Alex Salmond Claims his Date

Since I was watching the House of Commons just now, I needed twitter to tell me that it seems as though Alex Salmond, ever the tweaker, has announced he wants to hold his referendum in the autumn of 2014. Hurrah. That’s fine. No need, in my view, for Westminster to object to this. On the contrary all parties should welcome it. All that Westminster needs to do is make sure the referendum billl can survive any legal challenge. Then we can get on with the game. The most importat thing is that the principle of the thing is now agreed. The detail can be sorted out in due course. What

David Cameron has given Alex Salmond an opportunity to play the statesman

Shockingly, it is possible some of you did not see my appearance on BBC News this afternoon. Thanks to the wonders of Youtube and the baffling enthusiasm some people have for clipping and sharing these things, you can catch up with it now. As is always the case, I forgot half the things I wanted to say. Jon Sopel asked if it was really plausible for David Cameron to “do nothing”. Well, of course it is. Indeed when you cannot offer anything useful it is best to offer nothing at all. The time – as a few of us argued back then – for Conservatives to back a referendum came

Alex Massie

Cameron’s Caledonian Gamble: Unwise and Unnecessary

So. it looks as though David Cameron is following the Spectator’s advice not mine. What a nincompoop! But if the reports are correct then Cameron is playing us for fools. That is, there’s nothing wrong with suggesting a referendum on Scottish independence be held sooner rather than later; adding conditions to it is a different matter. It matters little, really, whether a referendum is binding or advisory; a Yes to Independence vote would be impossible to ignore, politically and practically speaking, even if the referendum were only advisory. So, to this extent, Cameron’s suggestion that a vote can be binding if held within 18 months but only advisory if held

Is Scotland a Nordic Country?

This is a question that meets the classic definition of John Rentoul’s famous-to-them-that-ken series of Questions To Which The Answer Is No. That is, the people asking the question think the answer is Yes when in fact it is No. This question, like many of the SNP’s other witticisms, is the brainchild of Angus Robertson, the MP for Moray who might be thought Alex Salmond’s answer to Karl Rove. Like Rove, Angus sometimes gets carried away and this suggestion that Scotland is some long-lost Nordic appendage is one of those occasions. Not that he’s alone in wishing Scotland could be redefined in this fashion. Lesley Riddoch had a piece in

How To Lose An Argument: Jim Murphy Edition

Meanwhile, in more examples of sloppy Labour arguments here’s a tweet Jim Murphy sent this afternoon: Oh dear. Murphy is usually better than this. I know and everyone else who pays any attention to Scottish politics (this includes Jim Murphy) knows that Alex Salmond has long admired the Republic of Ireland’s low corporation taxes; he has almost never bothered talking about personal or consumption taxes. Furthermore, few sensible people think Ireland’s boom and bust was fuelled by or made significantly worse by its low rates of corporation tax. To hint otherwise, as Murphy seems to here, is either foolish or dishonest. It is possible to think low business taxes a

1707 And All That

In the midst of a futile* call for partisans on either side of Scotland’s great constitutional debate to avoid twisting history for their own ends, Professor Richard Finlay and Dr Alison Cathcart write: One feature of a mature democracy is the respect it accords to its past, which means accepting it in its entirety, warts and all. There are good points and bad points in all national histories and accepting both is vital to avoiding the pitfalls of narrow, triumphalist chauvinism or debilitating defeatism. Neither of which is healthy. One of the problems of using history to make the case for or against the Union is that it tends to

Why are the SNP Talking Scotland Down?

These days “Talking Scotland down” is both the gravest sin imaginable and the standard SNP response to any suggestion there might be even the occasional or minor drawback to independence. Thus when Philip Hammond makes the obvious point that Rump Britannia might not build warships on the Clyde he’s being “anti-Scottish”. Thus too when George Osborne suggests some firms might want the constitutional questions – including EU-access – clarified to assist their long-term planning he too is guilty of “talking Scotland down”. It is true, as Joan McAlpine says, that we have been here before and the sky did not fall. True too that Osborne could not name any firm

Lessons in Leadership from the Eurocrisis

Paul Krugman has a good paragraph on the euro: [T]his incident exemplified something that was going on all along the march to the eurodebacle. Serious discussion of the risks and possible downsides was simply not allowed. If you were an independent economist expressing even mild concerns about the project, you were labeled as an enemy and shut out of the discussion. In a way, the remarkable thing is that it took until now for disaster to strike. This should be a warning to all political leaders. They each need someone whispering to them: What if we’re wrong? Just as a Roman general celebrating a Triumph had a slave positioned behind

The Case of Hope vs Salmond

I’m not convinced the Scottish parliament’s 2009 bill permitting individuals with pleural plaques to sue for asbestos-related damages was a good law. Nor ca one be wholly comfortable with retrospective legislation. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court today upheld the Court of Session’s judgement that the insurance companies could not credibly claim their human rights had been breached nor that the Scottish parliament lacked the standing to legislate on such matters, even when that legislation was a case of overturning or reversing previous Westminster* decisions. The Supreme Court offered a robust defence of the Scottish parliament’s prerogatives but were I a mischievous news editor mindful of the prickly relationship between Lord Hope

Does Alex Salmond Fear Ruth Davidson?

