29 August 2010

"To a Foulkes..."

Soon, Holyrood will be entering its four-year moment of flux. The people will cast their ballots, old faces will be politely but firmly shown the door. New sprightly souls will whizz through the  Parliament's portals, all green sap. Some tribunes, however, are pre-empting the Scottish public's verdicts and have already decided to scuttle on their merry ways, to institutions and pastimes new. Just this week, former First Minister Jack McConnell has confirmed that he too is leaving us. The departures of a few choice individuals merit memorialisation in heroic verse. We've already said our farewells to Baillie Bill Aitken. With the intercession of Calliope, I was able to coax the wraith of Robert Burns into composing this piece in honour of every cybernat's favourite Labour representative in Holyrood, Lord George Foulkes. Inspiration is cruelly lacking in the afterlife - something to do with all of the white, white clouds, I imagine - so our national poet sneakily ripped off his own earlier work without telling me, disappearing in a puff of ectoplasm before I could lodge my bitter complaints about this scofflaw, sharp poetical practice. It could be worse, I suppose. Burns selected his existentially reflective account of a gambolling, mischief-making intruder blighting a lady's otherwise fetching hat in To A Louse as the model for his Foulksian encomium. Heaven knows what could have warranted the comparison...

To a Foulkes

So ye're gaun at last, ye Lairdly ferlie?
Your impudence protect you sairly!
'Tis time again for struttin' rarely
In whitrat cape ~
Geordie, ha' no fears o' dinin' sparely
In sic a place!

Ye bumptious, waddlin', blastit scunner,
Bletherskite, neep-heid, cloun an' sinner,
Holyrood, ye set your rump upon Her ~
Sae fine a Parlie!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
From some o'er Body!

Swith! To the Lunnon Parlie throttle:
There ye may slurp, then sprawl, then sprattle,
Wi' ither kindred Barons prattle;
O'er laws and nations;
Where votes nor proles ne'er dare unsettle
Your scarlet plantations.

Pray haud you there! Ye're out o' sight,
Wrapped in your ermines, snug an tight -
Fie! Gob ye yet? Ye'll not be right,
Till ye don it ~
The vera tapmost, tow'rin Knight
O' Thistle's bonnet!

Mebbe we'll mind your nose (absentee),
As plump an' red as onie bramble;
Or yearn for your most rascally o' rambles:
We'll melancholically whoopee ~
"O' for Eckbane, lost Clatterbag o' scandal!
O' for flyter Foulksie!"

"O for a soul wha's bletheration reigns!"
Ye mind they Saltire paintit trains?
You owned your constipaitit pains
Agin 'em, in crabbit coonsel!
Yer eediocy boasts as many grains
As the desert, ye wabbit scoondrel!

Laird Jambo, dinna play the louse
Nor haste ye back tae our Parlie House;
Tak' time your gizzard flames tae douse
"Slàinte mhath" on baronial expenses
Wi' medicinal drams or ten o' Grouse ~
Think o' political life in past tenses.

O wad some Power the gift tae gie you
To see yoursel' as ithers see you!
It wad frae mony a blunder free you,
An foolish notion:
What gobshite airs an traits might leave you - 
Even Union devotion!

~ Robert Burns, on hearing that Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes would leave Holyrood in 2011 for the warmer climes of the Hoose o' Lords...

26 August 2010

On Scotland's people...

The Scottish Household Survey "is a continuous survey based on a sample of the general population in private residences in Scotland" which is "designed to provide reliable and up-to-date information on the composition, characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals, both nationally and at a sub-national level". The numbers of respondents are very large - running into the tens of thousands - and as a result, it is always an exciting moment for obsessives when new annual figures are published. My remarks of last year bear repetition:

"I’m a great fan of quantitative social research. While much of the texture of people’s lives are lost by its persistent reduction of lived experience to a webway of percentages, percentiles, means and medians, groups above or below average, the quantitative view invariably tells us something we did not know, or only dimly appreciated. I’ve found that life exercises strong temptations to regard the self and your ordinary life, universalised, as the ordinary condition of most men and women. While sometimes, images and information succeed in temporarily rebuking this jealous sense of one’s own ordinariness, it tends to return, the lives lead by our fellow citizens collapsing once again into our own experience, its tenor informed by the settings in which we loiter and the people we meet. Big, hefty quantitative research is uniquely empowered to give those comfortable assumptions a shoogle. Even if the aggregation of conceptual categories can be problematic, and leave us empty-handed in terms of the whys and wherefores which brings that state of affairs about, the social frame is sketched in in our minds. We know ourselves better. That at least is my polemic on the goodness of quantitative research, and the interest in the Scottish Household Survey..."

The survey's concerns are domestic and civic, capturing forms of life in Scotland in broad quantitative categories, from marital status to housing tenure, internet access to participation in "cultural activities", rates of smoking to rates of saving, perceptions of anti-social behaviour and attitudes to peoples' environments. For example, did you know that 51% of Scotland's adults (folk aged 16 or over) are married, while 1% are in same-sex civil partnerships, while 6% reported being divorced, while a further 3% were separated? Or that 46% of men are in full time work in Scotland, compared to 28% of women, while only 1% of men "look after the home/family" compared to 10% of women? All is not entirely positive. In particular, I get agitated by "ethnicity" statistics. In particular, how can white or black be ethnic categories? Isn't white a loose coalition of pinkish pigments? I'm at a loss to see how skin colour can plausibly relate to the cultural and social differences that support ethnic distinctions. Indeed, such categories are basically racialising, however innocently the statisticians might have resorted to them. Here are just a few of the other statistics which caught my eye. 

On housing tenure...
In 2008-09, 66% of householders “owner occupied”, with 22% in social rented housing, 10% in private rented housing and 2% making some other arrangement. This is much the same as last year, save that social housing loses ground 1%, accruing to private rental tenure. We don't always notice transformative social changes. If we needed a reminder, contrast 2009's figures with those a decade previously. While in 1999, owner occupation was still a high 61%, 32% of respondents at that time lived in social rented housing, compared to only 5% who undertook private leases. The shifts are even more telling if we leap back further in time to 1961. At that time, only 25% of folk owned and occupied their own houses. Returning to the “15% most deprived”, the rate of home ownership within this category is 39%, up from 34% last year. Social rented housing remains the predominant form of housing tenure among the most deprived at 53%, decreasing from 57% last year. 

