The more I’ve learned about politics, the more I’ve learned about the divergence between public perception and the reality. To those who work closely with them – their staff, their constituents, their friends & family – politicians are people, just like anyone else. But to those who don’t know them so well, politicians are entities that seem aloof, distant, beings beyond their influence. Some politicians do their best to bridge that gap: others make it their business to widen it.
For a while, my personal perception of politics seemed to be most like Yes, Minister: certain honourable exceptions from all parties aside, politicians were bumbling, well-meaning morons being manipulated by coldly calculating civil servants who were the true masters of political life. For all the dark undertones and bleak sense of inevitability, there was a charm and wit which made the horror of Westminster strangely cosy, comfortable, relatable.
Then it started to seem more like The Thick of It. Again, exceptions aside, politicians were incompetent, cowardly, corrupt, self-centred morons being manipulated by coldly calculating spin doctors and media tyrants who were the true masters of political life. While it pulled no punches in the language and depiction of the worst side of politics, the charismatic characters nonetheless managed to appeal.
Nowadays? It feels like we’ve stepped into the dimension of The New Statesman, a world where (once more, exceptions aside) politicians are cruel, callous, deluded, mendacious monsters who will stop at nothing for their own myopic personal gain, wreaking untold havoc and mindless chaos in the process for what seems like no rhyme or reason.
Look at the people leading the UK’s “negotiations” to leave the EU and tell me I’m wrong.
A supposed screenshot of a message supposedly posted by Dominic Raab MP made the rounds yesterday. It was a cunning fake, given that its contents were depressingly believable, especially to weary Scottish Independence supporters.
To make amends for this affront to Mr Raab’s dignity, I shall use this post to provide things that Mr Raab has actually said about Scotland, and our place in the United Kingdom.
Bee In The Barnett
Mr Raab is a very passionate critic of the Barnett Formula, that mechanism by which Scotland is funded:
If we’re going to see financial devolution to Scotland, more powers on tax and spend, it’s impossible not to look at the impact on the wider union. And there have been promises made to the Scots and we should do our level best to deliver those, but there have also been a lot of promises made to the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish. And if you look at the Barnett Formula, which allocates revenue across the UK, it is massively prejudicial to those other parts.
– Dominic Raab, 21st September 2014
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and recognise his tenacious defence of the Union. May I ask him about money and the issue of equality he has raised? As a result of the Barnett formula, Scotland has double the ambulance staff and nurses per person that England has, and Wales gets a third less spending on social services for the elderly. By ruling out any change or review of Barnett—I appreciate that that is what the vow involves—the right hon. Gentleman is sending a message to the elderly, the patients and the vulnerable in my constituency that somehow they matter less. What would he say to them?
– Dominic Raab, 16th October 2014
I beg to move that this House recognises the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence; welcomes the freely expressed will of the people of Scotland to remain British; notes the proposals announced by Westminster party leaders for further devolution to Scotland; calls on the Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to bring forward proposals that are fair and reasonable for the whole of the United Kingdom, following a period of public consultation to enable people in all parts of the Union to express their views; and, in particular, calls on the Government to ensure such proposals include a review of the Barnett formula and legislative proposals to address the West Lothian question.
– Motion in the name of Dominic Raab, 20th November 2014. This eventually led to the establishment of English Votes for English Laws.
If the Barnett formula is not subsidising Scotland to the degree that concerns some of us, why is the SNP so averse to any review of it, let alone change? However, as was pointed out by Mark Lazarowicz, this is not just about the Barnett formula. The second price of further devolution must be steps to bridge the democratic deficit between Scotland and the rest of the Union. As in the case of the Barnett formula, south of the border it smarts that Scottish MPs in Parliament still vote on matters concerning England—from social care to school reforms—that in Scotland have been devolved to the Scottish Government. There are various ways in which we could address the so-called West Lothian question. Others will have different views, but I believe that, as a minimum, any new legislation should implement the common-sense plan presented in 2008 by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke to restrict Scottish MPs from legislating at Westminster in Committee and on Report on issues that do not affect Scotland. I suspect that, far from creating deadlock—which is what has been put about—that would lead to a rather healthy spirit of compromise. A United Kingdom Government who were reliant on Scottish MPs would retain the power of initiative, and England would have a democratic shield to prevent such a Government from imposing their will on it without consent.
