A Very British Disease?

whytefinalDavid Whyte, author of a new book How Corrupt is Britain? argues that this very British disease also infects Scottish institutions.

For as long as we can remember, news outlets have been virtually force-feeding us a diet of corruption cases involving key British institutions across the public and private sectors.   Supermarkets ripping off suppliers and customers, banks conspiring to fix any lending and exchange rates they can, media companies bribing police for access to everyone from the royal family to ‘c’ list celebrities, tax avoidance schemes run by accountancy firms and banks, the umpteenth Met corruption investigation announced by the IPCC, the Bank of England investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, cash-for-access revelations involving key members of 4 of the major parties contesting the UK election….and on and on and on it goes, like a conveyor belt of endless cases of corruption in some of our most highly esteemed and trusted institutions.  And this is just in the last 6 weeks!

Yet the subject of corruption has barely registered as an issue in pre-election debates.  Yes, there has been some comment and debate on particular headline cases such as the ongoing HSBC scandal.  But as a manifesto issue, the corruption of British public life is barely on the radar of the main political parties.   Precious few politicians have dared to make a links across the various forms of corruption that permeates business, the police and the way that politics works in this country.

Quite simply, the problem of corruption in Britain is not something that we can sort out by rooting out particular individuals or even by reforming particular institutions such as the Met or HSBC.  Corruption is replicated across the key decision-making institutions in British politics, business and public service.   Corruption, as How Corrupt is Britain? shows, is not just an unfortunate or peripheral side-effect of the British system of government, but is a central means by which institutions wield power.   How Corrupt is Britain? also shows how the concentration of power in particular institutions (in politics, in particular policing and security agencies and in the City of London) has enabled a wide range of interconnected forms of deceptive and illegal practices to thrive.

Yet it would be naïve to assume that this social phenomena is confined to the institutions that are run from the UK’s capital.

In Scotland, the concentration of power in the police means that scandals similar to the recent stop and search fiasco will be more and more likely.   More is spent on policing and there are more police officers in Scotland than ever before.  One measure of its expanded influence is that stop and search rates are 4 times the rate in Scotland compared with England.  Moreover, as recent events revealed, this is an organisation that doesn’t feel particularly impelled to bother recording and reporting what it does with very much propriety.

The Scottish-based banks that threatened to relocate following the 2014 referendum have been every bit as implicated in corruption over the years as those domiciled in England.  RBS is a clearly serial fraudster, having been forced to admit guilt for its orchestration of LIBOR-rate fixing in 2013, and for FOREX exchange rate fixing in 2014.   Judging by the size of the fines imposed by US authorities, LloydsTSB were amongst the worst of the UK banks that have caught for persistent and serious money laundering in the US.   Even if banks like RBS and Lloyds did not re-locate before or after independence, harbouring organisations that are routinely involved in such a litany of crimes and misdemeanors would be entirely inconsistent with any agenda for economic and social equality.

In Scotland, although it may be on a different scale, politicians are infected with precisely the same fetish for impressing business as they currently are in England.  Salmond’s humiliating flirtations with crooks like Trump and Murdoch may look like and media titillation, but they are indications of a rudderless political approach to developing sustainable relationships with business.  For all of its nods to workers’ rights and plans for a fairer welfare settlement, the SNP’s flagship policy vis-à-vis business is a 3% tax cut!  A tax cut on a rate that is, not incidentally, already one of the lowest in the world.  The UK’s leniency to private corporations, and the conditions that breed a culture of impunity for business may possibly be intensified in an SNP-led succession.

Meanwhile, the mechanisms that are supposed to protect us from institutional power fail us time and time again.  It was reported recently that, despite almost 150 Scottish police officers being reported to prosecutors for alleged corruption, only six have been convicted.  In the 7 years since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act has been on the books, not one Scottish company has been prosecuted.   In the last recorded year (2013/2014), only one company in Scotland was convicted for pollution offences.  Prosecutions for high-level financial fraud remain just as rare.  In January, business Secretary Vince Cable railed against RBS fraudsters, demanding to know why none had been jailed when there was ample ‘prosecutable’ evidence.  Well, he should know.  After all, he is the Business Secretary in a government that has taken significant steps to shore up the structure of impunity that enables private corporations to go about their business unhindered by ‘red tape’ or costly legal restrictions.

It is the wholesale failure of our checks and balances – the mechanisms that are supposed to prevent corruption in our institutions – that enables the police, political organisations and the business world to remain virtually untouchable.   And this means that any politician that wishes to remove the structure of impunity that still exists for prominent people in British and in Scottish public life has a major job on their hands.   Regardless of whether we are ruled from Westminster or anywhere else, our steady but sure slide into an irreversibly unequal society can only be halted by dismantling the structures of impunity that protect Britain’s corrupt institutions.

 

David Whyte’s new book How Corrupt is Britain? is available here.



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45 replies

  1. “For all of its nods to workers’ rights and plans for a fairer welfare settlement, the SNP’s flagship policy vis-à-vis business is a 3% tax cut!” Is it? Was that ever a policy of the devolved government, or proposed as such? Is it still the SNP policy proposal for post-independence? (And what difference would that now make?) Was that anyway – not, for instance, renewables, OIOF, re-investment of oil revenues, universities and skills policy, etc. – actually the only contender for ‘flagship policy’? Or are we talking only of a certain kind of business? And isn’t that focus, in itself, a perfect example of the problematic concentration discussed?

