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Sturgeon’s “Special Advisers” are enamoured with power and can be likened to a sick cancer bleeding off the efforts of hard working Scots

Sturgeon’s ever expanding army of “Special Advisers”

“Special Advisers” are political appointments and are exempt from impartiality requirements normally expected of civil servants in order to provide them with the freedom to give political advice to Ministers. Although never elected by the public nor subject to the normal rules of employee recruitment and formal interview they are gifted, courtesy of Nicola Sturgeon, and her alone, with a huge amount of power.

The leader of the “Special Adviser Team, (Liz Lloyd 2015-2021) has the authority to issue instructions to civil servants on behalf of Nicola Sturgeon.

The Devolution Act permitted recruitment of up to twelve “Special Advisers” to the First Minister.

But at 2022 Sturgeon employs nineteen, including a new adviser who supports the Green Party dual leadership and two new Green Party ministers in the Scottish Government.

At a total annual approximate gross cost to the Scottish taxpayer of £2 Million

Over two-thirds of Sturgeon’s special advisers are friends with senior SNP figures or are the partners Party influencers.

A self-perpetuating elite that thrives on patronage, using it to by-passing democracy and being surreptitiously slipped into positions of power and influence.

Responsibility for the recruitment, employment, management, conduct and discipline of “Special Advisers” rests with Nicola Sturgeon.

An informed ex servant of the crown commented:

“The introduction of “Special Advisers” into the Scottish Government established an alternative civil service.

They are an ill-disciplined bunch whose conduct is reported on through a “rebuttal unit” who feed distortions of the truth to the electorate, all with the purpose of ensuring the public are denied the truth of any given matter where the “image” of the Nicola Sturgeon or the SNP might be at risk.

In their efforts to establish and maintain their superiority they routinely pass negative value judgements on the ability of long term, full-time established civil servants.

They are immune to embarrassment and strangers to the appropriate and legal use of taxpayers monies.

They and their newly partnered green acolytes are enamoured with power and can be likened to a sick cancer bleeding off the efforts of hard working Scots.

The entire establishment should be sacked!!!!!

Special Adviser Team: April 2022

Colin McAllister – Chief of Staff to the First Minister: Briefs: First Minister’s Strategic Programme in Government including Inter-governmental relations co-ordination of the Special Adviser team.

Stuart Nicolson – Head of Communications: Briefs: Senior Political Spokesperson for the First Minister. co-ordination of the Special Adviser Communication Team.

Jeanette Campbell – Briefs: social justice and housing.

Gavin Corbett – Briefs: zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights.

Ewan Crawford – Senior Special Adviser: Briefs: constitution and external affairs portfolio (except culture).

Leanne Dobson – Special Adviser: Briefs: finance and the economy portfolio (excluding Local Government Finance and Business, Trade, Tourism & Enterprise). Programme for Government.

Jennie Gollan – Special Adviser: Briefs: justice portfolio (inc. veterans). culture portfolio (except broadcasting).

Kate Higgins – Special Adviser: Briefs: local government (including local government finance). business, trade, tourism and enterprise. transport portfolio.

Davie Hutchison – Special Adviser: Briefs: health and social care portfolio. broadcasting policy. First Minister’s Questions.

Harry Huyton – Special Adviser: Briefs: green skills, circular economy and biodiversity.

Ross Ingebrigtsen – Deputy Political Spokesperson for the First Minister. Briefs: strategic communications planning. First Minister’s Questions.

David Livey – Special Adviser: Briefs: education and skills portfolio.

Liz Lloyd – Strategic Policy and Political Adviser to the FM: Briefs: strategic advice to the First Minister on transformational policies and projects.

Comment: March 2021: An investigation by a Scottish parliament committee into the government’s unlawful handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond concluded that Nicola Sturgeon had misled parliament.

A few weeks after, Liz Lloyd was dismissed from her post as Chief of Staff to Nicola Sturgeon and took an extended leave of absence, returning to the Scottish Government in August 2021 as a “Special Adviser” reporting direct to the First Minister fulfilling a new role, created by Sturgeon with responsibility to work across government and with stakeholders to provide strategic advice on the delivery of the government’s policy programme.

A kick in the teeth for many Scots who thought that a small amount of justice had been gained by her dismissal. No chance!!!!

More here: (https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19165243.mps-hear-claim-sturgeon-chief-aide-interfered-v-bad-salmond-complaints-process)

John MacInnes – Special Adviser: Briefs: political research. support for First Minister’s Questions and Parliamentary debates. support to communications and policy Special Advisers

Emily Mackintosh – Special Adviser: Briefs: media communications including communications and events support for the First Minister. support for the First Minister and the First Minister’s Private Office. outreach and stakeholder engagement

Callum McCaig – Special Adviser: Briefs: COVID recovery portfolio.

John McFarlane – Special Adviser: Briefs: rural affairs and Islands. net zero portfolio (except transport). parliamentary business and parliamentary liaison. First Minister’s Questions.

Gavin Corbett – Special Adviser to the Green Party dual leadership and two new Green Party ministers in the Scottish Government.

Comment: Canadian born, Lorna Slater, in her quest for a place in Holyrood in 2021 asked the voters of Edinburgh North and Leith for their nomination.

Of the 80,000 strong electorate she gathered a measly 1,727 votes.

But Sturgeon was determined to destroy the hopes of other Scottish independence supporting Party’s with her instruction to SNP supporters not to give their constituency vote to ALBA and Slater, who topped the Green Party LIST benefitted greatly from Sturgeon’s largesse and was elected as a constituency MSP.

The reasoning that drove Sturgeon to act as she did became clear soon after the 2021 election when she committed the SNP to the establishment of a coalition government within which the Green Party would nominate two Green Ministers to serve in the Scottish Government and there would be consultation and agreement with the green Party leaders on all matters of policy. What a bummer of a deal!!!!!

“Special Adviser” activities are constrained by a number of restrictions. They are:

Not permitted to participate in Westminster or Scottish political activities, including, in a party political organisation, any office which impinges wholly or mainly on party politics.

Not permitted to speak in public on matters of Westminster or Scottish political controversy.

Not permitted to express views on Westminster or Scottish politics in letters to the Press, or in blogs, books, articles or leaflets

Not permitted to being announced publicly as a candidate or prospective candidate for the Westminster or Scottish Parliament.

Not permitted to canvass on behalf of a candidate for the Westminster or Scottish political institutions or on behalf of a political party.

Comment: In reality all of the foregoing restrictions are, with the tacit support of senior government ministers routinely ignored by Sturgeons “Special Adviser” team whose conduct is placed above the laws of good political practice.

16 Feb 2021: Nicola Sturgeon’s special advisers accused of ‘pumping out blatant propaganda’

Sturgeon has been urged by opposition politicians to curtail the inappropriate and scurrilous political activities of Liz Lloyd and her ever increasing number of “Special Advisers”.

The allegations of misbehaviour were supported by a damming dossier of evidence including reference to Lloyd’s breach of the “Special Adviser” code of conduct through the use of blatant propaganda on more than 100 occasions.

