Done Up Like A Kipper

Silly me! Imagine not knowing that every news outlet in Scotland repeated almost verbatim press releases produced by political parties day by day throughout the holidays. And me a media professional. Oh dear.

I’m told in jeering tones by journalists that: ‘We’re all at it. It’s been going on for years. We fix the stories two weeks in advance and print what the parties tell us. No problem.’

Well, I think there’s a problem alright. Because however cynical Scots get about their media, most hold to the view that newspapers are at least expertly edited, separately researched, specially written and editorially independent. Editors and owners always boast about upholding their values. They are beholden to none. When the Scotsman launched exactly two hundred years ago, it declared to the world its ‘impartiality, firmness and independence.’

Now, every industry has its wrinkles and mild abuses to make sure the machine is oiled. I get that. I was around when the print unions employed widespread abuses to screw as much as they could from the publishers. I was a trade union official versed in gentle threats that would disrupt the paper if demands weren’t met – never mind striking, which have done I think four times.

I’ve written about the casual fakery of correspondents fixing up with contacts to hold a story for a quiet period – a practice that of itself does no harm except that the copy will inevitably be written the way the contact wants it – in his interests and not as unbiased journalism. That’s because he’s doing the journalist, who’ll be on a break, a favour.

I do think the public has a right to know when mild cons are being perpetuated but suspect that, like me, they’re not unduly bothered.

However, the industrial scale of the agenda-rigging revealed by the Labour document is on another level. An entire two-week list of pre-written articles, all in favour of the party’s interests, complete with quotes and written as if immediate breaking news rather than stitched together four months ago, fails any test of proper journalism. That so many of these PR releases are published unaltered, unchecked, sometimes with nothing more than the obligatory “it’s no’ true’ quote from the SNP, is anti journalism.

It didn’t happen when I was working. It’s true that I was at the BBC rather than a newspaper for years but I recall no moment when the ‘Labour List’ came in to the office or a producer said: ‘We’ll run that today to comply with Labour’s embargo.’ And in newspapers where I last had a full-time job in 1991 and freelanced until ’97, this simply didn’t happen on this scale, if at all.

I tried to imagine what the editors I worked under would have said if, as political editor, I’d offer a roster of pre-written stories to run every day of a holiday. I imagine Arnold Kemp calling in Harry Reid and telling him: ‘Bateman wants us to agree to publish this list of material written for him by the Labour press office so he can go on holiday. I think we should tell him and the Labour Party to fuck off. If he wants a job with Labour, he should get one. I don’t pay him to take orders from them and nobody tells me what and when to put in my paper. This is the Herald, not the Banchory Bugle.’

Another, Andrew Jaspan, would have taken delight in telling me to write an entire article about how a political party tried to subvert the journalism of Scotland on Sunday. ‘Let’s expose them and all the papers that use their stories’, he’d say. ‘Make the point that we lead the news, we don’t follow party dictum.’

But who are today’s editors? Can you name one? Would you recognise a photo? Of course, not. They’re non-entities with no wider role in Scottish life, commanding no public respect. In fact, it’s likely that if one did dare put his head above the parapet to speak on a matter of concern, if he was recognise at all, he’d be chased out of town by the mob.

The really interesting reaction to yesterday’s publication was just that – the divergence of opinion between the insiders to whom this is normal and the reading public who suddenly realise they are being conned.

I had the Labour document so it was with glee that the insiders declared that all the parties did it, as if that knocked the story. Kieran Andrews of the Sunday Post, an investigative journalist according to Twitter, said he had the SNP’s own list of stories, as if that made it alright. The reality to the readers of course, was exactly the opposite. It made it ten times worse that the entire political establishment had a prepared roster of the articles produced by the parties and printed by the papers throughout the holiday. This is the communications business so why don’t they simply tell readers that for the next fortnight many of the stories in their paper will have been agreed with the parties and more or less written by the party staff? If there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the system why not declare it? After all they’re in the disclosure business.

The lack of self-awareness and the disconnect between the journalists and the newspaper-buying public is stunning. My Twitter timeline, apart from those complicit, is universally shocked and critical.

If you ever needed an insight into why the Scottish papers are in irreversible decline, this is it. People hate to be conned. And the knowledge that their paper, or indeed the broadcasters, are part of an undeclared comprehensive fix to feed them contrived articles fitting a party agenda, feels like cheating.

Being rumbled of course isn’t pleasant which why some in the media react so violently to being exposed. Paul Hutcheon of the Herald said my views were as pathetic as ever, although he offered no explanation or justification, sounding more poisonous pipsqueak than investigative journalist. If I’m so pathetic, why do you think he reads me? (That’s two investigative types mentioned so far. You’d think they’d be inclined to expose the wrong-doing in their own industry, no?)

Journalists have always had to work with their sources and there is often a measure of compromise involved. But is there no longer pride in the job, a sense of professional dignity that prohibits being used by lobbyists? Do they honestly tell themselves it’s OK to conspire with those they are meant to scrutinise because they need a Christmas break?

You may wonder what did used to happen before the current generation came along. In my recollection, we reduced the size of the papers, we filled space with picture essays, we wrote or commissioned time-neutral news features. On occasion we didn’t publish at all at Christmas. I don’t remember writing pretendy stories in cahoots with politicians with my name on them while I had my feet up at home.

The answer of course is times have changed and they don’t have the same number of staff. Does that mean they should all connive to con the readers? There are retired journalists who share my worries about the demise of a vibrant and intelligent media but who keep their peace – just as there are ex BBC executives appalled at some of today’s output but prefer to keep quiet to avoid embarrassing the organisation. I don’t agree with them.

I think silence is a cancer in the system. We owe to those who sustain our industry – the consumers – to be open and honest. If staffing levels are too low to sustain a viable product, someone should say so. If the media is destroying itself by forgetting its primary aim to report truthfully, someone should say so.

We shouldn’t let the Scottish media drift into irrelevance through silence.

I get it in the neck for attacking the quality of the BBC and the papers but, unlike many in the nationalist camp, I don’t want to destroy them. I criticise because they are not good enough. I want pluralism and diversity in the media. I don’t mind the pro-union commentary – but I despise the confluence of reporting with opinion that passes for modern journalism.

You have to wonder: Is this placement of stories only happening at Christmas? Is it only the political parties who get to put stories straight into the papers unchecked? Are other organisations and companies doing the same? Do you know the answer?

Do you imagine the media will tell you?

I think there’s a deeper concern here for Scottish nationalists. I see Mhairi Hunter, the Glasgow SNP councillor, was another justifying this ‘Christmas box’ charade on the grounds that it gave the press office staff and the journalists a wee break and denying it amounted to collusion. It’s not a secret just because people didn’t know, she says. Mmm. I think she’ll find the public reaction rather discounts that. The stark fact is, if not outright sinister, it is, shall we say, ‘dovetailing’ of interests between the poacher and the gamekeeper. And since, the media – whose job after all is disclosure – purposefully don’t disclose they are publishing according to a joint plan, the public are in effect denied the knowledge they need to judge the content.

Someone in the SNP press office also proudly announced he was checking off SNP-inspired stories in the Sunday papers confirming the We’re-All-In-It-Together nature of the game.

I have news him. If there is one overriding concern among SNP activists, it is the Scottish media. Throughout the contacts I have with party people, many of them street-pounders and door-knockers, the constant refrain is criticism of the appalling Scottish media. Some believe it lost the referendum and that it is the single biggest block to independence.

I guarantee the wee man in the press office and Mhairi that those nationalists will be furious and let down to think that their party is making life easy for journalists who spend their life attacking all they stand for. Before the Christmas box revelations there was already profound anxiety about the failure to rebut effectively, about the softly softly approach taken, the photos of Nicola with the Sun and the general cosying up to a media corps whose output seems to despise their entire project. Ask a nationalist and they will tell you it’s like inviting someone to your New Year party only to watch pee on your carpet before leaving – then saying: See you next year.

What we are seeing is a sign of the casual corruption of public life when managerialism triumphs and the interests of the political decision-makers coincides with the interests of media. Instead of creative tension, it collapses in on itself, but the participants are so close to each other and so removed from the public, they can’t see it. All governments go the same way in time and if the SNP wants to play nice with the media, it deserves all it gets in return.

Even if you don’t take offence at having your news dictated by political spin doctors, what do we say about so-called journalism that puts those stories straight into print or on to the airwaves unedited and unchecked? Shouldn’t newspapers have concerns about the factual content, some of which has changed in the weeks since the articles were prepared?

Actually, I suspect the answer to all this is NO. No, we don’t care. No, we don’t have standards. No, we don’t have pride in the job. No, it doesn’t matter. This is the nature of the media today and it’s only going to get worse. Learn to live with it.

I thought the coup de grace came the most ardent supporter of the spoon-fed system – a PR executive – someone I’d never heard of – but that summed it up for me. When the people whose job is to con the public are congratulating you, well then, you’ve been done up like a kipper.

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Manipulating the Media

The media has been positively bursting with bad news stories about the SNP government over the holiday period. Expose after expose has covered the front pages and filled the bulletins with a wearying persistence. You’d think the country was going to the dogs what with single-staffed ambulances, Scots missing out on tax credits and violence against shop workers on the rise – stories often based on Freedom of Information Requests and always contriving to make the SNP the culprit.

What has been striking is the repetitive nature of the day-by-day shock horror output, all written with similar phrases and all with the same simple narrative of SNP bad.

You’d almost think it was planned. Well, it was.

The Labour Party has been doing the media’s job for it by spending the summer preparing a long list of negative news stories to feed out daily to the journalists. In keeping with the cosy friendship they enjoy, it is called the ‘Scottish Labour Christmas Box – Stories for the many, not the few.’ Ha, ha. Merry Christmas, comrades.

As you’ll see below the entire holiday is mapped out for the journalists of the brave Scottish media so they can fill their papers with politically-motivated news without having to lift a finger. And, in some cases, that’s exactly what happens. They don’t even bother to rewrite or check the information – just bung it in. It’s called journalism. If you read down to the bottom of the page you’ll even see the stories you’re about to read in coming days.

