A Shaft of Light

The lovely aspect of Andrew O’Hagan’s conversion to Yes was the way it cut across the grain of despair being heavily promoted by the champions of Scotland the Province.

The self-styled Unionist lobby has feasted on the contrivance that they somehow ‘won’ an election they comprehensively lost. They have delighted in cramming Scotland back inside a box marked Useless. In their hubris they have claimed an ascendancy that in reality looks more like an electoral spasm.

This year’s general election in Scotland was a vote of revenge for many when the chance came to round on the nationalists who had so discombobulated them. There has after all to be a reason why a Liberal in the North East would vote for a Brexit Tory knowing it would damage their own local economy more than anywhere else in the UK. (We await the government’s report confirming this. So far they are afraid to publish). To abandon every progressive principle of your party and betray its history in order to replace committed, professional representatives with amateurs and careerists from the Rotary Club speakers’ committee, is, like Brexit, a stunning act of self-harm.

That’s what happens when you vote out of revenge – you vote against one thing and forget what you’re getting in exchange. As Ruth Davidson has just admitted, you got a Tory Party devoid of policy. She is now seeking ideas that can be turned into proposals for government when surely that’s what elections are supposed to be about.

Anyone voting for her candidates in June got a pig in a poke – a know-nothing MP (one of whom is holding surgeries by appointment only) and a party without policy. Still, they chased the SNP. And, of course, they delayed a referendum, which may be the last hope of escaping a disastrous Brexit. I fear North East Liberal voters who turned to the Tories may fit Blackadder’s barb at Baldrick: ‘I’d bump into cleverer people at a lodge meeting of the Guild of Village Idiots’

Still, however politically bewildered, they have delivered for the increasingly frothing commentariat a prize that has eluded them for a decade – a blood lust of vengeance which is sweeping away all reason, all nuance and balance. Witness David Torrance in the Guardian.

Add in the desertion of part-time Nationalist voters back to their natural home of British Labour and it could be presented as the wilting of the Yes flower. I’ve spent some time worrying away at the concept of voting Labour in Scotland while supporting independence and concluded that, as always, people should be true to themselves and act accordingly. All are welcome when it comes to the cause. I’m just confused by the message since, if everyone did the same, and voted Labour, there would assuredly be no independence for Scotland. Indeed if only a few thousand more did so, independence would be further away than ever. Nothing will delight the Westminster oligarchy more than SNP voters deserting to Labour. Go figure.

So the O’Hagan intervention was a welcome shaft of light reminding us that if we want real change, it will only come through self-government. By definition, we ourselves will make the decisions on the Scotland that we want. That’s the whole point. It doesn’t guarantee any of us will get exactly what we’d prefer, but that’s because it’s a democracy with diverse views. But we will get Scotland’s wish, not England’s.

And that’s become the defining point since Brexit – the realisation that the Union itself has become a myth. There can only be a union between willing partners who deal with each other equitably, or at least with mutual respect. I agree with O’Hagan that the Supreme Court ruling proved that even the latest devolution settlement was a stitch-up allowing Scots to be overruled at will. The lack of a Unionist foundation can be found in the dismissal of Scotland’s separate EU vote. ‘It was a UK decision’, we are told as if to confirm the English majority in Parliament that ensures we will always get what they want. I’m increasingly with Alf Baird on this; Scotland is today a province of greater England more than it is a partner in Union.

As it happens, I see advantages in Union and believe that after independence there will be a close relationship mirroring some of the joint arrangements we have now. As a Borderer, I know the strength of feeling in favour of it and respect articulate views in support. But where is the justifying case for Union? The endless sneering at Scotland and its aspiration and threats of currency withdrawal and retaliation hardly speak of partnership or respect. Yet that appears to be what vocal support for the UK is reduced to.

O’Hagan reminds us that not all political thought is frenzied and partisan. Outside of the Daisleys and the Deerins, the alt right Oor Wullies, the Scots doubtful about independence are not zealots. The somewhat scary partisans of Scotland in Union with their extremism do not represent Scottish Unionist opinion any more than Scottish Resistance represent Nationalism. And anyone can be converted to the other side. Andrew O’Hagan himself was an unflinching critic as was Tom Morton, now both openly campaigning for our side.

There is no reason to think the wider public is any different. How long will it take voters who turned Tory to see how ineffectual their MPs are and how the party is pursuing the decimation of their own economic base?