    Anyway, I hardly think it’s news to Bella’s regular readers that Scotland suffers from exactly the same absurd concentration of power, and corruption of same, as the whole UK. (Indeed, that’s not news to anyone living in rural Scotland, whatever they read, given our still-feudal ownership.) Yes, it’s worth discussing. Obviously, the ‘bad apples’ defense has been risible for a good while, although it becomes ever more so. The issues are clearly systemic. It’s just pretty tiresome, at this stage, to start from an assumption that *readers* assume ‘Scotland’s different’? How *could* it be, in practice?

    The ‘very British disease’ is entitlement-divorced-from-accountability. Accountability (which means jailing bankers as well as cops, investigating parties as well as politicians, and so on) begins with paying attention. But we are already, we really, really are. It proceeds by demonstrating that no position is a job-for-life: that public loyalty and respect must be continually won – and I really hope we are about to do that too, in May. But it is only achieved when people have the power (via their democratic institutions) to hold the entitled to account. If that, in the UK, is some way off, it is not because readers here are unconvinced of the need.

    • thanks for your response DR.

      I agree with much of what you say, especially in relation to the vacuum of accountability. And of course, it was the Labour government that reduced the main rate of corporation tax after the Blair government was elected and in many ways started this bidding war across the parties. And that was when the main rate was at 31%! So for Scottish Labour politicians to start using this as an argument against the SNP is a tad hypocritical. The point I am making is that this is part of a race to the bottom that is not a good start for a confident and forward thinking nation – and it is part of the same politics of impunity that breeds corruption – but judging from your comments you are also singing the same anthem.

      • Catchy as the phrase “race to the bottom” may be, in relation to corporation tax it has been shown to be a total myth. Research has shown that it simply doesn’t happen. Neighbouring countries and important trading partners have different rates and alter those rates with no evident effect on one another.

        The reason is rather obvious if you just abandon the glib sound-bites in favour of a bit of thought. The rate of corporation tax is not the be-all and end-all that people who are susceptible to propaganda have been led to believe. It is only one item in a matrix of factors influencing investment decisions. Any causal link that might have made manifest the mythical “race to the bottom” is lost in the noise of myriad considerations and criteria.

        Why is this not obvious?

        • Hello Peter,

          I hesitate to reply for fear of provoking another angry tirade from you. But please take this is in the spirit it is intended – just as a gentle proposal for a different way of thinking through the reality of the relationship between governments and corporations than that peddled by all of the main political parties. The Labour Party at least since the Blair years has been guided by the same philosophy on this relationship that guides the Tories: that there is no alternative to tax cuts for both corporations and the rich. The UK rate of corporation tax has been gradually pushed down by successive governments – the current Tory government has slashed in from 28% to 20%. Indeed, in the past 40 years, the top rate of income tax in the UK has fallen from 75% to 40%. This looks very much like a race to the bottom to me!

          The corporate tax-cut philosophy is guided by a supply-side economic philosophy that preaches the reduction of taxes and the stripping away of restrictive regulations to ‘free’ business to grow. Yet this supply-side strategy comes at enormous costs to the societies that implement them. In 1980, the pay ratio of the FTSE 100 CEOs to the average workers wage in the UK was 18:1. By 2012, it was 162:1. We should therefore not be afraid to ask whether an independent Scotland can afford the social and economic waste that such policies encourage. My point about the ‘race to the bottom’ is that there are alternatives to supply-side economics that we cannot afford to ignore.

          Some of the most stable and successful Nordic countries that are used as examples that Scotland might follow have not gone down the same taxation burn and slash road and as a consequence have a stronger and more stable economic base and social welfare settlement.

          • Quite why you imagine I am angered by your childishly simplistic views on corporate taxation is something of a mystery. Even your persistent efforts to misrepresent SNP policy and strategy in this area, which I confess were initially a little irksome, I long since put down to your need to shoehorn reality into the very limited number of tiny pigeon-holes which comprise your world-view.

            One doesn’t respond to such limited thinking with anger, but with sadness at the squandering of intellectual potential, and pity for someone evidently incapable of comprehending even the possibility of an alternative perspective.

  2. Complete tosh!

    Scotland is not perfect, but in general terms of corruption I’d profer Scots institutions are marginally better than most countries and considerably better than England. I’d suggest you look at labour politicians, police and social series in Rochdale, Oxford, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, etc, etc.

    Scotland will continue to be dragged down whilst it is attached to the british state, governance frameworks and population are chief factors, both are under London controll.

    Politicians – Holyrood is largely sleaze free – why? It’s near to 90% of the people, transparent, tightly controlled and Edinburgh is not that big a city that politicians can disappear and misbehave with anonymity. Would Joyce have been able to continue had he been a MSP and not an mp?

    westminster, is the converse of Holyrood, an open sewer, that up till now, Scotland has had little or no say in how it functions. The future revelations that will emerge from Dolphin Square, reach to the very heart of the british establishment, in which westminster is the epicentre.

    Could you see the Iraq westminster vote of 2003 suceeding in Holyrood?

    Police – how many serious scandals have the Scottish police been involved in? Very few. Compare that with their English counter parts and how many are ongoing. You site Scotland’s stop and search, this was a manufactured story between labour and bbc and clung to by the liberals. basically they wished to weaponise the police to get at the SNP.

    Banks – are you in a position to say it was people based in Scotland that brought the Scottish banks down? The governance and power base for banking is in London, that’s where decisions are made. Proof of this is their compliance in threatening to relocate their HQs.

    The only institution I beleive Scotland has equal corruption billing with England is our press and media. However, I am on reasonably safe ground when I say, if it were regulated and owmed in Scotland in stead of regulated and controlled from London, we would not have the craven institutions that misinform the public that we have today.

