Thursday, 31 October 2013

Can Unite live up to its name?

If all employers treated their workers fairly and legally, unions would not be necessary. Unfortunately that is not the case and unions play a vital role in protecting workers' rights, particularly now that it costs £400 to take an employer to an industrial tribunal - a sum far beyond many low-paid workers' means. That doesn't mean that it is OK for unions to intimidate or bully managers or their families in the course of an industrial dispute. If the recent allegations about Unite's "leveraging" tactics prove to be true, they have crossed a line which should not be crossed. The fact that, at the moment, Unite's leadership is entirely unrepentant is even more worrying. Calton is old enough to remember the bitter industrial disputes of the 70's and 80's and does not want to see those days return. Unions need to accept that businesses are there, first and foremost, to make a profit, not provide jobs for the boys. Global changes can sometimes mean the end of the gravy train for a particular industry and businesses need to constantly adapt to survive. Sadly, it seems that the entrenched union mindset in some industries will always militate against helping firms to weather the inevitable downturns. Conflict instead of cooperation seems to be the order of the day. Now if Unite could work with the management and owners of Grangemouth to turn the business around, then it really would be worthy of its name.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Cheviot, the Stag and Scottish Gas

It is ironic that consumers in the North of Scotland are facing higher energy price rises than those in the South, while, at the same time, large swathes of the Highlands are being turned into an industrial landscape with the construction of the Beauly-Denny power line and a large number of windfarms. It is also ironic when several rural areas on the Scottish mainland are now being considered for fuel discounts, including some in the Highlands. Someone, somewhere is not joining up the dots. Petrol is currently 10p per litre higher in Wester Ross than it is in the central belt and the proposed extension of the discount scheme is too late to save petrol stations such as Achnasheen from closure. Rural communities are being disproportionately hard-hit in these times of austerity - they need a helping hand with fuel bills both for transport and heating if we are not to see another Highland clearance, this time with wind turbines replacing people. If the European Commission does not agree with the extension of the fuel discount, we should tell them where to go. The same goes for Scottish Gas.

Friday, 18 October 2013

SNP energy policy - getting warmer

Well! They say a week is a long time in politics. It's less than a week since Calton said don't hold your breath for the SNP to remove unfair subsidies from consumer fuel bills. Now Nicola Sturgeon has announced just that, at the SNP's conference in Perth. Perhaps they've been reading this blog. Whatever the reason for today's announcement, it is very welcome in Calton's opinion. It is manifestly unfair that poor people should be paying more on their fuel bills in order to help even poorer people, especially now that we know that children of working parents are more likely to suffer poverty than those of unemployed parents. Some of the people struggling the most to pay their bills are now people who earn just enough to stop them receiving benefits but not enough to cover the rising cost of living. Calton is not against helping those in fuel poverty but the help should come out of general taxation, not through our fuel bills. Subsidies for home insulation should also be means-tested. In this respect, Nicola is thinking what Calton is thinking. Now all we need is for Westminster to take a lead from the SNP and the SNP to remove subsidies for windfarm builders. Calton is still not holding his breath.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

SNP energy policy - turning folk blue?

So, let's just see if Calton has got this right - not only are hard-pressed consumers paying 9% of their energy bills to subsidise green energy, the taxpayer is paying £725,000 to councils up and down Scotland to help them cope with the avalanche of wind farm planning applications which is threatening to bury them alive. More than 2500 in the last 18 months. If building windfarms is so popular, why are we subsidising it? You only subsidise things which need encouragement. It's time this scam scheme was stopped, before it pushes even more families and pensioners into fuel poverty. If removing the subsidies results in fewer planning applications, so much the better because then councils will be able to cope with them. Councils should also be left to make the decisions on individual planning applications without Scottish Government interference - Calton does not believe that the Scottish Government is able to strike the right balance between providing green energy and the need to satisfactorily address the impacts on communities and the environment, due to its over-ambitious green energy targets. If the SNP/Greens have their way, you won't be able to see Scotland for a forest of turbines and we can wave bye-bye to our tourism industry. Forcing price freezes is not the way to go - governments can't rig the market - but removing unfair subsidies is within the control of the Westminster Government and would be within the control of an independent Scottish Government. Don't hold your breath if it's SNP. Your face will turn as blue as your frozen extremities.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The cost of keeping nothing secret

