Monday 29 September 2008

Slipping a bit

I was intrigued to see the Conservatives launch a new website, and pleased that there's a Scotland section on it - even though it refers to Scotland as a region rather than as a nation.

Seems there's not much going on in the Scottish Conservatives, though, nothing since May 8th, in fact - which is the last time David Cameron spoke about Scotland. "Plan for Change" is the Conservative party legend ...

Screengrab below:

Saturday 27 September 2008


The Campaign Against Responsible Drinking And Sobriety is an organisation opposed to some of the Scottish Government's proposals on changing the alcohol culture in Scotland. Interestingly, one of CARDAS' alternatives to the SNP proposals to change the alcohol culture is "change the culture" - up you could not make it...

Anyway, I had heard that CARDAS is funded by supermarkets - the very organisations which profit from high through-put volume in alcohol (and which help to put students' unions out of business through cheap off-sales). Now it's been pointed out to me that there are other backers - these ones actually recognised as supporters by CARDAS.

Step forward the Responsible Drinkers Alliance. Sounds like a fine organisation, doesn't it? Fine, upstanding people who enjoy a small dry sherry of a Saturday evening. Just like the Tobacco Institute researched lung cancer ...

If you follow the link from CARDAS' site you won't get anywhere. Remember what it says about the Responsible Drinkers Alliance there, though:
The Responsible Drinkers' Alliance was founded with assistance from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) who felt that for too long the voice of the responsible consumer has been left out of the debate over the future role of alcohol in British society. The RDA aims to provide a forum for debate and a stronger voice for the responsible consumer on matters concerning alcohol.

You can find something very similar elsewhere on the web at the Drinkers Alliance.

There you have it - the drinks industry is funding opposition to any new restrictions on their industry - whodathunkit? CARDAS members are the patsies being duped, which is ironic, considering that CARDAS members include students' unions which would benefit from the more responsible attitude to drinking being promoted by the Scottish Government.

I'll come back at some point to go over the Drinkers Alliance facts, but here's a starter - why are some of them referenced and some not? I recommend everyone watches "Thank You For Smoking" - an excellent reference point.

Friday 26 September 2008

Labour, oh Labour, how bad it is how bad

Having watched Labour's Glenrothes candidate Lindsay Roy on Politics Now, let me just say that I was right - Labour should have had Helen Eadie as a candidate. Not for Helen the tame shooting of Labour's wounded Prime Minister who Mr Roy said should have called the election a year ago, shouldn't have punished the poor with extra tax, and should get his finger out and get on the stump in Glenrothes.

Helen would have inspired us all - only Helen can save Labour now. There's still time to change your candidate you Labour types. Have courage, march on Kirkcaldy and demand a change!

Anyway, Gordon Brown and the reason I know he's playing the end-game - even when he's got through his conference fairly well and come out the other end still sailing, no-one is talking about what his policies are or where he's taking his party, the best anyone is saying about Broon is that he's survived for now. It's not if, just when.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

One hears, so one does ...

A whisper, carried on the wind, tells me that CARDAS - the Campaign Against Responsible Drinking And Sobriety - is funded by the supermarkets.

"Eh what?" says I, "Surely not!"

Also, Glasgow Nautical College has been closed by flooding - oh the irony.

There's evidence that Gordon Brown lied during his speech to Labour conference yesterday. What is it with Labour leaders and lying these days? Iain Gray repeated his lie about his name being on the first piece of legislation passed during his speech as well.

He who has a Tait is lost - you heard it here first!

Worst of all, I agree with a Times columnist

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Novice Brown

I watched Gordon Brown seeking the political emulation of Germaine Greer's description of Suzanne Moore. He spent an hour pouting and posing, his focus almost entirely inward-looking, ticking the boxes for internal party approval rather than looking forward to what Labour might be able to offer in years to come. Ms Greer's contrast between the ages could easily apply to the Labour party - world-changing ideas reduced to a parody of themselves.

The speech was aimed at 'pressing the buttons' of delegates and Labour members in order to preserve his position as Leader of the Labour Group in the Westminster Parliament, so there are some bits which are a bit strange but I'm told they work in internal Labour discussions. Let's have a wee look at excerpts Broon's oration with my comments interspersed to relieve the tedium (all maliciously edited, of course):
I want to talk with you today about who I am, what I believe, what I am determined to lead this party and this great country to achieve.
Hasn't he been in the public eye long enough to have shown this without having to lay it out word by word? Surely actions speak louder than words? Haven't we seen where this current incarnation of Labour wants to go?
And where I've made mistakes I'll put my hand up and try to put them right. So what happened with 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn't on the side of people on middle and modest incomes
Never reversed it though, did he?
the side of hard-working families is the only place I've ever wanted to be.
Subsistence farming? Isn't that where you'd find a hard-working family? What about hard-working single people - do they not matter to Gordon Brown? If the Great Leader is so keen to stand beside hard-working families why is he so obsessed with people who don't have to work hard?
And from now on it's the only place I ever will be.
All this time he's been denying himself ...
The British people would not forgive us if at this time we looked inwards to the affairs of just our party
Which is a pity because it's exactly what this speech was all about.
And so it falls to this party and to this government, with its commitment both to fairness and to business, to propose and deliver what after recent events everyone should now be willing to accept - that we do all it takes to stabilise the still turbulent financial markets and then in the months ahead we rebuild the world financial system around clear principles.
I thought Blair was a megalomaniac, but this takes the biscuit. Gordon Brown sets himself up to decide on how the world's financial systems will work? Is no-one else to have a say? Might I suggest that his record in the financial system is pretty poor? The changes to regulations since 1997 encouraged the massive expansion of personal and corporate debt, made credit easier to get and easier to give and removed restrictions on the financial sector. Credit crunch, liquidity freezes, bank runs and associated problems all have traces of Brown decisions and the decisions of his counterparts in other countries as each of them paid lip-service to Prudence while none of them honoured her.
removing conflicts of interest so that bonuses should not be based on short term speculative deals but on hard work, effort and enterprise.
I see he cut 'endeavour' in favour of single syllable words, but is there not a range of questions to be asked here? Let me try a few:
1. Is it right for Government to interfere in the rewards offered by private firms to their employees?
2. If it is, why is it just bonuses he's concentrating on?
3. He's never been a banker or a stockbroker to the best of my knowledge, how does he know how much endeavour, effort and enterprise goes into speculative deals?
4. Should hard work, effort and enterprise be rewarded even when they are misdirected and cause harm? Is he trying to ask for rewards for his endeavours even though they have caused us all sorts of trouble?
5. Is he talking about extra tax on bonuses?
It's all a bit Frankie Howerd is it not?
I am asking the climate change committee to report by October on the case for, by 2050 not a 60% reduction in our carbon emissions, but an 80% cut
That's an SNP Government policy - keep coming Gordon, it's always right to follow the SNP.
service one million new jobs.