When will lefties see through Corbyn as a man who talks left but who is as unquestioningly Unionist as Ruth Davidson and would exult in the extermination of the SNP?

It remains the case that those of us who are proudly Scottish Nationalists have in our hearts a cause, one that transcends political parties and can unite Scots. Even those who have moved back to Labour have not abandoned the aim of independence.

To support the Union today demands acceptance of the most shambolic bunch of liars and jokers who’ve ever held high office in Britain. It means watching as they turn somersaults with red tape and taxpayer’s money trying to buy back what we currently have to no advantage. Britain has been turning into a dystopian pantomime under the Tories (and Liberals). Now the show has hit Broadway and the whole world is watching.

The logic of O’Hagan’s case is compelling. His words inspire. And they speak to a truth the Unionist hardliners cannot bear – however slowly, the transformation of Scotland can no longer be stopped.

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UKOK?

The most noteworthy thing about Unionists is how they never talk about the Union. Consume the output of media politics in Scotland from one week to the next and you’ll virtually nothing about the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

The comments of players in the game appear, for sure, and events like Damien Green meeting Scottish ministers about divvying up post Brexit powers are treated as news but there is virtually no perspective on the working of the relationships that are the sinews of the construct that is Britain.

I wait in vain for any of the pro-Union representatives to make a speech lauding the current state of the country or to break out of the predictable studio narrative and cry Hallelluja! Thank the Good Lord for bestowing upon us a country so contented, so prosperous, so healthy and united and for national leadership so inspiring it is taken as a beacon for others around the world. Blessed we are in this United Kingdom.

Or even: things ain’t too bad, after all.

Could it be that nobody in Britain actually believes that things are going well. Is the truth that nobody has faith in leadership. Why do polls suggest majorities in all four nations believe the Union will end, perhaps within a decade?

There appears to be a self-denying ordinance gagging those who should be holding up the UK as a template for a well-run country. Instead of examples of how Britain does things better and gets results, we are subjected to many reasons why any alternative is worse. The same thing happened during the indyref when every utterance of independistas was examined minutely but with no corresponding analysis of how things actually work now.

I’ve watched the relish with which a Twitter row among Yessers is elevated to mean the end of the nationalist dream when it hasn’t touched the leadership or cohesion of the wider movement at all. A handful of mini-celeb names that mean nothing to the hundreds of thousands of independence voters across the country have let their narcissism get the better of them.

But is the SNP split? Is the Cabinet in revolt? Has anyone resigned? Has anyone in a position of authority said anything worth quoting? Is anybody opposing the continuing objective of independence?

Contrast that with a broken-back Prime Minister whose Chancellor maps out a new approach while she’s on holiday, before her deputy straightens it out again.

Here’s a section from the FT:
‘Theresa May’s cabinet is split into at least three groups over how Britain should arrange a transition period after Brexit, according to several people involved in discussions. One group, led by Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is pushing for the most gradual departure possible from the EU and tends to stress the economic risks of Brexit. Another, including Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, tends to emphasise the opportunities of departure and the need to honour last year’s Brexit referendum result and favours a cleaner break. Then there is a group in between, which includes the prime minister and her de facto deputy, Damian Green, as well as two notable Brexit campaigners, Michael Gove and David Davis.’

Considering the importance of Brexit this is little short of disastrous. Remember, these are the people in charge of the policy yet are deeply divided among themselves. Somehow a coherent argument has to be put to the EU negotiators from this guddle.

They are still fighting each other as the clock ticks down. And for noises off – the equivalent of the Yes Twitter spat – we have the recently resigned aide to David Davis saying the whole Brexit disaster must be stopped, a new political party formed and the Brexiteers who lied to the voters, jailed.

These are the people running the United Kingdom whose health service may be approaching breaking point because of their policy and funding failures (I predict the Tory solution will magically turn out to be private investment).

Even before we turn to the universally agreed destruction that Brexit will bring, the state of the nation surely demands that we hear a great peoples debate on what kind of country Britain has become.

It is now established for example that the effects of austerity and lack of investment mean people in the north of England die younger than those feather-bedded in the south. The rate of premature death in people under 45 is falling in the south, but stagnating in the north. In 2015 the number of premature deaths of people aged 35 to 44 was 50% higher in the north than the south. Since 2008, the regional death gap has widened alarmingly, bucking a decades-long trend.

