Sunday 29 March 2009

Dunfermline Building Society

Labour now wants to force the Dunfermline under its heel and sell it off and already has a buyer lined up. Lloyds, anyone?

Gie's a break

Poor wee Gordon Broon can't get a break. Just when he thinks he's getting his head above water and is about to save another world up pops something else to puncture his balloon. First there's the Governor of the Bank of England saying that there are no more pennies for spending, then there's Brazil telling him to naff off, now there's the rest of the world saying that this G20 summit is a bit of fakery. When other nations' leaders are calling your bluff you know you've been rumbled.

All political careers end in failure - some more noticeable than others.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

SNP to take Dundee

It looks like Dundee is now definitely on course to take become an SNP-run city next week. Lord Provost John Letford (old-fashioned kind of politician) has left the Labour party after many years of membership (I don't know how many, but it could be half a century - John is 73).

Well done those councillor chaps. It will take a long, long time to repair the damage caused by years of Labour rule - as it is doing in other areas of Scotland - but at least you're now in a position to get started.Step we gaily on we go ...

Monday 23 March 2009

Gordon Brown to impose sanctions against Scotland?

Since Gordon Brown is threatening sanctions against Iran if it doesn't develop nuclear power and Labour is desperate to force new nuclear power stations on Scotland against the wishes of Scotland's Government, can we be expecting tanks on our lawns?

All women shortlists

My good friend Kezia Dugdale mounted a fine attack on misogyny and a spirited defence of Labour's all-women shortlists and then spoiled it a wee bit by becoming partisan (not something I ever do). People may have been intrigued by her assertion that Labour has "well over 300 members" in her constituency given that Labour's membership numbers are falling, the figures in Edinburgh are:
Edinburgh East - 356
Edinburgh North & Leith - 364
Edinburgh South - 425
Edinburgh South West - 395
Edinburgh West - 194

Meaning that the SNP has more members than Labour in every single seat in Edinburgh - and our membership is growing.

But back to the main point of my wittering - Kezia pointed out the rule that applies to Labour selection:
the Labour Party's current policy - led by Harriet Harman - is that all seats where the incumbent Labour MP is standing down should be all women shortlists

Which would seem awfy clear, but other Labour bloggers suggest that it may, just possibly, be a bit less clear than that.

Come on Labour, sort yourself out!

Nigel G

Like Ali only less well dressed. There's a tale or two about Nigel Griffiths being deselected. Given what they've already put up with, why would Edinburgh South Labour Party want to punish him for an extramarital affair in his House of Commons office on Remembrance Day?

Sunday 22 March 2009

More paint, Duggie, more paint

There's a wee daft tale about Alex Salmond being furious about the Commission to Repaint Devolution intending to recommend that London should have control over some things.

Terribly important except -

1 Why would Salmond be furious over the recommendations of this Labour thinktank rather than any other Labour thinktank?

2 Why would anyone be furious now given that this news was out months ago?

3 How come the quotes given by the spokeschappie didn't reflect any fury?

4 Surely everyone knows that Westminster can over-rule Scotland on absolutely anything it wants and, therefore, there is nothing that can be given back to Westminster except our voice.

5 Is the Calman Commission not just a wee bit embarrassing?

Friday 20 March 2009

Apologise? Apologise? Apologise to who?

Just go in and ask for Operator 42 ...

Here's a bizarre story - way back on the 10th of February, Martin Bright wrote a piece saying that Whitehall Officials had been ordered to make a dvd of President Obama's apologies over the Daschle nonsense (because, of course, Obama can do no wrong) to allow Brown to learn how to apologise. A story, you would think, that your average spin-doctor would snort at before moving swiftly on. You'd be wrong. Two days later Bright reported that, rather than snorting and ignoring the tale as you'd expect them to, Brown's team were denying it. Brown's staff later weighed in with more nonsense. What did they think they would be achieving?

Bright was already speculating back then that it suggested that Brown would not be doing any apologising. Whether he should or not is a moot point, I suppose, but the Northern Rock story today suggests that Bright was right. Whether he was doing it deliberately or not, Brown was responding to allegations that the bank was mismanaged by the people he put in after nationalisation by saying it was right to nationalise it.