    Are Scots perfect – no, absolutely not – but if the premise of your book is to say our institutions are equally as corrupt as those same instutions in England, then this is rubbish. I think you’d be more gainfully employed exploring the differences and commenting on why.

    Duncan McWatt

    • ‘Britain’ is, of course, an invention of Jamie the Saxt/James I of England, ‘the whole isle’ that was ‘the wife to his husband’, and is renowned, as well as for being ‘the wisest fool in Christendom’, as the king who introduced the scheme of ‘thirty pound knights’, nowadays known as honours for favours.

    • Easy, Duncan. Not COMPLETE tosh, judging by what you go on to say. I probably would agree with you that if we could make the comparison, Scottish institutions are not as manifestly corrupt as many of the institutions analysed in the book. But this is not really saying very much. The book’s argument is that it only takes a slight re-orientation of our understanding of corruption to see that the much of UK public life is fundamentally corrupt. This counts for how we look at institutions in Scotland too. And you have to be a bit careful not to be too complacent. It is probably the case that the Scottish Parliament would have voted against the 2003 Iraq invasion, but remember that not very long after that, under pressure from the European Parliament and Amnesty the Scottish Parliament voted not to even bother inquiring into extraordinary rendition flights being refueled at Prestwick. This was a different matter of course, but not entirely, and enough of a warning that the Scottish ruling class might not have some kind of natural allegiance to principles of social justice that prevents our complicity in crimes against humanity.

  3. question is david whyte jim murphy’s pen name? my take on the part you have published was no more than an attack on the current SNP government with no evidence re the banks nothing new just a constant reference to the book well if thats a example of the content i wont bother thanks

    • Hello Robert. Thanks for mentioning the grim reaper himself, just to cheer us all up. Anyway, here’s a quiz for you. Of the following two quotes, one was uttered by Jim Murphy, the other by Alex Salmond. See if you can guess who said what?

      “[We will] cut the burden of regulation and embed a light-touch, risk-based approach to regulation … to improve our status as one of the world’s most attractive places to do business”

      “We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity”

      While we’re on the subject, Jim Murphy when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office spent much of his time bowing and scraping to a corporate agenda. With Gordon Brown’s backing, he introduced the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. This Act began the most recent attack on business regulation continued by the Coalition and has resulted in carte blanche withdrawal of government inspection by almost all business watchdogs and undermined the regulatory scrutiny of business across the board, from workplace safety and environmental standards to financial fraud. This is part of the very same race to the bottom, started by Labour – that we certainly don’t want to be finished by the SNP or any other party.

  4. Most people who read Bella have probably grasped the structural corruption of the entire British political system; indeed it has been one of the greatest spurs for the Yes movement. The absence of constitutional protections and sovereignty for the people, the rotten corpse of party funding – all of this leads directly to the litany of crimes set out in David Whyte’s charge sheet above.

    Independence may give us a window of opportunity to rid ourselves of much of this embedded corruption but the nature of power means it will seek a vulnerable spot to sink its fangs into the new state, probably from the get go. The SNP and its leaders are notable for their clean hands – Salmond’s dalliances notwithstanding – but if this election confirms them as the natural party of government in Scotland then the blandishments and temptations will appear at every turn. Some would say it’s already begun with former Labour donors switching to join the fragrant Brian Souter in funding the SNP, and there is always – always – payback for such support (which may be a factor in Scotland’s bus services remaining unregulated, for example). While none of the present SNP hierarchy could be accused of joining the cause for personal advancement – that was what the Labour Party was for – nobody should be under any illusions that amongst the recent surge there will be individuals already calculating the angles for future aggrandisement.

    Such is the nature of politics and power, but the question is how can we construct a polity that minimises and marginalises corruption? The SNP has never demonstrated much in the way of reforming zeal when it comes to our institutions, with the one glaringly obvious exception of Police Scotland – and we all know how well that’s going. The tendency to concentrate power to a centralised command structure may be engendered by an understandable paranoia of Labour’s former domination of every strata of Scottish life, but if they cannot overcome that instinct then most of the tropes of the near one-party state that Labour was in Scotland will snare the SNP.

    The foundation of any anti-corruption must be robust written constitution would help enormously, enshrining the sovereignty of the people and clearly stating a full panoply of human rights – and make it the responsibility of government and parliament not jsut to defend these rights but to actively promote them.

    Political parties should be state funded, with monies based on verfiable, audited and spot-checked party membership, regulated in a fashion similar to charities. Elected members should be compelled to publish an annual report of their acitivities – voting records, attendance, committee work, lobbyists they met, all expenses, gifts and donations, etc. – and be required to hold a public meeting in their respective constituencies / wards to answer questions on the same. Recall should be available in the event of criminal activity or major breach of parliamentary or council rules of conduct.

    There should be a general bias towards the principle of devolving power, budgets and responsibilty down to as local a level as possible, with similar public scrutiny and accountability to members at higher levels.

    Freedom of Information should be based on the Scandanavian models, and media ownership must be subject to rules on diversity to ensure the best and broadest vehicles for freedom of expression and a free press as we can.

    There is no foolproof system – as I implied above, the nature of corporte power is to insinuate, corrupt and control – but one thing is for sure: we can make it much harder to get away with if we have forums and enshrined rights for scrutiny, a briad-based diverse and devolved democracy and a culture of accountability. And, following our friends in Iceland, real consequences when the guilty are cuaght bang to rights.

    • Very balanced and insightful observations.

      “the fragrant Brian Souter in funding the SNP, and there is always – always – payback for such support (which may be a factor in Scotland’s bus services remaining unregulated, for example)”

      WOW. Someone on Bella who doesn’t simply wave this away! Watch out, Peter A Bell (“freelance writer”) will be on in a minute to denounce this as ‘banal unionist nitpicking’ or some such.

