Thursday, 28 February 2013

Get real, folks

Calton is in favour of reducing housing benefit for under-occupancy, for the reasons he outlined in an earlier post, and it is interesting that no-one seems to be mentioning examples of young single people in two bedroom flats in the recent media coverage of the 'bedroom tax'. He does, however, think that there needs to be exceptions for those with disabilities. He also thinks that social housing tenants should not be penalised if their local authority or housing association cannot provide them with a smaller home. As long as they are on the waiting list for a smaller house they should continue to get full housing benefit. Surely that would not be too difficult to administer? What is clear is that, for far too long, people on housing benefit have had carte blanche to stay in whatever size of house they like, in whatever area, all paid for by the state and the piggy bank is now empty. Welcome to the real world folks - Calton would love to have a bigger eyrie (with super-fast broadband) but, at Edinburgh prices, his funds won't stretch to it. Why should you be any different?

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Scotland's shame

It's not just India which has a problem with rape. A quick look at the BBC Scotland news headlines tonight reveals that a woman has been raped in Livingston while walking her dog, a 14-year old girl was raped and left so traumatised that it took her over a year to report it and a man has been jailed for raping a 15-year old girl. Such headlines are, sadly, not unusual these days. Perhaps the fact that the Rosslyn rapist was freed after only 6 years and 8 months of a 10-year jail term has something to do with it. Doubtless the residents of Bonnyrigg are happy that he is back behind bars after breaching the terms of his release. If Calton had had anything to do with it, he would never have been back on the streets so soon in the first place. His victim was left so battered that a passer-by thought she had been in a car crash and yet he only got 10 years? What sort of justice is that? Such lenient jail terms for such violent crime is Scotland's shame.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Calton said it first

Calton has been saying for quite some time now that, if an independent Scotland is to truly have control over its economic policy, it needs to have its own currency. Now, leading economist Professor John Kay has said much the same thing. He thinks that it would be right to try and retain the pound but the cost might be restrictions on our fiscal freedom. John Swinney has welcomed the Professor's contribution to the debate which leads Calton to wonder if he actually listened to/read it. So, for the benefit of Signalman Swinney, here it is in plain language - we won't be the ones pulling the fiscal levers if we keep the pound. It would therefore seem wise to have an alternative option if Sterling proves too tricky. It's called the Groat. (Anyone who expected Calton to say the Euro has (a) not been reading this blog and (b) deserves their eyes pecked out.)

Monday, 25 February 2013

One big no-no

The number of people employed in Scotland has just gone down, we have a huge youth unemployment issue, we have a lack of affordable homes and we are about to see a large number of people trying to downsize to avoid a housing benefit cut due to under-occupancy but the SNP is getting ready to welcome a potentially huge influx of Romanians and Bulgarians with open arms and they don't seem to have any contingency plans to cope if, as seems very likely, the numbers exceed even the most liberal estimate. If any further evidence was needed to prove that our Government is stark, staring mad, this is it. OK, so we can probably house them in all the larger council houses vacated by Scots who can't pay for them any more, but what about schools, medical practices, dentists etc, etc, etc? And what about all the Scots who find they can't get a job because they are all taken by Eastern Europeans? What are they supposed to do? This is not just a few skilled immigrants, which we need, or some temporary unskilled immigrants doing menial agricultural work which we don't want to do. We could be talking millions of people in the space of a few months and we have absolutely no control over it while we remain part of the EU. One very good reason to vote NO to independence and NO to the EU.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Scottish Tories get it

Labour won back control of Fife Council last year on a manifesto which, among other things, included a moratorium on all planning applications for land-based wind turbines pending a consultation. When they tried to fulfil their manifesto pledge, the Scottish Government blocked it. Yet more evidence, as far as Calton is concerned, that the SNP are not interested in the democratic will of the people. He therefore welcomes the new energy policy review paper produced by the Scottish Conservatives which majors on shifting control over energy policy away from central government and back to local communities. Their proposal to cut the current £350 million a year onshore wind farm subsidy is also welcome because it is manifestly unfair to expect people to subsidise this inefficient method of power generation from their pockets, particularly in a time of rising prices and fuel poverty. Nice to see that at least one of the major political parties has their head screwed on right and has seen through the windfarm scam.

PS. If you want to see a nice picture of Scotland's mountains sans windfarms, see @CaltonHillEagle on twitter.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Scotland's mountains - beautiful

There's probably lots that Calton could be commenting on but instead, he's taking advantage of this period of settled weather to visit his beloved mountains before Alex Salmond covers them in windfarms. Normal service will be resumed in a day or two. In the meantime, Calton may find the time for an occasional tweet. (And if someone can find a better name for 140 character posts by a mature Sea Eagle he will be very grateful because 'tweet' just doesn't sound right somehow.....)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

It wisnae the SNP - honest!