Sorry, couldn't resist that.
I know that this can be a British century and I'm determined it will be.
I know I've heard something like that before ...
And so we will be the party of law and order.
That's it - that's his big vision for justice, Labour will be the party of law and order. I suppose we should be grateful that a party that is holding the reins of executive power doesn't intend to be the party of crime and disorder. He also made similar statements about pensioners and families (the party of the family, indeed). I think we're just going to have to trust him because he's a regular kind of guy...
The challenge of these new times demands a truly progressive government
That's a shame then.
it's what a government chooses to do when it's tested that demonstrates its priorities and reveals its heart.It is not the arithmetic of statistics but the fabric of people's lives.
Increasing tax, engaging in illegal wars, spending billions on new nuclear weapons, dodgy backroom deals on bank mergers, introducing tuition fees, Terrorism Act 2000, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, ID cards, extradition, extraordinary rendition, 10p tax rate, increases in capital gains tax for businesses, PFI/PPP, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I see what he means.
And fairness is why Harriet is introducing the first ever equalities bill.
Would have thought he'd remember the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 or the Equal Pay Act of 1970 or the Race Relations Act 1976 (or its update in 2000) or the DDA or the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004.
And so today I announce my intention to introduce ground-breaking legislation to enshrine in law Labour's pledge to end child poverty.
Ban poverty! Why didn't I think of that? If only we'd had this genius at the helm all along! down with bad things, praise the good things! Fluffy bunnies for all!
So today I guarantee to parents two fundamental rights:Because every child should leave primary school able to read, write and count, any child who falls behind will not be left behind - but will now have a new guaranteed right to personal catch up tuition.And because all parents should see their children taught in schools which achieve good results at GCSE, our pledge today is that any parents whose local state school falls below the expected standard will have the right to see that school transformed under wholly new leadership, or closed and new school places provided.
Excellent ideas. I look forward to the Barnett consequentials coming Scotland's way. I also look forward to seeing how the London Government does this. Perhaps it will quietly disappear like other Labour schemes.
we want to make the National Health Service more personal to people's needs - patients more involved in their own health care with more choice and more control than ever before.
Everyone their own medical expert - why do we need doctors, after all? I can see it now
"An appendectomy? I think not, I'll have my cataracts removed instead."
"But you don't have cataracts"
"Exactly! It's bound to be a successful operation."
And so in April a Labour Britain will become the first country in the whole world to offer free universal check ups for everyone over 40.
Did he forget that health is devolved? Universal check-ups - any doctor want to comment on the absolute uselessness of the concept? The reason you can get them in private health provision? Hmmmmm, let me think ...
And so I can announce today for those in our nation battling cancer from next year you will not pay prescription charges.And this is not the limit of our commitment to a fair NHS in a fair society. As over the next few years the NHS generates cash savings in its drugs budget we will plough savings back into abolishing charges for all patients with long-term conditions.
Why not just plan to get rid of prescription charges and get on with it?
Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw are introducing a landmark reform in our justice system - to put victims first. In consultation with victim support we will create an independent commissioner who will stand up for victims, witnesses and families - the people the courts and police exist to serve.
Victims shouldn't come first in the justice system - justice should. The courts and the police exist to serve society, not a part of society, all of it - a Prime Minister should know that.
I am proud that Britain will honour our obligations to provide refuge from persecution.
About time - does this mean that NASS will go along with dawn raids and locking children up with criminal deportees? Will extraordinary rendition cease now?
What has become clear is that Britain cannot trust the Conservatives to run the economy.
Nor Labour, apparently.
Everyone knows that I'm all in favour of apprenticeships, but let me tell you this is no time for a novice.
True, true, Brown has proven that this is no time for a novice a mere year and a bit in office, but I never thought I'd hear him agitating for Blair's return. Actually, in politics everyone worth knowing is always a novice - when you've learned it all you know less than when you started out.
And we pay special tribute to the heroism of our armed forces, as Des Browne said yesterday - to their service and sacrifice in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in peacekeeping missions around the globe. Quite simply the best armed forces in the world.
So why not provide them with the equipment they need to stay alive and decent houses to live in when they are not on one of the recurring turns of duty forced on them by Labour's foreign adventures?
He pressed those Labour buttons, he satisfied his immediate audience, and he'll still keep slipping away because he doesn't understand, Labour doesn't understand, that people are tired of them, tired of the pontification, tired of the lies and the lack of thought, the lack of foresight and the lack of commitment. The chance to renew has passed them by - it was with the change of leader - and they are spiralling now into history, the end of a once great movement.

Sunday 21 September 2008


There was a wee tale in the Sunday Times last week about a file that went missing from the National Archives while Labour was running what was then called the Scottish Executive. Being an inquisitive chap, I had a wee look about and got the full story which goes like this:

In the 1990s there was a series of scandals involving Labour politicians. One of them was the Monklands scandal. There was an inquiry that found the allegations to be proven and a further inquiry which found them to be not proven.

The newspaper asked for the file from the National Archives (which I assume had the primary information in it), only to find out that it had been taken back to the then Scottish Ministers shortly after Freedom of Information had become law, and the file is now lost.

