It Ain’t Half Hot Here, Mum

You don’t half get a bit of perspective when you’re away on holiday. Not that I advocate my habit of lounging about on boats drinking caipirinhas and stepping off into the Atlantic to cool off. That’s just decadence. And roaring around in open top cars in blazing sunshine isn’t recommended either. No, the real satisfaction of being away was looking at events from afar. (It didn’t used to be afar where I was but after Brexit it did feel like it)

I looked at news through one eye to avoid engaging directly. It still meant I didn’t miss treats like a headline from David Torrance likening Salmond to Trump – cue puzzled looks from neighbouring balconies as I hooted – or a pic of a choirboy that turned out to be Euan McColm telling us we need nicer politics…from the man who gave us the memorable hashtag #f**koffyouc**t. It just proves that irony really does travel.

One thing that didn’t change was my perspective on Labour…still haven’t a clue what’s going on there and still strongly suspect Jeremy will go down, one way or the other, and take the party with him. We just await the final shoot-out at the OK Corral.

In which light the position of Kezia seems weirder and weirder, both in saying no to

any contact with independence which at least has a short term logic, and in blocking any move to a separate status for her branch office, which doesn’t. Kezia may turn out to be just as self destructive in Scotland as Jeremy – and the Blairite Munchkins – are in England.

As a result the Tories get away with it. It’s really hard to make a telling case against an opponent who simply has to point and laugh in reply. Ruth’s clever one-of-the-gals routine has rocked the media who mostly continue to see the Nats as the real threat to our British Island Idyll rather than the isolationist anti-foreigner poverty-mongers of the Tory party. She skates it instead of being stopped in her tracks over every unThatcherite U-turn she makes. I was clearly of the view she argued against Boris Johnson on television over Brexit yet has now fallen silent as her new leader prepares the Euro Retreat. At least Sturgeon deserves her widespread praise.

She could also have earned more from me if she’d mumbled something, no matter how incoherent, in a regretful tone over the court findings on Named Person. Unlike some, I haven’t a moment’s doubt about the authenticity of the SNP’s intentions in this regard but the road to Holyrood is paved with good intentions. Governments are judged on delivery and finding itself on the wrong side of the human rights convention wasn’t so much a head-shaker for a progressive party but a head-hanger.

John Swinney will indeed redraft the info-sharing aspect to make it compliant but he hasn’t explained, so far as I know, why it wasn’t in the first place. To anyone closely concerned with individual rights and the relentless interference they suffer – notably from Theresa May’s snooping plans – this should have been the next priority after nailing the main point of child protection. I would have liked to hear some official thinking on why it wasn’t ECHR compliant. Poor legal work by government staff? Not enough external expert input? Insufficient legislative scrutiny? General sloppiness? Was there over confidence when the first doubts were expressed? Was it re-examined in the light of the legal challenge before going to court?

I don’t want a government which has to be sued to guarantee civil rights. The fact it was brought by religious zealots makes it even more ignominious. Sure, it’s a legal technicality but if your going through a stressful part of your life making you vulnerable to outside judgment on your parenting, you need to know there are genuine attempts being made to help you and you’re not just victim of back-of-the-hand bitching by jobsworths.

I thought John Swinney’s statement made the mistake of underplaying the issue because it raised the question: If it’s just a tweak that’s needed, why did you have got it wrong in the first place?

Politically of course it gives a clear run on goal for the critics, not that any combination of Adam Tomkins, Iain Gray and the Church of Eternal Idiocy could actually hit an empty net.

My own theory about the SNP’s approach to human rights is different from those who seem obsessed with dictatorship and totalitarianism. (That Swinney’s well known for his admiration of Recep Erdogan and Kim Jong-Un. They talk of little else on Tayside.)

Like all insurgents, they’re impatient. They can play a long game on independence because that’s the big one but they want to change Scotland and quickly. Public policy takes forever to make demonstrable improvements yet when it happens it’s like a drug that excites them. Look at the reaction to the smoking ban…

I think they’re in a hurry which is a good thing except when it comes to legislation which needs scrupulous drafting to avoid misuse. The offensive behaviour at football being a case in point. A vote in chamber is not the same thing at all and Named Person – which may turn out to be an iconic measure allowing some of a new generation from questionable homes to blossom into maturity – would have benefitted from detailed revising scrutiny. Why not have a committee look at how this could be done?

I’ve also thought for a while that the SNP isn’t as smart on the public relations front as it used to be. I don’t think Named Person was sold well, or at all, to a wider public. You are delving into the uncomfortable private lives of families in a way few of us are accustomed to. A public softening-up explaining why this is needed and how it would work would have been a sound investment. Better that than a retrospective scramble to make the detail legal amid a barrage of criticism.

I say criticism, but really the opportunistic and cynical manipulation of this issue by the usual suspects in opposition – I include the media – has been spectacularly small-minded.