Dawn Foster, in the Guardian, writes: ‘deaths by suicide, from substance abuse and chronic health conditions: a growing death toll driven by despair and diminishing quality of life for young people, with life chances winnowed away and health worsening for one section of the population while the other flourishes. These are the diseases of despair: deaths that aren’t inevitable and would be entirely preventable if only health inequalities in this country were taken seriously. The deindustrialisation of Britain hasn’t helped, leaving areas with no industry, precarious work, high unemployment and for young people, little prospect of a better life and a stab at social mobility.’

The Tory Party that 700,000 Scots voted for brought in the two-child maximum benefit cutting at a stroke a financial lifeline to three-child families almost a third of of whom are now struggling to pay for basic living costs. With a new baby to care for but no extra tax credits to help cover costs, parents reported having to skip meals themselves so they could feed all their children. Some told the charity they’re developing health problems because they can’t afford food with the right nutrition or vitamins. Others say their children now have to go without the right school uniform or materials for class.

If Unionist Scots do care about the ‘United” kingdom, why is so little attention paid to the way whole areas of the country is run? We were told we had to shun our own self government so as not to leave in the lurch the poor and vulnerable in Liverpool and Leeds. Well, we’re still here. How are we doing?

It’s when you look at the reality of de-industrialised, under-invested Britain with its rentier economy and craven surrender to foreign economic interests that you know why even Tories don’t celebrate the UK. There are no peons of praise, no hymns or hosannas that any British politician could utter that wouldn’t be treated with justified contempt. May, whose term at the Home Office was stained yet again this week in another immigration court appeal, talked about the Just About Managing – JAM families on the edge. It is her own government that is the JAM. And the UK, now the worst performing economy in the developed world and one of the most unequal, is a global laughing stock for shooting itself in the foot over the EU.

Labour too is split badly over Brexit and fighting internally over deselection of MPs. The stardust of Corbyn is dispersing as he is steadily exposed as a charlatan like all the others with anti-nuclear and student policies evaporating on examination and his Bennite distaste for the EU.

Even natural allies of Britain are scathing in their scorn at the delusional Brits. But you won’t find this as a narrative in Unionism because, as must be clear by now, like Brexiteers, they live in denial. And fundamentally most pro-Union types can never accept that any level of Hell could be worse that their own country’s independence.

Attacking Scotland and Yes is easy – and we shouldn’t facilitate that – but don’t be deflected. The enemy is the British system, the matrix of powers that is the State and their desire to exploit the nation for their own self-interest. That’s what has created the state we’re in.

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Repeat Prescription

The time is coming when normal politics may have to be put on hold in the national interest. Yes, just like wartime. The implications of a bad Brexit will transcend partisan considerations. The people will look into the abyss and demur. Save us, they will demand.

At least the sensible ones will. We currently have a large schadenfreude minority apparently prepared for the country to really suffer to justify their own position and others so lost in parochialism they will take the plunge hoping someone will appear from nowhere with a soft mattress to land on.

The logic of the Brexit orbit is to pull us irresistibly to the EU centre. Every cause and effect points to retaining the current position. What’s to be done about the medicines agency and the banking authority based in London, for example? They will depart taking with them highly paid jobs and 40,000 hotel nights a year. But still the UK will need to replace them and replicate their work and meet the EU’s standards anyway. Logic? Stay in the EU and keep them and their jobs and economic spin off here.

The tragedy for the UK is that both major parties at Westminster, for differing ideological reasons, are on the same side – isolationism. Those in both Tory and Labour parties who can see the unfolding disaster will have to put country first and join with the pro-Europeans in Liberals, SNP, Greens and Plaid to mount a UK-wide save-the-country campaign. It could lead to a new politics. *

But there is another area where big tent politics is becoming critical in order to save us from catastrophe – the state of the NHS. To many, the health service is in its way as important as EU membership, perhaps more so. It represents something about Britain, its past and future, which binds us together beyond borders, albeit managed territorially. It is one of those areas of life that gives us quiet satisfaction, pride even. It makes us not only feel well but feel good, like a full stomach or money in the bank. I think that’s why in public debate it is treated like a new-born baby, precious yet vulnerable.

