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Denzil_DC

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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 2,904

Journal Archives

Suspicious 'white powder' packages sent to SNP offices

Three packages containing "white powder-type substances" have been sent to political offices in Scotland.

The packages were sent to an MP, a political party headquarters and a local council building between 25 and 26 April, the Scottish Parliament said on Thursday.

The first package was sent to SNP MP John Nicolson's office in Kirkintilloch on Tuesday. Police said it was taken away for examination.

...

Another package was sent to the SNP-run Forfar council ... the next day, STV reported. The third was sent to a political party headquarters.

http://news.sky.com/story/suspicious-packages-containing-white-powder-sent-to-scottish-elected-official-10853296


I deliberately didn't lead with the Daily Record's more sensational headline about these incidents:

Triple terror attack on SNP sparks security alert as suspicious packages sent to three targets

MSPs have been placed on high alert after ­suspicious ­packages were sent to three SNP targets.

Police and the Scottish Parliament’s head of security issued a warning yesterday after a letter containing white powder was sent to SNP HQ near Holyrood.

Earlier this week, similar packages were sent to MP John Nicolson’s office and SNP-led Angus Council’s HQ – with a letter stating: “Get SNP Out. Tories in.”

We can reveal that the substance in the packages was fertiliser – often used by terrorists to make cheap home-made bombs.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/triple-terror-attack-snp-sparks-10311563


A letter enclosed with the package delivered to the Angus Council offices in Forfar claimed that it contained "anthrax spores".

1 In 3 Leave Voters Think It's Best For Britain If Marine Le Pen Becomes President Of France

More than one in three people who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum think it would be best for the UK if Marine Le Pen – the candidate from the far-right Front National party – won the French presidential election, a YouGov poll has revealed.

...

Asked by YouGov which would be best for Britain if they won – given France's central role in Brexit negotiations – 21% of voters said Le Pen would be best, while 23% said Macron would be the better candidate from a UK perspective. Another 13% said the two candidates would be about the same, while the rest didn't know.

However, these figures showed dramatic splits when broken down by political party or by referendum vote. Conservative voters favoured Le Pen over Macron by 29-18, while UKIP voters overwhelmingly supported Le Pen, by 49-3.

By contrast, Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP voters all preferred Macron over Le Pen – Labour voters most strongly, by a margin of 38% to 12%.



https://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/1-in-3-leave-voters-think-its-best-for-britain-if-marine-le


It's a YouGov poll - a firm I have some reservations about - but for what they're worth, these results illustrate the blinkered, single-minded misplaced selfishness that seems to typify too many in the Leave camp, to the extent that an unashamed racist fascist taking the presidency of a close neighbouring country can be seen as a "good thing".

Luckily - fingers crossed, touch wood, etc. - it would take a seismic shift in polling for them to get their wish.

Electoral Commission launches investigation into Leave.EU referendum finances

The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into spending on the European Union referendum by the campaign group Leave.EU, it has announced.

The Commission says the investigation will focus on whether the Brexit-supporting campaign took “impermissible” donations and said there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that potential offences” may have been committed by the campaign.

...

Leave.EU, which was co-founded by Arron Banks and Richard Tice, lost out on official campaign status to Vote Leave.

Responding to the launch of the cash probe, Mr Banks said: “The Electoral Commission allowed the Government to spend £11 million on a pack of Remain lies. We will be vigorously defending their allegations.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-leave-eu-electoral-commission-investigation-spending-donations-arron-banks-a7695841.html


The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr has some questions:

https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla/status/855450092773548033

Carole Cadwalladr @carolecadwalla

1/3
Yes! So. The key questions:
1) Did Cambridge Analytica do work for Leave.eu. Yes.
2) Is CA majority owned by Robert Mercer? Yes.


https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla/status/855450411049914368

Carole Cadwalladr @carolecadwalla

2/3
3) Is Robert Mercer - born in the US - an impermissible donor? Yes.
4) Does this also constitute overspending? Yes.
And. The big one...


https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla/status/855450948466094080

Carole Cadwalladr @carolecadwalla

3/3
5) If a US billionaire has covertly influenced the democratic process? Does this meet the legal test of "foreign subversion"?

Anyone?

May calls snap general election for 8 June.

Only sketchy details so far, but widely reported.

Timeline from the Telegraph:


Breaking: General Election to be held on June 8
Theresa May has just confirmed that a General Election will be held on June 8.

May: 'The country is coming together, but Westminster is not'
Justifying the decision, Mrs May said: "The country is coming together, but Westminster is not."

'Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit'
The Prime Minister said "division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit".

