Pages tagged with "Westminster Mismanagement"

Scotland scunnered with rule by House of so-called “Lords”

A proposal that Scotland’s Secretary of State Alister Jack should postpone taking up his controversial peerage until the next general election in order to avoid a by-election in his marginal seat of Dumfries and Galloway is being condemned as an attempt to play the system, in a new scandal for the UK’s unelected Upper House.

Disgraced former PM Boris Johnson is handing out 20 more places in the “Lords”, which will take the number of sitting members above 800 (830 total). The House of  so-called “Lords”, the second-largest legislative chamber in the world behind the Chinese National People's Congress, is so undemocratic that it could potentially bar the UK from rejoining the EU in the future.

Johnson used his “resignation honours” list to nominate the former cabinet ministers Nadine Dorries, Nigel Adams and Alok Sharma, and Alister Jack, the Scotland secretary, to the “Lords” but arranged for them to defer taking their peerages until after the next election. The SNP.s Mhairi Black spoke for many Scots when she told Jack in a recent Commons debate “I won’t take lessons on democracy from a soon-to-be-unelected ‘Baron’.” A tweeted video of her comment went viral and was listed on Trendsmap as a top global tweet. 

Experts have warned that Jack and the other Ministers’ by-election avoidance plan could have wide-ranging constitutional implications. The Times reported that “Lord” Cormack, a Tory peer, said it showed a “cavalier disregard for the constitution”.

The new list includes former editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre, despite Dacre being blocked by the House of “Lords” Appointment Commission on a previous list, and David Ross, the multi-millionaire Carphone Warehouse founder who was forced to quit as a City Hall aide over a share-selling scandal.

Scotland diverges from House of so-called “Lords”

Scottish political life has diverged from the House of “Lords” in recent decades - not one single peer supports Scottish independence, for example. Scottish MPs from the SNP do not sit in the “Lords” - unlike those from the Unionist parties. There are 27 members of the Scottish Labour group in the unelected Upper House.

Members don’t get a salary but they claim an allowance of £323 plus expenses for each day they attend - about the same as Universal Credit pays per month for a single person. Last year the House of “Lords” cost almost £120 million - a population share of which is charged to Scotland’s accounts and fattens Scotland’s notional “deficit”.

“Lords” does not meet the “Copenhagen Criteria” for EU membership

In 2010, the then Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described the House of “Lords” as a “democratic aberration” and said it could prevent the UK from joining the EU. Back then there were only 700 members.

Clegg said “It’s totally preposterous that we have a second chamber which is basically a plaything for political patronage – if that existed in other countries that were applying to the European Union, we would be saying ‘sorry you can’t have that because it doesn’t conform to European standards of democracy'”.

The criteria for countries joining the EU today are set out in the “Copenhagen criteria” and it is hard to see how a country ruled by the House of “Lords” could meet the bar. It states that:

“Functional democratic governance requires that all citizens of the country should be able to participate, on an equal basis, in the political decision making at every single governing level, from local municipalities up to the highest, national, level. This also requires free elections with a secret ballot.”

The half-reformed House of “Lords” put shadowy patronage in place of heredity

The House of so–called “Lords” has never been democratic but in recent years it has become more and more subject to the PM’s personal patronage, with little in the way of checks and balances. Since the 1999 Reform Act, when the Labour Party under Tony Blair abolished the rights of 600 hereditary peers to sit in the Upper House, new peers have been entirely appointed, largely by the head of the ruling party. (What was touted as a democratic reform was seen by some as a Labour power grab, as hereditary peers tended not to support Labour.) 

The advice of the appointments committee has been overruled by Boris Johnson more than once. He ennobled Evgeny Lebedev, who is bankrolled by his Russian oligarch father, Alexander; and Peter Cruddas who the “Lords” appointment committee said was not fit for office. Tory donor Malcolm Offord  was made a peer and appointed to the Scottish Office after failing to win an election in Scotland.  

The Labour Party’s plans to reform the House of so-called “Lords” are already facing push-back. Labour peer “Lord” Mandelson objected to them on the BBC’s flagship “the World this Weekend” and the current issue of Labour magazine Prospect carries an article by influential think-tank member Meg Russell arguing that tiny-footstep small-scale changes would be more realistic. 

An independent Scotland could get out from under the weight of the House of “Lords”

The Labour Party’s attempt to reform the House of “Lords” in 1999 actually left it worse than before - Boris Johnson has demonstrated how the leader of the ruling party can appoint peers without any democratic oversight. 

Members of the House of so-called “Lords” have the constitutional right to debate and amend laws affecting Scotland. The Scottish government does not. That is not fair, it is not democratic and it is also an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money. 

There will be no unelected second house in an independent Scotland. 

Snap General Election would make SNP official Westminster opposition

Polling by YouGov has indicated that if a snap general election were called, the SNP would be the official party of opposition in Westminster following a crushing defeat for the Tories. 

This is based on opinion polling for the UK and Scotland which shows Labour would win 529 seats with a majority of 408, the SNP would become the second largest party with 51 seats and the Tories would be relegated to third having won only 30 seats.

Even if an independence referendum was not granted before a general election, there is simply no way it can be denied if the SNP forms the Official Opposition and is the second largest party in the House of Commons. However, if there were a snap election the SNP would fight it on an independence platform so their MPs would only be going to Westminster to negotiate the terms of independence. 

Our calculations are based on two polls conducted by YouGov at the beginning of October of UK-wide and Scottish voting intention at Westminster. When the results of these polls are converted to Westminster seats, some interesting things happen: 

  • Labour wins a landslide victory with 529 seats and a 326-seat majority in the House of Commons.
  • The Tories would experience a total collapse, with their seats dropping from 365 to just 30.
  • The SNP would win a massive landslide of 51 seats in Parliament, overtaking the Tories in Westminster.
  • The Lib Dems would only win 16 seats. 
  • This means that the SNP would in fact be the second largest party in the UK Parliament and would form the Official Opposition. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that we used Electoral Calculus for the seat projections and two of the seats in Scotland predicted to swing to Labour are currently held by MPs that defected to the Alba Party. Our analysis is that the SNP would almost certainly win these constituencies, bringing the potential total of SNP seats up to 53. 

