Tag Archives: Yes

SNP starts to crumble as councillors quit – one citing vote-rigging

[Image: BBC]

[Image: BBC]

How humbling for the Scottish National Party that, after its Yes campaigners complained about vote-rigging in the Independence referendum, two SNP councillors have quit, citing undemocratic behaviour and – you guessed it – vote-rigging.

Cllr John Taggart (Murdostoun) walked out after a row over the selection process for Motherwell and Wishaw. His statement reads as follows: “The reason behind my resignation is that I feel that democracy within our party is under serious threat, when HQ in Edinburgh decided to refuse to reveal the breakdown of the votes cast for each candidate involved in the Westminster ballot for the Motherwell and Wishaw Westminster candidacy.” That’s vote-rigging, then.

“I am a committed democrat and I believe that when an election is carried out, people expect to see full and proper disclosure of the results, this is one of the fundamental tenets of a democratic society, and we all should all be extremely concerned of decisions taken at HQ in Edinburgh which allows the dark veil of secrecy to descend on our democratic processes.”

Cllr Alan Beveridge (Airdrie North) said in his statement: “I have been alarmed by the climate of fear, intimidation and false allegations which operates within the SNP locally.

“I have raised these matters directly with SNP headquarters but much to their shame and my disappointment, they have totally failed to address any of my concerns.

“Therefore I feel I have no alternative but to resign from the party.

“I have agonised over whether or not I should speak out in public, but I felt a sense of responsibility to my constituents that they should be made aware of the reasons behind my decision.

“I spent an entire career in the police force protecting the public and doing my very best to treat people with fairness.

“I joined the SNP fully expecting people to be treated the same way, however in the past few months I have been shocked at the way some members of the local branch have been treated and by the failure of SNP headquarters to respond to the concerns which I have raised.

“This is not the party I thought I had joined and I cannot continue to be a member of such an organisation.”

Both statements are published in the Scottish Daily Record (although not exclusively there). No doubt SNP supporters will try to attack this source; they would do well to note that this article quotes only the councillors’ words.

It seems the SNP may not be the standard-bearer for decency and morality in politics that its ill-mannered supporters claim.

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Did Labour really lie to Scotland about pensions? No!

Not lying: Gordon Brown, delivering his impassioned speech to pensioners in Fife last February [Image: George McLuskie].

Not lying: Gordon Brown, delivering his impassioned speech to pensioners in Fife last February [Image: George McLuskie].

It is time to debunk another myth that has sprung up about the Labour Party.

Even though it is only the fourth day since the Scottish independence referendum, adherents of the ‘Yes’ camp have been working hard to claim some kind of moral victory, on the grounds that the unionist parties and the ‘Better Together’ campaign lied to voters, aided by the media.

One such claim is that former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown falsely stated that Scottish people’s pensions might be threatened if Scotland broke away from the union. It has been presented as “Labour lied to us about pensions.”

Mr Brown voiced his fear in February, when it was reported in the Daily Record. “You are expecting, quite rightly, that you will get a British pension. But if there is independence, the British pension stops, the national insurance fund that you’re paying into is broken up,” the paper quotes him as saying. The report does not state that he was representing any particular organisation.

It continued: “Brown published figures showing the cash received across Scotland from the state pension, pension credit, winter fuel allowance and free TV licences.

“The statistics showed people in Scotland get a higher share of the UK pot, amounting to £200 more on average each year than their English counterparts – a total of £200 million for the country.”

Brown was said to have dismissed claims that an independent Scotland could make up the shortfall by relying on North Sea oil revenues. ‘Yes’ voters on the Vox Political Facebook page have claimed that Tony Blair took away all Scotland’s rights to North Sea oil before the Holyrood Parliament was set up, so it will be interesting to see how they tackle that part of the issue.

“He referred to a leaked document from SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney that also questioned the affordability of pensions after independence,” the paper added.

The ‘Yes’ campaign published its own claims about pensions, stating: “The Scottish Government has made clear that accrued pension rights will continue to be honoured after independence.

“So state pensions will continue to be paid as before. And so will public sector pensions – including civil service, armed forces, police, fire-fighters, NHS, universities, teachers and local government pensions. Some of these schemes are already administered by the Scottish Government.

“There will be agreement between the Scottish and UK governments as to the exact share of pension liabilities to be taken on by the Scottish Government – but it has repeatedly been made clear that no accrued pension rights will be lost.

“Private pensions will continue to operate as before. The Scottish Government will ensure there are suitable protections in place for final salary occupational schemes.”

As you can see, no mention is made of the £200 million shortfall mentioned by Mr Brown and so there is no statement about how an independent Scotland would cope with it.

Was he making it up?

For a possible answer, let’s turn to the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF). This independent organisation published ‘Scottish independence: The implications for pensions’ in November 2013.

