Monday, 8 December 2014

They don't get it, do they?

Politicians just don't get it, do they? OK, so Alex Salmond is very magnanimously going to donate one of his salaries to charity if he succeeds in becoming an MP in addition to being an MSP next year. Big deal. The real problem with Alex and others like him, such as Cara Hilton (MSP and Fife Councillor), is that they are hogging two jobs when a lot of people can't even get one. They are also not giving the best service to the people they represent, who deserve an MSP who is not also an MP or a councillor. We want full-time elected representatives, not part-timers dividing their time between Holyrood and Westminster or Holyrood and a local council. If Salmond manages to get elected to Westminster he should immediately resign his Holyrood seat and it's high time Hilton resigned her position on Fife council. Her Labour colleague Alex Rowley did so as soon as he won his Cowdenbeath Holyrood seat. Perhaps Hilton is not as confident as Rowley about retaining her seat in 2016. Calton would have thought she was pretty safe but, it has to be said, Dunfermline has swung every which way but Tory in the last few Holyrood elections. Perhaps 2016 will be James Reekie's year. Oh hang on ... Calton has just spotted a pig flying over the other side of the Forth.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A good day for debtors

Today was a good day to be a debtor. First we had the news that Wonga is writing off the debts of 330,000 customers and then our First Minister used FMQs to announce that councils would be prevented from pursuing poll tax debts from 20+ years ago. No doubt there will be a lot of happy people tonight however there are also a lot of unhappy people, Calton amongst them, who don't take out loans they can't hope to repay and who do pay their taxes. If having their payday loans written off made people less likely to get into financial trouble in the future, that would be good, however Calton suspects the reverse will be true. The possibility that your debt will magically disappear due to your lender having their knuckles rapped must surely be an incentive to some people to take out a loan. As for Alex Salmond's poll tax stunt - it is a totally transparent attempt to continue stoking anti-Westminster sentiment and buy left-wing votes. It is also another example of SNP-led Holyrood arrogating local council powers. It should be up to individual councils to decided whether or not it is worth pursuing old debts, bearing in mind that the poll tax non-payment campaign left huge holes in council finances, which meant that those who did pay their dues ended up paying more than they should have done. Now, councils are facing a double whammy of the council tax freeze and a prohibition on recovering poll tax debt and our services are suffering as a result. It's time for Holyrood to butt out of council affairs and the only way to ensure that this happens is to vote out the SNP.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An hour in the sun

The SNP got their majority in Holyrood, they got their referendum, they lost it and they are now showing themselves to be constitutionally incapable of accepting the result. Alex Salmond couldn't do his speech accepting defeat without inserting the words "at this stage" and now his probable successor Nicola Sturgeon, while ruling out Eck's more fanciful idea of independence without a referendum, is talking about another referendum some point in the probably not too distant future if it's in the SNP manifesto and they get another majority. Calton would have thought that that was one sure way of getting kicked out of Holyrood but the DFM's chutzpah is such that she may well go for it. One can only hope......

Meanwhile the SNP leadership non-contest is looking very like the succession of Gordon Brown to the Labour Party leadership and post of Prime Minister after years in Tony Blair's shadow and we all know what happened then. Nicola should enjoy her hour in the sun because Calton predicts that it won't last long.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A lost opportunity

Calton thinks that MP Andrew George's Affordable Homes Bill is eminently sensible and is glad to see it making it through to the next stage in Parliament. If the measures contained within George's bill had been included at the start, much of the controversy over the "bedroom tax" would have been avoided. Calton has always said that he doesn't see why taxpayers should be paying for people to stay in homes with more bedrooms than they need, however, cognisance should be taken of the fact that the disabled have special needs and also of the fact that we are in rather short supply of one bedroom council houses in some (most) areas of the country. It is hard to understand why all but one Conservative MP voted against the bill given that, if it succeeds, it will spike one of Alex Salmond's guns i.e. the promise that, in an independent Scotland, the "bedroom tax" will be abolished. The reason the spare room subsidy legislation is so hated in Scotland is because it is seen to penalise the disabled and those who are unable to find a smaller property in their area. Sort those problems with the legislation and it becomes altogether more reasonable. It's a pity that the Tory Party seem unable to put their hands up and admit that, in this case, they got it wrong. (And it's even more of a pity that, after all their criticisms of the "bedroom tax", only 2 SNP MPs were at Westminster to vote for today's bill.)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Independent, defenceless and broke