Obfuscation, misdirection, discombobulation, or did he just not understand the question?

Whose bus?

I was most taken with the recent redesign of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party - especially the use of the Saltire (I hope George isn't too upset) - and I loved Iain Gray in John Major - the sequel which is what caught my attention...

There was Iain in full flow, saying "my family's a bus painting, bus checking, bus conducting family on the Edinburgh buses" - and there was a Lothian bus going about its lawful business at the start of the broadcast - just to show that it was an Edinburgh bus, you understand. Apart from a wee concern over vehicle emmissions (double-decker, one politician, one camera operator, one make-up artist and two cheerleaders isn't very environmetnally friendly), I admired it for a while, the quality of the production, the message being about being a man of the people, the clever use of a Lothian Bus... "Hang on" said the wee partisan voice inside me, "just a diddly minute - those buses are publicly owned!" There was only one course of action...

I submitted a Freedom of Information request to our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses, and it went a wee bit like this:
Please supply me, under the Freedom of Information legislation, with a copy of the receipt issued for payment for the bus which was used by Iain Gray in his capacity as Scottish Labour Leader to film the broadcast which can be seen here: I would also appreciate information on who the invoice and receipt were issued to and an indication of the usual cost of hiring a bus for this purpose and for how many days the bus was hired and on what dates.
Straightforward, I thought, and I'll have the information in 20 working days. I didn't bank on the incredible speed of Lothian Buses FOI department! Seven days later (get that, all you other FOI people, that's service) I got a reply from Lothian Buses which read something like this:
Having examined the video clip using the link to Kezia Dugdale’s blog which you were kind enough to provide, I can confirm that one of our buses does appear briefly in the opening sequence. The resolution of the YouTube clip is inadequate to allow the specific vehicle to be identified but it is operating westbound on Service 12 passing the bus stop in East Hermitage Place, just west of Restalrig Road. That view of the exterior of our bus lasts for approximately three seconds and the bus was in normal public service at the time.
In contrast, the more extensive footage featuring Iain Gray inside a bus was not shot in one of our vehicles. The detail in the video is insufficient to identify the individual bus which was used but, for guidance, the last bus of that specific type in our ownership was disposed of in 2004. Since no vehicle of any kind was hired from us in relation to the film made for this broadcast, I cannot provide the information you
"Jings!" Said I in my best Oor Wullie voice, "Iain didn't use Lothian Buses!" This could only mean one thing - he hired a bus from someone else. What's wrong with our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses? Why would a Labour leader try to deceive us in this way? I felt terribly hurt. It might be a donation, I thought, grasping desperately at a passing straw, so I checked Iain's register of interests - Iain's been right up front about donations and things - not for him a wee Jersey experience - nothing. The thing was made for Labour's conference, it must have been done more than a month ago - he must have paid for it.

The only conclusion I can reach is that Iain hired a bus from a private company, making sure that it had internal livery similar to Lothian Buses, had a few shots taken of our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses in operation and sought to misdirect us about using our bus company. Oh Iain, how could you?

Who was it he used? It's so humiliating!
Mind how you go!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Brown at what cost?

Flabber your gasted thank you very much! I was perusing the blog of a Dundee wifie and came upon an exchange with another person which I can't find again, but it did point me to a story in the Steamie about Goggsy Broon. Apparently he pays £150 for a haircut (I pay a tenner, including tip - less of your cheeky comments up the back there), £795 for a suit, £65 for a shirt, £350 for a pair of shoes (and buys six pairs at a time), £14 for a pair of socks (which he buys in 20 packs), and leaves half the food on his plate (my mother would give him a thick ear).

Right in touch with the ordinary people struggling to survive in his economic disaster then...

While I'm on the subject and having a right good rant, I was in the Doctors' waiting room (you've got to watch these Green types, you know) and read James' bit about Brown threatening Iran with sanctions if it doesn't develop nuclear power. Hah, thinks I, that daft laddie has read that wrong and I moseyed (how do you spell that word?) on over to the original article to get the truth (for use in mocking activities).