– Dominic Raab, 20th November 2014
While leaving the EU will spare taxpayers the UK’s £9 billion annual net contribution, Brexit should be a spur to further reform. Taking back national democratic control over our laws presents a prime opportunity to devolve further powers to Scotland. A transition towards ‘devo-max’ (including greater fiscal autonomy) would strengthen the appeal of Brexit north of the border, and commensurably reduce the UK subsidy (of £1,460 extra spending per person in Scotland) via the Barnett formula.
– Dominic Raab, 28th February 2017
In case it needed pointing out: there are more ambulance staff & nurses per person in Scotland than in England because Scotland’s Government has different priorities from the UK Government. As for “sending a message” that people in some constituencies “somehow matter less” as a result of financial inequality, well, less said about that the better.
Of course, beyond the UK, devo-max, as it is termed, can draw on a variety of federal models, including those of Germany, Canada and even Spain. Scottish National party Members and others will have noted that this would take us well beyond what was promised in the vow of the main party leaders in the Daily Record on 16 September.
– Dominic Raab, 17th October 2014.
You might’ve noticed that Scotland does not have devo-max, and that the UK is not a Federal Republic in 2018.
This may be the easiest intervention I get today, but I do agree that everything is on the table and that everything is possible. In fact, if the hon. Gentleman listens closely as I develop my speech, he will find that I am rather sympathetic to taking further steps toward financial devolution, which the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have proposed.
Equally, there needs to be recognition that with greater financial freedom and power, Scotland must expect to bear some additional responsibility. I am sure that as a matter of principle—regardless of the practicalities—all hon. Members would agree with that. A new deal for Britain must be fair to all parts of Britain. In my view, that means two things. First, if we went down the road of devo-max or fuller financial devolution, it would eventually render utterly untenable the Barnett formula used by the UK Government to subsidise the devolved Administrations. That formula is based on outdated spending patterns and population numbers and is already divorced from any objective assessment of real need across Britain. If Scotland now wants greater powers to tax and spend—as I said, I am sympathetic to that—it cannot expect the Union and taxpayers across the Union to keep subsidising them to the hilt on such an arbitrary basis, without fuelling resentment in other parts of the UK. I note that that is also the logic of the SNP submission to the Smith review. I have it here and will happily read it later.
– Dominic Raab, 17th October 2014.
Mr Raab subsequently voted against every SNP amendment with the rest of his party – including those dealing with “financial devolution” – which somewhat undermines his suggestion that “everything is on the table and that everything is possible.”
Without Prejudice or Interference
I again thank the Backbench Business Committee and all its members for allowing this debate to take place. It is very important that all voices and all parts of the United Kingdom are adequately reflected in such debates. Rightly or wrongly, there is a sense that parts of the Union may have been shut out of the debate, because we did not want to prejudice or interfere in the referendum campaign or to allow points made during it to be twisted or manipulated.
– Dominic Raab, 20th November 2014
This will, of course, be news to those who went on television during the referendum campaign to discuss matters directly related to the constitutional question like – say – the abolition of the Barnett Formula, which could surely be interpreted as “prejudicing” or “interfering” in the campaign.
Certainly it’ll be news to Dominic Raab, who, on 21st September 2014, was the very first politician to even bring up the Barnett Formula in history.
After all, absolutely nobody intervened with ideas on how to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom – such as promising Devo-Max or Fiscal Autonomy (which they, of course, would never actually allow to happen) – prior to the 18th of September 2014.
Certainly not… Dominic Raab.
A generous offer to Scotland could keep the Union safe
It is possible to give stronger democratic rights to the Scottish people on terms that are fair to Britain.
A generous offer to Scotland could keep the Union safe It is possible to give stronger democratic rights to the Scottish people on terms that are fair to Britain.