It’s important to note that these polls predate the resignation of Less Truss and the complete collapse of her Conservative Government. As a result the situation now may well be worse for the Conservatives and better for the SNP. After just 44 days in office, Liz Truss has become the shortest serving UK Prime Minister, with her tenure making all of the disasters of recent Tory administrations seem like minor gaffes. She oversaw a mini-budget offering such unsavoury levels of unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy that even the most steadfast Thatcherites found difficult to stomach.

The subsequent turmoil in the sterling and gilt markets forced the Bank of England to intervene to save the pensions sector from total collapse, leading to the resignation of the Chancellor. Her premiership came to an embarrassing end when she missed a vote in the House of Commons on fracking, which may or may not have been a vote of confidence in her own government. 

Through all this, Mrs Truss’ premiership might be best known for inducing the total collapse of the Conservative party as one of the pillars of the two party system. 

These results demonstrate that, above all else, now is the time for an independent Scotland. The people of Scotland deserve better than the current farce at Westminster and have a right to distance themselves from this calamity. 


Scottish Water - a victory for the Scottish people v the UK Government

Why is Scottish Water still - largely - in public ownership while water companies in the rest of the UK are privatised? The answer is solidarity. The degree of opposition to privatisation was so widespread and so strong right across Scottish society that the UK Conservative government didn’t dare to do it.  Recently, Financial Times commentator Camilla Cavendish, in a piece entitled “Water privatisation was never going to work, recalled:

“In 1989, the sell-off [in England] was touted as the route to greater efficiency and investment. But between 2002 and 2018, Scottish Water, which remains publicly owned, invested on average nearly 35 percent more per household than English water companies, according to researchers at Greenwich University.”

Water was privatised in England under Margaret Thatcher. In 1994, the Conservative government under John Major geared up to do the same in Scotland. It was a period when demands for Scotland to have more control over its affairs were building. The plans to privatise Scottish water met a massive wall of opposition. 

Strathclyde Regional Authority decided to hold an advisory referendum to test the strength of feeling. They held a postal ballot. There was a huge turnout with  71.5 percent of electors in Strathclyde returning their papers. An extraordinary 97.2 percent wanted Scottish water to remain in public hands. No to privatisation votes numbered 1,194,667 - yes votes just 33,956

This referendum had no legal force at the time. The UK government still had the legal power to do what it wished with Scottish Water. At that time, Scotland didn’t even have a Parliament or a National Assembly. It was run by the Westminster “Grand Committee” on Scottish affairs which was regularly stuffed with English MPs from the shires because there were too few Scottish Conservatives to vote through the Government’s plans. 

The Westminster record of the time, Hansard, records MP for East Lothian John Home Robertson saying in a debate about the referendum:

“Frankly, the result did not surprise me. What surprised me was the massive turnout of electors. I am amazed that even this Government think that they can shrug it off. I have no doubt that the result would have been exactly the same if the question had been put to my constituents and those of my hon. Friends in the Lothian region.”

Home Robertson said almost nobody supported privatisation:

“The Secretary of State for Scotland prefaced his remarks by saying that we had to return to the issues of state in Scotland today and consider this controversial issue. I have news for the Secretary of State for Scotland: this is not a remotely controversial issue. It is one of very few issues about which it would be impossible to start an argument in the streets, households, pubs, clubs or anywhere else in Scotland today. There is no support anywhere in Scotland for the proposal to take the water and sewerage industries out of the control of democratically accountable local authorities”

Eventually, the local water authorities were merged to form Scottish Water, which is a publicly-owned water company subject to scrutiny by the Scottish government. WeOwnIt, a campaign to take English water back into public hands, writes in its mission statement:

“If you live in Scotland, your water is already run for people not profit - and you're paying less than the rest of us. The publicly owned company Scottish Water is the most trusted public utility in the UK. It is constantly investing, keeping customers happy and reducing its carbon footprint."

It quotes 'Jane, WeOwnIt supporter': 

"In Scotland, the water supply is still publicly funded-and long may it last. Compared to England and Wales, there are no glaring inefficiencies, no shareholders to mollify, no drive to force up charges. We pay the water charges with our council tax and it works!"  

We are seeing consternation in England at the behaviour of the water companies currently, with huge amounts of water being lost through leaks, and raw sewage being pumped into bathing water at beaches along the south coast. Last year, Jenny Jones told the House of Lords that Britain was fast returning to its pre-EU status as “the dirty man of Europe”. She was speaking at a debate about legislation to enshrine legal protections for beach quality post Brexit. EU law sets legal stanadards for clean beaches - but the UK doesn't have that now. The Conservative government rejected the protections. 

There are issues in parts of Scotland too - the River Almond has had effluent pumped into it - but upgrading work is in progress and it should be clean enough to swim in by 2024. In contrast, the Daily Telegraph reported last week that every single beach along the stretch known as the English riviera was polluted with sewage.  Water campaigner Feargal Sharkey tweeted:

“A No.10 "Spokesperson said since the industry was privatised in 1989, the equivalent of £5bn had been invested to upgrade water infrastructure.' Let me remind you during the same period Water Companies have paid out over £72bn to shareholders.”