Shocked, stunned and not a little amazed was I! I had a look elsewhere and things might look a bit different here and there (why do all these lightweights want to be Barack Obama's wee brother? Surely they can stand on their own records rather than have to pretend that "Mr President would have said it if he'd been me") but still there's Brown driving nuclear power down the throats of the Iranians. A Labour Prime Minister, a Labour Prime Minister, flying around the world delivering nuclear power. Through the looking glass indeed!

Ken Livingstone says "Brown's a liability"

Former Labour London Mayor Ken Livingstone has said that Gordon Brown is a liability. In an interview with the Evening Standard Livingstone said; ""I was very critical of the first two years. The passage of time has shown me to be right."

In 1998 Ken Livingstone accused Gordon Brown of "economic misjudgments", ""subservience to the City" and said "Quite clearly, Gordon is not on top of macro-economic policy."

Ken Livingstone obviously thinks that Gordon Brown's clunking fist has clunked too loudly and he'll be among a growing band of people in Labour who want rid of Brown.

Labour's problem is they're stuck with Brown until after the next election. The country's problem is the same.

Mind how you go!

Nats get it right again!

The SNP has been advocating a range of measures to address Scotland's poor relationship with alcohol and the opposition parties have been falling over themselves to criticise (shame on them!) One of the aspects they criticise, saying that it would have no effect, is the proposal to institute minimum pricing.

"It won't work" scream the kids on the block "it'll just punish social drinkers without affecting problem drinkers. Well, tell it to the economists, including Tim Harford who has a wee piece referring to some other economists' work. He does fling a warning, right enough, but it's one that backs up the SNP policy of having a range of measures to combat problem drinking:
Yet Sir Liam doesn't suggest more tax on alcohol - he suggests supermarkets and off-licences put up prices and keep the profits, making it lucrative to flog cheap booze. Unable to compete on price, supermarkets could compete in other ways - for instance, offering freebies (sweets? football stickers?) with every bottle of strong cider. Making cheap booze a supermarket's most profitable product is likely to backfire, one way or another. After all, supermarkets respond to incentives too.

And a wee chuckle

Having discovered that the SNP Scottish Government is on course to better the SNP manifesto pledge of 1,000 more police officers over four years (two more than target - whoo-hoo!), I then chanced upon Labour's motion for debate for tomorrow:
*S3M-3726 Richard Baker: Police Numbers—That the Parliament believes that the Scottish Government must ensure that there are 17,265 full-time equivalent police officers by March 2011, calculated on the basis currently used by the Chief Statistician in the reporting of the official Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, for the SNP’s stated manifesto pledge for 1,000 more police officers to be met.

Way to go, Ricky!

loads o polis!

Another promise being kept by the SNP Scottish Government - there will be 1,002 more police officers in Scotland at the end of the four year term.

Monday 16 March 2009

Ochone ochone!

Woe is me, all is lost, we've had a wee bad poll and the world is coming to an end. Aye, right!

Jason Allardyce's piece in the Sunday Times has the SNP only up by 2 points since 2007, only a point ahead of our nearest challengers, and Labour has crept ahead by a couple of points in the Additional Member vote. It's leading to apocalyptic headlines like "Labour overtakes SNP in new Scottish poll" - how far we've come recently that such news should seem worthy of a headline, and how much further given that it's not exactly the whole story.

It might be interesting when we get the full results. I wonder why the ST never put up the full Scottish results at the same time as publication which it did with the UK results - I'm assuming the London political editor thought it was a good innovation - which it is. If you strip Scotland out of the UK results you get:

Con 44%
Lab 30%
LD 17%
oth 8%


Mind how you go.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Old buffers speak at Lib Dem conference

Vince Cable, old buffer of the Liberal Democrats and former Glasgow Labour councillor, has claimed that the RBS balance sheet was 15 times the size of Scotland's Gross National Product, implying that this makes Scotland too wee or too poor to be independent.

