Monday, 8 August 2011

Should Scotland Have Its Own Honours System?

Last week the false indignation from the various political parties about Alex Salmond's association with News International was entertaining.  Johann Lamont in Newsnight Scotland gave a excruciating performance when attempting to defile the First Minister's association with Rupert Murdoch and Willie Rennie was no better.

All credit to the SNP for making public the list of all the First Minister's meetings with members of News International along with copies of correspondence with Rupert Murdoch.  I could see nothing in the letters denoting impropriety, on the contrary, the FM shows his determination to talk up and for Scotland.  The prompt publications rather took the opposition parties by surprise and left them floundering around in a desperate attempt to score a hit on Alex Salmond.  Their plans backfired.

The accusation that the First Minister was involved in the nomination of the Stagecoach owner Brian Souter - the SNP's biggest financial backer - is more serious. Mr Souter was given his award for services to transport and the voluntary sector in June following a request from the Edinburgh administration the UK Cabinet Office stated.

The Labour MP, Cathy Jamieson, investigated the nomination through UK government channels and the response she received last week stated the nomination 'came from the Scottish Government'. A spokesman for the First Minister said the SNP ministers had nothing to do with the nomination, saying the process had been handled by non-political officials. A spokesman stated:

"When nominations are received by the Scottish Government, the honours group in our civil service supports the permanent secretary in putting forward nominations to the UK Cabinet Office Honours Committee.
"Under this system, honours announced in June would have been submitted six months in advance.
"Ministers make no nominations, and are only told of honours shortly before they are announced, so they can welcome those being recognised."

The UK peerage system is distasteful in its present form. Currently the Scottish government has an Independent Honours Committee which consists of civil servants led by the permanent secretary and it makes recommendations to the UK Cabinet Office Honours Committee.  Is it necessary to have such a committee in Holyrood? Why do nominations need to pass through Holyrood?

If Scotland wants to honour citizens who have acted for the good of their fellow man then let us have our own system for acknowledging their contributions. The prize, instead of a seat in the House of Lords, could be the freedom of their town/city. Any other suggestions will be welcomed.


William said...

You have to say that if Alex Salmond burst into an old folks home and machine gunned down all the residents, the cyber-Nats would defend their man by saying 'to be fair, these people were old and were going to die soon anyway.'

Richard Lucas said...

If there is to be an honours system in Scotland, it needs to be totally insulated from political influence. nomination and selection should be a wholly public matter, with the awards going to such people as dedicated carers and volunteers, not time-served political and media types.

subrosa said...

Auch William, I'm not defending Alex Salmond, but the stooshie about the Murdoch business is nonsense. All political parties cosy up to media people.

subrosa said...

Well said Richard and along my own train of thought. Having an 'independent' committee in Holyrood makes things far too near politicians.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that the government did well to publish the various contacts it had with NI. I suspect that they also had meetings with the Herald, Record, P&J, Scotsman and Courier.

And of course the government always has contact the press. It's the number of contacts that the English ministers and opposition had with Murdoch, and the very personal nature of some of them that is worrying.

As for honours, I'm very surprised that this government puts anyone forward for the discredited honours system. That the Met found that there was no money involved in honours means nothing. They also found that Murdoch didn't have a case to answer. I imagine that they might well have found it "convenient" find no case to answer against Blair's government.

If the English wish to shower themselves with titles and remnants of the empire, that's their business.

But to be fair to Soutar, he does run a good bus company, with by and large polite staff including conductors, good, clean buses and a timetable that can be stuck to. Compared with the opposition that is really quite something. Dundee's Birmingham run buses are worse than awful in every single aspect.

In my opinion Soutar could have been given an honour from us. Something along the lines of Legion of Honour would be fine... but to hand out honours relating to aristocratic status in the 21st century makes England look like a toy town mittle European state of cheesy operettas.

Demetrius said...

Would the pre-eminent award be Knight Of The Ancient Order Of The Buckie?

Sandy said...

Should Scotland have its own honours system ?

Freedom of a city is a fairly meaningless honour when compared to the law making powers enjoyed by the House of Lords.

But then again what party other than the SNP would honour people with Scotlands interests at heart ?

Bit of a can of worms there Rosie.

McGonagall said...

"Dissatisfaction with the British honours system led to the creation of the Order of Canada in 1967."

Canadians accepting a UK title are stripped of their citizenship.

J. R. Tomlin said...

William, when are you going to put forth that Salmond is responsible for rioting in London? It doesn't matter what happens where, according to the BritNats it is Salmond's fault. Salmond accused...

And most people have long since stopped believing any of it.

