26 January 2021

Fishing and Other Woes

It will not surprise readers of this column that I am not alone in seeing the UK Government’s preparation for Brexit proving to be wholly inadequate. Its promises to the fishing industry were something I have cast doubt on since 2016. It gives me no pleasure to be proved right.

At the end of last year, we finally discovered what the details of a deal on fishing would be. Needless to say it was certainly not what representatives in the Scottish Parliament and in the fishing community needed for the industry. The slogan “Sea of Opportunity” came from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. They are now powerful critics of the outcome.

I was particularly disappointed then to hear Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid respond to a question on how long it would take to fix supply chain problems caused by Brexit with the following answer: “how long is a piece of string?”. The responsibility for the issues now facing the sector are solely as a result of the promises made by Tory politicians, who promised our fishing industry everything, yet have delivered worse than nothing.

Too many MPs who represent the north-east of Scotland sat around tables with those from the sector and repeatedly made promises they simply could not keep. Now we have chaos, poor preparation, systems that don’t work and businesses being left to fend for themselves - and a UK Fisheries Minister who astonishingly admitted she had not even read the damaging Brexit deal because she was busy organising a Nativity trail.

In my final months as an MSP for our community, that it has been my absolute privilege to represent for two decades, I will fight hard on this matter as I have done so throughout my time in office. And I know my colleague and candidate Councillor Karen Adam will also continue to do so.

I know these have also been challenging times as many parents work from home while also trying to educate youngsters and look after even younger ones as we continue to stay at home. This cannot be an easy challenge, nor too for those who have had to shield or care for loved one. And for those who have been unable to see family and friends for many months.

With a vaccine roll-out now begun we are moving closer to being able to do the things that have seemed impossible for months. The road ahead in the short-term will continue to be challenging, there is no doubt, but the efforts and determination being made by us all is helping tremendously in the fight against the coronavirus. For that, I would like to say a big thank-you.

Please remember FACTS and continue to follow them. Wear a face covering if you are in a shop of any kind, avoid crowded places where there may be lots of people, clean your hands regularly, ensure you are a two metres distance from other people not in your household and finally, if you show any symptoms please self-isolate and book a test.

4 August 2020

Touch not the cat but with a glove

Democracy’s survival, indeed, the survival of our society is built on the ability and willingness to protect it.

Recent reports point to the influence of external actors on the domestic politics of the West. It’s critical to our society that we recognise the danger that such activity poses.

In order to recognise its importance, we must first understand why any country – Russia, China, Iran or any other would seek to do so.

Consider first the internal political process we deal with on a regular basis. The process ultimately aims at gaining domestic power in order to fulfil the promises made during a political campaign. If a party is successful – they will seek to fulfil these promises. With that power comes the ability to influence and shape the deployment of resources and which set values and societal priorities are given precedence.

These are significant gains for those who wish to steer the ship of democracy. Of course, if a party fails to deliver on its promises, they will likely face a reckoning at the next election.

Those are the general benefits to those involved legitimately in a state’s internal democratic process. However, why would an external actor – i.e. a foreign state wish to influence this process?

In simple terms, internal politics shapes the international political order. Those in power domestically express themselves internationally. This is done through trade, humanitarian aid, military deployment among other things.

Therefore, external actors may believe that there is some benefit to ensuring one result over another in order to assist them with an over-arching international goal. Of course, simply being able to undermine the democratic process in another country – and to act with impunity may be a sought-after result in and of itself.

Obviously, it is thought that such action should not take place if there is to be respect for the laws and conventions of other countries.

However, it is clear both throughout history that such actions do take place. Indeed, the evidence is suggesting that such things are taking place at this very moment. External actors may be having a direct influence on the politics of the West and thus our democracies. If this is even a possibility, then our democracy is in peril. Unfortunately, recent reports suggest that no one is adequately prepared to face this issue with the rigour it requires.

If we are to protect democracy, it is essential that such actions are not allowed to continue. We must respond to these issues by strengthening the defences that we deploy to protect the integrity of our domestic political process. Furthermore, there must be consequences for those countries that choose to engage in such behaviour. Otherwise, they will continue to take greater strides towards trying to influence foreign elections and the democratic integrity of our own nations will crack from the ensuing chaos.

Failure to do so shall not only impact the domestic politics of the West but will badly damage the West’s role in the international political order – a situation that I would suggest we have already begun to witness and very likely the primary purpose of any such activities.

Stewart Stevenson
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