Monday, 31 December 2012

Lang may their lum reek!

Calton would like to congratulate the residents of Tweedsmuir who have managed, in the nick of time, to raise enough money to buy the Crook Inn. It's a while since Calton has been down that way, however he has fond memories of sitting in the bar at the back, by the log fire, with a pint of Guinness and a steak pie or sitting in the art deco lounge at the front, by the log fire, with a pot of tea and a jam scone. It would be good if the place could open again, serving the same old-fashioned Scots fare - a great meeting place for locals and travellers alike, with its strategic location right on the A701 Moffat road. Calton would like to raise a glass to the Crook Inn locals this Hogmanay - lang may yer lum reek!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The devil is in the detail

If Nicola Sturgeon is serious about wanting the people of Scotland to make an "informed choice" about independence she should get her head down and make sure that the Scottish Government's much-vaunted white paper addresses all the questions raised in CBI Scotland's issues paper on independence, with supporting evidence. Then, and only then, we might get a positive debate on the subject rather than a load of old assertions. At the moment, Calton has to agree with Alistair Darling when he says that the Nationalists have "not thought through their answers to the really big questions". Calton doesn't think they have thought through their answers to the small and medium sized questions either. And we all know that the devil is in the detail.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Optimism triumphs over experience

Calton thoroughly agrees with David Watt of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, who has said in his New Year Message that Scottish politicians are spending too much time on unnecessary legislation and debating independence instead of focusing on economic growth. Calton would include legislation on gay marriage in the category of 'unneccessary' given that civil partnerships already give homosexual couples all the legal rights of married couples. Instead, the Scottish Government have embarked on a second public consultation on the implementation of gay marriage, at a cost of goodness knows how much, when it wasn't in the SNP's manifesto and, quite frankly, the state of our economy is far more important at this moment in time. Businesses are struggling with the uncertainty produced by the prospect of independence and yet the SNP's response is to tell them to wait until November 2013 for answers to their many questions. CBI Scotland have produced an excellent paper listing all the issues which need to be considered if Scotland is to become independent, including the cost of setting up our own regulators for things like pensions, telecoms and energy and the cost in jobs of closing down Faslane, and they are hopeful that the Scottish Government's white paper will "address these questions in full and provide the necessary supporting evidence". Sounds like a triumph of optimism over experience to Calton.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Heartwarming and earwarming

It is heartwarming to hear that Stonehaven has been inundated with offers of help, gifts and furniture after the floods earlier this week. Donations can still be handed in to Stonehaven Town Hall. On the other side of the country, the A890 has reopened after the Christmas Day landslip, which is good news for the people of Lochcarron. In other good news, Harris tweed production topped 1 million metres of cloth in 2012, reversing the decline of previous years. Calton is not surprised - he quite fancies a tweed jacket himself and a deerstalker hat to go with it, especially now that Messrs Smith and Cumberbatch have gone some way to removing the old man image of such items. Calton may not be in the first flush of youth but he doesn't want to look old before his time!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Happy Boxing Day!

Calton now has a new woolly hat - a red one - from Santa and has found that there is at least one church still resisting the trend to update the words of old carols and so two of Calton's Christmas wishes have been granted. Unfortunately a third is under threat from an influential section of the American public who think that the answer to the USA's gun problem is more guns. Doh!

Calton's Boxing Day sympathies lie with the residents of Lochcarron, who, once again, find themselves cut off from Plockton and Kyle due to another landslide. Yet another reminder that the best engineering of man is still vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. It's time a long-term solution is found to the problems of this road.

Finally, Calton is glad to see that we haven't yet reached the same stage as Santa Monica, where public nativity scenes have been banned, and so the nativity scene in Dalmally phone box can be enjoyed, not just by the residents of the Argyllshire town and their visitors, but by people worldwide thanks to the Dalmally Phonebox facebook page. Happy Boxing Day!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

It's raining again!

