that Jim Murphy, the favourite to be the next Labour Leader in Scotland said: “the horse that lost that two-horse race has spent the last 6 weeks parading round the winning enclosure.”

Like Jim Murphy you may have thought that all activists in the Yes campaign would have clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes, such was their disappointment on the night. Many tears were shed over that weekend, disbelief that they nearly won and feelings of utter despair abounded. It barely lasted for a day.

They stuck to the positive can do approach as to what a successful Independent Scotland would look like. They batted away the project fear scaremongering and stuck to their beliefs. They did not waver and still have not entered into any period of self introspective doubt. No one would have blamed them if they had.

Alex Salmond said many times that a positive campaign will always shine over a negative campaign and that is true. You can win by running a negative campaign but you have to be a lot more negative than the other side. Rightly, in my view Yes stuck to being positive and that alone will take them over the finishing line first in the next race whenever that comes along.

Alex Salmond at BfS event in Aberdeen

Alex Salmond at BfS event in Aberdeen

The proof of the success of a positive campaign is clear to see in the vast numbers of people who have signed up to join the three parties that supported independence. The SNP have grown their membership to over 85,000 which now makes them the third largest political party by membership in the whole of the UK. The Green party in Scotland more than tripled their membership since the 19th of September and the Scottish Socialist Party have added over 2,500 new members to their party.

Not only have these parties seen a surge in membership numbers, but they have also benefited in recent election polling. The most up to date survey carried out by Survation gave the SNP their biggest ever lead over Labour in both Westminster and Holyrood voting intentions. If these polling figures were replicated across Scotland, the SNP could end up winning 52 Westminster seats at the General Election in May, an unprecedented number. The Greens have benefited as well, with their recent polling numbers suggesting they are now more popular in Scotland than the Liberal Democrats.

My view is this positive approach built an inherent sense of resilience in the Yes camp, a sense of right that has not been swayed by the result. This resilience will give the campaign longer legs for bigger strides the next time round, no one would bet against Yes winning next time and their supporters know it.

As for the bronze medal winner in this race then this goes to the Greens, they aligned themselves with the right side, they made it onto the podium and garnered thousands of new members along the way. They should be feeling ecstatic. The silver medal winners in this competition have bucked the trend, next time they just know it will be their gold to win.


Author Notes: Claire Howell is an acknowledged expert in the field of cognitive psychology and one of the most experienced executive coaches in the UK. Claire works with CEOs, professional athletes, political leaders, senior professionals, not for profit organisations and campaigns. She was was the architect behind the SNP running a positive campaign in the last two Scottish Government elections

Find out more about her and her company via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter or her company website.

Join Business for Scotland today.

Tags: ‘featured’, FM Alex Salmond

Category: Surveys and polls
Original Source: BusinessForScotland

Margaret Curran, Buzzfeed User

Margaret Curran, Buzzfeed User

…is the phrase that was making us chuckle this morning.


It headed an article of disingenuous carping so feeble that we can’t even be bothered archive-linking to it, entitled “Ten SNP Fails Since 2007″, because Margaret is bare down with the kids, innit? But we couldn’t help noticing one of the examples.


We’ve covered the hotel story before. But let’s have a look at that last sentence.

In total, £80,000 has been spent on hotel rooms and subsistence alone for Alex Salmond and his ministers since he became First Minister in 2007.”

The Scottish Government has 21 ministers including the FM. The SNP came to power 91 months ago, making a total of 1,911 minister-months. That means that on average, each minister in the Scottish Government has cost taxpayers the princely sum of £41.86 a month in hotel and subsistence expenses, or £879 a month for the whole lot of them put together. It seems, we would suggest, rather less than wildly extravagant expenditure for a whole government.

Now let’s visit the website of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.


That’s what Margaret Curran has cost taxpayers in just a single year, over and above her juicy Westminster salary. If we take only accomodation and travel costs, for the closest comparison we can get with the data available, the shadow Scottish Secretary (who, let’s remember, isn’t actually responsible for anything other than sitting around complaining about stuff) hoovered up £2,932 a month in expenses – almost three and a half times the cost of the ENTIRE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT.

Readers can decide for themselves which provided the better value.

Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

The lesser of evils

Ever since Nicola Sturgeon announced on Saturday that the SNP would never put the Tories in government, various mainstream political pundits have shown an alarming level of inability to grasp the concept of someone who cannot possibly become Prime Minister declaring their preference out of those who can.


