Monday, 31 December 2012

Lang may their lum reek!

Calton would like to congratulate the residents of Tweedsmuir who have managed, in the nick of time, to raise enough money to buy the Crook Inn. It's a while since Calton has been down that way, however he has fond memories of sitting in the bar at the back, by the log fire, with a pint of Guinness and a steak pie or sitting in the art deco lounge at the front, by the log fire, with a pot of tea and a jam scone. It would be good if the place could open again, serving the same old-fashioned Scots fare - a great meeting place for locals and travellers alike, with its strategic location right on the A701 Moffat road. Calton would like to raise a glass to the Crook Inn locals this Hogmanay - lang may yer lum reek!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The devil is in the detail

If Nicola Sturgeon is serious about wanting the people of Scotland to make an "informed choice" about independence she should get her head down and make sure that the Scottish Government's much-vaunted white paper addresses all the questions raised in CBI Scotland's issues paper on independence, with supporting evidence. Then, and only then, we might get a positive debate on the subject rather than a load of old assertions. At the moment, Calton has to agree with Alistair Darling when he says that the Nationalists have "not thought through their answers to the really big questions". Calton doesn't think they have thought through their answers to the small and medium sized questions either. And we all know that the devil is in the detail.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Optimism triumphs over experience

Calton thoroughly agrees with David Watt of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, who has said in his New Year Message that Scottish politicians are spending too much time on unnecessary legislation and debating independence instead of focusing on economic growth. Calton would include legislation on gay marriage in the category of 'unneccessary' given that civil partnerships already give homosexual couples all the legal rights of married couples. Instead, the Scottish Government have embarked on a second public consultation on the implementation of gay marriage, at a cost of goodness knows how much, when it wasn't in the SNP's manifesto and, quite frankly, the state of our economy is far more important at this moment in time. Businesses are struggling with the uncertainty produced by the prospect of independence and yet the SNP's response is to tell them to wait until November 2013 for answers to their many questions. CBI Scotland have produced an excellent paper listing all the issues which need to be considered if Scotland is to become independent, including the cost of setting up our own regulators for things like pensions, telecoms and energy and the cost in jobs of closing down Faslane, and they are hopeful that the Scottish Government's white paper will "address these questions in full and provide the necessary supporting evidence". Sounds like a triumph of optimism over experience to Calton.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Heartwarming and earwarming

It is heartwarming to hear that Stonehaven has been inundated with offers of help, gifts and furniture after the floods earlier this week. Donations can still be handed in to Stonehaven Town Hall. On the other side of the country, the A890 has reopened after the Christmas Day landslip, which is good news for the people of Lochcarron. In other good news, Harris tweed production topped 1 million metres of cloth in 2012, reversing the decline of previous years. Calton is not surprised - he quite fancies a tweed jacket himself and a deerstalker hat to go with it, especially now that Messrs Smith and Cumberbatch have gone some way to removing the old man image of such items. Calton may not be in the first flush of youth but he doesn't want to look old before his time!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Happy Boxing Day!

Calton now has a new woolly hat - a red one - from Santa and has found that there is at least one church still resisting the trend to update the words of old carols and so two of Calton's Christmas wishes have been granted. Unfortunately a third is under threat from an influential section of the American public who think that the answer to the USA's gun problem is more guns. Doh!

Calton's Boxing Day sympathies lie with the residents of Lochcarron, who, once again, find themselves cut off from Plockton and Kyle due to another landslide. Yet another reminder that the best engineering of man is still vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. It's time a long-term solution is found to the problems of this road.

Finally, Calton is glad to see that we haven't yet reached the same stage as Santa Monica, where public nativity scenes have been banned, and so the nativity scene in Dalmally phone box can be enjoyed, not just by the residents of the Argyllshire town and their visitors, but by people worldwide thanks to the Dalmally Phonebox facebook page. Happy Boxing Day!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

It's raining again!

Calton didn't realise that Richard 'Wellington' Benyon is also the Floods Minister - now there's a man whose wellies are full to overflowing. Meanwhile, it has started raining again in the NE of Scotland which is not good news for the residents of Stonehaven. Calton has decided to add another item to his Christmas wish list - for the rain to stop! He is also hoping even more that item 4 on the list is fulfilled, after the senseless shooting of two firemen today in New York. Yet more grieving families on what should be a happy, family day. Calton's thoughts and prayers are with them.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Christmas Carol

Glory be, one of Calton's Christmas wishes has been fulfilled already! He has winged his way to the Granite City and was fortunate enough to attend a lovely carol service at Gilcomston South this evening where he was able to sing many of his favourite carols and the words had not been modernised! The age of miracles has not ceased. He is now sitting in front of a log fire, full of mince pies, trying to resist the temptation to squeeze the parcels under the Christmas tree to see if he's also going to get a woolly hat. He hasn't, however, forgotten the plight of those who have been flooded out of their homes recently, particularly in nearby Stonehaven. Thankfully the rain has stopped for the moment and Calton hopes that it will not be long before they are back in their homes.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Great expectations

It's obviously good news that Statoil are to invest £billions in the Mariner North Sea oil field with hundreds of new jobs. Looks like the black gold will keep flowing a while yet, contrary to what Calton said a couple of days ago. The contradictory news stories of the past week do, however, demonstrate the unwisdom of relying on oil to gain us entry into the EU and support things like free tuition and free personal care for the elderly. It's just too volatile, not unlike another energy source currently popular with the Scottish Government, namely wind. Is Calton just being mischievous in seeing a link between slippery Salmond with his hot air and the forms of energy he and his party favour? Perhaps. Anyway you can't beat a roaring log fire at this time of year and Calton already has his stocking hanging up by the mantelpiece!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Calton's Christmas wish list

Here are the things Calton would like for Christmas, in no particular order:
1. A definitive answer on the position of an independent Scotland vis a vis the EU.
2. A moratorium on the building of windfarms on Scotland's mountains so that he can visit his relatives over the festive season without risk of being clattered on the back of the head by a turbine blade.
3. People to stop updating the words of the lovely old Christmas carols Calton has known since he was just out of the egg.
4. The US to enact some sort of gun control so that at least some good can come out of the terrible evil of Sandy Hook.
5. A woolly hat - because you can never have too many of them and asking for one will ensure that Calton gets at least one item from his wishlist!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Benyon wellies in to the EU

First the good news - no cut to the number of days Scottish fishing boats can put to sea next year, thanks to Richard 'Wellington' Benyon, UK Fisheries Minister. There's still a possibility of a cut in the cod quota, which would lead to more shameful discards, depending on talks with Norway, however there is now more optimism that a sensible outcome will be achieved in January. Here's hoping.

Now the bad news - Scottish oil revenue forecasts have halved in the last eighteen months. The black gold is in danger of running out, which would deal a hammer blow to the SNP's plans for Scotland to be an independent socialist utopia within Europe. First of all, the EU might not want us if we don't have as much oil as we thought we did. Secondly, the SNP's spending plans will send us into big deficit country without big oil revenues and, thirdly, their idea of stashing away some of the oil money into a fund, although very sensible, will exacerbate the deficit problem unless accompanied by a reduction in spending, something the left-leaning SNP are reluctant to do. Of course the SNP have reacted by disputing the figures. Well they would, wouldn't they!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Butt out Barack

So the US wants us to stay in the EU. So what? As UKIP's foreign affairs spokesman William Dartmouth MEP says  "It is not the job of the UK to make the work of US diplomats easier. It is our job to secure our own interests." Quite. Calton couldn't have put it better himself. There is no reason why leaving the EU should weaken the UK and there is no prospect of the EU becoming strong in the near future either with or without the UK. Quite the reverse. The Eurozone is not out of the woods yet by a long chalk. So the next time David Cameron has a cosy little chat with Barack Obama he should tell the President of the US to go sort out his gun laws and leave us to sort out our relationship with the EU.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Truly chilling

Calton has no idea what sort of Christian ethic council candidate Geoffrey Clark is going to promote given that Clark's views on compulsory abortion of disabled babies and euthanasia of over-80s run completely contrary to the teachings of Christ as Calton understands them. UKIP are quite right to suspend him from the party. If he wants to stimulate discussion of where NHS money is spent he would be better starting with the fact that much of it goes on treating the effects of alcohol, tobacco and obesity, not on Down's Syndrome people. His views remind Calton of the Nazi Party's extermination of mentally disabled people in the 1930s, carried out for the same reason - saving money. It is truly chilling to see them reappear in 21st century British politics.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Wanted - a Wellington

Nice to see Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon taking the side of our fishermen against further EU cuts in the cod quota. A cut of 25% in the number of days they can put to sea would be a disaster. Although stocks are not rising quite as fast as some would like, there is no need for continued action of such a drastic nature. Unfortunately, Benyon not only has the European Commission to deal with but also the European Parliament. This may yet turn out to be his Waterloo. Calton hopes he has a Wellington moment, for the sake of those who earn their living in wellies.