Shocking! Who would have suspected such a thing? I'm hoping that there's a note somewhere that indicates who was last to have the file. I wonder if anyone checked the other files to see whether they had been tampered with?

More may, of course, come to light in time. Meanwhile, here's the story in full:

Tom Gordon

A SECRET file on alleged sleaze in the Labour Party, which had been stored in the National Archives of Scotland, has gone missing after being removed by the previous Labour-led administration.

The sealed documents dealt with the Monklands scandal, which saw Labour councillors accused of religious bias and nepotism in the 1990s.

The papers, which were due to be kept from the public for 30 years, were removed from storage at the National Archives in 2005, just a few months after the introduction of Freedom of Information (FoI) laws which could have led to their release.

The file was among 51 moved from the National Archives to the then Scottish Executive in October that year, and is the only one of the group now classed as “officially mislaid”.

Three files are still with the government, while the remaining 47 were safely returned.

It was not until a freedom of information request by the Sunday Times for the file that the Archives discovered it had been lost by the executive - the first such discovery since FoI took effect in January 2005.

The scandal revolved around claims that Labour-run Monklands district council had a spending bias towards the heavily Roman Catholic town of Coatbridge at the expense of largely Protestant Airdrie.

It erupted in June 1994, during the Monklands East by-election caused by the death of John Smith, when four Airdrie Labour councillors resigned.

Helen Liddell, Labour’s candidate for the seat, condemned the apparent sectarian bias.

In June 1995, nepotism was added to the charge sheet.

A report by Robert Black QC, which was commissioned by the council, reported 68 of the council’s 1600 employees were related to councillors, and said there was evidence of spending in favour of Coatbridge.

At the request of Michael Forsyth, the then Scottish secretary, a more powerful formal inquiry was set up under William Nimmo Smith QC.

His report, in December the same year, came to a radically different conclusion, clearing the council of all wrong-doing and concluding there was no hard evidence of nepotism.

Nimmo Smith, who is now a judge, said Black’s report had dealt in “factually incorrect” allegations “based on ignorance and bigotry”.

Known officially as DD5/2577, the missing file’s description is “The Monklands Inquiry (1995): investigations into alleged nepotism by Monklands District Council following Professor Black's report, including minutes and drafting of the inquiry.”

At the time it was moved by government officials, the Labour Party was trying to recover from the scandal of Labour MSP Lord Watson, who was jailed for setting fire to a hotel’s curtains while drunk.

Black, now a retired law professor, said he had destroyed all his copies of the Monklands files last year during a move.

“Well, well, well, that’s very interesting,” he said of the loss.

“Maybe someone thought that because the official inquiry gave Monklands a clean bill of health, there was no need for the other one to survive.

“There were a lot of highly motivated people on all sides in Monklands. There were daggers being sharpened. However my view is always go for cock-up over conspiracy.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Every effort has been made to locate the file, unfortunately without success. The Scottish Government has systems in place to ensure that both its older paper records and its modern electronic records are managed in accordance with public records legislation and best practice throughout their life-cycle. It is therefore very unusual for an official file to be mislaid and this is the first such occurrence since the introduction of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 that has come to light.”

Labour lies and the lying liars who tell them

Labour's top blogger (by 382 points) Kezia Dugdale recently posted about a BBC Question Time where she claimed that Alan Duncan had sought to mislead the general public.

Seemed a bit strange to me, because the quote attributed to Alistair Darling didn't read like his usual manner, so I had a wee look into it.

Here's some quotes from Kezia's blog:
Harriet Harman: “Yes you did, and I was sitting next to Alistair Darling in the House of Commons when this advice was being given by the Tories and Alistair Darling was saying “It beggar’s belief that at this time you could be arguing for taking away regulation of mortgage institutions, and if you’ve changed your view on that and you're going to support the government with regulation then I welcome that ….
Harriet Harman: "I’ve got a nice little quote here, “We see no need to continue to regulate the provision of mortgage finance (this is August 2007) as it is the lending institutions rather than the client who are taking the risk…” and George Osbourne said “This was very important to cut government regulation – “we see sensible supervision as protection and we need to increase it.” You were arguing a year ago for less regulation!
You might get the impression from these quotes that there was an exchange between Alistair Darling and George Osborne in the House of Commons in August 2007 on mortgage regulation. I did, so I went looking for it

Into the bound volumes
Then I searched the index for volume 463 which covers August 2007.

Neither George Osborne nor Alistair Darling spoke in the House of Commons during August 2007.
Not satisfied with that, I googled for the quote in its entirety - nothing. I searched for Alistair Darling and "beggars belief" (in google it's - darling "beggars belief" - 27 results and I have to admit that I thought Alistair Darling beggared belief a lot more than that, but not one of these results had the Chancellor talking about mortgages.

I tried using "mortgage institutions" instead of "beggars belief" - the only thing that came up was a Treasury Committee Budget Report.

The second quote, the apparently killer one, is just as much fun - Labour MP Rob Marris used it in a debate claiming it was a quote from a newspaper report about a paper from a Tory policy working group. Further searching appears to trace that quote back to the policy proposal penned by John Redwood - so not policy then.

Quite clearly, Harriet Harman invented the first part and misrepresented the second part. Who sought to mislead the public?

Assuming that Kezia reported accurately, Harriet Harman lied.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Nuisance callers

Nuisance callers, we shouldn't tolerate them.

The Lib Dems agreed and even set up a website to explain to people how they could make a complaint and get the calls stopped. So far, so wonderful. In fact, was originally a redirect to the Lib Dem website:

You've got to love the wayback machine, haven't you? Strangely, the TPS pages are now missing from the Lib Dem website - I don't know why.

