All the policies anybody could want!

It’s not often any thinking person finds cause to agree with the odious Jackie Baillie, but she is perfectly correct in reminding her bosses that ““Scottish party policy is very clear”. It is very clearly as arrogantly anti-democratic as Tory policy on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. As dogmatically anti-democratic as the policies of all the British parties. They all state emphatically that their policy is to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self determination. Each is as anti-democratic as they others.

Where Baillie bids farewell to reality and departs for the land of dumb delusion is when she says,

… Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a decision for Scottish Labour, which the UK party must accept.

This is just wrong. There is no ‘Scottish Labour Party’. There is only the British Labour Party. The entity calling itself the ‘Scottish Labour’ is, in fact, ‘British Labour in Scotland’ (BLiS). Not being a party, BLiS has absolutely no policy-making powers. And no party may present different policies to different constituencies. That’s the law! One party! One policy! The reality that Jackie Ballie has lost her tenuous grip on is precisely the opposite of what she asserts. British Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a matter for British Labour. And the pretendy wee party in Scotland must accept that policy.

It gets weirder. Because, notwithstanding Ballie’s tantrums, British Labour’s policy on the matter of a new independence referendum actually accords with that of BLiS, even though there is no need for it to do so. British Labour’s 2017 election manifesto spells it out in no uncertain terms. In a section titled – with unwittingly hilarious irony and characteristic hypocrisy – ‘Extending Democracy’, we find the following.

Labour opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. It is unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK. Independence would lead to turbo-charged austerity for Scottish families.

British Labour Manifetso 2017

Evidently, democracy isn’t to be extended as far as Scotland. That passage could have been written by Jackie Baillie herself. Or any British Nationalist ideologue from any of the British parties. So what is she making such a fuss about?

It seems she’s upset about some remarks made by one of her many superiors which, on the face of it, appear to state another British Labour policy which is perfectly clear. Former Scottish Labour Party chairman Bob Thomson points out that McDonnell’s position is “a restatement of existing, long-standing Scottish Labour Party [sic] policy”. He reminds all concerned that policy dates from the 1989 Claim of Right,

…which was signed by every Labour MP – including Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – except Tam Dalyell and endorsed by the annual conference of the Scottish party.

Bob Thomson goes on to explain,

This position has never been rescinded. There is also a lot of hypocrisy from Labour MPs and MSPs who support a second referendum on Brexit but oppose a second referendum on independence, the democratic principles are the same. (emphasis added)

The particular and relevant “democratic principle” to which Bob Thomson refers is stated in the opening words of the 1989 Claim of Right.

We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs…

Claim of Right 1989

This is as explicit an acknowledgement of Scotland’s right of self-determination as we might wish for.

Remember what I said about “One party! One policy!”? Well, it seems I was wrong. Because British Labour clearly has two policies (at least) on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. John McDonnell says one thing, backed-up by British Labour’s extant endorsement of the Claim of Right. Jackie Baillie says the opposite supported by British Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto. British Labour simultaneously acknowledges and denies Scotland’s right of self-determination.

Confused? You will be! Because, while the position referred to by John MCDonnell must take precedence over that stated by Jackie Baillie – he speaking for the real party while she speaks for a bit of the pretendy one (don’t ask!) – that isn’t British Labour’s true position. Their true position is the one stated by Baillie. The anti-democratic position which denies Scotland’s right of self-determination is the reality behind the soothingly democratic facade presented by McDonnell.

As I wrote at the time,

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!

Read the words!

You could devote time and effort to untangling this web of lies and deceit. Or you could simply accept that it is a web of lies and deceit and that this is all you need to know.



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Vive la difference!

jackie_baillieThe deal to save BiFab is, of course, wonderful news for the communities that would have been severely affected by closure. It is also a bright day for Scottish politics. There is no doubt at all that this deal would not have happened without the intervention by the Scottish Government. And every reason to suppose that it would not have been achieved, or even attempted, by the British parties. The Tories would have shrugged off the suffering of people and families, insisting that their lives were a necessary sacrifice on the altar of ‘market forces’.

British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) would have been paralysed with indecision and riven by internal squabbling. One faction would want to throw taxpayers’ money at the problem. Another faction would quietly relish the closures and ensuing devastation of communities as a useful example of capitalist failure. They’d have held lots of meetings and marches and rallies at which career politicians would jostle for media attention. Once the media lost interest, so would BLiS. The yards would have closed. livelihoods would have been lost. BBC Scotland would find a way to blame the SNP.