Safe walking home alone?
In the middle of a very fulsome section on attitudes towards our civic habitats, risks of crime and perceptions anti-social behaviour, they asked three quarters of their respondents if they felt safe walking home alone at night. 75% of adults said they felt fairly or very safe doing so, while 20% of the total feel imperilled doing so. However, the figures also bear out the fact that men and women's comfort occupying public space and perceptions of endangerment differ. While most respondents of both genders felt safe, there was a 19% difference, with 85% of men feeling safe in the posited situation, compared with 66% of women. On the very unsafe or bit unsafe side of things, only 12% of men reported concerns, while 30% of women thought they were endangered, walking home alone at night.

On smoking... 
In 2009,  24.3% of respondents smoked, a decrease on last year in line with an (almost) continuous reduction in smoker numbers since 1999, when 30.7% of the population partook. Men have a higher rate of smoking than women, 26% of the chaps doing so compared to 23% of the chapesses. Smoking is most common among men aged 25 - 34, 33% of them lighting up. While only 3% of those still at school owned up to nicotine use, a massive 59% of those unable to work due to short term illness do so, followed by 51% of the unemployed seeking work and 48% of those classified as permanently sick or disabled. Like so many of these figures, deprivation looms large here. The contrast is at its most delineated when the most deprived 15% is compared with the rest of Scotland. Remember the average rate of smoking across the population is 24%. 41% of the most deprived Scots smoke, compared with 21% of the rest of the country.   

On "life satisfaction"...
A rather irritating phrase one can imagine a vacuous life coach goading their devotees with. However, not an insignificant concern, one's fundamental happiness with one's existential lot: "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays on a scale where 0 means extremely dissatisfied and 10 means extremely dissatisfied?" This question is new to the Survey and happily revealed that 15% are extremely satisfied with life and that 86% of all respondents choose positive numbers, 8 being the number selected by the highest number of people (29%). Women were slightly more disposed to express extreme satisfaction than men, 17% of women doing so to 13% of men. Many older people seem to be having a whale of a time. Just under a quarter of 60 - 74 year olds (21%) said they were extremely satisfied with life. That said, 11% picked the middle point on the scale, presumably denoting neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction with their continuing vitality.   

On internet use...
In the last quartile of 2009, 67% of households were connected to the internet, up from only 40% in the first quartile of 2003. In 2008, 68% of men use the internet, whether on a personal computer or at work, while 30% don’t. Amongst the ladies, 61% make use of it on the same terms, with a 7% hike in female internet non-use, up at 37%. Recently published figures show that use continues to rise, with 71% now making use of the internet whether at work or at home, while only 27% never make use of it. On the female front, usage now stands at 67%, compared to only 31% who never give it a go. Age clearly plays a part in this. That said, a great many people across the generations now have access. While an overwhelming 90% of 16 - 24 year olds have access, although usage declines slightly from this useful high, usage remains in the 70s and 80 percentages until a sharp decline in those over 60 to just under 50%. On the phenomenon of the “silveriest surfers” in Scotland, the figures show that 90% of women over 75 still don’t use the internet – while 19% of more tec-savvy chaps over 75 “surf”. Affluence makes itself felt here. Only a tiny 4% of those in households with incomes in excess of £40,000 do not use the internet. In stark contrast, of those in the 15% of households which are most deprived, a significantly larger 42% of people don't connect. 

On banking...

Asked, do you have a bank or building society account? 93% said yes, while 4% confirmed they did not, another 3% not owing up, one way or the other. Contrast this with 1999, when 86% of respondents confirmed accounts, while a significantly larger number – 12% had no account in the household. Here's an easily overlooked deprivation variable. While only 7% of all respondents had a Post Office card account, among 14% of those who are most deprived have one. Compared to the 1% of the total population with no account of any description, in line with last year's results, 4% of the most deprived continue without one. 

On reading for pleasure...
Books are great friends and boon companions in my life. 63% of the population think so too, reading for enjoyment's sake, but sniffishly excluding newspapers, magazines and such like. Affordably printed and made available through public libraries, books have a potentially emancipatory, democratic accessibility, partially reflected in the responses. While those with degrees are the most likely to read (82%), 47% of those with no qualifications. Women are keener bibliophiles than men, 69% of them reporting an enthusiasm for reading, compared to 57% of men. Moreover, for most readers, their books are almost constant companions, 83% dipping into one at least once a week, with 10% doing so less often than weekly, but certainly once a month.

Those are just a few, hastily collected bits and pieces. The report itself runs to over a hundred pages, with innumerable graphs and divisions by category. For those of you who enjoy a good going bout of social research in your spare time, you can read the whole publication here.

25 August 2010

Analysis: latest Holyrood polls...

I'm toddling along at a tortoise's pace here. Those with an interest in such things will no doubt already have outpaced me with their leporine fleetness and seen the topline results of YouGov and Ipsos-MORI's respective polls on Scottish voting intentions. Notably, these figures seem promising for the Nationalists. Moreover, in the detailed YouGov sheet, you can also see how that 72% supporting the Scottish Government's refusal to testify before the American Senate on Megrahi's release broke down. Just to refresh your memory, here were the voting intention keynotes. From YouGov:

  1. Labour ~ 36%
  2. SNP ~ 35%
  3. Conservative ~ 14%
  4. Liberal Democrat ~ 12%
  5. Others ~ 3%

And from Ipsos-MORI, the responses for Holyrood constituency voting among those certain to vote:

  1. Labour ~ 37%
  2. SNP ~ 34%
  3. Liberal Democrat ~ 13%
  4. Conservative ~ 11%
  5. Greens ~ 2%
  6. Others ~ 2%

And the list votes, again amongst those certain to vote:

  1. Labour ~ 38%
  2. SNP ~ 29%
  3. Conservatives ~ 12%
  4. Liberal Democrats ~ 12%
  5. Greens ~ 5%
  6. Others ~ 4%

So much, so well covered. However, unlike the more general Ipsos-MORI results, I notice that more detailed results from the YouGov poll, commissioned by the SNP, have now been published. I just wanted to pluck out a few of those demographic details and bring them to your attention. 


Firstly, there is little sign of the gender gap in SNP support which we've been discussing. Indeed, while leading Labour is supported by 39% of men and 33% of women, the SNP is polling at 36% and 35% respectively. Namely, despite their overall lead, this poll suggests that the SNP are now (just) leading Labour among women voters. 