On page seven of the document, it states: “The UK Government is responsible for the public service pension liabilities of unfunded public service schemes [unfunded means they are paid from general taxation; this applies to all state pension schemes], including the Principal Civil Service scheme and the NHS Scheme. At 31 March 2011, unfunded public service pension liabilities were £893 billion. This represents 93 per cent of public sector pension liabilities and 37 per cent of all UK pensions liabilities. The Scottish Government currently has responsibility for a small number of public service schemes, which represent less than one per cent of devolved activities. There are clear questions for the Scottish and UK Governments about how these liabilities will be divided.”

The language takes a bit of translating but this seems to be the issue to which Mr Brown was referring. State pension schemes are funded from general taxation, and the amount Scotland takes in pensions means it is subsidised to a certain extent by the rest of the UK.

It seems clear that the ‘Yes’ campaigners had no right to say that there would be no shortfall, if there remained “clear questions” on how state liabilities would be divided.

It could be argued that the statement “some of these schemes are already administered by the Scottish government” may also be misleading. How many readers were aware that this related to just one per cent of “devolved activities”, with the rest administered centrally?

That isn’t all, though. The NAPF document’s executive summary outlines four headline points of concern on which it was suggested that both the UK and Scottish governments needed to provide “greater clarity”:

“Under EU law, pension schemes with members in Scotland and in the UK could become ‘crossborder’ schemes and would, therefore, need to be fully funded at all times. A more demanding funding regime is likely to lead to the closure of defined benefit (DB) schemes [these are private schemes run by employers or sponsors]. At the very least, there should be a grace period (and an exemption) to help schemes manage any transition.

“There remains a lack of clarity about how the regulatory structure for pension schemes in an independent Scotland would work, and how any transition would be managed. Unpicking the current compensation regime would be extremely difficult and require careful management (over a long period of time). It is also likely to lead to substantial costs.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to the introduction of the single-tier pension provides welcome clarity. However, there remain unanswered questions about how they will manage the abolition of contracting-out. It is important that employers are assisted in managing this process; otherwise there is an increased likelihood of more DB schemes closing.

“While the Pensions Paper sets out no immediate plans to alter pensions tax relief arrangements, a later Scottish Government may wish to make changes to the policy. Such changes would have implications for pension schemes administering pensions for Scottish, as well as English and Welsh, taxpayers. Any complexity in tax regimes is likely to add significant costs for employers and schemes, which are in turn likely to be passed onto pension scheme members.”

All of these had significant cost implications; none of these appear to have been addressed by the ‘Yes’ campaign in its documentation which, where it says anything at all, states only that these matters would be negotiated with the UK government.

In May 2014, three months after Mr Brown voiced his concerns, and six months after the NAPF published its document, UK pensions minister Steve Webb (Liberal Democrat) said that Scottish people who had “accumulated rights” would be entitled to current levels of the UK state pension on retirement, if Scotland voted ‘Yes’.

This was mistakenly taken by the SNP to support the ‘Yes’ campaigns claims about pensions. It did not. Mr Webb was saying that pension entitlement would be unaffected. But – as state pensions are ‘unfunded’ (they come from general taxation rather than a dedicated pension ‘pot’) he didn’t say who would pay it. Decisions on which government would pay that money had not been made. That is likely to have been a highly contentious issue if ‘Yes’ had won the day.

Furthermore, any payout of UK state pension would continue to be tied to the UK’s rules, meaning citizens of an independent Scotland would not receive it until they reached UK retirement age, no matter whether the Scottish government had changed the age limit.

So much for “independence offers the people of Scotland full control over the type of pensions system that they would like to see. It would be for the different political parties to outline their proposals, including the retirement age,” as the ‘Yes’ campaign had claimed.

It seems clear, therefore, that Mr Brown was right to raise these concerns and point out that issues needed to be addressed. It is appropriate to ask whether Mr Webb would ever have addressed these concerns publicly, had Mr Brown not raised them first.

He was not lying to anybody. Labour was not lying to anybody.

Don’t let anybody lie to you about it.

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Call him ‘Desperate’ Dave – noose starts to close on Cameron

'For the privileged few' was never going to include people in Scotland - not under a Tory government! Now David Cameron is facing the possible backlash from a country that his cabinet of millionaires - and other Tory governments going back 40 years - have abused as the testing-ground for some of their most oppressive schemes. So he's got every reason to look as worried as he does in the image.

‘For the privileged few’ was never going to include people in Scotland – not under a Tory government! Now David Cameron is facing the possible backlash from a country that his cabinet of millionaires – and other Tory governments going back 40 years – have abused as the testing-ground for some of their most oppressive schemes. So he’s got every reason to look as worried as he does in the image.