So, what is it that allows the SNP to succeed in these situations where the British parties have a record of inaction or failure? I would suggest that it largely comes down to a question of attitude. Where Tories would look at the BiFab situation and see it in terms of economics and BLiS would see it only as a political difficulty (or opportunity), the SNP tends to see a problem affecting people that needs a practical solution.

Where Tories ask how the situation can be rationalised and BLiS ask how the situation can be exploited, the SNP ask only how it can be sorted.

In an article for the January issue of iScot Magazine I wrote,

“What is significant is that the SNP administration seems to have been intent on finding the measures which might be effective regardless of dogma or popularity. No ‘focus groups’. Just expert panels. And no ‘Big Fix!” hype. No suggestion of simple solutions. No suggestions of solutions at all. Just the idea of progressive change – over time-scales that pay scant regard to the kind of electoral imperatives that drive other parties.”

I get annoyed at people who make facile generalisations about politicians and political parties being ‘all the same’. Clearly, they aren’t. Quite evidently, there is something different about the way successive SNP administrations go about the job of running Scotland’s affairs. Something that allows them to achieve things that British parties couldn’t.

In that iScot Magazine article I put this difference down to Scotland’s electoral system and the way it has facilitated the emergence of a distinctive political culture. I argue that the SNP is different because it was better placed to adapt to, and take advantage of, the new political climate in a way that the ‘old’ parties aren’t.

“The SNP has enjoyed electoral success – winning every election for ten years – because, as a party new to government, it is open to a new political culture in a way that the British parties cannot be – due to historical factors and the intrinsic nature of the British political system within which they are embedded.”

The SNP is attuned to Scotland’s political culture in a way the the British parties are not. The party is embedded in that political culture in a way the British parties can’t be. We see the evidence of this, not only in major achievements such as saving BiFab, but also in relatively small things that nonetheless represent a more progressive politics than we’d previously been accustomed to. Baby boxes are one example. And the changes to the tax system which, while small in terms of their impact on people’s pockets, are highly significant in that they are a break with the old ways.

Not that Scotland’s politics has totally rid itself of the old ways. Difference is relative. As much as we see the difference between the SNP and the British parties in the actions of the former, that difference is also evident in the way the latter behave.

Look at the reactions from the British parties to the news announcement of the deal to rescue BiFab that was so skillfully brokered by the SNP administration. Neither Willie Rennie nor Jackie Baillie so much as acknowledge the efforts of the Scottish Government.

But that kind of bitter, partisan pettiness is the old politics. Now is a time to celebrate Scotland’s new politics. Just don’t expect that any of the British politicians squatting in Scotland’s Parliament will join in the celebration.


