End of the Bank of Scotland

September 18, 2008

The loss of the Bank of Scotland is a national disgrace.

A disgrace not brought about by Scotland – but by Westminster and this Labour Government.

Selling Scotland by the pound

Some time ago I posted a blog that related how Iceland’s commercial banks – especially Landsbanki and Kaupthing – had high value CDS figures (610 and 856 respectively) which meant that they were particularly vulnerable to collapse in the credit crunch.

The population of Iceland being small (only 300 000) they couldn’t afford to step in and nationalise their banks. Fortunately they organised a loan from their friends in Norway and that sorted things out.

Norway with a population of 4.7 million, slightly smaller than Scotland. It also had the foresight to initiate an oil fund; something that the SNP plans to do with Scotland’s oil.

Back in March the Bank of Scotland had a CDS of 235.

Not in any great danger. And even that number would have been lower without all the mortgages that came with the Halifax merger. Of course, the Halifax merger in 2001 wasn’t the end of the Bank of Scotland; it just renamed its Edinburgh global headquarters and put Halifax in front of its name. It wasn’t moving anywhere.

HBOS Edinburgh quarters

Now of course due to market speculation and short trading on HBOS shares bringing panic it seems there will be a merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB.

The new bank will be based in London and initial reports are the bank will be renamed Lloyds Halifax.

Its the end of one of Scotland’s leading financial companies, and the end of its proud history. Established in 1695 before the Treaty of the Union with England, it financed Jacobite rebellions and was the first bank in Europe to print paper money.

I would doubt if Scotland had been an independent country this historic bank would have been let to die in such a merger.

If Norway could afford to bail out their Icelandic neighbours with their oil fund, I’m pretty confident that an independent Scotland would have used its oil fund to do likewise, if it became necessary.

And that’s a big if. I’m sure that an independent Scotland would have used all the mechanisms at its disposal to save help our economy through these trying times. Mechanisms that only on Tuesday Alex Salmond was epousing on Newsnight Scotland that should have been applied before now – and that every commentator on Wednesday’s programme bar one agreed with.

Whereas only last week Merwyn King announced the Bank of England SLS – transferring of mortgages into liquid stock scheme – would not be extended. After the run on HBOS it was forced to change its mind Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, Gordon Brown was aware that he had already bailed out one bank, Northern Rock. With his popularity in freefall at the moment and seemingly having no answers to solve this country’s economic problems, he instead pressured Lloyds into the merger.

So should he be praised for saving jobs then? Its his running of the UK economy thats caused the Bank of Scotland to die!

Its like a penniless crofter killing his entire stock of breeding cattle and saying today’s pies tasted nice! It may be true but its not foresighted.

Surely only a fool would praise penniless crofter Gordon Brown for today’s pies? Step forward George Foulkes!

Is this Gordon Brown’s idea of Britishness? Forcing long standing proud Scottish institutions and global financial players to be repatriated to London? Part of his long game to ensure that Scotland’s finances will be bereft and beholden to London? Just like a colony then?

I feel ashamed that under a Scottish Prime Minister’s stewardship of the UK economy that this proud bank and Scottish institution is being allowed to die.

Gordon Brown. The man who killed the Bank of Scotland.

That will be his epitaph.

I doubt even Margaret Thatcher would have sunk so low.

Gordon Brown must go.

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Comings and Goings

September 13, 2008

Congratulations to Iain Gray and Johann Lamont who were elected Labour MSP leader and Labour MSP deputy leader respectively.

Both won their nominations with around a 60 – 40 split.

Iain Gray will be the third Labour MSP leader to take on Alex Salmond since the SNP leader became First Minister in May 2007.

Also today Gordon Brown is meeting Margaret Thatcher for lunch at Chequers. No doubt the beleaguered Prime Minister will be asking her advice on how best to stay in power leading a disaffected party and public.

Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously kicked out of Downing St by her own party in 1990 when poll ratings began to slide.

I did think that that meeting at Chequers would overshadow the Scottish leadership contest of the Labour MSPs.

