Saturday, 11 August 2012

Service Disruption (Again!)

Due to some ongoing domestics, I'll have some difficulty in updating the blog for a while, possibly a few weeks.

I can't access the blog from work, so until I get some things sorted, I'll basically be able to do bugger all.

So apologies for the absence, but there's plenty else out there to keep you amused.

(erm, don't add any comments since I won't be able to read them!)

Monday, 6 August 2012

What is the point in the Referendum?

I shoved a small comment on another blog the other night, and it got me thinking a bit. So might as well rattle up a quick article.

We have a Referendum in 2014 (just in case you have been locked in a cave for the past year or so). Scotland's voters have a chance to decide on their future. And about bloody time as well, if only to get the damn thing out of the way.

In the Blue Corner - the undisputed political champion, Alex Salmond.

In the Red Corner - the political equivalent of the Keystone Kops.

Looks like a straightforward contest.......

Tale of the tape (or whatever the hell they call it):

Currency (erm Sterling, controlled by the Bank of England)
Defence (in NATO, out of NATO, in NATO, out of NATO shake it all about)
Independent State in Europe (erm doing what unelected eurocrats tell us)
No Nukes on Scottish soil (after about 20 years)
100% renewables (100% bullshit more like)
Open Government (see renewables above)
Superhealthy Scots (ditto)
No more PFI (ours is soooo much better)

Status Quo (top band, leave them out of this)
Currency (erm Sterling, controlled by the Bank of England - more like uncontrolled)
Defence (2 aircraft carriers, fuck all aircraft)
Independent of Europe (erm, *sniff* smell shite)
Nukes on Scottish soil (if one explodes it might count as gentrification)
100% renewables (erm, you know the answer)
Open Government (erm, as above)
Supereducated kids (minimum Grade A******** guaranteed, just don't ask them 1 + 1)
No more PFI (we've called it something else)

All feeble attempts at humour I agree (only got 3 hours sleep last night), but at present, the choices aren't overly great.

Take your pick........

Friday, 3 August 2012

Petty Nationalism

Just read a post on another blog, where the person (NOT the blog author I must add) slagged off a Scottish Olympian (scolympian?) by calling the individual an "out and out unionist".

Personally, I'm sick to the back teeth of such comments. Joan McAlpine has been the most high profile nationalist (I don't class her as a politician, sorry) that has used the "anti-Scottish" phrase or one similar to it.

If you look at history, there are a number of occasions when such an approach has been used. The old "if you are not with us, you are against us". In a few cases, extremism has taken over. Unlikely in Scotland, but then it was considered unlikely in other locations as well.

Nationalists - and unionists - do not have the right to criticise what an individual's political leanings are. There are a few exceptions - politicians (obviously), senior civil servants and others who should be politically neutral in their profession.

But athletes are the same as you and I. They have chosen a profession, and in cases such as Chris Hoy, have excelled in it. They have a lot of influence, and you could ask how many Scots have taken up cycling because of his success? The same with Andy Murray, another Scot classed by the cybernat brigade as a "unionist traitor" (I've seen that exact phrase used more than once).

I would have thought that given the start of the Referendum campaign, the more venomous nationalists would have wired their traps shut (or more appropriately nailed their fingers to the desk). But no, things have not settled down, and it could be argued that things are worse.

The SNP has practically no control over these armchair warriors. Let us hope that if Scotland does choose independence, these people are kept locked away somewhere, well away from any position of power or influence.

People should be celebrating the success of Scots in any field, be it sport, science or business. They should not be making cheap digs simply because they assume they are a unionist. It's patronising, insulting and frankly childish. No wonder some commentators think Scotland is "too wee and too stupid" to be independent. Not when they see the level of debate in some quarters.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

What is the Point of Democracy?

I'm referring to the Scottish Government's decision to overturn the decision by Dumfries & Galloway Council to refuse planning permission for the proposed windfarm at Wigtownshire.

The residents are against it, as are the council, saying it would adversely impact the area.

But oh no, nothing can stand between Salmond and his plan for 100% renewables.

The company, RES, said the windfarm would bring social and economic benefits to the community.

What benefits? Will energy prices suddenly plummet?

I live in sight of two huge windfarms - my electricity prices keep going up. Windfarms are subsidised and cannot provide the energy when it is truly needed. People are starting to get sick of bloody windfarms appearing on every hilltop.

The Scottish Government reporter overturned the decision of the Council, which was democratically elected by the "people of Scotland" - in this case Dumfries & Galloway. Apparently there are a number of "conditions" attached. Perhaps the turbines will be painted pink. They are a feeble attempt to make the Government look like they have paid close attention. No they bloody haven't. I'll bet the project was always going to get the green light, since anything else would upset Government policy on renewables.

What is the point in democracy when central governments continually override local councils? It happened with Trump, and it's happened here.

Had there been a Labour government in power, you can be damned sure that the nationalists would have been baying for blood.

There is a need for renewable energy sources, but we need ones that really do bring the costs down, without subsidies and stop blighting the landscape.

This Government also needs to start listening to the people who voted them in, something that is becoming rarer by the day.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremony

Ignoring the obscene cost of the whole Olympics, something better dealt with in another article, the opening ceremony was superb.

Three things stood out however:

The Olympic Cauldron was amazing and certainly unique. A masterful design.

The seven young athletes who lit the Cauldron. That was an incredible gesture and totally blew away all the tabloid media crap that has been circulating for weeks.

But nothing will beat the reception given to Muhammad Ali. A true sporting legend and the reaction to his presence was incredible.

The downside? David Bloody Beckham - Yes, I know he was instrumental in getting the Olympics to London, and he is - was - a superb footballer. But he is not an Olympic athlete. Chris Hoy, Kelly Holmes, Steve Redgrave etc are. They are more deserving of the attention, something they do not actively seek.

And please, please, please stop wheeling out Paul McCartney. Bit ironic having a musician with drugs convictions at an event where the athletes pledge not use them.......

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Private Lives

Given the excellent decision of the Scottish Government to allow gay marriage, it highlights the fact that provided someone does not break the law, rams their beliefs down our throats or causes problems for others, then their private life is no one elses business.

The religious bodies are condemning the decision, but no one is forcing them to conduct ceremonies against their religion in their places of worship. Any attempt to do so would certainly be wrong.

Your private life is yours. For many, what they do is a form of relaxation and enjoyment. I know people who play computer games who are well into their forties; train enthusiasts (they hate the word "spotter"), model makers, ramblers, people who prefer to read, those that frequent the pub, film fanatics. The list is endless. It is an escape from the daily grind and should be encouraged.

Returning to the subject of gay marriage. Can anyone really justify why it should not be allowed? Marriage is not necessarily a religious ceremony these days. There are those who consider it so and that is perfectly acceptable. What cannot be tolerated is outright condemnation from those religious leaders who on one hand are preaching tolerance yet on the other being completely intolerant.

Let us have a Scotland that is truly tolerant of others.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

What do the SNP really want?

I ask this question because I'm now totally confused as to precisely what the SNP propose for an independent Scotland.

In the beginning..... Scotland was to stand as an independent nation, with its own currency, economic policy, military and so on. Free of the shackles of Westminster and Europe and let the people decide. We'll all be superhuman, healthy, speak ten languages, win the World Cup (getting into the finals will suffice), be fantastically wealthy, zero emmissions (Holyrood excepted), enough wind turbines to levitate us nearer the equator (nae mair wellies, sorry Billy), be the centre of world policy, free of Tories, totally self-sufficient and with Alex Salmond elevated to Deity (look it up).

Complete bollocks (as Mr Anonymouse commentator says on a few blogs) but bloody good sales technique - if you like calling people at night saying "just doing a survey".

Now reality has hit the SNP with the subtlety of smashing ones thumb with a hammer, accompanied by the appropriate colourful language.

Judging by what the various disciples ministers have told us, this is what independence now means:

No nukes.....eventually
NATO the people party decide

Not telling (until the big man at the FOI makes us)

Erm, ask the Bank of England

Alex Salmond for European President but we'll ask the people of Scotland first

Referendum Questions
There will be one leading question....sorry two.... erm, three?....hang on four.....any advance on four?

There are grumblings in Blogland even among some of the most diehard supporters. Of course, there is one noticeable exception in the shape of the Temple of the Fundamental Wing of the Alex Salmond Appreciation Society, where the initiates and high priests ensure His Word is obeyed.

The Referendum is over two years away, with more of the bloody campaigning still to come. I've always said that six months was sufficient time, but no, the SNP have to make sure everything ties in with a reminder we gave the English a kicking (a few hundred years before they kicked the shit out of us in a Northumberland field).

