Tuesday 24 April 2012

Nationalist Omnishambles goes Uncommented

So many things going wrong with the Nats these days....where to start


Wife beating?

Anti-Catholic rants?

Nato membership?

Keeping secrets from Parliament?

Tartan Tories?

hospitals with no blankets?

Murdoch is today's shambles.

When Eck hitched his star to the waggon the esteemed Australian-American patriot and billionaire phone hacker, many predicted disaster.....

And it wasn't long in arriving. Today's session of the Leveson Inquiry had many revelations, including emails showing the Blessed Eck offering to lobby for Murdoch's empire to be increased with the addition of BskyB, an outcome positively abhored by thinking Scots.

Never mind, "it wasn't for any sort of quid-pro-quo" according to the FFM. So that's all right then.... that nice Mr Murdoch wouldn't be so corrupt, would he? Nor the oily one.

I could expand on all the other issues on the list, but it's late....

But just one thing: where are the

"SNP in Meltdown" headlines..?

Certainly not in the Sun...

But actually, nowhere else either. Strange. If it was Labour there would be no end of edmusgo and johannsanumpty, but it's the Nats, so the revered Scottsh Media doesn't see the problem......

The public, now there's a different kettle of beans....

Friday 20 April 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and Doosan

When I was a boy in west-central Scotland and making my first Holy Communion, we were told by Father O'Connell that sin was not only omnipresent, it was also omni-featured. There were "sins of commission" and "sins of omission". There's a straightforward lie: "Jimmie done it" when you knew that he didn't do it. And a sleekit obfuscation: keeping schtum when you knew that Jimmie had done it but for some reason you (he'll give you a thump) weren't willing to point the finger.

So telling the whole truth includes not hiding a truth, however inconvenient it may be. And, conversely, lying can be hiding that inconvenient truth.

Yesterday at FMQs, Johann Lamont caught the FFM in the act of concealing an inconvenient truth: what Father O'Connell would have called "a lie of omission".

I have to say I find it astonishing that our First Minister and his cabinet would sit on this piece of information for so long.

They even allowed two Budget debates to pass with the Doosan investment as a Budget line.... and they let Parliament believe the project was still a live possibility.

What's all that about?

It's more than astonishing, it's bizarre: what could the Nationalists possibly think they could get out of this type of behaviour? Where/what/who benefits?

And even more surprising is the reaction of the press and the broadcasters. There has been no condemnation at all of this passive lying behaviour. It made no splash (beyond a few "questions were raised" bland reporting) on the TV news or the news pages and it will be dead and buried by tonight.

It's as if the press cannot see the problem or, more likely, they see it and don't think it is remarkable that a head of an elected Parliament can blithely keep economic news secret from that Parliament, its Finance and Development Committees, its members and its officials, the press and the public for month after month, only to release the news in an aside in an interview. 

And not expect any (and not to get very much) comeback!

Maybe the truth is that nobody expects the truth from our Scottish Government any more. If so, that's depressing. Almost as depressing as the lack of fuss with which this tale of lying by omission is so quickly passing from public scrutiny.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Salmond "the Craig Whyte of Politics"

Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour, is in that probationary period to which all new leaders are subject. Her performances at FMQs has been encouraging, with a quietly sensible persona, well chosen questions and the odd shaft of wit to puncture Alex Salmond's ego-driven pomposity. You can see that Salmond is more afraid of her than any previous FMQs opponent.

In TV interviews her schoolmatronly presentation (she actually is a school teacher) commands a hearing and limits interruption allowing her to her meassage across. Respect.

Another aspect of leadership is the ability to generate a good phrase or slogan that captures and communicates an idea (this can be the work of the leader or her advisers, it doesn't really matter as long as it is  appropriate and sums up a situation succinctly and memorably).

Yesterday, at the launch of the Labour local election campaign, she delivered such a bon mot: Alex Salmond, she said was "the Craig Whyte of Scottish politics".

And it's spot on. A snake oil salesman selling a false prospectus based on nothing but misdirection, grandiose but empty promises and the monstrous ego of the self-addicted confidence trickster.

I had previously labelled the Salmond as "the Wizard of Eck" .

Maybe we've found our Dorothy....