But the fact that several Labour MPs have now been writing to Downing St demanding a leadership contest at Westminster again putting Gordon Brown’s tenure as Prime Minister in doubt has stolen the spotlight.

Under Labour rules there needs to be 1/5th of the Labour MPs to call for a leadership election before it can automatically happen. Currently that means there needs to be 70 Labour MPs calling for a contest.

Downing St says that only a handful of Labour MPs have formally asked for a leadership contest.

Guido Fawkes has compiled a list of 39 Labour MPs – as it currently stands – that would be expected to demand a leadership contest.

Not the 70 yet but it may be the start of a bandwagon.

It will really depend on how Gordon Brown plays the situation, and also how he performs at the upcoming Labour conference.

Iain Gray and Johann Lamont must be very disappointed at the way the Westminster agenda has stolen what should have been a good news day for Labour.

With a Prime Minister again lunching with Margaret Thatcher and open speculation among Westminster Labour MPs about his future they must surely be thinking that a stand-alone Scottish Labour Party must be the way to go.

They can’t do anything about headlines from other parties.

The SNP have announced Sir Angus Grossart will run the Scottish Futures Trust.

The co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Robin Harper MSP, has decided to stand down. He is now backing the election of one single leader of the Scottish Green Party.

That leaves the Conservatives as the only party not to have changed their Scottish parliamentary leader under the SNP Government. Should Annabel Goldie be worried?

The Liberal Democrats are also today beginning their UK conference in Bournemouth. Plaid Cymru are also finishing their conference in Aberystwyth today.

Labour have just elected two new Scottish MSPs to lead the party but its Labour’s own desperate Westminster headlines that have swamped the media.

Not a great start for Iain Gray and Johann Lamont and its not even their fault!

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Thatcher to meet Brown again

September 12, 2008

Gordon Brown has asked Margaret Thatcher to lunch again; this time at Chequers.

Just what will the newly appointed Scottish Labour MSP leader make of this?

Both Thatcher’s lunch with Brown and the appointment of the Scottish leader will happen on Saturday.

Is Brown deliberately trying to take the wind out the sails of the Scottish Labour MSPs the very day they should be celebrating the appointment of a new leader?

It seems strange timing to me.

The very day that the Scottish Labour MSP group should be promoting their policies and their vision for Scotland, attention will be diverted to another cosy lunch between The Iron Lady and The Clunking Fist.

It speaks volumes for Labour’s agenda that just as the TUC conference is finished with many trade unions unhappy with Labour’s policies, the same weekend Gordon Brown asks Margaret Thatcher to lunch.

Margaret Thatcher meeting Gordon Brown

It was their previous meeting that urged Jimmy Reid to support the SNP in Glasgow East:

“It wasn’t so much that I left Labour. I felt that they left me. And any doubt I had about that was cast aside forever when I watched Gordon Brown cosying up to Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street last year.”

The SNP duly won Glasgow East.

Now with the Glenrothes by-election looming Labour seem eager to repeat their mistakes.

But it won’t be a great start for the new Scottish Labour MSP leader.

And whoever wins has now – if they didn’t realise it before – just found out the truth about how Westminster Labour views the Holyrood Labour branch:

With utter contempt.


Iain Gray wants pact with Conservatives

August 18, 2008

According to The Scotsman, Scottish Labour MSP candidate Iain Gray wants Labour to ‘team up’ with Conservative at Holyrood to try and beat the SNP.

Iain Gray
Scottish Conservative logo

They already have joined forces in the Calman Commission at Holyrood.

Currently the favourite to take over as leader, Iain Gray is the right wing candidate of Labour and has a strong pro-Westminster affliation.

Yet it is Westminster that is probably most against the plan.

Can they afford to have a pact with the Conservatives in Scotland and try to attack them in Westminster?

Wouldn’t that be another case of double standards?

And how would the few remaining disillusioned socalists react to such a pact? Or the trade unions?

For all that, I think for Labour Iain Gray’s idea of a pact with the Conservatives is worth considering.

