Wednesday 30 December 2009

The Herald reports that "A new row over oil revenues has broken out between Holyrood and Westminster after a report showed that even after they were taken into account, Scotland’s overall debt would have risen by £3.5 billion this year."

the story, here

goes on to say that .... ".. even if all UK oil and gas receipts had gone to Scotland, only in nine of the last 28 years would Scotland’s finances have been in surplus and the last time it would have happened would have been 1988...".

Predictably Alex Salmond has gone into rhetorical overdrive... he (or his "official spokesman") says "The Scotland Office is now spending its time working against Scotland’s interests rather than standing up for Scotland at Westminster – it is the anti-Scotland Office".

The lesson: the SNP's economic analysis is wrong, but if you dare to question it, the SNP accuses you of being "anti-Scotland".

It's typical and pathetic. What can the sensible person say beyond "Oh dear"?

Monday 14 December 2009

How to negotiate, LibDem Style.....

Those tough negotiators over at Scottish LibDem HQ have really put the squeeze on the SNP this time, with a lesson in hard-nosed diplomacy that we can all benefit from studying.

Niccollo Machiavelli hasn't got a look-in with these smart operators. Oh no.

So what, you ask, have the LibDem toughies come up with? Well, they've agreed to back the SNP budget, but for a price: there has to be 5% cut in "fat cat" wages in local councils... those officers earning over £100k will have to take 5% cut in wages....

the details are here....

Of course, the LibDem leadership will have to use all their skills of persuasion to convince John Swinney that attacking "fat cat" wages in the current economic climate, in the depth of a recession, will be at all popular with the punters.......

Aye right. What this amounts to is the LibDems supporting the SNP budget and in return they get... what? An action that the SNP will not only gladly endorse, would probably have done off their own bat anyway, and will certainly take all the credit for.

The reckoning is that this will save about £30million.. but there is no mention of what the LibDems want the "savings" to be spent on. Having saved the money, it is apparently being gifted back to Mr Swinney to do with what he will. Cut-throat political dealings isn't the game here, it seems.

You have to ask: is this the biggest concession the LibDems could have got in the current situation, with money tight and the SNP's popularity falling and the nats desperate to get their budget through parliament at almost any cost...???

... Tavish the street-fighter.... ?

"Oh dear, oh dear" is the only appropriate comment.....

Mike Russell, one of your smarter nats

The Herald reports, here, that the Education Secretary Michael Russell has offered councils a deal on speeding up the SNP's policy to cut class sizes. The deals is: if councils do a bit more on class sizes, they can scale back on providing free school meals.

The class-size policy is already dead in the water, so Mr Russell's proposals mean that, as well as failing to deliver on that policy, the SNP will also fail to meet their pledge on free school meals for deserving children.

Mike Russell is widely regarded as one of the cleverer SNP politicians, but a compromise that destroys two policies instead of one? You have to ask: how clever is that?

Monday 7 December 2009

Class war... as in "all in the same class in school..."

David Cameron calls Gordon Brown "petty" for mentioning the fact that he and his shadow cabinet seems to be comprised of toffs who went to the most expensive public schools.

This, according to Dave, is "class warfare". Dave says "it doesn't matter what school a chap went to.....It's policy and priority that matter..."

Aye. Well. Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Of course it doesn't matter what school any particular individual went to: even Eton will produce the occasional outstanding individual. But when half the Shadow cabinet went to the same school, at the same time, and then went to the same university at the same time, and while at university they were all members of the same club at the same time, and then the went and joined the same party at the same time, and now we are supposed to swallow the argument that these half-a-dozen blokes that went to the same school, university, club at the same time are, by some miracle, the half-a-dozen people in the country best qualified to form the next government....

It does stretch credulity a teeny bit, does it not?

If me and the other alumni of Gasswork Comprehensive 1972 were to come along and make a similar claim, what would the Tory press say? What would George and Dave say?

"Oiks" would be the least of it, I fear.

Then we would find out what class warfare really is.....

...Does anyone remember "Gorbals Mick"...?

When the sheet metal worker from Shettleston had the temerity to rise above his station and become Speaker of the toffs' own (they believe)Parliament, to the rage of certain Tories? Now that was nasty. That was class war.... but we didn't hear Dave whingeing then, did we?

It seem the Tories can hand it out in the war of the classes. But they seem mighty reluctant to take it....

Friday 4 December 2009

GARL Vote - SNP and Tory Coalition

One of the notable things about the current Scottish Pariament, and something that has always puzzled me, is that the SNP's best friends at Holyrood are the Tories. The Tories would deny it of course, but actions speak louder than words.

The SNP Budget would certainly have failed in the last two years if the Conservatives had not rescued it with their votes. The mystery is why the party that has in the recent past styled itself The Conservative and Unionist Party, is the party that always seems to prop up the SNP administration at moments of danger.

The process continues with the defeat of a Labour attempt to rescue the Glasgow Airport Rail Link by getting it into this year's budget.

The publication of the Finance Committee’s Budget Report shows that the Conservative MSP Derek Brownlee voted with the SNP members of the committee to prevent the reinstatement of GARL.

This is doubly puzzling since the leaders of the six largest Scottish business associations have recently started a campaign to save the GARL.

The Conservatives like to pose as the businessman's party. It is difficult to see what benefit the Tories gain from this abandonment of their usual business friendly stance. No doubt the will claim some concessions in the Budget, but it is unlikley that any gain will balance the Tories' loss of credibility with Scottish business leaders.

And as the SNP slithers and slips in popularity the the Tories risk being harmed by their close association with the less and less popular nationalists.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Jim Sillars agrees with me....!!!???

I posted earlier today (Suppose they gave a referendum and nobody came) that the referendum bill was a damp squib.

It appears that Jim Sillars agrees with me. The text of his letter to the Herald reads ...

"I don’t know why the SNP government insists on calling its publication on a referendum on Scottish independence a White Paper. With its lack of analysis, its failure to examine the present and future that beckons inside a declining Union that is bankrupt, and its implied acceptance of “devolution max” (no doubt to be defined by Westminster), White Flag would be a more accurate description. No wonder the Unionists are rejoicing.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh."

Suppose they gave a referendum and nobody came?

Yesterday Alex Salmond announced, to much bagpipe playing, military marching, blue face-painting and background saltire projection, a small referendum.

Which is the remarkable was a small announcement. The notable thing is just how small and insignificant are the ripples that the event has created.

To be sure, nationalists are in a ferment. The blogs and letter pages flow with rhetoric. But the nation is unmoved. There is a collective national shoulder-shrug.

This indfifference is best reflected on the Herald front page: a main splash about the Crisis in A&E in our hospitals and a single column side story about the referendum.

Because, truth be told, the Scottish people are more concerned about the real world of unemployment and economic uncertainty, of council cuts and no new schools or hospitals and how they and their families will survive the next few difficult months or years.

The referendum is an irrelevance to the real problems of the real people in the real world.

No doubt it will carry on through its dreary steps, with Alex Salmond waving and smirking and boasting as he usally does. But this time he will be performing in a void. Nobody but his own troops will be listening and even fewer will be caring.

Pity that we have to waste £9 million of public money on this SNP inspired diversion and distraction from our real problems....

