Meet the New Bosses

John Cawley asks : who runs Scotland? How do we fight the corporate capture of Scottish politics by lobbyists, journalists who are also lobbyists and think tanks? How does Scotland defend its polity against those who seek to influence policy while keeping those who fund them in the shadows? How can we shape a democracy fit for the challenges of the future?

It’s been a long hard slog since the referendum. The light at the end of the tunnel may well be an express train thundering towards us that will send us crashing out of the EU, hard border and all. Still the phoney war over the future of these islands continues.

As I sat the other day, mulling over the pros and cons of applying for Irish passports for my children in order that they might still have freedom of movement should they ever wish to leave these islands, I just felt a weariness. The same old scoundrels are still selling the same old snake oil.

I’ve contacted the Electoral Commission about Vote Leave’s alleged breaches of electoral law and the mystery donation of £400k to the DUP. I’ve ponied up to help crowdfund an appeal against the same Electoral Commission’s failure to take action against the same Vote Leave after finding prima facie evidence of illegal cooperation between the various Brexit campaigns.

I’ve used the BBC complaints process to raise my concerns about the privileged access given to various lobbyists on the flagship national political programme, Good Morning Scotland and its weekend edition – no luck.

I’ve tweeted BBC Scotland’s Gary Robertson, Mark Daly and the Radio Scotland Twitter feed to ask questions about the appropriateness of giving lobbyists like Kevin Pringle or Andy Maciver airtime and have not even received the dismissive ‘Righto’ reserved by Gary for anonymous Nats complaining about the size of Scotland in the weather map. I didn’t even get a response when I asked about the lack of coverage given to the visit of Steve Bannon to Gleneagles at the invitation of Charlotte St Partners chairman, Sir Angus Grossart.

I’ve contacted the Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh about the inclusion of Geoff Mawdsley, former lobbyist, current big noise at Reform Scotland and consummate political insider on the Commission for Parliamentary Reform. The Presiding Officer is obviously not on nodding terms with the irony of appointing a lobbyist to help reform parliament.

I’ve contacted the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to complain about the lack of clarity on who funds Reform Scotland and the preponderance of former and active lobbyists on its board or in its employ. Nothing to see here, move along.

I’ve put in a FOI request about the chumminess between the current Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf and former Labour Transport guy Tom Harris [lobbyist, Telegraph scribe, Reform Scotland, Vote Leave etc] as they rub shoulders at dinners or Mr Yousaf speaks at a Message Matters event, while Tom tweets approvingly of Humza’s performance. I was told by Transport Scotland that as the information was accessible, I should find it myself. Okay, so the information is on a site under construction, not in chronological order and may not even be there, but hey, that is my problem.

I’ve even applied to be in the Question Time audience, but apart from that glorious moment in 2003 when I got on, I’ve had no luck, despite the fact I meet the male middle-aged gammon demographic the programme thrives on.

Scottish politics continues to be a spectator sport. We look to an uncertain future politically and economically. There is one certainty though: the insiders will still be in. The Pacific Quay pals act will continue co-opting, closing ranks and closing doors to questions that go to the heart of Scottish democracy – who runs Scotland? How do we fight the corporate capture of Scottish politics by lobbyists, journalists who are also lobbyists and think tanks? How does Scotland defend its polity against those who seek to influence policy while keeping those who fund them in the shadows? How can we shape a democracy fit for the challenges of the future when we have a democratic process that has accumulated all of the worst excesses of Westminster in the merest fraction of the time that Holyrood has been the seat of our democracy?

How can we ensure the health of our Scottish democracy when we watch the goings on at Pacific Quay and we look from the old media to the new and from the new media to the old and we find it hard to discern the difference between the two. From paraphrasing Orwell to quoting The Who: ‘Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.’

The one thing I am certain of is that I don’t count in the new politics. I’m too old, maybe don’t have enough Twitter followers, maybe I’m too pessimistic or should try not to expect better than that which is on offer. From the imposition of standardised assessments on our children to the presence of Andrew Wilson on the Growth Commission; from the shambles at Police Scotland to the baffling ubiquity and respectability of Scotland’s top greaser Tom Harris on the national broadcaster, I’m giving up on worrying about how we keep those who run Scotland on the straight and narrow.

Maybe, I’ll apply for an Irish passport too. Maybe it is always darkest before the dawn. Maybe our future will be brighter than our recent past. Christ, I hope so.

Comments (19)

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  1. Charles Gallagher says:

    Hi John, get your Irish Passport now and you’ll immediately notice a politeness when crossing borders that you don’t get with the so called ‘Great’ British Passport. Back in the 80’s my partner and I were travelling through Europe I was treated with friendliness and civility whereas my partner was dismissed as ‘English’ at every border we crossed, attitudes only changed when she stood-up for herself and said, “I’m Welsh not English”, this always brought a smile. So John get your Irish Passport now.

    1. Delta says:

      Interesting – I travel on a UK passport to Germany alot -my partner is German – and am treated very civily – and the same in France that might be because I am civil to them and answer their questions in their native language.

      No probs in Canada or Australia either – might not be the passport

      1. Charles Gallagher says:

        Yes Delta civility is important but especially in France they tend to reciprocate the attitude to France as displayed by a certain section of the English population who take the age old view of why can’t they speak English, to which I retort why don’t you learn French? Now I’m no great shakes at foreign languages but I do try to have a few words and I’ve always found that people go out of their way to help me because I’ve made the effort. Mind you everyone usually ends up in fits of laughter.

