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Columns

  • Why GERS figures may not be all they seem - and who we should listen to

    Next time someone tells you Scotland has a £15billion deficit, throw three words at them: Professor Richard Murphy.

    The influential professor of ­practice in international political economy at City University of London made his name exposing the way big companies avoid paying tax – and the ineffectiveness of governments in collecting tax.

    He is a chartered accountant who has succeeded in sexing up his subject with his book The Joy of Tax.

    This month he turned his ­attention to Scotland and in ­particular claims that the country has a £15billion deficit and is too poor to be an independent country.

    The claim was absurd even before Professor Murphy challenged it this month. This is why:

    1. The Scottish Government balance the books each year because the Government do not borrow – so it is entirely “notional” or paper-based, a guesstimate.

  • Why Westminster does not work for Scotland

    Westminster does not work for Scotland.

    That is something we must all remember as we make ready for another vote on our people’s future.

    This is not about Europe. The EU referendum was just the trigger.

    It is about democracy and the complete and utter failure of the current UK state to treat Scotland as an equal partner.

    In a “successful union” or even a “precious union”, one partner does not ride roughshod over the other partner’s wishes.

    There’s supposed to be give and take. There’s been no give by Theresa May since 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain in Europe.

  • Farcical Brexiteers attempting to relive the days of the Raj are ludicrous

    Carry On up the Khyber was a silly spoof of the British Empire.

    It seemed hopelessly dated – till this week when it emerged the deluded Tories want to revive the glory days when one in five of the world’s people bowed to Britannia.

    In the 1969 film, Queen Victoria’s Indian governor Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond (Sid James) and the 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment (The Devils in Skirts) enter a farcical battle with the Khasi of Khalabar (Kenneth Williams).

    What the Devils wore beneath their kilts is a key theme of the, ahem, “plot”.

    But at least this nonsense parodied the Raj. The Tories Brexit process is turning into one long Carry On Film.

    The UK have a cunning new plan called “Empire 2.0”. It comes on the back of the ludicrous idea of rebuilding the Royal Yacht Britannia to help negotiate trade deals – presumably so that Boris Johnson can abseil down the main brace.

  • Labour councils proved that tax freeze was a great policy by rejecting chance to get rid of it

    Duplicity, effrontery... utter desperation. There are many ways to describe the backward roll Labour has performed on the council tax freeze. None are particularly complimentary.

    A year ago some Labour councils threatened to take the Scottish government to court to end the freeze, claiming it imposed a nuclear winter on the land hurt local services.

    This year they had the option to sweep it away, but a clutch of councils have chosen to continue it.

    Worse, these councils, such as South Lanarkshire, Aberdeen and Inverclyde have shouted the loudest against the freeze and complain most loudly about their budget allocation from the Scottish Government.

    The SNP council tax freeze was one of the most popular policies ever pursued by a government, so it was par for the course that Labour politicians hated it. No surprise there.

    They haven’t exactly had their finger on the pulse of popular opinion in recent times. Under previous Labour governments in Scotland the council tax rose by up to 60 per cent, plunging many households into crisis.

  • Scots feel betrayed after Brexit lies

    Are you a Scot who voted leave in the EU referendum? That puts you in a minority north of the border. But take heart, because you have never been more in demand – at least with the Tories.

    None of them can make a speech these days without mentioning you.

    Likely you are embarrassed by all the attention, I don’t blame you. The reasons you voted leave are beginning to fall apart.

    Let’s revisit them.

  • The last thing the Act of Union needs is a reboot

    The Act of Union never had a great rep in Scotland. So why on earth is Kezia Dugdale demanding another one?

    When it was signed, abolishing the Scottish Parliament in 1707, there were riots in the streets 
    of Edinburgh and other Scottish towns.

    The pro-union writer Daniel Defoe, who was working as an English spy in Scotland, admitted that for every person who supported the union “99 were against it”.

    It later transpired that even those who had backed it only did so because they were bribed.

    Robert Burns dismissed them as a “Parcel of Rogues in a nation” who were “bought and sold for English gold”.

    The parcel of rogues insult was later thrown at Scottish Labour when they campaigned beside the Tories in the independence referendum of 2014. The insult stuck.

    Labour’s vote subsequently melted like snow aff a dyke. Now Kezia is charged with the unenviable task of making the party relevant again in Scotland. This, surely, isn’t the way.

  • Scotland needs a bespoke immigration system to bolster our dwindling population

    Remember the millennium – an era of apocalyptic warnings?

    Some were overblown – such as the millennium computer bug that didn’t bite. But some were real.