Calton listened to last night's debate rammy on the radio while simultaneously trying to follow it on twitter. Not being very good at multi-tasking, he therefore missed some of the finer points of the argument but he couldn't help noticing the persistent use of the phrase "sovereign will of the Scottish people" and the word "mandate" by Alex Salmond. The First Minister is obviously trying to strengthen his negotiating hand on the currency union he so desires if there is a yes vote. He was also very clear that, if he doesn't get a currency union, he will walk away from Scotland's share of the UK's debt. Now, turning his argument on its head, if an independent Scotland were to refuse to take a share of the debt, what's to stop the rUK hanging on to all the assets? The roar of RAF Typhoons as they pass overhead on their way south over the border would be matched by the cheers from the workforce at Portsmouth and the corresponding wails from Rosyth. Starting life as an independent country with no debt may seem like an attractive option but we would also have no air force, no navy, no embassies, no central bank and just you try getting credit without a credit (i.e. debt) history! Salmond managed to score points off Darling on child poverty but he would have little chance of making a better fist of it in an indy Scotland with no money. In terms of shouting down his opponent, Alex won last night's debate but in terms of providing real and realistic answers, he lost.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

It's crystal clear

It is now crystal clear what voting yes in the independence referendum really means, in spite of all the assertions to the contrary. It means a return to the banking system of the 1700s, with no central bank and no bank bailouts. The Adam Smith Institute seems to think that this would encourage banks to be more responsible. Sounds a bit like putting a fox in charge of the hen house to Calton. Would you really trust a bank with your hard-earned savings in those circumstances? They may tell you that they have enough English banknotes in the vault to guarantee the Scottish notes they are printing but could you believe them? Would you? Meanwhile the SNP continue to cling to the idea that they will get a currency union with rUK in the event of a yes vote, while rumours circulate on twitter that today was possibly Alex Salmond's last FMQs. Oh, that it were true! Calton would jump for joy.

Better together

Calton would like to apologise to his regular readers (if he still has any) for the lack of posts over the summer. The truth is, he is suffering from chronic referendum fatigue. It has all gone on far too long and the only thing worse is the prospect of another couple of years of haggling between Holyrood and Westminster if the result is yes. A good reason to vote no if ever there was one, so that our parliaments can get back to dealing with more important issues, such as the rise of Islamic terrorism at home and abroad. The Middle East, which has always had the potential to be a tinder-box for wider conflict, is more unstable now than it has ever been, according to Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East reporter, and we are fools to think that it won't affect us. It seems petty for us to be arguing over how much oil is left in the North Sea and who it belongs to when the major oil-producing area of the world looks set to ignite in one massive conflagration. This is not a time to be going our separate ways - it is a time to unite against the killers of Lee Rigby and James Foley, to take a stand against the Islamic State and their murderous persecution of non-Moslems. We helped create a power vacuum in Iraq when we removed Saddam Hussein. We can't now walk away from the results. How can we expect Shia and Sunni to work together in Iraq when Scotland won't work with England? It's time the United Kingdom showed the world how distinctive, different nations can remain united whilst retaining their separate identities. We really are better together.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

HOW much?

Why are the Scottish Government spending taxpayers' money on a report which will only kick in if Scotland becomes independent? Talk about pre-empting the referendum result! Sounds to Calton more like a bribe to vote YES - if you are on minimum wage - and this from the selfsame government which refused to mandate the living wage for government contracts in the recent procurement bill. At the time they used the EU as their excuse, which is a bit rich from a party committed to an independent Scotland remaining in the EU.

