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The English, Welsh and Scottish election results from Thursday, May 6, were mostly complete on Saturday, May 8.

Brief analyses of results

Various pundits gave analyses of the results.

However, before going into those, this is the change in voting among NHS and other health workers from Labour to Conservative. I’ve never seen anything like it:

Guido Fawkes says that Labour no longer represents the working class:

Andrew Neil of The Spectator summarised a Wall Street Journal article about the elections:

Andrew Neil himself says this is a ‘watershed’ moment:

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home says that, locally, even Labour councillors acknowledge that voters are bullish on Boris:

Dan Hodges interviewed several people in various towns in the North East. Most were bullish on Boris and the Conservatives. In Middlesbrough (emphases mine):

It’s here that one of the nation’s largest vaccination centres has been established, and the local residents filing out into car park E after receiving their jabs have a different perspective to the Prime Minister’s critics.

‘Boris is doing what he could,’ Louisa tells me. ‘It’s a very difficult situation. He’s been fantastic.’ 

Victoria Newell agrees: ‘I think he’s done a fantastic job. The whole vaccination programme has been really well managed.’

Some Labour strategists have been pointing to the vaccination success as the primary reason for Tory buoyancy in the polls

One Shadow Minister told me: ‘People are getting their jabs, the sun’s out and the pubs are open again. They’re going to do well.’

Dan Hodges visited Redcar, which used to have a huge steelworks, long gone. He then went to other parts of the Tees Valley:

The Redcar works may be gone but, as you head towards Stockton, the giant cooling towers of the Billingham manufacturing works punch up through the skyline, while the drive out of Darlington brings you face to face with the monolithic new Amazon warehouse that employs more than 1,000 staff. 

And this is what Boris – and [Tees Valley mayor Andy] Houchen – are betting their political lives on. That they can turn around decades of ‘managed decline’ under Labour and get the nation’s economic engine room motoring again.

Back in Hartlepool, the voters have started delivering their verdict. And again, another fashionable Westminster ‘narrative’ is running head-first into the British people.

You can’t currently buy a pint inside The Rossmere Pub on Balmoral Road, but you can cast a ballot.

And builder Geoff Rollinson is planning to deliver his for Boris. ‘He’s been amazing. I love him,’ he tells me. ‘What have Labour done for this town in over 50 years? Boris has pumped billions into furlough, he’s given people here a wage. Labour would never have done that.’

Outside Mill House Leisure Centre, Mark Robinson delivers the same message. ‘I voted Conservative,’ the charity worker tells me. ‘Boris is trying to get the job done.’

What about the furore over sleaze and bodies? ‘I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with Covid and all the stuff he’s had to deal with. I think he’s doing his best.’

English council wrap-up

Most of the English county council results were tabulated by Saturday night. There were big gains for the Conservatives:

The biggest news was the loss of a Labour majority of Durham County Council — the first in over a century:

English mayoral elections

I’m of two minds about regional mayors, a relatively recent development using up more taxpayer money.

Former Labour MP Andy Burnham won a comfortable re-election in Manchester.

In the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen also won a decisive re-election:

Houchen told The Spectator in March that he was eager to rebuild the steel industry in the region but is finding a certain UK Government department difficult:

‘I’ve said to Boris himself, I’ve said to No. 10 and Rishi and the five new colleagues that I’ve got in Westminster: there’s nowhere left to hide now,’ he explains. ‘It’s a strong Tory government. Loads of Tory MPs in the region, a regional Tory mayor (at least for a couple of months), so there’s no one left to blame any more. We either really deliver something different in the next four years, or people will go back to voting for other parties.’

His re-election campaign is based on a new project: to ‘bring steelmaking back to Teesside’ with electric arc furnace technology. It’s seen in America and elsewhere as the future of the steel industry, he says — but not in Westminster, where he regards the Theresa May-created department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the problem, since it clings to the declinist view of the steel industry.

‘The biggest problem with the steel industry in the UK is Whitehall,’ he says. ‘The UK steel policy and the BEIS team are absolutely useless.’ Successive governments, he says, have failed British steelmaking for 40 years. ‘It has become a sticking plaster. Oh, British Steel’s fallen over, how do we rescue it? Oh, now south Wales is in trouble, how do we rescue it?’ There’s too much worrying about failure, he says, and not enough planning for success. ‘It’s never: what do we want the steel industry to look like? What can we do as a developed nation when we’re having to compete with places like China?’

… He admits that his various schemes have ‘raised eyebrows’ but puts it in part down to Teesside Tories being a slightly different breed. ‘This isn’t a one-size fits all,’ he says. ‘I would say Conservatives in this region are much more practical. I don’t remember having a discussion with any Tory in Teesside about free market economics and right-wing politics. It’s very much pragmatic.’

In the West Midlands, his Conservative counterpart Andy Street also won a second term, defeating former Labour MP Liam Byrne by 54% to 46%:

In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected for a second term, but by a narrower margin than expected. His first preference votes were down by 130,000 from 2016:

Given the fact that the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey got so little media coverage — and, oddly, no support from his own party — he did remarkably well, winning boroughs in the South West of the capital along with Labour-dominated Brent & Harrow as well as Ealing & Hillingdon (see map) in the North West. (In 2016, Khan won Brent & Harrow comfortably.) Bailey also won Croydon and Sutton to the South:

Bailey arrived at City Hall for the final count on Saturday evening:

Labour still dominate the London Assembly. Bailey will retain his seat there:

London is beginning to vote Conservative again because of the high crime rates under Sadiq Khan’s leadership. On the day the results were announced, there was a stabbing at Selfridges in Oxford Street. Unthinkable:

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Labour defeated the Conservatives:

Labour held on to Bristol, with Greens in second place:

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has been elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire. I hope that she will have to resign her Parliamentary seat as a result.

Scotland

Scotland’s SNP are just one seat of an overall majority.

Nicola Sturgeon has been re-elected to Holyrood and remains First Minister.

Independence referendum redux

Naturally, the Sunday news shows raised the matter of a second independence referendum with UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has the rather grand political title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He plainly told Sophy Ridge of Sky News:

Gove, himself a Scot and being interviewed in Glasgow, rightly pointed out that, when the first independence referendum was held — the one that was supposed to be ‘once in a generation’ — the SNP had an overall majority in Holyrood under Alex Salmond:

Over to the east coast of Scotland, in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon, having campaigned this year on no second independence referendum because of coronavirus, is now game for one:

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers, someone with a Scottish surname, laid out his plan for the next independence referendum. This is excellent, especially the bit about stopping the Barnett formula three years before the referendum. Enough English financing of Scotland, especially as it was supposed to be a temporary measure — in 1979:

I would allow a referendum. On the date of my choosing. Voters must be over 18 and resident in Scotland for the previous 5 years. Why on earth Boris allowed Wales and Scotland to extend their franchises beats me, children vote, students vote TWICE. My referendum will be in 3 years time and to help voters decide I’m stopping the Barnett formula at midnight tonight and any English infrastructure spending in Scotland so they get a clear idea of their economic muscle. Scotland will leave the union with all the SNO’s own debts and 10% of the UK National debt. Scottish ‘ministers’ and council leaders will not be allowed to travel overseas or Zoom with foreign politicians without permission of my Secretary of State. English, Welsh and N Irish students will no longer qualify for grants or loans to attend Scottish universities and Scottish students will pay foreign student fees to study outside Scotland. The NHS in England and Wales will be closed to Scottish residents. Etc. Etc. Three years. Then Orkney and Shetland will be offered the chance to be UK dependant territories with tax haven and Freeport status. Etc. Etc.

Even the BBC’s Andrew Marr, himself a Scot, knows that England helps to finance Scotland. Sturgeon refused to admit it on Sunday morning:

Apparently, now that the election is over, the SNP plan to put their case for independence forward in foreign capitals. I hope they will not be using Barnett consequentials to finance their flights:

Scottish blogger Effie Deans wonders how well other countries will receive Scotland’s plan for secession. It did not work well for Catalonia:

The UK Government has a plan to counteract the SNP’s independence goal — give money directly from London (Westminster) to Scottish councils, bypassing Holyrood:

There have been complaints of coronavirus funds going from Westminster to Scotland and not being allocated locally to ease the damage done by the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly £600,000 seems to be unaccounted for in SNP funds, as can be seen in the Private Eye article below:

Results

Now on to the results. The SNP needed 65 seats for a majority:

One of the regional BBC shows in Wales or Northern Ireland said on Sunday that this was the SNP’s ‘best ever result’, but it is not:

The fly in the ointment was Aberdeen West (see Balmoral below), which the Scottish Conservatives managed to hold on to with an increased majority from 900 to 3,000, probably thanks to George Galloway’s new All for Unity Party:

They were pleased with their wins, which also included re-election in constituencies along the border with England:

And what happened to Alex Salmond’s brand new Alba Party? There was no predicted ‘supermajority’. Alba won no seats:

Interestingly, a poll in the SNP’s favoured newspaper, The National, polled readers on May 4. Alba was mentioned favourably more than once in the polling. Forty-nine per cent of those polled were planning on voting for Alba on their list (peach coloured) ballot. Alex Salmond was also the most impressive independence campaigner next to Nicola Sturgeon (43% to 46%).

Wales

Last, but not least, is Wales, which everyone knew would largely vote Labour, as is their wont.

Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford won re-election.

Like the Scots, they are 1 seat short of a majority.

This is their Senedd (Senate) result:

That said, Labour’s vote share is up, and so is the Conservatives’, as predicted on Election Day:

Guido Fawkes has a summary.

It is unlikely Wales will push for independence any time soon.

Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday, the formal reopening of the Houses of Parliament will take place.

Her Majesty the Queen will give her speech which outlines the Government’s agenda in the House of Commons for the coming months.

More on that this week.

Continuing on Scotland’s upcoming election, I have been astonished by some of the articles and social media messages appearing north of the border.

Scottish women — and sensible Scotsmen — are increasingly concerned by the encroaching activism of a small minority of Scots with regard to certain aspects of gender recognition, including self-identification.

The SNP do not seem to care, and no one knows how the new Hate Crime legislation will work against anyone who is worried about a man wandering into a ladies’ room or a women’s changing room.

In a guest post for Wings Over Scotland on March 31, 2021, Margaret Lynch a long-time activist, first for Labour, then for the SNP and now for the Alba Party, wrote about the topic in ‘Why women want Alba’ (emphases mine):

The inability of the SNP leadership to accept the simple distinction between sex and gender has led them into very troubled waters and has done real harm. It has led to vulnerable women in prisons being subjected to sexual assault by men who “identify” as women, to a local authority adopting a “gender neutral” approach to domestic violence which saw funding removed from Women’s Aid groups because they refused to admit men to refuges or work with perpetrators.

Lastly and perhaps most ludicrously it’s seen a situation arise where crossdressers – but not real women – are protected by a Hate Crimes Bill which omits misogyny from the list of prejudices it seeks to prohibit.

The response of the SNP leadership to those women who did try and constructively engage within the SNP around these issues was genuinely shocking. They stood by and watched prominent female SNP elected representatives be hounded and abused, and said nothing. They colluded in attempts to prevent the selection of gender critical candidates using all manner of chicanery.

