Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Independence Greek style? No thankyou.

Following on from comments on his earlier post, this audio slideshow from the BBC News website does a good job of explaining why Calton does not want the Greek variety of independence.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Devo headache

Oh great. Calton was still trying to get his head round devo-max and now we also have devo-plus to consider. It's enough to make you want to emigrate (preferably to somewhere sunnier). Calton suspects politicians are just trying to confuse bloggers like himself. They will certainly confuse the electorate. Calton had first-hand experience of the 2007 election-night disaster where automated systems struggled to cope with thousands of spoilt ballot papers and the one thing it demonstrated was that a significant percentage of the voters are as thick as mince and can't follow complicated ballot instructions to save themselves. So, the moral of the story is - keep it simple! No second question on the independence ballot paper, no mention of devo-anything, just independence yes or no. And please can someone come up with a better name for devo-plus! (Suggestions in the comments field welcome.)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Willie Rennie gets it

When, oh when, are the SNP going to realise that they will not have the full range of fiscal powers that they want if Scotland does not have its own currency? John Swinney is talking through his hat. If he wants 'real independence' he needs to go the whole hog and cut loose from both Westminster and Brussels. We can't have an independent monetary or fiscal policy while tied to sterling or the euro. It just doesn't work. Sharing a currency with another country means agreeing on spending limits, interest rates, acceptable inflation and so on and so on (if we are lucky). If we are unlucky it means having our fiscal policy dictated to us by Germany. If Willie Rennie can grasp that then surely the Finance Secretary can grasp it. No?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Get the factor 50 on Alex

There is no doubt that newspapers have political influence, however, last time Calton looked, Scotland was still being governed by the majority SNP administration at Holyrood, not Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation. It is therefore a bit of a cheek for the latter to be announcing a date for the independence referendum before the Scottish Government has even finished its consultation on the issue. The new Scottish Sun on Sunday must have really been struggling for a front page headline if that was the best they could come up with. Most peelie-wallie Scots know by now to avoid the sun because, however pleasant it might seem at the time to bask in its rays, the result is always damaging. Alex Salmond take note.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Right to Work wrong on work experience

One of the big things our young people need these days is work experience. The longer a person is out of a job, the harder it is to get one, irrespective of what age they are, and the problem is compounded when the person is young and has never worked. Calton therefore thinks it is really unfortunate that the latest UK Government scheme to give young people work experience has been tarnished to such an extent that companies are exiting it in droves. Of course it is wrong for companies to use unemployed youngsters as cheap labour with no intention of giving them a permanent job at the end of it, however, a properly run scheme with real jobs for those who make the grade has much to commend it. Hopefully something can be hammered out between the DWP and businesses so that those who are not content to sit around on the dole and who would like work experience can get it. No-one has a right to work but those who want to work should be given every help and encouragement.

Friday, 24 February 2012

English Tories tax the sick

Regular readers of this blog will have realised by now that Calton is not the greatest fan of Alex Salmond, however there is one thing that the SNP has done absolutely right - scrapping prescription charges. All the more so with the announcement yesterday of a rise in the charges the English have to pay to £7.65 per prescription, with corresponding rises in NHS dental fees and other charges. Prescription charges are not a tax on the rich - they are a tax on the sick and should not be part of any caring society. Ruth Davidson take note.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Warnings of gales in Cromarty, Forth

Calton thinks that claims of Trump bullying the Scottish Government are overblown. Given the massive support for windfarms, both onshore and offshore, by the SNP administration, it seems to Calton that Trump is simply evening up the odds with his offer to fund anti-windfarm groups. He's also a worthy adversary for Alex Salmond, since both are puffed up and full of hot air. If the scenic beauty of Scotland's hills and coastline was not at stake it would all be just a storm in a teacup. As it is, this is one gale which is not going to blow itself out any time soon. Cromarty, Forth, east, gale 8 to severe gale 9, expected imminent.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mushroom politics

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore looks like he has been attending the Alex Salmond School of Question Evasion, judging by his performance at Scottish Questions earlier today. So now, not only do we not know what independence will mean for vital areas like defence and pensions, we also do not know what we might be offered in terms of devo-max if we vote 'no' to independence. Wonderful. Being kept in the dark and fed a load of manure might be good for mushrooms but it is not the way to treat the electorate. One bombastic, blustering minister is bad enough. Two, on opposing sides, is a nightmare. Come back Jim Murphy - all is forgiven!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Rupert and the kiss of death

