498 thoughts on “The Way We Live Now

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  • Habbabkuk

    Might I use these columns to seek enlightenment on something in connection with health care and education in Scotland? An answer would be in the interests of rational discussion on these topics and provide background to some of the comments, past and future, on these subjects.

    Question : who, ultimately, bears the political and practical responsibility for stewardship and operation of the health and education systems in Scotland; is it the UK parliament at Westminster or the Scottish Assembly at Holyrood?

    On the assumption that it is the Scottish Assembly : am I correct in assuming that, in the event of a shortfall of funds in the Scottish budget for those areas, the Scottish government (1)has the legal power to rearrange its spending plans and to re-affect spending away from other areas towards health and education and (2) has legal tax-raising powers to bring in new tax receipts?

    • Republicofscotland

      Re your second paragraph Habbabkuk, that’s all very well and dandy in theory. But when your block grant has been cut by over £2 billion pounds in real terms, it’s not that simple.

      However independence would free Scotland from the ball and chain known as Westminster, and allow it to borrow. Independence would see all the levers of power returned to Holyrood, which would have a positive knock-on effect on the already devolved areas.

      • Habbabkuk

        RoS

        “Re your second paragraph Habbabkuk, that’s all very well and dandy in theory. But when your block grant has been cut by over £2 billion pounds in real terms, it’s not that simple.”
        __________________________

        Your answer to my question, setting aside the attempt at evasion, appears to be : it is the Scottish Assembly at Holyrood which bears the political and practical responsibility for stewardship and operation of the health and education systems in Scotland

        With regard to the cut in the block grant, I believe I covered that in paragraph 3 (does the Scottish Assembly have certain tax raising powers). Does it – yes or no?

        • Republicofscotland

          “Your answer to my question, setting aside the attempt at evasion, appears to be : it is the Scottish Assembly at Holyrood which bears the political and practical responsibility for stewardship and operation of the health and education systems in Scotland”

          On the contrary Habbabkuk, I wasn’t attempting to be evasive, I was attempting to explain, that cuts by Westminster have a knock-on effect.

          The Scottish government (not assembly) are already spending millions of pounds mitigating disaterous Tory policies such as the bedroom tax.

          It has limited tax raising powers, and very minimal borrowing powers. As I said independence is the best way forward.

          • Habbabkuk

            I think you were being rather evasive but that’s because you seem to find it difficult to come out with a straight answer to a rather simple question. You could, for instance , have replied “yes” and only then gone on to talk about block grants and indeed anything else you wished.

            And now to the question of money which you threw up.

            You say, correctly, that Scotland’s tax raising powers are limited. I wonder, however, whether they are nevertheless not extensive enough to bring in the missing £ 2 billion if they were to be deployed by the Scottish govt.

            Since we’re on about raising revenue, I recall that you have also written :

            “However independence would .. allow it [ie Scotland] to borrow. Independence would see all the levers of power returned to Holyrood, which would have a positive knock-on effect on the already devolved areas.”,

            an idea which is echoed by your latest ” independence is the best way forward.”.

            Now that all seems to imply that if Scotland were independent the Scottish govt would have plenary and exclusive tax raising powers in Scotland.

            Of course the question then would be whether a Scottish govt would run the risk of electoral unpopularity and of people and businesses emigrating across the border to England by raising taxes above the rates applicable in rUK.

            Were emigration of people and businesses to rUK to occur, Scottish tax revenues would fall. In which case I very much doubt that Scotland would see any of the “positive knock on effects” on halth and education you vaunted.

            I hope you’ll agree that this more or less winds up the discussion.

          • Republicofscotland

            “Now that all seems to imply that if Scotland were independent the Scottish govt would have plenary and exclusive tax raising powers in Scotland.”

            Correct Habbabkuk.

            ********

            “Of course the question then would be whether a Scottish govt would run the risk of electoral unpopularity and of people and businesses emigrating across the border to England by raising taxes above the rates applicable in rUK.”

            The majority of the Scottish public appear to agree with a tax rise. The SNP budget will see everyone who earns under £33,000 pound PA, pay less not more tax.

            *********
            “Were emigration of people and businesses to rUK to occur, Scottish tax revenues would fall. In which case I very much doubt that Scotland would see any of the “positive knock on effects” on halth and education you vaunted.”