For one thing, it is difficult to put a cigarette paper between Conservative and Labour policy these days. James Purnell’s draconian green paper on Social Security reform came from a Conservative think tank and went even further right in ideology than the Conservatives, for instance. Gordon Brown inviting Margaret Thatcher for tea and biscuits in Number 10 shows the Labour mindset.

For another, a pact with the Conservatives might finally lead to a coherent Unionist position in an attempt to argue for the continued existence of the union between Scotland and England. As I have argued before in The Tipping Point the lack of a coherent message means that as everyday passes the case for the union collapses among the electorate.

A Labour – Conservative pact might be the only way to save the Treaty of Union.

Whether it can save Labour in Scotland remains to be seen.


8 out of 10 cats

July 21, 2008

The Daily Mail has a piece on Gordon Brown’s survival.

They state that 8 out of 10 Labour MPs think Gordon Brown should go. Reminds me of that Frankie Boyle joke: “Gordon Brown looks like someone’s drawn a sad face on a scrotum… Does George Bush even know who he is? He must’ve thought Tony Blair put on weight and had a fucking stroke.” Thats the sort of remarks he can get away with on 8 out of 10 cats, I guess.

Three quarters of the Prime Minister’s cabinet think Gordon should go too.

Thinking of it, one of the very few who would want Gordon to stay is Frankie Boyle. He’s probably got a million routines all based on the Prime Minister’s scrotum face.

Maybe like Mike Yarwood sinking fast from trace once Harold Wilson and Ted Heath disappeared from public life, Frankie Boyle might suffer the same fate with Gordon Brown’s demise. Or just start on a new jokebook.

Celebrity status is a double edged sword. The whole point of it is that people recognise you and talk about you. Celebrity and gossip magazines fly off the newsagents’ shelves into the arms of an eager public.

But the other side is when your image is ridiculed. For politicians this is especially dangerous.

Think of Michael Foot wearing that donkey jacket on Remembrance Sunday. Neil Kinnock falling in the sea. John Prescott punching protestors. Currently, Margaret Curran’s slapstick election campaign for Glasgow East.

All suffered a loss of credibility.

At least it was their actions though.

Now think of David Steel on Spitting Image, a tiny figure sitting on David Owen’s lap. Margaret Thatcher with those mad eyes or a grey skinned John Major eating peas.

Satire is at its best when it reflects a public personna; the caricatures providing an insight to the actual people themselves.

At some point though these images seem to become real.

Tony Blair was always framed in the role as Bush’s poodle but this perception was reinforced when George W. Bush called out to him ‘Yo, Blair!’ at a dinner for heads of state.

And so it is with Gordon Brown. So unpopular has he become that comedians can now throw any insult at him and the public won’t be offended.

Calling the Prime Minister a ‘scrotum face’ and saying he looks like he had a stroke, in times past would have resulted in a ton of letters at the televison channel’s door.

Its a reflection of how poorly Gordon Brown is regarded by the public that Frankie Boyle’s comments were unedited.

Its also why there is almost nothing – barring a political miracle on the scale of Gordon Brown launching himself in Afghanistan and Rambo-style bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice singlehandedly! – that Gordon Brown can do that will prevent Labour from losing the next General Election.

The die is cast. Labour’s rating has fallen to just 16% in the new poll by the Metro newspaper – behind the Liberal Democrats.

The 8 out of 10ers are right. Gordon should step down.

The future of the Labour Party and Frankie Boyle’s new jokebook depend on it.


Never had it so good

July 2, 2008

It seems that the Secretary of State for Scotland, Des Browne, believes that Scotland has “never had it so good”!

Is he really suggesting that as the UK economy goes pear shaped, fuel prices escalate and households have soaring food and utility bills – that we’re all better off?

And this is on the back of the MP for Glasgow South, Tom Harris, asking “Why is everyone so bloody miserable?” (This Labour government have made an awful job of running the country – that’s why, Tom!)

Well to be fair he’s not miserable on a 92 grand salary and an expense account of over 150 grand (2006-07).

