The Anti-Scotland Office

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by Hazel Lewry

Michael Moore, Cameron’s front man in Scotland, is back to the tactics he’s apparently best at, attacking Scotland.  When anyone attacks a democratically elected government before that government has even convened for its first term then they’re attacking the nation and every person within that nation.

It appeared the Borders MP had decided to take a different approach recently, but it now seems it was simply a short pause until orders from the Westminster administration were received.

It is worthwhile dissecting Mr. Moore’s speech, delivered with the full weight and authority of the Scotland Office, to see if inconsistencies could be found.  Are there any glaring holes or is it perhaps that many in Scotland are simply so biased against his mutterings in today’s world that they cease to have much relevance.  A little bit like that old wound, now a scar that itches once in a while, not really significant other than as a reminder not do that again.

Just taking the text from his latest speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh, we find our formerly federalist Lib-Dems and their current Scottish mouthpiece launching an attack on Holyrood’s obsession with “extra powers”.  So far the Scottish Government since May has specifically requested three interim major items of substance, Crown Estates, Corporation Tax and enhanced borrowing powers.   All these have had the support of one or other of the Unionist parties.

Westminster tells us the Secretary of State is there to “fight in Scotland’s corner at UK government level”.

A simple question then arises – why is this position that of a Westminster appointee?

Surely if a there is to be a Secretary of State for Scotland at Westminster, and their primary job function is to “fight in Scotland’s corner” then that person should be appointed by Holyrood.  The budget should be allocated to Holyrood, ideally just a very few of the key support staff would rotate in and out from Holyrood to Westminster.

If nothing else a situation like this would widen the perspective of our people at Holyrood and being more intimate with Westminster machinations they could be better placed to counter them as, not if, the needs arise.

Using Westminster’s definition, and borrowing Kenneth Roy’s outline of the new crime of “laziness” that now apparently exists in this dis-United Kingdom, it’s time to look at Michael Moore and decide if he’s fulfilling his job description, or is he just lazy.

The Crown Estates are inherently Scottish, held by the crown for the people.  Over time it was usurped by Westminster.  To aid and abet in the allocation of any portion of these revenues directly for monarchical use is gross dereliction of duty to the people the office is stated as representing.  In other nations this could be anticipated to be an impeachable offence. Any individual dedicated to Scotland’s best interests and the welfare of her people would see this corrected.  Apparently Mr. Moore is neither.

Corporation tax is being devolved elsewhere in this polity, to Northern Ireland, to argue against it for Scotland is incomprehensible.  Failure of the Scotland Office to fight for this for those they purport to represent is grossly negligent when the levers are being requested to aid job creation.  A blanket UK policy is something we may have had to live with in the interim, but a selectively applied one that is refused when requested by democratically elected governing bodies?

Perhaps part of the fear in London is that this just might lead to straightening out the accounting in Whitehall and exposure of the fact that Scotland has been under-credited revenues for decades. If Michael Moore was truly fighting for Scotland he’d certainly be expected to at least have a passing interest in examining that subject.

More borrowing powers would be useful to stimulate the economy but under Westminster’s rules it’s paid back with interest.  Without the certainty of self government that’s an area of great concern.  Westminster’s rules indicate Westminster’s budgets, so Scotland borrows and Scotland operating in the black with a positive balance sheet still sees her budget cut.  How then to make those repayments?  Therein lies a recipe for disaster.

Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, with the backing of a paltry 5 MSPs in Holyrood, chooses to launch an attack on what he describes as the Scottish Government’s “obsession” with extra powers.  Mr Moore also used his speech to level an allegation that Alex Salmond was disinterested in using the powers Holyrood already has.  Moore has repeatedly implied that the Scottish Government is intent on picking fights with Westminster.

Arguably the SNP have used the powers currently available both relatively wisely and judiciously.  Scotland has free prescriptions, free elderly travel and free education.  Let’s not go too deeply into the unfulfilled manifesto pledges such as minimum pricing, blocked by a combination of democratic deficit and the alliance of a Union cabal backed by vested interest.  It appears Mr. Moore’s research is somewhat selective, or would that be just plain lazy?