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Sturgeon’s commitment to open government is at odds with her imposition on Scots of a rigid secrecy obsessed regime reminiscent of the Stasi

Sturgeon’s Commitment to open government

Sep 2016: The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for those committed to making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. In each member country, government and civil society are working together on government reforms which ensure people can see, understand, participate in and influence the workings of government and to hold government to account. Until now all of the action has been on governments eligible for full United Nations membership. Each ‘subnational’ pioneer involved is not a full member country, but does have a substantially devolved legislature. During its Pioneer year, Scotland will be able to work directly with the OGP, sharing learning with the other Pioneer Governments, as well as learning from the wider international OGP community. The Scottish Government is working in partnership with civil society to create an open government movement in Scotland. More here (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/how-it-works/subnational-government-pilot-program)

United Nations Sponsors Open Government Partnerships

Scotland is one of 15 pioneer members of the Open Government Partnership’s inaugural International Subnational Government Programme. This places Scotland in the world spotlight on its commitments to democracy, human rights and how it engages its citizens. Scotland was chosen because of its commitment to Open Government reforms‎, including community empowerment and improvements in democracy.

In committing to the programme the Scottish Government established itself as one of the “global leading light in the campaign for more open and accessible government” in partnership with all branches and interests in Scottish society to create an open government movement in Scotland. In a statement, Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick welcomed the new status, which places Scotland as a leading pioneer state of the world, saying:

“Scotland’s involvement in this programme holds us as a government up to the light over our promises to be honest, transparent and reachable. “Nicola Sturgeon has already committed us to being ‘an outward looking Government … more open and accessible to Scotland’s people than ever before’. This pioneer status puts us on the world stage and gives us the opportunity to really prove ourselves. More than any of this, it gives us the motivation to continue to be a beacon of good government, the kind that Scotland truly deserves. Our action plan will show clear commitments to making Government in Scotland more open, accountable and responsive. We are working with people from all walks of life to shape and create Scotland’s OGP agenda, increase awareness of the benefits of open government and the importance of increasing democracy and participation. This is a huge learning opportunity, allowing us to highlight our strengths and share our own learning and to create a clear story about how Scotland is reforming government and public services, and the impact this has – from the streets of our towns to the United Nations.” (https://www.gov.scot/news/world-leaders-on-openness-and-transparency)

(https://www.gov.scot/publications/open-government-partnership-scottish-action-plan/pages/2/)

Not so open government

Parliamentary convention requires the timeous announcement of changes to numbers and/or duties of “Special Advisers”, rather than a reliance on on Twitter or little accessed website updates. The social grapevine is no place for government announcements but it appears the Scottish government quickly beats a retreat from openness and accessibility where it concerns Special Advisers. I wonder why? (https://jamesmcenaney.co.uk/2018/11/03/sensitive-scotgov-documents-cast-new-light-on-spads-foi-role/#lizlloyd)

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Example: Added costs of Lloyd’s soirees abroad with Sturgeon: Nice for some!!! 

8 Jun 2018: “Special Adviser” expenses and travel and subsistence costs (primarily Liz Lloyd)

The total cost of “Special Adviser” expenses and travel and subsistence costs for 2017/2018 was £26,029.40.

The figure includes expenses claimed through the Scottish Government iExpenses system and expenditure under the Scottish Government travel and accommodation contracts is broken down as follows:

iExpenses = £1,455 (sweeties etc.)

Hotel accommodation = £6,188.06

Travel = £18,386.34

The expenses were primarily incurred by “Special Advisers” supporting the First Minister and Scottish Ministers at events in other parts of the United Kingdom, including intergovernmental negotiations and on foreign visits to Europe and the United States of America taking forward the Scottish Government’s programme. Examples of such visits include:

Supporting the First Minister in New York and San Francisco on visits to discuss potential trade and investment opportunities for Scotland and to boost Scotland’s tourist industry;

Supporting the First Minister at a range of engagements associated with her attendance and speech to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik;

Accompanying the First Minister to Dublin to meet with the new Taoiseach and engage with potential Irish investors at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce;

Supporting the First Minister when she addressed the COP21 Plenary in Bonn on behalf of the UNFCCC Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Change;

Accompanying the First Minister to the British Irish Council in Jersey;

Supporting Ministers at meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations in London and in Cardiff;

Supporting Ministers in London at the Devolved Administrations’ meeting with the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs;

Supporting Ministers in London at the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare; and

Supporting Ministers at the Confederation of the Highlands and Islands in Shetland.

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Profiling Sturgeon’s large Praetorian Guard of Special Advisers- Ex protector Alexander Anderson knows who signed off the Cal-Mac ferry debacle and much more.

Alexander Anderson

Centrica: Head of Public Affairs (Scotland, Wales and the English Regions). Jan 2016 – Present. Group Deputy Head of Corporate Communication Aug 2018 – Feb 2020.

Scottish Chambers of Commerce: Member, Scottish Business Advisory Group. Apr 2019 – Present. CBI (Confederation of British Industry) Council Member. Jan 2019 – Present.
Elected to CBI Scotland Council for three-year term from January 2019.

Senior Special Adviser to the First Minister of Scotland. Nov 2014 – Jan 2016. Portfolio responsibility for Transport, Infrastructure, Investment and Cities – including: European structural funds, government procurement, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Water, cities, transport policy, public transport, air, rail and ferry services, roads, veterans and cross-government co-ordination on Scotland’s islands. Also, portfolio responsibility for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment – including: Rural Scotland, land reform, the physical and marine environment, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, food and drink, crofting, sustainable development, biodiversity, natural heritage, environmental protection, flooding, water quality, national parks and environmental & climate justice.

In addition to serving as Deputy Head of Communications and Official Spokesperson to Alex Salmond I held portfolio responsibility for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. Responsibilities included: Culture and the arts, national records, national identity, built heritage, architecture, broadcasting, cross-government co-ordination on European Union and international relations, international development, fair trade, the Scottish diaspora and cross government co-ordination on bringing major events to Scotland. Aug 2012 – Nov 2014.

House of Commons: Head of Press and Communication, (SNP). Aug 2007 – Aug 2012.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) Expert Adviser, politics. In the wake of the Arab Spring, I delivered a series of cross-party workshops in Tunisia for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (an independent democracy-building public body supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) on parliamentary procedure, effective communication, political campaigning and mass mobilisation.

Centrica Energy policy

2020: Anderson is a member of the Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum Whose mandate is to alleviate fuel poverty in Scotland. Jun 2018 – Present. The forum brings together partners between public sector, private sector, agencies and third sector delivery bodies to understand the issues facing those in fuel poverty in Scotland, and advise Ministers on issues and potential policy changes required. Quite how this squares with his role with Centrica is puzzling.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-fuel-poverty-partnership-forum-minutes-june-2019/

https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/10102/default/

2020: Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea advised consumers the energy crisis may last for two years. He said: “the market suggests high gas prices will continue for the next 18 months to two years. The high demand for gas is partly driven by a move away from coal and oil. As we move towards net zero, gas is a big transition fuel, and so as you turn off coal-fired power stations in other countries, there isn’t an abundance of gas that you can just turn on quickly.”

