Saturday, 30 June 2012

David and Goliath

Today Calton has found two tales of David facing up to Goliath.

Firstly, good to see Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance (SNP) throwing his weight behind the Children 1st campaign to deal with sideline bullies. He is backing a motion at Holyrood to have the issue recognised as a problem - hopefully this will result in more support for the Children 1st campaign Sideline Bad Behaviour.

On an entirely different subject, PM David Cameron assures us that he has secured an explicit commitment that, as the Eurozone moves towards deeper economic and monetary union, the integrity of the single market will be fully respected. Let's just hope he is right. The Eurozone is fast becoming not just a Goliath but a Juggernaut.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Out of the Eurozone

Anyone who still thinks that joining the Eurozone is not a one-way ticket to loss of sovereignty must have their head stuck so far in the sand it's popping up in New Zealand. EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the man responsible for providing the EU's political direction, has made it clear that the single currency is irreversible. So much for Greece being able to bail out. And so much for German posturing about not being responsible for southern Europe's debts. When push comes to shove, as it did last night, preservation of the Euro comes out top and the Eurozone is one step further along the road to political, as well as financial, integration. Which is exactly where Van Rompuy, a fan of global governance, wants it. Calton can feel a Farage-style rant coming on when he considers that this Belgian unknown, who has just been chosen for another 30 month term not by the people of Europe but only by the 27 heads of the EU member states, can wield so much power behind the scenes. If Salmond doesn't want to become a puppet, he will follow the Great Broon's lead and keep well out of the Eurozone.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The youngsters have landed

Some of Calton's young cousins from Norway are flying into Fife to help boost the Kingdom's tourist industry. Sea Eagles have brought £5 million to the economy of Mull and it is hoped that they will do the same in Fife, which could do with a boost after the collapse of first the mining industry and then the electronics industry. The youngsters will be let loose in August so anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of a rare bird should head over to Dunfermline then and camp out in ASDA car park, which is where one of the last lot of eaglets decided to hang out for a while, perching on a spotlight. He was presumably looking for something to get his beak into - pity Willie Rennie didn't happen along at the time.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Winning independence only to lose sovereignty?

If Angela Merkel's comments on European integration were not frightening enough, we now have the president of the German Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, saying that "In the event of a country not abiding by the budgetary rules, national sovereignty would be automatically transferred to the European level on a scale that can ensure compliance with the objectives." What exactly he means by the 'European level' is unclear, however what is totally clear is that, in return for Germany propping them up financially, Eurozone countries will have to toe the German line with regard to their spending or else face losing their financial sovereignty. Now, given that the SNP want Scotland to be an independent nation in order to have control (ie sovereignty) over her own financial affairs, does it make sense to consider even for one moment becoming part of the Eurozone? Of course it doesn't. Unless, of course, the SNP have got so used to being able to blame someone else for not allowing them all the fiscal levers they need to manage Scotland's economy that they can't cope with the responsibility which sovereignty would bring.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Doing a U-turn on fuel duty

There is nothing wrong with doing a U-turn unless you happen to be travelling on a dual carriageway and so Calton welcomes today's announcement on the postponement of the 3p fuel duty rise from this August to next January. George Osborne has obviously been listening to the views of the electorate and, in particular, the Fair Fuel campaign. Now all we need is a fair and effective way of subsidising fuel costs for our rural communities, both island and mainland.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Doing a U-turn on the A9

Calton doesn't mind going the extra mile or seven to get cheaper fuel however he has discovered that, at the moment, there is no difference in price between Broadford and Shiel Bridge which means that
a) his two independent local sources on petrol prices were wrong or
b) the Broadford garage is not passing on the 5p island fuel subsidy to customers or
c) mainland filling stations have had to cut their prices to match those on Skye or else face losing business.
Calton's money (quite literally) is on b) since he had to pay 144.9p per litre of diesel today, however he may be wrong. He may also be mistaken in thinking that dualling the A9 is not a priority - having driven the length of it from Perth to John O' Groats recently and had a couple of near misses on single carriageway stretches with oncoming overtaking idiots, perhaps upgrading to dual carriageway is not such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Going the extra mile

Calton has discovered that if he goes a few miles out of his way while on holiday and buys his petrol in Broadford on Skye instead of the mainland he will save 5p per litre due to some scheme whereby islanders get subsidised petrol. This seems to apply even although Skye is now connected to the mainland by a bridge and has been for some years. No doubt the intention behind this was laudable and Calton would be the first to acknowledge the difficulties faced by islanders in general, however life is not exactly easy for those on the mainland in this part of Scotland, particularly with the ongoing discussions on how to safeguard the Plockton to Lochcarron road for the future, all of which are either costly or would involve further road closures if the council go for the cheaper option of just repairing the road when necessary. (And remember that the road was closed for a considerable length of time last winter due to a landslide.) Is dualling the A9 or improving Berridale Braes really more important than keeping a vital lifeline route open at all times? And why should petrol be more expensive at Shiel Bridge than Broadford?