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Georgy Porgy Porkie Pie

George Osborne is reported, in the Telegraph, to be "shocked" that rich people employ expensive accountants to avoid paying their share of income tax.

Mr Osborne told The Daily Telegraph: “I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it’s within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don’t think that’s right."

But of course rich people avoid tax...... that's what they do, that's how they stay rich and that's how they can afford to be above the modest concerns of the other 99%. Mr Osborne is one of them, so it is passing strange that he seems to be the only person in the country who wasn't in on the secret.....  

People drink blood? Eeeeuuuugghh!

However, if Georgie Boy really didn't know that the rich play tax games, then the question has to be: "How did such a fool ever become Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Monday 9 April 2012

Glasgow -v- Edinburgh

There's been a lot of comment recently on Amazon's tax avoidance (see this Guardian article).

By structuring the company in such a way that all the revenues are controlled via Luxembourg it seems that Amazon has created a position where £billions of its UK sales are not subject to UK corporation tax. The result is that Amazon's profits increase and the company pays hardly any tax in the UK.  So when you buy through "amazon.co.uk" you are actually contributing plenty to "amazon" but not a lot to "uk".

Some would say that this is merely clever accounting by Amazon and good luck to them. Others might point out that, if UK sales are not subject to UK taxes then the UK Government has less than it would/should have to pay off debt, support Government costs, cut other taxes, improve schools, hospitals and etc. etc.

Tax Research UK linked the Guardian story to one in The Scotsman last year in which Alex Salmond fronted a £10million grant to Amazon to open up a warehouse in Fife. There followed criticism of the SNP's stance, but also a defence from Professor Brian Ashcroft.

Far be it for me to argue with an economist as eminent as Prof Ashcroft, but I think he rather misses the point. By concentrating on the narrow point that some jobs have been created in Scotland and that's a good thing (which it is), he does not address the wider position of the SNP: the introduction of competitive corporation tax levels into;

a) a unitary devolved state.  

b) an "independent" Scotland (if it ever happens) on the island of Great Britain.

To take the second instance first: an "independent" Scotland which tried to reduce corporation tax would face several barriers. If it was a member of the EU then that organisation has made its displeasure with the tactic clear. Neither Ireland nor any other EU country will ever again be allowed the previous laxity to compete with other EU members on company taxation, nor would an "independent in Europe" Scotland. The recession has put paid to that scam. So an "independent" Scotland accepts the rules of the EU and tholes its punishment or it is no longer an EU state. So much for "independence" in Europe.

It would also face the wrath of its biggest trading partner and neighbour, the UK. It is unlikely that England Wales and Northern Ireland would sit back and take a tax avoiding strategy from their new neighbour. What sanctions there would be is not clear, but there would certainly be diplomatic pressure and other (overt and covert) sanctions.

As for option a): can you imagine a situation where Glasgow could cut corporation tax to compete with Edinburgh?

All of Edinburgh's businesses would hightail it along the M8 in short order and reap the rewards.  Fine for Glasgow and bad for Edinburgh.....if Edinburgh cannot respond. But what happens if Edinburgh cuts even lower?

We get a predictable and destructive downward spiral. Competition creates cutthroats: businesses bounce back and forth, changing the address of their HQs, and benefiting from a continuous reduction in its contributions to society while the cities face a reduced tax income and an unstable business base.

That's what the Nationalists want to do with Edinburgh and Newcastle and Glasgow and Birmingham and the ret of the UK landmass.

It's nuts and it's nasty.

To return to the original argument: are the Nationalists wise to give a subsidy to Amazon to create new jobs in Fife?

Answer: probably not. The short term boost is welcome of course, but history shows that companies like Amazon are ruthless in taking any grant or subsidy on offer locally but they have no commitment to any particular country or people.

They may stay in Fife for the duration, but they may not. And it won't be our £10million that decides that. Amazon have got our money already and their behaviour shows that they could not care less about the exact location of their workers or the morality of accepting UK tax-payers money while avoiding UK taxes.

That's a perennial for those who wish to encourage inward investment, an its one to which no-one has found a completely satisfactory answer. The SNP's particular folly is to invest in Amazon when it has been known for years that the company has a predatory stance toward paying its taxes in jurisdictions like the UK and other, non shelter, economies.