Saturday 28 November 2009


I always thought the so-called Concordat was a bad deal for local councils, with the stress well-and-truly on the first syllable. The real spelling should be con-cordat.

The underlying logic was: The SNP will promise something, the councils will deliver it. In return "ring fencing" of funds will be abolished, allowing councils to have more freedom to spend the money as they wish. There was also to be a "better relationship" between councils and the Scottish Executive

To me, the reality was always: the SNP will promise all sorts of stuff and if it is not delivered, they will point to the con-cordat and conveniently lay-off the blame on the councils.

As for ring fencing: it is obviously good from the point of view of councils that they can spend money as they wish. But this ignores the fact that "ring fencing" was put there for a reason: to deliver government priorities and to ensure the money was spent in the target areas.

Education was previously a key "ring fenced" government priority and the largest area of spending, and removal of "ring fencing" always carried the risk that the money would be spent somewhere else....

The councils, having control of funding and having the best local perspective, have decided not to deliver class sizes of 18 in P1 - P3 as the SNP wished. There are also 1350 fewer teachers than a year ago.

The matter has come to a head with the SNP administration threatening to remove responsibility for schools from local councils.

There are very good reasons for the class size situation, key amongst them being the impracticality of the policy: it will not work without years of planning and delivery and billions of pounds invested. It never was a workable policy.

Anyway, now the SNP is blaming the councils for the non-delivery of their Education policies and threatening to destroy the con-cordat and bring Education under the control of Holyrood.

It's a mess. What's more, it's a predictable mess and it shows that the SNP was never serious or honest about the con-cordat. The con-cordat was always a vehcle to distance themselves from policy failure, and the so-called "bettier relationship" with local councils was only ever a one-sided perspective.

Those who really believed in the con-cordat have been well and truly conned.

Meanwhile there are 1350 fewer teachers in Scotland than there were a year ago and the class size reduction remains a pipe-dream.

So much for the "give us a chance and we'll show what we can do" pleas of SNP "government". So much for a "beter relationship" between Holyrood and local councils. So much for the con-cordat.

Friday 27 November 2009

Brick for Brick - You 'avin' a laff?

Last month I posted about the 14 Secondary Schools that the SNP administration was promising us...


This week Fiona Hyslop announced 21 new or refurbished Primary Schools. That makes a grand total of 35 new schools or major refurbishments.

Now here's a strange thing: when challenged about the pledge to match the previous administrations school-building programme "brick-for-brick", Ms Hyslop was wont to claim that the SNP had "completed" 236 new major school projects....but 35 can never be made to equal 236, (and BTW, none of them will be completed by May 2011) so how to square the circle?

The answer is in the word "complete": there have indeed been 236 schools completed... every one of them started or commissioned before the SNP came to power.

How does Fiona Hyslop hope to get away with this deception? Answer... she' hasn't.. she's bin fun' oot.

Rhona Brankin asked a question in parliament on 4th November 2009:

"... whether it will list the 236 new or refurbished schools completed since April 2007 referred to in its news release of 8 October 2009, broken down, where applicable, by (a) procurement method, (b) date when the outline business case was approved and (c) date when construction commenced."


"the first bricks at 157 of those schools were laid in May 2007 or earlier. The other 79 schools were commissioned by the previous Scottish Executive, and started after the election."

The answer is accompanied by a table of all the 236 schools, when they were commissioned and when construction started, and not one of them owes anything to the SNP...except SNP ministers have had no problem attending ceremonial openings of the schools, many of which were built by PPP and which were bitterly opposed by the same ministers when in opposition.

So there we have it... the SNP promise to build schools "brick-for-brick" has no chance of being met. And claims to have "completed" 236 schools is just that: a claim with no foundation in truth or in fact.

But they have no shame when taking the credit for schools commissioned and built by others.

The SNP, Scotland's anti-busines party

The leaders of the top 6 business organisations in Scotland, the CBI, the Scottish FSB, the Scottish CoC, the Scottish IoD, the SCDI and Scottish Financial Enterprise have all united in a campaign to get the decision to abandon GARL reveresed.

The group has a website..


The main element on the homepage is a letter to the Cabinet Secretary John Swinney...

"Dear Cabinet Secretary

Thank you for inviting our organisations to meet with you on Tuesday, 10th November, to discuss the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for 2010/11. While we are not at one with you on every aspect of the spending plans, we found our discussion to be helpful and constructive.

One key area of disagreement with the Scottish Government, that we all share, concerns the decision to cancel the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) and we are writing to you now to reinforce the message that we conveyed to you at our meeting.

As we are sure you will be aware, the Scottish business community was extremely supportive of the GARL project and shared the view expressed by your Government that the project would provide a fast, direct public transport link between Glasgow Airport and the centre of the city. GARL’s attractiveness to the business community has never been in doubt, providing a positive impact on Scotland’s international connectivity, existing modes of transport to and from Glasgow Airport to ease congestion, and on the metropolitan area’s economy and that of Scotland as a whole. Furthermore, given the particular pressures on the construction sector in Scotland during this severe recession, GARL would provide a much needed boost to the sector and related employment.

When the procurement process for this project was announced, Scottish businesses supported the Transport Minister’s claim that progress with the project demonstrated the Government’s commitment to investing in crucial transport projects to promote sustainable growth in the west of Scotland and beyond. It was with deep disappointment, therefore, that we learned of the Government’s decision, without any forewarning or consultation, to renege on its commitment to GARL and we do not accept that there are insurmountable financial reasons for its cancellation. The Scottish Government has known for a considerable period about the more stringent times ahead for the devolved public finances, and the possibility of GARL’s cancellation was never stated to be in prospect.

In our view, the GARL project is not only desirable but affordable. It has been cancelled only as a result of the Scottish Government’s priorities lying elsewhere and Ministers’ decisions not to use the full range of funding options and revenue streams with regard to infrastructure development. In the spirit of partnership, we would be happy to sit down with the Scottish Government and others to discuss possible ways forward. We do hope that you will take our concerns seriously and seek to reintroduce GARL into the Government’s spending plans in the Draft Budget for 2010/11.

In recognition of the public interest in this issue, we are releasing this letter to the news media."

The letter is signed by

Iain M McMillan CBE, Director, CBI Scotland
Andy Willox OBE, Scottish Policy Convenor, FSB Scotland
David Watt, Director, IoD Scotland
Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Dr Lesley Sawers, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Development and Industry
Owen Kelly, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Alex Salmond is fond of stressing the SNP's is the "business friendly" party.

Not any more, apparently...

Thursday 26 November 2009

Ireland - the Arc of Religiosity?

The SNP never tires (well it has tired recently) of telling us that Scotland should be more like Ireland. We hear less of it now that the Arc of Prosperity has sunk beneath the North Atlantic and the Irish Economic Tiger has had its teeth well and truly pulled.

What we also hear less of is the SNP's reliance on money from religious sources to fund its recent electoral surge. The SNP's most successful election campaign in 2007 with massive donations from two of richest and publicly religious figures in Scotland.

Given this reliance of money from such sources, is it wrong to worry about social policy should Scotland leave the UK and set up as a small new fledgeling state?

A few years ago, before it was the economic "Tiger" of recent myth, Ireland was that small new fledgeling state, with powerful religious institutions to "guide" the politicians in social policy.