      In 2007, Brian Souter paid the SNP £500,000 for bus regulation to be removed from the SNP manifesto.

      “Police Scotland – and we all know how well that’s going”

      Some recognition that centralising what is supposed to be ‘policing by consent’ might not be a good thing?

      “There should be a general bias towards the principle of devolving power, budgets and responsibilty down to as local a level as possible, with similar public scrutiny and accountability to members at higher levels”.

      Is this something about giving people power in return for responsibility? (and not just centralising all power in Holyrood).

      “Political parties should be state funded”.

      Mmm. You mean ‘taxpayer funded’. Dunno about that. If you did end up with a ‘one party state’ you could have problems there.

      I’d prefer a floor and ceiling approach to political party membership and donations. (with the ceilings being really low, as in hundreds or maybe even tens of pounds)

      “media ownership must be subject to rules on diversity”

      That sounds like state control of the media to me. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

      • Yes, I do mean taxpayer funded because it would be a far, far better deal for the taxpayer than the present set-up which has all the political partie beholden to their paymasters – i.e. the rich and the powerful. Basing it squarely on party membership – publicly available records that can be audited and spot-checked – encourages political engagement from bottom up and top down.

        I recognise the potential hazards of an effective one party state and mentioned this in my original comment above, but the current phenomenon of (I think) 1 in 32 Scottish-based adults being members of the SNP is transitory and would rapidly dilute after independence. Independence would create a whole new political ball game, so it’s important to ensure we’re not playing by the same old rules because we’ll only end up with the same outcome.

        Media ownership is, I acknowledge, a thorny topic but the blossoming of Bella, Newsnet and others in Scotland has been both fascinating and very hopeful; technology may mean the grip on the political agenda and public imagination is being loosened by these exciting pioneers. I daresay it’s one of the reasons you post here so often, Corporatist. However, we all know the mainstream press is a political tool of a powerful elite with very narrow interests. Most of the UK’s biggest title run at a considerable loss but are sustained because they remain a key instrument of political and societal control – focus on the fitba, folks, get exercised about the X Factor, sob about soap characters, Salmond is a smug Nazi and Sturgeon’s a bad hair day. And don’t even entertain those gormless Greens or silly but sinister Socialists. Criticise Israel? You’re an evil anti-Semitic apologist for mad Islamic terrorists. Think Britain is run by a corrupt cabal that would protect paedos? You sound like that dirty hypocritical plonker Russell Brand!

        In short, we are controlled by the media at a conscious and a sub-conscious level. Scotland’s 2014 awakening – for that is what it was – may not last for ever because the object is to induce general apathy relieved only by manufactured, narrowly-focused outrage as and when required.

        But you know all this, Corporatist. I don’t know, maybe you’re ok with it. I’ll admit limiting media ownership in today’s interconnected world may be impossible and futile but nurturing diverse home-grown voices is certainly desirable, and a press regulation watchdog with powers to order free and equal space for right of reply to a wronged party in the offending organ when there has been a proven attempt to mislead or slander would probably be far more effective than long and prohibitively expensive litigation.

        On a more general point, you’re known on Bella for trenchant (I’d say) right-of-centre views and I acknowledge there are often flaws in the Left’s rhetoric on economics. I’d argue this is sometimes because it springs from understandable moral outrage rather than an appreciation of how power works. Reality means accommodations must be made with that power but changing the terms of engagement via robust, enforced laws and a strong constitution can help restore some balance to the situation.

        The UK’s structural model, as David Whyte suggests in his original article, is so riven with termites, rising damp, dry rot and undermined foundations it is now irredeemably corrupt. This is how empires collapse. It’s up to us to build an alternative.

      • I’d support political party funding based squarely on party membership i.e. through taxpayers making choices on who to support. As well as being transparent this would also show you where genuine ‘public support’ lies.

        I would not support ‘taxpayer funded’ i.e. every party gets a fixed equal slice out of the communal pot (Polly Toynbee model). I would not accept being ‘taxed’ to fund political parties but would accept controls on how much individuals chose to fund them.

        I actually think the risks of a one-party state in Scotland are not too great. Depending on how it ‘pans out’, I think it is perfectly possible that in an independent Scotland the SNP would eventually split into two or three. These might include a new “distinctly left of centre” party, a liberal economic and decentralising party (esp. if Scottish Conservatives couldn’t get traction … they seem to be losing support again post referendum?). And there would continue to be multiple hard left parties arguing amongst themselves, and of course the Greens, who seem to be gaining even more traction proportionally up there?

        I think sites like these and others in Scotland are examples of what those who created the internet / early adopters actually intended; open and unboundaried spread and sharing of information. (I remember in the early 90s people thought it would ‘change the world’ … it has of course, but not in the way they were thinking).

        I don’t agree with the statement “we” are “controlled” by the media at a conscious and subconscious level”. Sure, it has an influence to a greater or lesser extent on each and every one of us. But many of us are sufficiently analytical to recognise this within the diverse range of information and views we take in. Sometimes this is only realised in hindsight.

        What I find ridiculous is the nationalist meme I regularly come across of “every No voter was brainwashed the mainstream right wing media”. i.e. all of those two million and something people are incapable of considering a range of opinions, views and information from the media and elsewhere, coming to their own conclusions and making up their own minds. It’s ridiculous, and its insulting. People were even invited to come on this site and explain why they noted No, and set out perfectly cogent arguments. I found it surprising that anyone replied, after the editor suggested “they might want to apologise”.