It seems David Cameron will be unable to avoid a ‘no confidence’ vote from his own political party, if Scotland decides to secede from the United Kingdom – even the Daily Torygraph has turned on him over this issue.

Tories are furious that Cameron allowed the referendum to go ahead, placing the UK in serious danger of break-up, according to the Telegraph – although the paper was unable to attach any names to the story; it all came from “a source” or “a senior source”. Normally this would mean a story is fiction but on this occasion it could be simply that nobody wants to stick their head over the parapet until the referendum’s result has been decided.

But this comment from one such ‘source’ rings true: “He is in a right hole. I think that he is in serious trouble. One of the reasons why I became a Conservative was a because of the union. We were the Conservative and Unionist Party.”

The article continues: “If Scotland left the UK ‘the trouble will be so great that we will have no chance of being the largest party’ at the election, the MP said,” indicating that the loss of their leader would hit the Tories so badly that they would not be able to regroup in time to run an effective general election campaign.

It seems a valid point – consider this further illustration of Tory desperation from Vox Political reader Tony Johnson, who posted a message on the Facebook page stating that the Conservatives had emailed supporters, encouraging them “to ring up Scottish voters in their ‘phone bank’, or contact Scottish friends with a special Facebook app, to dissuade them from voting YES.

“There’s nothing like a desperate last ditch stand,” he wrote. “Personally, if I was undecided, a call from a desperate English Tory would swing me into the YES camp, so it may well be a self-defeating exercise.”

Agreed!

The report also suggests that Labour leader Ed Miliband would also be in serious trouble in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, losing a Labour heartland “and more than 40 MPs”.

It’s a good point – but many might argue that a new leader would make Labour more electable.

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Why I Joined Yes and Why I Changed to No – Ewan Morrison

The BBC’s attempt to skew news coverage of the Scottish referendum appears to have succeeded – if only in making Vox Political‘s coverage appear to support the ‘Yes’ camp.

The problem with that is, Vox Political does not support the ‘Yes’ camp. Yr Obdt Srvt would rather the United Kingdom remain – well – united.

Fortunately a quick trawl through today’s blogs has turned up Ewan Morrison’s article on how the ‘Yes’ brigade turned a supporter into an opposer. You can read the whole thing on Wake Up Scotland, but here are a few tasters, to excite your interest:

“Within the Yes camp I attempted to find the revolutionary and inclusive debate that I’d heard was happening. But as soon as I was ‘in’ I was being asked to sign petitions, to help with recruitment, to take part in Yes groups, to come out publicly in the media, to spread the word and add the blue circle Yes logo to my social media photograph – even to come along and sing a ‘Scottish song’ at a Yes event… I noticed that the whenever someone raised a pragmatic question about governance, economics or future projections for oil revenue or the balance of payments in iScotland, they were quickly silenced by comments such as “We’ll sort that out after the referendum, this is not the place or the time for those kinds of questions”. Or the people who asked such questions were indirectly accused of ‘being negative’ or talking the language of the enemy.

“It was within a public meeting that I realised there was no absolutely no debate within the Yes camp. Zero debate – the focus was instead on attacking the enemy and creating an impenetrable shell to protect the unquestionable entity…  Questioning even triggered a self-policing process – The Yes Thought Police – rather like the Calvinist one in which doubters started to hate themselves and became fearful of showing signs of their inner torment.

“The Yes movement started to remind me of the Trotskyists – another movement who believed they were political but were really no more than a recruitment machine… The key is to keep it very simple – offer a one word promise. In the case of the Trotskyists it’s ‘Revolution,’ in the case of the independence campaign it’s the word ‘Yes’. Yes can mean five million things.

“The Yes camp have managed to make it seem like criticism of their politics is an attack on the individual’s right to imagine a better self. To do this, the Yes campaign has had to be emptied of almost all actual political content. It has had to become a form of faith.

“There is no way that the groups under the banner of Yes could actually work together; they’re all fighting for fundamentally different things… You have to ask yourself with so many groups all tugging in so many directions what makes a separate Scotland any different from the rest of the UK with its democratic conflicts, its mess?

“Many people are voting Yes just to express their frustration at not being able to engage with politics as it is. They’re voting Yes because they want their voice to be heard for the first time. That’s understandable and admirable, but Yes is not a debate or a democratic dream, it’s an empty word and an empty political process which means dream of what you want and express it with all the passion in your heart. The dream will die as soon as the singular Yes gets voted and Scotland then turns into a battleground of repressed and competing Yesses. Once the recruitment machine has served it purpose it will collapse and the repressed questions will return with a vengeance… Scotland will be fighting out its internal battles on a world stage after demonstrating it intends to run its new politics on an illusion of unity, a unity that breaks up even as it is observed.”

That was just a taste of this excellent article. For the rest, visit Wake Up Scotland.

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