Alex Salmond of the new Alba Party has spent the past few years defending his reputation against SNP smears, so there is a certain irony that a man falsely accused of preying on women now appears to be their defender in Scotland, at least where pro-independence parties are concerned:

The irony of Alex Salmond presenting a solution to our problems has not escaped me. Some feminists think this is a bridge too far. But what I know is that Alex Salmond’s political survival now depends on him demonstrating at all times and to all people that he can be trusted in women’s company and to defend women’s rights.

Nicola [Sturgeon], who I have long admired and liked, has demonstrated over and over again that she CANNOT be trusted to defend women’s rights – and in fact would throw them under a bus in a heartbeat to gain the support of the fanatical youth wing of the party, and the Greens who appear to care less about the environment than they do about bedding down Queer Theory in Scotland’s political institutions.

What drew me to join Alba was the tactical opportunity it presented:

to ensure that there’s a party which will protect women’s rights in Scotland, and provide a safe harbour for those of us who want independence to cast our votes in the coming election without betraying our sex.

to act as a countermeasure to the malign forces which have propelled the SNP leadership towards an agenda which is dismantling women’s rights, to speak out on the matters which affect us, and to retain safe spaces and representation.

That same day, Wings Over Scotland featured another guest post by a former SNP member, Morag Kerr, who explains why she has cancelled her party membership. Her article is called ‘To the National Secretary’. Excerpts follow:

During the first 25 years of my membership I made many friends and had many wonderful experiences. I never imagined for a moment that I would leave the party before independence day.

However the past four years have been an entirely different experience and that time has now come. I cannot remain a member of the SNP for the following reasons.

1. Lack of any progress towards independence since 2015, including the lack of preparation of the infrastructure that will be needed by an independent country.

2. Failure to capitalise on the very real opportunities which arose between 2016 and 2019 in the run-up to Brexit.

3. The explicit ruling-out of viable routes to independence, and the imposition of conditions which would stand in the way of viable routes to independence.

4. The insulting dangling of “vote SNP for a new indyref” when an election was at hand, followed by the inevitable kick into the long grass soon afterwards.

5. The lack of rebuttal of unionist attacks and talking-points, combined with currying favour with the unionist mainstream media while attacking and indeed monstering pro-independence online media. The donation of a substantial sum of public money to prop up the Unionist print press was absolutely inexplicable.

6. The fitting-up of Alex Salmond on false allegations of sexual assault intended to prevent his returning to politics to do something about points 1 to 5

9. The appalling Hate Crime Bill which will criminalise simple disagreement if someone simply chooses to take offence at it, and the exclusion of women as a protected category while including men in drag on their way to a stag night.

(I can’t believe I’m even writing that, and [Justice Secretary] Humza Yusuf’s sneering jibe that a woman would be protected in the event she were mistaken for a transwoman was simply the last straw.) …

13. The rewriting of the rules with the obvious express purpose of preventing Joanna Cherry from being considered as a candidate in the Holyrood election

20. Promotion of highly unsuitable sex education material to young children.

On April 6, an Edinburgh blogger, Calton Jock — hardly a political conservative — wrote about the close alliance between certain gender/lifestyle identity organisations and the Scottish government:

LGBT Youth Scotland was formerly called the Stonewall Youth Project and is mainly funded by the state (in other words us), with over 75% its annual income coming from the Scottish Government, local councils and the National Health Service. (Scottish schools to get updated guidance on supporting transgender pupils).

Bear in mind that the co-founder of Stonewall, Simon Fanshawe, broke away from the organisation and condemned its “extreme” position on transgender rights. Yet we have the Scottish Government determined to change the Gender Reform Act (GRA) and to continue to permit children to be given permanently damaging puberty blockers, despite a ruling in the English courts that this has to stop. (Letters to the Times) …

The Scottish Government and opposition parties have agreed to continue talks about freedom of expression elements of the hate crime bill.

It follows concern about the impact of some of the amendments proposed to the legislation on the transgender community.

The Justice Committee considered stage two amendments to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf had originally proposed an amendment seeking to protect “discussion or criticism of matters relating to transgender identity”, provided the behaviour was not threatening or abusive …

People are questioning the influence of “Stonewall” on Scotland’s civil service after it emerged that controversial policies have been introduced in alignment with Stonewall’s political aims. These include a compulsory “Diversity Objective” for all staff to make the Scottish Government “a more diverse and inclusive place to work”, training on “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias”, and the use of gender-neutral language. The Civil Service is also included on Stonewall’s “Diversity Champions Index” …

The Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute said:

“The extent of Stonewall’s influence on the Civil Service is alarming, particularly given the controversial nature of some of its political aims. Stonewall’s stance on trans issues is strongly opposed by women’s organisations, medics and faith groups. Yet, the Civil Service appears to endorse it wholesale. How does this fit with the Service’s duty to remain politically impartial? Staff are encouraged to attend training sessions on “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias”. These controversial ideas are disputed in wider society. So it’s concerning that they are written into the training schedule for Civil Service employees. The compulsory “Diversity Objective” also raises questions. What happens to staff members who hold religious beliefs which differ from those championed by Stonewall? Are they marked down? This could constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.”

Gender identity activism also affects the Liberal Democrats as Calton Jock explained in an April 6 post, ‘The Threat to Women is a Real and Present Danger’. He discovered that this goes back to 2019 when then-party leader Jo Swinson put gender identity into the party manifesto before the general election that December. To think that most of us saw her — and her party’s candidates — as being anti-Brexit. No, there was much more.

Calton Jock has an image of one of Swinson’s tweets before the election. It reads, in part:

Introduce an ‘X’ gender option on passports and extend equality law to cover gender identity and expression …

Thank goodness she lost her seat as an MP. So did many other Lib Dems. There are only 11 of them now in the House of Commons.

Calton Jock explains why the Lib Dems have these policies:

Assisting their efforts with donations exceeding £1.3million, is Ferring Pharmaceuticals a company that markets drugs used in gender-identity clinics to delay puberty.

The party has already upset feminists, who worry that the “extreme trans-ideological” policies in its manifesto will put vulnerable women at risk.

The company is owned by the Swedish billionaire Frederik Paulsen and markets the drug, which is used to block puberty among adolescents.

The Lib Dem manifesto pledges “complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrapping fees and recognition of non-binary gender identities”

A Drugs company owned by a Swedish billionaire philanthopist and explorer, who is an honorary Russian consul and lives in Switzerland, has given nearly £500k to the Liberal Democrats.

Frederik Paulsen, who lives in Lausanne, is worth an estimated £3bn and owns Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The company is ultimately controlled from Curacao, a Caribbean tax haven.

Electoral Commission records show that the British arm of the company, based in West Drayton, west London, gave four donations to the Liberal Democrats between December 2013 and June 2014. Three of them exceeded £100,000.

The British arm of Ferring Pharmaceuticals was set up in 1975. Ferring said the company had made the donations because it supported Liberal Democrats policy on Europe. (Sunday Times)

Comment: And the Lib/Dems had the hard neck to criticise Alex Salmond for broadcasting his show on RT!!!

Paulsen was personally awarded an “Order of Friendship” medal by Putin himself. The Vlad acolyte who has poured huge amounts of cash into Russia, was given the gong by the Russian Foreign ministry, and is an honorary Russian citizen

On April 9, an Alba Party member, Denise Findlay, wrote about the lack of political will in standing up for protecting women: ‘Life begins on the other side of despair’, a guest post on Yours For Scotland.

An excerpt follows:

It has been a hard few years for the women who support Scottish independence. The women have endured vicious bullying, name calling, doxing and rape threats simply for trying to stand up for their rights. All from those who are meant to on the same side in the independence debate. Women have now struggled for years against their own party and movement. Many honourable men have joined the debate giving women their support but still truckloads of abuse are heaped on the women’s heads every day.

Women’s concerns have not been heard. All parties in the Scottish Parliament are signed up in varying degrees to gender ideology.

The Greens and LibDems are irretrievably anti-women in hock to an ideology which is dangerous to the health and well being of women and girls. Andy Wightman resigned from the Greens due to their intolerance of any discussion of women’s rights claiming party leader Patrick Harvie is captured by Queer Theory.

Labour is unfortunately losing three MSPs who actually backed women; Johann Lamont, Jenny Marra and Elaine Smith and Anas Sarwar the new Labour leader is unwilling to take on the gender ideologues within his own party.

The Conservatives although they voted against the Hate Crimes Bill that was because of its general infringement of the right to freedom of expression and it is a sad day when it is the Conservatives who are our only slim hope.

The SNP leadership is fully signed up to the gender ideology and have a number of policies that are dangerous to women.

Just before recess the Scottish Parliament passed the Hate Crimes Bill (HCB). This bill does not give protection to women who as a sex have been ignored by this bill. A man dressed as a woman has more protection against hate than a woman. But it does pose significant danger and risk to women.

The bill introduces a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ which requires that behaviour must be judged “abusive or threatening” by a “reasonable” person.

Define ‘Reasonable’ when using the word ‘female’ can be judged transphobic. When our own justice secretary can’t say if there are two sexes and a judge in England ruled that belief in two sexes was ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’. When many women’s accounts have been suspended or banned from social media for stating biological fact.

During the passage of the bill amendments that would have given women a small measure of protection, were withdrawn due to an outcry by the trans lobby.

There is little doubt that women arguing on the basis of sex will be reported to the police, this coupled with doubts over the independence of the crown office will have a chilling effect of women’s freedom of expression.

One would have thought that, with all the equality legislation in the UK, including Scotland, these issues should not have arisen. But, no. Things have become worse:

In the new parliament the SNP intends to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which would allow a man to legally change his sex to female purely on his own say-so. The GRA was introduced prior to same sex marriage, it was to allow people who suffer from gender dysphoria – which at that time was a mental illness – and have changed their bodies to legally become the opposite sex in order to marry.

At the time it was understood that it impacted women’s rights because women’s sex-based rights are necessarily exclusive as they exclude males. But the European Court of Human Rights decided that the numbers were so small women could just accommodate them.

Over time same sex marriage was made legal which negated the original need for a GRA. A further ruling of the European Court of Human Rights meant that people would not have to change their bodies to obtain a GRA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) determined that gender dysphoria was not a mental illness.

This greatly increased the number of men who could claim to be women and the trans umbrella is now large, it includes men with gender dysphoria who have changed their bodies but also cross-dressers, men who have a sexual fetish about being a woman or being accepted as a woman, exhibitionists and men who believe they have a lady brain. As well as the increase in the number of men now considered trans and who feel they are entitled to access women only spaces and services there is also an issue of abuse of the system.

With self-id there is no gate-keeping so this opens it up to the risk of predatory men taking advantage. Male sexual offenders are identifying as women and being housed in women’s prisons, this is already happening in Scottish prisons.

The ramifications of self-id for women’s sex-based rights are considerable, already mixed sex toilets in schools are causing teenage girls to miss school in particular when they have their period, there are mixed sex changing rooms, mixed sex hospital wards, women’s refuges and rape crisis centres. All places where women are vulnerable and predatory men or men indulging their sexual fetishes can take advantage.

Denise Findlay concludes:

The very real prospect of the complete loss of women’s rights in Scotland and the risk of a criminal prosecution if we complain.

Then into this hopeless situation strode hope.

Hope in the form of the Alba Party who just might save the rights of Scottish women and girls, while gaining us our independence.

This weekend it is the Alba Party Women’s Conference. Women will have a voice. All is not yet lost. We still have Hope.