It could be said that there are excuses, damned excuses and the SNP's excuses. Sometimes Calton thinks that maybe we should all vote for independence, if only to deprive the SNP of excuses, since their usual strategy is to blame Westminster for everything. The latest example is the reduction in spending on infrastructure under the new NPD (non-profit distributing) programme, which is all the fault of budget cuts by the coalition government down south. (Calton also notes that, in true Orwellian fashion, spending has been 'reprofiled' rather than cut.) It looks like the SNP hoped to get away with this reprofiling exercise unnoticed, however that plan was scuppered by Tory MSP Gavin Brown, ably assisted by Labour's Richard Baker, who surely deserves to win quote of the week with this contribution to the debate: "We were told this new scheme [NPD] would be transformational from the old PFI/PPP schemes. Well, in some ways it has, because at least under the old scheme projects were being delivered." Ouch. Unfortunately, the SNP had enough of a majority to defeat Brown's motion expressing disappointment in the results of the NPD scheme so far. Double ouch.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Less hot air and more action!

When, oh when, are our Governments going to do something about rising energy bills? Calton highlighted the issue 3 months ago and we don't seem to be any further forward, with new warnings today from the Chief of Ofgem about price rises. Domestic energy bills are crippling many families and forcing them into debt. Yes, steps are being taken to insulate homes and make them more energy-efficient but we also need to keep prices down, and the lights on, by sensible planning for the future, which probably includes new nuclear. Westminster seems at least to understand that, unlike Alex Salmond. Unfortunately, both Governments have sat on their hands for far too long, given that you can't build a power station in a day. Time for less hot air and more action guys!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Quality, not quantity

If you pay peanuts you get monkeys and if you pay pennies you get horsemeat. A bit obvious really. In the old days, if people couldn't afford meat they ate vegetables or pulses and were a lot healthier as a result. Now, people expect to get a quality ready-cooked meat meal for a quid and want to eat meat every day. It's no use blaming the supermarkets - if people didn't buy it, they wouldn't stock it. They are only catering to our demand for cheap food and our expectation that meat should be a staple rather than a luxury. Similary, councils and NHS Trusts are going for the lowest price when it comes to catering and so, lo and behold, we now have horsemeat in school dinners. Calton is only surprised that they have found so little of it. If this current scandal causes us, as a nation, to re-examine our addiction to cheap, junk food, so much the better. Quality, not quantity, is what's needed.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A double-edged sword

Given that Pope Benedict XVI is an enthusiastic promoter of the 'new evangelism', by which the Roman Catholic Church aims to bring straying sheep back into its fold, and, given that one of the fattest of those sheep is the Church of England, the fact that David Cameron recently gave the Pope a copy of the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible is particularly apposite, as Archbishop Cranmer has already noted. Calton agrees with His Grace that Cameron probably didn't realise the significance of the gift but someone, somewhere obviously wanted to send a 'hands off our church' message to His Holiness (who seems to be described as 'that man of sin' if Calton reads the introduction to his copy of the AV aright). What is clear, is that the translators of the AV considered it of first importance that the people of Great Britain should have a translation of God's Holy Truth in their own language and they looked to King James VI & I to support and protect them in this endeavour. Now, Cameron is hell-bent on introducing legislation which will cause those who believe in all of God's Holy Truth, as expressed in the Bible, to be discriminated against and criminalised. He seems to have forgotten one of the other descriptions of God's Word - 'sharper than any double-edged sword'.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Try to keep up, Ed

It's a bit late for Ed Miliband to be thinking of bringing back the 10p tax rate. It was a real help to the low paid back in the days when the personal allowance was less than £5k, and Gordon Brown made a huge error of judgement in abolishing it, but now that the Coalition Government has raised the personal allowance to more than £9k next year it has been overtaken by events. Many more people in low paid jobs, particularly part-time workers, pay no tax now, compared to 2008, and middle-income earners also benefit from the higher tax threshold. Calton is all for reducing the tax burden on the poorly paid, especially given the huge gulf between those on minimum wage and high earners, but reintroducing the 10p rate, paid for by a mansion tax, is not the way to go. We should be taxing income, not assets, otherwise we penalise those who work hard all their lives and save for a decent house in a nice area. They were taxed while they were working - why tax them again when they retire just because they've got a nice home?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Scotland's mountains - majestic and terrible

