Friday, 11 September 2020

Independence transcends ...

Nicola Sturgeon was being more than a little disingenous today when she admitted to a limited amount of politicisation of her daily "Covid" briefings on the basis that she's only human. In fact she has regularly used the platform to denigrate the Westminster Government and favourably compare Scotland with England, which would maybe not be political if she was a member of any other party but, as the leader of the SNP, this is highly political. It has also been highly effective as the latest opinion polls on support for independence demonstrate. Hence the reason that Nationalists have been howling with rage over the BBC's announcement that they would no longer automatically screen the daily briefings on TV. Sturgeon has been wise enough to distance herself from the criticism but her deputy John Swinney no doubt spoke for her when he voiced his concern over the BBC's decision.

The problem, as Calton sees it, is that those who don't want to see the UK broken up and Scotland plunged into poverty still seem to ascribe some basic moral decency to Sturgeon. They don't realise that when she said "independence transcends" she meant that it transcends EVERYTHING. Not just economics but morals, decency, honesty, integrity. Everything. Nicola Sturgeon would let your Granny die of Covid in a care home if it furthered the cause of Scottish independence ... except she's already tried that and it didn't work. She has no sense of shame and no decency. If she seems to be doing a mea culpa it's only to avoid admitting even bigger failures. This is what Nationalism does to you. It causes women to cover up for sex pests in case it damages 'the cause' and it causes other women to knife them in the back in case they damage 'the cause'. Nothing matters but independence and while Nicola may not have been "enjoying" Covid, she has used the higher profile it has given her to drive a wedge between Scotland and England and increase support for the only thing she really cares about. 

It's time to take the blinkers and the gloves off if we are to defeat the poison of Nationalism in Scotland. No more Mr Nice Guy.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Smell of Pee

Back in April Calton wrote that Nicola Sturgeon reeked of exceptionalism. Now she stinks of urine - the pee some care home residents had to lie in due to the Scottish Government's mismanagement of the Covid crisis and care homes. Whenever someone dares to raise this issue with the First Minister, she complains that they are trying to make out that she did it deliberately. She plaintively protests that she did her best at the time and that, if mistakes were made, (note the 'if'), they will be examined at some future inquiry. She deeply regrets every death and, really, it's her we should be feeling sorry for because those nasty journalists and opposition politicians are trying to make her out to be a murderess.

No Nicola, the charge is not murder - it's manslaughter. Not intentional, pre-meditated killing but killing through incompetence. At the height of the pandemic you and your hopeless Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman shifted lots of vulnerable elderly patients from hospitals to care homes without testing them while at the same time lots of care home workers were having to stay at home for 14 days. You created a situation where an increase in residents coincided with a decrease in staff numbers and you did nothing to mitigate this. That is incompetence. The results of what you were doing were forseeable - you did not forsee them. The situation was exacerbated by a blanket directive (now deleted) that care home residents should not be moved to hospital if they got Covid.

Sturgeon's hands are not stained with blood - it's pee and no amount of washing will take away the smell.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Nicola is no Boudicca

Calton has stopped listening to Nicola's lunchtime briefings. Her anxiety is palpable and it's infectious. Instead of leading the Scottish people our First Minister is pleading with the Scottish people. It's not a good look. No wonder some nationalists are casting about for another leader and their eye is falling on Sturgeon's predecessor and nemesis, Alex Salmond. The fact that there doesn't seem to be any other obvious candidate highlights the paucity of talent in the SNP. A leadership election in the aftermath of Salmond's resignation in 2014 might have highlighted what is now blindingly obvious even to some SNP members - Sturgeon's ultra-cautiousness and inability to be decisive is a huge drawback. She is a career politician, not a leader. She's the queen of spin in a sharp suit but she is no Boudicca and it is unlikely that she will ever lead the Scots to independence. She just doesn't have what it takes. If she did manage to take Scotland out of the UK we would be a nation of wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beasties just like her and we would indeed be too wee, too poor and too stupid to succeed as an independent country because that's what she will have made us.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Basic Geometry for Politicians