We know the results, with politicians subservient to the clergy, the church given power of veto over many areas of society including the law and education, the Magdelene Schools and this sad, sorry, stuff...

So. Should Scotland be more like Ireland, as the SNP wants? Or not?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Support for independence on the for Labour on the increase

The SNP campaigned on competency:
"Put us in to power and then judge us by our achievements"
they said.

Well it seems that Scottish voters are taking on board the SNP's pleas to be judged as a government. Unfortunately for the SNP's strategy, it appears that the voters appear think that they are a pretty crap government......

The Telegraph and the New Statesman are reporting a YouGov poll showing support for the SNP and for independence shrinking and support for Labour improving.

Those saying that they would support independence is recorded at 29% of the electorate, down substantially on a year ago.

A referendum on independence is also less popular,
47 per cent said that there should not be a vote "as this would be a distraction from more urgent issues that need tackling".

Support for Labour at Westminster is up 10% to 39% and for the SNP is down 12% to 24%.

All-in-all, very bad newsfor the Salmond regime, and depressing for the supporters of independence.

Good news for everybody else, though:)

Monday 23 November 2009

The Tories, The Sun and the BBC

I know it's a bit old news now but last week, when the Sun was attacking Gordon Brown for writing personal letters to bereaved relatives of military casulaties, I was more than puzzled by the BBC's slavish following of the Sun's agenda. The BBC got a lot of criticism from its viewers for that approach, and it was featured on their Newswatch programme.

The most difficult aspect for me to swallow was that there is an obvious agreement between the Sun and the Tories: the Sun will back the Tories between now and the election and in return, if the Tories get elected, they will neuter the BBC. They have already threatened to remove the BBC's Royal Charter.

This neat little plot helps the Tories with electoral support and it helps the Murdoch empire to weaken a media competitor.

The real puzzle for me is: what's in it for the BBC? Why "give comfort to the enemy" (the Sun) by publicising its stories, when that enemy is out to damage you by any means possible?

I actually complained to the BBC and got to speak to a senior BBC News Editor on this, but I have to say I got no satisfactory answer.

I wonder if this is the last time we will see the BBC and the Sun come together in the run up to the election?...

Keep yer eyes peeled...

Interesting Times...

A Mori opinion poll in Sunday's Observer suggests that a Tory victory is far from certain and that, after next year's General Election, a hung parliament might just be the more likely option.

The newspaper reports

that ...

"The Ipsos MORI survey for the Observer, which will cause alarm in Tory ranks and boost Labour's hope of performing a "great escape", puts the Conservatives on 37%, only six points ahead of Labour on 31%. The Liberal Democrats are on 17%."

The poll refelcts persisting doubts about the quality of the Tory leadership and the vague nature of many of their policy prescriptions.

Friday 20 November 2009

John Swinney - Scottish Politician of the Year

Mr Swinney is, it seems, "Scottish Politician of the Year". Which award was given him by the Herald because "he has handled a very difficult brief in the teeth of the recession really well "...

Is that right. Let's examine the evidence...

John Swinney is the Finanace spokesman for the SNP. The SNP had two big promises in the area of Finance.

1. A local Income Tax to replace the "Hated Community Charge".

2. A Scottish Futures Trust to replace the "Hated PPP".

Mr Swinney is the man in charge of these key policies, neither of which has been enacted.

The LIT was complicated in theory, obscure in practice, fiendishly complicated in execution and quite probably illegal in Scots law. So it has been dropped and the Community Charge continues in being.

None of this was news to Mr Swinney. Some version of LIT has been mooted on and off for 50 years: but it has never been enacted for the reasons detailed above. Mr Swinney knew all of that, but still went ahead and made a manifesto promise to deliver it...without actually thinking through the details of his chosen policy.

The Scottish Futures Trust, now there's a story. This magicical mechanism was intended to do away with PPP. It would, we were promised, provide the Finance and the Project Management Mechanisms to deliver major infrastructure developments, more quickly, efficiently and at a fraction of the costs of PPP. And...

Well, to be honest, it doesn't exist. There is something masquerading under the name of a "Scottish Futures Trust", but it does not provide the Finance for major (or indeed any)infrastructure projects. If truth be told the so-called "Scottish Futures Trust" consists of an office in Glasgow with a big rubber stamp with which to "approve" projects that would have been approved in any case. It's fig-leaf and a process bottleneck. It's essentially worthless, and it has not delivered on new major development.

In fact, while we were waiting for this mythical beast to be born, the SNP built not one new school, EARL and GARL were abandoned, and the Aberdeen ring road sunk for lack of vision by the SNP and lack of a proper funding mechanism. The one major infrastructure project that is to go ahead is the new Forth Bridge. And the funding? We don't really know yet, but it will not be from the SFT....

Two and a half years wasted in the futile pursuit of badly defined and thought out policies on local taxation and infrastructure funding, and vital infrastructure projects dropped or delayed or de-scoped as a consequence.

And the politician responsible is "Scottish Politician of the Year"?

What must the rest of them be like...???

Thursday 19 November 2009

Explain yourself sir, or by god I'll...

Over on the Our Scotland forum, I've been having an interesting exchange about "the unionist position", in which one Cuthill76 seems to think that, if you are not a nationalist, you have to explain yourself to him/her.

This is of course an absurd position, so I wrote a little playlet to explain to Cuthill and others why their position is logically untenable....

Cuthill76 posed the challenge ...
To the unionists. Can you please clarify your position on why being part of the Union is a good thing? Can you please do this by providing tangible reasons and please avoid simply negative attacks on the nationalist position.

To which I responded

the curtain rises...

A Small Voice: Hey you: can you please tell me why we shouldn't cut off our right arm? Can you please do this by providing tangible reasons and please avoid negative attacks on the Amputatist position..

Me: Whut? Who are you?

I speak for your right arm..

No you don't.

Yes I do, I'm the Right Arm Amputatist Party (RAAP)

Where are you? And how can you claim to speak for my right arm?

I'm here...down here..that's right... a pinkie. And I demand redress for past wrongs....

What wrongs...

Nobody asked me to be attached to your just happened, before I was born. It was the parcel of rogues in a stem cell. I wasn't consulted and I demand redress. Chop off the arm.

But your not my right arm, your just a tiny minority digit...

...I speak for the whole of the arm, and I demand amputation, or at least a referendum on amputation. And I want it now. Or later. And I demand that you give me reasons why I shouldn't amputate..

But that's crazy. I don't have to tell you why I want to stay attached to my right arm. It's always beeen there, it works quite well, if I lost it I would be a bit hampered and I have no desire to lose it. As for the arm, how would it survive on its own?

There's tons of small arms surviving quite well all over the world. They don't need foreign shoulders to lean on or foreign legs to help them get about. They're called the Arms of Prosperity, and you get them from Iceland to Ireland....

But I don't need to tell you why I want to keep my arm. It's my arm and I like it. That's enough for me...


What do you mean?

Your a bodyist. You want to keep your body whole and deny me the right of amputation.

But it's my body! Dammit. And it's my arm, I don't see any sensible reason to cut it off.

Why should you keep it?

Why not?