How does he know that? Owing to the complexities surrounding the estimation of GNP no official GNP estimates currently exist for Scotland (penultimate page). The best you can get is GVA - doesn't have the international earnings component of GNP - Scotland's was £98.5 billion in 2007, a per capita GVA for Scotland of 96% of the UK's. The oil industry had a GVA of £30 billion (not included in Scotland's total).

RBS's balance sheet was standing at £1.9 trillion at the end of 2007 - will be substantially less now - one fifteenth of which would be £126.67 billion, so to make Cable's calculation work you'd have to have £28 billion of overseas earnings for Scots (including Scottish companies) - or we can have our oil back, thanks. It's quite possible that Scots earned that much elsewhere in the world. Quite possible and totally unimportant. The UK GVA in 2007 was £700 billion short of the balance sheet value of RBS' assets - that means chuffle all either, all the money for the bank bail-out is borrowed, the UK can't afford this bail-out just as the US can't afford the money being stuffed into its banks.

This cataclysm is going to run and run as well - there isn't going to be a recovery to help pay back the wodge that's been splashed. I had dinner with an economist last night who just laughed when I asked him what the chances were of the UK recovering from recession any year soon - he reckons we might have an idea of how long it's going to last by the end of 2011. We're facing a long, long period of pain, the idea that this somehow provides an argument against independence is ridiculous.

Almost as daft as his chum Menzies Campbell who thinks that being old makes you better at international relations but forgets that business was done on the First Minister's US trip.

I can't remember who these two remind me of ...
Mind how you go.

Friday 13 March 2009

Alan Cochrane will be delighted

The SNP has a new councillor in Dundee, Craig Melville won, taking 48% of the vote in the Maryfield ward. That's where I grew up so it can't be any coincidence that it's now the first ward in Scotland to have all of its councillors coming from the SNP, can it?

First Preferences:

SNP 1550 48%
Labour 1013 31%
LibDem 354 11%
Tory 224 7%
SSP 52 2%
Independent 35 1%
Independent 28 1%

Other notable Dundonians will be as delighted as me, Alan Cochrane, that fine chap who writes for the Telegraph (not the proper Tele, the funny one), will be dancing with pleasure (honest, he will), Brian Taylor will be musing deeply (he's got to stay impartial), Jim McLean (born in Larkhall but an honorary Dundonian) will crack a smile, George Galloway will tickle his bombast and Mike Watson (not a real Dundonian - can't even speak Dundonese) will light a candle.

Interesting point, though, Dundee has been controlled by a Labour/Lib Dem coalition since May 2007, having taken the administration with the support of the Conservatives (actually a similar deal to the 2003-2007 administration), and the new councillor makes the political make-up of the council rather special:
SNP 14
Labour 9
Lib Dem 2
Conservative 3
Independent 1

The independent, Ian Borthwick is a true independent - a Labour councillor a long, long time ago (in the old regional council if memory serves) but long since gone his own way - and it's not easy to predict what he'll do. The next council meeting should be interesting!

Dundee doesn't have its problems to seek at the moment, with NCR closing down its manufacturing plant (keeping the R&D) and Texol closing its doors as the recession bites. It's going to be a long road back for the city and it'll need the energy and enthusiasm of everyone involved to put it back on its feet.

Gordon Brown's comment at Labour conference in Dundee last week that the city was in a great state because it's got a Labour council is ringing pretty hollow, especially since his 'joke' has its root in a poor joke relating to run-down areas here and the WTC towers. I'll use Craiglang (of Still Game fame) as the surrogate area:
Two unemployed labourers from Craiglang, seeing the devastation of the attack on the World Trade Center, decide that they should go and do what they can to help. While they're working away at Ground Zero clearing debris, President Bush appears and chats to them, thanking them for their efforts.
Noting the accent, he asks where they're from.
"Craiglang" they reply.
"Craiglang?" says Bush "I don't know the place, what state is that in?"
"Same state as this place."

Yes... Boom followed by boom. If you thought the joke Gordon Brown told was just poor humour, knowing where it comes from makes it worse, doesn't it?

