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Scottish politics

Labour figures eyeing up independence are ‘living in fairyland’, says party veteran

August 23 2016

Labour grandee Tam Dalyell has said those in the party warming to Scottish independence on the back of the Brexit vote are “living in fairyland”. Former First Minister Henry McLeish and David Martin, who is Labour’s longest-serving MEP, are among the senior Labour figures who have said they could be converted to the independence cause. Official Scottish Labour policy is to oppose a second referendum on secession until at least 2021, but leader Kezia Dugdale has been accused by some quarters of softening her pro-Union stance. Delivering his assessment of those in the party shifting towards independence, Sir Tam told The Courier: “They are living in fairyland. I think they are wrong. “McLeish and others had better realise that there is no chance of an independent Scotland being admitted into the European Union. “No prime minister of Spain would allow it and nor would the Germans.” Mr McLeish, who led a Scottish Labour government in 2000/01, said earlier this year the party must abandon its strategy of “just saying no to independence” and advocated a “new alternative of real home rule”. Mr Martin, who is on Ms Sturgeon’s Standing Council on Europe, has said independence is “worth considering” if Scotland cannot retain access to the single market. Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley revealed last month that he would not oppose a second independence referendum, saying the Brexit vote had shifted the debate. His boss Ms Dugdale reprimanded on live radio yesterday saying it was “wrong” for Mr Rowley to take that stance against party policy. Sir Tam, who was an MP in Scotland for 43 years and a fervent Unionist, called on MPs from all parties to block Brexit. “I believe it is up to every member of Parliament to do the right thing and to vote against the triggering of Article 50,” he said. “I would hope the House of Commons blocks Brexit and I have very strong views on this.” He said the referendum result does not have to be enacted because “people were lied to and misled by (Boris) Johnson and others”. “You look at what Brexit would mean for places like Dundee, and the damage it could do to universities like Dundee, and I am very angry about it,” he added. Article 50 is the legal mechanism through which member states leave the EU. Political and constitutional experts disagree on whether Parliament has to vote on whether it is triggered.

Scottish politics

Plan for Scottish firms to secure workers from EU under Brexit exemption

February 23 2017

Parts of Scotland would have special access to EU workers under a proposal mooted by the Scottish Secretary. David Mundell said the UK Government is “not minded” for immigration to be devolved to Holyrood - a key plank of Nicola Sturgeon’s demands over Brexit. But the Conservative MP suggested geographical areas affected by depopulation and labour shortages will need to have unique arrangements. Rural parts of Tayside and Fife rely on seasonal workers and many are seeing a population decline of younger people. Mr Mundell told MSPs on Wednesday his government was looking at a UK-wide system which protects the supply of EU workers. “Clearly we need to address issues around depopulation and the provision of services in those areas,” he said. “I am not minded to a view that immigration should be devolved. The Scottish Government have clearly made that case. "But going forward we want to have an immigration system that allows for those jobs, which are necessary in our economy, to be filled.” In November, Angus Soft Fruits, which employs 4,000 seasonal workers from the EU, threatened to move abroad if post-Brexit immigration policy stops it from recruiting from the bloc. Scotland voted with a 62% majority to Remain in the EU, but Leave votes elsewhere in the UK threaten to over-rule that. Ms Sturgeon has put forward proposals for Scotland to stay in the European single market while part of a UK that leaves. The First Minister says an independence referendum is “highly likely” if Scotland’s will is ignored. Mr Mundell told journalists after his appearance at Holyrood’s EU committee that the way to attract workers to Scotland is not by making the country the highest taxed part of the UK. Scots earning at least £43,000 will pay up to £400 more a year than their English counterparts after Holyrood set income tax under major new powers on Tuesday. Mr Mundell also said the triggering of Article 50, which starts the two-year Brexit process, is not a deadline to negotiations with the Scottish Government. A Scottish Government spokesman said that goes against assurances previously made by UK ministers. “Our position remains that it is essential UK ministers establish a position that properly reflects all parts of the UK ahead of Article 50 being triggered,” he added.

