GERS 2015-16: Confronting the challenges

  • 24 August 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is shown how leather hides are trimmed with managing director Colin Wade [right] looking on

The word of the day was "challenging". Nicola Sturgeon used it, repeatedly, when discussing the state of Scotland's economy, as partially disclosed by the publication of the annual exercise known as Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS.)

I say annual. Actually, the last version emerged in March this year. Are we now to be subject to biannual visitations?

Apparently not. The Scottish government has simply chosen to accelerate publication of the latest batch of stats in order to make their information more "timely." That is "timely" in its modern meaning of "during the Festival when folk are still striving to make summer last".

But Ms Sturgeon was not the only one to feel challenged. The Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, also detected an incipient onslaught. In his case, the focus was upon Brexit. He reckoned that was enough of a challenge in itself, without the prospect of indyref2.

The First Minister launched the new, speedier GERS in the rather splendid Muirhead leather factor in the east end of Glasgow. An image of the whiskered founder gazed down upon her, looking slightly aggrieved. Perhaps, like the wicked media, he was trying to keep up with the blizzard of figures.

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Politics... or arithmetic?

  • 23 August 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Girl at blackboard Image copyright Thinkstock

Curious and intriguing, the memories which float to the surface at odd moments. Let me share with you today a conversation from a wee while back with a potential council candidate.

He was trying to explain the complexities of the Single Transferable Vote to older colleagues who had become accustomed to their party gathering seats by the bucket-load under the previous system.

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Will the Labour party split?

  • 22 August 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA
Image caption Kezia Dugdale isn't backing Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race

Will the Labour Party split? Possibly, although by no means certainly. If there is to be a split, which of three feasible fissures would be followed?

Three? One, Labour's members could formally divide into two parties, presumably along Left and Centrist lines. Two, Labour's MPs could form, de facto, a parliamentary party of their own, paying minimal heed to the wider party.

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Growing calls for federal UK in wake of Brexit vote

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Image caption Could federalism let Scotland remain in the UK and the EU?

For years, nay decades, it was a topic only touched, if at all, by eager Liberals at party conferences. If not actually shod in sandals at the time, you could tell they were yearning to return to their favoured footwear, when convenient.

The topic? Federalism, of course. It has been on Liberal (and now Lib Dem) stocks for so long, it has tended to suffer a little from benign neglect. Like much-loved socks stuffed at the back of a drawer.

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In-depth Chilcot report raises further questions

Iraq Inquiry report Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Chilcot Report studies the build up to and the conduct of the Iraq War

Sir John Chilcot's compendious and coruscating report into the Iraq War and its aftermath has, inevitably, generated further questions.

Could/should the conflict have been prevented? What went wrong with equipping the troops? Why was aftermath planning, according to Sir John, so limited?

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Queen's 'keep calm and carry on' message

Media captionThe Queen urged calm in an "increasingly challenging world"

If you are the first minister, you can make your point directly. And so Nicola Sturgeon concluded her remarks at Holyrood today by urging MSPs and Scotland more generally "to play our part in a stronger Europe and a better world."

If you are the presiding officer, you can say what you mean to say, without challenge. And so Ken Macintosh, in a notably well-structured speech, urged optimism in these troubled and uncertain times.

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Brexit: Known knowns and known unknowns

Image copyright AP
Image caption Donald Rumsfeld made his famous "known knowns" comment at a Pentagon briefing in 2002

As US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld offered the following verdict upon our troubled planet:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

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Brexit aftermath: Drawing on the words of thinkers

Irish President Michael Higgins Image copyright PA
Image caption Irish President Michael Higgins addressed the Scottish Parliament

Ideas and action. In general, it is sensible if one precedes the other. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am suggesting that thought might usefully come first.

Today, in Edinburgh and Brussels, we have had copious examples of both. More precisely, we have had a range of ideas - and, just perhaps, the first stirrings of action.

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Independence hangs over Holyrood Brexit debate

chamber
Image caption MSPs were updated on the government's plans in the wake of the UK's vote to quit the European Union

It was not, said Nicola Sturgeon, a statement she wanted to make. Her party, her government had not sought a referendum on the European Union nor did they seek the result which followed.

Nevertheless, she delivered said statement with panache and deliberative control. It was not, she implied by her demeanour, a time for fire and passion.

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Could the Scottish Parliament stop the UK from leaving the EU?

  • 26 June 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Media captionNicola Sturgeon: Scotland could veto Brexit

To recap. The Prime Minister has resigned. The leader of the opposition is resisting pressure from senior colleagues to follow suit.

And, lest we forget in this temporary focus upon party leadership, the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union after 43 years of membership.

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