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.