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Devolution dilemma

Laura Kuenssberg | 13:35 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

During my couple of days' absence, another transatlantic political story has come to dominate proceedings.

Not the row over the representation of the NHS in the United States, but the possible release of the only person ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the UK's worst ever terrorist attack.

I won't seek here to add to discussion of the mechanics of the decision, or its likely outcome. My colleague, Brian Taylor has written comprehensively about the Scottish government's decision making process here.

Abdelbaset Ali al-MegrahiYet whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, and whether or not Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is released, it creates an interesting conundrum in the post devolution world.

The decision on whether to give him his freedom will be made finally by Kenny MacAskill, the SNP Scottish Justice Minister, and member of the Holyrood Parliament.

Not Gordon Brown, not the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, not anyone at the Foreign Office, not anyone in Westminster.

We have heard considerably more from the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on the subject than any of our Westminster politicians - she's made her views plain again today.

That's because despite the massive interest, and its potential impact on foreign policy, in the end this is a legal decision, and as such under devolution it is the Scottish Parliament that has jurisdiction over the law.

Foreign policy is not devolved, and power over matters relating to the UK's relation to the world is retained by the UK government. And of course the decision over Megrahi does have consequences for the UK's relationship with Libya.

There has been a lot of speculation over what role the rapprochement between the two governments has played in all of this. (You might remember Colonel Gaddafi met Tony Blair in a Bedouin tent in 2004, signalling his move from pariah to international partner).

But no matter. This is a decision for the Scottish government in Edinburgh despite the foreign policy implications. And given the hostility between the Labour Party and the Scottish Nationalists, a word in the ear from London would hardly be welcome.

And just in the last hour, the International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, has made it clear, this is not a Westminster decision.

To my mind this is a striking consequence of devolution.

It's no surprise that decisions over health, for example, can have immediate consequences for the border regions of the UK, and have led to some levels of resentment in England where some things have to be paid for that are still free in Scotland or Wales.

But this case shows starkly that Holyrood and Cardiff can still have massive influence even over areas of policy that are not technically in their gift.

When Mr MacAskill takes to the podium to pronounce his final decision, expected tomorrow, he will be all too aware of that.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    'You might remember Colonel Gaddafi met Tony Blair in a Bedouin tent in 2004, signalling his move from pariah to international partner'
    Yes Colonel Gaddafi did a lot for Tony Blair...

  • Comment number 2.

    As Gordon Brown probably said when returning to his constituency.

    "Vidi Vici Veni - aaaaah devolution"

    Gordon and the other loonie lefties have worked tirelessly to destroy the Union.

    They have succeeded.

    Consequence is over shadowed by self interest and a deep rooted hatred for the United Kingdom and England.
    If Gordon abdicates now, he will go down in history as the conqueror of the English.

    Maybe we are locking up the wrong kind of terrorist.
    What about the political terrorists who operate from within the government to undermine our rights and freedom?
    These are the most dangerous terrorists of all.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2 Invader-Zim

    "a deep rooted hatred for the United Kingdom".

    I find the UK somewhat distasteful as a political entity, but I don't share your deep-rooted hatred for it. As for England, your hatred for it seems wholly inappropriate. Have to say I rather like the place.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good subject choice Laura and you make some good observations as well:

    Although it has often been speculated that the conviction of Al Megrahi is unsafe, there was/did appear to be physical evidence tying him to the plot, which is I guess what the Americans seem to be getting so worked up about.

    Pity they dont show the same high level of political interest when their weekend A10 pilots shoot the living daylights out of our troops in APC's in blue on blue kills, eh?

    But there has been an awful lot speculated on this, with regard to Iranian and Syrian involvement, plus the PFLP-GC, as well as the Libyans.

    Now considering the Libyans took a look at what happened to Saddam and thought they didnt want to be next - not to mention Israel's sabre rattling against Iran - this could have all been part of the deal that killed off the Libyan nuclear project and brought them back in from the diplomatic chill, then opening up thier defence markets to our (ie US/UK) conglomerates and their oil industry as well... back to the old vested interests, the military/industrial complex... God, my head hurts..

    So far as devolution is concerned, another idea with a poor implementation. Just give all three, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales full independance and let them get on with it. I'm sure Mr Salmond would think twice about playing these kind of games if he had to pay any kind of political price for this kind of chicanery.

    Meanwhile they get to take the decisions, we're the ones who take the kicking from the international community.

    Nice work, NL. Thats the way to do it...... Not.

  • Comment number 5.

    Laura @ zero

    You might remember Colonel Gaddafi met Tony Blair in a Bedouin tent, signalling his move from pariah to international partner

    yes I do remember, Laura, and I remember thinking "gosh! ... wish I could meet Tony in a tent" and also musing that the very fact Colonel G had done so, probably meant that he ... Gaddafi ... was now a global player of the very first order

    and now this

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mr Mackaskill has an unenviable decision to take but I trust Alec Salmond more than anyone else when he says he trusts him to take the right decision.

    This is turning into what can only be called a diplomatic problem between the US and the British government.

    Mr MacKaskill is under pressure from both sides.

    In the end the law is the law and must be abided by no matter how distasteful it may seem to some.

  • Comment number 8.

    How much pressure is the Westminster government putting on Scotland to agree the release of a mass murderer in the hope that there will be financial gain from trade with Lybia ? None of the conspiracy theories wash , he was found guilty by due and unbiased process , deserves his punishment,and the relatives of the people he killed deserve their pound of flesh. Is this another of Lord Peter's little ploys to ingratiate himself internationally ? Maybe when he dined with Ghadaffi junior in Corfu there was the promise of nice holiday villas on the Lybian riviera. Maybe the lure of the unlimited oil and gas under the Lybian desert looks more attractive than the prospect of an independent Scotland bagging the North sea for it's own.

  • Comment number 9.

    It is indeed an interesting case where a devolved power can effectively enable Holyrood to have (albiet very limited) control over a reserved power. Personally I would like to see the decision made purely on the grounds as to what is best for Scotland and the UK as a whole, rather than simply follow America's line. The special relationship between the UK and the US is no-where near as strong as it was in the Blair-Bush days. Remember America has lied to the UK about transporting Guantanamo detainees on UK soil, American church groups provided funding for the IRA during the troubles in Northern Ireland, the extradition policy is one-sided. Years of sucking up to America has led to a special relationship where America is most certainly in control. If it is benificial to Britain to release al-Megrahi due to access to oil in Syria then release him.

    WRT the Union and devolution, we in Scotland had a refurendum regarding the creation of a Scottish Parliament. It's called Democracy, and it has brought a great many benifits to Scotland. We elected the SNP, (who, I might add, I am not a supporter of) using a fairer system than that used by Westminster, who then appointed Kenny MacAskill as Justice Secretary. If the decission proves to be the wrong one then the democratic process will ensure that those responsible are held to account, either through the next election or by the actions of other parties in Holyrood. That is how the system works and it is, by and large, a fair one. Much fairer than that used in Westminster. We may have destroyed the Union, but we have deffinately improved Scotland.

  • Comment number 10.

    apparently lord mandelson met gadaffi's son last week on holiday... so although it is a scottish decision i doubt it is a decision taken without the say so of the UK government... there has obviously a deal been done, which is why Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi abandoned his appeal......

  • Comment number 11.

