Monday, 20 September 2010

The unacceptable face of nationalism

It seems that one or two nationalist blogs/websites have spotted an opportunity in relation to recent allegations concerning a Glasgow Labour councillor's involvement in a private hire taxi* firm in the city called Network. The business has attracted some adverse publicity because Strathclyde Police objected to the renewal of its licences due to alleged links with a convicted criminal, which of course is consistent with long-term allegations about links between Glasgow's private hire trade and organised crime. However, in the past few days police have dropped their objections because the individual about whom they had concerns has severed all ties with Network.

But the black cab/hackney trade in the city are protesting because Network has recently been awarded several lucrative public sector contracts, and the spotlight has turned to a senior Labour councillor who works as a driver for Network, and this has resulted in accusations of undue influence. It's not clear what evidence there is for this other than the fact that the councillor drives under Network's umbrella - where he's presumably self-employed - and indeed the Herald's latest instalment in the saga discloses that the SNP councillor who made the allegations has effectively been cut loose by the party, and the accused Labour councillor has been consulting defamation lawyers about the claims.

Anyway, as stated at the outset some SNP supporters on the internet are viewing the disgruntlement of Glasgow's hackney cab trade as an opportunity to co-opt them to campaign against the Labour-controlled city council.

Which perhaps smacks of wishful thinking, at least as far as any significant campaign is concerned, but in any case there's perhaps one big fly in the ointment.

That's the fact that the Glasgow hackney trade benefits from a closed market operated between itself and the city council, highlighted earlier this year in the press and on this blog. And indeed at that time SNP MSP Sandra White described the profiteering in licence plates resulting from the cartel as a "very disturbing problem".

Of course, the black cab trade is unhappy about the loss of the public sector contracts to the private hire sector, but do they really want to campaign against a council which affords it a closed market and thus monopoly profits?

And indeed this could potentially open up a whole can of worms for all concerned. For example, Network Private Hire countered the black cab trade's allegations by accusing it of being involved in "the illegal black market in licence plates which, as everyone knows, is a magnet for money-laundering".

Indeed, this market is murky enough as it is without the possibility of money laundering, and as stated here previously it seems that even justice secretary Kenny MacAskill is either largely clueless about it all or would prefer that the facts remain obfuscated.

It should also be recalled that a senior SNP councillor who was involved with Festival City private hire in Edinburgh faced similar questions regarding Glasgow's Network Private Hire - and thus allegations involving organised crime - when a director of Network took control of Festival. And in response to the claims the SNP's chair of Edinburgh's regulatory committee seemed all over the place as regards one particular licensing issue.

Of course, all the above is largely the usual allegations and muckraking - with at worst some regulatory incompetence born of cronyism and vested interests - so what of the "unacceptable face of nationalism"?

This relates to one blogger who thinks that the SNP should exploit the anger of the Glasgow black cab trade to add to the campaign against Glasgow City Council. To help rationalise this he outlines why black cab drivers "detest" the private hire trade - essentially because they are in competition with each other! - and also relates a little anecdote about how a black cab driver responded to being boxed in by two mischievously parked minibuses by petrol-bombing them, at their home address to boot. This, the good blogger opines, demonstrates their "resourcefulness" and that they're a "formidable" enemy, thus just the job for the SNP!

Perhaps anyone with any sense of decency would conclude that the black cab driver in question is a dangerous criminal and unfit to drive members of the public around instead of suggesting that his actions demonstrate that the black cab trade could be utilised to campaign for the SNP.

With friends like these...

*Technically speaking "private hire taxi" is incorrect and an oxymoron, because the Scottish legislation used the terms "taxi" for a public hire cabs and "private hire vehicle" for anything else. The term "hackney carriage" derives from the legislation in force south of the border.

However, since the word "taxi" is commonly used generically to refer to both the public and private hire sides of the trade, it's used similarly above to aid clarity. Or to confuse pedants!

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