I write every Christmas how stories appear in the media from interest groups like the teachers and the doctors. This works by the press office of each organisation, recognising that reporters go off on holiday and news is tight, arranging weeks in advance with journalists to release ‘stories’ (always in the interests of that organisation, obviously) on a pre-arranged day. They are guaranteed space and uncritical coverage and the journalist gets a story without trying.

This year Labour has taken this to a new level. It may be that this is now common practice among the parties but it is certainly revealing. It demonstrates how utterly corruptible our media in Scotland is by self-interested bodies who plan, invest a little time and mimic basic journalistic style. Essentially it means that political parties can write the newspapers while the journalists we pay to disseminate, dissect and define the news, abrogate their responsibility.

Below is a planning grid created by the Labour Party and utilised widely by the Scottish media with whom they are complicit. It isn’t the newspapers or broadcasters who are deciding what news you will get. It’s the Labour Press Office.

It doesn’t of course mean we shouldn’t know of the stories and there is no way a guilty government should escape responsibility but it does colour your perception when you know this is all politically motivated and the news outlets you trust are allowing themselves to be used as patsies. In fact, the real ‘story’ here is one that will never be written – except here of course – that Scotland’s once proud media is now merely a conduit for partisan politicking instead of a defender of truth. No editor can buy into this organised charade and maintain his professional integrity.

Knowing what he does, it is incumbent on him to add to every such article: This story is part of a political campaign by the Labour Party and was largely written by Labour Party staff.

Offering the media an embargoed story is one thing. Lining up an entire two week news agenda in which journalists conspire is quite another. It makes them puppets.

Such is the poor staffing levels and dismal quality of so much of the media today that they are prone to this kind of corruption. (I have to say to Labour – Well done. You’ve scored a real coup and made monkeys out of the media).

Lastly there is another issue here that should concern real journalists. Some of the information gleaned is so old, it is out of date and was only relevant at the time of the FOI, therefore it is likely to be misleading readers. But, hey, checking facts and independent action – that’s just old-fashioned journalism.

(This is a very long list…)

 

Story to run on Story
Saturday 23-December 2017 Winter Fuel payments worth nearly £4billion to Scotland’s pensioners
Sunday 24-December 2017 Richard Leonard’s Christmas Message
Monday 25-December 2017
Tuesday 26-December 2017 Scots trapped in insecure work
Wednesday 27-Decemder 2017 Small firms held back as SNP late to pay the bills

 

SNP cuts risk rural disaster

Thursday 28-December 2017 Scottish economy isn’t working for disabled people

 

UK Government must commit to build in UK shipyards – Sweeney

Friday 29-December 2017 Scottish students sitting on a debt mountain
Saturday 30-December 2017 Real living wage would deliver a pay rise to 270,000 women

 

Violence and abuse against shop workers at 10-year high

Sunday 31-December 2017 Richard Leonard’s New Year message
Monday 01-January 2018 Scots miss out on more than half a billion in tax credits
Tuesday 02-January 2018  

Scottish kids miss a million days of school on holiday

Wednesday 03-January 2018 Over 17,000 rejected cases for child mental health support

 

Rail fares rising faster than wages

Thursday 04-January 2018 ‘Culture gap’ growing between Scotland’s richest and poorest
Friday 05-January 2018 NHS bereavement counsellors

 

Scotland lagging behind rest of UK on reducing emissions

Saturday 06-January 2018 Matheson missing for miners

 

Labour calls for urgent action on teacher pay in the New Year

Sunday 07-January 2018 More than 1,000 delayed discharge deaths since 2015
Monday 08-January 2018 More than one in ten Scottish children from families ‘on the financial edge’

 

EMBARGO: 00.01 23RD DECEMBER 2017

WINTER FUEL PAYMENT WORTH NEARLY £4BILLION TO SCOTLAND’S PENSIONERS

The Winter Fuel Payment, introduced by the last Labour government, has been worth nearly £4 billion to Scotland’s pensioners.

Analysis from Scottish Labour, confirmed by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), shows that the total value of the payments to Scotland’s pensioners has been worth £3.7 billion since they were introduced.

Labour highlighted the value after a year in which the Winter Fuel Payment had been threatened with the axe by both the Tories and the SNP.

Theresa May’s manifesto for the General Election included a commitment to means testing the payment, forcing Ruth Davidson into a pledge that the Tories would keep it universal in Scotland.

The Tories eventually had to drop the commitment completely following their confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Meanwhile, the approach of the SNP in drafting laws for Scotland’s new social security system leaves the door open for means testing. Labour have now instructed Parliamentary officials to draft amendments which would prevent the Scottish Government from means testing the payment.

 Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“The Winter Fuel Payment has been worth billions to Scottish pensioners since it was first introduced by the last Labour government but we cannot take for granted that the payment will always be protected.

“The SNP government has drafted legislation to set up a social security agency that leaves the door open for means testing, and only Labour can be trusted to protect it under Scotland’s new social security system.

“Meanwhile the Tories were planning to mean test it in the rest of the UK before Theresa May’s disastrous campaign backfired.

“Labour’s better deal for pensioners means we will protect the winter fuel payment, the triple lock on the state pension, and the free bus pass. People who have paid into the system all their lives deserve something back.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Winter Fuel payment worth a cumulative £3.7 billion to Scotland since it was introduced, based on labour analysis of figures available at            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/554070/benefit-expenditure-by-country-and-region-2015-16.xlsx                                                                                                                                                                      

Concerns raised over potential for means testing of winter fuel allowance being introduced by the back door – https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/concerns-raised-over-potential-for-means-testing-of-winter-fuel-allowance-being-introduced-by-the-back-door/EMBARGO:00.01 December 24 2017

RICHARD LEONARD’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Christmas is a time of reflection but should also be a time of resolution, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said today.

In his festive message, Mr Leonard also said he hoped for a world that works according to the principles of welfare and not warfare.

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, said: “I want to wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.

“I hope that over the festive period those in work are able to have time off to enjoy time with loved ones; that the homeless have shelter and respite from the cold; and that those living below the poverty line and dependent on food banks are able to eat well.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones should spare a thought for those who are not so lucky – the elderly in our care homes and hospitals, children who are separated from their parents, those who have suffered bereavement.

“We should think of those who cannot take time off, those who work in our emergency services over Christmas, those who devote their lives to public service, to taking care of us all, from hospitality workers to nurses, firefighters and all emergency workers, to the people keeping the lights on.

“And we should think of those refugees who have come to Scotland for sanctuary and to build a new life, and all those who are fighting to survive in too many countries riven with war or internal unrest.”

Mr Leonard added: “Christmas is a time of reflection. We look on the year past and wonder what lessons we can learn. Which is why for me it’s also a time of resolve – to ensure that in the coming year Scottish Labour fights even harder for the real and radical changes that Scotland needs to eradicate poverty and to end the inequalities which blight so many lives.

“That is why, what I would like most of all for Christmas, is a reawakening of hope, and a new dawning that we make our own history so that we can build a world that works according to the principles of welfare and not warfare.”

ENDS

EMBARGO: 00.01 26 DECEMBER 2017

 

OVER A QUARTER OF A MILLION SCOTS TRAPPED IN INSECURE WORK

 

Over a quarter of a million Scots are trapped in insecure work, new analysis has revealed.

 

Research, commissioned by Scottish Labour, from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that an estimated 274,000 Scots are in some form of insecure work, with

 

  • 160,000 Scots in low paid self-employment
  • 43,000 Scots in insecure temporary work
  • 71,000 Scots on zero hours contracts

 

Labour said the figures showed that precarious work was too widespread in the Scottish economy, and said a proper industrial strategy was necessary to build the high skill, high wage, secure jobs that Scotland needs for growth.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie said:

 

“Too many jobs in Scotland are insecure, without guaranteed hours or income. That insecurity then flows through our economy holding it back – from the stress it puts on working people, to the pressure it puts on family finances.

 

“People can’t plan ahead if they don’t know what next month’s pay cheque will be – if it turns up at all.

 

“The reality is that, after a decade of SNP division and seven years of Tory despair, people are more likely to be working for poverty pay, with no guarantee that a job will keep their heads above water.

 

“The next Labour government will ban zero hours contracts, and we will press the SNP to stop handing taxpayer money, in the form of public contracts and grants, to companies who use them.

 

“But there is a wider issue here around the quality of jobs in our economy. We need a move towards high wage, high skill jobs that can only be delivered by a proper industrial strategy and an end to austerity.

 

“That is why Labour isn’t just about fair work – we’re for better work.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Estimates of insecure employment in Scotland, April-June 2017

  Estimated number (‘000) Source(s) Methodology                
Low paid self employment             160 SMF; LFS SMF estimate of % of self-employed on low pay applied to Scottish estimates of number self-employed (49%)
Insecuretemporary work               43 LFS Numbers in temporary work, excluding those on fixed contracts and those on zero hours contracts  
Zero hours contracts               71 ONS                      
Total             274        

Source: SPICe estimates for Scotland, based on TUC methodology’.

 

This is SPICe analysis with the following caveats:

  • The figure for low paid self-employed workers is takes an UK wide estimate from a report by the Social Market Foundation applies it to Scottish estimates of the number self-employed
  • Insecure temporary work excludes those on fixed contracts and those on zero hours contracts as the former have different employment rights and are therefore excluded in the TUC analysis and the latter are counted separately.
  • All the figures below are based on the April-June 2017 Labour Force Survey. 

EMBARGO: 27 DECEMBER 2017

 

SMALL FIRMS HELD BACK AS SNP LATE TO PAY THE BILLS

 

The SNP government’s record of paying bills on time is getting worse, with almost 1 in 4 bills not paid on time.