Even the right-wing Spectator magazine recently published a front-page article entitled “Water Woes”, in which leader writer Ross Clark conceded that privatisation has failed to deliver the promised benefits:

“It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way when the water industry was privatised by the Thatcher government in 1989. It was promised that privately owned water companies would unleash a wave of investment, and that they would introduce competition, reduce consumer prices and make the industry more responsive to demand. It is hard to see how any of these objectives have been fulfilled. Nor, indeed, has the water industry become as private as critics feared. Thames Water, which services 15 million people, is still largely owned by public sector entities, just not entirely British ones. Among its largest shareholders are the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, the UK Universities Superannuation Scheme and sovereign wealth funds of China and Abu Dhabi. Almost 10 percent of Thames Water is owned by the Chinese government.”

Boost for Scottish independence from contest for next PM

Well-known Unionist commentator Alex Massie amusingly told Radio 4 yesterday:

“If you were to say to me that there will be a referendum in say 15 years' time, I would probably, if pushed, expect Scotland to vote for independence,”. 

Some might have been surprised to hear Massie concede that Scottish independence is likely, although they might query the timing (*). Ironically the tipping point where support for independence hits a consistent majority is being brought much closer by the current Conservative leadership contest, and independence support will increase regardless of whether Truss or Sunak gets the keys for number Ten. 

Tipping point approaching for Scottish independence

A poll released yesterday showed that around 20% of voters said that either Sunak or Truss as PM would boost their support for independence. Only 35% of voters said they were firmly opposed to independence and that would be unchanged by the contest. That's no surprise judging by their lacklustre hustings performances in Perth last night.

Candidates vie to undermine the devolution settlement

The candidates both made clear that they plan to continue Boris Johnson’s policy of deliberately undermining the devolution settlement and both tried in vain to hide their profound ignorance of Scotland, its culture, politics and history.  The debate was chaired by STV’s Colin Mackay who said it was:

“a scary job interview…but not as scary as a general election, which is how we used to choose our Prime Ministers”.

Sunak on bypassing the Scottish Government’s spending powers

Mackay asked Sunak if he would “by-pass Holyrood for some spending”. Sunak replied:

“We have already started that and we will do more of it.”

Sunak condemned several times what he called “the civil service policy” of “devolve and forget” when it comes to Scotland. That apparently refers to respecting the devolution settlement and allowing Holyrood to run the policy areas for which it is legally responsible. 

Liz Truss effectively said there is no democratic route for independence for Scotland

Truss said that the 2014 referendum was “a once in a generation” event. Mackay mentioned the seven-year gap mandated for Northern Irish referenda and that Brexit and Covid had changed the background. He asked:

“For many people outside this room, 2014 feels like a generation. Is there a democratic route for Scotland to change its future? Is there a democratic route?”

Truss replied:

“At the time of the referendum, it was agreed by the SNP that it was a once-in-a-generation referendum. I believe in politicians keeping their promises and Nicola Sturgeon should keep her promise.” 

Liz Truss changed her mind on Brexit - why can’t the Scots change their mind on independence?

Mackay asked this question and Truss replied that she had respected the will of the people to leave the EU. She said she had been worried about disruption. But, she said, in a barefaced lie that is contradicted by authorities such as the UK’s Office for National Statistics, and the experience of many exporters and importers in Scotland, that:

“There has been no disruption [from Brexit]”

Truss boasted of trade deals she has done with Australia and New Zealand that threaten Scottish food producers by giving away all protections for Scottish and UK farmers and food producers against lower welfare imports - in a manner reminscent of “the great betrayal’ of 1921.

Sunak sneered at Scottish state education

Rishi Sunak told the audience that education was one of his family’s core values - his parents sent him to an elite private school.  He then proceeded to sneer at Scottish state education. He failed to point out that Scots children from the poorest backgrounds are overwhelmingly more likely to attend University than those born south of the border. 

Truss plans to rip up ECHR - she may not know it is the bedrock of devolution

Liz Truss gave a particularly wooden presentation with odd pauses. She talked of the UK’s economic difficulties, without mentioning the part Brexit plays - until she moved on to the “opportunity” to rip up EU legal protections for human rights and the environment. Liz Truss may not know that the European Convention on Human Rights was devised by a Scottish lawyer and is the bedrock of the devolution settlement, representing what many once regarded as shared British values. 

Truss proclaimed her determination to get rid of ECHR because it might prevent the UK government from deporting asylum seekers to countries like Rwanda. She said she was determined to expand this controversial policy to include more refugees and more third countries. 

Truss displayed weak understanding of the causes of the energy crisis

On energy, Truss promised to get rid of the ‘green levy’ - this supports insulation and investment  in renewables. It is Scotland’s renewable energy providers who supply the cheap power the UK relies on - and they could supply even more of it if the sector had not been starved of adequate investment. Onshore wind is many times cheaper than gas. 

Yet Truss proclaimed “we have to use our gas” to solve the energy crisis. What could she mean by this? Gas extracted from the North Sea is the property of the multinationals who extract it. It is sold to the UK’s privatised national grid at world prices - currently the equivalent of oil being $380 a barrel. Extracting slightly more gas would not lower world gas prices - it would just make more money for energy companies. 

Sunak and Truss may not know that 75% of voters supported devolution in a referendum

Neither Sunak or Truss appear to know that there was a referendum in Scotland 25 years ago next month in which 75% of voters supported devolution. They also do not seem to know that, while in English law and tradition, sovereignty rests with the Westminster Parliament, in Scottish law it lies with the people, in a tradition established in 1320 with the Declaration of Arbroath. 

Scottish Unionists despair of this desperate duo

On that same BBC lunchtime bulletin yesterday, presenter Jonny Dymond commented in response to a clip of some of the pair’s blunders that:

“There must be some Scottish Tories who hear those comments from Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss and just want to jump off a cliff, aren’t  there?”


*Listen to Massie’s comment here - 29 minutes in, closing a report from the BBC Scotland editor James Cook. However, some would argue he is simply running the Tory trope of ‘Yes, you can have independence but not yet’. Pushing the referendum down the road is a desperate tactic - they hope the Yes movement will give up and go away, because they fear they would lose one now.

Can the UK still claim to be a democracy?

