Saturday 31 December 2011


It's December 31: a time to reflect on the year past.

For Scotland it has been momentous. There was a general election which produced an SNP majority government, though the system was designed specifically to avoid any majority government, much less an SNP one. 

So far, with the exception of the Sectarian legislation, all has been well and support for the government has increased rather than diminished in the months since May.

John Swinney has worked miracles with ever decreasing financial settlements over the years  first from Labour and now the Liberal Tory coalition and has continued his magic touch, and Scotland's pensioners, sick, poor and those looking for homes, enjoy much that England's equivalents do not.

Of course, despite having made it clear before the election that the referendum would be in the second half of the 5 year-parliament, the opposition parties seem to find little else to question the government about. And talking about opposition parties, all but the Greens have had a change of leader since May. 

First the Liberals, having swapped their 16 seats for 5, swapped Tavish Scott for Willie Rennie, a bad deal in my estimation. Tavish, despite his intense dislike of the SNP, had at least heard of constructive opposition and was prepared to apply it for the benefit of his country. Willie, maybe having failed to realise that his party had lost 2/3 of its seats because of its participation in Westminster with David Cameron and Tavish's inability before the election to distance himself from that, threw away his opportunity to start a fightback and backed Cleggameron's policies from day one. Duh!

Then the Tories swapped the estimable Annabel Goldie, a woman much more popular than her party, for Ruth Davidson, who had only just been elected to her seat a few months before. In doing so they threw away the opportunity to move forward as a new distinctly Scottish right of centre party under Murdo Fraser, and lost a good deal of support, including from our own resident Tory (or ex-Tory), Dean from New Right.

Finally Labour ditched the inestimable Iain 'don't sleep in the subway' Gray, a dreary soul who never seemed to make the right decision and whined his way through FMQs every week before being left battered and bruised. Iain had presided over Labour's most humiliating defeat ever in Scotland, and it was clear to everyone that a drastic change  of direction was needed, so Labour elected the woman who had been second in charge under the catastrophe, Johann Lamont. Smart thinking.

Each one of the parties has failed to see that there is a new politics in Scotland. Maybe we are on the road to independence; maybe devo max, or independence light, but the status quo is not an option, and sticking to it, on orders from their London bosses, may minimise the damage done to the government (which is of course all about change), but it's not what is best for Scotland.  

While a new separate identity is what people seem to want, Willie Rennie walks around in Clegg's shadow and Ruth is David's woman all the way. After all, David's own strategist man came to Scotland to give her campaign advice.

Whilst it is true that Mrs Lamont in now supposedly leader of everything she surveys in Scotland: (in order of importance, or should that be 'impotence') MSPs, MPs, MEPs, Councillors, the tea fund? the Lords, it's not quite clear what that means. 

Do Labour's English/Scottish stars, Spud and Wee Doogie, at Defence and Foreign Affairs respectively, report to her? Would they continue to do so were Labour in government? Does Vinegar Maggie report to her? Who's boss of whom? 

I suspect that the changes in Labour's constitution are cosmetic only and that orders will inevitably continue to come from London. I don't see Johann as a rebel. But I wonder how long it will be before someone blows a hole in the pretence. That will be interesting.

So far there has been an air of unfinished business about parliament. Now the new leaders are all in place, let's hope that somehow, together we can take Scotland forward to survive what everyone predicts will be battering year all over Europe.


  1. It's sad, in a way, that all the parties in Scotland, apart from the Greens, have taken such a hammering from the voters largely because of what your article has just said.
    Scotland needs to have an effective opposition and we just don't have that just now. The Tories don't get it, Labour doesn't get it and the LibDems get it but don't want to do anything which will upset the status quo in the UK.

  2. TV repeats an 18prt series.

    An effective opposition! Not needed this side of Independence IMO.

  3. Yes Gedguy. A poor opposition is not good for the country, especially now that there is a majority government.

    We must have the legislation properly perused, but we also need constructive opposition to deal with the hard times that are coming.

    They need to stop obsessing about the bloody referendum. It will happen; and it will happen in the second part of parliament. What part of that do these people not to understand?

    They blame the government for wasting time on the matter, but in fact it is the opposition that is doing that. The government is getting on with the business of governing. They should be getting on with the business of scrutinising the legislation and making suggestions for improvement.

  4. Your link isn't working CH.

    Is the opposition comment about the link?

  5. And meanwhile the band played on!

    The SNP's membership rocketed to over 20,000 making it the largest party in Scotland, making it the best supported with an army of foot soldiers ready and willing to get the message across.

    Its coffers are stuffed with cash from lottery winners, ex-Makar's legacies etc making it the best funded party in Scotland. With the money to pay for its campaigns.