See. You refuse to give any reasons why you should keep your arm. Your stupid and bodyist and you don't have any reasons for keeping your arm.

Apart from it works and its mine and I don't want to lose it? Isn't that enough?

Not for us Amputists. We don't agree with connection and we demand Amputaton now!

Yer aff yer heid mate. It's you that should be justifying amputation, not me that should be justifying keeping my body parts...

COWARD! BODYIST! and so on ad infinitum...

the curtain falls

Tuesday 17 November 2009

The Dearest Bridge in the World

The SNP has announced the bill authorising the building of a new Forth road crossing. The bridge, at an estimate of £2billion+ is reckoned to be one of the dearest estimates/mile of any similar bridge.


But it is not at all clear how they will finance it. The SNP's flagship policy of a "Scottish Futures Trust" has failed to materialise as a funder of major projects, and the SNP has rejected an offer of £1billion towards the cost from the UK Government.

The Nationalists will only say that the money will be "found from capital budgets.....but of course, the cost to the capital budget means that vital infrastructure projects; roads, schools, hospitals and other much needed public projects, will suffer.

Question: is this the best use of the available money in the current circumstances?

Friday 30 October 2009

Glasgow Rail Link Not Debated

This from the SNP candidate in Glasgow North By-election...

SNP by-election candidate, David Kerr, hailed the action of the SNP Group in Glasgow council after they walked out in protest at the Lord Provost's refusal to discuss the scourge of organised crime in Glasgow.

So the SNP candidate agrees with the SNP group? Big news, eh?

This from the Herald...

... Lord Provost...ruled that (the) motion... was neither competent nor relevant..." and "...the council was happy to discuss organised crime as long as the motion was competent...


...there was a debate scheduled on the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.... and the walkout allowed the SNP to duck out of taking part in that debate....

Am I being cynical in suspecting the typical and frequently used SNP/Monty Python tactic... run away, run away!!??...

Friday 9 October 2009

Where's our schools Fiona?

In February 2007, Fiona Hyslop, speaking to The Herald, said:

“Within the first 100 days of an SNP government we'd start replacing PPP with a Scottish Futures Trust. It would be a not-for-profit trust which would serve as an alternative finance scheme - and it would squeeze out the PPP programme.”

Two and a half years later, we have no Scottish Futures Trust and the effect on our (non-existent) school building programme is evident.

SNP politicians say that they have "opened" a number of new schools, but what they do not say is that the SNP has not commissioned one new school in all the time they have been in power.

Last week they announced that there would be part-funding for 14 new secondary schools, but none of these are expected to be complete by the time of the next Scotttish elections.

As for the claims to have "opened" new schools: over the last two years, the only projects that have been completed are either PPP projects left over from the Lab/LibDem administration or delivered and funded by local authorities, without help from Holyrood.

Ministers like Fiona Hyslop have been quick to attend opening ceremonies and take the credit, but they have done nothing to deserve any credit for any schools.

A damning statistic: tThe Scottish Futures Trust will not build and deliver a single school in the lifetime of this parliament.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

What Exactly is The Scottish Futures Trust? ..and can we trust it to build our schools...??

The Education secretary has announced 14 new Secondary Schools* across Scotland. These schools are to be financed by traditional methods of borrowing.

So what, I hear you say, of the SNP's flagship "Scottish Futures Trust", the all singing all dancing replacement for PPP, the magical money making machine that was to do away with the hated PFI and provide enough money to match the previous, Labour-led, administraton's school-building programme "brick for brick"? Whatever happened to the SFT?

The SNP says that these schools will use the SFT. But they will not be financed by the SFT. How can that be?

Well. It seems that the "Scottish Futures Trust" has been transformed (without actually telling anyone) from

...."an all singing all dancing financing mechanism that will help match the previous school-building programm brick-for-brick",

into ...

..."a wee office in Glasgow where 5 civil servants will use Project Management Software to report on the progress of a few new schools that are actually financed in the same old way as before..."!!!

Right. So no Scottish Futures Trust and just 14 schools and none of them likely to be completed by the end of this Parliament.

That's why we voted SNP, is it?

As I said elsewhere: the SNP lack of vision and ambition for the people of Scotland is so disappointing. Disgraceful actually.

*Any new school building is good news, but to put this figure in context: there were 3 Secondary and 3 Primary Schools built in my own council area by the last administration. So only 14 in all of Scotland, and not likely to be completed any time soon, is pretty mean, is it not?

a little p.s. 6th Oct. 2009.

There is to be a debate at Holyrood on Thursday on the provision of schools. Apparently Fiona Hyslop ducked the last big Education debate (on teacher numbers). Will she hide away again?

Thursday 17 September 2009

Arguments for (and against) independence

Richard Thompson has promised to give his arguments for believing that independence is the best route for Scotland, I will respond and anyone else is free to join in (subject to moderation for insult and obscenity and irrelevance).

Over to you, Richard...

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Referendum? What Referendum?

The most intriguing thing about Alex Salmond's scheduling of legislation for a referendum this year is the lack of excitement it has caused.

The blogs are not full of it, nor are the comments columns in newspapers nor even the letters pages, where you would expect to see the nat letter-writing teams trying to whip up a false furore in favour...

Why is that? On the face of it, the SNP administration's only reason for wanting power (and therefore for voting them into power) is to get this referendum. But when it comes, indifference rages. Nobody seems to care...

I think the main reason is the shallowness of support for independence. When questioned by pollsters a certain number of people will always say that they are “in favour” of independence. But when you probe a little deeper you find that it is not their top priority, or even their tenth priority.

What people really want, their real priorities, are more jobs (or in the recession job security) and better health care and education and roads and policing and housing. If I, or a close friend or relative, lose my job or have a serious health issue, it can be the talk of the steamie. A referendum? On idependence? Yawn and yawn...

So the voters are not really engaged by the idea of a referendum. It's a distraction, a waste of resources and a misdirection of political energy. It shows that the SNP has got its priorities all wrong and out of kilter with the real needs and desires of the Scottish people.

The SNP is playing political games while the economy struggles and Scots are losing their jobs and are just not all that interested in a referendum on independence.

They have other priorities, and it is these priorities that the SNP administration should be addressing instead of wasting their energy, and ours, on a futile party political exercise.

Sunday 6 September 2009

SNP MSP and the Property Developer

MPs and Msps expenses, their relationships with money and who they consort with have been big news recently. The need for total transparancy has never been greater for those in public life.

This story in the Sunday Herald is headlined "Msp Criticised after backing friend's planning application", looks suspiciously like more than friendship. Kenny Gibson, Msp for Cunninghame North, has supported a planning application by a friend for a development on Arran, which is in his constituency, while living in a house rented from that same friend and after the main social housing element of the development was dropped. As Margot NacDonal Msp is quoted as saying "....a planning application plus friendship and a tenancy equals a load of trouble...."

Monday 24 August 2009

The Flags Were the Last Straw....

I was quite willing to go along with Justice Secretarty Kenny McAskill when he said the release of Meghrahi was on compassionate grounds. It seems so plausible: the guy is dying and he wanted to be near his family.

But then he did get released and he did get near his family, and what happened? The Gadafi mob flying Scottish Flags happened. It struck like a kick in the stomach: horrible and awful. Who are these people and what gives them the right to wave our flag in support of a man who has been convicted of 270 murders?

