Thursday, 31 December 2009

All around my head ...

Some things:

1. I have heard that Gordon Brown's lack of respect for our armed forces was shown in his home patch recently. The Black Watch marched through Kirkcaldy on December the 11th to mark their return from Afghanistan. Kirkcaldy is in Mr Brown's constituency but he wasn't there. To be fair to him, he could have been in Copenhagen, but he could at least have sent a message of support.

2. I've worked out who Nick Clegg reminds me of - David Steel's Spitting Image puppet:

If only I could think of someone in the Lib Dems with the stature of David Owen ...
You'll note that it's the puppet that Nick Clegg reminds me of - the real David Steel disagrees with Clegg, especially on nuclear weapons:

3. Jim Murphy is a genius. No, honestly, Jim knows that there was a shrinkage in the global economy in 2009 (yup, even before the year is out and before Government statisticians have given him figures). He's beaten a few 'experts' to the punch, too, experts like the IMF which doesn't have global economy figures for 2009 yet; or the World Bank, similarly behind the times; the OECD can't keep up with oor Jim; nor can the UN. He's even outstripped his pals in the UK Government, even Darling's Treasury. Jim Murphy is Mystic Meg.

Happy Hogmanay, mind how you go!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Disappointed by CBI Scotland

You may come across a story about CBI Scotland being disappointed by the excellent performance of the SNP SCottish Government. You will, of course, notice that the reported comments of Iain McMillan bear little relationship to the text of the actual release by the CBI, suggesting that the Director of CBI Scotland has gone off on his own on this one, tilting the release and giving additional comment to prop it up. If you were a director of a company paying good money to the CBI would you not be questioning why the director was trying to pick fights with a Government that is quite clearly keen to listen to businesses? Then again, I wondered why he was allowed to show partiality by joining the Calman Commission.

The actual CBI document being referred to is the response to the Scottish Budget which makes terribly interesting reading. The document actually praises the Scottish Government time after time (like when it notes that the Scottish Futures Trust is a great idea and should be expanded) and notes that the London Government is imposing severe cuts on Scotland.

Labour, in the wobbling frame of David Whitton, has been quick to leap up and say that this is a 'vote of no confidence' in the Scottish Government. Let's look at the vote of confidence that Labour wants from CBI Scotland:

1. Paragraph 26 - Reinstate GARL - a project which has a business case almost as wobbly as the Tram project. Interestingly, part of GARL funded by public money was to be road realignment and a new multi-storey car park at Glasgow Airport, and since the GARL project was cancelled, this private enterprise has announced plans to upgrade access to its business at its own expense. In the meantime, the airport's managing director has called for the rail link to Prestwick to be removed - it would seem that the real consideration is business advantage for BAA, nothing else.

2. Paragraph 15 - cut public sector pay.

3. Para 15 - cut the number of Scottish Local Authorities.

4. Para 17 - privatise Scottish Water; Highlands and Islands Airports; and Scotland's forests. Interestingly, there's a wee caveat in the CBI's document that says that the Statement of Funding should be reviewed to ensure that there is sufficient incentive to ensure sell-off. If only the CBI had actually read the statement, perhaps it would have been clear that all capital receipts go straight back to the Treasury, there is no incentive at all for the Scottish Government to flog assets unless it is to cut running costs - and the record of cutting running costs from privatisation proves it to have less substance than a JK Rowling tale.

5. Para 19 - outsourcing services; in particular, privatising "hospital services, hospital catering and cleaning, GP services, prisons etc". The CBI appears to think that this will make public services less expensive in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

6. Para 20 - all public bodies to contract out payroll and "other back-office work" to private firms.

7. Para 27 - University funding for innovation to be handed over to private businesses.

8. Para 31 - reintroduce the Air Route Development Fund that was ruled illegal by the EU. It's almost like the CBI has never read the Scotland Act and doesn't know that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament is obliged to gold-plate EU regulations.

9. Para 32 - reintroduce student grants.

Does Labour support these proposals? Really? Tsk tsk tsk.

Mind how you go.

