Friday, 31 May 2013

The game's a bogey

At last we seem to be getting somewhere with a sensible fisheries policy which will hopefully end the shameful practice of discards and help small boats. About time too, although it still has to get through a vote in the European Parliament. Groan. Calton is just surprised that Richard Lochhead is still a fan of the EU given the hassle he's had over this. When is the penny going to drop amongst the SNP that, if we were not in the EU, we wouldn't have the hassle? It's called 'independence' folks - if you've the bottle for it. Forget William Hague's idea of a red card - Calton thinks we should grab the ball and walk off the pitch. There are times when the game's just not worth the candle.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Some things are irreplaceable

Does anyone seriously believe the Scottish Government when it says that “We are committed to protecting wild land in Scotland"? Seriously? When every trip up north which Calton makes reveals yet more turbines dotting our hillsides, not to mention the construction site that is the Beauly-Denny power line? There is almost as much windfarm capacity in the planning pipeline as we have already built and almost four times as much is in the process of being scoped at the moment. If all is approved, we will go from the 4.4GW currently installed to nearly 30GW. How many more turbines will that be? More to the point, where will they be situated? Current proposals drawn up by SNH designate pockets of protected wild land but many truly wild areas have been left out and windfarms will be visible from many of the protected areas because the pockets are so small in size. It is a patchwork approach designed to satisfy the SNP's energy policy, not protect Scotland's scenery and related tourism industry. It's time the Scottish Government called a halt to large-scale windfarm development in Scotland's wild areas and looked instead at unobtrusive schemes such as the underground hydro generator at Inverlael near Ullapool. Because if we trash our countryside, we won't get it back.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Another step towards the Scottish Autumn

It's not surprising that the Scottish Government are bringing forward a bill on same-sex marriage before the results of their consultation on it have been published. These government consultations are looking increasingly like irrelevant nods to public opinion by a party which has no intention of listening to the electorate. All Alex Salmond's promises about protecting the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with gay marriage are only so much hot air - the only ones who will be protected, it seems, are ministers or denominations who do not want to conduct the ceremonies. There does not seem to be any protection for teachers, registrars, foster carers and would-be adopters, social workers, marriage guidance counsellors and so on and so on. If the bill is passed, it will be a huge step backwards for freedom of conscience in Scotland and a big step towards the Scottish Autumn. The fact that the SNP are trying to introduce it before the independence referendum shows some desperation on their part - they have presumably come under intense pressure from the gay lobby to do so. Not content with sowing division in Scotland with their nationalist policies, the SNP are now set to tear the nation apart over gay marriage. Their legacy is already apparent; their fate will not be long in coming.

Monday, 27 May 2013

It's willpower we lack, not legislation

Do we really need new legislation to deal with people who advocate beheadings and other such things? Surely we already have the wherewithal to act, given all the recent 'hate' crimes created by our parliaments. The problem is not lack of power - it is lack of willpower to tackle those who are promoting violence, especially, it seems, if they are Muslim. There is also an unwillingness amongst the political elite to accept that not all immigrants to this country want to become good little British citizens. Some of them despise us as morally decadent and see us as responsible for waging war on Muslims in other countries (with some justification). They don't want to become like us - they want to make us like them, by force if necessary. They use our freedom of speech for their own ends while seeing us as weak for allowing it. They have no respect for British traditions and customs - all that matters is that their violent version of Islam is implemented in this country. We have now seen the tragic consequences of our laissez-faire approach. Calton does not want to see free speech controlled but those who abuse it to promote acts of violence should feel the full force of the law of this country. Then we might all be able to feel more secure, including the moderate Muslims who have been targeted in the backlash from Drummer Rigby's murder.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Lost for words

Calton cannot summon up any enthusiasm for blogging about Scottish politics in the wake of the Woolwich murder. He is still trying to comprehend the awful truth that a British soldier has been hacked to death on the streets of London. It is truly horrendous. His deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and colleagues of Drummer Rigby.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Banking on banking reform is not a good idea

