Monday, 30 April 2012

So long, Alex

Calton has lost count of the number of times he has heard the dulcet tones of Donald Trump on the radio this last week. His comments on windfarms were so calm, so clear, so concise and so cleverly designed to provide a soundbite that he made our First Minister sound like a rank amateur as he huffed and puffed and blustered his way through his interview on Call Kaye this morning, especially when questioned on his relationships with Trump and Murdoch. (Has anyone else noticed Salmond's tendency to giggle and snort like a schoolboy when asked awkward questions? Does anyone really believe all the stuff about jobs for Scotland?) Alex is increasingly looking like a liability for the SNP. It will be interesting to see how they do on Thursday.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

When cosying up costs

Sometimes you can get too close, as a pair of English photographers found out when they tried to get some shots of Calton's cousins on the Isle of Mull. They have been fined a total of £1100, which maybe explains why no-one wants to cosy up to Calton.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A waste of hot air

A lot of heat was generated during FMQs yesterday but unfortunately the hot air did not reach as far as Calton's eyrie high above Holyrood. There is also a distinct lack of politicians wanting to cosy up to Calton at the moment. Might be something to do with the beak. Or the talons. Or maybe politicians are learning that it is not a good idea to be too friendly with the media. Or maybe Calton isn't rich enough to be invited round to Bute House for a nice hot cuppa. Anyway, the net result is that he is having to turn the central heating up these cold Edinburgh nights, other more environmentally friendly methods of keeping warm having failed!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ignore Trump at your peril

It is really unfortunate that Trump is such a figure of hate because some of what he says is true. In particular, he is the only one Calton has heard, aside from himself, who is pointing out the futility of Scotland trying to reduce carbon emissions while China is busy increasing them (and profiting by selling Scotland the steel for the new Forth crossing). Some of Trump's comments are, admittedly, OTT, however Calton is dismayed to hear the old 'nobody's going to tell us what to do' sort of response being made by Scots. We do ourselves no favours by refusing to listen to someone just because we don't like his hairdo (and perhaps are jealous of the fact that he is a billionaire). We need inward investment and, while that doesn't mean we should toady to those with money (Alex take note), we do need to recognise that they have expertise which we can maybe learn from (otherwise they wouldn't be rich). Let's not be stupid about this. Please.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Get it in writing

Calton finds it hard to believe that a man like Donald Trump actually took politicians at their word, especially when it involved investing large sums of money. Didn't he learn at business school always to get it in writing? (Of course Trump's version of events may not be true - we currently have the unedifying spectacle of businessmen and politicians publicly disagreeing over who said what and when, leaving the public to make up its mind who is the more believable. Calton's money is on Trump and Murdoch.) The one good thing to come out of all this is that the hitherto shadowy world of relationships between politicians and big business is being put under the spotlight. It's not a pretty sight, however, hopefully, the process will result in improved transparency. Rupert Murdoch is wrong when he says that newspapers do not influence elections - they do, and we therefore need to know which politicians are cosying up to which newspaper magnates. After all, if the written word had no influence, Calton would not be writing this blog. Any politicians wishing to cosy up to him should form an orderly queue.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Call in the UN

SNP minister Stewart Stevenson thinks that the "Scottish people are a very sophisticated electorate". He obviously wasn't at the count in 2007. Calton was, which is why he agrees with elections expert Ron Gould that there should only be one question in the independence referendum. It would also help if the voting instructions were clear and the illustrations correct, unlike the ones sent out by North Lanarkshire Council for the forthcoming council elections. At least they remembered to include the ballot paper - nearly 900 Dumfries and Galloway postal voting packs didn't. Anyone would think we had only just become a democracy and hadn't quite got the hang of how to run elections! If things don't improve we will need to call in the UN electoral observers to ensure a free and fair vote.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Glasgow - all is not lost for Labour

Calton has some sympathy for embattled Glasgow SNP leader Allison Hunter, because he knows full well that he would not do any better under the aggressive media questioning that politicians have to go through these days, however that is just the point. We now live in a world of televised debates and live radio where pushy presenters grill would-be council leaders about their policies and what they would do if elected and if you can't answer immediately and succinctly you are toast. As the old saying goes, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Hunter now seems to be realising this however it's too late and her indecisiveness is just compounding the problem for the SNP's Glasgow campaign. Gordon Matheson may yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for Labour.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Some are more equal than others

