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[ Issue 765 - 30th January 2015 ]

Compiled by Clare Adamson



“Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
that jaups in luggies.”

Unfortunately, a watered down skinking ware is what has been delivered by the Smith Commission following the publication of the Government command paper and draft Bill. Far from the Home Rule promised by the now infamous 'vow', and while welcoming the further progress in the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, these draft clauses highlight the limitations not the ambitions for Scotland's future. Not least of the disappointments are the 'veto' clauses which would appear to enshrine Scotland's begging luggie in the process of defining our own welfare system, fuel poverty, energy and transport policies. As one of the two SNP members who participated in the Smith Commission, Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney has made it clear that he will be demanding the removal of the vetoes from the final UK Bill and in so doing so ensure that the letter and the spirit of Smith is delivered for the people of Scotland.

But there are some steps forward, a few bits of meat in the broth after all; the long-called for devolution of air passenger duty looks to be delivered in the UK Government’s drafting, along with the aggregates levy. In the chamber this week John Swinney stated that “our initial assessment of the income tax provisions also suggests that they are close to delivering what the Smith commission recommended.”

In quoting from the UK document Mr Swinney went on to say:

“The Scottish Parliament will have new powers to create new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility ... The Scottish Parliament will also have new powers to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare without the need to obtain prior permission from DWP.

“It is not credible to argue that this Parliament already has the competence to create benefits in devolved areas when social security schemes are specifically reserved under the Scotland Act 1998. Many in this chamber will recall the difficulties that the Parliament has faced on issues such as carers benefits and council tax reductions because of that reservation, so it is vital that the power to create new benefits in devolved areas is put beyond any reasonable doubt. Those proposals have rightly been hailed as some of the most important of the Smith proposals, so that is perhaps the most serious omission from the Bill as it was published last week.”

Why does this matter so much? As Deputy Convenor of the Welfare Reform Committee, I took part in the Stage 2 debate on the Welfare Funds Bill. Generally there was consensus in the Committee about building a system that will be responsive and efficient in delivering emergency help to vulnerable people in immediate need. One of the amendments, which had support in principle from all Members of the Committee, including Baroness Goldie, sought to provide for a new category of qualifying individuals of “families facing exceptional pressure. “

Despite the consensus of the Committee and the Minister, Margaret Burgess, the Scottish Parliament operates under the terms of the Section 30 Order which grants the Parliament the power to legislate in this area. This order restricts the changing of qualifying individuals because they are listed in this part of the Scotland Act that the Scottish Parliament has no power to change ! This is just one small example of the technical problems faced by MSPs each day because Scotland does not have the powers she needs or deserves to truly tackle inequality and poverty ! We need the full powers of a normal nation to fully tackle inequality and poverty !

Not more skinking ware that jaups in luggies! Gie Scotland a Haggis !

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Scottish Labour continue to fail the Scottish Electorate in key policy decisions and they are paying the price at the ballot box and in the opinion polls.

Yet more SNP success in Labour heartland

On Thursday 22nd January the SNP celebrated a by-election victory in Kirkcaldy East, a council ward within former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Westminster constituency. At the council elections in 2012, the SNP took the third seat in the multi-member ward, whereas in the by-election the SNP came first.

New SNP Councillor Marie Penman enjoyed a 13 per cent swing from Labour to the SNP and won with over 47 per cent of the vote.

Commenting, Councillor Penman said:

"It is a huge privilege to be elected as the SNP councillor for Kirkcaldy East ward. I am delighted at the overwhelming support of the communities here, and I pledge to repay their trust by working hard for this area over the coming months and years.

"There are a number of significant challenges facing the communities here and residents can rest assured that I will give nothing less than my absolute best in pursuit of a better future for this area."
SNP Organisation Convener, Cllr Douglas Chapman, said:

"Marie will be a strong advocate for the people of Kirkcaldy East, and is another strong woman who has won for the SNP. She will be a fantastic addition to the SNP Council team in Fife.

“This SNP victory in Gordon Brown’s backyard will chill Labour to the core across Scotland and shows how little trust people have left in the Labour party”

Moratorium on fracking in Scotland

A moratorium on planning consents for unconventional onshore oil & gas wells, including fracking, has been announced by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

Fergus Ewing also announced that a full public consultation on unconventional oil & gas extraction will be held to ensure that the voices of communities across Scotland are heard on the issue.

Earlier this week the majority of Scottish Labour MPs failed to vote for a moratorium on fracking in the House of Commons, despite Jim Murphy stating his supposed opposition to the technology at the weekend. Every SNP MP voted in favour of a UK-wide moratorium.

Commenting, SNP MSP Angus MacDonald said:

“This announcement of a moratorium will be welcomed by communities across Scotland who have been alarmed by the gung-ho stance taken by the Westminster Government.

“The statement brings welcome clarity and stands in stark contrast to Labour’s chaotic approach to fracking. This week saw Jim Murphy announce his party’s supposed opposition to fracking before his MPs failed to support a moratorium in the House of Commons.