Q In which country can the leader be elected by party members, without a chance for the population to vote?

A The UK

Q Which governing body is packed with party donors, personal friends and even relatives appointed by the leader?

A The House of Lords

Q In which country can a disgraced leader, forced from office for lying, still appoint whoever he likes to Parliament?

A The UK

The United Kingdom defines itself as a democracy - and yet, under the current Government it has departed from many of the conventions of one person one vote. 

Only about 170,000 UK citizens - largely male and over 50 - will be eligible to vote for the next PM, out of an electorate of about 47.6 million adults. This sounds like a scenario we might associate with the Communist Party of China. And yet, we are supposed to accept this as democratic.  At the same time, the House of Lords has become increasingly unregulated, and there are concerns that Boris Johnson has plans to add even more peers - without scrutiny. 

Allowing a UK PM to be elected by party members is new 

The media is reporting what journalists call ‘every cough and spit’ of the leadership ‘election’ for the UK’s next Prime Minister. But, with rare exceptions, it does not question the extraordinary and undemocratic nature of the contest. The media presents this as a traditional approach. In fact, it is new. If it actually goes to a vote, this will be just the second time a PM has been elected by the party members, the first being Boris Johnson in 2019. 

In the past, the leader of the ruling party was selected by MPs. They themselves are elected and can thus claim some democratic legitimacy. They would select someone, often behind closed doors, and that person would formally offer to form a government. 

In 1998, William Hague changed the rules to include a vote by Conservative members. The Conservatives were out of power from 1997 to 2011. Since then, they have changed leader while in power twice. When Theresa May stood to be Prime Minister, her nearest rival Andrea Leadsom stood down so there was no actual members' vote. 

When the Labour Party changed leader from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown in 2007, Brown was endorsed by Labour MPs. The only time the Labour Party changed leaders in office with more than one candidate was when James Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson in 1976 - Callaghan was selected by a ballot of MPs.

Tone of the contest illustrated by Liz Truss’ promise to ignore Scotland

Liz Truss won cheers from Tory voters at a husting by vowing to ignore Scotland, showing that the continued undermining of the devolution settlement will continue and worsen.  Policies like further limiting the right to strike, are guaranteed to win Conservative party votes and to ensure Truss becomes the next Prime Minister of the UK. But they are far removed from the electoral priorities of Scotland. 

The current contest for the votes of a tiny minority is filling the airwaves with discussion of very right-wing policies. The "Overton Window’  is a concept familiar to broadcasters. It means the range of ideas that is regarded as mainstream and acceptable. What we are seeing is the Overton Window of UK public life being pushed further to the right.

Lord Lebedev of Siberia has a pet wolf named Boris

Meanwhile, disgraced PM Boris Johnson is still the UK”s Prime Minister. On coming to power, he found himself in possession of a half-reformed House of Lords and proceeded to hand out dozens of titles - it will be more than 100 by the time he leaves office. He has ennobled among others: his brother Jo; a Conservative donor called Peter Cruddas who the Lords committee said was not fit to hold public office; and Evgeny Lebedev, whose entry into London society was financed by his father, KGB officer Alexander Lebedev.  Lebedev, who named his pet wolf Boris, is now  Baron Lebedev, of Hampton and Siberia. The UK government while talking tough over Ukraine, has dragged its feet on sanctioning Russia. Lebedev has more right under the UK Consitution to debate and amend laws affecting Scotland than Nicola Sturgeon has. 

The House of Lords has never been democratic but in recent years it has been made subject to the PM’s personal patronage, with little in the way of checks and balances. With the 1999 Reform Act, the Labour Party under Tony Blair abolished the rights of 600 hereditary peers to sit in the Upper House, What was touted as a democratic reform was seen by some as a political move to enable Blair to create more Labour Peers. It left a baggy, over-sized Lords blowing in the political wind, with no effective regulation in place.  At around 800, the House of Lords is almost the largest governing body in the world, second only to the Chinese People’s Congress.

Boris Johnson may be poised to appoint dozens more peers

The Guardian reported recently on a draft plan by which Johnson will add 39 to 50 new Tory peers when he finally leaves office. Former PM Gordon Brown revealed he had seen an extraordinary document which includes a requirement that each new peer sign away their right to make their own judgment on legislation that comes before them. They have to give, the paper says, a written undertaking to attend and vote with the Government.

The draft plan recommends Johnson to appoint political nominees who will vote for the Tory government, especially its bill to disown the international treaty it has itself signed over Northern Ireland.


The UK prides itself on being democratic, with Westminster often described as the mother of all parliaments (despite The Althing of Iceland being by far the oldest). But it has turned out that there were few checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. The current contest for the UK”s highest elected office, accepted as normal by a supine and ineffective media, is absurd and undemocratic. 

Only with independence can Scotland escape the dangerous charade of the UK’s failing democracy. 

Media Watch - Scotland’s mainstream media ignores the downside of dodgy trade deals

July 27, 2022

“I have negotiated dozens of trade deals”, candidate for PM Liz Truss said in a debate on BBC TV this week. 

Since Brexit, the UK has rolled over existing EU deals covering 63 countries. It is not true to say that Truss negotiated these - they were already in place,  negotiated by the EU, and have simply been allowed to continue after Brexit. So far, Truss has negotiated a handful of trade deals. These are potentially very bad for Scotland - but that is not being reported fairly. 

The UK government is offering open access to Scottish markets for intensive, low-welfare farmers, echoing ‘The Great Betrayal’" of the 1920s, which decimated Scottish agriculture. They have signed these deals on Scotland's behalf without consent or consultation with Scotland's elected representatives. 

Promises over “safeguards” for Scottish farmers have been broken - with no scrutiny

Instead, over the last year, BBC Scotland and other Unionist media outlets have given space to vague promises that there will be safeguards for Scottish producers.  But these safeguards have not materialised and that is being brushed under the carpet without scrutiny. 