Why she changed her mind over early election
Explaining her change of heart on an early election, Mrs May said: "I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/18/breaking-theresa-may-make-statement-downing-street-1115am1/


The fixed-term Parliament Act means she'll need to get 434 MPs to vote in the Commons to dissolve Parliament.

The timing, less than a month after the local and mayoral elections, will raise a few eyebrows.

I'm wondering who's telling her "the country is coming together", as she obviously moves in very different circles to me.

The problem is that there's no other way under the UK constitution to approach this,

unless you expect the majority of people in Scotland just to shut up and accept Brexit. It's not a "trick", it's responsible governance, so give it and Sturgeon some due credit. She's one of the few adults in the room at the moment.

The goalposts have moved over the years. Thatcher is on record as saying that if the SNP (at the time the only pro-independence party, but now the Greens are on board) got a majority of the Scottish MPs at Westminster, that would be enough to trigger independence. That bar was well and truly passed at the last UK parliamentary elections - 56 out of 59 MPs are SNP.

Meanwhile, Scotland voted 62-38% Remain in the Brexit vote. The SNP's manifesto at the last Holyrood elections reserved the right to call another referendum if there was a material change in circumstances such as the UK leaving the EU. One of the "No" (to independence) campaign's main planks was that Scotland would have to leave the EU if it voted for independence, and that, among other scaremongering, swayed a lot of voters. The SNP again became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament at those elections, and supported by the Greens, forms the Scottish administration. That's quite a mandate. How could Sturgeon not follow this through and retain any credibility for her or her party?

I contrast the two years of the Scottish independence referendum campaign with the Brexit campaign. There was very lively debate and engagement at all levels of society in Scotland during the indyref. The "Yes" campaign was expected to have hard and fast answers to each and every question - currency, trade, you name it, and the SNP issued a detailed White Paper, which was picked apart at great length by those opposed. Even now, we know vastly more about what Scottish independence might have looked like than what Brexit might end up looking like.

The answer so far from May to calls for another indyref has been "Now is not the time." Nobody wanted the referendum now. The plan would be to hold the referendum when the Brexit negotiations are complete. This makes a lot of sense, because at that point all the other EU countries will be considering and preparing to vote on the final details.

The only country that has no prospect of a vote about the UK's future outside the EU at that point is the UK itself!

If Scotland doesn't get a referendum or if it votes to stay in the UK, the next step for May or her successor will be to hack away at the hard-won gains in Scottish devolved powers through statutory instruments, most likely with no opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny, neutering or even abolishing the Scottish Parliament. And that government will have carte blanche to turn the UK into an offshore tax haven and multinationals' playground, unless the EU manage to fend that off in negotiations. I don't want to live in that UK.

The whole situation is not of our choosing. I'd be in favour of setting a more decisive bar in a future indyref. I think about two-thirds of the electorate would be achievable, given that at the start of the last indyref, with a lot more scope for Project Fear from the "No" side, support for independence was around the mid-20% and ended up at about 45%, and currently stands at anywhere between 45% and 50-odd, depending which polls you believe.

I guess an alternative might be for Sturgeon to call another Scottish election to seek a mandate for independence, never mind a referendum, but she also has a country to run in the mean time.

Globalization is reality.

There's no escaping it without withdrawing into total isolationism, which even the current UK Tory government and the Brexit campaign (inasmuch as it was coherent) isn't proposing. The question is how to manage it, and in whose interests.

As things stand, it looks like the UK standing alone will be managing it in favour of big business and multinational corporations in desperation to make up for the likely loss of trade with the EU (note that May was one of Trump's first high-profile visitors after he took power). In the initial negotiating stances, it's actually the EU that's trying to put a shot across the UK government's bow by suggesting there would be penalties for imposing a low-tax/low workers' rights offshore money laundering regime that would lead to unfair competition with EU countries.

So much mythology had built up about the EU (which undoubtedly, like any polity, has flaws and needs reform, and always will) that it was impossible to counter it effectively in the hurly-burly of a highly charged campaign.

Where did some of these most persistent myths originate? Well, one major factor was Boris Johnson, our current Foreign Secretary. Here's Martin Fletcher, a journalist who worked alongside Johnson in Brussels:


Johnson, sacked by The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quote, made his mark in Brussels not through fair and balanced reporting, but through extreme euro-scepticism. He seized every chance to mock or denigrate the EU, filing stories that were undoubtedly colourful but also grotesquely exaggerated or completely untrue.

The Telegraph loved it. So did the Tory Right. Johnson later confessed: 'Everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power.'