UK politics

Sturgeon vows that Holyrood will vote on triggering Article 50

January 23 2017

Nicola Sturgeon has promised that the Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to vote against Brexit. The SNP leader said the question of triggering Article 50 will be put to MSPs regardless of what the country’s most senior judges say on the matter. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its judgement on Tuesday over whether Westminster and the devolved legislatures must have a vote on the two-year process for leaving the EU. In her column for the Daily Record, Ms Sturgeon said: “This week, it’s time for the judges to have their say, as the Supreme Court decides whether the PM can the start the process of taking us out of the EU without an Act of Parliament. “No matter what the court decides, I want to make this crystal clear - I intend to make sure the Scottish Parliament has the chance to vote on the question of triggering Article 50. “And if the UK Government don’t start showing Scotland some respect, I’ll make sure that people across Scotland have the chance to choose our own future, before the Tories drag us off an economic cliff edge.” Scotland voted to Remain in the EU with a 62% majority, but faces being taken out on the strength of Leave votes in England and Wales. Judges are expected to pass judgement on the roles of the devolved legislatures the Article 50 process. Under the Sewel Convention, Westminster must seek Holyrood’s approval if it wants to pass legislation that covers devolved issues, such as leaving the EU. There is disagreement over whether the convention, which is incorporated into the Scotland Act, is legally binding on the UK Government. Prof Alan Page, from Dundee University’s public law department, said it is “unlikely” that the convention gives the Scottish Parliament a veto. He added: “Subject to what the Supreme Court says, a vote would underline the Scottish Parliament’s opposition to a ‘hard Brexit’, but would not affect the triggering of Article 50.” Even if Holyrood cannot prevent Article 50 from proceeding, there is nothing to stop MSPs from expressing their will on the subject. On Sunday, Brexit secretary Mike Russell said SNP MPs would vote against triggering Article 50 in a Westminster vote.

Fife

VIDEO: St Andrews professor Clara Ponsati and lawyer address Catalonia supporters outside court

May 15 2018

St Andrews professor Clara Ponsati returned to court today to continue her fight against extradition to Spain. The ex-minister was greeted by flag-waving Catalonia supporters for the hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Gordon Jackson QC, for Prof Ponsati, said her solicitors had visited the region to meet legal experts as part of preparation for the court battle, which could cost £500,000. Outside court, her lawyer said Spain’s extradition bids show the country is facing its “greatest crisis since the dark days of General Franco”. The former Catalan minister is fighting extradition to Spain for her part in an unsanctioned independence referendum in the region last October. She is wanted by the Spanish authorities on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds. Her legal team say the extradition is being fought on several grounds including the validity of the warrant and Prof Ponsati’s human rights. During the short procedural hearing, lawyers drew battle lines over the definition of corruption in the two legal systems. Under the rules of the European arrest warrant, a suspect can only be extradited if there are equivalent laws in both jurisdictions. After the hearing, Mr Anwar accused Spain of "abusing" the arrest warrant as a “tool of political oppression”. “The courts can never be a solution to political negotiation,” he told Prof Ponsati’s supporters. “Spain today faces its greatest crisis since the dark days of General Franco. “Without the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the withdrawal of the European arrest warrants, there will never be a resolution to this crisis.” A further procedural hearing is due to take place on June 12 and July 15, before the professor’s case is heard in full over two weeks from July 30. Prof Ponsati was head of economics at the university when she became the region’s education minister, just a few months before the referendum. She returned to Scotland in March and resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife ahead of the reactivation of the arrest warrant. <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/URjbgxmj-xYmBS0Bi.js"></script>

UK politics

Nigel Farage says British judges are ‘difficult to trust’

November 6 2016

Judges are so ingrained in the pro-EU elite in British society that it is difficult to trust them, Nigel Farage has claimed. UKIP’s interim leader took aim at the High Court justices for ruling that parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU. Mr Farage also warned that the public will vent their anger on the streets of Britain if the vote to leave the EU is not respected. The MEP told the Andrew Marr Show: “I am afraid that the reach of the European Union into the upper echelons of society in this country makes it quite difficult to trust the judges.” He criticised Lord Chief Justice John Thomas for not stepping aside for Thursday’s decision given his role in a body that sought to further integrate EU laws domestically. “If they are activists pushing for politically European integration they should not be making these judgments,” Mr Farage added. He said he “completely understands” newspaper coverage after the High Court ruling which referred to judges as “enemies of the people”. The former City worker said: “Believe you me, if the people of this country think that are going to be cheated, they are going to be betrayed, then we are going to see political anger, the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country. “Those newspaper headlines are reflecting that.” Asked if there was a real danger of disturbances on the street, Mr Farage said: “Yeah I think that’s right.”

