Strange things happening today; I customarily look at Wings Over Scotland and newsnetscotland more or less every day, but have been having a few problems, no doubt due to Windows 10, Word and general auld man’s incompetence. However today when I clicked on newsnetscotland I got a big notice “403 – Access to this site is forbidden.” So I have been unable to read the thoughts of Derek Bateman; I tried going through his website but fell at the first twitter! Might come all right. Wings was OK.
I returned last week from a fortnight in Lanzarote, very nice. My eldest son and his wife were with us but staying in a villa, my wife and I were in a hotel. We did this last year, but this year I needed someone to do the heavy lifting. We flew with Ryanair, and got assisted boarding for myself and my walking stick – first on and last off – and this was very good at both Edinburgh and Arrecife – something I hadn’t done before, but would do again. Virtually every day we walked down to the seafront, sat in a café with a glass of wine and watched the Fred Olsen ferry to Fuerteventura arrive and depart. Ah the simple pleasures of life when you are an octogenarianJ
Every day we watched The Chase on TV, followed by the BBC News. This was depressing because it was all about the NHS and the massive problems it was having, but I did not spend too much time on this because it was the problems in England, which far outstrip the ones in Scotland, but this factor is ignored by commentators, and the opposition in Scotland. We spent two weeks knowing we were from an invisible country, and only spoke to one Scottish couple – from Armadale.
Just had a phone call from Andrew Kerr, our Man in Surrey who asked me a very pertinent question I had not given a lot of thought to. He said there was a lot of comment about a referendum, and would I prefer a short campaign – May 2018 or a longer one, September 2018. My thoughts crystallised, and I said “September”. I had not thought of this before, but we have not as yet regenerated the Yes Campaign. If we go for September we will have the summer months to stage outdoor rallies and marches – the weather will be kinder than November to March, the nights will be brighter, and activists will be keener. I have always believed that the SNP could sprint for about eighteen months. I enjoyed the last Referendum campaign, never having imagined I would live long enough to take partJ
I have to confess I do not know what Tony Blair is up to. He seems to be saying “Rise up against Brexit and be a nation again!” It was always my contention that what Tony Blair would go down in history as having achieved was not the Iraq war, but Scotland becoming independent.
Despite the chaos in the Middle East and the Chilcot Report I believe he will get off scot free as time passes, but as Scots are freed we are talking about the end of the British Empire.
A Scottish Parliament was not really Tony Blair’s pipedream. It was John Smith’s and his untimely death left unfinished business. Labour was not that keen on the idea but agreed to a referendum, not in Tony’s original plans, but acceded to. The imposition of a second question was factored in by Gordon Brown, a blocker as no one would vote to pay out money; at one stage three questions were mooted, Mohammed Sarwar’s bright idea, but for the life of me I cannot remember what they were. (Mohammed Sarwar, MP for Govan was nominated by Gordon Brown to the House of Lords, but was blocked by the Inland Revenue; I thought he had become a Lord but he resigned his British citizenship to take up a post as Governor of the Punjab in Pakistan, a post he has now vacated. Where he is now I know not.) His son, Anas Sarwar, inherited his father’s seat, but lost it, along with all but one of the Labour MPs in 2015; he is now a list MSP for Glasgow.
In any event, the Blair Brown relationship soured, as there was alleged to be an agreement that Blair would pave the way for Brown to succeed him. According to received wisdom (Gordon Brown’s) Mr Blair did not keep his part of the bargain. Mr Blair won three elections, and Mr Brown only lost one, but then he only contested one. The outcome of that election meant there was not a majority, and there was a lot of coming and going by the Liberals. It was just possible for a coalition of Labour and the Liberals to form a government, but they would have required support from the Ulster Unionists, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. Any truck with the latter was anathema to Labour, so the Tories and the Liberals ganged up. A fat lot of good that did the Liberals, who had to scrap their “unshakable principle” of opposition to tuition fees.
And while Tony Blair was off earning millions from speeches, Gordon Brown was humphing away in the background, only emerging into daylight for the referendum, to somehow line himself up with Cameron, Osborne and Clegg in a Vow that never was! He has resurfaced at the first smell of another referendum bleating “Federalism forever”. He has very little credibility left. In my eyes what cooked his goose was his speech at the Mansion House in London in June 2007 saying this was the start of a Golden Age for the City of London; by 2008 we had the worst financial crash we have ever seen. I have the speech somewhere in my filesJ
On Tuesday this week I came across an item in the Herald from an interview with a former Leader in the House of Lords. She was concerned that anyone could get to be a member of that august body hinting at Cherie Blair’s hairdresser! She did pass a comment that one Lord only came in to sign for his £300 per day attendance, and kept his taxi idling while he did so; no doubt the taxi fare was on his expenses too. By the way, a member of the House can draw the allowance of £300 per day- tax free, just by signing their name; public money is our money, paid for by even the people whose benefits are cut – what a wonderful world. It is my opinion that we did not shout that from the rooftops during the 2014 referendum, but I have great hopes for the next one.
