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.......

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Voting Rules

The debate rages on.......

John Swinney wants to allow 60,000 EU nationals the opportunity to vote in the Referendum. He has said that this is based on the same criteria used in the Scottish elections. Swinnet also wants 16 and 17 year olds the vote. His opponents want to use the same rules as for Westminster, thus barring the EU nationals the vote, but allowing 750,000 Scots living in England the vote.

Let's deal with the under-18's first. Why, for the Referendum only, does the SNP want to give these people the vote? Why should they be given the vote?

The principle that the SNP is using is that the question is of such fundamental importance, that they should be given the opportunity to have their say. Laudable, but as I've said before; the SNP only want to give them the vote to boost the "Yes" numbers, via the policy of free higher education. Looking at other areas; how can he give them the vote, when they cannot buy tobacco and alcohol, nor can they stand as either a councillor or MSP? If you extend voting rights, then you must extend other areas as well. If young people are considered mature enough to vote, then surely they are mature enough to make a decision about the dangers of smoking and drinking.

As to the EU nationals getting the vote - unless they have been here for at least three years contributing to the economy, then no. It is not they who are being affected in the long term, as they can always return to their country of origin. We do not get to have a say in their country, so why give them the vote? Are we going to give those who beg in the street the vote?

Likewise, Scots who have left Scotland should not get to vote in the Referendum either. Most will be away long term as it is, so they again will be unaffected by the result. Unionist arguments cannot be used here - this is not a Westminster election.

Politicians on both sides need to stop trying to manipulate the voting entitlements to suit their own agenda.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Spin, Spin, Spin........

Well, we all know how the political parties and the media spin the stories, and today showed how it is done.

Sir Fred Goodwin has been stripped of his knighthood. A popular move it seems, albeit an uncomfortable one for Alex Salmond.

Alex did offer his support to Fred for the aquisitions which caused a rather a few problems. Let's not go into that, since enough people are debating the issue at present.

The BBC went overboard, with the implication that Alex was riding on Fred's shoulder at the time. One could swear that Alex was really responsible for the subsequent mess, with his talk about light-touch regulation. Hidden questions about the judgement of the First Minister - funnily enough, no one else thought it was a bad move at the time.

The Sun joined in, but at the other extreme. Judging by their version of the story, Alex is a financial god who will restore order to the turbulent system. They never mentioned the comment Alex made that "in hindsight" he should have done things differently.

The truth lies in the middle, but since it is "boring", neither side wants to report it.

For the next thirty months we will have spin, spin and more spin, with a side order of spin.