Friday, 30 October 2009


One hears - and so do I - that Labour's reshuffle was even more botched than it appeared (quite an achievement). The whispers, as yet unsubstantiated, say that not everyone who was asked to serve agreed. Amongst those who are said to have refused are Ken Mcintosh, Margaret Curran, Hugh Henry and Wendy Alexander. I wonder why they would refuse - if they did, of course.

In other interesting developments we have news coming from CJ and from a chap with the ould interests that 4,000 previously unidentified electors have appeared on the electoral roll in Glasgow North East, taking the total up to 64,000 or so - that would mean that, for every 15 voters who were on the register there was one hiding in the lobby press... It would be interesting to see the distribution of these new arrivals - are they entirely new households being added to the register or are they additions to households that were already on the register? Why did we have to wait until November for the contest to fill the vacancy?

Postal votes are up as well - by an extra couple of thousand, 1200 in the last month, 600 applications delivered by Labour on the last day. Terribly nice of Labour to save all those people the awful trouble of posting the form themselves - hopefully they'll be around to post the ballot papers back as well, save the voters any trouble at all. I wonder how many of those people newly on the register have also just become postal voters?

Vote early, vote often!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

He forgot

Remember when Labour's reshuffle was announced and I pointed out that there was no shadow minister for transport nor one for climate change? Want to know why? They forgot. Yesterday when a story was breaking about ferries, Labour was asked for a comment from their transport spokesperson and they said "um ... hang on a minute", climbed into a cupboard, hasty a hasty confab and then announced that Charlie Gordon was in transports of delight and Cathy Peattie was responsible for climate change (and you thought it was greenhouse gases!). Anyone would think that this reshuffle was done in a panic.

You can understand why Labour might want to forget about transport given their record on trams in the capital but Climate Change? Does no-one in the Labour party read the newspapers? Sheesh! Here's a thing, though, Iain Gray was saying that he was sure that Wendy Alexander would return to a front bench position without actually promoting her to a front bench position - then he promoted Charlie Gordon, the guy who brought about her downfall. Does he really dislike her that much?

I was right as well - James Kelly has been promoted (although it's community safety rather than transport).

Here's a thing, though, why stop John Park talking about apprenticeships and move him into a mute role? Might it be that the Labour Government in London will be cutting apprenticeship funding in the budget and so John has to be silenced well in advance in the hope that no-one will remember he made a big thing of it?

Here's another interesting thing - the SNP Government has 6 Cabinet Secretaries and 10 Ministers; a total of 16. The old Lab/Lib Scottish Executive had 22. If there was a terrible calamity and Labour took power today they would have 26 (assuming their junior whips don't get Ministerial posts). Not only more Ministers than the SNP, but more Ministers than they shared with the Lib Dems back in the bad old days - along with the Ministerial salaries, of course...

One more thing too; for the sake of decency I would have thought that Lewis Macdonald's name would be spelled correctly on his own party's website. And to think they want to run the country.

Wrap up warm now, mind how you go!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Tuition fees

I've just heard Andrew Cubie calling for post-graduation tuition fees to be reintroduced for Higher Education scholars in Scotland. His argument is that graduates get a higher lifetime income as a result of being graduates so they should pay a consideration towards their education costs.

I think he'll find it's called income tax.

Mind how you go!

Soft Shoe Shuffle

More on Labour's plan to run around and look like a crowd. At the time of writing Labour still doesn't have a transport spokesperson to replace Des McNulty; and there's no-one in Labour's ranks been tasked with addressing climate change.
Here's a laugh, though, who shadows whom? Labour has 11 members of its shadow cabinet to shadow the six members of the SNP Government cabinet, but it's not quite that simple ...
  • Salmond v Gray - standard stuff, but Salmond has cabinet responsibility for culture and the constitution and Pauline McNeill's in the Hank Marvin Cabinet with those responsibilities for Labour, so she shadows Salmond too. That'll scare him!

