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Come on the Nats

In my time I have voted for all the major political parties, and some minor ones (with one exception – I have never voted Tory). I listen to the arguments and based on that, make my decision sometimes on the basis of local matters and sometimes those of national importance.

I have been generally impressed with the way the SNP has gone about its business as the minority government in Scotland since 2007. Mostly I’ve agreed with what they have done and have tried to do. Even on those occasions where I have had issues with proposed legislation (eg the alcohol pricing proposals) I recognise that opposition was generally politically motivated.

How else would one explain the Condem coalition proposing similar measures for England and Wales?

The SNP in government has done its best to help a cause very close to my heart i.e. arresting the decline of town centres in Scotland. The £60 million Town Centres Regeneration Fund wasn’t much but it was at least a step in the right direction. Rates relief for small businesses was another initiative which helped in a small way to begin the journey of regeneration of our town centres and ergo, communities.

Let me say here that my own business did not benefit by one penny on the rates relief measure but a few smaller businesses I know did.

The issue of derelict town centres, with retail properties lying empty all over the country as a result of disastrous town planning decisions and the profusion of out of town shopping centres, surely has to be addressed somehow?

That’s why the proposal by John Swinney to levy a tax on the very largest retailers to raise £30 million for the Scottish exchequer is to be applauded.

The tax based on property will affect only 215 out of 215,000 business premises and is I would suggest a ‘no brainer’.

However Labour and their friends the Tories and Libdems are opposing the proposals for the same reason that they and the Scottish media always oppose the Nats. No matter how good and popular the policies, no matter how able the politicians by comparison to their opponents, no matter how imaginative their ideas and frankly no matter what they try to do, they must, it would appear, be stopped at all costs.

Those who oppose the Nats should be careful what they wish for.

The sobering thought s that should the polls prove correct then it could be Ian Gray for First Minister.

Perish the thought.

Gray Day

The whole stushie about the resignation of Scottish transport minister Stewart Stevenson resigning is a microcosm of the blame culture we live in.

The Labour party and Ian Gray are at the forefront of this culture it would seem. When it became clear that if Stevenson didn’t resign there would be a no confidence motion, then he had no choice.

What I have still to hear is what should have been done prior to the completely unprecedented and freak weather conditions which befell Scotland last Monday. Some say they were forecast but is that so? The forecast was almost identical to that of the previous week when conditions were not nearly so bad.

Should Stevenson have stepped in and closed the motorway network on the Sunday night? How foolish would that have been if the snowfall had been not quite so bad and an hour or two later?

How much fun would the Record and Sun have had at his expense then?

So now any transport minister faced with freak weather conditions has to resign if there is ensuing chaos on the roads.

Mr Gray may well rue the day he set the precedent.

Independent Mind

“I dinna ken muckle about the law,” answered Mrs Howden; “but I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o’ our ain, we could aye peeble them wi’ stanes when they werena gude bairns – Bit naebody’s nails can reach the length o’ Lunnon.”

Walter Scott, Heart of Midlothian. Via Lallands Peat Worrier

Rauf Justice?

I have over recent years voted SNP. This is quite a shift for someone who registered a double “No” in the devolution referendum (There. I’ve admitted it). I remember being quite mystified at the celebrations on the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

Hooray! Another tier of lawyers spouting law at us!
Hooray! We’ll get Labour as a governing party instead of….er….Labour!
Hooray! This’ll cost a fortune!
Hooray! Our lives will be governed by failed Westminster candidates and glorified cooncillors!

I became nostalgic for the days when one parliament governing Scotland was considered a sufficiency of the bloody things (instead of the current three)

However, over time I came round to the idea, the Labour/Liberal administration worked as the two parties seemed to co-operate fairly well. There was representation too for other minor parties who hitherto had not had a proper parliamentary voice. Then of course in the last Scottish parliamentary elections we (I say we, and I include myself here) elected, albeit in a minority situation a genuine alternative government for those matters deemed unimportant enough to be dealt with in Edinburgh.

