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?