  2. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Inquire immediately re: eligibility for an Irish passport, qualifications have been subject to change.

    A great read; I was with you every frustrating step-of-the-way.

    Good luck.

    1. Charles Gallagher says:

      Josef, changed to what?

  3. Angus MacLeay says:

    John Cawley asks : who runs Scotland?

    England runs Scotland – simple as that!

    If you have a serious illness, no point dwelling on a chipped toe nail or bad haircut, you need to overcome the illness.

    For too long Scotland gets diverted from what we all should be concentrating on, securing the freedom of our country for future generations!

  4. Jack Collatin says:

    Lovely read, sir.
    Perhaps we should all apply to Brussels for political asylum, or perhaps stay and fight, and take our country back from the ProudScotBut Uncle MacToms who are still coining it in bad mouthing their nation as the willing Fifth Column of Mother England.

  5. Carol says:

    Don’t give up the fight! But yeah, go for the green passport! Alba go brea!

  6. w.b.robertson says:

    who runs Scotland?…on any question, if in doubt, follow the money…

  7. Bob says:

    “It’s been a long hard slog since the referendum.” Sounds like you have given up. There are many out there energised to achieving independence from within the British state, a task that was never going to be easy but is inevitable and benefits immensely from a positive attitude no matter what nonsense Project Fear comes up with.

  8. Clive Scott says:

    There will always be the movers and shakers, the insiders, the elites, the bastards, in whatever system of governance we have. The difference with an independent Scotland is that they will be our insiders, our bastards, and being a much smaller more human scale country than the UK we will know who they are, where they live, and will be better able to keep tabs on and expose their nefarious activities and deal with them.

    1. John Cawley says:

      They are not our bastards, they are a self selecting elite. The whole point of the article is that we need stronger democratic institutions to minimise the toxicity of cronyism to the Scottish body politic. I am politically active and yet I am almost powerless. If you want to see how compromised Scottish politics is, look at the Lobbying Bill. Pringle, Harris, Wilson, Marco Biagi, Peter Duncan… Greasers who transcend party politics and are subject to the light touch regulation favoured by the powerful to the detriment of the many.

    2. A Balharry says:

      Then you are pitifully naive about globalism: look at how Dublin has become GoogleTown

  9. milgram says:

    For people who don’t just want to blame the English for everything and are interested in monitoring the new Scottish establishment in formation, this project LittleSis might be of interest:
    https://www.littlesis.org/
    “An involuntary facebook of the 1%”
    Unfortunately the main project is US only but the software is free: https://github.com/public-accountability/littlesis-rails and could be used by a motivated group to do wonderful things. It’s on my “if I had 36 hours in a day” list.

    1. John Cawley says:

      Thanks for the heads up. As you say, if I had 36 hours, I would.

  10. Eugene Cawley says:

    Very thought provoking insight,and very informative.,Thank god I had an Irish born mother and both sides of my grandparents,I have set in motion my application for an Irish passport.I was always proud of being a Scot..Never want to be British.never voted for Brexit,nor the English/Tory Party, Corrupt Elitist Vote rigging Scum..and as for the Red Tory Labour Party they are just as bad.. Kei Hardie ,must be spinning in his grave.

    1. John Cawley says:

      Bad news big bruv, I’m a yes voting Labour Party member. It’s okay though,I barely fit in Corbyn’s Labour Party as I cannot abide the thought of Brexit. Nice to see you on here though. Get involved, Eugene! See you soon.

  11. A Balharry says:

    “I’ve tweeted BBC Scotland’s Gary Robertson, Mark Daly and the Radio Scotland Twitter feed to ask questions about the appropriateness of giving lobbyists like Kevin Pringle or Andy Maciver airtime and have not even received the dismissive ‘Righto’ reserved by Gary for anonymous Nats complaining about the size of Scotland in the weather map. I didn’t even get a response when I asked about the lack of coverage given to the visit of Steve Bannon to Gleneagles at the invitation of Charlotte St Partners chairman, Sir Angus Grossart.”

    And you know why they don’t respond? BECAUSE THEY DON’T BOOK THE GUESTS, you fuckwit. Presenters present, reporters report. This is like complaining about the Scottish currency to a bank teller

    1. John Cawley says:

      I am very impressed by the economy and concision of your responses. I also bow to your superior knowledge of the inner workings of the BBC. Furthermore, I appreciate the muscular grasp of the vernacular in your use of the pejorative. All of that aside though, your malice is matched only by your dimness. Who are you? What are your politics? What do you do? Cards on the table here, eh? You’re a BTL tough guy abusing the forum Bella provides for alternative voices. I suppose if I looked elsewhere, I’d see you being similarly mean-minded on any number of spurious grounds.
      Here’s an idea: write something, put your name to it, construct an argument with an audience in mind. Try to engage your reader and find some common ground. The thing about Bella is that while some might object to providing a forum for someone whose views are not entirely simpatico with Bella – someone like me, it is to Mike’s credit that he provides this space. It is to your discredit that you’re such a joyless bawbag with so little of any worth to contribute that you hang about BTL, providing commentary on the level of nuisance calls, while hurling abuse I suspect you would be reluctant to own up to offline. I’ve given you more time and thought than you merit, but as a democrat who values open debate, I’ve engaged. If your response is of a piece with your previous contributions, I won’t bother engaging again.

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