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Kevin McKenna: Taxing lyrical as the song on raising revenues stays the same

Kevin McKenna: Taxing lyrical as the song on raising revenues stays the same | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
WHILE Scotland has been wrestling with the issues of raising revenue and then protecting it, perhaps somewhere in Massachusetts a professor at Harvard Business School has been considering adding a new lecture to her Masters degree entry course. It might be entitled Scotland: Taxing Lyrical and observe how a disputatious little outpost in the North Atlantic had overnight become a crucible for observing the practice, nature and ethics of raising revenue in a modern democracy.
Peter A Bell's insight:

It would be gratifying if the worst of the drivel in this article was the stuff about the Scottish Government's independence White Paper "over-stating oil revenues". The term "overstate" implies wilful exaggeration. Which is, of course, utter nonsense. The kind of foolishness that can only come from those incapable of grasping the concept of a conditional statement. Many have sought to address this particular manifestation of stupidity. But it persists, nonetheless, among British nationalists and those journalists who unthinkingly subscribe to the cosy consensus of the British media.

But surely the worse folly is to suppose that the so-called tax 'plan' from British Labour in Scotland should be taken seriously.

I was at BBC Radio Scotland's Big Debate in Kinross yesterday and, inevitably, this topic was raised. In the course of the discussion, various of the panellists mouthed words about the "need for a debate" about tax. Politicians resort to the "need for debate" rhetoric when they want to convey the idea that there is something wrong with current policy, but have no considered critique to offer and nothing constructive to suggest in terms of an alternative.

Cue British Labour in Scotland and their back-of-a-fag-packet tax proposal.

The media connive in the charade by pompously congratulating Kezia Dugdale for broaching a previously taboo topic. Like the subject of taxation has never in living memory been part of an election debate! Aye, right!

Let's inject a bit of honesty into this "debate". Let's acknowledge what the real motive was behind this obviously fatally flawed tax proposal from Kezia's kiddies. Let's recognise that they knew damned well that it would be voted down by SNP, Green and Tory MSPs - each for their own reasons.

Let's be clear that the sole purpose of the exercise was to give muppets like Blair McDougall and Duncan Hothersall an excuse to run around the social media playground pointing at the SNP and chanting, "You voted wi' the Toh-rees! Ah'm tellin' on you-ou!", like the players in some obscene parody of Dennis Potter's wonderful 'Blue Remembered Hills'.

Let's face it! This has nothing whatever to do with a serious debate on taxation. It is nothing more than yet another instance of the kind of infantile, petty, unworthy politicking that we have come to expect from the British parties in Scotland.

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Latest EU referendum polls give completely different results

Latest EU referendum polls give completely different results | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
POLLSTERS ICM seem to be hedging their bets on the outcome of the EU referendum with two new polls giving completely different results.
Peter A Bell's insight:

I have no interest in trying to predict the outcome of the EU referendum. I've never really seen the point in hoping to know the result is advance. Sure! Campaign planners need guidance on where to put resources. And speculation can be entertaining. But, personally, I've always felt that we'd know the actual result soon enough, so why get in a frenzy trying to discover the result in advance. For the most part, there's nothing any of us can do with that information. Unless you're a gambler, there's no great advantage in picking the winner.

In the case of the EU referendum, you'd do as well with a coin-toss, I suspect, as with all the arcane information-gathering and data-juggling methodologies of every pollster there is. And for a simple reason - people.

More accurately, people's attitudes. Polling works, more or less, because there is invariably a recognisable pattern to the range of attitudes. On any given question, there will be a few fanatics at either end of the spectrum while a sizeable chunk of the middle will be occupied by people who, effectively, don't exist - because they either have no view, or have no intention of acting on whatever view they have.

Mostly, it's something close to the standard distribution, or bell curve.

But the distribution of attitudes in relation to the EU is very far from normal. The distribution is heavily weighted towards the anti-EU end of the spectrum of attitudes. There are a lot (note the unscientific term) of people who are fervently opposed to the whole EU project. All the fanatics are at that end of the see-saw. The other end of the see-saw is empty. There are no pro-EU fanatics. Or, at least, they exist in numbers small enough to compete with hens' teeth as a metaphor for rarity.

On the one side you have a wee army of union flag-waving British nationalists sporting tattooed declarations of devotion to an imaginary land called "Brittian", alternating between teary-eyed but faltering renditions of 'Jerusalem' and chest-puffing, jaw-jutting, right-hand-on-left-tit tributes to a nonagenarian aristocrat in a million-pound hat; with passing mention of some long-dead general whose success in terms of Scot-crushing may have been somewhat over-stated.

On the other side there's a bespectacled, grey-haired, book-toting academic in a stained and wrinkled suit with matching face who might have Beethoven's 'Ode To Joy' on her phone, but she isn't sure how to work the music-player app.

