I'm fairly agnostic on the claims that Theresa May has made about Russian state involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. I find it entirely plausible that Russia might have sufficient disregard for human rights and international law to do something like that, but by the same token the events leading up to the Iraq War should serve as a handy reminder to us all that Western governments are highly skilled at taking advantage of narratives that seem plausible to their citizens, regardless of whether they are actually true or not. What I do know for sure is that the British establishment, all the way from Nick Robinson down to David Leask, have recently been taking an absolutist stance on anything that might give succour to the Putin regime. Remember Robinson saying that it didn't actually matter that the Alex Salmond Show would be free of pro-Putin propaganda, because the existence of the show was still lending credibility to propaganda elsewhere on the same channel?
Well, if RT is an instrument of Russian soft power, the same is true a hundred times over of Russia's forthcoming hosting of the World Cup. England's participation in the tournament would in effect be a genuflection towards that soft power before a global audience of billions, and yet we're told that the UK government's belief that the Russian state has just attempted murder on British soil will not be an obstacle to that happening. Only practical concerns about safety would lead to the team's withdrawal. Is that position remotely sustainable? I don't think it is. My guess is that some sort of sophistry about "the need to keep sport and politics separate" will eventually be used as an excuse for England taking part, because self-serving Tory politicians are too scared of disappointing the large football-mad section of the electorate. If that proves to be right, we'd better not hear any more hypocritical and sanctimonious tripe about how a 30-minute weekly TV show on an Ofcom-licensed channel is somehow undermining Western civilisation. Amazing, isn't it, how when there's some sort of political cost, all these fine principles suddenly go flying out of the window?
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I caught the early part of the Continuity Bill debate in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, and I was tickled by the apparent belief of Adam "IT'S THE LAW!!!!" Tomkins that we should all be reassured that the UK government's amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill will "allow" - but not require - London to seek agreement with the devolved administrations before establishing common UK frameworks that affect devolved matters. Apparently it's some sort of spectacular breakthrough that the UK government isn't legislating to forbid itself to talk to Nicola Sturgeon.
Even more disingenuous is that Tomkins claims to believe that frameworks should be agreed, not imposed, and yet refuses to acknowledge that such a stance is irreconcilable with his support for Westminster legislation that enables imposition. The bottom line is that Tomkins and his colleagues think that if the Scottish government fail to reach an agreement with London on a framework after negotiating in good faith, London should be entirely free to impose a framework. That is simply not consistent with the devolution settlement as it has existed since 1999.
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Of the many abusive trolls that pollute Scottish political Twitter, Labour's Ian Smart is undoubtedly the one that has enjoyed most exposure as a TV pundit. This was his 'thoughtful contribution to the debate' on the Continuity Bill the other day -
"Because no-one in 1998 anticipated us ever leaving the EU, always and never are both apposite. Question for SNP remains why they are best exercised on a supra national basis or by Holyrood alone but not by any intermediate arrangement? Difficult to see an answer beyond Anglophobia."
Given that Smart should undoubtedly have been long since expelled from Labour for the use of abusive and racist language, it's perhaps a mistake to take anything he says too seriously. Nevertheless, I'll bite, because the answer to his question is actually pretty straightforward.
First, it's obviously not the case that the SNP support the status quo in Scotland's relationship with the EU. They want those powers to remain at a supranational level, but for Scotland to have a vote on them by means of direct representation in EU institutions, which we currently lack. In some areas, of course, that would mean having an outright veto, and in others it would be possible to stop unwanted things happening by forming part of a blocking minority.
Second, it's not even the case that the SNP are opposed to the powers being exercised at a 'supranational' UK level after Brexit. But what Smart doesn't seem to understand is that "UK-wide" and "London-imposed" do not mean the same thing. It is perfectly possible for there to be UK-wide frameworks that have been voluntarily thrashed out between the different governments in the UK. Just as would happen if Scotland was independent within the EU, the SNP wants post-Brexit Scotland to pool sovereignty as an active participant whose agreement for decisions is required. The only difference is that independence is not necessary for that to happen in the post-Brexit scenario - the existing devolved settlement, under which anything not explicitly reserved to Westminster is automatically devolved, should already guarantee it. Alas, it looks as if that settlement isn't worth the paper the Scotland Act was written on.