    Just a small point regarding Laura's comments about drugs being available in Scotland and not England causing resentment. Firstly there are many drugs available in England NOT avialable in Scotland. The BBC never seems to mention this (in the same way it doesn't mention the £3000 a year tax per year of study that Scottish Students recieving 'free university courses' have to pay). Secondly the reason Scotland gets drugs faster than England is that its own version of NICE is more streamlined and with a simpler job. All it has to decide is whether the drug does what the drug company claim. England has an overblown and ridiculously expensive middle management structure in its health system that has been greatly reduced by Scotland. Rather than complaining about 'inequality' the English NHS would do well to copy the Scottish model.

  • Comment number 12.

    #4 Fubar_Saunders
    "I'm sure Mr Salmond would think twice about playing these kind of games if he had to pay any kind of political price for this kind of chicanery."

    What "chicanery" would that be?

    There has been none from the Scottish government to date.

    OTOH there has been a good deal of it from the BBC who started the story and the print media who have attempted to turn it into an anti home rule crusade, not to mention the NuLab Britnats who want their cake in the form of a Libyan trade deal and a nibble at some bashing of the SNP at the same time.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 13.

    #10 jolo13
    "there has obviously a deal been done, which is why Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi abandoned his appeal"

    Yes, obviously. The "noble" First SoS's trade department gets Libyan trade deals while MacAskill gets put in the stocks and pelted with rotten vegetable matter by the BBC, the staunchly unionist press and Mandy's chum Murphy, the Scottish SoS.

    How equitable.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 14.

    Jurisdiction over Scots Law, is more important than any theorizing on foreign policy. This was the biggest terrorist attack on British - read Scottish - soil, I would far rather have Holyrood ministers deliberate on the matter, than the bunch of unelected, incompetents at Westminster.

    Just out of curiosity, are those feigning anger over devolution in action, actually more comfortable with the idea of this going before Straw, and then Brown's Cabinet in the dying days of a spectacularly failed regime? The decision over the train robber - roughly summed up as no, no, yes - is not exactly what one would call best legal practice.

    In addition, all but the loonies accept that Megrahi is dying and doesn't have long, many legal scholars seek to question the basis of his conviction (especially since someone once damned as his 'chief accomplice' is now cleared and free).

    The British Government, The U.S. Federal Government and whoever else can say whatever they please; but this is a decision that should be made in Scotland under the auspices of Scots Law.

    To suggest anything else is fundamentally undemocratic.

  • Comment number 15.

    I would like to think that this is another ‘nail in the coffin’ of our current ‘one sided’ devolution arrangements. How can it be right for a decision made in Scotland, on the basis of Scottish political attitudes be allowed to impact on the National interest? It’s time that those at Westminster realised that the infant democracy they gave birth to has now come of age and wants to leave home. No surprise there then!

    Like any adolescent, it no longer wants to do what its parents tell it and will rebel at any opportunity. However, it is now totally wrong for any MP from a devolved part of the UK to have any say whatsoever in English matters. A bit like the adolescent who has left home – mum should not be still doing the dirty laundry!

    PLEASE Mr Cameron, recognise this in your manifesto – English MPs only to vote on devolved matters!

  • Comment number 16.

    "Not Gordon Brown, not the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, not anyone at the Foreign Office" [making the decision].

    If Magrahi were in an English prison, it still wouldn't be any of them making a decision on release.

    It would be Jack Straw the English Justice Secretary.

  • Comment number 17.

    A lot of fretting about nothing as Scottish law is worthless in the face or the real powers that be and Mandelson gives little thought to anybody's feelings when he is supping his Mythos and chewing his lobster in the Taverna Agni and doing off the record deals. All his friends repeatedly confirmt hat this is what he does and what he does best so why should be think anything different. Shamed out of Government twice and bundled back in as a LORD to save Brown's bruised bottom.

    The man will go free... the trade deal will be done. mandy will smile wryly at the camera's and labour will have stuck their fingers up at once more.

    Forget whether we are English or Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish (I'm two of those) and unite against the corruption that emanates from Westminster.

    It is highly despicable.

  • Comment number 18.

    #16
    Hello Oldnat, this could turn into a very interesting post.

  • Comment number 19.

    O! the horror of it. The decision not with the illustrious statesman The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw High Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

  • Comment number 20.

    The BBC's ignorance of Scotland would appear to be unlimited. Criminal Law in Scotland is not part of the Act of Union and therefore cannot be devolved by another country's parliament. It is as simple as that. The Justice Secretary will come to a decision after taking advice given to him by law officers in Scotland.

  • Comment number 21.

    #15 FalmouthBoy

    "it is now totally wrong for any MP from a devolved part of the UK to have any say whatsoever in English matters"

    You won't find any argument on that from the SNP (or from most Scots voting for the Unionist parties for that matter).

    In 2006 Salmond, said: "In England, people quite rightly resent Scottish Labour MPs bossing them about on English domestic legislation. England has as much right to self government as Scotland does."

  • Comment number 22.

    #15 FalmouthBoy
    "PLEASE Mr Cameron, recognise this in your manifesto – English MPs only to vote on devolved matters!"

    But as this story tries to demonstrate, "devolved matters" can have ramifications in unexpected areas and as The_Hess's #9 points out, Scotland is now far more democratic than England, along with Wales & Northern Ireland.

    What's needed is root and branch reform of the constitution, finally killing the silly idea of "sovereignty in Parliament" and establishing a democratically elected English parliament with a much smaller UK confederal government as a servant of the home nations rather than their master.

    Failing that, England will soon be left alone with its own "peculiar institution" of Westmidden left to fester in its antiquity. Having roots in all three mainland nations, I'd be unhappy to see that, but if England cannot bear to part with the least democratic system in the EU then at least the other home nations can remove themselves from the rotting corpse.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 23.

    The Home Secretary used to have powers regarding the sentencing of prisoners, until the Europoean Court decided (rightly) that members of the leglislature (MPs) should cary out judicial fucntions. Now such matters are deicded by an independent board. (NOT Justcie Secretary Jack Straw, as some posters have said).

    Given this, why does a member of the Scottish leglislature have judicial powers?

  • Comment number 24.

    Why would Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi drop his appeal? If as Kenny MacAskill and member of the Holyrood Parliament claim, no quid-pr-quo of release on compassionate grounds was discussed, neither Megrahi nor Ghadaffi had any way of knowing that release was on the cards. Megrahi would simply be abandoning his claim to be innocent and resigning himself to dying in prison. There is only one conclusion..a deal was struck to prevent the appeal hearing and disclosure of a miscarriage of justice with the connivance of several governments. Releasing him on compassionate grounds stinks and is an insult to the families of all the vistims. Dress it up as you will, Scottish jurisprudence has been discredited and the rest of the UK will be held in equal odium by the USA and other countries who won't understand Blair's flawed devolution model. MInd you, most people in the UK don't understand it either.

  • Comment number 25.

    #9

    Completely agree that Scotland had a democratic vote on devolution. Good on them. My problem is that the democratic way would have been to give all members of the union a voice. This was not the fault of the Scots but the fault of New Labour and has led to this increasingly bizarre democratic system. Mind you under NL we are now controlled by unelected Lords. Who would have thought it in 1997?

  • Comment number 26.

    12/13#

    Forgive me Brownedov, I dont want to come across as having a go at Scottish devolution per se. I dont doubt what you say as what has actually happened, in the way the story has been manipulated by the MSM, particularly Auntie Beeb. I can see why you reached the conclusion you did.

    My intention was effectively to state that so far as Mr Salmond is concerned, regardless of the decision, he cant lose, politically. It is a matter for Scottish justice, regardless of the position on devolution, but UK-wide Foriegn policy is not - not yet anyway. Yes, it means that NL can absolve themselves of any kind of responsibility and throw mud at an MSP to detract from what kind of unpleasant business they are almost certainly conducting behind the scenes... I just find myself getting more and more exasperated. Salmond, in my very humble opinion, remembering him from my 8 years in Scotland when he was an MP in Westminster for Banff & Buchan, was a one trick pony and someone I took a dislike to rather rapidly. My judgement on him, therefore is somewhat coloured.