Who's the latest nuisance caller? Lib Dem leader Clegg of Clegg Hall. There's an interesting bit over on Iain Dale's site.
M'learned friend says:

From SNP v. Information Commissioner (Sean Connery calls case):

18. On 23rd February 2005 the Liberal Democrat Party launched a Stop Nuisance Calls Campaign on behalf of households registered with the TPS. The campaign was
targeted at the Conservative and Labour parties who were alleged to be planning to
ignore TPS registered numbers in an automated calling campaign.
22. On 1st April 2005, the London Evening Standard reported use of automated calling by the Labour Party. Around this date, the Liberal Democrats raised the issue of the automated calls with the Information Commissioner.
25. By letter dated 6th April 2005 to the Information Commissioner, the Liberal Democrats, alleged further evidence of breaches of the law by the SNP, the Labour
Party and the Conservative Party.
The SNP case was, I believe, the first time that the law had been tested in the political sphere and the party desisted as soon as the judgement was made.
Here's Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson pontificating back in 2005, and a Lib Dem in Bristol doing the same. A wee quote from the Lib Dem website in 2005:
Labour, Conservatives and the SNP have been flouting the rules - and they will continue to do so unless you help us put a stop to it. The Liberal Democrats will respect and champion the rights of consumers to block cold-calling.
Here's a screen-grab:
Here's what the Lib Dems said before they added the SNP bit in 2005:
The Telephone Preference Service exists to stop you receiving unsolicited and unwelcome calls to your home or mobile phone.
The Liberal Democrats respect the rights of an individual to opt-out of receiving cold-calling telephone calls, and we work hard to try and ensure we do not call TPS registered numbers unless the person being called has given us permission to ring them.
Labour and the Conservatives have been, and will continue to, flout the rules unless you help us put a stop to it. The Liberal Democrats will respect and champion the rights of consumers to block cold-calling.
Only if the Information Commissioner changes his previous advice would we even consider such telephone calls, and only then to ensure a level-playing field between all parties in the upcoming election.

Published and promoted by and on behalf of Liberal Democrats, 4 Cowley Street, London, SW1P 3NB. Hosted (printed) by NetBenefit, 11 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DP
who are not responsible for any of the contents of the site. Phone photograph
courtesy of Dania Lolah. Privacy Policy.
So has the Information Commissioner changed his previous advice? Nope, he repeated it on April 25th of this year. Specifically this bit:
The Regulations also forbid organisations from making wholly automated unsolicited marketing calls to individuals, unless consent has been given to receive such calls.

So when they were questioned on it today, did the Lib Dems show any sign of remorse, were they embarrassed, or did they promise to stick within the rules? Nope. Chris Rennard said that what they were doing was quite different to what the SNP did:
"In the same way as perhaps MORI or ICM or organisations such as that might ring people and ask them which issues concern them most and what are their views on those issues - that is exactly what we are doing."
"We want to hear from people and our prognosis of the government is it's out of touch and not listening and Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are a party who do want to listen to what people think."

Right, so;
The Lib Dems plan a 30-second message from Mr Clegg, followed by questions on education, health, tax, crime, environmental and economic policies.
The SNP had a 30-second message from Mr Connery, followed by questions on education, health, tax, crime, environmental and economic policies.

Other than who you would rather hear on the other end of the phone, can you spot a difference?

Lib Dems, eh? Go back to your constituencies and prepare for a phone call...

Tuesday 16 September 2008

A deeply disappointing loss

David Cairns has resigned as a Labour Minister - godammit.

I was hoping he'd hang around a while longer. Ach well:

Lawyers! Pah!

There was me, feeling smug having proven that Iain Gray told a lie in his very first speech as Labour leader, followed closely by the Tories (as always), and up pops a lawyer at 50 guineas an hour to tell me:
A full five minutes of research has yielded the following:

It could be argued that the first piece of devolved legislation was the Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Regulations 1999 (SSI 1/1999) signed into law by Sarah Boyack on 8 July 1999, which was laid before Parliament on 9th July and came into force on 1st August.

However, the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) (No 2) Order 1999, S.S.I. 1999/3, although made on 9th July and laid before Parliament on 13th July actually came into force at 5 pm on 9th July - surely that must be the first devolved piece of legislation? It was signed into law, I'm not kidding, by J R Wildgoose, Assistant Secretary, a member of staff of the Scottish Ministers.

SSI 1999/2 doesn't seem ever to have become law.

So there you have it - the name on the first piece of legislation to pass under devolution wasn't Iain Gray but JR Wildgoose. I doff my cap, m'Lord!

Monday 15 September 2008

Ach Tavish, awa an no go haverin!

Tavish Scott - no longer the newest party leader in Parliament (a title that didn't last long) - has given us his first major policy announcement, and it's a stinker.
In his speech to Lib Dem conference at the seaside Tavish called for an immediate 2p cut in income tax in Scotland without knowing how much it would cost - he said £400 million, but he apparently 'mis-spoke' and his staff later said it was £800 million. It's actually around £930 million in the first year - around £800 million in the tax cut, £100 million in initial set-up costs for the tax system and £30 million in running costs to HMRC - yup, right back to the Treasury.

That's 3.1% of the Scottish budget wheeched awa on a tax cut.

I'm not going to refer to Tavish's very recent support for a tax rise (beginning of August, since you ask), I'd far rather be much nicer to my good Viking friend and take a wee wander back to his budget speech on the 23rd of January, 2008. What do you mean you didn't listen to it?
Let me pick out a few choice quotes:
The SNP's budget has no details on efficiency savings, public-private partnership alternatives, single outcome agreements, the council tax freeze, national priorities, level 3 spending plans, or—crucially—the impact that those things will have on the delivery of public services throughout Scotland. How can a Parliament endorse a budget in the absence of such information?
Of course, there was actually more information in the budget than in previous years (Lib Dems weren't on the inside this time so didn't have the extra info), but if Tavish thinks there wasn't enough information for a council tax freeze, how does he justify nearly £930 million worth of cuts without any details? Quick headline old chap?
The Liberal Democrats have raised substantive and significant issues in committee and have highlighted serious concerns about a number of spending commitments that are vital to Scotland. They have expressed concerns about police numbers, student debt, class sizes, health expenditure, enterprise, transport investment, waste management and flood measures.
They're going to be even more concerned with 3% of the budget missing, mate.
We are not content to sign up to a budget that is so contingent on £1.6 billion of savings when the Government cannot tell us and Parliament how and when those savings will be made.
Quite, Tavish, where's the beef? In the Lib Dem amendment moved by Tavish was this wonderful line:
is further concerned that the budget choices made by the SNP government will lead to cuts in vital public services across Scotland
That turned out to be tosh, but we can be sure that a 3% cut in Scotland's budget will lead to serious cuts to Scotland's services.

