Friday, 28 September 2012

Calling time on the EU

Calton is not very confident that the SNP's assertions about our position in the EU post-independence will hold water when it transpires that their minimum pricing for alcohol policy is now being questioned by the EU, in spite of assurances from the SNP that it would be allowed. Why the SNP are still so fond of Europe when the feeling is hardly reciprocated is anybody's guess. Calton thinks that they should tell Brussels where to go and proceed with the minimum pricing policy a tout vitesse. As for David Cameron's tease about a referendum on EU membership - all Calton can say is "bring it on Dave".

PS. If you still think it's a good idea for us to join the Euro, read this article by Cranmer.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Hardly an average family

It's a bit disingenuous for Johann Lamont to use Nicola Sturgeon as an example of why free prescriptions are a bad thing. Nicola and her husband hardly represent an ordinary family. The example Johann should consider is the much more common one of a working person or family who earn just enough to disqualify them from benefits but not enough to afford the extra burden of prescription charges. Calton has said it before and he'll say it again - no-one should be left standing in a pharmacy clutching a much-needed prescription, wondering if they can afford to pay for it!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Aye right Willie!

According to Willie Rennie, his party is making an impact on Scottish politics. Eh? What on earth gave him that idea? Just what policies have the Scottish Libdems influenced in this parliamentary session? They are having about as much impact on the SNP as a snowflake. (Now Calton is aware that a lot of snowflakes can make quite a snowstorm but 5 MSPs is hardly critical mass.) Alex Salmond has no bother brushing the Libdem leader's questions off at FMQs and with the SNP's majority government Rennie hasn't a snowball's chance of making a difference. His attempt to mobilise moderate England in support of the Union is unlikely to do him any favours up here either. That's the whole point of the independence debate - self-determination for Scotland rather than being told what to do by England. Doh! It seems that only a desire to spite his opponents is stopping Rennie and his party in their slide into self-annihilation.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fowl play

It is sad that, in this day and age in Scotland, a Golden Eagle can apparently be caught and injured in an illegal trap and then deliberately left to die a lingering death. It is also sad that some people not only fail to keep their dogs on a lead when walking in an area signposted as having free range fowl but deliberately set their dogs on the farm birds for sport. Calton is not against organised hunting or shooting however these incidents are not organised and are, as a result, cruel. In the second case they also rob a farmer of his ducks and hens. It makes Calton wonder what sort of country this is where these things go on and, sadly, greater access to the countryside has resulted in a greater incidence of animal cruelty in the countryside. If any of his readers has information which could lead to the apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the injured eagle left in a layby near Aboyne, or other countryside crime, Calton would encourage them to contact the police.

Friday, 21 September 2012

More on free speech

Following on from yesterday's comment on free speech, Calton is concerned to see in the news that some of the banners at today's Muslim rally in front of Holyrood carried the slogan "No religion is allowed to insult any other religion". This, along with demands for an international law against religious hatred, is deeply worrying to anyone who, like Calton, values free speech. There is a big difference between insult and hatred and the two should not be confused. Apart from anything else, who decides what is insulting? One man's insult may be another's term of endearment. Stirring up hatred on the basis of religion or race or anything else is abhorrent and should rightly be punished however legislating on the basis of insult, real or perceived, is a minefield. No-one is saying it's pleasant to have your beliefs ridiculed but the alternative is a total erosion of our right to free speech. As a comment doing the rounds of facebook says "Internet videos will insult your religion. Get over it."

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Keeping speech and prescriptions free

Calton is not sure that it would be a good idea to remove the 'no overnight parking' signs from Highland laybys. Given the increase in 'wild' camping and caravanning in these times of austerity, this would seem like a green light to low-budget holidaymakers to foul our laybys, with Highland Council picking up the tab. Highland council tax payers may wish to make their feelings about this known to their elected representatives.

Abuse of any sort is foul, however Calton is glad to see that the DPP in England and Wales considers that the bar should be set pretty high before prosecuting, in order to defend freedom of speech. Hopefully the same common-sense approach will prevail in Scotland.

Finally, in today's smorgasbord of  unrelated comments, Calton welcomes the commitment made in today's SNP budget to free prescriptions and affordable housing. He just wishes that John Swinney would stop bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have all the fiscal levers he would like - Swinney has obviously missed his true vocation as an old-fashioned railway signalman. If he loses his job as Finance Minister he could always try pulling pints at his local.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Fat chance Alex

If Calton were Alex Salmond he would not be quite so quick to rubbish the idea that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford current levels of welfare without raising taxes. On a recent visit to a hospital, Calton was shocked at the number of obese people he saw as he sat in the reception area, and that was just the staff. Add to that Scotland's drink problem, our failed methadone program, the number of people who still smoke plus an aging population and high unemployment and you don't need a maths degree to work out that a dwindling healthy workforce is paying for an increasing number of welfare claimants. The cost of caring for the elderly is soaring and the NHS is quite literally buckling under the weight of fat patients. If the SNP wants to keep its flagship policy of free personal care it will have to raise taxes sooner or later unless it can persuade the people of Scotland to adopt a more healthy lifestyle (fat chance). The First Minister's comments today may well come back to haunt him.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Catching up in the Far North

BT's £8m investment in faster broadband for the Highlands and Northern Isles will not only benefit local residents but will also be a welcome boost for businesses in those locations. It may even encourage businesses to relocate to areas which hitherto have been lacking in employment opportunities. Let's face it - there are very few businesses which don't use the internet in at least some capacity these days, even if it's only to file their tax return online, thus gaining a crucial extra few months in which to do it! Fast, reliable broadband is not a luxury - it is an essential which those of us in the Central Belt take for granted. It's good to see the Far North catching up.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Hiding behind the code

The ministerial code, which Alex Salmond is seeking to hide behind in not revealing whether or not the Scottish Government has taken legal advice on Scotland's position in the EU were she to become independent, does not forbid such a revelation - it simply says that prior consent has to be obtained from the Law Officers if the information is to be made public. Perhaps someone should submit a FOI request to find out if the First Minister has actually asked the Law Officers if he can reveal the information requested by MEP Catherine Stihler's original FOI request. Or perhaps we should all just pray that the Court of Session boots out the Scottish Government's appeal against the Information Commissioner's request pronto. Then Calton can get down to the much more interesting business of dissecting the legal advice (if any exists) to see what it really means for Scotland.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Jam tomorrow?