    One day, I have a feeling, when Scotland does have her independance, he is going to over-reach himself and it wont be just him who will pay a political price for it. IMVHO, his ego is only surpassed by the current member for Kircaldy.

    Not that I have any facts to base it on, I'm afraid what I see I dont like.

  • Comment number 27.

    22#

    I never would have thought I'd have read your post six months ago and found myself agreeing with it in total, but I do.

  • Comment number 28.

    21- oldnat

    Although the SNP are a bit far to the left for my liking, as a proud Cornishman and a fellow Celt, I think this is one matter on which Mr Salmon and I probably agree.

  • Comment number 29.

    As a supporter of devolution (but not independance) I personally think that each of the 4 countries within the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) should have their own parliament with similar powers to Holyrood. There should then be a genuine central UK Government (2 houses: one FPTF voting, the other PR (no undemocratic House of Lords!)) which then oversees the reserved powers. Where there is a crossover of powers (as in this case where a devolved power affects a reserved power) the central UK Government must reach a consensus with the regional Parliament. The voting system for each Parliament must be identicall, possibly the current system used in Scotland, the AMS.

  • Comment number 30.

    # 15 FalmouthBoy

    'How can it be right for a decision made in Scotland, on the basis of Scottish political attitudes be allowed to impact on the National interest'
    Because the law, in Scotland, has to do with Scotland and not the UK.

    'Like any adolescent, it no longer wants to do what its parents tell it and will rebel at any opportunity'
    That's the difference between you and I. I saw the union as a marriage whereas you see England as the parent and the other nations as its kids. No wonder we want our independence when you still support this type of thinking.

    'However, it is now totally wrong for any MP from a devolved part of the UK to have any say whatsoever in English matters'
    I agree. So why don't you try for independence for England?

  • Comment number 31.

    #23 tom_p_willis

    It is nothing to do with sentencing. Our Justice Secretary has no powers over that either.

    The question of prison transfer is dealt with by the same act (Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984) The "relevant Minister" makes the decision - depending on which legal jurisdiction the case falls.

    If release on compassionate grounds is being considered, the arrangements are similar in both Scotland and England, but they come under different Acts. In Scotland it is dealt with in the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993.

  • Comment number 32.

    #26 Fubar_Saunders
    "My intention was effectively to state that so far as Mr Salmond is concerned, regardless of the decision, he cant lose, politically."

    You may be right in the long term, as the unionist media have collectively gone so far OTT that even previous NuLab voters may see through them. For reasons I cannot pretend to understand, many still do not see through Duff Gordon although more are, to say the least, suspicious of Lord Mandy.

    In the short term, Brian Taylor's new thread is more on the money suggesting that it's a no-win situation for MacAskill and, by implication, Salmond.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 33.

    Certain facts about this case are being deliberately suppressed in case they damage Libya's rehabilitation.(or reveal that the uk has knowingly participated in a cover up).

    That makes it almost impossible to make a judgement what's happening here.

    Lets hope the SNP do have access to all the facts or they could be perpetrating a huge injustice (either on the bomber or victims, depending on his guilt or innocence in the light of the evidence which would have been presented at appeal) whilst making their political point.

  • Comment number 34.

    Unfortunately now this has very little to do with Mr Magrachi's health and more to do with the small perochial leaders of the most expensive debating society in history trying and miserably failing to impress the world as to their capability.
    They may think that they are players but they are actually just in the stadium in row Z with a restricted view.
    The Scottish executive should not be involved in this as they have suddenly realised the magnitude of the political decision and it is poitical that they have to make and are dithering without a clue what to do.
    And the probability is that if they decide to release him the Americans will immediately start extradition proceedings

  • Comment number 35.

    What an amazing set up. The scots will make a decision, then the rest of us will have to accept the fall-out regardless of the fact we have no power over the scottish government.

    Given the politics of the scottish 'nationalists' I would have thought they would be gloating over the prospect of causing friction between the UK and the US.

    I think the London government needs to be doing more to publicise that the fact that the scots are responsible for this, not the English. Most people around the world would not be aware of this ridiculous situation - they may well think this is still one country.

    The sooner England can have a referendum to see whether we still want to be saddled with the scots etc the better.

  • Comment number 36.

    #27 Fubar_Saunders
    Thanks.

    #28 FalmouthBoy
    Good to hear it, and do I hope you realise that the Liberal Party are one of the very few advocating home rule for Cornwall.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 37.

    Fubar , h speaks equally highly of you!
    Just name the politicains you do like, that should make for interesting , if short ,reading.

  • Comment number 38.

    #29 The_Hess

    As Deep Throat said "follow the money". Your scheme can only work if there is fiscal autonomy for each of the four nations (or 5 FalmouthBoy), as otherwise the UK Parliament will prioritise spending on its responsibilities to the detriment of "devolved" functions. Your model then becomes more like the one Brownedov suggests in his #22.

    Probably most of us here would agree that the current model of asymmetric devolution was created to shore up Labour at Westminster rather than with genuine democracy. England's democratic deficit makes the current structure inherently unstable.

    I recognise that the polls suggest that there is not (yet!) a majority for my position of ending the UK Union, and my guess would be that a majority would support some form of Confederal UK.

    Though if foreign policy continues on its current course, then support for the idea of the Brits deciding our policy will evaporate.

  • Comment number 39.

    This is ridiculous, not to mention immature!!! Why is Hillary Clinton getting all bent out of shape over this? I can understand her sentaments if they were considering releasing him into the comunity without so much as a parole officer, but they're not. They're most likely considering sending him to a jale in his homeland of Libya. So he'll probably finish serving out his sentence there anyway. And if he doesn't? Tough! We don't all get everything we want in this life do we!! What a bunch of immature selfish imbeciles!! God! Even Ted Kennedy and John Kerry sent an impassioned letter asking for him not to be released!!

    If one of these senators or Secritary of State Clinton were to ask any current or former world leader or diplomatic official for an honest sighting of something that the US has done that they didn't or don't particularly like very much, I have no doubts that they could, if they were brave enough, rattle off a list of things. So what makes us think that we get to have our way with all of our international partners and that they should never do anything to anger us?

    In order to have a friend you have to be a friend. Unfortunately, the United States government hasn't quite yet grasped this little concept, despite existing for over 200 years.

  • Comment number 40.

    re my #31. Sorry typo! The relevant Act is 1933.

  • Comment number 41.

    #34 Respect_Will_Return

    More! More!

    I love it when Unionists are patronising. It does so much for the cause.

  • Comment number 42.

    3. At 2:10pm on 19 Aug 2009, oldnat

    Ofcourse the deep rooted hatred thingemy bob refers to your mate Gordon and his cabinet of clowns.

    They are instigators of hatred for the Union.

    I however find the union nice and cuddly.

  • Comment number 43.

    The only people who do not want a fully devolved UK are Labour themselves as they will lose all the power that they have abused so far.

    Cameron probably won't devolve either because then he loses his 'international statesman' status.

    Lets face it the only people who really benefit from a 'United (laughable word) Kingdom' are Politicians.

    Come on Scotland, show us English the way. Devolve and claim full independance.

    We the English are with you all the way!

    Time for a revolution!



  • Comment number 44.

    On the issue of releasing terrorists, British suspects held a Guantanamo? A chance to stick two fingers to the US and say right back at you?!?