The scourge of the working poor is one which Calton would like to see removed from our society but we need to be careful that hiking the minimum wage does not cost jobs. Trying to mitigate the hike by reducing employer's NI contributions will not always work, particularly for the likes of cleaning employers who typically employ people on part-time contracts where the hours are so low that they do not pay NI.

As for the rest of the report, the only positive measure is the proposed increase in carer's allowance - the rest is just a return to the bad old days of a bloated benefit system where many were better off on benefits than in work and, as usual, it is unclear how the Scottish Government would pay for it all. Calton is just thankful that it is unlikely to be implemented as, even with blatant bribes such as this, the Yes campaign are still failing to make any headway in the polls. They just don't get that canny Scots want to know how much something will cost before committing themselves! And, while we're on the subject, how much did the expert group on welfare's report cost us?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sir Ian sees the wood from the trees

With youth unemployment running at nearly 20%, Calton welcomes any initiative to get our young people into work and the Wood Report, published today, seems to have some very positive ideas. It is good to see that the report recognises the importance of vocational training for the businesses which exist in a particular geographical area and recognises that academic studies are not the best way into work for all youngsters. It is now up to the Scottish Government to start implementing the ideas in the report. What concerns Calton is the fact that, if the SNP persist in their aim of bringing thousands more immigrant workers into Scotland, our young people will still be up against it when looking for a job. Businesses may want to employ Scottish youngsters but if their communication skills, plus their motivation, are not up to it, the jobs will go to immigrants who do have the skills employers are looking for. Put more simply, the unrestricted immigration from the EU in recent years has hidden the fact that some of our young people are unemployable and the Scottish Government seems to have been quite happy to allow a lost generation of unemployed to grow up under our noses as long as businesses were not complaining and the wheels of commerce kept turning. It's just not good enough. Parents need to take some responsibility for kids who can't get out of bed and do a decent day's work but if they can't read and write properly, there's something wrong with our education system. Businesses have told the Government what they need - it's now up to the Government to come up with the goods and simply increasing immigration to fill the jobs is not the right answer.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Lies, evasion and FMQs

First Minister's Questions are a total affront to democracy. How is it that Alex Salmond is allowed to get away with not answering the question? Is it because the Presiding Officer is ex-SNP? Was it really a good idea to select a PO from the governing party, against the usual precedent? Or is the position basically toothless? Marwick is quick enough to jump on anyone accusing the FM of telling lies but doesn't seem to be able to make him tell the truth. Evasion, evasion, evasion was the order of the day yesterday. Well, if the leaders of the opposition parties at Holyrood can't get Salmond to spit out the startup costs of an independent Scotland, maybe a petition from the people will have some effect. Or maybe not. If the latter, you know the answer - vote NO. After all, would you buy a car without knowing the cost, and not just the cost to buy it but the cost to run it? Calton thought not and yet that is precisely what the Yes Campaign are expecting us to do. Their £1000 bonanza is based on increased immigration and increased productivity in an independent Scotland but where are these jobs going to come from? Thin air? We can't manage to employ all our people at the moment, particularly our young people, and so, unless all the immigrants Salmond wants to welcome here come with enough capital to start businesses and employ Scots, Calton just can't see increased productivity happening. It's a mirage. As is the idea that, on the 19th September, Scots will "come together" regardless of the outcome of the referendum. Dream on Tricia.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Maybe we just don't want to be in the EU