Continuing the sea theme, it would be good if, in all the recent talk of Scotland's oil riches, we take time to remember the cost paid by the North Sea safety boat crew member who died in the storm last week, and others like him, along with their families and friends. In a week which has seen the worst storm in living memory batter Scotland's east coast, Calton is reminded of words from another century by William Whiting:

"Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave.
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea."

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The penny is dropping

Nice to see that the penny has finally dropped regarding Scotland's currency post-independence in quarters other than Calton's eyrie. Sadly, Bute House is not one of them. Our First Minister still clings to the idea that we can keep Sterling if independent and share the Bank of England with England. One would have thought that the name of the bank would give Alex a clue as to where its loyalties lie but no, in his hubris he thinks he will be able to tell it what to do. What utter nonsense. Yet another SNP policy built on the shifting sands of assertion rather than the rock of reality.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The poverty trap

Calton is not convinced that poverty is the cause of poorer health. Rather, poverty and poor health are both symptoms of a deeper malaise - low self-esteem and hopelessness. If you don't have any self-esteem you will find it very hard to get a job and work your way out of poverty. Ditto if you feel hopeless and you believe that there are no opportunities. It's easier in those circumstances to rely on the state for handouts and drink/drugs/food to dull the pain of a miserable life. If we really want to lift people out of a life of poverty and ill-health we need to give them something to hope for and something to work for. An incentive to better themselves. The message that they have a choice, that it doesn't have to be this way. That hard work and effort pay. Somehow that message has got lost in this country, unlike the USA. Our welfare system has turned people into benefit dependent victims totally lacking in initiative instead of giving them a leg-up. The last Labour Government created a false economy where businesses didn't need to pay a decent wage because the government topped it up with working tax credit. Now we are in a situation where many workers are not paid anything like a living wage and so, for many, work doesn't pay. That has to change. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to repair the damage of the Labour years.

Friday, 14 December 2012

SNP assertion on EU membership proved false

SNP MEP Alyn Smith was just plain wrong when he said there is "nobody wanting us to leave" [the EU] "not least in Scotland" in Brian's Big Debate today, because Calton wants us to leave the EU and he is resident in Scotland. Yet another meaningless SNP assertion. Have they actually asked any of the 27 member states whether or not they want an independent Scotland to stay in the EU? Do they really think that continued access to Scotland's fish will be enough to outweigh the Spanish Government's concerns over Catalan and Basque separatism? If the rest of the EU decide that they do want us it will only be because they recognise a good deal when they see one and we will be the losers. It seems that both the First Minister and his Deputy are so keen to remain part of the EU that they will gladly trade anything in exchange for continued membership. How pathetic is that? They'd rather beggar this country than change their policy on Europe. Calton calls that sad.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A year in posts

Today is the 1st anniversary of this blog. It has been quite an eventful year, with issues such as independence, the state of the EU and same-sex marriage dominating the political headlines. All of these issues and more have been covered by Calton over the course of the last 12 months and it is interesting to see which posts have attracted the most attention. By far and away the most popular in terms of hits has been It's raining, for reasons which remain inexplicable to Calton. Aye right Willie! has also been popular, which is more than can be said for the Libdems generally. Posts on the Biased Broadcasting Corporation got a lot of hits with the latest post being picked up by other BBC-monitoring websites, showing that Calton is not alone in his concerns about Auntie.

One of Calton's favourite blogs is Archbishop Cranmer and Calton's post in support of His Grace proved popular, dealing, as it did, with issues of free speech and the threats thereto. As a blogger, free speech is something very dear to Calton's heart because, without it, this blog would cease to exist. Doubtless some SNP supporters would think that a good thing. Calton did not set out to write an anti-SNP blog, however the heads of Scotland's current ruling party have got so inflated recently that it is hard to resist the temptation to stick a talon in and pop them. It is also impossible to let their deluded assertions go unchallenged because the stakes are too high.

Last, but not least, on the year's roundup, posts on the Farepak scandal received a fair number of hits, showing that it is still a live issue 6 years later, more's the pity. If you have a burning issue you'd like to see covered, feel free to email Calton (his address can be found under 'profile') and he will give it his consideration. Comments on posts are always welcome, provided they are civil. (Cybernats take note.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why bother?

Calton really doesn't know why the Scottish Government are bothering to have another consultation on same-sex marriage when they didn't listen to the last one. They clearly are not interested in what the ordinary man or woman on the street thinks. What is particularly worrying about all this is that we now have a ruling class of politicians who all agree, by and large, on what is 'right' and who think that they know better than the electorate who put them there. It's not just autumn here in Scotland - we are now in the iron grip of winter, both literally and figuratively, and all those who do not agree with same-sex marriage are going to be left to freeze out in the cold. Does Alex Salmond really expect us to believe that all the reassurances he is currently talking about will make it into the final bill, or remain part of the legislation over time, when we were assured not so long ago that Civil Partnerships would not lead to homosexual marriage? Calton, for one, is anything but reassured. How long before he is hounded for holding the traditional view of marriage, namely, one man and one woman for life, as His Grace has been?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Lords v Scoundrels 1-0

You've got to love the House of Lords. Faced with John Swinney's ridiculous assertions about Scotland's membership of the EU post-independence, Lord Lipsey says Swinney's position is "bizarre" and the Scottish Government is "retreating into implausible references ... the last refuge of a scoundrel". Wonderful. Why anyone would want to do away with the Upper Chamber when they come out with stuff like this is beyond Calton. They may give the impression of being half asleep but there are definitely no flies on them. Would that we had someone like Lord Lipsey in the Scottish Parliament when Nicola Sturgeon makes a statement to MSPs on Thursday afternoon about an independent Scotland's membership of the EU.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Barking at the EU

What part of "any new independent country would have to apply to join the EU" does Nicola Sturgeon not understand? Has she too been deluded into thinking that all she needs to do is keep re-iterating her false beliefs and they will happen? The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has made it quite clear that we would have to negotiate entry into the EU from outside if we became independent. The SNP make not like it and they may not agree with it but they are kidding themselves on if they think that they can go to the European Commission and say "you're wrong - we're right". Yes we've got (dwindling) oil reserves. Yes we've got (dwindling) fish stocks. But let's not fool ourselves that the EU will welcome us with open arms, and, if it does, do we really want to trade our oil and fish for membership of an undemocratic fiscal basket-case? Seriously? If Scotland is such a great export market for other EU countries we can surely negotiate good trading terms with those countries from a position outwith the EU, while protecting assets such as our fish. That would be the really sensible option. Unfortunately the Deputy First Minister seems to have completely taken leave of her senses. Absolutely barking.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Reaping the whirlwind

Calton finds it hard to have any sympathy for Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. They sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind. The best counsel they could be given is to make a profound and unreserved apology for their prank and to go and find jobs out of the media where they will not be tempted to increase their personal profiles by humiliating hard-working hospital staff. If it didn't have so much potential to become a publicity stunt, Calton would suggest the pair become hospital cleaners. Underpaid, unappreciated and faceless, cleaners wage war against hospital acquired infections every day. A far more important job than radio DJ in Calton's book.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Think again

Calton extends his deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Jacintha Saldanha. He also sincerely hopes that, in future, when a radio DJ decides to pick up the phone and play a prank, they think again. It's not funny. As Chuka Umunna said on Any Questions? tonight, it was "stupid and foolish" and "extremely distasteful". It was also unkind, both to the hospital staff and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who found themselves this week in the unfortunate position of having to go public with details of her pregnancy much earlier than most people would have wished in similar circumstances. The pair responsible for the hoax call said they were "very sorry if we've caused any issues". That 'if' has become a definite. It would be good if the suspension of the two from their show becomes indefinite.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thankyou Danny