He also threw cold water on the idea of boosting supply from the North Sea as a domestic solution to the crisis, saying: “I’m not sure an increase in UK supply would have brought the price down. We bring gas in from the United States, from Norway, from Europe, from Qatar, from other places. So we’re not in a position to simply have the UK as an isolated energy market. We are part of a global market.” And Anderson is a member of the Fuel Poverty Partnership forum!!!

Comment: Promises, promises: On 14 June, 2016, 13 Government ministers and senior Conservatives pledged to abolish VAT on household energy bills in an open letter. Signatories included George Eustice, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Boris Johnson, Penny Mordaunt, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith, Desmond Swayne, Theresa Villiers and John Whittingdale. We are still waiting on the promised action!!!

2022: British Gas owner Centrica posted a surge in profits amid soaring gas prices and announced that its CEO will waive his annual bonus after the company was bombarded with complaints from angry customers. Chris O’Shea will forfeit the £1.1 million award he is due on top of his annual £775,000 a year salary.

Adjusted operating profit for the year to 31 December more than doubled to £948m from £447m a year earlier. Statutory operating profit came in at £954m against a loss last time of £362m. No dividend was proposed but the company, which trades as Scottish Gas north of the border, is repaying £27m received in 2020 through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Centrica said its 2022 outlook was broadly positive, but cautioned that “high and volatile wholesale commodity prices and a changing regulatory environment create a wider range of outcomes than normal.” (Daily Business)

Cal-Mac Ferry contract

To: Keith Brown: Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Investment and Cities

CC: Alexander Anderson. Senior Special Adviser to the First Minister of Scotland. Nov 2014 – Jan 2016. Portfolio responsibility for Transport

Subject: Vessel Replacement – Procurement of 2 new Major vessels

Date: 20 Aug 2015

Purpose: In the absence of the Minister for Transport and Islands on leave, your approval is sought for CMAL to award shipbuilding contracts of a total cost of £96m for 2 new major
ferries for the CHFS network to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL).

Full document here: (https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/transparency-data/2019/12/ferguson-marine-key-documents-2015/documents/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-recommending-contract-award-20-august-2015/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-recommending-contract-award-20-august-2015/govscot%3Adocument/Ferguson%2BMarine-%2Bsubmission%2Bto%2Bministers%2Brecommending%2Bcontract%2Baward%2B-%2B20%2BAugust%2B2015.pdf)

Special Advisers to Alex Salmond, November 2014.

Alex Salmond’s trial

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the former SNP MP, and the first witness to swear her oath on the Koran (“I swear by Allah that I will tell the truth …”) was asked about an incident at Stirling Castle where Mr Salmond had allegedly touched a female member of his staff on the bottom as a photograph of them both was being taken. “Did you see anything untoward?” she was asked. “Did [the woman] show any discomfort while the photo was taken?” “No,” answered Ms Ahmed-Sheikh to both questions.

Mr Jackson wanted to know from Ms Kay whether the former first minister was a “tactile” person, “touchy-feely, an old-fashioned man?” “Yes, definitely,” Ms Kay said. “He was mannerable in an old-fashioned way,” as she put it. “He was always hugging people — that was his way.” “But did he go over the line, was there inappropriate sexual behaviour?” asked Mr Jackson. “No,” she said.

Alexander Anderson, who worked for him as special adviser, agreed. “Mr Salmond has always been tactile,” he said. Campaigning with him meant a succession of selfies, with hugs in the streets, at bus stops and in any business he entered. “At party conference there would be hugs and kisses for everyone,” he added.

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Profiling Sturgeon’s large Praetorian Guard of Special Advisers- Ex protector Campbell Gunn has his say

Campbell Gunn: Member of Runrig for a brief spell in 1976. Political journalist of note for many years. Retired then appointed “Special Adviser” to Alex Salmond in 2013. Deputy Spokesperson for the First Minister and Communications Adviser. Retained by Sturgeon finally packed it in around 2018. Regular contributor to Twitter. 8 July 2013

Leadership styles

Alex Salmond was “collegiate and would take advice from everyone”, observed Campbell Gunn, who worked for both the former and current first ministers, Sturgeon relies on a small group for advice. The close circle includes Liz Lloyd, her chief of staff, and her husband. Gunn recalls that when he was working for Salmond and monitoring press coverage over the weekend they would be in constant communication. In contrast, Sturgeon is happy to delegate. “Call me if there’s ­something urgent,” she’d say. “Otherwise leave me alone.”

The Alex Salmond debacle

“If, as they say, they have nothing to hide, then surely they shouldn’t hide things. Do ministers, advisers and senior civil servants have any conception of how their current position looks from the outside? When I was involved in the case as media spokesperson for Mr Salmond two years ago, during the judicial review, few, if any, of my former press colleagues actually believed any of the ‘Salmond conspiracy’ allegations. Now most of them do. And that change in attitude is entirely down to the way the Scottish Government has dealt with the parliamentary committee.”

Supporters of Mr Salmond have claimed figures within government conspired against the former first minister by creating an anti-harassment policy that was out “to get” the ex-politician.
Civil servants, appearing in front of the Salmond inquiry, denied such suggestions. Gunn was also critical of Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC’s appearance in front of the Salmond inquiry last week and his response to MSPs’ questions about the legal advice. He accused Scotland’s most senior law officer of “breath-taking” obfuscation and also claimed the Scottish Government’s botched handling of the claims against Mr Salmond would have cost the taxpayer “well in excess” of £1 million. His remarks were made as MSPs on the inquiry prepared to meet in private after Deputy First Minister John Swinney blocked two Spad’s from giving evidence in public. (https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/politics/scottish-politics/1755322/campbell-gunn-says-scottish-government-just-fuelling-alex-salmond-conspiracy-theory)

So what should Nicola Sturgeon have done? By last autumn, it was obvious the game was up. If, at that stage, the First Minister had ordered the release of everything the committee wanted, probably including documents of which at that stage they were still unaware, there would undoubtedly have been a media storm. But it would have been short-lived, over in a week or so. Instead, she has had to suffer month after month of a continuous drip-drip of damaging revelations.

And that, it appears, is where loyalty has come in. Nicola Sturgeon is fiercely loyal to her staff, particularly the small group closest to her. Political expedience should have seen two or three senior people being sacrificed – in popular parlance, thrown under the bus – to save her own skin.

Top of the list should have been Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, the head of the civil service in Scotland, who defiantly proclaimed the flawed procedure ‘her’ policy. Instead, she was handed an extension to her contract. Then there’s the small matter of the First Minister’s husband, Peter Murrell, who just happens to be the SNP’s chief executive. That cosy situation should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, and he should have gone. Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd too should have been sacrificed.