Monday, 28 December 2009


It's Yule-tide donchaknow, and it's time to make predictions for 2010. Here's mine -

1) In February Malcolm Chisholm MSP will join the SNP and will be warmly welcomed. Kezia Dugdale will be persuaded to contest the nomination for Labour candidate for 2011 but her conscience will get to her before the selection is completed and she'll be torn between continuing there or coming to join the SNP. I'll just link here to make it easier for her. I'm not sure about George Foulkes' prospects, though, I don't know whether our policy of "nae lords in this party" applies to those who are already lording it when they join or not.

2) When the election comes the SNP will win 28 seats. One of the most interesting victories will be in the constituency formerly known as Eastwood and now known as East Renfrewshire where the subtle and understated campaigning techniques of the quiet man, Gordon Archer, will remove the Labour incumbent. Jim Murphy will then cast his beady eye upon the halcyon politics of Holyrood and Ken Macintosh will get the bum's rush as wee Jim looks for a way in. What a battle that 2011 seat will be!

3) The Referendum Bill will be published; there won't be much movement until the Stage 1 debate appears on the horizon and a few members of each of the other parties will support it as their old democratic tendencies give them a kick in the bahookie. It'll pass on to Stage 2 where there will, finally, be careful and considered debate on Scotland's constitutional future and the right of people to determine it for themselves. This is when a consensus will emerge and the Bill will pass with overwhelming support at Stage 3 and members of all parties will campaign for a YES vote in the referendum - Bill Aitken will work particularly hard in Glasgow hand in hand with Yapping Yousuf; Jim Millar will pound the streets of Arbroath; Linlithgow's streets will echo to the tread of Stephen Glenn; Caron Lindsay will be putting in a West Lothian shift as well; John Lamont will fight for every YES vote down in the wild borderlands; Helen Eadie will leadie the campaign in Fife (except Central Fife which, of course, will be marshaled by Tricia Marwick); Wendy Alexander will bring it on for a renaissance in Paisley; Jamie Stone will be selling cheesy lines across the Highlands in support of independence; and lots of others will join the campaign.

4) With Labour losing seats all across Scotland and being left with no seats north of the Tay; none in Edinburgh; East Lothian lost to the SNP as well as the two seats that set into West Lothian and Falkirk; and seats taken by the SNP across central Scotland and the west of Scotland, Labour in Scotland will look at Iain Gray and say "you're not the man for this job, you're on course to lose your own seat in 2011" and the cry will go up "Jack, Jack lad, you know we never meant it, come back to us, Jack, come back and lead us once again". With his diplomatic job now vanished, Jack will swagger back in and say "are you joking?" Eyes will turn to the street-fighter wing and Charlie Gordon's rehabilitation will be complete - Charlie Gordon to be leader of the Labour party in Scotland by the end of 2010, mark my words!

5) The independence negotiations will be complete by this time next year and Hogmanay next year will be marked with a double celebration - a new year and a newly rejuvenated country.

Mind how you go!

Deficit? Scotland? With our reputation?

I read a story that suggested that Scotland's doomed, doomed I tell you. Well, actually, Labour has been *ahem* creative with Government stats to show that Scotland runs a deficit in public funds - £23.5bn since 1980. Labour politicians, of course, rush to claim that this means that Scotland could not survive as an independent nation.

A few points, sir?

1. If Scotland's economy is in trouble, is that not the fault of the Labour Government in London which has managed to create a quite amazing economic melt-down?

2. You'd have to be daft to take this story at face value. Firstly, the report referred to isn't available on either the Scotland Office website or the Treasury website - if it's so important, wouldn't it be published to allow it to be independently reviewed?

3. Countries run deficits, very few countries don't run deficits - and the UK runs an enormous one; have a look at the Public Finances Database. The Government paper is alleged to indicate that Scotland would have "a massive £3.5 billion budget deficit" - the UK deficit last year was £49.3bn. Scotland has about 9% of the UK population, so our population share of the UK deficit would be £4.44bn, so Scotland is performing better in economic terms than the UK. Since 1980 Scotland is supposed to have an accumulated deficit of £23.5bn, but the UK has carried a £353.2bn deficit over that period, and Scotland's population share of that deficit would have been£31.79bn. So what the Scotland Office / Treasury report actually shows is that Scotland performs better than the UK economically. Independence cannot come soon enough!