  • Comment number 45.

    #42 Invader-Zim

    Sir (or perhaps Madam)! That is an unforgivable calumny!

    To suggest that I could ever be a "mate" of someone who supports Raith Rovers displays your lack of comprehension.

  • Comment number 46.

    Laura:

    but the possible release of the only person ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the UK's worst ever terrorist attack.

    I saw the Presser on Tuesday Afternoon (Eastern), that Hillary Clinton was saying that she was still opposed to the potential released of the Lockerbie Bomber...

    NB: I am from the U.S. and, I was previously associated with the Syracuse Area where the passengers on the plane were attending school..

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    #35jon112uk
    "The sooner England can have a referendum to see whether we still want to be saddled with the scots etc the better."

    We have been saying "The sooner Scotland can have a referendum to see whether we want to be saddled with the English etc the better" for some time now, looks like we both want the same thing - self government - as Wendy said "Bring it on"

    #39. NoRashDecisions - well said

  • Comment number 49.

    Fubar_Saunders #4. . .

    "Pity they dont show the same high level of political interest when their weekend A10 pilots shoot the living daylights out of our troops in APC's in blue on blue kills, eh?"

    Indeed. Not just a pitty, a shame. A crying shame!! And to think I actually once naively thought that we would start to treat you as the equal partners you are when Obama took over!! Do you know of the details of any refusal of extraditions or cooperation on the prosicutions of any such "pilots" from the Obama administration? Could you share them with me? If you could I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.


    "Now considering the Libyans took a look at what happened to Saddam and thought they didnt want to be next - not to mention Israel's sabre rattling against Iran - this could have all been part of the deal that killed off the Libyan nuclear project and brought them back in from the diplomatic chill, then opening up their defence markets to our (ie US/UK) conglomerates and their oil industry as well... back to the old vested interests, the military/industrial complex... God, my head hurts.."

    God I do hope you're wrong! Instead of deciding to give up their weapons programs after having been threatened into it as you suggest, I rather hope this breakthrough was achieved through pationt listening and nigociation. But knowing Bush and Blair, your assumption is sadly probably right. And regarding the military industrialised complex, I thought we were the only nation that was that utterly selfish. You mean to tell me that other nations are just as selfish as we are? Depressing world!!

  • Comment number 50.

    #29 The_Hess

    Trouble is with your suggestion that any "central UK Government ... which then oversees the reserved powers" would be a top-down process dictating matters both devolved and external based on the overwhelming predominance of English votes, as in the present system. This would not be acceptable to the other nations for long. In contrast, a bottom-up confederal polity would, by limiting the power of the federal government via the nations holding of the purse-strings, would be feasible as well as economical.

    I also fail to understand why you wish to retain the power of the parties and the whips by retaining the 1872 plurality system. What's wrong with STV, as used for Scottish Council elections? Had the recent euro elections been held using STV in 3- or 5-member constituencies, no BNP MEPs would have been elected, which belies the usual arguments about only the plurality system stopping extremists.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 51.

    Laura,

    When you refer to "the Scottish Government", shouldn't that read "Scottish Executive"? I know that Alex Salmond has pretensions to grandeur, but I didn't think that the Scotland Act had been amended to suit his ambitions. He can call it what he likes, but legally it is "Scottish Executive", and it would be nice if the BBC could get that right surely.

  • Comment number 52.

    #45 oldnat

    Leave Raith Rovers out of it, some of us are afflicted!

  • Comment number 53.

    #52 skintybroko

    Apologies duly offered! :-)

  • Comment number 54.

    If my memory still works, the Scottish and English law systems always remained separate after the Act of Union. Again, the trial of the "Lockerbie Bomber" occured in 2000, after "Scottish devolution" had been implemented.

    I believe that the UK Government - i.e. the Westminster based Parliament - retains "control" over the Foreign and Defence policy on behalf of the whole UK.

    It's interesting that a Scottish Minister could decide to release a person convicted as a killer by a Scottish court, under local laws (whether he was soley responsible or not even involved is immaterial), while the foreign policy implications affect the whole of the UK.

    The USA can't bring direct pressure to bear on the Scots (as this is just a part of an Internationally recognised State), so any bad reaction will be a hit on the UK government. It's a bit like the UK getting cross with Texas, or Bavaria..., but only being able to talk to the central governments.

    The International Investigation Panel seemed to believe that the bag that produced the bomb came out of Malta. The aircraft departed from Heathrow. Had the explosion occured several minutes either way of the actual event, then jurisdiction could have been within England - or maybe even in international waters (and I'm not sure who could have claimed jurisdiction then. Any suggestions?).

    I worked at Heathrow when an explosive came off a Libyan Arab Airline's flight and physically damaged people I worked with. Knowing that some of that airline's representatives were very doubtful people to be close to.

    It used to be the Eastern European Block that engaged in "RealPolitik".

    I don't like much of US or UK foreign policy. Don't really have a lot of faith in many of the Ministers involved in "overseas" activities.

    But it seems odd that UK oil interests could benefit if a convicted killer could go home to die...

  • Comment number 55.

    then again, imagine an independent Scotland and this would STILL be an issue, wouldn't it? ... i.e. decisions taken in one (small) country can impact the foreign policy interests of a larger entity of which it is a part - in the "post Union" scenario, that being either still some sort of UK ... since Scotland wouldn't have its own foreign policy, defence policy, military ... or (more sensibly) EUROPE - in fact, chasing that line of thought, what this really indicates is the inexorable logic of foreign/defence policy being handled at the European level - because, okay, Scotland is definitely too small to count for much on the fabled "World Stage" but so, to be frank, is the UK - yes let's devolve all this to Europe, that's the answer

  • Comment number 56.

    #53 OLDNAT

    Apology accepted ;-)

  • Comment number 57.

    #51 stickandrudderfan

    Wrong! If you're going to be picky, it's best to check your facts first. Legally the "Scottish Executive" is: The First Minister, such Ministers as the First Minister may appoint under section 47 of the Scotland Act 1998, and the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

    The Scotland Act 1998 does, however, refer to the "Scottish Administration" rather than the Scottish Government. If the UK parliament was unhappy about the distinction between the words "Administration" and "Government" it would be surprising that they allow the Scottish Government website to exist, and even stranger that Directgov's Government in Scotland should tell us that: "The Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of Scotland."

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 58.

    #55 sagamix

    A sensible post! The problem with sharing defence and foreign affairs only with the rest of the UK is its asymmetric nature. Unless it were something like "one nation, one vote" a la UN, then UK policy would be English only.

    Europe makes far more sense for this level of government as it would be virtually impossible to secure approval for any action which wasn't purely defensive, or clearly UN sanctioned.

  • Comment number 59.

    Probably unbeknownst to his family, the release of Ronnie Biggs on 'COMPASSIONATE GROUNDS' was a precursor to the release of the Lockerbie bomber on the same grounds, so that we, residents of the U.K., were primed and ready for the latter.
    I do not know what has happened in between, but it all appears to have gone 'pear shaped'. Surely with all the furore over the extradition of Mr.Mckinnon, nothing now coming from the USA should surprise us.
    We have reached and then quickly over-reached the 200 of our troops in that far and foreign land who have died for Brown and Blair. Brown alleges that our troops are fighting for our protection. I have never heard such unmitigated rubbish in all my life; again we sent our troops there at the bidding of those two (I will refrain from a full description as I will be moderated)--------.

  • Comment number 60.

    #57 Brownedov

    Bowled like an Australian! (It's really sad when posters use inexact terms like "Aussie" "and it would be nice if [they] could get that right surely.")

  • Comment number 61.