I do not know what the SNP want in an independent Scotland, and I don't think they know either.
Could it be that all they want to achieve is independence, and bugger the consequences?

The other parties, Greens and Scottish Socialists, are an irrelevance in the independence campaign. The Greens want to tax the hell out of everyone who contributes to global warming - ie all of us, we all fart - and the Scottish Socialists want to tax the hell out of everyone who employs people as well as paying the employees as much as a banker.

Achieving independence whatever is the desire of a few people, and I've seen such comments. But what is the point of independence if the party proposing it keep changing the details of the policies?

Some say that the Unionists need to give some good reasons to keep the status quo.

No they bloody don't.

We already live in the Union. We know what it means to be in the Union. It's a pretty fair assumption that if we vote to stay in the Union then bugger all will change (apart from Alex Salmond's name appearing on every flipping polling card at an election).

The nationalists need to give some good reasons for independence. "The people will control their own destiny" is a pile of shite. No they won't. Those that bother to vote in elections in an independent Scotland will still get the same crap from Government, whether they like it or not. Wee Jim fae Easterhoose will still get his giro; the only change is that it will probably be in both English and Gaelic.

I'm being a cynical bastard because I've never seen so many policies being mucked about. And far too much attention seems to be given to the Referendum. The message is always the same when things go right (effective SNP policies) and the same when they go wrong (wisnae us pal, wis Westminster).

The SNP have spent a fair amount of time and money producing that lovely document for the Referendum campaign. It's a bit bloody late to start amending it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Outsourcing Work

What do I mean by "Outsourcing Work"?

It refers to any process which is controlled and/or paid by one organisation, but given to another to actually carry out the process in question.

That does not necessarily mean privatisation. There are government departments, local and national, which carry out work but is centrally managed by another.

The Olympic security contract is an example of outsourcing. The Government has overall responsibility for security, but G4S have been tasked to carry out the actual process.

The main problem with outsourcing work is the monitoring of it. I've got several years experience in that field, both in the private and public sector, including a couple of jobs carried out on a personal basis.

The key problem is to identify problems before they arise; not two weeks before the outsourced company is expected to deliver. OK, politics are involved with the Olympics, but the same principle applies no matter how important or how large a project is.

I don't have the details of how G4S planned their recruitment, but having spent a few year in the recruitment industry, I do have some sympathy for them. I've been involved in staffing call centres, and that is hard enough.

But the Government / Locog should have had a more effective monitoring process in place, including their own staff working directly on site with G4S. Now we have a situation where everyone is trying to cover their backsides. No doubt there will be an investigation following the Games, but that is really irrelevant considering the Olympics will be unlikely to return to the UK in our lifetimes.

There are lessons to be learned, and by the Scottish Government with regards to the Commonwealth Games, as well as other projects.

Monitoring and auditing processes is a critical function in business, most especially when you are paying someone else to carry out your work. It's a tricky job doing such monitoring. You need a thick skin, supreme diplomatic skills and the skill of a politician when fielding awkward questions. Oh, and you also need to provide solutions to problems that are identified or arise.

(If anyone from the Scottish Government is reading, I'm available at a reasonable rate!)

Let's hope that the Scottish Government has effective monitoring processes in place. A failure to ensure that public money is being properly utilised is not a good way to be re-elected.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Olympic Security

Unless you have been living on another planet, you will be aware that the main news topic at the moment is the unfolding fiasco of Olympic security.

The main contractor has some serious staffing issues, and the Westminster Government has a few problems of their own. A ministerial head could roll for this. And I think the Defence Secretary is the prime target.

Additional service personnel are having to be drafted to make up for the shortfall of privately contracted staff, many of whom apparently did not turn up for work. I'm not going to descend into tabloid journalism here, with accusations of non-English speaking staff and whatnot. There could be many reasons for the failure to recruit properly, and having had substantial experience within the recruitment industry, I know just how difficult things can be.

The key concern is the use of additional Armed Forces personnel, some of whom have been drafted at short notice, with holidays cancelled in some cases - a fact confirmed by the Defence Secretary.

Serving personnel are fully aware that they may be assigned duties at very short notice, causing such problems. This is something you accept when you sign up.

But cancelling holidays because of a complete balls-up on such a major project is absolutely unforgiveable, especially with the recent announcement of yet more redundancies.

Boris Johnson was on yesterday defending this. He pointed out that service personnel were in attendance at Wimbledon. But what he did not tell you, and few of you will actually be aware, is that those attending Wimbledon are all volunteers who must use their own annual leave entitlement to do so. It is a very popular duty considering you get to see world class tennis for free.

Those attending the Olympics are not so fortunate. No doubt there will be some who will want to be there, but carrying out stewarding duties at the grass courts is far more interesting that doing stag at some checkpoint. And judging by the latest news reports basic accommodation and leisure facilities have yet to be sorted.

The Armed Forces are highly trained in security duties, and will carry out these duties in a highly professional and efficient manner.

But to use them in such a way to effectively cover the organising committee, G4S and the Government is both embarassing and insulting.

The whole issue is a disgrace.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

John Lyndon for Prime Minister?

Nothwithstanding his little dig at the Scots (no doubt the cybernats will be throwing things at the telly and burning their Sex Pistols records), he's about the only member of tonight's Question Time panel who spoke some sense.

There has been much debate this week about changing the culture of the banking system. Perhaps it is time to change the culture of politics.

Watching some politicians today, the behaviour was appalling, and the worst example was in the House of Commons with the ding-dong between Balls and Osbourne. Each side blaming the other while telling everyone how competent they are.

The same sort of crap can be seen at Holyrood as well. Politicians trying to outdo each other while making complete arses of themselves.

Yes, we know that a lot of good work does go unreported, especially within committees, but the public face of politics needs to change, especially since the level of trust in politicians is rather lacking these days.

Back to Mr Lyndon. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea (I like him), but imagine having a Prime Minister (or First Minister) with that sort of personality.

Be interesting to see what lyrics he would use for the National Anthem.......

Friday, 29 June 2012

Service Disruption

Apologies for the lack of activity, but I've been a bit unwell lately. Nothing terminal mind but enough to floor me substantially for several weeks. Let's hope we recover before 2014.

Having just watched the bloody shambles that was described as a debate on the BBC, it shows just how much misinformation is out there - from all sides.

As to the panelists....... Margo was good (most of the time), Annebel ok, Curran dodgy but as to Fiona Hyslop - keep her away from any serious debates.

The audience? Bloody awful as well. The BBC really need to not only research their audience, but ensure that any errors they make in comments are corrected.

Brian as a presenter? Absolutely not. One of the worst performances I've ever seen.

In short, the whole programme was a disaster and an affront to serious Scottish politics.

And did Newsnet have a plant in the audience?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Back to Sitting on the Independence Fence

I've decided to go back to sitting on the fence, at least where it relates to being in favour of independence.

I used to reside there, and then about eighteen months ago fell squarely into the independence garden. Labour was a disaster; Cameron had teamed up with the Lib Dems; Andy Coulson was brought into the Conservative Inner Circle; Iain Gray was impotent; health was doing great in Scotland; council tax freeze; Salmond was the ultimate statesman (Diageo nothwithstanding).

Let's get one thing absolutely clear - I voted for the SNP last May in the Scottish Elections and continue to support them, even if some of their policies are in my view totally crap (transport for starters). I also have a damn good MSP in Linda Fabiani.


Some of their policies on independence are - to put it bluntly - a bloody mess.

Currency - first the Euro, now Sterling.

Europe - a desire to be at the heart of an political entity that is rapidly disintegrating.

Defence - the recent decision on whether an independence Scotland will be in NATO or not has been put off to allow the party to decide. That single action was the trigger that has returned me to the fence. Independence policies are  - to paraphrase the First Minister - for the people of Scotland to decide. Not the SNP party faithful.

Added to this is the SNP's relationship with Murdoch. They don't need the support of his organisation. The SNP secured an historic majority with a hostile press and limited resources. Now they have substantial funds but are trapped in a relationship with a private organisation that is under investigation, and has already paid out substantial compensation.

Moreover, the First Minister ignored the Scottish Parliament - of whom he is the figurehead - when questionned about certain allegations, preferring ironically to respond to a Westminster sponsored enquiry.

The SNP needs to stop this utopia bullshit and start giving definite answers on how an independent Scotland will look. There are concerns that need addressed, but to date have not been and I doubt ever will be.

