Posts Tagged ‘ snp ’

Caught by #clypegate ? How to make a Data Protection complaint



The Labour Party has issued a “dossier” to journalists of “abuse” by SNP members on twitter. Labour may have broken Data Protection law, and this post describes how, if you are in the dossier, you can make a complaint against the Labour Party to the Information Commissioner, for free. There are sample letters at the bottom.

Before I start, I’d like to say to all the people in the dossier: even if you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, we have all done that at least once. You have the movement’s solidarity. Nobody should be abusive on Twitter, and in some cases maybe the party will need to send you a reprimand.

But I know most of you are ordinary, decent people who have had one or two angry moments highlighted and sent to newspapers with the ability to broadcast their own to abuse to hundreds of thousands of people. You don’t deserve that.

Possible grounds for complaint

I am not a lawyer: this blog post contains my own and others’ opinions and is not in any way legal advice.

There are three grounds for complaint that jump out at me:

1) According to Tim Turner (you should read his full post), you can complain on the grounds that the use of your data was not “fair” – Labour do not have a right to collect data on you and then distribute it to third parties in secret.

2) Also according to Tim Turner, to use your personal data, Labour require one of: “consent, a contract, a legal power or obligation, to be protecting vital interests, or a legitimate interest.” In his view, none of these conditions is met.

3) In my view, the leak of the document breaches the requirement that your data should be processed securely.

How to complain

Only the Information Commissioner can say for sure if there has been a breach. It is well worth asking him to investigate.

1) Call 0303 123 1113, the Information Commission helpline. They can advise you on your rights and the complaints process.

2) Write to the Labour Party to complain (sample letter below), as the Information Commission requires you to do this:

The Labour Party
Labour Central, Kings Manor
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6PA

3) If you are not satisfied, send a letter to the Information Commissioners for the UK and Scotland (sample letter below):


Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane


The Information Commissioner’s Office – Scotland
45 Melville Street

Sample letter to the Labour Party

[Your full address]
[Phone number]
[The date]

The Labour Party

Dear Sir / Madam,

Information rights concern
[Your full name and address and your twitter handle from the dossier]

I am concerned that you have not handled my personal information properly.

Personal data about me was included in a “dossier” provided to the Scottish press by your employee Blair McDougall. I believe this information may have been mishandled as:

1) It was not a fair use of the data. The Labour Party does not have a right to collect and process information on individuals and distribute it in secret.

2) The Labour Party does not have my consent, a contract with me, a legal power or obligation, is not protecting vital interests, and does not have a legitimate interest in processing and distributing this data.

3) My data was not held securely, and was leaked on the public internet.

I understand that before reporting my concern to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) I should give you the chance to deal with it.

If, when I receive your response, I would still like to report my concern to the ICO, I will give them a copy of it to consider.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website ( as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they can take.

Please send a full response within 28 calendar days. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me on the following number [telephone number].

Yours faithfully

Sample Letter to the Information Commissioner

[Your full address]
[Phone number]
[The date]

The Information Commissioner

Dear Sir / Madam,

Information rights concern
[Your full name and address and your twitter handle from the dossier]

I am concerned that the Labour Party have not handled my personal information properly. I have reported this to the Labour Party, and am not satisfied with their response. I request that you urgently investigate this potential data protection breach.

Personal data about me was included in a “dossier” provided to the Scottish press by their employee Blair McDougall. I believe this information may have been mishandled as:

1) It was not a fair use of the data. The Labour Party does not have a right to collect and process information on individuals and distribute it in secret.

2) The Labour Party does not have my consent, a contract with me, a legal power or obligation, is not protecting vital interests, and does not have a legitimate interest in processing and distributing this data.

3) My data was not held securely, and was leaked on the public internet.

Please find attached my letter to the Labour Party.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me on the following number [telephone number].

Yours faithfully


BBC admit to breaching own guidelines with immigration story

I have received a reply to my complaint about the BBC shoehorning immigration into Scotland’s election debate in breach of its own guidelines on the use of polls. For once, they acknowledge that they breached the guidelines!

The BBC are allowed to report on and headline polls, but they may only headline a poll if it adds depth to an existing story. They may not use a poll to create a story from whole cloth, which is what they implicitly admit to here.

Dear Sir / Madam,

On Tuesday 10th of March the BBC website reported on an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC into attitudes to immigration in Scotland. The article, entitled “BBC poll suggests 64% of Scots want immigration reduced”, can be found here:

The BBC guidelines on opinion polls clearly state “We should not headline the results of an opinion poll unless it has prompted a story which itself deserves a headline and reference to the poll’s findings is necessary to make sense of it”.