Extraordinary. In all the BBC coverage on UKIP's gains in the local elections in England and Wales which Calton heard today, not one word about the fact that people may be voting UKIP because they don't want to be in the EU. The Libdems even managed to put their total wipeout down to a mid-term backlash against a governing party! Er, no Nick - Calton thinks it is because you are the most pro-EU of all the main Westminster parties and you are just not in tune with the electorate. Now, which of the parties in Scotland is the most pro-EU apart from the Libdems (whose wipeout here is so predictable that it goes without saying)? The SNP. So, based on that, Calton is going to stick his feathery neck out and predict that, far from the SNP gaining an extra MEP, UKIP is going to get their first in Scotland. Unfortunately, so far it doesn't look like the main parties are prepared to learn anything from their cuffing at the hands of an anti-EU party. They continue to pursue their European dream heedless of the voice of voters or, in other words, situation normal. It reminds Calton of turkeys and Christmas or ostriches and sand. They are either going to get stuffed and roasted or, at the very least, their backsides kicked. Roll on May 2015! (Calton is assuming a No vote in September 2014.)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Running scared - the political elite

It seems to Calton that the main political parties are running scared of UKIP and with good reason. The trendy liberal political elite are completely out of touch with ordinary voters. They seem to have no idea what it is like to see your grown up children spending their days either in bed or on the computer playing games because they can't get a job. For many parents the fear of the empty nest has been replaced by anxiety over whether their offspring will ever manage to fledge and fly the nest. Many of these youngsters have been through further education, supported by their parents and yet they still can't find a job. For people like these, the news today that there was a 7% increase in the number of NI numbers issued to workers from overseas in 2013, compared with 2012, is not good news. The government can say all it likes about controlling immigration and bringing down the numbers but, as long as we remain in the EU, we have no control over immigration from the EU, which makes up the bulk of that 7% increase. UKIP are on course to win the EU elections, with the possibility of an MEP in Scotland, because they scratch an itch the other parties are not reaching. They are also constellating an anti-EU sentiment which is not able to be expressed in any other way. If the main political parties were really serious about spiking UKIP's guns, all they need to do is take us out of the EU, thus removing UKIP's raison d'etre in one fell swoop. Or at least offer a referendum. Instead, the old-boy establishment (including the BBC) has ganged up on the newcomer who is daring to challenge them and has resorted to playing the loony/racist card, conveniently ignoring the loonies/racists in their own woodpiles. It is a strategy almost certain to backfire. Voters are not that stupid.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Another eagle lost

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. It seems like only yesterday that I was congratulating a young East Coast pair of Sea Eagles on their first fledgling. Now that young male is missing, presumed dead, in an area of Aberdeenshire fast becoming known as the Bermuda Triangle for eagles. Thanks to modern technology, his last known movements have been pinpointed to the North Glenbuchat Estate in Strathdon and police investigations there are ongoing. Coming so close on the heels of the mass poisoning of Red Kites and Buzzards in Ross-shire, this sad incident confirms 2014's designation as the Annus Horribilis for raptors in Scotland and we are not even one-third of the way through the year. I can only hope that some good will come of these terrible events and the Scottish Government will finally take action to stop the slaughter. A good start would be to re-examine the whole issue of Scottish estate ownership, as highlighted in an excellent article by Andy Wightman. How the SNP can talk about wanting a fairer Scotland where wealth is shared more equally and yet continue to allow estates to be owned by companies based in offshore tax havens is beyond me. Such non-transparency of ownership makes it very difficult to hold an owner to account for the actions of their estate workers. It's time the Scottish Government stopped kowtowing to wealthy landowners and made it clear that no-one is above the law in this country, no matter who they are or how much money they have. Choosing the Eagle, rather than the Red Grouse, as Scotland's national bird would be a good signal of their intentions. Meanwhile, I grieve the loss of a promising young Sea Eagle and hope that future East Coast youngsters will be born into a safer Scotland without the threat of poisoning.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Red Road demolition - a symbol of failure

