Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Tomorrow sees the Scottish Parliament hold the third First Minister's question time since the May reshuffle. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't want to see the same 'SNP Bad' drivel we had last season. I want an FMQ's where the rest of the Parlys in the UK look on and say "See! that's how it should be done."

I was watching an episode of West Wing where the character Sam Seaborn does an "intervention" on his colleague Josh Lyman:

"Get on with the business the voters sent you there to do instead of striking poses and shouting Gotcha"

So this is an intervention

The whole of Scotland wants to see a different sort of question time. We don't need to ape Westminster's manners or methodology. We're different. We are different.

We don't want the under-researched guff that we've been served up in recent weeks. We don't want to see the opposition parties step on a rake that hits them square in the face.

I was utterly embarrassed for Iain Gray when he came out with the womens' highers question. There is no need for this.

Sure, we, the watching public like combat and badinage but we also like to see real questions with proper purpose. If a question is there to further a goal for the people of Scotland, then we'll have all you have of these. If it is an attempt to create outrage on a piffling detail... say about a bridge for example... then shut yer geggie and find a better question that proves you are there to represent your constituents or in the case of list MSPs, your fellow Scots.

We also don't want  "would the First Minister agree with me that ..." back-slapping questions from the home team. We can do better.

Let's see some constructive criticism from the opposition benches.
I'm up for anyone being critical if they can engage in being part of the solution.

Lots of the work done in our Parliament is done through committees and there is a great mix of voices there. Ideas are discussed and consensus is sought. We also have opportunities throughout the week for MSP's to quiz our Ministers with portfolio. Lots of the meat and potatoes goes on in those sessions too.

So ahead of this week's FMQs:

Unionist parties

We know you hate the SNP, that's a given. But remember why you have a desk in the chamber. You are there to serve the People of Scotland. We don't want a copy of Westminster's PMQs where we get told we are too wee too poor every minute, we want a proper Q&A.

So go do your homework and make it a profitable exchange for you and the Government and stop making wee sound-bite questions designed solely to make the BBC news. We are on to you.

And please stop thumping your desk. Do you know what that does to the T-loop people in the gallery? aaaaaarrrghgghh

Home Team

This is the only opportunity we get to get your word out. Let's have some probing questions from you too. We want to hear where we are at with projects, what's in the pipeline. C'mon, let's have some of your best stuff.

I look forward to FMQs and I look forward to us getting on with Scottish business...together.

Rant over.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

National Security

Last night during the Investigatory Powers Bill debate in the House of Commons, Joanna Cherry QC MP challenged the Government to define "National Security" as she noted the phrase was peppered throughout the draft IP Bill without definition.

Immediately, Tories rose to their feet to intervene.
Joanna gave way and one Tory MP, who, in the most patronising tone he could muster, said that she was not to worry about such things and just let it pass.

But why should she let it pass?

Why haven't we got a definition of what constitutes National Security for the purposes of the IP Bill?

The UK Govt gets to do a lot of weird stuff in the name of "National Security" like:

Seal the files on the death of David Kelly and of the Dunblane massacre for 70 years
Spy on Trade Unionists
Redact important historical documents
Issue DA notices to ensure news blackouts on certain subjects
Take out Superinjunctions
Visit newspaper editors and tell them to spike stories
Call off police investigations into paedosadist rings
Designate juicy or mundane stuff about our elected representatives as "highly sensitive material"

"National Security" seems to be the catch all phrase you can just trot out when you don't want the populace to know about stuff. A trump card that can be placed on the table when you want the investigation into something to stop.

There are heaps of people employed in the business of this undefined "National Security":

"The National Security Secretariat provides coordination on security and intelligence issues of strategic importance across government. Separately, the Joint Intelligence Organisation produces independent all-source assessments on issues of national security and foreign policy importance. By supporting the work of the National Security Council and the Joint Intelligence Committee respectively, they provide advice on these issues to the Prime Minister and other senior ministers".

Here is the only published detail about those whose business is "National Security"

Every Nation has to protect it's People. That's a given. But let us hear a definition of the reasoning behind the language that will shape the duties and processes of that protection.

Dig your heels in Joanna Cherry.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Would that feed a family of four?

Tootling about the supermarket, I ventured into the icy air of the butchery aisle and stood eyeing up all the lumps of pork that were on offer. I picked a few up and inspected them for crackling potential, then placed them back on the shelf. Then, having found the perfect joint, I popped it in my trolley. As I did so, the older lady beside me spoke:

"Would that feed a family of four?"

She had in her hand a piece of rolled belly pork.
I said:  "depends what you want to do with it".
She explained she was a vegetarian, that she didn't have a clue about buying meat, and then she told me why she was buying it:

"My son in law lost his job in the Oil & Gas Industry a few months back".

"Oh I'm sorry to hear that. Who did he work for"? She didn't know the name of the Company.

All she knew was that he worked in Subsea and hadn't had any contracts in months and that the Company had let them all go.

She was tall, elegantly dressed and smartly spoken. I'm guessing an ex school teacher and somewhere in her late seventies. She was a Granny determined to see her daughter and grandchildren got fed.

I peeked at the rest of the contents of her trolley. All the basics were there.

"How long have you been doing this"? I ventured.

"A couple of weeks" she said.

"My daughter's got herself a wee part time job, but there is nothing on the horizon for John".

I tried to buoy her up with a few encouraging words...  but none of them were enough to lift her gaze from the terrazzo floor. She thanked me for my help choosing the pork and turned her trolley round to continue with her task. I wished her all the best.

As she left the aisle, I was left thinking how many other families were being bolstered up by Granny?

One of my family tells the tale of the never-ending pot of jam that his Granny would leave in his mother's cupboard during the strike at Longbridge in the West Midlands in the 1970's; How they all grew veg and helped each other out. He talks of those times fondly as if it was the best adventure he ever had. He proudly tells of a community that got together and rode out the strike. But this is different. This is not an Oil & Gas community helping each other out. These are retired people keeping their families afloat...on the quiet.

Being in the shire of Aberdeen, I hear tales of ROV Operators now working as security guards, OIM's taking any job they can get, and of wives returning to work for the first time in decades. This is as much of an economic crisis for these people as a strike, but there is no perceivable community response. Some Oil & Gas people lived 'high off the hog' when times were good, their lifestyles expanding to fit the income available. They do not understand poverty.

Houses are on the market, sports bikes and numerous 'man toys' are up for sale, pawn shops. I understand, are doing a roaring trade.

When an equally well paid sector fell on hard times, the UK Government were quick to bail out the bankers
who returned to bolly and bonuses in no time. But no-one is lining up to help the Oil & Gas sector deal with these lay-offs.

I don't know how long the Grannies can hold out.