My European perspective, if it were needed, witnessed a welter of faux outrage and hysterical accusations that belittles them and the country they represent. It was if the children didn’t matter but point-scoring did. Not one politician I read gained credibility by calmly articulating that this scheme deserved to succeed for the good of our children but those same children deserved a government that did its job properly to guarantee their rights. Do any of them really want this to fail?

I suggest the whole Holyrood contingent gets on a plane to somewhere hot and orders caipirinhas all round.

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20 thoughts on “It Ain’t Half Hot Here, Mum

  1. 10/10 for this excellent piece and please keep up the good work.

    • Thomas Valentine

      I don’t really agree. I think the legal point used was contrived to the point of invention. It’s already been though one court that saw these same points as “hyperbole”. Risks that were either fantasy or astronomically unlikely when claimed by the groups raising this action.

      The whole thing stinks of fish. Where did the rest of the money come from to raise the action? Why the long winded preamble with “totalitarian governments” etc ?

      It was only foreseeable if you assume you are going to be tripped up at every opportunity. Is this what Derek means? Were the Scottish Government to expect politically motivate sabotage of their every move? Did they credit the UK government with too much decency?

  2. David Stevenson

    Seriously, do you think that Corbyn should just roll over and surrender Labour to the Blairites and betray the 60% of members who voted for him? In what way are Corbyn’s actions destructive rather than defensive?
    The Labour right are attempting a coup against the membership. They can be accused of selfish destructiveness, but not Corbyn.

  3. NP .. however it pans out, its the non-casualties that we will never hear from – the statistics that emerge 10-20-30 years hence. Its at least an attempt to ‘fix’ an issue, that listened to what those in the ‘trade’ wanted.

    Legislation will mature with the age of the parliament and whatever 2nd house is presented for Scotland.

  4. Thomas Valentine

    Sorry but I have to disagree on the matter of the Named Person act being “wrong”.
    It is an obtuse technical point and clearly there is now a disagreement between two sets of judges as to whether that particular part of the Act was satisfactory.

    The addition of a single clause line making it necessary to enter an information request rather than just accessing via an attached file base. It will now require someone to witness and approve if another authorized person has a valid right to see certain files in individual cases rather than all cases.

    I personally think it is a contortion. Like having social workers seal all their files from their colleagues and bosses. I hope it isn’t a political maneuver but then again we are dealing with the British establishment of whom the judges are an integral part.

    It’s comparable to putting in a form only to have someone hand it back saying you haven’t tick a box in this question. The judges need to write a pompous preamble about totalitarian governments and how all these laws had to be 200% tightly written. It was as if they were told to find absolutely anything they could in order to throw it back at the Scottish Government. They really had to put it through a very fine sieve to find this point.

    • Part of the submission to the courts contained the accusation that the Scottish Government were acting like a totalitarian state, hence the Scottish Courts dismissing it as hyperbole. The SC decided to outline exactly what a totalitarian state actually looks like, to be honest it looks much more like how Scotland would be if Christian fundamentalists were the Government.

  5. “If it’s just a tweak that’s needed, why did you have got it wrong in the first place?”

    I think you may have illustrated the problem 🙂 In our rush to get things done we can all overlook the obvious.

    • The Scottish Courts found it acceptable, that should have been the end of it.

      • Yeah Golfnut, but unfortunately we voted to continue to let the Westminster establishment rule over us. This ruling is only one of many ways to remind us not to get too uppity, and to know our place. My understanding was that the Scottish legal system was sacrosanct, and that the Court of Session was the final arbiter of justice in our country. Obviously not, at least as far as civil law is concerned.

        • I think they were Scottish Judges in the SC.

          • Quite correct broadbield. But there are only two, so once again a legal ruling applying only to Scotland is effectively taken from our hands, much as the format adhered to by broadcasters when an independence minded person is outnumbered by unionists. As I said, just another method us keeping us rebellious Scots in our place.

  6. The following link to a joint statement by Highland Council and NHS Highland is worth a read. The named person scheme has been working in the Highlands for some time now:

    http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/9597/named_person_ruling?utm_source

  7. What we have here is a UK Court adding red tape provisions to Scottish laws – to bring them into line with the way they are interpreted in England. They do that so they can bitch and moan about the Red Tape/cost of paperwork imposed by the EU/ECHR.

    Maybe, just maybe, the Scottish Government should consult with the folks at the ECHR to see what their interpretation is.

  8. Scottish labour can never go for independence from the British party as they do not have enough members to operate without financial subsidy. Ironic that they’re actually the ones that are too wee and too poor (and too stupid) to survive on their own.

  9. Derek

    I don’t think the Scottish Government needs to say more so much as the public (and some commentators) should be better informed about the ECHR and its application to legislation.

