Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more farcical, yesterday happened. Government ministers spent the weekend assuring us the vote planned for today would go ahead. Some were even claiming the PM might win it (it’s nearly Christmas after all, the season of miracles). Even late yesterday morning the Downing St press office were still telling us the vote was going ahead, while the PM was huddled with her aides and getting the Cabinet together for a phone conference. Within a few minutes it was clear she’d changed her mind. Again.
The vote is postponed. Until when, no-one knows. The PM came to the House of Commons and was frank – the only reason she’s delaying the vote is because she was going to lose. And lose badly. Once again this is all about her trying to hang on to power and sort out her own party rather than doing what’s best for the country.
It’s been a little while since I've written a blog on Brexit. Things are now moving quite quickly so I thought it might be helpful for me to share a few of my thoughts on where we are.
The proposal put forward by Theresa May last week is not a good one and not one I can support. While the SNP Scottish government remain of the view that the best option for Scotland would be to remain in the European Union they have, time and again, put forward compromises that would respect the wishes of the Scottish people, and those of the rest of the United Kingdom. These have been dismissed out of hand by the UK government.
The budget was last week. Did you notice? As squibs go, this one was pretty damp. We’ll be debating the detail in the finance bill next week but the real story is one of indifference and missed opportunity.
Since the 2008 crash, governments across the western world have seen their revenues unable to meet spending. In the US and most European countries the response was to use the power and funds of government to stimulate the economy. More public spending led to more jobs, more earnings and more taxes. Not here. For eight long years the Tories have applied the opposite approach: use the reduced income as an excuse to slash public spending. This is austerity. And no matter what Hammond and May might like us to believe, it’s still here.
We were supposed to set off from Johnston Terrace at one o’clock on last Saturday’s march for independence. In fact, it was a quarter past two by the time I turned into the Lawnmarket and began the walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood.
That’s what happens when the biggest gathering in years descends upon the centre of Edinburgh and parades through narrow medieval streets. As a popular tweet quipped – we’re gonna need a bigger city.
Going back to Westminster after the summer recess you can almost feel the impending doom in the air. It’s the calm before the storm. Everyone knows something bad is going to happen. Just not what exactly. Like waiting for the ghoul to reveal itself in a horror movie.
And as the dread unfolds the discussion about whether there should be another Brexit referendum will intensify.
How’s your festival going? Are you thrilled to bits at the world’s largest arts festival being on your doorstep? Are you overdosing on culture in one of the 200+ festival venues? Or do you spend August grimacing as it takes twice as long to get anywhere and the city centre is taken over by hordes of impossibly enthusiastic young people.
Whatever your view on the summer festivals there’s no doubt that they’re here to stay. So maybe the question we ought to ask is how can we make them work better for the city all year round. We need to get away from the festivals being something that are done to the city, to a place where they are a product of it.
In 2016, Nicola Sturgeon announced that there would be a Growth Commission to explore Scotland’s economy and the potential that might occur after Independence. Andrew Wilson chaired the commission and in May this year they published their final report – you can read it in full here.
There have been many commentaries on the report, from different political persuasions. Below is my contribution – written for the Scottish Left Review in July 2018.
This month in parliament we celebrated the 90th anniversary of all women being allowed the vote with the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. This built on the Act a decade before which gave some women – those over 30 and either married or property owners – the vote. Every time we mark these historical landmarks I am struck not by how long ago they were, but by how recent.
The 1920s were an age of modernity. The beginning of commercial air travel, radio and television broadcasting. An Avant-garde in literature, art and music was revolutionising culture. New advances in medicine and technology were being celebrated. And yet most women were denied the right to vote by law. It seems like something from the Dark Ages. It’s quite shocking to think that there are many people alive today who were born in these times.
We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.
We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party