Oh dear, here we go again. The Scottish Government has now received legal advice on Scotland's position regarding the EU if we become independent, but they won't tell us what it is. Given that their position has moved from 'automatic EU membership' to 'negotiated membership' post-independence, can we really trust what they say in their forthcoming White Paper without seeing the advice which is behind it? And can we really trust the SNP with our savings when Nicola Sturgeon seems to be banking on global reform of the banking sector to prevent a repeat of 2008? What about pension protection? Does Scotland have enough solvent company pension schemes to pay in to our own protection scheme so that members of collapsed pension schemes are compensated? Calton thinks not. As far as pensions go, there is definitely strength in numbers. A lot of questions like this are going to surface over the next 16 months and the Yes campaign are going to have to come up with better answers than they have done to date if they want to have any hope of convincing the likes of Calton that Scotland should go it alone.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Not so expert independence experts

Nicola Sturgeon has rolled out Hollywood film producer Iain Smith, award-winning chef Roy Brett and events expert Prof Joe Goldblatt to back her argument that Scotland would be better off independent. Unfortunately, Brett seems to be confused between Westminster, which is in charge of VAT, and the EU, which determines our fishing policy. Under the SNP's plans, an independent Scotland would only be able to control the former - the fishing policy would still be out of our hands. Maybe he should stick to cooking. Calton also has his doubts about Goldblatt, who thinks that an independent Scotland would "become one of the most successful tourism destinations in the world". Not once the SNP have covered it with windfarms it won't. It will also not be so attractive to film companies for location shoots once the landscape has been industrialised on a grand scale (unless the next Bond film has a helicopter chase though a windfarm as its opener). Scotland does have a lot of assets and a lot of great businesses. We are being hampered by Westminster's restrictive immigration policies, brought in because they have no control over immigration from within the EU. The answer is not "independence within Europe" but for the Scottish Government to work with Westminster to help businesses by reducing red tape (much of it from the EU), and to agree an immigration policy which takes account of Scotland's needs. Unfortunately there is not much sign of that happening between now and next September.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Haste ye back Nigel!

Calton thought for a minute that Alex Salmond was talking about himself when he was recorded as saying "This is a man who doesn't like getting challenged because, when the obnoxious views of his party are put to him, his bubble deflates very quickly." but then Calton realised that our First Minister never deflates so he must have been talking about Nigel Farage, thereby earning this blog's Black Pot of the Month award. The way Farage has been treated in Scotland, not just by the demonstrators yesterday but also by the presenter of Good Morning Scotland this morning and by the SNP leader who dismissed him by saying "people shouldn't take someone of Mr Farage's mentality seriously", is nothing short of shameful. It casts all Scots in a bad light and exposes the nasty underbelly of Scottish Nationalism. Farage is quite right to call it fascism. As someone on twitter so aptly put it:
Calton does not agree with all Farage's views but you've got to like someone who continues to speak his mind in the face of those who try to bully and intimidate us into silence. Haste ye back Nigel!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Farage and Amazon

So, let's see if Calton has this right - Amazon were given £2.5m by the Scottish Government to expand their operations in Dunfermline and Gourock and, in return, the company has paid £2.4m tax. That does not sound like a very good deal. OK, so they have created some jobs, of which quite a few have gone to Eastern Europeans. The arrangement seems to be that Alex Salmond, that well-known supporter of the EU, says that we need more immigrants to fill the jobs which his government is paying companies like Amazon to create. Here's Calton's idea - we leave the EU, stop paying companies based in Luxembourg large sums of money to provide jobs for non-UK nationals and use the money to improve the employability of our young people instead. If Amazon don't like it, they can take their low-paid jobs somewhere else. If we didn't have an open door to any EU national who wants to come and work here, we wouldn't need them. (Calton realises that he risks being mobbed a la Farage next time he visits the Canons' Gait for daring to air such views but, tant pis, someone needs to say it.) The bottom line is this - subsidising industry to locate here doesn't work in the long term. Improving the skills of our workforce does.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

