Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Scrap sanctions targets and keep the bottom rung

There are a lot of things in the Scottish Labour manifesto which Calton does not agree with, however, scrapping benefit sanctions targets is one policy he can wholeheartedly support. It is totally iniquitous to set sanctions targets for job centre staff when they are supposed to be helping folk into work. It is a system open to abuse and is one of the reasons for the rise in foodbanks we have seen recently. There is nothing wrong with sanctions for those who are claiming jobseekers allowance while having no intention of looking for work. Such people are actually a tiny minority. What is wrong is sanctioning people who genuinely want to find work for things like not turning up to the job centre because they were at a job interview! The success or otherwise of job centres should not be measured by the number of sanctions they dish out but by the number of people they help back into work, and by "work" Calton means a proper job with a decent number of hours and job security, not a zero hours contract. Job centres also need to end the practice of pushing the unemployed into self-employment when they don't actually have a viable business plan which will earn them a sufficient income. Starting your own business is not an easy route out of unemployment, as many failed entrepreneurs can testify. It is not for the faint-hearted and what bothers Calton about all the calls for a higher minimum wage from Labour and other parties is that, if implemented, it could well either discourage employers from taking on more staff or put them out of business altogether. We need to be making it easier for businesses to employ people, not harder because, at the end of the day, if we knock out the bottom rung of the employment ladder (ie minimum wage jobs), we will consign ever more people to endless unemployment and that is not a good thing for any of us.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Right to buy - election bribe or panacea?

Calton is probably going to vote Conservative in the forthcoming election, however, he totally disagrees with the Tory policy of extending the right to buy to housing association tenants in England and Wales and is therefore appreciating the benefits of devolution which allow Scotland to take a more sensible approach in this particular matter. What is it with Tories and home ownership? It really isn't the panacea for all ills and this latest piece of electioneering is going to give housing associations south of the border a massive migraine. It's also not going to help all those waiting for house or flat to rent at an affordable rate with some security of tenure. How on earth can housing associations operate properly when, as soon as they build some decent flats, they get snapped up? Thankfully, the new flats Calton spied being built on the edge of Dunfermline by Kingdom Housing Association, on one of his recent flights across the water, will not subject to the same barmy legislation. We need a good supply of quality, affordable rented accommodation for those who can't or don't want to buy. It seems that Scotland is leading the way in this respect, although more could have been done sooner to preserve our stock of rented housing.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Let them leave - and then bolt the door

What's all the fuss about preventing the likes of Mohammed Emwazi travelling to Syria to join IS? As long as he, and others like him, don't get let back into Britain, why stop them leaving? Calton would rather they left than stayed to wreak havoc in this country and cost the taxpayer millions in surveillance. Their loyalties are clearly not with the UK but elsewhere. Fine. We can't force anyone to be loyal to us, nor should we. Let them leave and then close the door behind them. The realisation that they can't get back into this country once they've gone may make them think twice about pledging their allegiance to a pseudo-state which is the very antithesis of Britain and British values.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Biased Broadcasting Corporation scorns Christian license fee payers

This morning's discussion on BBC Radio Scotland's Morning Call was on whether or not the TV licence fee was worth it. After having heard yet another instance of biased reporting on Radio Scotland's Newsdrive this afternoon, Calton would have to say no, the licence fee is not worth it. (Not that he pays it, the eyrie thankfully not being on TV Licensing's database and him not having a TV anyway.) In a item about a proposed conscience clause for Northern Ireland's equality legislation, both presenter Laura Maxwell and interviewee Eamonn Mallie were clearly opposed to any attempt to accommodate strongly-held religious beliefs within NI's equality law and no other viewpoint was put across. Mallie is entitled to air his views but he should have been balanced by another interviewee who supported the clause. Maxwell, as newsreader, was not entitled to air her personal views. Newsdrive should not be a vehicle for presenters to put forward their personal opinions. They are there to present the news in a balanced, non-biased way, bearing in mind that they are being funded by over 90% of households via the TV licence and not all of those households agree with their trendy-lefty PC views. Mallie should have been challenged on the very slanted and inaccurate way he presented the story. Instead of doing this, Maxwell was only too happy to support him in his biased report which was, quite frankly, bigoted against Christians. The sooner supporting the BBC financially becomes a choice for viewers and listeners, the better.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sir Malcolm gets it, albeit a day late

Sir Malcolm Rifkind might just have managed to hang on in there if he hadn't commented on how difficult it was to live on a MP's salary. As it was, no-one in their right mind, least of all David Cameron, was going to support him after that gaffe. To suggest that £67k (plus expenses) is inadequate is just not politically or socially correct these days and the fact that Sir Malcolm didn't realise this shows what a dinosaur he is. The sooner he and his ilk become politically extinct the better. If an MP's salary is not enough for you, you are not the right sort of person to become an MP. End of.

Monday, 8 December 2014

They don't get it, do they?