In between, there's an amorphous mass of people characterised variously by ennui, inertia, ignorance and intellectual indolence. Not bad people. Not bad people at all. Just ordinary folk who aren't particularly enthused by the whole thing. People who, if they think of the EU at all, perceive it as something remote, detached and more than slightly alien. People who just don't see how any of it has anything to do with them. Or why they should have anything to with it. Whatever it is.

Not all, of course. Some will gladly give you the dubious benefit of opinions derived from a personal political philosophy constructed entirely from Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines. They will, for example, regale anyone foolish enough to ask with assertions about how undemocratic the EU is. (Each assertion customarily suffixed with a declaratory "FACT!".) And how "they" are destroying "our" democracy. Ask them anything about the institutions, structures and processes of the EU and they will proudly declare themselves untainted by any such knowledge.

And they will be just as ignorant of what they passionately believe to be the superior democracy that they label "ours". You can try pointing to the concerns of authoritative figures such as the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord (I kid you not!) Judge,  who said in a recent letter to The Times,

"Lawmaking by secondary legislation has become habitual. Every year statutory instruments covering something like 12,000 printed pages come into force. Some extend to major issues of policy: some give ministers power to dispense with primary legislation. Virtually every page creates laws or duties, powers or prohibitions. They are by no means confined to matters of administration."

But it is unlikely that any regard will be paid. The 'true believer' will stubbornly insist that "our" system is better than "their" system despite knowing nothing of either.

Will they vote, however? Or is their political activism confined to parroting the stuff fed to them by those at the rabidly anti-EU end of the spectrum? Theirs is more of a resigned contempt than a burning hatred such as might move them to get off their arse and go to the polls.

And our lone advocate of EU membership is not without her supporters. There's a portion of that amorphous mass-in-the-middle which is at least vaguely aware of the role of the EU in securing and guaranteeing many of the social provisions that we take for granted - like paid holidays and parental leave. They are sort-of aware that the EU does stuff in relation to civil rights, workers' rights, consumer protection and the like. Some even know a bit about the role of the EU in maintaining peace in Europe - relative, at least, to the bloody conflicts that consumed the continent prior to the EU coming into existence.

But they tend to take these things for granted. They don't see them as being threatened by "Brexit". Despite the UK Government's quite open hostility to workers' rights, human rights, trade unions and a great deal more, they imagine these things to be secure. They feel no sense of urgency about voting to protect these things.

And even those who recognise that the EU does some good are nonetheless plagued by its behaviour towards Greece and its failings in relation to the "immigration crisis". Their support for the EU is, at best, conditional. Wavering. Uncertain. Tenuous. Non-committal.

That's the problem for the pollsters. How do they account for this 'abnormal' distribution? It's easy to see how, especially where respondents are self-selecting, the results will be skewed towards the anti-EU extreme due to the lack of any counterbalancing pro-EU extreme. How do they weight the data so as to take account of this odd distribution of attitudes?  I don't pretend to know. To be honest, I can't pretend to care. I am much more concerned about the implications for our democracy.

Democracy works best with high levels of popular engagement and voter participation. That, I hope, is sufficiently well recognised and accepted to require no supporting argument. What is, perhaps, less well appreciated is the extent to which democracy fails as voter turnout falls. At a certain point, it ceases to be democracy at all. And that is the situation which, potentially at least, confronts us with the EU referendum.

Under normal circumstances, the extremes tend to cancel one another out. Where there is a normal distribution, the far ends of the distribution become, in electoral terms, irrelevant. More so when voter turnout is high. Even where they do not cancel each other, the extremes are effectively swamped by the sheer mass of 'moderates'.

With the EU referendum, democracy faces something akin to a 'perfect storm'. There is only one extreme - the anti-EU mob. This is not balanced by any pro-EU extreme. So, in the absence of a sufficiently large mass of 'moderates' the extreme will prevail. Bear in mind that extremists will always vote. They are, by definition, extremely highly motivated.

If, for the most worthy of purposes, I may indulge in a little "Project Fear" of my own, I would say that, by failing to vote, you are empowering extremists. If you do not vote in the EU referendum then you are abandoning democracy to forces that do not necessarily respect democracy.

Sympathise with the plight of the pollsters as you may. The real issue here is turnout. And if that turnout is not high enough, everybody loses

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The Positive Case for the EU: Nicola Sturgeon rejects Project Fear rhetoric of the Tories

The Positive Case for the EU: Nicola Sturgeon rejects Project Fear rhetoric of the Tories | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
NICOLA Sturgeon has accused David Cameron and George Osborne of insulting the intelligence of voters ahead of next month’s EU referendum, and warned that the UK Government’s Project Fear rhetoric could backfire massively.
Peter A Bell's insight:

“Of course, there will be an economic impact, short, medium, and long-term, if there was a vote to leave the EU. But I’m much more interested in the positive reasons to stay in the EU.”