  • Swinney v Kerr - seems JS was having too easy a time of it because Michael McMahon has lumbered onto Labour's front bench for local government - and David Whitton has responsibility (but not front bench responsibility) for *ahem* Finance and Sustainable Growth. Three against one - did I just hear John Swinney laugh?

  • Lochhead v Boyack - straight fight, except Karen Gillon is Sarah Boyack's deputy and responsible for Rural Development which is entirely Richard's responsibility in Government, so he's got a double-upper.

  • MacAskill v Baker - wee Ricky's left without a tag-team member. The poor wee guy looks like an aperitif.

  • Sturgeon v Baillie - looks like a straight wrestling match until you remember that Ms Sturgeon (hey, I'm only brave once in a while) is also Deputy First Minister, so Johann Lamont is coming charging in from behind and Cathy Jamieson is Labour's Housing and Regeneration personage in cabinet so three of Labour's Shadow Cabinet members are there to deal with Nicola Sturgeon - that's more than a quarter of their cabinet! Jings, crivvens and help ma boab!

  • Hyslop v McNulty - what will Des do next? Well, actually that's a good question because Claire Baker has responsibility for tertiary education, Ken McIntosh schools, Karen Whitefield children and early years, Karen Gillon (again) skills, so what, exactly, is Des doing? Is he the mild-mannered janitor?

  • That leaves one member of Labour's shadow cabinet that we haven't accounted for - John Park - he has no equal! Well, actually, he's doing a party job (elections and campaigns) as a part of Labour's parliamentary shadow cabinet. I do hope he'll not be using any parliamentary resources for that job; like his parliamentary office, his computer and other office equipment, telephone, blackberry, expenses for shadow cabinet away-days, and so on. Parliamentary in this instance obviously covers anything paid for by Parliament whether it's on the Parliament campus, in the constituency office or even wee and portable!
Still with me? Right well, there's also the Ministers, 12 shadows to 10 real ones, but it's not that simple:
  • Crawford v Martin - only one against Bruce Crawford? With his reputation?

  • Russell v McNeill - except Pauline McNeill's in the shadow cabinet so it's an SNP Minister against a Labour shadow cabinet secretary. She'll have to split her time - Salmond saved from Dennis Healey - type mauling.

  • Robison v Simpson - except Shona also has sport, so Frank McAveety gets added to her load.

  • Neil v Mulligan - except Cathy Jamieson has the same portfolio as Alex but at cabinet level (is it a job creation scheme?). Like Des McNulty, though, what is Jackie Baillie actually responsible for in Labour's ranks? Her deputies fill all the responsibilities for her.

  • Mather v Macdonald - can Lewis Macdonald keep up with Jim Mather on the move? Can he mind-map while he does it? And why is this job listed under Environment in Labour's list?

  • Stewart Stevenson gets a walk-over, no-one in Labour's ranks has responsibility for tackling climate change or transport. There has to be a suitable successor to Des McNulty, surely? Of course there is - James Kelly! Go on, Iain, give the man a job!

  • Brown v McIntosh - it was always going to be a walk-over for Keith, so Barbie's beau gets Karen Gillon as a pal on skills (surely that's a typo on Karen Gillon's job? Rural Development, Economy and Skills and all under the environment portfolio?)

  • Ingram v Whitefield - Karen Whitefield (ignoring the conflict of interest with a party spokesperson chairing a committee which handles her spokespersonish duties) has shown a distinct lack of empathy for the subject matter and Adam Ingram has a detailed knowledge and a real desire to deliver for the children of Scotland. Karen will have to settle for being Robert McNeil's muse.

  • Ewing v Martin - yup, Paul Martin's got two jobs, one dealing with Bruce Crawford and the other trying to keep up with Fergus the Furious, famed Viking warrior (or something like that). It's almost like Labour's given up on making any impact in Justice - Iain Gray's put forward one Richard Baker and half a Paul Martin to take on MacAskill and Ewing. I bet he's looking forward to cheering on Third Lanark against Barcelona.

