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Back to reality

Brian Taylor | 16:29 UK time, Monday, 7 January 2008

So did you miss me? I took the opportunity of the festive season to re-engage with real life in readiness for Holyrood ahead.

To be precise, I spent Hogmanay in Disneyland Paris. Perfect preparation for parliamentary debate, in my view. Fantasy, fireworks and ebullient noise.

So what lies ahead? Government initiatives aplenty, starting with John Swinney on planning reform and Nicola Sturgeon on direct elections to health boards.

Turmoil and travail. The Electoral Commission will - eventually - rule on the issue of donations to Wendy Alexander's leadership campaign.

MSPs will open committee hearings on the First Minister's role in the Donald Trump planning application.

More on the constitution.

Expect SNP Ministers to offer greater detail on what they believe could be achieved under independence.

Expect supporters of the Union to counter with their plan to review devolution (occasional Westminster grumbles notwithstanding.)

But perhaps the most germane immediate issue will, again, be finance.

The Scottish Government's budget - council tax freeze and all - requires parliamentary endorsement.

The finance committee is presently studying reports from individual subject committees and will issue a report, expected next week.

Opposition MSPs may/will propose changes to the budget but it's up to ministers to table amendments, if they feel they need to make concessions in order to win support.

Right now, opposition parties are declaring the budget unsupportable.

Well, they would, wouldn't they? It's their job - and, to be fair, they harbour a range of authentic concerns.

But I would expect one or more to come round to voting for the budget or, at least, abstaining to enable it to go forward.

Before that, though, substantive debate. It's what Parliament is for.


  • 1.
  • At 06:29 PM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • Rog wrote:

"Expect SNP Ministers to offer greater detail on what they believe could be achieved under independence.

Expect supporters of the Union to counter with their plan to review devolution (occasional Westminster grumbles notwithstanding.)"

Details of what Scotland could achieve under independence were offered by Gavin McCrone in 1974, in his government commissioned report and stamped as Secret from Scotland but passed on to the new Labour Government of 1975.

I quote some small stuff from the 1974 McCrone SECRET document;

"all that is wrong now with the SNP estimate is that it is far too low"

"What is quite clear that the balance of payments gain from North Sea Oil would easily swamp the existing deficit whatever its size and transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic surplus."

This was only discovered in 2006 due to the Freedom of information act, i.e. we have been deliberately lied to by Unionists for the last 30 years, Mcrone's paper is proof positive of this.

To make it clear there are an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil left in the north sea, so why couldn't we afford to go it alone???

I would think before listening to those "Unionists".

  • 2.
  • At 10:00 PM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • Strathturret wrote:

Welcome back Brian.

Another interesting year in prospect. Any sign of Wendy hiding in Disneyland?

What lies ahead? Wendy Alexander's resignation and hopefully the emergence of something resembling an opposition party able to do their job.

I think one of the biggest events on 2008 will be the enormous row which will erupt between our Government and Westminster over the new delineation of OIL and Gas exploration rights in the deeper waters of the Atlantic around Rockall.

I'm sure we all remember the UK planting a Union Flag on Rockall in the 80s I think to remind the world of our claim to Rockall from 1955. The Government had future Oil and Gas explorations in mind with that move.

Of course being 300 miles off the North West of Scotland London will claim it is in fact English waters following a gentleman's agreement between Hereford the Great of Walton on the Naze and Victor the Viking back in 567AD, a parchment recording the event having miraculously turned up in the same drawer in which the McCrone report had been 'lost' when put there for safe keeping 30 years before.

Back to reality. The UK will meet with Iceland, Denmark (on behalf of the Faroes) and Ireland to decide who gets what.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mr Salmond didn't drop Mr Brown a postcard with a few suggestions as to ownership.

BTW Brian we hope you survived your cold plunge into the real world. We have been partially cushioned by clinging to the myriad articles from press and TV and posting feverishly.

  • 5.
  • At 09:23 AM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

Welcome back Brian.

Ive had few opportuntities to vent since youve been gone and my hair is a shade more grey for it.