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Election spending laws 'not an optional extra', 23/05/2016, Daily Politics - BBC Two

Election spending laws 'not an optional extra', 23/05/2016, Daily Politics - BBC Two | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
Jo Coburn is live from Westminster with the latest on the EU referendum.
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Late payment culture is holding Scotland’s SMEs and economy back

If I were to choose one single policy that would stimulate economic growth, employment and business profits it is dealing with late payments to small to medium sized businesses (SMEs).
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Support for Remain strengthening in Scotland, new poll shows

Support for Remain strengthening in Scotland, new poll shows | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
SOME 54 per cent of Scots believe the UK should remain in Europe, compared with just 32 per cent who think it should leave, with 14 per cent undecided, according to the ICM poll.
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Tony Blair’s tombstone teeth

The Chilcot Enquiry has been going on so long that it has given its name to a geological epoch. It’s seen mountain ranges rise and erode, continents move across the face of the planet as the tectonic plates dance on magma, and the mass extinction of much of Iraq spreading across the Middle East and North Africa. And all the while Tony Blair of the tombstone teeth, deliverer of deception and disturber of the peace, has profited from the chaos he created by offering his dubious servicing of sanctimonious sleaze to assorted dictators and strongmen.
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Carolyn Leckie: Green refusal to endorse the First Minister feels like petty party politics

Carolyn Leckie: Green refusal to endorse the First Minister feels like petty party politics | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
THE price of being outside party politics is not having a say. For the most part, I am entirely contented. But it can, occasionally, be frustrating. One such occasion was last week, when the Scottish Parliament had its vote for First Minister. There were two options on the ballot paper: Nicola Sturgeon, the most popular political leader of any party across the UK, or Willie Rennie, famous for being interviewed in front of amorous pigs. The Greens abstained.
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Listing To Port

Some of you will have noticed I haven’t been blogging much of late –n o cheering at the back. There are a few reasons for this. First, the weather has been lovely and the chance to make the most of it when I no longer go to work is overwhelming – you should see my legs.
Peter A Bell's insight:

"Within this scabrous little affair we see how damaging to the public interest and how corrosive to the body politic the scheming and destructive anti-Nats can be."

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An act of sabotage

An act of sabotage | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
Yesterday we reported how the only people who were risking the privatisation of key ferry services to the Western Isles were the Scottish Labour politicians and media crowing about how the decision to keep them in the hands of publicly-owned operator Caledonian MacBrayne had been made for political reasons.
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The consequences of deceit

Auntie Annabel Goldie, fresh from smoothing down the hair and wiping the torn faces of the new Tory MSPs with a hankie damp with spit, has opined that Nicola Sturgeon thinks having a bad hair day would be a trigger for a second independence referendum. She then went on to blame the SNP for having that terribly divisive referendum in the first place. How very dare they, upsetting the cosy Unionist consensus with their democracy and public engagement and stuff.
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Scottish Politics For Dummies

Scottish Politics For Dummies | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
As we write there’s a protest going on outside the Scottish Parliament regarding the privatisation of ferry services to the Western Isles. It was formally announced several hours ago that there definitely wasn’t going to be any privatisation and the service would remain in public hands, but the protest still went ahead.
Peter A Bell's insight:

The idiocy of British nationalist ideology exposed yet again.

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Swinney’s move a sign Sturgeon will target education

Swinney’s move a sign Sturgeon will target education | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
JOHN Swinney has been appointed the new Education Secretary in a move which underlines the significance being given by Nicola Sturgeon to improve academic standards and close the attainment gap for pupils from poorer backgrounds.
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Phenomenon Of The Week

Phenomenon Of The Week | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
Over the past few days, readers, we haven’t been able to avoid noticing a recurring theme among Unionist types on social media – namely that the Holyrood election results are proof that support for independence is declining.
Peter A Bell's insight:

Another day; more British nationalist lying exposed.

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Positive message from Nicola Sturgeon as she meets MPs to discuss fresh drive for independence

Positive message from Nicola Sturgeon as she meets MPs to discuss fresh drive for independence | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
STEWART Hosie was not among the SNP MPs to attend a meeting in the House of Commons last night with Nicola Sturgeon.

It is understood Hosie may have had parliamentary engagements when the First Minister met the group of parliamentarians to mark their first year at Westminster.
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BBC and Brexit

BBC and Brexit | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it

I’m still waiting for the BBC to send a brace of B-list Scottish celebrities and flaky journalists to England to record personal documentaries interviewing loquacious locals on why they want independence from Europe, the place that subsidises their very existence, their infrastructure.