            The above is merely unfounded speculation.

            Perhaps if you took the time to check for yourself, you might better understand the matter at hand.

            https://www.snp.org/the_scottish_budget_what_you_need_to_know

        • Stu

          No one is going to move to England because they are paying an extra one thousand pounds every year in tax.

          Scottish ministers are responsible for devolved matters such as health and education. Holyrood spends it’s budget as it sees fit.

  • reel guid

    Sinn Fein have announced that Mary Lou McDonald will be their new leader.

    That leaves the Labour Party as just about the last remaining party that contests elections in the uk that hasn’t ever had a woman leader.

    For the Mannie Not The Few.

  • Habbabkuk

    I rather regret that a post mentioning Charles Crawford’s take on Julian Assange’s appointment as an Ecuadorian diplomat and giving a link to Crawford’s blog appears to have been deleted.

    That is because Mr Crawford has recently written intensively on the subject and in the process locked horns with Craig.

    Now, you may agree with Craig’s take and disagree with Crawford’s but they are both experienced former diplomats who can be assumed to have somewhat greater knowledge of the subject than the generality of readers on here. It would be good if those who wish to hear both sides of the argument were to be reminded of the existence of Crawfors’s blog and read his comments.

  • reel guid

    Actually I don’t think that beardy glasses guy in the SNP broadcast could have been a send up of David Torrance. The guy in the PPB looked like he just spends a normal amount of time in keeping his beard and hair in order. Whereas if you look at a photie of David Torrance it’s without doubt that he spends many hours a week on trimming his beard just right and many more hours a week on making sure he doesn’t have a hair out of place up top. Clearly, attending to his toilette is a favourite pastime.

    It has of course given the Lib Dems in Scotland an excuse to talk about something other than the devo dismantling that they should be talking about.

    • Republicofscotland

      reel guid.

      With more important matters to deal with at Holyrood Alex Cole-Hamilton, has tabled a motion, to discuss the SNP PBB, not only is that peurile. It wastes vital Holyrood time set aside for important issues.

      Of course I doubt Mr Hamilton would be as eager to discuss, Alistair Carmichael’s position of lying in Frenchgate, or the (alleged) wrongdoings of recently gonged Jo Swinson, who I beIieve is still under police investigation.

      Is it any wonder then that the Libdems are in a rather insignificant position, on both sides of the border.

      • reel guid

        Ros

        Aye. The Lib Dems. They talk progress. But line up all too often with the forces of conservatism.

        For example, Alastair Carmichael accepting Tory landowner group Scotland in Union’s offer to be a speaker at their Burns Supper.

  • reel guid

    Labour’s Richard Leonard has said that Nicola Sturgeon is the most divisive uk politician since Thatcher.

    That really says everything you need to know about privately educated Leonard. At a time when the Tories are forcing Scotland to leave the EU at the cost of more than £12 billion a year and are dismantling the devolution settlement, Leonard thinks it is no time for divisive politics.

    He really is the bluest of reddest red Tories. A berk would be a more succinct term for him.

    The division bell is sounding in Scotland and if you side with the Tories then you’ll become a Tory.

    • Habbabkuk

      “Labour’s Richard Leonard has said that Nicola Sturgeon is the most divisive uk politician since Thatcher.

      That really says everything you need to know about privately educated Leonard.”
      _______________________________

      Does having enjoyed a private education mean that a person’s political opinions are invalid?

      • reel guid

        Depends what you mean by invalid. Depends on the quality of the education. Depends on the character of the individual in question. George Orwell was an Old Etonian. Yet was able to speak truth to power.

      • Republicofscotland

        “Does having enjoyed a private education mean that a person’s political opinions are invalid?”

        Habbabkuk, good point, I’d say not necessarily, however when you see the mess that Britain’s in, created mainly by the Oxbridge educated front row of the Tory government.

        Then in my opinion it’s perfectly plausable that having such a wonderful education, can in some cases leave that person or persons removed from the needs of the public, a kind of echelon bubble, similar to that of Westminster’s bubble.

        However I’m certainly not decrying there rights to voice there political views.