But its just another situation where Labour seem out of touch with the public.

Now I’m not saying that our politicians get paid too much – though I do think the Westminster expenses system needs radical overhaul – but lets be honest they get paid much, much more than the average Joe Bloggs in their constituency.

At at a time when families everywhere are tightening their belts, you’ve have thought they’d have shown more sense than to start blabbing on like Harold Macmillan.

New Labour sound like Marie Antoinette wanting the peasants to eat cake. (Or was it brioche? It certainly wasn’t the fancy bread she was used to having anyway!)

What would the voters of Glasgow East, with their poverty and ill health records, think of these comments?

These are Labour politicans. I think they would expect such comments from the Tories, but it would make them wonder about voting Labour again.

Still, I suppose thats the New Labour party for you – too busy cosying up to Margaret Thatcher, than to fight for the traditional working class.

Gordon Brown and Margaret Thatcher

No wonder Gordon Brown was a member of the Feeble Fifty! He said when Margaret Thatcher visited him at Number 10 that “I think Lady Thatcher saw the need for change” and said how much he admired her.

And if the voters in Glasgow East need more persuading of how out of touch Labour MPs are with their constituents then they need look no further than their outgoing MP, David Marshall.

He resigned due to health grounds. Stress was quoted. However he was due to be investigated for Westminster expenses being paid to members of his family.

Both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph have the story.

No wonder he was stressed.

Do you think when Des Browne said we’ve never had it so good he was referring to Labour MPs?

Or has he gone a bit nuts and now thinks he’s Harold Macmillan?

We can only speculate.

Personally I’m just waiting for Des to grow that moustache.


A Scottish Office not for Scotland

June 6, 2008

The release this week of Westminster Government papers relating to Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to cut the Scottish budget was held up by the Scottish Office for nearly two years as it tried to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act.

A Labour Government and Scottish Office trying to prevent release of papers of a former Conservative Government; one that was pretty well hated across Scotland.

Incredible!

In 1984 Margaret Thatcher wanted to slash the Scottish Office budget. The Treasury was fully supportive of this. It was reported the Treasury’s attitude to Scotland was that they “seem determined to cut Scotland down to size even if it takes them years”.

George Younger, the then Scottish secretary, opposed this drastic cut. He warned that any cut would play into the hands of the SNP. The Thatcher Government had presided over many industry closures in Scotland and Younger knew that this would be politically disastrous for the Conservatives. He threatened the Treasury with his resignation if the scathing cuts went ahead.

So why the attempted cover up?

The Scottish Office felt the documents would “undermine the economic interests of the United Kingdom or part of the UK, or the financial interests of any administration in the UK”.

Given that the papers released were 24 years old, it is reasonable to assume that the reason for the Scottish Office cover up was political not economical.

The notion of the Treasury wanting to mug Scotland of money is not new. They have delivered the tightest settlement to the minority SNP Scottish Government to try and gerrymander its failure. They have refused all the Scottish Parliament’s attempts to wring out monies rightfully due to it and most recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has refused to consider giving any oil revenues back to Scotland, from the glut of oil monies pouring into the Treasury from Scottish waters, even after the highest oil prices on record.

Economically then, its not as if any of this is new.

Scotland puts into the pot but is only handed back what the Treasury see fit.

Politically though, it shows the attitude of the Treasury towards Scotland. And the fact that this Labour Government and the Scottish Office fought to keep these papers secret shows that the Treasury’s attitude has not changed one bit from 1984. Neither has this Labour Government’s attitude to Scotland improved from that of the Conservative Government’s ghastly abhorrence under Margaret Thatcher.

They still want to cut Scotland down to size.

It also shows that this Scotland Office does not stand up for Scotland. Something even that George Younger managed to do whilst Scotland’s economy was in freefall in the 80’s.

This Labour Government is a disgrace.

Its about time Scotland controlled its own pot and stopped the money flowing south.

Its about time the Scotland Office ministers stopped deriding the Scottish people as ‘McChattering Classes’ and started representing us instead.

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