Friday, 16 June 2017

High Rise Hell

In the light of the utter tragedy of Grenfell Tower, Calton is reconsidering his views on a room with a view. He finds it absolutely astonishing that a 24 storey tower block could have only one staircase and be subject to far less stringent fire safety regulations than hotels or workplaces. That is just not acceptable and must change. Any housing block higher than fire brigade turntable ladders can reach needs to be demolished if it only has one escape route. We don't need a public enquiry to work that out. It is common sense. And safety should take priority over aesthetics (and cost) when it comes to refurbishing buildings. It's not as if we don't know how to get it right - Calton witnessed a good-going fire in an Edinburgh Georgian tenement a few years ago. Some drunken lads apparently thought it would be a good idea to have a real fire in their living-room. In the middle of the floor it seems. Then they went to bed and left it. A passing taxi driver first raised the alarm when he saw flames at a 1st floor window. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the front window was out and the room ablaze. The occupants were decamping via the back window after a neighbour chucked a brick through it to rouse them. The flat was totally gutted however the surrounding flats were structurally sound, affected only by smoke damage above and water damage in the shop below. There were no fatalities and, apart from the lads responsible, everyone else was back in their homes that night. That tenement was built in the 1840s and still stands today. We have learned nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Calton's deepest sympathies are with all those who have lost loved ones and their homes in the Grenfell disaster. He has the greatest admiration for the emergency services personnel who attended the scene.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

On reflection ...

Nicola Sturgeon has been talking a lot about calm reflection since last week's election however, if anyone wants a preview of what that actually means, they only need to watch the recording of today's First Minister's Questions, in which the said FM was aggressive, combative and anything but calm. Not only that but her reflection so far does not seem to have given her any self-awareness or insight as to why she might have lost 21 MPs. Quite the contrary as, without any sign of irony, she accused the hated Tories of exactly the same mistakes she herself has made (no plans, heading over a cliff, one-trick pony, a referendum which no-one wants). The good ship independence has been holed below the waterline but Sturgeon is steadfastly refusing to change course. She has only one mode of operation - angry nationalist.

Ever since the Brexit vote it has become increasingly evident that Nicola Sturgeon is not as smart as her predecessor (who is now back waiting in the wings). Instead of taking time to reflect after the EU referendum, she was straight out of the trap shouting INDYREF2. Her round-trip of Europe achieved nothing except to increase her already large carbon footprint and her ignorant treatment of Theresa May only got her a slap-down. Spilling the beans on a private conversation with Kezia Dugdale has damaged Sturgeon's integrity and her last-ditch attempt to try and win over Corbyn supporters was risible. Ruth Davidson is not "floundering" - she is on a roll which the current leader of the SNP is unable to stop. How long will it be before the SNP decide to replace her with someone more effective? After all, "independence transcends" ...

Friday, 9 June 2017

No Votes for the One-Party State

Calton managed to stay up last night until after the exit polls, which he treated with some scepticism. He went to bed but woke up at 3.30am, by which time Robertson and Sheikh had already gone and Salmond was soon to follow. Calton's joy would have been complete if Wishart, Blackford and Cherry had joined them but it was still a good night - and there's always next time. Which may come sooner than we all expected due to the dire overall UK result (for Theresa May that is - and anyone who likes stability and is in favour of Brexit, like Calton). It was definitely Corbyn's night down south, just as it was Davidson's up north.

What is clear, to Calton, is that the British public do not like the idea of a one-party state. May's biggest mistake was to try and crush the opposition. That did not go down well in England just as Sturgeon's attempts to appropriate the Scottish voice to her party only did not play well in Scotland. It may also be that the British public, being a lot less liberal and PC than politicians and the media would like to think, just don't like bossy women running the show with nobody to oppose them. That is not a view Calton agrees with (he does not have a problem with strong women, as his twitter followers will know) but, sadly, it is out there.

Like it or not, coalition government is here to stay because that is what the public wants. What Ruth Davidson needs to do is learn from the mistakes of Sturgeon and May and not become proud. (And if you want to hear hubris personified, just listen to Sturgeon's speech at lunchtime today.) Strong government is good but so is strong opposition. Sturgeon's acknowledged mentor Alex Salmond successfully negotiated a minority government from 2007-2011. She has been unable to do likewise and has suffered as a result. Will she learn from this? Calton thinks it unlikely. Expect more SNP losses in future.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A taxing issue

The Liberal Democrats are not going to be forming a government next Friday. They are not even going to be in coalition with the governing party, which is just as well in Calton's opinion. OK, so the Libdem plan to add a penny onto income tax will not cost low earners a lot, thanks to the fact that the personal allowance has increased massively in recent years. It still seems downright wrong to increase taxes on the lowest paid at all. Those who think it's OK to pay an extra penny tax to fund the NHS obviously are not in the position where every penny counts. They are not those who are going into debt each month to pay the rent. We all want a decent NHS but we should not be asking the poorest workers to pay extra for it. And if the moral argument against taxing the low-paid doesn't work, Tim Farron should consider Gordon Brown - he abolished the 10p tax rate, the tax paid by part-time cleaners went up and Brown ended up out of a job. Willie Rennie stood on the same ticket of raising income tax in the Holyrood election last year - his party was beaten into 5th place by the Greens. Raising the level at which we start to pay income tax has been a huge benefit to minimum wage workers and it is thanks to the Libdems that we have such a policy. They need to learn not to give with one hand and then claw back with the other.