Nicola Sturgeon doesn't seem to be very good at maths or science but that doesn't stop her trying to get Head Teachers to square a circle and pour a quart into a pint pot (1.14 litres into a 568ml pot for the young amongst us). She's absolutely wedded to the 2m social distancing rule and so schools have been planning the return of pupils on that basis. Basic geometry dictates that if pupils have to stay 2m apart from each other and the teacher, the maximum class size in an average classroom will be 10 instead of 30. That's why so many schools were, until yesterday, planning on having pupils back one week in three. John Swinney had even invented a term for it - 'blended learning'. Now teachers have had to go back to the drawing board because our populist First Minister realised yesterday morning that the Education Minister's plan was not going down well. You've heard of pester power. Now we have parent power and a hashtag #usforthemScotland. We even have a former First Minister wading into the row.

The result of all this is that Nicola has now learned what happens when two objects collide - the smaller one goes into reverse. Forgetting the 2m rule, Sturgeon now wants kids back at school full-time as soon as possible. If only she wanted businesses back open as quickly, but then economics is another of her weak points. It's not wrong for a politician to listen to people, or for parents to want their kids back at school, but full-time education for all plus 2m separation is an unsolvable equation. Even 1m social distancing makes it impossible. So which is it going to be First Minister? School or social distancing? Calton awaits the answer with interest, as will many businesses.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Angels and Demons

Some time ago, when Jackie Baillie was Shadow Health Minister, Calton took a pop at her for being overweight in a blog post entitled Where Angels Fear to Tread... Well, Jackie is looking pretty angelic now in comparison with current Health Minister Jeane Freeman.

This is the woman who (deliberately in Calton's opinion) tried to mislead the Scottish Parliament over the number of NHS patients transferred from hospitals to care homes at the start of the Covid-19 crisis. She had to apologise. Nicola Sturgeon made excuses for her, saying that she was 'tired'.

Under Freeman's direction the Scottish Government bought up care home beds in order to empty hospital wards. What they failed to do was to ensure that the care homes had adequate PPE and adequate staff to deal with a highly infectious respiratory virus. It took weeks and numerous awkward questions from journalists at Sturgeon's daily briefings before Jeane got her act together with respect to PPE for care homes. At time of writing, the Scottish Government has still not got its act together with respect to regular testing of care home staff, in spite of Nicola Sturgeon announcing two weeks ago that this would happen. Freeman has also still not sorted out the problem of care home staff having to survive on statutory sick pay if they test positive.

Early Scottish Government guidance to care homes and the GPs who look after them said that it was not advised that patients with Covid-19 should be transferred to hospital but be cared for in the care home.  This was subsequently amended but only after the Scottish Government realised that the general population actually care about their old folks and want them to receive the best of care, including hospital treatment when required. How many care home residents could have survived the virus if the early guidance had not stipulated that they be refused transfer to hospital? The blanket issuing of DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate notices) in care homes, sometimes to people without capacity to agree them is also a real cause for concern.

Freeman has defended her actions in the ongoing coronavirus care home deaths scandal, saying that she did her best with the information available at the time. Even if this is true, her best was not good enough. People have died on her watch, some of them unnecessarily. Surely that is grounds for her resignation. Sadly there is no-one of Jackie Baillie's calibre in the SNP to replace Jeane.

PS. When she became Health Minister Jeane said she was going to lead by example and give up the fags. Is she still smoke-free?

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Douglas Ross Gets It

When Calton wrote his post on exceptionalism, Dominic Cummings had been the one trying to keep on so-called superforecaster Andrew Sabisky in the light of unsavoury revelations about the latter. Now Cummings has become the story after revelations about his trip to Durham during lockdown and Boris Johnson is desperately trying to keep him on in the face of mounting opposition, not just from the opposition but from members of his own party. Just as Nicola Sturgeon's attempts to keep on Catherine Calderwood made her look weak, so Johnson's attempts are opening him up to ridicule and raising the question of who really governs the country. They also make him look weak.