It seems the right has been presented by our very own Justic Secretary. Now, you may say: what else could he do? Well, the answer is, anything that made sure these morons were not implicating us in their hero worship. Keep Maghgrahi in a secure hospital, or in some other secure establishment where he can get treated. Allow unlimited visits for family members. Then he wouldn't die in jail, or alone, and that would be compassionate enough for me.

Anything but what he did.

Monday 17 August 2009

UK Underwrites Glasgow - Edinburgh Rail Upgrade

The headline in the Herald says "Edinburgh to Glasgow in 35 Minutes". The story, which is good news in itself, tells how Minister at Holyrood are "relieved" that the money has been found to finance an improvement to the railway line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and that the key financial element is that the money can be borrowed against the security of the value of UK Rail Network (my italics and emphasis).

So. It's the value of the UK network that allows a vital upgrade to go ahead in Scotland. Is this a benefit of the union or what?

Also, just a passing thought: why is this top-notch-high-grade-really-really-vital infrastructure development not being financed using the wonderful-marvelous-better-than-anything Scottish Futures Trust? Could it be because the SFT is a duck which can now be clearly declared as a dead and buried duck? Isn't it time to give the SFT a solemn sending off, along with the LIT, the abolition of Student debt, the 18 class sizes, the brick-for-brick school building programme and all the other fantastical elements that padded out the SNP's 2007 election "manifesto"?

Monday 10 August 2009

Google flavoured pie in the sky from Andrew Lansley

Jim took me to task for being too occupied with the silliness of the Nationalists, so I have deversified, just this once, into the silliness of the Tories. That all right Jim?

Andrew Lansley, who is Tory Health spokesman, and apparently "untouchable" by David Cameron because he is head and shoulders above other Tory shadows, gave an interview to the Andrew Marr show yesterday.

It was the usual inconclusive waffle from Lansley and the Tories. They'll cut, but not the stuff you like missus, the stuff the other person likes. The stuff you like is well protected, believe me, I'm a Tory politician. Is that ok? Make you feel better? Good! Now go away and stop asking difficult questions.

But the really interesting part of the interview was Mr Lansley's idea of having your health records on Google!

If there's a more bonkers idea out there on the interweb, it has yet to breach the public consiousness!

If Mr Lansley really believes in freedom of information, why not just give us the right to access the info, now, as it is, with no moderation? Point is, we already have Mr Lansley would have us spend unknown amounts of resources populating an undefined system with dodgy security with our most sensitive information... why? And for whose benefit? And at what cost?

Flying pigs will be eating pie in the sky the day that works...

If Andrew Lansley really is "untouchable" because of what are supposed to be his "qualities", what does that say about the rest of the Conservative front bench? Not a lot, I'd say, and none of it complimentary.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Record numbers killed by "C-diff". SNP demands immediate public enquiry*

* Warning. Only part of this headline is accurate...

The herald reports here that the C-Difficile hospital acquired infection is killing more Scots than ever before. The figures jumped from 597 in 2007 to 765 in 2008, a rise of a third.

The one thing that is missing is the Nationalist outcry which greeted the C-diff figures before 2007. In 2006 hospital acquired infection was the direct responsibility of Labour ministers in Holyrood ad Westminster, the fault of the UK union and quite possibly a plot by the English to infect innocent Scots in their hospital beds.


Well... silence actually... Where is the strident voice of Nicola Sturgeon calling for an immediate public investigation and Ministerial resignations? Difficult, isn't it when you are the Minister responsible..? Where are the sirens of the cybernats demanding to identify whose fault is it now...? Who is to blame? And who should resign...?

Actually, it's the same as before.... Ministers can set all the policy targets they want and exhort this action ot that, but it is ultimately down to the people on the ground to take the necessary steps. Sometimes they do, and things work out. Sometimes they do, and things still don't work out. And sometimes they don't........ The point is that things happen, and the Minister, while top of the tree of responsibility is sometimes dependent on the workers at the roots to solve the actual problems

In short, government is difficult. And slogans and campaigns are great for stirring up emotions, but there is no substitute for clear thinking, hard work and perseverence. Even then, sometimes the problems remain stubbornly unresolved. If the lack of outcry from the SNP grass roots on this issue is a sign that, at last, they are beginning to recognise these hard facts, then hallelujah!

Of course it might just be that they never really cared about C-diff as a problem in itself, just a stick to beat the other parties with.... In which case, their silence on the issue now is understandable if, predictably, hypocritical.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Postcode Lottery -v- Local Decision Making

What is the difference between a "postcode lottery" and the devolution of local decisions to local bodies?

I only ask, because, according to the BBC, there is a "postcode lottery" for fertility treatment: i.e. if you live in different areas, such treatment might be given a higher or lower priority in terms of spending, delivery etc.

But then, we are all aware of the outcry that occurs when central government intervenes to direct spending and resources (NHS or otherwise) in a particular direction. Up goes the cry of "too much central interference" and "why can't they leave local decisions to local people?". So when does a "devolved decision" become a "postcode lottery"?

It always annoys me when the BBC, in particular, follows the tabloid view and takes the lazy journalistic path of sloganising rather than thinking the situation through. In an interview on Breakfast TV, an NHS representative pointed out that there is no centrally enforced rule. There are "guidelines" which can be interpreted and applied on the judgement reached by local agencies and taking into consideration local conditions and priorities.

This is the perfect definition of a locally devolved decision making process.

Think of the complaints if central government applied rigourous rules and strict regulations on the provision of this type of treatment. The first case which fell outwith the rules, or offered some ambiguity or difference from local practice or failed a local test of some sort, you would hear the voices of complaint all over the airwaves. Probably the same people who complain about the so-called "postcode lottery".

Come to think of it, far years now we have been spending more per head of population in Scotland than on England, on the NHS. Is that "devolution" or the ultimate "postcode lottery"?

Thursday 30 July 2009

Sancho Swinney Rides Again

John Swinney, having failed to achieve his key policies of LIT or SFT, is resorting to the old distraction strategy. He has resurrected the old faithful "oil fund" bandwagon. The bold steed Oil Fund is a trusty mount from which to rally the SNP faithful when all else fails but, viewed in reality, it's a spavined old nag with knock knees and a mouldy main.

In most years, to achieve the level of spending in Scotland that is achieved using the Barnett Formula, an independent Scotland would have nothing left to invest in its mythical oil fund. It's our old Nationalist friend again: spend the same money ten different ways and never mind the harsh realities.

Look here....

Mr Swinney is, it seems, also misrepresenting (if that's the word) the findings of the Calman Commissoin, much to the disgruntlement of Lord Calman himself....

and here

Look here....