Instead, all three – and others perhaps equally culpable – are still in their well-paid jobs, and we’re still not sure if everything relevant has been published. Full disclosure, a few bodies to satisfy the baying media mob, and a fulsome apology might well have seen the entire affair consigned to history. Instead, Nicola Sturgeon will continue to face questions over the issue for some time to come. (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/is-nicola-sturgeon-s-loyalty-her-big-weakness)

Holyrood not fit for purpose

Given recent events, it may now be time for reflection on how the Act is working in practice. Holyrood was designed as a unicameral legislature, a single body, with scrutiny and amendments to legislation being undertaken by what was supposed to be a powerful committee system. Those of us who have been forced to sit through various committee sessions over the years have known for some time that this system is unfit for purpose.

The problem was brought into sharp public focus with the high-profile appearance of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints. Thanks to partisan, soft-ball questioning by the majority SNP members and frankly, some political grandstanding by opposition representatives, the committee got nowhere, and the first minister was able to emerge virtually unscathed, having skilfully avoided any awkward pitfalls by claimed lapses of memory and in some cases obfuscation.

And recent behind-closed-doors shenanigans by the SNP reserving places for members of specific groups has effectively blocked the chances of many potential list candidates ever being elected, while virtually guaranteeing seats for others. It may well be time for an overhaul of the Scotland Act. Let’s learn the lessons of the past couple of decades. Replacing the current electoral system with multi-member wards elected by alternative vote and the addition of a second chamber would be, I suggest, good starting points. (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/opinion/columnists/2974336/right-time-for-overhaul-of-scotland-act)

National grid outrage

Nowhere is better placed for renewable energy than the north of Scotland. But development here is being constrained by outdated electricity transmission charges, imposed by the UK Government. The system was introduced almost 30 years ago to encourage the establishment of power stations near where they were most needed – close to city conurbations, and in particular the heavily populated south-east of England. It is an extremely complex charging system, but basically the idea was that transmission of electricity over a short distance was charged less per megawatt-hour than power sent from further away. The system was initially introduced only for England and Wales but was later extended to Scotland.

And that brings us to the present situation, where the expansion of renewable developments in the north of Scotland is now being seriously held back by these charges. A wind farm in the north of Scotland pays £5.50 per unit of electricity, while a wind farm in Wales is paid £2.80 per unit. Transmission charges in the north of Scotland are £7.36 per megawatt-hour, compared to £4.70 in southern Scotland. In some areas of the south of England, generators are actually paid to use the transmission network. It produces the ludicrous situation where a wind farm in the north of Scotland pays £5.50 per unit of electricity, while a wind farm in Wales is paid £2.80 per unit. The knock-on effect on the economy of the north is palpable. (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/environment/3207658/net-zero-scotland-transmission-charges-campbell-gunn-opinion)

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Profiling Sturgeon’s large Praetorian Guard of Special Advisers – Ex protector Noel Dolan offers a view!!

Noel Dolan:

11 Aug 2019: Noel Dolan, born in Balham of Irish descent, sounds about as Scottish as Bob Hoskins was Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior adviser for nine years. Dolan first worked for Sturgeon in 2004 when she was depute SNP leader and was her senior special adviser until his recent retirement. 26 May 2011.

25 Mar 2020: Dolan, said Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans had to go for the “good” of the Scottish civil service. He added: “As she cost the Scottish taxpayer a large amount of money, she should have gone in 2019.” Alex Salmond was cleared of sexual assault allegations by nine women after a two week trial at the high court in Edinburgh. He had initially been accused of sexual misconduct against two civil servants and the Government reported the findings to the police.

Alex Salmond funded a judicial review against the Government and a judge ruled in 2019 that the internal probe had been biased and unlawful. The botched investigation cost the taxpayer over £700,000 in legal and associated fees. Evans, who earns around £175,000 a year, did not carry out the probe herself, but as the most senior civil servant in the Government she had responsibility. Although she was criticised for the fiasco, she remained in post and even had her contract extended.

Dolan hit out at the way the initial probe was carried out saying: “For the good of the Scottish civil service, she should go.” During a procedural hearing of the criminal trial, Alex Salmond’s defence team claimed the Government and those working there turned to the criminal process to try to “discredit” him after he won the civil case.

Judge Lady Dorrian rejected an application for the evidence to be led at the trial, saying the judicial review was “wholly irrelevant”. In a text message read out at a hearing ahead of the criminal trial, Alex Salmond’s QC Gordon Jackson said Evans had texted a civil servant, saying: “We may have lost the battle – but we will win the war.” Dolan said: “A general may survive a battle, but if she loses a war, she should go.” (the Record)

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Profiling Sturgeon’s large Praetorian Guard of Special Advisers – Stewart Maxwell

17 Jan 2017: Sturgeons recruits Ex MSP Stewart Maxwell to her “Special Adviser” team

There is the belated announcement of the appointment of yet another new Special Adviser. Stewart Maxwell, formerly Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, lost his seat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. But on 13 January 2017 he announced on Twitter that he had just completed his first week as a “Special Adviser”. It appears Maxwell is now responsible for “Business, the Economy, Skills & Fair Work”, duties formerly the responsibility of Jeanette Campbell, who retains “Communities, Social Security, and Equalities”.

7 Aug 2020: Maxwell off to CalMac Ferries

Sturgeon’s former “Special Adviser” Stewart Maxwell left the Scottish Government to become the Policy and Public Affairs Manager at CalMac Ferries – which is also owned by the Scottish Government through a labyrinth of holding companies. Why take a demotion from government to do PR for a ferry operator?

CalMac is at the centre of a row with Clyde-based shipbuilder Ferguson Marine over the latter’s contract to supply the ferry company with two new hi-tech vessels powered by liquid gas. Ferguson won the £97m contract back in 2015. Unfortunately, construction fell behind schedule while the final bill for the ferries rocketed to an absurd £200m. As a result, Ferguson collapsed last year, with debts of £49m to the Scottish Government, and was taken into public ownership itself. What went wrong?

It soon emerged that CalMac, the publicly owned ferry operator, had had very little to do with the contract, which had been placed by CMAL, another of the chain of front companies that leads to the Scottish Government. CMAL is the actual legal owner of the vessels that CalMac Ferries operates. It seems that the boys at CMAL didn’t talk to the guys at CalMac and that CalMac did not even want the complicated new boats that Ferguson were building. Meantime, CMAL kept changing the specs for the new ships, driving the Ferguson engineers bonkers, and driving up the price. The inference in all this being that somebody inside the Scottish Government was pushing the agenda for a new gas-powered ship technology and was using CalMac as the guinea pig.

Which may explain the arrival of Stewart Maxwell. His updated Linkedin entry actually has him working for David MacBrayne Ltd which is the overall holding company for CMAL and CalMac Ferries. Which suggests he has been recruited to give the whole kit and caboodle a public relations makeover. I wish him luck. Stewart, of course, was a veteran SNP MSP from 2003 to 2016, when he lost his seat. At which point – in the revolving door between public office, special advisors and external PR work – he was rescued to become a paid “Special Adviser”.