I read David Torrance’s piece in the Herald on Monday this week, but all I can recall is thinking that his petulance as Alex Salmond’s comments are still hurting, but for the life of me I cannot remember what he wrote. Maybe I should worry about my memory – or not.
Glad to see the SNP got support for its Budget. I was worried as Labour was dead set on increasing tax, the Tories were dead set on reducing tax and the Liberals were just dead set on adopting a posture. The Greens bother me as they are more concerned with the mountain hares than the mounting food banks.
It seems as if the media have suddenly made an earth-shattering discovery; people do not like paying taxes! This latest manifestation is now aimed at business rates, as a revaluation has been done. We now have a weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, if available. I enjoyed one pithy comment in a letter to the Herald; the writer wrote that the North East were complaining as the valuation had been done in their good times, which have ceased for the moment. He said that at least they had had the good times.
REPORT SHOWS MoD SERIOUSLY DOWNPLAYING DANGERS OF NUCLEAR INCIDENTS
SNP MSP Bill Kidd has expressed serious concern that the MoD is downplaying the number of nuclear incidents in the last 65 years – after a report by the Nuclear Information Service (NIS) listed 110 major nuclear accidents compared to only 27 acknowledged by the MoD.
The NIS dossier comes not long after it was revealed the UK government failed to disclose a serious malfunction in a Trident test launch just before Westminster voted on its renewal last year.
Accidents reported by the NIS included eight explosions, 21 security-related incidents as well as 45 accidents relating to nuclear-capable submarines, ships and aircrafts.
Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmaments, SNP MSP Bill Kidd said:
“It is really worrying to think that the MoD would put people’s safety in danger and downplay the number of accidents linked to nuclear weapons by such a large margin only to further their own agenda.
“The NIS report lists four times as many nuclear-related accidents than the MoD has owned up to – including a collision between British and French submarines each carrying nuclear warheads in the Atlantic in 2009.
“Knowing the dangers of nuclear weapons and not disclosing them to Parliament or the public is indicative of the type of government we have in Westminster.
“At a time of such grave uncertainty, we should be leading the world in getting rid of the obscenity of nuclear weapons once and for all.”
£600M FRUITLESS FRITTERING AT TIME OF AUSTERITY
FOIs REVEAL TIP OF ICEBERG ON WHITEHALL WASTE
New figures uncovered by the SNP through Freedom of Information requests show the UK government pouring hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ money down the drain.
The newly unearthed record of so-called “fruitless spending” – a government categorisation for money spent where nothing of use will be received in return – reveals an irresponsible, spendthrift Westminster over a 10-year period when ordinary families across the UK have been hit hard by austerity and told to tighten their belts.
But the vast £600 million in Whitehall wastage is just the tip of the iceberg, with some of the major departments in the UK government blocking attempts to make the information public.
While the Ministry of Defence is planning to slash and burn Scotland’s defence estate over the coming years to make £140 million in savings, the department has wasted a staggering £223 million in the last 10 years – including £103 million on eight Chinook helicopters which were not fit for purpose, £1.6 million on unused furniture and £24 million on cancelling flying lessons.
Other policy disasters revealed include spending of £1.5 million by the Department for Education to develop a new school site without planning permission, and tens of millions spent on developing overseas embassies which never materialised.
Commenting on the revelations, the SNP’s Colin Beattie MSP who sits on Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee said:
“This is an eye watering amount of waste by Whitehall departments and it’s even more concerning when you consider £600 million is just the tip of the iceberg.
“While ordinary families are being hammered by Tory austerity and told to tighten their belts, it’s absolutely shameful that the UK government has been playing fast and loose with hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
“Even worse, it seems as though some departments of this Tory government have something to hide – battening down the hatches and refusing to come clean about their misspending sprees. In the interests of democracy and accountability it’s important that they are honest and transparent about frittering away public cash.
“It’s one thing for governments to make mistakes, but this reveals a much deeper rooted problem – a systemic culture of waste in Whitehall and an absolute scandal in the UK’s public finances. This Tory government has many questions to answer and taxpayers have a right to know their money isn’t being squandered.”
Full breakdown of fruitless spending information obtained by the SNP attached – FRUITLESS_SPENDING_BY_UK_GOVERNMENT_DEPARTMENTS.pdf
Since 2007, over half a billion pounds (£571,162,102) has been frittered away by UK Government departments through “fruitless spends”.