 

SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has admitted that almost a quarter of undisputed invoices were not paid on time by the Scottish Government and the bodies which share its finance system between April and October this year. The number of undisputed invoices paid within five days has fallen from 81 per cent in 2011/12.

 

Labour said late payments have a major knock-on effect for firms that need the cash flow to keep trading.

 

The SNP government’s Business Pledge scheme, designed to encourage the private sector towards ethical business practices, includes a ‘prompt payment’ criteria.

 

Labour’s manifesto for the 2017 General Election pledged to declare war on late payments by using government procurement contracts to ensure that anyone bidding for a government contract pays its own suppliers within 30 days.

 

It also pledged to develop a version of the Australian system of binding arbitration and fines for persistent late-payers for the private and public sectors.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie said:

 

“Late payments can stop our small businesses from growing, and it is simply ridiculous that the Scottish Government is so bad at it, with nearly one in four bills not being paid on time.

 

“This has a real knock on effect for small and medium sized enterprises on government contracts which need the cash flow to keep trading.

 

“The SNP government should set a new target to have 100 per cent of undisputed bills paid within five working days. This would set good practice for business and make sure organisations on government contracts are getting their payments on time.

 

“Ministers should also ensure no public contract or taxpayer grant goes to a company that fails to pay the bills on time. This is taxpayer money – we should lay down the rules.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

4 December 2017

 

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government what proportion of undisputed invoices to each (a) of its directorates, (b) of its agencies and (c) non-departmental public body was paid within five days in each year since 2011.

 

Derek Mackay: The Scottish Government does not hold this information broken down by directorate or agency, nor do we hold this information for non-departmental public bodies. However, we have provided in the following table, combined figures for The Scottish Government and bodies who share its finance system.

 

Financial Year Number of undisputed invoices paid within 5 days
2011-12 81.3%
2012-13 79.9%
2013-14 80.3%
2014-15 77.8%
2015-16 79.6%
2016-17 79.6%
2017-18 (April-October) 77.4%

 

Source: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5W-12914&ResultsPerPage=10

 


EMBARGO:00.01 27 DECEMBER 2017

 

SNP CUTS RISK RURAL DISASTER

 

SNP cuts to the rural services budget risk devastating Scotland’s farming communities, Scottish Labour has warned.

 

The Nationalists’ budget has slashed funding for services such as vets and animal health by £4 million.

 

That cut is part of 21.1 per cent – or £10.2 million – cut to the whole rural services budget.

 

Scottish Labour has warned the proposed cuts could leave rural Scotland and farming businesses more vulnerable to potentially devastating diseases such as foot and mouth.

 

The cuts follow the SNP’s persistent failures to deliver CAP payments on time, amid an £178million IT foul-up, while the Nationalists have also faced criticism for their failure to properly deliver for rural communities.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth said:

 

“SNP cuts to the rural services budget run the risk of devastating Scotland’s farms.

 

“Veterinary and animal health services play a vital role in ensuring Scotland’s livestock is healthy and free from disease.

 

“A cut to this support risks leaving our rural communities vulnerable to potentially devastating diseases such as foot and mouth.

 

“Even small declines in the health of Scotland’s livestock could damage the already fragile rural economy under the SNP.

 

“The SNP must reverse these misguided cuts to the rural services budget and ensure Scotland’s rural communities are protected.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Table 12.04: Rural Services Spending Plans (pp 155, Rural Economy and Connectivity)

 

2017-18 Budget £m 2018-19 Draft Budget £m Cut in cash terms (£m)  
Rural cohesion £1.0 £0.6 £0.4m
Agri and horti advice and support £9.5 £4.4 £5.1 m
Veterinary surveillance £5.2 £4.2 £1m
Animal health £18.2 £15.2 £3m
Food industry support £6 £5 £1m
Fisheries grants £14.2 £14.1 £1m
Total cut to Rural services budget £40.8 £32.2 £10.2 m

EMBARGO: 28 DECEMBER 2017

 

SCOTTISH ECONOMY ISN’T WORKING FOR DISABLED PEOPLE

 

The Scottish economy isn’t working for disabled people, Labour said today.

 

New analysis from Scottish Labour reveals there is a widening gap in employment for disabled workers.

 

The gap between disabled people in work and not-disabled people in work has grown from 31.5 points since the Tories came to power in 2010, to 37.3 points in the most recent set of figures.

 

Labour said the figures showed the failure of the Tories and the SNP to develop an inclusive economy that works for everyone, and said that only Labour has developed an industrial strategy for Scotland which gives everyone a fair chance.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie said:

 

“The Tories claimed they had a long term economic plan – but the gap has grown in terms of disabled people finding work compared to others. That’s a complete failure to develop an inclusive economy that works for everyone.

 

“Only Labour will develop an economy that allows everyone a fair chance, with an industrial strategy to put working people first and investment to end austerity.

 

“This is not a problem that will only be solved at Westminster. The SNP government should be considering what steps they can take to cut this gap. They could start by attaching inclusive employment conditions to procurement rules and taxpayer funded grants.

 

“Disabled people have been hit the hardest by Tory austerity; both of Scotland’s governments need to be doing more to deliver a fairer deal for disabled people who want to work in Scotland.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Disability Employment Gap, Jul 2010-Jun 2011 to Jul 2016-Jun 2017, Scotland

Disabled Employment Rate Not Disabled Employment Rate Disability Employment Gap (percentage  points)
Jul 2010 – Jun 2011 46.4% 77.9% 31.5
Jul 2011 – Jun 2012T 46.2% 78.0% 31.8
Jul 2012 – Jun 2013**
Jul 2013 – Jun 2014 40.8% 78.7% 37.9
Jul 2014 – Jun 2015 41.2% 79.7% 38.5
Jul 2015 – Jun 2016 42.9% 80.0% 37.1
Jul 2016 – Jun 2017 43.4% 80.7% 37.3

 

Source: Annual Population Survey, July-June datasets, ONS

Notes:

  1. Employment rates cover those aged 16-64.
  2. Proportions are calculated on unrounded figures.
  3. The disability employment gap is calculated as the Not Equality Act Disabled Employment Rate minus the Equality Act Disabled Employment Rate.
  4. The Annual Population Survey data collection started in 2004.

‡ – In January-March 2010 there was a change in the reporting behaviour of survey respondents, mainly reflecting a change in the wording of the survey questionnaire, which is believed to result in more accurate estimates. Consequently data pre and post Jan-Mar 2010 are not directly comparable.

T – In January-March 2012 there was a change in the way those who did not respond to the question on disability were recorded, with those who did not respond no longer being automatically coded “not disabled”.

** – In Apr-Jun 2013 there were significant changes to the questions relating to disability and long-term limiting health conditions to reflect the Equality Act 2010 legal definition of disabled. This has led to a discontinuity in the series and no data is currently available for Jul 2012 – Jun 2013 due to the change mid-year.


EMBARGO: 28 December 2017

UK Government must commit to build in UK shipyards – Sweeney

Shadow Scotland Office Minister Paul Sweeney is calling for the UK Government to commit to build all naval service ships in UK shipyards and that includes building the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers in Scotland.

Mr Sweeney will push for a parliamentary debate on the government’s shipbuilding strategy in the New Year.

The strategy guarantees that complex warships will be British built, but not larger support vessels.

Labour say the pledge fails to make the best use of Scottish naval shipbuilding expertise and capacity while raising serious questions about national security by opening the bidding process up to international competition.

Shadow Scotland Office Minister Paul Sweeney said:

“The Tory Government is undermining confidence in our defence industry, with the new National Shipbuilding Strategy failing to commit to build these vital ships in the UK, as jobs and capacity across all British yards cannot be sustained by the Type 26 and Type 31 frigates alone.

“I will be pressing for a Parliamentary debate on its decision to put British jobs and national security at risk by inviting bids from overseas.

“The defence shipbuilding industry supports thousands of skilled jobs in the Glasgow area and at Rosyth, yet the Tories seem more interested in a quick saving than they are in actively supporting that world-leading sector.

 

“They are already planning to sell off the huge Goliath crane used to assemble the aircraft carriers at Rosyth which could readily be used to build the new RFA vessels and secure jobs there for decades to come.

“We should not expect foreign powers to support our defence industries if we are not willing to support them ourselves.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

National Shipbuilding Strategy document –https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643873/NationalShipbuildingStrategy_lowres.pdf

 

National Shipbuilding Strategy factsheet –https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/642419/04092017a_NSBS_Factsheet.pdf

EMBARGO: 00.01 29 December 2017

 

SCOTTISH STUDENTS ABANDONED ON A DEBT MOUNTAIN BY SNP

 

Scottish students have been abandoned on a debt mountain, by the SNP Labour said today as new analysis reveals the extent to which the SNP has tilted student support away from grants towards loans.

 

Meanwhile, the SNP Government has still to respond to its own independent review of student support, which reported in November.  It has also so far failed to implement a manifesto promise to raise the salary threshold at which loans become repayable, and is still only promising to raise it to £22,000.  In the rest of the UK this threshold is rising to £25,000.

 

Analysis from Labour shows that the average support through bursaries and grants has fallen by 36 per cent since the SNP came to power, while the average loan has doubled.

 

The average non-repayable bursary is now worth £1,344 compared to over £2,092 in 2007. Meanwhile the average student loan – which adds to the debt of graduates – is £5,303 today compared to £2,741 in 2007.

 

The SNP came to power promising to abolish student debt, but instead have increased the dependence of low income students on loans. The knock on effect of that is low income students leaving higher education because they aren’t getting proper cost of living support, or they graduate with significant amounts of debt.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray said:

 

“These figures show again that too much of the student support package is weighted towards loans rather than grants and bursaries. Rather than abolish student debt as the SNP promised, it is saddling the poorest students with even more.

 

“This SNP government has slashed grants and bursaries which forces students to turn to higher loans.

 

“The SNP has repeatedly let Scottish students down, dumping their debt promise, cutting grants, ignoring their own independent review, and failing to raise the repayment threshold.

