Monday, 30 January 2012

North Korea Anyone?

Just as Alex gets the momentum going, some sly bugger has decided to not only let Tommy Sheridan out of his cage, but stopped the little game of "tag 'n' gag". They've let him speak.

A good few words by Tommy, and then he comes out with what could be an immortal phrase:

".... to deliver Scotland, not just as an independent country, but as an independent socialist country as well." (my italics). His version of socialism makes North Korea look like the planet Thatcher.

We all know Tommy's policies - tax the hell out of the rich and bump the minimum wage to.....wait for it.....£7 per hour.

Big Eck just yesterday talked about a "living wage" of.........£7.20 per hour.

The unionists will like this one. Just wait for the comparisons, some old (ie Dear Leader), and probably some new.

Question is, will Alex take Tommy on board as a fellow campaigner? Sheridan is an unknown quantity here. Most people don't like his policies, as proven by election results. But he is a strong orator and an independence supporter, so may attract those who would not normally give him the time of day.

Chances are that the SNP will ignore Sheridan, probably due to the ongoing spat with News International. Advisors from The Sun the SNP will have told Alex to keep clear.

Tomorrow's headlines in the Sun will tell us all we need to know.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Independence and Broadcasting

I'm going to go against unofficial rules here and write this article WITHOUT reading the Scottish Government's policies of Broadcasting post-independence. But it's my blog so I can bloody do what I like!

A little disclaimer here: all views stated are my own and there is little, if any evidence to back up my claims. I'm using a bit of judgemental analysis here (i.e. guessing).

I'll balance things first:

Private media organisations are free to support whatever political party or cause they wish. Any backlash will come from customers, not the taxpayer.

The BBC on the other hand is wholly funded by the taxpayer. It should be completely neutral and must present news and current affairs objectively and truthfully. This does not always happen, although not to the extent that some claim. The BBC also likes to cause division. Not simply Scotland v England but just about on any topic you can think of. The organisation is is desperate need of restructuring.

A certain James Murdoch has called for the BBC to be disbanded. No guesses for what organisation he would like to replace it, and funded by the taxpayer.

Which brings me to the Broadcasting issue post-independence.

Why oh why is the Sun so supportive of the SNP? It not only reflects the Daily Record's support of Labour but outshines it. I read the Sun on a daily basis - I don't buy it but a colleague does. I also read the Daily Record as well. Both publications are similar.

News International is Bad News in England. The Sun dare not step foot in Liverpool.

But up in Scotland the company does not appear to be considered as bad as elsewhere.

If there is one thing that the Sun is good at, it is predicting a political winner. Hence they see the SNP are worthy of their support - increased sales and influence policy. You are not going to convince me that News International is supportive of the SNP for any other reason.

If Scotland becomes independent, then the BBC is history. You can bet your mortgage that the SNP will be out for blood, and the primary target is the BBC. But it needs replaced. "Oh, let's see who has been nice to us."

The Sun, aka News International.

James Murdoch wins.

The SNP can write all the consultations and manifestos they want. But I firmly believe that News International will gain substantial prominence in an independent Scotland. And that is bad news.

The SNP cannot be criticised for getting whatever media support they can get. But with the ongoing investigations into journalistic practices, and the news today of the arrest of four former and present Sun journalists, the SNP needs to be cautious.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Twitter - Designed for Twits?

Never has a piece of technology been so aptly named.

Tom Watson joins what is becoming a ever increasing list of politicians who have had to make a grovelling apology for a tweet. And no doubt there will be more.

This time it was an intern who was responsible for the foul deed of posting a tweet which appears to have been inappropriate. No doubt there has been a slap on the wrist followed by a punishment exercise, and possibly a letter home to the parents.

You would think that politicians would be intelligent (erm.....) enough to be extremely careful about controlling their tweets, as well as keeping twits off their Twitter. Tom admits he should have logged off, but alas, technology that is easy to use is also easy to abuse or be abused.

Thousands of famous and millions of not-so-famous people have set up Twitter accounts, with some boasting a considerable amounts of followers. Lady GaGa apparently has the biggest share with her monsters. Twitter it seems is a great way to let the world know what you are doing this fine day, although tweets about coffee and a donut make Big Brother seem as exciting as a Hollywood blockbuster.

Twitter has a tweet limit of 140 characters. Plenty to wreck a career it seems.