The total breakdown of fruitless payments by UK Government Departments is provided below:
Ministry of Defence- £223,700,877
Department of Work and Pensions – £92,433,000
Department of Health – £87,061,612
Ministry of Justice – £33,578,000
Department for Education – £31,240,836
Department of Communities and Local Government – £28,478,000
Home Office – £20,094,000
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – £19,137,293
Foreign and Commonwealth Office – £15,122,893
Department for Business, Innovation, and Skill* – £6,731,000
Department of Transport – £5,276,626
Department of Energy and Climate Change* – £3,091,790
Department for International Development – £2,504,796
Department for Culture, Media and Sport – £1,813,000
UK Export Finance* – £500,000
Treasury – £398,379
* Marks a Department no longer active
UK Government Departments which did not provide Fruitless Spend information through FOI include: Ministry of Defence, Department of Culture Media and Sport, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Home Office
£328M A DAY POORER WITHOUT MIGRANT WORKERS – AND NHS “UNABLE TO FUNCTION”
The UK economy would take a £328m hit if all migrant workers stayed at home for a day, according to new research by the New Economics Foundation – a 4% fall in the daily GDP.
The report also highlights that 26 per cent of health professionals in the UK are migrants – outstripping 10.9 per cent of the UK’s total workforce.
It says: “If all migrant workers stopped working for the day, the NHS and other key parts of our economy would be unable to function.”
Separately, accountancy firm Grant Thornton warned that Brexit posed a threat to Scotland’s booming tech sector, which has been “going through a bit of a honeymoon period, with relentless growth and a sense of genuine optimism.”
They continued: “The Brexit result dealt something of a blow to an industry that needs to be able to easily attract and retain key talent from across the globe.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said:
“These are just the latest warnings that Brexit is going to have a harmful impact on our economy – and Theresa May’s complete failure to provide clarity is making things worse.
“A hard-right Tory Brexit threatens to cost 80,000 Scottish jobs and cost Scotland’s economy by up to £11 billion a year by 2030.
“But the Tories seem determined to take us down the route of a harmful ‘hard Brexit’ regardless of the impact, with Theresa May more interested in playing to her hard-right backbenchers than in finding a deal that works for jobs and for our businesses.
“The Tories must wake up to the realities of a hard Brexit and what it will mean for our economy.”
UK economy would take a £328m hit if all migrant workers stayed at home for a day, new research says www.independent.co.uk
Monday 20 February 2017
TORIES WARNED NOT TO BETRAY SCOTLAND’S FISHING INDUSTRY IN BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS
LEAKED MEMO SUGGESTS UK GOVERNMENT PREPARED TO SACRIFICE SECTOR IN TRADE-OFF
The Scottish National Party has warned the UK government not to ‘betray’ Scotland’s fishing industry again, after leaked documents indicated Tory Ministers do not consider fishing a ‘high’ priority in the UK’s Brexit negotiations.
According to a UK government memo, obtained by The Times, the fishing industry has been designated as only a ‘medium’ priority for negotiations by comparison to other industries. Separately, a leaked document from the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, obtained by the Guardian, suggests that the EU are preparing to negotiate for foreign vessels to continue to access UK waters, and restrict the UK’s access to additional fishing quota after the UK leaves the EU.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has today called for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP, to make a statement to the UK Parliament, and answer questions from MPs, on the UK government’s commitment to the fishing industry.
The MP for Banff and Buchan, whose constituency includes Peterhead – the largest fishing port in Europe, has submitted an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, and said that the industry would be concerned with any signs that Ministers were reverting back to the attitudes of past Tory governments, that saw Scotland’s fishing industry deemed ‘expendable’.
Commenting Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“The UK government must not betray Scotland’s fishing industry again – it is a vital part of our economy and crucial to the livelihoods of many communities and many thousands of families across the country.
“Andrea Leadsom must urgently come to Parliament and explain the contents of this Brexit memo. We need clear assurances that Tory Ministers will not treat this important industry as ‘expendable’, or anything other than the very highest priority in its negotiations with the EU.
“During the EU referendum, Leave campaigners made many exaggerated promises that they knew they couldn’t keep – not least those made to the fishing industry. It now looks clear that the Tory Brexiteers never had any intention of keeping their word – and the promises made to the fishing industry look set to be broken before formal negotiations have even begun.
“It is quite clear that the focus of Ministers in the negotiations will be on banking and finance, and the automotive and aerospace industries. Fishing is, once again, being lined up as a pawn to be traded away by the Tories.
“This would be utterly unacceptable and shows why it is so important that the Scottish Government is at the centre of the UK’s negotiations with the EU – to stand up for the fishing industry and other key Scottish industries.”
Leak reveals low priority industries for Brexit talks: www.thetimes.co.uk
UK fishermen may not win waters back after Brexit, EU memo reveals- www.theguardian.com