(Get on with it – Ed)

The SNP seemed to provide a refreshing change to politics here. And somehow they didn’t seem to have the same level of sleaze associated with them as their Nulab and Completecon counterparts. The intervention on the Trump planning decision despite all the huffing and puffing, was exactly what Labour would have done in the same circumstances. The release of Megrahi seemed to some of us at least as the correct decision for the right reasons no matter the straying off the path of procedure by Kenny McAskill.

Now however, hot on the heels of the news that Eck has been billing folk £9k for the pleasure of his company for lunch at the Parly, comes the astonishing story that his deputy Nicola Sturgeon wrote a letter on behalf of her constituent in Govan, Abdul Rauf pleading for him not to be given a custodial sentence.

Mr Rauf it turns out is a serial thief and fraudster, having amongst other things, been found guilty of theft of £65,000 benefit money when he was a sub postmaster. The current case centres around Mr Rauf’s claiming of income support between 2001 and 2005 whilst simultaneously living in a £400,000 house and failing to declare rental income on a £200,000 property in Edinburgh.

In her letter to the court Ms Sturgeon said Rauf had already repaid £27,000 of the money owed and had said he was going to sell one of his properties to repay the rest of the cash.

The MSP for Glasgow Govan, who said she became aware of the case in July 2008, also pointed out in the letter that Rauf had suffered from poor health for a number of years and had a family with children under the age of 10.

She asked the court not to jail him because of the impact that might have on his health and family life.

Sheriff Alan MacKenzie told Rauf that a jail term was “at the forefront” of his mind but said he would defer sentence for three months and released him on bail.

Nicola Sturgeon says she was “duty bound” to submit a letter on Mr Rauf’s behalf

Having read the opinion of several of M’learned friends, she was not “duty bound” at all. One prosecutor who has had a whole working life in the legal profession says that this is the first such instance (of a [politician submitting such a letter) he can remember.

Mr Rauf is clearly a man who does not mind spending some cash* in his endeavours to stay out of prison. I’m sure the services of Donald Findlay QC did not come cheaply.

One is left hoping that Ms Sturgeon’s letter is just an act of folly and spectacular misjudgement*.

True Grit

I’ve written much over the months and years about language and changes thereof. Yesterday I heard Scottish minister for finance John Swinney talking about the shortage of road grit being faced by several local councils. He was trying to make the point that councils would be receiving new deliveries and that it was incumbent upon them to use these supplies as sparingly as possible.

However the way he articulated the answer to the question of how long supplies would last was, “It depends how aggressively supplies are used”.

I’m sorry but it’s been bothering me and I had to make this picture.

Aggressive gritting in action!

It Would Drive You to Drink

I wrote here and here about proposals to impose a minimum charge per unit of alcohol sold.

I see that the Labour party is to oppose the SNP’s bill on the subject in the Scottish parliament. Mind you they’re pretty open about the fact it’s purely a political opposition “We just don’t think it’s being done the right way”  said whatever his name is.

The medical authorities and the police are behind the SNP proposals but I wonder if they would have any great effect.

Under their proposals the price of Buckfast and alcopops would remain unchanged, a bottle of Jacob’s Creek wine would fall in price and a can of strong lager would go up from 90p to £1

Whilst strong cider would almost double in price, and cheaper spirits would increase, there would be plenty of alternatives for consumers of these products.

I wonder if perhaps the availability of drink is the main problem rather than the price?

Here’s a radical proposal. What if drink had to be purchased from off sales and supermarkets between 11 am and 6pm? and an amount of forward planning was required?

Only asking.

I suppose Tony Tesco would have something to say about it mind you.

Deal or No Deal?

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time this morning. However I have had a look at the correspondence and papers relating to the Megrahi case both from the UK and Scottish governments.