The Alba Party Women’s Conference was held online. It was well attended and watched by hundreds of women in Scotland.

One of the more disturbing revelations from the Women’s Conference was news from a guest speaker that gender activists in Scotland want the age of consent lowered to the age of 10.

The Rev. Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland has more on this development in ‘The Paedophile Charter’:

ILGA World –  the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – is an organisation that we hadn’t heard of until today. Just over a year ago they released, as part of a 200-member caucus of other groups, something called “The Feminist Declaration”. It’s a mostly-innocuous document of demands about women’s rights, but buried in the middle of it is a very disturbing section.

The section, a screenshot of which is in his post, encourages a de-stigmatisation of adolescent sexuality.

Campbell continues (emphases his):

The World Health Organisation defines “adolescents” as people aged from 10 to 19.

So the only possible interpretation of “end the criminalization of adolescents’ sexuality” is a reduction in the age of consent to 10 years old. Indeed, a slightly earlier paragraph of the Declaration is more explicit about it:

”Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex

While it doesn’t go into more detail, one would like to imagine that the intent would be to remove laws limiting capacity for consent only within that age group, ie to make it legal for all adolescents to have sex with each other, rather than to let older people have sex with them. But it doesn’t actually say that anywhere.

Even if it did, alert readers will note that that would still make it legal for 19-year-olds to have sex with 10-year-olds, and to put it very mildly that seems a somewhat controversial position.

So who are the organisations signing up to this “feminist” demand under the ILGA umbrella? On its list of member organisations, sure enough, appear the names of LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland.

Just 12 years ago LGBT Youth Scotland was at the centre of Scotland’s biggest ever paedophile scandal, with its chief executive James Rennie sentenced to life imprisonment for a string of offences …

It appears that it’s entirely true – the SNP are indeed paying lobby groups with your money to try to reduce the age of consent in Scotland to 10.

We wish we could be confident that the danger of that actually happening was only theoretical.

Stonewall Scotland disputed the Wings Over Scotland claims, but Rev. Stuart Campbell stood by his post and responded in ‘If it hit you in the eye’:

So the only possible thing about adolescent sexuality that could currently be decriminalized in Scotland, England or Wales is the requirement for both of the participants to be at least 16, or at a minimum over 12. Or put more simply, the reduction of the age of consent.

(It offers no alternative definition of the word to the widely-agreed ones already in existence saying it starts at 10.)

And as Stonewall Scotland are (through ILGA) signatories to that declaration, then there is simply no interpretation possible other than that they’re calling for a reduction in the age of consent. If they didn’t MEAN to do that, they need to withdraw their membership of ILGA, or get ILGA to withdraw its signature from the Declaration, or immediately have the document rewritten to remove that sentence. Because that is unambiguously and unequivocally what it demands.

But notably, they haven’t done that. They’ve just angrily asserted that it doesn’t say what it says. That isn’t a denial of the material facts, it’s a denial of language and a denial of the entire concept of reality.

He returned to the subject in ‘What you find under rocks’. He concluded as follows, issuing an important disclaimer (purple highlight mine):

Paedophiles have a long and well-documented history of trying to infiltrate and hijack LGBT groups, and Scotland is no exception. Indeed, it has very disturbing recent history. Observing that fact does not amount to an accusation and it absolutely certainly does NOT imply any intrinsic link between homosexuality and paedophilia. Wings is not aware of any statistical predilection of homosexual people towards paedophilia compared to heterosexual people.

But anyone who reacts with outrage and evasion and deflection to a basic minimum of scrutiny and vigilance about the safeguarding of 10-year-olds (and especially if, as with ILGA and LGBT Youth Scotland, they’ve had previous and very severe problems with paedophile infiltration) is probably someone over whom there should be rather MORE scrutiny and vigilance, not less.

The prospect of a lower age of consent was also a topic among some Unionists. George Galloway of Scotland’s fledgling All For Unity party is a married father of six. On April 11, he tweeted about the possibility of home schooling:

An article from 2020 in Scottish Review discusses Scotland’s education curriculum in this regard. Bruce Scott’s article, ‘The crisis of consent in Scottish schools’ is detailed and well worth reading. He made Freedom of Information requests of the Scottish government, which he said were not answered satisfactorily. With regard to faith groups and home schooling he says (emphases mine):

I also enquired what faith groups had been consulted as part of their working group/implementation group (e.g., Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, etc). So far, it seems that the wide variety of faith groups in Scotland have not been consulted on the Scottish Government’s LGBT Inclusive Education proposals.

One thing I have gleamed from my inquiries is that contrary to some reports, the LGBT Inclusive Education in Scotland is not mandatory; parents are within their rights to withdraw their children if they wish. Further, all schools have to implement the LGBT Inclusive Education curriculum in consultation with parents of children at the school and tailor it to their needs. This is not common knowledge. But, and it is a big but, as the LGBT focus is going to be disseminated throughout all aspects of the curriculum, the only option for parents who object to this curriculum would be withdraw their child from the school completely; a fait accompli on the part of the Scottish Government. I predict they will come for those who decide to home school next.

A supporter of gay and lesbian rights also spoke out against a lower age of consent:

She is not wrong. This Twitter thread — which contains photos not to be shared with children or the vulnerable — explains how Scotland arrived where it is today. The gender issue started in 1974 in Edinburgh. Less than 20 years later, ILGA was an international NGO recognised by the United Nations and remains so today. Graham Linehan, creator of several hit sitcoms in the UK, wrote an article based on the Twitter thread: ‘If you say so’. Linehan is also deeply concerned about protecting women’s and children’s rights.

In closing, The Scotsman reported that the speaker at the Alba Party Women’s Conference came under fire for discussing the possibility of a lower age of consent (emphases mine):

Responding to a request for comment, an Alba spokesperson said the women’s conference was a “great success” and defended Ms Lynch’s statement.

They said: “The organisations referenced have both signed up to this demand, and both have received substantial amounts of Government funding. These are reputable organisations that make a positive impact on the lives of many in Scotland.

If the organisations do not support what they have signed up to it is for them to say or provide clarification, it is not for women that attended our women’s conference to defend concerns that women have raised based on fact.“

The Alba Party manifesto makes a clear commitment to protecting women’s rights (item 8):

One wonders if this situation will have an impact on Scottish voters next Thursday, May 6.

When former SNP leader and long-serving Westminster MP Alex Salmond launched the ALBA Party, founded by journalist Laurie Flynn, on Friday, March 26, 2021, I watched the video with interest:

Unfortunately, they had several technical difficulties during the first 30 minutes and I stopped watching.

SNP MP Pete ‘Runrig’ Wishart was annoyed that Salmond pronounced ‘Alba’ with two syllables rather than three:

Two days later, there was also a data leak of ‘thousands of names’ of Scots who signed up to the party. Around 4,000 names were visible on their website. Allegedly, the list included prominent SNP names.

Salmond and Alba supporters see the party as a way of creating a supermajority for independence. Their website says:

Almost one of two pro-independence votes go to waste because of the Additional Member System (AMS) used in Scottish elections.

The #Supermajority strategy creates the opportunity to secure over one million additional votes for independence.

Their Supermajority page has more about the overall voting strategy — each voter receives a constituency and a list ballot — beginning with this (emphases mine below):

The more success a party has on the constituency vote, the less well it does on the regional list vote. That’s why in 2016 #BothVotesSNP led to 1 million wasted pro-independence list votes.

Voting Alba Party on May 6th will make sure no pro-independence vote goes to waste by securing a #Supermajority for independence.

Let’s tip the balance in Scotland’s favour.

By Sunday, March 28, two SNP MPs serving in Westminster, Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey, defected to Alba.

Kenny MacAskill wrote a letter to his constituents explaining why he was leading the Lothian list. It says, in part:

My office will continue operating for constituents and I will continue serving as MP. Along with other colleagues in Alba I will work with the SNP Group in Westminster in opposing the harm that’s being done to our land by the UK Government.

Neale Hanvey will stand as a candidate in the Mid Scotland and Fife region.

This all looked quite threatening to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She was Deputy First Minister for Scotland when Alex Salmond was First Minister:

That day, the BBC reported:

Alba now has more MPs than Scottish Labour who only have Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray.

Also:

With Neale Hanvey and former SNP councillors Lynne Anderson and Caroline McAllister joining today, Alba also appears to be a home for those who fear that gender self-identification for trans people poses a threat to women’s rights.

I will come back to gender recognition issues in another post. It is a big deal in Scotland, especially with the nation’s new Hate Crime legislation.

Regarding Scottish MPs running for Holyrood seats in the May 6 local elections, some voters think that should trigger a by-election. After all, the SNP’s Neil Gray resigned his seat in Westminster before running for a seat in Holyrood. Others, however, point out that not resigning as MPs is an insurance policy should they lose next week:

With regard to independence, a number of SNP supporters do not think Nicola Sturgeon has done enough during her time in Holyrood. As such, they find the Alba Party a welcome development, as this journalist for the Herald Scotland says:

The Greens appeared to be threatened. A new face, that of Lorna Slater — a Canadian — popped up on television when viewers expected to see the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie:

Lorna Slater has appeared on more television programmes since then.

The euphoria surrounding the Alba Party vanished quickly. On Monday, March 29, a BBC Scotland spokesperson said that Alex Salmond would not feature in an upcoming election debate of party leaders:

On Tuesday, the Herald Scotland criticised the calibre of one Alba candidate:

The Herald reported that the candidate, a former boxer, also voiced his opinions about some of the homeless in Edinburgh and came out against coronavirus vaccines.

The paper also reported that Neale Hanvey said that a ‘supermajority for independence’ would not reflect voters’ wishes:

Neale Hanvey, who defected from the SNP, said such an outcome would be “representative of the electoral system that exists in Scotland”, rather than its people.

He told BBC Radio Scotland that was down to Westminster devising Holyrood’s elections.

He said: “I didn’t design the system. If anyone… needs to answer to the electoral system that’s been put in place in Scotland it’s certainly not me.”

In an interview with the Daily Record today, Nicola Sturgeon was scathing about the supermajority plan.

She said: “At the end of the day, we’ve got to win independence fair and square. We can’t game, or cheat, our way to that.”

Mr Hanvey also said SNP MPs had “very little influence” on policy at Westminster, and that they would be “more than welcome” to defect to Alba.

On the other hand, the Rev. Stu Campbell of Wings Over Scotland painted a fuller picture of Alba candidates in ‘Rallying to the Banner’. He listed all of them and wrote about the party’s diversity:

The new party’s new members/candidates are impressively diverse, despite the lack of any crude and/or illegal gerrymandered selection tactics to impose that diversity. They feature a range of ages from 20s to 60s, from all class backgrounds, six of the 12 are women, Eva Comrie is disabled (and we mean actually disabled, with an artificial leg, rather than just bad at spelling) and Irshad Ahmed of Scots Asians For Independence is the first high-profile BAME defector from the SNP to Alba.

They’ve joined for a variety of reasons, from delivering a supermajority (Hanvey) to the SNP’s dire weakness on women’s rights (Anderson, McAllister, Comrie), to its lack of serious commitment to a second indyref (Bews and Wilson), and the parlous, corrupt state of the SNP’s internal democracy (Ahmed, who told Wings last night that party HQ had bizarrely refused to let him see the results of the recent list elections until the COVID-19 crisis was over).

