31 July 2020

Douglas Ross will never be leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Very occasionally, I am amazed by my prescience. I closed yesterday's diary at with an Alfred Tennyson quote; "Authority forgets a dying king".

And lo, the leaders of the Tory party, all that party's key decisions are made in London, decide to fire their lead spokesperson in our Parliament.

But if course Tennyson's saying did not really apply to Jackson Carlaw. Yesterday's events confirmed that he had no authority which could be forgotten.

Lest that be thought to be a "sour grapes" comment, let us examine the facts via the information published by the Electoral Commission. There is a party registered with the name "Conservative and Unionist Party" (vide There is no party registered under any variant such as "Scottish Conservative ..".

The document of registration, giving its address as being at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London and its leader as Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson, says that it fields candidates in England, Scotland, Wales and Europe. It is the Conservative and Unionist Party, based in London that fights elections in Scotland. No other entity.

To aid it in fighting elections it has registered three symbols, labeled; "Conservatives", "Scottish Conservatives", "Conservatives Ceidwadwyr".

Then it has nine descriptions registered with the Electoral Commission as being used by it. Registered in 2001 it has "Scottish Conservative and Unionist" and in 2017 "Scottish Conservative Candidate". These have been registered by a political party based in London.

In the current circumstances, it is interesting to look at the accounts for local Conservative Associations.

The candidate favoured by London to take over from Jackson Carlaw as leader of their Scottish members, but not (yet?) in our Parliament, is Douglas Ross. So let's look at his local party group.

The 2009 accounts describe them as "The Moray Conservative and Unionist Association". They then use that same name, again sans any reference to a Scottish Conservative party, in their accounts for 2010 and 2017. To the best of my knowledge, they remain called "The Moray Conservative and Unionist Association" today.

Conclusion? There is no Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.

And therefore no such party for Douglas Ross, or anyone else, to lead.

21 July 2020

Keeping the Heid

Today I want to talk about mask-wearing.

I noticed that over the last few days, the President of the United States has begun to wear one, and indeed they will now be mandatory in shops in England from the 24th of July.

In Scotland, the use of face coverings has been legally-required in shops since the 10th of July and most people in our country have made a great effort to follow the rules. I commend them on it. However, we should realise that we’re not alone in this, many other countries have already adopted these policies.

It’s disappointing that there’s been a reluctance to act on this by our neighbour's political leaders. A country with a larger population and a higher R number should be leading the charge. But common sense isn’t necessarily common. My friends and relatives in England deserve clarity and leadership from their Government.

It seems apparent that there’s been continuing confusion down south – this being exemplified by the fact that 18,500 people had to be stopped from travelling since June 15 because they weren’t wearing a mask.

Hopefully, the Prime Minister’s changes will mean more people wear a face-covering, both on public transport and in the shops.

Here in Scotland, people seem aware of why we’re wearing our them.

That is – to protect our own health, the health of others and finally to help us move beyond the pandemic, so that we may begin the process of economic and social recovery.

I note there are some necessary exemptions for people with certain health conditions where they are unable to wear a mask. I would suggest that this makes it even more important for those of us that can, do wear a mask in order to protect those few who can’t.

If we are going to protect one another, we need to adhere to each tactic in the overall strategy. We keep this up, then the battle will be won eventually.

Our failure to do so would likely result in an increased R number which would throw us back into lockdown and cause us to sustain further damage and loss

Therefore, it’s imperative that we, “Keep the heid,” as the First Minister has said

If we go backwards, it will delay the recovery that we have all been working towards. With the opening of places of worship, hairdressers and restaurants the opportunity to stumble backwards will be greater.

So, it’s essential that you continue the good work that you have already done. Commit to using the tools and advice at our disposal to ensure that we continue to make progress.

There is work for businesses and consumers to do to get our economy back on its feet but we must first ensure that we’ve got a solid footing.

Scotland is making progress and that is thanks to you. I am hopeful that our compatriots down south will begin to make greater progress and we can all begin the necessary journey towards recovery. Until then, remember – wear a mask.

14 July 2020

Positively Optimistic

In times of crisis, it’s easy to get trapped in negative thinking – it goes hand in hand with it.

But it’s also the time that we need to be optimistic most. After all, it’s the good things in life that we live for.

I suppose one positive of not being able to spend time with my pals and enjoy our usual gossip is that I realise how important our little gatherings are to me.

The ability to sit down over a drink with old friends is something that most of us just take for granted. The realisation of how essential these simple things are makes me appreciate them more.

Hopefully, we can look forward to these things and when the day comes, we can savour them.

That’s what I’m looking forward to, but how do I stay positive now?

Well, one thing I’ve found constructive has been the time to exercise. Now that I haven’t had to commute to work, I’ve managed to allocate some of that time to my physical health.

I think it’s played a significant role in allaying the stress of not being able to see my pals but I also seem to have accumulated a somewhat significant increase in energy.

An added benefit of my exercise routine is that I also get to take in much of the surrounding countryside and all the interesting creatures in it.

Nature I find has a way of creating a sense of calm. I suppose I enjoy it because it’s a sensation that isn’t often present in modern politics. It’s in these quieter moments that one notices much of the beauty in the world that nature has set out before us.

While there are still challenges, I try to remember that those things that we live for are still there.

7 July 2020

Time for True Leadership

At the time of my writing this, there has been a steady decline in the number of daily deaths caused by COVID-19 in Scotland. For several days there have been no deaths recorded, sadly today that is not the case. While each death is tragic, at least fewer is a sign of hope.

In other places – less progress. In fact, some places seem to be putting the economic recovery above lives. Protecting the economy is essential but profits can be regenerated – the lives of parents, children, brothers and sisters cannot.

The First Minister has taken this perspective and indeed it’s why Scotland continues to make progress in suppressing the virus. It has not come free of cost, but it is up to leaders to bear such costs in a crisis, that is why we choose them as our leaders.

Tim Martin, the founder of Weatherspoons has a different view of leadership. At the onset of the pandemic, he suggested that his staff should consider alternative jobs in grocery stores and he did so despite the announcement of a furlough scheme.

He actions suggest he sought to absolve himself of responsibility for his staff as soon as a crisis hit. He never even considered the fact that his suggestion might put some of his more vulnerable staff in danger.

The following quote from author Simon Sinek captures my exasperation perfectly:

“If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us protection. The problem is, for many of the overpaid leaders, we know that they took the money and perks and didn’t offer protection to their people. In some cases, they even sacrificed their people to protect or boost their own interests. This is what so viscerally offends us. We only accuse them of greed and excess when we feel they have violated the very definition of what it means to be a leader.”

Which brings me to another leader with close ties to Mr Martin. I refer to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson announced yesterday there would be a “new deal” for the UK.

What Mr Johnson is doing is creating the illusion of protecting our society from the economic fall out of this virus – because he thinks it’s a good PR move.

For perspective, the “new deal” proposed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 represented about 40% of 1929 GDP in the US, 40% of 2019 GDP in the UK would, therefore, be around £800 billion.

Now, if he was to match the investment being done in other European nations, we would be looking at about 4% of GDP or about £80 billion.

£5 billion isn’t going get us much economic protection.

It is vital that the Prime Minister reacts to this crisis in the manner it deserves and fulfils his obligation as a leader. If he needs some advice, I’m sure the First Minister will be ready to offer someone can only hope he listens.

Stewart Stevenson
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