        I wouldn’t support the press regulation of the kind you suggest (or even the Leveson stuff etc). I would not trust any government of any persuasion with it. The Labour Party for example are very keen on press regulation; the likes of Harriet Harman would love to have this in her toolbox for telling / trying to make people shut up. Even if we don;’t like who’s funding it, we must have a free media, free from state interference (outside the law, the same laws we all have to abide by).

        Definitely agree on a constitution though, they’re a feature of so many liberal democracies.

        Am I known on Bella? I’ve only been here five minutes. I consider myself an ‘extreme centrist’, rather than right of centre.

      • Drew
        I am going through this book currently and the issue I keep thinking about is your point about the need for a written constitution. Well said.

        John Page

    • I’d agree, the seeds of malpractice are there in the beginning, it is just human nature.

      To keep it to a minimum needs a recognition that governments will naturally want to limit the flow of information, that they will want their party cadres to vote the party ticket and not take an independent line, and that parliamentary committees and inquiries will also be subject to the pressure of whips.

      The party pressure is even greater where there is a list system of PR – the party will largely determine your political future, not the voters.

      It was a missed opportunity not to consider what effective local and national government could look like in an independent Scotland (though it was that lack of an economic strategy that lost the vote). Rather than simply rolling over the ossified Holyrood system, we should have a revising chamber run on a staggered electoral cycle, smaller consituencies with direct election, and stronger community and local councils.

      All official documents should be published. All expense claims should be published. Politicians work diaries should be published.

      After that, it’s over to us to keep an eye on them.

    • We do indeed know how well Police Scotland is going. Crime down. Fear of crime down. Detection rates up. Public confidence up – despite an orchestrated campaign of denigration against Police Scotland which seems to have pressed your buttons. And all this while local accountability has been improved.

      There are still teething troubles, as any reasonable person might expect. Issues of oversight and accountability remain to be addressed. But such issues existed anyway with the old set-up. As did questions around operational matters such as stop-and-search. Overall, however, the reform has proved remarkably effective. Unless, of course, you believe all the crap you read in the british media.

      • Read all about it in that propaganda sheet for unionist lickspittles the, er… Sunday Herald.

        I notice, Peter, you simply trotted out the party line in responding to me, an active independence campaigner. Well, frankly it sounded like the kind of thing Brian Wilson or Blair Macdougall would spout when defending the Labour Party. You’re going to have to do better, so begin by trying address some points directly:

        The stop and search figures far higher than England & Wales; proportionately four times higher. FOUR times higher, Peter. Is there a coherent justification for this, or was it just “corrupted data”? Do you support increased stop and search? Is it consensual or can a girl say no?

        Was there a public debate before Police Scotland started a stealth arming of beat officers in an mission creep from heightened security during the international events last year? If so, please let me know because I missed it when this disgraceful and frankly chilling episode came to light.

        As we’ve been reading in original article, the UK is institutionally corrupt – as I’m sure we’d agree – but its system of policing by consent and the explicit avoidance of armed police and, more pertinently, a national police force has been both progressive and anti-authoritarian. Having a police force covering, say, the whole of Yorkshire is a wholly different prospect to establishing a Scotland-wide force for a jurisdiction with separate laws, and more specifically by a government which aspires for that jurisdiction to be independent. What was the thinking behind that, Peter?

        And the appointment of Stephen House? Well, let’s just be kind and say the jury’s still out on him.
        His evasiveness and stonewalling in front of a Holyrood Committee is worrying to say the least given the inordinate amount of power he wields over us. Still cool with him, Peter?

        And in your replies try not to patronise me and other readers of Bella with cliches about “crime down, fear of crime down”. Those trends have been prevalent for years and you know it.

        The article here is ‘A Very British Disease’. If you care to read my posts above you’ll see I, like a huge swathe of Yes supporters, campaign for independence as the key element in a treatment for that disease. High-handed dismissals of people actively working for the goal you covet is not helpful. I’m sure none of us want coruption t become ‘A Very Scottish Disease’.

        • Let me start by pointing out that correlation is not causation. If more people learned this simple truth we would be blessedly relieved of at least some of the inane conspiracy theories that arise when people fail to keep a proper reign on the pattern-seeking machine they carry around in their heads.

          The comment nesting here is horrible. so please excuse me if I fail to address any of your points.

          Hang on a minute! You didn’t have a point! Just a rather tedious rehashing of stuff you’ve uncritically absorbed from the mainstream media.

          I’l take one reference as an example. Are you even aware that your remark about “stealth arming of beat officers” refers to something that didn’t actually happen. By all means, get back to me when you apprise yourself of a few facts. Until then, I have no interest in encouraging someone who, however unwittingly, is colluding with the British parties’ project to undermine public confidence in those institutions which are most closely identified with Scotland’s distinctive political culture.

          I have, in any case, little patience for people who resort to the intellectually indolent argument that “they’re all the bloody same” rather than make the effort to properly inform themselves and analyse that facts in order to discern differences. And I have no special reserve of patience for such people who also claim to be supporters of independence. Being eminently sensible in one regard does not afford you a free pass in others.

      • Yeah. I’ll simply note you didn’t engage with anything I said and resorted to haughty dismissals with heavy implications that, like Marvin the Paranoid Android, your intellectual superiority makes it such a chore for you to engage with us poor deluded dullards who cannot see the purity of SNP truth for the blizzard of unionist propaganda.

        You should do a Brian Wilson tribute act – you could call it ‘Bad Vibrations’.

        • What would be an appropriate way to address the drivel you are spouting about Police Scotland. Under the circumstances, I reckon I’ve been very restrained.

