Wednesday, April 11, 2007



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Scotland's choice-hope or fear

In the course of last week one of Scottish Labour's stategists announced that in this campaign "it is fear, not hope that will win."

You certainly can't accuse Labour of hiding either their cynicism or the low esteem in which they hold the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland.

It is interesting then that the new week should begin with the Sunday newspaper columnists struggling to come to terms with the possibility that the choice throughout Scotland on 3 May was already quite clear and that in every constituency and region in Scotland the people may already know what it is.

Back in February, Bill Samuel, former Senior Corporate Adviser to the Royal Bank of Scotland and former Chairman of Motherwell Football, had already acccurately identified the question before the people of Scotland as being quite simply "Will we settle for demoralising mediocrity or set our heights on a higher ambition?"

In the ensuing weeks the clarity of the choice has simply intensified.

Mediocrity and fear with Labour or vision, confidence, hope and claiming responsibility for our nation's future with the SNP and Alex Salmond as First Minister.

It is interesting that there are certainly signs that all who wish to cast out the mediocrity and fearfulness in which Labour has enmeshed Scotland are realising that the way to do it is to use their first and second votes for SNP.

Lachie McNeill

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Independence referendum-read the question!

"Read the question"-it was once a standard last minute parental instruction to children going off to sit school or university exams. Perhaps it still is. It certainly should be.

At the weekend Alex Salmond stated what the question will be in the independence referendum that will take place within the term of the next Scottish Parliament if he is First Minister.

Since its terms had been agreed with the civil service of the Scottish Executive, those who are terrified of the question being asked could hardly get up to their old ploy of suggesting it couldn't be asked. Equally, since the cost of the referendum would be in the region of £7 million, they could hardly use cost as a reason for not holding the referendum that more than 80% of Scots want to take place.

The Sunday Herald, in which Alex Salmond's statement of the question was first reported, acknowledged the total clarity of the question.

Contrast that with the piffle that appeared in the Scotsman on Monday under the ridiculous heading of "Two referendums on independence?" Apparently the question would not be a clear question on independence. Apparently even if the people of Scotland voted to agree with the proposition put in the question, Westminster would be likely to decide that there should be a British referendum to decide whether the nation of Scotland should be allowed to agree with the proposition. Apparently the Labour Party "pounced" on this piffle as "proof of the uncertainty an SNP-led government could bring"-the last bit is probably right even though Douglas Alexander accepted as recently as 16 January 2007 on Newsnight that a referendum organised by the Scottish Parliament would be sufficient.

So I get back to "reading the question".

The announced terms (emboldening emphasis being mine) are:-

"The Scottish Parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state. Do you agree or disagree?"

If the people of Scotland vote to agree, they will be giving an instruction to the Scottish Parliament whatever its make up. (Perhaps the very idea that they are ultimately subject to the sovereignty of the community of Scotland is what really disturbs Labour, Liberal and Tory MSPs).

They will be giving that instruction on the basis of the structure of settlement set out in the white paper.

Most important of all are the words "so that". The instruction will be that the end result of the settlement is to be that Scotland is a sovereign and independent state.

Nothing could be clearer. It's just a matter of reading the question.

Lachie McNeill

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scotland stays true to the spirit of 2 July 2005

On 2 July 2005 a quarter of a million people gathered in Edinburgh to form the huge human Make Poverty History white band.

I doubt if any person who was part of that white band could have failed to be deeply affected.

Yet those who delight in cynicism rather than hope rushed to tell us that the spirit of that day would soon pass away and be of no lasting significance.

I always believed the cynics were quite wrong. Indeed I always hoped that, simply because of what had happened in Edinburgh on that day, Scotland would be left almost with a special sense of responsibility to play her full part in ensuring that the spirit did not pass away and that the momentum of what was a global call for justice would be maintained.

It was a huge encouragement to believing that hope was fully justified when, in February of this year, SCIAF published survey results which indicated that more than three quarters of the people of Scotland positively wanted Scotland to take responsibility for the application of Scotland's contribution to development aid and that 90% believed the Scottish government should buy Fair Trade products whenever possible.

And then last weekend at an Oxfam Scotland fringe meeting I heard the answer to a question that had long been in my mind. It was hugely important that the gathering in Edinburgh on 2 July 2005 had been international and that people had come in their tens of thousands from outwith Scotland . At the same time I had wondered whether it would have been possible to assess how many of that quarter of a million were from within Scotland. The answer is that it had been possible and the figure was 80%-200,000 people. I think Scotland assumed that special responsibility I'm talking about from the very beginning.

Lachie McNeill

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Margaret Curran says Trident debate a "distraction" in Scotland

I can hardly express surprise that, in the current election campaign, Margaret Curran will avoid debating issues like Scotland's opportunity to stop the replacement of Trident.

After all, I've predicted in leaflets that that would be the case. The prediction was based on several years "form".

However, in the course of speeches at the SNP conference on the Baillieston SNP Trident resolution, one of our MSPs referred to Margaret Curran in Parliament having described the debate on Trident renewal as being a "distraction" in Scotland.