Two days in a row! This has to be something of a record when it comes to politicians listening! No sooner had Calton asked if Danny Alexander was listening than the announcement came that the red-haired one is looking to see if the fuel discount currently being applied to the islands can be extended to some parts of the mainland, in particular, the North West Highlands. The only fly in the ointment is that implementation is still dependent on agreement by the European Commission. Which makes Calton wonder, once again, why the SNP are so keen for us to remain part of the EU if we vote for independence. They are making a lot of big assumptions, not least that, under the Edinburgh Agreement, the UK Government would support the process of re-negotiating an independent Scotland's position within the EU because it is in the best interests of the people of Scotland! This smacks all too much of Oprah Winfrey-style 'if you speak positively, it will happen' nonsense rather than dealing with the actual reality, namely, that we'll only get to stay in the EU club if the other members want us to. It's certainly not going to happen just because John Swinney says so.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Thankyou George

At last! A politician who listens! Calton is really pleased to hear that George has decided to give us a break by scrapping the planned 3p increase in fuel duty. For many small businesses diesel is the main cost and so keeping the price down is crucial if we want them to survive and grow. The high cost of fuel is also hitting rural areas very hard, indeed, some parts of Scotland are turning into a petrol desert with the closure of filling stations.  There has to be a better way of subsidising petrol and diesel prices in rural areas - are you listening Danny?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Plan B

There's nothing like having a Plan B just in case Plan A doesn't work and, for the Scottish Government, that is Hunterston B. "No more nuclear" (but we're happy to see the life of the existing ones extended just in case our ambitious renewables target isn't met and the lights start going out). Well at least they are being pragmatic, which is more than can be said for Partrick Harvie. Thank goodness he and his Greens are not in power because, if they were, none of us would have any power. They must be heating themselves by their own hot air because they don't seem to have noticed that the temperature outside has dropped and so has the wind, as it quite often does during frosty spells. It's at times like these that Calton is glad of his gas central heating (with a super-efficient condensing boiler), double glazing and a foot of loft insulation. Figures out today show that families are spending more per week than this time last year, partly due to rising fuel bills, and the fuel bills are rising to pay for the windmills we see standing motionless on cold, sunny days. Even the combined hot air from Holyrood and Westminster would not be enough to set the blades turning and keep our homes warm at the moment. What we need is coal!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Escape from Amazon

Allan Lyall, Vice President of European Operations, Amazon, has obviously been to the same school of question avoidance as Alex Salmond, judging by his performance on today's Business Scotland program. When asked about the recent criticism over Amazon's failure to pay corporation tax in the UK, Lyall sidestepped the issue, saying that he was "very, very busy" ensuring that customers got their parcels on time and was not the right person to ask about tax. (Amazon had £7bn sales in the UK between 2009 and 2011 but only paid £2.3m corporation tax.) Lyall also talked about locating their new 'fulfillment centre' in Dunfermline because of the people, rather than the £10m government grant they were given, however Calton has heard that Eastern European languages are as common as English on the warehouse floor over in Fife, making him wonder just how many locals have benefited from the behemoth on their doorstep. Mind you, if fellow blogger Middleschmiddle overheard right, they've maybe had a lucky escape.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The real threat to free speech

Calton finds it very hard to take David Cameron seriously when he talks about being "wary of legislation that has potential to infringe free speech and a free press" in the wake of the publication of the Leveson Report. The reason? Because, at the same time as the Prime Minister is refusing to legislate the press, he is going full steam ahead with legislation on same-sex marriage which will undoubtedly be a far bigger threat to free speech, if enacted, than anything recommended by Leveson. No wonder Conservatives are deserting to UKIP in their droves. Meanwhile, the party which most espouses same-sex marriage and EU membership was soundly thrashed in the recent by-elections and replaced by a party which supports keeping marriage heterosexual and leaving the EU. In other words, the politically-correct Libdems were cuffed by the straight-talking, gloriously politically-incorrect UKIP because, basically, the electorate do not like being told what to think. In that sense, Cameron has judged the public mood better than Clegg when it comes to responding to Leveson. We all deplore the excesses of the press but do we want it controlled by politicians? Calton thinks not.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Turning tables on the loan sharks

Calton is very pleased to see that the Westminster Government has agreed to restrict the amount of interest which can be charged on payday loans. In an ideal world this sort of finance would not be needed. As it is, at least some sort of limit will now be imposed on the hitherto eye-watering interest rates charged by payday loan firms, which just served to keep people enslaved to short-term, high-interest credit. All praise to those who have worked hard to bring this legislation into being, including the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. It would be nice if he now turned his attention to the soaring energy bills which are forcing people to take payday loans in the first place.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

History repeats itself

In the wake of the hoo-ha about the number of renewables jobs, Calton thinks it is worth pointing out that Tullo windfarm near Laurencekirk, which has seven 100m turbines, is "managed by only two part-time technicians, who also manage another windfarm" according to an article in this month's edition of the Scottish Mountaineer, the magazine of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. So, once the Scottish Government has covered every square inch of land available with turbines and the construction phase is over, there will be no point in looking to operational windfarms for employment. Haven't we learned anything? Have we forgotten Kishorn, Nigg, Ardersier, Portavadie? Are we doomed to keep on repeating the same mistakes because our politicians don't seem to be able to learn from history? (And, if we vote for independence, we can add Faslane to the above list along with one of the BAE Systems yards on the Clyde.)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What are the odds?

Highland Council has received 121 objections to the Glenmorie Windfarm in Sutherland, as opposed to one letter of support. That's 121 to 1. The Scottish Government has had 209 objections and 32 letters of support. That's 13 to 2. What are the odds on the Government, which has the final say, agreeing to the plans, even if it means overruling Highland Council? Calton reckons 100 to 1 on, going on past form.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Not a law unto themselves

Most normal people are able to differentiate between a general policy and specific situations. Not so the social workers of Rotherham Council, who have removed three children from the care of foster parents because the couple are members of UKIP, which, as we all know, is against unrestricted immigration from the EU. The decision was made in spite of the fact that the couple seemed to be making every effort to accommodate the childrens' language and religious background. In other words, the fosterers were not letting their views on immigration in general influence the way they treated these particular children. Unfortunately this is not the only instance of social work departments deciding the suitability or otherwise of parents and carers at least partly on the basis of their political affiliations, as the case of Anne Murgatroyd demonstrates. Fortunately the Rotherham case has triggered such an outcry that investigations have been launched and questions asked. Any decision involving children inevitably includes information that is not appropriate for the public domain however social work departments must be accountable for their decisions and should not be able to hide behind confidentiality. If they are discriminating against people on the basis of membership of legal political parties, this needs to be brought to light and rooted out. Social workers will only be trusted if they are not a law unto themselves.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Coal - the answer to fuel poverty

The coalition government in Westminster obviously hasn't a clue about how ordinary people are struggling to pay their energy bills, otherwise they wouldn't have just voted for a £100 rise in our annual bills by 2020! Their energy policy is a shambles, and the Scottish Government's one is even worse. There is no ideal way of generating electricity and the sooner our politicians grasp that nettle and start thinking about their constituents, the better. In the years following WW2 this country invested hugely in building steam locomotives when the rest of Europe was going electric. The reason? We had massive reserves of coal and didn't want to be dependent on any other nation. Would that today's governments had the same sense. We still have large reserves of coal, which could produce cheap energy without us being dependent on any other nation, and Calton doesn't see why we shouldn't be using it, especially when China is building coal-fired power stations like there is no tomorrow. The Greens will answer that there will be no tomorrow if we keep burning fossil fuels, however a couple of coal-fired power stations in Scotland is a drop in the ocean, especially if we invest in carbon capture. The real answer is to put money into improving our housing stock so that it takes less energy to heat it. That way, we all win.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Plumbing new depths

Alex Salmond plumbed new depths in FMQs today by dragging in the Iraq War in his attempt to deflect attention from the real question of funding for Scottish colleges. Unfortunately Johann Lamont's questions were so wordy the substance got lost in the detail, and, with it, the killer thrust that might have skewered Slippery Salmond. Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie both made a better fist of it by adhering to the philosophy 'less is more', however even they faced an uphill struggle against the SNP majority. It is understandable that opposition MSPs became rather heated yesterday over the question of corrections to figures and ministerial accountability. It seems to be all too easy for Ministers to make a mistake, go back and correct it later (with or without a 'mea culpa' to the chamber) and think that that is the end of the matter. It also seems that there is one rule for the SNP and another for Labour, given that the leader of the SNP expected his apology for his mistake over college funding to be accepted with 'good grace' but the Presiding Officer has not extended the same 'good grace' to Labour MSP Michael McMahon. Having asked for, and accepted, an apology for his wholly inappropriate outburst yesterday, she subsequently decided that it was not sincere enough because it had been tendered too quickly and has suspended him for a day! McMahon's comment was made in the heat of the debate, he apologised immediately, that should have been the end of it. Instead, it is Marwick, if anyone, who has undermined her position by her heavy-handed actions, in Calton's opinion.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

It's the economy, stupid!