Truss trade deals - four not dozens

Liz Truss’ government has so far negotiated just four new trade deals, covering six countries. These are with Japan, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, Australia and New Zealand. But there are fears these are the gateway to the UK Government signing more destructive and desperate deals. 

Deals with New Zealand and Australia threaten Scottish food producers

Trade deals with New Zealand and Australia will see quotas for tariff-free lamb and other produce increased sharply over the next 15 years before it becomes a tariff-free, quota-free free for all. Because Australia and New Zealand don't work to the same standards on climate, environment and welfare and because they farm more intensively that allows them to potentially undercut Scottish farmers. While the idea of cheap imports may seem attractive in the short term, in the long term it threatens to damage the Scottish food-producing sector, food security and the wider economy. 

There was anger in the House of Commons last week when the UK Government forbade Parliament from discussing the terms of the Australian trade deal before it is ratified -  despite an earlier promise by Liz Truss that it would face Parliamentary scrutiny. 

Scottish MP Drew Hendry said the Government’s own research showed that Australia’s lower standards on deforestation, animal welfare and climate lets it produce cheaper food that will undercut Scottish produce. 

The Scottish Farmer said the deal “offers nothing but pain” for Scotland’s farmers and crofters. Scottish NFU president Martin Kennedy said: “Our fears that the process adopted by the UK Government in agreeing the Australia deal would set a dangerous precedent going forward have been realised…

“This latest deal offers virtually nothing to Scottish farmers and crofters in return but risks undermining our valuable lamb, beef, dairy and horticultural sectors by granting access to large volumes of imported goods. As with the Australian deal, a cap on tariff-free imports is merely a slow journey to allow NZ, a major exporter of food and drink, unfettered access to food and drink UK markets."

But Scottish food producers’ woes are not being reported by the mainstream UK media. 

A clip of New Zealand TV contrasted the reaction of “jubilant Kiwi farmers” with the despair of those facing unfair competition from producers meeting lower environmental and welfare standards has been widely shared on social media. 

People find it hard to believe that the NZ media is offering more coverage of the downside of the deal than the UK. It said: “The deal will see Kiwi meat imported without tariffs, and UK farmers say they get nothing in return. They fear it will change their businesses dramatically.’ UK farmers told the news show that they feel as if they are the “sacrificial lambs” of the deal. 

Sustainable business advisor Brendan May commented: “New Zealand television is completely mystified by the amazing Brexit trade deal Liz Truss keeps boasting about. They can’t understand why she would want to make British farmers poorer and theirs richer. Even the winning side can’t fathom it.”

The deals echo ‘the great betrayal” of the 1920s which decimated Scottish agriculture

Those with a knowledge of Scottish history will remember “the great betrayal” of 1921 when the UK Government abandoned support for agriculture and fishing - believing it could be replaced by cheap imports from the Empire. In the following decade, food production collapsed and Scotland lost 8% of its population (compared to 5% in England) due to emigration by desperate people, many of whom simply abandoned their crofts and farms.

Scottish agriculture is already a big loser from Brexit -  it is gradually losing EU funding from the Common Agricultural Policy, which moves some of the cost of food production from the consumer to the tax payer. The UK’s replacement scheme will be far less generous. The loss of easy access to EU markets, and the end of free movement of labour is also damaging Scotland’s food producers. 

The Scottish Government has criticised the UK Government’s level of engagement with the devolved governments. There has been no consultation on the negotiation process, nor on the crucial detail about tariffs and goods market access on any of the deals which the UK government has negotiated.

Unlike Quebec, which is able to scrutinise and ratify Canada’s international trade deals, Scotland has no voice. The Internal Markets Act means the UK government can make any deal it likes in Scotland’s name, without consultation or consent. 

Scotland is being let down by the media which is failing to report both sides of the story

The media is supposed to serve the people - but Scotland’s Unionist media is failing to report on the people who are being harmed by these trade deals, to scrutinise politicians’ promises, or to consider the potential for long-term harm to Scotland's interests. 

The UK Gov's Crime Against Democracy - suppressing Scottish votes

As the candidates for the next Prime Minister continue to voice more and more extreme right-wing priorities thats are out of step with the vast majority of Scottish voters, speculation rises that there could be a general election within the next few months. But if that were to happen, almost one in ten voters could be stopped from casting their ballots.

The UK Government’s own research suggests 9% voters don’t have suitable id - that is much higher than was previously thought. Previous estimates were about 2.5%.  Low-income and marginal groups are more likely to be affected. 

This situation could significantly damage the cause of Scottish independence by unfairly suppressing the vote from areas and groups of people who are more likely to support independence. It could also hand a massive electoral advantage to the Conservatives. 

The UK Government forced through the Electoral Act requiring people to present photo id at the polling booth, ignoring the fact the Scottish Parliament did not consent to it and that many experts said it could damage democracy in the UK.

Government phone survey finds 9% without acceptable photo ID

The Cabinet Office commissioned a survey earlier this year that found only 85% of people in the UK have multiple forms of ID. While 91% of respondents said they have a passport, the surveying company pointed out that a phone survey struggles to reach underrepresented groups such as the homeless and even this could be an underestimate. 

Voter ID card legislation three months late

Most countries where photo id is demanded at the voting booth also issue free ID cards. The UK does not. The Act said that voting cards would be created and made freely available - but the legislation to create them has been delayed. It is three months behind schedule.

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up said : ‘It is the government’s expectation that all the measures in the Elections Act will be implemented during the lifetime of this parliament. The Voter Card system will be in operation in good time ahead of voter identification being required at polls.” He cited earlier research from the survey above, which he claimed showed only 2% of voters without ID. 

The Electoral Commission is toothless

The Electoral Commission has written to the new Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Greg Clarke, requesting an urgent meeting. It pointed out that the delay in creating voter ID cards was a cause for concern. But there is nothing the Electoral Commission can do to ensure that the UK’s elections are free and fair. 