I don't know why they bother. There are enough twits around politics without giving them a vehicle to twitter even more.

Maybe we should have a First Minister's Questions by Twitter. At least with the character limit it would stop the blawbags (feel free to adjust the spelling) and make things a bit more interesting.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Wrong Question

Or to be fairer, the wrong wording.

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

Ah, he's not asking if we want Scotland to be an independent country, but do we think it is a good idea. Thinking it is a good idea does not necessarily mean it is what people really want.

A little bit of self-trumpet blowing here: I'm a highly experienced interviewer, professionally trained and have also trained both interviewers and interviewees, up to MD level. I've also carried out interviews where I have been accountable to Parliament with my conduct and decisions.

One thing that should never, in any circumstance, be used in an interview is a leading question. The police should certainly avoid them, as do professional recruiters and HR personnel.

"Do you agree....." is a leading question.

Such questions are open to misinterpretation, and bias the responses in favour of the desired result - in this case, the SNP want a "Yes".

That question has almost certainly come from someone with a journalistic background, since that is how they are trained to conduct interviews.

The question should be "Do you want Scotland to be an independent country?"

Straight, simple and direct. No grey areas, no bias and certainly no misinterpretation.

The wording needs changed - rapidly.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Referendum Policy List - Health

With the legality of the Referendum boring the pants off many, I thought it better to examine some policies, and see how they measure up. Nothing too technical, rather what your average voter many think.

It's not often I'll give praise to the SNP (or any political party for that matter), but Health is an area where there has been success. Be glad you live in Scotland, because the NHS is gradually being destroyed in England and Wales.

Perhaps "destroyed" is a bit misleading, but the principle of free care to all is certainly being destroyed to the advantage of the private sector.

Healthcare in the UK is still much better than elsewhere in the world. Where else can you turn up at an Accident and Emergency unit and receive treatment? You may have to wait a few hours, but that is better than not being treated.

As a regular attendee at A&E, I can speak from personal experience of the improvements to health in Scotland. I'm not talking about free prescriptions, but the improvement in healthcare, services and hygiene.

Monklands was earmarked for closure by the NHS Lanarkshire Health Board a few years ago. This was despite widespread opposition to people who knew the problems that would arise by closing this unit. Hairmyres and Wishaw were also earmarked as contenders, but with new PFI buildings, that was never an real option. Labour to it's shame did nothing, bar some protests by local councillors - something that I had a very public spat about with Michael McCann.

In short, the NHS has improved in Scotland.

Casting an eye towards England, and what do you see?

Proposals for NHS hospitals to have up to 49% of beds allocated to private patients.

Hospitals that have interest payments that exceed the cost of running their services.

Prescriptions charges that are going up, with a payment for each drug.

The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives are now firmly against the plans proposed by Andrew Lansley, despite initially saying they would be prepared to work with the Government.

There are legitimate concerns from Westminster about the increased cost of drugs and a rapidly ageing population. But the core of the problem lies with the PFI system, yet no one outside Scotland appears willing to tackle this.

Last year Alex Salmond appeared in Question Time in Liverpool and destroyed the other parties over their health policies, to rapturous applause from the audience. There was no partisan talk about independence, but simple facts about the destruction happening.

Nicola Sturgeon has proved to be an able minister with the Health portfolio, an area most keep away from (John "Fuck, not Health" Reid springs to mind). Her opponents should applaud these efforts and work constructively with her, rather than rolling out statistics that are years out of date.

On the Referendum list, Health scores a "Yes".

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Scotland's Defence Force

An independent Scotland will have one army base, one air base and one naval base. Sounds like the start of a board game.

There are a few individuals out there who say "oh, who is going to attack Scotland?". Well, possessing a substantial percentage of Europe's fossil fuels makes Scotland a potential target in the future. After all, when the Great War ended, there was going to be peace. And the same after World War 2.

The truth is, no one knows what lies ahead in the future. Defence planning is strategic, and that means long term. In twenty years time there be a threat  caused by oil shortages. State sponsored terrorism may decide to attack the oil and gas installations.

The SNP's defence policy sounds like an afterthought. The only firm commitment from the SNP has been to remove Trident. A policy that should be congratulated, but when asked about the Scottish Defence Force.........erm, a few ships, planes and soldiers. Oh, and perhaps a tank or two. What did Alex do? Ask Keith Brown over lunch?