    And it continues to do well in by elections and looks set to do well in May.

    Willie Rennie meanwhile is telling us all that he thinks Scotlands future lies with liberaliam and not can't make that up! The nationalist have 69 MSPs and the Lib Dems have 5?? The Lib Dems continue to lose deposits in by elections and look set to be wiped off the local political map too. What colour is the sky in Willie Rennie's cloud cuckoo land??

  6. A deluded shade of yellow, I'm guessing, Munguin.

  7. The Tories seem to have handed the reigns to a jonnie come lately who ought to have been an also ran in the leadership contest.

    Did thery not notice that with their most popular leader in decades in charge the SNP still depressed their core vote a few points and lost them one constituency and one list seat?

    What effect will Ruth's rather wishy washy performance at FMQs to date, and the fact that she does not seem to know what she is doing (i.e she makes a huge fuss about announcements on busses..but that is not a devolved what is the point?). She may end up falling on her sword after May if its proves a disaster that was only averted last May because they had Annabel.

  8. As for Labour's new Super Leader. Well all we know about her is she used to burst in to spontaneous applause with vigorous nodding when Iain Gray burped in parliament. How is she going to fare up against the on-the-make types who see Westminster as the place to be? Like "admin" Harris did until he put so many blots on his copy book it was more blot that book so he had to slam his badwaggon into reverse and want to go all Scottish on them!

    I don't think it is going to work well if Lamont gives vinegar Maggie an order and she runs to the real big cheese the lesser Milliband to have it confirmed.

    Everybody is skeptical about it already and nobody believes that Lamont is the real Scottish Leader. She should have stamped her mark on it by now if she were so it looks like so much window dressing.

  9. Munguin,

    I left this reply on Willie Rennie's New Year's message about 2 hours ago. Still waiting for it to appear; that's if he allows it to be posted.

    ” give power away to local communities rather than horde it for themselves; makes decisions for the long term interest, not quick fixes; ”

    You mean like the UK?

    “We came together in the national interest to tackle the economy and our fiscal position would even more difficult if we had not taken that action”

    I agree but then again that wouldn’t needed to have happened if we had been independent.

    “For generations, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have advocated Home Rule for Scotland”

    What happened?

    “the Parliament is responsible for raising broadly what it spends”

    And what about the rest of the money that is taken out of Scotland and given to the Westminster treasury?

    “and former supporters”

    You mean the ones that stopped voting for your party and voted for the SNP instead?

  10. I doubt the Tories will get rid of Ruth, no matter how bad their results may be in the May elections.

    Actually, I wonder how mad they will be. Yes, there must be a large number who wanted Murdo's new right wing party and realise that a party tied to London is not what Scots want, but where are they to go. The Liberals, their partners in London, is probably all that is left to them. There may be some interesting independents after May.

  11. Thanks CH. How well I remember that night.... Sweet.

  12. Lamont on election night was pathetic. All she did was whine about how good Labour men and women had been sacrificed.

    She seemed to blame the voters for voting for the SNP, rather than Labour for driving them away in buses.

    That kind of mindset doesn't drive change. She'll expect the voters to change rather than Labour. Her policy may well be to wait and the votes will come back to Labour once they are fed up with the SNP.

  13. Willie's new year message?

    Oh I don't think I could bear to read it all the way through Gedguy. Very brave of you.

    He seems to have missed the point that the voters were angry with the Liberals, and with Tavish's bragging about the good things that Clegg had done in holding back the full wrath of Tory policies, whilst telling people that they would have to "put that question to Nick" about the ditching of main policies like free education and proportional representation. Getting into bed with the Tories was bound to play badly in Scotland... but getting into bed with THIS lot of Tories; the unimaginably stupid ones, was always going to spell disaster.

    Mind you, I thought that they would have 7 or 8 seats... not 5.

    I remember reading about the proposals that Alex put to Michael Moore about more powers along the 'home rule' line, and Moore saying 'no' to each one... He has become a Tory, along with Danny Alexander and his tax on oil exploration. No wonder people marched on his constituency office shouting: "Danny, Danny, Danny, Out, Out, Out".

    Still, I'm sure the Tories will probably find them nice comfy seats in England somewhere.

  14. I've just read Labour 'Hame's' piece n the First Minister's new Year message. As usually my comments on Labour 'Hame' disappear into the ether, except on the few occasions where I have agreed with them, I thought I'd preserve my reply here.

    "Fortunately the British Prime Minister would never say anything praising British people, in a way that could, if one wanted to be picky, indicate that he thinks that French people or the Batswana or Japanese or Greenlanders don't have the qualities of "fair play and decency" wasn't it, that Cameron said we all had?