          The remark about Brian Wilson merely serve to reinforce my suspicion that you’ve never actually read an article all the way through.

    • It’s hard to believe that there are still outwardly intelligent people prepared to give credence to inane conspiracy theories about Brian souter buying influence to prevent bus re-regulation that he knew was never going to happen anyway.

      I’ve never quite understood what satisfaction people gain from subscribing to things that a moment’s rational thought would expose as complete idiocy. But there must be some significant gratification given the fact that some individuals cling so desperately to their favourite conspiracy theories even when they have been shown to be utter drivel.

      • Multi-millionaire businessman gives £500,000 donation to political party. Party drops policy commitment from its manifesto that would fundamentally impact on his main commercial activities.

        Coincidence? If it’s the Tories, Labour or Lib Dems – of course it’s not!
        If it’s the SNP – why, what else could it be?

        Re-regulation of buses in Scotland was an SNP manifesto commitment in 2003. There was no debate at party conferences to remove it yet it disappeared in 2007 and has been AWOL ever since.

        In the interests of fairness and balance I should also add that Tony Blair’s 1997 decision to drop banning of cigarette advertising was nothing to do with Bernie Ecclestone’s huge donation to New Labour.

        This is not a grassy knoll, Peter, so stop with the Brian Wilson tropes.

    • thanks for your comments, Drew.

  5. Google pays one of the lowest rates of corporation tax. More is paid by SMEs who can’t afford finacial engineering products. SMEs are more likely to expand if they’re doing well, and more likely to hire local staff when they do. If you want social equality, you need some mechanism to create jobs that pay well. If a corporation tax cut is bad, what is your better alternative for creating jobs? And how is it not a corporation tax cut by another name?

  6. From what I have seen and read, the SNP plan for reduction in Corporation Tax was predicated on a revision in tax laws – with the objective of eliminating some of the “financial engineering” and leveling the playing field.

  7. DR that is why it is imperative that we have our government in Edinburgh,we are a small enough nation that we can oversee openess/honesty as much as possible in our governance,added to this there are so many other organisations that have the will/wit to make sure decisions are up their for all to see.Corruption is endemic worldwide and you have little chance of ending it but you can severely abrupt it.HSBC is mired in corruption,a Gaurdian investigative journalist uncovered monetary crime a way above what was reported the paper sacked him and refused to print his story.In America the CIA/Mossad control almost all news outlets,they control police/judiciary/security.No one until recently picked up on the paedophile scandals not Lab/Libs/Tories or for that matter any of our MP,s they all must have had an inkling but nada,the odd entertainer/priest arrested establishment figures?very few if any and by then are probably dead.We have a chance in Scotland to create a fairer more democratic and open country that will be a beacon for others,can it be achieved never say never.

  8. It was the SNP policy under Salmond to cut corporation tax to boost economic growth, but Sturgeon has dropped this.

    The author does have a point on banks and other companies who are “too big to fail.” The disciplines of the market should be applied. If a bank is incompetently or criminally run it should lose its banking licence. The end.

    Depositors should be protected, but shareholders and bondholders will need to price in the risk, and therefore demand accountability, of bad management.

  9. “what is your better alternative for creating jobs?”

    Close alignment and connection between the education system and employers, and what they want. Germany and to some extent the nordic countries are very good at this. (The UK is rubbish at this).

    Specific Investment in education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and in infrastructure for attracting and incentivising those industries

    Working directly with communities and support / gateway organisations anchored in those communities to support the development of sustainable micro (and possibly social) enterprise. (Not local authorities or public bodies coming in and ‘doing’ things to people top down)

    To pick a couple.

  10. Thanks Drew for a valuable and balanced response to David Whyte’s analysis. Some of you will have seen the series of articles by Colin Donald in the Sunday Herald surrounding the demise of R&D Construction and the role of Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership. The call by Dumfries TUC in its petition to the Scottish Parliament for a judicial review of all the circumstances surrounding the awarding of a £77million regeneration contract in 2009 seems to be being taken seriously.
    A complaint was made to the local Dumfries and Galloway constabulary which at that time received a hostile response. arousing obvious suspicions of systemic corruption. Things are very different now. In spite of all the fears about centralised policing, the CID response to evidence supplied to them in recent months could not have been more helpful and professional. Police Scotland has the capacity to do something in relation to systemic corruption that I don’t think local forces were either capable of or had the will to do in the past. They can bring specialist resources to investigate economic fraud and related criminality.
    The Scottish Parliament/Government were set up to be powerless when it comes to the issue of tackling systemic corruption. The helplessness of our elected representatives (even Ministers) to confront such as the highly unpopular Scottish Housing Regulator is just one example.
    The SNP, as our governing Party, has now effectively been taken over by the electorate through its vastly increased membership – see the selection of so many non-career politician candidates for the Westminster elections. Even without full autonomy we are already in a window of opportunity where the people of Scotland can provide a counter force against the big corporate, professional, old boys networks and others who historically have abused their power and privilege.
    Please, please give your support to those in Police Scotland who want to see an end to systemic corruption. For a start call for more forensic accountancy and other specialist resources to be made available to Police Scotland. Secondly, don’t be afraid to come forward with what you know and press for investigations. It’s no good complaining about others when there’s something we can all do about this massive problem.

    • A good point well made, Roland, about Police Scotland and the resources to invesitgate large scale corruption – undoubtedly a very positive mark in their favour.

      Nevertheless, I still feel qualmy about the macho authoritarian stuff that has characterised the force’s early engagement with the general public, and can’t see why a specialist unit on corruption cannot be established across a restructured police force broken back down into a regional set-up.