The Calton Hill award for most sycophantic comment of the week year has to go to Rupert Murdoch and his tweet about Alex Salmond. It is so stomach-turning that Calton cannot bring himself to quote it but you can read about it here if you really want to. Had Alex any sense he would quickly be putting some deep blue water between himself and the owner of News Corporation because, if a large ship sinks, it has a tendency to take every vessel within a mile radius down with it, and we haven't forgotten what happened to the News of the World (or Private Eye's brilliant cover on it). Unfortunately the First Minister seems to have been so dazzled by the Sun that he can't see the icebergs dead ahead.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Red card for sideline bullies

Calton is not surprised that the nation's children spend most of their time indoors on the playstation, given the findings of a survey conducted by Children 1st into behaviour at sporting events. Children reported being called names, sworn at, threatened and physically abused by adults, usually parents. They also told of seeing adults fighting each other and threatening match officials. No wonder the poor kids are put off sport! And it's not just football - the same thing happens at events like fencing. Have none of the adults involved heard the phrase 'it's only a game'? Do they not know they are supposed to be setting an example? As it is, their conduct is shameful. Hopefully the Sideline Bad Behaviour campaign which has been launched by Children 1st today will help address the problem. Some parents certainly need to be given a red card.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

All new hooses and nae work?

After the doom and gloom of this week's jobs figures, it was good to hear some positive news on Radio Scotland's Business Scotland this morning. Not only has Global Energy Group bought the old Highland Fabricators yard at Nigg with plans to get it working again for the renewables sector but Ross County FC are also hopefully looking ahead with promotion to the SPL in mind. Calton sincerely hopes they get it. He also hopes that Global Energy succeeds in bringing long-term jobs to Nigg, which has lain unproductive for 10 years. On his forays around Scotland Calton has noticed a growing replacement of industrial sites with housing developments e.g. the former Alcan site at Burntisland, Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell, the old Motorola plant at Dunfermline, converted warehouses in Leith. The list is endless. This is all very well but where are all the occupants of these houses going to work? Admittedly it would take some ingenuity to convert a large dry dock into housing, however it is a nice change to see it being brought back into industrial use. Lots of houses and no industry is not a recipe for success.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Nae luck Jimmie

It transpires that the police probe into land deals by Glasgow City Council instigated by complaints from SNP MSP James Dornan has not found any evidence of criminality. That doesn't mean that there wasn't any stupidity involved, however, if there was (and Calton is not necessarily saying so) it isn't a crime. So nae luck then, however Jimmie can always console himself with the knowledge that the investigation has been somewhat overtaken by events anyway, due to the implosion of the ruling Labour group on the cooncil. Roll on May.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Have your say on the referendum

Calton has just done his bit and responded to the Scottish Government's consultation on the independence referendum. You can do the same by clicking on this link. It's not quite so easy to respond to the Westminster consultation but, if you are keen, you can find it here. (Thanks to the BBC news website for providing the links.)

Old hat from the SNP

Earlier this month Calton highlighted the fact that the SNP were using pre-2008 economic figures in their arguments for independence. Then it was John Swinney. Today Nicola Sturgeon was playing the same game in an interview on Radio Scotland. The question that has to be asked is this - so what if Scotland balanced the books pre-2008? That was then, this is now. The world is an entirely different place today compared to 4 years ago. The statistics which matter when considering whether Scotland will be better off independent are those for 2011, 2012, 2013 and beyond. It's about time the SNP got themselves up to speed on the current economic arguments instead of trotting out 4-year old nonsense.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

SNP getting the wind up their coats

It is becoming increasingly clear that the SNP has not thought through all the issues relating to independence, otherwise they would be able to respond to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee report on the referendum with some comments of substance. Instead, they have been reduced to quibbling over the use of 'separation' vs 'independence' and responding to some very reasonable questions with shoddy insults. Not good enough. The decision on whether we go for independence or not cannot be taken solely on the basis of emotionalism or nationalism. We need some hard facts on what will be a complex and difficult process. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has done a very good job in highlighting the questions which remain unanswered and they deserve a better response from the SNP, if the latter is not to be accused of being all show and no substance, or, as they say in Morningside, all fur coats and no knickers.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