On paper, three bases perhaps sounds fine, even if it makes an attack by a potential enemy rather easy. Dispersal is a key defence strategy.

The big question is where is all this equipment coming from? The SG will argue that it would negotiate with Westminster, but what if Cameron doesn't want to play and keeps his toys in the box? Perhaps an agreement to pay Westminster to provide defence? Oh that will go down well.

We don't need aircraft carriers, but we do need aircraft, ships and submarines. A few tanks and other armoured vehicles will be necessary. These items are rather expensive, and not something you can order from Amazon and get a next day delivery.

There is a bit of a spat between Holyrood and Westminster, and you can tell the SNP are being defensive (no pun intended), since Angus Robertson has resorted to slagging off George Robertson. Perhaps he should have kept on topic, since Westminster isn't blogland, and George actually knows quite a lot about Defence, even if he did blow the Holyrood voting system.

Defence is not a minor issue to be swept under the carpet. It is as important as Health, the Economy and Justice. Being independent means Scotland must be self-sufficient and competent in all areas, not just those which won the SNP power.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Trumped Again?

Donald Trump is back in the news, with his demand that unless the Scottish Government stops an offshore wind farm being constructed - in view of his golf resort - he will pull out and stop all construction of the hotel and housing.

This puts the First Minister in a bit of a dilemma.

If he gives in to Trump's demands, then his opponents will raise questions about Salmond's "green" credentials, being a strong advocate of renewable energy. On the other hand, if he ignores Trump, and the golf resort is cancelled, then his opponents will blame him for losing an opportunity for jobs and tourism.

It is of little consequence to previous criticism, politics being what they are will ensure a negative reaction is forthcoming.

Perhaps Trump is playing mind games, and as one critic pointed out, is simply looking for an excuse to cancel the whole project.

This story hasn't really generated much interest, perhaps apart from the local area, but there is a danger that it could grow. Whether it causes the Scottish Government any real problems is yet to be seen.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mature Politics?

You couldn't make it up. Just as Joan McAlpine (ex-journalist) decides to engage mouth before brain, Tom Harris (ex-journalist, there's a pattern emerging) decides to try out his new video editing software.

Both actions have been taken out of context, of that there is no argument, despite rantings from either side of the fence, but both actions were taken by supposedly intelligent people, and both actions were wrong.

The spoof video is an old one, and has been well used. But it is not something, as an experienced politician, one should even consider using, and especially at the present time when the political pantomime has just started. (You know, "Oh yes we are, oh no you're not!").

The Referendum is a deadly serious issue, where people are to be asked to determine the future fate of Scotland. This is not the time for stupid name-calling or videos that my son could drum up in ten minutes (if anyone else wants a spoof video, let me know).

All the last week has done is help to lower the Scottish Parliament to the "wee pretendy" so loved of the critics.

So after one week, in the Shoot-Yourself-In-The-Foot Competition, the result of the first match is

SNP 1 - 1 Labour

Perhaps well political leaders will think again about selecting journalists.......

And the media reporting on both issues is open to question as well.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


With all the flak flying around with the Referendum, a news story caught my eye today; one that has a message to all politicians.

The story is tragic, with an elderly woman dying due to an accident during surgery. What is important is that the hospital and the surgeon were open and honest about the incident, and the woman's family accepted this, noting that they appreciated the surgeon's honesty.

Rather than trying to save their own backsides, the hospital and surgeon were not only honest, but ensured that lessons learned were communicated worldwide.

Politics could do with such honesty. Too many politicians seem hellbent on protecting their own careers, rather showing a bit if honesty and making their constituents, Parliament and country the priority.

There are numerous examples of this, too many to start listing here and I do not intend to resurrect old stories.

The Referendum debate has taken off, and the language is already getting hostile (at least in public), with the media joining in and the truth taking a backseat where convenient.

Politicians on all sides of the debate need to remember that independence is not a general election to decide who will govern for the next five years - this is to ask the public whether they want a fundamental change to the future of Scotland.

The debate will get dirtier, with accusations flying around. Both sides will start making mistakes  - or as they call them; errors of judgement.

Honesty is the best policy. People respect honesty, and in politics it can be surprisingly effective.

The Referendum demands it.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Referendum Clarity - Cameron

Now then, it seems David Cameron has possibly got the SNP by the short and curlies, although he may have inadvertently grabbed them by the proverbial eyebrows.