But just as warm words are soothing when ill, they won’t replace a blood transfusion or perform a hip replacement. Talking up the NHS, despite its many shortcomings, is applying ointment to a broken arm. More fundamental surgery is required.

The evidence mounts that this most essential of services is in serious trouble; that the management knows it, that the politicians are transfixed. Like Brexit, the first requirement is honesty. From health professionals to civil servants to ministers and MSPs, there has to be a clear-sighted view and an admission that the present funding of the NHS cannot go on, if we wish it to survive.

Throughout the devolution years the warning lights have been flashing on every front – the rising cost of medicines, the increase in prescriptions, an ageing demographic, an unfit population, new systems and equipment at exorbitant cost, fewer students entering medical degrees, pay not keeping pace, the growth in contract nursing and the rise in administration and management – 18 per cent of the workforce total last year, easily second to the number of nurses (43%).

The flashing lights are now accompanied by a klaxon. Holes are appearing in care. Services are being withdrawn, both in hospital and GP form.

The recent case in the south-west is part of a trend. The BBC reported that NHS Dumfries and Galloway was forced to suspend admissions for a week and downgrade the casualty unit to a minor injuries facility because of a shortage of doctors.They said the hospital was open and fully staffed but that a challenge remained in securing medical cover on an on-going basis.

A doctor from elsewhere in Scotland contacted me this week. Even in our highly regarded and respected practice we have been unable to recruit to a 5-session (two and a half days) GP post. We already have 3 practice nurses, 2 health care assistants and an advanced nurse practitioner. We are now going to advertise for an unscheduled care practitioner and I hope we might get one. But even if we do that, if another GP partner leaves the practice soon, we are unlikely to recruit and, as a result, we could go under.

Recruitment, instead of access to a prized profession, is stalling. As are genuine attempts to streamline and improve provision by the merger of health and social work organisations.

But why is this happening? I’m afraid it’s the same problem as Brexit – the politicians are afraid to confront the reality because to them the costs are too high, both literally and politically. Finding the money means changing priorities which in turn means disappointing others and fire-fighting. Altering how things are done and removing facilities to centre them more sensibly, causes heated reactions in communities where there is already evidence of under investment. No politician wants to face the wrath of the voters and no amount of cold logic will convince an inflamed crowd.

So cowardice is part of the story but so is irresponsible scaremongering.

Here’s my doctor again: All of them – Tories, Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP – are in denial about it. Instead of coming together to forge a way through the crisis they continue to use it as a political football. At the same time the Scottish Government is in paralysis and reluctant to change because of the appalling behaviour of the Scottish media.

The hysterical and deliberate misreporting by journalists of issues in the NHS doesn’t just terrify those about to use hospital services. It forces professionals on to the defensive. Opposition politicians, while justified in pointing out deficiencies, play to the media with hyperbole. This was the point made by the Nuffield Trust which found much pioneering work in Scotland that could be replicated elsewhere in the UK but, crucially, deduced that: The Scottish NHS faces a serious financial predicament. The need for savings is at least as great as for other UK countries, and health boards are struggling to find ways to deliver them. Limited national planning for the next few years and a polarised, hostile political context make an honest national debate difficult. While the strengths of the Scottish NHS could help it to save money, there is also a risk that they are undermined by the intense financial squeeze. It adds: Several interviewees from across the spectrum of roles referred to a polarised political culture, with the SNP Government seeking majority support for independence and a largely hostile press looking to attack their record on the NHS.

This is the result of an infantilised political culture where mouthy politicos seek not to uncover truth and find remedy but to stoke resentment via a trivialising media. The result is a failure of nerve, a lack of honesty and operational stasis. Pursuing independence does not mean sidelining essential services.

An offer to help the SNP out of its difficulty, a government acceptance that the opposition might have something positive to contribute and a limited truce on horror attacks would release everyone from their silo and bring a much needed improvement to the quality of politics and ultimately to the health service.

But why should we let them off the hook? The answer is simple – for the national good. Just like the need to confront Brexit. And here’s the news: maybe the public are smart enough to recognise the altruistic effort without being bludgeoned by soundbite. Maybe they will reward after all the ones who had the vision and integrity to act before it was too late. Wouldn’t that be a prize?