It's a pity Alex Salmond doesn't read this blog - if he did, he would have known that the renewables industry only provides 11,000 jobs in Scotland, thus saving him another embarrassing climbdown. The First Minister also doesn't seem to listen to Radio Scotland's Business Scotland program on a Sunday morning. Calton would have thought that that would be mandatory listening for any politician keen to help the Scottish economy. Perhaps Salmond thinks he has more important things to think about although Calton finds it hard to imagine what. Standard Life are axing 130 Edinburgh jobs, Vion are pulling out of Scotland throwing more jobs in the meat processing industry in doubt (in addition to the hundreds going at Broxburn) and, while the announcement that Areva is bringing turbine manufacturing jobs to Scotland is welcome, we'll need to wait and see just how many actually materialise. The biggest issue on most voters' minds is jobs. Is it too much to ask that our First Minister also makes it his top priority?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mike Russell - nil points

What has got lost in all the recent calls for resignations and fulsome apologies is the fact that funding for Scottish Colleges has indeed dropped this year. We have also seen the resignation of a College Head amidst accusations of spying on the one hand and bullying by the Education Secretary on the other. This does not give Calton confidence that the Scottish Government are tackling the problem of the number of NEETs in Scotland. Not that he would have any more confidence if Labour were in power - they were the ones who removed a large number of school-leavers from the unemployment figures by the simple expedient of keeping them in school or further education, regardless of whether or not that led to a job in the longer term. Calton thinks it is high time the Education Secretary got round the table with business leaders and worked out a plan to ensure that our young people are employable when they leave education, at whatever point they choose to leave it, instead of indulging in party political point scoring. At the moment he gets nil points from Calton.

NEET - Not in Employment, Education or Training

Monday, 19 November 2012

Heading for the buffers

John 'The Signalman' Swinney is just itching to get his hands on the economic levers he thinks independence will give him. Trouble is, there's only going to be one lever - oil - and a pretty dodgy one at that. Calton wouldn't like to depend on it to stop the Flying Scotsman heading down the wrong track towards the buffers. Scotland is a one-commodity economy (or will be when Alex Salmond has trashed tourism with all his windfarms) with a high level of public spending. Can the SNP not recognise an imminent train crash when they see one?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

More from the Biased Broadcasting Corporation

Calton was frankly horrified to hear questioner Stephen Bedford ask 'does Israel deserve a future' on Radio 4's Any Questions? program last night and equally horrified that the BBC should allow such an obviously biased question. (For those who didn't catch it, fast forward to 12 minutes in the iPlayer version, unless you want to listen to a ten minute discussion on the election of Police Commissioners in England.)

To suggest that any nation does not deserve a future is tantamount to advocating genocide and Calton is wondering if, in fact, the question constitutes a hate crime under our new legislation on such matters. Perhaps someone should phone the police and find out. What is encouraging is that all four of the panel stated quite clearly that Israel has a right to exist and two at least were just as shocked as Calton was at the way in which the question was framed. In these days of heightened tension in the Middle East it is quite reasonable to question whether the actions of Israel or any other nation are legitimate or proportionate, however, questioning a nation's right to continued existence is not reasonable. Nor is it helpful.

Yet another example of BBC bias. Shame on them.

PS. It also didn't escape Calton's attention that Jonathan Dimbleby gave the number of Israeli strikes on Gaza but omitted to mention the number of rockets which have been fired into Israel from Gaza. Calton was just so incensed last night that he forgot to mention it!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Big Brother is watching you

Calton is very relieved to see that Adrian Smith has won his case against Trafford Housing Trust. Mr Smith wrote a comment on his personal facebook page, in his own time, on his own computer, saying that gay church weddings were "an equality too far". Trafford Housing Trust demoted him and slashed his pay because it thought that his comments "might upset co-workers". Now, if Smith had used the Trust's email system to send an email to all his colleagues airing his views on same-sex marriage the Trust might have had a point. As it is, Calton finds it very worrying that an employer should seek to have so much control over the expression of religious or political views by its employees in their own time and on their own personal social media pages. It's bad enough that you can now get your collar felt for upsetting someone by stating your opinions (or displaying Bible verses). Trafford Housing Trust have taken this one step further by disciplining an employee for expressing views which 'might' upset someone! If this sort of thing continues, the title of George Orwell's seminal work will only have been out by 28 years.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

How to worry a rat

Calton is surprised to find that Labour has never called for Alex Salmond's resignation. That glaring omission may well be rectified in the light of the First Minister's subsequent admission that the figures he quoted at Johann Lamont in FMQs today were in fact wrong. Looks like a ding-dong argument has been followed by a right clanger. It wouldn't be so bad for the First Minister if he hadn't kept on repeating the incorrect figures. As it was, he reached bedrock in his enthusiasm for digging and so has all the further to climb to get himself out of the hole. It will be interesting to see if he dumps all the dirt on his hapless Education Secretary Mike Russell. Given that Salmond trotted out the incorrect figures in defence of Russell at FMQs, the question of the Education Secretary's future is still moot, especially since it is clear that Johann Lamont is not going to let the matter drop any time soon. A terrier with a rat would hardly be more tenacious.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Working for a living wage

There is an argument which says that paying workers a 'living wage', as Angus Council has just pledged to do, will cost jobs however, on balance, Calton thinks it is a good idea. It is true that some workers on minimum wage can get their income topped up by tax credits however there are stringent rules which prevent many part-time workers being able to claim working tax credit which disproportionately affect women, since they are more likely to be in part-time, low-paid jobs. The living wage will therefore benefit those women and that is to be welcomed. After all, let us not forget that the burden of caring, not just for children but also for the elderly, falls on women and often prevents them from taking full-time employment or from progressing in their career beyond low-paid work. It is also a fact that, if you give more money to low-income families, they spend it, with a resultant boost to the local economy. And a rise in wages means a drop in the need for top-ups from the state. Sounds like a win-win situation to Calton.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

No flies on them

Nice to see that their Lordships are awake enough to recognise a leading question when they see one. Not only awake, but unhappy that, once the section 30 order giving Holyrood the power to hold the independence referendum has been passed, Holyrood will then be in control of the question and the campaign finance limits. They are quite right to be concerned, as Calton has already highlighted. The House of Lords does an excellent job at scrutinising the fine details of legislation. If they have concerns about the Edinburgh Agreement, they should be addressed. The independence referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. It has to be both fair and proof against any legal challenges. Thankfully their Lordships are on the case.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Salmond - a modern Canute?

It's no surprise to Calton that the Home Secretary is powerless to prevent unrestricted immigration from Bulgaria and Romania come the end of next year. Freedom of movement is what the EU is all about - if you don't like it, the only option is to leave the EU. Now there's an idea! Not one that our First Minister is considering, admittedly, however an increase in Eastern European immigrants into Scotland nearly a year before the independence referendum may concentrate his mind a bit. It did not escape Calton's notice, on a recent visit up north, that the majority of people serving him in shops, cafes and petrol stations were Eastern Europeans. They were polite and helpful and they have a reputation for being hard-working, however, if their numbers were to increase dramatically it would almost certainly fuel tensions with locals in areas with high unemployment and a lack of affordable housing, ie most of Scotland. If Salmond sticks with his plan to stay in the EU he will be as powerless as Theresa May is to stop the inflow. So much for having control over our own economy. As well try and stop the tide coming in.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

What do they take us for?