“The SNP Government has acted where Labour’s MPs failed and have once again shown that Jim Murphy is more interested in political posturing than concrete action.”

Cuts hit young families hardest

The coalition’s changes to benefits and direct taxes have hurt families with children under five harder than any other household group, according to the most comprehensive evaluation yet of the UK government’s social policy record.

The report – prepared by a group of academics overseen by the LSE and the Universities of Manchester and York – also said that the poorest were the hardest hit, and that the cuts to welfare were offset by the cost of tax cuts higher up the income scale, with no overall contribution to paying down the deficit.

The report concludes that the government’s stated aim that the rich should contribute proportionately more to repairing the country's finances has “not been realised”.

Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This report lays bare the extent of the UK government's disastrous austerity agenda.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but the real powers over tax and welfare still remain in Westminster – despite the fact that the UK government has proven time and time again it cannot be trusted to look out for our most vulnerable people.

“While the SNP voted against continued austerity from Westminster, Scottish Labour sided with the coalition and voted for £30bn more austerity which, as this report shows, hits the poorest the hardest.

“A strong team of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland's priorities will become Westminster's priorities, and force an end to failed austerity."

Scottish Labour vote with Tories to renew Trident

The SNP’s opposition day debate at Westminster last week was on cancelling the next generation of deadly Trident nuclear weapons. Scottish Labour had threatened to boycott the debate but in an extraordinary decision – for the second time in two weeks - Labour have voted to support the Tories. This time on spending £100 billion on nuclear weapons. The SNP, together with a progressive alliance of the Greens and Plaid Cymru led the calls to have these weapons cancelled.

This decision by Labour - comes as a new poll conducted by Survation and published in the Daily Record showed that of those who expressed an opinion a clear majority of 60% say they are opposed to the next generation of Trident being based on the Clyde. Westminster plans to renew Trident and continue to dump the deadly weapons system on the River Clyde for the next fifty years.

Commenting Angus Robertson MP, Westminster Leader and defence spokesperson said:

“Scottish Labour decided to support the Tories and vote to consign Scotland to having nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde at vast expense for the next fifty years.Today’s SNP debate has highlighted Scottish Labour’s acute embarrassment and utter confusion over nuclear weapons. For Scottish Labour to support the Tories on this morally repugnant and financially stupid weapons programme beggars belief.

“Especially as 28 Scottish Labour MPs turned up last week and trooped in to vote to push through more Tory cuts - but today most couldn’t even be bothered to debate whether or not it is worth spending £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction.

“That Scottish Labour MPs support wasting another £100bn while food bank use is rocketing, and more and more children are being pushed into poverty, is simply indefensible – and with their refusal to debate it’s clear that they know it too.

“With a strong team of SNP MPs, Scotland can hold the balance of power and can force Westminster to abandon this disastrous commitment – and ensure these immoral weapons are removed from Scotland for good.”

Sky News election analysis continues to show high support for SNP

As we mark 100 days to go until the General Election, the SNP welcomed a polling analysis and projection of seats in the House of Commons by Sky News’ psephologist Michael Thrasher.

Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Stewart Hosie MP said:

"The strong levels of support for the SNP reflect the fact that we will always put the interests of the people of Scotland front and centre. But we are taking absolutely nothing for granted, and will work hard for every vote and seat in May.

"Our message is that people have 100 days to make Scotland's priorities Westminster's priorities - which can only be achieved by voting SNP. While the polls and last week's by-election win in Gordon Brown's seat are very encouraging, they act as a spur to the entire party to work harder than ever before so that we can do better than ever before.

"Scotland needs and wants an alternative to austerity cuts, cancellation of the horrendously expensive Trident renewal, the real powers of Home Rule, protection for our oil and gas industry, and safeguarding our place in Europe by ensuring that all four UK nations would have to vote for EU withdrawal before the UK could exit. And we are prepared to vote for a Bill to restore the NHS in England to the public service, publicly accountable, it was always meant to be - which will help safeguard Scotland's budget.

"These are objectives which the people of Scotland can achieve - and can only achieve - by voting for a strong team of SNP MPs to hold the balance of power at Westminster.

"In recent days, we have seen Labour MPs voting with the Tories for £30 billion more austerity cuts, voting with the Tories to spend £100 billion on a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons, and abstaining on a key vote for a fracking moratorium. That is why we need the clout of a strong team of SNP MPs in a hung Westminster parliament to force change.

"The Westminster establishment are scared stiff, because returning SNP MPs in a hung parliament means that Scotland's interests must be heard and acted upon. The Tories have been rejected in election after election in Scotland, and the SNP would never help them into power. By electing SNP MPs, the people of Scotland can vote to get rid of the Tories, and have a powerful voice to protect and promote Scottish interests - a message we will be hammering home over the next hundred days."



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Content of the Flag in the Wind is the copyright of the Scots Independent Newspaper which has been owned, edited and printed in Scotland since November 1926.