A spokesperson said: “The Electoral Commission is responsible for enforcing the law, but not for making it”.  A report said the Act risks damaging trust in the UK’s electoral system, instead of protecting it. 

The Electoral Commission no longer has the power to enforce election law

The Elections Bill also removed the power to prosecute people who break electoral law from the Commission. In future, it will be up to the various police services to decide if a breach of electoral law should be prosecuted. The law also does not allow EU citizens who settled in the UK before Brexit to have a vote in general elections. 

The Scottish Parliament is powerless to create voter ID cards

Arrangements for general elections come under the rule of Westminster and so these rules will apply to Scottish voters when they vote on MPs. 

The Scottish Government could issue its own cards - but they won’t be recognised at polling stations unless the law says they should be and that power rests with the UK Government, as far as general elections go. 

Research shows onerous registration puts voters off

Even if the UK Government does pass the required legislation to create voter ID cards, if people have to go through a bureaucratic process with their local authority, research shows it will put them off voting and reduce turn out. 

Over 60s bus passes acceptable - but not matriculation cards

The new law has been criticised for other kinds of unfairness - it accepts over 60s bus passes - but not student id cards or young person railcards or bus passes. Over 60s are significantly more likely to vote against independence and for right wing candidates.

The Wikipedia entry on the Act reads: "The act was criticised for permitting as acceptable voter identification "an Older Person’s Bus Pass, an Oyster 60+ Card, a Freedom Pass", while not allowing 18+ student Oyster cards, national railcards, or student ID cards. An amendment in the House of Lords to list these as accepted forms of voter identification was rejected by the Conservative government.” Legislation to create free voter id cards has been delayed.

There was no significant electoral fraud in the UK

What were the motives for passing this law? Protecting democracy against fraud was given as a reason - but that does not stand up to scrutiny. There is little evidence of serious voter fraud in UK elections. Between 2015 to 2019, during which three general elections were held and 153 million in-person votes cast, only 88 allegations were made of voter fraud. Between 2010 and 2018, there were just two convictions for voter fraud.

A few percentage points can swing a seat

Just a couple of percentage points can make a difference  - for example in Moray and in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine the majority for the Conservatives in the 2019 election was under 1,000 votes and in Dumfries and Galloway, Alister Jack's majority was less than 2,000. According to recent polling by Electoral Calculus, all the Conservative MPs Scottish seats are at risk, with the potential for them all to be lost.

In addition, it is likely that the next general election will be fought in Scotland on the single issue of independence. Disenfranchising large swathes of voters could make a significant difference in vote share.

Conclusion - a crime against democracy

It seems clear that the the new Elections Act risks disenfranchising many, many people. If voter ID cards are not made available  soon, that number will be even higher.  There is a question mark over the reasons for forcing through the elections act. There is no evidence of significant fraud. The Electoral Commission has also been weakened and has no power to enforce rules or to ensure elections are free and fair. Being careless with the votes of the electorate - or deliberately suppressing them is a crime against democracy. 

The day that Britain died - rights ripped from Scotland’s devolution settlement 

History may record that Britain finally died the day the UK Government decided to rip the European Convention on Human Rights from the heart of Scotland’s devolution settlement.

The leader of the group which drew up the Convention, in 1950, was a Scottish lawyer, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe. As a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, David had seen first-hand how international justice could be effectively applied to support universal rights for individuals. He guided the draft, which has influenced the understanding of human rights throughout Europe ever since. 

At one time, this Convention would have been regarded as the bedrock of British values. But now the Government in Westminster seeks to cross out the bits it doesn’t like. It has declared its intention to remove these from the Scotland Act without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. 

Perhaps history will record that the values enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights turned out to be Scottish values and that English values are rather different. 

Fundamental disregard for the devolution settlement 

The Convention was used to halt a flight deporting refugees against their will to Rwanda, and now the UK Government intends to excise sections from British law. The changes it intends to make include removing the right to trial by jury - for indidviduals the Government doesn’t like. 

The Bill makes clear that the UK Government intends to amend the Scotland Act of 1998 by replacing all references to the Convention with the UK Government’s own Bill - that will clearly have to take place without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. That shows a fundamental disregard for the principle that the devolution settlement would be respected, and should not be changed by Westminster against the will of Holyrood.

The UK Government has decided not to submit its Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny by the House of Commons or the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has made it clear it doesn't recognize any sovereignty for Holyrood so it doesn't matter if the Scottish people and their representatives consent or not.

Those who voted No in 2014 believing assurances by Unionist parties that the devolution settlement would be respected have every right to feel betrayed. 

The referendum for the Scottish Parliament had overwhelming support

The battle for Home Rule had been raging for a century or more when, in 1979, Scotland voted in favor of a Scottish Assembly. Despite the fact that the margin for Yes was similar to Brexit, Scotland didn’t get its own Parliament because a clause had been inserted by the then Labour government that said 40% of the electorate had to vote ‘yes’ in order to succeed.

So throughout the subsequent 18 years of Conservative rule, Scotland’s governance was left entirely in the hands of Westminster. Most of the time, the ruling party didn’t have enough Scottish MPs to fill the Grand Committee so it was packed with English MPs from the Shires who knew little and cared less about Scottish affairs.

Scotland’s industries, many of which had been thriving in the post-war years, were decimated. Workers were let down by a complacent, London-based managerial elite and didn't have the government backing other small countries had. Economically, socially and culturally, Scotland struggled, feeling its own powerlessness and lack of ability to influence Westminster’s policies. 

In 1997, the Labour government was swept into power. It was led by several prominent Scots, (including Donald Dewar)  who had promised to introduce - finally - Home Rule for Scotland. The referendum of 1997 was greeted with an overwhelming yes - 75% of the vote. 