It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious - Alistair Darling makes a very pertinent point about monetary union eventually leading to political union and all the SNP can say in return is that "Dozens of countries have become independent from Westminster since 1945, and none have chosen to return to London rule." Yes, but how many of those countries retained Sterling? Not very many. Either the SNP are a bunch of thickos who can't understand basic economic principles or else they think that we are. The latter would tie in with their arrogant attitude when it comes to listening to the people of Scotland. It may well fall on deaf ears as far as the Scottish Government are concerned however Calton would like to say again that full independence can only be achieved with our own central bank and our own currency. To suggest anything else is nonsense.

Friday, 9 November 2012

It's all in the wording

While we are on the subject of rats and other rodents, Calton is pleased to see that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has a sense of humour, although Calton's favourite ginger rodent remains the much-missed Wee Red Squirrel. It is worth taking a look at his blog even now for the articles and the links under 'The truth will set us free'. Where Calton and his ginger friend diverge is on the wording of the referendum question, which Calton thinks is too biased towards the SNP. It will be interesting to see what the Electoral Commission make of it.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

More than one way to skin a rat

Nadine Dorries is being a bit naive in expecting to sit around the campfire in the celebrity jungle discussing topics such as lowering the time limit for abortions. Frankly, Calton can't think of anything calculated to kill the conversation amongst contestants faster. On the other hand, the furore over her decision to take part in 'I'm a celebrity' and her reasons for entering have ensured that everyone reading about it online or in the newspapers is now aware that Dorries supports a 20 week time limit, which just goes to show that there is more than one way to skin a rat (or snake or crocodile).

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

What did we do???

If His Grace is correct in saying that we get the leaders we deserve, what on earth did Scotland do to merit 2002 days of Alex Salmond??? Calton's mind boggles. Not only that but the likelihood is that we are going to get at least another 730 days (until the Independence Referendum) before Eck bows out, and that's only if we believe his promise not to go "on and on". His loyal Deputy has congratulated him on his political longevity, presumably because she is young enough to still have a shot at the top when he finally shuffles off his first-ministerial coil, but if it was Calton, he'd be chewing nails and sharpening his claws in the background. Let us not forget what happened to Margaret Thatcher after she vowed to go on and on. There's something to be said for limiting a leader's time in office, as they do in the US.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Three answers

If Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon had any sense they would listen to today's warning from Jim Sillars and Gordon Wilson on Scotland's position in the EU. The suggestion that we have talks with other members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is eminently sensible. Why the SNP persist in thinking that membership of the EU is the only way forward is totally unfathomable to Calton. Can they not recognise a car crash when they see one? Are they too proud to listen to former grandees of their own party? Do they deserve our vote at the next election? (Answers: no, yes and no, in that order.)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Twenty questions

Calton is not a fan of the great Broon, however the former Prime Minister is quite right to call on the SNP to comment on "twenty unanswered questions" about independence and its effect on the Scottish nation. His reason for wanting to stay in the UK is obvious - he wants to avoid the "massive rupture" which leaving the union would undoubtedly cause and which the SNP are playing down for all they are worth. It would be helpful if the SNP would actually answer some of the questions posed by Brown instead of trotting out that old chestnut about not having the power over jobs, the economy and welfare. We'll be lucky if we have any jobs and economy to speak of in 2014 after two years of uncertainty.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A looming superstorm

Alex Salmond has referred himself to an independent assessor over allegations that he misled Holyrood over the EU legal advice affair. Calton would also like to see an independent investigation into whether or not Salmond can keep the promises he has made to "protect the important principles of freedom of speech, conscience and declaration of faith" if same-sex marriage legislation goes ahead. The Scottish Government has made a number of assertions over the last few months about protecting the rights and freedoms of those who oppose same-sex marriage but it now seems that they may not have the power to do so, given that it would require changes to UK equality legislation, UK employment legislation and UK charity legislation. It also seems that they may not have the will to do so, given that the only protection being considered by the Scottish Government applies to individual marriage celebrants who do not wish to conduct same-sex weddings. This leaves other individuals who do not agree with same-sex marriage, such as teachers, youth workers, foster carers, parents and bloggers like Calton, open to discrimination and possible legal action because of their views, contrary to the impression which the First Minister has given whenever the issue of same-sex marriage and its impact on freedom of speech and religion is raised. The fracas over EU legal advice has left Salmond blustering in the wind but that will be nothing compared with the superstorm which will erupt if it turns out that his promises to protect freedom of speech are only so much hot air.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Better never than late

It's good to see that Barclays and Coutts have decided to withdraw sponsorship from the Stonewall awards next year unless the 'Bigot' award is dropped however it beggars belief that they did not know what they were sponsoring this year given that Nationwide, one of last year's sponsors, withdrew after getting serious flak over their involvement. Their move today smacks of damage limitation in the face of a media storm. Stonewall do good work in preventing bullying of homosexuals, however, when they use the term 'bigot' to try and censure the speech of those who don't agree with them, they become the bully. Unfortunately for them, they picked the wrong target in Cardinal O'Brien. Nobody, Calton least of all, would have objected if they'd picked whoever said that gay people should be shot dead but the Cardinal's comments on gay marriage are not in the same category. His comments may be offensive to homosexuals but many people are deeply unhappy with the idea of marriage being redefined and feel that the Cardinal speaks for them. In labelling him a bigot, Stonewall also labels them bigots. Such name-calling only widens the gulf between the two sides of the debate and the fact that Ruth Davidson got booed for objecting to the 'Bigot' award at the Stonewall event reveals the petty nature of some of Stonewall's supporters. Stonewall would do well to dissociate itself from such people.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

No Guarantees

It is becoming more and more obvious that we are going to go into the independence referendum without a clear idea of what Scotland's position will be in the EU if we vote yes. The UK Government won't ask the European Commission for its view before the referendum happens and the Scottish Government can't ask the EC before the referendum happens because Scotland is not a member state at the moment. So we are going to have to make the most important decision in the history of modern Scotland without all the relevant information available to us. Wonderful. What is clear is that the SNP cannot guarantee to deliver on their vision of an independent Scotland, in the EU, using Sterling even if they do get a yes vote because their vision depends on securing the agreement of both the EU and the remainder of the UK post-independence. What is Alex Salmond going to do if they don't agree? Nuke them? (Oops, sorry, Calton was forgetting that an independent Scotland would be a nuclear-free zone.)

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Better late than never

So the party of 'spend, spend, spend' has finally woken up to the fact that we are giving far too much to the EU in these times of austerity. Either that or Labour just wanted a stick to beat David Cameron with because they are not known for being either prudent (and Calton is using the word in its true, pre-Brown sense) or anti-EU. Whatever the reason for their vote today it's better late than never. The EU budget is out of control and the British taxpayer is the loser. What Calton can't quite get his head round is a Conservative Government being defeated by Labour and its own backbenchers for not being tough enough on Europe. Extraordinary. Times are certainly changing.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Totally depressing

It's bad enough to have to come back to the city after a wonderful week in the West Highlands without being depressed further by Alex Salmond's announcement today of yet another stupid renewables target. Murdo Fraser is quite right when he points out that the SNP's target is "completely underpinned by wind power. Not only is that an unreliable and intermittent source, but it's led to turbines blighting communities across the whole country." As yet, you can still get wonderful views from the mountains on the west coast without turbines blotting the landscape but for how long? The amount of truly wild land in Scotland is rapidly shrinking and, with it, the attraction for tourists. We are cutting off our nose to spite our face.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The EU - an obituary

MP Douglas Carswell has likened the UK's membership of the EU to being 'shackled to a corpse'. Calton couldn't have said it better himself. The EU is a deadweight which both the UK and Scotland could well do without. It stinks. No amount of tinkering with it will sort its problems. It is fundamentally flawed. It's pushing up the daisies. It wouldn't live if you put 5000 volts through it. It is an ex-union. Hopefully the legal advice which the Scottish Government is now finally getting around to asking for vis-a-vis the EU will tell them that we won't automatically be a member if we become independent. Then the people of Scotland can really have a choice about who governs us.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Keep up the pressure Jackie!