Wednesday 29 July 2009

It's no' Cricket. And we don't hate the English...

t's no' Cricket. And we don't hate the English...
What a bunch of narrow-minded, whingeing, moaning, greetin', prats are the SNP. If you think that's a bit harsh, see what you make of this: SNP MSP Sandra White is enraged at the amount of cricket on TV in Scotland.... That's right cricket, y'know yon English game that no self-respecting Scot would dream of watching, never mind playing because.. well... it's English isn't it. Not that we're racist or anything like that, mind you. But you have to admit it is English (except it's played on every continent by white, black, brown, yellow and people of all colours, creeds, races and religions you may wish to name....)....Aye but, the English play it...But, wait a minute, interest in and participation in, cricket has increased in Scotland in recent years. Latest figures show that 18,000 pupils across Scotland play cricket while there are 12,000 members playing at club level. I'm sure the 2005 Ashes series had a lot to do with this increase in popularity. Whatever. Ms White is so unhappy at us watching English cricket that she has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament moaning about the "airtime given to the series on terrestrial channels".Actually, the Test series is being broadcast live on Sky Sports, there is no live coverage on terrestrial TV where coverage is limited to highlights and news reports. The watching of the series is voluntary. In fact as its on Sky, you have to pay extra for the privelege. But the SNP attitude is always: why let the facts get in the way of a good grievance..??Anyway, she was supported by her SNP colleague, Bill Wilson. The MSP for the West of Scotland argued that the coverage was as incongruous in Scotland as World Cup campaigns by the England football team.Four years ago, SNP MP Christine Grahame dubbed prominent BBC news coverage of England's Ashes victory as "insulting" to the world's poor and starving. She got her comeuppance in a Times article which pointed out that the audience for the 2005 ashes in Scotland amounted to more people who had voted SNP at the 2005 election... here.... folks. How can it be that such boneheaded, ignorant, prejudiced, downright bitter, thinly-veiled anti-English nonsense can get any traction at all in a so-called major political party? It's a disgrace that such beliefs are held and sentiments expresed by our representatives. Heaven help us if they ever actually get to run the country..........
Posted by Braveheart at 06:10
Labels: , ,

Anonymous said...
Why don't you Labour Party trolls in the Scottish Parliament Labour Group do some work rather than spend your days writing this crap. No wonder you are in terminal decline.
14 July 2009 09:27

Braveheart said...
Hello anon.Don't know who you think I am, but you're way wrong man.Usually the cybernats on these blogs start kinda friendly like, trying to address the post with their barrage of prepared positions and rehearsed arguments. Then, as they begin to lose the argument they get a bit shirty, then finally aggressive and nasty. You've gone straight to the aggressive and nasty. Suppose it saves time. I was going to delete this comment because it says nothing, doesn't address the subject, is pretty pointless and is unduly aggressive.Then I thought: well, it's the normal SNP position. So I left it in.If you actually want to address the point about your MPs and MSPs knee-jerk anti-English bile, please do so. If not, well, nobody will be surprised. After all it's the standard position for the standard SNP supporter.
15 July 2009 00:44

Jim said...
Although I agree with you entirely on the cricket and the poverty of spirit displayed by the named SNP MSPs, will you be pointing out the weaknesses of all politicians or will this be a blog entirely devoted to anti-SNP rants?I'm fairly comfortable with an Independent Scotland, a Federal UK or even a prosperous Scotland within the union - I just aspire to a better Scotland than we currently have. I'm pretty comfortable with the SNP running the show, but I do wish there was a more constructive opposition. Jim
29 July

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Spending our money for their ends... again..

The SNP doesn't seem at all shy at spending our money for their party political advantage. In an earlier post I pointed out that the so-called National Conversation is really an SNP campaign masquerading as a public consultation and paid for by the Scottish taxpayer not, as it should be, the SNP. And the re-branding of the Scottish Executive as the Scottish "Government" which, although it has no legal force, cost us (not the SNP) £100,000. And the Homecoming advert, cost £200,000, but no plans to show it abroad to attract any "homecomers", just a bit of subliminal SNP advertising, to be shown in Scotland.

Now Alex Salmond is to be investigated by Parliament for claiming legal expenses incurred by the SNP agianst his personal Parliamentary expenses.

On the face of it, asking for a QC's opinion in the hope that you might get some ammunition to attack your political opponents looks like something you pay for yourself. If you get the opinion you want, you can then think about getting the taxpayer to fund court or criminal actions. But if you get an opinion you don't want, too bad. The risk has not paid off, you've wasted your money. And that's the point: it should be the SNP's money at risk, not the public's.

It seems Alex Salmond thinks differently. So are we to assume that, in an independent Scotland, political parties could go on fishing expeditions in a shoal of legal opinion, hoping to net something that would discredit their opponents. If you find it, so good. If not, never mind, the Scottish taxpayer will foot the bill. Not exactly the type of moral climate I would like to see. Nor anyone else, I would suggest.

Monday 6 July 2009

What Price the "Nationalist Conversation"?

The Herald has a report today on the cost of the so-called "National" conversation. It appears that you and me have been charged £500,000 by Alex Salmond so that he can travel around Scotland on an SNP publicity campaign.

If the national conversation was truly national it would be between all the politicians and the people. The SNP version, surprise surprise, consists of SNP politicians travelling round the country speaking to small groups in church halls and community centres. Nothing wrong with that, you might say: political parties should take their message to the public. And you would be right, but the corollary is that political parties should use their own money to spread their own message, they should not use taxpayers money to spread party political propaganda.

Think of the uproar from the SNP if the other parties were spending taxpayers millions having rallies in support of the union of the UK. The volume of the whinging would be deafening....

Of course this SNP administration has a history of using public money for party political ends: think of the re-branding of the Scottish Executive (the legal entity) as the "Scottish Government". There is no such formal or legal body as the Scottish Government, but it cost us £100,000 just to change the headed notepaper at Holyroood so SNP Ministers could use the word "government".

Or the so-called "Homecoming", the centrepiece of which was an advert, made at a cost of £200,000, which has been shown more often in Scotland than anywhere abroad. Indeed it was only shown on the American Public Broadcast Channel after it was revealed that there had been no plans whatsoever to show it at all in the USA.

It is interesting that the SNP can fail to build even one school in two years, fail to deliver its SFT and its LIT, and all the other policies it has failed to deliver, but yet be so efficient at spending our money to subsidise its own party political campaigns.

Isn't that type of behaviour, in honesty and when done in other countries, called political corruption?

Monday 29 June 2009

Two Related Dogs Breakfasts

The Education Minister Fiona Hyslop is in deep doo-dung (continuing) about the failure of the SNP's promise to have class sizes of 18 in all P1 - P3 classrooms. This failure is related to the SNP's inablity to finance new schools. After promising to match Labour's school building programme "brick for brick", using the "Scottish Futures Trust" as the financing mechanism, it turns out that the "Scottish Futures Trust" has no future: it doesn't exist and it never existed. So the prospect of using the "Scottish Futures Trust" to find the money to build enough schools to accommodate class sizes of 18 was never feasible, and you can't hope to reduce class sizes in all schools without an extensive programme of building new schools.

To be fair to Fiona, the "Scottish Futures Trust" is John Swinney's failure, but it is of no help to the Education Minister that her two key policies are sunk without trace half way through the Parliament. No new schools and no class-size-18. The failures in Education Policy are the failures of the Education Minister.

If it was any other party Fiona would be out on her ear by now (you can just hear the Nationalists screams if a Labour Minister ever failed to this shocking extent), but the SNP seems remarkably tolerant of those who fail to deliver for Scottsh children.

Still and all, time to do the honourable thing Fiona. Resignation time, don'tya' think?