The guideline exists for an excellent reason, which is that it is not the BBC’s role to determine the political questions of the day, but rather to report on them.

This is especially egregious behaviour in a tense pre-election context. I find it hard to imagine what the BBC hoped to achieve by commissioning this poll in the first place.

Alistair Davidson

Dear Mr DavidsonAl-Qaeda-Sets-Up-Complaints-Department

Reference CAS-3188145-PXV7MM

Thank you for getting in touch.

The reports on this were taken from a BBC opinion poll which showed Scotland’s attitudes towards immigration. We believe these reports are newsworthy and relevant. We also feel that the stories are of interest to our audience.

We accept that there should not have been references to the poll findings in our headlines, and have now changed the relevant online stories.

We know that not everyone will agree with our choices on which stories to cover, and the prominence that we give to them. These are subjective decisions made by our news editors, and we accept that not everyone will think that we are correct on each occasion. These decisions are always judgement calls rather than an exact science, but we appreciate the feedback that our viewers and listeners give us on this. Please be assured that your comments have been noted and added to our audience log which is passed to senior programme makers and management.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

Jumbled thoughts on all-female shortlists

The SNP have introduced all-female shortlists, and everyone has to have their tuppence… so here’s mine. 2000px-Igualtat_de_sexes.svg

  1. As a moral imperative, something has to happen to move us sharply towards 50% female representation in parliament. The long-standing under-representation of women in parliament is a moral outrage. If you disagree, there’s not much I can say to you – we simply have different values.
  2. All-female shortlists are a way of getting there. We have to crack open the boy’s club by force. Our daughters must grow up believing that politics is for them, too. They do have some serious flaws: they are a restriction on democracy, they can be used by the leadership to crack down on dissent (Tony Blair famously used them this way). But in the absence of an alternative that will reach the goal in (1), we have to back them.
  3. The onus is on those who oppose all-female shortlists to propose credible alternatives to reach the goal in (1).
  4. While some people who oppose all-female shortlists do hate women (hating women is sadly pretty common), there are also plenty of people who oppose all-female shortlists who do not hate women, and it is unfair and counterproductive to call them misogynists simply on the basis of their opposition – especially given that quite a few are women themselves.
  5. In 21 of 44 seats where the shortlist was mixed, a woman was selected. That’s 47%. While there is sexism in the SNP membership as in any part of society, the membership’s sexism is not the biggest barrier: all-male shortlists are.
  6. More important in the long run than all-female shortlists will be the commitment to a gender-balanced party list at Holyrood. This seems to be the key mechanism in Sweden’s success in equalising representation.
  7. Proactive leadership and confidence-building programmes are vital. Almost nobody enjoys public speaking. People only learn confidence by being pushed into it.
  8. We must teach our children that politics is for women. Meetings of left-wing fringe parties in Glasgow are often 75% male. I was often told (including by well-meaning women) that this was because they were too theoretical and argumentative and boring. That sounded plausible until I attended a meeting about art and economics at the CCA. It was majority-female and mostly consisted of exactly the same kind of high-minded and irritating arguments about Marx and surplus value and so on as happen in left wing party meetings. I can only conclude that a sense of permission is a key factor: (some/many) women are taught that they are allowed strident opinions about art but not politics.
  9. We are going to need a more complete picture of the factors restricting women’s political involvement. I’ve suggested a couple: leadership skills, permission, membership sexism, the existence of old boy’s clubs. Other factors include the abuse directed at prominent women on social media (men receive abuse too but it’s clear that women receive more, and of a worse nature), and probably plenty of other things I’m not thinking of. It would be better to have hard peer-reviewed evidence than rely on our intuitions.
  10. This problem runs way beyond gender. Any measures only targeted at gender will benefit upper and middle class women more than working class women. That is not an argument against the measures – but it is a major limitation.
  11. Last but not least: fellow men, you can have opinions about this stuff, but for god’s sake have some humility and listen to the full range of views and experiences from women. They have a really hard deal, and a lot of stuff happens to them that most men just don’t see. Whenever I speak to the women in my life about sexism they face, I am taken aback. There is a minority of highly misogynist men who subject women to massive amounts of abuse – but like all cowards they do the worst of it when we’re not watching. Listen to women.

Everything you know about the council tax freeze is wrong

Labour continually claim that the Council Tax freeze is regressive (bad for the poor), and that it is the cause of cuts to council services. I’m not sure if they are lying or just stupid.