Scotland's mountains are one of our greatest assets. They are majestic to look at from below and even more majestic from above. In spite of Alex Salmond's best efforts, there are still mountain tops where the only man-made thing in view is the summit cairn and the only sounds are of the birds. They provide skiing in the winter and an escape from our towns and cities all year round, but they are not safe. No doubt today's tragic accident will prompt more calls for action to be taken to stop people dying in the hills, including compulsory insurance, charges for rescue and, even, closing the mountains in bad weather! The real answer is to teach people, from a young age, how to recognise and assess risk and how to mitigate it. Accidents will still happen but the avoidable ones will be avoided. Unfortunately, a combination of risk-averse parents and litigation-wary schools means that many children do not learn the right skills for life in our inherently unsafe world. The result is, young people are dying not just in the mountains but on our roads, on our railways, in the countryside and in our streets. Our cotton-wool society is failing them - that is the real tragedy.

PS. Calton wishes to make it clear that this article is in no way a criticism of those who so recently have lost their lives in the Scottish mountains, or their families. He recognises that some accidents just can't be predicted or, sadly, avoided, and his thoughts and prayers are very much with the grieving friends and families at this time.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Don't mention the 's' word

What on earth is the problem with the word 'separate'? The SNP want Scotland to separate from the rest of the UK and become an independent country but they think that the 's' word is pejorative! Are they completely barking mad? Scotland is, and always has been, a separate nation from England. We just happen to have had the same monarchy for over 400 years and the same government for over 300 years. Calton is getting really fed up with the way people seem to think that they can redefine words just because it suits them. Presumably, the 's' word has too many associations with the 'd' word (divorce) for the SNP's liking. Well tough. Calton believes in calling a spade a spade and a separation a separation. Independence for Scotland will necessarily involve a messy divorce from the rUK and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is talking nonsense. The question is, do we really want to vote for independence only to be ruled by an Orwellian government which seeks to control our words and our thoughts? And, if we manage to divorce ourselves from the rUK, do we want a wedding on the rebound to the EU?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

An eggy story for Pancake Day

Egg theft is a heinous crime, but it has taken a new twist recently with the theft of around 60 dozen hens' eggs from a farm in Angus. Now, either the thieves don't realise that egg collectors are not interested in the eggs of the farmyard hen, or they have decided to replace their meat intake with eggs in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, or they are aiming for a place in the Guinness book of records for the largest omelette, or they are planning to stockpile their haul until the next election comes around, or they are holding an enormous pancake party tonight. Whatever the reason, if someone offers you half-a-dozen pre-scrambled eggs that have fallen off the back of a lorry, just say no. And if you happen to see any suspicious characters with egg on their faces, Tayside Police would like to hear from you.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Mackerel wars - our secret weapon

Is anyone else getting completely and utterly bored with the way the SNP respond to any opinion which differs from their own with scorn and insults? Calton is certainly getting bored blogging about it. Please would someone tell Ms Sturgeon that the definition of arrogance is dismissing your opponents as arrogant because you don't have a decent argument with which to reply to them. If the Icelandic fishing boats had as many holes in them as the argument for independence we wouldn't be having any mackerel wars. As it is, Richard Lochhead is still hoping that mediation will work instead of getting his claws out and going for the kill. Calton thinks we should send Nicola off to deal with the Icelanders and put Richard in charge of negotiating with Westminster. That way, whether or not we get independence, at least we'd get our fish back.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Orwell - a prophet for our time

Calton is wondering if it was purely coincidental that Radio 4 should choose to do a season on George Orwell precisely when Westminster was voting on redefining marriage. It has certainly been extremely apt. Hearing the new adaptation of 1984 on the radio this afternoon was chilling, all the more so because so many of Orwell's predictions have come true. We may not quite have the thought police but expressing an opinion on social media could well cost you your career or your freedom. If you dare to go against the current political consensus and vote against gay marriage in the Commons you get death threats. Anyone who disagrees with lesbian feminist Julie Bindel (and others like her) gets labelled a bigot. There is an atmosphere of fear and hate surrounding the current debate on marriage which prevents many people from speaking their mind. Some people in this country want to dictate what we think, by force if necessary. That's called totalitarianism and it's what Orwell fought against. It's high time those of us who value freedom of speech and thought followed his example.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Unassisted suicide

