Six questions for Michael Moore

Sometimes, I think Eddie Barnes needs to get out more.  There’s more hyperbole in his hyped up piece on the Secretary of State for Scotland’s speech in Edinburgh last night, than in a Scottish Labour press release.  And that’s saying something.

So Mr Moore came home to Scotland and spoke unto nation, putting what he reckons were six killer questions for the SNP to answer on independence.  Now, regular readers of this blog, will know that I am no slouch myself at poking hard at the SNP’s policy preparations for the independence referendum.  But I do it in my spare time.  Michael Moore seems to think that his stipend from the public purse gives him the right to do it as part of his day job.  Funny, there was me thinking that he was being paid to represent Scotland’s interests in the UK Government, not think up questions to grab a few headlines from an over-wrought political editor.

In keeping with the game then, allow me to pose six questions for Mr Moore.  I’d humbly suggest that these are the kind of things that many Scottish people, when they wake up in the night fretting, might like the highly paid Secretary of State to have a ready answer to.  We’ll call them six question for our smart arse, superfluous Secretary of State for Scotland….

1.  What are you doing to regulate banks more tightly so that they cannot gamble their way to riches with our money, at our expense?  Indeed, just what jot of a difference have the Liberal Democrats in this unholy alliance with the Tories done to make another banking crash less likely?

2.  What is your party/government doing to stop the diminishing value of the money we currently have in our pockets?  Inflation is at record rates and shows no sign of dropping back.  Day to day essentials – leccy, hot water, food – are soaring in cost.  And thanks to your lot, what with NI rises and tax credit cuts, and pay freezes resulting from stagnation in the economy and particularly cuts in the public services, the fact is that we are currently being expected to pay more with less.  Any chance of you focusing on the currency we have, rather than the one we might have at some point in the future?

3.  Never mind future membership of international organisations, what about the union we’re already in – why should we stay?  Explain to me what it is we get from staying in the United Kingdom?  Go on, try.

4.  How many soldiers, sailors, airmen, bases, budgets, big ticket defence numbers and regiments has your government cut in Scotland and indeed, across the UK since coming to power?  I see the poor Ghurkas took another dunt today.  Nice to see the UK government hitting the colonials before their ain.  How does that square with the Lib Dem commitment to equality and parity of treatment that seemed to exercise quite a few of your lot before you climbed into bed with the Tories?  Indeed, what do all the Quakers in your movement think of your obsession with all things shiny and jingoistic these days?

5.  Will the current generation of workies actually get to retire?  You see, in the space of a few years, the retirement age has been raised, not once but twice.  Under your watch, what with the high inflation and flat interest rates and volatile investment markets, watching your pension pot is akin to being on a see-saw right now.  Oh, and public sector workers are about to see theirs diminish too.  We’re all in this together right?  Never mind the liabilities we might have under independence, what are you doing about the ruddy great big hole in everyone’s pensions under your government that’s there right now?

6.  How much do you and your wee outpost cost the taxpayer again?  Somewhere in the region of £10 million annually huh?  Independence would at least deliver that saving.  What could we spend our bawbees on?  Well, how about clothing grants for poor weans.  We could increase the numbers entitled to receive a grant, also provide a one-off transition grant to help with the costs of uniform and kit for going to secondary school and increase the size of the grant from £50 to £70 a year – and still have change left in the kitty.  Hmm,  an ineffectual government mouthpiece who is doing absolutely nothing to protect some of the poorest in society from the savagery of Tory cuts or weans getting a decent coat to wear in the winter.  Tough choice huh?


34 thoughts on “Six questions for Michael Moore

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  4. 1. I think the rancour towards Vince from city types tells you all you need to know on that one. And please don’t tell me that Alex Salmond would have stopped the banks’ excesses. Nobody did – and the only one who warned of the dangers from way back was Vince.

    2. You have a point in that those on the lowest incomes are really struggling with rising prices. The full raising of the tax threshold to £10,000 will happen, but people actually need help now. However, I am in no doubt that the situation would be a lot worse if the Coalition hadn’t taken action to tackle the deficit. We’d be in the same situation as Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Italy and the measures, facing high interest rates and much worse cuts in services. The Coalition inherited an economy in pretty bad shape and are taking broadly the right approach. I’d have made different decisions about some items of spending, for sure. Why on earth we need to be planning to spend huge amounts on nuclear weapons is beyond me. The fact, by the way, that we’re not spending that money and making those decisions now is down to the Lib Dems in the coalition. And if the Tories were governing alone, there would be no tax cuts for the poorest, rich, dead people would be much better off and we’d get a tax break for being married.