Calton didn't realise that Richard 'Wellington' Benyon is also the Floods Minister - now there's a man whose wellies are full to overflowing. Meanwhile, it has started raining again in the NE of Scotland which is not good news for the residents of Stonehaven. Calton has decided to add another item to his Christmas wish list - for the rain to stop! He is also hoping even more that item 4 on the list is fulfilled, after the senseless shooting of two firemen today in New York. Yet more grieving families on what should be a happy, family day. Calton's thoughts and prayers are with them.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Christmas Carol

Glory be, one of Calton's Christmas wishes has been fulfilled already! He has winged his way to the Granite City and was fortunate enough to attend a lovely carol service at Gilcomston South this evening where he was able to sing many of his favourite carols and the words had not been modernised! The age of miracles has not ceased. He is now sitting in front of a log fire, full of mince pies, trying to resist the temptation to squeeze the parcels under the Christmas tree to see if he's also going to get a woolly hat. He hasn't, however, forgotten the plight of those who have been flooded out of their homes recently, particularly in nearby Stonehaven. Thankfully the rain has stopped for the moment and Calton hopes that it will not be long before they are back in their homes.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Great expectations

It's obviously good news that Statoil are to invest £billions in the Mariner North Sea oil field with hundreds of new jobs. Looks like the black gold will keep flowing a while yet, contrary to what Calton said a couple of days ago. The contradictory news stories of the past week do, however, demonstrate the unwisdom of relying on oil to gain us entry into the EU and support things like free tuition and free personal care for the elderly. It's just too volatile, not unlike another energy source currently popular with the Scottish Government, namely wind. Is Calton just being mischievous in seeing a link between slippery Salmond with his hot air and the forms of energy he and his party favour? Perhaps. Anyway you can't beat a roaring log fire at this time of year and Calton already has his stocking hanging up by the mantelpiece!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Calton's Christmas wish list

Here are the things Calton would like for Christmas, in no particular order:
1. A definitive answer on the position of an independent Scotland vis a vis the EU.
2. A moratorium on the building of windfarms on Scotland's mountains so that he can visit his relatives over the festive season without risk of being clattered on the back of the head by a turbine blade.
3. People to stop updating the words of the lovely old Christmas carols Calton has known since he was just out of the egg.
4. The US to enact some sort of gun control so that at least some good can come out of the terrible evil of Sandy Hook.
5. A woolly hat - because you can never have too many of them and asking for one will ensure that Calton gets at least one item from his wishlist!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Benyon wellies in to the EU

First the good news - no cut to the number of days Scottish fishing boats can put to sea next year, thanks to Richard 'Wellington' Benyon, UK Fisheries Minister. There's still a possibility of a cut in the cod quota, which would lead to more shameful discards, depending on talks with Norway, however there is now more optimism that a sensible outcome will be achieved in January. Here's hoping.

Now the bad news - Scottish oil revenue forecasts have halved in the last eighteen months. The black gold is in danger of running out, which would deal a hammer blow to the SNP's plans for Scotland to be an independent socialist utopia within Europe. First of all, the EU might not want us if we don't have as much oil as we thought we did. Secondly, the SNP's spending plans will send us into big deficit country without big oil revenues and, thirdly, their idea of stashing away some of the oil money into a fund, although very sensible, will exacerbate the deficit problem unless accompanied by a reduction in spending, something the left-leaning SNP are reluctant to do. Of course the SNP have reacted by disputing the figures. Well they would, wouldn't they!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Butt out Barack

So the US wants us to stay in the EU. So what? As UKIP's foreign affairs spokesman William Dartmouth MEP says  "It is not the job of the UK to make the work of US diplomats easier. It is our job to secure our own interests." Quite. Calton couldn't have put it better himself. There is no reason why leaving the EU should weaken the UK and there is no prospect of the EU becoming strong in the near future either with or without the UK. Quite the reverse. The Eurozone is not out of the woods yet by a long chalk. So the next time David Cameron has a cosy little chat with Barack Obama he should tell the President of the US to go sort out his gun laws and leave us to sort out our relationship with the EU.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Truly chilling

Calton has no idea what sort of Christian ethic council candidate Geoffrey Clark is going to promote given that Clark's views on compulsory abortion of disabled babies and euthanasia of over-80s run completely contrary to the teachings of Christ as Calton understands them. UKIP are quite right to suspend him from the party. If he wants to stimulate discussion of where NHS money is spent he would be better starting with the fact that much of it goes on treating the effects of alcohol, tobacco and obesity, not on Down's Syndrome people. His views remind Calton of the Nazi Party's extermination of mentally disabled people in the 1930s, carried out for the same reason - saving money. It is truly chilling to see them reappear in 21st century British politics.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Wanted - a Wellington