It should be remembered that the council tax is only a slight variation on the poll tax. The owner of giant mansion pays just three times as much tax as the owner of a one bedroom council flat. Wings Over Scotland reported last year on an academic finding that “raising Council Taxes actually raises inequality.” Council Tax is regressive, and freezing it helps the poor.

Of course, taxation is only one half of the equation. The poor access more public services than the rich, and so suffer greater harm from cuts. Has the council tax freeze harmed council budgets? I had a look at the figures.

Scottish Local Government Revenue Sources

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.33.38

The first thing to notice is that Council Tax makes up just 10.8% of Council income. Changes in Council Tax revenue are 14.7% of the total change in the budget, £149m of the cuts. This figure includes losses from Council Tax cuts, such as the cut by Stirling’s Labour / Tory coalition in 2012.

Meanwhile, business rates have gone up by £108m! The net effect of tax changes is £41m of the £1,015m cut to Scottish council budgets since 2009. Even by Scottish Labour standards it’s one hell of a bending of the truth to blame cuts in council services on the Council Tax freeze.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.51.13The fall in sales, rents and fees, presumably a result of the recession, is around the same size as the council tax changes. Both are dwarfed by the £371m fall in General Revenue Funding and a £448m fall in “Other Income.” I couldn’t find a clear definition of Other Income, but cross-referencing with the Scottish Budget suggests that it is mostly miscellaneous central government funding. Around £1bn of cuts have been made to Holyrood spending on local government since 2009.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.39.37The cuts to council funding from central government are severe, but must be seen in the context of Westminster’s £3,737m per year cut to the Scottish departmental expenditure limit since 2009. Local government cuts are caused by Westminster block grant cuts, not by the council tax freeze.

In fact, that SNP have reduced a regressive tax on homes and increased a tax on businesses. Tartan Tories, my arse.

Would independence have protected Grangemouth?

Today has been a comprehensive defeat for the employees of Grangemouth, a site through which about 10% of Scotland’s GDP (1% of the UK) passes, and which itself contributes 1.2% of Scottish GDP*. Unite the union have agreed to wage cuts, pension cuts, and a three year no-strike guarantee. That will place downward pressure on wages across Scotland.

This is the same union that won a strike over pensions just two years ago. What changed?


That the union were “Led into an ambush” seems about right. No one can blame the workers and their shop stewards for not wanting to lose their jobs, or to fight a protracted strike over Christmas, with no certainty if they would ever return to work. They were forced to ask themselves whether Ineos was serious about liquidation – that is, sacking the workers and selling off the assets.

Ineos would have happily fought a long strike or liquidated the plant, using its deep pockets to outlast the workers if necessary. A company like Ineos probably can’t be beaten without international trade unions. Their interest was not so much in cutting wages right now, but in breaking the confidence of the workers and their union.

A combination of economic necessity and public pressure put nationalisation on the table in Scotland but not at Westminster. The Scottish government played down the idea of nationalisation, but never absolutely ruled it out. The Westminster government described the situation as “regrettable” and took little action. The Scottish government is not allowed to borrow money – it has to balance its books each year.

That makes it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to nationalise the plant, which is expected to be loss-making over the short term and highly profitable after 2022. Ineos’ cooperation would have been necessary to continue running the plant, and the Scottish government would have been forced to buy the physical plant out of liquidation and rehire the staff. An independent country would be able to compulsory-purchase the whole plant, for “appropriate compensation”.

With the full powers of independence, nationalisation would have been at least a plausible outcome, which would have tremendously strengthened that hand of the trade union. Perhaps under independence, we wouldn’t be staring defeat in the face today.

* I have been unable to identify the primary sources for these figures, but they seem to be generally accepted in the press.

We need independence to escape from the FIRE

I am pro either independence or fiscal autonomy.

Why? Because the UK has a financial (FIRE – finance, insurance, real-estate) economy, which means powerful bankers. An independent Scotland could not support this kind of economy, and the SNP are proposing reindustrialisation on the basis of renewable energy (Scotland has 1/4 of Europe’s wind and 1/4 of its tidal potential). That means powerful manufacturing interests.

If you look around the world, countries where bankers are powerful end up with privatisation and countries where manufacturers are powerful (like Germany) end up with strong social infrastructure, good healthcare etc. Probably because trade unions are stronger and manufacturing means you need a healthy, educated population.

I don’t think that Scots are more compassionate than English people but I think a Scottish state (or autonomous region) would be forced by economics to be more compassionate than the British state.

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