    Many of those who have commented seem to have forgotten that an important principle, which is part of the rule of law, is that decisions on individual legal cases should not be made in response to political pressure, but only on the basis of established rules. A democratically elected parliament might change those rules, but should not make changes to be applied retrospectively to an individual case.

    As, to his credit Alex Salmond has pointed out, the case of Mr Magrahi should be judged in exactly the same way as the case of any other convicted murderer with similar health problems would under Scottish law. The opinions of politicians or relatives of victims, or matters of international relations are not relevant.

  • Comment number 62.

    This is what happens when a bunch of political lightweights gets into power and starts gratuitously messing about with our time-honoured political institutions, with little thought or care for the consequences. Devolution was always ill-conceived, half-baked in its implementation and destined to undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom - what a terrific idea.

    God knows why the Labour Party thought we'd be better off as four dysfunctional nations in one, so to speak. But then again, virtually everything that this Labour Government has touched has turned into an unmitigated shambles. The Megrahi issue is just another symptom of the underlying cause: an utterly incompetent and pointless political party holding power, now being good and truly rumbled after a decade or more of spin, flim-flam, over-legislation, profligacy and, above all else, administrative incompetence.

    The sooner we get these clowns out of office, ideally for good, the better.

  • Comment number 63.

    Gordon silently pulling the strings from his bunker. Ever the control freak, even on holiday?

  • Comment number 64.

    Fubar_Saunders, The post at #49 is from me (NoRashDecisions.) I don't know why the name that was ascribed my post was done so. But so as not to confuse you...

  • Comment number 65.

    Its odd that just before a lot of major goverment U turns a certain Lord with a 37 word job title seams to have had meetings (often at private functions or at expensive locations) with key opponants to the existing policy that the U turn undoes.

  • Comment number 66.

    #61 stanblogger

    "A democratically elected parliament might change those rules, but should not make changes to be applied retrospectively to an individual case."

    Unfortunately, English constitutional law (under which the UK Parliament operates) is not necessarily democratic.

    A classic example is the use by David Blunkett in 2004 of the royal prerogative to implement the one way extradition of people from the UK to the USA (and another 107 countries, many with dubious human rights records).

    No debate, no parliamentary approval, no democracy.

  • Comment number 67.

    old nat @ 58

    A sensible post !!

    well there's no need to sound so amazed! - has to be the way to go, though - Common European Foreign/Defence Policy - like you say, we almost certainly wouldn't be quite so embroiled in the Middle East (would we?) if we had one of those CEFDPs

  • Comment number 68.

    #60 oldnat

    Thanks. Didn't think you were an aficionado of the game.

    Don't know about you, but Tom Lehrer's homage to Lobachevsky taught me the value of research as a teenager.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 69.

    #62 moraymint

    "our time-honoured political institutions"

    So how much "time" does it need for an institution to be "honoured", and is that a sufficient reason for it to remain unaltered?

  • Comment number 70.

    #24 Al-Megrahi dropped his appeal, because while it was still outstanding, the slim possibility of compassionate release could not even be entertained (legally). If the medical evidence is correct, he'd be dead before his appeal was heard anyway, so nowt to lose.

    #43 "Lets face it the only people who really benefit from a 'United (laughable word) Kingdom' are Politicians."
    I would suggest to you that there are a number of 1st,2nd & 3rd generation immigrants to the UK who think of themselves first & foremost as British (after all, they can never be English, Welsh etc.). The values of tolerance (religious & cultural) and a society that's inclusive are the essence of Britishness and unity not devolution and a break up into smaller & smaller parochial units.
    This is even more marked when these "British" are of mixed ethnicity. Do they prefer one part of a cultural heritage over another? Or are they now to be condemned never to belong where they're born and grow up?
    Both of my parents fled oppressive regimes (at opposite ends of the political spectrum) and found a haven (& each other) in the UK. I was born here, work and paid taxes most of my life. Without a Britain (or UK) I don't "belong" here anymore than I "belong" in my parents' homelands. My patriotism and fervour diminsh every day as I see the very ideals and structure of the society I grew up in dismantled by a Govt. sacrificing "freedom for security" and parochial navel gazers clamouring for devolution whilst every other country for 100's of miles around is moving towards unity & economic prosperity.

  • Comment number 71.

    #68 Brownedov

    Alas, I was only drawn to mention it because of stickandruddetrfan's only previous post. I then went to the ECB site to discover it seems to be a contracted version of shinty with only 2 sticks, and remarkably small goals!

  • Comment number 72.

    Your right.
    Its Scotland who have decided to release terrorists back into the public domain before they have completed their sentence not Westminsters.

  • Comment number 73.

    [quote]The decision on whether to give him his freedom will be made finally by Kenny MacAskill, the SNP Scottish Justice Minister, and member of the Holyrood Parliament.[/quote]

    so that will be "Labour" Gordon Brown, not the "Labour" Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, not anyone at the Foreign Office, not anyone in Westminster.

    We have heard considerably more from the "Democrat" US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on the subject than any of our Westminster politicians.


    As has been said already deals have been done and it is all being dropped at the Scottish Governments door , see how quiet the Scottish Secretary has been throughout all of this, see how quiet the whole of Westminster has been, because if it goes fubar then they will not be blamed.

  • Comment number 74.

    mint @ 62

    some good points there (especially about devolution) but on the wider issue of the Labour government, you're overlooking the single main positive thing they've done - something which has benefited us all (man, woman, child) immensely - and that is, they have kept the Tories out of Office for nigh on thirteen years - imagine what we've been saved from, just purely because of that - all the horrible Tory things that HAVEN'T happened

    ... a towering achievement, yes?

  • Comment number 75.

    # 69 oldnat

    My point is that you mess about with instutions and systems that have evolved over decades if not hundreds of years at your peril. I'm not arguing for no change, but the Labour Party set out to revolutionise our political institutions and our United Kingdom with insufficient consideration of the details, the timeframe and the outcomes.

    Now we have a muddled mess of UK politics, economics and constitutional arrangements which, on balance, have not made the UK better-off economically or socially. I say this as a Scot living under devolution and knowing that so much of my state services are subsidised by the wealthy citizens of the south-east of England.

    I have my doubts that Scotland could ever be truly independent in terms of its economy, its foreign and defence policy etc etc, but even if it were agreed that Scotland should head off in that direction it would take 30 to 50 years of grief to get there. Why bother?

  • Comment number 76.

    #71 oldnat
    "Alas, I was only drawn to mention it because of stickandruddetrfan's only previous post."
    OK, understood. I should have done more research.

    "it seems to be a contracted version of shinty with only 2 sticks, and remarkably small goals!"
    Priceless!

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 77.

    #70 pandatank

    The ending of all legal measures is only required for prisoner transfer. The alternative option that Kenny McAskill is required to consider is release on compassionate grounds. That depends purely on the medical reports etc that he receives, and his judgement on those.

    As to your "Britishness", it doesn't matter how many generations previously your forebears immigrated (everyone's did at some point). You are in no different a position from everyone else who prioritises "Britishness2 over other identities. Essentially, you cannot have two states sovereign over the same territory. British is no better or worse than Scottish etc. If you win, I lose. If I win, you lose. Tough, but that's democracy.

    As to "every other country for 100's of miles around is moving towards unity". The nearest ones (outwith the UK) to my home are Norway, Ireland and the Isle of Man. I'll settle for Scotland having Ireland's status - unity with Europe.

  • Comment number 78.

