The Scottish Independence Podcast 108 – Ivan (Our Man In Westminster)

slide_428966_5555512_freeFor the 108th episode of the Scottish Independence Podcast I checked in again with Ivan McKee. Moodie. Ivan has been down in Westminster to help some of his SNP colleagues and since he has been down there he has had the time to have a look at the place and has some interesting observations on what goes on down there.

More specifically, is the place fit for purpose as a building, does an obsession with procedure get in the way of good governance, what’s the most useless way you can think of to use an ipad, and more.

Oh and he also had a little announcement to make…

Hope you enjoy…

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The Scottish Independence Podcast 102 – Kathleen Caskie

10369610_10152830551223025_2097852633117731428_nFor the 102nd episode of the Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with Kathleen Caskie who is the co-coordinator of the Women For Independence Group.

We started off on the worldwide political gamechanger that is/was Labour’s pink bus. However, after that we got down to more serious matters such as the work that Women for Independence have been doing since their inception and what the future holds for them.

We then spoke about more general matters including the surge, the upcoming general election and if the parliament should be 50/50 in terms of gender balance.

In the middle of all that we got into the Cash for Access scandal and some of the other things going on at Westminster.

We also had a look back at the Yes campaign and what its legacy will be.

Hope you enjoy…326362_437125932991413_423378730_o

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

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We can alse be found on youtube

More Than The Money

There was a statement by Malcolm Rifkind that everyone is jumping on and the thing that I find interesting is that most people (but not all) are jumping on the least worrisome part of it.


“I think also if you’re trying to attract people of a business or professional background to serve in the House of Commons and if they’re not ministers it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60,000.”

The biggest reaction to this so far has been that many who have seen it are furious at his suggestion that £60,000 is not much of a salary to be getting on with.

Now, he would defend himself by saying that he didn’t mean it was a bad salary for the plebs (probably not using those words), but rather that it was a poor salary for the type of people that he thinks we’re trying to attract to parliament.

However, I just want to put that quote up again and highlight the relevant section…

“I think also if you’re trying to attract people of a business or professional background to serve in the House of Commons and if they’re not ministers it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60,000.”

The section in bold is what troubles me as it has so many things wrapped up inside it.

Let me spell a few of them out…

  1. Who precisely is trying to attract that kind of people to parliament?
  2. Why?
  3. Why would they be considered more useful than other members of society?
  4. Why does it sound like your talking about a job in a business rather than representative democracy?
  5. Does the fact that you are talking about attracting a certain kind of person to a job in parliament, and not about the representatives that the public choose to elect, make a mockery of the UK democratic process?
  6. What does that say about the attitude of the people already in parliament?

I’d say those questions are more worrying that what Mr Rifkind believes to be a reasonable salary.

Ups And Downs

m_p3A few little thoughts on the recently published expenses stories.

Firstly Westminster…

MPs’ Expenses Bill Soars To Almost £100m

Taxpayers are shelling out more for MPs’ personal costs and running their offices than in the run-up to the 2009 expenses scandal.

Most of the increase was due to larger staffing budgets but MPs’ personal expenses also rose from £23.5m in 2011-12 to £23.8m.

That works out on average as Westminster MPs costing £153,846 a year, not counting wages. The figure is now higher than before the 2009 scandal.

Now Holyrood…

MSPs claimed a total of £12.2 million in expenses in the past 12 months, down £500,000 on the previous year.

That works out on average as £94,573 per MSP.

Furthermore, the article says that 8.9 million was paid in staff costs by MSPs. If we take staff costs out of the figure, the personal expenses claimed would be around £25,581 per MSP whereas MPs on average claimed £36,615.

So on both these counts it appears that Holyrood MSPs cost about a third less than those in Westminster do.


Another interesting point to note about the Westminster expenses was that…

They also show some 155 MPs employed family members over the 12 months.

Outspoken Tory Nadine Dorries’ daughter Philippa was among the highest earners, receiving £40,000-45,000 as office manager.

She is now believed to have left to train as a lawyer, but her sister Jennifer has been taken on as senior secretary with a salary of £30,000-35,000.

If we have to be making cuts, I think I can see a big one in all this somewhere.

For A’ That 13 – Down The Aisles

fuck-yeah-protest-tumblr_kyiiwzck4e1qajmybo1_400We are back after a little unexpected break and this time Andrew and I were joined by Duncan Hothersall.

Our agenda included the recent equal marriage vote in Westminster and also how this issue has  played out at Holyrood.

This led us to the idea of conscience votes as a concept and what our representatives are actually supposed to do, and it also moved the discussion toward the idea of how religion can still influence policy.

Finally, there was neigh way we could resist having a word about horse meat (see what I did there?).

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There was an interesting development a few weeks back when the government decided to reduce the amount of time that passes before confidential papers are released from 30 years to 20 years. However, documents relating to the royal family will be exempt*.

This is all well and good as far as it goes you might think, but let’s think about the general mentality.

The justice ministry were quoted in the Guardian as saying…

“Compared to a reduction to 15 years, a 20-year rule substantially reduces the risk of both ministers and officials being distracted from their current roles by the release of information on significant decisions which they took earlier on in their careers,” said the justice ministry.

Ok, got it. So the thinking is that if (possibly) unfiltered information about what ministers and civil servants had done previously could come out when they are still in office, this means they wouldn’t be able concentrate on what they were doing now properly.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself why that would be.

One of the good motivations for it could be that the officials might be seen to be compromised if they were working for one administration with a certain policy and then working for the next administration who try to implement an opposite policy. Is there a conflict of interest there? Another motive is the catch-all “national security” excuse which they seem to apply to everything.

I don’t think you need me to spell out what the more nefarious motives for it could be.

Is it possible though, to think of all of this as just another proof of how badly governments tend to do their jobs? The most striking and visible aspect of this is the enormous level of security that surrounds politicians, prime ministers, presidents etc. I don’t deny that some of them need that protection as there are quite a lot of lunatics out there. But is it not a fair question to ask that if they really were doing their jobs well would they constantly need a massive level of protection? Would there be so many people with genuine grievances or so many loons…or even loons with genuine grievances?

For me, the physical security and the delay in publishing the documents for spurious reasons be it 20 years, 30 years or however many are just two different manifestations of the same problem. That problem is that they do their jobs abysmally and protect themselves from the consequences of that by whatever means.

Of course, with this ruling things have improved by 10 years (instead of the recommended 15) and it is a step in the right direction. Obviously though, one idea which was never on the table was telling the public what is going on now  without spinning it so many ways that no one can understand it, no one believes it or no one can be bothered with it. A lot of our (sic) representatives find talking to the public enough of a chore as it is, an informed public would just be an incredible bore for them.

Finally, I am not convinced about what we will learn from any particular released documents anyway. If you want an explanation of why then watch the vid. It is 5 minutes long and all on topic but the bit in particular starts around 3:20


*Lots to take issue with in this but that is another article.

“Of particular importance are the political impartiality of the monarchy, the sovereign’s right and duty to counsel, to encourage and to warn her government, as well as the right of the heir to the throne to be instructed in the business of government in preparation for the time when he will be King,” the justice ministry said.