        • German Girl

          I tend to agree with the description of “Oxbridge educated” but I think it doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
          Because you could describe Osborne, Cameron and his ilk in different terms as well. The way you describe a problem does point into a certain direction for a solution. Or in other words: too narrow description might result in too narrow solutions which don’t work.

          – 1.children of the rich who often got rich in banking or finance or inherited the money
          – 2. children of the elite who consider themselves elite and their attitudes are Quintessentially racist
          – 3. children of aristocrats (see 1. and 2. and 4.)
          – 4. children who suffer from a gross misunderstanding of “merits” and who don’t get that some people have more difficulties to acquire the same merits than they do
          – 5. children who attend expensive boarding schools and/or are Oxbridge educated
          – 6. children of well-connected and/or rich parents who have a much better chance at getting safe seats for elections (Gold_sm_ith)

      • giyane

        A private education often means mere abandonment of a child to strangers. At Westminster School the staff were deeply uninterested in the children of unimportant parents. Many of the staff had no concept of pastoral care for unparented children, nor much idea how to convey the importance of education because they assumed that the absent parents had already motivated their children to succeed through education.
        That was rather a silly assumption because the parents mostly did not need to send their children away, they just didn’t want the hassle of looking after them. Of course some parents were deeply interested in promoting their children’s understanding. I remember home time for its separation from school friends, while trying to earn the respect of parents who had umped me into a private education system. My parents were extremely unimpressed by me, so really no benefit from the teachers and no benefit from parents. One’s inability to take benefit from neither was held by parents and teachers alike to be not their problem.

        My parents were very left-wing compared to the fascism that passes for modern Toryism. They passionately believed in the re-generation of the UK society after the war, the NHS and free education. It baffles me why people assume that privately educated people are going to be right-wing. Their parents did not struggle to educate them, they were merely continuing a middle-class tradition. The right-wing radicalisation of UK politics did not come from privately educated people from that remote, socially isolated world of boarding schools. It started , and continues to this day with people who are brought up by their parents at home.

    • Republicofscotland

      In all honesty reel guid, Richard Leonard has just taken over the SNP bad mantle from Kezia Dugdale.

      Mr Leonard was asked about policies on the politics show today, unsurprisingly he couldn’t give clear information on anything not even Labour’s stance on tax. In my opinion that’s because they have no clear policies, they’re a party reduced to carping from the sidelines on every SNP policy regardless of the policies merits.

      They’ve fallen to third behind the Tories at Holyrood, no one has any faith in their abilities anymore, put simply they have none, nor do they posses any charismatic characters.

      As for Thatcher, her Poll tax really united the country. You could feel the love in 1990, at Trafalgar Sq, as running battles over the tax took place between citizens and the police.

      Thatcher, spread her inclusiveness even further by destroying Britain’s heavy industries, and giving the thumbs up to the Home Office, to beat the living daylights out of the miners, whilst starving their hard pressed families.

      • reel guid

        Aye Ros. Labour’s line to Scotland is that we should stay in union with the land that produced Thatcher, May, John Redwood, the Bullingdon Club and Boris Johnson in order to escape Thatcherism, Mayism etc etc.

        Occam pares the problem down to the quickest and easiest solution. Independence.

  • reel guid

    The 2014 independence vote took place after the unionist politicos and media folk had totally muddied the waters. Even so Yes came to within 5% of winning.

    Indyref2 by contrast will take place in the clearest azure waters.

    Vote Yes for the single market, for self government, for continued free healthcare and removal of Trident.

    Vote No if you want WTO trade rules, Westminster direct rule, privatised health services and Scottish based nuclear weapons.

    • Republicofscotland

      Indeed the media played a very big part in swaying the vote in no’s favour.

      I was delightfully surprised though to learn that the majority of Scots voted yes. However I understood the aniexty of EU citizens fearing leaving the EU and Scotland not being re-admitted, even though there was no hard evidence to back that claim up.

      I’d say reel guid, the big problems this time around (I think most EU citizens will now vote yes) are the big questions over currency etc. If solid proposals can be put forward before the next referendum then who knows.

        • Stu

          The only issue is that Rape Clause and BBC Scotland have spooked the SNP with their no Indyref2 campaign and the SNP leadership now seem afraid to mention independence.