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Trigger figures

Jackie Baillie – Treating voters like idiots
I had me a little Twitter-spat last night with “Scottish” Labour MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jackie Baillie. Nothing remarkable in that, I hear you say. And it’s true that Ms Baillie is one of the more irksome nonentities populating the seats at Holyrood which should be occupied by the opposition. But I surprised myself by the degree to which I was offended and annoyed by her interventions. In general, I regard politics as a pragmatic business in which emotions have at most a peripheral role. I tend not to get worked up about things, preferring reasoned analysis to emotional reaction. I think with my neurones and not my hormones. So what did Jackie Baillie say to push my buttons?
Looking at the exchange again in the cold light of day I realise that what pushed my buttons was the fact that she tried to push my buttons. What irked me was the way she tossed a figure into the discussion in full anticipation that it would provoke precisely the Pavlovian response that she wanted. It was the way she treated me, and by extension all voters, as if we are all shallow-minded simpletons that she can manipulate with casual ease. Most offensive of all, however, was the laziness of it. Such is her contempt for the people she is supposed to serve that she doesn’t even consider it worth the effort to formulate an argument or prepare a defence of her position. She just assumes that nobody will think beyond the “trigger figures” that she throws at us.
In this instance it was one of Baillie’s well-rehearsed, but ill-thought, pre-packaged sound-bites about alleged reductions in the number of nurses working in Scotland. A claim which is invariably associated with the phrase “patient care”.
The context isn’t hugely significant in this instance. What struck me was the way Baillie just took it for granted that (a) people would simply accept the figure and the assertion without question – despite her not entirely enviable record for accuracy and honesty; and (b) none of us mere plebs would have the wits to think beyond her own shallow analysis and ask “awkward questions”. To what does this number refer? Is it nurses only? Or does it include others such as midwives? Does it refer to nurses and possibly others across NHS Scotland? Or does it refer only to those in hospitals?
What is the source of the figure? Where is the authority? What is this “reduction” relative to? In what way is patient care impacted? If staff numbers have in fact been reduced, to what extent is this explained by changes to the way services are delivered?
I could go on. But I think you get the point. It seems clear that Jackie Baillie has no more interest in such deeper analysis than she has genuine concern for either the NHS staff involved or the patients whose care she baldly asserts is suffering. It’s all just grist the mill of “Scottish” Labour’s bitter resentment at the loss of their entitlement at the hands of the SNP (Andrew Anderson Johann Lamont and the politics of resentment).
What Baillie offers is not a political argument or a policy critique informed by concern for the welfare of health service providers and users, but an angry lashing out motivated by bitter, irrational hatred of a political enemy with the arrogant assumption that the general public can be induced to join her in this intellect-free antipathy by the simple chanting of a well-worn mantra provided by her spin-doctors.
But Baillie is far from unique in this insulting assumption that the general public are a bunch of dullards to be herded like sheeple. The reason her trivial nonsense grated to such a surprising extent was the fact that it is representative of a phenomenon that I seem to have been encountering a lot in the British nationalist press lately. A low-grade propagandising that is offensive not most for its being total pish but for the effrontery of assuming that such palpable pish might be persuasive.
Arguably the most notable exponent of this use of “trigger figures” is The Telegraph‘s Scottish Political Editor, Simon Johnson. Another individual who imagines his own hate-fuelled idiocy to be the norm prompting him to treat his readers as hate-fuelled idiots.
Take this recent piece, for example Alex Salmond spends £370,000 on entertaining. Leaving aside the almost comically clumsy attempt to insinuate that the Scottish Government had tried to keep the information about it’s entertaining expenditure secret, the article simply states the amounts spent as if it should be assumed there was something wrong in this. There is no attempt to put the data into any kind of context. No comparable figures for other periods or previous administrations are provided. Us dumb hicks are expected to respond with pre-programmed righteous indignation without ever asking any of those awkward questions that are the essential tools of the enquiring mind.
And just to prove that the foregoing was not merely a momentary lapse on the part of an otherwise competent journalist, Johnson is at his indolent, sub-tabloid inanity again today in a piece under the headline, Scottish civil servants get ‘golden goodbyes’ worth up to £250,000. Again, it’s just trigger figures absent any context or analysis published in the expectation that they will provoke a given reaction among the mindless proles.
In both instances Johnson is aided and abetted in his insultingly simplistic string-pulling exercise by politicians from the unionist parties only too eager to put themselves in the same baw-heid bracket as Jackie Baillie by dutifully supplying an appropriate quote.
I am not an idiot. Unlike Baillie, Johnson and his Britnat quote-whores I don’t imagine the people of Scotland to be idiots. I believe we are perfectly capable of dealing with complex issues in an informed and rational debate. I certainly believe we are worthy of being treated as mature, thinking people. I know we deserve better than Baillie and Johnson.
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Trust me! I’m a doctor!

Trust me! I’m a doctor!

“By contrast the SNP government has come up with a single proposal and has drafted its minimum unit pricing bill so narrowly it has shut down other ideas.” – Dr Richard Simpson

Richard Simpson gained notoriety for playing fast and loose with the facts as part of the British Labour & Unionist Party’s opportunistic attacks on the Scottish government at the time of the release on licence of convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi.

Coincidentally, one the most blatant lies being peddled at that time also related to numbers as Simpson sought to deceive the public by insisting that the medical report submitted in support of Mr al-Megrahi’s application for compassionate release was the work of a single doctor.

Now he’s at it again! This time telling “porkies” about the SNP administration’s strategy for tackling alcohol abuse. While Simpson mendaciously declares that this strategy involves but “a single proposal”, the truth is that the SNP government’ has proposed a full range of over forty measures covering the four key areas of reduction of consumption; family and community support; changing attitudes; and treatment and rehabilitation. Details can be found in the 2009 publication, “Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action”.