 

“Today in Scotland those who start with the least end up owing the most. That’s unfair and stops far too many young people gaining a degree. Labour supports free tuition but it has to be backed up by proper cost of living student support.

 

“We need to start taking steps on this now – starting by immediately increasing the salary threshold at which graduates begin to pay back their student loan to £25,000 as it is in the rest of the UK.”

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Real terms (2016-17 prices)

 

  2007-08 2016-17 Change % Change
Bursaries and grants – average per student per year £2,092 £1,344 -£748 -36%
Loans – average per student per year £2,741 £5,303 £2,561 +93%

 

Source: Labour analysis of figures available at: http://www.saas.gov.uk/_forms/statistics_1617.pdf

EMBARGO: 00.01 30 DECEMBER 2017

 

REAL LIVING WAGE WOULD DELIVER A PAY RISE TO 270,000 WOMEN

 

  • GENDER GAP IN LOW PAY BRANDED UNACCEPTABLE

 

Labour’s real living wage would deliver a pay rise to 270,000 low paid women in Scotland and close and unacceptable gender gap in low pay.

 

Fresh analysis of low pay in Scotland reveals 112,000 more women than men are paid less than the living wage.

 

It means 22 per cent of working women in Scotland make less than the living wage, compared to 14.3 per cent of men.

 

A UK Labour government would increase the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.

Labour has also committed to ensuring companies comply with gender pay auditing, which is aimed at tackling the gender pay gap.

 

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird said:

 

“The next UK Labour government will give hundreds of thousands of Scots a pay rise with a real living wage of £10 an hour, and close what is an unacceptable gender gap in low pay.

 

“It’s not right that over 100,000 more women than men make less than the living wage. One of the reasons for this is low paid professions like caring, cleaning, retail and hospitality to employ women than men.

 

“2017 was the year we saw controversy about the pay gap between male and female celebrities at the BBC – but this issue isn’t just one for the media bubble, it impacts on almost every workplace in the country.

 

“We need to transform our economy so that it works for the many, not the few. That means boosting pay, cracking down on zero hour contracts and getting tough on companies who think a woman’s labour is worth less than a man.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Employees (18+) earning less than the Living Wage by Gender 2017
Number Proportion
Male                                            159,000 14.3%
Female                                            271,000 22.0%
Difference 112,000 6.7 percentage points

 

Source: Analysis of figures available at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Labour-Market/Earnings/ASHE-SCOT-2017

EMBARGO: 30 December 2017

 VIOLENCE AND ABUSE AGAINST SHOP WORKERS AT 10-YEAR HIGH

 

Rates of violence and abuse against shop workers are at the highest levels in ten years, according to a survey from the British Retail Consortium.

 

The survey also shows a 363 per cent increase in the number of violent or abusive incidents against retail workers since 2011-12.

 

Trade union USDAW has campaigned on the issue of retail worker abuse, and previously revealed in a separate survey that 70 per cent of Scottish shop workers have suffered from verbal abuse.

 

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson will outline plans in the New Year to introduce legislation which would offer additional protection to shop workers.

 

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said:

 

“Nobody should have to deal with abuse of any kind in their place of work.

 

“Yet sadly these statistics show it is increasingly becoming just part of the job, with 70 per cent of retail workers in Scotland suffering from physical or verbal abuse.

 

“It is clear that action must be taken to prevent the mistreatment of shop workers.

 

“That is why in the New Year I will be bringing forward plans for legislation to offer additional protection to shop workers.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Data extracted from Retail Crime Surveys undertaken by BRC from 2005 – 2017

 

Number of incidents of violence or abuse experienced per 1,000 staff
2011-12 11
2015-16 51

 

 

Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2017 survey from Scottish shopworkers, based on 339 responses, show that over the last 12 months: 70.8% were verbally abused, 42.43% were threatened and 5.01% were assaulted. The final results of the 2017 survey will be published in the New Year.

 

 

EMBARGO: 00.01AM, DECEMBER 31, 2017

RICHARD LEONARD’S NEW YEAR MESSAGE: 2018 NEEDS TO BE A YEAR OF RADICAL CHANGE

 

The New Year should mean a new start for the Scottish Parliament, with a renewed focus on economic transformation and radical change to tackle growing poverty and widening inequality across Scotland, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said today.

 

In his Hogmanay message, Mr Leonard said that all parts of society need to come to tackle the poverty and inequality which diminishes us all, with the priority of lifting 260,000 Scottish children classed as living in poverty, out of hardship.

 

He said the focus of the Scottish Government needed to shift to a properly resourced Scottish industrial strategy to sustainably develop Scotland’s economy and deliver the well-paid, secure jobs which people need to improve their quality of life.

 

He again stressed Scottish Labour’s opposition to the SNP’s draft budget, which will see a £700 million cut to lifeline services provided by local authorities – services on which many of those in poverty depend the most – while at the same time by tinkering with tax bands people on £50,000 a year will receive a tax cut.

And he said that Scottish Labour remained on an election footing with a potential General Election in 2018, with Scotland being key to sending Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.

 

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, so it is time to take stock on whether it has met all the aspirations those of us who campaigned for it, set it.

 

“The Parliament wasn’t designed as a talking shop – it was to be a place which offered the people of Scotland a different path if we felt we needed to choose one. The last seven years of Tory austerity have made the need to do things radically differently, an increasingly acute one.

 

“But the SNP has been a timid, managerial government, content to be a conveyor belt for Tory austerity rather than a bulwark against it.”

 

Mr Leonard added: “Scottish Labour’s focus on using the powers of the Parliament has won the argument but the Scottish Government needs to be more radical to make the real change the people of Scotland need.

 

“The coming year will see Labour push the government even harder to make those desperately needed changes and make the Parliament work in the interests of the unemployed, the dispossessed, the homeless, those struggling in poverty, and all those whose lives are currently pre-destined because of where they’re born.

 

“2018 is also the Year of Young People and it is a year when we will demand more action to turn the lives round of young people with experience of care.

 

“Tackling inequality and poverty, particularly child poverty, is at the heart of Scottish Labour’s mission – and should be at the heart of Scottish society too. That’s about the development of an industrial strategy to kick start sustainable economic development. It’s also about a fresh look at the distribution of wealth in Scotland which is fuelling widening inequality.

 

He added: “Scotland, like the rest of the UK, desperately needs a Labour government to deliver the radical change we need to see – and it will be Scotland that delivers a Labour government for the whole UK at the next General Election.

 

“We know that inequality, injustice and poverty are not inevitable and that they diminish us all. We know that austerity is a political choice not an economic one.

“Scottish Labour will never apologise for putting those with the least at the heart of our plan to change Scotland. In 2018 we will bring that message into the Parliament and out into Scotland.”

 

ENDS

EMBARGO: 00.01 1 JANUARY 2018

 

SCOTS MISS OUT ON MORE THAN HALF A BILLION IN TAX CREDITS

 

Scots are missing out on more than half a billion in unclaimed tax credits according to new research.

 

The independent experts in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) found that £545million worth of working or child tax credits went unclaimed in Scotland according to the most recently available figures.

 

Labour said the UK and Scottish government must do more to ensure people get the tax credits they qualify for.

 

Labour said now is the time to set ambitious binding take-up targets to compel both governments to act, help boost family incomes and lift the Scottish economy.

 

Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

 

“Scots are missing out on more than half a billion worth of tax credits. At a time of soaring child poverty and falling wages, both the Scottish and UK governments should be doing more to make sure people get what they are entitled to.

 

“Making sure, in law, that cash goes to the people who are entitled to it could make a huge difference. Thousands of families across Scotland are one big unexpected bill away from really struggling. In 2018 we will push the Scottish Government to set ambitious targets to ramp up take up and provide the vital support needed to help families claim.

 

“This should be one part of a serious anti-poverty strategy developed by the SNP government, including increasing child benefit, tackling the housing crisis and developing a proper industrial strategy so Scotland can be a home to high paid, high skilled jobs.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Benefit Estimate of Unclaimed Benefits in Scotland (£m)
Working tax credit +

child tax credit

545

 

Source: SPICe analysis of DWP figures.

EMBARGO: 00.01 2 JANUARY 2018

 

SCOTTISH KIDS MISS A MILLION DAYS OF SCHOOL ON HOLIDAY

 

Scottish pupils missed nearly a million days of term time due to unauthorised holidays in the last year – the highest figures on record.

 

Labour’s analysis also reveals that all forms of unauthorised absence from schools, including truancy, see absences reach almost two million days.

 

Labour said the sharp increase in recent years should be a cause of concern for the SNP government and may undermine attempts to close the attainment gap.

 

The party also said the figures highlighted a cost of living problem in Scotland, with parents pulling children out of school to save potentially hundreds of pounds on holiday travel.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray said:

 

“These figures should be a cause of concern for any government that wants to close the attainment gap on our classrooms, a huge amount of school days are being lost.

 

“Policy makers in the Scottish Government should be asking themselves why there has been such a sharp increase in these unauthorised absences and the knock on affect that will have on young people getting the skills they need.

 

“We know the pressures families fall under as the Christmas and summer holidays approach – airlines hike up the price of flights forcing families to choose between the last week of school or being able to afford a holiday or travel to see loved ones.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Attendance stats show that parents pulling their children out for unauthorised holiday added up to almost a million lost school days

 

  1. Also almost 2m lost to absences including truancy.
  2. Both these numbers have risen, and are at highest levels ever.

 

2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2012/13 2014/15 2016/17
Unauthorised absence 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.8 1.9 1.8 2.0 2.4
   Unauthorised holidays 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.7
   Unexplained absence, including truancy 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.9 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.5

 

 

Reason % of days lost Total school days Total pupils Total school days lost
Unauthorised holidays 0.7% 190 684,415 910,272
Unexplained absence including truancy 1.5% 190 684,415 1,950,583

 

Source: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/12/3099/downloads Table 7.1

EMBARGO: 00.01 3 January 2018

 

ALMOST 18,000 REJECTED CASES FOR CHILD MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

 

Almost 18,000 referrals for child and adolescent mental health treatment have been rejected since the SNP government established an 18 week waiting time target for treatment, new research from Labour reveals.

