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Old-style liberalism

Brian Taylor | 17:25 UK time, Saturday, 1 March 2008

Good showing by Nicol Stephen, I thought.

One or two moderately good gags. Substantive content, well delivered.

The Scottish LibDem conference here in Aviemore liked what they heard.

High notes? Condemning inflated energy company profits as "obscene". Think what he's offering there is a new model version of old style liberalism.

Gladstone backed the rights of the individual. Today's LibDems say they're also backing the rights of the consumer.

On council finance, an offer to Alex Salmond to discuss Local Income Tax. Scottish Ministers will publish a consultation document on this matter the week after next.

Snag is the LibDems and the SNP have different views on what local income tax might entail. LibDems would allow councils to vary the rate of LIT levied, within limits. The SNP want a 3p rate, set nationally but levied by all councils.

Snag (number two) is that SNP plus LibDem doesn't quite equal majority in Holyrood. Labour, Tories and Greens oppose LIT.

Snag (number three). SNP Ministers have gained a considerable coup by freezing council tax rates. Do they really - no, really - want to throw that away by embarking on a new form of council finance which will have losers as well as winners?

On the constitution, Mr Stephen restressed his opposition to returning any powers from Holyrood to Westminster. He'll take his party into the Commission/review - but opposes Gordon Brown's view that the re-evaluation of powers involves a two-way street.


well delivered? are you serious? come on... he couldn't take his eyes off the piece of paper in front of him; he kept hesitating;

I mean I guess now that Brown is PM, even a poor Nicol Stephen showing can be called 'well delivered'.

Oh, dont we miss Tony ever so badly

  • 2.
  • At 12:36 AM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Charles Hand wrote:

I don't think the Liberal Democrats offer 'Classic Liberalism'. They are still wedded to their Socialist ways.

Local income tax slams hard working people, including those on lowish pay like nurses and teachers and police, whilst not necessarily reflecting the economic conditions of the area in which the tax will be funding public services.

I think we need to have fiscal autonomy as soon as possible, and then have a serious and lengthy intellectual debate as to how everything should be funded, and try to relate taxes closes to the services that they fund. And I'd like a 'contract' of some kind with the central and local government telling me what exactly I get for my money.

I think that there is something to be said for a land value tax to fund local infrastructure, because this is economically incredibly useful. It encourages efficient use of all of Scotland's land, which is especially important in cities where so much is wasted, while planning applications drag, and where space for accommodation is at a premium. For example, it should help to free up empty / run down housing, because if it is not being used and is generating no income, it will be necessary for whoever owns it to do something about it or risk losing money.

  • 3.
  • At 12:40 AM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • karin wrote:

Brain you said that nicol stephen said he would not support any return of powers. What then brian do you make of the fact that a leaked report of a meeting with gordon brown et al shows gordon brown is completely against a commission.

  • 4.
  • At 01:57 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Nicol Stephen’s ‘withdrawal from power’ symptoms seem to be kicking in again.

Political isolation creates strange driving forces, bringing again to the fore the desire in a certain individual to again be centre stage and to appear to be part of the decision making processes, equally wishing to appear to be sought after as a contributor to the inner sanctum by those who wield the true power.

In Nicol’s case I feel this is more driven by his desire to regain the public status he enjoyed as Jack McConnell’s mathematical augmentation and fall guy, additionally he wishes to impress his new National leader who visited the Scottish LibDem’s Conference last week; there is the possibility he merely wishes to avoid being on the receiving end of the sharp edge of Alex Salmond’s tongue vis-a-vis sleaze, Merry Christmas!

Clearly as you state there is an obvious mathematical shortfall in Nicol’s proposed coalition; I feel Alex Salmond would presently be reluctant to form a hard and fast political alliance with an individual party which would not have been the case if an acceptable offer was made just after the election; you missed the boat Nicol by trying to prove you were an exceptional negotiator.

  • 5.
  • At 02:23 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • stephen wrote:

Well clegg has obviously given nicol a kick in the bahookie, Until clegg took over he was all doomsayer SNP = death for scotland, salmond smells of sleaze and whitewash wendy smells of roses.

Now we'll vote with snp for removal of graduate tax and ask them to let us into a discussion on LIT, didnt want to discuss anything at all on the budget a few weeks ago.