Friday, 22 June 2012

What's in a name?

Calton is now on the north-west coast of Scotland where free wifi is scarcer than sea eagles hence the lack of posts. Radio and TV reception is none too good either and so he is a bit behind with the latest news however he did hear that schoolgirl Martha's blog NeverSeconds has now raised nearly £100,000 for Mary's Meals and a kitchen in Malawi is going to be named after it. Great news.

Calton also heard that the SNP have been advised to drop the word 'independence' due to negative connotations but apparently it's OK to talk about Scotland being an 'independent nation'. Amazing the difference replacing a couple of letters at the end of a word can make! Perhaps Alex Salmond should drop the 'd' at the end of his name - he is certainly as slippery as a fish when it comes to FMQs. In the same vein Johann could swap an 'o' for an 'e' in her surname as she bemoans Scotland's fate under the SNP. Calton just wishes people would stop trying to insert an 'r' into his first name!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Shedding the carbuncle

Greetings from the most northerly carbuncle on the Scottish mainland where Calton is currently on his holidays. He is able to bring you this blog update courtesy of wifi at Flavours ice cream shop, John O' Groats, which just shows that the spirit of enterprise is not dead up here. Quite the reverse, with the construction of a number of holiday chalets proceeding apace and scaffolding up around the old octagonal hotel. OK so John O' Groats will still not win any architectural awards but who needs nice buildings when you have a fantastic view of Orkney on your doorstep? (Of course Calton may be slightly biased since his Grandmother hailed from this part of the world.) Sadly, in spite of 150,000 visitors per year, it is still almost impossible for businesses to get a loan to start up in John O' Groats and so much of the promised regeneration has yet to happen, which is a pity. Hopefully the new developments will change that.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Sour grapes feeds lots of starving children

There's an awful lot of sour grapes around this summer - must be something to do with the weather. This week's award goes to Argyll and Bute Council for their decision to ban schoolgirl Martha taking photos of her school dinners and posting them on her blog NeverSeconds. Fortunately, council leader Roddy McCuish has seen sense and reversed the ban and the publicity on today's media has resulted in a huge increase of donations to the charity - Mary's Meals - which the blog was raising funds for and, hopefully, an increase in the size of the portions they dish up at Martha's school. Some of the dinners featured on the blog would hardly keep a sparrow alive, never mind a growing girl! However all's well that ends well and today's stushie will ensure that lots of hungry children in Malawi are fed, leaving them at least with a sweet taste in the mouth. Well done Martha.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

End fish dumping now!

Calton is pleased to learn that an end is possibly in sight for the disgraceful practice of dumping perfectly good fish at sea due to the EU quota system. Of course, if we were not part of the EU and had a 200 mile fishing limit enforced by gunboats, that would be even better. As it is, there are still some hurdles to be crossed before the ban on discards comes into force, namely the European Parliament and the European Commission. Now, if Scotland were independent and outside the EU, we wouldn't have to wait for permission from those two institutions, only one of which is democratically elected. We could end the dumping now. So why the SNP keeps insisting that we should be part of the EU is beyond Calton.

As clear as mud

A spokesman for the SNP is reported as saying that there is a "fundamental distinction" between monetary policy and fiscal policy. Is Calton the only one struggling to work out what that distinction is? Given that the spokesman doesn't seem to have enlarged upon his comment, do the SNP know what the distinction is? Or is this just more ill-informed, seat-of-the-pants waffle designed to thoroughly bamboozle the Scottish electorate? It certainly isn't engendering confidence up in Calton's eyrie that the SNP actually know what they are talking about when it comes to monetary/fiscal policy. A Treasury spokesman has said that the Scottish government's proposals remain "totally unclear". You can't get much clearer than that as a vote of no confidence. And the SNP want us to trust them with the economy of an independent Scotland? Calton would rather have mud in his eye.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lies, damned lies and the Leveson Inquiry