Even I was taken aback by that.

It struck me, however, that nothing could better sum up the difference between Margaret Curran and me. She thinks Scotland's having the chance to take the responsibility to make a massive contribution for good in the world is a distraction to the people of Scotland. I think it's precisely the kind of responsibility which the community of Scotland has to take if Scotland is to be true to herself.

Lachie McNeill

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Independence-a massive contribution to world peace

At last weekend's SNP conference in the Glasgow Science Centre we passed a raft of positive resolutions looking forward with vision to a new self confident Scotland.

I was delighted with them all but there is one of which I was particularly proud.

It related to the proposed replacement of Trident and read:-

"Conference believes that the non-replacement of Trident and the early removal of all nuclear weapons from Scottish waters and soil would be both in the interests of Scotland and a massive contribution to the furtherance of world peace; that the £25,000,000,000 cost of a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde would be a disgraceful waste of money, which could be better spent on other priorities; that the only way in which the community of Scotland can ensure these objects are achieved is by electing an SNP Scottish Government and voting for Independence in the ensuing referendum; and resolves that the SNP should put our plans for a nuclear-free Scotland before the electorate in the 2007 election campaign."

Why was I particularly proud of that resolution? Because:-

It was focused on an independent Scotland's contribution for good in the world;

It highlighted the crucial point that if an independent Scotland got rid of nuclear weapons it would break through the current refusal of any of the so-called "official" nuclear weapons states to be the first to do what they are bound in international law to do-get rid of nuclear weapons altogether;

It was the platform for Bruce Kent to urge the election of an SNP government under Alex Salmond as First Minister precisely because Scotland stopping the replacement of Trident in Scotland would be a massive contribution to achieving complete nuclear disarmament-it was quite literally of world importance;

And because the resolution stood in name of Glasgow Baillieston SNP.

Lachie McNeill

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Friday, February 23, 2007

MISSING HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN

IT'S TIME FOR A LEADERS DEBATE

IT'S TIME FOR A LEADERS' DEBATE

MISSING: MR MCCONNELL MISSES ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO DEBATE SNP LEADER

The Scottish National Party's Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP
today [Friday] published a new campaign image from the party
illustrating the fact that the Labour Leader in Scotland, Mr McConnell
has ducked yet another opportunity to debate with Alex Salmond. The
image is attached to this message in pdf format.

During the recording of Question Time in Edinburgh yesterday evening
[Thursday], David Dimbleby stated that the official reason given by
the First Minster's office for him not agreeing to appear on the show
was that he would not debate with a Scottish Liberal Democrat
Minister.

The SNP's new campaign image, in the form of a 'Missing' poster, will
be distributed across the country following the First Minister's
decision not to appear with all the other major party leaders on BBC
Question Time yesterday evening. Mr McConnell has now refused seven
opportunities to debate with Mr Salmond, and the BBC have confirmed
that this is the fifteenth opportunity to appear on Question Time that
Mr McConnell has turned down.

Mr Robertson said:

"The SNP are leading a quality debate on Scotland's future, and about
how we can build a successful future for our country. Labour's
failure to connect with this positive debate means that the Scottish
people are being denied the opportunity to learn of all the political
parties' ideas and policies from their candidates for First Minster.

"Mr McConnell is clearly not being allowed by his party bosses to
debate with Alex Salmond. It is frankly ludicrous for a party leader
to run from open debate in this way.

"Mr McConnell has refused six opportunities to debate with Mr Salmond,
and fifteen opportunities to appear on the BBC's Question Time
programme. Previous First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern
Ireland have all debated on this prestigious programme, so what
exactly is he so scared of?

"If Labour were confident of their arguments they would debate them in
public, and if Mr McConnell believed in what he was saying he would go
head to head with Alex Salmond like his predecessors.

"Alex Salmond is Scotland's choice for First Minister. All the
published polling evidence has shown that he is preferred over Mr
McConnell in every area. Alex Salmond is more trusted, more liked and
more respected than Mr McConnell, and he's on the side of the people
in Scotland on all the major issues like the war in Iraq, keeping
local hospital services open and putting more police officers on the
beat.

"This election gives voters a straight choice over who they want as
First Minster of Scotland. The public should have the chance to make
an informed choice. It's time for a debate between Mr McConnell and
Alex Salmond."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wave farms-exciting news with exciting lessons

I see in the Scotsman today (as far as I can see no reference in the Herald)that their environment correspondent Ian Johnston reports with genuine excitement that ministers will today announce nine wave and tidal schemes.

No doubt once the details of the 9 schemes (including the Orkney scheme highlighted for 2008) are known there will transpire to be genuine debate to be had about the locational and other pros and cons of some or even all of them.

That in no way inhibits me from applauding the excitement expressed by Ian Johnston.

For some years now we in the SNP have been referring to a very simple statistic-Scotland posseses 10% of Europe's wave and tidal energy potential. We have repeatedly said that Scotland could and should be the world leader in this field with massive significance to Scotland's sustainable economic growth.