We're Agin it!... Oh wait a minute...hold on there...

From today's Herald, this...

"An ICM poll for the BBC to mark a decade of devolution found that 46% of Scots felt it had made no difference to their lives and 4% had no view. But of the 50% who did have a view, those in favour outscored those against by 41% to 9%."

Just a wee reminder... the SNP was against Devolution....and opposed it for ten years refusing to cooperate with the Constitutional Convention...then, when other people had done the work.....

and this...

"Alex Salmond will write to Gordon Brown this week asking him to press ahead with power transfers to Holyrood, such as control over elections, air guns and drink driving legislation, backed by the Calman Commission. "It is time to seize the moment - not let the Calman report gather dust,"".

Just a wee reminder... the SNP was against Calman....and opposed it for two years refusing to cooperate with the Calman Commission and the other parties in producing the that the other people have done the work ......

Anyone see a pattern here...???

Wednesday 17 June 2009

The SNP Matches Labour's School Building Programme Brick for Brick...Only Joking.

Today the Education Minister Fional Hyslop finally, at last, announced that the SNP is ready to build some schools in Scotland. She said the move would provide 55 new schools and see 35,000 pupils taught in modern buildings, with the first bricks laid in 2010.

The mystery is, having promised to match Labour's school building programme "brick for brick", why wait two years and two months to announce your programme? What has Fiona Hyslop been up to for the past two years?

The Minister said that building these schools would begin in 2010. But why could this announcement not have have been made two years ago? If it had, we might actually be building some schools now. Who knows, some of them might even be completed and have pupils in them by now.

Fiona Hyslop, Alex Salmond and, for all I know, other SNP ministers have been traversing the country for the last two years opening schools commissioned and built under the Labour/Lib Dem administration. In the meantime they have not commissioned, never mind built, one new school themselves.

The SNP Minister said that the schools would be occupied 12-18 months after start of build. So we have the bizarre prospect of an election in May 2011 with perhaps not one new school completed under a four year administration. If that's not a scandal, nothing is.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Calman Reports

The Calman Report has been published to predictable yowls of negativity from the Scottish Nationalist Party. Like all previous constitutional investigations, the Nats refused to get involved, hissy fits being their predetermined and fearful reaction to anything that might make them think too deeply about their shibolethic single "policy" of independence or independence in Europe or Scotland free in '93, or whatever disguise it has at this precise moment.

"Constitution"* Minister Mike Russell was on telly all night complaining that Calman didn't grant him independence by default, but constructive? Aye right...... look somewhere else for that m'lad.

I have read the Summary and it seems like there are a number of serious recommendations with serious implications, and it might be wise to take a bit of time to ruminate on the issues and the evidence before commenting definitively.

First impressions: Calman has tried to meet his remit of strengthening Scotland and the Union, and that's no bad thing. The variation of 10p in Income Tax looks difficult to achieve, but it certainly poses the question to the political parties of what they will do if Labour at Westminster puts up tax or the Tories cut it..... that is a real political choice..and who can object to that...?

* what's the point of having a Minister for the Constitution when he refuses to indulge in any serious discussions about the constitution?

Friday 5 June 2009

Silver Lining Time

As Labour takes a beating in the English local elections, the good news is from Scotland, with two decisive council by-election gains from the SNP in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire and a third victory for Labour.

Two of the vacancies were created by Nationalist councillors standing down after becoming MSPs proved none too safe for the Nats. Iain Gray rightly claimed that these were "stunning" results for Labour in Scotland.

Ian Gray said: "It is a personal humiliation for Alex Salmond that two of the seats won were vacated by his SNP MSPs standing down from their dual council roles. Unlike their boss they gave up their dual mandate and voters replaced them with Labour."

In Drumchapel-Anniesland ward in Glasgow, Labour beat the SNP by 2,584 to 1,509 in first-preference votes.

In Coatbridge North and Glenboig (North Lanarkshire), Labour beat the SNP by 1,529 to 1,254 in first preferences.

And in East Dunbartonshire, Alan Moir won the Bishopbriggs South by-election following the sad death of local councillor and Provost, Alex Hannah. Alan Moir won 38 per cent of the first-preference votes, and an overall majority of 561 over the SNP.

These labour victories are a kick in the teeth for the Nationalist Party and, just possibly, an indicator that any upcoming General Election is not the foregone conclusion that opposition parties and the media foresee.

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.

Sunday 26 April 2009

The it will affect Scotland

A Glasgow University based think tank has calculated that the Scottish Budget will shrink by £6b in the coming years, a fall 0f 2%-3% a year.

Drastic cuts will have to be made, and cherished policies abandoned, the Council Tax freeze among them.

I've never been a great fan of the freeze on Council Tax anyway, or the whole phony "Concordat" nonsense. It has just seemed to me to be the epitome of big-brother at Holyrood dictating to local authorities how they should organise their finances. It also provides a handy tool for the SNP to lay off blame on local authorities for any failure to deliver.

Abandoning the freeze will be a sore blow to the SNP, given that it the only major policy that they have been able to implement, everything else having failed or been "deferred", but it is difficult to see how else the economic problems can be addressed.

No administration can cut spending at such a rate without inflicting pain, on the population and on itself.

There's an old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times".

Here come the interesting times!

See report here;

Wednesday 22 April 2009

The that it?

I watched the budget. I listened to the Chancellor. Almost every word.

Usually you get a "steer" from the wording and the emphasis of the speech. The "steer" would be what the Chancellor wants you to think, the message he wants to send, the headlines he wants to read in the evening papers, whatever else is the real meat of the budget.

But this time..... I really got no impression. No spin. No "steer" from the politicos.

Except that we're in a really bad place. We have to borrow eye-watering amounts to stay afloat. And we hope to be out of it soon.....

On the other hand, the budget will not balance again before 2015/16, which seems an awfully long time....

One thing is clear though, and that's the weakness of the Conservative position. Cameron made a stinging attack on an open door, on the lines of "the situation is dire". But since the Chancellor had already admitted that the situation is dire, the Cameron angle, - "I agree, it really is dire" - seemed blunted and obvious. And it exposed the fact that he had no realistic alternative proposals.

Because the Tories seem to oppose measures to boost spending, they seem to prefer "responsibility" (i.e. cuts, or at least no easing) but they have no detailed, worked out, spelled out, policy alternative.

If the situation really is dire, shouting out as loud as you can "it's really dire", is not a solution.

Saturday 18 April 2009

So, We've got what it takes. Have we?

The Scottish Nationalist Party revealed its new slogan yesterday. Wonderfully gnomic it is too: "We've got what it takes", apparently.

Now isn't that comforting? "We", it seems, "'ve got what it takes." Aren't "we" lucky? Would you adamaneveit? There must be plenty of people - hunners at least - who do not have "what it takes", but never mind you, "we" have, ... so rollocks to them, whoever they are!

Hurrah! And Huzzah! Clap the celebration bells!

The country is saved at last. Safe for elderly matrons off to church, no longer in fear and trepidation and a tartan shawl. And for babes in arms, suckling in previous terror, now relieved.

At any moment you expect joyous crowds to swarm the streets and parks and public buildings: light the bountiful bonfire, bring out the fireworks! It is revealed: we have what it takes! Could any news be more welcome or more worthy of salutation?