According to Ipsos MORI, two thirds of Scots support financial autonomy within the UK, while a YouGov poll this week found that more people in England and Wales support Scottish independence than do Scots. No wonder the First Minister wants to include the insurance policy of “devo-max” as a third option in any referendum. But in resisting his gambit, we risk playing into the secessionist narrative of yet more diktats from Westminster. Why not boost the No vote in a single-question referendum by accepting fiscal autonomy and maximum devolution?
Devo-max runs with the grain of Scottish opinion far more than secession. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows that, since 2005, support for further devolution has risen from 44 per cent to 58 per cent, while support for independence has slipped from 35 per cent to 32 per cent, so such an offer might well seal the result of the referendum. Nor would it be such a radical step. Fiscal autonomy would build on the Coalition’s Scotland Bill, which already plans to give Scottish ministers £12 billion worth of additional financial powers.
Of course, the rest of the Union has a stake in this. Scotland would need to pay a per capita contribution for reserved matters, such as defence and diplomacy. Likewise, with greater financial freedom come responsibilities. The deal should include ending the outdated Barnett formula, which currently enshrines public spending per head in Scotland at £1,367 above the UK average. The regional impact is even more skewed. Why is UK spending on housing and community amenities in Scotland 37 per cent higher than in the North East, and double that in the Midlands?
– Dominic Raab, 12th January 2012
“Well look, in the heat of the referendum debate, I think lots of things were said…” – Dominic Raab
Just Putting This Here
We should all recognise that the no vote in September’s referendum will not end the Scots’ yearning for more control over their own lives, but, rather than those on either side resenting it, the rest of Britain should look on it as an opportunity for democratic renewal, which must take place across the whole Union.
– Dominic Raab, 20th November 2014
Because, of course, everything has to be about Britain.
Depending on your definition of “wider public support”
We have engaged in consultation and taken a pause at this stage precisely to ensure that we work through all the different points. The hon. Gentleman mentions Scotland, and he will know that in 2014 and 2015 YouGov polling showed consistent Scottish support for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. On that specific question, in 2011 YouGov found that 61% of Scots wanted the UK Supreme Court and this Parliament to have the last word in this country and across Britain, rather than the European Court of Human Rights.
– Dominic Raab, 3rd November 2015
The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right that the debate within the Westminster bubble, particularly the shrill scaremongering, is not reflective of wider public opinion outside the House, which is clearly and consistently in favour of a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, including, she will note, in Scotland.
– Dominic Raab, 26th January 2016
There is actually widespread support in Scotland for replacing the Human Rights Act with a bill of rights, which has been borne out by all the YouGov polling… The hon. and learned Lady does not like the facts.
– Dominic Raab, 2nd March 2016.
Having perused YouGov’s website, I think I’ve tracked down the poll he’s referring to:
Currently Britain is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights, meaning people can go to court if they feel their human rights have been abused and, ultimately, can take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Do you think it is right or wrong that the European Court of Human Rights should be able to make rulings on things the British Parliament or courts have decided?
Right – being able to appeal to a court abroad is a vital protection against the British government abusing people’s rights (Scotland only) – 34%
Wrong – the British Parliament and Supreme Court should have the final say, rather than a foreign court (Scotland only) – 61%
Not sure (Scotland only) – 6%
The unweighted Scottish subsample was 229. Given the use of the word “foreign” – we were in the ECHR and the European Union, after all – an argument could be made that this is a rather leading question, as well. Nonetheless, Mr Raab does seem to accurately recall the poll, even if it contradicts the findings of the contemporaneous European and External Relations Committee (which found “strong opposition” to any repeal of the Human Rights Act in Scotland), as well as a then much more recent poll on the UK’s withdrawal from the ECHR with a similar subsample size of 244:
Currently Britain is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights, meaning people can go to court if they feel their human rights have been abused and, ultimately, can take their case to you European Court of Human Rights. Some people think Britain should withdraw from the European Convention, while other people think we should remain a member.
Do you think Britain should or should not withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights?