The increasingly panicky attempts of Unionists, bitter media columnists and woke SNP activists to paint Alba as some sort of last redoubt for old white men look more and more ridiculous with every passing day. We look forward to continuing developments.

One of Alba’s candidates is Scotland’s longest serving SNP councillor:

By the end of March, Alba was polling at 3% for list votes:

Another poll showed promise for Alba:

However, on April 8, Guido Fawkes, citing a third poll, by Opinium, said that optimism about Alba was misplaced (emphases in the original):

Guido suspects the disastrous polling numbers for the Alba Party are most likely to bring a smile to Nicola Sturgeon’s face. According to Opinium, Salmond’s new pet project is unlikely to gain a single seat in Holyrood next month, polling at just 2% in the regional vote. It looks like the declining support for Labour and the Tories has fallen in Sturgeon’s favour – not Salmond’s…

It’s clear Scottish voters just don’t trust Alex Salmond. A poll by Savanta Comres yesterday showed the former First Minister’s net favourability rating stuck in the gutter at -51% (lower than Boris Johnson’s), and today’s data bears that out. Over 63% of Scots take an unfavourable view of a coalition between Alba and the SNP…

Alba supporters were undeterred. Alex Salmond gave an interview the day before that attracted much favourable comment:

Meanwhile, Alba launched a two-week crowdfunder which they completed successfully on April 16:

On 16th April 2021 we successfully raised £54,100 with 1257 supporters in 14 days

What chances does Alba have next Thursday? At the end of March, Policy Exchange summed it up this way, alluding to the way Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP tried to smear him (emphases mine):

Will anyone listen? That is where Mr Salmond comes in. For all that he is a much-diminished figure, and for all the fact he is now entirely ostracised by Nicola Sturgeon and her coterie, polls suggest that around a third of SNP voters still approve of him. He is still seen by many as the man who nearly led Scotland to independence and who – in the eyes of many Nationalist supporters – has been the victim of a conspiracy to wreck his reputation. So it’s to be expected that plenty of these voters will be attracted to his latest ruse. A scenario which sees Mr Salmond’s party win around 10-12% of the party list vote – enough to win up to 2 seats in each of Scotland’s 8 regions – is therefore possible. And while some of these would come from the pro-independence Greens, the majority would be at the expense of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

That is the worst case scenario for the Unionist cause. The more optimistic take would see the pro-independence movement descending into chaos over the next four weeks of the campaign, with splits and divisions dominating coverage. It would also see cautious soft-SNP voters who have been won over by Nicola Sturgeon’s approach taking fright and either declining to vote, or switching back to Labour.

True to form, Mr Salmond has decided to roll the dice and find out. There is impeccable and calculated method in his latest move. We’re now set to find out whether he remains as good a judge of Scotland’s mood as he once was.

Last week, Alba published their manifesto, along with a video. The manifesto includes a proposal for a written constitution for an independent Scotland (point 5) and a new Scottish currency in the case of independence (point 9):

Wings Over Scotland said:

Had we formed our own party it’s pretty much the manifesto we’d have written …

On Sunday, April 25, a new poll appeared. The Alba Party remained stuck on 3%:

At this stage, it does not appear as if Alba has much traction with voters. This article from an Edinburgh blogger says that the BBC strictly controls what hits the airwaves during election campaigns.

It looks as if there will be another SNP/Green sweep. The Greens’ votes have helped the SNP pass legislation in the past. This is likely to continue:

However, I would bet against a motion on Scottish independence for the foreseeable future.

Many moons ago last century, I spent three happy holidays in Scotland.

My first was during my time at university, when I was studying on the Continent. I bought a souvenir, a dark green lambswool pullover from the Edinburgh Woollen Mill which was then located in the Royal Mile. Unfortunately, I had to throw it out recently, just weeks short of its 43rd birthday.

The Scots I met were hospitable and interesting, regardless of what they did for a living. On my trip in 1978, when a group of us were at a pub in Edinburgh, I asked them what they thought of the Queen. They all liked her. Did they ever want independence? No.

There was a long hiatus before I returned. In those intervening years, I contented myself by keeping abreast of their music in the 1980s. Fortunately, the radio station I listened to in the US played British music most of the time. Their other offering was reggae. Radio heaven.

In my humble opinion, 1983 was a banner year for Scottish bands.

My all time favourite has to be Aztec Camera, led by the highly talented and, at the time, a very young Roddy Frame, who has lived in London since the 1980s.

Their 1983 album High Land, Hard Rain is hard to fault. I have a few favourite tracks from that album, but my all-time favourite is ‘Oblivious’. Roddy Frame’s Spanish guitar riffs are superb. The best thing is that one can listen to this any time of day or night and enjoy it:

The band performed this live at Aston University, Birmingham, on 13 December 1983. This was broadcast on the BBC’s Whistle Test On The Road on 16 December 1983.

Frame wrote the melody and the lyrics, which begin with this:

From the mountain tops
Down to the sunny street
A different drum is playing a different kind of beat …

Then there was Big Country, who, in 1983, had one Top 40 hit in the United States, ‘In a Big Country’, a rousing example of Celtic-influenced rock, complete with bagpipe riffs. This video comes from BBC’s Top of the Pops:

Their attire reminds me of that of the schoolboys I saw on public transport every day when going to work: pullovers and baggy wide-wale corduroys. It was a nice look for an American city.

Then there was Runrig. Their 1983 hit was the anthem for Scottish independence, ‘Alba’ (pron. ‘Al-i-ba’). The lyrics are in Scottish Gaelic, but this video has English subtitles:

This was filmed in Edinburgh: on Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat (or so it looks).

On my return trips to Scotland in the late 1980s, I bought three Runrig albums.

Now I am sorry I did.

One of their number, Pete Wishart, who plays keyboard in the video, is the longest serving SNP MP in Westminster. He was first elected MP in 2001.

I watch a lot more BBC Parliament than listen to music these days. Watching Wishart sneer in the House of Commons is too much. Whether it is for show or whether he really does dislike the English as much as it appears, I have no idea. Whatever the case, it vexes me that, even in a small way, I helped to put money in his pocket and bread on his table.

This brings me to the larger question of the SNP and their drive for Scottish independence, particularly as the UK has local elections coming up on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

On my stays along the east coast of Scotland, I never did meet anyone who supported independence.

Yet, the Scottish National Party, which was founded in 1934, has grown in popularity over the past two decades to become the largest Scottish political party in both Holyrood (Scotland’s assembly in Edinburgh) and in Westminster (London, seat of the UK Parliament). In London, they have 44 MPs. By contrast, the Liberal Democrats have only 11.

Only Scottish voters can cast a ballot for the SNP.

The current SNP leader and First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon.

Before her, it was Alex Salmond, who served as an MP for 30 years, from 1987 to 2017.

Once I moved to the UK, I began watching Channel 4 News every night. I broke that habit many years ago. That said, they invariably had a news item on or interview with Alex Salmond. For whatever reason, he became quite the globetrotter, visiting China, the United States and Qatar. He also spoke at a UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

I could never understand how an MP whose party was not in government could be allowed to make all those trips. He was hardly a hanger-on, either. He met very powerful people, as one can see from the photos on his Wikipedia page.

His downfall came with the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. On September 18 that year, voters living in Scotland went to the polls. Disappointingly for the SNP, 55% voted to stay in the UK. It was a big deal at the time and, although the SNP deny it today, it was billed as a once-in-a-generation referendum. Salmond stood down as First Minister. His deputy was Nicola Sturgeon. She succeeded him.

Wikipedia summarises the referendum as follows (emphases mine):

Prominent issues raised during the referendum included what currency an independent Scotland would use, public expenditure, EU membership, and North Sea oil. An exit poll revealed that retention of the pound sterling was the deciding factor for those who voted No, while “disaffection with Westminster politics” was the deciding factor for those who voted Yes.[3]

For the past few years in the Commons, SNP MPs have been railing against ‘this UK government’ and have been talking a lot about a second referendum.

Few specifics have been published on a concrete plan for independence. One would think that, having failed to win in 2014, a solid proposition regarding currency, a central bank and trade is critical. However, none exists.

Alex Salmond, who is leading the new — and tiny — rival independence party Alba (pron. ‘Al-i-ba’), is the only one who has even a rough outline of a plan involving a Scottish currency.

For the purposes of this election, however, the SNP are banking on a platform of coming out of the coronavirus crisis. Based on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s track record so far — a steep decline in Scottish education standards and the most drug deaths of any European nation — it does not inspire confidence:

This pamphlet says that another independence referendum will be held once the coronavirus crisis is over:

That could be years away.

Others mention independence without adding ‘after the crisis’, such as this one:

There are two votes to be had in this election, which, in Scotland, are counted in a system of proportional representation, the D’Hondt method. There is a constituency ballot and a list ballot. I’ll discuss this on another day. For now, it explains why the leaflets advise voting SNP on both ballots:

Here is another two-vote plea:

Then there are ‘free stuff’ policies such as these for bicycles. Given the parlous state of Scotland’s rural roads, one hopes there will be a lot of money in this particular pot:

A universal basic income is also part of the SNP platform. For my readers who do not live in the UK, it is worth noting that taxpayers living in England forfeit some public money through the Barnett formula to help finance Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are also top-ups for certain expenditures, e.g. coronavirus programmes, which are called Barnett consequentials. This is a sore point for English taxpayers. A universal basic income — ‘Minimum Income Guarantee’ — at this stage is beyond the pale:

The SNP were very much against Brexit. Most Scots voted against it in the 2016 referendum. As such, the SNP would like for Scotland to join the EU as an independent nation. To some south of the border, the logic appears baffling (not my illustration):

https://image.vuukle.com/0fb1f625-47b3-4788-9031-5fe43d5ad981-30345db5-0b6e-4fa8-9a1c-9c91091d88b4

Even today, most regions of Scotland would still vote against independence. I was surprised to see that the Highlands, where one would expect independence fervour to be great, is still, albeit just, a majority No. The only Yes areas — the green ones — are around Glasgow and further east in Dundee. I picked this map up online today:

https://image.vuukle.com/8f9b8e37-97f0-4131-9257-bf8d989dfba8-4a78d2f9-27c0-49a5-b329-1c2f7e569ac5

I am very much looking forward to the results of Scotland’s election, which will not be available until May 7 or 8.

Meanwhile, a number of voters committed to independence are walking away from the SNP.

More about that in a future post.

Parliament is entering Easter recess on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

A few notable news items follow from both Houses — and the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament — MSPs standing down

A number of MSPs are standing down from their seats in Holyrood. Scots will elect new MSPs in May.

The Scotsman has a useful list, complete with photos, cited below. Emphases mine:

While all 129 of Holyrood’s seats will be contested at this year’s ballot, more than a quarter of the current crop of MSPs are standing down – including high profile figures like Ruth Davidson, Iain Gray and Jeane Freeman.

Highlights follow.

Independent

I will miss Ken Macintosh, who was a faultless convener presiding over fractious debates during the past year:

Ken Macintosh has been an MSP since the opening of the parliament in 1999, before unsuccessfully seeking the Labour leadership twice. He was elected as the parliament’s fifth presiding officer in 2016, but announced in September that he would not be seeking re-election as an MSP.

Scottish Conservatives

Ruth Davidson will be elevated to the House of Lords:

The former Scottish Tories leader took over the party’s reins at Holyrood once more when MP Douglas Ross was elected as the new leader last year. Ms Davidson will now take up a seat in the House of Lords.