Calton was in two minds over the demolition of the Red Road flats in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, indeed he is in two minds over their demolition at all. It certainly would not have been a symbol of regeneration - more a symbol of failure and so, on balance, Calton is glad that the idea has been dropped. What he can't stomach is trendy lefties bumping their gums over the supposed insult to asylum seekers. The demolition hasn't been stopped - it will still be a spectacle watched by hundreds, if not thousands of people. It will just not be part of the Games. As for the asylum seekers, their main concern is not so much that they are living in a tower block, it's the lunar landscape of rubble around them which will be created by the mass implosions of the other five blocks. Many of them are grateful for the homes they have been given and feel secure in a community of other asylum seekers. It is truly sad that people from difficult situations in other countries have to show us here in Scotland, secure in our detached houses with six-foot garden fences, what community really means. The Red Road flats were built to provide better homes than the toiletless tenements of post-war Glasgow and were much appreciated by the first residents, who looked after them and built a community in them. Unfortunately, the 80's spirit of individualism, coupled with a growing disregard for property or other people, led to the breakdown of that community and the rise in problems at Red Road. The flats were not to blame - it was the people in them and a lack of maintenance. So now we are dynamiting them even although there is a chronic shortage of social housing. High rise flats are not suitable for everyone but, properly looked after and with the right tenants, they could provide part of the solution to today's housing crisis, if only we Scots could learn from the asylum seekers in the one inhabited block. Learn how to value what you've got and look after it. Learn how to live together with your neighbours in community instead of separately cheek-by-jowl. Perhaps Calton should move to Glasgow, to a room with a view, and change his name to Red Road. It would be harder for him to keep an eye on Holyrood but the neighbours might be friendlier.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Slainte George!

At last - a budget for savers! About time too! There is something perverse about a society which rewards those who are up to their necks in debt while punishing the prudent (and by prudent, Calton means those who behave responsibly and put something by for their future, not the Gordon Brown "boom and bust" definition of prudent). There is no point in having an economic recovery if it is based on debt-fuelled consumer spending. We've been there and done that and, while it felt nice at the time, it didn't last. We need a recovery based on more manufacturing and greater exports and Calton is pleased to see that heavily energy-dependent industries are to be given a helping hand. Scrapping the planned fuel duty rise will benefit not just families but businesses and is also a welcome decision. All in all, Calton sees very little to complain about this year and a lot to be happy about, including the fact that there is no extra tax on his favourite malt. Slainte George!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Young people - smarter than the SNP give them credit for?

Calton was very encouraged to hear the young voters asking very pertinent questions and making very salient points in today's independence discussion on Radio Scotland. It is clear that quite a number of young people are not impressed by the lack of information, and, in particular, costings, coming from the SNP Government. They are also not impressed by the SNP party line on the currency union dutifully trotted out by Humza Yousaf. The SNP may have hoped to boost the yes vote by including 16 and 17 year olds but it looks like that might backfire on them if the roasting given to Humza was anything to go by. Those youngsters were not letting him get away with anything and neither was Jim Murphy, who was the clear winner in the discussion, in Calton's opinion. The SNP should really take Jim's advice and admit that not everything in the garden of an independent Scotland is going to be rosy. They would be a lot more credible if they did. Instead, it was the same old refrain of "It's our pound too, if we can't have it we'll not pay our share of the debt." The needle is stuck in a groove of pathetic petulance.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Scottish Tories - bad for your health?

It's obvious that Ruth Davidson has no idea what it is like to be a poor worker with a chronic health condition. She can afford prescription charges on an MSP's salary. Many low-paid workers can't. It is also a false economy to charge for prescriptions as studies in England are proving - some people there are not going for all the drugs they need due to lack of money and are ending up in A&E as a result, which costs the NHS more in the long run. Prescription season tickets are no help because, if you are short of money, you are hardly likely to be able to find the dosh up front to buy one.