Ach well, I assume Mr Fawkes will be pointing to Mr Brown's visit and Labour's subsequent loss?

Thursday 12 March 2009

A sound thrashing

I can think of no better description for First Minister's Questions today than a sound thrashing administered by the First Minister to the Leader of the Opposition (largest party). Iain went on a story that Labour had splaffed to the Scotsman for this morning alleging that the Government was too late to commission any new schools to have them built before the next Holyrood election in 2011.

Leaving aside the fact that schools can be commissioned and built far more quickly if PFI/PPP isn't involved, it's a tactical error to show the route of your advance before you start moving. With the element of surprise having been removed, Alex Salmond played Iain Gray, turning him into dumpling by leading him on, trickling out pieces of information that invited the next question. Iain trundled right into a fusilade of details about schools that have been built by the SNP administration. It was close to being something that you had to turn away from in order to maintain some degree of decorum.

There has been quite a lot of school building under the SNP Government, to whit (not to woo):

1. Schools commissioned or commenced since May 2007 - already opened
· Dunning Primary School (Perth & Kinross) conventional procurement, commissioned October 2007, work began November 2007, opened to pupils October 2008, formally opened by Fiona Hyslop February 2009

· It is the first of a long line of schools commissioned since May 2007 including:
(conventional procurement)
· Dundee – new Kingspark Special School
· West Lothian - major refurbishments of 3 secondaries
· South Lanarkshire – 4 new primaries
· Glasgow - 4 new primaries
· Dumfries & Galloway – new Cargenbridge Primary in Dumfries
· Angus – new Seaview Primary in Monifieth

PPP/NPD projects signed off since May 2007
· Falkirk (NPD) – new Falkirk High and St Mungo's High
· Inverclyde - new Notre Dame Academy & All Saints Primary
· West Lothian - new Armadale Academy & Deans Community High
· East Dunbartonshire - 6 new secondaries
· West Dunbartonshire - 3 new secondaries

2. £2 billion worth of construction on schools.
· More than £1 billion of work underway on major schools projects where construction commenced within the last 18 months
· Signed off funding for 8 local authority projects involving nearly 50 schools, the most recent (October 2008) being Inverclyde’s £80m project.
· Another 3 NPD projects are in the pipeline. Capital value of around £1 billion.
· Well over another £1 billion in schools over the next 3 to 5 years.

3. Already completed 150 school projects - on track to deliver 250 projects.
· 71 projects completed in 2008
· 150 projects completed since May 2007
· School buildings improved for 50,000 pupils and another 50,000 will be helped

4. Scottish Futures Trust will bring even more new investment
· The budget allows the SNP Government to bring forward the next phase of investment in Scotland’s schools

5. Labour matched "Brick for Brick"
· No schools projects commissioned or in the pipeline up to May 2007 have not been proceeded with - even though Labour had left a £60 million funding shortfall.

Seems like not a bad record. Mind how you go!

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Trams - a list

Here's what I've been told that the Tram Project has still to find a way of addressing but that I don't have details on:

1. Constitution Street has burial grounds beneath it. There may be some legal considerations to the movement of human remains.

2. The conduit tunnels that were used for the old cable-driven trams that surprised tie but not anyone else who lives in Edinburgh - still awaiting an engineering solution.

3. The walk-along sewer that runs the length of Princes Street does not have the strength to carry the Tram.

4. There's a turntable from the previous tram system embedded in the roadway which has to be lifted.

5. The ground at Haymarket where the track is intended to go off-road is mudstone and needs to be stabilised.

6. There's an unexpected quarry at Haymarket.

7. The ground at the flood plain at the Gogar Burn needs stabilised (who thought it was a good idea to build on a flood plain anyway?)

8. They still haven't found a way to turn the tram from North St Andrews Street into Queen St (too steep an incline combined with too sharp a drop).

9. There's not enough money.

10. They still haven't worked out how to shield the tram's electrics from the electrics used to power the signals on the train track it will run alongside.

