David Cameron is ‘delighted’ with the report of the Smith Commission, and is quoted as saying ‘We are keeping our promise to the Scottish people.’
That is all we need to know about the proposals that have been published today. Anything that gives such pleasure to the Prime Minister, and to the Westminster parties, who fought so hard, so viciously and so unscrupulously to keep their hands round the throats of the Scottish people, is by definition against our interests.
The ‘sweeping new powers’ we were promised turn out to be the right to set our own income tax rates and bands. The single most contentious area in the fiscal management of any nation; that’s what we’ll be given.
- The level of personal allowances will be reserved for Westminster.
- Taxes on savings will be reserved for Westminster.
- Corporation tax will be reserved for Westminster.
- Indirect taxation and excise duty rates will be reserved for Westminster.
- More than 80% of the welfare budget will be reserved for and controlled by Westminster.
- All job creating powers will be reserved for and controlled by Westminster.
My friends on the ‘No’ side will rush to reminded me that Scotland rejected independence. They are correct; we did.
We did so on the basis of a cross-party promise of ‘sweeping new powers’ for Holyrood. In fact the Smith Commission recommends hardly any new powers for Scotland, only a series of responsibilities, and even then the main one, devolved income tax, will be hamstrung by the retention of key elements by London.
The Blessed Baroness Bella Goldie gave the game away, when she said that Holyrood politicians will now have will now have ‘to look taxpayers in the eye.’ We are being handed a stick with which we can beat ourselves senseless, but the whole bag of bloody carrots is being retained by Westminster.
What sops are we being given?
- The vote will be extended to sixteen and seventeen year-olds.
- Air Passenger Duty will be devolved.
- Licensing of oil and gas extraction will be devolved.
Thus, we may prepare for a future of barely literate electors emerging from our underfunded schools in the hope of a job with Ryanair, or in a fracking operation whose revenue will continue to fill the London coffers.
Lord Smith, whose commission delivered this fudge, refuses to answer questions on what it all means, insisting that he is only the referee. If that is so, he has given a red card to the aspirations of the 45% who voted Yes, and to the significant percentage who voted No, in the expectation that the notorious Daily Record ‘Vow’ could be kept, and not shown up for the sham it undoubtedly was.
Man against Machine – Garth Brooks. The man’s first album of new material in 13 years. Kinky Friedman used to call GB ‘The Anti-Hank’, and if you’re a country purist you’ll understand what he meant, and question his right to the cowboy hat. The new collection is welcome, the voice is massive, and it has fiddles and steel guitars a-plenty, but it’s more rock than anything else. After all this time I was waiting for the big track to jump out and grab me, but it isn’t there. ‘In the LIfe of Chris Gaines’ remains my favourite Brooks album, by a distance.
By the way, for those who wonder what he looks like without the airbrushing and the cowboy hat —
A note for my friends in Canada, who have been asking me when Mathew’s Tale will be available in printed form in their great nation.
It will be in the shops on December 16, just in time for Christmas, in Hardback and trade paperback. Most shops,including my good Toronto friends, Sleuth of Baker Street and Ben McNally Books, are already taking pre-orders.
I’ve just noticed that Somewhere Over the Rainbow, my self-published standalone is currently standing at 51 in the Amazon Kindle Political section. My thanks to everyone who helped put it there and my hopes that the rest of you will help send it higher. It makes me laugh; you might find it funny too.
Big congrats to my nephew Frank, who, with his colleagues on CITV, won a Children’s BAFTA last night. Yes I know, he’s 35, but still, well done sobrino.
I’m starting to put together my diary for 2015, a year when my plans involve doing as many library events as I can fit in. Already I’m committed to Aberdeen in April; if there are any other bids out there, now’s the time to make them.
Moonshine in the Trunk – Brad Paisley. Only halfway through it and already it’s QJ’s album of the year.
Welcome to Scotland’s newest bookshop’ opened in St Andrews by Robert Topping and Family. I look forward to my next visit.
Trade long and prosper.
Thank you Apple for screwing up my iPad by recommending that I instal OS8. As a result it has become painfully slow. Other users beware. Wouldn’t have happened when Steve Jobs was alive.