So predictable - unlike the Donside by-election

Is it any surprise that there is growing support for the idea that we should leave the EU when the European Council, backed by the European Parliament, has just agreed the European Commission's request for an extra £6.2bn to be added to the budget, in spite of Cameron talking tough a few weeks ago. Calton doesn't like to say "I told you so" but ... it was entirely predictable that this would happen, and it completely knocks the legs out from under the Prime Minister's idea that he can renegotiate our position within the EU. We just don't have that much clout. However, it is good to see that one of the three main parties (four in Scotland) is now willing to give the British people a say regarding our continued membership of the EU. Labour and the Libdems are going to look increasingly out of touch with the electorate if they continue to refuse to back an in-out referendum on the EU, especially if, as seems likely, UKIP continue to make gains in elections. The Aberdeen Donside by-election will be an interesting indicator of UKIP's support in Scotland, with the announcement of Otto Inglis as their candidate. (Inglis previously contested Dunfermline and West Fife in the last Westminster election.) Calton awaits the outcome, which is anything but predictable, with interest. (And perhaps, given UKIP's recent share of the vote down south, he should be talking of four main parties, five in Scotland?)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Shake 'em up, Nigel

If taxes are not going to rise to pay for the SNP's welfare proposals, where's the money going to come from? Oil? And when the black gold runs out? Borrow like there's no tomorrow? (Oops - wrong party. Calton is getting confused with Gordon Brown. Mind you, apart from the unionist/nationalist thing there's not much to choose between the SNP and Labour since both are socialist, Europhile, big spenders.) Calton isn't sure that either campaign did themselves any favours today - while Sturgeon dug herself into an ever-deeper hole with her 'natural majority' and 'no rise in taxes', the Great Broon's reappearance on the political stage is hardly an encouragement to vote No if it means going back to the spend, spend, spend of the Labour years. It would be Hobson's choice for Scots, saddled with high spending and the EU whichever way they vote, if today's speakers were the whole story. Fortunately, there has been a sea-change down in England over the EU which might just cause some ripples up here, giving the voters more choice. Anything that shakes up the current stale old slagging match between Labour and the SNP has to be a good thing, in Calton's book.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Jam tomorrow - naturally

Recent polls have shown a drop in support for the Yes campaign so what does Nicola Sturgeon do? Invents a new phrase - "natural majority". She defines this as the number of people who will vote for independence if the SNP can persuade them that it opens the door to a wealthier and fairer country. Now, leaving aside the fact that the results of SNP's own poll show that 43% of those polled would still vote No even if persuaded that an independent Scotland would be wealthier and fairer, the little 'if' in Sturgeon's definiton of 'natural' is a big one. A very big one. Not one that will go away just by making assertions. If the Yes Campaign are to have any chance of winning a majority, natural or otherwise, they need to prove some hard facts, like exactly how much oil we are going to have and what it is going to be worth. They need to tell us how we are going to be a fairer country and what exactly that will mean in terms of taxes. Better childcare provision and better care for the elderly costs money. We need to know where that money will come from in an independent Scotland. It's all very well the SNP promising jam tomorrow if we vote Yes but it is now becoming obvious that the council tax freeze introduced by the Scottish Government is resulting in visible cutbacks in services and, in the NHS, waiting times in A&E have increased dramatically. The SNP's attempts to buy votes are starting to unravel so why should we believe them when they say that an independent Scotland will be wealthier and fairer? Hopefully the majority of Scots will be canny enough to realise that you don't get something for nothing.

