Yesterday Guido suggested that siting a spaceport in Sutherland, Soctland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N was not a good idea. Given that it will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world and the reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country seemed just plain dumb.
A number of well informed readers have been in touch to dispute this, claiming that Scotland is perfect for “polar orbit launches”. Scotland is apparently a world leader in the production of handbag-sized satellites that can be launched by small rockets into Low Earth Orbit. Not altogether clear if they can be launched using an upturned pre-shaken bottle of Irn Bru as propellant, though the science is developing.
In the circumstances Guido feels we should clarify and correct the record. We have learnt two things; sometimes it pays to read more than the headline on a press release, a lot of rocket scientists read Guido…
Last September Tom Watson scored a win for Labour’s moderates by passing reforms which handed Kezia Dugdale an NEC seat, denying Corbyn a majority on the party’s ruling body. The plan almost worked, as Kezia voted with the moderates to prevent left-winger Andy Kerr from becoming NEC chair. Alas, her resignation now frees up that extra NEC spot, which is likely to be taken by a Corbynista and end the moderate majority. Oooooops…
Skwawkbox reckons acting Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley takes the seat with immediate effect, giving the Corbynistas a majority of 18-17. Either way, the next Scottish Labour leader is going to be Corbyn-friendly. A pro-Corbyn source tells Guido that the left will now hold the balance of power:
“The Scottish and Welsh NEC seats Tom Watson pushed for should always have been democratically elected rather than appointed, but now Kezia has stepped down it’s going to finally swing the balance of power on the NEC to the left.”
This could be a big win for the Corbynistas in terms of party reforms, consolidating left-wing control and shafting the centrists once and for all. Skwawkbox is already gloating: “Ms Dugdale’s resignation could give Corbyn and his allies far greater influence over the agenda for Labour’s conference next month in Brighton – and potentially an opportunity to remake the party in line with its leadership”. Did somebody say McDonnell amendment and mandatory reselection?
As Chair of the party, I am writing to you today to resign as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
It has been an honour and a privilege to have served this party in a leadership position for the last two and a half years, covering four national elections and one referendum.
I have worked with many great people, not least the staff in our HQ led by Brian Roy and those in the Scottish Parliament, whose boundless energy, expertise and good humour has guided our party through some dark hours and difficult times.
I’d like to thank my shadow cabinet for their efforts, and in particular Iain Gray for his unflinching love and support and James Kelly for the thankless but crucial job he does so well as our Business Manager.
Earlier this year I lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live. His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference. He taught me how precious and short life was and never to waste a moment.
Being leader has always been a difficult but fulfilling challenge. One that until now I have enjoyed, driven by a clear guiding purpose and goals, many of which I have achieved.
I am proud of the fact that I’ve demonstrated how the parliament’s powers can be used to stop austerity with progressive taxes and the creation of new benefits. Proud to have advanced the call for federalism across the UK. Proud to have delivered real autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party and a guaranteed voice for Scotland and Wales on the NEC.
Educational inequality is the number one issue in Scottish politics after the constitution because Scottish Labour under my leadership put it there.
I am proud to have delivered 50/50 slates of amazing and diverse candidates in both the Scottish and U.K. Elections and equally proud to have invested in the next generation of labour activists and parliamentarians with leadership programmes. These have already furnished us with two of our magnificent seven MPs. With that re-established Scottish Labour group at Westminster, and a talented and effective group in Holyrood, Scottish Labour has a bright future.
A marker of success for me was to leave as leader with the party in better shape than I found it and I have done that.
Emerging from the challenging times following the 2014 referendum, and the 2015 UK election, we now have a solid platform on which to build towards success, and government.
I have given the task of achieving this all that I have. But with nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.
I will continue as a Labour MSP for the Lothians and am already looking forward to spending more time with constituents and on constituency issues.
Too often our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way. There will be no press conference and no off the record briefing in my name. I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.
I remain in awe of all those party activists who devote their time to this movement without pay or reward. I thank them for their belief in me.
Yours in solidarity,
The Tories’ main, barely believable attack line this election is that if you vote Labour you’ll get a “coalition of chaos” with the SNP. So, naturally, Jeremy Corbyn is heading up to Scotland to address the Scottish TUC conference this afternoon, when Nicola Sturgeon will be there giving her own speech. The SNP say there are “no plans” for Jez and Nicola to meet, but imagine the reaction in CCHQ if there was a chance corridor brush by. Incidentally, while Jez is up there the Scottish TUC congress will be voting on a motion to “reiterate its opposition to Trident renewal”…
An aside, senior puerile Tories have taken to using an acronym for their election attack line. They have been privately joking, “If you vote Labour, you’ll get Corbyn’s CoC”…
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) March 19, 2017
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns did not offer any defence of his minister Guto Bebb’s comments on Scotland, comically just saying a string of incomprehensible words. Theresa May will need a better line that that when she visits Wales tomorrow…
Is Tory minister Guto Bebb trying to get sacked? Fresh from infuriating Downing Street by demanding they apologise for the Budget, Bebb has written a column in his local paper arguing that Scotland is “clearly another country” and that his “gut feeling” is Scottish voters no longer see themselves as British. Fair to say these comments from a serving government minister are not in line with Theresa May’s position that “at heart we are one people”. Bebb said:
“We have a huge amount in common with citizens of the Irish Republic, as we do Scotland. Similar TV programmes, popular music and in many ways a shared literature… But, and it’s a real but, read their papers, listen to talk shows and watch the news and it’s clearly another country…
“My brief visit to Edinburgh left me somewhat despondent because I felt the same way as I do when I leave Dublin. For me Dublin is somewhere which is recognisable but very different. That is fine in the context of the capital of an independent country but it should be a warning when visiting a city which is a crucial part of the UK. The sense of nationhood in Edinburgh is palpable. For a long time it has been satisfied within the UK. Even in 2014 a majority saw themselves as British and Scottish. Is that changing though? My gut feeling is yes and that should be a cause for regret to all of us.”