Well planned, chaps, carry on! I wonder how secure the yard where the tramtracks have been stored is - I wonder whether those track sections are still there. What about the structural integrity of the viaduct that carries the guided busway and is intended to carry the tram? What else can go wrong? I'm off to see if I can lay a bet on the trams not running before 2015.

Mind how you go!

The Open and Honest Lib Dems

A whisper reached me, so I picked it up and listened to it. It would appear that the 'discussion' on the Commission to Repaint Devolution and on the Independence Referendum which Calman will recommend will be held - IN PRIVATE!!!

Up you could not make it.

Trams - how bad it is how bad

I attended a public meeting on trams this evening at the Leith Dockers' Club. Most of it is the stuff of political debate. There was a stunning exchange, though, when a chap from the West End Community Council asked about the Final Business Case made for the Tram Project. Most of the audience knew what he was talking about - they quoted sections in subsequent exchanges - but the reaction of the politicians was interesting:

Malcolm Chisholm said he'd never heard of it.

Phil Wheeler said he hadn't read it.

So a Labour MSP who helped force the Tram Project through Parliament had never heard of the Final Business Case.

But, hold the side page:

The guy in charge of delivering the trams has never read the Final Business Case.


Mind how you go.

Monday 9 March 2009

Trams public meeting

There's a public meeting to discuss the Tram nonsense to be held tomorrow. Organised by Leith FM, the local community radio station, it'll take place in the Leith Dockers' Club in Academy Street (just off Duke Street) from 7.30 pm.

I'd encourage everyone to turn up.

Date: Tuesday 10th March 2009
Time: 7.30pm – 9pm
Venue: Leith Dockers' Club, Academy Street, Leith (Off Duke Street)

Great questions of our time

From an excellent website.

Sue who?

There was a court judgement that money paid out to benefit claimants through the incompetence of the DWP can be reclaimed by the DWP - about £2.6 billion (I wonder whether the law in Scotland allows the same?).

A Parliamentary Question answered last month showed that millions of pounds get paid out to dead people by mistake and that the DWP will pursue repayment of that money.

But at least the London Government intends to lash out money to compensate all those poverty-stricken businesses which were tendering to run the Post Office Card Account.

So, if you're in one of the poorest groups in society, and if, through no fault of your own, the DWP gives you too much money the London Government will seek to reclaim it - even after you're dead - but if you're tendering for a contract and the deal gets pulled you'll get compensation.

Mind the gap!

Sunday 8 March 2009

Good news for Gordon Brown

Well, not really. Compass commissioned a survey of Labour party members here's some of the results:

1. More than one in every five Labour party members thinks Gordon Brown is doing badly as Prime Minister.

2. Almost a quarter of Labour's membership thinks that Alistair Darling is doing badly as Chancellor.

3. The figures for others aren't good either; Foreign Secretary - one in five, Home Secretary - 39%, Mandelson - 30%, Harman - 32%.

4. 14% of Labour members think that Brown is right-wing and another 5% can't place him on the spectrum. Half as many Labour members think that David Cameron is very left wing as think the same about Gordon Brown - but it's only 1% and 2%.

5. Only 17% of Labour party members think that Labour's policies to tackle the recession are working. 68% hope they'll work in the future, right enough, although 12% think that there's no chance that they'll work.

6. 66% of Labour party members oppose Labour's policy of privatisation of the Post Office and 5% think it doesn't go far enough.

So, if Labour party members don't trust Labour, why should anyone else?

Mind how you go!

