Monday, 12 January 2009

DestiNation - January update

My blogging has - if you are observant - become ever more sparse...although this is my second posting this a definite improvement there. However, I have been regularly contributing to DestiNation, the online magazine that Julie started last year.

The January issue is now up and I have offered an article on taxation if anyone is interested.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Forth Bridge Funding

Apologies to anyone who has been checking in to read my musings, but the mood to blog seemed to escape me over the last wee while.

However, I feel inspired to write about what seems to be the hypocrisy inherent in the UK government position in relation to the financing of the new Forth Road Bridge. Apparently they refuse to consider the Scottish Government's proposal to advance funding for the bridge over a twenty year period. Given the current constitutional settlement doesn't endow the Scottish Government with powers over prudential borrowing, currently they have to ask the permission of the UK government. Permission that has been denied on the grounds that you can't "bring forward spending 15 or 20 years out, in budgets that haven't been allocated".

But isn't that exactly what the New Labour inspired PPP scheme has done? Over the next twenty or so years, the combined UK PPP debt is over £200billion. This was money that was committed to by previous administrations out of budgets yet to be allocated. Soon the Scottish Government's PPP liabilities will be £1billion per annum.

Furthermore, unlike the reasonable SNP proposal, this is money that is committed years in advance to line the pockets of private companies. Yet PPP is the very system that the UK government now proposes is utilised for the construction of the bridge.

Seems that their reluctance to consider the proposal of the Scottish Government has a lot more to do with politicking than what is in the best interests of Scotland.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Baillieston By-election

Spent a bit of time yesterday in the late summer (or early autumn) sunshine helping the SNP campaign to elect David Turner as the new councillor for the Baillieston ward in Glasgow. The vacancy arose, of course, following the sensational victory of the former incumbent, John Mason, in the Glasgow East Westminster by-election.

There's an enthusastic team of activists working hard to make sure this ward continues to have two SNP councillors - the only one, so far, in the city. Polling day is this Thursday.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Is that seat taken?

Was I the only one slightly perplexed by the Liberal Democrats choice of Murrayfield to unveil Tavish Scott as their new leader? Given that the BBC reports all three Lib-Dem leadership candidates polled a grand total of 2,457 votes between them, surely the irony of holding an event at a stadium designed to hold over 67,000 spectators isn't lost on others too?

This seems to have escaped the notice of the press generally, but I shall enjoy pointing out this lovely irony to those Lib-Dems I know!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Post Office Closure Programme Hypocrisy

Good on Edinburgh city council for voting to admonish the Labour government for their post offic closure programme.

I am presently fighting a number of closures in the area I represent, and each and every time have come up against Labour politician strutting about saying that they are campaigning to do likewise. The hypocrisy of these individuals is galling.

These are the self same individuals who actually voted for the programme of 2,500 closures of local post office branches across the UK, and then have the brazen audacity to speak out against them. You have to admire them if nothing else for their sheer brass neck.

One such Labour politician was addressing a public meeting organised by a local community council last week that I was also attending to state that they had voted for the continued UK government subsidy to the Post Office. Aye, well that may be true up to a point, but the same individual failed to mention that they also simultaneously supported the government's closure programme that now threatens the particular local branch in question being discussed at the public meeting.

Thankfully people don't - much as New Labour likes to think they do at times - zip up the back of their heid. People weren't buying any of it and that particular individual Labour MP got a hard time of it at the meeting.

What is striking though is that this level of "subsidy" (or what we could equally term public investment in a public service) is some 175million pounds annually. This pales into insignificance by comparison with the billions lavished on the war in Iraq by Blair then Brown, or the 100billion pounds that a new generation of nuclear weapons may cost the taxpayer.

It seems that the UK government can find all the money it wants to maintain nuclear arms, but heaven forfend that they might have to contribute to the maintenance of a Post Office, that they still own on our behalf.

That leads me on to the other galling part of the presentation of this closure programme. That the Post Office is somehow being presented as a failing business. It is of course nonsense to define it as such. It is a government owned public service, just the way the NHS is. Do we talk about the failure of the NHS because it isn't an income generator? No, and it would be nonsense to do so.

I believe the same is true of the Post Office network as well. It is more than just a business. It is a public service that all people are able to use.

Even if one was to accept that it is a business and should make money like any other, then it is also galling to remember that it was in the black when New Labour came to power. However a deliberate campaign of willful neglect and running it down has been employed by them in government, stripping service after service away from the so called "People's Post Office". Is it any wonder that it fails to make the profit it once did?

One final thought...if the Post Office is a business, then why, when it is apparently failing, does their Chief Executive reportedly earn 1million pounds annually through his wage, pension and bonuses? And why is it their customers who are being punished through this closure programme? They are the last people who bear the blame for the "failure" of this "business".

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Questions Over Olympic Saltire Ban

Will athletes and supporters from Scotland be banned from flying the Saltire at this year's Olympics?

The ‘House Rules’ for visitors on the Official Website of the Beijing Olympics state:
“2. To avoid delays at security and to maintain an orderly flow, please DO NOT bring the following articles to any venue:… flags of non-members of the Olympics or Paralympics; flags or banners larger than 2 m x 1 m; flagpoles; any banners, slogans, fliers, brochures or samples.”

As the United Kingdom, rather than its constituent nations, is a member country of the Olympics, the rule would appear to ban the Saltire, as well as the flags of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, from being brought into Olympic venues. The rule would also have the effect of preventing the Tibetan flag from being displayed at events.

Athletes from across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be taking part in the Beijing Olympics, and fans should be allowed to show their support by waving the national flag of their choice.

With participants like Andy Murray often wearing Saltires on their kit as a symbol of national pride it will be a shame if fans are not able to echo that by waving Saltires from the stands.

I will be writing to the British Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee and urging them to challenge this ruling.

I will also be calling on them to clarify the implications for athletes. On previous occasions Scottish athletes have been prevented from sporting a saltire – it would be unfortunate where any athlete to find themselves in that position again.

The Olympics should be a global celebration of different cultures and nationalities with this meeting in Beijing offering an opportunity for dialogue over the future of Tibet.

China’s crack-down on any show of support for Tibet – including the flying of flags – is out of keeping with the Olympic spirit and will raise many ongoing concerns as to China’s commitment to improve free speech and expression in the run up to the Games.

That it will have this unfortunate side-effect for anyone wanting to fly a Saltire or the English, Welsh or Northern Irish flag may focus people’s minds on the need for further dialogue between China and Tibet.

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Earthquake has Arrived

Much has been written across the blogs about yesterday's (or technically this morning's I suppose) SNP victory in Glasgow East. Not a lot to add other than to say how delighted I am for John Mason, who is a thoroughly decent man, and how delighted I am for all those of us who worked to get him elected. The ramifications of this victory will be felt for a long time.

Anyway, just wanted to post a few photos from yesterday, which are all below. You can also see a lot of pics from the SNP campaign here.

Julie and Gareth

The Cumbernauld and Kilsyth crew, Julie, myself and Stuart McDonald

Outside the SNP campaign rooms on Baillieston Road as the campaign begins to wind down at close of poll

Myself and Patrick at the after poll party hospitably hosted by the Barrachnie Inn

Julie and Patrick fly the flag
Willie, Kenny and Gordon watch the by-election coverage

Mark, Grant and Malcolm

Elaine is excited!

Willie with Ian and Lily Hudghton

John Mason MP arrives back at the Barrachnie Inn to speak to the team