Its obvious (to anyone with half a brain)that Nicol is not really leading the Scottish liberal democrats hes merely their leader.

  • 6.
  • At 02:39 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • PMK wrote:

I have said it before and will do so again: Nicol Stephen is a joke. His delivery was very poor I thought, I know the Lib Dems are short on politicians of stature but: "well delivered"?! Please ... Kennedy and Campbell are markedly better and I am a fan of neither.

Truth is like all the unionist parties the a-team gets sent to westminster and holyrood gets the second-string no-hopers (Baillie - Lab, Finnie - Libs and Scanlon - Tory) ... I rest my case.

  • 7.
  • At 02:52 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • m macmerry wrote:

brian,the idea that alex salmond
{THE GOV.} 47 MSP'S SHOULD JOIN NICOL'S LIB-DEM'S 16 MSP'S is laughable he must be delusionist
now if he wants to support it then he would be welcome,but first he should learn he is NOT in power now he had his chance last may,he prefered to sulk, and support the other oposition,to hinter the scottish all its trying to do,not exactly condusive to good

  • 8.
  • At 02:59 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Harry Shanks wrote:

#2 Charles Hand:

"..those on lowish pay ... nurses, teachers and police..."

Please think before spouting this re-hashed rubbish about pay levels for nurses, teachers, and police.

I invite you to look at the current pay rates for these jobs. These people are FAR from low paid.

Then look at the job-for-life security (when did you last hear of an incompetent nurse/teacher/police officer being sacked), the generous holiday/sickness/maternity conditions. Then the jewel in the crown - generous index-linked pensions cast-iron guaranteed by the taxpayer and able to be taken up from age 50.

Low paid? Hard done by? Don't make me laugh. You'll be calling GP's poverty-stricken next!

  • 9.
  • At 03:45 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • L.Telfer wrote:

Charles Hand reference to lowish pay in
the same sentence as nurses teachers and police is a joke. Lowish pay is the many thousands of people working in electronic factories food factories supermarkets hotels etc. for little more than the minimum wage. Sadly these are the producers of this countries wealth, not the teachers and nurses, they are the takers from society , they produce nothing and are amongst the highest paid in society because of the power their respective unions wield, not because of their value to the community.

Really interesting comments above from people who are, in the main, just into point scoring.

Personally, I think there is room for impartial negotiation on national (ie. Scottish) income tax verses locally controlled income tax. If things stayed impartial. They are not. There is such scorn between the two parties that any negotiation would be very difficult.

Can Alex Salmond really go into partnership with a party who has just referred to him as a "stuffed tartan peacock"? That would take an amazing potion of humble pie on his part....

  • 11.
  • At 09:15 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Jim McDaid wrote:

On the subject of Lib Dem involvement in Local Government what about the following from North Ayrshire. The two Lib Dem councillors voted with New Labour and two independents in a 16-14 vote to cut the Sheltered Housing Warden posts. This is an essential, even lifeline, service. Where's Nicol Stephen's "fairness" here?

Bad enough in itself but possibly an illegal cut as it has been imposed without even a vestige of consultation with those directly affected that the Housing Scotland Act 2001 insists should take place BEFORE any policy is introduced or changed!

  • 12.
  • At 09:23 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • silvertrap wrote:

yes, i was also infuriated by the "low pay" comment of teachers, nurses, police.
UK avg. starting on 20g for the first year, moving up to 22g within 1-2 years is hardly hard done by. There are plenty more able, more qualified workers on 11-12g (and 12month contracts!).

  • 13.
  • At 09:33 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • edwin wrote:

A good showing? Seriously?!

Brian, I respect you more than ANY political commentator but I have to disagree with you on this. He was woeful. Unconfident, completely lacking in authority, meek, and quite reprehensibly crawling. It was like watching a trainee travelling salesman.

I find it staggering how any self respecting lib-dem supporter can buy this "offer to Alex Salmond" to "join with us". Join with us?!?! The breathtaking arrogance of this phrase is...well...breathtaking.

It's incredible that we're close to a year in and neither labour or the lib-dems have noticed that the negativity and patronising that cost them the election is not NOW somehow going to win them the votes back!