Politicians just don't get it, do they? OK, so Alex Salmond is very magnanimously going to donate one of his salaries to charity if he succeeds in becoming an MP in addition to being an MSP next year. Big deal. The real problem with Alex and others like him, such as Cara Hilton (MSP and Fife Councillor), is that they are hogging two jobs when a lot of people can't even get one. They are also not giving the best service to the people they represent, who deserve an MSP who is not also an MP or a councillor. We want full-time elected representatives, not part-timers dividing their time between Holyrood and Westminster or Holyrood and a local council. If Salmond manages to get elected to Westminster he should immediately resign his Holyrood seat and it's high time Hilton resigned her position on Fife council. Her Labour colleague Alex Rowley did so as soon as he won his Cowdenbeath Holyrood seat. Perhaps Hilton is not as confident as Rowley about retaining her seat in 2016. Calton would have thought she was pretty safe but, it has to be said, Dunfermline has swung every which way but Tory in the last few Holyrood elections. Perhaps 2016 will be James Reekie's year. Oh hang on ... Calton has just spotted a pig flying over the other side of the Forth.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A good day for debtors

Today was a good day to be a debtor. First we had the news that Wonga is writing off the debts of 330,000 customers and then our First Minister used FMQs to announce that councils would be prevented from pursuing poll tax debts from 20+ years ago. No doubt there will be a lot of happy people tonight however there are also a lot of unhappy people, Calton amongst them, who don't take out loans they can't hope to repay and who do pay their taxes. If having their payday loans written off made people less likely to get into financial trouble in the future, that would be good, however Calton suspects the reverse will be true. The possibility that your debt will magically disappear due to your lender having their knuckles rapped must surely be an incentive to some people to take out a loan. As for Alex Salmond's poll tax stunt - it is a totally transparent attempt to continue stoking anti-Westminster sentiment and buy left-wing votes. It is also another example of SNP-led Holyrood arrogating local council powers. It should be up to individual councils to decided whether or not it is worth pursuing old debts, bearing in mind that the poll tax non-payment campaign left huge holes in council finances, which meant that those who did pay their dues ended up paying more than they should have done. Now, councils are facing a double whammy of the council tax freeze and a prohibition on recovering poll tax debt and our services are suffering as a result. It's time for Holyrood to butt out of council affairs and the only way to ensure that this happens is to vote out the SNP.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An hour in the sun

The SNP got their majority in Holyrood, they got their referendum, they lost it and they are now showing themselves to be constitutionally incapable of accepting the result. Alex Salmond couldn't do his speech accepting defeat without inserting the words "at this stage" and now his probable successor Nicola Sturgeon, while ruling out Eck's more fanciful idea of independence without a referendum, is talking about another referendum some point in the probably not too distant future if it's in the SNP manifesto and they get another majority. Calton would have thought that that was one sure way of getting kicked out of Holyrood but the DFM's chutzpah is such that she may well go for it. One can only hope......

Meanwhile the SNP leadership non-contest is looking very like the succession of Gordon Brown to the Labour Party leadership and post of Prime Minister after years in Tony Blair's shadow and we all know what happened then. Nicola should enjoy her hour in the sun because Calton predicts that it won't last long.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A lost opportunity

Calton thinks that MP Andrew George's Affordable Homes Bill is eminently sensible and is glad to see it making it through to the next stage in Parliament. If the measures contained within George's bill had been included at the start, much of the controversy over the "bedroom tax" would have been avoided. Calton has always said that he doesn't see why taxpayers should be paying for people to stay in homes with more bedrooms than they need, however, cognisance should be taken of the fact that the disabled have special needs and also of the fact that we are in rather short supply of one bedroom council houses in some (most) areas of the country. It is hard to understand why all but one Conservative MP voted against the bill given that, if it succeeds, it will spike one of Alex Salmond's guns i.e. the promise that, in an independent Scotland, the "bedroom tax" will be abolished. The reason the spare room subsidy legislation is so hated in Scotland is because it is seen to penalise the disabled and those who are unable to find a smaller property in their area. Sort those problems with the legislation and it becomes altogether more reasonable. It's a pity that the Tory Party seem unable to put their hands up and admit that, in this case, they got it wrong. (And it's even more of a pity that, after all their criticisms of the "bedroom tax", only 2 SNP MPs were at Westminster to vote for today's bill.)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Independent, defenceless and broke

Calton listened to last night's debate rammy on the radio while simultaneously trying to follow it on twitter. Not being very good at multi-tasking, he therefore missed some of the finer points of the argument but he couldn't help noticing the persistent use of the phrase "sovereign will of the Scottish people" and the word "mandate" by Alex Salmond. The First Minister is obviously trying to strengthen his negotiating hand on the currency union he so desires if there is a yes vote. He was also very clear that, if he doesn't get a currency union, he will walk away from Scotland's share of the UK's debt. Now, turning his argument on its head, if an independent Scotland were to refuse to take a share of the debt, what's to stop the rUK hanging on to all the assets? The roar of RAF Typhoons as they pass overhead on their way south over the border would be matched by the cheers from the workforce at Portsmouth and the corresponding wails from Rosyth. Starting life as an independent country with no debt may seem like an attractive option but we would also have no air force, no navy, no embassies, no central bank and just you try getting credit without a credit (i.e. debt) history! Salmond managed to score points off Darling on child poverty but he would have little chance of making a better fist of it in an indy Scotland with no money. In terms of shouting down his opponent, Alex won last night's debate but in terms of providing real and realistic answers, he lost.