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Groundhog years 202

Posted on January 06, 2021 by

Over a year has passed since the December 2019 election. The SNP triumphed in Scotland and the Tories were comprehensively defeated. Nevertheless, a huge English majority allowed Boris Johnson to sweep back into Downing Street and “Stop Brexit” became as redundant a slogan as the one on another campaign bus that had falsely promised £350m a week for the NHS.

But “Scotland has spoken” was the chant, “Scotland won’t accept it” the shout. There was much anger and outrage from elected representatives.

But the huffing and puffing came to naught. Johnson wasn’t listening and he certainly wasn’t for turning. Brexit was driven through, Scotland was taken out of the EU and its Parliament and democracy now stand threatened.

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Parliamentarianism revisited 182

Posted on December 30, 2020 by

Drew Hendry won a lot of praise from Yes supporters a few days ago when he seized the Mace in the Commons. It’s not easy to speak in the chamber at any time and doing so in the face of hostility from the Speaker is challenging indeed.

The institution of Parliament is, by its very design, geared towards control by the British establishment. Not only are all sides uniformly hostile, but even the staff and officials, usually so polite and deferential, turn on you. So it was an intimidatory atmosphere in which he acted and it can’t have been easy.

But the idea that Scottish MPs should routinely require to suffer the scorn and derision poured upon their nation and their people is long past its sell-by date. Much of the vitriol shouted wouldn’t be countenanced elsewhere and just because it’s supposedly Honourable Members who act in that manner doesn’t justify it. There comes a time when words aren’t enough.

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Not The Plan B 92

Posted on November 27, 2020 by

When’s a Plan B not a Plan B? Well, when it’s something that could and should have been done already, and won’t be anywhere near adequate even if delivered.

Yet that seems to be what some colleagues are now arguing for. It’s welcome that their thoughts are at last turning to the possibility of the Tories saying No to the Scottish people’s democratic vote. But it’s happening dangerously slowly as the dismantling of devolution and reintegration into the UK gathers pace. Which’s why the Yes Movement needs to act now, not after a Holyrood election.

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The surrender of power 143

Posted on November 13, 2020 by

On 18 September 2014, Scotland had control over its future. Scots could choose their own path, or continue to have decisions imposed upon them. Those of us supporting the former came close but not close enough. As a result, Scotland exited the EU against its will, is once more under the heel of a right-wing government and now finds its Parliament under attack from London.

Yet the dream has never died and demands for the right to choose our own destiny are growing. Scotland needs to be in the position it held on 18 September 2014, when power lay with its people. It’s their democratic right to decide, so why would you ever cede that power?

Yet tragically that’s what’s being done.

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Auntie’s Twilight 217

Posted on October 20, 2020 by

Television’s transforming before our eyes, as both what we watch and how we watch it changes. An ever-greater number of programmes shown through increasing mediums. But that doesn’t equate to balanced political coverage being provided, quality product displayed, or distinct countries reflected.

The United States, despite the great wealth and talent available to it in Hollywood and elsewhere, is the worse for the absence of a properly funded and high quality public broadcasting service. Its society is the poorer and its democracy badly distorted by its absence. It’s why Scotland needs a properly funded public broadcaster.

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On no accounts 388

Posted on October 01, 2020 by

Having been privileged to serve as SNP National Treasurer, I’m aware of the duties that go with the post. Of course, it’s changed in some ways since then due to the scale of the party, the resources available and even technology. The days are long gone when Joan Knott, who has sadly since passed away, required to take a taxi down to my legal office to have cheques signed between court or clients.

But some things still remain fundamental, and in particular providing annual accounts for the party. That has been done for 2019, in the administrative sense, but what’s missing is their publication and provision either to the NEC or the party more widely.

For sure there’s been no conference but there are other bodies and other ways of making them available to party members. At NEC, conference and indeed anywhere else, members were entitled to see them and question me. It was their right to see them, and it remains so now. So why haven’t they seen them?

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The None Of Your Business Convener 228

Posted on September 23, 2020 by

The SNP have historically been swift to suspend any party members when there’s any hint of inappropriate conduct, never mind even a whiff of illegality. It’s been that way since 2015, with the axe falling on elected members as well as candidates in target seats and critical elections, and ordinary activists.

Not even a by-your-leave, let alone an explanation, is afforded – just suspension with immediate effect. And that’s all well and good, some might say. No hint of impropriety should attach to the party and making a virtue of acting swiftly can be both necessary and appropriate.

So why then no action against the Chief Executive?

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The Hardest Walk 207

Posted on September 16, 2020 by

“Settling up, not settling down” was the rhetoric, as Westminster reconvened and the new SNP group headed south. Fine words and said no doubt sincerely. But it’s been said by every SNP generation that’s gone there, though none possessed the authority or faced the threats to Scottish democracy as now.

But what has happened since? As ever fine speeches given and incisive questioning of Ministers made, but to what effect?

The first major debate was the Fisheries Bill. A sore point in Scotland where a Tory government sold out our fishing industry and entire communities along with it decades ago, when negotiating EEC entry terms. Now, two generations on, as another Tory administration seeks to implement Brexit, that industry and those communities face betrayal yet again.

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Into our own hands 188

Posted on September 06, 2020 by

The Scottish political focus has been on Holyrood in recent days, with the Programme For Government announced and Westminster returning from recess. But parliaments can only do so much. Extra-parliamentary action is required for many reasons, not least because activists are increasingly frustrated at delays and uncertainty.

Giving direction and something constructive to do is therefore important; and that will have to come from within the grassroots movement.

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On the march 212

Posted on August 03, 2020 by

Symbolism matters in politics. What ostensibly can appear minor actions can have significant effect. Simply changing the names of things, whether from Londonderry to Derry or from the Scottish Executive to the Scottish Government (and swapping a UK-focused logo for a Scotland-focused one), were hugely important, signalling a new era and enthusing supporters.

Similarly, it’s been the case that as well as public actions of political leaders there requires to be mobilisation of grassroots supporters.

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View from the green benches 108

Posted on July 24, 2020 by

The closure of the UK Parliament for the summer holidays this week marked the end of my first political “year” with the SNP Group at Westminster, albeit a truncated one under unusual circumstances. Having served in Holyrood much is similar and familiar, even if anachronistic in style and reeking of snobbery. Staff are remarkably helpful and individual members can be exceedingly pleasant.

But this isn’t our Parliament and we’re most certainly not amongst friends.

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