Scottish Labour

Iain Gray is ending a long career as an MSP:

Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and is currently Labour’s education spokesman at Holyrood.

SNP

Here is the list of SNP MSPs who are standing down. Many have been in Holyrood for a number of years:

Jeane Freeman was in charge of health during the coronavirus crisis. Many residents of Scottish care homes died during that time.

One wonders what she will do next:

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed she will not seek re-election. The Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP said she had “more she wanted to do” outside of politics.

The Scotsman has an interesting article from 2018 about her career history at that time:

Jeane Freeman, for it was she, has moved on to greater things as Health Minister in the Scottish Government. In the first half of this decade, she was a useful cog in the SNP machine as a former Labour apparatchik who, when the wind changed, discovered she was really a Nationalist.

Long a habituée of the quango circuit, Ms Freeman’s new appointments included the disastrous Scottish Police Authority. In her peak year of 2013-14, she pulled in £57,000 from that source alone. There were a couple of NHS roles, not forgetting the Judicial Appointments Board.

All this added up to 376 paid days in the financial year. One might have thought the Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments (for such a person exists) might have done the arithmetic and asked questions but that is to over-estimate the vigilance of our non-barking watchdogs.

At the same time, Ms Freeman fronted “Women for Independence” and ran a lobbying firm which targeted the public sector. When a member of the public tabled a Freedom of Information request in 2015 about her business meetings with Scottish Ministers and officials, he was given the classic brush-off – the question would cost too much to answer.

Not unreasonably, he then wondered how lobbying activity could be monitored if ministers refused to provide information about their contacts on such implausible grounds. Another of our civic protectors, the Freedom of Information Commissioner, dismissed his complaint. Scotland really is a village …

There are still individuals floating around the Scottish quango circuit who were being put up for every chairmanship that occurred 20 years ago. The qualifications are that they challenge nothing, remain anonymous and nod their heads when directed by ministers. Political influence is as prevalent as it ever was – just much less transparent. Ask Ms Freeman.

This all fits into the wider pattern of centralisation which has systematically downgraded every other centre of influence within Scotland – public bodies, local government, police boards, funding-dependent third sector organisations – in order to create a closely integrated structure which brooks no challenge.

There is a powerful political agenda waiting to be created around the need to restore diversity and scrutiny within Scotland in order to challenge the power of the centre. Some might see that requirement as a paradoxical outcome of devolution while others recognise it as depressing – but largely predictable.

Linda Fabiani was the convener for the Holyrood inquiry examining the way Alex Salmond’s case was conducted. Hmm. Interestingly, The Scotsman makes no mention of this:

Ms Fabiani was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as an MSP for Central Scotland, but since 2011 she has represented East Kilbride.

Then there’s Mark McDonald:

The Aberdeen Donside MSP resigned from the SNP after sending a woman an inappropriate text message which referenced a sex act.

House of Commons news

Historic Westminster by-election in Scotland

A historic by-election will be taking place in Scotland as the SNP’s Neil Gray announced he would be standing down. He made his final speech in Westminster — the mother of all Parliaments — on Tuesday, March 23:

An arcane parliamentary point needs to be explained:

Although the actual Manor of Northstead in Yorkshire no longer exists, the estate has been redeveloped as a park.

In political terms, this is a temporary position for MPs who have resigned and is given out at the pleasure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Wikipedia explains:

By virtue of the fact that it became and was retained as a Lordship of the Crown beyond the sale and eventual disappearance of the estate, since the nineteenth century the post of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead has played a role in the procedure for effecting resignation from the British House of Commons by Members of Parliament (MPs). While no longer having any actual role or responsibility, it remains a nominal paid office of the Crown, a sort of sinecure, appointment to which is one of the things that by law disqualify an MP from the House. This principle goes back to the Act of Settlement 1701, and is now regulated by the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Since 1624, MPs have not been permitted to resign their seats directly. While several such offices have been used for this purpose in the past, in the present day only two are used: the Northstead post and that of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.[1][2]

Appointments to the posts are made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Using two posts allows more than one MP to resign simultaneously, although more commonly, single resignations are effected by alternating appointments to the Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds offices. One of the most recent MPs to be appointed to the Northstead office was former Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his decision to resign from his Parliamentary seat of Witney on 12 September 2016.[5]

Neil Gray was praised again in the House of Commons today during Business Questions, including by Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg. Here are more compliments from Tuesday:

This means there will be a by-election in Gray’s former constituency of Airdrie and Shotts:

This is the first time there will be a Commons by-election in an SNP-held seat:

Boris reasserts his position as Prime Minister

On March 24, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared before the Liason Committee, comprised of heads of the parliamentary Select Committees.

The session lasted around 90 minutes and covered several topics, one of which was devolution.

Scotland and Wales are trying to whittle away the significance of the UK government.

Stephen Crabb (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire) asked Boris how he saw his position. He confirmed that he is the Prime Minister of Scotland as well as the United Kingdom:

Part of the answer is to employ civil servants with the ability to accommodate the interests of the United Kingdom as well as those of the devolved nations:

House of Lords news

Two notable things happened in the House of Lords this week.

Unusual tie vote

The Lords voted on an amendment to a Government bill, only to find the result was tied. As such, the amendment failed, meaning that the Government won that round:

Hereditary peer says old biscuits perfectly edible

The House of Lords still has 90 hereditary peers.

One of them is Lord Palmer, whose family part owns the famous biscuit manufacturing firm Huntley and Palmers Ltd.

If anyone in the Lords should know when a biscuit is past its best, it would be he.

I’m bookmarking this for future reference:

With Parliament in recess, I’ll be able to do some springtime projects around the house. If I find a stale biscuit, I’ll let you know.

For months now, questions have been asked of Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP.

They have to do with how much she knew about the Me Too case surrounding her SNP predecessor, Alex Salmond.

The powerful political party of independence in Scotland has been in the headlines for months as other sexual harassment complaints have been levelled between other SNP members. To say that some of them have their minds in the gutter is an insult to gutters.

Furthermore, earlier this month, the Scottish Parliament passed the SNP’s far-reaching Hate Crime Bill.

Local elections will be taking place in May. Will the SNP still control Scotland’s devolved government at Holyrood?

Returning to Sturgeon and Salmond, the main question has been ‘What did she know and when did she know it?’

Tom Harris of The Telegraph has an excellent summary of past and present from Monday, March 22, 2021: ‘James Hamilton’s convenient conclusions don’t exonerate Nicola Sturgeon entirely’.

Let us begin with the past, when Alex Salmond lived and worked at the first minister’s residence in Edinburgh, Bute House, which is an elegant Georgian building located just off Princes Street in Charlotte Square.

Emphases mine below:

Let us revisit those years in which Salmond was first minister, and let us not fail to remind ourselves that during that entire time, Sturgeon was not only his deputy but his closest friend and colleague as well as a senior minister. For it is events in that period, not more recent events, that were at the root of the current crisis. The SNP and its followers have spent a good deal of time on social media and elsewhere trying to promote the narrative that somehow the complainants have been let down both by the Scottish government (meaning the civil service, not its political leaders) but also by the partisan manoeuvrings of the MSPs who make up the committee; a leak of its conclusions became a political football last week.

But it was Salmond’s tenure at Bute House, not events since, that is key to all this.

During that period, rumours swirled around Westminster and across news rooms about unhappy civil servants, mainly women, who were unhappy with the first minister’s behaviour. The rumours were no doubt exaggerated and it should be pointed out that when Salmond was finally brought to trial for sexual offences based on the evidence of ten complainants, he was acquitted on all charges. Nevertheless, the complaints were made and everyone in politics knew about them, and we knew (or thought we knew) the identity of at least some of those who had complained.

But you know who didn’t know about those rumours? You know who was completely blindsided until she first heard, from Alex Salmond’s own mouth, about the complaints against him as late as 2018, four years after he left office? That’s right, his protégé and trusted lieutenant, Nicola Sturgeon. We are asked to believe that this was a coffee-spitting moment, that nothing had prepared her for what Salmond was about to tell her.

In fact, women had been complaining about Salmond since 2009:

In 2009, Angus Robertson, the then Westminster leader of the SNP, was asked by the management of Edinburgh Airport to speak to Salmond about the “inappropriate” nature of then serving first minister’s behaviour towards female members of staff. Robertson did so; he interviewed Salmond, put the complaints to him and then concluded that there was nothing else to report and closed the case

But even though this event happened in 2009, while Sturgeon was Salmond’s loyal deputy, we are asked to believe that no report or hint about it was ever conveyed to her.

Is it not rather more likely that Sturgeon was as aware of these rumours as every journalist in Scotland and beyond. Is it not more logical to conclude that she chose not to do anything about them because she considered that the greater prize, one far more important than the safety at work of female civil servants or airport staff, was the SNP’s central goal of independence?

Now let us fast forward to the present.

The SNP are a particularly tightly knit party:

The same Angus Robertson is a close political ally of Sturgeon’s; he is standing in May’s Holyrood elections and was selected after the ruling SNP executive – controlled by Sturgeon and her husband, party chief executive Peter Murrell – made it almost impossible for Robertson’s most likely rival for the nomination, Joanna Cherry MP, to stand. Robertson’s account of his intervention on behalf of Edinburgh Airport was detailed in a letter Robertson wrote to the committee investigating the Salmond scandal.

Earlier in March, Sturgeon gave evidence to the Holyrood committee investigating the Salmond inquiry. It was an eight-hour session, and I watched the last three hours.

Salmond had appeared the week before in front of the committee. His evidence was concise and judicious.

Sturgeon, on the other hand, answered every question with a form of ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I cannot remember’. She often used a form of the words ‘soul searching’ more than once to indicate that she wished she could remember more details, including those from a meeting at Bute House between her and Salmond.

The committee was comprised of four SNP MSPs (including the convener, Linda Fabiani) and one MSP each from Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The question afterwards was, ‘Did Nicola Sturgeon break the ministerial code?’ Did she withhold knowledge from the committee?

It was up to barrister James Hamilton to decide in the first instance. He determined that Sturgeon did not, in fact, break the ministerial code. (Full report here.)

The Telegraph‘s article led with this:

So the (rather unsurprising) verdict is in: Nicola Sturgeon’s own adviser to her government has concluded that she did not break the ministerial code in statements to the Scottish Parliament.

Barrister James Hamilton delivered his verdict to a breathless press pack this afternoon. His conclusions will be welcomed by the SNP and by Sturgeon herself, obviously, as a glimmer of light in a very dark landscape recently. As if there was much doubt about it, she will now lead her party into May’s elections, and elections are what the SNP care about most.

Sturgeon spoke to the media on Monday after his findings were announced:

However, the story does not end there.

On Tuesday, March 23, The Telegraph had a follow up article: ‘Holyrood inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament and SNP government “badly” let down Alex Salmond complainants’.

It says:

James Hamilton, the Irish lawyer who conducted the ministerial code investigation, concluded that it was for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether they were misled.

This new report is the one from the aforementioned Holyrood committee: the four SNP MSPs and the three others.

The report is 192 pages long. The article summarises the report’s findings:

Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament and her government “badly” let down women who lodged complaints against Alex Salmond, a damning Holyrood inquiry has concluded.