More on the cost of island life

Further to his earlier post on the cost of island life, Calton is pleased to see that more money has been made available to avoid huge increases to the ferry fares which hauliers have to pay to take goods to the Hebrides. It may seem unfair to those who live in the central belt that we should be subsidising islanders but when the alternative is considered it makes sense. Otherwise the islands will become empty (apart from sheep and windfarms) and there will be even more competition for scarce jobs and scarcer housing in the central belt. Calton is not a fan of large-scale government intervention however there are times when it is necessary. Communities cannot always be left to the mercy of the free market economy.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A paucity of progress

The words 'modest' and 'Alex Salmond' do not normally occur in the same sentence, which is why it caught Calton's eye, however it turns out that, in this case, the adjective was referring to the progress made at the Salmond-Moore talks today and not to the First Minister. Given that the two of them have had weeks to prepare for these talks, so little advancement was disappointing. Michael Moore at least has the excuse of having had chickenpox. One wonders what Alex Salmond's excuse was. Calton has to agree with Johann Lamont, who is reported as saying that "it doesn't bode well for Scotland's referendum that the First Minister and the Scottish Secretary can't even agree what they agreed at their meeting." (She was referring to the fact that the FM thought that the referendum date was agreed whereas the SS still wants it earlier than October 2014.) So that means that the only thing which has been agreed is the role of the Electoral Commission. It's not looking good.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Glasgow Labour's better

The SNP must be rubbing their hands with glee at the disintegration of Glasgow City Council's ruling Labour administration, which had to taxi in sick members in order to win the budget vote last week after the defection of several councillors. Those disillusioned and deselected ex-Labour members have now decided to form a new, rival 'Glasgow Labour' party to contest all Glasgow seats in the forthcoming local government elections. The SNP were already targeting Glasgow as a possible win - it must now be a shoo-in unless they too fall prey to the in-fighting and accusations of bullying which have dogged the Labour group.
(For more comment have a read of the Wee Red Squirrel's latest post.)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Advocates for Sea Eagles

Balancing the interests of the various stakeholders in rural areas is not always easy, however Calton was glad to see that a report earlier this year put the damage done to flocks by his west coast cousins at less than 2% of lamb mortality. Sea Eagles eat mainly seabirds and fish, although they also eat carrion, which may explain why Calton likes to get his beak into politicians. It may also explain why they are blamed for taking lambs. Tales of Sea Eagles carrying off children are an unfounded rumour spread by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who are not exactly a disinterested party. The RSPB are countering this by appointing representatives to teach children more about these wonderful birds. Not forgetting the fact that the Mull Sea Eagles boost the island's economy by £2million. Of course, Calton is biased, but he does think that the reintroduction of his species into Scotland is a good thing. Sarah Boyack seems to agree.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The cost of Highland life

Further to his post on the cost of island life, Calton is pleased to see today that the OFT has decided to look into the higher costs of rural living, including the islands. He has long been of the view that the Highlands and Islands should not be just a playground for young professionals from the central belt, nor should they be primarily a retirement home for rich pensioners from the south of England. Surely it is not beyond the ability of the Scottish Government to put in place the infrastructure needed to attract and keep industry in the Highlands and Islands without ruining the landscape and damaging the existing tourist industry. Without such infrastructure, there is a real possibility that we will see another Highland Clearances in ten years' time and the only things moving in the empty glens this time will be the wind turbines!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Even more offshore wind from Trump

Calton would like to make it clear that, in his opinion, Donald Trump is an obnoxious tycoon who is far too used to getting his own way and throwing his teddies out the cot when he doesn't. That said, he did have some valid points to make in his rant to Alex Salmond over offshore windfarms. Why are we being taxed to provide contracts for overseas companies to build wind turbines? Do we really want to be surrounded by a ring of offshore windfarms? Has anyone actually done a study on the likely impact on our tourist industry? Calton was interested to note that the tens of thousands of jobs mentioned by Alex Salmond yesterday has become 'thousands' according to a Scottish Government spokesman and 'hundreds' according to Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, Niall Stuart, lending credence to Calton's view that the First Minister's statistics were somewhat overblown.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A victory for common sense

Calton is pleased to see that sense has prevailed and the authorities have decided not to charge 'Big Man' Alan Pollock for ejecting a young man, who was verbally abusing the conductor, off a train.