The Scotland Act of 1998 was based on the shared values of the Convention

The Scotland Act of 1998 was supposed to be the bedrock of a new relationship within the UK.  Woven into it was the European Convention of Human Rights, representing a framework of shared values on which to build a strong democratic Union. 

That dream died with Brexit. The UK Government removed Scotland from the European Union against its will, without consent or consultation. Since then it has taken every opportunity to undermine the devolution settlement, repatriating powers to itself with a series of Acts starting with the Internal Markets Act.

This new plan demonstrates that Holyrood has no sovereignty. The Scottish parliament is powerless to defend the rights of Scottish citizens.

A “deeply regressive” Bill

The Scottish Human Rights Commission called the provisions  "deeply regressive". It has particular concerns about the following proposals in the bill: 

  • directing national courts as to how to interpret and apply human rights, which it says would interfere with the role of courts, undermine the separation of powers, and reduce accountability for breaches of rights;
  • decoupling UK courts’ interpretation of Convention rights from the European Court of Human Rights, which will introduce confusion and uncertainty for rights holders and duty bearers alike, and may further reduce rights protection;
  • requiring a rights holder to demonstrate "significant disadvantage" before being permitted to pursue a remedy for a breach of their human rights in court, which would "severely undermine the development of a rights-respecting culture and the international human rights requirement to provide an adequate remedy for all human rights breaches";
  • requiring UK courts to take into account the wider conduct of rights holders, undermining the universality of human rights, a fundamental principle of human rights law; and
  • the impact of repealing the Human Rights Act in Scotland – the Act is embedded into the Scotland Act, and "The potential impact of repealing the Human Rights Act, in terms of the fulfillment of human rights in Scotland, does not appear to have been adequately considered."

The Law Society of Scotland's President Murray Etherington said:“For over 70 years we have benefited from the protections offered by the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 those rights have been built into UK and Scottish law and it is vital that they are not diminished as a result of new legislation.”

There are of course many English people who are also concerned, and see the damage that is being done, although many of the same people supported or facilitated Brexit, despite knowing it was not supported by Scotland or Northern Ireland. Edward Garnier QC, former solicitor-general warned in a column in the Times that: 

The Bill of Rights will “further bolster the concerns of those who believe with some justification that this government has a reckless disregard for domestic and international law.”


Labour Lords Plot to Make an Indyref2 Illegal - key questions answered

The House of Lords contains more peers that are than it does peers who support Scottish independence. It is an out-dated antidemocratic institution packed with cronies of the UK's ruling elite.

Some peers - led by Scottish Labour's Baron Foulkes - are now putting forward a new law which would make it illegal for the Scottish Government to hold an independence referendum - here we answer questions about what this move means and the possible consequences.

Q What has been proposed?

The proposal is for the UK Government to pass a law making it illegal for the Scottish Government to spend money on anything outside a tightly-defined remit. 

Q What other effects would it have?

The primary purpose would be to stop a new referendum. But this law would mean that Westminster would very much dictate what the Scottish Government is allowed to do, on a wide range of issues. 

The bill would make it illegal for civil servants to work on post-independence planning, or for Scottish Government representatives to travel abroad to meet their counterparts in other countries, It would no longer be permissible for anyone employed by the Scottish Government to spend time on issues like defence, the post-independence Constitution or mitigating the effects of Brexit in international trade. 

But the law could go further than this. Under the Internal Markets Act any measure which create a different trading environment north of the border are out of order. So even Scottish Government officials planning to put a 10p deposit on a bottle of Irn-Bru could be ruled illegal.

Q Who is behind this?

This proposal comes from members of the House of Lords. The main proposer is Labour Peer George Foulkes. Foulkes is drafting a Private Member’s Bill which he will put forward to the Conservative government after the Queen’s Speech on May 10, hoping that Boris Johnson will pick it up and decide to make it law. 

Foulkes has reportedly won the support of Conservative Scottish peers Michael Forsyth and Liam Fox. The Daily Express called them a “Dad’s Army” of veteran politicians, referring to the Second World War TV show. 

Q Do the rest of the Labour group in the Lords support this? 

The Scottish Labour group in the House of Lords has 27 members. It is not clear how many of the rest of the group support this plan, but so far none of them has disassociated themselves from it. 

There are 167 Labour Lords. Few of these understand much about Scotland - but they could be instructed to support this Bill if it passes to the next stages. 

Q How many Scottish members of the House of Lords are there? How many support independence? 

The current membership of the House of Lords is around 800. There are no geographical criteria for membership, unlike Canada which has an appointed upper house of just 105 members selected from each territory of the federation. 

Around 87 members of the current House of Lords could be regarded as Scottish Peers, according to research by MP Tommy Sheppard in 2020. They are largely privately-educated males over 65. A quarter of this number, 22, are hereditary peers. The rest include Tory donor Malcolm Offord who was ennobled and appointed to the Scottish Office after failing to win an election in Scotland. 

The bill for Scottish peers services has been calculated as around £3 million a year. Not one single Scottish peer is apparently in favour of Scottish independence. 

Q How many members of the House of Lords support Scottish independence?

There are more people in the House of Lords bankrolled by Russian oligarchs than there are supporters of Scottish independence. Evegeny Lebedev is funded by his father Alexander, a former KGB agent who acquired a large stake in Gazprom. There are no peers at all among the 800 strong membership of this exclusive club who have voiced support for Scottish independence. 

Q What could the Scottish Parliament do to prevent a Bill like this becoming law? 

Very little. The House of Lords has the power to debate and amend legislation which affects Scotland - but Holyrood does not.

Despite being fully elected, by the Scottish people under a fairer proportional representation system, the Scottish Parliament gets no say at all over controversial laws that affect Scotland. In the post-Brexit settlement, the UK Government decided to remove powers from Holyrood under the Internal Markets Act. Holyrood refused consent for this as it has for other draconian new laws such as the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Elections Bill, which may disenfranchise 100,000 Scots.