The committee examining the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond found the First Minister gave “an inaccurate account” of what happened at a meeting with him and so misled the cross-party investigation.

In a 192-page report, the MSPs also said the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints, and the subsequent judicial review, was “seriously flawed”.

The two civil service complainers who triggered the investigation told the committee in private they had not seen a “meaningful change in culture” in Ms Sturgeon’s government and it had “given itself a bigger hill to climb because of the failure of the process.”

The complainers – Ms A and Ms B – also said they had been “taken aback by the lack of contact and support from the Scottish Government” following the conclusion of the judicial review, adding that “it felt as though we were just left to swim.”

The report said there was a “fundamental contradiction” between Ms Sturgeon’s evidence about her meetings with Mr Salmond and that of his team.

MSPs concluded she had left him with the impression she might intervene in the complaints process. They also said that her written evidence was “an inaccurate account of what happened”, and that “she has misled the committee on this matter”.

They also said they were “concerned” about how long it had taken Ms Sturgeon to inform the government’s permanent secretary that she was aware of the complaints and it was “inappropriate for the first minister to continue to meet and have discussions” with Mr Salmond.

It seems unlikely that Nicola Sturgeon could be forced to stand down as Scotland’s first minister.

However, the Scottish Conservatives tried to by holding a vote of no confidence at Holyrood on March 23:

Murdo Fraser, a Tory member of the committee, said: “The committee verdict is in – Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament and the public.

“It seems clear that Nicola Sturgeon will refuse to abide by the principle of democratic accountability for her government’s monumental mistakes.

Someone will have to be the fall guy or gal, because the report states:

The Committee finds that this state of affairs is unacceptable by an organisation such as the Scottish Government and that those responsible should be held accountable.

There is much more in the article.

Nicola Sturgeon skates away, like water off a duck’s back.

The Rev. Stuart Campbell is the author of the best known pro-independence website, Wings Over Scotland.

On March 23, he commented on the above findings in ‘The Switch’. He concludes:

The committee’s key finding that it “may have insufficient powers to hold the executive to account” was OPPOSED by the four SNP members.

In other words, they actually WANT the Scottish Parliament to be too weak to hold the Scottish Government to account, and for it to have fewer and weaker powers …

The abject refusal by SNP MSPs of more powers for Holyrood in case those powers might impose actual democratic accountability on their own administration is in some senses the most revealing and most shaming aspect of the entire affair.

It is an all but open admission that Nicola Sturgeon has survived only by using every means at her disposal to escape proper scrutiny

But more than that, they show a First Minister very comfortable within the confines and limits of devolution, and deeply unwilling to accept significantly more power for Scotland’s parliament because of the difficult responsibilities that come with it.

And that’s a characteristic which readers might wish to reflect honestly and soberly on when considering the likelihood of her ever delivering independence.

One of Wings Over Scotland‘s readers summed up then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s approach to his concept of Scottish devolution, an executive without checks and balances:

Tony Blair’s Labour basically designed something for Scotland they would have wanted for Westminster: an executive that could not be held to account by the parliament or the judiciary.

When Alex Salmond became First Minister in 2007, he tried to separate the powers by NOT having the Lord Advocate as a minister in his government. Nicola Sturgeon invited the Lord Advocate right back in.

That the SNP under Sturgeon is now endorsing the flawed devolved parliament design is the real tragedy for Scotland

Right now, they’re very happy with devolution – with periodical noses about “independence” when they need to harvest votes at an election – and in the unlikely event that Scotland became independent under Sturgeon’s SNP, she and her cabal and acolytes would be perfectly happy to keep the original devolved parliament design flaws and have the parliament and judiciary of an independent country firmly under the control of the executive, with no accountability or transparency.

Anybody who desires an independent Scotland that aspires to be an open, transparent, accountable, modern democracy should recoil in horror from Nicola Sturgeon’s vision for Scotland.

One wonders if many Scots will forget all of this by the time the May elections roll around.

Sixteen-year-olds will also be able to cast their ballots, probably bringing more votes the SNP’s way.

As I write, informed Scottish voters, whether pro-independence or unionist, are figuring out how to vote strategically. Many are suspicious of Sturgeon’s stated desire for independence. Is it just a cynical ploy for SNP votes? More on that in a future post.

Yesterday’s post covered Piers Morgan’s polemics, which cost him his job last week.

In the latter half of last week, Scotland passed what appears to be a draconian Hate Crime Bill, the subject of today’s post on censorship in Britain.

Thanks to BBC Parliament, I saw some of the debate in the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood a few weeks ago. I was grateful to the Scottish Conservatives who raised many questions about the scope and the reach of the then-proposed legislation.

On March 10, 2021, the day before MSPs passed the legislation, Lucy Hunter Blackburn wrote an excellent article for Holyrood: ‘Chilling effect: how the Hate Crime Bill threatens free speech’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The article begins with the wide ranging opposition the bill had received:

The bill has had an exceptionally difficult passage to date, prompting criticism from a range of organisations, including at various times the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society, the BBC, the National Secular Society, the Catholic Church and a raft of writers and artists.

Much of the objection revolves around the precise definition of ‘stirring up hatred’ in Part 2 of the bill, particularly with the trans movement being active in Scotland. In fact, the article has a photo of trans rights activists to illustrate the point:

In particular, significant concerns remain in relation to issues around sex and gender identity, and the risk of furthering chilling effects in an area of debate that people are already afraid to enter.

The Scottish Government and some commentators have downplayed such worries, insisting that people will not be criminalised for making basic statements about the nature of sex and gender identity, in ordinary language.

A leading lawyer tweeted: “in my opinion of the bill (if enacted) it will not be criminal to criticise the government. Nor will it be criminal to say there are only two genders. Neither involves stirring up hate, or is threatening or abusive.”

But the risks here are more subtle. And not for the first time, subtle risks are not being dealt with well in the process of making law, and seem to be least apparent to those least expecting to be affected.

The article looks at the language used in Part 2 of the legislation:

The bill as amended at Stage 2 requires that behaviour must be judged “abusive or threatening” by a “reasonable” person, and “intended to stir up hatred”. None of these terms are further defined.

MSPs have taken the view that the meaning of all these words will be obvious, and they will “set a high bar”.

Yet this overlooks the mass of evidence presented over the course of the passage of the bill that demonstrates what is hateful, abusive, and reasonable is substantially contested in the context of discussing sex and gender identity.

Even before this legislation was passed, women in Scotland were in danger of losing their jobs for expressing their opinions on the subject of sexual identity:

… women have already lost their jobs, and had their details recorded on police databases for asserting that sex matters.

This is probably how the legislation would work in practice:

In practice, a person will only have to find a police officer willing to entertain the idea that particular statements are intended to “abusive”, to trigger an investigation into whether a group or individual intended to stir up hatred.

What might an investigation entail? Organisations representing journalists giving evidence to the committee spoke about the serious professional and personal disruption of having laptops and phones seized, for unknown periods.

It would be likely to mean police interviews. It would be a non-trivial experience, even if charges were not pursued. This [is] broadly what happened to veteran feminist politician Lidia Falcon in Spain, before the authorities decided she had no hateful intent.

Before contemplating the possibility of going to court, let alone the likelihood of receiving a conviction, the sole barrier to a large disruptive criminal justice system intervention in a person’s life is, therefore, the application by the police of the “reasonable person” test of being “abusive”.

Guessing how that might be applied if or when someone complains will now hang over people. How it is actually applied will be the difference between ordinary life and sudden, substantial disruption to that.

Earlier this year, MSPs attempted to bring in amendments to the Bill that would have protected freedom of speech, but the backlash outside of Holyrood was too great:

Following a social media backlash and accusations of transphobia, opposition MSPs and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice hastily withdrew all these amendments, and agreed to take a ‘collaborative’ approach to discussing a generic wording for a Stage 3 amendment on freedom of expression instead.

The justice secretary apologised for any hurt caused by singling out particular characteristics. The convener of the justice committee, Adam Tomkins, stated that he was “‘alarmed and distressed and perhaps even, if I’m honest, a little afraid” by how this had played out.

In committee, the justice secretary refused to state that there are only two sexes.

More recently, Labour MSP Johann Lamont unsuccessfully attempted to bring in another amendment with a list of words that would not be considered threatening:

This includes asserting that sex is a physical, binary characteristic that cannot be changed, that terms such as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ refer to the characteristic of sex, and that a person’s sex may be relevant to their experience.

On 5 March, the Equality Network and Scottish Trans Alliance circulated a briefing to all MSPs, advising voting against this amendment, describing such statements as sending a message that that “trans people’s rights are open season for attack”.

The article concludes:

If the bill is passed in the form the government is seeking, while it will not make certain types of statements about sex and gender identity criminal in themselves, the freedom to do so without risking at least serious disruption to life will now rest wholly on what frontline police officers decide in practice a “reasonable person” might judge “abusive” here.

Given the evidence presented to the parliament, and the passage of the bill to date, that feels like a very thin blue line, making Scotland look an increasingly hostile place for anyone who believes it is ever important to have the freedom to see, name and discuss the relevance of sex.

Later that day — March 10 — The Scottish Sun posted an article: ‘Hate Crime Bill: Humza Yousaf faces anger as law gives protection for “cross-dressers” but not women’.

Humza Yousaf is Scotland’s justice secretary.

The article says, in part:

The Justice Secretary’s controversial law introduces an offence of “stirring up hatred” against groups with “protected characteristics” of race, religion, disability, transgender identity, sexual orientation and age – punishable by up to seven years in jail

But Labour MSP Johann Lamont – backed by a list of other MSPs – were angry that the Bill does not provide protection for women, but does for cross-dressers.

Tonight, Ms Lamont said that the Scottish Government recently confirmed that they hold no data on cross dressers being a target of hate crime – despite collecting data on the characteristic from 2009.

However, she pointed out that women, goths, and homeless people are not covered by the Bill – despite plenty of evidence they have been targeted for serious offending. 

Ms Lamont told the Scottish Parliament: “The Cabinet secretary has talked about ‘a man who is not a trans woman but wears a dress for a drag performance’. 

“The Equality Network has brought up the example of a man dressing up for a night out at the Rocky Horror Show, and also of men who cross dress for what they term ‘emotional need’. 

“When women are would be likely to be recognised as cross dressers is obviously much less clear. 

“Why do we believe occasional hatred to crossdressers should be covered in this bill, but not hatred towards all the other groups I have mentioned, but most especially women.”

In response, Mr Yousaf said: “In my view these amendments would limit the protections in the Bill and remove protections already provided within the existing definition of Transgender identity within the offence as aggravation by prejudice, Scotland Act 2009. 

“While ensuring existing protection is not lost which is a very important point indeed, people who cross dress are also included in the Bill because they experience hate crime.” 

However, SNP and other MSPs rejected separate amendments that would have added sex to the protected characteristics, and also removed the protection for cross dressers from the Bill.

The move prompted outrage online with thousands of women posting the hashtag #iamthestorm in response to sex not being included.

One woman fumed: “Welcome to McGilead, a country so progressive that men on a stag do, wearing dresses, have more rights than actual women.”

Another said: “Scotland, under the first female FM, has become a place where women discussing, challenging and debating issues regarding their sex is fast becoming a crime. They can’t win the argument so they have made the argument a crime.”

The pro-independence SNP lead Scotland’s parliament. Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister.