  • Cunningham v Murray - a contest strictly for rubber-neckers, one presumes.
That's half of Labour's group with shadow ministerial posts (and that's without counting those appointed whip, one on the Corporate Body, and committee convenors); is it a case of the leader having to avoid offending people? That's a sign of weakness, a sign that all is not well in the Labour leadership camp. It's time to dust off an old slogan - Eadie to Leadie!
Mind how you go.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Labour - shuffling along

Iain Gray has reshuffled his pack and it's come up jokers again.

Rhona Brankin's out of the education portfolio - and a good thing too, she never had the good grace to acknowledge the smallest ever class sizes, the school buildings pledge met a year and a half ahead of schedule, the introduction of the baccalaureate, the record support for Scottish students, the record funding for our colleges and universities, or any of the other successes in education. That portfolio is no place for a small-minded and bitter person, Scotland needs and deserves better. Still running that Labour party literacy commission (no it's not an oxymoron, don't be cruel) which was launched by Wendy Alexander more than a year ago and still hasn't done anything. Des McNulty comes galloping in to add some va-va-voom to the job. Fiona Hyslop will have to stay awake and pay attention to every detailed nuance from Des's desultory dialectics.

Andy Kerr becomes Shadow Secretary for Finance & Economy because that will free him up, he having been Shadow Secretary for ... erm ... Finance and Sustainable Growth. Right ... Anyway, he's been swinging wildly and catching air for two and a half years, maybe losing sustainability is just what he needs. John Swinney will spare time for a quick guffaw before launching back into the serious business of running Scotland's finances and ensuring sustainable growth in spite of the incompetence of the Labour Government in London

Cathy Jamieson is sacked from health and brought back in Housing and Regeneration. Earnest but uninspiring, at least Cathy still has some principles at her back. Alex Neil won't be worried, though, Cathy's been too principled to tell lies so far, so she's likely to actually welcome the good job that the SNP Government is doing.

Jackie Baillie flies back to front at health, shadowing Sturge the Unstoppable. The Health Secretary has been outed recently as a secret fan of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, surprising those of us who thought she led an ascetic life - will the additional pressure of Jackie Baillie crush her will to win? The race is not always to the swift - but that's where the smart money goes.

Richard Baker stays at Justice. It's almost cruel to put that poor wee laddie up against Kenny MacAskill.

To be fair to Iain Gray he didn't really have much to choose from; his barrel has been scraped until the ground is showing through it. Henry McLeish may be right that Labour is "intellectually exhausted" and "time is running out for Scottish Labour". Perhaps that's why Iain Gray's MSPs have begun a whispering campaign against him.

They've still got a photograph of the wrong cabinet up on the website though.

America? I'm ambivalent

Having watched the gyrations of politicians desperate to curry favour with the President of the United States of America - my good buddy Barack (honest) - including the embarrassment of a 'world leader' lurking in the kitchen disguised as a commis chef because he knew that POTUS (pretentious? Moi?) likes nothing better than a sneaky after-cake, I took a wee trip down memory lane to a passage I particularly liked as a boy:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it - It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.
Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her
politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
President George Washington's Farewell Address, 1796 - and I was delighted to find it online - Yale's a good university - I thought I was going to have to type it up.

He goes on to say that the US should remain neutral in Europe's conflicts - a position I'm glad the US has drifted from at times as the world has developed - but the substance of the passage chimes with my vision of nationalism and how we should relate to other countries; an equidistance, friendly with all, subservient to none.

As old George says:
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

That's what I call a special relationship.

Mind how you go!