Hallelujah. Arise Saint Eck, the man who brought the good news from Inverness to Banff, the Borders and Beyond.

"We" can rest easy in anticipation of a prosperous future... because....


Wednesday 15 April 2009

Curry at Queensferry

Gordon has invited Alex Salmond back to his for a meal could be on the menu to keep oor Eck happy?

Well, it so happens that we have a sneak preview of the Eck-friendly menu prepared by Gordon's chef for a hungry FM...the choices are...

a choice of
Curry and Chips (small portion)
Curry and Chips (small portion)
followed by a main course
a choice of
Curry and Chips (large portion)
Curry and Chips (large portion)
followed by a choice of desserts
Curried Strawberries
Curry and Chocolate Chip Cookies
in the lounge
coffee with wafer-thin curried mints

Hmmm delicious..... that's independence off the menu... maybe he'll build some schools....

Wednesday 8 April 2009

The Sqeak of the Tiger

Some of us will be familiar with the SNP's pricelessly funny and stunningly stupid examples of "independent" countries with which to compare Scotland, countries that we would "like to be like": viz Iceland and Ireland. These wondrous bubble economies were seen as exemplars for Scotland. How wonderful to be the new Iceland, sang Alex in the bath. At least they were seen as exemplars until they collapsed in a tornado of debt, and now their economies are in ruins.

Another SNP slogan bites the dust. to join "Scotland free in '93", we have "Let's do an Iceland" and "Love Ireland, just like us".

Full embarassing* story here:

*For the SNP that is...

Thursday 2 April 2009

Well, did he....?

Did Gordon save the world.......

well yes!

At least the G20 summit was a success in its own terms. And the list of announcements from the summit is very impressive.

$500bn for the IMF to lend to struggling economies
$250bn to boost world trade
$250bn for a new IMF "overdraft facility" countries can draw on
$100bn that international development banks can lend to poorest countries
$6bn increase in lending for the poorest countries.

There will also be sanctions against secretive tax havens and tougher global financial regulation.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares ended 4.3% higher. In Paris, the Cac 40 jumped 5.4% and in Frankfurt the Dax rose 6%.

other highlights:

Bankers' pay and bonuses will be subject to stricter controls
A new Financial Stability Board will be set up to work with the IMF to ensure co-operation across borders and provide an early warning mechanism for the financial system
There will be greater regulation of hedge funds and credit ratings agencies
A common approach to cleaning up banks' toxic assets has been agreed
The world's poorest countries will receive $100bn extra aid
G20 countries are already implementing the biggest economic stimulus "the world has ever seen" - an injection of $5tn by the end of next year.

So..well done Gordon. You have proved the doubters so......wrong.

Friday morning update.... see Will Hutton, no Brown sycophant, on Commentisfree here;

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Gordon Saves The World...

"Gordon saves the world..". That's the dismissive, ironic, characterisation that knee-jerk pessimists and political opponents are putting on the G20 meeting in London.

But it has to be said that the meeting is already a triumph for Gordon Brown: the fact that all the leaders of the great countries of the world are coming to the UK capital at the behest and invitation of our Prime Minister is a remarkable testiment to Gordon's dedication, perseverence and vision.

The world economy is teetering on the edge of depression and doing nothing is not an option. Gordon Brown was the first to grasp that fact, the first to voice a coherent view of the problem and the first to suggest possible global solutions. He has spent many weeks and much diplomatic currency persuading other countries and governments that they have to act together.

Teamwork, co-operation, and a co-ordinated approach, as far as is possible from such a disparate grouping: that's the only way to divert a deeper, potentially catastrophic, depression.

Gordon is due the credit for providing the motivation and the forum for this historic gathering. It's already a personal triumph for the PM. We can only hope that the other leaders have the intelligence and vision of Gordon Brown, and that they overcome petty differences and deliver on behalf of us all.

Tuesday 31 March 2009

Sandi's Farewell.. a lament..not!

I see Sandi Thom has been in trouble for taking £10,000 for singing in support of the SN......sorry! oops! the "Homecoming" events thingy.

A good excuse to dig up an old and wonderfully funny video...

see it here...

And's a hoot!!!

Monday 30 March 2009

Dunfermline Building Society - What's the Score?

I have savings with the Dunfermline Building Society. I chose to put my money there after the Woolwich and other mutual organisations I invested in went "private". On three ocassions (at least) I voted against organisations I was a member of going down the path of de-mutualisation.

I chose the Dunfermline precisely because it was a mutual, it gave no indication of demutualising, it invested in personal mortgages, I assumed that it had safe and sensible investment and return policies and it would not be swimming with the financial sharks.

How wrong I was. The revelations that the Dunfermline had large investments in the commercial market with the consequent risks, that it had bought mortgage packages from Lehmen's and others and that it had embarked on a vainglorious IT expansion came as a bombshell to me.

Much has been made of the UK government's role in the sale of the Dunfermline. But I have a fairly robust attitude to these things. The management of an institution has the responsibility for safeguarding that institution. If they take rash decisions or make dodgy investments, they carry the most responsibility for the consequent problems. Bleating that the FSA or the Treasury should have stopped them is no defence. It's like a burglar, on being sentenced to a few months in the chokey, blaming the police for not stopping his nocturnal activities.

The one thing I am grateful for is the UK Government's policy of ensuring that savings are secure. This is a welcome change from the crisis management of previous governments during recessions and is greatly to be welcomed as a huge leap forward in public policy.

Friday 27 March 2009

What does "brick for brick" actually mean?

Yesterday at FMQ's Iain Gray asked Alex Salmond to take responsibility for the lack of delivery by Education Minister Fiona Hyslop.

The latest admission by Hyslop, that there are 1000 fewer teachers in Scotland's schools than a year ago is bad enough.

But the SNP has already abandoned it promise of reducing class sizes in P1-P3 to 18.

As for the SNP's promise to match Labour's school building programme "brick-for-brick": it is a disgrace and a disaster. Not one new school has been commissioned since the SNP came to power.

Meanwhile Fiona Hyslop and Alex Salmond travel the country opening the latest of the almost 200 schools that Labour commissioned and built, and shamelessly basking in the reflected glory of the achievements of others.

This is more than just another party-political bunfight. The education of our children is a key to our future prosperity. The provision of new and efficient buildings in which teachers can teach and children can learn is vital to this process. The non-delivery of new schools is a crime against a whole generation of youngsters, and the Scottish Nationalists should be ashamed of their failure to deliver such a basic requirement of any competent administration.

Two weeks ago, three junior ministers were sacked. I don't know how competent or otherwise they were, but it seems to me that Ms Hyslop's incompetence is so great, and she is so close to the First Minister, that it gives her a paradoxical protection from the the fate which she surely deserves.

Thursday 26 March 2009

What's the point of independence?

It occurs to me that I have spent my adult life listening to Scottish Nationalists telling me that "independence" would be wonderful. But I've never actually seen or heard any of them explain why. Or what exact difference it would make. If any.

The SNP in power has proved to be singularly incompetent. They have failed to deliver any of their main manifesto promises so, presumably, "independence" is not what the SNP would do... otherwise it would be a total mess.

And who could believe in a total mess?