Yet, not everyone in the SNP was on board with the law, including former deputy leader Jim Sillars:

Local and parliamentary elections will be taking place in May.

George Galloway, a Scot who moved back to his homeland from England to run for office, is part of the new political party, All(iance) 4 Unity, standing in direct opposition to the SNP, agreed with Jim Sillars:

The BBC reported that Scots are concerned about conversations they have in their own home:

Scottish Conservative MSPs Adam Tomkins and Liam Kerr have proposed amendments that they say will protect free speech in private – something the new law doesn’t offer.

Their amendments are related to the so-called “dwelling defence” that already exists in relation to stirring up racial hatred.

Mr Tomkins – who is also convenor of Holyrood’s justice committee – said his move to protect speech “wholly in private” is in line with the right to respect for privacy and a family life.

He told BBC Scotland: “I’m not seeking to insulate everything that happens in the home.

“But I am seeking to say there is a zone of privacy that is protected by European human rights law. We all have the right to respect for our private and family life.

“If something is happening wholly in private, with no public element at all, then it should be safeguarded from the Hate Crime Bill.”

Mr Yousaf said: “If you are sitting round the dinner table having a debate about transgender identity and your view is that a man can’t transition to a woman, that won’t get you prosecuted.

“If your behaviour is found to be threatening or abusive by a reasonable person and it was intended to stir up hatred – and that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt – then you will be prosecuted.”

The bill came up for final debate and successful vote on Thursday, March 11, having overrun from Wednesday. The debate can be viewed here.

Pete (Runrig) Wishart, an SNP MP in Westminster, seemed critical of the Conservatives, the only party opposing the legislation:

Would that other parties had opposed the bill:

The pro-independence site, Wings Over Scotland, strongly objected to the bill’s passage. In ‘The Wrecking Crew’, the Rev Stuart Campbell, who founded the site, wrote:

For the last couple of years this site has been critical of the SNP’s failure to make any sort of progress on independence. But this is far, far worse even than that. Because if they somehow miraculously achieved independence tomorrow, we’d be afraid to live in the Scotland they’re creating.

Our country doesn’t have a SINGLE political party remotely fit for government. Voters in May face a choice between the evil, the stupid, and the evil and stupid. And they can’t even be angry about it, because even the politest anger is now a hate crime.

We wish we had a constructive course of action to suggest to you, folks. But we don’t, because democracy has failed you. There is no way you can vote that will fix the ruins the SNP have made of Scotland. We cannot see a way forward. It is becoming nearly impossible to evade the conclusion that all is lost. Nicola Sturgeon has destroyed it.

The deputy editor of Country Squire magazine tweeted his objections to the bill:

Women are concerned that seeking the privacy of a ladies’ restroom is under threat as a man who self-identifies as a woman will have more ‘right’ to use that facility than they:

Lily of St. Leonards posted on the ethical dilemmas in this legislation involving a potential confluence between a variety of hate categories. ‘Humza’s hate crimes‘ is well worth reading in full. On women, she says:

If I am taking off my clothes in the woman’s changing area of a swimming pool and I see someone with male anatomy, am I allowed to politely ask them to leave? What if this person says, “I am a woman” and finds my attitude hateful, insulting and discriminatory? Will I be convicted of a hate crime in Scotland if I tell the person I don’t believe it is possible for men to become women?

For female politicians on the left, however, the problem goes much deeper. Some have been the subject of truly hateful, obscene messages for not toeing the party line on sexual identity, as The Herald‘s Kevin McKenna pointed out on Sunday, March 14 in ‘Hate Crime Bill: Do women’s rights not matter to this authoritarian SNP?’ He wrote:

The problem here though is that, judging by social media, the SNP has been hollowed out by a vociferous group of illiberal nasties who seem determined to view reasonably-expressed opinions – especially around gender – as evidence of hate speech.

A significant number of them also seem to derive pleasure from threatening women (never men), both online and in person. Joan McAlpine, the most prominent SNP critic of the Hate Crime proposals has had a target crudely drawn on her Twitter profile amidst explicit threats of sexual violence towards her. Other female members have left the party because their own complaints about similar treatment have been ignored by the leadership.

Joanna Cherry is an SNP MP at Westminster who has also been the subject of a vicious campaign:

I’ve previously been disobliging of several of Nicola Sturgeon’s Labour predecessors but none would have scoured the floor of the swamp as she did a few weeks ago when she whistled up the bullies on the party’s scarecrow wing before sacking Joanna Cherry from the front bench of her Westminster team.

Yesterday, at Edinburgh sheriff court a man pled guilty to sending Ms Cherry messages that were grossly offensive, menacing and included threats of sexual violence. The messages were sent days after the First Minister’s intervention.

Ms Cherry says that allegations of transphobia made against her from within her own party “put a target on her back”.

This week Ms Cherry was the only Scot named on a list of the 100 most inspirational women at Westminster. In the SNP, though, she is considered a pariah and has endured a two-year campaign of intimidation and bullying. This is a party where strong, talented women of independent minds are considered a threat rather than an asset. Its failure to make sex a protected characteristic in their Hate Crime Bill is the final proof – if any were still required – that the SNP does not take women’s safety and wellbeing seriously.

Joanna Cherry has also been a QC (Queen’s Counsel) since 2009:

Regular readers of McKenna’s columns point out that his critical article could mark a turning point for the SNP:

Jamie Blackett, the leader of the new All for Unity (Alliance4Unity) party of which George Galloway is a member, says that this legislation creates a dangerous precedent:

As Lily of St Leonards notes in her aforementioned post:

Nothing should limit my right to write freely about any topic including even if other people find that writing hateful and insulting. Letting their perception of hatred limit my ability to write and speak freely means there is a special group of people living in Scotland who can in theory control what the rest of us say write and do. But it is mere prejudice that elevates these people above everyone else and it is disgraceful that the Scottish Parliament has in effect created a form of reverse Apartheid in Scotland.

This also means that teasing — called ‘flyting’ in Scotland — is out, as Iain Macwhirter pointed out in ‘So what will independence be if SNP no longer protect freedom of speech?‘ for The Herald:

The abuse is, of course, an ironic form of affection, of bonding – a demonstration that your relationship is so strong that you can playfully abuse each other. But it’s something that is almost impossible to explain in the age of social media and the tyranny of the literal. And with the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill now passed into law, flyting is finally grounded.

He points out that hate crimes have already been covered under legislation for 11 years:

threatening and abusive behaviour is already illegal, not least under the 2010 Criminal Justice Act. Incitement to racial hatred is also illegal.

Existing legislation means that even a passer-by could notify the police:

You don’t even have to be a “victim” yourself. Anyone who overhears something offensive can report a hate incident and the police will be required by law to record it. This will rarely lead to actual prosecution, but it carries a punishment nevertheless. The mere recording of a hate incident will hang around the neck of whoever is accused of it, and could be dredged up when they apply for jobs involving childcare or race relations.

It looks as if the only recourse will be the courts. Such an action has worked before:

Most ordinary SNP members are mystified as to why the Hate Crime Bill ever saw the light of day. It threatens to be even more perverse and indiscriminate than the Scottish Government’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which criminalised football supporters and had to be repealed in 2018. It is arguably worse than the named persons scheme, which sought to install a state guardian for every child, and was struck down by the UK Supreme Court because it infringed the European Convention on Human Rights.

All for Unity pledge to repeal the new legislation if they win a majority in May:

As Spiked noted:

Scotland is in serious trouble of becoming the land of the unfree.

Indeed.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out between now and May’s local elections.

When it comes to women in leadership — the theme of International Women’s Day 2021 (March 8) — Britain’s Conservative Party is decades ahead of Labour.

Below are the first women to lead political parties in the United Kingdom.

Look at the lag time after Margaret Thatcher. Then look at Labour, which has never had a woman leader:

In 1992, 17 years after the Conservatives elected Margaret Thatcher as leader, the Greens voted for Jean Lambert.

In 2012, Leanne Wood became the leader of the Welsh Nationalists.

In 2014, Scotland’s SNP elected Nicola Sturgeon to lead them. She is still the First Minister in that devolved nation.

In 2015, Northern Ireland’s DUP followed with Arlene Foster.

In 2016, Diane James led UKIP briefly.

In 2019, Jo Swinson led the Liberal Democrats for a few months, until she lost her seat in Scotland in the December general election that year. Nicola Sturgeon was thrilled.

As for left-wing Labour? That day will have to wait.

Labour have no business telling Conservatives that they are behind the times. The Conservatives have had two women Prime Ministers. Labour’s never even had a female party leader.

Ironically for Labour, International Women’s Day has Socialist origins. The Communists adopted it later.

These days, nearly every nation observes this day. The UN decides the annual theme.

My series on minority MPs in the Conservative Party continues.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Today’s post covers the two minority MPs who were elected during Theresa May’s snap general election of June 2017.

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Bim Afolami represents the leafy Hertfordshire constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, far enough from London to be in the countryside yet a close enough for a daily commute to and from the capital.

I always enjoy hearing what Afolami has to say in Parliament. He speeches are eloquent, considered and, above all, sensible.

Afolami was born in the Home County of Berkshire to a Nigerian father, employed as a consultant physician for the NHS. His mother works as a pharmacist.

Afolami attended Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. While at Oxford, he worked as a librarian for the Oxford Union Society and played football for the university team.

He worked as a lawyer prior to entering politics. His employers included the prestigious law firm Freshfields and the banking corporation HSBC.

In 2017, Hitchin and Harpenden’s MP Peter Lilley stood down. Afolami was selected as the Conservative candidate.

Afolami was a Remainer, however, during his time in Parliament, he voted the Brexit line most of the time.

He has been a member of several parliamentary committees.

He has also had positions as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Transport, International Development, International Trade and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Currently, he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions and is a Commissioner for the Financial Inclusion Commission.

Afolami is married with three children.

He describes Winston Churchill as his ‘biggest hero’.

Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)

Kemi Badenoch also reveres Winston Churchill, along with Margaret Thatcher.

She, too, has Nigerian roots and spent her formative years there before returning to England.

She represents the constituency of Saffron Walden in Essex, which, not surprisingly, includes the ancient town of the same name. The town of Saffron Walden was known not only for its wool production but also for its cultivation of saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. That happy combination of industry enabled the town to develop dyes as well as provide the condiment for use in food.

Olukemi Olufunto Adegoke was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father is a GP and her mother a professor of physiology. As her mother obtained teaching positions overseas, Kemi lived in both the United States and Nigeria. She returned to England at the age of 16 to complete her A levels and attend university.

She has worked in computing for most of her career. She obtained a law degree in 2009 and went on to work as an associate director of private bank and wealth manager Coutts and was a director for The Spectator.

Kemi joined the Conservative Party in 2005.

In 2012, she married Hamish Badenoch and took his surname.

In 2015, she served on the London Assembly after Suella Fernandes Braverman had to give up her seat, since she had just been elected to Parliament.

In 2017, Kemi Badenoch succeeded Sir Alan Haslehurst as MP for Saffron Walden with a healthy majority.

In her maiden speech, she explained how she became a conservative: failing nationalised electricity and water provision during her years in Nigeria. Wow.

She also said that Brexit was the ‘greatest vote ever’.

If you want to feel uplifted about Britain and conservatism, this video is definitely worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time:

She currently holds two positions, to which Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her in 2020: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for International Trade.