Mind how you go!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Excellent photo

I've stumbled across an excellent photo but don't have the permission to show it here. You can see it at

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Iraq and Afghanistan have been military misadventures on a grand scale, disastrous hubris and thoughtless posturing. We've heard about the lack of proper equipment and the lack of political direction, men and women putting their lives on the line, placing themselves in danger's path with no proper in-going campaign plan and no exit strategy. The mission in Iraq changed regularly - the search for weapons of mass destruction, seeking stability in the region, regime change, and so on; the mission in Afghanistan was never that well defined - the war on terror, a search for Osama bin Laden, the release of the people from repression, and so on. With the exception of regime change (invented after the fact) none of these objectives has been met. Apart from anything else, how do you wage a war on terror?

There's something, though, which I have found takes this casual disregard for the lives of our service personnel to another level. It isn't the admission of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, that he intended going to war no matter what - a statement that made me think that his deliberations at the time were restricted to remembering the boost in domestic popularity that Margaret Thatcher got after the Falklands conflict - nor his apparent disregard for the consequences of his actions. It's not the blustering of the present Prime Minister boasting that the troops serving in theatres of war to which we sent them will be provided with helicopters in 2014 - five years from now when, presumably, he thinks they'll still have to be fighting there and he's committing a future government to delivering on his promise - ignoring the ongoing needs of the troops currently on the ground. It's not the sight of the Chancellor squabbling with bankers over bonuses while there is a lack of proper equipment for people we have sent into real danger, nor is it the shame of having a Secretary of State for Defence who is quite clearly not capable of serving in that office with any kind of distinction.

It's the fact that no cabinet member or junior minister turns up to honour the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in the service of their country when their bodies are repatriated. A little humility, a tiny mark of respect, just standing in silent tribute as those coffins come off the back of the transporter at RAF Lyneham. The people of Wootton Bassett have shown dignity and decency as they have paid their respects; surely it's not too much to ask that members of the Government can do likewise?

Instead we see a Prime Minister whose public engagement with these losses is restricted to letters to the families and formulaic phrases in the House of Commons and a Defence Secretary who mutters platitudes while saying that we mustn't be deflected by these deaths.

Many families will be missing members this Christmas as a result of these actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, their losses cannot be undone but at least we should be able to expect that the Government that sent them into harm's way should respect the sacrifice they have made.

We should remember them and not forget those who are still serving and will be serving. Perhaps we should even drink a toast to them:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Banking on high fliers

What a pity Flyglobespan didn't have access to the billions of pounds of public money made available to the banks. The £34 million that was withheld from the company would hardly even be noticed in the bank bailout - it's about one third of one per cent of the current estimate for the final figure for the bailout.

Interestingly, that final figure is £10 billion to bail out the banks (so the Chancellor says) - which is exactly the extra amount the Chancellor has decided to squeeze out of Scotland's oil fields over the next six years. Couldn't afford to bail out our banks? Funnily enough, the Chancellor says otherwise.

Mind how you go!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Who's that?

I saw this BBC story and couldn't help thinking "who's that guy beside the Transport Minister?" He turned out to be a Scotland fan:
The California governor has praised Scotland's carbon-cutting targets, saying they had sent a message to the rest of the world that swift action was needed.
For some reason, though, I was reminded of Ode to Joy ...

Support for independence

There's an opinion poll out from Angus Reid showing that only 36% of Scots want the Scottish Parliament to remain as it is (only 44% across the UK). The drill-down figures show that 53% of Scots would be 'happy' or 'satisfied' with an independent Scotland. Excellent news.

Mind how you g0!

