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.


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.

Disabled paying for blue badge fraud

As Calton has said before, Scotland leads the way with its policy of free prescriptions, however we are lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to charging for disabled blue badges. Scots are having to pay £20 for a blue badge whereas the charge in England is £10 and in Wales they are free. Calton believes that there should be a crackdown on the abuse and misuse of these badges, which is rife, however for some people they are an absolute necessity and to charge £20 for one seems wrong. It is punishing the innocent for the actions of the guilty. Instead, we should increase the fines for blue badge fraud.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A leg up the property ladder

When Calton bought his first Edinburgh eyrie it was with a 95% mortgage which was 2.5 times his salary. Those were the days when your banker interviewed you before deciding whether to give you a mortgage and 3 times your salary was the absolute maximum available. Now, the housing market is only open to those with substantial deposits, leaving many young people out in the cold, so the initiative to provide 95% loans on new houses by industry body Homes for Scotland in conjunction with the Scottish Government is to be warmly welcomed. No-one wants to return to the days of irresponsible lending but the pendulum has swung too far the other way, with detrimental effects on the housing market and our building industry. Hopefully this scheme will go some way to redressing the balance and will help more people to get a foot on the property ladder.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

SNP suffering from selective deafness

Calton has a lot of sympathy for Cardinal Keith O' Brien, who has decided to stop talking directly to the Scottish Government over the issue of same-sex marriage. The latter have completely ignored all the postcards sent in by individual Roman Catholics in response to their consultation, ostensibly because they all say the same thing but in reality because they don't say what the Scottish Government wants to hear. If people take the time and effort to sign a postcard, put a stamp on it and post it why should that not count? Not everyone has access to the internet or is computer literate. Many people are not comfortable with filling in an online form. Why is their contribution to the consultation worth less because it was done in an old-fashioned way? It seems that the Government is discriminating against older people, since it is they who are less likely to respond using the internet. The Government is also discriminating against those who didn't feel confident about putting their views into their own words and so used the pre-printed postcards which their church provided for them. If you include all the postcards, the majority of those responding to the Scottish Government's consultation on same-sex marriage were against it. The SNP are now going against the wishes of that majority because they have a majority in the Scottish Parliament and they think they can do as they please. They should remember who put them there.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Have we lost our reason?

Calton does not believe that Christians should impose their views or morality on the rest of society, however, in the supposedly progressive rejection of the Judeo-Christian basis of our laws, we are increasingly legislating on the basis of feelings. The latest example is Tony Nicklinson, who feels that his life is intolerable and who wants a change in the law so that someone can kill him without being prosecuted for murder. Other people feel that their lives are not worth living and want the law changed so that they can be assisted to commit suicide. Yet others feel attracted to someone of the same sex and want the law changed to allow them to get married. Calton feels sympathy for all of them but he doesn't think that just because someone feels a certain way, our laws, which have stood the test of time, should be altered. Legislating on the basis of feelings, rather than rational thought, is not progressive but, rather, regressive. Do we really want a society where emotions dominate over reason? Is that not a recipe for disaster?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Open season on Christians at the BBC

Libby Purves is entitled to her opinions on assisted suicide and other matters and she is entitled to air them on Radio Scotland. What she is not entitled to do is label as 'bigots' those who happen to disagree with her. Such ignorant and inflammatory language does nothing to further reasoned and rational debate and Calton is surprised that Kaye Adams let Dr Purves get away with it unchallenged. Maybe he shouldn't be, given that Kaye very quickly stepped in to shut up a caller who was making remarks which might have been offensive to homosexuals recently but let the following caller indulge in an extended rant against Christians without any attempt to curtail him. Yet another example of the open season on Christians at the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, where some are clearly more equal than others when it comes to being protected against offence.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dawkins - deluded into believing he is God?

It seems a bit rich of Richard Dawkins to accuse the Wee Frees and their fellow Christians, on the one hand, of blind panic regarding his invite to the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival and yet, on the other hand, to turn down an invite to debate with one of them, saying that it would not look good on his CV. What is he afraid of? That his atheist beliefs will not stand up to the scrutiny of a public debate? As a defender of free speech, Calton has no problem with Dawkins being invited to the faith-themed festival but he can't expect to go and promote atheism in one of the last bastions of Scottish Presbyterianism without being challenged, any more than the Presbies can impose their brand of Calvinism on the rest of us unchallenged. That's the nature of democracy. Or has Dawkins not so much done away with God, as become a god himself?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wild camping ruining the wild

Calton is up in the mountains this weekend and he is wondering just how much it has cost to erect the huge stone monuments which have appeared by the side of all the roads into the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park? OK, so they probably provided some out-of-work stonemason with a bob or two but, seriously, were they really needed?