Cummings has defended his actions in a painful, hour-long press briefing yesterday but a scan through Calton's social media feeds shows very little sympathy for him. He may not have broken the letter of the law but most people feel that he has definitely broken the spirit of it, and the strong government message to stay at home and not undertake any unnecessary journeys. Indeed, at time of writing, that is still the message in Scotland, as Sturgeon was quick to point out in her briefing yesterday.

If the highly unusual briefing by Cummings was intended to draw a line under the affair it has utterly failed, with Moray MP and junior government minister Douglas Ross resigning today and various Scottish Tory MSPs making their fury known. Even Jackson Carlaw has eventually been forced into saying that Cummings should consider his position. Not only has the Domnishambles eclipsed the UK Government's message on Coronavirus, it is preventing the Scots Tories from taking the SNP to task over their poor handling of the crisis in Scotland and is threatening their chances in the Holyrood election scheduled for next year.

Douglas Ross gets that rules apply to everyone without exception, even to pals of the PM. Boris doesn't get it and his ratings are plummeting as a result.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Something Rotten in the State of Scotland

There is something rotten at the heart of Scottish politics. Health Minister Jeane Freeman deliberately (in Calton's opinion) misled the Scottish parliament and people with regard to the number of delayed discharge (bed-blocking) patients discharged into care homes since the Covid-19 crisis began. She was forced to apologise and put the record straight after pressure from The Sun newspaper. However she still has the full confidence of the First Minister and, when Jackson Carlaw queried whether anyone else could have confidence in her, he was accused of playing politics in the midst of a crisis. Not something Nicola Sturgeon would ever do, no siree. She's totally focussed on dealing with the Coronavirus threat and if her daily appearances on the telly with not a hair out of place enhance the prospects of a future independent Scotland that is entirely by-the-by.

Accusing the Scottish Tories of being party political was obviously the message de jour from SNP HQ because John Swinney (suitably outraged) used it on Radio Scotland this morning to avoid answering the same question of whether the public could trust a word Jeane Freeman says and Sturgeon was back at it later in an attack on Ruth Davidson, who had dared to criticise the Dear Leader. Nicola is very good at telling us that she is above all these petty considerations and is just getting on with the job. Except that she isn't. Was there ever a Scottish Executive which executed less, and with more moolah from Westminster, than this pathetic excuse for a government? They are still in lockstep with Westminster, except that now they are three steps behind, and they've already had to row back on the stipulation that you only travel 5 miles to visit relatives (once you are allowed to) after a twitter backlash. Now it seems you can go further, provided your bladder has a good mpg.

If it wasn't so serious it would be funny. Scotland's tourist and hospitality industries are facing disaster, we are seeing around 50 excess deaths a week caused by lockdown, not Covid-19, and the First Minister is worried about whether or not you might need to visit the loo if you visit your parents. Maybe she should try treating us like grown-ups. Maybe she and her ministers should also try being honest and straight with the Scottish people they claim to serve. Then we might have confidence in what they say.

Monday, 18 May 2020

No-one Said It Would Be Easy

In his last post Calton talked about Nicola Sturgeon making decisions in good faith. Now he just wishes she would actually MAKE a decision. Instead, we were told today, not that some lockdown restrictions would be eased, but that we would be given a route map. On Thursday. The century is young but Calton thinks that this will still qualify as one of its biggest let-downs. On that basis, don't hold your breath for any of the teasingly promised relaxations to actually happen at the end of the month. That would involve Sturgeon actually making a decision, something which she seems increasingly incapable of doing. Think rabbit caught in headlights.

No-one ever said that being a leader was easy but, boy, this virus has a way of separating the women from the girls. The First Minister is the queen of spin but events are spinning out of control and her inability to lead is being exposed. As journalist Paul Sinclair so aptly put it: "If only we had an FM trained to govern rather than just media trained." Ouch. Brutal but true. There are no easy answers in this current situation. Covid-19 causes deaths and long-term ill-health in some people. Lockdown also causes deaths and ill-health plus bankruptcies, job losses and financial hardship. The risks have to be weighed up and balanced. Then a decision needs to be made. Nicola has got stuck at the first step. In a time of crisis Scotland is being led by a frightened little girl. How did we get ourselves into this mess?