Friday, 10 May 2013

No sympathy for old men

Unlike Barbara Hewson, Calton has no sympathy at all for old men whose "misdemeanors" are finally catching up with them. Why should they get let off the hook just because it happened a long time ago? If there's one thing we have learned from the sorry saga of child abuse, both personal and institutional, that has filled our news in the last few years, is that it often takes years to come to light. Imposing a statute of limitations on this type of crime would be extremely unjust. We also need to remember that there is often a progression of abuse, starting with milder forms of inappropriate behaviour, which paedophiles use to gauge whether or not the victim is likely to complain if the abuse intensifies, and so even what Hewson classes as "low-level misdemeanors" need to be taken seriously. The type of behaviour which Hewson categorises as low-level could still be traumatic for a vulnerable young person. As for lowering the age of consent to 13, Calton is glad to see that this has been almost universally, and quite rightly, criticised.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Tories trump Salmond on crime

Calton is getting fair scunnered with the way Alex Salmond keeps blaming other parties instead of answering the question and taking positive action at FMQs. Today he was blaming the Conservative Government of 1993. Who cares who did what twenty years ago? What we want, and what Ruth Davidson was asking for, is action to stop dangerous criminals being released from prison. Politicians may, rightly, not be able to influence parole board decisions but they can, and should, introduce whole life tariffs in Scotland and end automatic early release which makes a mockery of serious crime sentencing. Calton has commented on this issue not long ago - it would be good if the Scottish Government took the concerns of himself and others seriously instead of using the situation to try and score points off the Conservative leader at FMQs. Safe streets are important and so it was the Tories who came up trumps in today's FMQs. They are also doing a good job highlighting the fact that a third of people prosecuted for domestic abuse are let off with a warning. So much for zero tolerance. It's time the SNP got tough on crime.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Endangered species of the political kind

At time of writing, the Times vote on whether we should be in or out of the EU was 56% OUT to 44% IN. Calton voted OUT. That should come as no surprise to his regular readers. If we left the EU our farmers would at least be able to bury their dead sheep instead of paying the knacker to take them away. We would be able to manage our own fish stocks. We wouldn't be forced into an unaffordable energy policy by EU directives. We would be our own boss again. Unfortunately Alex Salmond is so wedded to the European ideal that even UKIP's tremendous gains in last week's English elections fail to warn him of his impending doom if he carries on down the EU path. For far too long our political elite have not been listening to voters and have not given them a choice on Europe (or gay marriage). It's therefore no surprise that UKIP are cleaning up - no the EU, no to gay marriage, no to windfarms. What's not to like? (Unless you are a Libdem, in which case you are an endangered species.) If the SNP don't start listening to the electorate, they too will be on the endangered list.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Paying through the nose every time the wind blows

Our energy policy is a mess. New rules by Ofgem have forced all domestic energy suppliers to apply a standing charge for electricity and gas, in addition to the cost per unit used. It doesn't take a maths degree to realise that this penalises low users, the very sort of behaviour we should be encouraging. What's the point of insulating your house to cut your bills when you get hammered by a big standing charge regardless of your usage? The poor consumer is now also paying for wind turbines to be switched off when it gets too windy and the grid is at risk of being overloaded. This is absolute nonsense. Thousands of people are now living in fuel poverty and what do our governments do? Increase our bills! If the SNP succeed in covering Scotland with windfarms, how much money will have to be paid out every time a gale blows? Why is Ofgem not forcing suppliers to do away with standing charges altogether and just charge a flat rate per unit? That would encourage people to turn off the lights and turn down the thermostat. Ultimately, we need to reduce our energy usage, not keep building expensive, inefficient windfarms which only profit energy companies and landowners.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind

Calton has just managed to catch up with Susan Calman's comments on Radio 4's News Quiz which provoked such a storm of cyber-bullying that she seems to have disappeared off twitter. They were hilarious - it was one of the best episodes of the NQ Calton has ever heard. OK, so she was poking fun at oor Eck but Calton is sure the big man can handle it. Not so his cybernats, who seem to be totally devoid of a sense of humour. For this, Alex Salmond and his party need to take some responsibility. They have deliberately played the patriotic, emotional card in the independence debate, in place of reasoned argument and facts, so they should not be surprised when the argument ends up in the gutter. Their approach encourages personal abuse in place of rational debate - they have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. What really worries Calton is that, now the SNP have let the nationalist genie out of the bottle, what is going to happen if the majority vote no in 2014? Are the cybernats going to go away or will their virtual threats become real ones in an attempt to force independence? In that case, the Athens of the North may well become the Beirut of the North. Calton is already looking for a new eyrie.....

Friday, 3 May 2013

When never becomes now

Calton is old enough to remember when building societies stopped insisting on seeing proof of an endowment policy or similar repayment vehicle when giving out interest only mortgages. He also remembers clearly seeing warnings that some sort of plan to repay the capital was necessary when taking out such a loan and was the responsibility of the borrower. Letters with traffic light colour codes warning people about the likelihood of their endowment meeting its target have been dropping through letterboxes for at least 10 years now. So Calton has little sympathy with those who 'suddenly' find themselves in the position where they aren't going to be able to repay their mortgage when it matures. Yes, some endowment policies were mis-sold, but we've been through all that and those affected have been able to claim compensation for some years now. Interest only mortgages were not, in the main, mis-sold - borrowers were just overly keen to keep their monthly payments low and over-optimistic about house price rises. The concern is that, now that it's all going pear-shaped and people are faced with a debt they can't pay, they expect someone else to foot the bill, probably the mortgage providers. This, in turn, would penalise sensible borrowers who took out repayment mortgages they could afford. A large section of the population has been living the dream on the never-never and one day soon never is going to become now. They are the ones who should feel the pain, not those who didn't buy into the fantasy of free money in the first place.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Would you trust this man with your pension?

Calton cannot see how the First Minister can pledge that there will be no change to the amount of time pension firms are allowed to get their schemes out of deficit in the event of Scottish independence given that he also seems to rule out opting out of EU pension scheme arrangements, due to his continued love-affair with Europe. It was therefore no surprise to find that no details were given on how Salmond intends to protect Scots' company pensions post-independence. Clueless just about sums up the First Minister's attitude and Ruth Davidson is right to highlight the enormous gamble the SNP are taking with the future wellbeing of the people of Scotland. Unfortunately, instead of answering the question and giving us, the electorate, some concrete information on pensions, Alex chose instead to slag off the Tory-led coalition government down south. It's such an obvious tactic it's embarrassing. The upshot is that anyone with a UK-wide company pension would be well advised to vote no next year if they want to hold on to it.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

No need for name-calling

It is neither helpful nor appropriate for a BBC presenter to label a high percentage of Britain's Catholics, Evangelicals, Moslems and Jews 'neanderthal' as John Beattie did today on his Radio Scotland program when discussing attitudes to homosexuality. Like it or not, all three of the world's main monotheistic religions teach that homosexual acts are wrong. Like it or not, many people are faithful followers of those religions. Calling them 'neanderthal' is just as bad as calling homosexuals 'perverts'. It's also lazy. Giving someone a negative label means that you can treat them as less than human and ignore their views. It's intolerant and it ignores the fact that, in the discussion today, it was plain that abuse towards gay sportsmen was most likely to happen in a football stadium, not in a church, synagogue or mosque. That, in Calton's experience, is generally the case. When he worked in a male-dominated environment, the gay-bashers were not the guys who went to the weekly workplace Bible study but the heterosexual blokes who wouldn't be seen dead in a place of worship (unless you count pubs in that category). It's time the biased broadcasting corporation stopped taking cheap pot shots at religious people and started investigating the real reasons behind abuse of homosexuals. It's a far from simple issue but one thing is certain - calling people names does not promote understanding.

PS. Calton does not think anyone should have to suffer abuse for their sexuality or their religion.