My views are not tainted by the BBC or other unionist media. I read a lot of news, but I can spot media bullshit a mile away. I look at how politicians perform in Parliament, in interviews and on the street. Nor do other blogs influence my views. I make my own mind up.

I want an independent Scotland, but what is on offer at present makes me wonder what exactly I will be getting. There is an air of "independence or bust", something I thought Salmond had kicked into the long grass. But ever since that historic majority last year, the judgement has gone walkabouts.

The SNP has become arrogant rather than confident, and unless that changes, and they start giving a realistic vision to an independent Scotland, they are in for a shock come 2014.

(I'll accept all comments. But if you simply want to rant and accuse me of being a unionist, traitor or anything similar don't bother. I know where to go if I want that sort of abuse.)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chemical Weapon Contamination

It's been revealed that there was a risk from chemical weapons buried at RAF Kinloss, specifically sulphur mustard based weapons. This comes after the ongoing issue with contamination at Dalgety Bay.

The sulphur chemical weapons were from World War 2. Chemical weapons such as mustard gas were never deployed during that war, as they were in 1914-18, but they certainly existed.

The Royal Engineers spent a considerable time training in the deployment of poison gas, although there were very few units, and they were more involved in bridge construction. The training took place in various locations in the UK, generally remote.

The MoD keeps telling us that there is "no risk" today. But that immediately raises concerns. How many times have government departments said that there was "no risk"? This is not an issue about road building delays, or propping up a bank. Contamination from chemical weapons can last decades, especially in concentration.

What is needed is a frank and open admission as to where else there is contamination, to what level and the potential danger to the public. This is not time for covering one's backside.

The contamination is not the fault of the present Government, nor is it the fault of anyone working at the MoD. So why is there this apparent reluctance to give out the full facts?

People would give credit for a bit of honesty for once. The contamination is there - deal with that problem rather than worrying if you are going to get into trouble.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Respect for Parliament

To paraphrase Joan McAlpine, I make no apology for this article.

As the Presiding Officer so rightly pointed out today, being in the position of an MSP in the Scottish Parliament is a priviledge, and one that must be highly respected.

Ms McAlpine seems to think the opposite.

It turns out that on not one, but several occasions, she has failed to be present in Parliament when she was required to do so. That is inexcuseable.

One news source gave us the juicy details about what she had for lunch. That is irrelevant. What is important is that she seems to have little if any respect for the Scottish Parliament, and simply using her position to promote independence.

Just as a reminder, she was elected to serve the residents in her area. She was not elected to  spend time stuffing her face and turning up when she felt like, or as it seems, remembered to do so.

As a member of the Education and Culture Committee, you would think she would be setting an example. As a newly elected MSP, you would also expect her to be working her backside off for everyone she represents.

Her skills as a journalist are without question, but as a politician she is rapidly turning out to be an embarrassment to not only the SNP, but the Scottish Parliament itself.

Whether Scotland becomes independent or not, the Scottish Parliament must show it is capable of being a proper seat of government, and not a pretendy parliament as some critics would have it. Politicians of all parties have a part to play in supporting the Parliament.

It's about time some of ours remembered this.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

This Week (Yet Again)

Apologies for the lack of content, but domestic issues have to take priority at the moment. Nothing too serious but health of others has to come before blogging.

So, unfortunately it's back to a quick scan of the latest news with a feeble attempt at satire........

Top of the agenda, both the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary have had what could be described as challenging conference appearances with the Police and Nurses respectively. Both seem to be keen on receiving the Prime Minister's blessing in the form of "My Full Confidence", a the immortal words that herald the start of a new career.

Not content with taking over Scotland, Alex Salmond has invaded the USA, appearing on a chat show, with his interview filmed in Abroath (cue the "Cringe"). Members of the Fundamentalist Wing of the Alex Salmond Society are practically creaming themselves with this one. Perhaps he has plans to join his big pal Sean and rule in absentia. After all, he is omnipresent.

The Queen of Spain has cancelled a visit to the UK, blaming issues over Gibraltar fishing rights. The problem appears to be a sort of hybrid mix of Argentina and Iceland, in this case the UK has both the land and the fish. Considering the Spanish steal our fish it serves them bloody right.

The SFA have rejected Rangers appeal against their fine and transfer embargo. Good luck in the Third Division.

A female prison officer has been jailed for harbouring an escaped prisoner. I don't think the jury was ever going to accept that she was hanging on to him until help arrived. Either that or it was an interesting game of hide 'n seek.

And finally (to much relief), an SNP councillor once sacked as Provost has been reinstated into the post. One little known fact is that she is a belly dancer.

There's hope for Alex yet.......

(relative normality should resume this weekend........)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

This Week

Well, yet another exciting week.

The local elections were held in Scotland, England and Wales, with some exciting results.
The SNP failed to take Glasgow (blaming Westminster cuts); Labour survived; the Tories clung on and Nick Clegg went into hiding. Puir wee Gail failed to win a seat. No big swings this time (ooer missus). A ballot box with uncounted votes was uncovered, causing an immediate reaction from the Fundamentalist Wing of the Alex Salmond Appreciation Society that the entire election process had been fixed. Their evidence was in the BBC's reporting of the elections results, eloquently described by one well-known blogger as "shite". (There is currently an argument as to who was first with this out. Thought I'd mention this to keep things stirred up!)

In London, Boris achieved something no one thought possible - forcing Ken Livingston's retirement. Ed Milliband expressed absolute f*****g joy sadness and regret that a Labour dinosaur stalwart had decided to leave the political arena.

Staying with London, the latest weapon has been unveiled - a sonic cannon. The official line is it will be used for announcements to the crowds, with the ability to control them if they start some trouble. Rumour has it that it is fact to be used to shut Seb Coe up.

Ms Brookes appeared at the Levenson Enquiry, displaying some better memory recall than her former employer. Dave and Becky exchanged texts with "LOL". Allegedly Dave thought it stood for "Lots of Love" rather than "Laugh out Loud". So much for the PM being down with it.

The saga over Rangers future continues unabated. There is more chance of a Greek coalition government being formed than a buyer finally coughing up some cash. Given that the Blue Knights failed yet again, it is ironic that the preferred bid is being led by someone called Green.

And finally, Prince Charles presented the weather on BBC Scotland this. But stay calm people, it was not some unionist monarchist conspiracy to keep us serfs in line. Perhaps some work experience for the future?

I'll see myself out.........

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Question

Less than a week after the local elections, the Referendum raise its head yet again. This time from the voice of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westmister.

They have described the Referendum question suggested by the Scottish Government as "biased", with much wailing and gnashing of teeth from some nationalists.

Just in case you weren't aware of the question, here it is:

"Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?"

That is what is correctly described as leading question, which for clarity is a question where the person asking the question suggests the answer he/she is looking for.

In other words, bias.

The Committee is absolutely correct. I don't know who came up with that question, but I suspect someone with a journalistic background. Only journalists tend to use leading questions in a professional capacity. Employers certainly cannot use them when interviewing candidates, and nor do I suspect can the police. From my own experience in interviewing and assessing interviewers, I would never allow such a question to be used.

That question above is asking for an opinion, not a definitive answer. It's a bit like asking someone if they agree that cod liver oil tastes disgusting, rather than asking them if they want to try some.

No doubts the arguments will rage on and on, with the Scottish Government accusing Westminster of interfering. But they have brought the criticism upon themselves with such a blatant leading, almost loaded, question.

The question has to be phrased in a similar was as follows:

"Do you want Scotland to be an independent country?"

Closed question requiring a simple yes or no answer. No bias, no hints, no leading words or phrases.

If the Scottish Government decide to use their question, then there is a good chance that Westminster will simply ignore the result, with arguments no doubt reaching the courts.

It should also be asked why the Scottish Government want to use a leading question. Could it be they are afraid of the result, or are they simply trying to manipulate the results by adding this question to their desire for 16 and 17 year olds to get the vote as well?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Is Greece heading out of the Euro?

Given the current election results in Greece, with the mainstream parties rejected, is Greece finally going to escape the Euro?

What is of interest is that voters are now supporting the more extremist parties, with some similarities to Germany in the years following the Great War. The German people went for the extremist parties, both communist and facist.

Merkel is not best please with the result, nor would I imagine with the new French President. It seems that the great Euro dream is faltering.

The Greek people have simply had enough. It could be argued that it is the country's own fault for allegedly fiddling the figures prior to entry, but that is the politicians, not the people. Tax avoidance is apparently common in Greece, from top business leaders right down to the taxi driver in the street.