          It’s very hard to see when we might have another referendum now.

          • kathy

            Alex Salmond wouldn’t be daunted. Maybe he should make a come-back if Nicola Sturgeon is so easily scared.

  • John Goss

    MSM bullshit-spreaders get a lesson in good honest reporting from Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett. She takes on and destroys reporters from Channel 4, Snopes, The Guardian and other misinformation sites who are so embedded in the butt of Uncle Sam’s close disciples they may never see daylight again. These paid lackeys have tried to discredit her on-the-ground articles about the White Helmets. These have shown this alleged ‘first-responder group’ started by Sandhurst man, James le Mesurier, to be not everything it purports to be.

    https://wikispooks.com/wiki/James_Le_Mesurier

    The White Helmets are heavily-funded by UK and US governments so it is little wonder their media mouthpieces have tried to belittle the truth she reports. For those unaware the White Helmets were nominated for a Nobel Prize, a film about them (made from video snippets of ‘rescues’ provided by the White Helmets themselves) was up for an Oscar but there are many questions about the use of actors, beheading of a Palestinian child and their allegiance to ISIS overhanging their propriety. From the article:

    “Veteran journalist John Pilger described the White Helmets as “a complete propaganda construct.“”

    http://theindicter.com/the-white-helmets-whitewashing-story-part-ii-white-helmets-apologists-deconstructed/

        • Sharp Ears

          There is much evil to protest about. Not only Eva but Vanessa Beeley too and not forgetting Robert Stuart who took on the BBC and exposed their lies, See Saving Syria’s Children. https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

          Good post John.

          A PS. I found out last week that the BBC Complaints are dealt with by C(r)apita out of an industrial estate in Darlington. An operative replied to a relative quoting an address with this same postcode. We always suspected that the state broadcaster was outsourcing this function.
          Darlington – Inbound communications
          Capita Unit 1
          Roundhouse Road
          Faverdale
          Darlington
          DL3 0UR
          T: 01325,,,,,,,,,,

  • mike

    Even by the BBC’s own deplorable standards, today is astonishing.

    The top story is ‘Army Chief Warns of Russian Threat’. This makes it sound as if the Russians are ready to invade. But if you read the piece, Sir Nick Carter is actually saying that without sufficient investment, the UK will fall behind Russia – not quite the same meaning as the headline!

    The piece also states ‘The warning comes after Russia practised simulated attacks across northern Europe.’ This execrable nonsense fails to mention that those exercises were in direct response to the huge build-up of NATO forces in eastern Europe.

    Today’s front page, and radio news, also failed to mention Turkey’s shelling and bombing of Kurdish towns in Afrin. A minor story in the ‘World’ section states ‘Turkish ground troops enter Syria enclave’ – very low key, nothing about bombing or violence in that headline. ‘Enclave’ also makes it sound as if the Turks have a right to be there. ‘Turks invade northern Syria’ might have been more accurate.

    Washington says nothing. London says nothing. Media says nothing. That’s how the chain of command works.

    And the of course there’s Yemen, where ‘Saudi Government forces, backed by the UK and US’ are slaughtering civilians. You won’t hear that line on the 10 O’clock news, but as Media Lens have pointed out, you will hear ‘Syrian Government forces, backed by Iran and Russia’!

    • nevermind

      You are bank on Mike. NATO is using cold war tactics to keep Russia thinking, by amassing troops and looking busy on Europe’s eastern flanks, whilst the real action is raining down on Afrin.

      NATO can’t be so daft as ton believe that we can’t see that a NATO m,ember state is fighting another NATO proxy. Turkey has an election in the offing and Erdogan is a proper old fashioned dictator who clamps down on the Kurds at such times, at home and abroad, who instils fear in his own supporters, thanks to his IS associates, just to keep himself in the picture, and JUST himself.

      • SA

        Nevertheless the rather muted or non-existent reaction to this from Moscow is somewhat puzzling and disappointing given the Turkish incursion into Syria.

  • mike

    Indeed, nevermind. There’s also an election soon in Russia, so further attacks on Russian forces in Syria, or in the Caucasus, will be used to try to turn the electorate against Putin.

  • German Girl

    Is there no obligation for the Prime Minister to be transparent about the gifts she receives?

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