It is simply not credible that Richard Simpson could be unaware of this document. He is, after all, his party’s public health spokesman. We are left with no alternative, therefore, but to conclude that his statement is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

This is disgraceful behaviour on its own account, as I’m sure every decent person will agree. But coming immediately after Jackie Baillie’s scurrilous “blanket sharing” calumny it affirms an unmistakeable trend in the tactics adopted by the anti-independence parties. A trend to increasingly blatant dishonesty.

Cut caffeine and tag bottles to curb Scotland’s booze culture, say Labour – Politics – Scotsman.com

Baillie and the blankets II – The retraction

Smeared by Baillie

The average person could hardly have missed reading about the latest allegations of failures in Scotland’s health service made by Labour’s health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie. They could, however, be forgiven for having failed to notice the bit where she retracted her latest lie. While the claim that patients in one hospital were being forced to “share blankets” was given headline treatment across the media, finding the admission that this claim was entirely false might have challenged a professional researcher.

The initial response to her smear attempt being challenged came from a spokesman for Ms Baillie and compounded the original lie by seeking to suggest that the hospital concerned was involved in a cover-up. It is only in an obscure and unrelated piece in The Herald that we find a grudging admission of dishonesty tacked on to yet another rehashing of the original untruth..

The plain fact is that we cannot trust anything that the British Labour & Unionist Party says. And we can’t even rely on our newspapers to hold them to account for their lies.

Baillie and the blankets

Jackie Baillie – lying for Britain

It’s party conference season in Scotland and that necessarily means a plethora of speechifying and even more poring and pondering in print and pixel over the content of said oratorical offerings. Pundits, commentators. journalists and bloggers will spend countless aggregate hours in minute examination of our politicians’ offerings like priests poking through the entrails of some sacrificial animal seeking portents – and, for the most part, finding only the crude makings of a pudding.

Talking of puddings, what’s yon Jackie Baillie all about? Lest the lady doesn’t loom as large in your life as she might wish, she is the individual who has had thrust upon her the unenviable task of shadowing the estimable Nicola Sturgeon’s health remit at Holyrood. The result of some particularly bad karma, one suspects. You may remember Ms Baillie from an episode about a month ago when she sought to score some political points by rushing out a press release castigating Sturgeon and the SNP administration for what she claimed was their appalling record of failure in dealing with hospital acquired infections. She fell victim to her own poison barb, however, when it transpired that she’d got hold of old data and the appalling record to which she referred was that of her own party back in the days when we had a pretendy wee “Executive” instead of a proper Scottish government.

Well! She’s been at it again! Addressing the assembled puddings of the British Labour & Unionist Party’s North Britain branch in Dundee, Baillie blurted out a story about patients in a Scottish hospital being obliged to “share blankets” – ostensibly on account of “SNP cuts”.

No explanation was offered as to how this supposed blanket sharing scheme actually worked. Was each blanket used by a number of patients on a rota basis? Were blankets being divided into portions to be distributed among patients? Or were patients being obliged to snuggle together in twos and threes under one blanket? We need to be told! The public has a right to know! And so on…

But wait! Once more it turns out that Jackie Bailie has blundered. The whole blanket thing is, it seems, an old story that has been both denied and disproved by the hospital concerned. Baillie lied! Or did she? Bear in mind that an untruth is not strictly speaking a lie if the person offering it does so in ignorance of it’s falsity. It’s not a lie if Bailie believed it. So, does that make it OK? Does that justify this calumny against health service workers? I don’t think so! And I will explain why.

While some may dismiss this as trivial and no more than part of the “rough and tumble” of politics I see in such episodes a very serious malaise. It is not the veracity or otherwise of these claims that is important but the fact that Ms Baillie and her ilk simply don’t care whether or not there is any truth in what they tell the Scottish electorate. The blanket story passed muster as a smear against the SNP, and that was all that mattered.

It is possible, as I say, that Baillie actually gave credence to the story. But this in no way mitigates her offence. That she was so eager to accept such an outlandish claim tells us nothing at all flattering about the way her mind works. That she didn’t even consider it necessary to check the facts speaks of seriously perverted priorities and a casual contempt for the people of Scotland.

Jackie Baillie exemplifies an attitude that sadly pervades the entire anti-independence campaign. An attitude of arrogant self-righteousness which holds that any conduct at all, no matter how reprehensible by the normal standards of society, is justified if it is done in defence of the British state.