Mike Vickers' Blog

February 15, 2014

A Union revived – Ruth Davidson – in more detail

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 9:56 am

Ruth Davidson, Tory party leader in Scotland.  The last of the series laid on by the David Hume Institute to provide a platform for the Scottish Politicians tell members what they propose for Scotland in this Referendum year.

I had not heard Ruth Davidson speak before, well at least for so long.  She came over as someone relaxed, with a touch of humour and well in control of what she wanted to say.  More importantly she answered a set of exploring questions fluently and ducking only slightly.

Her main theme was the Union had lasted for 300 years, why change it.  She acknowledged that there had been mistakes in the past which should have been sorted, but the Referendum debate was timely in getting these on the table.  The Tory party under Lord Strathclyde is bringing together the reforms it would see to the Scottish Government given a NO vote; it was good to hear her mentioning the Scotland Act 2012 as a start.  She said she was unable to pre-empt the reforms but indicated it would recommend more tax raising powers for Scotland but would maintain welfare with Westminster to maintain parity of provision across the UK.  They would also be looking at a rebalancing of private versus public.  The party wants Scotland to be Responsible and Accountable.  She acknowledged that this looks like SNP policy, but No it is very Conservative: there has always been conservatives with a small ‘c’ in Scotland.  In contrast Davidson typified the SNP trying to appear Left of Labour.

Ms Davidson followed David Cameron’s lead in praising the Union as good for Scotland and good for the UK as a whole; the UK is one close knit community which would be broken asunder by a separate country Scotland.  No mention of the Scottish Tory Independence group ‘Wealthy Nation’!

She criticised the SNP for trying to cherry pick features it would like to share with rUK; of course currency, regulation, university research etc and saying goodbye to the rest; more generally for implying that the Scots are lodgers in the UK; are badly treated and unwelcome.

She stressed that since the 19th century it was the Tories who have spearheaded increasing devolved control to Scotland (only partly true).  She stated that there would have been no rescue package for RBS and Bank of Scotland if Scotland had been an independent country cf Iceland where the banks had gone bust.  She recognised that times continue to be hard but there has been recovery under the coalition with Scotland going slightly better than the UK as a whole.  She was most critical of the SNP wanting a currency union based on the £ but at the same time not committing to the £ indefinitely; all this does is bring jitters to the market.

Interestingly she stressed the great work that Scottish MPs do at Westminster!

Davidson repeatedly made the point that she feels both Scottish and British and can see no contradiction: she opposes ‘North British’.

She is for more ‘localism’ – decentralised power to local authorities with stronger local revenue raising; again re-balancing between Edinburgh and the local authorities.  She could see no value in a Scottish House of Lords but criticised the present Committee Structure where Committees are packed with party representatives – in this respect having one centralised Police Force had been forced through and is totally wrong.

To Cameron’s desire to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU; this is to be expected as there has been no review during the 56 years of the EU’s existence ( what about Maastricht and Lisbon!).  In the same way it is to be expected that Scottish Devolution is now being revisited through the Referendum.

As to Better Together she felt that the Tories at least are doing as many door to door visits as the SNP.  She stated that there had never any intention of a unified statement between the three parties as to what they would do after a No vote, only that each party would bring clarity to their individual positions before the Referendum Date – Lord Strathclyde’s report is due out in May.

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February 14, 2014

A Union revisited – Thoughts following Ruth Davidson at the David Hume Institute

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 3:24 pm

As with Willie Rennie in the previous presentation to the DHI, I had not heard Ruth Davidson speak before, well at least for so long with a positive message.  She came over as someone relaxed, with a touch of humour and well in control of what she wanted to say.  More importantly she answered a set of probing questions fluently and ducking only slightly.

Looking back over the series of presentations by the five political parties in Scotland (and I could only maker 3 of them), we started with Nicola Sturgeon making the case for Scotland for the Scots and we finished with Ruth Davidson recalling the magnificent 300 years of Scots working within the Union.  Both cannot be right but that’s politics.

Davidson is Cameron’s Lady in Scotland.  Somewhat unfairly Cameron has been accused of not making his impassioned plea to the rest of the UK: England, Wales and Northern Ireland to woo the Scots to stay with us in the Union in London rather than Edinburgh; he was not wooing, at least at this time, for the Scots to stay in the Union directly – this may come.

It has been mooted that Salmond would have preferred to have renegotiated the relationship between Scotland and the Union, just as Davidson said last night that that’s what Cameron wants in his discussion with the EU.  It is also mooted that Cameron scuppered the first and clearly the rEurope are scuppering the second.  The case for remaining in Europe is certainly being attacked by UKip, but that did not come up at least directly last evening.

The bystanders claim that the Referendum is a distraction from the real issue of recovering from the financial crash: from Scotland’s point of view it is the reverse.  Some of the antagonism that is starting to boil up on both sides could have been avoided if the financial crash had not come in the way.  Davidson is right that Salmond failing to get a re-negotiation is trying to cherry pick the best of the Union for Scotland.  Osborne looks to be scuppering that too.

The situation as I see it is that a Devo-Max would have been the way forward and in this respect Davidson remembered the Scotland Act 2012 as a clear step in the right direction and which will come into law but unfortunately lost in the high blown rhetoric.

But from the Better Together’s point of view their real failing is that there is no statement of what Better Together means in practice – the three parties cannot come together to issue their ‘White Paper’.  Labour will announce its view in March, the LibDems with Campbell 2 in April and the Tories with Lord Strathclyde in May.  In September before the television cameras who will bring out the essence of the benefit of the Union before the wonderful words of Scotland for the Scots underpinned by Bannockburn by Alex Salmond.

February 5, 2014

In Britain. In Europe. In Work – Willie Rennie

Filed under: Uncategorized — derryvickers @ 7:20 am

This was the forth of five presentations by the five major political parties in Scotland about how Scots should vote in the September Referendum

First let me say I have been a Liberal all my life and I draw little comfort from the Liberals in the Coalition. Second that Willie Rennie to me has been way below the parapet – inconspicuous.

So it was good last evening for Rennie to reveal himself as his own man, a man in control of his party, a somewhat cheeky man.  I was less concerned as to his performance in his speech and wondered how he would perform under questions and in that he came out well.

To his statement of policy, the policy was good but unfortunately it doesn’t carry much weight as the Liberals are such a small party now even in its erstwhile stronghold of Scotland.

Devo max for ever, complete tax raising to Scotland, only corporation tax common across the UK, less clear on welfare, preschool  as the building block for Scottish citizens, equal power to women in society (but nearly everyone says that now) and strongly in Europe.

In Europe there’s a problem: he stated that an Independent Scotland would have a border with its major trading partner, rUK,  and trade with rUK is key to Scotland’s economy –true – but where does the European dimension stand if a united kingdom leaves the EU (Britain in Europe in Work).

Menzies Campbell has set the Liberal stall – now to be followed at Rennie’s instigation by Campbell 2 – coming soon.

Nice to be reminded of Beveridge.

But where he came unstuck was where is the Better Together Song Sheet ?  He stated it will come but there is only 9 months left.  Campbell 2 is no substitute.

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