Last word to my GP. The media have to take a huge share of the blame for where we are now because they constantly do down the NHS and those that work in it, especially doctors, and they crucify any politician who tries to suggest different ways of delivering the service. It’s time to call for a national consensus and to tell politicians to knock their heads together instead of using the NHS to score childish cheap points off each other. I am sorry to lump this on you but I care so dearly about the NHS and the principal of universalism that under-pins it.

*Disappointed to see Jo Swinson trying to carve out a Liberal-only position for staying in the EU and shunning everyone else. Claiming to be the only UK party that’s pro EU is cheap  and out of keeping with the times. Party before country is never a good look (as she did in voting with the Tories in the coalition on among others, tribunal fees)

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The Sun Has Got His Hat On

Sorry not to join the general lament but I return from a few weeks in France with renewed optimism about independence.

The infantile squabbling of the governing party in London is a pitiable sight. Their wilful myopia to the unfolding tragedy of Brexit is a new low in post war mismanagement. (Even in the mayhem of Iraq, Blair at the time appeared decisive and determined).

We are witnessing in real time the breakdown of a government subjugating national interest for internecine turmoil.

Week by week their failure even to develop a plan is confirmed. Now there is the growing likelihood of a long-term transitional arrangement with Brussels being necessary to stave off the worst effects of withdrawal. The angry hordes who voted to leave and who have no understanding why we can’t just ‘resign’, will be maddened that those who promised swift closure and instant funds for public spending have failed them. And still the highly-charged door to immigration will be remain open…

We are now in a phase of history when, because of the ineptitude of that cowardly clown Cameron, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The so-called government he bequeathed has no touch let alone political elan. The juxtaposition of billions for a London Crossrail system with withdrawal of upgrading for essential rail services to Wales, the West country and the English north is a prime example. To anyone outside the metropolitan bubble it is nothing less than a government saying F**k You to the rest of the country. As taxpayers’ billions pour into overheated London, the provinces are deliberately left in spartan penury. More than half of transport spending now goes to one corner of the country, a total of £1500 more per head. That’s a figure you don’t hear repeated with the same emotional venom applied to higher Scottish spending.

I have also experienced a morbid pleasure in watching the promises and vows of the pre-2014 British campaign bomb before our eyes. Recall with grim satisfaction how we were told with solemn sincerity that companies would leave an independent Scotland…then read how, daily the finance sector is transferring staff out of London and opening alternative offices in (independent) Ireland and Holland. See how even the horticulture sector which is dependent on outside labour, is now planning to move wholesale its production to Eastern Europe where the workers are.

Remember how the Scottish currency would lose its value without the unshakable strength of the UK behind it…then see the volatility of sterling since the Brexit vote. Prices in the shops would go up…that’s happening now while wages stagnate.

Hear again the echoes of the Alistair Darling threats of doom for the economy…before googling today’s news of ‘notable’ slowdown and ‘grim’ forecasts.

Revisit your memories of Unionists scoffing at how we would be perceived in the world – ‘wee Scotland out on its own’ – then check out what even our American allies are writing about us losing our collective mind. Read what Europe regards as fantasy imperial posturing by a rickety, class-ridden country. They are laughing at the UK – the Eddie the Eagle of European nations.

And, how could we forget? We were told by the wise and statesmanlike Darling that voting Yes would remove us from EU membership which would be catastrophic. How did that one go?

The only thing Darling got right was moving on to the board of Morgan Stanley to continue trousering yet more of the private sector pounds that were his trademark as an MP.

In other words the case made for the Union just three years ago is in ruins today. In a second campaign what threats could they make that would be credible? What could they say that wouldn’t have the voters rolling in the aisles? Who indeed could replace the wooden, angry Darling as front for the British state this time? Which one of the Tory Brexit buffons would Scots listen to? When it comes to more than a simplistic shouting match, could Davidson, a mouthy zealot from the right wing, rally a majority?

And, crucially, whose side would business be on this time? Interesting to see among others, Struan Stevenson, leader a pro business pro Union group, putting his name to the 60-strong letter asking for Brexit to be re-thought.

Because the question now is: What happens when the Tories take us out?

If the EU is truly crucial to national interest, to jobs and investment and growth, what does a Unionist businessman do when confronted with downturn, loss of contracts, shortage of revenue, falling share value, loss of market share, redundancies, restricted borrowing and extra administration and costs? Does he go down with the UK ship? Or does he finally accept the logic adopted by other small nations and embrace his own country’s European destiny?