Turning to age, the SNP is leading among the youngest cohort (aged 18 - 29), with 33% support compared to Labour's 31%. Interestingly, it is among these young things that the Liberal Democrat support sits at its most healthy heights, with 19% of them being keen Libs. The next oldest cohort (30 - 39 year olds) are clearly the staunchest, pro-Labour category. A very large 45% of them declare for Labour, compared to only 23% for the Nationalists, some 10% lower than our overall average, with the remaining 12% preferring Conservatives, 18% Liberal democrat. Amongst 40 - 59 year olds, the Nationalist support blossoms, albeit the tallest shoots don't quite match the height of the red flowering in support in the previous age category, with the SNP on 42%, Labour on 35%, Conservative 12%, Liberal Democrats shrinking to a cheeky wee 7%. Curiously, the voting preferences of those aged over 60 most resembles the overall average, albeit with a slight but noticeable increase in the Conservative vote and a switch in first and second positions. Here the SNP have a tiny 1% margin over Labour, 36% and 35% respectively, with the Tories taking 17%, the Liberals on 9%. 

Social Grades...

YouGov use the NRS social grade scale, from A - E. In this poll, results are analysed in two groups, the A-C1s and the C2s-Es. The first consists of the upper, middle and lower middle classes. Amongst this group, YouGov found as follows, ordered by bigness of their support:

  1. SNP ~ 35%
  2. Labour ~ 32%
  3. Conservative ~ 18%
  4. Liberal ~ 13%
  5. Other ~ 3%

The second category, C2 - E, consists of the skilled working class, the working class and those categorised as living at the lowest levels of subsistence.Here were their views, ordered on the same principle:

  1. Labour ~ 40%
  2. SNP ~ 36%
  3. Conservative ~ 9%
  4. Liberal Democrat ~ 9%
  5. Other ~ 4%

Interestingly, I've been hearing unconfirmed rumours about the results of the party's polling on what the lieges make of Alex Salmond. Apparently to the Maximum Eck's mild distress, this exercise discovered that he was particularly popular amongst the "lower" social grade categories, while the bourgeois responded rather less certainly and less warmly to the man. Make of that what you will. 

24 August 2010

An experiment...

Fear not. I'm not on the digital path to social media enlightenment. Assuming the milk of my human kindliness doesn't curdle, you won't find me sitting cross-legged under a gigantic computer processor any time soon, iPad clutched reverentially in one claw, blackberry in the other, declaiming wise sayings about synergistic consumer-lead marketing initiatives. However, just the shortest of short posts to bring it to your attention that I've now added this Facebook button at the bottom of the page ~

I know some folk find that medium particularly useful and there seemed no harm in a wee experiment with it. We'll see how it goes. If it proves useful, I'll retain it. All together now! ~Aummmmm~

23 August 2010

Any Questions? Crushingly fatuous answers...

I can understand pandering to an audience, up to a point. With all the room's attention fixed upon you, rapt attention turned to whatever idle toadstool thought you happen to have recently cultivated, it takes an honest spirit, fundamental decency, sincerity or practice not to assume drawlingly provocative airs, overheating the milder rhetoric of one's mind and generally turning into a confounded ninny. Alternatively, of course, if you are already a blustering gobjobber, full of egotism and demi-profound maunderings, the attention is likely to induce an excruciating concentration of your ordinary vices. So it seems on Friday's edition of Any Questions? on BBC Radio 4, excerpts of which have been inflaming corners of Scottish opinion since*. Two speakers in particular have quite properly invited a contemptuous analysis, Baroness Ruth Deech and Douglas Murray. The question concerned the release of Megrahi. Clearly the panellists didn't know much about the subject. Modest people, sensible people - might have decided to reserve judgement, with a nod to the complexity of the issues, perhaps lingering on one known element or another. There is no shame in a shrug. Unfortunately, a surfeit of modesty was not in evidence. In contrast, modest command of fact and inflammatory opinions were to be found in abundance. Sans informed opinion, both Murray and Deech took the opportunity to give free rein to their prejudices in the most depressing and personally discrediting fashion. For those gentle spirits, unwilling or unable to endure listening to the exchange themselves, here is a transcript of the panel's full remarks.

Eddie Mair: “Was the government sensible to release the Lockerbie bomber?”

Baroness Ruth Deech: “No it wasn't sensible and it was wrong. First of all because of the health issue and he wasn't properly checked up. Though I know that Ronnie Biggs is still alive, is he not? And we've been told I don't know how many times that he is at death's door and he was let out.”

Mair: “- Is continuing human life not something to celebrate.”

Deech: “Erm. I'm very glad that people live but if you start letting out a prisoner, everyone who has a dodgy medical history - well we'd save money wouldn't we but I'm not sure it is a very good reason. Secondly, there may be doubts about his innocence but Al Megrahi himself or his advisers dropped the appeal. If he was so sure he was innocent, he should have allowed that appeal to go ahead and then he could have walked out a free man with his head held high. And from what I've read there is a fair chance he would have won that appeal and the fact that he didn't pursue it seems to me very odd. But the final reason is I'm fed up with this Scottish waving of nationalism when it suits them. All right, they're devolved. I think they did this just to show the rest of us - oh! that we are independent, we make our own decisions. And it has been very embarrassing to the rest of us and it started me thinking along these lines. If Scotland wants to be independent - OK - be my guest - go ahead. Do what you want (*applause from the audience, cheers*) and please take back with you all the Scottish politicians (*laugher*) starting with Blair and Brown and Campbell. Take them all back and off you go on your own because actually we’re all subsidising them, I think, by way of benefits and all sorts of reasons and if they want to show how independent they are – okay, thank you and goodbye (*applause*)...”

I'll assume, being a generous sort, that the reference to Ronnie Biggs' compassionate release is not here being attributed to the Scottish Government, and is merely being included by Deech by way of thematic inclusion. Briefly, paradoxically, Deech also appears to believe simultaneously that Megrahi would probably have been released on appeal, and somehow, the dropping of his appeal indicates that he was - difficult to say - guilty? She introduces this as the second reason why the release was wrong. She may be proceeding on the mistaken assumption that compassionate release disallowed a further appeal. As we know, it did not. As it is, Alexandrian prowess would be needed to chop Deech's knotted mental fibres and tease out precisely what she is getting at. My guess is that she only had minimal consciousness herself. Her first two points are tepid. She only really reaches a boil, warming to her third theme. The Scots being referred to as "them" on the BBC presents an interesting dilemma for a Scottish nationalist. Deech does this three times explicitly in her rousing, dough-headed peroration, and makes sundry other references to an unexplained community - the we, the us and the our - which I can only assume primarily denotes our English and Welsh friends south of the Tweed. On the BBC's avowed purpose, the public them is a united British public, an encompassing we. The show was recorded in Sutton Coldfied, so we can reasonably calculate that the us in the room is primarily an English we. Radio expands that audience Britain-wide. Deech seems not to notice or not to care. She was rewarded with applause, no doubt sending a glad frisson tingling up her warm spot.  If Deech comes across as a bumptious nag, airing her vacuity in public, Douglas Murray more thoroughly discredits himself in his drawling outburst:

Douglas Murray: “I absolutely agree with that. Megrahi should have died in prison, no doubt about it. And er. The advice ... er ... of the alleged doctors is galling here. Because Kenny MacAskill, the so-called Scottish Justice Secretary – there’s not very much to do if you are the Scottish Justice Secretary in a devolved Scottish Assembly. You can at least read the one important bit of news that’s come across your desk the last five years. The problem that I think the most galling thing about this whole thing is this pretend, horrible, charade building in Edinburgh called the Scottish Parliament and the horrible charade politicians who inhabit it and who occasionally crawl out of the eh darkness and explain something to the to the rest of us as if, as if we we we’ve never thought of moral questions before. I mean Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond these horrible grandstanding, em, y’know Mickey Mouse politicians have been parading around talking about unique compassion of the Scottish people. We we are uniquely compassionate no one else feels compassion like me I’m feeling so compassionate at the moment I can hardly bare it (*laughter*) - I think this is appalling and the most appalling way to do politics and no good can come from this institution – the Scottish uh, uh, Parliament and whilst it’s there and the Union continues to fragment while mini-nationalists like Salmond and MacAskill are around – whilst this continues I say no good will come from it and this country will continue to be faced with these ridiculous figures making ridiculous pronouncements which embarrass us all (*more applause*)...”

I despair, truly despair. The remark is honestly too absurd, too excessive to spend too much time rebutting. No serious minded person would have made it in earnest. By making it, Murray foregoes any claim to be taken seriously. This is the self-importance, poseurish flippancy and exaggerated manners of a buffoon vaingloriously striving to coax a titter from his audience. Is he seriously suggesting that the various drafts of the Criminal Justice & Licensing and Sexual Offences Acts which have been on MacAskill's desk over the last years are not serious documents? Does he not find rape, knife crime, rates of incarceration, numbers of police officers and their use of taser technology or serious organised crime offences "important bits of news", as he puts it? How sad, that such a man has grown to find his own ignorance charming. The programme ended on a mirthful note, only slightly abashed by this baseless vitriol...

Maajid Nawaz: Just to say for our Scottish listeners, just to say that we do love you all , you know (*more audience laughter*) I love the Highlands -

Alex von Tunzelmann (chortlingly): They're not listening any more, they've all -

Murray (titteringly): - they've just turned off! -

Nawaz: I just wanted to add something. I think there does have to be a full inquiry into this and there needs to be an enquiry - 

Mair: Into this programme? (*laughter*)

Nawaz: Into the anti-Scottish rhetoric on this programme? No but into the decision made by the Scottish Government but also the involvement of generally of the UK in this, not just the Scots but everyone else as well.

One final thought. I wonder, in part, how Murray and Deech's respective half-Scottishness and riotous Unionist personas contributed to these high-handed, but tellingly implausible condescensions. They are, after all, fairly familiar if extreme examples of a genre fairly regularly appealed to by entrenched Scots Unionist characters like Fraser Nelson, making their way in London and in "British" institutions. I've certainly met folk with similar attitudes before, who feel terrifically urbane and are generally terrifically scornful if discussion turns to nationalist politics. What always strikes me is that in the name of generosity, open-mindedness, non-parochialism - they so often produce snarling diatribes similar in content if not extremity to Murray's comments above.

*My sincere thanks to Bugger (the Panda) for first alerting me to the programme..

20 August 2010

Analysis: second poll on Megrahi release...

Yesterday, I suggested that detailed polling data might afford some fascinating insights into the knotty ethical and political conundrum of Megrahi's release and the Scottish public's current attitudes towards it. And hey presto! Today, Ipsos MORI published their poll, undertaken on STV's penny and conducted with over the telephone  with 1,013 respondents from the 16th to the 19th of this month.

The keynotes are pretty plain, with 36% of people continuing to agree with the release, to 54% who now express disagreement with it. Interestingly, in the light of recent discussions on this blog, there seems to be a significant gender differential in opinion ("significant" here, used in its ordinary sense, denoting no added statistical calculation on my part). 42% of men expressed support, while 50% are opposed. Only 30% of female respondents were supportive, with 57% offering critical opinions.  For those who are interested, it is worth delving into the detailed computer tables. While I'd echo Jeff's sentiments that these numbers tell us relatively little about how support or opposition to the release will inform voting in the Holyrood 2011 elections, intensity of opinion might be an important indicator. Here is the breakdown, again along gendered lines:

Question: LOCKERBIE. Moving on, on Friday, it will be one year since the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, announced the release of the man convicted of the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am aeroplane over Lockerbie in which 270 people died. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the decision to release him? Do you..?

  1. Strongly agree ~ Total 20%; Men 25%;  Women 16%
  2. Tend to agree ~ Total 15%; Men 17%; Women 14%
  3. Neither agree nor disagree ~ Total 8%; Men 6%; Women 9%
  4. Tend to disagree ~ Total 9%; Men 8%; Women 10%
  5. Strongly disagree ~ Total 45%; Men 42%; Women 47% 
  6. Don't know ~ Total 3%; Men 1%; Women 4%

Evidence, one might think, that the belief that women are the merciful sex is rather misplaced. Once again, I must say I'm surprised at the gendered balance of opinion that this poll seems to capture. Age also presents another interesting picture. The youngest group of respondents seems to have particularly negative attitudes towards the release. Compare 18 - 24 year olds expressed views with the total average:

  1. Strongly agree ~ Total 20%; 18 - 24 year olds 5%
  2. Tend to agree ~ Total 15%; 18 - 24 year olds 13%
  3. Neither agree nor disagree ~ Total 8%; 18 - 24 year olds 11%
  4. Tend to disagree ~ Total 9%; 18 - 24 year olds 11%
  5. Strongly disagree ~ Total 45%; 18 - 24 year olds 58%
  6. Don't know ~ Total 3%; 18 - 24 year olds 2%

Strong agreement with the release makes a sudden leap in the next age category, from the doldrums of 5% to 19% of 25 - 34 year olds, 22% of 35 - 54 year olds and 24% of over 55s respectively. Strong disagreement pitches by over 10% from the its 58% high among the youngest group to 37%, raising again to 46% among 35 - 54 year olds, dwindling somewhat to 42 % among the eldest cohort. On the last page of the tables, support is correlated against satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister and First Minister respectively. I'm no master statistician, but what follows seems to be the percentage of the two politicians satisfied/dissatisfies, according to the poll. I assume there are several "can't decides" left unrecorded in the middle of both extremes of opinion, so the totals combine properly.