It is reason for excitement that it at last appears to be being grasped that the combination of Scotland's wave energy resources with her accrued expertise in engineering at sea at least could make Scotland the world leader in the field.

It is reason for excitement that representatives of the Scottish industry are quoted as saying things such as "wave technology for a long time has languished in the lab, we are now putting the technology in the water...", "the information that feeds back will feed into subsequent verions, there will be a process of continual improvement" and, above all, "if we want to follow the Danish model-which became the world leader in wind power-we need to have this sort of step"-in other words get going or you lose the opportunity.

I am not suggesting (nor, I think, is Ian Johnston) that today's announcement and the accompanying statements mean of themselves that Scotland "could be" the world leader becomes Scotland "is" the world leader. However, even as regards creating that position there are some exciting lessons to be learned.

I have always been a firm believer in the old proverb that "necessity is the mother of invention". I have never doubted that Scotland's energy industry could produce the inventiveness, enterprise and skill fully to develop Scotland's renewable energy potential if it was made politically clear that this was what Scotland demanded. Is it so surprising that Scotland's energy industry has been so slow to rise to the challenge in respect of the potential of Scotland's wave and tidal energy resource (and even yet needs an 8 million pounds encouragement to do so)when it could never be sure that the apparent political choice of the large majority of the Scottish community to have no more nuclear electricity generation in Scotland would actually be applied? Why could they never be sure of that?-because the Scottish government is not in a position to assure the industry that it would be applied. The exciting lesson is obvious. Scotland can fulfil her full potential for her own community and as a member for good of the community of nations when she takes the full responsibility for that fulfilment.

There is a second exciting lesson to be learned or rather re-learned. The politics of a nation are not to be restricted to endless debate about the use of resources in static circumstances. They are supposed to be about changing the circumstances for the better. In the course of the past week we have had a stark example of what happens when that lesson is forgotten. There has been general agreement in Scotland for years that dramatic reduction in class sizes is the essential key to Scotland's young people enjoying the school education they deserve. This week it transpired that the Scottish Executive had not only realised that no progress had been made but had given up trying to make progress. To make things happen in your nation you have to do more than shuffle about within "existing circumstances". You have to change the circumstances and you can only really change them if you are determined to change them, plan to change them and above all take responsibility for changing them.

Lachie McNeill

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Offensive Jamie Stone letting Lib Dem cat out the bag?

Like any other SNP member I find the Liberal Democrat MSP Jamie Stone's description of the SNP as having "xenophobic tendencies" thoroughly offensive.

The signs are that finding it thoroughly offensive is not confined to SNP members.

I see the front page of the Sunday Herald described Jamie Stone as "more known for his clubbable nature than for his ability" which appears to be a polite way of saying that he is not regarded as very bright .

It is interesting that such comments as there have so far been from Scottish Liberal Democrat "sources" seem to be along similar lines. They appear to be expressing irritation that "even he" could have been so stupid as to make such a statement rather than expressing horror at the offensiveness of it.

Jamie Stone made an offensive statement that was patently contradicted by all the evidence. That indeed was very stupid. But where did the thought come from?

By definition the Scottish National Party believes in the concept of nationhood. We believe that being an inter-nationalist involves first being a nationalist. We believe that Scotland can only make her fullest contibution for good to the family of nations when the community of Scotland claims with joy the responsibility for ensuring that fullest contibution is made. We believe that fully claiming that responsibility can only be achieved with independence and that the community of Scotland wishes the right to choose independence.

It must be assumed that somewhere in Jamie Stone's allegedly not very bright mind there must have lurked the not only grossly offensive but patently absurd and confused notion that holding and proclaiming such beliefs must involve a "tendency to hate foreigners".

Could it be that the apparent difficulty of Scottish Liberal Democrat "sources" or spokespeople in simply expressing disgust at the offensiveness of Jamie Stone's statement is because they are bright enough to realise that they would have some difficulty in expressing why it was so offensive without acknowledging the fundamentally heathy and inspiring vision that the SNP lays and has continually laid before the community of Scotland?

Could it be that they realise that the fact of Jamie Stone's having been so stupid as to make such an offensive statement may simply be symptomatic of their Party having run out of things to say to try to cover up the fact that their alleged "unionism" has nothing whatsoever to do with principles of nationhood or internationalism?

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are, after all, a Party whose spokespeople consistently avoid even acknowledging the concept of nationhood-to them a nation's Parliament is just "an appropriate level of government".

They are a Party that continually witters on about how they have always believed in federalism but are quite incapable of telling Scots as a matter of principle which powers the nation of Scotland ought to give up to a federal government in London.

And they are a Party who continually proclaim their democratic credentials but whose spokespeople are quite incapable of explaining why they refuse to agree that, when more than 80 % of the community of Scotland wish to be asked whether they wish to choose independence, the appropriate course would be to ask them.
Lachie McNeill

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