It is becoming a no-brainer. And if business swallows its doubts about independence as the least worst option, how long will it take for the politicians to catch up?

There is a risk of course in any extended interim deal for the UK becoming the new norm and taking all the heat out of the issue. If that happens and people get used to just drifting along still in the EU but not of the EU, the independence case could suffer the same fate. It could go off the boil.

That’s where effective campaigning comes in because such deal would extend the period over which Scotland can plan and hold another vote before the UK slams the door on membership.

The option are there. The times are volatile. The Union is flaky. The threats are demolished. The disaster is unfolding.

And we are still here. Committed. Determined. And optimistic.

(Well, I am. Must be my holiday)

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The Day Job

Haven’t written for a while – I’ve been doing the day job. I’ve also been preparing to go on holiday and hear Gillian Anderson plans to post a pic of me in seamed stockings.

See politics? Piece of piss. It really is.

That first paragraph encapsulates the entire Davidson Tory agenda – perform sub-Trump media histrionics to get attention and bite off snappy one-liners instead of policy development. So long as the media love you, so will the punters. Content is for losers.

And all across Scotland sensible Scots fell for it instead of asking hard questions about where this government is taking us. Funny how people who screamed for detail and certainty over independence, now meekly accept without question a catastrophic train wreck which will wipe years of growth off the UK economy.

I see the Brexiteer response is to say that Germany will really suffer when we stop buying their cars, which is true, it will. And am I supposed to cheer that the rest of Europe will also pay a price for British small-mindedness?

How long will the country suffer because of an ideological row in the Tory Party? Couldn’t they do that without ruining the country and our international relations? Can’t they get on with the day job? (It appears not as the economy tanks, the credit worthiness falters, promised policies are binned, the Cabinet disagrees and even long-held right-wing ‘principles’ like university tuition fees appear to be on the way out.)

It’s worth keeping some perspective on the bitter complaints from the politicos about the Scottish government and its perceived failings. The Tory MSP Dean Lockhart tweeted a graph showing Scotland’s economy on a low trajectory compared to the UK. No spin or excuses, he said.

Well, perhaps some context then…The UK economy he mentions is the worst performing in the OECD with growth levels below every European country bar none. On the same day the manufacturing industries were revealing how uncertainty is killing their business and how they’re pleading for guidance from the government. The financial bodies are now approaching Europe direct to see if they can strike a deal without the government being involved. The Lockhart approach is shamefully parochial without the wider perspective of a UK now in undeniable decline with galloping uncertainty of a kind we barely imagined over the indyref. Is it also fair to exclude the damning point that his party denies Scots the levers to run our own economy and then complains when we can’t…

And, as we’ve seen, Davidson chuckles and scoffs her way through it having created a media star relationship with the journalists which means she is rarely associated with her own party’s policies. Poking the SNP in the eye appears to be good enough to make her a serious FM contender.

But this is what we have to live with. So what is the SNP response? Well, this is the season for everyone coming up with pet theories. I’ve previously had a go myself and whether you agree or not, it’s pretty clear that the days of complacency are over.

Here are a few thoughts.

First, people have had enough of the SNP running everything. There were just too many of them. Whichever way you turned, there were Nats to the left and Nats to the right in a way that seemed to affront our sense of fairness. That was a problem for Labour for years too and I guess people didn’t want to repeat it. Ridiculous as the one-party state mantra was, it struck a chord. And voters learned that there was a way to stop it by lending a vote to the nearest challenger.

They were encouraged by the Unionists (yes, Labour too, urging folk to vote against the SNP, meaning Liberal or Tory if appropriate. Don’t give me your denials now)

And the referendum idea was merely the trigger to justify the vote. I distinguish between a desire to avoid going through a referendum process and the acknowledgment of a potential need for such a vote. The former is the scunner factor most want to avoid and the latter is the democratic method which people know could offer an alternative. They waved it away as if bothered by a persistent wasp.

So there has been a form of rebalancing of opinion against the concept of one dominating party.

But can we dispense with the canard that the day job is somehow being abandoned in pursuit of self-government? It has become childish and was never true. It is the case that the leadership can be distracted and there are the clearest signs of that at Westminster. What else was the snap election about but preparing to destroy all opposition to hard Brexit? What else is clearing out departments of state of talented personnel to turn them into Brexit operatives? There isn’t a voice in or out of Whitehall that would deny the UK government is overwhelmed by Brexit, not just pre-occupied.