The turning point for the Greeks had to be when Merkel told the then Greek prime minister to cancel his referendum of the Euro. One nation telling another what to do. And unbelievably he obeyed.

I am no economist. I understand the basics but I have little time or inclination to learn about banking and finance. What I do know is that we are in a strange situation where every country seems to owe money. How long can this go on for? I also understand that you cannot always let a bank collapse, but then on the other hand you cannot have them directing policy after they made a mess of their business first time around.

The Greek people have had their say. And judging by current events they will have yet another as a coalition has yet to materialise. That could get even more votes for the extremist parties. The question is whether the new Greek government has the balls to exit the Euro. It may cause them more problems but it would at least give them the tools to sort out problems themselves.

If Greece decides to abandon the Euro, then Spain and Portugal might decide to follow. And if they go, the rest will follow suit. France under its new socialist President may decide to return to the Franc as well, leaving Germany a bit annoyed. How it will affect their economy I haven't a clue, but probably not pleasantly. That would leave Merkel vulnerable.

Greece leaving the Euro might give the respective European governments the proverbial kick up the backside that is sorely needed. Austerity isn't working.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Penguin Politics

First of all, congratulations to the "Penguin" on a successful campaign. Surely the highlight of the elections. It's humiliating enough to be beaten by the Monster Raving Looney Party, but at least they are the same species (I think).

Before my own cynical analysis of the results, for those who want the full statistical analysis, may I direct you to the Burd (link at the right of the page) who has tirelessly produced the correct figures, rather than what the BBC churned out (correctly described as "shite"). And for even more detailed analysis of Glasgow, look no further than Lalland's Peat Worrier.

So, who won?

Nobody. This is not a national election but a series of thirty-two local elections. The SNP may have taken more seats, but the overall gains were pretty well matched with Labour.

The SNP vote held up, bar a few losses. But so did Labour's.

The Lib Dems, as expected, got slaughtered, to a level even below what I expected. I have some sympathy for those who lost seats, since the Westminster coalition has affected them. But to be honest, I have little time for a party who jumps into the political bed with anyone for a sniff of power.

The losses for the Lib Dems may be critical. However, the real test will come at the next parliamentary elections. Going on present form, they are going to be crucified in most areas. But that is for another day.

The Greens made some gains in Edinburgh, doubling their seats to six. A welcome replacement for the Lib Dems.

Labour held up well, and took seats from the Lib Dems and others. But they did not make any substantial gains from the SNP. However, I expect them to be rather relieved and probably pleased with the result.

Put it simply, the SNP blew it. All the spin and bullshit about how they would take the city has come to naught. True, they increased their seats by seven, but these were at the expense of other parties, not Labour. Despite all their efforts, they could not make any inroads into a party that has suffered some turmoil with deselections.

Rather than slagging off the electorate as people who will vote Labour if the candidate was a goat (as one rather well known website's commentators do), perhaps they could look at why the SNP cannot make gains. If people really want a change, then they will get out and vote.

I live in South Lanarkshire, another prime target for the SNP. Linda Fabiani did splendidly last year and blew Andy Kerr off the planet. So come the local elections, I expected a vigorous campaign, considering Big Eck himself kept telling us all that what was happening.

In East Kilbride, the SNP campaign consisted of a leaflet with Alex 'n' Nicola on it. Bog standard political material that can be posted through a door anywhere in Scotland. Meanwhile, Labour leaflets had the local candidates, and the usual splurge about local issues. This was repeated in the week before the elections.

The SNP finally got round to posting a leaflet with the local candidates. Whoopee! A quick read. Who they hell are they? No one had ever heard of them. And neither had bothered their backsides to come round a few doors and tell us why we should vote for them.

No, I think the SNP were relying on the Alex factor once again, despite his time being taken up shoving his head up Murdoch's arse ensuring that Scottish jobs are secure.

The party political broadcast was crap and patronising, even more so than the usual fare we are subject to. The SNP spin went out of control.

The SNP leadership need to be concerned. They could not take seats off Labour despite the party having a mediocre leadership. They did not make any massive gains. Had the Lib Dems not been in the coalition, they would probably have retaineed the majority of their seats.

It was circumstances out of SNP control that won them seats, not direct action.

The SNP are now dismissing the results as having any bearing on the Referendum, saying that people will not vote on political lines. But the fact of the matter is that the SNP are seen as the party of independence. These results will not give them a confidence boost.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Last Week

It has certainly been a busy week.

Jeremy Hunt is in a bit of bother, and has been updating his CV ever since David Cameron expressed his full confidence in his Culture Secretary.

Alex Salmond has denied claims that he is Murdoch's lapdog, and was merely expressing concerns for Scottish jobs - mainly his judging by things. The truth may be more simpler: Donald and Alex have had a wee falling out over the wind turbines. People were hoping it would blow over, but Donald sees an ill wind. Meanwhile, Rupert, anxious to see goodwill in Scotland - a place he finds emotional - has sent none other than Dear Deirdrie in to sort things out. Expect the next Photocasebook to have Alex and Donald in it, but hopefully not in abbreviated clothing as is normal for the Sun. Although some unkind soul may remark that no ladies will be required since there will a couple of tits on display anyway.

Heathrow has a problem with queues. Although not quite on the scale experienced in Argos during December, things are getting worse. The unions are arguing that there is no real control and that illegal immigration is no better than before. I have a suggestion - get the same bastards company who installed the ticket barriers at Glasgow Central Station. No one will get through. Perhaps it is a cunning plan by Lord Coe to ensure Team GB (sounds like a chemical weapon) wins a medal or two by slowing the other athletes up at the airport.

In entertainment, Katie Price (aka Jordan) is to marry yet again. Third time apparently.......... this week.

Defence cuts are biting harder than expected, with NATO only able to deploy cardboard boats in the exercise off Scottish waters. New equipment for tea breaks consist of chocolate kettles.

As I write, Rangers fans are marching on Hampden. Ironically enough this might be the last time they do so unless the Blue Knights come to the rescue. Personally, they should have called for the X-Men.

Tourism is important to Scotland, despite Trump's warnings. Research has shown that tourists want to experience the "real" Scotland, so some budding entrepeneurs submitted this masterpiece to Visit Scotland. Sadly, it was rejected.

But well worth a look:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Sun Ain't Shining Anymore

"I met with Alex Salmond's adviser today.

He will call Hunt whenever we need him to."

That email has caused a bit of a ruckus in Holyrood, and is dragging the First Minister into the morass that Jeremy Hunt finds himself.

Now, Salmond has denied any involvement whatsoever with NewsCorp's plan to takeover BSkyB, and James Murdoch has said that it had nothing to do with Salmond after favourable coverage in papers such as the Sun.

But given the revelations about NewsCorp, and the multiple visits with Salmond, those denials will look hollow to some. Murdoch is right about one thing - politicans will do anything to get media coverage, and the SNP are no exception. In fact, given the hostility shown to the SNP by many sectors of the medua, they were likely to be desperate for any positive coverage.

But Murdoch's empire is only interested in one thing - itself. Rupert Murdoch does not give a damn about any political party unless he can profit from them. Look at the history - Conservatives, Labour, Conservatives, SNP.

An independent Scotland is fertile ground for NewsCorp, especially if - as promised - corporation tax will be substantially lower than elsewhere. Try bumping it up and NewsCorp and Sky will be off. Call centres can be set up practically anywhere in the world - ask Virgin Media.

The SNP is right to seek positive media coverage, but choosing NewsCorp is riddled with danger. And the current revelations from the Levenson Enquiry have just opened up a crack - one that could develop rapidly into a chasm.

The SNP is still dealing with the Bill Walker issue. The last thing they needed was this.

Jeremy Hunt might be toast by the end of the week.

Alex Salmond might get his fingers burned as well.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Public Transport and Regulation

Recently, train and bus fares have gone up, and quite considerably.

In Scotland, public transport is not regulated bar a few odds and sods when it comes to removing services and other pieces. Otherwise, the privately owned and taxpayer subsidised companies can basically do what they like.

A colleague of mine travels from Kilmarnock to Glasgow daily. He uses Stagecoach.. The cost of a weekly ticket rose from £32 to £36, more than the publicised 5% increase. My colleague noticed that since the fare increase, there has been a marked drop in passengers, even taking into account the Easter break. He's since found out that people are now taking the train because it is cheaper.

The bus for many of these people is more convenient, as they live some distance from the rail station in Kilmarnock, plus the bus service is more reliable. Anyone who uses either the Kilmarnock or East Kilbride rail services will understand where I'm coming from.