Let's try to be fair to Tavish and look at where he later claimed the money would come from. You have to remember that a tax cut in Scotland is a spending commitment for the Scottish Government.

He wants to cut the Scottish Futures Trust. So that would be saving money by getting rid of the body which will change public procurement and thus save money, so Tavish would save £14m a year at the cost of about £150m a year -oops.

There's a cracking bit in the Times story:
his spokesman emphasised that it was an indication of the wider cuts in government that Mr Scott wanted.
To the bone or until the pips squeak, perhaps? Well, we don't know, it wasn't laid out.

That stills leaves the Lib Dems short of £916 million to bridge the gap - where's the money coming from? Barnett consequentials, according to Tavish. Leaving aside the fact that there has never been a Barnett transfer on that scale (and that most of them don't actually happen - see previous posts), let's think it through:

Barnett consequentials are, by their very nature, unpredictable - you can't tell when they'll happen nor if - so does Tavish want Scotland to plan future spending on the basis of a guess that some money will come along at some point? Is that not akin to taking the Consolidated Fund down to the casino and putting it on the roulette table?

There's the flip side to that coin as well - investments can go down as well as up, and public spending is more likely to be squeezed in the near future than it has been in the recent past. Scotland is more likely to see Barnett consequentials taking money away than bringing it to us - especially if the Lib Dems get their way and start cutting taxes and spending at the Treasury - so Tavish will be paying for his tax cut with money that just doesn't exist, moonlight flitting anyone?

While I'm on this rant, and before I get to Lib Dem councillors, Nick Clegg. The Cleggish one has said that he'll pay for his 4% tax cut by imposing extra green taxes. Coupla things here:

1. Moving the burden from one revenue stream to another isn't a tax cut, it's just a rebalancing.
2. The point of green taxes is to pay for environmentally friendly initiatives that wouldn't be funded otherwise so if they're to fill a hole in your balance sheet they're not green taxes, just taxes.

More importantly, perhaps, given that the Lib Dems have ground on for decades about fair taxation, moving the tax burden from direct taxation to indirect taxation adds burdens to the poorest in society. I thought the Lib Dems were in favour of progressive taxation - let me quote Tavish again, Parliament, 21st of June, 2007:
As Mr Brownlee fairly pointed out, today's debate is about the principle of progressive taxation. I acknowledge the Conservatives' opposition to that principle, but I must say that I have always been a little surprised that my former colleagues in the Labour Party have never supported the contention that an important element of our tax system should be progressive local taxation. I and the rest of the Liberal Democrats are very keen for Parliament to endorse the principle today.
If Tavish is looking for a few million quid in savings, though, he should have sent himself far from the madding tram of £500 million. The tram company signalled its intent recently to come back to the Scottish Government for more tens of millions of pounds for this failing project. Lib Dem councillors in Edinburgh have started warming their hands on this project, missing the obvious point that the Rake's Progress was Labour's before they were turfed out of office.
I take it that Tavish will be lifting the phone to Councillor Phil Wheeler and telling him that his expensive train set is not to be extended.

Two new opposition leaders - both poor starts. I hope the Greens choose better.

No-one cares about trees anymore

The latest sacking/resignation/stomping off in high dudgeon from the London Government has been Gordon Brown's Special Envoy for Forestry - a kind of Terry Waite for trees ...

Word has it that it's all about sprucing up the Government rather than pining for those plane old times when life was a beech and everything was oaky-dokey. A spokespersonage said "there's no truth in the rumour they were rowan, yew can take it from me that Gordon remains a party elder and we'd be sycamore speculation about his position, we don't think it's funny to be larching about at this point in time."

I understand the snails are marching on London to demand their own Special Envoy.

Meanwhile, someone still cares: - Watch more free videos

That's not the way to do it!

Iain Gray, brand new shiny leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament, has made his first appointment.

He's appointed Margaret Curran to develop Labour policy - because she lost the Glasgow East bye-election. I'm assured the conversation didn't go "You can lose a seat too? Fancy joining my team?" Let's look at his reasoning, he said:
"She was on more doorsteps and speaking to more voters than anybody else in that by-election and I think she has a very good understanding of how we need to respond to those lessons, that's why I am going to ask Margaret Currant in my shadow cabinet to drive the policy development process towards 2011 for Labour in Scotland."
Apart from the obvious conclusion to draw from that which is that none of her MSP mates turned out to help her in her bye-election, does Iain really think that this is the way to develop policy?

What he's suggesting is that policy under his leadership will be developed according to what was said on the doorsteps during a bye-election - to the losing candidate. I look forward to Labour's 2011 manifesto featuring a fast-closing door accompanied by advice on travel ...
For the benefit of Labour's new group leader, here's basic policy development:

Step 1: Decide what you believe in.
Step 2: Work out what that means - work out what your principles are.
Step 3: Think about how to put those principles into practice.
Step 4: Develop policies which would bring reality closer to your ideal.
Step 5: Advocate those policies.
Step 6: Keep updating your policies as circumstances change.
Step 7: Support an independence referendum.
Step 8: Accept that you may have to accommodate other people on your journey.
Step 9: Welcome support for your policies, defend them against criticism, but always ask yourself whether those policies would put your principles into practice.
Step 10: Check to see whether you still believe in what you decided at Step 1.

It isn't complicated and it isn't an opinion poll. Leading a political party shouldn't lead you into becoming a political cushion, bearing the imprint of the last person to have sat on you.