The interesting thing about Stewart Maxwell’s career is that it exemplifies the “influence” conveyor belt between the SNP leadership and the business community via a legion of former party special advisors, elected members and staffers who have gone on to work in the public relations business. Of course, working for private PR and “communications” agencies is an interchangeable career move for the modern political class everywhere. However, for a tiny political party which does not even command office in a nation state, the SNP has been able to create organic links to the UK and global PR industry of an extraordinary nature.

Party insiders have always defended this development as being useful in offsetting media attacks through insider activity with the business community. It is noteworthy that the former SNP cadre who go into public relations and communications still retain their support for the SNP and maintain close links with the party. Also, many switch back and forth between the SNP and private work. Probably no other UK party apart from the Tories maintains such close links with the PR industry as the SNP. It is the party’s secret weapon. (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2020/08/07/the-snp-and-the-lobbying-business

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Credit Suisse – the worlds foremost financial experts state that an independent Scotland would flourish and rate higher than rUK – We have a majority of Scotland’s nationalist MP’s elected on a mandate for independence -It is time to exercise the “Claim of Right”. pussyfooting at an end Nicola.

Strategic Vision – Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse is one of the world’s leading banks, with more than 45,000 employees, offices in 50 countries and expertise in nearly every facet of banking, investing and finance.

The Human Development Index

The Human Development Index is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.

An Independent Scotland

A newly independent Scotland would have a better Human Development Index (HDI) than the rest of the UK, even without oil.

A report by Credit Suisse:

https://caltonjock.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/1187961194.pdf”

has concluded that on key areas of life expectancy, education, and income a newly independent Scotland would be ranked higher than the rest of the United Kingdom.

According to the report’s authors, an independent Scotland would be ranked four places higher than the rUK.

The report said:

Scotland would rank 23rd if we include a geographical allocation to Scotland’s GNI [Gross National Income] related to the North Sea oil output, versus the current 27th place for the UK and the hypothetical 30th for rUK.

Note: Even excluding any allocation of oil output, Scotland would still rank ahead of the UK.”

Comparing the success of small countries with that of larger nations the report said:

Small countries are more homogeneous and homogeneity plays an important role in determining the success of a country.  Cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity creates a ceiling to the potential size of a country.  Small countries are more open to international trade and have embraced globalization to a higher extent than larger countries.  Small countries are successful and in general much better off than bigger countries.

Public services in smaller countries benefit more from ‘pooling resources’ and the ‘economies of scale’ than larger countries.

Research shows that large countries tend to have higher tax rates for individuals (by 5%).  So the cost of funding public services for the individual is higher in larger countries than in small countries.  The Credit Suisse Research Institute also explained that small countries are one of the “leading geopolitical trends of the last fifty years“.

A spokesman for Alex Salmond’s government issued a statement saying:

“These comments are very welcome. Using academic data, the report sets out Scotland’s potential and how our development rating would outperform the UK- even without oil- following a Yes vote.  

The report also found that an independent Scotland would be better able to ‘effectively’ and ‘cheaply’ deliver public services.

The report also confirmed what Alex Salmond has been saying for many years, that Scotland as an independent nation would flourish since it would be able to concentrate on our talents, grow our economy and build a better and fairer society.

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Lessons need to be learned from the 2014 referendum if Scotland is to successfully secede from Westminster rule

Who decides the date of a Scottish independence referendum? | Financial  Times

Four Lessons to be learned from the 2014 Scottish Referendum

Government authorities in the UK declared that the “Yes” campaign for secession had failed by a margin of approximately 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Yet, even without a majority vote for secession, Scotland’s campaign for separation from the United Kingdom provided numerous insights into the future of the secession movement and those who defended the status quo.

Lesson 1: Global elites greatly fear secession and decentralization

Global elite institutions and individuals including Goldman Sachs, Alan Greenspan, David Cameron and several major banks pulled out all the stops to sow fear about Scottish independence. Global bankers recruited to the cause by UK diplomats and civil service treasury staff vowed to punish Scotland, declaring they would move out of Scotland if independence were declared.

A Deutsche Bank report compared independence to the decision to return to the gold standard in the 1920s and said it might spark a rerun of the Great Depression, at least north of the border.

When it comes to predictions of economic doom, it doesn’t get much more hysterical than that. Except that it does. David Cameron nearly burst into tears begging the Scots not to vote for independence.

The elite onslaught against secession employed at least two strategies. The first involved threats and “for your own good” lectures. Things will “not work out well” for Scotland in case of secession, intoned Robert Zoellick of the World Bank.

The late Senator John McCain implied that Scottish independence would be good for terrorists. The second strategy involved pleading and begging, which, of course, betrayed how truly fearful the West’s ruling class is of secession.

In addition to Cameron’s histrionics based on nostalgia and maudlin appeals to not break “this family apart,” Cameron bribed Scots with numerous promises of more money, more autonomy, and more power within the UK.

The threats that focused on the future of the Scottish monetary system are particularly telling. The very last thing that governments in London, Brussels, or Washington, DC want to see is an established Western country secede from a monetary system and join another in an orderly fashion.

Lesson 2: Secession movements will demand a vote

While the Westminster elite was desperate to see the Scotland referendum fail, few argued that the Scots had no right to vote on the matter. Some argued that all of the UK should vote on it, but most observers appeared to simply accept that the Scots were entitled to vote by themselves or through their politically elected officials on Scotland’s status in the UK.

Lesson 3: Secession is a good way to bargain

Centralizers fear secession to the point where they’re willing to throw a lot of perks at the secessionists. In Scotland’s case, the promises involved a lot of additional government welfare.

Threatening secession can be a useful tactic to obtain additional autonomy. Moreover, it will often force a central government to submit to a referendum on its legitimacy.

Ultimately, however, what really matters to Westminster is the ability to inflate the money supply and control the financial system.

Politicians from the Westminster government may be willing to part with many powers, but the power to inflate and control the banks will never be given up lightly.

Lesson 4: Centralization is unnecessary for economic success

As predicted by a host of observers of trends in state legitimacy, the state’s status as the central fact in the political order of the world continues to decline with smaller national groups and economic regions breaking up the old order in favour of both local autonomy and international alliances.

Scotland’s secession effort is one example and the short-term defeat in the referendum will do little to alter the trend.

In addition, the economic realities of the modern world with constantly moving capital and labour will continue to undermine the Westminster political system which was built on the idea of economic nationalism coupled with the myth that economic self-sufficiency can only be retained within the UK.

The proliferation of trade among nations with huge national markets, labour forces, and a willingness to trade internationally has destroyed the UK government claims that only the nation-state can provide the markets, coercive power, and international clout necessary for economic growth.

Scots see access to international markets as something that is quite attainable without the added baggage of the UK central state to which they are presently beholden. Scotland does not need England to facilitate its trade with countries worldwide.

