Laws, Levies, Let-offs and Leadership

Hi folks! Remember the song, “It Might As Well Rain Until September”? Well, it has done, and if I’m ever in Carole King’s neighbourhood I’m going to put a cobra through her letterbox. Still, at least Holyrood is back to bring little rays of bitter sunshine into our lives.

And what better way to get things rolling than with the First Minister unveiling his Legislative Programme for the coming Parliamentary year? Jeff is pleased with the plans. Bernard Salmon reminds us that Alex Salmond and his Ministers will have to make compromises if they want the Bills to end up on the statue books, while Neil Craig goes one better than all of us and publishes his own alternative programme.

But the most contentious aspect of the programme is undoubtedly the Council Tax Abolition Bill, which will see the Council Tax replaced with a Local Income Tax. After The Scotsman produced a list of 25 criticisms of the proposal, Jeff and Richard decided to rebut it. Chris Stephens hails the LIT as a progressive policy, Richard Havers derides it as unworkable and Ewan Aitken believes that the proposals as they stand will reduce the accountability of local councils. Meanwhile, David Torrance notices how the short title of the Bill focuses on the tax being replaced rather than the one coming in, and experiences a flashback.

James looks at the Government’s targets on climate change, comparing them to the policies of the other parties. Jim Millar is unhappy with the plan to raise the alcohol off-sales age limit to 21, and Scottish Tory Boy wonders how that proposal squares with the SNP’s support for lowering the voting age to 16.

The other big story of the week was the decison of Parliament to overturn the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s proposal to ban Wendy Alexander from Parliament for one day for neglecting to declare donations to her Leadership campaign in the Register of Interests. Malc takes the view that no one came out of an ugly morning’s proceedings well. Caron wonders if it’s right for the full Parliament to debate the decision. The whole affair has prompted questions to be raised over at Ideas of Civilisation over whether or not there’s any point in even having a Standards Committee, and Angry Steve has a different take on ‘natural justice’ to Wendy Alexander.

However, talk has moved back to her replacement as Labour Leader in the Scottish Parliament, and Newsnight Scotland hosted a debate between the three contenders. Malc watched it and was unimpressed. ASWaS started watching it, but switched over to Family Guy instead. And Bernard Salmon is appalled at Cathy Jamieson’s misuse of the word ‘literally’.

But there’s another Leadership story this week: Caroline Lucas MEP has been elected as the first ever Leader of the Green Party of England & Wales, after the party ditched its previous system of having two Principal Speakers. ASWaS reckons the Scottish Greens ought to follow suit.

Meanwhile, with Tavish Scott’s shoes firmly under the Leader’s desk at LibDem Central, Jeff raises an interesting point about the ensuing reshuffle of the party’s spokespeople: Jeremy Purvis now has the Finance brief, where his Tory counterpart is Derek Brownlee, who stood against Purvis last year.

And a battle has been raging between Margaret Curran and Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw in the Motions lodged at Holyrood: Calum Cashley gives the points to Carlaw.

Elsewhere, momentum is gathering in the Glenrothes By-Election. There was a brief flurry in the blogosphere as Kezia Dugdale found her way onto the Labour shortlist, only for Lindsay Roy to be selected. However, Jeff reports on allegations that the selection process was not all that it seemed,and is follwed up by this post from Jess the Dog. Stephen Glenn, meanwhile, reports on the names that will be on the ballot paper so far.

Staying with politicians from Fife, eyebrows have been raised by Gordon Brown’s suggestion that Holyrood might benefit from fiscal autonomy after all. Holyrood Watcher is put in mind of Tam Dalyell’s pronouncement that devolution would be a motorway to independence, while Ewan Watt takes the view that even if financial powers were transferred to a Scottish Parliament with an SNP Government during a difficult financial period, the Labour Government at Westminster would still get the blame if things go wrong.

And Gordon Brown takes flak again this week, as Minsiters and former Ministers go off-message: Richard Havers looks at the lack of leadership over Alistair Darling’s comments about the state of the economy, while Mr. Eugenides notes with surprise that Charles Clarke is trying to become the ‘conscience’ of the Labour Party.

To other matters now, and the Scottish Government announced the end of car parking charges at non-PFI hospitals. Holyrood Watcher, Jim Millar, Stephen Glenn and Walk 500 Miles all hail the decision.
Calum Cashley goes back to the Edinburgh tram project and looks at the history of the Metrolink trams in Manchester… or at least, parts of the history that tram supporters might not be overly comfortable with.

Meanwhile, Ministers decided to leave the planning decision surrounding Go Ape! in the hands of Glasgow City Councillors. At Ideas of Civilisation, it’s revealed that the decision not to take a decision was announced on the same day as the Legislative Programme, prompting an accusation that the Scottish Government was attempting to bury the story.

But Glasgow City Council comes in for criticism from Clairwil, after Councillors placed the Arches nightclub under review, following a gay orgy there, despite some questionable morals from the members of the Licensing Board themselves.

From orgies to US Convention Season (and isn’t it amazing how small a leap that appears to be?), now: the Republicans have been gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ewan Watt has his take on the speeches by Sarah Palin and John McCain. Meanwhile, Duncan is probably relieved that these things only happen every four years.

On a more serious note, Ewan Aitken brings to our attention the plight of Tuvalu, a nation in the Pacific Ocean threatened by a combination of rising sea levels and a total lack of interest from the rest of the world.

To happier themes now, and congratulations to BellgroveBelle, who has enjoyed some WeddingBelles of her own recently.

On the other hand, Scottish Tory Boy has decided to hang up his keyboard. The tributes from Caron, Malc and James all go to prove that his presence will be missed, and there’ll be a hole in the Scottish blogosphere that won’t be filled all that easily.

Of course, it’s possible that none of us will be blogging after Wednesday, as Holyrood Watcher reports on a planned experiment by scientists underneath France and Switzerland, which might accidentally cause the Earth to implode. Just to wrap things up on a cheery note.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to snog one of my more attractive co-workers while I still have the chance. And if we’re still here next week, Duncan will be in the hot seat and as always, you can send him your nominations via the twiddlywotsit on the right or by dropping us a cod to

See you soon. Hopefully!

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