I hope Iain Gray will rethink his policy development, we've had enough of Labour's incompetence and could do with a decent opposition in Scotland.

On a side note, Kezia Dugdale was kind enough to leave a comment on an earlier post of mine asserting that I'd got it wrong and that Iain Gray's name is on the first piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. I've rechecked, it isn't, Iain Gray lied in his first speech as leader of the Labour group.
Here's the comment and my reply so anyone can check for themselves. Kezia's comment:
Kezia Dugdale said...
Calum,I'm afraid your wrong. Take a look at this list of Session 1 bills in order (scroll down a wee bit) - the first bill passed on the books was the Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) (Scotland) Bill
and Jim Wallace and Iain Gray's names are on it. Kez
14 September 2008 12:23
And my reply:
Calum Cashley said...
Kezia, you're Labour's top researcher - here's the link to the Act (it was then a Bill) which I identified as being first and which you've agree was first.
On the final page (6) you'll find
Introduced by: Jim Wallace
On: 31 August 1999
Bill Type: Executive Bill

For contrast, here's the second one - the Public Finance one:
On the final page (30) you will find:
Introduced by: Mr Jack McConnell
On: 7 September 1999
Supported by: Mr Jim Wallace, Ms Wendy Alexander, Mr Tom McCabe
Bill Type: Executive Bill

Not a good start by Iain, he'd better *ahem* "up his game".CC
14 September 2008 13:21
Mind how you go!

Sunday 14 September 2008

Much as it pains me ...

I was a wee bit amused by this bit in Iain Gray's "thanks for all the fish" speech:

While Alex Salmond was an official in the Scottish office, I was learning to be a teacher in a tough school
A tough school?

Iain's biography page on his campaign website says that he taught at Gracemount High. A tough school? Not really, it's actually a fairly decent school where decent people send their children. The people may not be well-off, but that doesn't make it a tough school. For Dundonians, think Craigiebarns, for Glaswegians and those who campaigned in the Glasgow East bye-election, think Barrachnie Road or Garrowhill Drive.

Perhaps, though, it's a tough school when you compare it to George Watson's College (current fees of £8,856 a year) where, I'm led to believe, Iain attended secondary school.

Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say, especially when that school is the alma mater of people like Iain's former cabinet colleague Colin Boyd as well as John Corrie, Malcolm Rifkind, Chris Smith and David Steel. Nothing wrong at all, so long as he's not ashamed of it.

Iain spent his early years in Edinburgh before his family moved to Inverness. He went to the Royal Academy straight from Primary 6 where he was awarded the school dux before returning to study Physics at Edinburgh University.
I don't think he's actually trying to claim that he won the school dux in Primary 6 - I think it's just poor sentence construction - but there's no reference there to a stint at a private school. Nor, indeed, was there any hint of it in his acceptance speech when he boasted about being born and about his tertiary education but missed out the bit in the middle:

I was born in the NHS labour created, a child of the health services first decade.
I was the first in my family to be able to go to a university, opened up to the likes of me by a Labour government.
For the avoidance of doubt, that preceding quote was Iain Gray's, it wasn't about me. I was born to loving parents, went to a local authority primary school and a local authority secondary school and wasn't the first in my family to be able to go to university.

I have sympathy for those, like Brian Taylor, who had to suffer the indignity of Dundee High School, but my education makes me no better nor worse than them, and I don't see the point in trying to persuade people any different by untruth or by omission.

Robin Harper

Before Robin Harper slips the leash and escapes, a wee tribute to the longest-serving party leader in Scotland.

Robin managed to take the systemic madness of the Greens and turn it into a semblence of politics, enabling election for himself in the first Parliament before he was joined by six colleagues in 2003. There was a wee setback in 2007, but circumstances, circumstances ...

Right, that's enough, he's still on the other side.

Saturday 13 September 2008

And so, the choice is made; it's time to face the Gray uncertain ...

That's it then, Labour has chosen a new functionary of its group in Parliament. From a field of three Labour has managed to choose the only one who has lost a Parliamentary seat (to the Conservatives who still hold the seat they took from him) and the one who devised that stunning Labour tactic in the budget of winning their amendment but abstaining on the vote. Marvellous!
Didn't take him long to tell his first lie. Here's a bit from his victory speech:
I was a founder member of the Scottish Parliament Labour created and my name is on the first legislation it ever passed.
That'll come as a surprise to Jim Wallace who piloted the first legislation through Parliament (emergency legislation called the Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) Act). His deputy was Angus MacKay.

So was Iain Gray's name on the first regular piece of legislation to pass? Well, that was the Public Finance and Accountability Act which was introduced by Jack McConnell, supported by Jim Wallace, Wendy Alexander and Tom McCabe.

With a dedication to truth of that quality, Godammitgate will have a successor ...

Friday 12 September 2008

The difference between fact and untruth

I was somewhat surprised to see Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale (full title: Leader of Labour Bloggers in Scotland) repeating the tale told in The Sun about the Scottish Futures Trust without checking its veracity.

In short, the story goes that the Scottish Futures Trust will have a payroll of £14 million. Considering that the story says that the Trust will have 7 staff, that seems like a rather large payroll, so where did the story come from?

From the Lib Dems. In his new role as Lib Dem Shadow on Finance, Jeremy Purvis MSP made the claim when he questioned John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth after John's statement on the Scottish Futures Trust.

In his questions, the wee man asked
Why is there no mention in the statement of the new body's payroll costs—as they were established in the business case—which alone come to £14.5 million out of
an entire budget of £17.4 million?

John Swinney referred JP back to the Business Case. You'll see (paragraph 7.6) that the payroll costs are over 5 years, that the initial staffing will be 6 or 7, and that the staff numbers will be ramped up rapidly to around 20 and the staff costs include the costs of employing staff - a different story.