But Westminster repeatedly ignores the wishes of Scotland's elected Parliament. The UK Supreme Court recently ruled that “Westminster has merely lent powers to the three devolved territories, which can be reclaimed at any times.”

Critics of this position argue that because the devolved Parliaments - especially Scotland’s where 75% of voters said Yes in 1997 - were established by a referendum with strong popular support, they should be recognised as sharing sovereignty with Westminster. However, there is no suggestion that Westminster ever would share sovereignty with Scotland’s elected Parliament. 

Q Will this become law?

At the moment, there is no clear path for the proposed bill to become law. It may be that Foulkes has been persuaded to float the idea in order for the UK Government to test the strength of opposition to it. Or the UK Government may feel they can use existing powers to dictate to Holyrood. 

The House of Commons would also have to vote to pass this law.  But if it were to make it that far, there would be little Scots could do to stop it. The majority of MPs elected in Scotland since 2011 have supported independence - but they are regularly outvoted on matters that affect Scotland, such as the Internal Markets Act. 


This latest attack on the democratically elected Scottish Government is another sign that the House of Lords is out of touch with the country it seeks to govern. It is unacceptable that Labour peers like Lord Foulkes feel entitled to lay down the law when they can't claim to represent the people of Scotland in any way. 

Only in an independent Scotland would be free of the shadowy hand of this unelected body.

The illegal rendition of asylum seekers signals the UK's values, not Scotland's

It is easy to express outrage at the UK Government's plan to illegally rendition asylum seekers 6,000 miles to a country with a poor human rights record and a recent record of mass genocide.

However, you must not discount the possibility that you are supposed to be outraged. It is a possibility that this is all a ruse to distract both you and the headlines, in order to make you think that the fines for breaking lockdown rules and partying whilst people died are somehow yesterday's news and a minor transgression in comparison. That of course would mean that the Rwandan rendition will never happen as you can't be forced to resign for something that never happened.

Either way, the Rwandan move signals that the UK state is broken and led by an incompetent, compulsively dishonest, criminal, racist, British nationalist government. A government that does not share the values and common decency of the people of Scotland or the political parties that they choose to represent them in both Westminster and Holyrood.

Within hours of Priti Patel, smirking inappropriately as she announced what amounts to illegal rendition with their plan to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda, the Home Secretary was being lampooned online in pictures with her caricature leaning on a folder marked “Migrant Death Warrants”.

Offshoring migrants has been on the cards since the PM vowed to “take back control” of Britain’s borders following the Brexit vote, a promise that so far has led to nothing but deep falls in exports, 20 mile lorry tailbacks and rapid inflation, but their new rendition plans have been slated as “inhumane”, “unspeakably cruel” and “state sanctioned violence in practice”.

Under the plan, to which Johnson said the UK Government would contribute £120m, migrants will be housed temporarily in mainly hostels or hotels in the Rwandan capital Kigali while their asylum claims are processed. The UN refugee agency has stated that the plans are illegal and that attempting to "shift responsibility" for claims of refugee status was "unacceptable".

The scheme will be challenged in the courts but criticism and disgust has come from refugee charities, lawyers and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, whose Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, said: “People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said Rwanda did not respect some of the most basic human rights: “Refugees have been abused in Rwanda and the government has, at times, kidnapped Rwandan refugees outside the country to bring them home to face trial and ill-treatment.”

Johnson said Rwanda was “one of the safest countries in the world”, despite the fact that in 1994 Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – genocide that shocked the world. He added that the risk of ending up in Rwanda would prove “a considerable deterrent” over time.

However, his own government, in January last year, delivered a statement on Rwanda at the 37th Session of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), urging Rwanda to model Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Glasgow immigration lawyer Usman Aslam said from breaking their own rules and refusing to resign, we are now faced with a Tory Government who are misleading the public about the realities of the Rwanda scheme, which people deserved to know.

“When Priti Patel said this is a ‘Global first’, it is not at all. Australia were sending asylum seekers offshore to be ‘processed’ for years and even they stopped,” he said. “The UN Special Rapporteur even said the Australian model (that the Tories are obsessed with) was an abusive offshore detention system that ‘cannot be salvaged’ … unjustifiably punitive and unlawful amounting to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’.”

Manus in Papua New Guinea and Nauru – 690 and 1800 miles respectively off Cape York – were first used by Australia for offshore immigration detention centres in in 2001, but were blighted by shocking living conditions and a lack of water. Six years later they were mothballed after a farce that saw the overwhelming majority of those detained allowed to be resettled in Australia as genuine refugees.

They were reopened in 2012 to prevent asylum seekers arriving by boat gaining access to Australia, and over 4,000 were processed at the sites between 2012 and 2019. Last December, there were still 105 people on Manus and 112 on Nauru.

Denmark may have been the first country to join the UN Refugee Convention in 1951, but it has been open about its goal of “zero” refugees in the country.

It passed legislation last year to allow it to move asylum seekers to third countries outside the EU while their cases were processed, a move that drew questions about its legality from the European Commission and human rights groups.

In 2015 Israel moved to halt a flood of refugees, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, by striking deals with “third country safe havens” – identified by media sources as Uganda and Rwanda. By 2018, Israel said around a third of 65,000 people who had arrived in the country illegally had left under its various schemes.

Aslam said it was no surprise the Patel-Johnson briefing was “sketchy when it came to specifics”, because he thought the “horrendous” Nationality and Borders Bill, if passed, would go against their plans. Patel had not addressed Section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which states that no asylum seeker can be removed from the UK while their asylum application is pending.

“In the Borders Bill, whilst it states that they can be removed to a safe country, it defines safe country as a place where a person’s life and liberty are not threatened by reason of the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,” said Aslam.

“Rwanda is a place that people run from for these exact reasons, so the law would not allow them to be sent there anyway.”