The Scottish Tories are trying hard but until they realise what life is really like for the poor and low-paid, they are not going to make much headway. Promising more nurses is fine but doing it at the expense of free prescriptions is not a vote winner in Calton's opinion. It is the one SNP policy which Calton totally agrees with. At a time when many are feeling the pinch they should not have to choose between food, heating or much-needed drugs. We don't charge anyone for X-rays, MRI scans or CT scans if they need them. We don't charge them for putting a plaster on a broken leg. We don't ask for proof that they are on benefits or otherwise entitled to free treatment before we admit them to A&E so why should we charge for drugs? It's an outdated policy from an out-of-touch Tory. Fortunately the Scottish Conservatives are unlikely to get enough MSPs elected to implement it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

SNP groupthink heading straight for the cliff?

Of course we can still have the pound if we vote for independence. What we can't have is a formal currency union with the rest of the UK. Osborne and Balls have made that quite clear and Calton sees no reason to doubt them or to think that they will change their minds. It is therefore truly sad to hear Salmond continuing to peddle the same old "bluff and bluster" nonsense, while, at the same time, threatening to walk away from the UK's debt if he doesn't get his way. It is even sadder to hear those in his party trot out the same line, as Angela Constance did on the BBC's Any Questions? on Friday night. Do they not have either the brains to realise that they are talking complete rot or the guts to defy the party line and come out with something more sensible? Do they not realise how idiotic they sound, parroting their dear leader. Are they all going to follow him over the cliff, lemming-style? And can Calton be there to pick up the scraps when they do?

Annabel Goldie did a good job of demolishing the SNP party line on Any Questions? - it should be required listening for all SNP MSPs.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Devolution is good for your health

Calton is very glad he lives in a devolved Scotland, with the announcement today that prescription charges in England are going to rise to £8.05 in April this year. Yes, he knows that some people can well afford to pay for their medicine but there is increasing evidence that the high cost of prescriptions, particularly for people with chronic conditions such as asthma, coupled with a drive to limit the amount GPs prescribe in one go, is having a real negative impact on the health of the working poor - those who earn just enough to make them ineligible for free prescriptions but not enough to cope with extra expenditure, especially when they are ill. Thank goodness we have a more enlightened attitude here in Scotland and we didn't need to be independent to implement it.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Hold the nose and vote Libdem?

If there is one simple way the government can make work pay, it's increasing the amount someone can earn before the government starts taking it back off them in tax, which is why Calton is all in favour of the Libdem policy of raising the personal allowance. Leaving the lowest paid in society with more in their pockets means increased consumer spending, since low paid workers tend to spend all they earn on the necessities of life, which, in turn, benefits businesses. What's not to like? Calton could never understand why the Great Broon abolished the 10p tax rate, at a time when the personal allowance was less than £4k, thus increasing the tax take from the working poor - and he was supposed to be a Labour prime minister? Calton is hard pushed to think of a single other Libdem policy which he agrees with but it's almost worth voting for them to ensure they become part of another coalition government in order to force the other parties to increase the personal allowance to £12500. Almost.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Democracy - SNP style

It seems that, in the SNP's eyes, democracy only applies to Scotland. They are quite happy to ride roughshod over the fact that voters in the rest of the UK may not want a currency union with Scotland if we become independent and voters in other EU countries may not want us to be an EU member, or, if we do become a member they may wish to insist that we do so on the basis of joining the Euro. They are also quite happy to ignore the wishes of the Scottish people when it suits them and to forget that they did not get a majority of the votes at the last election, even although they got a slim majority in Holyrood. However, as soon as someone threatens the outcome of the independence referendum by injecting a few facts into the argument, it is an "affront to democracy". Either that or it is "bullying". Instead of accepting that they cannot force other countries to do their will, and working within the parameters which that creates, the SNP continue to insist that everything goes their way, thus demonstrating that their vision of an independent Scotland is built on sand. It is a fantasy, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. They cannot convince the people of Scotland on the basis of facts and so they are appealing to baser instincts - the dislike of being told what to do. How pathetic. The sad thing is that some Scots will fall for it.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

It's gone to their heads!