Who to believe? That is the question. Whether to go for Gordon 'no more boom and bust' Brown or the opposing side, Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks. The phrase 'Hobson's choice' springs to Calton's mind. He would certainly like to award full marks to the person at the Leveson Inquiry who asked the great Broon why he and his wife had remained on good terms with Brooks if Brown's assertion that the Sun had published details about their son's medical condition without their permission was correct. That seems to be straining forgiveness (and duty) too far in Calton's opinion. One thing is clear - there are some issues Leveson is never going to get to the bottom of.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Keep Scottish Water public

It seems that Willie Rennie has jumped on the Maggie Thatcher privatisation bandwagon, albeit 20 years late. He is urging the Scottish Government to privatise Scottish Water, claiming that the money raised would create 100,000 new jobs. Basically his argument is that the public coffers would benefit by £1.5bn, which could be used on infrastructure projects, and Scottish Water would be able to borrow on the open market to fund its infrastructure improvements. Er - wouldn't it better just to leave things as they are? Has privatising utility companies really brought us the benefits we thought it would? Calton thinks not. Thankfully the Scottish Government also thinks not and plans to keep Scottish Water in public ownership.

Friday, 8 June 2012

A rare bird

The RSPB has been mapping the decline in numbers of Calton's ancestors in Britain and Ireland since the time of King Arthur using place names with the word 'eagle' in them. Interesting stuff. It just goes to show what a rare specimen Calton is. Gone are the days when we used to hold sway over large parts of the UK. Sea Eagles occupy only a fraction of their former territory while the recovery of the Golden Eagle population has stalled. Last year saw a fall in the number of bird poisoning incidents - hopefully this marks the start of a downward trend. Certainly the introduction of vicarious liability for landowners may help stamp out the practice. No punishment is too severe for those who illegally kill birds in Calton's opinion!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

2014 - the new 1984?

Please - someone tell Calton he's not the only one who gets collywobbles when he reads Angela Merkel's comments on greater European political union. She is quoted on the BBC News website as saying "Step by step we must from now on give up more competences to Europe, and allow Europe more powers of control." Frightening. Thank goodness David Cameron is keeping the UK out of this Orwellian nightmare. What is worrying is that Alex Salmond would take us into it! No, non, nee, nein danke!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

No to the EU - yes to the Groat

Calton has long been saying that if we truly want independence, we need to have our own currency. Better Nation agrees with this in a recent post. Where Calton differs with them is in their view that it would be unthinkable for Scotland to be outside of the EU. Why? Do they really think that a small nation like Scotland is going to have much of a voice in an EU increasingly dominated by Germany? Why should Scots vote Yes to independence from the rest of the UK simply to be part of a larger union? It doesn't make sense. What does make sense to Calton is an independent Scotland, with its own currency, outside the EU. If the SNP can't offer that, we'd be better off voting No.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

In support of Fair Fuel

Given that our economy needs a bit of a leg up, and given that diesel is a major component of the costs of many small businesses, Calton thinks it makes sense to reduce the tax on fuel and is a supporter of Fair Fuel UK. So are the SNP, however there are precious few Scottish MPs from other parties who have signed up to the campaign - just a couple of Labour MPs. If your MP is not on the list, email them to ask them why not! The more MPs who sign up, the more George Osborne will have to listen. High fuel costs are crippling Scottish businesses and hindering economic recovery. We need a break!

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Biased Broadcasting Corporation

While the rest of us are still awaiting the outcome of the Scottish Government's consultation on same-sex marriage, Fred MacAuley has obviously decided what it is going to be, with his talk of Susan Calman's 'marriage' on MacAuley and Co this morning. (In point of fact, Susan Calman has entered into a Civil Partnership with another woman. Same-sex couples cannot currently get married in Scotland.) Now, Calton may be being a bit naive here but isn't the BBC supposed to be impartial and unbiased? Is it really appropriate for a BBC presenter to be preempting the result of a public consultation by the Scottish Government? If Fred wants to champion gay marriage in his own time, fair enough. To do so on air, on the BBC, without opportunity for a balancing view to be put before the audience is not acceptable or, to put it another way, not 'British' but biased.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

More sour grapes?

Oh dear. It doesn't look like the stushie between the independents and the parties in Highland Council is going to settle down anytime soon. The latest row is over appointments to outside bodies. Several experienced independents have been passed over and they are not happy. It does seem as if the political parties have put out a 3-line whip on the vote. Calton is just wondering what the voters in the Highlands are making of all this since none of them voted for the coalition which they now have. That's the trouble with the Single Transferable Vote method of electing councillors. It very rarely produces a party with an outright majority. Some would say that's a good thing, however four years of warfare between the independents and the political parties is not going to be good for the Highlands.