    3. I agree with what Douglas said about your questions 3 and 4 – you are trying to have your cake and eat it there. You can’t say there’s no benefits to the union and then complain when UK service bases in Scotland are shut. Scotland does a lot of business with England, currently carried out with no faffing. If Scotland were independent, even though there’s a single market in Europe, there’s still customs rules and the like to deal with. Putting up barriers would be bound to cause more paperwork and form-filling and the likes. We are a relatively small group of islands. Surely it makes sense to have one set of Armed Forces to defend that island. How would an independent Scotland sustain an Army, Air Force and Navy and what would have to be cut to pay for it, or how high would our taxes have to be?

    And then there’s sport. Our athletes probably have more opportunities as part of a GB team than they would in an independent Scotland.

    And there’s stuff on the environment that we need to do as a planet and co-ordinated action up and down this small island is a good thing.

    Yes, we need more devolution of powers – and we need devolution from as well as to Edinburgh, but the principle of being part of “Team UK” is a good one. Everybody wins. We as Scots have increasing power over our own home affairs and have the security of being part of the UK and then Europe.

    I seriously don’t get independence – to me a fair and liberal society is much more important. That’s what sets my heart racing, not the thought of setting up border posts at Gretna Green.

    4. Clearly in an independent Scotland there would be no British army. However, every time I see Mike Moore, I see etched on his face his concern for places like Kinloss and Fife. Of all the bourachs Labour left behind, defence was the worst. Despite all that, though, there will still be more service personnel in Scotland – 2500 of them, which will limit the damage in the affected communities. Mike Moore has spent a lot of time working with those communities, setting up a way of them to feed back concerns directly to the MOD and the Treasury. Mike also fought for the carriers, too which will secure good quality skilled jobs in Fife and on the Clyde.

    5. Pensions – a nightmare which successive governments had failed to tackle properly. We have an aging population, and the previous generation of middle income public sector workers had it quite easy, with many being able to retire relatively comfortably at 50. Maybe we’re now paying for that excess. And if we don’t like having that legacy foisted on us, imagine how the next generation would feel if we didn’t get a grip on the public finances. But look what Steve Webb has done with his triple lock on the State Pension, making a big difference compared to Labour’s paltry 75p rises. There are no easy answers to this one. It annoys me, though, that civil servants have never had to contribute anything while council employees have – I think there needs to be some levelling out of that.

    6. Well you might consider the £4 million Mike’s brought in from the Crown Estate balances out a good whack of his department’s costs. If we’re going to be part of the UK, it’s important that Scotland’s voice is heard within the UK Government. Mike is an effective and skilful advocate for us as we can see through the carriers, the service bases, the coastguard stuff – and also on welfare reform too. If we sold off Bute House, or stopped our MSPs having constituency offices, or I’m sure there’s very many things we can think of, we could make things easier for those who need it most. If we made the rich pay for their medicines, rather than get them free, we could have £40 million a year back into the budget. I think it’s an abomination that my husband now has a bus pass. He doesn’t need it. We could save a small fortune if we took that back to 65 for people who weren’t disabled or on benefits.

    I reckon the Scotland Office, anachronistic though it may seem post devolution, has important functions for all of us in Scotland.

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  6. Well thats an interestingly bitter piece.


    1. That battle, you have noticed, is about to start. And I am comfortable that this “unholy alliance” is delivering a large proportion of the Lib Dem manifesto. Mind you, reading Tory blogs seems to show that they are disenchanted with the coalition just as much as you are. Which, in my book, is a good thing.

    2. What do you think is causing inflation? If you want the country to borrow even more than the £bns it borrows now then what do you think will happen to things like interest & exchange rates? Do you think that governments should just continually borrow and not worry about repayments?

    3. Your premise to this question (that you think there is no benefit to staying in the UK) is undermined by question 4 in that if Scotland were independent then there would be no British army for you to worry about. But I do wonder about the desire to maintain an armed force that a country cant afford and to have that armed force situated in places not based on military need or plans but a desire to ensure that geographic spend has parity. Oh and, jingoistic?