Small nations do very well when it comes to economic performance, and smallness is hardly a liability. The assertion that bigger is better was always easily disprovable but remained popular for centuries.

The success of the Scottish secessionist claims that Scotland could indeed compete internationally has shown that the continued dominance of the old myth is failing.

Conclusion

The drive for Scottish independence will continue to grow as the UK economy stagnates, and the promises of Westminster Unionist politicians will fall on very deaf ears.

Summarised from an article written by Ryan McMaken, Editor and Economist at the Mises Institute.

How Scottish independence stopped being scary | openDemocracy
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The Irish are close to winning their long struggle to be rid of English colonial misrule – Lessons for Scotland Abstentionism gets results

The Tortuous trail to a United Ireland

The Irish Free State, comprised of 32 counties, came into being in 1916 and seceded from the United Kingdom under the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922. 6 counties under the control of Unionists, opted to remain with the United Kingdom.

The Irish Government introduced a republican constitution in 1937, which included a territorial claim to the 6 counties of Northern Ireland). The Oath of Allegiance to the British monarchy was abandoned and an elected President, Head of State, appointed.

In January 1939, the IRA Army Council declared war against Britain, and began a “Sabotage Campaign” a few days later. The plan involved IRA operatives based in Britain bombing British infrastructure, with a view to weakening their war effort.

But the British and Irish Governments cracked down hard on the dissidents and the campaign petered out. At the war end the severely depleted IRA membership faded into obscurity for a short period but recovered and formed a Dublin Unit which called for a ceasefire with the United Kingdom.

In 1947 a rebuilt and growing IRA held its first Army Convention since World War II and a new leadership was elected. It believed that a political organisation would be necessary to assist the progress of increasing its influence and members were instructed to join Sinn Féin. By 1950 the IRA had established complete control of the Party.

In 1949 the 26 counties formally became a republic under the terms of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, and terminated its membership of the British Commonwealth.

Image result for a united ireland why unification is inevitable

At the start of the 1950s the IRA started planning for a renewed armed campaign in the North and in the 6 counties, and in 1956 “Operation Harvest” was launched.

The border campaign, as it became known, involved various military units, “flying Columns” carrying out a range of military operations, from direct attacks on security installations to disruptive actions against infrastructure.

The Irish and United Kingdom Governments eventually curtailed IRA operations by breaking its morale through the introduction of internment without trial, first in Northern Ireland and then in the Republic of Ireland. The campaign faded and ended in February 1962.

The failure of the border campaign brought about a review of tactics between the leaders of the two distinct groups in the movement. A faction consisting of older IRA men who had served prison sentences together in the Curragh favoured traditionalism and now controlled Sinn Féin and a faction of younger, left-wing IRA members who now commanded the IRA Army Council.

It was made clear by the Army Council that Sinn Féin answered to the IRA, not the other way around. A hard-line stance that alienated the Curragh faction many of whom resigned from Sinn Féin in protest.

Sinn Fein/IRA adopted class-based political policies and rejected any action that could be seen as sectarian, including the use of IRA arms to defend one side, (the beleaguered Catholic communities of Northern Ireland) against the other.

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In the period 1962-1969 the conduct and failure of international politics throughout the World brought with it an increasing incidence of USSR confrontational challenges to the Western nations of NATO coupled with sponsored proxy wars in Africa and South America and the Middle East. The Vietnam War resulted in the deaths and major injuries of many thousands of American and Australian service personnel.

The carnage went on for years but eventually people called time on the excesses of politicians and demanded that their voices be heard and their wishes acceded to.

The Civil Rights movement was born and millions marched for “equal rights” between 1967-1969.

In the six counties John Hume and other civil rights campaigners, appealed to the Unionist Government to ease its grip on the public, claiming they had a “right to march” and argued that other groups should be afforded the same right. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.  Unionist politicians were not inclined to permit any civil rights protests or marches.

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But, adding insult to injury, on 12 August 1969 an Apprentice Boys march was given the go-ahead in Derry and proved to be the spark that lit the flame that became the Battle of the Bogside.

Nationalist protestors threw stones and bottles at the loyalist parade as it passed close to a Catholic area and Protestant supporters responded in kind.

Royal Ulster Constabulary officers (RUC) moved in and became involved in pitched battles with the nationalist in support of the Protestant rioters.

The rioting in Derry continued until 14 August 1969, attracting worldwide media attention. Within a few days, the trouble spread to Belfast ad the British army was deployed to Northern Ireland in August 1969.

From that time the population became totally polarised, sectarianism prevailed and barricades went up to keep protestants and Catholics safe within their ghettos.

But the citizens of the six counties wanted only to be afforded the same basic democratic rights enjoyed by other people of the United Kingdom and their wishes could have been conceded without any detrimental effect to the political arrangements in place at that time.

Luddite Unionist politicians in the six counties and London, with their stranglehold over the electorate, ignored growing tensions within the community, brought about by civil rights marchers and campaigners who encouraged civil disobedience and this led to a rapid escalation of violent clashes involving nationalists, unionists and the police. Unionist were bereft of vision and their stupidity brought the six counties to its knees.

The Provisional IRA wing of Sinn Fein took on responsibility for the defence of the minority Catholic population a policy change that morphed into a thirty-year armed struggle against the British presence in Northern Ireland.

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Operation Demetrius, (Internment Without Trial) was introduced in Northern Ireland, by the Stormont Unionist Government, in the early morning of 9 August 1971 in response to warnings of a Protestant backlash if it did not act against the IRA.

Approximately 340 people from Catholic and nationalist backgrounds were arrested and locked up. The intelligence used in making the arrests was seriously faulty and scores of people ended up detained who had no connections with the IRA. Of those arrested more than 100 were released within 48 hours.

Internees were taken to the new built Long Kesh camp near Lisburn, (later known as the Maze Prison), Magilligan British army camp in Co Derry and the “Maidstone” ship in Belfast Harbour.

The operation prompted serious violence within the Catholic communities. 23 Catholic protestors were killed between 9 and 10 August, including 10 who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in West Belfast.

The extreme measures alienated Catholics and Nationalists and provided a recruitment boon for the IRA, just as Bloody Sunday would do six months later in Derry.

Internment also added impetus to the unrest and it is estimated that nearly 150 Catholics were killed and many more severely injured by the end of 1971.

Many Catholic families fled to the Republic to escape the violence and were housed in special camps.

Internment, in which over 2000 people were locked up without trial, ended in December 1975. Of that total just over 100 were loyalists. The first loyalist being interned early in 1973.

The first years of the war were intense and ferocious. In 1972 alone the IRA killed 100 British soldiers, wounded another 500 and carried out 1,300 early warning bombings. In that same year 90 IRA activists were killed, a heavy toll.

But the tactic appeared to be vindicated when, in July 1972, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, secretly met their leadership in London.

The talks came to nothing because IRA demands were too high and a fragile truce broke down in contentious circumstances. But the process convinced the Republican Movement that Sinn Fein/IRA possessed the motivation and the means to force Britain’s departure from Ireland.