The Deputy First Minister is sticking like a plaster to the idea of a currency union because she believes that it is the "right position for Scotland and the rest of the UK". Now, Calton is not a psychiatrist but, in his opinion, Sturgeon is showing worrying signs of grandiose delusions. This isn't the first time that she has justified a political course of action by saying that it was the "right thing to do". The question is, right in whose eyes? The answer, it seems, is right in Sturgeon's own eyes because she is god and what she says, goes. Judging by her interview on Daily Politics with Andrew Neil she is absolutely convinced that Osborne et al are bluffing and so there is no need for the SNP to have a currency plan B. It didn't matter how many times Neil tried to rub her nose in the facts, she did not waver from her unsupported convictions. Is that not the very definition of delusional? Regardless of where the currency debate goes, Calton is now thinking that the real reason to vote NO is because he doesn't want to be governed by a bunch of nutters. The power of a majority at Holyrood has obviously gone to their heads. Maybe we should be asking Westminster to take some powers back off them!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

SNP - losing touch with reality?

Calton is seriously concerned about the collective mental health of the SNP government. They seem to be increasingly losing touch with reality and are, instead, living in a world of their own making. Having tried to bully Westminster into accepting a currency union with an independent Scotland by stating that it would "make sense", they now accuse Westminster of trying to bully them now that Westminster are refusing to play the game. It seems that the SNP are so lost in their own assertions they are unable to cope when someone introduces a note of reality. Interviewed on Newsdrive today, SNP MP Stewart Hosie was completely unable to accept the fact that it looks like all three main parties at Westminster are going to give currency union the thumbs down tomorrow. He clung to the idea that it is only a bluff, like a drowning man clings to a plank of wood. Well good luck with that, Stewart. As far as Calton is concerned, Osborne, Balls and Alexander will bring some much-needed clarity to the independence debate if they rule out a currency union. Far better that we know where we stand before we vote in September, rather than believing all the SNP's assertions and Oprah-style positive thinking. It is now becoming crystal clear that the SNP are so convinced of their alternative reality that they have no plan B for an independent Scotland's currency. They cannot imagine anyone not agreeing with them. It seems to Calton that such an attitude is bordering on the delusional.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Alex Neil - right on symptoms, wrong on cause and treatment

Calton has some sympathy with beleaguered SNP Health Secretary Alex Neil, who is being lambasted on twitter for blaming Scotland's drink problems on Maggie Thatcher. There is some truth in him saying that the loss of jobs for men in traditional heavy industry left them turning to the bottle. Where Neil goes wrong, and loses Calton's sympathy, is in blaming Thatcher for a) the demise of the coal and steel industries and b) not providing decent replacement jobs. Thatcher may have hammered the last nail in the coffin of coal and steel but the corpse was already dead and embalmed - the industries were uncompetitive, uneconomical and hampered by unions like Unite who, unlike Unite, could not see the writing on the wall and adapt to save jobs. There is a limit to how far any government can go in propping up ailing industries with taxpayers' money just to keep a few people employed. Similarly, there is a limit to how much government can do to provide new jobs. How many times have sweeteners been offered to firms to locate in Scotland, only for them to pull out the minute the money runs dry or penalties no longer apply? How much public money was spent on the infrastructure for a semiconductor plant at Halbeath, Dunfermline which never opened and has now been demolished? We need to create an attractive tax and infrastructure environment for businesses to operate in Scotland, yes, but sweeteners are bad for Scotland's economic health.

Alex Neil is also in trouble for saying that checkout jobs in shops or working for McDonald's are not "good jobs". Well it depends on how you define a "good job". Working at a supermarket checkout is better than being unemployed but it will never make you rich. It might not even pay the bills, given that some retailers do not offer staff full-time contracts. McDonald's does have training schemes which could lead to a better job however many of the chain's UK workers are on zero-hours contracts. Perhaps Neil could have phrased his comment somewhat better but, the truth is, if you want to have any hope of achieving at least the national average wage of £25k and have some prospect of advancement, you do generally need to have "training, education and a qualification" as Neil said, otherwise a McJob may be all that is open to you.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Scotland's deuxieme embarrassment?