    5. Having reviewed my pension plans several times in the last 5 years I am pretty sure that there were problems with it before the election last year. The change in retirement age is all about addressing problems in paying for pensions. It is also about equality. I thought equality was a good thing? Why should low paid men have to work for more years than low paid women?

    6. Whilst the Scottish Office is a bit of anachronism post devolution and we can all think of vulnerable people that the money could be spent on there is government spending by both the Coalition & SNP that could be far better spent. But since the Scottish Office is there it has a duty to ask about how Scotland is being governed. You argued that he is asking questions that are far removed for the concerns of families (you should phrase that better – my family, on both sides of the border, enjoy debating the questions that both he and you put) but the same could be said of the SNP and their ongoing struggles against the Scotland Bill and requests for more power. Why are the relevant?

    • For Starters
      Devolving the Crown Estates. fail
      Removing Secretary of State for Scotland. fail
      Federalism. fail
      NO tuition fees. fail
      Tax avoidance and evasion. fail
      Sort the banks. miserable failure

      Privatisation of the NHS.
      Regime change in Libya
      Tax the wealthy less and tax the poor more
      Vat increase
      5 year fixed term parliaments

      The voters don’t see it the LibDem way. Ipsos MORI Scottish Public Opinion Monitor

  7. Aidan “Additional bureaucracy is pointless, if we’re going to spend more money on government it could be better spent on doing something productive. Social workers for instance.”

    I’m with you on addtional bureaucracy. I’m a retired Social Worker – I seemed to spend 80% of my time on stats and recording by the end, rather than doing anything productive, and most Social Workers I know are praying for the lottery win that would let them get out, but that’s for another time. What I’m suggesting is that the 9% odd of bureaucratic jobs in a Gov’t office in SE England that relate to Scottish matters would be better employed in Scotland to do the same task.

  8. @Aidan You can knock on doors in the Briggs now. The E Dunbs council election is next May… 😉

  9. A fine post, asking some very pertinent questions. Not only that, but I have now learned the meaning of the word, “orthogonal”, which is very welcome.

  10. I thought Michael Moore’s questions were perfectly fair and if the independence debate is going to involve six questions being met with another six questions then we’re not going to get very far.

    The fifth question, from yourself Kate and from Michael, are the most pertinent from where I’m sitting. It is pension obligations that are finishing off small and medium-sized companies and, as you point out, the black hole in UK plc’s pension account is a big worry.

    It is odd therefore that you simultaneously have a go at the coalition increasing the retirement age while challenging them on how they are fixing the black hole. Are you not answering your own question there?

    There’s no getting away from the fact that Scotland’s public/private sector ratio is more top heavy in Scotland than it is down South so Michael’s challenge to the SNP is a welcome one.

    I’m more discomfited than a lack of a Salmond response to Moore’s six than I am a lack of a Moore response to the Burd’s six.

    • I think my key point is that we pay him to do a job and it ain’t to think up questions like these that are so far removed from what is going on in families’ lives right now that they serve to point up his irrelevance. i think there are better way of fixing the pension black hole than making low paid women work an extra seven years.

      I have no expectation that Mr Moore will deign to answer my questions. But I know that many voters and taxpayers out there would like some answers from the UK government on issues such as these.

      Also, you maybe need to drop by here more often – I regularly posit questions of the SNP but also present some ideas for solutions. Which is more than most do, present company excepted!

  11. Excellent piece. And excellent questions………..not holding my breath for any answers though. And that’s it isn’t it? Lots of “be afraid, be very afraid” stuff about eaving the union and precious little about why we should stay…….’nuff said really.

    • Thanks! And yes indeed. Fed up with not being given any answers to these kind of questions if we stay with the Union. They give the impression that we are in the clover just now, when we’re not. Quite the opposite in fact. I just don’t see how things could get any worse than they already are…

  12. Great points. #4 is especially galling. Decades of UK Governments (Tory, Labour, and now even LibDem) have scaremongered about the loss of defence jobs and bases as the ‘price’ of independence. But – lo! – now we are losing personnel and investment under the union, noone mentions the ‘price’ of the union…

    • Why would the UK government prioritise investment in a part of the country that might break away? It surely makes more sense to keep bases etc. in places which will definitely continue to be part of the UK in a few years? That’s the price of leaving asking an uncertain question at an uncertain point. See also today’s CBI statement

      • I’ll look forward to seeing the Trident subs moving to Portsmouth, then, Aidan?

        Perhaps Unionists need to understand that a failure to invest in Scotland will only add weight to the argument for independence?