Nice to see Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon taking the side of our fishermen against further EU cuts in the cod quota. A cut of 25% in the number of days they can put to sea would be a disaster. Although stocks are not rising quite as fast as some would like, there is no need for continued action of such a drastic nature. Unfortunately, Benyon not only has the European Commission to deal with but also the European Parliament. This may yet turn out to be his Waterloo. Calton hopes he has a Wellington moment, for the sake of those who earn their living in wellies.

Continuing the sea theme, it would be good if, in all the recent talk of Scotland's oil riches, we take time to remember the cost paid by the North Sea safety boat crew member who died in the storm last week, and others like him, along with their families and friends. In a week which has seen the worst storm in living memory batter Scotland's east coast, Calton is reminded of words from another century by William Whiting:

"Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave.
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea."

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The penny is dropping

Nice to see that the penny has finally dropped regarding Scotland's currency post-independence in quarters other than Calton's eyrie. Sadly, Bute House is not one of them. Our First Minister still clings to the idea that we can keep Sterling if independent and share the Bank of England with England. One would have thought that the name of the bank would give Alex a clue as to where its loyalties lie but no, in his hubris he thinks he will be able to tell it what to do. What utter nonsense. Yet another SNP policy built on the shifting sands of assertion rather than the rock of reality.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The poverty trap

Calton is not convinced that poverty is the cause of poorer health. Rather, poverty and poor health are both symptoms of a deeper malaise - low self-esteem and hopelessness. If you don't have any self-esteem you will find it very hard to get a job and work your way out of poverty. Ditto if you feel hopeless and you believe that there are no opportunities. It's easier in those circumstances to rely on the state for handouts and drink/drugs/food to dull the pain of a miserable life. If we really want to lift people out of a life of poverty and ill-health we need to give them something to hope for and something to work for. An incentive to better themselves. The message that they have a choice, that it doesn't have to be this way. That hard work and effort pay. Somehow that message has got lost in this country, unlike the USA. Our welfare system has turned people into benefit dependent victims totally lacking in initiative instead of giving them a leg-up. The last Labour Government created a false economy where businesses didn't need to pay a decent wage because the government topped it up with working tax credit. Now we are in a situation where many workers are not paid anything like a living wage and so, for many, work doesn't pay. That has to change. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to repair the damage of the Labour years.

Friday, 14 December 2012

SNP assertion on EU membership proved false

SNP MEP Alyn Smith was just plain wrong when he said there is "nobody wanting us to leave" [the EU] "not least in Scotland" in Brian's Big Debate today, because Calton wants us to leave the EU and he is resident in Scotland. Yet another meaningless SNP assertion. Have they actually asked any of the 27 member states whether or not they want an independent Scotland to stay in the EU? Do they really think that continued access to Scotland's fish will be enough to outweigh the Spanish Government's concerns over Catalan and Basque separatism? If the rest of the EU decide that they do want us it will only be because they recognise a good deal when they see one and we will be the losers. It seems that both the First Minister and his Deputy are so keen to remain part of the EU that they will gladly trade anything in exchange for continued membership. How pathetic is that? They'd rather beggar this country than change their policy on Europe. Calton calls that sad.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A year in posts

Today is the 1st anniversary of this blog. It has been quite an eventful year, with issues such as independence, the state of the EU and same-sex marriage dominating the political headlines. All of these issues and more have been covered by Calton over the course of the last 12 months and it is interesting to see which posts have attracted the most attention. By far and away the most popular in terms of hits has been It's raining, for reasons which remain inexplicable to Calton. Aye right Willie! has also been popular, which is more than can be said for the Libdems generally. Posts on the Biased Broadcasting Corporation got a lot of hits with the latest post being picked up by other BBC-monitoring websites, showing that Calton is not alone in his concerns about Auntie.