Why do we have to wait a year to find out what Scotland's position in the EU would be if we vote for independence? Promising us jam tomorrow in the form of a white paper next year seems to Calton to be just another way of fobbing us off and he doesn't trust Alex Salmond enough to simply accept what Eck says without seeing the evidence. Calton is also wondering why the SNP don't have the confidence to set their own course, outwith the EU, if they are so convinced we can go it alone. Becoming independent of both the UK and the EU would allow the SNP to give straightforward answers to questions about EU membership (no, non, nein) and our currency (the Groat) and would give them a lot more credibility than they have at present. If, in addition, they stop being so dictatorial, they might even persuade Calton to vote for them. All it needs is a bit of bottle Alex.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

No need to be rude

Calton is pleased to see that Nick Clegg has backed down from calling opponents of same-sex marriage 'bigots'. Such language is not only offensive to those with genuine and deeply held views but is unhelpful in maintaining a dignified debate on the subject. It would be good if Willie Rennie followed his leader's example in this and also refrained from using such inflammatory terms.

Well done Andy!

Calton would like to congratulate Andy Murray on his US Open victory last night. It was the first thing Calton heard on waking this morning and it brought a ray of sunshine into the eyrie before he'd even opened the curtains. Well done Andy!

Monday, 10 September 2012

A chill wind

It's all very well for Nicola Sturgeon to say that the people best placed to decide on issues such as Scotland's economy are the people who live and work in Scotland. Given the SNP's current track record of ignoring the people of Scotland when it comes to issues such as windfarms and same-sex marriage, why should we believe that they will listen to us on any other issue? The Deputy First Minister thinks 'it is right' that the people of Scotland should be in control of their own destiny. Is it not also 'right' that their elected politicians should listen to them? Conviction politics is all very well but, with each successive use of the phrase 'it is right' from the SNP, Calton feels the chill wind of the Scottish Autumn blowing.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The three monkeys

If anyone was in any doubt as to which party Pete Wishart belongs to, his performance in Brian's Big Debate earlier today in Aberfeldy, when he refused to answer questions on what independence would actually mean for Scotland, confirmed him as a fully paid-up member of the SNP. (That's the See No Problems with independence because we've got our hands firmly clamped over our eyes party). Fortunately the electorate are not so daft, or not in Aberfeldy at any rate.

Meanwhile, John Swinney emulated his dear leader by not-answering-the-question-by-going-on-the-attack in response to George Osborne's comments to the BBC on the effect of independence on the Scottish economy. Calton wonders just how cast-iron the SNP's position is that an independent Scotland will keep the pound - they seem to be back-tracking on some of their other policies at the moment, policies which seemed to pretty cast-iron a few months ago but are now full of rust.

Perhaps the SNP's new symbol should be the three monkeys with their hands over their ears, eyes and mouth - because they ain't listening, they can't see any problems with the way they are heading and they certainly aren't answering the questions the voters want answered.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The poor ones

Lest anyone should think that Calton is totally against benefits, after his rant on Monday, he would like to say that he is behind Save the Children's latest campaign to get more help for low-paid families. They are the ones who are really suffering at the moment as their income fails to keep up with inflation. It is truly shocking that children are going hungry in 21st century Britain and an indictment on our benefit system. We should be supporting those who are working rather than paying for the unemployed to stay in houses bigger than they need. Iain Duncan Smith's reforms are a step in the right direction however it will take more drastic action than has yet been proposed to reverse the benefit culture bequeathed to us by Labour. The best route out of poverty is work, not benefits.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Young Ones

Calton has just been given a copy of Fife Council's advice about benefit changes. In it, they have an example of two unemployed young men, aged 22 and 23, who each live alone in a 2-bedroom rented flat paid for by the taxpayer. When the benefit changes come into force next April their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% because their flats will be classed as 'under-occupied'. If Calton had his way their benefit would be slashed by 50% and they would be told to move in together. If they want to have a 2-bedroom flat all to themselves they should get a job and put up with anti-social flatmates until they have saved enough money to put down a deposit on a home of their own, helped by the Government's new scheme. That's what Calton and many of his peers did when they were in their early 20's. Why should this generation be any different? How did we end up in the situation where guys that age expect to be given flats for nothing? Thirty years ago you counted yourself lucky if you had a room of your own in a shared flat! This benefit nonsense has to stop.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

SNP - still not listening

Calton thinks that it is eminently reasonable for Moray Council to suspend planning applications for new windfarms while it consults with the electorate on the issue, however the Scottish Government thinks otherwise and has overruled the council's decision. Given that the consultation closes on 14th September, ie 2 weeks' time, the action of the Government seems wholly unnecessary and heavy-handed. Yet another demonstration of the SNP's determination to a) not listen to the people and b) cover the Highlands with windfarms.