Calton likes to think of himself as a fair-minded person and he came away from watching Alex Salmond's interview with Andrew Neil with the distinct impression that the First Minister was deliberately trying to obfuscate the question of legal advice. The phrase used by Salmond -  "in terms of the debate" - is, at best, open to differing interpretation and, at worst, totally meaningless. Of course it's no surprise that Nicola Sturgeon has leapt to her leader's defence (although Calton wonders when she is finally going to realise that Eck is a liability rather than an asset) however, thankfully, Jackie Baillie is not letting the dear Leader off the hook. More power to yer elbow Jackie!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Praying for a minority government

It's not often that Calton gets his prayers answered in 3 days however, with today's damaging admission by the SNP that they have not in fact sought legal advice from the Lord Advocate over Scotland's membership of the EU post-independence, it is clear that there is a God in heaven who listens, unlike the Scottish Government. What is truly scandalous is the fact that the SNP were prepared to spend public money on a useless court battle against a FOI request by Labour MEP Catherine Stihler (which they have now dropped). Their credibility is going down the toilet. All it needs is for a few more SNP MSPs to resign from the party over NATO and we might well be back to a minority government. Calton is off to say his prayers.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Wanted - a longer spoon

It's no surprise to Calton that the SNP are prepared to ignore the advice of the Electoral Commission, given that they don't listen to anyone else. And for Nicola Sturgeon to say that Scotland won't be "bought and sold for anyone's gold" is a nonsense when the SNP are bribing voters with free personal care, frozen council taxes, free prescriptions and free bus travel for the elderly and the average man or woman in the street would vote yes or no to independence depending on whether or not it made them £500 richer. How can the SNP Government possibly make an impartial decision on spending limits for the referendum campaign? That's the role of the Electoral Commission. Unfortunately Michael Moore seems to have been duped by the Deputy First Minister into thinking that the SNP would abide by the Commission's advice. More fool him. You need a longer spoon than he has got to sup with the SNP.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A bit on the tough side

Calton apologises for the brevity of his posts at the moment but he is on holiday in the Highlands, where the scenery is to die for and you could die waiting for a web page to update! The only super-fast download happening hereabouts is the emptying of Calton's bird feeder by the local population of Coal Tits. And just in case you are concerned about the thought of a Sea Eagle feeding small birds, it's OK - Calton only eats politicians. He might have been tempted to have a bite of the recently departed Tory Chief Whip however the Labour vultures got there first and Calton suspects Mitchell would have been a bit on the tough side, despite hanging (on) for so long.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Does money Trump class?

That's right Eck - play the class card, like we've all forgotten your own attempts to cosy up to the likes of Murdoch and Trump. Or is it OK if they've got money as long as they didn't go to Eton? Who are you trying to kid? This isn't so much about Lord Snooty as shades of Desperate Dan. Salmond has also pledged to 'tell the truth about Scotland'. Hopefully that will include a response to the FOI request about what legal advice, if any, the Scottish Government has obtained regarding our position in the EU if we become independent.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Pot calling kettle black

It's a bit rich of John Swinney to say that it's time the Chancellor George Osborne listened, given the SNP's own poor track record of listening to the electorate. If Swinney and his pals have their way, Scotland will be an independent basket case with a large deficit and a downgraded rating, paying high interest on her debts to fund the SNP's vote-winning handouts, until the EU wades in and tells them to cut spending. As a party, the SNP have realised that Scotland will have to be a member of NATO if she wants to be taken seriously past-independence. Unfortunately, the same maturity is not evident in their approach to government finances. Time to grow up, boys and girls.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Staying in the EU is nonsense

It just does not make sense for the SNP to keep complaining that, as part of the UK, they do not have all the fiscal levers needed to help the economy, while all the while they are determined to stay/become part of the EU if Scotland becomes independent, especially in the light of Frau Merkel's most recent comments in which she stated that the EU should have "real rights to intervene in national budgets". Which of those seven rather frightening words does Alex Salmond not understand? Is it only unacceptable to the SNP when England intervenes in Scottish affairs but it's OK if Europe does it? Who would you rather have sticking an oar into our budget - England or Germany? Calton would rather have the former any day of the week. If our First Minister truly wants independence he needs to go for our own bank and our own currency and stay out of the EU. Anything else is just nonsense.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

An almighty stushie

There is an unholy row going on over in Glasgow at the moment over the ownership of St George's Tron Kirk. Glasgow Presbytery has decided to replace the current vibrant congregation which ministers to the needs of that part of the city centre with another "vibrant congregation ... ministering to the needs of that part of the city centre", the difference being that the current lot don't agree with the Church of Scotland's stance on practising homosexual clergy whereas the proposed replacement bunch would presumably toe the CofS line. Where the new congregation is going to come from, in these days of dwindling church attendance, doesn't seem to figure in the Presbytery's calculations. Nor do they seem to realise that, by grabbing the building and all the congregation's finances, they are sending out a signal to all parishioners everywhere that it's not worth putting money into your local church because it is liable to be appropriated and you could well find yourself out in the cold if you don't agree with the Kirk in all matters, temporal and spiritual. Calton suspects that we will see a lot more old churches being converted into pubs, clubs and carpet warehouses in the next few years as the Church of Scotland self-destructs.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Dave keeps it simple

Calton is pleased to see that there is only going to be one question in the independence referendum and that it has to be held before the end of 2014. That still seems rather a long way away however at least we have a definite backstop, unlike the possible referendum on EU membership.......

What does need kicked into touch is the SNP's loaded referendum question. Whether the Electoral Commission has the wellie to do so remains to be seen. Calton sincerely hopes they do.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Norwegian satire

The Norwegians must be having a laugh - awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU in a week which has seen French fishermen chucking half bricks at UK fishing boats and demonstrations in Greece against the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Satire may have died when the prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger but, if so, it has had a miraculous resurrection. Ironically, Norway is not a part of the EU. If it were, perhaps its government would not be so quick to praise that most undemocratic of institutions for 'advancing democracy'. As for 'peace and reconciliation', tell that to our fishermen. Their job is dangerous enough without a barrage of missiles to contend with. Tell it to the Greeks, whose economy has shrunk by 25% under German-imposed austerity measures. There may not have been a pan-European war since 1945 but the shadows of the last one are all too present in the current Greek crisis. We would do well to remember that the cause of WWII was the punitive reparations forced on Germany at the end of WWI.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Send in the Navy

Calton has long argued for a 200 mile fishing limit policed by gunboats. The need for it has become even more apparent since the French seem intent on not playing by EU fishing rules. That's nothing new or 'plus ca change' as they say in France. Back at home it seems that all our officials can do is monitor the situation. Not good enough chaps - what we really need is a modern-day Nelson to see off the French and protect our fishermen. Somehow Calton can't quite see Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon in that role, nor is anyone from the Scottish Government stepping up to the plate, in spite of the fact that Scottish boats have been attacked. The 'auld alliance' may have served Scotland in the past but those days are long gone. Time for us to tell the French (and the rest of the EU) where to go. With gunboats.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Calton's 1p worth

Calton fully supports the idea of a national discussion/debate/call it what you like as long as we talk about how best to spend our money so that it benefits the most/most needy in society. So here's his tuppence ha'penny worth (or 1p in new money):

Given that no-one now gets a state pension on their 60th birthday, and in a few years no-one will get one before their 65th birthday, it does not make sense to be giving out free bus passes to 60 year-olds. If we decide to keep free bus travel for pensioners it should start on the date they actually get their state pension.

Payment for local services should be based on ability to pay ie income, not on the size of house you live in. The so-called 'mansion tax' idea being touted south of the border penalises elderly people who are equity rich but cash poor because all their money is tied up their home. We don't want that up here. Tax earnings, not assets.

If we keep free personal care for the elderly, we need to understand that the cost will be cuts in other services for the elderly, such as subsidised gardening or day care centres.

Let the debate commence.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Heading for the SKIP?

It's about time politicians in Westminster realised that the problems with immigration are not caused by those outwith the EU wanting to come here - they are caused by unrestricted immigration from the majority of the EU countries. Calton is not against immigration per se - many immigrants make a real contribution to the economy and our society - but there needs to be controls which apply to those from EU countries as well as those from outwith the EU. David Cameron is obviously worried about the UKIP threat wiping out his non-majority at the next election but at least he is moving in the right direction vis-a-vis the EU. The question is - will Europhile Alex Salmond do the same if Scotland becomes independent? If he doesn't, Calton will be the first to sign up for the SKIP (Scottish Kingdom Independence Party).

