That’s what Google Translate renders in Latin from the phrase “who questions the questioners?”, which is good enough for us. After weeks of silence, Labour’s irony-free “2014 Truth Team” Twitter account sprang back into life yesterday. As part of its mission to “find out the facts and expose the myths”, it made this dramatic assertion:
The link points to a Herald piece in which, sure enough, the Scottish Government does indeed refuse to guarantee something. But it’s not the “UK pension rate”.
Today, the subject of the media’s blanket outrage – there are sizeable stories in the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Daily Record, The Times, Express and many more – is the saintly British Olympic cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy. The unfortunate sportsman has been the subject of what the Mail calls “vile abuse” for some comments in yesterday’s papers in which he ostensibly refused to take sides in the independence debate (but in reality could barely have made his position any clearer).
But another similar (and rather more serious) story, about online abuse directed at a Scottish public figure every bit as well known as Hoy, inexplicably gets only a microscopic fraction of the coverage.
Sir Alex Ferguson (no relation) resigned as manager of Manchester United this week. The resulting deluge of newspaper articles covered a wide range of opinions, both gushingly complimentary and rather less so, but one characteristic of the man was uniformly (and approvingly) agreed on – that he always defended his players.
And it was hard not to contrast that unwavering loyalty (a trait described by Ferguson himself as “the anchor of my life”) with events in the independence debate last week.
We’ve spent a fair bit of time over the course of this website’s existence documenting the multi-media witch-hunts that invariably arise in the Scottish media whenever some obscure and/or anonymous independence supporter on the internet says something slightly intemperate (or even just expresses an unpopular opinion).
The vast difference in the amount of media weight given to abusive behaviour from British nationalists and that from the independence side (the infamous “cybernats”) has long been a feature of Scottish political debate, but over the last 12 hours the phenomenon has seen an intriguing new twist.
Hang on. The heart of the latest No campaign/media scare story is that the enormous pension deficit currently looming over the UK like a great big multi-billion-pound fiscal sword of Damocles (but which everyone is feverishly avoiding looking at) will become much more urgent in the event of Scottish independence, because according to EU rules “cross-border” pensions can’t just boot the problem into the long grass for years, and have to ensure any shortfall is funded immediately.
EU rules? But haven’t the Unionists spent most of the last six months telling us that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be an EU member, and would have to wait years at the back of the queue to join as a new country? Phew! Problem solved!
We haven’t heard any more from Ian Taylor’s lawyers yet. But in a surprising development never previously observed on the internet, his attempt to silence various pro-independence voices appears to have resulted in people digging deeper into the affairs of Vitol, the oil-trading company of which he’s been Chief Executive since 1995.
One particularly interesting revelation that we don’t think was covered in any of the earlier articles relates to the company’s conduct in the Republic of the Congo, where they got up to shenanigans a little shadier than simply drinking all the Um Bongo.
(The next-biggest donator, author CJ Sansom, sent their £161,000 cheque from their home in Sussex, which we’re fairly sure also isn’t in Scotland.)
We’ve dropped Mr Sheridan a line asking if he finds non-Scottish-resident, tax-avoiding Ian Taylor’s huge donation to the No campaign “nauseating”. We’ll let you know his answer the minute it arrives, which surely won’t be long.
After six years in kneejerk opposition, extending even so far as to abstain on or vote against budgets with their own amendments in them, Scottish Labour have apparently suddenly discovered the merits of mature, constructive consensus politics. This week has seen the party calling for unity in opposing the bedroom tax, and demanding that the Scottish Government should mitigate the effect on social-housing tenants by providing tens of millions of pounds from its own budget to bridge the gap.
There are numerous reasons why this isn’t a practical long-term solution, some of which we explore in the comments on this Labour activist’s blog post. But if anyone should be wondering why it might also seem politically unattractive to the SNP, perhaps it might be instructive to note what Labour’s reaction was when the Nats did that very thing a year ago, when finance secretary John Swinney found £40m to lessen the effects of UK government cuts forcing the poorest to contribute more Council Tax.
A couple of paragraphs in a Vince Cable story (to over-dignify the piece in question) from today’s Scotsman are quite amusing if you swap the order they come in.
“The first day I took up my job as the chief economist at Shell I was given a plaque which had an Arabic saying and when I pressed for a translation, they said ‘All those who claim to predict the future are lying, even if they are later proved right’.”
“Business Secretary Vince Cable last night warned that an independent Scotland’s reliance on revenue from oil would result in savage public spending cuts or tax rises, as he addressed the Liberal Democrat Scottish conference.”
It came to power 16 years ago promising to introduce electoral reform, then ditched it. (But still hilariously claims to be committed to the principle despite 100 years of failing to deliver it.) It also pledged not to introduce university tuition fees, then introduced them. It campaigned for re-election on a promise not to increase them, then increased them. It – well, we could go on all day, just about tuition fees alone.
But let’s cut to the chase and move up to the present day.
A lot of independence supporters are getting excited today about this clip of Labour shadow-cabinet MP Helen Goodman telling the BBC that Labour would keep the bedroom tax. They’re right to highlight it, but most are doing so for the wrong reasons.
Goodman’s position is that Labour WOULD still implement the hated tax, but would only penalise people for over-occupying their housing if they’d been offered smaller accommodation and refused to move. Opponents of Labour are observing the hypocrisy of the party raging against the tax in public while admitting they’d retain it, which is fair enough, but also misses the real point.