But the cost has impacted on them. £16 per month is a substantial increase and for many people it is simply too much.

There is no use in the Scottish Government blaming Westminster. They use the same excuse time and again. Transport is devolved to Scotland. There is the opportunity to get public transport in public ownership again, or at least regulated properly. The NHS is being dragged away from PFI, and only recently we've seen what problems you get with private companies - power cuts for starters.

So why not public transport? It is an essential service, more so given the increased prices in fuel and diesel. Running a car is fast becoming a luxury. It is also essential to a solid economy.

Transport Scotland is toothless. I know that from personal experience.

Scotland needs properly regulated public transport. There is little mileage in blaming previous administrations - voters are not interested in that. They want results. Let's have a rail and bus network where there is proper accountability. If that means a few private companies lose out, so be it. Long term effective services are more important than any short term political or monetary gain.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Hiding Bad News?

Slightly late in posting this due to some unforseen circumstances at home.

The story has emerged that Doosan have decided against building a factory in Renfrewshire, coming to light at a conference in Denmark on Wednesday.

The company cited economic problems in Europe as the reason.

All well and good, despite the disappointment. But it turns out that the company informed the Scottish Government in December about their decision, yet ministers did not say a word about this.


Alex Salmond's excuse is disappointingly lame for him, stating that it is not up to him to announce company news. He's keen enough to announce investment plans, so why did he keep quiet?

Perhaps it is because Doosan views Europe as an economic basket case. Can't have that, given the SNP's desire to be at the heart of Europe. Messes up the Referendum Campaign a bit.

A good Government should be able to present bad news as well as good. Any criticism from the opposition soon dies out, whereas burying bad news or in this case withholding it simply feeds the story. It can also make voters suspicious. If a Government isn't telling us about this, what else are they hiding?

The SNP did promise open government. They have to live up to this promise.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Why Socialism Won't Work

Someone sent me a small article on why socialism won't work - some of you may have got the email that is doing the rounds.

I'm not going into some big article, nor am I suggesting that we cut all the benefits and minimum wage. There are however are five sentences below which should be considered:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

If an independent Scotland is to be a fairer society, then it needs a balanced approach to government. Opportunities for people who want to start a business, without the fear of the government taxing the hell out of them. Benefits that give priority to those in real need.

Funnily enough, the Scottish Socialists seem to prefer the approach of taxing the hell out of the rich and giving everyone a huge minimum wage plus other benefits. Perhaps they could explain how this would make Scotland prosper in the long term.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Ballot Paper Confusion

Just in case you have been on another planet, you will be aware that there is the small matter of the Local Government elections on May 3rd. Nothing particularly special in the great scheme of things, having to vote in a few local representatives to organise the bins being emptied and the grass cut.

In 2007 there was a lot of confusion with both the Parliamentary and Local Government elections held on the same day, causing an unprecedented amount of spoiled or invalid papers. Hence the reason for the elections to be held separately this time around.

The Single Transferrable Vote system (STV) will be used again, and the Electoral Commission has distributed leaflets showing how to vote correctly.

However, there is still the potential for a bit of confusion, because this system is different to the one used last year for the Parliamentary one.

You have a list of all the candidates in your ward, with a box beside each name. You make your choices by entering a number beside one, some or all of the candidates. So, for the SNP, enter 1, Labour enter 2 and so on.

But you can make as few or as many choices as you want, provided you vote for at least one candidate.

Possible areas of confusion are where the same party is represented by two or more candidates. Some voters may vote on party lines, thus only selecting one candidate. Others might put a 1 against each of the same party.

Let's remember, that this is a fairly new system only used five years ago. Most people have little time for politics and some will find it genuinely hard to understand. There will be help at the polling stations, but some may feel reluctant to ask. Not everyone will read the Electoral Commission's leaflet.

Party political broadcasts may be unhelpful as well (not that many people watch them!). The SNP has the nice Miss Hoolie-esque telling us:

"Remember, SNP, 1,2 3!" (or is that 1,2,3 SNP??)

What if you don't have three SNP candidates?

The election may be carried out with no more than the average invalid papers, but I think the system will still cause confusion with some voters. Perhaps it should be a case of putting a number against every candidate, or only the top three.

No voting system is perfect, and STV is fairer than FPTP. But how many people are going to place an "X" in the box? Would it not be better if the same voting system was used for both Parliamentary and Local Government elections?

Obviously nothing will change before the next parliamentary elections, and if the invalid votes are low then nothing will. But a similar percentage as we saw in 2007 will certainly raise concerns.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Water Problem

Someone has problems with their water.

Link to the story below:

The People have sprung a leak, and the ink is barely dry on their World Exclusive, that the minister left a hosepipe on, in direct breach of the Directive where no person shall use a hosepipe. Apparently there are enough Wets in Westminster already.

Meanwhile the minster states that he did no such thing, and that a journalist was seen on his property. "A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away" syndrome.

So either we will see the minister sent to the naughty step, or The People (not the Scottish ones mind) will be apologising and making a substantial donation to charity, making them flush with cash.

My bet is on the latter..........

Friday, 6 April 2012

Council Elections - Predictions

Being Easter, and with a lovely raw throat for company, I thought I'd indulge myself in a little bit of political prediction for the coming elections in May.

Using the same scientific approach as I use for my Lottery numbers - dead reckoning - expect some excellent tips. Just don't bet your mortgage payments on them.

I've excluded the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles as they remain in independent control, and I cannot see any change from that. In addition, I think Gail Sheridan will win a seat. And no doubt there might be the odd independent securing a seat on specific local issues.

You also have to remember that the 2007 elections had massive problems with voters confused by having local and national elections on the same day, plus ballot papers that could have papered my house.

The calculation is that the Lib Dems will lose most votes, with the SNP taking the largest share from them. The Conservatives will remain stable, and I think the Greens will stay roughly the same, since environmental issues are secondary to economic ones.

However, while the overall numbers will change, I there will be some substantial changes at individual city and town level.

Glasgow is the big prize for the SNP, and I think they will take it, slaughtering Labour at the same time.

Edinburgh I think the SNP are in for a shock, and over the trams (ignore the arguments for now).

Aberdeen is more difficult. The Union Terrace Gardens and Trump's golf course has caused a bit of friction, so it might remain in a similar state as for 2007.

North Lanarkshire will remain Labour.

South Lanarkshire will remain in NOC, but the SNP might make gains. Linda Fabiani thumped Andy Kerr, and she is a popular politician who takes a genuine interest in the constituency. If the SNP could take this council it would be a bigger shock than Glasgow.

The other main targets for the SNP has to be the councils where they are in a coalition with the Lib Dems. Those are the ones they should gain control.

But council elections are more tricky than parliamentary ones. Local issues play a huge part, as do the personalities of the councillors, of whom many have held their seat for a number of years.

Now, will I risk a tenner?

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Well, just as the SNP has a dig at Westminster's own Referendum consultation, out pops the news that the Scottish Government's own one is wide open to abuse.

I wasn't even aware that Westminster was running a consultation to be honest, but I certainly completed the Scottish Government's one. Now it seems you can submit multiple anonymous replies.

Bruce Crawford is defending the consultation, promising that every response will be scrutinised properly and independently, taking into account multiple identical responses. Being rather experienced in high volume data collection and analysis, I know that is easier said than done.

Then Stewart Hosie tells us that the format is the same used for the Smoking Ban and Tourism Bill, in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

But that is a poor excuse.

Once again, the SNP are on the defensive on an issue that was avoidable. They were quite rightly attacking Westminster and telling them to keep their nose out of the consultation process, then immediately have the focus changed onto themselves.

To be honest, having completed the Consultation, you'd have to be really bored or a committed cybernat to want to repeat the process again and again. No doubt there will be some there, but the figures will hardly make a difference to the overall results.

Anwar's phrase "open to abuse" was carefully considered. Most people nowadays are very aware of cyber-crime and hacking, especially given some of the more high profile incidents in recent months. The image that Labour will be trying to present is a Government (ie SNP) that is a bit careless or even worse trying to fix the results.

By not having any mechanism to prevent multiple submissions, the Scottish Government have just thrown any crediblity of their consultation out of the window. A bit like the much vaunted and bloody useless National Conversation.

Taking Independence for Granted

George Galloway's victory in Bradford may have been a one-off, but it did show that the main parties in England, are going through troubled times.