Don Quixote

A wee nudge and James comes up with the goods. Here's what he said in his comment, republished here for ease:
Patience, dear boy, I don't spend all day fact-checking your latest anxiety about trams ...
Do they cause cancer? Will they somehow reduce Scotland's chances of winning the World Cup?
... or indeed wind turbines. Here's the best work I've seen, but it's a bit old. Short version, up to 100 times the then install capacity would be required before there's any chance of any identifiable effect, and even then it would lead to a "near-zero change in global mean temperature".
Furthermore, if we ever did make a change: "The direct climatic changes that are due to wind power may be beneficial because they can act to reduce, rather than increase, aggregate climate impacts."

Of course, what he meant to say was that he was now persuaded that running a train down the middle of the street is barking mad, but the wind turbine article is quite good and worth a read. It's a wee bit dense but readable enough.

While we're on climatic things, news reaches my delicate lugs that the estimable Alyn Smith MEP is in Copenhagen and he seems to have been making sure that people from all over the world know what Scotland's been up to.

Well done that chap!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Greens - who'd have them?

No, no, not the ones you get with your dinner, the eco-activist type. There I was sitting happily at my desk 29 hours ago when along comes Oor James to tell me that there was lots of evidence about the effects of windfarms on the environment. "Excellent" said I in my sage-like way, "Can you send me the link? I'm interested in reading about it." James assured me that it was no bother at all and he'd send it as soon as he got back to his desk - 35 hours ago...


Anyway, a wee while back, our group in the European Parliament (Green/EFA - SNP is an EFA member party) went to Copenhagen to raise awareness of some issues ahead of the current beano there (videos are available). Part of the trip was to the Little Mermaid as below:
I'm told that there was a conversation during this event between two MEPs that went something like this:
"She's a mermaid, right?"
"Yes, well spotted."
"Do you think she's really concerned about rising sea levels?"
"Good point - it was the life preserver I was confused by though..."

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Daft question

I like windfarms, I like the aesthetics of them, I think they look good - especially when they're moving - and I like the scale of the individual turbines (not the ones in back gardens, the ones in fields). Leaving aside the electricity generation, I like wind farms.

Something that struck me earlier tonight, though - back in the olden days when I was at school studying hard (of course), my thorough investigations into O-Grade physics (oh, look it up you young people) led me to understand that energy is never created, it only changes form (ignoring particle physicists and their field of study known as alphysy, of course, which appears to have more connection with Michael Scot of Balwearie than Napier, Craig or Dewar) so if you use a wind turbine you're reducing the amount of energy that the wind has. Does this have an effect on the environment? I appreciate that each wind turbine takes a miniscule amount of energy when noted against the total wind power in the world, but we keep getting told that tiny events can have massive effects, so is there an effect from wind turbines? Has anyone worked out what the volume of wind turbine activity would have to be to have an actual effect? Is it off-setting one of the side effects of deforestation? (I think it was Douglas Adams who compared planetary tree nudity to a skater spinning, but I'll quite happily take the credit). I suppose that there are similar questions to be asked about tidal power, wave power, hydropower, and (probably) solar power. It would be interesting to know whether any work has been done on it - particularly by climatologists.

I would like to make it clear that no physicists were harmed in the writing of this blog post and that I have respect for these strange beings who do strange and fascinating things...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Deeply Philosophical Question

Is Silvio Berlusconi the first head of state ever to be slapped with a model cathedral?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Lib Dems in trouble?

Those of us campaigning on the ground in Edinburgh have seen the Lib Dems' support shrinking markedly over the past couple of years, it's collapsed in North and Leith, practically disappeared in Edinburgh East, vanished in Pentlands (they call it Edinburgh South-West for Holyrood but that's such a boring name), doon the pan in Edinburgh South, and creaking into oblivion in Edinburgh West to the extent that that seat looks like being a Conservative / SNP marginal in 2011. Oftentimes people have chided me and suggested I might be being just a little disingenuous. Me, of all people!

Today's Edinburgh Evening News should make a wee startling then - Margaret Smith, the incumbent MSP, has won reselection as the Lib Dem candidate for 2011 and the tiny tale ends with the sentence
Ms Smith is also expected to put her name forward for the Lib Dems' Lothian list.