Scottish politics

Former Labour first minister says ‘no disguising how difficult’ local elections will be for the party

February 24 2017

A former Scottish Labour leader has warned the party is facing a fresh electoral blow when voters return to the ballot box this year. As the party gathers for its conference in Perth, Henry McLeish said its performance in the council elections in May is shaping up to be “very different” to the relative success of 2012. But the ex-first minister said Kezia Dugdale’s party could yet emerge from a “calamitous” period in its history to do well. Mr McLeish said winning Glasgow and Fife five years ago was a major boost to Labour, but he added: “This time the outcome could be very different. “The SNP are polling well. The Tories are likely to do better on the back of good results in the Holyrood elections. “Both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens could pick up seats. UKIP could certainly do better.” Mr McLeish, a former Fife councillor, said there is “no disguising how difficult these elections will be” for Labour, but said there is an opportunity given the “gloss is wearing off the SNP”. He added that Labour has a proud record of “civic achievements, political reforms and progressive improvements”, which is in “sharp contrast” to the inexperience of many SNP councils. The conference kicks off today at Perth Concert Hall with a debate on Ms Dugdale’s proposal for a “new Act of Union”, which would see the UK adopt a federal constitutional structure. Ms Dugdale is speaking on Saturday after an address by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Jeremy Corbyn, the UK Labour leader, is to deliver his speech on Sunday. On the eve of the conference, Ms Dugdale said she would “without question” stay on as leader of the party until at least 2021 after admitting the local elections would be difficult for Labour. In an at times testy interview with STV, she repeatedly refused to say whether she thinks Westminster MPs should block an independence referendum, despite senior Tories in Scotland saying there should be no veto. Ahead of Friday’s debate on the constitution, she said the case for independence is even weaker now than it was two years ago. “Scotland’s too divided. We can bring our country together with a new solution around the constitution, one that appeals to people who voted both Yes and No,” she said. “This is why on the first morning of our conference I am asking my party to back my proposals for a federal solution for the whole of the UK.” See today's The Courier to read Mr McLeish's article on Labour's prospects in full.

Scottish politics

High-profile figures in Scotland call for Brexit to be stopped

July 18 2017

Dozens of senior politicians and academics in Scotland have demanded Brexit is called off. A letter signed by 60 public figures said leaving the EU must be abandoned as the “disastrous consequences” of doing so become “ever clearer”. Former first minister Henry McLeish and ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Campbell are among those to back the call. Lord Kerr, the author of Article 50, as well respected professors David Bell and Christina Boswell and MEPs Alyn Smith and David Martin have also signed up. It reads: “We call for a national debate on Brexit. We ask our fellow citizens, and our politicians, to think again. It is time to call a halt to Brexit.” The letter, which was sent to the Herald, said the UK’s international reputation is “seriously damaged”, Brexit will increase the speed of falling living standards and EU citizens in the UK and Brits on the continent are in “unacceptable limbo”. “We recognise that a narrow majority voted to leave the European Union, but the disastrous consequences are now becoming ever clearer – every day,” the signatories said. It added: “In a democracy, it is always possible to think again and to choose a different direction.” The signatories: Prof. David Bell, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling Andrew Bolger, former Scotland Correspondent, Financial Times, Prof. Christina Boswell, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh Professor Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde The Rt. Hon Lord Campbell of Pittenweem CH CBE PC QC Dr Chad Damro, University of Edinburgh Professor Emeritus Sir Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh Christine De Luca, poet Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland Sir David Edward, Professor Emeritus Edinburgh University Law School and former ECJ Judge John Edward, Former Head of European Parliament Office in Scotland/Former EU Policy Manager, Scotland Europa Colin Imrie, European policy analyst Maria Fletcher Director, Director of Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe (SULNE) Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Dr Peter Geoghegan, University of the West of Scotland, Gwilym Gibbons Creative Help Ltd Prof. Anne Glover, Vice Principal for External Affairs and Dean for Europe, University of Aberdeen Vanessa Glynn, Chair, European Movement in Scotland Michele Gordon, Director, The Language Hub David Gow, Editor, Sceptical Scot, Editor, Social Europe Dr Eve Hepburn, Chief Executive, Fearless Femme CIC David Hood, Director, Edinburgh Institute for Collaborative & Competitive Advantage Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director, Scottish Centre on European Relations Helen Hunter Education Officer (retired) Helen Kay M.A., M.Sc. Stefan G Kay OBE Patricia Kelly, Retired Teacher Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG Mark Lazarowicz, former Labour MP 2001 – 2015, Edinburgh North Graham Leicester, International Futures Forum (in a personal capacity) Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, former Secretary of State Scotland and former High Commissioner to Australia. Dr John MacDonald, Director of the Scottish Global Forum and editor of CABLE magazine Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, Author and Chief Executive, Business for Scotland Dame Mariot Leslie David Martin, MEP Monica Martins, Managing Director, WomenBeing Project Marilyne MacLaren, retired politician and educationalist Rt. Hon. Henry McLeish, former First Minister Maggie Mellon, former executive board, Women for Independence and social work consultant Professor Steve Murdoch, University of St Andrews Isobel Murray, Professor Emeritus Modern Scottish Literature, Aberdeen University Dr Kath Murray, Criminal Justice Researcher Andrew Ormston, Director of Drew Wylie Projects Alex Orr, Managing Director, Orbit Communications (in a personal capacity) Robert Palmer robertpalmerconsultants@gmail.com Ray Perman, author and journalist Willis Pickard, former editor TES Scotland and Rector, Aberdeen University, Dr Janet Powney, consultant in education and evaluation research Lesley Riddoch Ian Ritchie, software entrepreneur Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, former Secretary of State for Defence, former Secretary General, NATO Bill Rodger, Treasurer, European Movement in Scotland Anthony Salamone, Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser, Scottish Centre on European Relations Prof. Andrew Scott, University of Edinburgh Anne Scott, Secretary, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Scottish Branch Peter K. Sellar Advocate, Axiom Advocates Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh, Prof. Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh Dr Kirsteen Shields, Lecturer in Public Law, University of Dundee Martin Sime, Chief Executive, SCVO Alyn Smith, MEP Grahame Smith, General Secretary STUC Professor Michael E. Smith, Professor of International Relations, University of Aberdeen Prof. Chris Smout, Historiographer Royal of Scotland and Emeritus Professor, University of St Andrews Struan Stevenson, former MEP and European Movement in Scotland Vice-President Lord (Jim) Wallace of Tankerness Lib Dem Peer & former Deputy First Minister Sir Graham Watson, former President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party), former MEP Dr Geoffrey Whittam, Reader, Glasgow Caledonian University Fay Young, Director of a digital media company