    All legislation passed by Holyrood has to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Therefore, by the time a draft Bill is passed and becomes an Act it should have been checked over by the Scottish Government lawyers.

    The ECHR is incorporated into Scots (and rUK) law by the Human Rights Act 1998. However, neither is like a ‘normal’ bit of Scottish or British legislation in the sense of saying what one can and cannot do. Rather, the ECHR has a number of articles and all Scottish (and rUK) laws have to comply with the broad principles set out in those articles. That means applying the articles to situations and legislation dealing which were never contemplated by those responsible for drafting the ECHR in the days after WW2.

    In practical terms, determining if a new law is ECHR compliant is not like establishing the legal position for other matters where there is usually a yes or no answer. Rather, it is really a question of interpretation.

    With regard to the Named Persons legislation, there was no existing precedent. The question of ECHR compliance could only be determined by a judicial decision. The Scottish Governments in house legal advisers thought it was ECHR compliant. The judges in the Scottish Civil Courts (the Outer and Inner Houses of the Court of Session) also shared that view. However, Judges in the UK supreme court, a majority of whom are not Scottish, had a different view.

    In summary, this isn’t the bombshell or disaster it’s being presented as. It’s really a fairly bland technical legal matter which only delays the legislation rather than overturning it. Such challenges are pretty rare and still (relative) novelties in Scottish and UK terms. However, they are pretty routine in other jurisdictions.

  10. A hostile media is always going to make the ‘sell’ extremely difficult. How many of the general public knew the original proposed legislation had all party support?
    Not wishing to sound superior, but all those I had discussions with re their opposition to the matter showed a great lack of knowledge of the detail and had swallowed the Big Brother accusation hook, line & sinker.

    Welcome back Derek, I trust my £1/week has been spent wisely. You could have sent a postcard!

    IMHO the break has done you good 😉

  11. This is a strand of unionist strategy to discredit the Scottish Government and SNP as they have nothing else to throw at them. They tell us to get over the referendum. You lost. Move on. Yet they are the ones who keep bringing it back to the fore. But they don’t seem to be willing to ‘get over’ recent legislation passed with their own votes or by their abstentions in parliament, wanting to gnaw over it in the hope of making the SNP government look incompetent and dictatorial.

    It’s playground bully tactics, impoverished of thought, striking out in the hope of giving their opponent a bloody nose and showing him who is boss by putting him firmly in his place, supine on the ground.

    Grown-up politics has been chased away with a big stick and a club as well as the media. We’re now following the same road as the USA. Unless we get independence soon, then we’ll be totally at the mercy of oligarchs and big business, with all our hard-won rights trampled into mud.

  12. Pretty much agree on all counts Derek, including the rush to produce…

    NP will have its tweaks and carry on regardless.

    On Kezia and Labour? They had one last open goal and shot at redemption with the Scottish electorate. The keeper was off having a tea break and the ref was having a kip on the halfway line. They skyed the shot and stunned a passing pigeon.

    That was pretty much Labour’s last chance at relevance. A clean break from UK Labour and London influence. A new covenant with the electorate in an independent Scotland waited for them as a possible reward for backing the people rather than party dogma or career path.

    They chose poorly… again.

  13. I hope you are right that they are ‘in a hurry’ and not simply ignoring well informed criticism.

    But a story I heard lately suggests an unwillingness to take well informed and well motivated criticism, and that concerns the VAT bill for Police Scotland which is estimated to run to a deficit of £18 million by 2018.

    Now no police force in the UK pays VAT. But Police Scotland does. Neither does any local authority. Edinburgh Council gets a VAT bill returned to them monthly in the region of £5 or £6 million.

    I was speaking to a lady recently who currently works for the council on their VAT. She said that she and staff from her department repeatedly warned the SNP government that the way they were setting up Police Scotland would mean that it would have to pay VAT, and they suggested a mechanism by which the liability could be avoided, which involved some part of Police Scotland being connected to local authorities, but this advice was ignored. The response they got was ‘we’ve spoken to the UK government and we’re confident that VAT won’t apply, it won’t work like that’. Don’t know quite what is going on here, but there is a story in this, definitely.

    Either the SNP government didn’t do due diligence or they were misled by the UK government, perhaps deliberately.

    £18 million is a huge amount to have to return to the UK Treasury through VAT not being returned, and the deficit the organisation will run will clearly put huge pressures on Police Scotland.

  14. given that not one political party could provide or indeed will provide any kind of input apart from derision sniping and carping on anything the SNP administration proposes if it wasn’t for the SNP nothing would be getting done absolutely no progress would be made , a simple thing like the new forth crossing would have never have been built the A9 would be still the same as it was thirty years ago .
    ok so a few technical issues had to be tidied up on the named persons bill so what ,it is still going ahead just recently agences down south were criticised for not sharing information about a child at risk this is the whole point of this bill .

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