Saturday 7 March 2009


I've been working on the tramtrack
All the livelong day
I've been working on the tramtrack
Just to pass the time away

With the Tram Project in a descent beyond farce, way behind schedule, massively over budget, ludicrously mismanaged, now shrunk from 3 lines to a third of a line, and completely undeliverable, isn't it time to end the pain and cancel it? Moreover, tie has to be wound up and some forensic accountants sent in to look over the books to see what was done properly and what was not during each of the massive failures for which the company was responsible. Such raging incompetence has to be looked at in fine detail, firstly to learn what mistakes were made so that they can be learned from, but secondly to discover whether any of the huge amounts of public money that have been wasted can be recovered. The record is of seven years in which uselessness has been raised almost to an art form. Incorporated in April 2002 it has lurched from one embarrassment to another, dragging Edinburgh's reputation through the mud.
The Freedom of Information requests that used to be available on the trams website have gone, but have a look at the documents on tie's website - strangely, only one set of accounts appears on the site - for 2003/04. You could buy the rest from Companies House, of course, but it's public money, we should be told how it is being paid out. If you want a wee fleg, though, have a look at the Business Plan for 2004/05 (yup, the only one there), here's a couple of excerpts:

1. They bought the charging system for Edinburgh's congestion charging before they ran - and lost - the congestion charging referendum.

2. They were planning multi-storey underground car parks under George Street and Shandwick Place.

3. At that point the trams were intended to be running in 2009 ... on two tramlines ...

Anyway, as I perused the Tram Business Case again, a thought struck me (it hurt) - the point of these tram things was to provide transport from where people were going to be flocking to live in the Granton Harbour area with the new development there (which has, of course, halted) and who would be working on the western periphery of the city - RBS at Gogar, places in the Gyle, that kind of thing. Given that the intention was to move people from Granton to the west, why is the tramline intended to run east from Granton, through Leith, up Leith Walk and along Princes Street and Shandwick Place? Why isn't it designed to go west? After all, that would have avoided the subterranean problems they are about to encounter. Then again, that would have required forward thinking, wouldn't it?

Wednesday 4 March 2009


It may not be the right spelling (or the right word) but it's the animal from Dr Doolittle that looks both ways.

Today Iain Gray spoke to the COSLA conference and condemned the Scottish budget - which he voted for on the 4th of February - exactly four weeks ago.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Labour or SNP?

Let's have a wee look at Labour's recent achievements:

1. Economic downturn turning into a depression. OK, they got some help from the rest of the world on this one, but the limping and lame state of the UK economy allied to the poor regulation of the banking sector has really stuffed people here - and it will make it much harder for us to recover.

2. Police numbers in England are shrinking while numbers in Scotland are at an all-time record high and well on course for fulfilling the SNP pledge to put 1,000 additional officers into operational duties.

3. PFI/PPP companies are getting a public bail-out while the CBI finally backs the SNP alternative.

4. Gordon Brown thinks he saved the world while even the Americans are moving towards disposing of their nuclear weapons.

5. Brown wants to steal a pension that his Government committed to.

6. Stealing pensions isn't a new trick for Brown, right enough - nor is his contempt for pensioners in poverty - and his chancellor is no better.

7. Student support is being slashed in England where tuition fees and top-up fees have been imposed while students in Scotland have seen the Graduate Endowment tuition fee removed, additional monies ploughed into support, and are now being consulted on another tranche of support. It's a pity that the Treasury (or perhaps the Chancellor for reasons of his own) decided not to allow the Scottish Government to take Student Loans funding into the DEL and turn student loans into grants, but I'm sure that the SNP Scottish Government continues to press for that.

In the meantime, Labour in Scotland just can't get any traction on making sense, one of their rank opining that proper alcohol controls in Scotland would lead to teenagers taking a motorised conveyance southwards to Carlisle to buy alcohol - he's obviously never been to Carlisle, wouldn't they stop at Guard's Mill in any case, and how does he think they're taking a car to England if they can't afford the extra cash in Scotland? He wasn't alone, though, John Lamont thinking that Wooler was an attractive option (someone ought to have a word) and David Mundell wasn't sure about much.

Just to top it all off, it would appear that the US President is treating Gordon Brown's supplication like a visit from a hick cousin.

Aye, well, mind how you go!

Monday 2 March 2009

Trams are a success at last!

It's true, the Tram Project has finally become a great success. I know this because Jenny Dawe, Lib Dem Heid Bummer on Edinburgh Council, big tram fan, boss of Phil Wheeler issued a news release to say that the kiddie-on mock-up tram outside Jenners has become one of Scotland's busiest visitor attractions having attracted 22,000 visitors.