Scottish Muslim leaders are urging their communities not to vote for any candidate who supports the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in the forthcoming council elections. Meanwhile Ken Livingstone, London mayoral candidate, wants to educate Londoners in the Koran, if elected, in order to make London a beacon for the teachings of Islam. Does this mean that Red Ken is now against the redefinition of marriage to include gay couples? Calton is struggling to find any other way to square this apparent circle. Meanwhile Norwich City Council has banned a church from using its premises because of their supposed attitudes towards Islam even although no hate crime has been committed. Have any muslim groups been banned due to their attitudes towards homosexuals? It seems that some people are more equal than others in modern-day Britain.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Trial by allegation

Calton would like to start by making it clear that he totally opposes violence against women, in any form, including domestic violence. He is, however, concerned that an MSP has been suspended from his party over allegations of domestic violence which have not gone to court. We used to have a maxim in this country of 'innocent until proven guilty'. Now it seems that we have 'trial by newspaper headline'. If Bill Walker is ever convicted of a violent offence Calton will be one of the first to call for his resignation as an MSP. As things currently stand, he is the subject of allegations which, if true, should have been reported to the police, not a newspaper, and he is quite rightly appealing the SNP's decision to suspend him. It is all too easy to use the press to destroy someone's reputation, as this article by the Wee Red Squirrel demonstrates. If there is substance to the allegations being made by Walker's ex-wives they need to go through the proper process, which is the courts. We have a criminal justice system in Scotland which is second to none. Let's use it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A licence to spend?

Is Calton the only one who is worried that the Scottish Government can now borrow up to £5bn given that the two largest parties in Holyrood at the moment believe in spending our way out of the recession? Thankfully the Scotland Bill passed in the Scottish Parliament today will not come into effect until after both the independence referendum and the next Scottish election, giving voters the chance to decide if we wish to return to the reckless borrowing of the Brown Labour years or adopt a more austere approach. No prizes for guessing which Calton would choose. Not that he wants to see Scotland adopting English Tory policies wholesale - Scotland is currently leading the way on free prescriptions and free tuition, to give just two examples, and should continue to do so. We just need to realise that the supply of money to pay for these things is no more limitless than the oil in the North Sea. Some good old-fashioned Scottish thrift would not go amiss now that we have more control over our own money.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mackerel wars

It's all very well trumpeting the fact that the value of fish landed last year by Scottish boats was up on previous years. The real truth is that the number of boats has dropped, along with the number of men employed on them, and profits are being squeezed by high fuel costs and a cut in the number of days boats are allowed to put to sea. Calton is just surprised anyone is still bothering to try and make a living from fishing, given how hard it now is, and what is the Scottish Government doing to help? Not a lot. Mackerel stocks, which account for a large part of the increased landings, are threatened by overfishing by Iceland and the Faroes and we as a country are dependent on the EU to do something about it rather than being able to defend our own fisheries. That doesn't give Calton a lot of confidence. Nor will becoming independent make any difference if we follow the SNP's vision of 'independence in Europe'. What we really need is a 200 mile limit and some gunboats!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Are you listening George?

Someone from the SNP must be reading this blog because, less than a month ago, Calton's response to the budget was 'give us a break George', relating to the cost of petrol. Now the SNP, along with Plaid Cymru, have tabled an amendment which opposes the Finance Bill at second reading on the basis that it 'fails to tackle the crucial issue of high fuel costs which is damaging jobs and economic growth'. Quite. Regular readers will know that the SNP comes in for a lot of stick from Calton however, on this, they are right on the money. Whether or not George Osborne will listen to them is another matter.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Green steel - shop local

Calton would like to congratulate Ross County on their well-deserved promotion to the SPL. It is a real shot in the arm to the Dingwall economy. It was also good to hear that Ardersier may be following Nigg's lead in being reborn as a hub for the green energy sector. Hopefully the emphasis will be on wave and tidal, not wind. Elsewhere, there was celebration on Teesside as the Redcar blast furnace was relit two years after being closed down. It is just a great pity that there is nothing left to relight at Ravenscraig. Looks like we are going to be importing steel from England to make the blades for all the wind turbines planned for our countryside. Maybe we should see if they can do the steel for the new Forth crossing too, instead of getting it from China, with all the transportation costs which that involves. How on earth can it be green to ship steel half-way round the world? Explain that one Alex!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A lot of hot air from Scottish Renewables

Calton would just like to know on what basis Scottish Renewables is asserting that people in Scotland are not opposed to wind power and that it has no negative impact on tourism. Have they done surveys of both Scottish people and tourists to canvas their views? Or is this just anecdotal evidence? Where are the figures to back up their assertions? Calton knows quite a few people who are opposed to windfarms, some of whom are sufficiently unhappy that they are actively lobbying against them. Do they not count? Naturally Scottish Renewables is going to be pro-windpower since it is the industry body, however, if they want to be convincing, they are going to have to do better than just quote a few unsubstantiated facts. Calton would also like to know if this industry body is receiving any government funding, given the SNP's well-known bias towards windfarms. If they are, Trump's £10 million is simply levelling the playing field.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Some people think differently to you - get over it