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Yvonne Ridley: Harman is off her trolley as Sturgeon sets out a winning case for Europe

Yvonne Ridley: Harman is off her trolley as Sturgeon sets out a winning case for Europe | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
IT IS blindingly obvious to those of us living north of the border that Scottish Labour self-destructed after getting into bed with the Tories over the "Better Together" campaign during the independence referendum.
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Stewart Hosie: did he jump or was he pushed?

THE question Westminster-watchers will be asking is – did Stewart Hosie jump or was he pushed?
Peter A Bell's insight:

It is probably true that "Westminster-watchers" are obsessing about whether Stewart Hosie stepped down voluntarily or was forced to do so by Nicola Sturgeon. It is certainly true that this is a sad reflection on the state of political journalism. A once serious and highly regarded profession reduced to the level of sub-tabloid celebrity gossip.

The reality, of course, is that there these things are not mutually exclusive. The simplistic dichotomy is reflective of the journalist's disrespect for readers. It assumes that we are not capable of dealing in shades of grey and require that complex issues be reduced to bite-size black-and-white chunks spoon fed to us by the mouthpieces of the British establishment.

The reality is that circumstances made it impossible for Hosie to continue in his role. More thoughtful commentary would be concerned, not with the dumb mechanics of the process, but with such questions as whether it is right or fitting or proper or helpful that a hugely talented politician, supremely well-fitted to the role entrusted to him, should be hounded from that role for reasons which have infinitely more to do with satisfying the blood-lust of his political rivals and a rapacious media eager to flex its manipulative muscles than with behaviour which, however reprehensible, in no way reflects on the capacities and talents which the role requires.

What we should be asking is, not what went on between Hosie and Sturgeon - far less what went on in the former's private life - but whether society and democracy are well-served by the bringing down of such a gifted politician.

At a personal level, I am disappointed. I will say no more than that for fear of being even remotely associated with the pompous cant that is oozing out of certain commentators. But, above all, my politics is pragmatic. Stewart Hosie has been an adept champion of Scotland's interests and an outstanding servant to Scotland's people. While others obsess about who said what to whom, I ask myself who benefits from the loss - or the diminishing - of such an individual. I am forced to conclude that it can only be those who do not share his commitment to what is best for Scotland.

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Deputy Leader of SNP quits over 'intense scrutiny' of private life

Stewart Hosie is to step down as the SNP’s leader in Westminster in the autumn, citing “intense scrutiny” of his private life.
Peter A Bell's insight:

Stewart Hosie was never "the SNP’s leader in Westminster". Angus Robertson is leader of the SNP group at Westminster. Stewart Hosie was Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party.


There is no such body as the Scottish Assembly. There is a Scottish Parliament. Perhaps this is what Ashley Cowburn meant. How would we know. She seems to be just guessing here.


As ever, the British media is imbued with such contempt for the people of Scotland that there seems no need to bother getting the facts right. No wonder people despise journalists.

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The Tory Party Must be investigated on election fraud charge.

The Tory Party Must be investigated on election fraud charge. | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
SNP MP Pete Wishart has today written to the Metropolitan police asking them to fully investigate the Conservative Party and its role in the serious allegations surrounding the campaign expenditure of Conservative Party candidates in the 2015 General Election. In a dramatic escalation in what has come to be known as ‘Tory election fraud’ first uncovered by Channel 4, Mr Wishart says that the Conservative Party central office, and its office bearers, must be properly examined to see if there was any systematic circumvention of electoral legislation.
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Statements of the obvious

Statements of the obvious | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
So a few things need said about the events of the weekend.
Peter A Bell's insight:

"You don’t ever get to play the injured innocents if you’ve been singing about wading in people’s blood because they’re a different religion to you. Those are the rules."

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Rievers of Blood

Here’s a talking point from history for you as a weekend treat…it comes from an academic whose identity I will shield (careers can be ruined by appearing here – look what happened to John Boothman). My correspondent is worried about the approach of Ruth Davidson who said on the BBC that only 16 per cent of Scotland’s trade is with the EU but 60 per cent is with England.
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The SNP’s Alternative Queen’s Speech

The SNP’s Alternative Queen’s Speech | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
Ahead of the State Opening of the UK Parliament, the SNP has set out our progressive alternative to a ‘business as usual’ continuation of the Tory government’s failed austerity project.
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Two Scotsmen

Here’s (a few seconds into the clip) George, Baron Foulkes Of Cumnock.
Peter A Bell's insight:

I think we get the point.

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Nothing Will Happen, it Never Does!

I have been following a little of the Conservative Party’s alleged General Election expenses issue, or what I can of it given how little it appears to be getting reported. I know that some other blogs have covered this but this is my take on it for what it’s worth.
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Criminal reoffending at 17-year-low - BBC News

Criminal reoffending at 17-year-low - BBC News | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it
Reconviction rates for offenders in Scotland have fallen to their lowest level for 17 years, figures reveal.
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