 

The Scottish Government set a standard for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from December 2014. Since then 17,843 referrals have been rejected.

 

There is a lack of understanding of what happens to these cases, why they are rejected and what happens next to the children

 

In March 2017 the SNP government finally gave in following years of Labour pressure and commissioned an audit of rejected referrals. However, there has been a lack of clarity since then of what progress that audit is making, or if it has even started.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

 

“Thousands of vulnerable young people are being denied the help they need. The vast majority of these referrals will be from health professionals and it raises questions about whether our NHS is getting the resources it need to cope with demand.

 

“Labour pushed the SNP government for years to review the system, to find answers as to why some children are being denied help and what happens to them next, but ministers have been dragging their heels ever since.

 

“If these numbers were replicated in acute services it would be seen as a national scandal, thousands of children and young people are being denied mental health treatment and the SNP government has shown no urgency in finding out why.

 

“That isn’t treating mental health and physical health with parity of esteem – it’s failing vulnerable young people.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Labour analysis of figures available at ISD Scotland shows.

 

Referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (All Health Boards)
Time Period Number Referrals Referrals (less Referrals Rejected) Number of rejected referrals
January to March 2015 7,966 6,472 1,494
April to June 2015 7,383 5,988 1,395
July to September 2015 6,732 5,502 1,230
October to December 2015 8,450 6,892 1,558
January to March 2016 8,896 7,194 1,702
April to June 2016 8,218 6,557 1,661
July to September 2016 7,161 5,511 1,650
October to December 2016 8,563 6,671 1,892
January to March 2017 8,730 6,892 1,838
April to June 2017 8,330 6,441 1,889
July to September 2017 7,199 5,665 1,534
Total since review announced 15,529 12,106 3,423
Total since target introduced 87,628 69,785 17,843

 

January 15 http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Waiting-Times/Publications/2016-06-07/Referrals-June2016.xlsx?14:33:09

 

April 15 – April 16 http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Waiting-Times/Publications/2016-09-06/Referrals-September-2016.xlsx?14:33:09

 

July 16 – July 17 http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Waiting-Times/Publications/2017-12-12/CAMHS_Waiting_Times_Tables_December_2017.xlsx?14:02:26

EMBARGO: 00.01 3 January 2018

 

RAIL FARES RISING FASTER THAN WAGES

 

ScotRail fares have risen faster than wages over the last five years, Scottish Labour can reveal.

 

As thousands of Scots go back to work today, real terms pay has increased by just 1.8 per cent since January 2013 – but regulated fares have increased 12.7 per cent over the same period.

 

The price hike comes despite growing dissatisfaction with the ScotRail service amid delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

Scottish Labour has called for ScotRail to be taken into public ownership so that commuters and families get a fair deal.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth MSP said:

 

“The SNP seem to think passengers in Scotland are getting a fair deal. They’re not.

“Passengers in this country already pay some of the highest fares in Western Europe and now ticket prices are going up again.

“Rail fares have increased faster than wages over the last five years and that is unacceptable, particularly given the ongoing delays, cancellations and overcrowding rail users experience with ScotRail.

 

“Scottish Labour would take ScotRail back into public ownership and deliver a people’s railway that puts passengers first.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)

  • Pay increase (real terms):            1.8% for Jan 2013-Jan 2018
  • Regulated fares increase:       12.7% for 2012-13 to 2017-18

 


 

 

 

EMBARGO: 00.01 4 January 2018

 

‘CULTURE GAP’ GROWING BETWEEN SCOTLAND’S RICHEST AND POOREST

 

There is a growing ‘culture gap’ between the richest and poorest in Scotland, Labour can reveal.

 

Figures show a 22-point gap, a two-point increase on 2015, between the richest and poorest when it comes to participating in cultural activity, including reading.

 

Analysis of the 2016 Scottish Household Survey shows 66 per cent of the least well off group participate in cultural activity, compared to 88 per cent of the most well off.

 

Labour said these figures show the huge gap that exists within society between the richest and poorest is not just financial, but exists in almost every aspect of life, and that an effective cut of £700million to local authorities would make the problem worse.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Claire Baker said:

 

“These figures show that austerity and inequality isn’t just about the money in your pocket, it’s about the quality of life people can have.

 

“Cultural activity enriches our lives, be it through reading, visiting a museum or seeing a live performance.

 

“The figures reveal the huge gap that exists in almost every aspect of life between the richest and poorest in society. A further effective cut of £700 million to local authorities will just make this worse.

 

“It is clear that radical action is needed to address the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, not just financially but right across society.

 

“The only party that can be trusted to close the gap between the privileged few, and the many, is Labour.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Participation in any cultural activity in the last 12 months – including reading (%)
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
20% most deprived 68 68 69 68 66
20% least deprived 87 88 88 88 88

 

Source: Labour analysis of the 2016 Scottish Household Survey at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525088.pdf (table 12.7)

 

 

EMBARGO: 00.01 5 JANUARY 2017

 

TEN NHS BOARDS EMPLOY NO CHILD BEAREVEMENT COUNSELLORS

 

Ten of Scotland’s fourteen NHS Boards in Scotland employ no child bereavement counsellors.

 

Child bereavement counsellors specialise in providing support to women and couples who have suffered from miscarriages, stillbirths or the death of a baby.

 

Figures released to Labour MSP Mary Fee under Freedom of Information laws, has shown there is no full-time, specialist counsellor for parents who have suffered a child bereavement in the following NHS boards:

 

  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran
  • NHS Dumfries and Galloway
  • NHS Fife
  • NHS Highland
  • NHS Lothian
  • NHS Orkney
  • NHS Shetland
  • NHS Tayside
  • NHS Western Isles

 

In NHS Lanarkshire, there is just one child bereavement counsellor who has had 489 referrals due to miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death since 2012.

 

Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee said:

 

“Losing a baby is unimaginably tough for parents, and is one of the hardest things anybody could ever have to deal with.

 

“It is surely self-evident that the health service should provide specialist counsellors for parents having to go through this kind of tragedy.

 

“This is the brutal reality of the under-staffing and under-resourcing of our NHS under the SNP.

 

“Labour has set up a workforce commission, made up of independent experts, which will examine solutions to the staffing crisis in our NHS.

 

“The truth is it is only with radical action that we can create a health service that works for the many.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Freedom of information responses available on requestEMBARGO: 00.01 5 January 2018 SCOTLAND LAGGING BEHIND REST OF UK IN REDUCING EMISSIONS

 

Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK in reducing CO2 emissions, figures have shown.

 

The most recent statistics show Scotland had the second lowest decrease in CO2 emissions of any region of the UK, with just a 2 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

 

Analysis of local authority emissions show the Highlands had the largest increase in emissions of any council area in the entire UK, at 28 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

 

The SNP government has cut the environmental departmental budget by 2.3 per cent in real terms in the last five years.

 

It has also cut the agriculture budget from £10.3m in 2017/18 to £5.6m for 2018/19 despite agriculture being a heavy greenhouse gas emitter.

 

Labour said the figures show that the Scottish Government is not taking enough action to tackle climate change, and called on the government to drop plans for an air departure tax cut altogether.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Climate Change, Claudia Beamish said:

 

“These are very poor figures on minimising CO2 emissions in Scotland.

 

“Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she wants Scotland to show global leadership on climate change, yet these figures reveal a disappointing lack of progress on even leadership within the UK on reducing emissions.

 

“The truth is we are not going to be able to tackle climate change while the SNP is slashing the environment budget and refusing to drop plans to give a tax cut to frequent flyers.

 

“Labour would cancel this unnecessary tax cut for the airlines and will continue to push the SNP government to set ambitious climate change targets in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Region Industrial & commercial Domestic Transport LULUCF Total Change from previous year
UK 162.4 107.3 125.8 -9.0 386.5 -4%
Wales 15.6 5.3 6.3 -0.3 26.9 -6%
Scotland 14.2 9.9 10.6 -2.0 32.7 -2%
N. Ireland 5.4 3.6 4.1 0.5 13.6 -5%
England 120.7 88.0 104.8 -5.3 308.2 -4%
North East 13.3 4.5 4.4 -4.3 18.0 -10%
North West 15.6 12.2 13.7 -0.7 40.7 -4%
Yorkshire and the Humber 18.9 9.0 10.8 0.0 38.6 0%
East Midlands 12.9 8.0 10.4 0.1 31.4 -3%
West Midlands 11.9 9.0 12.4 0.1 33.5 -4%
East of England 11.1 9.9 13.8 -0.1 34.6 -2%
Greater London 13.2 12.1 8.0 0.0 33.3 -7%
South East 14.2 14.8 19.7 -0.5 48.3 -2%
South West 9.7 8.5 11.6 0.1 29.8 -5%


 

 

 

Table 2: Local authorities that had the largest changes in missions, 2014-15.

 

Local authority Percentage change Sub-sector most responsible for decreases and increases
Carlisle 38% decrease Industry and Commercial Electricity
West Somerset 28% decrease Industry and Commercial Electricity and Gas
Redcar and Cleveland 25% decrease Large Industrial Installations
Stockton-on-Tees 22% increase Large Industrial Installations
Highland 28% increase Industry and Commercial Electricity

 

 £ Million £ Change % Change £ one year Change % one year Change
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 14-15 to 18-19 14-15 to 18-19 17-18 to 18-19 17-18 to 18-19
Marine Scotland 50.6 49.7 46.9 52.3 51.2 0.6 1% -1.1 -2%
Research, Analysis, other Services 76.5 76.6 67.5 64.3 64.1 -12.5 -16% -0.2 0%
Environmental & Rural Services 146.5 150.1 149.7 146.1 150.4 3.9 3% 4.3 3%
Climate Change 20.3 20.1 19.7 19.8 21.5 1.2 6% 1.7 8%
Scottish Water 21.4 -15.1 -96.9 24.5 111.8 90.4 422% 87.3 357%
       
Total ECCLR  315.3 281.6 187.0 307.0 399.0 83.7 27% 92.0 30%
Total ECCLR, excluding Scottish Water 293.9 296.6 283.9 282.5 287.2 -6.7 -2.3% 4.7 1.6%

 

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/623015/2005_to_2015_UK_local_and_regional_CO2_emissions_statistical_release.pdf

 

 

 

 

EMBARGO: 00.01 6 JANUARY 2017

 

MATHESON MISSING FOR MINERS

 

SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has not responded to appeals for an inquiry into the miners’ strike for over a year, Scottish Labour can reveal.