Then we have the issue of Labour councillors resigning in Scotland, and not in any small quantity. This has put the party into a bit of disarray, and just before the council elections in May. However, many of these resignations are down to deselections, and while some may argue that it is down to sour grapes, there is a fair chance that the Labour vote could split.

Add into that the certainty that the SNP will make gains in the election, things look bad for the unionist parties.

But the SNP are fighting these council elections on their abilty to govern - not independence. As with the Parliamentary elections last year, independence is not a subject for elections it seems.

It is a fair assumption that the SNP will take control of several councils, with Glasgow and Edinburgh being the main prizes, especially Glasgow. Taking the city will send shockwaves round Labour in Scotland, but to be frank, it is about time for a change.

So, the SNP have a majority in government, and a majority of councils under their control. That does not mean all the voters want independence, just as you cannot assume that they all want to remain within the Union.

The SNP slaughtered their opponents last May, and they might just do the same again in a few weeks.

But the polls still do not give an overwhelming desire for independence. Alex Salmond tops the polls for best leader by a long stretch, but still the "Yes" for independence hovers around 40%. That is with the SNP peaking in popularity.

Positive arguments are given for independence, opponents are attacked, and the SNP are one big happy party, at least in public. The Conservatives and Lib Dems can't deal with a crisis, or to be more accurate, are able to generate one out of thin air. Milliband's leadership qualities are so poor he would be hard pressed to get a starving person to follow him to a pantry, whereas to have dinner with Cameron would stretch most peoples credit cards. No one really knows what Clegg actually does and Danny Alexander looks like a shell-shocked schoolboy. The SNP have Salmond, a hugely powerful political figure.

The SNP have all the advantages, yet still cannot appear to convince enough people to want independence.

Something is missing, and until it is found, no one should take independence for granted.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Crisis? What (fuel) crisis?

The Westminster's handling of (supposed) fuel crisis can only be described as shambolic, and even that is being generous.

It is clear that there was little, if any coordination at Cabinet level. We've been told to store up petrol, top up our tanks and Keep Calm and Carry On, no doubt while stuffing your face with a hot pastie.

The fuel crisis was not caused by the Unite, but by the Government itself. Panic buying set in, not helped by a complete lack of common sense amongst the driving population.

However, the most unforgiveable "advice" came from Francis Maude. He suggested people could store fuel in jerrycans at home, despite the obvious danger in doing so, not to mention the fact it is illegal to store more than a certain volume.

For that grossly irresponsible statement, Francis Maude should either resign or be sacked. Demands for ministerial resignations tend to be overused, but in this case it is justified.

What is of deeper concern is that the Prime Minister appears incapable of dealing with a serious crisis, preferring to play political hardball, when he knew what the public reaction was last time around, and boy did this backfire (no pun intended).

Milliband is little better, and now we have a situation where politicians are trying to defend their respective parties and blame their opponents.

The public are frankly getting sick of this political bullshit, and it might be one reason why George Galloway has resurfaced in Westminster, following his spectacular victory.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Bus Fare Increases

Well, congratulations are in order for the Scottish Government.........erm, not.

Not so long after an increase in train fares, the bus fares have followed suit, and in some cases as high as 28%.

In case anyone in West of Scotland hadn't noticed, First Group have a practical monopoly on the trains, and a share with Stagecoach on the buses. In fact, First Group practically run all the buses in the Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas, with Stagecoach commanding a large portion on the Ayrshire market.

No doubt, any criticism will be blamed on Westminster by Salmond, but that argument is wearing thin. The Scottish Government have managed to find plenty of money for Edinburgh's trams. They've also managed to fund a nice, new shiny bridge as well. Oh, that's Edinburgh as well. Leaving the arguments aside, most people outside of Edinburgh will wonder why so much is being spent in the capital, yet everyone else is paying more for less services.

True, they are funding a refurbishment of the Underground in Glasgow, but that is of little use to most people who work in the city.

The SNP seem to have a problem with Transport.

Perhaps Keith Brown could explain.......

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Got a Spare 250 Grand, Guv?

Surprise, surprise, £250,000 will get you to the "Premier League".

Well, not really a surprise, since anyone with money can get access to any politician.

The details have been published in all their glorious detail, so there is no need to go and repeat them.

What should be of concern, is that once again, this issue proves that if you have the money, you have the ability to influence policy. That is how governments go down the road of corruption. By that I mean the corruption of democracy.

It comes in many forms, and the SNP are not squeaky clean either. They've accepted Murdoch's support, but the cost is yet unknown to the public.

Labour get their cash from the unions; an outdated method. The Lib Dems got some of theirs from a convicted criminal, albeit they were not aware of his dealings at the time.

Political parties the world over - at least in democracies - struggle for money. Sometimes money is not on offer, but some supportive service will be. It may be as little as a car sticker, a link on a website or some supportive editorial comments.

The funding of political parties needs urgent reform. The simplest solution is to grant each party a block sum, dependent on the number of seats they hold in respective parliaments. Let's say the two biggest parties get the same, with a sliding scale going down. Donations would be made illegal.

Sounds great, but the practicalities of such a scheme would be problematic. And it would take the political parties themselves to approve such legislation. Does anyone here honestly believe they would support such a move?

Some political parties are more open to influence than others, but they all make arrangements to suit their primary donors. A little policy shift here, perhaps quietly removing a promise there.

No matter what Cameron or Cruddas say, they knew exactly what was going on. But the other party leaders are reeking of hypocrisy in their criticism. They are all the same. This time the Tories have been caught out, next time it will be someone else.

The Sunday Times did the stitch up. Sounds like Murdoch is getting some revenge. There will payback.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Benefits Culture?

As it is Budget Day, I listened in to Radio 4 (working on a spreadsheet tends to numb the mind).

They had a piece on Child Benefit, and how it would affect those at the top end of the scale.

Appropriately, Tatton - the Chancellor's constituency - was chosen as the area to speak to locals. The area can be considered very affluent in comparison to others.

As we now know, Child Benefit stops at earnings over £60k, with a sliding scale of reduction over £50k. That's the basic situation. So, there will be quite a number of people affected.

One lady who was interviewed was rather annoyed that she and her partner were going to lose out. She left what she described as a "high earning sales job" to start a family. She has three children. Nothing wrong with that. However, she admitted that hers was a wealthy family. By that, you can safely assume that her husband earns in excess of £50k, possibly greatly in excess of that figure. She thought it was "wrong" that she had given up work and was now being penalised for it.

Welcome to the real world, madam.

The general impression about the "Benefits Culture" in the UK is that it is the low paid, unemployed and terminally unemployable who feel it is their right to get benefits. But the lady in Tatton has shown that this feeling of entitlement has spread towards the middle and upper classes of society. Or to be more accurate, the higher earners of society. This is worrying.

I'm married and have two children. My wife receives Child Benefit, and to be perfectly honest any extra income is always welcome. However, I've always run my finances (ok, my wife does!) based on my salary alone. I earn a decent salary, but nothing even close to £50k. Why this lady in Tatton feels she needs £400 per month more will attract a fair bit of criticism, especially those people who are at the bottom end of the salary ladder.

Benefits should be there as a safety net for the disadvantaged in society, be it for the low paid, unemployed or those who are on long term sick. I've experienced all three in the past twelve years. That safety net was very welcome and was most certainly needed.

But now with my job, I don't need the extra benefits of Child Benefit and Tax Credits. Yes, I'm happy to accept them, but if they disappear tomorrow I would have to accept this.

Others won't.

Society needs to get away from the demands of the Benefit Culture. Child Benefit could have the threshold reduced right down to say £30k. How much money would that save? Money that could perhaps be used in better ways.

It would be good to see the SNP proposing that benefits are there for those genuinely in need, rather that a giveaway in order to buy votes.

Reform is never easy, but it must happen.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

SNP Party Political Broadcast

First of all, watch all 2 minutes and 42 seconds of cringe positive message. (Link opens in a new window)

SNP Broadcast

The whole thing is simply cheese. If that is going to be the SNP's theme, heaven help us all. The whole thing reminded me of Balamory, with it's smiley, happy people and brightly coloured doors - not to mention the super-sweety Miss Hoolie-esque. And let's not forget the DFS-like sofa - trust me, you cannot miss it.

I've tortured shown a few people the clip, and they all agree it is, erm, not very good. One person pointed out it is making things out to be an ideal world, and that is probably the most telling comment of the lot.

There is no relevance to the real world. This Balamory-esque film short is on the planet Cybernat. Everything is perfect, but only if you vote in the correct manner.

And Miss Hoolielookalike reminded us, in the appropriate Primary One Teacher fashion:

Remember - 1,2 3, SNP!    (I thought the music was bad!)

