Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Local jobs for local people

Given that Burntisland was one of the places Calton highlighted back in February as a town where industry had been replaced by housing, it is heartening to hear that Burntisland Fabrications are expanding operations there and bringing new jobs to the town. For too long now Fife towns have been dormitories for Edinburgh because of their cheaper houses. It's good to see that trend being reversed.

Monday, 30 July 2012

In search of a suitable home

Calton was never in favour of selling council houses to tenants at a massive discount. Granted, one could argue that it is not really the job of councils to provide housing, and they do not necessarily make the best landlords, however the solution to that is to transfer council houses to housing associations, not sell them off cheap. We are now in the situation where demand for social housing far exceeds the supply and Shelter Scotland are calling for the right-to-buy to be scrapped. Calton agrees. He also thinks that lifetime tenancies which then pass to the next generation should also be reviewed to ensure that those in most need have a fair chance of getting a council house. The idea that you stay in the same house all your adult life, regardless of whether or not it is still suitable, is long past its sell-by date. We need to make it easier for older folk to downsize to more manageable properties thus releasing larger homes for young families. Not being a spring chicken any more, Calton is taking his own advice and is already planning his next eyrie (easy access, all on one level, well-insulated, walk-in shower, super-fast broadband). Oh well, one can always dream ..... especially about the broadband.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A double-edged sword

Well, it didn't take long for Calton's prediction to come true and the SNP to be accused of going against the will of the majority of the population with their proposal for a same-sex marriage bill. What interests Calton is the way in which Tom French of the Equality Network and others are trying to weasel their way out of the fact that more people who responded to the Scottish Government's consultation were against same-sex marriage than for it by saying that the consultation is a way for people to put forward their views but (and here comes the double-edged sword which may yet be the SNP's downfall) the Government is not bound to act on those views. Which is just another way of saying that we, the voting public, who gave the SNP their majority, are being ignored. Calton wonders why they bothered having a consultation. And if this is an example of Scottish democracy in action, heaven help us if we become independent!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bank charge evasion

Of course it's morally wrong to collude with a tradesman in tax evasion by paying cash. Let us not forget that one of the things that has turned the Greek economy into a basket case has been large scale tax evasion and a burgeoning black economy. It's time we stopped seeing dodging the taxman as a faceless, victimless crime because, in the end, we are all the victims of it. That said, it's also time we stopped taxing low earners and small businesses to death. The Libdem policy of raising the personal allowance has been a welcome step in that direction. Increasing the mileage allowance for businesses would be another step in the right direction, one which is long overdue. And we need to remember that businesses pay through the nose in bank charges for every cheque they pay into their business account, which is why many prefer cash. They are not necessarily on the fiddle. Just trying to avoid lining the pockets of bankers.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sour grapes about rotten apples?

Calton is longing for some sunshine, if only to put an end to all the sour grapes we have been having lately. This time it is an ex-Scottish Tory, Malcolm Macaskill, who, in an interview with the Sunday Herald, blasted the Tory machine as "rotten to the core" and said that the Scottish party was an "inept and morally corrupt" organisation. (This after he received a substantial out of court settlement from them, which the party describes as a 'goodwill gesture'.) It doesn't seem to Calton that there is very much goodwill towards the Tories on Macaskill's side but, rather, the feeling that he was dumped to make way for one Ruth Davidson who now happens to be the party leader. The Scottish Conservatives disagree, citing his failure to disclose business failures as the reason he was bumped off the list. Who is right? Who knows. More importantly, who cares?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Heading for a fall?

Calton is struggling to work out why a referendum on same-sex marriage would be "un-Scottish and unfair" (Tom French of the Equality Network). It may cost taxpayers' money but so will implementing same-sex marriage. Given that both sides of the argument currently claim that they have majority support, Calton is in agreement with Cardinal Keith O'Brien's call for a referendum. Only that way will we really know what the Scottish people want, and, on an issue as fundamental as the definition of marriage, that is crucially important. If the Scottish Government try and push through legislation without a referendum they will always be open to the accusation that they went against the will of the majority of the population. The SNP may have a majority in Holyrood at the moment but they'd better not take it for granted or they'll be heading for a fall.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bring back real bank managers

The new scheme to boost bank lending to businesses is to be welcomed, particularly given that the number of hotels and B&Bs for sale in Scotland is at a high due to the difficulty buyers are finding in getting finance. No-one, Calton least of all, wants to see a return to the days when banks threw money at borrowers regardless of whether or not they could repay the loans, however we are now in a situation where older hotel owners looking to sell up and retire are unable to do so because they can't find a buyer. And these are viable businesses, not turkeys. The popularity of staycations has boosted the Scottish tourism industry and figures released by accountancy firm PKF this week suggest a rise in occupancy and revenues for Scottish hotels in May. What we really need is a return to the days where you sat down and discussed a loan with a bank manager who knew you and knew the business you were looking to buy, not some faceless number-cruncher on the end of an 0845 phone line (if you're lucky).