  1. David Cameron ~ Weighted satisfied ~ 336/1013 (33%)
  2. Alex Salmond ~ Weighted satisfied ~ 532/1013 (53%)
  3. David Cameron ~ Weighted dissatisfied ~ 482 /1013 (48%)
  4. Alex Salmond ~ Weighted dissatisfied ~ 378/1013 (37%)

There is undoubtedly much more information which could be extracted from this data if one took more time over it. Do look for yourself here. Mine is very much a baldy-man's toothcomb sweep, highlighting the points which immediately occurred to me.

19 August 2010

New Lockerbie case poll on US Senate games...

Seems Richard Baker has decidedly misjudged his electorate. You may recall the Swine Pursuivant's caterwauling on the radio, sternly demanding that Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill should schlep across the Atlantic to line dance before the US Senate, while the question of Jack Straw's attendance was "purely a matter for him". Such a flexible fellow he is. As you will all undoubtedly know, Senator Menendez et al's peremptory summons was timely and fatally rebuffed by the Scottish Government. My sense throughout has been that many Scots would not take kindly to being kicked around by canting scoundrel American politicians, whatever their views might be on the release of Megrahi itself. Recall, after all, Galloway's celebrated jaunt to Washington. The still-present twinge of disgust at the perceived pandering of British political figures to American interests. Remember, in short, Blair's bichon frise routine. That underdog mentality, itching to raise two fingers to startle the presumptuous and ignorant and high handed American hypocrite - that is a tale calculated to resonate with many Scots, tingled by the small but significant frisson of independent-mindedness and the spirited resistance to a stronger power. Menendez instead had to contend with silence. He was denied his judicial moment in the chair. In his panic, he burbled to himself, for company's sake, reduced to increasingly shrill accusation, grasping at the rags of decorum to cover his nakedness.  

On any reading, Eck's sharper epistle to Senator Menendez was a excellent riposte, serving to concentrate these themes. And with tightrope poise, it balanced twin burdens. While the language of the text was sufficiently polite not to cause an risky hoohaa, the inflammatory sentences were pointedly crafted and by consequence, it was these that were covered in the media. Basically, as far as the Scottish electorate is concerned, he managed to wave an archer's salute at the American senators without causing the scandal which a more direct "awa' an' bile yer heid!" would undoubtedly have caused. Those were my suspicions and best guesses. This morning the SNP released some details of a poll exploring Scottish public opinion on precisely this question and I would suggest that the results overwhelming bear out that analysis. The poll's total sample size was 1,212 Scottish adults and the fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 18th August 2010.  Here are the questions asked, with respondents' percentages for each response:

Question (1) A US senate committee invited representatives of the Scottish government to appear before their committee to explain their decision. The Scottish government declined to attend, on the grounds that they are accountable to the Scottish Parliament, not to US politicians. Do you agree or disagree with Scottish Government’s decision not to attend?
  1. Agree – they were right not to attend 72%
  2. Disagree – they should have attended 20% 
  3. Don’t Know 7%
Question (2) Some US Senators have argued that commercial lobbying of the UK Government by BP played a role in the release of Al-Megrahi, while the Scottish Government insists that the Scottish Government was not lobbied by BP and that the Scottish Justice Secretary’s decision to grant compassionate release to Al-Megrahi was based solely on the rules and regulations of Scots Law. Regardless of your own view on the decision, which of the following best reflects your view?
  1. The US Senators are correct – BP Lobbying played a part in the release of Al-Megrahi ~ 14%
  2. The Scottish Government is correct – Al Megrahi was released solely in line with Scotland Law ~ 54%
  3. Neither ~ 11%
  4. Don’t Know ~ 21%

Question (3) Al-Megrahi was convicted in a Scottish Court and served his prison sentence in Scotland. Regardless of whether you think Al-Megrahi should or should not have been released, who do you think should have made the decision on whether or not to release him?
  1. The Scottish Justice Secretary ~ 76%
  2. A Minister in the UK Government ~ 13%
  3. Don’t Know ~11%

Just a few points I want to emphasise. Needless to say, 72% to 20% supporting the Scottish Government's non-attendance is a mighty difference to make the politick would-be positioning of Richard Baker and the Scottish Labour Party look ill-judged to say the least. Also notice the difference in don't knows answers to question (1) and (2). 21% suggested they could not be certain about what the decision to release Megrahi was premised on, whether BP was involved or only the processes of Scots Law were observed. However, only 7% of don't knows were undecided when it came to whether a Scottish Government delegation should have headed to Washington. We can't tell from these figures how far the responses to the two questions correlate. For example, it is possible albeit unlikely that someone suspecting BP involvement might nevertheless not much care for American institutions and thus support non-attendance. Equally, however, it seems more probable that the 14% difference represents just how potent is that strand of opinion I attempted to describe at the outset. 

One final thought. Although I've no spy in the heart of the party's hierarchy, I would be exceedingly surprised if the SNP took this opportunity only to ask these three questions and weren't canvassing more generally on what the Scottish public make of Megrahi's release one year on, in the context of his ongoing life, if not vitality. Perhaps they did not do so on this occasion and indeed only posed these three enquiries, however, it beggars belief that no attempts are being made to gauge any "Lockerbie case" effect on 2011's Holyrood elections, however macabre that becomes. If so, I'd be exceedingly curious to know if such polling has been commissioned and what information the party has refrained from releasing into the public domain thus far.


Coincidentally enough, it turns out that one of the respondents involved in this YouGov poll was Nairn and Spain-based blogger and twitterer Bill Cameron. He has exceedingly helpfully been able to confirm that he was indeed asked several additional questions in the course of the poll, including the crucial questions about respondents' attitudes to Megrahi's release. That answers my if question.  The SNP is clearly taking a close look at public opinion here. So what might the rest of the answers have been? Unlike the figures disclosed above, no doubt the responses to the central questions are somewhat more nuanced, breaking down along a number of lines and may take some time to digest. It may be that the other responses will never see the light of day. Either way, I'm sure they're giving someone a fascinating insight into this knotty ethical and political conundrum. . 

18 August 2010

The touchiness of Muck..