Apparently, judging from one comment elsewhere, the audience at the SNP conference "loved it". But then, there are those who would love it if the First Minister sacrificed a goat at midnight.

I'm being really nasty, but that broadcast is simply bloody awful. Where is the attack on the other parties? Where is the attack on inefficient Labour controlled councils? Does anyone seriously think that this broadcast will have them voting for SNP in droves in Easterhouse?

And there is one part of the broadcast that is rather concerning. It is difficult to miss, but it is most definitely there:

Play close attention around the 25 second mark, with the paperboy. He puts a paper through a door, then hands another to a workman. Any guesses as to what paper it is?

The Sun.

That little plug speaks volumes about the relationship between Murdoch and the SNP.

I'm surprised Miss Hoolielookalike didn't hop onto a Stagecoach bus at the end.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hunting for Votes

Just before Christmas, there was a knock on the door one evening. There was young man, perhaps early twenties. Straight to the point, he said he was looking for work, and thought he would try a different approach. He was polite and well spoken, so I had a chat with him for a few minutes. Having previously worked in the recruitment industry for a few years, I gave him a few contacts and also some companies that I knew were recruiting anyway.

This guy was keen, and showed a commendable amount of motivation. Hopefully he has been successful in securing employment.

How many doors had he knocked on that evening? Perhaps twenty, thirty, forty? How many nights? Who knows. Most people would have said "can't help, bye". Door closes. Next. For all I know, I may have been the only person who took time to speak to him. He impressed me, and had I been looking for staff I would have asked him to submit his CV with a letter.

Canvassing for votes works in a similar manner. Much like sales calls, you will get much disappointment before finally getting result. Activity generates business. It also plants a little seed in the brain.

Your voter is undecided. He/she didn't want to speak to the canvasser that called last week, but they remember that no other party sent someone round. Maybe they are worth a try since they at least made the effort. Your voter may also mention this to a relative / colleague and they too may think the party is worth a vote.

I once did canvassing way back in 83 or 84. It's difficult. And as someone else pointed out to me recently, you can get a wide range of excuses and at times sheer hostility. But when it comes to crucial elections - and referendums - every vote can make a difference. For every vote gained by one party, the opponents need to secure two beat it.

Canvassing these days seems restricted to shopping malls and hustings. Party political broadcasts are greeted with cynicism, toilet breaks and the occasional size eight boot or remote control. Oh and don't forget the bloody leaflets.

The main political parties use the following as primary selling tactics:

SNP - Alex Salmond.

Labour - historical voting patterns.

Conservatives - certain residential areas.

Liberal Democrats - supernatural acts.

Canvassing for votes is the same as selling. You need to show the features and benefits of whatever party you are selling, even if it is Mission Impossible (cue music, dah dada dah.......). One person voting in a household may persuade others.

I'm not saying it is easy, but with an electorate that is half-hearted about voting, canvassing is crucial. Not everyone is prepared to go round doorsteps, but you can always find someone who will do it. And political candidates absolutely must be prepared to do so.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Lib Dems and the NHS

The Lib Dem Conference is underway, and it seems their credibility is well and truly in the gutter.

The party has rejected an emergency motion urging the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill. However, they are quite happy to support Shirley Williams motion to support the NHS changes.

Nick Clegg, no doubt under orders from Cameron, has reassured one and all that the NHS Bill has changed in all recognition, and there is no danger of a private health service coming in to replace the NHS. A strong speech from a strong man. Totally trustworthy as he proved over Tuition Fees.

Scotland may well become the last outpost for the Lib Dems, since the NHS and Education are devolved powers. In England, their survival must now be critical endangered.

Cameron has, from Day One, used the Lib Dems as a political shield for his more controversial policies. He cannot escape blame, but the Lib Dems are the ones who will suffer most.

There is surely much dissent within the party. This can be seen with the first round voting where 270 people were for attacking the NHS reforms, against 246 against. Clegg's political skin was saved by the fact of them using second preference voting, which gave 280 for the protest against 309 supporting the reforms. A terrifyingly small margin.

One thing is clear, the party simply will not listen to voters. Just about every man and his dog are against these changes within the NHS. The level of protest is probably higher than the Poll Tax, because changes to the NHS affect nearly everyone. How many people do you know who have never once required the services of the NHS?

For all their talk about reining in the Conservatives, the simple truth is that they are doing what they are told. If there were to be a general election, the Conservatives could possibly scrape a majority, although that is doubtful. One thing is certain, the Lib Dems could see the majority of their MPs wiped out, possibly to single figures.

The Liberals / Lib Dems or whatever they are called this week will soon have to come up with a new name, because there is a good chance that the party will split when voter support disintegrates.

There is a warning here for Scotland. The Lib Dems will do anything for a taste of power. Anything. Regardless of whether independence happens or not, there will still be a Scottish government, and it will not always be the SNP in power. We have a system designed to make a majority very difficult, and that means a possibility of future coalitions. Does Scotland really need the Lib Dems?

The Monster Raving Loony Party once defeated the SDP. There's a good chance they will add a Lib Dem scalp to their collection.

UPDATE: Seems that the Lib Dem members have defeated their own leadership, by voting 314 to 270 for opposing Government changes to the NHS. While that will not change the policy, it surely spells disaster for the Lib Dems. Could we see a coup within the party?

Eric Joyce

Well, Mr Joyce has been duly punished for sticking the head into some fellow MPs. The man obviously has some problems - some unkind soul said being a Labour MP for starters - and this boiled up to the point that he got over emotional and went looking for a shoulder to cry on. Problem was, in his emotional state his knowledge of the human anatomy was slightly incorrect, misplacing the aforementioned shoulder by about six inches.

He's got a whopping fine of £3,000 - which to him represents approximately sixteen minutes of expenses or three nights out on the town (have you seen the bar prices in London?).

He's also to pay £1,400 in expenses (calculator at the ready, that's 7 minutes and 24 seconds of expenses) to his victims and has to observe a curfew from Friday to Sunday - possibly at home with a seventeen year old woman bottle of wine. He did mention having had "three or four glasses". Sounds like a useful euphemism to me.

Since he will not be standing at the next general election - unsurprising since he appears to have difficulty standing these days - rumour has it that he will be assisting the Scottish Government in rolling out alcohol education following the implementation of minimum pricing. It seems that a certain F  McAvenie has been in contact after some advice as well.......or perhaps a mobile number.......

Wino (or is it Fino?)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Remploy Closures

A quick post, but one of importance.

The news has been announced that the Government is closing to close 36 of the 54 Remploy factories - Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Motherwell in Scotland - in order to "redirect" the money.

I think cobblers would be a printable reaction.

I have close relatives who are disabled - one old and one young. I also understand the difficulties faced by both employers and employees.

Remploy provides excellent support and motivation for disabled people. it provides them with  a focus on life, rather than sitting at home all day. Some disabled people are self-conscious about their disability; some are not bothered; and some want the world to know. In short, they are basically the same as you and me. But you and I generally do not need additional support, in some cases just to carry out simple tasks. These people do, and having employment helps them to support themselves.

£320 million pounds is small change to a Government spending considerably more on less tasteful policies. And it seems that all they are doing is diverting this money - in their words - in order to help find the disabled find work. All well and good, but in case they hadn't noticed, jobs are being lost left, right and centre.

Remploy has been in existence for over sixty years. Why Westminster is hell bent on closing more than half of the factories is beyond me. They seem to have this inability to understand the important service that Remploy provides.

Perhaps Westminster could stop giving foreign aid to countries such as India, and focus on their own people first.

We also need a statement from the Scottish Government as to what support they can provide, and hopefully some strong criticism directed at the Minister for Disabled People, Maira Miller.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Service Disrupted

I doubt if I will get any new article on for a wee while. Couple of problems that have to take priority. Normal (relative term for me) service will resume as soon as things get sorted.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sun, SNP and Salmond

Rupert Murdoch has had another meeting with the First Minister, only a few days after announcing the "exclusive" story with the date of the Referendum.

According to the FM's spokesman, they discussed "substantial economic footprint in Scotland", and "further investment".


In London, if anyone from the SNP is actually paying attention, there happens to be a major ongoing inquiry coupled with police investigations and a number of arrests. The revelations continue to pour out, with allegations that elderly relatives have had their phones hacked amongst other things.

But Rupert says that's all in the past, as if to dismiss the whole matter as quickly as he disposed of the News of the World.