The Church of Scotland is doing a good job of committing suicide without any assistance as it tears itself apart over, first of all, gay ministers, and now, Margo MacDonald's resuscitated end-of-life bill. Calton has already made his views known concerning the latter. Is it too much to ask that the nation's church stands up and speaks with one voice for the weak and vulnerable, not to mention the 6th commandment? Who will take their place if they abdicate that responsibility? Yet again, the argument for assisted suicide seems to be based on feelings rather than rational thought. Margo has said that this is not a moral issue. Has the word 'moral' been redefined recently? Calton would not be surprised, given that our politicians have decided to redefine 'marriage'. Even the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary is not safe from their Orwellian tendencies.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Fish is good for you

Calton does not have any objection to eating horsemeat per se, however he does like to know the provenance of what he is eating. He doesn't want to be eating some old nag from Provence which expired of goodness knows what disease before it even got to the knacker's yard. That's the real problem with all this - not the type of animal but the condition it was in before it became lasagne. That and a small issue with the Trades Descriptions Act. Our farmers can trace an animal from birth to table - they are being badly let down by the actions of unscrupulous meat providers from other countries. If ever there was a time to buy British, from your local butcher, it's now. Or turn vegetarian. Calton is having a nice wee bit of salmon for his tea tomorrow night. Freshly caught. From a fish farm.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Tweeting is for the birds

Being of the opinion that tweeting was strictly for the youngsters, Calton has steadfastly avoided it but, having heard on the news tonight that an Eagle Owl in Inverness is tweeting, Calton has finally signed up, if only to find out what the European interloper is saying, or perhaps hooting would be a better word. (For those of you who are not familiar with birds of prey, an Eagle Owl is an owl and a Sea Eagle is an eagle. There is a big difference, not least in size. Not that Calton is crowing or anything.) It seems that the visitor to Inverness has not been very discriminate in its attacks - it has obviously not learned to recognise a politician yet. (Calton thinks that we would have heard by now if one of the victims had been the Red Squirrel of the North.) Better luck next time Owl.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

People power

At last - the European Parliament has woken up to the fact that people do not like seeing perfectly good fish being chucked back into the sea to feed the ... er ... fish. We'd rather be eating them ourselves. As ever, the devil of the deep blue sea is in the detail, and there is still the not insignificant hurdle of the totally undemocratic European Commission to be overcome, however hopefully it won't be long before all the fish caught by Scottish boats is landed by Scottish boats. That just leaves the small problem of the mackerel quotas. Time to send in the gunboats Richard!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dave in Wonderland

How on earth can an incredibly divisive bill possibly make our society stronger? David Cameron is definitely in Alice in Wonderland territory with this one, as the Honourable Member for Thanet North so aptly put it. Calton is wondering just what bottle the Prime Minister has been drinking from to give him such a distorted view of reality. He has been likened to a 'disco dad' in his attempts to appear liberal and has failed to convince many homosexuals that he really has their best interests at heart. He has also completely failed to take the majority of his party with him on the issue of gay marriage and so his hopes of rebranding his party are now in tatters. Just in time for the Eastleigh by-election. Nice one Dave.

Monday, 4 February 2013

A great opportunity

If marriage can be bad for your political career, divorce is far worse, as Chris Huhne has found to his cost. Speeding on the motorway has proved to be a fast-track to ignominy as the MP pled guilty today to a charge of perverting the course of justice. Now we have the interesting prospect of a by-election in a marginal seat with the coalition partners at each other's throats (no change there then) and the possibility of Nigel Farage sneaking past them both to become UKIP's first MP. What fun that would be! The Eastleigh voters will have the choice of EU Referendum (Cons), Stay in Europe (Libdem), Can't decide whether or not to have an EU Referendum (Lab) and Get out Now (UKIP). If they want to stay in the EU but don't want same-sex marriage they will be a bit stuck as UKIP is the only party which supports keeping marriage as it is. Still - it's a great opportunity to tell the Government what they think on both topics. Calton is positively green with envy.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Warning - marriage can be bad for your career

If, as Culture Secretary Maria Miller says, the Conservatives think marriage is a good thing, they should be getting on with their manifesto promise to introduce tax breaks for married couples, not trying to destroy the very concept of marriage by stretching the definition to include relationships it was never meant to cover. Marriage is, by its very nature, not inclusive - it is the exclusive life-long relationship between a man and a woman who have promised to have and to hold until death parts them. That is not to say that other sorts of loving or committed relationships are not possible - they are just not marriages. Rumour has it that David Cameron's wife is pushing her husband to bring in same-sex marriage legislation. If so, she may well be seeing a lot more of him after 2015 and he might have the distinction of being one of the few politicians whose career was ended by his marriage, rather than the other way about.