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The benefits of a minority government

Johann Lamont is quite right to point out that in order to maintain popular but expensive SNP pledges, such as the council-tax freeze, no tuition fees and free personal care for the elderly, taxes will have to rise or other services will be cut. Calton said much the same thing a few days ago, however, as long as the SNP have a majority in the Scottish Parliament, both Calton and Johann are whistling in the wind. The SNP can do what they like. All that the Scottish Labour leader can do is carry out her policy review, set out her plans for how she would balance the budget and hope that the SNP's autocratic attitude gets up enough people's noses to wipe out their majority at the next election.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Martha's meals

Good to see Jim Murphy talking about an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU, although postponing it until after the economic crisis ends and the Eurozone stabilises sounds like a kick into the very long grass indeed. So long that Scotland might be independent by the time the rest of the UK gets round to voting on the EU. If that should be the case, will Scottish Labour campaign for an in-out referendum? It would certainly put some clear blue water between themselves and the SNP if they did.

Scotland has long had links with Malawi, and Calton is not just talking about one former Labour First Minister, so it was fitting that the money raised by schoolgirl Martha's blog NeverSeconds should be spent in that country, providing meals and schooling for children. Martha has been on a visit to Malawi to see what their lives are like and you can watch a short video of her trip here. Amazing  what one blog can do.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Calling time on the EU

Calton is not very confident that the SNP's assertions about our position in the EU post-independence will hold water when it transpires that their minimum pricing for alcohol policy is now being questioned by the EU, in spite of assurances from the SNP that it would be allowed. Why the SNP are still so fond of Europe when the feeling is hardly reciprocated is anybody's guess. Calton thinks that they should tell Brussels where to go and proceed with the minimum pricing policy a tout vitesse. As for David Cameron's tease about a referendum on EU membership - all Calton can say is "bring it on Dave".

PS. If you still think it's a good idea for us to join the Euro, read this article by Cranmer.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Hardly an average family

It's a bit disingenuous for Johann Lamont to use Nicola Sturgeon as an example of why free prescriptions are a bad thing. Nicola and her husband hardly represent an ordinary family. The example Johann should consider is the much more common one of a working person or family who earn just enough to disqualify them from benefits but not enough to afford the extra burden of prescription charges. Calton has said it before and he'll say it again - no-one should be left standing in a pharmacy clutching a much-needed prescription, wondering if they can afford to pay for it!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Aye right Willie!

According to Willie Rennie, his party is making an impact on Scottish politics. Eh? What on earth gave him that idea? Just what policies have the Scottish Libdems influenced in this parliamentary session? They are having about as much impact on the SNP as a snowflake. (Now Calton is aware that a lot of snowflakes can make quite a snowstorm but 5 MSPs is hardly critical mass.) Alex Salmond has no bother brushing the Libdem leader's questions off at FMQs and with the SNP's majority government Rennie hasn't a snowball's chance of making a difference. His attempt to mobilise moderate England in support of the Union is unlikely to do him any favours up here either. That's the whole point of the independence debate - self-determination for Scotland rather than being told what to do by England. Doh! It seems that only a desire to spite his opponents is stopping Rennie and his party in their slide into self-annihilation.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fowl play

It is sad that, in this day and age in Scotland, a Golden Eagle can apparently be caught and injured in an illegal trap and then deliberately left to die a lingering death. It is also sad that some people not only fail to keep their dogs on a lead when walking in an area signposted as having free range fowl but deliberately set their dogs on the farm birds for sport. Calton is not against organised hunting or shooting however these incidents are not organised and are, as a result, cruel. In the second case they also rob a farmer of his ducks and hens. It makes Calton wonder what sort of country this is where these things go on and, sadly, greater access to the countryside has resulted in a greater incidence of animal cruelty in the countryside. If any of his readers has information which could lead to the apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the injured eagle left in a layby near Aboyne, or other countryside crime, Calton would encourage them to contact the police.

Friday, 21 September 2012

More on free speech

Following on from yesterday's comment on free speech, Calton is concerned to see in the news that some of the banners at today's Muslim rally in front of Holyrood carried the slogan "No religion is allowed to insult any other religion". This, along with demands for an international law against religious hatred, is deeply worrying to anyone who, like Calton, values free speech. There is a big difference between insult and hatred and the two should not be confused. Apart from anything else, who decides what is insulting? One man's insult may be another's term of endearment. Stirring up hatred on the basis of religion or race or anything else is abhorrent and should rightly be punished however legislating on the basis of insult, real or perceived, is a minefield. No-one is saying it's pleasant to have your beliefs ridiculed but the alternative is a total erosion of our right to free speech. As a comment doing the rounds of facebook says "Internet videos will insult your religion. Get over it."

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Keeping speech and prescriptions free

Calton is not sure that it would be a good idea to remove the 'no overnight parking' signs from Highland laybys. Given the increase in 'wild' camping and caravanning in these times of austerity, this would seem like a green light to low-budget holidaymakers to foul our laybys, with Highland Council picking up the tab. Highland council tax payers may wish to make their feelings about this known to their elected representatives.

Abuse of any sort is foul, however Calton is glad to see that the DPP in England and Wales considers that the bar should be set pretty high before prosecuting, in order to defend freedom of speech. Hopefully the same common-sense approach will prevail in Scotland.

Finally, in today's smorgasbord of  unrelated comments, Calton welcomes the commitment made in today's SNP budget to free prescriptions and affordable housing. He just wishes that John Swinney would stop bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have all the fiscal levers he would like - Swinney has obviously missed his true vocation as an old-fashioned railway signalman. If he loses his job as Finance Minister he could always try pulling pints at his local.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Fat chance Alex

If Calton were Alex Salmond he would not be quite so quick to rubbish the idea that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford current levels of welfare without raising taxes. On a recent visit to a hospital, Calton was shocked at the number of obese people he saw as he sat in the reception area, and that was just the staff. Add to that Scotland's drink problem, our failed methadone program, the number of people who still smoke plus an aging population and high unemployment and you don't need a maths degree to work out that a dwindling healthy workforce is paying for an increasing number of welfare claimants. The cost of caring for the elderly is soaring and the NHS is quite literally buckling under the weight of fat patients. If the SNP wants to keep its flagship policy of free personal care it will have to raise taxes sooner or later unless it can persuade the people of Scotland to adopt a more healthy lifestyle (fat chance). The First Minister's comments today may well come back to haunt him.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Catching up in the Far North

BT's £8m investment in faster broadband for the Highlands and Northern Isles will not only benefit local residents but will also be a welcome boost for businesses in those locations. It may even encourage businesses to relocate to areas which hitherto have been lacking in employment opportunities. Let's face it - there are very few businesses which don't use the internet in at least some capacity these days, even if it's only to file their tax return online, thus gaining a crucial extra few months in which to do it! Fast, reliable broadband is not a luxury - it is an essential which those of us in the Central Belt take for granted. It's good to see the Far North catching up.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Hiding behind the code

The ministerial code, which Alex Salmond is seeking to hide behind in not revealing whether or not the Scottish Government has taken legal advice on Scotland's position in the EU were she to become independent, does not forbid such a revelation - it simply says that prior consent has to be obtained from the Law Officers if the information is to be made public. Perhaps someone should submit a FOI request to find out if the First Minister has actually asked the Law Officers if he can reveal the information requested by MEP Catherine Stihler's original FOI request. Or perhaps we should all just pray that the Court of Session boots out the Scottish Government's appeal against the Information Commissioner's request pronto. Then Calton can get down to the much more interesting business of dissecting the legal advice (if any exists) to see what it really means for Scotland.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Jam tomorrow?

Why do we have to wait a year to find out what Scotland's position in the EU would be if we vote for independence? Promising us jam tomorrow in the form of a white paper next year seems to Calton to be just another way of fobbing us off and he doesn't trust Alex Salmond enough to simply accept what Eck says without seeing the evidence. Calton is also wondering why the SNP don't have the confidence to set their own course, outwith the EU, if they are so convinced we can go it alone. Becoming independent of both the UK and the EU would allow the SNP to give straightforward answers to questions about EU membership (no, non, nein) and our currency (the Groat) and would give them a lot more credibility than they have at present. If, in addition, they stop being so dictatorial, they might even persuade Calton to vote for them. All it needs is a bit of bottle Alex.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

No need to be rude

Calton is pleased to see that Nick Clegg has backed down from calling opponents of same-sex marriage 'bigots'. Such language is not only offensive to those with genuine and deeply held views but is unhelpful in maintaining a dignified debate on the subject. It would be good if Willie Rennie followed his leader's example in this and also refrained from using such inflammatory terms.