Monday, 26 October 2009

MacAskill launches anti-submarine technology

Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, launched some anti-submarine technology on Friday - in Partick subway station. Don't worry down there on the clockwork satsuma, it's not about to flood and The Nautilus isn't likely to be coming the other way, it's all about metal detectors! No, no, not the ones you see people using in fields wearing headphones and an intense look that suggests that Roman legionnaires buried their treasure here last week, these detectors are for knives.
High-tech equipment to help the police in the detection of carriers of bladed weapons, the Ferroguard poles come from a system which was developed to help with safety in MRI suites using technology which was developed to detect submarines.
Not only will it help the police to detect those carrying weapons to allow them to decide what the risk to public safety is and take appropriate action, it also means that no-one will be able to carry concealed submarines in Scotland! A result all round.

Mind how you beep!

Civic nationalism

From the exalted watch-tower of Bradford University, Professor Tom Gallagher has cast his beady eye at the activities of Alex Salmond and declared that Salmond is in the process of “junking civic nationalism for an emotion-laden ethnic variety”. This surely can't be the same Professor Tom Gallagher who used an article in the Washington Times in April 2008 to argue that "Mr. Salmond is mobilizing different campaigning groups and minorities and promising them multicultural rights designed to sharpen an ethno-religious rather than a civic identity", can it? Is it the same Professor Tom Gallagher who recently wrote
But in light of the Scoto-American splat that has developed over the fate of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al- Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, it may now be time to sell Scotland abroad on account of its cussedness. ‘Welcome to Scotland the Land with Attitude’ springs to mind. Perhaps the Highland Stag could promptly be replaced with the Porcupine as a defining national symbol.

By contrast to the US democracy with its access points for citizens, the relatives of the eleven killed in the small Scottish town over which the plane exploded, have no effective access to political power.

and into the realms of humour with
But don’t expect much investigation or analysis from a largely supine Scottish media. Not a few of the BBC’s political journalists see their job as merely a preliminary posting before they use their political connections to secure a parliamentary seat, with the SNP being the favoured choice. The Scotsman newspaper, supposedly Unionist in orientation has as its features page editor an SNP parliamentary candidate who ensures that the opinion pieces in the newspaper cause few problems for his party. Increasingly many Scottish journalists see the need to defer to the SNP because, as its grip on power tightens it might become their employer while some of their own newspapers might go out of business,

A supine Scottish media? Where, exactly? But he can enter the bizarre as well:
The 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation is not having a penny spent on it by Alex Salmond: it emphasises the British link.

I tried to work out how he could get to this thinking but just couldn't - the Reformation was Scotland creating its own church and, as a result, influencing other Presbyterian churches around the world.

It would seem that self-publicisation through the peddling of prejudice, mistruths and misconceptions rather than serious academic research informs the good professor's forays into the media. He appears to have some special loathing reserved for Alex Salmond, though, almost as if the First Minister used to nick his sweets in the playground.

Professor Gallagher has been answered by Iain McWhirter and by he who worries peat today and has been addressed in the past by Gerry Hassan, but it may be instructive to note how one of his peers interprets his views on democracy:
Tom Gallagher fears that unrestrained political debate could be too much for East Europeans to handle: ‘Agreement about the management of political competition is essential if nascent democracies are not to be tested beyond endurance by heavily adversarial parties’

Tom Gallagher writes that Western civil society is necessary, otherwise Eastern states are merely ‘adapting the outward forms of north Atlantic democracies’.
A wee touch of xenophobia there perhaps, or imperious snook-cocking? How can it be argued that only we have the ability to handle political debate and that others must learn from us? The vaulting vanity of that is quite breath-taking.

You'll notice in the herald piece that Professor Gallagher claims to have been sympathetic to the SNP until the 2007 election. His ardour cooled quickly. By the beginning of August he was critical of the First Minister attempting to ensure that conflict did not result from the attack on Glasgow Airport and allowed his quite clear dislike of Islam to colour his judgement on the rally which was organised by young Muslims. He also attacked Osama Saeed, but he can defend himself. The interesting bit of Professor Gallagher's piece is where he makes it clear that his personal enmity towards the SNP has lasted for at least a decade and it's difficult to see how his recent comment that he was “broadly sympathetic to the party up to its assumption of office” chimes with his 2007 comment that "The SNP is a grievance party par excellence".