– Britain should withdraw (Scotland only) – 33%
– Britain should remain a member (Scotland only) – 53%
– Not sure (Scotland only) – 15%
Even so, when you cite the Scottish people’s support for one thing, then why not do it for everything else? When asked if the British Parliament or the Scottish Parliament should have greater say over Scottish matters – education, health, the economy, the environment, welfare, pensions, housing, employment law, tuition, energy, nuclear weapons, the oil industry, sport & culture, taxes, even independence referendums, in fact just about everything except international development, defence & foreign affairs – they are conclusive in who they prefer, and who they trust.
Mr Raab should be careful what he wishes for when he uses polling evidence to support policies – because when you ask the people of Scotland what powers they want, it’s almost always more than his party’s proven willing to provide.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely committed to promoting every one of Scotland’s finest exports, from whisky through to its brilliant lawyers.
– Dominic Raab, 31st October 2017
Is that so, Mr Raab?
Scotch Whisky industry says excise increase is a blow to a vital UK industry
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) says the Chancellor’s decision to increase excise duty on spirits by nearly 4% or 36 pence a bottle in today’s Budget is a major blow to a key UK industry, undermining competitiveness at a time when the Government should be supporting home-grown exporters.
As a result of today’s increase, the level of tax – excise duty and Vat – on an average priced bottle of Scotch Whisky is now an onerous 79%, one of the highest levels in Europe, and 21% higher than in 2010. The excise duty burden on a 70cl bottle of Scotch is £8.05 and the total tax is £10.20.
The SWA said it is time for a fundamental review of the alcohol duty system, describing the move as damaging to a major industry and at odds with the Prime Minister’s words during a speech in Glasgow last week, where she described Scotch Whisky as ‘a truly great Scottish and British industry’. The Scotch Whisky industry supports more than 40,000 jobs across the UK, many in economically fragile areas, and adds value of around £5 billion annually to the economy.
The increase goes against recent experience that a duty cut would boost the public finances. Following more supportive duty moves, revenue from spirits duty increased by 4.2%, or £132 million, to £3.25bn in 2016. The SWA also warned that a duty increase could undermine the recovery of the UK market for Scotch.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, said: “A nearly 4% duty rise and a 79% tax burden on a bottle of whisky is a major blow, reversing recent progress. Distillers will find it hard to understand why the Chancellor is penalising a strategically important British industry with this tax increase.
“At a time when government should be supporting a key home-grown sector, we face a damaging tax rise on top of the uncertainties of Brexit. Looking to the autumn Budget, we will be arguing strongly that it is time for a new approach to excise duty outside the constraints of EU excise law. The system is in need of a fundamental review and reform to make it fair and competitive.”
– 8th March 2017
Union accuses Tories of “gross betrayal” as 100 Scots drinks jobs face Brexit axe
Tories blamed for uncertainty and insecurity now facing Scotland’s drink industry as Brexit effect hits Diageo
THE GMB UNION in Scotland has accused the Tories of a “gross betrayal” after drinks company Diageo announced its plans to cut more than 100 jobs in its Scottish operations because of pressures and uncertainties around the UK Government’s Brexit plans.
– 21st April 2017
Brexit warning to Tories over Scotch whisky export growth
THE Tory Government are being warned not to risk Scotland’s “fantastic” growth in Scotch whisky exports by leaving the single market and customs union.
Scotch whisky exports were valued at £931 million in the first quarter of 2018 – a more than 6% rise on the same period last year. The HMRC figures also show that Europe continues to be top export market for Scotch whisky. The SNP have now demanded the Tories not risk jeopardising the huge spike in growth by leaving the customs union and single market as part of Brexit.
– 10th May 2018
Scotland’s name is synonymous with a premium quality product, recognised the world over. If we lose that brand recognition we lose tourists, we lose market share, we lose revenue, our economy will suffer. Our rural communities will be hit, hard. Scottish Beef, Scottish Lamb, Scotch whisky are just three products which will lose their Protected Status after Brexit. In the recent Canada – Japan – EU talks, Westminster did not apply to protect even one product. Recent trade talks with America reveal they want to call their whiskey ‘Scotch”. And so the social media campaign #keepScotlandtheBrand was born.