Dundee

Dundee sucked in by ‘jobs bonanza myth’ over decommissioning, says SNP MSP

January 11 2018

A former cabinet secretary has suggested re-writing the Tay Cities Deal  wish-list because of its reliance on a “jobs bonanza myth”. The Port of Dundee in 2016 hailed the prospect of up to 1,500 new jobs for the city in oil and gas decommissioning. However, the think-tank Options for Scotland, which is chaired by SNP MSP Alex Neil, has predicted the true employment figure for onshore work across the whole country could be just 200.   Speaking at the launch of the paper, Mr Neil urged governments on the both sides of the border to “get real” as he backed a call to abandon decommissioning and leave the huge structures in the North Sea permanently. Mr Neil said: “The public purse would save about £15bn on decommissioning costs that are currently planned through tax liabilities and expenditure by the UK Government. “That £15bn in times when money is really tight could be used to re-invest in renewable energy, or indeed for anything else for that matter. “There would be no environmental costs, in fact quite the opposite. If that money was used to re-invest in renewable energy then there would be a net gain to the environment.” Asked if the proposals for the Tay Cities Deal, which would unlock hundreds of millions of pounds for the area and has a strong decommissioning theme, needed to be redrafted, he said: “I think this is what (the report) shows.” He insisted there would be “far more jobs” for Dundee in renewables projects. Mr Neil added: “The point is there isn’t the prospect of an onshore, permanent jobs bonanza, and that’s what we’ve been led to believe up until now. “We need to get real here and look at a different way of doing things.” The report’s author Tom Baxter, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at Aberdeen University, said: “You take something to bits and once it’s finished there are no jobs, there is no legacy. “There are jobs at the time yes, but certainly for onshore there is this myth of a bonanza and it’s completely false.” Mr Baxter said the onshore value of the new industry would be worth about £81m over three years, rather than the £40bn often cited as up for grabs at Scottish ports. John Alexander, the leader of Dundee City Council, said decommissioning businesses, including AF Deecom, Augean North Sea Services and Well-Safe, had invested in Dundee for good reasons. "These private companies do not take such commercial decisions lightly or without a belief that there is a commercial return,” he said. "Decommissioning, by its very nature, takes a significant degree of planning which translates into years of work. “However, I'm confident that Dundee is well placed to reap some of the rewards and it is already doing so.” Lyndsey Dodds, from WWF, dismissed claims there would be no environmental cost to leaving the installations in place, adding: "Given the very generous tax-breaks and incentives the oil industry has received over the years the idea that it might be allowed to wriggle out of its internationally-agreed obligations to clean up its mess is unacceptable.” A spokesman for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "Offshore oil and gas operators must decommission installations and pipelines at the end of a field's economic life. "This is done in accordance with UK and international obligations and is delivered in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner for taxpayers, while minimising the risk to the environment and other users of the sea."