Let's be charitable and assume that he just has a shockingly bad memory, shall we, rather than suggesting that he uses the truth sparingly. Either way, though, the book he's promoting with his vitriol can't be very good, can it?

Mind how you go!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lockerbie bomber not dead

Seems Sky got a bit over-excited yesterday and perhaps so did I.

Not as bad as Richard Baker though

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lockerbie bomber dead

Sky news is reporting that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi has died. His family will be grieving, but at least they had the opportunity to spend some time with him before he died - an opportunity he denied to each and every one of his victims.

Update: Tony Kelly, Mr Megrahi's lawyer is saying that the reports about his death are not correct.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Iain Gray - tougher than you think

Labour's Scottish leader, Iain Gray, wants to institute a policy that means automatic imprisonment for carrying a knife. Or, in Iain's words:
Our proposal for a minimum sentence for knife criminals is the right way to send a clear message. That message is – carry and knife and go to jail.

I'm sure that Iain and the rest of the Labour party in Scotland will be delighted to know that they're being even tougher than Downes Elementary School in Newark, Delaware, USA where a six year old boy has been told he should serve a 45 day sentence in a remand school for taking his favourite camping cutlery to school to eat his lunch with. I can imagine the puffed chest as Labour's Judge Dredd says "45 days in a remand school? No, laddie, 45 weeks in the big hoose!" If you were a Labour party member would you be happy to have this guff associated with your name?

Shall we take the 14 or 15 year-old boy who carries a knife because his mates do and send him to prison rather than showing him that he doesn't need to? What about a 17 year old who carries a knife because he really needs it for protection - should we just jail him and start him on a criminal career rather than letting him let go of his fear? What about a 21 year old who has been a bit wild, fighting in the street, getting a bit out of hand, carrying a blade to make himself feel harder, bigger, more important? Do we chuck him inside with violent offenders or should we maybe think about ways to address his anger and frustration and let him release that and become a valuable member of society? Iain Gray would send them to jail - enormous cost to the taxpayer, enormous damage to them, possibly turning them to a life of crime when they might (might) have a chance of making a better life for themselves.

Does Labour seriously think that a police officer on patrol doesn't want to think about what they are doing? Process them and send them down! I suspect that a majority of police officers are fully aware of the implications for a young life of an arrest, of a criminal record. I suspect that a lot of police officers will look at the situations that come in front of them every day and always consider the effects of their actions - some people won't be arrested who could be, sometimes it might be thought better to take the teenager home or to have a wee chat with them where they are, some people might get away with minor crimes, but society might be better off. Would automatons make better police officers than the ones we have?

Similarly, does anyone really think that mandatory sentences make our courts better? The sheriffs and judges who sit in our courts - does anyone think that they sit there wishing that someone had told them exactly what sentence each of those convicted in front of them should get? These legal bods who have spent years in the great theatre of court to supplement their study of law to become a mere subsidiary of pornography politics - I've got a harder penal policy than you have? Perhaps we should trust them to do their jobs, to look at what's in front of them, to decide what the legal position is and to temper that with common sense and human decency. Perhaps we should look at our penal policy on a regular basis and ask what is working rather than what will harvest a few votes.

Let's think about a teenager; out knocking around, doing whatever legal things teenagers are wont to do, perhaps in the company of a love interest. Let's say that, for whatever reason - being in the wrong place, looking funny, or just unfortunate - he is set upon by another person or more than one person and, in addition to the physical injuries he sustains, he is humiliated. In his shame and burning embarrassment he goes home and grabs a big carving knife from the kitchen and sets out in the red mist to avenge himself. The probability being that, if he does not come upon his assailants soon, he will run out of steam, think better of his rage and return the knife to the kitchen. If he makes contact while raging the tale may be different in all kinds of ways, but bear with me.