Mr Purvis is quoted in the story as saying that he doesn't know what the SFT is expected to do that the Government is not already doing. Perhaps, giving his elevated position, he should pay more attention? This tale he has been dreaming, one of misdirection and pale imitations of the truth, is a very poor start to his new position but I expected nothing better of him.

Kezia, though - what a disappointment! We should hope for better from Labour's leaders in Scotland. I understand that there is strong competition for the annual awards at the Scottish Political Journalists' Association ...

For ease of reference, Paragraph 7.6 is below:

The implementation of SFT has always been regarded as a development path (as explained in Chapter 9). In the short term a series of steps require to be gone through to establish SFT (as envisaged above), in the longer term SFT may have wider opportunities as a result of legislative or constitutional changes that lead to a change in shape or direction.
As the activities of SFT will ramp-up over time it is envisaged at the outset it will have a small headcount and that its staffing will increase over time. Initially it is assumed it has 6/7 staff, including support staff, by 2011 it is assumed it has around 20 employees, including support staff. These estimates provide a range of possible
The working assumption is that SFT Development and Delivery will be established as quickly as possible and that SFT Finance will be established and operational by 2010-11, therefore the bulk of start-up costs land in 2009-10, these being primarily advisory and recruitment costs.
As for many other organisations , payroll will be the main recurring cost for SFT. This has been estimated over a 5 year horizon in order to provide some quantum for this SBC, but this must be regarded as indicative pending more detailed business planning.
The staffing levels suggested would support core SFT activities, however should SFT undertake significant assignments, such as becoming a programme developer in a particular sector, then additional dedicated staff (or advisory support) would likely be required. SFT resourcing beyond core levels would be justified through normal business planning and approvals.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Where's our money going?

More about that ripping noise you're hearing:

The Lyon Court
Fees are currently

New Grant of shield alone, with or without motto £1,184
New Grant of shield and crest, with or without motto £1,816
New Grant of shield and crest, with or without motto to a commercial organisation £2,833
New Grant of shield, crest, motto and supporters £2,502
New Grant of shield, crest, motto and supporters to a commercial organisation £3,474
Matriculation of previous Grant of shield and crest £597
Matriculation of previous Grant including supporters £892
Matriculation of previous Grant, with new supporters £1,288

In 2006 76 new grants of Arms were made, 63 to individuals (up to 63 times £2,502 = £157,626), 11 to corporate bodies (11 x £3,474 = £38,214) 2 to local authorities (2 x £3,474 = £6,948), and 28 matriculations from existing grants (28 x £1,288 = £36,064).

Apart from asking why they're taking money from local authorities to give out a wee badge, that adds up to £238,852 - and that's before any fines are added, or any fees for adjudicating on who's a clan chief. It's enough to mak ye splutter so it is.

I'm also informed by those lovely people who have dropped me an email or left a wee comment "not for publication" about this:

Prisons - £1.2 billion spending from reserves on prisons down south should have resulted in a 100% programme match for Barnett, leading to £120 million coming to Scotland. Never happened.

Health - Darling changed Scotland's baseline before the spending review so that Scotland missed out on the increase in English spending (a wee bit like your boss saying "I know you think that you were paid £5 last month because that's what was in your pay packet, but you were really only paid £4, and that means that this month's pay of £4.50 includes your pay rise of just over 11.1%, well above the rate of inflation). That wheeze cost Scotland £342 million a year.

Lottery - apparently I was a bit short on how much money they're skinning from us here - £150 million is what is being demanded back but £184 million is what was nicked - up £34 million.

Olympics - because the money for regenerating the area around the Olympic sites for 2012 has been accounted for in a manner different from that of the Olympics itself Scotland will lose out on £165 million in Barnett consequentials.

G8 - never mind our policing costs for the beano at Gleneagles, the MOD is demanding £370,000 in security costs - from our police forces in Tayside and Fife!

So the figures I already had showed £278.1 million in one-off costs and £477 million annually. Let's add today's figures:

One-off theft - £278.1m + £120m + £34m + £165m + £370,000 = £597.47m
Repeated theft - £477m + £342m = £819m

So Brown and Darling have made off with £597.47 million of Scotland's money and intend to keep ripping us off to the tune of £819 million a year.

Is that all, I wonder?

This Barnett formula should go, they just ignore it anyway.

Time Labour paid the bills

With the splash from Gordon Brown's relaunch and subsequent sinking with little trace still lapping in the shallow end of politics, I want to turn to an issue of general honesty - Whitehall paying the outstanding money it owes Scotland.

I know that this is Government money (or, more correctly, taxpayer money), but it's the Labour party that has its hands on the levers of power in Whitehall at the moment, Labour that has its sweaty little paws on the purse strings.

When you take into account Labour's apparent lack of care in spending our money (various IT projects, the mess made with Swan Hunter, half a billion on a bit of a tramline in Edinburgh, the odd penny on renewing nuclear weapons, £57m in benefits paid to dead people in 2006, £500m a year wasted on PPP/PFI, and so on) and its record of massaging funding into its own coffers (cash for peerages, laundering a few quid from a children's' charity, David Abrahams, Manchester Airports Group, Cardiff 2008 and so on), I think we should be concerned about the chances of Labour dealing equitably with Scotland.

How do they rob us? Let me count the ways (with apologies to Bill):

OIL - just thought I'd remind you. The oil revenues are a separate issue, but worth remembering.

Anyway, on to the meat (or the tofu or quorn if you're that way inclined):

Attendance Allowance - £20 million in 2001, add inflation, changes in policy north and south of the border (adjustments in line with the Statement of Funding Policy, of course) and it must be worth around £37m per year now (I know I'm letting them off lightly, but go with me here).

Police and Firefighter Pensions - another £32m skimmed out of us (per annum again, of course).
Council Tax Benefit - £400m under threat because the Scottish Government dares to want to change something to create a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem (and that's another annual payment).

Foot and Mouth Compensation - £8.1m disappearing like Wee Willie Winkie (one-off).

Renewables Fund - that'll be £120m, my dear (you'll need a West Country accent).