Up here in Scotland, the First Minister is getting uncomfortably closer to Murdoch. Too close some would say. Perhaps it is because the SNP finally has an ally in the media in the guise of the Sun newspaper. Some may say that's fair enough, since the other parties do it. All well and good, and considering some of the bias against the SNP it is understandable.

But why on earth go to the paper / organisation which has dragged itself through the mud? The silence from Scotland over the whole phone hacking affair has been notable. It suggests that in return for positive coverage, the SNP has remain tight-lipped.

Murdoch is buying influence with the Scottish Government and succeeding. Salmond is not in control here - Murdoch is. The SNP are no longer pulling the strings, and this will become more and more evident.

Even some of the most ardent nationalists are voicing concerns - and these are real concerns that should not be ignored, even if mine are.

Business has always influenced politics, and always will. But to have someone who controls a hefty chunk of worldwide media influencing politics is dangerous.

An independent Scotland will require a state broadcaster. But given the rather fragile relationship between the SNP and the BBC, one can safely assume that the current BBC management in Scotland will be sidelined in favour of a "professional" broadcaster - i.e. Murdoch's mob. Then we are getting precisely what some nationalists are complaining about - state propaganda.

Do we want an independent Scotland where the Government has it's closest ally in the form of an organisation that has been using methods that are totally and utterly unacceptable to society?

Bear one thing in mind: Murdoch's organisation is currently under investigation by the FBI.

How will the First Minister appear if charges and convictions follow?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pride Goes Before A Fall

No phrase has seemed truer, or at least to the Westminster Government.

I'm talking of course about the Health Bill currently struggling its way through the House of Lords.

The bill - fortunately - does not affect the NHS up here in Scotland, and mightily glad we should be too. Nearly every health professional - including an ex-NHS chief - are practically screaming at the Lansley and Cameron to drop the proposals, as it will almost certainly create a two tier system.

Part of the problem is that most of the Cabinet have almost certainly got private health care. I have no objections to this, since anyone using private medicine takes some pressure off the NHS - breast implants excepted it seems.

It seems that political pride has taken priority over commonsense. Why does Cameron insist on driving this Bill through, when just about every health professional is saying it is a bag of nails? Is the coalition really that shaky?

And the most incomprehensible action is by the Lib Dems. Already facing wipeout over their reverse on tuition fees, they are keeping Conservative policy in place, when they could redeem themselves by rejecting all their support.

It seems the current crop of politicians, like so many others, cannot bring themselves to publicly admitting a mistake and looking at alternatives. This Bill could bring down the Westminster Government and possibly force a General Election.

And that could present the SNP with a problem. If there was an election, they would have to fight it with independence as a priority. If the votes failed to come in, would there be any point in the Referendum? Of course, if there were substantial gains, then might they not be persuaded to bring forward the Referendum?

All great in theory, and given the state of the Lib Dems a confidence vote would likely fail. But I'll bet Alex has one eye turned firmly towards Westminster at present.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Westminster Horticulture

Slightly old story, but caught my eye again.

The House of Commons has rented 12 fig trees to provide shade in the atrium of Portcullis House.

The cost? A cool £30,000.

Thirty grand for a bunch of trees that you could buy plastic ones from Tam doon the road for a fiver each no questions asked?

The Speaker has said he is "horrified". Presumably at yet another Commons cost being found out.

I'm still perplexed at the actual cost of renting the aforementioned trees. Not even a certain DIY retailer charges that much. And why fig trees in particular? Surely they could have got a single Leylandii tree for a few quid, guaranteed to cover the entire building in a couple of week, with all the shade they need. (I have twenty of the bastards down the side of my garden).

Or is there a more sinister reason for the need for shade? Does the Prince of Darkness reside in Portcullis House?

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Cognisance - in law, is the action of taking judicial notice. (From the Oxford English Dictionary).

The First Minister used this word in his interview with Sir David Frost on Al Jazeera television.

Without trying to pretend to be a legal expert, judicial notice (from my interpretation) is where evidence is so strong it cannot be refuted or ignored. In this case, the First Minister means that Rangers is part of the very fabric of Scottish football.

Is he hinting that should Rangers be found to owe tax, that HMRC should somehow be lenient?

To be fair, he does have a point. If Rangers were to disappear from the SPL, which is certainly possible, then television rights for Scottish football could dry up, and that would have a huge impact. The Old Firm clash would cease to exist, and while Celtic would survive, they may not be able to attract big names to their club. Likewise, up and coming new players who come through the youth player schemes may be tempted to move elsewhere.

Football is an emotional subject in Scotland, but emotions cannot take priority over hard economic facts. If it turns out that the taxpayer is owed a considerable amount of money, then surely that comes first?

Even the sum of £9 million would be of benefit somewhere. How many youth employment and training schemes could that fund?

The First Minister was always going to be asked about the crisis, and he had to give a response. That is part of leadership. He cannot ignore such a question. He has to be shown to support Scottish sport.

But his answer was badly worded.

As First Minister of Scotland he cannot be shown to hint at favours. Not when it involves the public purse. The best course of action should have been to say that people should wait until all the investigations are complete, then assess the situation. Instead, we have hints that HMRC should be favourable to Rangers' case. It is little wonder that Celtic's Chief Executive attacked his comments.

Perhaps the First Minister could have shown the same level of interest to Donaghy Limited, and the 175 jobs that have been lost there.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Fitba, Politics, Money, Music and the Media

Bit of a barren week, due to work commitments, family issues and, erm, online gaming (Men really are only boys at heart......)

It has been one helluva  week. Where do we start?

Well, Whitney Houston died. Millions of fans were devastated, as were the media, who accidently published articles showing her out of her face the night before. Technical issues according to an inside source. The papers really meant to say how demure and delightful she was looking. If I was totally shitfaced I'd probably look the same. And Sony suffered another technical hitch - sorry, administrative error - as the price of Whitney's music inexplicably doubled in price. Sheer coincidence of course.

The Big News in Scotland was Rangers running out of money, with the affable Mr Whyte being run out of town by the looks of things. His statement in front of the Hallowed Ground with the media and supporters present should have been an easy task for the high-flying businessman. However, he soon discovered that Glasgow is a bear pit with such matters. He obviously didn't pay any attention to John Smeaton's comments. Such is the urgency of the situation, that the Sports Minster (whosherface) was metaphorically despatched to see what could be done. Even Big Eck voiced his opinions, and immediately became as popular with Celtic fans as Mr Whyte is with the Govan faithful. Obviously he didn't learn his lesson from the rugby. Stick to politics Alex. To make matters worse, Kilmarnock stuffed Rangers one-nil to the delight of many, especially the bookies. Can Motherwell get third place?

David Cameron turned up bearing gifts. Did anyone notice? Thought not.

And the News of the World is back the Sun on Sunday will be launched soon. No doubt Mr Murdoch knows that everyone will forget about the NOTW, and will know that any relation between the Sun and the NOTW is purely coincidental.

So, an exciting week, even if my article is a bit abbreviated. Having a stinking head cold makes concentrating on anything except plotless action DVDs rather difficult.

Hopefully something more concrete this week. But anything will be more substantial than Ranger's bank balance.......

Friday, 10 February 2012

In Defence of the Big Yin....and others

There's been a bit of a flurry in the media and blogland - some good and bad - about Billy Connolly recently. The good bit is that he is going to be in the Hobbit (yay!, I'm a LOTR geek).

The bad was a bit of criticism about his shows finishing early, which I'll not go into, but there has been a fair bit of what I think is unwarranted and unfair attacks in certain blogs. It is a touch concerning, since not only is the Big Yin the target, but the implication is that others will suffer a similar fate. In fact, some have already comitted a cardinal sin - in the view of the Fundamentalist Wing on the Alex Salmond Appreciation Society.

Billy's crime is that he does not support independence. As a result, the numerous comments I've read recently imply that he is past it, uses old and unfunny material, is a capitalist, a snob, part of the system and so on. In short, he is a heretic when it comes to Scottish nationalism.

Purile and childish.

"I used to find him funny, but now......."

I'll bet that person would have been right up the Big Yin's arse if he had supported independence.

It is not only Billy Connolly who has become the target for some nationalists:

Andy Murray
Chris Hoy
Michelle Mone

To name but a few.

There has even been a comment referring to those who criticise independence:

"We will remember who they are......."

One hopes that did not come from an SNP member.

The SNP has risen through hard work by politicians and party workers alike, aided by an impotent Labour party (the Tories don't count). All that could be undone by the very people who support the party through their venomous intolerance.

Wonder how they are going to deal with Donald Trump.......