Johnson’s reports also had an amazing, explosive effect on the rest of Fleet Street. They were much more fun than the usual dry and rather complex Brussels fare. News editors on other papers, particularly but not exclusively the tabloids, started pressing their own correspondents to match them. By the time I arrived in Brussels editors only wanted stories about faceless Brussels eurocrats imposing absurd rules on Britain, or scheming Europeans ganging up on us, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rearguard actions against a hostile continent.

Much of Fleet Street seemed unable to view the EU through any other prism. It was the only narrative it was interested in. Stories that did not bash Brussels, stories that acknowledged the EU’s many achievements, stories that recognised that Britain had many natural allies in Europe and often won important arguments, almost invariably ended up on the spike.

https://www.indy100.com/article/a-journalist-has-shared-a-story-about-boris-johnson-that-completely-undermines-his-authority-on-the-eu--bkoHJPBuVZ


It's not so much that governments felt they didn't have to explain EU policy decisions to the electorate. It suited the UK government to have the EU as a scapegoat for all the ills besetting the country - a handy distraction from the mindless fetish of austerity, and lack of investment and vision, especially in the wake of the 2008 crash.

And even if the EU or the UK government felt like justifying and explaining policy developments (the EU does run websites and other forms of outreach in an attempt to explain itself, and some decent MEPs do try to communicate with their constituents), as outlined above, it would be a severely uphill task getting the media to provide informative coverage. There were furious howls from the Brexit campaign during the referendum when Cameron belatedly published a booklet circulated to all households setting out the advantages of EU membership.

Little Englanders think the UK (they'll often slip and call the UK England) is an exceptional country, and hark back to the Empire, pounds, shillings and pence, imperial measurements, and a time when non-white faces in their localities were rarer than they are now. They think the UK is so exceptional that it should have all the perks of EU trade without adhering to the Four Freedoms. Apparently theirs is the only voice that matters at the moment, as the rest of us are constantly being told to sit down and shut up. We're disenfranchised, so let's talk about sovereignty.

Ex-minister under Thatcher Michael Heseltine (I'm no fan, but he's right on this) described triggering Article 50 as "the biggest sacrifice of British sovereignty that I can remember:

https://twitter.com/JackkJazz/status/847075173123702788

Jack Jazz @JackkJazz

#Article50 #PMQs The reality of Brexit


We will still be subject to EU regulations and laws if we want to trade with it as a bloc, but we won't have any say in shaping them. Even if we go for the last-ditch WTO rules option if we can't agree trade deals with the EU, we'll still be beholden to others making the rules, and freedom of movement for employment will still be one of the strictures.

Meanwhile, the Great Repeal Bill proposed by the Tories will adopt all EU laws into British legislation, meaning the government can then pare away at any aspects it doesn't like (those that stand in the way of business interests and the Tories' ambition for consolidating long-term rule) by statutory instrument without any parliamentary scrutiny beyond, if we're lucky, a token debate or two.

Already, after months of saber-rattling, May and her sorry team of negotiators are backtracking and grudgingly acknowledging that the holy grail of a "hard Brexit" is impractical and there are strong limits to what the EU will be willing to concede in negotiations. The results will likely please nobody, as the government has acknowledged that even immigration, that great red herring, is unlikely to reduce significantly in the medium term, and it still has no more idea of the economic and unintended consequence costs of Brexit than it did during the referendum campaign.

And yes, you're right, it was idiotic and the height of irresponsibility to try to distill all these complexities into a simple yes/no question before any details had even been considered (our civil service was forbidden by Cameron from committing any contingency plans to paper), let alone worked out.

Now, on a daily basis, when not parroting the facile "Brexit means Brexit", the vote is being used to justify everything from leaving the Single Market (which we were reassured repeatedly, publicly and in parliament, during the campaign was not going to happen, so there was no point in even discussing it) to draconian steps to limit the rights of EU nationals living in the UK which will cripple our NHS and many of our industries (those we have left) - that process has already started as people are leaving the UK because of all the uncertainty and the general sense of hostility and being unwelcome.

They are, and it's getting very tiresome indeed.

Some folks have complained to Skinner in Ask the Administrators, and there's no sign of any policy about them being changed. Moans like this used to be classed as meta and were a no-no in the main forums.

As a matter of etiquette, it helps if people can copy and paste the tweet text, and any graphic it contains where that's possible, but good luck anyone who wants to enforce that as a hard and fast rule.

This is a good idea anyway, because tweets can be deleted or Twitter can sometimes go down (as happened a month or so ago), in which case all that anybody will see is the bare link.