As far as Souter, since Salmond and his ministers apparently had no say in the nomination, I have to disagree, Rosie. It's another non-story.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I think what you are saying, Rosie, is that although as Scotland is a part of the UK, Scots should be debarred from receiving honours or should only be nominated for honours by someone in England.

Did you REALLY mean that? Is that honestly a reasonable or productive opinion. As noxious as many people find the HoL, it exists and even exerts certain power and you want Scots to be barred from it?


Anonymous said...

JRT: I think they should be barred form it, because it should be abolished immediately. It's a HUGE waste of money. If the overpaid MPs and senior civil servants did their jobs properly there would be no need for a revising chamber... It could be used as housing for poor people living in slums.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Tris, on the abolishion of the HoL and that it is a huge waste of money, you have an excellent point. I just don't think it should be only Scots who are barred from it was my point. But what are the chances of such a constitutional change any time soon?

On the other hand, if Scotland becomes independent, it becomes a moot point from the Scottish perspective and someone else's problem. ;-)

Dubbieside said...


One point on the honours to Brian Souter argument.

The Herald has the important part of the civil servants letter sent to Jamieson.

The spokesman pointed to the letter written to Ms Jamieson by the UK Government’s permanent secretary, Peter Housden, in which he wrote that “Scottish Ministers have no involvement in the Honours process”.

Now I wonder why none of the other papers or the BBC mentioned that part.

On the main point should Scotland have its own honours system, NO, totally outdated patronage system, which as Labour showed when they were selling knighthoods and peerages, open to abuse.

P.S. I like the new SNP tactic to counter the dodgy Labour attacks, make freedom of information requests about Labours involvement in the areas they are attacking i.e. Murdoch.

Time for a freedom of information request on all correspondence about Labour nominations for honours.

Dubbieside said...


Labour knew that the SNP government did not nominations for honours.

Peter at Moridura has a post about it on his blog. It was George Foulkes, who asked the question.

Question S3W-21587 - George Foulkes ( Lothians ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 04/03/2009 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive what the arrangements are in Scotland for consideration of nominations for honours and what changes there have been since May 2007.

Answered by John Swinney ( 25/03/2009 ):

Nominations are received from a variety of sources, including members of the public, outside organisations and Lord-Lieutenants. Prior to May 2007, Scottish ministers added their own nominations to those from other sources. Nominations from all sources are initially assessed by Scottish Government officials who assist the Permanent Secretary in preparing recommendations for the UK-wide selection committees to consider. Since May 2007, the First Minister has chosen not to exercise the right to approve the recommendations by the Permanent Secretary. The UK-wide selection committees submit their recommendations to HM The Queen through the Prime Minister.

I have copied this from Peters blog as I am sure he would want it to reach as wide an audience as possible.

P.S. Wee Cathy might have missed this answer, she may have been at Lidl for the messages that day.

subrosa said...

Excellent comment Tris and your suggestion is far better than mine.

subrosa said...

Demetrius, have you typed an extra The in error? Not everyone who lives in Buckie would deserve an honour. :)

(I get your wit though - clever!)

subrosa said...

Aye Sandy, it is a can of worms but one I thought worth opening.

subrosa said...

Scunnered, that's a super link. Top of the class for you.

subrosa said...

I understand your view Jeanne but at the moment, with the parliament closed, it's a football for the unionists to kick.

No Jeanne, I don't mean that at all. What I mean is that the Scottish government shouldn't have any part in the UK honours system. why we have an independent honours committee in Holyrood beats me. If someone wants to nominate another for an honour from the Queen through the UK parliament's system then the nomination should be made directly to the relevant office in the UK parliament.

Of course Scots wouldn't be barred from that system.

Why applications for the UK government's honours system have to go through the Scottish parliament doesn't make sense to me. That's an unnecessary extra stage in the process.

However, my suggestion is that Scotland could have its own honours system, differing from the UK one in many ways of course.

subrosa said...

Dubbie, thanks so much for that. I wrote the post late last night and, because I had to take this machine to the apple shop in Aberdeen today so I missed Peter's post and the Herald.

The Scotsman of course didn't quote the whole letter (that's where my quote came from).

petem130 said...

I don't think there should be any honours at all. There is no place for Lords, Sirs, Order of the or that medal etc. Recognition by the state? Why?

Everyday the people of Scotland do wonderful things. They work to make the country better. They help and support others.

The system doesn't work anyway. It's abused and is a throw back to different times. Patronage and cronyism.

The Nobel system has also been devalued. B Obama? Did nothing before he was awarded it has deon even less since. IPCC wining it? Failed political dogma based on unscientific methods.

Respect is the word of the week at the moment. Respect for all members of our society who are all given the opportunity to help locally and nationally. Let's end honours.

subrosa said...

Another good suggestion petem. I may just do a wee poll about it sometime soon. Many thanks.

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