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.