      If someone can enlighten me I’d be genuinely interested to hear.

      • Now you’re peddling the LibDems daft idea of undoing all the restructuring work that’s been done only to embark on another form of restructuring. It simply makes no sense. And I’m talking as someone who initially opposed the creation of a single force.

        What is this obsession with endless tinkering in the name of “reform”?

        I could see the point if such calls for restructuring were prompted by some major failings in the service. But they aren’t. They are prompted by a media-inspired witch-hunt by people daft enough to believe that beat officers are being surreptitiously armed. Which is the kind of claim that ANY rational person would at least treat with suspicion.

        It is nonsense! It is palpable nonsense! What actually happened was that officers in Armed Response Vehicles would sometimes have to deal with incidents as they encountered them BECAUSE THEY ARE POLICE OFFICERS!

        These are NOT officers on routine patrol. And they are no longer dispatched to incidents other than those where their specialist training is called for. But the suggestion that police officers should drive by incidents and do nothing is dangerous idiocy and an example of the recklessness with which the british parties will seek to undermine Police Scotland (and NHS Scotland etc) in the hope of discrediting the SNP administration.

        It’s bad enough that the British parties are doing this. The fact that otherwise sensible people are eagerly joining in is seriously disturbing.

  11. David Whyte might have made a more convincing case if his criticism of the SNP administration had not relied so heavily on the lies and fallacies peddled by the unionist media. The claim that a 3-point cut in corporation tax was a “flagship policy” is cribbed straight from the pages of the British nationalist press. Anybody purporting to offer a meaningful analysis of Scotland’s institutions and public life should be embarrassed by having resorted to such simplistic and fundamentally erroneous nonsense.

    The proposal to reduce corporation tax relative to the rest of the UK was never a “flagship” policy of the SNP. Securing more powers for the Scottish Parliament is a flagship policy. Getting rid of Trident is a flagship policy. Ending austerity is a flagship policy. Cutting corporation tax does not qualify for this category. It was never more than one element of continuously evolving plans to stimulate Scotland’s economy.

    David Whyte also falls into the silly error of unquestioningly accepting British Labour’s hypocritical portrayal of cutting corporation tax as “A Very Bad Thing”. A bit of simplistic idiocy that is arguably even more objectionable than the dishonesty of the “flagship policy” claim. Even to talk about corporation tax in isolation is pretty damned stupid. It cannot sensibly be abstracted from all the other levers of policy by which a government might hope to promote investment and engineer economic growth.

    I hazard that not a single business anywhere on the planet makes investment decisions solely, or even primarily, on the basis of tax rates. (With the obvious exception of those businesses whose sole purpose is tax avoidance. Businesses whose claim to be investors is dubious, at best.)

    For all David Whyte’s fine talk condemning the failure of “the mechanisms that are supposed to protect us from institutional power”, he seems oblivious to what is arguably the greatest failure of all in this regard. The media, which is supposed to hold established power to account, has instead become the servant of the corrupt British state. The bulk of the mainstream print and broadcast media has become little more than the propaganda arm of the British establishment, concealing or downplaying corruption and peddling distortion and downright lies at the bidding of the ruling elites.

    How unfortunate, therefore, that David Whyte should rely so heavily on what he gleans from the mainstream media to prop up his argument that Scotland is just as bad as the rest of the UK. An argument based largely on the kind of puerile “whitabootery” which presents data without context and pretends that this represents information. An argument which (with apologies for the distinctly unflattering comparison) I can hear any day from the likes of Brian Wilson or Alan Cochrane. Neither of whom I would be prepared to indulge to the extent of of an entire book.

    • The corporation tax cut was a referendum promise from the SNP, page viii of the White Paper has it as item 9 of the 12 things the SNP would do if they were the next government of an independent Scotland.

      It seems to have been predicated on Scotland being better able to retain or attract corporate headquarters. But the competition there isn’t London, it’s Luxembourg or Ireland. I think it makes sense to drop it.

      • So, hardly a “flagship policy”, then.

        SNP proposals on corporation tax have been further developed in recent weeks with Nicola Sturgeon suggesting a variable rate that would offer more flexibility in promoting investment. But yet again I find myself obliged to stress that corporation tax is merely one criterion in corporate investment decisions, and just one lever available to a national government with all the powers that a national government should have,

        It makes absolutely no sense to “drop it”, as you suggest. Unless you think it makes sense for the SNP to argue that the Scottish Parliament should have powers over corporation tax whilst also stating that they would do nothing with those powers. Better to continue developing innovative ways of applying AND collecting the tax so that transfer of the relevant powers is justified in practical as well as constitutional terms.

      • Flagship? Certainly one of the SNP’s capital ships if it made it to the 12 benefits of independence.

        The Yes campaign, which was dominated by the SNP, lost the referendum due to lack of thought on economic issues – specifically currency.

        We can’t let that happen again, so systematic preparation is needed, including the costs and benefits of establishing our own treasury, currency, tax base etc.

    • Hello Peter, thanks for your comments.

      I think your political radar might be going a little wonky though. You seem to be erroneously picking up some party political war going on here against the SNP. And you seem to be picking up that my analysis of Scottish politics comes dredged from the gutter (press) somewhere in England. I have been a strong supporter of very sensible SNP initiatives in the past – and was part of a team that proposed a SNP-supported Bill at the parliament to improve corporate accountability in 2006. I also support the current Bill proposed by Richard Baker MSP to improve accountability for senior managers who endanger their workers.

      But encouraging a different approach to how we regulate the public and private sectors does not mean supporting the business policies pursued by both Labour and the Tories that have impoverished us and encouraged the rampant corruption that is now rising to the surface.