That's something she didn't feel the need to do in 1999 nor in 2003 nor in 2007. You would have been forgiven for thinking that 12 years building an incumbency factor might give her more confidence rather than less. Perhaps someone has seen the writing on the wall and run for cover - that person being John Barrett - and that has alerted Ms Smith to the parlous state of her party's fortunes in the wild west of the capital?

The danger she faces, of course, is that heading for the list when she has spurned it on the three previous occasions makes it clear that she's in trouble. Slipping it out as an afterthought to a reselection story might be a way of trying to bury it (sorry about that), but I'll lay odds she tries to retract it in the next couple of weeks (probably blaming a journalist) as someone in the Lib Dems points out that she's just making a bad position worse.

Mind how you go!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Quite Tasmanian

Oh that wee spinnin de'il! Labour's oldest spinner in town has lifted himself up another gear and is now moving so fast his feet are in danger of catching light. In the aftermath of George Foulkes referring to Alex Salmond as Il Duce, Simon Pia (brought in by Wendy Alexander just in time to see her fall, retained by Iain Gray) sidled up to an SNP MSP and insisted "that was my idea, I said it first, he's just copying me"; a young SNP researcher received an email a couple of hours later from Signor Pia saying that he "was the first to compare the FM to Mussolini – also Fat Boab from Oor Wullie when I was at the Scotsman and it was read out in the chamber"; to put a bonny wee ribbon and a pretty bow on it all, when Iain Gray ran into trouble at the weekend over Labour's misuse of public property, his spindoctor came snarling out with an email to a journalist that said
If anyone one's got red face, it's you for writing that pish

All mistakes (c) Simon Pia (I wouldn't use language like that on my blog unless I was quoting).

Descending into insults seems to be the order of the day for Labour just now, though - Iain Gray sunk that far while asking questions of Alex Salmond earlier today. A sad way to go for the guy who aspires to be First Minister.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Great News

There's good news from the last Ipsos MORI poll. Westminster voting intentions (change from 2005 General Election in brackets) are:
SNP: 34% (+16)
Lab: 32% (-8)
Con: 15% (-1)
Lib Dem: 12% (-11)
Other: 6%

Send it through Electoral Calculus and it shows that the SNP, on those figures, would take ten extra seats to add to the six we won at the last UK General Election and that another six Labour seats would be within a 1% swing. There's another five Labour seats within a 1.5% swing, and none of this takes into account the work being done in individual seats like Glasgow East, Edinburgh West and Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East (CKK is one seat) which could see them fall to us.

There's even better news, though, great news - Edinburgh North and Leith is one of the seats that comes to the SNP, as is Edinburgh East.

On these figures, the SNP takes new seats from Labour in:
Edinburgh North and Leith
Edinburgh East
Dundee West
Kilmarnock and Loudoun
Aberdeen North
Ochil and South Perthshire

and we take new seats from the Lib Dems in:
Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey
Argyll and Bute

Conservatives would take Dumfries and Galloway from Labour.

These are the seats within that 1.5% swing:
Aberdeen South
Glasgow North
Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Edinburgh South
Ayrshire North and Arran
Paisley and Renfrewshire North
East Lothian
Dunfermline and West Fife
Edinburgh South West
Lanark and Hamilton East

Dunfermline and West Fife carries an obvious health warning thanks to the 2006 by-election, but there are also other seats where local issues might play strongly like Falkirk, Livingston and Glasgow South and seats like East Dunbartonshire where the swing for us to take it from the Lib Dems is only around 2.45% and a wee local issue might help us.

Even in Renfrewshire East we've closed the gap so the swing we need between now and the election is 5.8% - and there are only seven Labour seats safer than that. Only three Lib Dem seats need more than a 5% swing on these figures - Ross, Skye & Lochaber, Fife North East, and Orkney & Shetland.

Game on, one might say.

Mind how you go!