 

In December 2016, Labour MSP Neil Findlay, alongside Nicky Wilson, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, Wullie Doolan from the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers and representatives from Thompsons’ solicitors met with Mr Matheson to call for an inquiry into the 1984-85 strike on December 15 2016.

 

The SNP Justice Secretary pledged to look into the issue – but has not responded more than a year later.

 

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay has called for a Hillsbrough-style inquiry into police behaviour during miners’ strike, including the convictions of almost 500 miners.

 

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said:

 

“Michael Matheson is treating former miners with contempt. It is an absolute disgrace.

 

“We need a Hillsbrough-style inquiry into police actions during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

 

“Almost 500 Scottish striking miners were convicted – a higher proportion than in England and Wales.

 

“The SNP government should be taking the lead to seek justice for the communities affected by the strike – not ignore them.”

 

ENDS

 


 

EMBARGO: 00.01 6 January 2017

 

LABOUR CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION ON TEACHER PAY IN THE NEW YEAR

  • SCHOOLS FACE A YEAR OF DISRUPTION

 

Pupils face a year of disruption in 2018 unless the SNP reverses ten years of neglect of the teaching profession and delivers significant improvements to teachers’ pay and workload, Labour has warned.

 

The party said action on teachers’ pay could no longer be put on the backburner by Education Secretary John Swinney.

 

The Scottish Educational Journal, the in-house magazine for the teachers’ union the EIS, warned this month that ‘industrial action, including the prospect of strike action, may be necessary’ to deliver a better deal for teachers.

 

Labour’s warnings follow a report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showing that teacher pay in Scotland has fallen in real terms.

 

The report, Education at a Glance 2017, said that Scottish salaries are below that of England, and fell despite a general trend across OECD countries of rising teacher salaries in real terms.

 

The report also showed that Scottish teachers have one of the highest teaching workloads in the developed world.

 

The report followed research carried out by academics at Bath Spa University which said that the working conditions of Scotland’s teachers are ‘extremely poor’.

 

The Bath Spa University study found that teachers in Scotland face high levels of workload demand, leading to greater stress and reduced job satisfaction.

 

The research also found that over 40 per cent of teachers surveyed plan to leave their post within the next 18 months.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray said:

 

“Scottish pupils face a year of chaos and disruption unless the SNP government deliver improved teacher pay and workload this year.

 

“Under the Nationalists a teacher is £6,000 worse off, with pay squeezed as workloads continue to increase.  Ten years of SNP government has seen our teachers go from being some of the best paid in the world, to amongst the worst.

 

“Workload and class sizes are also amongst the biggest in the developed world. This is why John Swinney is presiding over a teacher recruitment crisis.

“What our schools really need are enough teachers with enough time, support and resources to do their job; with a career structure to properly recognise their efforts.

 

“That means a significant improvement in pay, career structure and workload, properly funded by government to re-establish the Scottish profession as world leading.

 

“Failure to act will see SNP ministers reap what they have sown over ten years of incompetence in education and neglect of teachers.  But it is pupils who will pay the price.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

From the leader of the December 2017 issue of the Scottish Educational Journal:

 

‘Industrial action, including the prospect of strike action, may be necessary to support our campaign for a fair pay increase.’

Source: http://www.eis.org.uk/public.asp?dbase=2&id=3839

 

Education at a Glance 2017 – http://www.oecd.org/edu/education-at-a-glance-19991487.htm

 

40 per cent of Scottish teachers consider leaving their jobs in next 18 months – https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/40-cent-scottish-teachers-consider-leaving-their-jobs-next-18-months

EMBARGO: 00.01 7 JANAURY 2018

 

MORE THAN 1,000 DELAYED DISCHARGE DEATHS SINCE 2015

 

More than 1,000 patients have died while on a delayed discharge waiting list since the SNP government pledged to abolish the practice.

 

Freedom of information requests from Scottish Labour reveal that at least 1152 patients in Scotland have died while waiting to be discharged from hospital from March 2015 until November 2017.

 

In February 2015, SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison promised to eradicate delayed discharge from the NHS completely by the end of that year.

A delayed discharge is identified as a hospital inpatient judged clinically ready to leave hospital, who continues to occupy a bed beyond the ‘ready for discharge’ date.

 

These patients are clinically ready to move on to a more appropriate care setting – but often can’t because a care package isn’t available to them.

Labour said the figures showed the need to stop the cuts to local authorities and deliver more sustainable investment in social care.

The figure is expected to be higher as NHS Grampian failed to respond to the FOI request.

 

ISD Scotland estimate that in 2015/16 the cost of delayed discharges in NHSScotland was £132 million.

 

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

 

“In 2015 the SNP promised to scrap delayed discharge in our hospital. Instead thousands of patients have died in hospital waiting to go home.

“Our NHS staff are undervalued and overstretched, and they should be supported by a proper system to help patients out of hospital as soon as they are fit to leave.

“Further cuts to local councils which provide social care will only add to this, and it shows the complete mismanagement of our health and care services under the SNP.

“Fixing delayed discharge will begin to relieve the pressure on our hospitals and NHS staff, allowing for better patient care for everyone – but we can only do that if we invest properly in local services. That means doing more than tinkering around the edges on tax, it means real and radical change.”

 

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

Analysis of freedom of information responses to Scottish Labour shows:

Number of deaths while patient was a delayed discharge
Board 2015 (From March) 2016 2017 Total
NHS Ayrshire & Arran 5 5 3 13
NHS Borders* <5 <5 <5 0
NHS Dumfries & Galloway** 10 13 7 30
NHS Fife* 21 5 5 31
NHS Forth Valley 16 19 25 60
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde 27 31 32 90
NHS Grampian FAILED TO RESPOND TO FOI REQUEST
NHS Highland** 46 40 27 113
NHS Lanarkshire 67 87 88 242
NHS Lothian 180 214 159 553
NHS Orkney* <5 <5 <5 0
NHS Shetland* 6 <5 <5 6
NHS Tayside* 5 9 <5 14
NHS Western Isles* <5 <5 <5 0
Scotland 383 423 346 1152
* response provided include monthly numbers of “<5” to prevent patient identification meaning annual total is likely to be higher
** response provided only annual total

 

 


 

 

EMBARGO:00.01 8 JANUARY 2018

MORE THAN ONE IN TEN SCOTTISH CHILDREN FROM FAMILIES ‘ON THE FINANCIAL EDGE’.

More than one in ten Scottish children are from families on a financial cliff edge, new research from Scottish Labour reveals.

Fourteen per cent of children in Scotland are living in material deprivation but don’t come from families classed as “low income”.

The figure is as high as 22 per cent in South Lanarkshire and nearly 24 per cent in Dumfries and Galloway.

These children are living without basic necessities but are slipping through the net because their families are not classed as low income. Instead these families have seen their living standards squeezed due to rising costs, low pay and insecure work.

Labour said its plan to top up Child Benefit by £240 a year would help these families and their children, and others who unexpectedly find themselves living on the edge.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Monica Lennon said:


“Thousands of families across Scotland are one unexpected bill away from being in real trouble.

“These are families on a financial cliff edge – victims of a broken economy that doesn’t work for the many but instead for a privileged few at the top.

“The SNP and the Tories have both failed to make the economy work for these families. Labour has a plan to get more money in their pockets, including increasing Child Benefit by £240 a year.

“That’s the kind of radical action we need to make Scotland work for everyone, not the tinkering around the edges we are seeing from the SNP.”

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

 

% of children who in non-low income families in material deprivation
Aberdeen City 6.3%
Aberdeenshire 16.0%
Angus 13.1%
Argyll & Bute 17.6%
City of Edinburgh 7.3%
Clackmannanshire 11.5%
Dumfries & Galloway 23.8%
Dundee City 27.7%
East Ayrshire 12.3%
East Dunbartonshire 5.5%
East Lothian 11.5%
East Renfrewshire 8.3%
Falkirk 12.0%
Fife 9.7%
Glasgow City 12.6%
Highland 11.8%
Inverclyde 13.6%
Midlothian 16.1%
Moray 15.9%
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 14.5%
North Ayrshire 16.0%
North Lanarkshire 19.5%
Orkney Islands 6.0%
Perth & Kinross 8.2%
Renfrewshire 7.2%
Scottish Borders 13.3%
Shetland Islands 9.0%
South Ayrshire 11.7%
South Lanarkshire 22.4%
Stirling 13.7%
West Dunbartonshire 19.8%
West Lothian 18.5%
Scotland 13.7%

 

 

Source: Labour analysis of data available at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00528469.xlsx

 

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Shooting Foxes

The SNP ain’t half cute when it comes to strategy. Sure, you can argue they got the Brexit Means Indyref2 case wrong but I would counter that the strategy was right – and will prove to be so. Rather it was the bolt from the blue of a sudden General Election that caught them cold before the reality of Brexit began to bite on the public mood.

The Budget strategy as it unfolded yesterday looks more than cute – almost too clever for its own good. It ca’s the legs out from under both Labour and the Tories while investing more in what the public wants. It helps balance the books after Westminster budget cuts. It gives a boost to workers struggling under the burden of austerity and inflation. Most astonishing of all, it made Derek Mackay look almost interesting.