To continue my occasional series of jauntily compelling or otherwise curious excerpts from Scottish literature, today I've got another cracker. I recently mentioned the splendidly conceived book To the Hebrides, which combines, side-by-side, Dr Johnson's Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland and James Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. This anecdote from the text is a mischievous lesson in the incorrigibility of touchiness, vanity and the generation-transcending appeal of human vulnerability. Here is Dr Johnson, writing from the Isle of Skye:

"Among other guests, which the hospitality of Dunvegan brought to the table, a visit was paid by the Laird and Lady of a small island south of Sky, of which the proper name is Muack, which signifies swine. It is commonly called Muck, which the proprietor not liking, has endeavoured, without effect, to change to Monk. It is usual to call gentlemen in Scotland by the name of their possessions, as Raasay, Bernera, Loch Buy, a practice necessary in countries inhabited by clans, where all that live in the same territory have one name, and must be therefore discriminated by some addition. This gentleman, whose name, I think, is Maclean, should be regularly called Muck; but the appellation, which he thinks too coarse for his Island, he would like still less for himself, and he is therefore addressed by the title of, Isle of Muck..."

17 August 2010

Exclusive: That "Bible in Scots Law" pamphlet...

The Herald made a bit of a splash among the skeptical, the secular and the godless with this story, headlined "Law chief urges Scots courts: consult the Bible in judgments". The occasion is the Scottish Bible Society's 2009 bicentenary. To mark both the "important role in public life" played by the text and to belatedly commemorate their long activity, the Society is pressing copies of the Bible into the hands of all of the Senators of the College of Justice (Scotland's high court judges, for the uninitiated), Sheriffs, prosecutors fiscal, advocates, and so on. The high end legal creatures appear to be receiving one each, the humble footsoldiery may have to share. The Society explains that these donations are an attempt to furnish courts with the good book "so that it is readily available for reference in any such case which may arise in future". After all, we've all heard tell of angst-ridden sheriffs coming to judgement, wringing their hands, mumbling "These social enquiry reports are all very well, but what I really need is Saul of Tarsus' Epistle to the Ephesians..."

While some ardent secularists may well find this jurisprudential Gideon-aping sufficiently inflammatory, it is a slimmer text which has really got Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society fulminating. Alongside the books, legal figures will also receive a pamphlet foreworded by former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. This document is entitled The Bible in Scots Law: A Guide for Legal Practitioners. While the Herald article included a few tantalising quotations from this object, this is hardly satisfying for those of us who like to eye such texts for ourselves, sans journalistic sift. However, if you are luckless enough not to hold high office as a judge, sheriff or public prosecutor - no joy. Until now that is. Happily, I've managed to acquire a copy in a suitably accessible format. The document runs across two pages. Click on the images below for a clearer view.

Wonderful, evocative phrase that, the lively oracles of God. Some of you may well be wondering about the case mentioned in the fifth section on the second page. This concerned the applicability of the Incest Act of 1567 to intercourse between a step-father and his step-daughter. The Old Testament book of Leviticus was touched upon in the resolution of the matter. The full judgement in the case of Her Majesty's Advocate v. BL can be read here.

Assuming that most of you aren't versed in your scriptures, I thought it might also be helpful to conjure up the specific chapters and verses cited in the pamphlet. Just what sources are the Scottish Bible Society urging our magistrates and prosecutors to consult, I wondered? Noteably absent is a favourite passage, from Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, lest ye be judged". Like Lord Mackay, my own preference is for the King James version and all references that follow are culled from that most lyrical of editions. Lest I be accused of cherry picking and in the interests of fulsome exegesis, I'll appended all of the Biblical references mentioned. They do go on a bit, but it only seems fair. Where only part of a passage is cited by the pamphlet, I've nevertheless included the whole section. Plenty here, no doubt, to inflame secular opinion. Most of the passages are, predictably enough, from the Pentateuch. To my eye, the selections are sometimes elegant, sometimes obvious but mostly mildly absurd, tendentiously applicable and rather a-historically facile. I particularly appreciated the anachronistic pegging of passages alongside such eccentric categories as strict liability and health and safety law, "racial equality" and "disability rights". Hardly a boon friend and rod for the jobbing sheriff or procurator fiscal, I fancy. The inclusion of adultery prompted a frisson. Time for a revival of fault-based divorce, would you say? And despite the references to executions in the book of Exodus, I also assume that the Scottish Bible Society aren't actually proposing that Scottish judges don their musty black tricorns and pick up where Lord Braxfield left off...

On Access to justice (Deuteronomy 16: 18-20)

18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Accidental death (Deuteronomy 19: 4 -6)

4 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
5 As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.

Admonition to Judges/Sheriffs (2 Chronicles 19: 6 - 7)

6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.
7 Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts

Adultery (Deuteronomy 5:18)

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

Aggravated sentence for leaders (Leviticus 4: 22- 26)

22 When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;
23 Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:
24 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.
25 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.
26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.

Animal welfare (Proverbs 12: 10a)

10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. 

Appeal courts (Deuteronomy 17: 8 - 9)

8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose;
9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:

Bribes (Exodus 23:8)

8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

Citation of witesses/duty to give evidence (Leviticus 5:1)

1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.

Contempt of Court (Deuteronomy 17: 10 - 12)

10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.

Corroboration of evidence for solemn procedure (Deuteronomy 17: 6)

6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

Culpable and reckless conduct (Leviticus 19:16b)

16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the LORD.

Culpable and reckless/accidental death (Numbers 35: 22 - 25)

22 But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,
23 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:
25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. 

Corroboration of evidence (Numbers 35: 30)

30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.

Defamation (Leviticus 19:16a)

16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the LORD.

Defence of disadvantaged (Isaiah 1:16b - 17)

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Disability rights (Leviticus 19:14)

14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.

Diversion from Prosecution[at instance of accused] (Matthew 5:25)

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Equality before the law (Leviticus 19:15)

15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

Evidence on oath (Deuteronomy 6:13)

13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

Fabrication of evidence (Exodus 23:1)

1 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

Fraud (Leviticus 19:13)

13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

General principles Legal Aid, equality, purity of process (Deuternomy 10:17 - 20)

17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

Health and Safety (Deuteronomy 22:8)

8 When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

Incest (Leviticus 18: 6 - 18)
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.
9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

Independence of Judiciary (Deuteronomy 1: 16 - 17)

16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

Legal aid (Exodus 23:6)

6 Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.

Lesser fines for the poor (Leviticus 5: 5- 7, 11)

5 And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
7 And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
11 But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.

Malice (Leviticus 19:18)

18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Miscarriage of Justice (Exodus 23:7)

7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

Murder/culpable homicide (Exodus 21:12 - 14)

12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Murder (Numbers 35: 16 - 21)

16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

Perjury (Exodus 23:2)

2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:

Perjury (Leviticus 19:12)

12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Perjury (Deuteronomy 5:20)

20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Preparation before trial (Psalm 37: 5-6)

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

Purity of law (Deuteronomy 4:8) 

8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

Racial equality (Exodus 22:21)

21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Racial equality (Leviticus 19: 33 - 24)

33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Racial equality (Leviticus 24:22) 

22 Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.