One of Calton's favourite blogs is Archbishop Cranmer and Calton's post in support of His Grace proved popular, dealing, as it did, with issues of free speech and the threats thereto. As a blogger, free speech is something very dear to Calton's heart because, without it, this blog would cease to exist. Doubtless some SNP supporters would think that a good thing. Calton did not set out to write an anti-SNP blog, however the heads of Scotland's current ruling party have got so inflated recently that it is hard to resist the temptation to stick a talon in and pop them. It is also impossible to let their deluded assertions go unchallenged because the stakes are too high.

Last, but not least, on the year's roundup, posts on the Farepak scandal received a fair number of hits, showing that it is still a live issue 6 years later, more's the pity. If you have a burning issue you'd like to see covered, feel free to email Calton (his address can be found under 'profile') and he will give it his consideration. Comments on posts are always welcome, provided they are civil. (Cybernats take note.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why bother?

Calton really doesn't know why the Scottish Government are bothering to have another consultation on same-sex marriage when they didn't listen to the last one. They clearly are not interested in what the ordinary man or woman on the street thinks. What is particularly worrying about all this is that we now have a ruling class of politicians who all agree, by and large, on what is 'right' and who think that they know better than the electorate who put them there. It's not just autumn here in Scotland - we are now in the iron grip of winter, both literally and figuratively, and all those who do not agree with same-sex marriage are going to be left to freeze out in the cold. Does Alex Salmond really expect us to believe that all the reassurances he is currently talking about will make it into the final bill, or remain part of the legislation over time, when we were assured not so long ago that Civil Partnerships would not lead to homosexual marriage? Calton, for one, is anything but reassured. How long before he is hounded for holding the traditional view of marriage, namely, one man and one woman for life, as His Grace has been?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Lords v Scoundrels 1-0

You've got to love the House of Lords. Faced with John Swinney's ridiculous assertions about Scotland's membership of the EU post-independence, Lord Lipsey says Swinney's position is "bizarre" and the Scottish Government is "retreating into implausible references ... the last refuge of a scoundrel". Wonderful. Why anyone would want to do away with the Upper Chamber when they come out with stuff like this is beyond Calton. They may give the impression of being half asleep but there are definitely no flies on them. Would that we had someone like Lord Lipsey in the Scottish Parliament when Nicola Sturgeon makes a statement to MSPs on Thursday afternoon about an independent Scotland's membership of the EU.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Barking at the EU

What part of "any new independent country would have to apply to join the EU" does Nicola Sturgeon not understand? Has she too been deluded into thinking that all she needs to do is keep re-iterating her false beliefs and they will happen? The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has made it quite clear that we would have to negotiate entry into the EU from outside if we became independent. The SNP make not like it and they may not agree with it but they are kidding themselves on if they think that they can go to the European Commission and say "you're wrong - we're right". Yes we've got (dwindling) oil reserves. Yes we've got (dwindling) fish stocks. But let's not fool ourselves that the EU will welcome us with open arms, and, if it does, do we really want to trade our oil and fish for membership of an undemocratic fiscal basket-case? Seriously? If Scotland is such a great export market for other EU countries we can surely negotiate good trading terms with those countries from a position outwith the EU, while protecting assets such as our fish. That would be the really sensible option. Unfortunately the Deputy First Minister seems to have completely taken leave of her senses. Absolutely barking.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Reaping the whirlwind

Calton finds it hard to have any sympathy for Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. They sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind. The best counsel they could be given is to make a profound and unreserved apology for their prank and to go and find jobs out of the media where they will not be tempted to increase their personal profiles by humiliating hard-working hospital staff. If it didn't have so much potential to become a publicity stunt, Calton would suggest the pair become hospital cleaners. Underpaid, unappreciated and faceless, cleaners wage war against hospital acquired infections every day. A far more important job than radio DJ in Calton's book.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Think again

Calton extends his deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Jacintha Saldanha. He also sincerely hopes that, in future, when a radio DJ decides to pick up the phone and play a prank, they think again. It's not funny. As Chuka Umunna said on Any Questions? tonight, it was "stupid and foolish" and "extremely distasteful". It was also unkind, both to the hospital staff and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who found themselves this week in the unfortunate position of having to go public with details of her pregnancy much earlier than most people would have wished in similar circumstances. The pair responsible for the hoax call said they were "very sorry if we've caused any issues". That 'if' has become a definite. It would be good if the suspension of the two from their show becomes indefinite.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thankyou Danny