As a blogger, Calton values freedom of speech above almost everything else. It was therefore with some concern that he read of the banning of an ex-gay advert from London buses. To be honest, he finds both the pro and ex-gay adverts rather aggressive with their 'get over it' tagline and thinks that neither of them do their causes any favours, but he is concerned that only one of the adverts will get an airing (on the buses at any rate). Do we still value free speech in this country or not? Who was it said that he didn't like someone's opinions but would defend to the death that person's right to air them? Calton thinks we should all get over being so easily offended by anything that doesn't match our own tiny world view.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Tourism - for the birds?

Calton is not convinced that windfarms are not major bird mincers, and neither is the goose that lays the golden eggs. Put it this way, although a recent survey shows that numbers of skylarks increase when a windfarm is built, they are majorly bad news for large raptors like sea eagles and so Calton will continue to give them a wide berth. They also cause a decline in the numbers of already threatened curlew and anyone who has heard the haunting call of this magical bird on a summer's evening will know that its loss would be a real tragedy. It is one of the many reasons why people visit Scotland - visitor numbers for 2011 were up on the previous year - and so we should not sacrifice it for the sake of a flawed energy strategy. According to the Scottish Tourism Forum, Scottish tourism is worth £4.2bn every year and employs about 215,000 people. Not peanuts. The SNP are nuts if they endanger this in their short-sighted drive to populate Scotland with windfarms.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The first blast of hot air

Calton received his first party leaflet for the council elections through the door today - from the Scottish Labour Party. In it they promise, among other things, to put more money into school books and equipment, provide more free childcare, employ more dog wardens and street-sweepers, build more homes for rent and create new jobs and apprenticeships. Which is all well and good but Calton has just one question to ask - where is all the money going to come from? They don't say in their leaflet. That's because they are either going to have to make cuts somewhere else in the council's services or raise the council tax. And if they do the latter, guess who will end up paying. This is back to the bad old days of Labour - spend, spend, spend. The Scottish arm of the party is obviously not listening to the new tune coming from Westminster and has decided to stick with Gordon Brown's philosophy of buy now and hope that someone else will pick up the tab later. They are not convincing Calton, although their suggestion of a moratorium on further planning applications for land-based wind turbines pending a consultation is a good one.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Calton's Easter Message

Calton thinks that the secularist lady Clare on Radio Scotland's Call Kaye program yesterday was at least 30 years out of date with her call to have the influence of religion taken out of schools and the state. You have only to look at the number of people in Scotland's supermarkets, garden centres and DIY stores on Sunday morning and compare it with the number of people in church to realise that Scotland is already a secular state, with more people worshipping the Easter Bunny which lays the chocolate eggs than worshipping the risen Christ. These days, ministers of religion are severely circumscribed in what they can say if invited to school assemblies in state schools and the festivals associated with other religions are celebrated in the classroom in addition to Christmas and Easter. No-one is forcing anyone to believe in any God, however it seems that even the mention of religion is enough to get the secularlists up-in-arms. They are the ones who are intolerant because they will not tolerate anything other than their own secularism, which is becoming increasingly, and worryingly, militant. They also ignore the influence which christianity has had in our history. A nation which forgets where it has come from and what has shaped it is a sorry nation indeed. What we should be aiming for is not a secular society but a tolerant one, where people of all faiths and none are free to live and worship as they wish and wear the symbols of their faith openly and without fear.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Journalist objects to free speech

Nigel Farage faced a barrage of abuse for bringing up the subject of Europe in this week's Any Questions? on Radio 4, particularly from fellow-panelist and journalist Viv Groskop. Hello? Earth to Groskop? The whole raison d'etre of Farage's party UKIP is to campaign against the EU. That's why he's in politics and that's why he gets invited onto shows like Any Questions? If he didn't mention Europe there would be something wrong. Now, Calton sometimes wonders if he's mistaken, but the UK is still supposedly a democratic nation where free speech is not only allowed but applauded (or used to be anyway). If the mainstream political parties were not all in the thrall of Europe there would be no need for Farage and his party. As it is, Calton does not agree with all that Farage says but he defends absolutely Farage's right to say it, in any forum where he has the opportunity. It was good to hear Jonathan Dimbleby also making this point at the end of the program. It's just a pity he didn't make it sooner.