Well done Andy!

Calton would like to congratulate Andy Murray on his US Open victory last night. It was the first thing Calton heard on waking this morning and it brought a ray of sunshine into the eyrie before he'd even opened the curtains. Well done Andy!

Monday, 10 September 2012

A chill wind

It's all very well for Nicola Sturgeon to say that the people best placed to decide on issues such as Scotland's economy are the people who live and work in Scotland. Given the SNP's current track record of ignoring the people of Scotland when it comes to issues such as windfarms and same-sex marriage, why should we believe that they will listen to us on any other issue? The Deputy First Minister thinks 'it is right' that the people of Scotland should be in control of their own destiny. Is it not also 'right' that their elected politicians should listen to them? Conviction politics is all very well but, with each successive use of the phrase 'it is right' from the SNP, Calton feels the chill wind of the Scottish Autumn blowing.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The three monkeys

If anyone was in any doubt as to which party Pete Wishart belongs to, his performance in Brian's Big Debate earlier today in Aberfeldy, when he refused to answer questions on what independence would actually mean for Scotland, confirmed him as a fully paid-up member of the SNP. (That's the See No Problems with independence because we've got our hands firmly clamped over our eyes party). Fortunately the electorate are not so daft, or not in Aberfeldy at any rate.

Meanwhile, John Swinney emulated his dear leader by not-answering-the-question-by-going-on-the-attack in response to George Osborne's comments to the BBC on the effect of independence on the Scottish economy. Calton wonders just how cast-iron the SNP's position is that an independent Scotland will keep the pound - they seem to be back-tracking on some of their other policies at the moment, policies which seemed to pretty cast-iron a few months ago but are now full of rust.

Perhaps the SNP's new symbol should be the three monkeys with their hands over their ears, eyes and mouth - because they ain't listening, they can't see any problems with the way they are heading and they certainly aren't answering the questions the voters want answered.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The poor ones

Lest anyone should think that Calton is totally against benefits, after his rant on Monday, he would like to say that he is behind Save the Children's latest campaign to get more help for low-paid families. They are the ones who are really suffering at the moment as their income fails to keep up with inflation. It is truly shocking that children are going hungry in 21st century Britain and an indictment on our benefit system. We should be supporting those who are working rather than paying for the unemployed to stay in houses bigger than they need. Iain Duncan Smith's reforms are a step in the right direction however it will take more drastic action than has yet been proposed to reverse the benefit culture bequeathed to us by Labour. The best route out of poverty is work, not benefits.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Young Ones

Calton has just been given a copy of Fife Council's advice about benefit changes. In it, they have an example of two unemployed young men, aged 22 and 23, who each live alone in a 2-bedroom rented flat paid for by the taxpayer. When the benefit changes come into force next April their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% because their flats will be classed as 'under-occupied'. If Calton had his way their benefit would be slashed by 50% and they would be told to move in together. If they want to have a 2-bedroom flat all to themselves they should get a job and put up with anti-social flatmates until they have saved enough money to put down a deposit on a home of their own, helped by the Government's new scheme. That's what Calton and many of his peers did when they were in their early 20's. Why should this generation be any different? How did we end up in the situation where guys that age expect to be given flats for nothing? Thirty years ago you counted yourself lucky if you had a room of your own in a shared flat! This benefit nonsense has to stop.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

SNP - still not listening

Calton thinks that it is eminently reasonable for Moray Council to suspend planning applications for new windfarms while it consults with the electorate on the issue, however the Scottish Government thinks otherwise and has overruled the council's decision. Given that the consultation closes on 14th September, ie 2 weeks' time, the action of the Government seems wholly unnecessary and heavy-handed. Yet another demonstration of the SNP's determination to a) not listen to the people and b) cover the Highlands with windfarms.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Walk a mile

If pro-Palestinian groups want to stage a peaceful protest against an Israeli dance group outside the Playhouse that's absolutely fine - they are entitled to do so. Protesting inside the theatre and disrupting the performance is another matter and Calton agrees with UK Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt who is reported as saying that he "strongly supports the freedom of Batsheva to appear at the festival, and deeply regrets the attempts to disrupt them". After all, isn't that what the Edinburgh International Festival is all about? It is hard for us as an island nation to understand what it is like to be a tiny country bounded by the sea on one side and a host of undemocratic, potentially hostile nations on the other. We do not know what it feels like to be a Jew, with centuries of persecution in their collective memory. We can go about our business without fear of rockets landing on our homes. Does Calton think Israel is always right in what she does? No, he doesn't, however he thinks that we should walk a mile in their shoes before condemning them.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

SNP - doing something right

Calton is aware that the SNP Government comes in for the most stick on this blog, partly because they are the government and partly because of their overweening arrogance since they became a majority, however praise where praise is due - at least John Swinney is resisting calls by the CBI and Willie Rennie to privatise Scottish Water.

Caltongate

It is a very dubious honour indeed to have a 'gate' named after you and so Calton is relieved to hear that the Caltongate development, the gap site of which is currently one of the old town's premier eyesores, will hopefully now be going ahead. (Not that he has any connection with it apart from the name.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Last of the sour grapes?

We are nearly into Autumn and there are still sour grapes around, probably due to the lack of sunshine to sweeten them! This time it is Virgin Trains who are not happy about losing the franchise to run the West Coast Main Line. Whether or not they are justified in taking court action over the decision Calton doesn't know, however the policy of periodically putting rail franchises up for competitive tender has always seemed to him to be fundamentally flawed, along with the split between Railtrack and the rail companies. Infrastructure like our railways needs long term vision and investment, something which cannot be achieved in a 13 year timeframe. Good old British Rail was inefficient and costly but the solution was to improve it, not chop it up into bits. In a similar vein, it seems utterly ridiculous to be replacing Northlink with another operator on the Northern Isles routes after just a few years just to satisfy the gods of privatisation and competition. Calton is no communist but some things should be owned and run by the people, for the people.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Scottish Autumn

It seems that Scotland is no longer a democracy because, if it was, the Government would be legislating on the basis of the democratic mandate they have received from the people of Scotland. Instead, the Scottish Government are legislating on the basis of what the Deputy First Minister thinks is 'right'. Now, to paraphrase Churchill, democracy is the worst form of government ever invented, with the exception of all the other forms of government ever invented. So, in dictating to us when they should be listening to us, the SNP is regressing to an inferior form of government. Either that or Dawkins is not the only one who seems to be deluded into thinking he is God. (And before anyone south of the border starts congratulating themselves that it couldn't happen down there, it already has - David Cameron has promised legislation on gay marriage before the results of the Westminster Government's consultation on the issue have been analysed and published.) The Arab Spring was all about achieving democracy. The Scottish Autumn gives every appearance of being about reverting to a dictatorship.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

QE costing Scottish jobs?

Not only is the Bank of England's policy of keeping interest rates low hitting savers hard, it now seems that their policy of quantitative easing (QE) may be partly to blame for the collapse of Dawson International last week. The BofE itself admits that while QE "has a broadly neutral impact on a fully funded defined benefit scheme", "schemes that were already in substantial deficit before the financial crisis are likely to have seen those deficits increased". Quite. Exactly what has happened to the Dawson pension scheme, resulting in the company going into administration and putting 180 Scottish jobs at risk. The idea of a Scottish bank, based on old-fashioned values of thrift and probity, and our own currency should we become independent, is becoming more attractive by the day.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A forest of FoIs

Calton is considering putting in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to find out how much the Scottish Government is spending on defending their refusal to grant MEP Catherine Stihler's FoI request regarding any legal advice obtained by the Scottish Government on Scotland's position in the EU should we become independent. If you have managed to follow this post so far, hold on to your seat - apparently there has now been a FoI request on Stihler's original FoI request. (See the article part way down the MEP's homepage.) Just in case the real issue gets obscured in a forest of FoIs, a pdf file of Stihler's correspondence with the Scottish Government can be found on her website and Calton's earlier comment on it is here. It's bad enough that the SNP want to keep us in the dark over Scotland's legal position in Europe after independence. The fact that they are using our money to do so is insupportable in Calton's opinion.