As a Brit on these forums, I'm used to quite often seeing cryptic posts to "turn on so-and-so NOW" when whatever program (sometimes even unnamed) the OP's watching isn't available where I am, and other minor annoyances like that (such as OPs that are just bare links to a story with no explanation), so it's not a problem unique to tweets.

I don't have a Twitter account (too many other ways to waste my time online without getting embroiled in spats with total strangers, which I probably would despite my best intentions - I can get quite enough of that here), but I do check it out every day and have developed a string of lists and accounts that help me keep abreast of developments better than the MSM can nowadays.

I often post breaking news based on tweets I've seen, but almost always use the actual article the tweeter's found for me rather than the tweet itself.

That's Twitter's beauty - there's so much information out there nowadays, you need some way of curating it, and I'm afraid I don't find the editorial policies of traditional media do a good enough job of this. I use Twitter to crowdsource my newsgathering, relying on people I've learned through observation are generally reliable or have interesting takes on events and issues (I also get a chance to read opposing views I wouldn't bother seeking out otherwise, which can be educational).

If you're not into it, that's fine, but I don't see it going away or tweets being confined to a designated forum, as some have demanded, so the moaning just wastes everybody's time and energy and sometimes creates ill feeling.

The UK has been directionless for a long time.

The post-Thatcher/Blair consensus under Cameron and Osborne consisted of an obsession with the national debt and deficit in the aftermath of the entirely predictable 2008 crash, and the imposition of endless "austerity" while still allowing the rich to feather their cushy nests.

Both major parties turned in on each other. Labour's still working through that, the Tories have temporarily patched themselves up with the biggest, most nationally self-destructive, most pointless adventure this country's ever embarked on.

Imagine the continued lack of vision and direction if the Brexit vote had gone to Remain.

Now, to cover up the fact that none of our large-party politicians have any idea about a positive course for the future of the UK, Brexit or no Brexit, they've invented a major crisis that's going to overshadow everything else for the foreseeable future. It's a very useful distraction.

Meanwhile, barely remarked upon, awful inhumane legislation is being enacted almost daily - the third-child "rape clause" for receipt of tax credits, cuts in payments to bereaved families, to name just two recent examples - and this before the bonfire of rights after the passage of the Great Repeal Bill that will enable the government to cherrypick and reshape the country's constitution in whatever way it wants with scant if any parliamentary scrutiny. And the government will have a great excuse for any continued austerity measures it wants to enact - get used to being told "we all have to tighten our belts" in the National Cause while the rich figure out ways to capitalize on the situation and grow even richer and it's all the fault of that horrible EU and furriners at home and abroad.

I'm lucky. I live in Scotland. I've no idea how things will pan out here, whether we'll leave the UK, rejoin the EU, whatever. But we at least have a little hope and some options and potentially some say in what will happen, and some politicians who are representing an alternative approach.

At a UK level, unless you're a Brexit supporter, you are now utterly disenfranchised. What you think and want doesn't matter, and you're wrong and an un-British traitor to think and want it, as May and her cronies and the Brexit fans will not hesitate to remind you in no uncertain terms as they parrot "the will of the people".

We'll have to wait and see whether people will continue to put up with all this.

BBC to announce that the UK is to withdraw from Eurovision

The BBC is set to announce plans to withdraw the UK from the Eurovision Song Contest, in a move which will anger and dismay nearly half of all Brits. Plans are afoot for Scotland to compete by itself.

PinkNews understands that the withdrawal will come into effect in the first few months of 2019, meaning the UK will have just two more shots at the trophy.

Eurovision will also not be shown on the BBC past next year, after months of tempestuous negotiations broke down last night.

A source close to BBC director-general Tony Hall said the Prime Minister had forced his hand by instructing the corporation this week to make at least £350,000 in annual cuts.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/01/bbc-set-to-announce-that-uk-is-to-withdraw-from-eurovision/

May's Article 50 letter in full (Trigger Warning)

On 23 June last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states. On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 13 March and it received Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen and became an Act of Parliament on 16 March.

Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community. References in this letter to the European Union should therefore be taken to include a reference to the European Atomic Energy Community.

This letter sets out the approach of Her Majesty’s Government to the discussions we will have about the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and about the deep and special partnership we hope to enjoy – as your closest friend and neighbour – with the European Union once we leave. We believe that these objectives are in the interests not only of the United Kingdom but of the European Union and the wider world too.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prime-ministers-letter-to-donald-tusk-triggering-article-50/prime-ministers-letter-to-donald-tusk-triggering-article-50
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