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.