Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Ireland no more...Iceland no more...

Honest. Ye couldny make it up!

Kenneth Gibson, MSP of the SNP persuasion, wants Scotland to be like Cyprus! That's right, no need to rub your eyes: he wants us to be like Cyprus.... Cyprus, in case you had forgotten, was invaded by Turkey 35 years ago and was partitioned until very recently. Half the population hates and distrusts the other half. The position has thawed a little in the last few years, but Cyprus remains, for all intents and purposes, a split country and divided society. Why would anyone in their right mind want Scotland to be like Cyprus?

You may ask whatever happened to the famous "Arc of Propsperity", of Ireland and Iceland which were supposed to be the examplars for an independent Scotland. Well ...not a lot....

.... except it failed!

The Arc collapsed. It let the Nationalists down. The "tigers" lost their teeth, they got mangy. They got lame. So the Nats have kicked the Arc into touch. Ireland no more. Iceland no more. Now these countries have failed to live up to the SNP's foolish expectations and predictions, the focus moves to Cyprus. And Estonia. And Luxembourg.

Mr Gibson famously made the front page of the Sun soon after his much disputed election. Maybe the most charitable explanation of his latest pronouncement is a burning desire for more headlines. Maybe "We've got what it takes to be like any split, divided and inconsequential country in the world". Not very attractive, but what else can you say....

For info, the MSP has tabled the motion below:


Short Title: Stronger Apart

That the Parliament notes that, following the European elections on 4 June 2009, the independent nations and EU member states of Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Estonia and Slovenia, with a combined population of 4.9 million, will be represented by 30 MEPs, while Scotland will have only six; recognises that Luxembourg alone, with fewer citizens than Edinburgh, will match Scotland’s total; is aware that an independent Scotland like Denmark, would have 13 MEPs, and believes that, if all the nations of the United Kingdom had independent representation, the number of MEPs in the United Kingdom would rise from 72 to around 92 and that we are therefore weaker together, stronger apart.

Read it and weep.

Well Done Nicola.....

This story from the Herald ( )shows that the NHS in Scotland has been performing well, and delivering better than ever before.

Nicola Sturgeon claims that "This is quite an astonishing performance by NHS Scotland over the last year."

It is a good peformance Nicola, but the work has not been done "over the last year"... The groundwork for these improvements was done while Labour was in power at Holyrood. And it was done over a number of years: building new hospitals and health centres and reorganising the NHS structures and internal communications from GP surgeries through local health boards to new and improved buildings, IT systems, management structures and reporting mechanisms. And many if not all of these improvements were opposed by the SNP. So yes. A great performance from the NHS. But it takes years of real dedication and investment to achieve these improvements, not 18 months of rhetoric.

She also said "..there is more to do and all NHS boards must direct efforts to reaching a target for 18 weeks for the maximum waiting time for treatment after being referred by a GP."

Which means of course that the SNP now agrees with Labour's targets, something they derided while in power...

In the last two years we have grown used to nationalist politicians opening PPP schools, the building of which which they opposed, and taking the credit for those schools. Now Nicola wants to take credit for improvements in the NHS and targets set while she was in opposition, and which she opposed at the time...

Maybe someday the Nationalists will be able to take credit for something they have actually achieved themselves. Abolishing Student Debt? Local Income Tax? Scottish Futures Trust? 1000 extra polis?

My advice? Don't hold your breath. Just wait for the next SNP press release....

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tories Try to Abolish National Minimum Wage

A Tory MP has tabled a bill to have the National Minimum Wage made "voluntary". Ten years after Labour introduced this minimal protection for the low paid, and just as it is increasing again, the "caring" Conservatives are showing their true colours.

The bill is entitled The Employment Opportunities Bill, and it is tabled by Senior Conservative Christopher Chope - who as a minister helped bring in the Poll Tax. It is timetabled for its second reading in Parliament this Friday 15 May. The obvious aim is to abolish the National Minimum Wage.

Read the full horror of the bill here;

Clean the Moat my Good Chap

Trust the Tories to put a new slant on the MPs' expenses scandal. It's not just duplicate receipts for M&S underwear or Tesco's Finest Rioja for the new classless Conservatives.

Oh no. For the working man's friends on the Tory benches it's B&Q Moat Cleaner, and Homebase Heliport Coating, not to mention Jewson's Tennis Court Fixer.

No wonder they believe they've got the credentials to represent the common man. They probably think that creating more jobs for pool cleaners is the solution to the recession.

And jolly grateful to get the chance we are M'Lord!

Monday, 11 May 2009

MPs' Expenses - What can you say?