Reparation (Exodus 21: 18 - 19)

18 And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:
19 If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

Rule of Law (1 Peter 2: 13 - 17)

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Strict liability for statutory crime (Leviticus 4:22)

22 When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;

Submission to authority (Romans 13: 1-6)

1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

Theft and deception (Leviticus 19:11)

11 Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

Theft (Deuteronomy 5:19)

19 Neither shalt thou steal.

Weights and Measures (Leviticus 19:35)

35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.

16 August 2010

Reforming double jeopardy (Vol. II)

Following on from yesterday's post on the Scottish Government's intention to change the Scots law on double jeopardy, a Hootsmon report of this morning contains an indicative crumb or two on the likely shape of the Bill. The paper inform us that:

"The bill will mirror the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which ended the 800-year rule of double jeopardy barring retrials in England and Wales when new evidence came to light."

Yesterday, I quoted the list of offences which qualify for reprosecution under this 2003 Act, in the light of newly disclosed evidence. In Scottish terms, the article continues:

"It is also understood that Mr MacAskill intends to bring forward a bill closer to the English legislation in terms of what cases can be retried.The commission had suggested the change be limited to cases of rape and murder, but Mr MacAskill will also want it to apply for culpable homicide, other serious sexual offences and other serious offences. As in England it could also be extended to drugs crimes, although sources said a definitive list had yet to be finalised."

As an aside, you might well think it ironic that a nationalist administration, in this area as in other areas, seems to think in terms of "bringing Scotland into line with England" and regularly moves to legislate by taking English and Welsh legal texts and fiddling with them a bit. End of digression. This seems to answer one of my concerns of yesterday - at least in terms of the broad approach to reform. The "serious" crimes in question will be set out, haggled over and nitpicked by list.  However, seriousness remains a vague criterion. Serious assaults? Probably impossible to identify. Prosecutions under the new Sexual Offences Scotland Act 2009, far more feasible. I shouldn't be at all surprised, for example, if the Government attempted to add some of the new serious organised crime offences to this list too. From the boundless eagerness of beaver boy Richard Baker, the Government can no doubt anticipate that its proposals will be subject to scanty skeptical assessment. Rather, I imagine, Labour's energies will be poured into feteing the idea and busily agitating to emphasise their own role in changing the law.  I also notice, with interest, that the article suggests that the two Green MSPs - Patrick Harvie and Scarfinator in Chief, Robin Harper - will oppose the Bill. I've not yet been able to confirm or deny this position or substantiate its rationale. Even so, those opposed to doing away with a general principle of double jeopardy - while perhaps attempting a manful critical sally or two - do not now look to be in a position to secure a parliamentary victory. The vis inertia is spent. That said, it is worth remembering re-indictment will require new evidence. This isn't just a mechanism to try, try and try again if the first trial doesn't satisfy the forces of prosecution. As the advocate Robert Sutherland recently noted on Twitter:

"Scrapping of double jeopardy rule will probably not mean a re-trial in infamous World's End pub murders case as there is no "new" evidence.."

Despite the recent slew of headlines suggesting otherwise, as I understand Kenny MacAskill's proposals, double jeopardy is not being scrapped at all, but is to be qualified by novel exceptions, applicable in particular circumstances. That aside, I anticipate that the defence of this old concept will be assuming a rearguard formation, encouraging narrower legislation and a shorter list of qualifying offences. Such a task is a virtuous one. It will still be easy - all too easy - for this Bill to go far too far.

15 August 2010

The end of double jeopardy in Scotland?

Although the tale has not yet been taken up by other media outlets, this morning the BBC is reporting that "Double jeopardy law will be scrapped in Scotland". This is not surprising. Announcing the consultation, Kenny MackAsill frankly conceded that "we are minded to legislate at the earliest opportunity". Turns out that that opportunity is nowish, in Holyrood's final term. To recollect just a little of the context, you may recall that the Scottish Law Commission produced its Report on Double Jeopardy, however the Commission were unable to agree on a number of salient matters. A consultation was held. At the consultation's beginnings, I noted that:

Kenny MacAskill’s news release is full of familiar (and largely fatuous) rationalising metaphors, the blubbery Whiggish stuff trotted out whenever law reform is contemplated “… updated for the 21st Century… modernising … fit for the 21st Century … in this day and age … clear direction of travel … reform needed…”

Changes to double jeopardy impended. What remained and remains unclear, however, is what changes precisely. The four key questions asked in the consultation were:

* Whether consultees agree that there should be a new evidence exception
* The test to be applied in assessing new evidence
* What offences a new evidence exception should cover
* Whether a new evidence exception should apply retrospectively.

The trailing of the announcement in the media includes no official press release, no draft Bill. I'll keep my powder dry until we have a legislative text to scrutinise. However, a fiery pinch can't really hurt. I'm concerned with which offences can be re-indicted. Previously, MacAskill has talked about the proposed legislative changes in terms of keeping the traditional rules on tholing one's assize - but amending the general principle by introducing novel exceptions. Whether or not structure of precept and exception will be anything more than theoretical depends on how and how many crimes attract exceptional status. Should re-prosecution be limited to murder, rape? "Serious cases?" If so, how should their seriousness be defined? The BBC are reporting that the Government intends to make the changes apply retrospectively and that they understand that:

"... the government's bill will go further than the law commission's recommendation that only people cleared of murder, rape and some other serious sexual crimes should be allowed to stand trial for a second time. Instead, it will be extended to cover other serious offences, including culpable homicide."