Scottish politics

Brexit will cost Scotland up to £11bn a year, says Scottish Government analysis

August 23 2016

Brexit will cost Scotland up to £11bn every year, according to a study published by the SNP Government. Tax revenues will also shrink by nearly £4bn because of the impact of leaving the EU, the analysis found. Nicola Sturgeon said the figures reveal that whatever alternative relationship is struck with Brussels there will be a “profound and long-lasting impact on the Scottish economy and society. "That stark picture outlined today means that, whatever the model of relationship with the EU which is chosen by the UK Government in their negotiations before and after Article 50 is triggered, it will not be as economically beneficial as full EU membership,” she said. "The only way to protect Scotland's economy - and the clear benefits which come from being part of the world's biggest single market - is to work to ensure we protect our relationship with the EU. "My Government is absolutely committed to pursuing every possible avenue and option to do that." The Government analysis paper suggests that by 2030, Scottish GDP is projected to be between £1.7 billion and £11.2 billion per year lower than it would have been if Brexit did not happen. Tax revenue is projected to be between £1.7 billion and £3.7 billion lower. Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, who was speaking to activists in Edinburgh today, said it is a “bit rich” for Ms Sturgeon’s government to provide a breakdown of Brexit costs when the impact will much more severe if her independence ambitions were realised. “Even by their own figures anything she highlights will be times four-fold or more by keeping independence on the table or withdrawing Scotland from the UK,” she said. The Scottish Government analysis was published a day before the release of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, which is expected to show an increase in Scotland’s £15bn budget deficit.

UK politics

‘No turning back’ from Brexit after Theresa May triggers Article 50

March 29 2017

Theresa May said there is “no turning back” as she fired the starting gun on the UK’s departure from the EU. The Prime Minister admitted there will be “consequences” from Brexit, including losing influence in forging EU rules and implications for British companies trading with the bloc. But she said leaving will allow the UK to make its own decisions to “build a stronger, fairer Britain”. Speaking minutes after European Council president Donald Tusk confirmed receipt of the letter triggering Article 50, Mrs May laid out her approach in the Commons for the two-year negotiations. The Conservative leader said it is expected that Scotland and other devolved administrations, will see a “significant increase” in their decision-making powers as a result of Brexit. She told MPs: “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws. “We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain – a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home.” The triggering of Article 50 starts the legal process for Brexit, although the 27 member states will have to agree negotiating principles before the formal divorce talks begin, possibly in May. Mrs May said it is in the best interests of all parties that the process is conducted in a “fair and orderly manner”. In the Article 50 letter, which was hand-delivered by Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to Brussels, Mrs May said she wants the UK to have a “deep and special partnership” with the EU. Attempting to strike a conciliatory tone, she said the Leave vote was “to restore our national self-determination” and not an attempt to “harm” the EU and its member states. She warned that security in Europe was more fragile than at any time since the Cold War, adding that any weakening of co-operation would be a “costly mistake”. That need was reinforced by the “abhorrent attack” on Westminster, she added. Scotland was mentioned once in the six-page secession letter, in which Mrs May said the negotiations will take “due account of the specific interests of every nation and region”. She promised to consult fully on which Brussels powers should go to Westminster and which should be transferred to devolved administrations. She added: “It is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the PM’s Brexit approach is “reckless and damaging”. Nicola Sturgeon called the move a “leap in the dark”. She wished the Prime Minister well in the negotiations but warned that “the people of Scotland must have the final say on their own future once the terms of Brexit are clear”. The First Minister added: “The UK Government’s hard-line approach to Brexit is a reckless gamble, and it is clear, even at these very early stages, that the final deal is almost certain to be worse economically than the existing arrangements – and potentially much worse.”

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