The story isn’t in the smiles and cheers from his own benches that is our guide here. It’s the unanimated faces of the opposition, winching as their coconuts are knocked over one by one.

The result was incoherence – a regular trait of Murdo Fraser whose Tories took the underwhelming line of claiming a manifesto breach. (As in the SNP promising not to increase basic rate tax). Mmm. Two problems here. One is that they have both introduced a lower tax rate for lower earners and retained the basic 20p rate. Also the maths show that 70 per cent of all taxpayers will get lower bills in any case. Another is that no one remembers what was in your manifesto and they don’t expect it to stand the test of time no matter which party you are. (And a third problem – who believes the Tories could give a Bulgarian passport about standard rate taxpayers? Their supporters pay £50,000 to dine with the Prime Minister whose husband works for a financial firm that hasn’t paid tax for 10 years. It’s the bottom rung of earners who are being forced into poverty with their children by Murdo’s Tories. The workers? Give me strength.)

And I fear the hysterical rant of Richard Leonard wasn’t a genuine emotional outburst at social injustice, but his now routine performance in the chamber. Watching him hop on the spot like the Nutcracker soldier-on-a-string on our Christmas tree, face reddening, made me think of the training the Socialist Workers used to give to revolutionary tyros. The trick was to make the crowd angry which you did by blaring your own fury at them – rational argument was a waste of time. Is he now channelling a hidden past?

His argument that this was tinkering is of course correct because the reforms are the least that could be adjusted, a penny here and there, so of minimal fiscal significance in themselves. But it surely is a mistake to imagine that Jock Tamson and Jean are tutting at Reporting Scotland and moaning that they really should be taxed more and more. There is limited taste for handing over more when we can see government policy in London failing the economy going forward on top of a decade of brutal austerity. The actuarial modelling also shows that if you tax the higher earners five pence in the pound more, the actual tax take falls as they take action to avoid and evade.

There is a real lack of impetus among the Unionist front just now. The trade union demo outside Holyrood ahead of the Budget looked paltry and insipid. No towering Campbell Christie figure, no rabble-rousing Bill Speirs, no mob energy that demands a response. Not a rallying cry, more a yawn.

In the chamber it wasn’t just Richard reminding us of the dearth of talent. A glance behind him showed the previous leader (well, previous three leaders, actually) sitting in isolation, a semi/tragic prompt to voters of Labour’s 20-year decline.

On the other side – now there’s an appropriate phrase – Ruth Davidson is having her bluff called. There is only so far joshing and bullying will take you. On policy detail and development she is vacuous. On the back of her electoral breakthrough to be ahead of Labour there was a moment when her vision of a new Scotland, whatever it is, could have been hoist before an admiring public and shaped the post-election debate. We still get the angry bellows and braying interventions but the lack of anything concrete is proving a debilitating failure to add to the invisible MPs who were to be Ruth’s legion at Westminster. Instead of representing Scotland’s Brexit view – and indeed that of their constituents – they have resorted to voting with the government to facilitate an EU exit without any redeeming case made for Scotland. Not one has asked for any different treatment for their own people and they opposed every amendment which could have ameliorated the impact. How hollow rings the Tory bluster of 2014 about leading the Union or even of equal partnership.

But beware of how the parties are reacting and the inevitable dismal reporting in the Scottish Press. However hysterical they get about income tax (I’ve been muted by Jackson Carlaw!) the key to this budget lies elsewhere. They are diverting our eyes from the measures that really will shape our country’s future because if the public took the time to understand they would see far-reaching benefits beyond the pound in their pocket. That’s why it suits the Unionists collectively to concentrate on a single issue like income tax – it distracts from the wider story of renewal.

A penny in the pound won’t be grudged by those trying to operate a business online in Argyll or in Sutherland and elsewhere, if the £600m to pay for 100 per cent coverage of superfast broadband can be delivered. Broadband is the key to successful business, large and small. It connects disparate communities, combats loneliness, it is an inducement to repopulation and filling essential jobs like doctors and teachers. It will form the heart of future health services. It is increasingly the lifeblood of school learning.

We are a country of small businesses. There is package of support in the Budget including business rates relief – rated nationally at £720m. Their rates bill will be limited by CPI to keep it lower in future. (I spoke to a shopkeeper moaning about the SNP putting up business rates and when I asked how much he was paying, he said: ‘Nothing. I’ve been exempted.’

One of the UK’s major failings has been in research and development so in Scotland the government’s investment is going up 70 per cent. With a manufacturing centre opened and a national investment bank, you see how policy is converging to create a better business environment. That’s where the jobs are made and, after the Tories’ disastrous Brexit, we will sorely need them.

The political imperative of improving life chances through education means targeted funds on poorer areas and helping kids with additional needs. Free childcare hours go up to 1140, helping toddlers learn social skills before school, improving behaviour and creating space for parents to join the working economy.

Complex improvements like integrating health and social services are being funded with half a billion pounds which will streamline how help is delivered, directly linking social support to health instead of running two bureaucracies with patients turning from one to the other.

There is no time or space in the outrage-obsessed media to dissect these policies and how they improve all our lives. But even without them it must be clear to anyone with joined-up thinking that paying a few quid extra is worth it if it means not paying £8 a prescription item, or £4 a bus trip or £9000 a year for university.

Indeed, one suspects that the fury of the Unionist Front at whatever the SNP does, amplified by the piss-poor media, is a constant aide memoir to voters that Scotland does things differently. Some measure you may not like but increasingly you are aware that living in Scotland allows the government to behave in a distinct manner, a knowledge that normalises the concept of self-government. The tax raising powers were designed as a trap to sucker the SNP into putting them up to meet their ambitions. Well now they have. They have broken the taboo and unless there is a backlash, they will have smashed the Westminster imposed model. Every step of demonstrating that Scotland is capable is a step away from Whitehall domineering. Growing Scottish confidence converging with London incompetence, now there’s a formula that deserves a cute response.

 

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A Hard Rain

It’s raining questions these days. Hardly a day goes by without a deluge of imponderables without answers. You yearn for the stability of safe, plodding government and the certainty only a Conservative Government can provide.

Oops. Sorry – that phrase came from the now obsolete 1980’s Tory journalism software I can’t quite clear out of the Mac.

I think it’s the same defunct system Theresa May was using when she marketed herself as strong and stable and the Express hailed her as the new Iron Lady, surveying Europe imperiously from the cliffs of Dover. But then that was positively months ago…

One of the questions is: How can a government of intelligent people crumble into babbling incompetence with such alacrity? Misjudgement followed by miscalculation piled on misunderstanding, all edged with imperial condescension and xenophobia. Today a new/old strand of anti-Irish bigotry re-emerges reminding us again of how only an Englishman (of a certain type) is the true bloodline of greatness. Once the patronising fails them, they remind us we are but the Celts, the Picts and the Shovels – the navvies and skivvies to our betters. The failure to consider the implications of Brexit on Ireland was dereliction of duty to friends and neighbours (and family) but to hear it now compounded by ill-disguised contempt for ‘little Ireland’ daring to get in the way, is inexcusable.

You may notice a trend among the debris of chaos. May’s mentors and confidants are hard-right Brexiteers who have persuaded her (a declared Remainer, remember) that Brexit must be total – no free movement, no single Market or Customs Union, no ECJ. That is just as insane as the original decision to hold a referendum at all. For which we have to thank the now invisible poltroon David Cameron who worried he would be remembered as the man who lost Scotland but will now instead be the man who delivered national catastrophe.

She could have won both the Commons and the country, not to mention the EU itself, with a Norway deal, staying in the market, accepting the rules and paying an annual sub. But the UK would have left the Union and the referendum result would be satisfied. If not the nutters. So this is her Brexit. Her mess.

This of course is the agenda of UKIP whose racial hatred turned dispossessed voters into anti EU adherents. May is doing as Farage does. Brexit is a right wing obsession which is why May is comfortable in the company of the DUP. The trend continues when you check her itinerary. Visits to Trump to eat out of the extremist’s hand, getting-to-know-you visits to Erdogan in Turkey and the House of Saud while Liam Fox lauds shared values with Rodrigo Duterte in the Philipines who throws critics out of helicopters. Her new bestest friend arrived in London this week – falangist Prime Minister Rajoy of Spain, the new pariah of Europe.

At any other time this rogues’ gallery of thugs would raise comment but Brexit has consumed all. Well not quite – her deputy still has time to watch porn in the office.

To observers of statecraft this week’s Whitehall farce of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t Brexit deal is the depths of incompetence. It is barely believable that with so much at stake the machinery of the state was unable to keep both Brussels and Belfast on message and engaged. You really do have to ask: Do these people know what they’re doing?

And where, when the country is embarked on an historic international mission is the Foreign Secretary? He has achieved the remarkable feat of being absent at a moment of vital national interest. Can you imagine his hero, Churchill behaving thus?

Mention of the war hero brings us to Colonel Davidson of the Scottish Conservative Light Infantry. I thought for a few days she had gone missing in action. She certainly has adopted the Gordon Brown Cowardly Scot routine when the going gets tough. She has just emerged trying to distance herself from the PM by asking for a soft Brexit in which the entire UK is treated equally. In other words, no deal for Northern Ireland. The trouble here is that the UK is no longer in a position to demand any such thing when Ireland brings to bear its heavy artillery – the rest of the EU nations. Ireland cannot be undone by British demands so long as the Brussels membership holds firm. Britain cannot win. For Scots, the clear message is that from now on Ireland is more powerful than Britain. Yes, little Ireland has more clout than the whole UK because it governs itself within the EU.