Trams claim first victim

The BBC reports that the tram track on Princes Street has upended a cyclist (one of six) and, as a result, TIE is to offer a cycling proficiency test. If I may quote:

"The training is being organised and carried out by independent specialist instructors, and is aimed at training and advising cyclists on how to ride safely in the vicinity of tram lines."
Firstly, how did Edinburgh manage to attract the only cyclists in the country who don't know that tram tracks are absolutely lethal for bikes? Don't they remember Kirkpatrick McMillan's famous exhortation - "Trams? Trams laddie? Gonnae no dae that, just gonnae no?"

As for TIE proposing to organise one cyclist training session - less of the PR fluff, just get some warning signs up wherever the tram traps are going to be, it doesn't have to be complicated, just something like "Here be tram tracks - no eco-friendly means of transport welcome!"

You'll see the rapid degradation of the road surface alongside the tram tracks - I assume that's just because it's a temporary surface laid to get the road open for December but I, of course, wouldn't be at all surprised if the tram tracks destroy road surfaces wherever they are laid.

Before apportioning blame, though, let's look at the guy who fell off his bike - he's riding one of those 'feet in front of you' low-slung things that keep you below most of the sight lines of drivers in cars (never mind larger vehicles) his road discipline, as shown on his website, is incredibly poor, and he has been knocked off his bike by a bee before... Still, at least he appears to have a proper front light, not one of those flashing things.

I prefer Danny MacAskill's style

Mind how you slide!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Labour reported to Electoral Commission - again

I hear that Prestonpans branch of the Labour Party, the East Lothian CLP, and the Prestonpans Labour Club have all been reported to the Electoral Commission for breaching the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

I understand that the donations, set up when Labour was running the council and stopped by the SNP, were illegal because any political party; accounting unit of any political party; or Members Association (like a club) of a political party should check the permissibility of any donation, including whether the donor is a permissible donor. Councils are not permissible donors and the three parts of the Labour Party were accepting these donations illegally for at least the nine years since PPERA was introduced.

The donations were always illegal but it's not clear (to me, anyway) whether it was illegal to accept them before 2000. Perhaps m'learned friends can advise on the legality of accepting a donation which was being given illegally? In any case, it would appear that Marx was correct about history repeating itself.

Mind how you go!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

No intentional wrong-doing?

Once upon a time Wendy Alexander said there was no intentional wrong-doing over donations to her campaign to lead Labour in Scotland. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce, as a chap with a beard once said. Iain Gray must be hoping he was wrong as the dealings of Prestonpans Labour Club start to come to light. That club made a donation to his leadership campaign and offered him the space to launch his bid.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Was it wise?

When Gordon Brown was busy trying to defend his inheritance tax cut on Wednesday, one of the insults he chucked at David Cameron was:
I have to say, that with him and Mr. Goldsmith, their inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton.
Was that wise? Does it matter where someone went to school? It's not as if going to a private school is a quintessentially Tory thing to do, is it? For example:

  • Iain Gray MSP, Labour's leader in Scotland, went to George Watson's, a private school in Edinburgh.

  • Alistair Darling MP, Labour's Chancellor of the Exchequer, went to Loretto, a private school in Musselburgh (as did Fergus Ewing MSP).

  • Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the House, went to St Paul's Girls' School, a private school in Hammersmith.

  • Jack Straw MP, Labour's Justice Secretary, went to Brentwood School, a direct grant school at the time.

  • Hilary Benn MP, Environment Secretary and son of Tony, went to Norland Place School (a private school for early years - Conservative George Osborne also went there) and Westminster Under School, a private prep school before completing his schooling at Holland Park School (not private).

  • Ed Balls MP, Labour's Education Secretary, went to Nottingham High School, a private school in Nottingham - which is probably where it got its name.

  • Shawn Woodward MP, Northern Ireland Secretary, went to Bristol Grammar School

  • Tessa Jowell MP, Paymaster General, went to St Margaret's School for Girls, a private school in Aberdeen.

  • Jim Murphy MP, Scottish Secretary, went to Milnertown High - a fee-paying school in Cape Town, South Africa (that may be normal in SA, though, I don't know - and the poor guy had to put up with being in a country with a racial divide).