And in Scotland? What is the evidence the SNP has surrendered policy objectives to independence? Did they bleat about it remorselessly or did the opposition tell voters they were doing so and plant the idea? Severin Carrell’s excellent observational piece in the Guardian from the north east hammered home the point that folk were scunnered with hearing about a referendum. But, given that the SNP deliberately didn’t push the referendum line, he failed to explain why people thought that way. Who in the SNP never stopped talking about it? Where did they hear it? Were they sure or were they hypnotised into disbelieving their own ears and eyes? The real story is the power of the political message overcoming rational thought – exactly the phenomenon that won America for Trump.

Oh, and the day job. You never hear it from the media so here is a sample – only a small sample – of Scottish government activity over seven days that mostly hasn’t been reported.

*Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has called for an urgent meeting (on the DUP deal) and highlighted that the Scottish Government will invoke the formal dispute resolution mechanism, if this situation is not satisfactorily resolved by HM Treasury.

*Creating a fully accountable railway policing service. Railway policing will come under the command of Police Scotland after legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The expertise of British Transport Police officers and staff will be backed by the specialist resources of Police Scotland, including counter terrorism, air support and armed policing.

*Payments worth £6.7 million to Scottish sheep producers will arrive in farmers’ bank accounts this week, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.

The support scheme is targeted at sheep production on the poorest quality land to help farmers maintain the social and environmental benefits that sheep flocks bring to those areas, with payments being made to around 1,050 eligible producers by 30 June 2017

*Over two hundred projects working to promote equality and address discrimination will benefit from more than £20 million investment over the next year.

More than £5 million will be provided to organisations supporting engagement with communities experiencing prejudice on the grounds of age, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation – while £2.7 million will go to frontline projects promoting equality and tackling prejudice.

*Transforming services to ensure people with dementia get the support they need, at all ages and stages of the illness, is at the centre of Scotland’s third dementia strategy.

*the Scottish Government intends to introduce legislation for a soft opt out system of organ and tissue donation.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has confirmed plans to bring forward legislation during this Parliament after 82% of consultation responses supported the move

*National workforce plan for future NHS staffing. An estimated 2,600 extra nursing and midwifery training places will be created over the next four years as part of wide-ranging measures to support and strengthen NHS Scotland’s workforce. 

*Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: We are doing all we can to deliver as many payments as possible this month. We are making progress, but we still need to do better. We have made a clear commitment to do all we can to make the 2016 payments by the end of this week and our staff are working as hard as they can to process the remaining payments. 

*background briefing tomorrow (Thursday 29 June) held by Scottish Government.Statisticans and analysts to coincide with the publication of a report on the impact of UK welfare reform in Scotland. The briefing will examine the evidence, facts and figures behind how the UK Government’s welfare reform programme between 2010 and 2017 has impacted on people in Scotland.

*Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell and Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman will tomorrow (29 June) visit Upward Mobility in Edinburgh to announce access for young disabled people to a £5 million fund to help them live more independent lives.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) will provide a short-term award to people age 16-to-21 to help the transition into adulthood.

*The second meeting of a Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, has taken place today.

*Proposals to transform the approach to planning for homes and infrastructure projects have been put forward by the Scottish Government.

*Improvements will be made to the way wild deer are managed in Scotland, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed.

*The UK’s Chief Medical officers (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) have released new advice on physical activity for expectant mothers – believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

*Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said today that women, disabled people and young people would be those disproportionately affected by damaging UK Government welfare cuts.The Minister was commenting on a Scottish Government report detailing the impact of UK Government welfare cuts on people across Scotland published today.

*Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald will launch a new guide to enhance the design of childcare provision across Scotland during a visit to a local nursery.

*The police and courts will have greater powers to protect the public from perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation from today. Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders (TEPOs) can now be used by the courts to impose restrictions on people who have been convicted of trafficking and exploitation offences.

*Young disabled people will be able to access a £5 million fund to help them live more independent lives, Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has announced.

*Views are being sought on the best way to spare child witnesses from having to give evidence during criminal trials.

*Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing said:

 

As the Auditor General has confirmed, the changes we have introduced are showing signs of progress, which will deliver further improvements over time. This includes significant changes to the development and implementation of the CAP IT, including strengthening governance arrangements with a new senior management team.

*Detailed work on how a potential bottle ‘deposit return scheme’ might operate in Scotland has been commissioned by the Scottish Government.

*Payments worth £2.4 million to Scottish dairy farmers will arrive in farmers’ bank accounts in the coming days, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has confirmed.

*Latest recruitment rates released by NHS Education for Scotland show that 97% of all medical training posts in Scotland in 2017 are currently filled.

*An HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccination programme for men who have sex with men (MSM) will begin in Scotland today (1 July).

*A consultation is underway on financial support for college and university students.

*A new guide to enhance the design of childcare provision across Scotland is now available for local authorities, private and third sector providers.  

*Significantly higher numbers of north sea cod, haddock and whiting may be available to Scots fishermen next year, according to new scientific assessments published today.

*Veterans Minister Keith Brown said: This weekend marks several poignant anniversaries of major conflicts where we remember those from Scotland and elsewhere who made the ultimate sacrifice.  I am here in Contalmaison to remember the men of McCrae’s Battalion who fought during the Battle of the Somme, 101 years ago.

*As of close of business last night (Friday 30th June) and subject to final confirmation we have made BPS, Greener and Young Farmer payments to 16521 farmers and crofters, valued at £343 million. This represents around 90.4% of expected total payments for those schemes.

*The way facial imaging and other biometric data is used to investigate crime is being reviewed.

The independent advisory group, chaired by John Scott QC, will consider human rights and ethical considerations of how biometric data is captured, used, stored and disposed of.

*Hundreds of Atlantic salmon will be tagged and released back into the water as part of a new study aimed at increasing the understanding of the routes they take and the conservation measures needed to protect them.

*External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop will be in Dublin on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with her ministerial counterparts, as well visit a range of joint cultural and conservation projects under way between both nations.

 *The latest RBS business monitor prepared by Fraser of Allander contains good news for the Scottish economy. Companies across the country have reported modest growth in the three months to February, with the financial and business services and tourism sectors enjoying above average growth

*Economy Secretary Keith Brown will visit global manufacturing company Interplex in Arbroath on Thursday, 5 July to highlight actions to grow the economy.

 

Astonishing, isn’t it? If you got bored and raced through it, I’m not surprised. Most of this is not the kind of stuff that anyone would call ‘news’ but this is a taster of what is going on over one week when the journalists and the unchallenged politics tell us the SNP must get back to the day job. And this is the published material. Behind the scenes work goes on day and night covering every aspect of devolved government. Can you imagine Ruth Davidson having the intellect, commitment or nous to perform this kind of detailed, policy-driven work instead of riding tanks and tweeting?

By never informing people accurately of what is really being done on their behalf, the media commits the sin of misleading readers. I think their obsession with image and frivolity and soundbites merely infantilises the audience. That’s why people think education is failing – but that’s neither true nor fair to teachers. The same for health where staff are constantly undermined by glib, partial coverage. Further in both schools and hospitals, the public learn to be fearful and distrusting as they are assaulted by exaggerated talk of woe.

You have to ask though, why aren’t the SNP making more of what they do? How robust is their reaction? I think their machinery has stalled and needs a clear overhaul from the top down. There is no good story any more. To the public there is only one politician, there is no cabinet, no other stars, no other agendas on health, saving our environment, energy or new social benefit powers. The government has no command over the agenda as governments should have and, for all its faults, that’s not down (only) to a biased media. That just gets the SNP off the hook.

If the material is there, it will appear. If the message has to be forced, it can be. Heaven help me but I recall one of the biggest transformations in media history occurring after Alistair Campbell took control of government communications and knee jerk anti Labour stories were replaced by supportive writing. Here’s Wikipedia: He oversaw new co-ordination and rebuttal systems which gave birth to a communications machine which became both feared and respected, and the model for modern communications in politics and business. He earned a reputation for ruthless news management which made him many enemies in the media. But even the Conservatives conceded they were partly defeated by their inability to find someone to match him.

The message should never overcome the mission as has happened with the Scottish Tories who in policy terms are a shell party. But the message is as important as the mission because it makes sure the voters get it. The SNP has a message, a cause, others can only dream of. Time we heard it again.

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