Two days in a row! This has to be something of a record when it comes to politicians listening! No sooner had Calton asked if Danny Alexander was listening than the announcement came that the red-haired one is looking to see if the fuel discount currently being applied to the islands can be extended to some parts of the mainland, in particular, the North West Highlands. The only fly in the ointment is that implementation is still dependent on agreement by the European Commission. Which makes Calton wonder, once again, why the SNP are so keen for us to remain part of the EU if we vote for independence. They are making a lot of big assumptions, not least that, under the Edinburgh Agreement, the UK Government would support the process of re-negotiating an independent Scotland's position within the EU because it is in the best interests of the people of Scotland! This smacks all too much of Oprah Winfrey-style 'if you speak positively, it will happen' nonsense rather than dealing with the actual reality, namely, that we'll only get to stay in the EU club if the other members want us to. It's certainly not going to happen just because John Swinney says so.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Thankyou George

At last! A politician who listens! Calton is really pleased to hear that George has decided to give us a break by scrapping the planned 3p increase in fuel duty. For many small businesses diesel is the main cost and so keeping the price down is crucial if we want them to survive and grow. The high cost of fuel is also hitting rural areas very hard, indeed, some parts of Scotland are turning into a petrol desert with the closure of filling stations.  There has to be a better way of subsidising petrol and diesel prices in rural areas - are you listening Danny?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Plan B

There's nothing like having a Plan B just in case Plan A doesn't work and, for the Scottish Government, that is Hunterston B. "No more nuclear" (but we're happy to see the life of the existing ones extended just in case our ambitious renewables target isn't met and the lights start going out). Well at least they are being pragmatic, which is more than can be said for Partrick Harvie. Thank goodness he and his Greens are not in power because, if they were, none of us would have any power. They must be heating themselves by their own hot air because they don't seem to have noticed that the temperature outside has dropped and so has the wind, as it quite often does during frosty spells. It's at times like these that Calton is glad of his gas central heating (with a super-efficient condensing boiler), double glazing and a foot of loft insulation. Figures out today show that families are spending more per week than this time last year, partly due to rising fuel bills, and the fuel bills are rising to pay for the windmills we see standing motionless on cold, sunny days. Even the combined hot air from Holyrood and Westminster would not be enough to set the blades turning and keep our homes warm at the moment. What we need is coal!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Escape from Amazon

Allan Lyall, Vice President of European Operations, Amazon, has obviously been to the same school of question avoidance as Alex Salmond, judging by his performance on today's Business Scotland program. When asked about the recent criticism over Amazon's failure to pay corporation tax in the UK, Lyall sidestepped the issue, saying that he was "very, very busy" ensuring that customers got their parcels on time and was not the right person to ask about tax. (Amazon had £7bn sales in the UK between 2009 and 2011 but only paid £2.3m corporation tax.) Lyall also talked about locating their new 'fulfillment centre' in Dunfermline because of the people, rather than the £10m government grant they were given, however Calton has heard that Eastern European languages are as common as English on the warehouse floor over in Fife, making him wonder just how many locals have benefited from the behemoth on their doorstep. Mind you, if fellow blogger Middleschmiddle overheard right, they've maybe had a lucky escape.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The real threat to free speech

Calton finds it very hard to take David Cameron seriously when he talks about being "wary of legislation that has potential to infringe free speech and a free press" in the wake of the publication of the Leveson Report. The reason? Because, at the same time as the Prime Minister is refusing to legislate the press, he is going full steam ahead with legislation on same-sex marriage which will undoubtedly be a far bigger threat to free speech, if enacted, than anything recommended by Leveson. No wonder Conservatives are deserting to UKIP in their droves. Meanwhile, the party which most espouses same-sex marriage and EU membership was soundly thrashed in the recent by-elections and replaced by a party which supports keeping marriage heterosexual and leaving the EU. In other words, the politically-correct Libdems were cuffed by the straight-talking, gloriously politically-incorrect UKIP because, basically, the electorate do not like being told what to think. In that sense, Cameron has judged the public mood better than Clegg when it comes to responding to Leveson. We all deplore the excesses of the press but do we want it controlled by politicians? Calton thinks not.