Lots of offshore wind from Alex

Calton is a bit worried about where Alex Salmond's 'tens of thousands of jobs' to do with the offshore wind industry is going to come from. If a development of 350 turbines planned for the Moray Firth is only going to provide 280 long-term jobs, it looks like our coastline is going to disappear in a forest of offshore windfarms in order to meet Alex's figures. Either that or the First Minister is being somewhat disingenuous in not making it clear that the tens of thousands of jobs are only in the construction phase. Even then, the Moray Firth development is only expected to provide 1400 temporary construction jobs. Calton is not totally against offshore wind farms but is concerned that the Highlands is once again being fobbed off with another boom and bust industry rather than sustainable developments and improvements to infrastructure which would benefit locals in the long term.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The cost of island life

Coming originally from the west coast, and with relatives on the islands, Calton is all in favour of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) because living on an island is not cheap, even for a sea eagle. He therefore welcomes the announcement that it is to be extended to more islands and more ferry routes, however it seems that Transport Minister Keith Brown is giving with one hand and taking away with the other, since larger commercial vehicles are facing a 172% rise in fares from April 2012. Given that hauliers are already being hammered by the high cost of diesel, such a price hike will only end up being passed on to island consumers, who already pay a premium for the necessities of life. Pensioners and families are not paid extra pension or child benefit because they live on an island. Poverty is not just an urban phenomenon. If we don't want to see our islands depopulated we need to give them some support and continuing RET for HGVs seems a sensible way to do it. Hopefully Keith Brown can be persuaded to agree.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Poles apart - more's the pity

Two items on Radio Scotland caught Calton's attention today - one was the program Poles Apart on Polish immigrants in Inverness and the other was a report on youth unemployment in Newsdrive. Some think that the two issues are connected. The simplistic argument is that lots of Eastern Europeans have flooded into Scotland, taking all the jobs, and so our young people can't find work, hence the rise in youth unemployment. Calton thinks the issue is a lot more complex, one of the problems being that some of our young people are, quite frankly, unemployable. They aren't interested in menial work, they have no self-discipline, they have no qualifications and, as long as the state pays them dole money and their parents provide free board & lodging, they have no incentive to get a job. Maybe it's time to get tough on our able-bodied, unemployed youth because, if Poles can come over here and get jobs, so can they.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Tories are revolting

Over 100 Tory MPs are revolting over subsidies for windfarms. They also want to make it easier for local people to object to them. Calton is not sure if their proposals also apply to Scotland but, if not, here's hoping for a similar revolt at Holyrood before the Highlands disappears under a mass of giant white turbines. At a time when consumers are faced with increasing energy bills and decreasing income in real terms, we cannot afford to be subsidising a form of energy generation which is ineffective and unreliable. There are grave doubts about whether it is even environmentally friendly, due to the need to increase traditional generating methods to cope with the troughs in wind generation. It's time for a rethink of our energy strategy.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Statistical spin

An academic has today claimed that the SNP are cherry-picking the statistics which they use to bolster their case for independence. (An example being John Swinney in his recent David Hume lecture citing figures from before the financial crash to claim that an independent Scotland's debt would be substantially lower than that of the UK now, as if the crash hadn't happened.) Calton is not surprised. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. Of course the SNP deny the claim. Well they would, wouldn't they! Lies, damned lies and statistics. We are going to see a lot more of all three before Autumn 2014.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Sack the lot of them

After the childish behaviour displayed by our elected representatives during First Minister's Questions today, Calton thinks we might be better scrapping Holyrood and putting the lot of them on the dole. The thought of that rabble running an independent Scotland is certainly not an attractive one. Yet again, Alex Salmond did not give proper answers to any questions relating to the actual issues raised by independence, such as defence and monetary union, and yet again, Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont failed to pin him down. The Labour leader was the one who came closest when she said that the First Minister wanted 'independence at any cost'. Quite. Why let the facts get in the way of your ambitions? It took Ms Lamont a while to get to her punchline about Alex Salmond being the 'Fred Goodwin of Scottish politics' but the comparison is apt. Hopefully it will not also be prophetic, for Scotland's sake.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Information on the EU

For those who wish to know why Calton is not a fan of the EU, read this report by Stratfor.

Misinformation on the EU? Moi?

Regular readers of this blog will know that Calton is not a fan of the EU. It was therefore with no little concern that he discovered that the EU Commission is busily handing out free teaching resources to our teachers with the stated aim of reaching children before they  “form prejudices and are misinformed by other sources”. That would be "other sources" like this blog then. The EU Commission claim that the publications "offer a balanced introduction to the European Union" - readers can make up their own minds after watching the clips on this page. UKIP have taken the matter up with Nigel Gove, Minister for Education in Westminster. Calton would do likewise with Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education in Holyrood, were it not for a sneaking suspicion that schoolchildren are not the only ones who have been brainwashed by the EU.