    #75 moraymint

    "you mess about with institutions and systems that have evolved over decades if not hundreds of years at your peril"

    True 1707 was not a good decision! Nor were the Tory inspired (Labour implemented) 1975 reorganisation of local government, and the 1996 Tory reorganisation of local government, or the Tory poll tax of 1989 or .....

    Of course, Scotland got no vote on any of these. They were imposed by a government that we hadn't elected. Scots did vote for the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament.

    I'm impressed, however that you "know" that "so much [sic] of my state services are subsidised by the wealthy citizens of the south-east of England." The UK has never published accurate accounts, and their intention to do that this year was quietly dropped. In any case, how would the position that you assume to be the case have been any different if the Scottish Parliament not existed?

  • Comment number 79.

    panda @ 70

    that's a very good point - bound to be because I've been making it (on and off) for ages - "Britishness" is a valuable concept because it is free of ethnic connotations, whereas "English" isn't - people can say it should be (and of course they do say that) but it just isn't - this is my big problem with splitting up the UK - we'd end up with an "England" that I wouldn't like one little bit - could be wrong but would prefer not to risk it - I'd actually vote for reversing devolution if that were possible

  • Comment number 80.

    74 saganix

    "the single main positive thing they've done - something which has benefited us all (man, woman, child) immensely - and that is, they have kept the Tories out of Office for nigh on thirteen years "

    ======================================
    You are absolutely right sagamix. Getting re-elected has been New Labours only real achievement, diminished slightly by the fact that they've spent almost every minute of those 13 years, and the truley staggeringly astronomical amount of taxpayers money they have spent on doing it. There are no other major achievements to speak of. They have survived. End of story.

    And survival is what it's all about now for Gordy and Mandy - and the men, women and children you speak of don't matter one iota.

  • Comment number 81.

    the_hess #9. . .

    "I would like to see the decision made purely on the grounds as to what is best for Scotland and the UK as a whole, rather than simply follow America's line."

    What fairminded, respectful person wouldn't? Unfortunately, no such people exist in our respective countries' governments at the moment.

    "The special relationship between the UK and the US is no-where near as strong as it was in the Blair-Bush days."

    Surely this is a typo? If ever there was a period in history when we ordered you around, the Blair-Bush days would be it!! Remember, the Guantanamo Bay detainee issue (or as sensable people in my country who believe in our constitution and view it as a good thing would more correctly term it,) the stripping of people in US custidy's "unalienable rights," arose, and was largely delt with during the Bush administration; not the Obama administration. Same with the extradition treaty; although I worry that the majority of our respective countries' publics are misinformed on the treaty's details, leading us to believe that it is grosely unfair when in reality it is not. A quick highly recommended Google search will help to rectify this misunderstanding. Having done so myself, I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed unfair; a discrepancy which I feel should and must be resolved immediately. However it is not unfair to the extent that many Brits like to claim. The main stipulation in the treaty which stands out to me as unfair is the demand that when the UK wishes to extradite someone from the US, they must first prove a "probable cause" that whomever they are seaking to extradite has commited a crime, whereas when
    the US wishes to extradite someone from the UK, they only need prove "reasonable suspition" of wrongdoing. They are most definatly not the same thing!! Incidentally, although I wholeheartedly agree with you that it was wrong and abhorrant for those church groups to donate to the IRA, the government in my opinion shouldn't have too big a say in what organizations church groups wish to donate to. Now certainly it could have and should have done something, and a lack of action on its part certainly justly makes it at least in part to blame for the IRA's funding and killings, but to place the blame for a few selfish ignorant churches' donations to the IRA squarely on the shoulders of the United States government is, I feel, a bit harsh and unfair.


    "Years of sucking up to America has led to a special relationship where America is most certainly in control."

    As I and others have previously pointed out on here, the most poignant example of a partnership of equals, one in which I would suspect all citizens of our respective countries wish for our governments to be engaged in, is the partnership of Thatcher and Reagan. There's was an example of an international relationship in hich can occur huge, public, passionet disagreements, with the world somehow still remaining in tact once they hhve passed. So while I agree with you on the point that years of sucking up to the US during the Blair years has lead to a special relationship where America is in controll, I personally don't think it fair to tar the entire history of our countries cooperation with the same brush.

  • Comment number 82.

    Laura:

    HEALTH CARE

    This is ongoing because, the Political class in the United States and members of the Public...Don't want to have socialized health care in the U.S....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 83.

    the_hess #44. . .

    "On the issue of releasing terrorists, British suspects held a Guantanamo? A chance to stick two fingers to the US and say right back at you?!?"

    Splended idea, only most of them have already been released, and those who haven't will be soon, as Obama has to have the thing shut down by early next year.

    But go on, stand up for yourselves and your rights!! Unfortunately, often times that is what it takes to make this selfish government listen to people.

  • Comment number 84.

    #79 sagamix

    This most recent post of yours is why I expressed surprise at your earlier one!

    I think the BNP disprove your assumption that "Britishness" "is free of ethnic connotations".

    At the same time Scots Asians have no more problem with Independence for Scotland than anyone else.

    "I'd actually vote for reversing devolution if that were possible" - a little clarity would be useful.

    Do you mean reversing political devolution, or administrative devolution? How would you plan to deal with the political institutions that are protected by the Treaty of Union? Maybe extending the Berwick and Wales Act 1746?

    You really haven't thought this through.

  • Comment number 85.

    61 stanblogger

    A"s, to his credit Alex Salmond has pointed out, the case of Mr Magrahi should be judged in exactly the same way as the case of any other convicted murderer with similar health problems would under Scottish law. The opinions of politicians or relatives of victims, or matters of international relations are not relevant."
    =======================================
    I think he should be treated the same way as anyone else who had murdered 270 people should be as well. That would make him fairly unique I would have thought.

    Alternatively, there are those of the opinion that his victims were not permitted the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones as a resault of his actions, so why should he ? And there is also a school of thought that suggests that his health is not relevant to him serving his sentence - currently standing at 2 weeks per person he murdered I believe.

  • Comment number 86.

    #70 pandatank
    "parochial navel gazers clamouring for devolution whilst every other country for 100's of miles around is moving towards unity & economic prosperity"

    I think you'll find they're not clamouring for "devolution" but self-determination, something the UK used to care about when it was written into the UN Charter and more recently over Kosovo. But you don't need to look as far as the former Yugoslavia for countries who are not exactly "moving towards unity". Belgium isn't exactly far and nor is Spain, with its Catalan and Basque "problems" (which explain why they were not "on-side" over Kosovo, BTW). Even unitary, expansionist France suffers more than a few murmurs from its own Catalans and Basques, not to mention island fiefdoms like Corsica.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 87.

    Can someone please edit this good lady's attempts at written work? Word-strings with not a finite verb in sight do not constitute sentences. Conjunctions should be joining one thing to another. Commas are not symbols to be splattered at random amongst the words. "Whether" provides a meaning alone; following it with "or not" conveys nothing. It's like reading an essay reluctantly written by some schoolchild doomed to fail O-Level English. When is the proper chap coming back?

  • Comment number 88.

    55, sagamix wrote:
    "... imagine an independent Scotland and this would STILL be an issue, wouldn't it? ... i.e. decisions taken in one (small) country can impact the foreign policy interests of a larger entity of which it is a part - in the "post Union" scenario, that being either still some sort of UK ... since Scotland wouldn't have its own foreign policy, defence policy, military ... or (more sensibly) EUROPE - in fact..., what this really indicates is the inexorable logic of foreign/defence policy being handled at the European level - because, okay, Scotland is definitely too small to count for much on the fabled "World Stage" but so, to be frank, is the UK - yes let's devolve all this to Europe, that's the answer.."