 The voters in South Dunfermline could be forgiven for wondering which are the parliamentary candidates and which are the council candidates, going by the election leaflets Calton's contact in Dunfermline has sent him. The would-be MSPs all seem to be more exercised by issues such as the proposed closure of a local school, local bus services and the state of the town centre, none of which they would have much control over if elected, than issues of national importance, such as the economy. The Green candidate is even concerned about the ability of Pars fans to buy their club! The Libdems are relying heavily on Willie Rennie's track record as MP for the area, conveniently forgetting that he was comprehensively booted out by Labour's Thomas Docherty in 2010. Calton suspects that Labour will do the same to the SNP this time round, especially with the latter's choice of a recycled Lothians list MSP as candidate to replace the disgraced Bill Walker.

Meanwhile the SNP seem to be increasingly sensitive to accusations that they have been in any way "economical with the truth", leading to journos and other bloggers/tweeters inventing new euphemisms for telling porkies. Calton's current favourite is "saying one thing in public and another behind closed doors". Whether or not the SNP are being honest with the people of Scotland is a matter of debate. What is clear is that a good number of people, including Johann Lamont and Calton, think that they are not being honest, which means that the SNP have a massive credibility problem. The onus is now on them to prove that they are being honest and are not hiding facts which are inconvenient to their arguments for independence. Otherwise they are going to struggle to convince people to vote yes next year. And spending £20k on legal action to keep the fact that they didn't have any EU advice secret doesn't help their cause.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Put your clothes back on girls

Calton is 100% in agreement with Annie Lennox over the classification of pop videos. It's not about restricting freedom of expression. It's about protecting young children from viewing material which is not suitable for them. Calton has seen primary age girls copying dance routines which they have seen on the TV and, frankly, he did not know where to look. Some of the moves they were making, in all innocence due to their age, were highly sexual and Calton can't help wondering if, in their twisted minds, paedophiles are using such behaviour as justification for their perverted desires. Children are innocent but they do not inhabit an innocent world and exposing them to sexual imagery which they then, very naturally, copy, could be exposing them to even greater danger. Calton also finds it very sad that, instead of getting an education and a job and being valued as a person, which is what girls fifty years ago were encouraged to do, young girls today are being given the message that the way to get ahead is to flaunt your body - having talent is not enough it seems. It is significant that Lennox is in her late 50's and another supporter of her call for pop videos to be rated is Margo MacDonald, who is 70. They grew up in an era when women were starting to be told, and believe, that they were equal to men and both have significant achievements to their credit. What happened that, now, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are the role models? The farmer who told Rihanna to put her top on had the right idea and so has Sinead O'Connor.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

It's not worth the paper it isn't written on

Calton is just not convinced that registrars (and other marriage celebrants) will not be forced to conduct gay marriages against their religion or principles if it becomes legal in Scotland, no matter what Alex Neil says, because some militant homosexuals will not be happy until they have forced everyone to agree with their viewpoint. The ink will hardly be dry on the legislation before a legal challenge is mounted, especially since the Scottish Government have made it clear that there will be no discriminatory opt-outs for public servants, including registrars, written into the legislation. The lack of such opt-outs also means that teachers who do not want to teach about same-sex marriage will not be protected. It seems that David Cameron has now realised that it was a mistake to force through gay marriage legislation in England, not least because of the slump in membership of local Conservative Associations. If only Alex Salmond would learn from others' mistakes. Deputy Presiding Officer Elaine Smith's suggestion that Scotland put same-sex marriage legislation on hold, until the impact of the change south of the border can be assessed, is eminently sensible in that context. Her fears that redefining marriage on the basis of 'love' will lead in future to the legalisation of polygamous relationships are entirely reasonable - after all, why not? - and it is to her credit that she is willing to speak out, given the vilification she has been subjected to. How many other MSPs have effectively been silenced by the virulence of pro-gay marriage campaigners?