    In Scotland, there was talk of a “demographic timebomb”. Too few babies were being born to replace people who died or left.

    Our population was predicted to fall below the totemic five million figure. Worse still, the number of working-age people was set to plummet – threatening our economy.

    The problem was so acute Jack McConnell, the former Labour first minister, set up a scheme to attract more migrants. It was called Fresh Talent.

     

  • Sickening sex attack on Tracie Aldridge shows we need to change attitude to consent

    Tracie Aldridge is a brave young woman.

    She gave up her anonymity after being sexuality assaulted.

    Worse, the attack was filmed. Like many people reading yesterday’s Daily Record account of her ordeal, I felt totally sickened.

    Tracie was sexually assaulted, as she slept, by Jordan Binnie, who had a history of violence. He got a 12-month sentence. The attack was filmed by Fraser Anderson who then posted it on the internet.

    He was convicted of a breach of the peace charge and, unlike Binnie, will not be placed on the sex offenders register.

    The Record reported that Tracie felt so humiliated she had to give up her job. I could well understand if it affected her health.

  • Don't play us for fools Theresa May... Scotland has a big red X on our back because of Trident

    Whoops! Apocalypse was ­probably one of the most surreal pieces of TV ever made.

    Shown in the early 1980s at the height of the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union, it ­imagined a world where a nuclear holocaust happens by accident.

    Missiles are triggered by ­malfunctioning Space Invaders machines and the next thing you know, the end of the world is nigh.

    There is a number of sub-plots, including an intellectually ­challenged American president whose advisers believe they have a direct line to God… so maybe it wasn’t that far from reality after all.

    Whoops! Apocalyse did not end well. But more than three decades and several technological ­revolutions later, its absurdist nightmare doesn’t look quite so absurd any more.

    This week we learned that a Trident missile “misfired” during a test and careered towards the coast of America before being forced to self destruct at sea.

  • Confused Theresa May casts Britain adrift ... straight into a crisis

    Theresa May got one thing right in her speech.

    “More trade means more jobs” she said towards the end. But she had just made clear that Britain was leaving the single market, and ­probably the customs union too.

    That means less trade and less jobs. The single market eliminates ALL barriers to trade.

    It ensures member countries follow the same rules to prevent undercutting – something enforced by the European Court of Justice, which May ­will ditch.

    The Fraser of Allander Institute have already said the loss of trade from leaving the single market will cost the UK 80,000 jobs and reduce the value of wages by £2000 if there is a “hard Brexit.”

    The speech made clear the Tories are headed that way – into a wall. Don’t be fooled by data suggesting the economy is doing better than feared. Brexit hasn’t happened yet.

  • Don't cut lifeline to the world's poorest and keep giving overseas aid

    Charity begins at home is the most over-used – and abused – cliche of all time.

    Its original meaning – be kind to your family – is spot on.

    But too often, it’s used to attack spending on overseas aid by right-wing politicians.

    Fortunately, it’s not something we see a lot of in Scotland.

    Today, the Scottish Parliament debates a refreshed international development strategy.

    I hope the plan gets the cross-party support it has enjoyed in the past.

  • Westminster must grant Scotland the powers to remain in the European Union

    FRAMED by the elegant backdrop of Bute House, before the world’s media, the First Minister yesterday made a cogent, impassioned plea for the next best option.

    We all know her first choice for Scotland is independence. But yesterday she set her own feelings aside to protect Scotland’s economic prospects in the face of Brexit.

    She argued for a compromise with fiery conviction.

    As another European leader, the 19th century German chancellor Otto Von Bismark, said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

  • Public are too smart to fall for Tory deception and Labour incompetence on Scotland's budget

    Derek Mackay has enjoyed a sparkling career at Holyrood. Elected in 2011 aged just 34, he quickly became a minister.

    Now he holds the nation’s purse strings as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, presenting his first budget this week.

    He’s popular, capable and thoroughly deserves his success. But I wouldn’t want his job for the world.

    Derek holds the strings to a purse that has shrunk.

    This isn’t a mere debating point. A recent report by Strathclyde University’s economics research unit, The Fraser of Allander Institute, said Scotland’s budget is now five per cent lower “in real terms” than 2010.

  • Tories don't want to see or hear Scotland on Europe ... as Chancellor's surly Scottish Parliament visit proves

    I was brought up to believe that guests should be gracious to their hosts.

    But Mr Hammond needs to learn some manners.

    He failed to display any during his visit to the Scottish Parliament last week.

    One member of our staff was told to vacate a lift in parliament so Hammond could use it.