– Keep Scotland the Brand
If this is how they promote whisky, I’d hate to see their idea of neglect.
Neck of Brass, Ears of Cloth
Sir David Edward, a distinguished jurist and a former judge at the Court of Justice, recently gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament about these papers. He said, and I quote, that “the UK Government has overlooked the significance of the separate Scottish legal system, the Scottish judicial system and the Scottish prosecution system in relation to justice and home affairs issues such as Europol, the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border information systems and the conventions and regulations about recognition and enforcement of judgments.” Will the Minister undertake to meet me so that these oversights might be rectified?
– Joanna Cherry, 31st October 2017
I thank the hon. and learned Lady, but she has not actually pointed to one aspect, one paragraph or one point in the position paper that she thinks we have got wrong.
– Dominic Raab, 31st October 2017
No, me neither.
Paternity Leave of the Thought
As the Minister well knows, we did not get equal pay for work of equal value until the European Court intervened, and we have wide maternity rights only because of European directives. The Prime Minister’s former adviser Steve Hilton, who supports leaving the EU, said in 2011 that maternity leave should be abolished. Does the Minister wish to add his voice to that particular pungent voice? If not, which employment rights would he abolish in the event of a Brexit?
– Joanna Cherry, 14th June 2016
I thank the hon. and learned Lady for that, but I do not think that any of the factual assertions she has made are right. There is absolutely no plan such as that she suggests, and I do not support abolishing paternity rights; in fact, when I was a Back Bencher under the last Government and this point was raised, I was fully in favour of transferable parental leave. She is mistaken in what she says, but what is most striking is that the message she is sending to her constituents and the wider citizens of this country is that they should have no faith in her ability and that of the Scottish National party in this House to protect their rights.
– Dominic Raab, 14th June 2016.
To be undeservedly charitable, Mr Raab appears to have misheard maternity for paternity, and thus answers a question Ms Cherry was not actually asking – according to reports, Mr Hilton did indeed advocate the abolition of maternity leave, and Mr Raab did advocate the abolition of several employment rights in a 2011 paper, including:
– Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (which gives agency workers the right to the same basic employment and working conditions as full-time staff, mandatory paid holidays, and rest breaks)
– Working Time Regulations 1998 (which prevents employers from forcing workers to work more than 48 hours a week)
– Minimum Wage for under-21s in micro-, start-up, and small business
– the Default Retirement Age
– the right not to be fired for no reason (through the proposal of a “No Fault” dismissal)
Mr Raab’s reference to “transferable parental leave” is probably a reference to this exchange:
I thank the Minister for that answer and those clarifications. Does she agree that making maternity leave transferable will help to eliminate anti-male discrimination in the workplace and will give couples greater choice in addressing the career-family balance together?
– Dominic Raab, 27th January 2011
My hon. Friend raises the issue of work-life balance and choices for families. The introduction of flexible parental leave will do two important things. First, it will give families the choice to decide which parent stays at home to look after the child in the early stages, beyond a period that will be restricted for the mother only. Secondly, it means that, in future, employers will not know whether it will be the male or the female in front of them seeking employment who will take time off to look after a baby. I think that is an important step in dealing with discrimination. We should try to get away from gender warfare and the politics of difference, as my hon. Friend has said, but I suggest to him that labelling feminists as “obnoxious bigots” is not the way forward.
– Theresa May, 27th January 2011
Wait, what? “Obnoxious bigots?” When did he say that?
Dominic Raab: We must end feminist bigotry
Men are getting a ‘raw deal’ despite tough equality legislation, Dominic Raab MP writes as he calls for an end to ‘feminist bigotry’.
Then there is the more subtle sexism. Men caused the banking crisis. Men earn more because they are more assertive in pay negotiations. One FT commentator recently complained that: ‘High-flying women are programmed to go for high-flying men. Most men aren’t attracted to women who are more successful than they are.’ Can you imagine the outrage if such trite generalisations were made about women, or other minorities? Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots.
– Dominic Raab, Politics Home, 2011
And with that, I’ll leave Mr Raab with the final word.