Friday, 6 April 2012

A tale of two cities

Calton is so glad he doesn't live in Glasgow. This is nothing to do with the usual Glasgow-Edinburgh rivalry. It's because he listened to the contenders for the leadership of Glasgow City Council on Brian's Big Debate earlier today. If he was a Glasgow voter in the upcoming council elections he'd be wanting a box that said 'none of the above'. It will be a particular indictment on the erstwhile ruling Labour group if the SNP manage to scoop it under the leadership of Allison Hunter, whose performance on the debate was really poor, in Calton's opinion. She was completely unable to answer questions on the SNP's local income tax policy. That, combined with the abandonment of the same policy by the Libdem leader Paul Coleshill in favour of some sort of property tax, means that we won't be seeing a local income tax any time soon, if ever, which is a pity, as it has always seemed to Calton to be the fairest way of paying for local services. Meanwhile, back in the capital, it seems that the Libdems have a death wish and the SNP have ambitions above their station. Perhaps Calton spoke too soon about Glasgow.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

End of the line for the tax credit gravy train

There's been a predictable outcry today about the tax credit changes which come into force tomorrow but the question Calton wants to ask is how on earth we got into the situation where we were paying child tax credit to 90% of families, including some with a household income of more than £40,000, in the first place? Of course those who are now losing the benefit are going to scream but they shouldn't have had it to begin with. It was part of a big tax giveaway by Gordon Brown designed to keep the country voting Labour and it failed. The great British public are not that stupid. Is it really so unfair to ask that a couple with children work at least 24 hours a week between them in order to qualify for working tax credit? A single parent has to work at least 16 hours a week to qualify and someone without children has to work at least 30 hours. The tax credit gravy train is running out and about time too. It is a fundamentally flawed system, with all or nothing cutoffs, which has grown like topsy and now urgently needs to be replaced. Increasing the personal tax allowance is a good start.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Have your say in your own words

Alex Salmond has a cheek to say that the Westminster consultation on the Independence Referendum is discredited just because 25% of the respondents used boiler-plate text supplied by the Labour Party website. At least they bothered to respond and were not anonymous, unlike a number of the respondents to the Holyrood consultation on the same subject, which the SNP were prepared to accept until Labour pointed out the potential for rigging the vote. It really seems that the SNP will grasp at any excuse not to listen to anyone whose view differs from their own. Their attitude is also a bit rich given that their own website contains suggested text for responding to the Holyrood consultation on the referendum. So, Calton's advice would be to ignore that and send in your own response to the consultation, a link to which can be found here.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tree power

Calton presumes that the article about wiring children up to harness the power of their movements on Business Scotland on Sunday was an April Fool, however someone should take the idea of wiring trees up for the same purpose seriously. After all, if we could use the movement of trees in the wind to produce electricity we would not have to build lots of windfarms - we could just use the existing forests in Scotland. Alternatively, if someone could figure out a way of collecting and utilising the hot air which will be generated in the run-up to the council elections next month we could probably power Scotland for the next 10 years on it. And it is renewable!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs

According to Radio Scotland's Business Scotland programme yesterday, the tourist industry provides 175,000 jobs in Scotland whereas the renewable energy sector only provides 11,000. Even if 100% of our energy were to come from renewable sources, the number of jobs involved would only be about 33,000, since, at the moment, renewables provides around one-third of our energy needs. Calton is admittedly employing some very simple arithmetic here but you can see the drift. Given that the self-same radio programme also stated that Scotland is becoming increasingly reliant on the tourism sector, does it make sense to put 175,000 jobs at risk for the sake of 33,000 jobs, ie less than a fifth of that number, by spoiling our beautiful sea and landscapes with wind turbines? Tourism is one of the few growth industries we have at the moment however it seems that the SNP are quite happy to see the goose that lays the golden eggs decapitated by a windmill blade. It will be interesting to see if this view is shared by the electorate in the forthcoming local council elections.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Any date you like as long as it's 2014

So, one of the outcomes of the Westminster consultation on the Independence Referendum is that the majority would rather it happened sooner than Autumn 2014. Calton got there first. Not that it makes any difference to the SNP, who are saying that we can have the referendum any time we like as long as it is Autumn 2014. ("These responses will then be considered by the Scottish government as part of the process to the referendum in 2014" - Stewart Hosie, SNP on the Holyrood consultation exercise, which is still continuing.) Not only that, but it now transpires that the Scottish Parliament's referendum consultation is wide open to gerrymandering. The SNP seem to be making a habit of this. Looks like they have been taking lessons on how to deal with a recalcitrant electorate from the Government of the Republic of Ireland, who have twice held second referendums on European treaties after getting a 'no' vote first time around. Perhaps Alex Salmond would do well to remember that the same people who voted him into power can easily vote him back out if he doesn't listen to them!