On another countryside matter, Calton thinks that the access legislation governing Scotland badly needs revisiting given the proliferation of wild camping in the likes of Glen Etive. Now there is even talk on internet forums of wild caravanning! It is nice to see people enjoying our beautiful landscape on a good weekend however there comes a point when it is unsustainable. There is only so much firewood available in Glen Etive and Calton counted at least five campfires there last night. Sadly, a great number of so-called wild campers also fail to take their rubbish away with them and wild toilets are an increasing problem. Calton understands that the Scottish Government has set up a group to look at the Land Reform Act which gave us the right of access. Hopefully they will listen to the group's conclusions.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Striking a sour note

Calton does not venture south of the border very often these days and so he was surprised to hear that Scottish banknotes are still being knocked back in England. Unionist politicians must be sitting with their heads in their hands - what a gift for the Nationalists! Scottish athletes are winning gold in London and yet Londoners are turning their noses up at our money! Boris Johnson has now instructed London buses to accept Scottish notes, which is the least he could do. What about all the bars, restaurants, hotels and taxis? How would English people feel if we started refusing their Bank of England notes up here? It's high time they stopped being so parochial and realise that we have our own banknotes, otherwise we will be voting to have our own currency!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sir Chris scoops sixth gold

Congratulations to Sir Chris Hoy on his fantastic achievement - six Olympic gold medals. He should have the freedom of Scotland, not just Edinburgh.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The perils of absolute power

Who was it who said that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'? They might have been talking about the SNP Government. As long as the SNP was a minority administration, everything was fine, but now that they have a majority they are becoming increasingly dictatorial. The latest example is the way in which they are pushing through planning applications for windfarms against the wishes of local people and local authorities. A majority government is not a licence to ignore the electorate for 4 years. It is also not a mandate to introduce bills, such as the one on same-sex marriage, which were not in the SNP's election manifesto. Calton is increasingly hearing from people who are being turned off the idea of independence due to the SNP's attitude. They, like Calton, have no wish to live under a dictatorship. Few Scots do.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

A ray of sunshine

Another dull rainy day in Scotland's capital but this time there was a ray of sunshine as Andy Murray took gold in the Olympics. Well done Andy! Calton was settling in for a five set match but Murray won it in straight sets, clinching the match with an ace. Superb. He and his fellow Scots have made a huge contribution to Team GB's medal haul however Calton does not think this is an argument for an independent Scotland - more a reason for us to continue to be part of Great Britain. Would our athletes do so well if we didn't have the resources of our larger southern neighbour to help them? In return, they put the great into Team GB. That's what teamwork is all about. At a time when Europe is tearing itself apart along a north-south divide Great Britain is winning medals. United we stand, divided we fall.

Friday, 3 August 2012

The backlash begins

The backlash against the SNP's decision to proceed with a bill for same-sex marriage has begun with the resignation of long-standing SNP activist Robert Stewart. What interests Calton is that this is not a protest by a Roman Catholic or Evangelical Christian on moral grounds - this is a protest against the undemocratic way in which the SNP hierarchy has railroaded the decision through simply because Nicola Sturgeon thinks that it is the 'right thing to do'. On what basis? Clearly the SNP's definition of 'right' differs from that of the Roman Catholic church or Islam and they can't all be right! What is also clear is that the course the SNP have embarked on is likely to cost them votes in the independence referendum and the subsequent Scottish elections and not just because they have disenfranchised Christian and Moslem voters - they are also increasingly alienating all those who, like Calton, cherish democracy, with their autocratic behaviour. Will Nicola still think it was the right thing to do when she finds herself on the opposition benches in a devolved parliament in 2015?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Think twice twits

Dorset police have been coming in for some stick over their arrest of the teenager who tweeted abuse at olympic diver Tom Daley amid concerns over freedom of speech. Calton shared those concerns however, after reading a fuller account of the twitter posts on Archbishop Cranmer's blog (warning - contains strong language), the police would have been hung out to dry if they hadn't done something. Calton is a firm believer in freedom of speech but young people need to understand that threats of violence posted on the internet will be taken seriously, even if they are only meant as a joke. Our police cannot afford to ignore them. So if you don't want the long arm of the law knocking on your door in the wee small hours, think twice before you hit the send button. And if this sorry episode highlights the issue of cyber-bullying and dissuades others from emulating the twit who was arrested, so much the better.