No doubt they have such an understanding because someone in government outlined their plots to them. So what offences are "serious"? In England and Wales, offences "qualifying" for the new-evidence exception to double jeopardy are:

Offences Against the Person
Murder; Attempted murder;  Soliciting murder; Manslaughter; Corporate manslaughter; Kidnapping

Sexual Offences

Rape; Attempted rape; Intercourse with a girl under thirteen; Incest by a man with a girl under thirteen; Assault by penetration; Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent; Rape of a child under thirteen; Attempted rape of a child under thirteen; Assault of a child under thirteen by penetration; Causing a child under thirteen to engage in sexual activity; Sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice; Causing a person with a mental disorder impeding choice to engage in sexual activity

Drugs Offences
Unlawful importation of Class A drug; Unlawful exportation of Class A drug;Fraudulent evasion in respect of Class A drug; Producing or being concerned in production of Class A drug

Criminal Damage Offences

Arson endangering life; Causing explosion likely to endanger life or property; Intent or conspiracy to cause explosion likely to endanger life or property

War Crimes and Terrorism
Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention; Directing terrorist organisation; Hostage-taking


A grim list, undoubtedly. Should we anticipate a copy, with the relevant Scottish offences substituted - or something else? Something narrower, or something broader? In this respect, I find the tenor of the BBC story potentially concerning. After all, I recently blogged about how unsuccessful were Holyrood's attempts to define serious organised crime in any serious way, the consequence of which being the passage of a potentially illiberal and chimerical statute. In that piece of recent legislation, "serious offence" is defined thus:

“serious offence” means an indictable offence— 
(a) committed with the intention of obtaining a material benefit for any person, or 
(b) which is an act of violence committed or a threat made with the intention of obtaining such a benefit in the future, and “material benefit” means a right or interest of any description in any property, whether heritable or moveable and whether corporeal or incorporeal.

Obviously, I'd be astounded if this definition was used in the Scottish Government's proposed Bill on double jeopardy. The second and third sections are very clearly situationally defined, intimately associated with their couching context and concern with remunerative and organised criminality. What concerns me, however, is that the Government is happy with the idea that seriousness can simply be equated with indictableness of an offence. As I explained in that piece, most Scottish offences are indictable but the procurator fiscal would generally only indict serious instances. Assault and theft encompasses a great gamut of conduct, from the minor to the major, yet both small infractions and substantial breaches are indictable. The essence is this - indictableness is not a serious distinction to draw. I hope, therefore, that when the draft Bill is published, we see no echo of the Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill's language of seriousness. If drafted too broadly, this really risks becoming an end to the principle of tholing your assize, rather than the introduction of moderating exceptions.

14 August 2010

R L Stevenson contrasts Scotland & England...

At the moment, between more fustian tomes, I'm reading Dreams of Elsewhere, a volume compiled and edited by June Skinner Sawyers. Containing selections from the travel writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, in its pages we follow the Edinburgh-born author to Scottish islands, manses, south to England and over the water to France and Belgium, up snow-peaked Swiss mountains and back down, flowing out and across the Atlantic ocean, to the Americas, Hawaii and Stevenson's final resting place in the islands of South Seas of the Pacific. In a essay entitled 'The Foreigner at Home', first published in May 1882 in the Cornhill Magazine, Stevenson discusses divergences in the mores and manners of the Scots and the English of his day. What strikes me most in the piece are the rough-edged continuities and discontinuities that it discloses, the frayed familiar references, side by side with unfamiliar observations which time and change has closely unpicked and unravelled. In particular, this paragraph - as well as being pleasingly and gently ironic - emphasises just how unrecognisable in contemporary Scotland is Stevenson's description of childhood's Presbyterian pieties of his day.

"Sabbath observance makes a series of grim, and perhaps serviceable, pauses in the tenor of Scotch boyhood - days of great stillness and solitude for the rebellious mind, when the dearth of books and play, and in the intervals of studying the Shorter Catechism, the intellect and senses prey upon and test each other. The typical English Sunday, with the huge midday dinner and plethoric afternoon, leads perhaps to different results. About the very cradle of the Scot there goes a hum of metaphysical divinity; and the whole of two divergent systems is summed up, not merely speciously, in the two first questions of the rival catechisms, the English tritely inquiring "What is your name?" the Scottish striking at the very roots of life with, "What is the chief end of man?" and answering nobly, if obscurely, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Scots lawyers might appreciate this vignette from another paragraph. Some things don't change, I'm afraid. Even in the course of 128 years  ...

"In is so, perhaps, in all countries; perhaps in all, men are most ignorant of the foreigners at home. John Bull is ignorant of the States; he is probably ignorant of India; but considering his opportunities, he is far more ignorant of countries nearer his own door. There is one country, for instance - its frontier not so far from London, its people closely akin, its language the same in all essentials with the English - of which I will go bail he knows nothing. His ignorance of the sister kingdom cannot be described; it can only be illustrated by anecdote. I once travelled with a man of plausible manners and good intelligence - a University man, as the phrase goes - a man, besides, who had taken his degree in life and knew a thing or two about the age we live in. We were deep in talk , whirling between Peterborough and London; among other things, he began to describe some piece of legal injustice he had recently encountered, and I observed in my innocence that things were not so in Scotland."I beg your pardon", said he, "this is a matter of law." He had never heard of the Scots law; nor did he choose to be informed. The law was the same for the whole country, he told be roundly; every child knew that. At last, to settle matters, I explained to him that I was a member of a Scottish legal body, and had stood the brunt of an examination in the very law in question. Thereupon he looked me for a moment full in the face and dropped the conversation. This is a monstrous instance, if you like, but it does not stand alone in the experience of Scots."

13 August 2010

August's cucumber days...

Summer recess and the Silly Season can be a difficult time, even for those of us who entertain pretensions to plough our own furrow. Our Dutch friends apparently call this time of year Komkommertijd. However, it is reassuring to learn that the frustrations of these cucumber days are nothing new. In the latest instalment of my transcription poems from beyond the grave, the ghostly outline of Thomas Hood (d. 1845) formed at the foot of my bed, and offered to share this early draft of his poem "No!", pouring execration on immobile November, when all life seems elsewhere. Turns out, he originally based the work on August, but despaired of the rhyme. With deft poetic legerdemain, he coaxed his grey spirit into similar gloom in the month of November and was able to finish the piece as we remember it today. Here, however, was his first attempt. He certainly captures my own, rather blog-blocked feeling in the prevailing atmosphere of this August...


Just nowt -- no news!
No PM -- FMQs!
No cut -- no thrust -- no stories to peruse--
No vent -- no blogable views--
Guilty longing for a death, or coups
Recess -- recess -- endless recess blues --
No start to any row --
Unjust disgust - where are you now?
No baiting bishops -- no pieties from the steeple --
No nonsense from the familiar people --
No legislation to mistrust, no events, no scandal --
No traveling at all-- no promotion --
No minister being spanked by a sequinned sandal --
No punch-up in the Cabinet --no scandalous demotion--
No mail -- no post --
No fun from any foreign coast--
No snark, no greedy son, no jolly ballyhoo --
No senility -- no surprising virility --
No fuss, no satire cussed, no gadfly tease,
No execrable spiel from any Member -
No writ, no case, no litigant disgraced
No moats , no duck house, no votes, no horses' oats!--
No more! No more! I'm about to encrust --
An end! An end! to this cursed --

~ Thomas Hood (before he realised that November would scan much more happily ...)