By the magic of Amazon Prime TV, over the weekend I watched the first two episodes of Ripper Street, Series 3. Readers of this blog, and many others will recall that when the BBC decided to axe the programme after S2, there was an outcry, until Amazon stepped in and agreed to continue the show, with our national broadcaster as a junior partner and the streaming audience having first dibs.
S3 is set four years later. Reid has become an obsessive figure, Captain Jackson has become Whitechapel’s official surgeon and drunk, Sergeant Drake is now Inspector, newly returned from Manchester, and Long Susan has closed her brothel and runs a property company and a women’s hospital and training school for nurses, the latter a gesture, no doubt, to those who had been critical of the way women were depicted in the earlier stories. The wicked Silas Duggan is, of course, as dead as he was at the end of S2, and has been replaced by a wicked lawyer.
Business as usual? No. The new series opens with a calamitous rail accident in the middle of Whitechapel, a by-product of a robbery. That is dark and gory, but it is nothing on episode two, which goes back to the theme of the first series and ends with a horrific plot twist and an act of violence so appalling that it gave me nightmares, for all that such fiction is the business I’m in.
Very occasionally on-screen drama can go beyond the pale, and be too realistic in its depiction of evil. As examples, I offer The Exorcist and Alan Parker’s Angel Heart. Ripper Street, S3, Part 2, is right up there with both of those. The streamed version shown on Amazon runs for an hour and eight minutes. The stories will have to be edited to fit the normal BBC TV hour, but there is no way that the screenplay I saw last night can be massaged to make it fit for a family audience. You have been warned.
Another TV puzzler. Where do Holby City patients acquire their amazing recuperative powers?
No matter how complicated the surgery, they are always back on the ward within an hour or two, sitting up in bed and chatting as if nothing had happened. The concept of Intensive Care does not seem to exist.
Initially I was going to give BBC1’s ‘The Missing’ a miss, because I reckoned it would be McCann-based, and too exploitative for my taste, but I’m hooked now. It’s spread over eight episodes so there’s a long way to go, but already I know that there’s something very wrong about the guy Mark, the UK police liaison at the start of the story, who’s with Tony’s ex at the present time. At the moment we’re being led towards Ken Stott as the bad guy, but I want to know more about the guy that Tony put in hospital, I want to know how the French cop wound up in jail, and I want to know how Baptiste got that limp and what’s the back story of his English wife.
Stacey Kent could sell out the Usher Hall, but instead she plays the intimate Queen’s Hall, because she enjoys it. So did her audience last night. Too bad she was only in Edinburgh for one night; I’d have gone again, and again and again
Okay, it may have been unofficial, and the turn-out was lower than it might have been, but Catalunya voted 80% for nationhood yesterday.
Will it make any difference? In the short term, probably not, but Spain is headed for constitutional change, sooner or later. It must be so; Madrid is even less popular than Westminster is in Britain, or Brussels in Europe.
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for fifty-one years, and I still am. But what is all this stuff about the doctor suddenly having become Scottish? Through the last half century he has never been referred to as English, even though David Tennant eschewed his natural accent to play him? So why the sudden policy switch, and why did Missy’s accent head north of the border during the final confrontation?
Are they taking the piss, or is there an underlying message? I reckon there is. While the Doctor’s Scottishness was highlighted repeatedly through the series, we were reminded just as often that he is an alien. A very Freudian slip. That’s how they see us, folks. We are not of their world.
But Peter Capaldi’s great.
Off to the Queen’s Hall soon for the Stacey Kent gig. Last time I was there was for Harry Reid’s wedding reception, and that wasn’t yesterday.
Please someone, anyone, tell me what is going on within the Labour Party?
Yes, I know Ed’s a tube. I know he carries the mark of Cain. But they chose him, and six months before a general election is no time to be contemplating change.
This is a great day in the lives of my Catalan friends. Today they vote, to express their wishes for the future of their nation. Thanks to the obduracy of the right wing government in Madrid they can’t call it a referendum, but that is what it is.
Three results are possible, the status quo, a federal solution, or independence. They face the same pressures as we Scots did, but I anticipate a different outcome. No, the result won’t be binding, but if Catalunya votes decisively for change nothing will ever be the same again.