    Saga,

    If Scotland existed in a "Post-Union", independent condition, why wouldn't it have control over its foreign or defence policy? Were it independent, that would be exactly what it would have to worry about.

    "Europe" is a geographical expression. Some countries within the E.U. want that "Union" to expand to include Asia Minor (via Turkey).

    After all the decades of EEC/EU years, have you ever seen a single instance when France - supposedly a great pillar of European solidarity - hasn't pursued her own interests when she wanted? Often via military action in places where the French held sway during a Francophone Empire?

    Do you want to be dragged into a conflict in Africa to support a French initiative? Are you really happy to accept a post-colonialist power getting re-involved in "independent nations"? That's what the French do. Probably no more than I was reluctant to be dragged into rather silly Mid-East projects by Scottish born or educated UK politicians. Or would you like the UK to go and "sort out" Zimbabwe, on the assumption that the EU would back you up?

    Sorry. I forgot that you like the notion of the democracy of "one nation, one vote". Didn't see any "weighting" there, to allow for different density of population. So multi-millions would have the same "voting weight" as teeny ones?

    So Luxembourg (population a bit bigger than Birmingham) or Andorra, or Monacco should carry similar weight?

    No wonder people get fed up with "democracy". "Europe" is run by second-hand politicians (who then actually become public employees - civil servants - but posture about as though they carried the endorsement of elected politicians), with a little bit of oversight by governments who can't be bothered to say "stop" to a tsunami of laws and regulations but then shrug and say "It was just EU regulation" and nod it through into local laws.

    I've no idea why people seem to believe that the EU equates to the USA. The USA was created by blood sweat and terrible destruction of local peoples. And a common cause. But based on the imposition of a view of life that came via military power. The last two people who wanted that result for Europe were Napoleon and Hitler.

    The EU has been a totally political construct, with a disregard for the "population". In other words, the political elite KNEW far better than the people what the people actually wanted.

    OK. That's a little like what happens within the UK. Too many politicians spouting too little wisdom. But, with all my European contacts, I find it difficult to equate the requirements of the Spanish with those of the Estonians or Georgians.

    Explain how the Scots feel a strong cultural and political coherence with the Romanians and maybe I could buy in to your "European Union" beliefs.

    Especially if you could explain how a "Common Market" is supposed to exist, when the French say that "Danone" is a "protected brand" and so could never be allowed to fall into foreign hands...

  • Comment number 89.

    #79 sagamix

    I'm truly shocked by that post sagamix, having previously thought you were a democrat who had an unfortunate love affair with NuLab but might even be regaining your senses.

    Now you seem to be telling us you would ditch the UN Charter and deny self-determination to everyone. Do you not think the English have that right? And who would get to vote in an undevolution referendum? The home nations individually or the UK en bloc?

    Granted, the current asymmetric devolution mess is totally unjustifiable, but if I'm not mistaken, what you're suggesting is UKIP policy, which they plan to do by fiat if able to.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 90.

    oldnat #61 :

    "Bowled like an Australian! (It's really sad when posters use inexact terms like "Aussie" "and it would be nice if [they] could get that right surely.")"

    -------------------
    Quite right, oldnat, it was a "no ball", or more properly a wide, since both you and Brownedov seemed to miss my point. Maybe I made it badly through haste. Foreign policy, and the effect on relations with foreign countries of domestic policy, are the business of governments. Whatever it is that Alec Salmond is running north of the border, it is not a government; it is an Executive, Administration, White Heather Club, whatever you like to call it, but it is not a government. That is not intended to be offensive to Scots in general or SNP supporters in particular, but it is a fact. If it was a government it would have control of foreign policy, and then this whole affair would no doubt be a lot more troublesome to Holyrood than it is currently is. And that surely is the point of Laura's thread here.

    Given that fact, why would anyone be surprised that this situation has exposed the fault lines in the present devolution arrangements, which were designed for Labour party purposes rather than any concept of increased democracy. The whole constitutional settlement of the UK has been disturbed by Tony Blair, a bit like a school boy who throws a stone into a tranquil pond and is surprised (or more honestly uninterested) in the subsequent ripples which flood the feet of those standing on the bank. I am just surprised that it has taken so long before a similar situation arose. Nothing in the devolution arrangements was properly thought through, although I can understand why nationalists in Scotland, and to a far lesser extent in Wales, grabbed whatever was on offer. A pity that England was so disgracefully ignored, which has almost certainly sowed the seeds of future political unrest.

    As for your silly comment about "Aussie", (bad form to refer to a post on another blog without explaining its relevance to other readers by the way), I have a good many very good friends who are Australian. To a man, and woman, they refer to themselves as "Aussies", in fact they take a good deal of pride in the expression. A little like elderly Scottish nationalists who call themselves oldnat I suppose.I am told that you are (or were) a teacher. Sorry, but "4/10, must do better". ( I would do a "wink" but don't know how).

  • Comment number 91.

    48. At 4:44pm on 19 Aug 2009, skintybroko wrote:

    #35jon112uk
    "The sooner England can have a referendum to see whether we still want to be saddled with the scots etc the better."

    We have been saying "The sooner Scotland can have a referendum to see whether we want to be saddled with the English etc the better" for some time now, looks like we both want the same thing - self government - as Wendy said "Bring it on"
    ====================================

    I'm fully aware that the handful of you still left up there (not living in England) have been saying that.

    English independence from scottish rule needs to be on acceptable terms: a proper border, immigration controls etc. In particular it needs to include measures to ensure the obscene subsidies don't continue by the back door ie. the EU taking English money and giving it to the scots.

    The days of 50 million English being ruled by some obscure scot, voted in by 26,000 scots (but not a single Englishman) need to end as soon as possible.

  • Comment number 92.

    There are consequences to devolution but I do not believe this is one of them.

    I see no problem at all with the Scottish Government making the decision of whether Megrahi is released or not. This has always been a purely Scottish/American decision. As far as I can remember it was the Dumfries and Galloway constabulary which investigated the case, it happened in Lockerbie and 3 Scottish judges sentenced him to 27 years in prison. Therefore Scotland should make the decision as to when he is released no matter how it effects the UK Government. Perhaps the Americans should have some input. However, it is usual I thought, for the Country where the prisoner is being held to make the decision.

    However do not get me wrong, if Brown thought is would do him any good, he would meddle. Whatever decision the Scottish make, it will upset either the Americans or Gaddafi and Brown will be able to blame it all on the Scottish Government.

  • Comment number 93.

    #90 stickandrudderfan

    A wink is ;-)

    Your rebuke re my referencing your previous BBC post is accepted. I had assumed that Brownedov (as he usually does) would have checked your "previous". However, you confirm my point. The "Aussies" choose to call themselves that - they don't need your permission.

    As to the meaning of "government", you demonstrate a rather anglo-centric viewpoint. When I was in New South Wales, I was involved in writing part of the history syllabus for the NSW "Government". They didn't control foreign policy either.

  • Comment number 94.

    78, oldnat wrote:
    #75 moraymint
    ....."Of course, Scotland got no vote on any of these. They were imposed by a government that we hadn't elected. Scots did vote for the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament."

    Sorry, oldnat,

    I thought that the Act of Union was largely the result of the English (under a Scottish ruler) spending a heckuva lot of money to bail out the Scots, who were effectively bankrupt, so the local population had no say in the matter anyway.

    "I'm impressed, however that you "know" that "so much [sic] of my state services are subsidised by the wealthy citizens of the south-east of England." The UK has never published accurate accounts, and their intention to do that this year was quietly dropped. In any case, how would the position that you assume to be the case have been any different if the Scottish Parliament not existed?"