The latter position has seen her come up against stiff opposition from the Opposition benches last year when it emerged that minorities were more affected by coronavirus. The protests in June exacerbated the issue.

On June 4, an SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, had the gall to intimate that Badenoch had little understanding of the black community.

Badenoch politely responded that she objected to Thewliss’s ‘confected outrage’.

As former Labour MP — now Baroness Hoey in the House of Lords — put it:

Guido Fawkes posted a video of the exchange and commented (emphasis in the original):

Today’s BAME Urgent Question was never going to be one Parliament’s more tranquil sessions given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Kemi Badenoch gave a feisty performance, scolding left-wing white MPs for telling her how to feel as a black person. Her slap down of SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who conflated all black Britons with recent immigrants, is worth a watch…

The BBC also attacked her response.

On June 6, Badenoch wrote an article for the Daily Mail, which said, in part (emphases mine):

The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic people has been one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic – and the Government was right to seek the expert guidance of Professor Kevin Fenton, an eminent black physician at Public Health England, to examine the issue

So when, as Equalities Minister, I stood up in the Commons to discuss his review and its conclusions, I expected tough questions

This, after all, has been a week of heightened emotion about racial divisions. Unfortunately, clumsy attempts at scrutiny by some MPs and commentators unintentionally risk inflaming racial tensions

Updating Parliament on the review, Labour MPs repeated racially charged claims such as: ‘Being black is a death sentence.’ 

One SNP MP conflated all black people with recent immigrants. This language does nothing to calm tensions at a time when politicians need to set an example

Far more irresponsible though, was the BBC’s coverage of the debate – with the headline: ‘Minister rejects systemic racism claims’. I did no such thing

In fact, the phrase ‘systemic racism’ was not used once in the debate. The BBC report was shared on social media thousands of times and believed because it was from a trusted source. This is incredibly harmful

By implying that a black Minister has, out of hand, rejected racism as a factor, the hard work done by many ethnic minorities in Government, the NHS and Public Health England is discredited, trust is lost and race relations become worse

Yes, there are gaps in PHE’s review. By its nature, it highlights what we don’t know and must investigate further

We will build on this work, engaging with individuals and organisations within communities, to protect lives in this pandemic … 

We need to be more circumspect; we need real journalism, not campaigning

We must address prejudice but this is impossible if our national broadcaster, politicians and commentators play a social media game to achieve outrage rather than enlightenment

We must combat the real inequities in society, but we do everyone a disservice if we give in to culture warriors whose relevance depends on inflaming tensions

By hijacking the Government’s work to improve the lives of BAME people, those spoiling for a fight are sacrificing the hope of so many young people for little more than clicks, likes and retweets

In October, Badenoch volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial:

Moving to the present day — February 2021 — issues have arisen with minorities reluctant to get vaccinated when the time comes. Personally, I do not blame them. There is a lot we do not know about their long-term effects, particularly the mRNA vaccines. So that minorities would feel more reassured, the Government appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP to oversee vaccine rollout in the UK. His brief includes visiting minority communities to encourage uptake:

In January, minority MPs from both sides of the aisle took part in a video to promote the vaccine programme.

Badenoch was criticised for not having taken part. She said it was because she was participating in the aforementioned vaccine trial:

Let’s return to last year.

In October 2020, Badenoch spoke in Parliament about Black History Month in the UK. She said that she was taken aback by something her daughter said:

That month, she participated in a Spectator discussion debunking various socio-political left-wing theories and promoting conservatism.

This triggered a severe reaction from the Left in November.

Several radical left-wing academics took issue with what she said:

Guido Fawkes provided the exhaustive list along with the radical positions of each academic, explaining the background (red emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sent Twitter’s wokesters and academia’s race baiters into meltdown a fortnight ago when her savaging of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) went viral, with 2.4 million views. Guido’s since picked up on an open letter doing the rounds in nutty left-wing academic circles, who – unable to take on the substance of what Badenoch argues – have chosen instead to misrepresent her words. Aside from their attacks on the substance of Kemi’s words – incorrectly claiming she wants “the banning of certain ideas or schools of thought” and that she misunderstands history and CRT – the mostly former-polytechnic-based academics now claim CRT has “scientific principles” behind their ideology. Eugenicists, phrenologists and Marxists have argued the same for decades...

Looks like Kemi’s on pretty sound ideological ground…

I wish Kemi Badenoch all the very best in holding her ground so consistently.

Tomorrow’s post concludes this series.

The United Kingdom has an ambitious delivery programme of coronavirus vaccines in the UK, reaching not only England but also the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Our armed forces are helping where necessary.

As of Monday, January 18, 2020, this was the state of play with regard to vaccines. See how far behind Scotland and Wales are in delivering injections:

It is worth noting that England has a majority of Conservative MPs.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister is a member of the centre-right DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).

Scotland has a majority Scottish National Party government, socialist.

Wales has a Labour-dominated government, also socialist.

Watching the proceedings in the assemblies of the devolved nations as broadcast on BBC Parliament, there is a stark contrast between what goes on in Northern Ireland’s compared with those in Scotland and Wales.

Even though the assembly in Northern Ireland’s Stormont also has a fair amount of left-leaning members, complaints about money and vaccine provision from the UK government in Westminster are few and far between.

In Scotland and Wales, however, the situation is quite the opposite. The UK government — Westminster — is always to blame for lack of money.

Scotland and Wales have enough vaccine, but delivery does not seem to be getting off the ground.

In Wales, Mark Drakeford, First Minister (Prif Weinidog, in Welsh) says that he wants to ration the vaccines so that vaccinators have something to do every day:

Guido Fawkes has the audio of an interview Drakeford gave to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, January 18, and I can vouch for the fact that he said the same thing before the Welsh Senedd (Senate) last week, having seen him on BBC Parliament.

Guido says (emphases in the original, the one in purple is mine):

Appearing on the Today Programme this morning, Mark Drakeford was asked why Wales has the lowest vaccination rate of any UK nation, which the First Minister merely passed off as “marginal differences” and “not the most important issue”. Drakeford is relying on the ‘supply’ excuse much more than any other leader in the UK, claiming Wales isn’t to receive its second doses of the Pfizer vaccine until the end of the month and therefore is slowing the deployment of Pfizer vaccine:

There would be no point and certainly it would be logistically damaging to try and use all of [the Pfizer vaccine] in the first week and have our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do.

Given Wales has proportionally suffered more than England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from Covid, Drakeford should have a strategy of getting as many jabs in as many arms as quickly as possible – if there’s a wait of 12 weeks for the second jab, so be it. At the weekend, Starmer called for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic; Guido suggests Wales is much more in need of one…

UPDATE: According to ONS statistics just released, Covid was the leading cause of death for the month in Wales, accounting for 27.4% of all deaths in Wales, a third higher than in England where it accounts for 20.8% of all deaths.

Good grief.

In Scotland, vaccines are not being sent where they should be. Some areas receive the vaccine, others do not:

Lily of St Leonards, who writes about the state of Scotland under the SNP, has an excellent post that explains what is happening.

Her post of January 18, ‘SNP mismanagement is killing Scots’, is well worth reading in full. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

She lives with her mother, who is 87 years old, in the age bracket to be vaccinated first:

My mother is nearly 88. She has yet to receive an invitation for a Covid vaccination. I hope it comes soon. The risk to her comes entirely from me. She has hardly left the house since March, but I have to go shopping. If I caught Covid on one of those shopping trips, it would be difficult to stop her catching it too. We live in the same house and I care for her. If an 88-year-old catches Covid, there is a good chance she would end up in hospital and a good chance that she would die.

Meanwhile, south of the border in England, the over 80s have already received the first of two vaccine injections:

England is about to send out vaccine invitations to the over 70s. I am left to conclude that if my mother lived in England she would already have been vaccinated. If she catches Covid in the next few weeks and dies it will be because we live in Scotland under an SNP Government that prioritises independence over healthcare.

Last year, the SNP roundly criticised the UK Government — Conservative — for not waiting for an EU rollout of the vaccine. Thank goodness we didn’t, because we had one far sooner than they did and more flexibility in purchasing doses, and a large number of them at that:

We are doing better than nearly everyone else firstly because we left the EU. The EU managed the vaccine collectively and didn’t do it well. The British Government did better at ordering the various vaccines and also developed our own. We made these vaccines available before anyone else and the British vaccine is easier to deliver because it does not require ultra-low temperatures.

Being a part of Britain is therefore saving Scottish lives. This is not merely because the British Army is helping to organise and administer the vaccine, but because the British Government made the right choices which led to us buying effective vaccines and developing our own. The Scottish Government neither funded, nor ordered any vaccines. We are completely dependent on the supplies we are getting from Britain. The only thing the Scottish Government is responsible for is organising the rollout of the vaccine. Healthcare unfortunately is devolved. It is doing that job worse than England and Northern Ireland.

Scotland is getting a proportional share of the vaccine. There are supply difficulties for everyone. England and Northern Ireland may have advantages because they are rather more densely populated than Scotland. It may be harder to administer the vaccine to very remote places in the Highlands and Islands. But this also makes it less likely that we will catch the virus in the first place.

Scotland may have decided to vaccinate care homes first, which given the difficulty of bringing ultra-low temperature vaccines to such places might be slowing us down. But why didn’t we use the Oxford-AstraZeneca in care homes, which requires only an ordinary fridge and use the Pfizer vaccine elsewhere. I hate to think that Sturgeon doesn’t want to use the English vaccine. She cannot even bear to say the word Oxford.

Covid is the defining event of our time, but the SNP’s handling of it has been poor since the start. With our low population density Scotland should have done much better than England in terms of Covid cases and deaths.

Scotland has had 1,492,656 cases with 7,704 deaths.

But this is worse than any other European country with a population of 5 million.

Denmark has had 189,000 cases and 1,775 deaths.

Slovakia has had 223,000 cases and 3,474 deaths.

Norway has had 58,651 cases and 517 deaths.

Finland has had 40,337 cases and 618 deaths.

If you compare like with like, then it becomes obvious that SNP Scotland has not merely done worse than anywhere else with a population of 5 million it has done more than ten times worse in terms of deaths than Norway and Finland.

She then addresses the issue of money. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is forever complaining about the lack of money going Scotland’s way, yet the UK government has continued to pump money in throughout the coronavirus crisis:

Scotland has been kept going this year because the UK Treasury has funded us. We are receiving the vaccine only because the UK is supplying it. We have done no better than the UK as a whole with regard to Covid cases and deaths and on care home deaths, which ought to have been avoidable, we have done considerably worse. Despite having the advantage of low population density, we have done massively worse than any European country of a similar size. It is staggering to believe that so many Scots believe that Nicola Sturgeon has done a good job.

Everything that has gone well this year, such as furlough and the vaccine has been provided by the British Government. Everything that has gone badly such as our failure to deliver the vaccine as quickly as England and Northern Ireland and our decision to send people sick with Covid back into care homes has been due to decisions made by the SNP.

This year has demonstrated that Scotland has depended on the British Government for paying our wages and for the vaccine that will end the pandemic.

She concludes, referring to the failed 2014 Scottish referendum on independence:

Scots who want independence should refuse their furlough money and refuse the vaccine, because if the SNP had won in 2014, we would have got neither.

I couldn’t agree more.

Be it Scotland or Wales, one thing is patently clear: socialism does not work.

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