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

On Accountability

Throughout this Covid-19 crisis, Nicola Sturgeon's attitude has been one of barely concealed irritation at anyone, journalist or politician, who dared criticise her handling of it. She has repeatedly talked about an inquiry afterwards when lessons can be learned but, at the moment, just let her get on with making decisions, which affect us all hugely, without question. Her hubris is incredible. Calton knows that a lot of her followers think she's a saint who can do no wrong and it seems that she has bought into their hype. Unfortunately the opposition parties at Holyrood bought into the idea that we all need to pull together in a pandemic and that criticism of any sort would be bad form, so for weeks Queen Nicola has been calling the shots and no-one has dared to gainsay her.

Thankfully Jackson Carlaw has finally woken up and seen sense. At a time of national crisis it is vitally important that the decisions of those who lead us are subjected to scrutiny. It is not a sign of disloyalty or disunity to do so. Calton would go as far as saying it is actually a civic duty to question our leaders. It may come as news to Nicola but no-one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Hence the need for accountability. Journalists have been trying to hold the First Minister to account at her daily briefings but without the chance to reply to her (non) answers, their teeth have been drawn. The whole thing is staged to make Sturgeon look good.

Calton has no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon has made decisions in good faith in this difficult situation but that does not mean that they were, or will continue to be, the right decisions. We are a democracy not a dictatorship. It's time the Scottish Parliament played its part in the decision-making process. Hopefully today's parliamentary session will be just the start of that, because it seems that Sturgeon needs reminding on a daily basis that she is not God.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

The Problem with Care Homes

In one of her lunchtime briefings this week Nicola Sturgeon pointed out, rather pointedly, that most care homes are private businesses. Calton thinks that she was trying to suggest that they pull their weight in the current crisis. Chutzpah on stilts. Here's why:

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Scotland's care homes were underfunded. This is because local councils do not pay enough to cover the cost of care for those who are not self-funded. They are subsidised by those who are paying for their care out of their savings or the sale of their home. If the ratio of council-funded clients to self-funded clients in a home gets too large the home becomes financially unviable. If a care home becomes financially unviable it may have to close. For years the Scottish Government has been cutting the cash it gives to local councils, causing them in turn to look for savings in things like the cost of care, so the buck stops with the First Minister here.

In normal times, care homes manage infectious diseases like norovirus and they use disposable gloves and aprons, which they procure like any other business on the open market. Now they have been faced with a new, highly infectious, respiratory infection which also requires the use of face masks at time when there is a world-wide shortage of all PPE and associated price-hiking. This is costing them extra, unexpected expenditure when they are already cash-strapped (see above). Health Secretary Jeane Freeman patted herself on the back recently because she had distributed one week's worth of PPE to every care home in Scotland. One week's worth!!! I'm sure it was welcome but it's hardly going to plug the ongoing hole in the dyke!

Care homes have also been asked to take a lot of extra residents at short notice recently as the NHS cleared out its hospitals in preparation for an influx of Covid-19 patients. This was a huge transfer of liability from the state-funded NHS to the private sector. None of these patients were tested for the virus for the first few weeks. Now we have a massive problem with Covid-19 in Scotland's care homes, including one on Skye. Oh but never mind - according to Nicola Sturgeon they are private businesses who need to step up to the plate. Problem solved.

Sturgeon's comments were in response to a journalist pointing out that many private care homes are on their knees and may not survive the current crisis. What Sturgeon needs to realise, and realise fast, is that care homes are essential businesses. ESSENTIAL. If the Scottish Government can find the cash to prop up Prestwick and Ferguson, it should find the cash to support our care homes. Otherwise where are the residents still left after Covid-19 has done its worst going to live?