    And no, I know a lot of English people who, if they could only get their hands on Mrs Thatcher, would string her up, and I know no one, not a single person from any nation who likes her, even a tiny little bit."

  15. My unpublished contribution.

    "Drink don't drive but this article would drive a teetotaller to drink"

  16. Tris,
    Not all Libdems feel that way. See Andrew Page's blog, especially the comment he made in reply to my posting. he seems a decent man of high principals.

  17. Good assessment Tris, although I wonder why you give so many sentences to Willie Rennie. Maybe it's out of sympathy. :)

    The politician I feel some sympathy for is Murdo Fraser. He's a genuine man and had an honest idea which London decided wasn't a runner. If he had managed then perhaps in a decade or so the tories would have become more acceptable here, but that wasn't to be and they elected another PR individual.

    Munguin has eloquently described the mess of Labour so I won't reiterate.

    Like you Tris, I don't have the stomach to read another Rennie message. As one English pal said the other day 'Does that man live on a beach by the Forth Bridge because every photo accompanying his nonsense shows it to be the case'.

    If the elected opposition can't raise their game then bloggers will have to question the government. As you know I'm unhappy with a few policies - in particular the SNP's outdated EU one.

    Happy New Year when it comes. x

  18. Tris

    One thing puzzles me about this needing an effective opposition thing, just why do we need an effective opposition?

    You can only fight what is in front of you and if the opposition are pathetic that is their outlook, and it is up to them to do something about it. When Alex Fergusons team wins the league he has won it no matter the opposition. He would never say "we need a more effective opposition"

    Talking about lack of opposition and pathetic brings us to Willie Rennie. This political colossus who did not have the round spherical objects to stand for a first past the post seat, and who sneaked in the assisted places scheme a wonderful seventh out of eight places, gets far more column inches in newspapers than his position merits. Mind you the papers may be like me hoping that for once he has something to say that will be worth hearing, but do not hold your breath.

    As for 2012 being the Liberal year, do you think he dropped one of the Olympic rings, he would happily have on the roof of his house, on his head and that is why he made such a stupid comment.

    Maggie T might have needed a "Willie" but Scotland can do without that Willie.

  19. Johann Lamont = Wee Jimmy Crankie

    A music hall act

    end of

  20. I must have a look CH and see if Admin has passed my comment,. He doesn't like criticism of his beloved Mrs Thatcher... although doubtless he would give her her stupid title.

  21. Gedguy: I'm sure there are many of them George Potter is one of them. He has been critical of Liberal ministers (in England), but is a hugely principled old fashioned Liberal... you know when Lib Dems were actually Liberal and Democratic!!

    Thanks for the link though. I'll give him a look too.

    Georges blog is in the sidebar >

  22. Och paer Wulle, Subrosa, naebudy bathers wi 'im so ah've ge'en 'im a puckle publicity.

    It's right that bloggers question the government, and if the opposition spend all their time and energy on when the sodding referendum will be, I'd suggest we do the opposing constructively, like they should be doing... and as they doing all that they are being paid to do, maybe we could ask them to donate a portion of their salary to a Scottish charity.

    I doubt anyone would ever approve of all the positions a government takes. But our alternatives are limited. Remember what the alternative is... as per Munguin.

    We can sort out what Scots want once we break free of a bond which ties us to a government of the South of England, for the South of England, by the South of England!

    Glückliches neues Jahr und danken für alle Ihre bewerteten Beiträge während des Jahres.

  23. Dubs... hello...

    I'm not sure that winning the league is quite the same as running the country.

    In my opinion we were successful in the last four years, because we HAD to listen to what other people said and work with them. There was some constructive work with the Liberals under Tavish and the Tories under Annabel. Alex referred to it from time to time at FMQ. I never heard him talk that way about Labour, but then I didn't hear everything he said, so it may have happened.

    Nicola Sturgeon said that they would do the same thing in majority government. No one party, she said, had the monopoly on wisdom. She's right. With constructive work from opposition, there are 128 minds to solve the problems facing our country instead of 68... It's a thought anyway. :)

    Aye Wullie's a bit of a waste of space. Still, there wasn't a lot of choice for leader. There's only 5 of them and one had just lost more than 2/3 of their seats, so that left 4 possible... toss a coin.

    You're right, he gets far too much coverage for his stature. I can only suggest the editorial staff like a laugh. He's holding the government to account all on his own with his four trusty minions... yeah right.

    I didn't know he wanted the Olympic rings in the capital, but of course, if Cleggy wanted them, you can bet Rennie wanted them.

    Leader? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  24. LOL @ Wolfie...

    How's the bubbly?