  • 14.
  • At 10:02 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Nik wrote:

I've totally given up on the Lib Dems (having once been a supporter and voter). Their failure to do a deal with the SNP means they are just a side-show - and not a very entertaining one at that. What a waste - it will be years before they make renewed headway.

  • 15.
  • At 10:58 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • susan wrote:

L.Telfer, to say that teachers, nurses and police produce nothing and are takers from society is shocking. Without the care and attention nurses and teachers provide, we wouldn't have a society! Making money, either for yourself or your business is important to the economy, but bringing up children and looking after the sick is vitally important, if not more so, and should be highly valued.

  • 16.
  • At 07:58 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Ian wrote:

Charles Hand:

I want the "serious and lengthy intellectual debate..." BEFORE we go anywhere near Fiscal Autonomy.

The situation may not be good at the moment but the LAST thing we need is to hand over complete control of OUR money before we even know how everything is going to be funded.

  • 17.
  • At 12:44 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Dan Ritchie wrote:

Nicol Stephen is the equivalent of the Hydrogen atom. Cannae function hapily on its own and always looking for something to cling too.
He stands at Holyrood and spouts out lies and scaremongering. Until he grows up and takes responsibility for himself and his party he will be a joke. The first step he should take is to withdraw his sleaze accusation and apologise to the Trump organisation, the Scottish Government and the people of the North East of Scotland. Then he should apologise to his electorate for such a pathetic bit of leadership to date. Perhaps with thew above he will have a chance of re-election but as things stand there is only 3 years of embarasment for Scotland to go.

  • 18.
  • At 01:07 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • DJ wrote:

Brian, you will, I am sure have been delighted that you didnt miss the Tangerines on Saturday due to the state of Fir Park, but I thought your analysis, having stayed so far norht, was fairly accurate. Nicol delivered a decent speech.

He isnt an evengelic charismatic orator, but I dont think that is what the party wanted. The Scottish party was behind him when they rejected the nats coalition overtures(as you commented on TV) and are happy that he has outperformed poor Wendy.

What has been interesting is that he has not attacked the labour party recently until he is happy that they really are failing to contribute any real substance to the opposition. Her contributions in particular at FMQ are embarassing and I am not a labour supporter.

Also, Nicol it seems to me realises that the commission is unlikely to produce much as the Tories and labour dont seem to want it to. They are therefore left with pushing their own ideas into the next elections. As for working with the Nats. Eh, do you think any LD MSP gets on with any Nat MSP? I'm not aware of any. Any negotiations may be shortlived.

  • 19.
  • At 01:20 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Salmondwinsagain wrote:

Can u give an indication of EXACTLY how many people attended ?????? - looked as if they could have held it in a phone box.

This lot ruined Scotland with Nu Labour - now they think we will take them seriously - GET REAL.

  • 20.
  • At 01:20 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Alan Hotchkiss wrote:

Re L.Telfer:

'....not the teachers and nurses, they are the takers from society , they produce nothing and are amongst the highest paid in society....'

Gosh, in the space of a few posts we have gone from nurses being among the lowest paid to being part of the underserving highest maybe L. Telfer is right & we should scrap all teaching & nursing posts as they don't actually produce anything, what a solution to the woes of our economy!

And there was me thinking that this was a serious debate...or perhaps L.Telfer has highlighted an issue with our educational system, though not in the way they probably intended...

  • 21.
  • At 03:50 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • nurse bill wrote:

Brian,not certain that the SNP necessarily want a centrally set LIT levied by all councils as an end result.I read somewhere that because the local taxation system is so complex that the freeze would act as step 1,central LIT step 2 and locally set LIT as step 3 over a long period of time to parallel the changes to business and possibly land taxation.
I still feel that things would have been simpler if an SNP/Libdem partnership of sorts(unlike a formal coalition)had emerged from the election to help achieve most of what the two parties wanted.Rather than the last 9 months of negative waves!

I've no idea where Charles Hand (#2 above) learned what he fondly imagines is economics.

If we adopt local income tax, then necessarily the people on lower than median incomes will benefit - they will pay less tax, in absolute terms. They will pay a smaller proportion of their income in tax, also in absolute terms. And they will get the same services.

The people who will be hit by local income tax are those of us (I am one) on above median income. I don't have a problem with that. It's called fairness.

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