Bebb, a former pro-Welsh independence Plaid Cymru activist, was due to speak at the Tory spring forum in Cardiff yesterday but didn’t show…
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) March 13, 2017
Theresa May pretty clear the government opposes a second Scottish referendum:
“Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish Government defined as a ‘once in a generation’ vote. The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.”
One whopping problem for the Nats if they get their referendum in 2018/19 and the Scots vote for independence. The whole point is that they want to stay in the EU, but an independent Scotland would not be allowed to, it would have to reapply. Which means years outside the EU and adopting the Euro. Almost as if the Nats know the Tories won’t let them have a referendum during the Brexit negotiations and are just using this to shore up the Yes vote…
“It is clear that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and at any issue. This is where we stand today… I cannot pretend to the Scottish people that a compromise agreement looks remotely likely… I will now take the steps necessary to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process. A choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit or to become an independent country… The Scottish government’s mandate for offering this choice is beyond doubt.”
She will next week seek a Section 30 order from the UK government to give Holyrood the power to hold a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019…
Theresa May comes out fighting ahead of the Scottish Tory conference, accusing Nicola Sturgeon of playing “games” and having “tunnel vision”. Ruth Davidson meanwhile tells the Nats the unionists would win any second indy referendum. The SNP want independence from Westminster and subjugation to Brussels, though that hypocrisy can be turned on English pro-union Brexiteers too. As Ed West notes in the Speccie, how can a Westminster government which is leaving the EU tell the Scots that quitting a larger union to pursue self-determination and self-government is a bad thing? ConHome has an interesting new survey of Tory members which finds nearly one in three seem happy for Scotland to leave the union. Number 10 sees Scotland as the largest potential Brexit pitfall, just wait until the Scottish parliament refuses to approve the Great Repeal Bill…
His allies have been talking up a “progressive alliance” but “our SNP” may be a bit much for Scottish Labour. Pressure is getting to him…
Donald Trump may soon be enjoying the culinary tastes of his motherland as the half-century ban on importing Haggis into the US could be over. Haggis-makers are flocking to the news that the Scottish government have reached a “significant milestone” in negotiations to reverse the US ban on what might become one of their most successful exports. Surely the inauguration of half-Scottish Donald will get the deal over the line. This means the savoury pudding of sheep offal encased in intestines could be back the menu at the White House. Putting food on Trump’s table? Hard to stomach for the Nats…
Owen Smith has told the BBC he does not oppose a second Scottish independence referendum:
BBC: Is Brexit not a trigger for a second Scottish referendum?
OS: “Well it would be for the SNP to choose to put that to the Scottish people, wouldn’t it, and it’s for the Scottish people ultimately to determine that’s what they want…”
BBC: Would you oppose a second referendum?
OS: “No, of course not. If the Scottish people chose that’s what they wanted and there was agreement in the Labour Party then that would be for them to determine.”
“Of course not…”
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign slaps down Smith:
“The Scottish Labour Party manifesto was clear that Scottish Labour opposes a second referendum, but fundamentally this is an issue for the Scottish Parliament and not Owen Smith to decide.”
Nicola Sturgeon chose to jump on a Scottish government report yesterday which claimed the Scottish economy would be hit hardest by Brexit, in a bid to shift the blame for Holyrood’s nose-diving oil revenues caused by economic incompetence. Sturgeon claimed:
“The only way to protect Scotland’s economy – and the clear benefits which come from being part of the world’s biggest single market – is to work to ensure we protect our relationship with the EU.”
Sturgeon led the SNP’s moratorium on fracking just before and during the oil-price plummet, leading to the bottom falling out of the Scotland’s public finances when the more expensive North Sea oil was unable to compete. The official government revenue report today shows a drop of 97% in oil revenues, from £1.8 billion to just £60 million in a year. Nicola, calling for a second independence referendum to prevent a maximum loss of £3.7 billion a year to the public finances, already presides over a deficit of nearly £15 billion a year. What do you say, Merkel – fancy welcoming another Greece to the EU?
YouGov’s poll of Labour members produced a miserable top-line figure for ardent Corbynistas, showing just 18% of members thought the left-wing leader had done well in the recent round of local and PCC elections. Although that’s not so bad considering he’s the first opposition leader to have lost local seats in over 30 years…
Looking at the regional breakdown, a much bigger problem for Corbyn emerges. Part of the supposed “logic” Corbynistas wheeled out during his election as party leader was that his left-wing, anti-austerity stance could win over the Scotch who had fled to the SNP in droves. Far from Corbyn’s prediction of a crushing victory over the Nats in Hollyrood, Labour managed to lose 13 seats, plummeting behind the hated Tories. As a result, Labour supporters north of the border are not impressed: 71% of them think the party did badly, with 41% believing he did very badly. Inevitably, London felt most positively about the Islingtonian-led party, with 20% approving of Labour’s performance. Corbyn has the same North London metropolitan elite problem as Miliband…
Readers will remember Natalie McGarry, the SNP MP who resigned the whip amid a police probe into her campaign’s financial irregularities. She’s the one who was questioned by Turkish special forces for recording the sound of bombs falling in Syria on her mobile. Not the brightest hope of the 2015 intake.
Today McGarry has agreed to pay £10,000 to charity for wrongly branding a unionist a “Holocaust denier”. She has apologised on her Twitter account:
Part of the agreement is that McGarry must ‘pin’ the apology to the top of her Twitter account for all to see for the next fortnight. Yet her account is locked, so at the moment her mea culpa is being kept hidden from the public. Classy…
Ruth Davidson veers to the left…