  • Peter Hain MP, Welsh Secretary, was educated at Pretoria Boys High School, a private school in South Africa and Emanuel School, a private school in Battersea.

  • Lord Adonis, Transport Secretary, went to Kingham Hill, a private school in the Cotswolds.

  • Richard Baker MSP, Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary in Scotland, went to St Bees, a private school in Cumbria.

  • Jackie Baillie MSP, Shadow Health Secretary in Scotland, went to Windermere St Ann's, a private school in the Lake District.

  • Des McNulty MSP, Shadow Education in Scotland, went to St Bede's, a private school in Manchester
Of course, there was Tony Blair who went to Fettes College, as did Ian McKee MSP.

Where your parents sent you to school and whether they paid a fee to send you there doesn't matter a hoot in politics. What does matter isn't where you came from, it's where you're going. What school tie you wore is massively unimportant compared to what your policies are and what you intend to do with power. It doesn't matter whether your policies were conceived on playing fields or fancy restaurants, it's whether you're a desperado.

Image source

Mind how you go!

Putting the record straight

I have seen, recently, two pieces stating, quite categorically, that the McCrone report written for the UK Government in the 1970s was released under the 30 year rule. One was Jim Sillars' paper (not very good) and one was a BBC production (passable).

For the sake of decency and history, can we be clear. This report wasn't released under the 30 year rule and it wouldn't have been. It was the result of the inspiration of a guy called Davie Hutchison who used the Freedom of Information legislation to dig deeper and deeper into the archives, using references in some archives to ask for other documents until he found a gold mine. I know this because I am fortunate enough to be his friend and lucky enough to have been one of the team that worked on his discovery before it was released. I was also the guy who got the text messages while Davie was in the archives, they went something like this:
DH to CC: What did we say about oil in the 1970s?
CC to DH: Dunno exactly, I was just a child.
DH to CC: I was several years away from being born, what did we say generally?
CC to DH: We had a campaign "its Scotland's oil" saying there was a lot of wealth in North Sea Oil and it belonged to us.
DH to CC: And they denied it?
CC to DH: As far as I remember, yes.
DH to CC: I've found something that might be interesting, I'll be up as soon as I've copied it.

I went back to work thinking Davie had got over-excited about something that 'everyone' knew about. Davie, meanwhile, spent about half of what he earned in a week on the huge charges for photocopying at the National Archives and brought us the stuff that has now become famous.

Having grown up in Dundee East, I was delighted to be able to send an embargoed copy to my father for him to share with Gordon Wilson who fronted the 'Scotland's Oil' campaign years before Davie Hutchison was born.

The 30 year rule works on the basis of the date that the last document was added to the folder. If my memory serves me right (and you can check it at the National Archives in Charlotte Square) the last document added to that folder was 1992 so none of it was due for release until 2022 (providing nothing else was added to extend the date). There was nothing blacked out - I'm fairly sure the Scotland Office didn't know what they were releasing - and I think that some people do a good job in keeping it available.

Davie Hutchison, though, deserves respect for the work he did and the dedication he showed. No-one should think that this was an easy release under the 30 year rule.

Mind now!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

SNP in massive, unassailable lead!

Well, OK, 2 percentage points up on Labour: SNP 34%, Labour 32%, Con 15%, Lib Dem 12%, other 6% for Westminster, it's 36%, 32%, 12%, and 12% for the Holyrood constituency vote. Interestingly, 12% is the lowest figure that Ipsos Mori have ever reported in Scotland so the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are both in some serious trouble.

What's really strange, though, is the quote from the Labour spokesman as reported earlier today - "If there was a general election tomorrow, the poll shows Labour would beat the SNP handsomely, and that we lead at Holyrood too".

How does that work? Is someone there not paying attention?

We really must improve education in this country.

Independence day

I see that the United Arab Emirates will be celebrating 38 years of independence from the UK today. I wonder how such a small country can have survived on its own for so long - a population of less than three million in 2000 and now only approaching six million - how have they got by without the UK?

Truly amazing...