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Scottish referendum still a sea-change in UK politics

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Independent voice . . . departing SNP leader Alex Salmond.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

More than a quarter of a century ago there was a famous incident involving an equally famous BBC weather forecaster. The meteorologist’s name was Michael Fish.

During a weather forecast in October 1987 he said: “Earlier on today a woman rang the BBC to say she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way,” he began.

“Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry there isn’t.”

Within 24 hours the South East of Britain was battered by the worst storm encountered there for over 250 years.

Technically, it wasn’t a hurricane but the damage was still immense.

And the Scottish independence referendum was one in which just about the entirety of the political establishment was spectacularly blindsided in a very similar way.

Nobody saw it coming. It might not have been as devastating a hurricane as it might have been but despite a relatively facile win for the Yes side in the end, the damage has still the potential to be immense.

So how did it all happen? When you look back a decade or more, you will find that Scottish independence was only a preference of a smallish percentage of Scots people. What really accelerated change were changes introduced by one of the unionist parties, Labour, when it was in power. It offered a fair degree of devolution to Scotland, its own parliament in Holyrood and its own first minister, just as happened here in the North.

But Labour’s act of largesse was based a little on self-interest but also on a spectacular miscalculation. And it was this – it believed that the Scottish National Party would never be a dominant player in domestic politics.

As Fianna Fáil also discovered here in Ireland, staying in government for a third term is always perilous and often disastrous. For Labour in Scotland, it allowed the Scottish National Party and its astute and mercurial leader Alex Salmond wrest the prize from beneath its nose, governing first as a minority administration and then winning power in Holyrood in its own right.

And it was from that that the moves to hold a referendum came. With devolution came greatly increased support for more independence – ultimately it was still Westminster which held the purse strings and which made the major decisions on fiscal matters.

With a Tory government in power, the nationalists were able to capitalise on Scottish identity, a sense of dislocation and distance from the London seat of government, frustration that Scotland was unable to have autonomy and sovereignty over its own wealth, including its oil fields, and increasing public disenchantment with the health service (the funding of which was still controlled in London).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Budget throws up history of drama on Dáil’s longest day

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The longest day...Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s the biggest set-piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when the Dáil chamber is full to the brim. And no matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, Budget Day remains special.

There are some years in which the budgets are pass-remarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.

In modern times none can really touch the drama of Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. If it were to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable.

The 2007 Budget was something else to behold. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger and there were concerns that the economy was overheating to a point that the boiler was about to explode – even if nobody fully realised it at the time. More critically there was an election to be won.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis before the election Bertie Ahern read out a shopping list of giveaways, harking back to the infamous Fianna Fáil manifesto of 30 years beforehand.

Ahern had been before the Planning Tribunal to explain political contributions and hand-outs he himself had got from his friends. The feelgood budget helped divert some of the heat away – and ultimately, it was enough to win the party a historic third term in government.

By the following spring, Ahern was gone and by that summer everything had ‘come to a shuddering halt’, to employ the phrase of the late Brian Lenihan Junior. Giveaway budgets tend to come back and bite you in the nether regions.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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NDP reheats old dishes – while kicking other cans down the road

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of this week's National Development Plan in Cork.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The new National Development Plan may be 180 pages long – but the vast majority of the 220 TDS and Senators would have confined their reading to one or two pages. Digested down, they read only what was relevant to their own neck of the woods – whether or not that school or hospital was being funded into the future, or if that long-promised road was going to get the go-ahead.

Even when it’s €165 million over a decade, when you boil it down, it never seems to add up to all that much when the local components are grouped together.

So what is the West getting? There’s the Moycullen bypass, but that’s happening already. The ring road around Galway is included, but that’s been talked about for over a decade now with no guarantee it will be finished within the lifetime of this plan.

There’s a new Emergency Department and ward block included for University Hospital Galway, which will be a big investment, and a welcome one. It’s likely that one of the three new elective hospital facilities under Sláintecare will be established in Galway, which will be a boost to the city and the region.

NUI Galway will also get a regeneration of its library under the plan.

There’s no such luck for the Western Rail Corridor. After a plethora of studies, the can is being kicked down the road again with yet another study.

The NDP says: “A Strategic Rail Review has recently been launched which will examine all aspects of the inter-urban and inter-regional rail network including decarbonising the railway, the feasibility of higher speeds, increased capacity, improved connectivity to the North-West and the enhancement of the Dublin to Mullingar railway line and the creation of a strategic plan for freight. The Western Rail corridor has the potential to revitalise the West of Ireland and the Strategic rail review will examine how it would be delivered.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s impending arrival puts focus on real politics

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar...news of help for house-buyers

World of Politics with Harry McGee

It has had the makings of a highly unusual political week – a week that for once seemed to be about policy and actual political things rather than personality crises and stabs in the back.

Because we are reaching the foothills of the Budget which is now only little more than a fortnight away.

We already know that there will be increases in pensions and in welfare, plus some kind of tax concession – probably be a widening of the income tax and universal social charge bands.

Most of those gains will be wiped out by inflation, the mercury of which has been steadily rising this year.

Surprise, surprise, we also heard some from Leo Varadkar who reminds you a bit of the old slogan from The Irish Press of old: First with the News.

On a ministerial visit to Washington DC, the Tánaiste said a help-to-buy scheme for first-time homeowners is set in the upcoming budget. It was due to expire at the end of the year but now looks like it will go to the end of 2022.

Which is good news for first-time buyers for it’s a very generous incentive, much more attractive than the £3,000 relief from stamp duty that was available in my day (but then, house prices were only a fraction of what they are now a quarter of a century ago).

Help-to-buy allows first-time buyers to claim relief from income tax over the previous four years and can get as much as ten percent of the purchase price of the house. It is maxed out at €30,000.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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