The ballots for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party’s leadership election have been posted to members and few people, I think, have any real idea as to what the result will be. In general terms, as readers know, I’m sympathetic to Murdo Fraser’s analysis of the woes afflicting conservatism in Scotland and unpersuaded that Ruth Davidson’s campaign has been as good as it should have been. These concerns were scarcely assuaged by Ruth’s article in last week’s Scotland on Sunday. Choked with cliches and boilerplate it was a depressingly thin analysis of the state of the party. “We need to change ourselves, not our name” she wrote which is, well,

A Unionism That Does Not Deserve to Prevail

Regarding Mr Miliband’s hapless interview with BBC Scotland David, like James Kirkup, expresses what is the conventional view in London: But, as James Kirkup notes, the Scottish Labour Party is a serious issue. It is the only check on Alex Salmond, which makes it essential to the future of the union. And it’s important for Labour’s electoral recovery, not that you’d realise that listening to the senior party. As I revealed on Sunday, Labour shadow minister Ivan Lewis displayed extraordinary complacency about Scotland at a fringe event, implying that Labour will return to power in Holyrood as a matter of course, no effort required. Miliband’s ignorance only compounds that sense…

The Eurocrisis Squeezes the SNP

What does Independence in Europe mean in 2011? That’s one of the questions Alex Salmond and the SNP have preferred not to ask, far less find an answer to. Way back in the dog days of the Thatcher-era Jim Sillars coined the slogan as a way to demonstrate that Scotland, small and on the periphery of the continent, would not be cut adrift and helpless were her people persuaded to back the Scottish National Party’s vision for independence. It was a canny move: reassuring and progressive and other nice and cosy things. That was then and this is now. The ongoing crisis in Euroland necessarily means things have changed. The

Salmond on the Riots: Ned In Our Name!

The great traditions of journalistic hyperbole justify this magazine’s cover image this week (Subscribe!) but that doesn’t mean we must take it literally. “Britain” is not “ablaze” even if the riots we’ve seen in London, Birmingham and Manchester might make it seem as though the entire country is on fire. So a little perspective might be thought useful. Is the situation serious? Yes, of course it is. Is it crippling? Of course it is not. So one can see why Alex Salmond – and his allies –  have been determined to point out that these are not “UK riots” but “English riots”. In one sense this is correct. There have

Small Election in Inverclyde; Not Many Bothered

Sorry Pete, but I don’t think there’s anything hugely ambiguous about the result from the Inverclyde by-election. This was a pretty solid victory for Labour and another reminder – if these things are needed – that Westminster and Holyrood elections are played by different rules. Labour and the SNP ran neck-and-neck in the gibberish spin stakes last night as some Labour hackettes, preposterously, tried to claim that the seat “was the SNP’s to lose”; for their part the nationalists tried to suggest they’d never been very interested in winning Inverclyde at all. More weapons-grade piffle. Then again, without this stuff how would anyone fill the weary hours of television before

Alex Salmond Retreats to Sanity

Sometimes changing course is the prudent option. The SNP’s grim plans for their Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill have been put on hold for the next six months. The government still wishes to legislate on this matter by the end of the year but at least we are saved the unseemly scramble to rush this rotten bill through Holyrood before the next season begins – god help us – next month. For that recognition alone Salmond deserves some credit even if he’d have more left in the bank had he never embarked upon this reckless enterprise in the first place. Doubtless this will be spun as the

The Problem of the Supreme Court

Readers in England and other less-fortunate lands may not have been following the latest stushie in Scotia new and braw. This time it’s the law that’s the problem. Or rather, the UK Supreme Court’s ability to rule on Scottish appeals on Human Rights and other EU-related business. Last week this led to the conviction of Nat Fraser, imprisoned for the murder of his wife Arlene, being quashed on the not unreasonable grounds that the Crown had failed to disclose vital evidence that cast some doubt on the most important part of the case against Mr Fraser. Kenneth Roy, sage of Kilmarnock, has an excellent summary of the affair. Cue much

Thought Crime in the Brave New Scotland

It cannot be said that Alex Salmond’s ministry is off to a good legislative start. Not when its immediate aim is, apparently, to rush through ill-considered, illiberal, speech-curbing legislation that asks the public not to worry about the detail and trust that the legal authorities will not actually enforce either the letter or the spirit of the Offensive Behaviour in Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill. According to Salmond: “I am determined that the authorities have the powers they need to clamp down effectively on bigotry peddled online. The Internet is a force for good in so many ways – but it can also be abused by those who seek to spread hatred. That’s

This Scotland Subordinate? Only to a Crying Fool.

Much of Alex Salmond’s speech on the occasion of his re-election as First Minister was entirely unobjectionable and some of it was even eloquent. A shame, then, that his peroration threw all that away: A change is coming, and the people are ready. They put ambition ahead of hesitation. The process is not about endings. It is about beginnings. Whatever changes take place in our constitution, we will remain close to our neighbours. We will continue to share a landmass, a language and a wealth of experience and history with the other peoples of these islands My dearest wish is to see the countries of Scotland and England stand together

Alex Massie

This Social Union, This Commonwealth

On reflection, perhaps I’ve been a little too quick to discount the historical significance of the Queen’s visit to Ireland this week. Like so much else, it’s a question of perspective. If you’re 80 years old and a citizen of the Irish Republic, perhaps the sight of the Irish President greeting and welcoming the British monarch on equal terms would seem quietly moving and even a cause of some pride. I might think that this was what it was all about and I might see the visit as another confirmation that the Irish state has taken its rightful place in the community of nations. That’s been true for many years,

Aunt Annabel Departs But the Tories Can Live Again

So farewell then, Annabel Goldie. As Hamish Macdonnell says, your position was weakened by the inquest into last year’s disappointing (let’s be kind, here) Westminster results. But Miss (never Ms) Goldie can step down knowing that her party is better-off than either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. A cynic might suggest it’s easy for a leader to be honest when they know they have little chance of being invited into government, no matter what result the election might produce. And cynicism always appeals. Nevertheless – a very Annabelish word – the election campaign went almost as well for the Scottish Tories as could have been hoped. True, they lost a