    Oldnat,

    The formula under which UK resources (tax-take) has been distributed to the regions of the Union has been acknowledged even by Scot politicians (who have been allowed to dominate UK government for a while) as favouring people outside of England - where the majority of tax-take has traditionally come from.

    Many Scot organisations (RBS, HBoS,) have drained the UK economy. Not sure how much Scottish money was used to extract the oil that you folk seem to believe "belonged" to Scotland...

    Mucky stuff under the sea would have stayed there if international investments hadn't got it out!

    I recall a time when the Clyde was a great shipbuilding area. Killed by what exactly? Damn silly union rules, simple cleptomania and an assumption that "somebody" would fix the massive financial issues. Who, pray?

    You seem to love the EU. Don't forget that a key driver was Charles de Gaulle. The guy who fled Frane, was a pain here, refused initially to go back to France. Then was allowed by the Allies to enter Paris as a "victor" and tell the French that they had liberated themselves!!!
    Then refused to allow the French to understand that half of them collaborated with the Nazis (remember the Vichy triumph). Then called for a Quebec Libre.

    Stomped all over the world as a great leader, while he sat in England throughout the war. Helped to create an undemocratic "Community" and paved the way for a "Union". That's the legacy you want to translate into YOUR future? Not mine.

    My children are in France. Their choice. If the UK came under attack, just how long would you guess it would take for the EU to respond?

    Nobody can attack the EU because it isn't a political entity.
    The French, Germans, Belgiums, never rushed to help when the Spanish came under terrorist attacks, did they? Thank goodness, the Italians didn't bother to deploy a significant force. I doubt their logistics chain could have supported the supply of 38BB bras that seem to be compulsory for anyone selected by their PM to be involved with Italian politics.

    Yeah. Fed up with nonsensical political posturing, while the UK economy has been driven down the tubes by (oddly) Scottish pragmatists and business leaders.

    Get real.

  • Comment number 95.

    # 87 Algol60

    I think I'll stop writing when you are on. You remind me of my old English teacher. I failed miserably to understand him too.

  • Comment number 96.

    I find it utterly astounding the number of no-nothings who are broadcasting their complete ignorance about England, Scotland and the UK as a whole, and getting their panties in bunch whilst doing so.

    Learn something about the consituational arrangements of the UK, of England, of Scotland and then come back and post your comments. The Scottish legal system has never been under the auspices of Westminster, so devolution has nothing to do with this, it's a complete red-herring because the author of this blog is just another no-nothing. So while we have a Union, regardless of any devolution arrangement, situations like this will exist.

  • Comment number 97.

    #90 stickandrudderfan
    "both you and Brownedov seemed to miss my point. Maybe I made it badly through haste."

    You're not, by any chance, Duff Gordon are you? You do seem to share that "right honouable" individual's inability to apologise after making a mistake.

    In your #51 you specifically asked Laura if the BBC could use correct legal language, viz: "Laura .... I didn't think that the Scotland Act had been amended to suit his ambitions. He can call it what he likes, but legally it is "Scottish Executive", and it would be nice if the BBC could get that right surely."

    Unfortunately for you, you did not read the Scotland Act 1998 before making these claims.

    Legally, the "Scottish Executive" is what I describe in my my #57 - the executive officers of the Scottish Administration, or in everyday parlance Scottish Government, as now used by the UK Government on the Directgov link I provided there.

    Conveniently forgetting your mistake you now say: "Foreign policy, and the effect on relations with foreign countries of domestic policy, are the business of governments. Whatever it is that Alec Salmond is running north of the border, it is not a government; it is an Executive, Administration, White Heather Club, whatever you like to call it, but it is not a government."

    There, again, you provide no evidence to support your assertion that the the word government necessarily includes control of foreign policy and relations. My old OED has a number of definitions of the word, which the House Rules do not allow me to quote here, but none suggest your assertion is a prerequisite. TheFreeDictionary definitions are much the same, likewise with no such assertion.

    Can you please provide a link or reference for your assertion or apologise?

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 98.

    #94 fairlyopenmind

    I'll forgive your comments being wholly unrelated to my comments. As to yours -

    "I thought that the Act of Union was largely the result of the English (under a Scottish ruler) spending a heckuva lot of money to bail out the Scots, who were effectively bankrupt, so the local population had no say in the matter anyway."

    You thought wrong. Queen Anne was the daughter of James VII and II. She was even less Scots than David Cameron. England wanted to secure its Northern border during your incessant wars with France (Anne also claimed the title of Queen of France).

    "The formula under which UK resources (tax-take) has been distributed to the regions of the Union has been acknowledged even by Scot politicians (who have been allowed to dominate UK government for a while) as favouring people outside of England - where the majority of tax-take has traditionally come from."

    I presume that you mean per capita tax take? Since England is by far the largest country anything else would be tautological. You should understand that the Unionist Scots politicians you talk about have been peddling this line for years - they just didn't understand that it would be heard in England. Have a look at the GERS report on tax revenue in Scotland 2007-8 - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/06/18101733/6 - 9.6% of the UK figure (mid 2007 population - Scotland had 8.44% of UK population)

    RBS and HBOS are UK institutions - Nat West/Halifax?

    "Mucky stuff under the sea would have stayed there if international investments hadn't got it out!"

    The important point is the revenue stream. UK Governments have lived off it as part of current revenue since Callaghan's day, instead of sensibly investing it as Norway and Alberta (among others did). That the UK wasted it is hardly a justification for continuing that state!

    You appear to dislike linkages with other countries (apart from mine, for some strange reason). I prefer to be an internationalist, but feel free to be a Little Englander (or Little Brit) if you wish.

    As to the "get real", you really need to do some research instead of spouting propaganda that you clearly haven't understood.

  • Comment number 99.

    #93 oldnat
    "I had assumed that Brownedov (as he usually does) would have checked your "previous"."

    I did, but noting that the only "previous" was on an apolitical thread I made the mistake of not reading it. Mea culpa.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 100.

    brownedov @ 89

    well, I did say if it were possible, which I know it isn't - or, to put it another way, I'd have preferred not to have kicked off the process - as I say, I think Britishness is a useful construct which can bind together all the different ethnic groups who live here in a positive way - but, to be honest, my main point is more a negative one - that the whole thing risks stimulating an English sense of nationhood, based on a particular (ethnically based) sense of "Englishness" which I don't like - but you're Scottish of course, so you may (with some justification) say "your problem, matey" - is that what you're saying?

    old nat @ 84

    You really haven't thought this through

    didn't get where I am today by thinking things through! - seriously though, I have thought it through, but only from the angle of the possible impact on the "atmosphere" of England (please see above) - defer to you, obviously, on the ins and outs of the various treaties - any case, I thought that you and I had agreed to give foreign/defence policy to Europe - so if we do that, and we join the Euro (that's monetary policy gone) - and fiscal policy should go with monetary policy, so that will be taxes set by Europe too - what are we left with? - still some quite important things like how to spend the taxes - what should our education, health, transport look like? - stuff like that - and then it seems to me that the right size of entity for that sort of planning is UK type size - big enough for economies of scale, but not too big so as to lose tough with differing local needs - AND we retain that useful "binding together" non ethnically defined "Britishness" construct - everyone's a winner!

    (see Brownedov, that's not UKIP policy)

    but I accept we can't go back and so, starting from here, I'd like to see Scotland breaking away as soon as possible - that way, we get less chance of an upsurge in English race based Nationalism - we'll be left pretty much as we are, except without Scotland - a shame (and maybe doomed to decades of Clown rule) but not the end of the world

 

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