When are the SNP going to realise that, if Scotland becomes independent, we will not be able to tell Westminster what to do. It may make sense for an independent Scotland to be part of a common travel area with the rest of the UK but, if Westminster decides to put up manned crossing points just south of the Scottish/English border, there will not be a lot we can do about it. Ditto if Westminster decides to withdraw British passports from Scottish citizens. We could, of course, indulge in tit for tat behaviour - oh, hang on, we're doing that already. Alex Salmond is Scotland's premier embarrassment, in Calton's opinion, but Nicola Sturgeon is running him a close second with her habit of slagging off the Scotland Office whenever they point out an inconvenient truth. It's certainly a bit rich for her to say that the latest paper from the Scotland Office "lacks credibility". Has she read the White Paper?

The bottom line is this: if we want the freedom to choose our own immigration policy as an independent country, we have to accept that the price may be border controls between us and England. That's what independence is all about folks.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Salmond's preening is premature

Is anyone else embarrassed by the First Minister's threats to walk away from the UK's debt if they don't let us keep the £ after independence? Now, he's crowing and preening himself as if he's done something great when, actually, his posturing has threatened to spook the bond markets and has resulted in today's announcement by the UK Treasury that it will guarantee all UK Government debt issued up until the date of independence. Salmond's blinkered brinksmanship in pursuit of his goal of independence is now threatening us all. If the UK Government has to pay more to borrow, we'll all have to pay more to borrow and, since even a small increase in the cost of borrowing at the moment will push many families over the edge, it's no surprise that the Treasury has acted definitively. To do otherwise would have been irresponsible. Would that our First Minister had a similar sense of responsibility to the people he governs. If we vote yes later this year (and Calton sincerely hopes we don't) the road to financial stability as an independent nation will be rocky enough without Salmond's threats and bully-boy antics. He has blown out of the water any hope of an amicable divorce in the wake of a yes vote and we all know what that means - the only winners will be the lawyers!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

On a more positive note

It says on the right of this page that Calton is not affiliated to any political party and, just to prove it, here are a few of his current 'likes':
Ed Miliband setting his sights on employers who exploit loopholes to pay workers less and firms who only advertise job vacancies abroad.
Nigel Farage on the Syrian refugee issue.
David Cameron on pensions - given that pensioners' savings are not earning any interest, it's the least he could do.
Danny Alexander on raising the personal tax allowance, which has been a boon to low earners.
The SNP's policy of free prescriptions.
Since we are still in the season of goodwill, and the year is not that old, Calton will leave his list of 'dislikes' for another day. He is trying to strike a positive note. Happy New Year!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A sad start to 2014

It is sad that, only two days into the new year, The Prince's Trust is reporting that more than three quarters of a million young people in Britain think that they have nothing to live for due to unemployment and almost a third of young people who are long-term unemployed have contemplated suicide. This is a problem which is just not going away and will only be made worse if competition for available jobs becomes greater due to an increase in immigration from Eastern Europe. What is really sad is that employers would rather advertise for workers in Romania and Bulgaria than employ our own youngsters. It's not the employers' fault - we live in a competitive, capitalism society and they want the cheapest and best workers. It's not the fault of the immigrants - they are just trying to better their lives and they are entitled to come here due to decisions made by successive UK governments. In Calton's opinion, the root of the problem goes back to when we started talking about rights without talking about responsibilities, when discipline became a dirty word in schools, when we started inculcating a sense of entitlement into our children without teaching them that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The result is a generation who are unemployable. The Prince's Trust manages to pick up the pieces for some but what is really needed is prevention and that means a change in attitude. Perhaps if the Bank of England stopped printing money, children would learn that it does not grow on trees.