    Security was the excuse given. But all workers in the parliament are security cleared.

    It seems that Tory ministers like Hammond come with a clutch of flunkies who think their bosses are way too grand to share confined airspace with mere workers.

  • Eviction of the Paterson brothers proves law of land gives too much power to the rich

    The people are mightier than a Lord.

    That was the ringing slogan of the Highland Land League, formed in the 19th century to put right the injustices of the clearances.

    But hundreds of years later, the people can still be crushed by a Lord.

    The very sad story of the Paterson brothers, two young tenant farmers evicted on Arran, is a case in point.

    They are being forced out by Charles Fforde, a descendent of the Dukes of Hamilton.

    Fforde was one of the most vocal opponents ofthe Scottish Parliament’sabolition of feudalism in 2000.

    Fforde made full use of his medieval feudal superiority, once charging the Brodick Church £800 when they extended their hall.

  • New Scottish system will ensure disabled people's Human Rights aren't violated

    Disabled people have their human rights violated every day in this country.

    That’s the verdict of an influential United Nation’s Committee investigating the effects of the UK Government’s welfare cuts.

    A motion in the Scottish Parliament from MSP Christina McKelvie draws attention to the UN bombshell and asks the UK to assess its “reforms” and find out the detrimental impact they have on people with disabilities.

    Can we fix it though? Powers over social security are coming to Scotland and how we use them will say a lot about us as a nation.

    The SNP have vowed the Scottish system will be based on dignity and respect and parliament will debate the matter today.

  • Scottish nationalism couldn't be further removed from vision of Trump and Farage

    IT is no surprise that UKIP’s Nigel Farage was the first UK politician to ride in Trump’s gaudy gold elevator. They have so much in common.

    They are authoritarian, xenophobic and insular. America First, Britain First, Migrants Out. They claim to be on the side of the working man.

    But their tax cutting, small state agenda can only benefit the rich elites to whom they both belong. Trump wants to abolish Obamacare, removing affordable health insurance from millions of families in a country where becoming sick can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

    UKIP have advocated wide scale privatisation of the NHS here.

    What is less often commented on is the overlap with parties which are to all intents and purposes fascist, such as the French National Front.

    Trump’s new head of strategy Steve Bannon once told French journalists “We think that France is a place where we need to be, with its young entrepreneurs and the women of the Le Pen family.”

    Bannon is considered by many to be closer ideologically to the Klu Klux Klan than mainstream Republicanism. Whether or not that is proven, he will ensure the divisive, angry offensive aspects of Trump’s campaign echo loudly around the West Wing.

    Read the rest of my column here.

  • Clinton isn't perfect but Trump isn't close to being fit for the Presidency

    KEZIA Dugdale was ribbed a bit for heading to America to campaign for Hillary Clinton for a few days.

    I don’t always agree with Kezia but I back her on this one. Those who criticise Scottish politicians for international engagement are promoting the classic cringe approach, ie “don’t get above your station”.

    Kezia’s presence is not going to swing it in the US. But I can well understand why anyone with the means and the time would want to stop Trump.

    I was pleased to hear that several SNP staffers are already in the States, campaigning for the Democrats.

    Hillary is far from perfect. But a Trump victory would be catastrophic. Trump’s campaign chief apologised this week for one of their supporters shouting “Jew-SA” at reporters. The chairman of the American Nazi Party Rocky Suhayda has praised Trump.

  • Wallonia proves it's not Brussels that calls the shots in Europe

    SO it’s not Britain which holds the fate of Europe on a taut string. It’s the tiny region of Wallonia, which I bet few of you had heard of until this week.

    The 3.5 million strong corner of Belgium has as its national symbol a red cockerel on a yellow background. Boy has it been strutting its stuff - and making itself heard.

    Wallonia has sunk, for now at least, the free trade agreement between Canada and Europe called CETA that took seven years to negotiate.

    So who says only Brussels, or indeed national governments, call all the shots in Europe? The Walloons are not actually a nation like Scotland. They don’t have the global recognition of our brand - tartan, bagpipes, whisky and Andy Murray. They didn’t invent penicillin, television or create the world’s first cloned sheep.

  • Theresa May must respect Scotland's anti-Brexit position

    So the starting gun has fired on a second independence referendum. Or perhaps not …

    Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference that a draft Bill on a second referendum would be published this week.

    It will be put out to consultation – like every other piece of legislation.

    But that doesn’t mean it will definitely happen.

    The SNP have a mandate to hold another referendum if Scotland is pulled out of the EU against its will.

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