Looking forward to some good debate in 2008

All the best

  • 6.
  • At 01:55 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • AM2, Glasgow wrote:

#1 Rog

“Proof positive”?! I think not. Four questions for you:

1. Why do you think that Prof. McCrone, in his 1974 paper, said that “Nationalist policy as outlined in this paper can, of course, be regarded as extremely selfish”?

2. Why do you think Prof. McCrone, in a 1975 letter to the Cabinet Office, said “My paper may give an SNP Government the benefit of too many doubts”?

3. Why do you think Prof. McCrone was quoted in a 2007 Scotsman report saying that an independent Scotland would have to raise taxes or cut public spending?

4. Why do you think Prof. McCrone wrote in June 2007, and in direct contradiction to his 1974 research, that “The figures in GERS are as good as one can get for Scotland in the present state of statistical knowledge”?

  • 7.
  • At 02:35 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Alex Brodie wrote:

Is Wendy in jail yet?

  • 8.
  • At 02:57 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • sid the sceptic wrote:

Hi Brian, i think this year will be all about our ex colonial powers (scottish labour) trying to get there head round the fact that they aint in power no more. having been there for generations it must be hard for them but they still managed to get the report about the farce of the elections last year ammended with 1 version coming out at lunchtime and by evening a slightly different one was doing the rounds.

so do i expect the electoral commision to do anything about the latest labour mistake ? not likely.
whilst i remember did the labour party not promise the good people of scotland that there would be a plauge of locusts and the sky would fall down if they didn't win the much for party's keeping there promises.look forward to an interesting year

  • 9.
  • At 04:24 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Deasún wrote:

AM2 - The facts of the McCrone report speak for themselves regardless of your interpretation (or indeed any political back-peddling by the author). As has been pointed out elsewhere, McCrone estimates of North Sea Oil wealth proved to conservative in the extreme. That is a fact, not an assertion.

And the SNP policy 'selfish'. I'll go for that one when the City of London starts shipping money up here in barrel loads in the interests of 'fairness'.

The GERS report is, of course, little more than a statistical exercise aimed to 'prove' that Scotland is a economic basket-case. Indeed, I find it hard to advocate a report which attributes almost all of the Scotch Whisky industry’s economic activity to the City of London, for example.

  • 10.
  • At 09:16 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Forsyth wrote:

I missed your blog Brian until that is I discovered the one's attatched to the Herald. I have to say the reporting in that paper which I have never bought seems to at least question Labour and offer an alternative to the Labour party line you yourself appear to follow.

  • 11.
  • At 11:30 AM on 09 Jan 2008,
  • AM2, Glasgow wrote:

#9 Deasún

You suggested that GERS “attributes almost all of the Scotch Whisky industry’s economic activity to the City of London”.

That's another nationalist myth. Firstly, GERS doesn't assign revenues to London or any other city. Further, GERS is not an attempt to assess the settled fiscal state under independence, but only the starting position.

In any case, were Scotland independent, Scotch whisky exported and sold in England would result in excise duty and VAT being paid only to the English exchequer.

  • 12.
  • At 07:36 AM on 12 Jan 2008,
  • seith wrote:

Hi Brian,
Just back here myself to see what I've been missing and say welcome back too. And of course you've been missed, but did you miss Sarah Montague's chat with Alex Salmond on Today's 3 Jan prog?
(You might even enjoy the first 4mins on gastropubs [sic] before the fun begins.) Do you think you will be getting more calls than Alex from London on matters constitutional now as things warm up?
As to competition, Robbie at No 10 has shown promise in your absence. I haven't found it on there new fangled site yet, but if that's cos they don't have a blog, could you please encourage the Scotsman join the variety of view club so we can give you a rest now and then?

AM2 Nos 6 & 11:
1. Do you believe that Scotland is incapable of standing on on its own two feet? Wendy Alexander does not and I agree.
2. Who do you think owns the resources in our surrounding seas to exploit sustainably for the good of all? (No 4 is relevant here too). 3. Does the idea of a Sovereign Wealth Trust Fund appeal to you?
4. What body do you think might best administer it?
5. What form of Union might benefit from it: an older one, this one, or a renewed one?
6. What do you think Brian?

A Guid New Year to you all there & here.

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