Let's introduce a police patrol. Police officers encounter the youth while he is in a rage and engage him. It becomes apparent that he has a knife. As things stand the officers can talk to him, give him time to calm down, give him time to think about what he is doing, give him the benefit of their experience, set him off on a different path, take the knife from him if they think it necessary, perhaps give him a lift home so he's safe and out of trouble, exercise their duty of care to him as well as to the other members of this society, make life a little better all round. They'd also be able to think that he was a danger to society and to take him into custody where he could calm down and be released later, be examined for mental illness if thought necessary, have kith or kin called to take care of him, or perhaps other avenues. It's police officers acting as members of, and servants of, society - a role I think most of them perform regularly and well.

If the police saw fit to send a report to the Procurator Fiscal similar decisions take place, is it in the public interest to prosecute or to take one of the other routes open to the Fisc? Then into court and the Sheriff or Judge will sit through a trial and, if and on conviction, will consider how to dispose of the case - admonition because that is what will ensure that the lad will think twice in the future; community service because he needs to learn a harder lesson; prison because a message needs to get through; or another disposal? How many cases come before the people on the bench and how much do they pack into their gullet? How often do they think that they would like to send someone to prison but it would serve no purpose (alternatively, how often do they think that their powers to imprison do not go far enough?) What does someone presiding over a sentence have to consider? While I'm as sure as every taxi-driver that I could do a better job (I used to drive a taxi), I'm really quite glad that it's not me there - it's a fair responsibility.

Now take Labour's position - the police would find the knife and have no choice, they would have to process him for the Proc Fisc. The PF would have no choice, they would have to prosecute. Providing there was evidence that a knife was present, the sheriff or judge would have no choice, the kid would have to go to jail. Who benefits? How is that an improvement? From the time the police found the knife there was no other outcome - is that not just a wee bit scary? Where are all the checks and balances that you and I rely on to make sure that we are not unjustly or unproductively prosecuted and convicted? Remove them from the daft laddie with the knife and you've removed them from us.

Take that story back a bit and let's introduce the police patrol at a later point - the young lad is on his way home having realised that he's being a fool, having thought it through, and having thought that a night in his bed is just about top-notch just now. The police spot the knife and pull him over - the same choices are currently available, and this laddie will most likely go home with a wee lesson and a bit of respect for the polis who said "think about it first", he'll wake up still humiliated but not in prison. In Labour's world, though, the guy could be opening his door and stepping back inside when the police catch him - from there he's going to jail.

Let's make a deal, Iain, let's let the police decide how to handle crime prevention and detection and how to keep the peace, they're trained for it. Let's let the PF and the courts prosecute, convict and sentence, and let's spend our time working out how to make this a better country instead of regimenting it. If someone has a knife let's ask why, let's put the violent people in jail and give the daft laddies a second chance. Let's not condemn people for acting in the heat of the moment when they might still have the chance to think again.

Justice may have to be blind but it doesn't have to be stupid.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

If politics confuses you ...

Any time you find politics a little confusing, take a trip into physics, it's marvellous. In a tremendous scoop, theorists Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya have speculated that Higgs boson particles are travelling back through time in order to destroy the Large Hadron Collider and prevent their existence being proven. Almost the antithesis of The Flipside of Dominick Hide isn't it?

Jings, crivvens and help m' Boab!

What a day to pick

Michael Martin took his seat in the Lords today - nice timing!

What sorcery is this?

I carry a small box in my pocket - almost everywhere I go it goes with me. Sometimes it will vibrate and light up with a strange ringing noise, and then you can hear voices coming from it. "What sorcery is this?" I hear you ask. In all honesty, I must admit that I do not know exactly how it works.