        Lovely to see the Labour Party citing the CBI in support of its case. Of course, no institution has a better record of showing concern for the working people of Britain than the CBI.

      • Aidan, it’s got more to do with political expediency and where the votes are. All parties play the same game to a greater or lesser degree. Investment where not to do so will cost dear in terms of votes and seats.

      • I definitely never meant to imply it was anything other than political expediency…

  13. Here’s an idea: rather then Secretary of State For Scotland being a appointed to the cabinet by the PM, with all the ambiguity about Scotland’s-representative-in-the-cabinet vs the Cabinets-representative-in-Scotland that that brings, how about the Scottish Secretary is the First Ministers appointment to the Cabinet?

    Regarding Q3: we get to share institutions which make sense to share, like the DVLA, HMRC (already set up to allow differential taxation), embassies and defence. I really can’t see post-independence Scotland having a defence policy independent NATO, can you? Seems to me like we can avoid the most of the kerfuffle and get most of the gain through other means. 😉

    I have no answers to the other questions, that’s for the Quisling Democrats to answer 😉

    • Ha! The thing is we have layers of bureaucracy under UK plc that a modern small nation simply does not need to function. There are at least seven schedules to the income tax regime in the UK – great big bloody books they were in my day. The rules are so complex and the bureaucracy so huge that it has become a self-perpetuating industry. And the system ain’t fit for purpose. An indie Scotland could come up with a better personal tax regime that is more streamlined and more progressive than current one. And a far more efficient way of collection. I don’t want to keep stuff like that thanks very much. In fact, I’d opt for wholesale reform right now – for everyone on these islands’ sake

      • I’d completely agree that radical reform of the tax system is necessary, but that’s surely orthogonal to the independence question? I don’t see any great hunger in the SNP to effect progressive change in that respect, quite the opposite in fact..

      • Ach maybe we should do as the Nats want which is independence then we’ll fix things. On the basis that while they are celebrating, we lefties can sneak in and start sorting stuff… Lol. And you are right, re lack of appetite for big progressive change. I think, nay hope, it is tactical. But none the less frustrating.

      • See, I could get behind the SSP vision for an independent Scotland. I’m even pretty persuadable on “we can’t fix things with federalism because X, Y and Z” if somebody comes up with X, Y or Z.

        A properly federal model can fix all the domestic things, and I really don’t see how Scotland gains clout internationally from being a new country of 5m versus being part of Britain.

        But nobody does. The best I’ve had is “we wouldn’t have gone into Iraq” which turned into them briefly asserting that the US wouldn’t have elected George Bush if Scotland was independent in 2000…

    • ‘Here’s an idea: rather then Secretary of State For Scotland being a appointed to the cabinet by the PM, with all the ambiguity about Scotland’s-representative-in-the-cabinet vs the Cabinets-representative-in-Scotland that that brings, how about the Scottish Secretary is the First Ministers appointment to the Cabinet?’

      Well, in the case of a Unionist party/parties in power in Hollyrood, the appointee will be a tame party hack, a Moore clone. What’s the point of that?

      ‘Regarding Q3: we get to share institutions which make sense to share, like the DVLA, HMRC (already set up to allow differential taxation), embassies and defence. I really can’t see post-independence Scotland having a defence policy independent NATO, can you? Seems to me like we can avoid the most of the kerfuffle and get most of the gain through other means. ;)’

      Surely one difference would be thatr the administration of all Scottish matters would take place in Scotland, with benefits for Scottish employment, etc.

      ‘I have no answers to the other questions, that’s for the Quisling Democrats to answer ;)’

      That would be your coalition partners in Scotland of many years standing?

      • Tame party hacks are a problem wherever they are, and at least with my proposal there’s a reasonable chance they’d be a hack from a different party from the Westminster government so could at least cause a lot of mischief. 🙂

        Additional bureaucracy is pointless, if we’re going to spend more money on government it could be better spent on doing something productive. Social workers for instance.

        And yes, those same coalition partners who exerted a positive influence on the Labour government in Scotland. They’re doing a terrible job, propping up a vicious Tory government for no gain. Especially Jo Swinson. I’ll take great pleasure knocking on doors in Bishopbriggs in 2015.

  14. I believe he is going to impose the Scotland Bill on us no matter what our governments decision. From federalist to Dictator in just over a year he must dream of ermine on red benches.

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