Games Legacy - £150m is what it's cost Scotland in lost lottery funding for the London Olympics.

National Grid - unquantified additional costs

Court Fines - £8 million

Fees and Fines from the Lyon Court - Several guineas, one would think.

That's £278.1 million in straight-up one-off payments being withheld.
Plus £477 million annually.
Plus some not quantified there.

Is there more? I think there might be. I haven't had a proper look yet.

All that money being withheld from Scotland by - Alasdair Darling - and previously withheld by - Gordon Brown. These two are clearly quite willing to see their own constituents cutting the unclean end of the stick. Shameful.

Labour continues to insist that it's listening to us. Well, here's the message:

Monday 8 September 2008

Labour in membership meltdown.

I was reliably informed by a reliable informant that the reliable information was that Labour was claiming to have around 13,000 members in Scotland (which means that Labour has fianlly admitted that the SNP is the largest party in Scotland).

How does this square with the tiny amounts declared as membership?

Easy, lapsed members don't automatically leave the membership lists.

Even allowing for this, though, Labour's membership in Scotland in 1997 was reported as being 30,000, 11 yeasr later and Labour is claiming a membership of 13,000.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Labour in dodgy donation shock

Labour took £15,000 from a children's charity half as a donation, half to attend a dinner.

From a children's charity.

It's beginning to look like the political equivalent of limbo dancing - "how low can you go?"

Friday 5 September 2008

Trams - chaos awaits

Being the kind of chap that I am, I've had a wee look at trams in Manchester.

30th April 2008 - computer failure at the control centre halted all the trams in the city, causing rush-hour chaos.

May 2004 - noise levels from passing trams was recorded at 94.9 decibels inside a house in Manchester. That's about as loud as the inside of a nightclub.

29th June 2008 - tram derails with about 300 people on board, demolishing a couple of the poles carrying the power lines for the trams. Two of the three Manchester tram lines were out of action for a full day.

27th August 2008 - tram and car crash causing traffic chaos.

April 2008 - an accident investigation found that a sharp curve (90 degrees in 40 metres) in the tram track was a contributory factor in a derailment in January 2007. That'll be a sharp curve like the one at the bottom of the hill where Edinburgh's trams are supposed to turn from North St Andrews Street into Queen Street, except that the Edinburgh curve will be sharper... Poor maintenance was another factor.

19th May 2008 - power failure stopped all of Manchester's trams for four hours.

27th September 2004 - tramline closed for three hours after collision with a truck.

20th July 2004 - rush-hour tram's emergency brakes keep seizing on

11th January 2005 - tram derails without warning and hits a pole carrying overhead power lines. Some tram services cancelled for a full day.

16th May 2005 - rush hour passengers stuck on trams for hours after control centre computer crashed.

22nd January 2001 - tram breakdown causes hour-long delays - for other trams.

10th January 2001 - tram travelling at 5 mph is derailed - by newspapers.

22nd March 2006 - tram derailed on bend travelling at 15 mph travelled 50 yards off the rails following a failure at a bend - similar to accidents in each of the two previous years.

21st December 2007 - Cold weather stops trams moving when the overhead lines freeze.

29th March 2007 - line blocked for an hour when tram drags car along road.

There are more incidents on the Rail Accident Investigation Boards website

Inspiring, isn't it?

Psssst, wanna buy a rumour?

One hears, as one does, a wee rumour that the long arm of the law has reached out and felt the collar of a Labour election agent (2007 election) for fraud.

No more details are forthcoming at the moment, though - most infuriating.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Every good turn deserves another

Having praised a Conservative, let me now give out some opprobrium to the Conservative Party.

One hears that Philip Lardner has been allowed to continue as a Conservative candidate in North Ayrshire and Arran.

That twitching undercurrent of xenophobia can't continue and the Scottish Conservatives had done a fair bit to drive it out of politics, I hope their efforts continue.

A Bond Villain

It's not often I'll praise a Conservative, but sometimes it's deserved. Jackson Carlaw - a man with a Bond villain name and whose appearance would be rounded off by having a white cat to stroke - has lodged an amendment to a motion submitted by Margaret Curran.
Curran's motion was the usual unthinking Labour blinkered ramble, this time on health, rattling through criticising the Conservatives' Shadow Health Secretary for England, the Scottish Government, two passing camels and the Brazilian beach volleyball team while praising Labour for delivering the cringingly awful mess the country is in now.

Carlaw's amendment would make the motion read:
That the Parliament is wearying of the parade of invitations to pay tribute to the former Lib/Lab administration, rejected by the electorate in May 2007; invites the Scottish Government to press on with evidence-based action to assist the people of Scotland to tackle health inequalities and to do so without fear or favour to the record of the Labour party, which having governed the people of Glasgow for decades has singularly failed to improve health inequalities within the city, and calls on members of all parties to measure success less by reference to health spending and more by reference to health outcomes while ensuring that all people in Scotland, of whatever financial means, can access the healthcare they deserve
Well, I laughed.

For completeness, here's the Curran motion (everybody's doing a brand new dance now), full of dreadful inaccuracies, of course:
That the Parliament calls on Conservative UK Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley MP, to withdraw his comments suggesting that health spending should be
reduced in Glasgow and spent elsewhere in the United Kingdom; believes that Mr Lansley’s apparent conclusion that health spending is inverse to health outcomes and should therefore be reduced in areas of poor health is a perverse logic that risks denying people in most need the healthcare that they require and deserve and that this is an alarming indication of the Conservatives’ intention to cut NHS funding; notes with equal concern that Mr Lansley’s wish may already be being granted by the SNP government in light of the recently announced £42 million of cuts to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the fact that health spending in the Scottish Government’s budget fails to match the year-on-year increases of both the UK Government for England and those of the previous Scottish administration; further notes that, if this trend continues, Scotland’s historically higher health spending per head of population is at risk of being reversed within the next five years, and calls on members of all parties to defend the NHS in Scotland from further cuts and ensure that all people in Scotland of whatever financial means can access the healthcare that they deserve.