The revealing part of Davidson’s move is that it puts the UK – that is the flag issue – above the pragmatic and the political issues. Retaining the UK as one indivisible unit despite the nuanced requirements of Dublin and Belfast is stonewalling and attempting to stop the stream of history which is now running pell mell in favour of diversity and subsidiarity. Yet again, faced with a decision requiring intelligence, the Scottish Tories hoist the No Surrender Red Hand of defiance, displaying their terror of the precedent an alternative might set for Scotland. To hell with national interest. The decaying, moribund Union must come first. This though is just the latest in her many contortions over this issue. You will recall her bullish challenges to Boris Johnson on television as she performed her media tricks and made her name as the ultimate Remainer. Only to reach for the handbrake after the vote and demand the best Brexit deal. Her minimum requirement was the Single Market. Then it wasn’t. If she were a real Colonel her troops would be simultaneously going over the top and running into the rest who were in full retreat. Her gift is the ability to bark and bluster to generate heat and noise but to creep quietly away from the gunfire and, if captured, to avoid detailed interrogation.

Thank goodness then that Labour is on the ball offering sensible solutions. (Damn that old software)

Did ever an Opposition implode so totally as bewildered old Jeremy? Whenever the government is cornered, his nerve fails him and he diverts to another issue. Oh sure, he decries their failures but where’s the alternative policy? Do you know what his policy is? I hear Keir Starmer come out with reasoned arguments which hint at compromise on membership while vying to keep on board northern Leave voters but does Jeremy agree?

Isn’t it past time that any sane Opposition said enough is enough…this must stop? Is there any more evidence needed to confirm the madness of leaving the EU? It’s clear to everyone else that this isn’t going to work, that people have been conned, the government is cack-handed. But still Corbyn evades and denies. There is of course an explanation, one that thousands of new converts, and especially the young and optimistic, can’t confront. It’s that Corbyn is a committed anti-Brexiteer who can’t wait for the day the UK leaves the EU. In his head that means the neo liberal rules on competition and state support will be lifted and governments will be free to interfere in ways they used in the sixties when his beliefs were formed. This displays his ignorance of the reality of EU rules on the one hand and his delusional world view on the other. It’s as if consumer rights and food standards and drug regulation and airline networks had never existed. And what it misses is that every few years we change government and as a rule we have more right wing than left wing governments – that’s why the hard right want Brexit. They too want an end to expensive food standards, employment rights and environmental requirements and guidelines, so a libertarian free-for-all can replace the regulation.

This was Corbyn the day after the Brexit vote: The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union.

He couldn’t wait to get started on getting us out of Europe. He didn’t campaign to stay in but was afraid to campaign to come out. He seems to believe working people will benefit but provides no ammunition in support. Jeremy is as much a Brexiteer as David Davis and is the same game of pretending it will all be fine afterwards. History will not be kind to the Opposition that failed to oppose.

My last question is: When will we collectively wake up? At what point will the Tories be pushed out or give up? Will Labour MPs rebel and resist? Will Davis come back finally and say it can’t be done? Or will enough Scots be repelled by the gory scene and turn away to seek our own national redemption? Because if this doesn’t do it, what will?

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Lights. Camera. Outrage.

Like the sea level overwhelming Manhattan in a disaster movie, the torrent of hysteria over a television programme is sweeping away all before it – there goes context, journalistic honesty is bobbing about over here, balance drowning over there. Behind the wash of fury comes the bile and bitterness of those with scores to settle.

Former politician does telly programme – cue outrage. Ah, but not just any politician – the former First Minister. And not just any programme but one on a channel sponsored by an evil state.

Let’s take them in order. What is a retired First Minister supposed to do? There is after all no template since Dewar died, McLeish lectured academically and inquired on behalf of the government while McConnell (the self-declared socialist) went to the House of Lords. You may have missed the media outrage at this now typical Labour betrayal of the working class and of democratic values.

There seems to be a desire on the part of some that he fade from the scene to be forgotten, shuffling into the cloak of yesterday’s man. But why should he? Who lays down how any of us decide to fulfil our ambitions? Salmond is a showman used to living in the spotlight. He was comfortable in the studio environment and took pride in mastering it. Parading in public and operating under scrutiny – and relentless media ridicule – became a way of life. More to the point, he’s good at it. He’s a natural who can play either role of inquisitor or victim. He is profoundly well informed and has the knack of being controversial – gold dust in the media world.

He already has a programme on LBC radio. He has proved capable of sustaining it and hooking an audience. It keeps an energetic mind in gear and maintains his public profile which, as I say, has become important to him. It’s his schtick.

But Salmond divides opinion in Scotland, broadly between those who recognise the gifts of a political giant – in Scottish terms – and those to whom he represents their nemesis. The latter are the losers whose own trajectory was deflected by his rise, whose advance was blocked as he rewrote the narrative and turned elective politics upside down. This isn’t just a career wobble. For some, the Willie Rennies and the Iain Grays, it is an existential crisis from which they never recovered, an historic reverse from which their parties still suffer. Among the journalists too there are the wounded and humiliated. The best bell weather of hysteria is David Torrance, once a studied example of balance, now the shrill and predictable voice of old fashioned Tory Unionism. ‘The biographer of Alex Salmond’ was wounded by Salmond’s withering critique of him.

Salmond simply refuses to fit someone else’s template. He broke the mould in office by giving as good as he got from truculent interviewers and wrong-footing reporters and continues to do so now. The haughty sneering at his Fringe show faded when he sold out the venue. His engagement with the Scotsman newspaper is another sign that he isn’t going away. On the contrary, you can forget the claustrophobia of the academic cloister and artificial professorship. You’re going to hear a lot more from a man who’s driven to do more because he has more to offer. His desire is to transform Scotland and, in office or out, nothing will stop him.

But surely no one in their right minds would work with RT, the government-funded Russian television news channel pouring out nothing but propaganda? Ah, you mean no one like Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Alex Cole Hamilton, Vince Cable or erm…David Torrance? They’ve all appeared on RT and by doing so have either taken the rouble or given credence to the Russian station.

But Salmond’s working for them! Well, he’s certainly becoming part of their output, it’s true but it appears he has sold them a format through his own production company which will make the shows and control the content. He didn’t get hired by RT (as an agent of the Kremlin) or even design the programme for RT. His company saw an opportunity to create a show based on him and offered it to other broadcasters. There were no takers except RT.

But they’re Russian! Indeed they are. And they are registered in the UK and licensed to broadcast by Ofcom who regulate their output. (Just like the BBC). It’s isn’t exactly treason, Lord Foulkes. It’s approved by the British authorities under British law. Ofcom has actually sanctioned RT for unbalanced coverage of Ukraine which indicates there is a bias in favour of Moscow and the British rules on balance work.

Why’s he working for a foreign station anyway? Well, many countries have overseas television news channels sponsored by their governments fundamentally in order to promote their worldview. It doesn’t mean they are always biased or inaccurate or poor journalistically, just that they want their national interests presented to the world. They’re all at it. Including us. The world’s first international broadcast service was the BBC World Service which until 2014 was paid for by the British Foreign Office – a direct state subsidy to a news channel. If you were Russian you might deduce from that the merest hint that the BBC was an arm of government. (It is testament to generations of first class journalists that across the world the reputation for fairness and accuracy of the World Service has been maintained. I have personal testimony to that from fellow writers from a score of developing countries many of whom were confronted by propaganda from their own government.)

Russia kills journalists. That’s true. It may not be actually true in the sense of a court conviction but, still, it’s true. The Russian state under Putin is an uncompromising, corrupt, murderous regime that we should do nothing to promote. Except…one of the first calls Theresa May made on becoming PM was to the Kremlin seeking closer and friendlier ties with Putin. Russian money keeps afloat parts of the financial sector. £80b was moved out of Russia between 2000 and 2004, much of it laundered through London. Behind it were criminals linked to the Kremlin.

If the state can normalise relations with Putin and if we accept his cohorts’ cash in buying up London property and their children in posh schools as well as licensing their TV station, is it now up to Alex Salmond to make a stand?

It shows he has no standards by not making a stand.

Well, in that case we can’t stop there. Because if the benchmark is state behaviour, it means no dealings with Central China Television which you can see on your Sky listings. China has and appalling human rights record from Tibet to political prisoners and record executions of its own people.

What about al Jazeera? State owned by Qatar, it is accused of supporting the jihadist Moslem Brotherhood and aired videos made by Osama Bin Laden while he was responsible for carrying out atrocities.

Oh come on. Russia does violence against journalists.

So does France. They have France24 – run by a government-backed company – giving English language news in the UK. Reporters without Borders reported that the ombudsman is being asked to investigate 10 cases where journalists were beaten during demonstrations in France. An identifying armband no longer protects journalists from assault by security forces, some of it clearly deliberate.

It’s all a matter of degree. If you’re Iraqi you might think the illegal invasion of your country and the deaths of untold thousands aided by British forces was a reason not to trust the BBC coverage.

Indeed, you may also look at the corporate and political activities of Rupert Murdoch and decide he is too vile to deal with.

It’s revealing that the outrage at Salmond’s chosen platform doesn’t seem to transfer to Spanish TV where the state is carrying out an openly oppressive regime against Catalans, covered with curious disdain by the brave Scottish media.

I’ve had dealings with RT myself and trust their Scottish editor Mark Hirst. There is no doubt that Russia has a state interest in destabilising the UK and Scotland is a means to achieving that but it’s a huge assumption to say Mark Hirst or Alex Salmond would actively contrive in that. You can keep in mind the deep background in what dealings you have and only the naïve would do otherwise. Against that, it’s refreshing to know that the lazy assumptions and deferential crawling so evident is much British journalism is being challenged.

Here’s the thing. If Mark Hirst is asked to produce material that is blatantly untrue or partial for a political purpose he is likely to walk. And can you imagine a producer telling Alex Salmond what to say? The fall out from either walking out and spilling the beans would be damaging to RT and Russia.

At least their journalism is asking questions.

I have no actual view on Alex Salmond having a show on RT. I won’t watch. It may be a misjudgement his reputation will pay for but the rush of outrage tells us more about pygmy politics in Scotland than the morality of Salmond. I don’t believe for a minute he is supporting death squads in Moscow but I do think he has discombobulated some of his erstwhile support. But then he is his own man making his own way. He isn’t going quietly into the night.

 

 

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