This attack on the Scottish Government is his second this week.  Mr Moore earlier reacted angrily to the issue that Scotland has been allotted £68.8 million from the £530 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).  Mr Moore accused the Scottish Government of having a “sour outlook” and demanded that they “cheer up”, instead of promising to fulfil his job description and request an enquiry as to why the numbers coupled to native geography and population dispersion north of Hadrian’s wall will apparently mean severe electronic communication disenfranchisement for many Scots.  

Mr Moore’s speech included a not so sideways swipe at the elected Scottish Government, almost a fangs bared attack, claiming it is fostering an “insidious narrative” by highlighting its defence of Scottish interests.  I must admit I’m thoroughly baffled by this as I had the impression that was the job description of our elected representatives.  It’s actually pretty similar to Mr. Moore’s job description, he just appears to be a little blinkered and lazy in his follow-through.  

Asserting that the Coalition has a legitimate mandate to govern Scotland at the UK level, Mr Moore’s opinion is that: “There is an insidious narrative in which the Scottish Government is portrayed as standing up for Scotland’s interests by standing against the UK Government.  So let me be very clear about something which UK ministers have been perhaps too slow or considered it unnecessary to point out: Scotland has two governments – distinct, elected and legitimate.”

First of all Mr. Moore, the coalition has no legitimacy in Scotland, your group weren’t elected here.

The coalition has nominally little over 10% of Scottish representatives in either Westminster or Holyrood – simple sums here, that means close to 9 in 10 elected representatives from Scotland in the primary parliaments aren’t members of the UK ruling government party.

Legitimacy, under what electoral method could this be described as legitimate Mr. Moore?

Democracy, only a democratic deficit for Scotland exists in this Westminster government.

Moore then stated, “Both take decisions in the interests of Scotland, in light of their respective powers and their democratic mandate.” Mr. Moore, you truly do require a better scriptwriter, for that statement reads like a screenplay no editor would allow to leave the cutting room floor. Westminster with no democratic mandate imposes cuts and austerity, denies democracy and gives every appearance of stifling Scotland and her aspirations at every turn.  

Perhaps the fact that the coalition has no democratic mandate explains many of the events and policies they attempt to engineer in Scotland.  The lack of mandate is similar to Thatcher’s poll tax debacle, except she just may have had more Scots votes at the outset.

This while the government with the democratic mandate at Holyrood has to fight and scrape for pocket money and the levers required for it to do even a basic job of government.  In doing these things and more for the Scottish people Mr. Moore, the Scottish government “is getting on with the job”.  Perhaps you could watch, and learn, after all it’s supposed to be your mandate as well.

The inference by Moore that the SNP administration is focused on issues south of the border gives the impression that Holyrood is incapable of multitasking.  A somewhat ludicrous assumption to make of what is acknowledged to probably be the best led administration in these islands.  Where then Westminster?  Is Westminster so focused on Tripoli and a dying man that this is the reason homelessness is reported as spiralling and 169,000 were placed in emergency housing over the last year?

Moore cited that almost 100,000 were no longer burdened by income tax as a Union benefit, he omitted the 20% VAT and substantially rising back door or hidden taxes that mean the average Scots family will be thousands of pounds poorer in the years to come, this in spite of a national surplus.  The almost universal household deficit is the true Union dividend Mr. Moore.

Then we had the leak of Moore’s “worst finances in modern history” claims, they don’t really apply to Scotland, and if they don’t apply why is the Scotland Office using this other than as spin, misdirection and obfuscation.  His inferences that those who created the mess in Westminster are very likely the best to fix it are rubbish.

Think about your words Mr. Moore, if I hire a plumber and he floods my house, I might give him a chance to fix the damage.  If he does it again my own opinion doesn’t matter, my insurance policy will insist on a change, I’d better comply.  Westminster has had far more than one opportunity.  Its policy like its legitimacy has expired.

For Westminster to ask again for authority in Scotland lacks not only respect but simple common decency.