      I won’t say more on Labour and corporation tax – scroll up and you will see my comments. There is good reason for us to condemn both Labour (and the SNP)’s policies on corporation tax – they have both meekly encouraged George Osbourne’s corporate orgy.

      • Your “radar” doesn’t seem to be working at all. My comments have nothing whatever to do with party politics and, unless you have totally missed the point of those comments, it is disingenuous of you to try and portray those comments as being prompted by petty tribalism.

        What I am objecting to is your blatant distortion of facts so as to shoehorn the SNP, the Scottish Parliament and other Scottish institutions into some facile “they’re all as bad as each other” perspective. I have pointed out the ridiculousness of you conspiracy theory-inspired innuendo regarding Brian Souter and bus regulation. Just one example of the way in which you uncritically accept the propaganda line promulgated by those who regard it as being in their interests to denigrate the SNP and those institutions that are most closely identified with the SNP administration and/or Scotland’s distinctive political culture.

        So unthinkingly committed are you to what I shall refer to as the British propaganda line that you not only fail to think through the implications of what you have elected to believe, you totally blank from your mind the evidence and reasoned arguments which challenge what you have elected to believe. It is intellectual indolence of the worst kind.

        As I have already pointed out, Brian Souter had no need to pay £500,000 to have bus re-regulation dropped from the SNP’s manifesto, for the very simple reason that he knew the proposal would have to be dropped anyway because the way in which privatisation had been carried out effectively protected the operators from regulation by making it horrendously expensive.

        In order to believe what you have indicated you do, you would also have to believe that brian Souter is a complete idiot who will happily spend half a million pounds on something he could have for nothing. Whatever else anybody may think of the man, nobody who hopes to be taken seriously would suggest that he is that kind of fool. And yet, that is exactly what you suggest.

        As if that wasn’t enough to demonstrate the folly of mistaking propaganda for information, here is another thought that evidently didn’t occur to you. If, as you try to imply, the SNP is amenable to altering its manifesto in return for cash, why does that manifesto not look markedly different from what it is? Given the vast wealth available to certain vested interests, why have they not simply purchased their own pick ‘n’ mix of policies?

        The whole thing can be seen for the ridiculous nonsense that it is simply by applying a bit of simple logic and basic analytical thinking.

        I will say no more about your idiotic claim that police officers on routine beat patrol are being surreptitiously armed when even officers on ARV duty do not carry concealed weapons. Again, you pick up the garbage shovelled out by the media and run with it without bothering to think about it, far less check the facts. Why? Because it serves your hypothesis about corruption in public life in Scotland being just as bad as elsewhere in the UK.

        Those of us who are genuinely concerned with addressing corruption and “encouraging a different approach to how we regulate the public and private sectors” know that we must proceed from a factual understanding of the problem. Knee-jerk reactions to party political propaganda and the related factual distortions carried by the media are unlikely to be effective. Even if they do sell more books.

  12. Scrapping the barrel and stretching credibility to make a point that does not hold water, eh David?

    Expanding on D McWatt’s point, a Holyrood MSP who has done something completely unacceptable would have to resign from Holyrood.

    Contrast that with a westminster mp who did something completely unacceptable, it’s is unlikely they would resign their seat.

    The two parliaments have different rules and regulations that give rise to the two different outcomes, go beyond that David. Look at the levels of morality and decency.

    Colin McKenzie

  13. We Scots live in a democracy.
    England’s democracy that is.
    We always get the government that England votes for,so accountability from elected officials has not been relevant to Scots on major issues.
    I agree that centralising public services in Scotland has not been ideal for democratic accountability but that has been driven by economics rather than ideology unlike Westminster where it is entirely about retaining power in the centre.

  14. A couple of observations: (1)Scotland’s oldest institutions, consisting of the two main churches and the legal system are emblematic of corruption,cronyism and supine unionist toadyism.

    From the ‘message on the mound’ by Thatcher to the fence sitting on the attacks on Scotland’s poor,and the feeble response to an over arching UK’Supreme Court’ these joke ‘Scottish ‘ institutions have abdicated their authority and imploded into insignificance.

    (2)Police Scotland appears to be top heavy with English cops brought in by Boss Hogg, sorry House.Could the authoritarian approach exhibiting itself have any connection?

    Stop and search within reason is ok by me. But failing to stop or round up Loyalist mobs and leaders from Sept 19th 2014 perturbs me.

    Maybe these supposed bedrocks if Scottish identity highlight just how corrupt this country is rather than nitpicking about Soapy Soutar . An error in judgement by the SNP yes, but not a symptom of endemic corruption I would suggest.

  15. I suppose I am slow on the uptake but am only just getting to the end of David’s book which includes a series of short pieces by many other contributors. It is an excellent read and it is very relevant to steps to make a better Scotland…….I think it a shame that some of the above discussion went off the rails
    For me the key points are:
    We should work on a written constitution for an independent Scotland now
    We should create a Scottish fraud agency (certainly not a repeat of the SFO) answerable to The Lord Advocate
    We need an immediate commission under the Presiding Officer looking into issues such as the revolving door, lobbying and the engagement of service companies like the Big 4 by parties and the Scottish Government…..to strengthen efforts on transparency and ensuring that private interests are not given undue weight in policy development

    Finally, how about a wee crowdfunder to pay for some good investigative digging into how Ineos in particular and the fracking industry in general is influencing or has influenced public policy

    John Page

  16. excellent idea John.

    thanks for taking the time to read the book. As you point out the politics of institutional and corporate impunity needs to be broken in Scotland whether independence comes or not.

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