Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Publish or be damned, UK government warned over referendum

The title of this post is of course just a minor modification of the headline on a Scotsman article that claims Alex Salmond is "under mounting pressure to publish the SNP administration’s legal advice over holding an independence referendum". The article features this contribution from Margaret Curran -

"The legal competence of proceeding with a referendum is highly significant and reflects what a number of experts have said, so if the SNP holds differing legal advice, they should publish it today. Refusing to do so fuels suspicion."

That's an intriguing point of view, Margaret. Why not direct it at the UK government who also hold legal advice that differs from that offered by a number of experts, and have also "suspiciously" refused to publish it "today" or any other day?

There's also this from Murdo Fraser -

"If Alex Salmond is confident that he has strong legal opinion backing up his case, then he should be prepared to publish that advice, so that it can be subjected to proper scrutiny."

That's an intriguing point of view, Murdo. Why not direct it at YOUR OWN Tory-led government at Westminster - ie. if they are confident that they have strong legal opinion to back up their case, why aren't they prepared to publish that advice, so that it can be subjected to proper scrutiny?

We're now in the extraordinary position where parts of the media are playing along with the unionists' little game of pretending that their new 'out of thin air' legal advice somehow represents the equivalent of a preliminary finding of the Supreme Court, leaving the burden of proof entirely on the Scottish Government. The reality of course is that the two contradictory sets of legal advice have exactly the same standing - either could be right, either could be wrong, neither will be published according to convention, and neither constitute the ruling of a court. For Jim Wallace to claim that the Scottish Government are acting against the 'rule of law' by seeking to legislate in good faith and in conformity with their own legal advice is a shameful, cynical new low in this grotesque 'undead' period of an otherwise largely constructive political career. If his legal opinion - note the word opinion, it's not a "ruling" - is that the Scottish government's advice is in error, then when the time comes he has legal redress open to him in his role as Advocate-General. As has been pointed out even by Political Betting's resident self-appointed legal expert Richard Howell, he would in political terms be crazy to seek to use that redress, but if he wants to make Alex Salmond's day, that's a matter for him.

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Wikipedia's blackout to protest against SOPA is in principle a very good idea - but the fact that they've also blacked out the "Learn more" page explaining why they are protesting against SOPA does rather defeat the purpose somewhat!

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I freely confess I know next to nothing about Martin Schulz, the newly-elected socialist President of the European Parliament. But this claim in the Daily Mail does lead me to suspect that their damning account of his career to date may not be the most shining example of that paper's legendary dedication to objectivity and factual accuracy -

"The ‘election’ which is a stitch up between the largest groups – the Socialists and the Liberals – was agreed two years ago, before today’s election and he had formed his cabinet six months ago."

Er, no. In point of fact the Liberals are the third-largest group. The agreement two years ago was between the Socialists and the largest group in the parliament, the right-of-centre EPP.

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