Friday, 13 July 2012

A rat's tale

How could it possibly be 'contrary to the public interest' for the Scottish Government to reveal whether or not it holds legal advice on the status of an independent Scotland within the EU?  Contrary to the SNP's interest perhaps but not the interests of the Scottish people whom the SNP claim to represent, those same Scottish people who are going to be asked one of the most important questions of our time in just over 2 years and who need to know all the facts before they make their decision. The status of an independent Scotland vis-a-vis the EU is a crucial element in the independence debate and it is just not good enough for the Scottish Government to state that we would continue EU membership without backing that statement up. The fact that they are unwilling to do so makes Calton smell a rat.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Over the clouds to Skye

On a recent Business Scotland programme about Skye, several of those interviewed said that air links with the rest of Scotland would give a boost to businesses on the island. It is therefore a welcome development to see that transport body Hitrans is going to assess demand for commercial flights to and from Skye. Given that Skye is now connected to the mainland by a bridge, the resumption of flights at Ashaig airstrip would also benefit Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton and other areas of the mainland. And given the high cost of petrol in that part of  Scotland, as previously highlighted by Calton, perhaps flying to Inverness or Glasgow instead of driving is beginning to make economic sense. Of course Calton can fly up to Skye any time he wants to but he is aware that not everyone is blessed with wings the size of barn doors.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Keep Scotland's milk green

Being a dairy farmer is a thankless task at the best of times and has been made even more so by the recent reductions in the price they get for their milk. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are getting together to launch a campaign against the cuts and Calton hopes that they are successful. Otherwise we risk losing dairy farming altogether from Scotland and having our milk transported up from England or, even worse, Europe. How green is that? It's time that big business stopped squeezing our dairy farmers who get up early, come rain or shine, 365 days a year to provide us with one of our staples. I'm sure most of us would not grudge an extra penny or two on our pinta in order to keep our milk Scottish.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Not all doom and gloom

Sadly, the ray of sunshine which Calton was hoping for in the form of a Murray win at Wimbledon today did not happen and so the capital remains a dull and gloomy place this evening. On the plus side, Andy played a great game against a tough opponent and managed to win the first set before losing the next three. Maybe next year! It was also good to see the Saltire flying outside 10 Downing Street in recognition that Murray is Scottish. Most encouraging of all were the young boys who Calton spotted playing tennis in the street instead of watching the match - future Wimbledon winners?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Still wanted - Santa for Farepak victims

Well it's only taken 5 and a half years and a public dressing-down from a high court judge to make Lloyds TSB cough up £8 million to compensate Farepak victims. Many savers with the collapsed company will still be massively out of pocket and so they can be forgiven for not exactly jumping up and down with joy. Also, there is still the potential for another Farepak to happen in the future, in spite of Calton's plea a few months ago. Is it because mainly poorer people use such schemes that they seem to be the Cinderella of protective legislation?

Friday, 6 July 2012

Keep Scottish water

If anything could convince climate-change sceptic Calton, it's a drought warning for the west coast of Scotland. The rainy day he experienced in Kintail recently must have been the only one this summer, unlike Edinburgh. Faced with the prospect of another wet weekend in the capital, Calton is now seriously considering relocating his eyrie to the north-west of the country. The only ray of sunshine on the horizon is a Murray victory at Wimbledon on Sunday. Perhaps Alex Salmond shouldn't be too quick to think about exporting water to England - we might need it all ourselves!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Killer blades

Regular readers of this blog will know that Calton is not a fan of windfarms. One of the reasons is the fact that, as far as Sea Eagles are concerned, they are killers. Although the blades of a large turbine may not seem to be going round all that fast, their tips can be travelling through the air at 150mph. How would you like to be whacked on the back of the head by the equivalent of an express train while innocently going about your daily business? Sadly, lots of Norwegian Sea Eagles, and one which had been introduced into Ireland, have had just that experience with fatal results. Calton is just hoping that the youngsters which are soon to be released into the wild in Fife will have the sense to avoid the monstrosity which FMC Technologies has erected on the edge of Dunfermline.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Since when did 10 become 7?

Calton wants to know why a convicted violent rapist, whose victim was left looking like she had been in a car crash and who got a 10-year sentence in 2005, is back in the community where he committed the crime. Such cases make a complete mockery of our justice system. It's understandable that neighbours of Robert Greens are not happy, particularly since it now seems that there is a real possibility of Greens reoffending. Police have applied for a Sexual Offences Protection Order so that they can monitor Greens and protect the public. They wouldn't need to do this if he was still behind bars. Isn't it about time we stopped being soft on serious criminals and, instead, made them serve out the whole of their sentence?

(And don't get Calton started on the report that Greens is opposing the Protection Order on the grounds that it contravenes his human rights. Unless you want a full-scale rant.)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Corroboration - archaic or an essential safeguard?

The Law Society of Scotland is concerned about the Scottish Government's proposal to abolish the requirement for corroboration of evidence in trials. So is Calton. While removal of the requirement would help to prosecute cases of crimes such as sexual abuse of children, it also opens the door to wrongful prosecutions based on the evidence of one person alone and appropriate safeguards need to be put in place before such a fundamental change is implemented. In particular, removal of the need for corroboration could radically change the way policing is carried out in Scotland as there would no longer be a requirement for two officers to provide evidence for a prosecution. That may well be a positive step in terms of cost-savings for our police force however it seems to be a backward step in terms of justice in Calton's opinion.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Fox among the chickens

It's good to hear someone in Westminster finally talking sense about the EU. (Calton is referring to Dr Liam Fox's address to the Taxpayers' Alliance today.) It is even more refreshing to hear a politician acknowledging that, regarding the EU, "It is the British public who must be the final arbiters and their voice has been ignored for too long." 

Hear, hear!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

There is life outside the EU

Calton has never understood the argument that we need to give up more and more of our sovereignty in order to be able to have influence in Europe. Missing the boat is only a problem if the boat is going where you want to go. The Eurozone boat is definitely not going where Calton wants to go and he is pleased to finally hear someone saying that life outside the EU holds no terror. As for David Cameron's comments on an EU referendum - Calton will believe it when he sees it. However at least the PM is talking about it - will Alex Salmond give us a referendum about EU membership if Scotland becomes independent?