In 1974 the political wing of Sinn Fein/IRA addressed its less than harmonious relationship with the 26-County Irish Republic with the issue of a new mission statement:

“Sinn Féin will lead the Irish people away from British 6-County and 26-County parliaments and reassemble the thirty-two County Dail which will legislate for and rule all of Ireland”.

The content of the statement was the subject of widespread discussion over many months since its acceptance would bring about an adoption of new political thinking while ensuring that the military campaign remained paramount but closely harmonised with the advancement of a political dialogue.

But the new pragmatic Northern Ireland leadership of Gerry Adams was determined to get Sinn Fein to occupy the political vacuum South and North of the border with the purpose of getting the opposition to the negotiating table and this meant participation in elections and required the abandonment of the Sinn Féin/IRA constitutional ban on taking seats in Dáil Eireann, the issue which split Sinn Féin/IRA in 1969-70 and led to killing feuds between the two factions for a number of years after.

Adams won the argument and with his enlightened pragmatists on board they worked hard to ensure there would be no new splits in Sinn Fein or the IRA.

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Political progress over the next 10 years was hindered, stalled and often reversed due to sustained Unionist military activism against the minority population, the intransigence of ruling political establishment figures and armed para-militant organisations in the 6-Counties.

The military campaigns of both sides intensified and casualties soared amongst the innocents of the population of the 6-Counties and in England. (There were at least 10,000 bomb attacks and 3,635 killings up to 1998, including 257 children.)

Yet the impact of the setbacks also proved positive for Sinn Fein/IRA who developed sophisticated strategies and gained political support in the USA and military assistance of Libya who supplied large amounts of weaponry and explosives, (purchased using £3m, the spoils of bank robberies and kidnappings.)

In 1979 the Tory Party, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, took control of Westminster and adopted a hard-line policy against Sinn Fein/IRA .

In May 1980 on the day she was due to meet with Charles Haughey, to discuss the future of Northern Ireland, Thatcher announced in Parliament that “the future of the constitutional affairs of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, this government, this parliament, and no-one else”. Thus setting the tone for the discussions which achieved nothing.

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Thatcher’s mettle was tested again in 1981, when on 1 March a number of Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison went on hunger strike to regain the status of political prisoners, which had been revoked five years earlier under the Labour government.

On 5 March 1981, the nationalist MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Frank Maguire, died creating the need for a by-election and on 9 April 1981, after 40 days on hunger strike, Bobby Sands ran for the vacant Westminster seat from his cell and won gaining Sinn Fein worldwide support and significant financial contributions.

Thatcher continued to refuse a return to political status for republican prisoners, declaring “Crime is crime is crime; it is not political” and Bobby Sands died of starvation few weeks later. Still she would not relent and nine more men died.

Rights were finally restored to paramilitary prisoners, but recognition of their political status was not granted. She later asserted: “The outcome was a significant defeat for the IRA.” In all, ten men died.

Thatcher’s determination to face-down the hunger strikers, against strident international opinion, sent a message to Gerry Adam’s that the British intended to remain in Ireland.

Sinn Féin, boosted by the election of the hunger strikers entered into politics in the North in 1981 and contested seats for the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982 on an abstentionist ticket.

Results were encouraging. The Party polled around 65,000 votes making deep inroads taking votes away from the long established SDLP.

In the June 1983 Westminster election, Gerry Adams’s stood as the candidate for Sinn Fein and won West Belfast. In his acceptance speech he said that Sinn Féin’s longer-term objectives (beyond 1985) was to “become the majority nationalist party in the North” and to make considerable political inroads in the 26 counties of the Republic.

The Republican Movement had finally demonstrated that it could fight an armed struggle and win elections at the same time. Most importantly they proved beyond doubt that they had a mandate acceptable to the electorate.

The gap between Sinn Fein and the SDLP also closed significantly. Sinn Féin got 102,601 votes and the SDLP, 137,012.

The cumulative results shocked politicians and provided impetus to the UK and Irish Governments to conclude the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Gerry Adams Statement to the Speaker of the House of Commons:

“My party holds a policy of abstentionism when it comes to the House of Commons. We believe the interests of the Irish people can only be served by democratic institutions in Ireland, not in Westminster. I will not swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. In adhering to this statement we are fulfilling the wishes of the electorate that sent us here.”

The Speaker’s reply:

“I understand your position. You will not be permitted to attend the House of Commons or participate in debates until you have complied with all requirements of this house. In recognition of your electorate’s wishes you will be afforded office space, an allowance for living accommodation and unrestricted use of the full facilities of Westminster, including allowances for the costs of staff, offices, and travel.”

Unfortunately on 17 December 1983, just as a dialogue with Unionist politicians was being established the IRA (acting out with the authority of Sinn Fein) placed a bomb in Harrods of London. There was confusion over the content and length of warning of the bomb and it exploded in the midst of Christmas shoppers, killing 8 people and injuring 80. The bombing was condemned by public opinion in the UK and Republic of Ireland and resulted in the cancellation of a political dialogue

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were furious and convened an urgent meeting with the IRA Army Council at which, with the support of the “Falls Road Think Tank”: Danny Morrison, Richard McCauley, Joe Austin, Tom Hartley, Alex Maskey, Paddy Doherty and Vincent Conlon, they re-established control by retiring a number of high ranking officers and local commanders.

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There remained unfinished business with Thatcher and the Tory Party who would be made to pay for the deaths of the hunger strikers. In the early morning of 12 October 1984, the day before her 59th birthday, Thatcher escaped injury in the Brighton hotel bombing during the Conservative Party Conference. Five people were killed and many injured.

The attack was the prelude to another IRA bombing campaign, but with a major change of tactics. Attacks on Military and political targets would continue but the main thrust would be to damage the British economy and cause severe disruption through the destruction of infrastructure and commercial targets in England. This would put pressure on the British government to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

In February 1991 the IRA launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister, as John Major, then Prime Minister, was holding a Cabinet meeting. The mortars narrowly missed the building and there were no casualties.

In April 1992, the IRA detonated a powerful truck bomb in the Baltic Exchange bombing in the City of London, the UK’s main financial district. The blast killed three people and caused £800m worth of damage, more than the total damage caused by all IRA bombings before it.

In November 1992, the IRA planted a large van bomb at Canary Wharf, London’s second financial district. Security guards discovered it and immediately alerted the police and the bomb was defused.

In April 1993, the IRA detonated another powerful truck bomb in the City of London killing one person and causing £500m worth of damage.

In December 1993 the British and Irish governments issued the Downing Street Declaration accepting the right of Sinn Fein to contribute to peace negotiations, provided the IRA committed to a ceasefire, which it did in August 1994.

By 1996, the Tory Government lost its majority and had become dependant on Ulster unionist votes to stay in power. Irish nationalists accused it of pro-unionist bias as a result.

The government began insisting that the IRA must fully disarm before Sinn Féin would be allowed to take part in fully-fledged peace talks. Arguing that the IRA could use violence, or the threat of violence, to influence negotiations.