Perhaps we’re being a bit unkind, as this isn’t a regular feature of British politics – usually we only hear the leaders of the two main parties telling us why they’re the best for the job, with the Liberal Democrat candidate comically trying to pretend that they stand a chance of being Prime Minister – but it does highlight the extraordinarily parochial nature of political debate in the UK media.

Because anyone who cares to cast a glance across the continent will see that such scenarios are not just common, but often an integral part of politics across Europe.

Take the 2011 Danish elections, for example. Denmark has an eight-party system, but just like in the UK, there are only really two realistic candidates for the post of Statsminister. But rather than the leaders of parties like the Social Liberals or Social People’s party “doing a Nick Clegg” and embarrassingly talking about what they would do when they became Statsminister, these parties declared in advance of the election that they would be supporting the leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as Statsminister.

Fans of the country’s cult political TV drama Borgen will remember such scenarios from the show, and perhaps one Borgen fan paid more attention than most.

Moving north to Norway, we can see a situation which is very similar to what Sturgeon proposes. In the 2009 election, Lars Sponheim, of the Liberal Party, stated unequivocally that his party preferred the Labour incumbent Jens Stoltenberg over the Progress Party’s Siv Jensen, and that they would neither support nor be part of any coalition which included the Progress Party – the similarities with Sturgeon’s pronouncements on Saturday are obvious.

In Sweden, things even went a step further than usual in 2004, when the four centre-right opposition parties formed the “Alliance for Sweden” in order to break the Social Democrats’ domination of Swedish politics. They presented a joint manifesto in the 2006 election (along with their own individual ones) and went on to win the election. Such was their success that the Social Democrats, Left party and Greens combined to form a short-lived opposing Red-Green alliance for the 2010 election (although they failed to win and the alliance was quickly disbanded.)

Outside of Scandinavia, it may be rarer to see the leader of a smaller party explicitly backing a preferred candidate out of the two main party leaders, but there’s often no need to. French governments generally consist of coalitions of “the left” or “the right” – nobody votes for the Greens or the PRG expecting them to put anyone but the leader of the Socialists in power.

In Germany, only the two main parties declare “Kanzlerkandidaten” (Chancellor candidates) – when Guido Westerwelle of the FDP (the German equivalent of the Liberal Democrats) declared himself his party’s Kanzlerkanidatur in advance of the 2002 election, he was widely mocked for doing so. Go to pretty much any country in Europe and the picture is the same, because these countries are used to permanent coalition politics, and thus the concept of smaller parties – explicitly or implicitly – choosing a preference out of the two main parties.

Of course, unlike the UK these countries have proportional voting systems which don’t penalise people for voting for parties other than the incumbent or the main challenger, thus giving smaller parties a much bigger voice. A sizeable number of leftist parliamentarians can ensure a government dominated by a centre-left party remains anchored to the left, and doesn’t drift too far to the centre.

In Scotland’s case the SNP can never form the government because they only stand in roughly a tenth of UK Parliamentary seats, but a sizeable number of pro-independence MPs can ensure that Scotland doesn’t fall off the radar, with the UK government’s arm constantly being tugged to remind them that we still exist. In the event of a hung parliament, that arm-tugging can become very forceful indeed.

This is what Nicola Sturgeon proposes, and it’s a sign that she’s performing the role she’s just been given – that of the leader of a mature European political party. Unfortunately, that maturity is apparently not mirrored by our media, so what should be seen as a pragmatic decision, based on an honest appraisal of the situation we’re in, is instead described as “confusing” and “mixed messages”, with professional political pundits apparently unable to grasp what’s being said.

And if they’re incapable of understanding such a simple situation, perhaps it’s their insight rather than Nicola Sturgeon’s that ought to come into question.


FOOTNOTE: Germany’s 2013 election led to a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SDP, when Merkel’s CDU was five seats short of a majority but could not count on the support of their usual coalition partners the FDP, who were completely annihilated. The Greens gave up on coalition talks, and a CDU coalition with the far-left Die Linke was unthinkable, so Germany’s two biggest partners combined to form a government with 71% of the total seats.

Could a complete Lib Dem wipeout – combined with the SNP making the cancellation of Trident a red-line issue – herald a grand Unionist coalition to ensure nukes keep floating on the Clyde? Given how comfortably the two parties allied in “Better Together”, at this stage we wouldn’t rule anything out.

Print Friendly
Source: Wing Over Scotland

Scotlands FreePress Archive