No doubt the more fundmentalist nationalists will be going into overdrive with their Mr Angry personas, but Cameron has made what could be a decisive move.

He has stated that Westminster will look at the legality and the timing of the Referendum, and where he scores points is with the timing.

To date, all we have had from the Scottish Government is that the Referendum will take place "towards the end of the current parliamentary term. Not even the slightest hint of when, although it is obvious they will use 2014 due to historical references and the Commonwealth Games.

The SNP has not specified a date because it is trying to judge when it thinks the timing will be perfect to win the vote, rather than coming straight out and telling us when. The Tories have little influence in Scotland, but Cameron is being clever here, since he has made it clear that the timing is the main factor.

In my view, Cameron has made a shrewd move here. There is no point in going off into a rant about Westminster interfering in Scottish matters; the fact of the matter is that the SNP have been dithering. True, their campaign has started, but there is still no indication of when the vote will be held.

There are two points to consider:

1. It can be argued that Holyrood and Westminster should be working together to agree on the timing and the format of the Referendum, since either parliament doing so on it's own will likely make it biased towards their own political aims.

2. The Scottish Government should have stated a date by now. The longer this drags on, the more indecisive it makes them look.

Cameron's approach is intended to make Salmond look indecisive, of that I have no doubt. But he is being rather low key, in comparison to previous statements on the line of "we will never allow the UK to break up" etc.

Salmond is in a bit of a corner here, since how does he explain why no decision has been made on the date yet, despite being eight months into the parliamentary session? The Referendum is about the future of Scotland, not how the current Government is operating, so why hold off on a decision?

Personally, I'm not exactly overjoyed with Cameron sticking his nose in, but the SNP can only blame themselves. I'm trying to look at this from a more realistic viewpoint, rather than the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will no doubt be on other blogs. Part of this approach is to provoke such a reaction, so there is further ammunition to potray the "cybernat" in the worst possible light.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Ramblings on the Last Day of the Holidays

Well it is for me, even if my kids don't return to school until Monday. Damn, I was looking forward to "testing" my son's new XBox (I am not going to attempt hotscotch no matter what the Scottish Government says).

Having had fun with technical issues on my new hard disk (never, ever buy an OEM PC if you intend to upgrade it at some point in the future), I finally resolved the problems yesterday morning. As is the norm, the solution was blindingly simple - download a simple file and install. Technical advice from "professionals" had me staring at trepidation at dozens of lines of complicated code. Learning ancient Greek is probably simpler. (Politicians take note - try something simple for once).

As I had to reload and reinstall everything again, this left me time on my hands. I have a substantial DVD collection (some people think I'm obsessed; my wife doesn't need convicing) so I managed to get through a number of films, ranging from Machete (not exactly family viewing but bloody good fun) to Toy Story 2.

I also spent time reaquainting myself with the various blogs, and even resorted to posting on one of them after a deliberate absence. I felt they were missing the required cynicism. I may even finally convince them I'm not really an undercover Labour unionist member of the Lib Dems.

But enough ramblings for now. Normal service will resume once the head is finally clear.

Monday, 2 January 2012


Happy New Year to all.

2012 has plenty in store; some good and plenty bad.

The economy will be the main focus of attention, with job losses expected, especially from the retail sector. No doubt our esteemed politicians in Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels will make the usual promises. The more cynical of us will treat that with the disdain it deserves.

The main focus in Scotland will be the Council elections in May. The SNP is expected to make some major gains, as they are still the party of choice in Scotland.

The Olympics are this year - well whoopee do. What was originally an amateur event is now the commercial centre of attention every four years. Several billion pounds has been spent on what is effectively two weeks of running, jumping and throwing, with zero benefit to most of the population.

I do like watching athletics, but the immoral levels of funding are a disgrace. We have children in poverty in this country, yet egotistic, patronising and arrogant individuals such as Seb Coe tell us it is good for us.

Europe? Well, let's say the Mayan prediction of the end of the world is more appropriate to the Euro.

2012 is also the start of Creative Scotland's cultural project. Link is below and worth a read.

Creative Scotland

Closer to home on the blog front, I'm going to try and post regular topics over a wider range of topics, not all political. Politics does at times get monotonous, so I'm aiming to break things up a bit.

I'd recommend the casual reader to try and visit as many blogs as possible. They all have their own presentation style, and it shows that you do not need to rely on the established media companies for information and entertainment.