Recently I listened to one of the voices "Hello," it said, "this is one of the voices."
"Aha," I said, "and how can I help you?"
"Have you read Stephen's Linlithgow Journal recently?"
"I read it often. Is it the bit where he admits that the SNP is right and he'll be voting Nat from now on?" (It's coming soon, have patience).
"No, no, no. The bit where he's regaling us with tales of Lib Dem conference."
"Yeah, that was quite funny - training candidates at conference? Does that mean that they aren't confident in their candidates' abilities?"
"Probably, but that's not the part I'm talking about, I'm referring to the fact that he appears to be arguing that the Lib Dems debate policy in public. How does that square with the decision of the Scottish Lib Dems - the party to which Stephen belongs - to review its policy on an independence referendum but hold the debate in private?"
"What sorcery is this?"

Mind how you go!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Lib Dem councillor says "scrap the tram"

On Friday a Lib Dem councillor said "My name is Charles Dundas and I say Scrap the Tram". I was there, I heard it. He was the quizmaster in a fundraiser quiz and I was a member of the SNP team whose team name was ...

"My name is Charles Dundas and I say Scrap the Tram".

I blame Councillor David Beckett.

Mind how you go!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Annabel Goldie wants more power for the Scottish Parliament

What else could you think? In her speech to Conservative conference she said
And there’s more. Oh yes, once we get started there’s no stopping us! Today I can announce - to support and protect our dedicated and responsible staff in our Scottish NHS we shall bring forward measures to strengthen protection for Whistleblowers. Our doctors, our nurses, our health workers must not be afraid to speak up about anything which compromises patient safety or patient care.
The first email came from a man obsessed with Irish politics (he's a fan of the tallyman), and he asked, quite rightly, "what about whistle-blowers in the banks, why's she not supporting them?" He's got a point. He was trumped, though, by m'learned friend who pointed out that Annabel was either calling for more power for the Scottish Parliament or doesn't understand devolution. Here's how he did it:
Scotland Act 1998
Schedule 5 - Reserved Matters
Head H1 Employment and industrial relations
Employment rights and duties and industrial relations, including the subject-matter of-
(g) the Employment Rights Act 1996

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (better known as the whistleblowing legislation) works by amending the Employment Rights Act 1996.
You can see the structure here:
So the subject matter is reserved - not devolved.

So there you have it.

Mind how you go!

Glasgow - well funded, by the way!

I see that Bob Doris MSP has had a Parliamentary Question answered which shows that Glasgow gets the highest funding per head of any part of mainland Scotland. The three island communities get more - I would imagine as a result of the special difficulties of delivering council services on islands. Do the bin lorries go on the ferries? I've just thought of that! Does each island have separate facilities for disposal of waste?

Anyway, here's the per capita figures for each council and the Scottish average in descending order:

Shetland Islands
Eilean Siar
Orkney Islands
Glasgow City
Argyll & Bute
West Dunbartonshire
Dundee City
Dumfries & Galloway
North Ayrshire
Scottish Borders
North Lanarkshire
East Ayrshire
East Renfrewshire
South Lanarkshire
South Ayrshire
East Lothian
West Lothian
Edinburgh (City of)
Perth & Kinross
East Dunbartonshire
Aberdeen City

Now, I know that Glasgow has special social problems that warrant this extra funding, but it's been pouring in there for years - surely we should be seeing some changes by now - what has the council been doing to address those problems?

44% per head more than Edinburgh? Surely that's not needed at that level. Other areas with particular needs aren't coining it either - Highlands, for example, sparse population but £394 per head less than Glasgow with its dense population. There may be some argument for Aberdeen getting almost £1,000 less than Glasgow on the grounds that Aberdeen has wealth around it from the oil industry (I doubt whether such a disparity can be justified, though), but even East Dunbartonshire is £910 adrift - it's true, but!

Yes, it's true that Glasgow has problems and needs extra funding to cope with them, but I can't help asking what Glasgow Council has been doing all these years with all that extra money - it certainly wasn't sorting out the problems faced by the people they're supposed to represent. Perhaps it would be fairer, actually, to ask what the administration on Glasgow Council has been doing for decades.

Anybody know?