Excellent, what more could we want? 22,000 visitors at a current projected cost of £512 million means that it's only cost £23,272.73 per visitor - perhaps the poor visitors mistook this oversized toy for one of the buses which can no longer be found on Princes Street? Can we stop now?

Labour MPs trying to outdo each other

From East of the capital comes the cry "hoi, look at this!"

Following on from Anne Begg's example, Anne Moffat has leapt into the breach.

After the Labour Government in London closed the Post Offices in two East Lothian villages as part of the Network Change programme (to save money for the UK Government), Labour councillors demanded that the council took on the cost of running the Post Offices. Costs, remember, which the UK Government felt it couldn't meet.

Having had a look at the costs involved in that the council decided it simply didn't have the resources to pay for that, but that it could afford to subsidise bus services so that these communities could access Post Office services.

Up steps the local MP - who was on the Commons Committee which helped the London Government force through the Network Change programme - to accuse the council of "planning [...] absolute nonsense, a waste of money".

Be careful out there, publicity seekers are everywhere!

Publicity rather than working for a living

I was shocked and stunned and, perhaps, even a little amazed to read about Labour MP Anne Begg refusing to deal properly with a constituency case, deciding instead to seek headlines from what is little other than administrative errors on the part of council officers.

A phone call from the MP's office with a confirmatory letter would be the way to handle such cases - it would be sorted out quietly and without any fuss. Surely this Labour MP isn't more concerned with making headlines than with working for her constituents? Is she just concerned that there's an election approaching?

Another thing - why is the BBC running this guff as if it's news? What happened to professional pride?

Sunday 1 March 2009

Fred Goodwin should keep his pension

I think that Fred Goodwin should keep his pension - all of it. It's a very large pension and it might be appropriate to question whether such sums should be paid, but it's the bung he was thrown by Gordon Brown's Government in return for his resignation from his post at RBS without any fuss.

That's the Government which currently has Ministers threatening to renege on the contract which it so recently signed with Fred Goodwin. Interestingly, the deal was negotiated on the Government side by a Minister who might have come across Mr Goodwin once or twice:
And the appointment of new City Minister Paul Myners raised eyebrows. He is a director of GLG, one of the biggest hedge funds in the world, which has the largest short position in Bradford&Bingley, having sold short tens of millions of shares in the troubled bank.

If your diet is a bit short of irony, have a wee keek at the comments of Lord Mandelson:
In his interview, Mandelson used the strongest language yet to attack Sir Fred Goodwin's £693,000 RBS pension, saying that it was "obscene that such an individual, after such failure commercially and after such terrible misjudgment ... for which he is personally responsible ... can get away with such a pension pot".
Yes, that is the same Peter Mandelson who had to resign from Government twice as a result of terrible misjudgements, including over a mortgage, and who has a nice little line in pensions himself, £31,00 from Europe for four years service on top of his Ministerial pensions and his pension from his days as an MP - that's on top of the European Commission paying him £78,000 a year because he gave up his Commissioner's salary for a job that was paying less - that public money tops up his salary to match his old salary of £182,500.

Politicians are not overpaid but it would seem there's a bit of a lack of self-awareness in Mr Mandelson's comments - which were made during an interview about his battle to privatise the Post Office where he is using threats against Post Office workers' pensions as a weapon.

I find myself wondering why there was no such fuss and great worry from Labour Ministers about the deal that was done to allow Andy Hornby - once of HBoS - to nail himself a £60,000 a month consultancy with Lloyds "after such failure commercially and after such terrible misjudgment" as Peter Mandelson might have said. One wonders what additional goodies Hornby got as part of the deal for him to go quietly and what Dennis Stevenson got as hush money - or are we not allowed to ask that question because the deal involved Gordon Brown's good mate Victor Blank?

I find myself agreeing easily with Jeff Randall that Gordon Brown's Government is throwing muck at Fred Goodwin in an attempt to hide their own galloping incompetence. Randall was the BBC's Business Editor before Robert Peston - ah, the good old days!

Mind how you go!