The Guardian very helpfully puts the links all on the one page CLICK HERE to view them.

So, did Megrahi receive any guarantees that if he dropped his appeal his release would follow? If he did I can’t find it.

Certainly in the original application for release under the prisoner transfer agreement by the Libyan government on Megrahi’s behalf offered the deal of dropping the appeal if he were to be promised release (page 2 paragraph 3)

I notice that Iain Gray has now unsurprisingly shifted his position from saying the decision was wrong and one that he would have personally interfered with had he been First Minister. He’s now mumbling stuff about it being ‘handled very badly’. Hmmmm I wonder if he has had time to read his lords’ and masters’ releases of yesterday amongst which was the refusal of Jack Straw to EXCLUDE Megrahi from any prisoner release agreement with Libya. For the avoidance of doubt, that request was made by the Scottish government in 2008.

I repeat what I said a couple of weeks ago. Some you win, some you can’t win. As soon as these applications landed on Kenny MacAskill’s desk, he was going to be the fall guy no matter what he decided.

The interesting upshot of all this is that even though an ICM poll has shown that a majority in Scotland oppose MacAskill’s decision, support for the SNP has remained unaffected. Meanwhile predictions of a 20% boost in support for independence when Mr Cameron sweeps into Downing Street may be rather over egging the pudding but only a fool would predict the independence referendum result.

8)

No I’m not going to predict it! (other than to say it probably won’t happen)

Bill Wilson – What a Tumshie!

He wants supermarkets to label fruit and veg in the Scots language.

The West of Scotland MSP, a long-time campaigner for Scots to be given equal status as a recognised language, raised the issue with Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

I’ve written before about people who feel the need to talk as if they were acting out a Broons cartoon strip.

It’s all perfectly harmless of course, until they start campaigning for things like parliamentary business and  signs to be spoken and written in Scots.

Imagine parlimentary questions:

“Is yon first minister no’ causing a bit o a stushie amangst the loons and quines on this issue?”

Or a trip to the library where the  sign urging silence read “Haud yer wheesht!”

Where’s a cringe meter when you need one?

Bill Wilson wants blackberries labeled as brambles in supermarkets – fair enough.

Spring onions should be described as syboes he says. Aye well Bill maybes but I’ll bet you more Scots folk know them as the former rather than the latter.

Potatoes? – require to be labeled tatties according to Bill

Here’s where he gets silly. He wants Tesco et al to label turnips as tumshies.

Please Bill, away and do something worthwhile instead.

Ya neep.

The Far Wrong

The Euro election results should be a wake up call not just for the Labour party but for society.

The increase in vote for reactionary far right lunatics is alarming and I’m not only talking here about the Conservative Party.

The contrast between Scotland and the rest of the UK could not be more sharply focussed. Here we have a governing party half way through its tenure (traditionally the hardest time to face the electorate) who increased their vote by 10% inferring a high approval rating. The SNP are now officially the biggest party in Scotland and look like building on that success.

In the Western Isles the Tory candidate came in fourth behind the Christian Party.

In England and Wales however it was a very different story as the electorate swung to the right in droves. Given most peoples’ disaffection with Europe, UKIP’s second place was not a surprise. However the real worry was the showing of the BNP and their return of two MEPs.

Their leader Nick Griffin can put a point across and speaks the language of the disenfranchised working class. I heard him compare the BNPs breakthrough to that of Labour in the early 20th century. He said that back then the Tories represented the landowners and the Liberals the mill owners and that the time was then ripe for a working class movement to take power. He maintained that the three major parties in England and Wales did not represent the working class and that the BNP had now breached the dam.

I fear he is right (sic).

And I mean FEAR.

Number Crunching

35%  – Expected turnout for Euro elections in Scotland.

35% – Expected share from total of SNP VOTE (a 15% increase on 2004)

0% – The number of voters in Scotland given an opportunity to reject vote on the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty.

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