Friday, 16 June 2017

High Rise Hell

In the light of the utter tragedy of Grenfell Tower, Calton is reconsidering his views on a room with a view. He finds it absolutely astonishing that a 24 storey tower block could have only one staircase and be subject to far less stringent fire safety regulations than hotels or workplaces. That is just not acceptable and must change. Any housing block higher than fire brigade turntable ladders can reach needs to be demolished if it only has one escape route. We don't need a public enquiry to work that out. It is common sense. And safety should take priority over aesthetics (and cost) when it comes to refurbishing buildings. It's not as if we don't know how to get it right - Calton witnessed a good-going fire in an Edinburgh Georgian tenement a few years ago. Some drunken lads apparently thought it would be a good idea to have a real fire in their living-room. In the middle of the floor it seems. Then they went to bed and left it. A passing taxi driver first raised the alarm when he saw flames at a 1st floor window. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the front window was out and the room ablaze. The occupants were decamping via the back window after a neighbour chucked a brick through it to rouse them. The flat was totally gutted however the surrounding flats were structurally sound, affected only by smoke damage above and water damage in the shop below. There were no fatalities and, apart from the lads responsible, everyone else was back in their homes that night. That tenement was built in the 1840s and still stands today. We have learned nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Calton's deepest sympathies are with all those who have lost loved ones and their homes in the Grenfell disaster. He has the greatest admiration for the emergency services personnel who attended the scene.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

On reflection ...

Nicola Sturgeon has been talking a lot about calm reflection since last week's election however, if anyone wants a preview of what that actually means, they only need to watch the recording of today's First Minister's Questions, in which the said FM was aggressive, combative and anything but calm. Not only that but her reflection so far does not seem to have given her any self-awareness or insight as to why she might have lost 21 MPs. Quite the contrary as, without any sign of irony, she accused the hated Tories of exactly the same mistakes she herself has made (no plans, heading over a cliff, one-trick pony, a referendum which no-one wants). The good ship independence has been holed below the waterline but Sturgeon is steadfastly refusing to change course. She has only one mode of operation - angry nationalist.

Ever since the Brexit vote it has become increasingly evident that Nicola Sturgeon is not as smart as her predecessor (who is now back waiting in the wings). Instead of taking time to reflect after the EU referendum, she was straight out of the trap shouting INDYREF2. Her round-trip of Europe achieved nothing except to increase her already large carbon footprint and her ignorant treatment of Theresa May only got her a slap-down. Spilling the beans on a private conversation with Kezia Dugdale has damaged Sturgeon's integrity and her last-ditch attempt to try and win over Corbyn supporters was risible. Ruth Davidson is not "floundering" - she is on a roll which the current leader of the SNP is unable to stop. How long will it be before the SNP decide to replace her with someone more effective? After all, "independence transcends" ...




Friday, 9 June 2017

No Votes for the One-Party State

Calton managed to stay up last night until after the exit polls, which he treated with some scepticism. He went to bed but woke up at 3.30am, by which time Robertson and Sheikh had already gone and Salmond was soon to follow. Calton's joy would have been complete if Wishart, Blackford and Cherry had joined them but it was still a good night - and there's always next time. Which may come sooner than we all expected due to the dire overall UK result (for Theresa May that is - and anyone who likes stability and is in favour of Brexit, like Calton). It was definitely Corbyn's night down south, just as it was Davidson's up north.

What is clear, to Calton, is that the British public do not like the idea of a one-party state. May's biggest mistake was to try and crush the opposition. That did not go down well in England just as Sturgeon's attempts to appropriate the Scottish voice to her party only did not play well in Scotland. It may also be that the British public, being a lot less liberal and PC than politicians and the media would like to think, just don't like bossy women running the show with nobody to oppose them. That is not a view Calton agrees with (he does not have a problem with strong women, as his twitter followers will know) but, sadly, it is out there.

Like it or not, coalition government is here to stay because that is what the public wants. What Ruth Davidson needs to do is learn from the mistakes of Sturgeon and May and not become proud. (And if you want to hear hubris personified, just listen to Sturgeon's speech at lunchtime today.) Strong government is good but so is strong opposition. Sturgeon's acknowledged mentor Alex Salmond successfully negotiated a minority government from 2007-2011. She has been unable to do likewise and has suffered as a result. Will she learn from this? Calton thinks it unlikely. Expect more SNP losses in future.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A taxing issue