More revelations about the expense claims of MPs over the weekend. It's difficult to know what to say about the behaviour exposed in the claims. The people involved must be fools if they thought it would never come out. I remember an MP of my acquaintance being quite clear that he would be very careful on expenses and avoid all suspicion of freeloading. That was 20 years ago! This guy was independently wealthy, but even so he was scrupulous about being honest in that respect. On the basis that honesty is the best policy you cannot argue, and on the basis that it would be stupid to be anything else, how right he was!

That said, I do think Gordon Brown has been badly done by - the explanation in today's Guardian ( ) of his sharing of a cleaner with his brother and sister-in-law is absolutely clear and understandable, and shows not the slightest hint of questionable action on his part.

Nonetheless, what a mess. And it's all parties. Labour has and will suffer more because it has more MPs and it is the party of power, but the Tories seem to be at it as well according to today's news. Not heard anything about the Lib Dems, but the silence from all parties says a lot. They all expect to be in the barrel over this.

Including the SNP. Alex Salmond's £400 a month for food! Well. You wouldn't have to ask where that goes, would you? Although you would wonder how even he managed to eat all the pies while only attending 6 votes in London in all that time!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Credit crunch, what credit crunch? Pandemic, what etc..?

To Braehead shopping centre outside Paisley today, for a bit of this and that. Horrible weather, so inside of the shops seems an attractive option. Question is: what effect will the CC have on business? Empty shops? Deserted roads?

Not bloomin' likely.

We were queued back to the motorway slip road on the way in. And on the way out? We couldn't get out! Stuck in M&S car park while traffic gridlocked in every direction. So, after ten mins, found a space and parked and went back to M&S for a coffee.

Twenty mins later, back to the car, but no use. No movement, indeed worse if anything.

So, into Waterstones to buy a couple of boooks (PG Wodehouse and Goerge McD Fraser since you ask). Try again after another half-hour. This time not so bad. Cars actually moving if not very fast. And then blocked at the motorway on-ramp...!!

So what credit crunch is it that is making people spend so much?

On the way home, radio 5Live informs us that a London school has closed down because six (that's 6) pupils have 'flu! Bloody Hell! What kind of pandemic is it that affects 6 children in a capital city and makes headline news into the bargain! And closes a school!

I'm not the type that immediately scorns any headline news, but, blow me down, this is a rum epidemic. Very few get ill, and nobody dies. And still it leads the news: maybe we should call it media-swine fever. Might be very apt on a number of levels.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

First Ministers' Forum

According to the Herald today, three First Ministers think Holyrood needs changing.

The story has the air of a holiday weekend filler with not much detail of where, when and under what prompting the various quotes were gathered, but it is on the front page, so the Herald might actually be taking it seriously.

Jack McConnel says that the financial powers should be revisited and, he implies, increased. Henry McLeish says we should look at a "federal" system. Alex Salmond looks forward to independence.

The first and last are no surprise. Tax raising powers that never get used have always been a conundrum that needs to be addressed. Which is not to say that there is an easy and obvious solution. And Alex Salmond promoting independence, well that's always been his public position.

But Henry McLeish goes further, expressing a view in favour of federalism. He says..

"We have to have an alternative narrative to independence, and I believe federalism addresses the question of what to do about an England that looks increasingly out of kilter with the rest of the UK. ....Why should sovereignty rest solely at Westminster? Why should diversity be a problem? Why should different self-identities be a problem?"

I have to say I don't agree with his premise that "We need an alternative narrative to independence". We have an alternative narrative. It's called Devolution, and Henry McLeish was a great supporter of it when he was FM.

As for his staement that"...England .... looks increasingly out of kilter with the rest of the UK". Where is the evidence for that?

When you anlayse the statement further, you see that it's full of weasel words. For example: "looks", well is it or is it not? "increasingly", increasingly over what? "out of kilter", what exactly does "out of kilter" mean? And who says "diversity" is a problem? Or "different identities", whatever that means? You would have to be fairly foolish to opt for any major change on the basis of that analysis.

Federalism has been a Lib Dem aim for some time, and they and Henry would have to explain what exactly is meant by "federalism" in this context, but it will take stronger arguments than that to be convince anyone that a federal solution would be any better than the current set up.

E.g. under a federal set-up, would the UK have bailed out RBS and HBOS, as they have just done? Or would a federal UK leave these matters to a federal Scotland? Under a federal system would we co-operate more closely or less closely on health matters such as the swine flu pandemic?

It's not clear who is flying a kite here, the Herald or Henry McLeish, but somebody is.