On 23 January 1996, the international commission for disarmament in Northern Ireland recommended that Britain drop its demand, suggesting that disarmament begin during talks rather than before. The British government refused to drop its demand. Responding to the commission, Major said in parliament that, for there to be talks, either the IRA would have to disarm or there would have to be an election in Northern Ireland. Irish republicans and nationalists wanted talks to begin swiftly, but noted that it would take months to organize and hold an election.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams argued that the British government and unionists were erecting “one obstacle after another to frustrate every attempt to sit down around the negotiating table” and warned American diplomats that the British government’s actions were “threatening the ceasefire”.

Th intransigence of the British Government infuriated the IRA Army Council who said this was one concession too much and a betrayal of the terms of the negotiations that had been previously agreed. Discussions foundered.

In an attempt to break the impasse, the British and Irish governments created an international decommissioning body, chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell. This was part of a ‘twin-track’ approach, with decommissioning to accompany political talks rather than precede them. Mitchell delivered his report in January 1996, setting out six principles that should be endorsed by all parties to the talks. This included a commitment to exclusively peaceful means. Mitchell recommended that all parties should sign up to these principles and that some decommissioning could take place during the talks. However, this was not enough to prevent the slide back to violence.

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On 9 February 1996, the IRA released a statement announcing the end of its ceasefire. Two hours later a flatbed truck bomb detonated in the London Docklands, killing two and injuring nearly 100 people. Damage to buildings was widespread and estimated repair costs were put at £150m.

On Saturday 15 June 1996 the IRA followed up the attack when a truck packed with 1500kg of Semtex and combustible ammonium nitrate fertiliser, (the largest bomb of the campaign) was exploded in Manchester. The IRA gave a one hour warning allowing the area to be cleared of shoppers. There were no deaths but 212 people suffered injury. The explosion caused around £1bn of damage and destroyed the commercial heart of Manchester.

The 1 May 1997 election landslide of the Labour Government proved to be the catalyst for change since it provided Blair with the opportunity to deal with the Northern Ireland problem without the constraints of the Unionist politicians of Northern Ireland.

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The IRA renewed its ceasefire on 20 July 1997, opening the way for Sinn Féin to be included in the inter-party talks that had begun under Mitchell’s chairmanship. The question of decommissioning remained though, and the British and Irish governments sought to fudge the issue rather than allow it to derail the process again.

This led to Ian Paisley’s hard-line Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) walking out of the talks, never to return. The DUP rejected the notion of making any concessions on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland or negotiating with Sinn Féin, whom they considered terrorists.

While deeply unhappy, the more moderate UUP remained in the talks. Given the DUP’s declared desire to break the talks, Mitchell wrote later in his memoirs that their decision to walk out actually helped the process of reaching an agreement. However, it was to have a lasting impact on the politics of Northern Ireland, as the DUP’s opposition to the Good Friday Agreement severely hindered its implementation.

Sinn Féin entered the all-party talks on 15 September 1997, having signed-up to the Mitchell Principles and after marathon negotiations, agreement was finally reached on 10 April 1998.

The Good Friday Agreement was a complex balancing act, reflecting the three strands approach. Within Northern Ireland, it created a new devolved assembly for Northern Ireland, with a requirement that executive power had to be shared by parties representing the two communities. In addition, a new North-South Ministerial Council was to be established, institutionalising the link between the two parts of Ireland.

The Irish government also committed to amending Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic’s Constitution, which laid claim to Northern Ireland, to instead reflect an aspiration to Irish unity, through purely democratic means, while recognising the diversity of identities and traditions in Ireland.

Finally, a Council of the Isles was to be created, recognising the ‘totality of relationships’ within the British Isles, including representatives of the two governments, and the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

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Referendums were held in both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland on 22 May 1998. In Northern Ireland 71 per cent of voters backed the Agreement, with 29 per cent voting against. While this was a significant endorsement, an exit poll for the Sunday Times found that 96 per cent of nationalists in Northern Ireland backed the Agreement, compared to just 55 per cent of unionists.

On 15 August 1998, 29 people were killed when dissident republicans exploded a car bomb in Omagh. This represented the largest loss of life in any incident in Northern Ireland since the start of the Troubles.

While the Omagh bombing was committed by republicans opposed to the Agreement, it returned the spotlight to the question of decommissioning paramilitary weapons, which the Good Friday Agreement had stated should happen within two years. Unionist anger at the refusal of the IRA to give up its weapons was combined with frustration at the refusal of Sinn Féin to accept the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Power-sharing proved impossible to sustain and voters in each community started to turn away from the moderate parties giving their support to Sinn Féin and the DUP, displacing the SDLP and UUP.

For a significant part of the decade following the Good Friday Agreement, devolution was suspended because of the inability of the largest parties from each community to reach agreement on power-sharing.

Progress was made on decommissioning, which was confirmed to have been carried out in September 2005, but political agreement remained elusive.

Eventually, the British and Irish governments hosted crunch talks at St Andrews in October 2006. There, Sinn Féin finally agreed to accept the PSNI, while the DUP agreed to share power with Sinn Féin.

In May 2007, an Executive comprised of the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP and SDLP was finally able to take office. This time, the institutions created under the Good Friday Agreement remained in place until the current political crisis led to the collapse of the Executive in January 2017.

Despite the fragility of the institutions created and the continuing bitterness between politicians representing the two communities, the Good Friday Agreement remains an important landmark in Northern Ireland’s history.

The Good Friday Agreement was able to bring to an end 30 years of violence allowing Northern Ireland’s two communities to pursue their contrasting aspirations by purely political means.

At 2015 Northern Ireland elected 8 Sinn Fein MP’s to Westminster all committed to the abstentionism policy which prevents participation in any of the activities in the House of Commons.

But the power and influence of Sinn Fein is progressing well in Northern Ireland and in the Republic and the heady ambition of reuniting all of the people of the island of Ireland under one parliament is very much on the horizon. The Abstentionism policy has been vindicated.

Content largely extracted and paraphrased from The LONG WAR: The IRA & SINN FÉIN’ authored by Brendan O’Brien (1999)

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Comment:

I chose to keep the article free from smut and omitted a deal of nonsense and obfuscation.

I was tempted to add in the relationship between Paisley and McGuinness but decided to concentrate on the contribution of Gerry Adams who did so much to keep the dream of freedom alive.

There are more hoops to jump through but the direction is firmly towards reunification.

The Gerry Adams statement could be amended for Scottish MP’s to include the “Oath of Allegiance” since the matter of a Scottish monarch is one to be resolved after independence.

This would provide for Scottish MP’s to retain their Westminster salaries and all other allowances and accommodations presently in existence.

A move to Abstentionism would cost the SNP nothing but cause great inconvenience to the Westminster system of Government and add strength to Scotland’s right to freedom from England.

The change would also add recognition that the presence of Scottish MP’s is not conducive to good government since they contribute nothing of any substance to the English political agenda.