The Liberal Democrats are not going to be forming a government next Friday. They are not even going to be in coalition with the governing party, which is just as well in Calton's opinion. OK, so the Libdem plan to add a penny onto income tax will not cost low earners a lot, thanks to the fact that the personal allowance has increased massively in recent years. It still seems downright wrong to increase taxes on the lowest paid at all. Those who think it's OK to pay an extra penny tax to fund the NHS obviously are not in the position where every penny counts. They are not those who are going into debt each month to pay the rent. We all want a decent NHS but we should not be asking the poorest workers to pay extra for it. And if the moral argument against taxing the low-paid doesn't work, Tim Farron should consider Gordon Brown - he abolished the 10p tax rate, the tax paid by part-time cleaners went up and Brown ended up out of a job. Willie Rennie stood on the same ticket of raising income tax in the Holyrood election last year - his party was beaten into 5th place by the Greens. Raising the level at which we start to pay income tax has been a huge benefit to minimum wage workers and it is thanks to the Libdems that we have such a policy. They need to learn not to give with one hand and then claw back with the other.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Scots' Labour's Lost

Calton is really sorry for Scottish Labour supporters. Their politicians are trying manfully (in the case of Ian Murray) and womanfully (in the case of Kezia Dugdale) to cope with it but the truth is, they have been sold down the river by their party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Even before his latest announcement on Scottish independence, Calton has heard from lifelong, stauch Labour supporters who are planning on voting Conservative. Now, those who don't want a second independence referendum may as well tear up the tactical voting sheet and vote Tory. Even in former Labour strongholds like Fife. It doesn't matter how many caveats Corbyn added to his statement or how Murray or Dugdale try to spin it, the bottom line is that Corbyn is willing to talk to Sturgeon about a second referendum. Given that his chances of getting into Number 10 are slim to none without Scottish Labour MPs, Calton thinks that Corbyn has just thrown the election. And Scottish Labour will be looking for a divorce from the English party on June 9th.

Monday, 29 May 2017

A long week for the SNP

A week is a long time in politics, as they say, and this week has certainly been a long one for the SNP. It started with their leader getting a monstering by a nurse on TV. Cue the attack dog, Joanna Cherry QC, spreading false rumours that said nurse was married to a Tory councillor (and therefore, by implication, not allowed to question her political leaders?). Cherry had to tweet an apology when the facts became clear. Then came Manchester. The First Minister quite rightly talked about "solidarity". Unfortunately the message did not reach all of her supporters, one of whom has now been questioned by police over sickening anti-English racist tweets related to the Manchester bombing. Then we had the unedifying spectacle of an SNP supporter (who has been photographed in the past with both Salmond and Sturgeon) filming herself driving around Cowie abusing Conservative canvassers. Finally, as if things couldn't get any worse, we have a Libdem candidate being harrassed by an SNP activist on the day of her husband's funeral.

In a recent session of First Minister's Questions, Sturgeon, rather obliquely, tried to state that she was not responsible for abuse dished out by her supporters. Wrong Nicola - you are responsible. You are the leader of the Scottish National Party. Where you lead, others will follow and every time you use the word "Tory" as a term of abuse, your supporters will take that as a green light to go even further and abuse and intimidate Tories on the street, on twitter or wherever. By demonising Westminster, you unleash the forces of anti-English sentiment which, sadly, are never far from the surface in Scotland. By refusing to condemn the likes of foul-mouthed Pete Wishart (who calls Tories "w**ks") you legitimise abuse of your political opponents. Standing up at FMQs and saying that abuse is "unacceptable" is absolutely no use if you refuse to take action. Your integrity is at stake here and, as far as Calton is concerned, is found wanting, especially when you give your backing to the likes of Wishart and Cherry in their attempts to get re-elected to Westminster.

It is not the Scottish Conservatives who are the nasty party - for that, we need look no further than the SNP, who are busy redefining their acronym as Scotland's Nasty Party.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Humble Pie

Three years ago Calton wrote a post in which he lambasted Ruth Davidson as an "out-of-touch Tory" over her proposals to re-introduce prescription charges in Scotland. How times have changed. Not only are the Tories now the 2nd largest party in Holyrood and the official opposition but their leader has also changed her mind over prescription charging. Well if Ruth has the guts to do a U-turn then Calton needs to summon up the guts to swallow some humble pie. *gulp*

When Davidson was elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives Calton was not convinced they had made the right choice. How wrong he was. She has transformed the Tories into a credible opposition at Holyrood and, indeed, a government in waiting. For some time now Calton has seen Ruth as our next First Minister and he is now not the only one. Sturgeon is on the skids, replaying the same old arguments that lost Salmond the independence referendum in 2014. If she lasts as long as the next Holyrood election (and that is not a given), Davidson is well placed to boot her out of Bute House at that point. It can't come soon enough for Calton.

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.