Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Answers to last weeks Euro-quiz

Sadly only one person brave enough to stake their reputation by giving written answers. Take a bow Stephen Glenn. Here are the questions again but with the answers this time:

Q1. How many members states are there in the European Union? A: 27

Q2. How many official languages does the EU have? A: 23

Q3. Which is the biggest country in the EU by land mass? A: France

Q4. To the nearest full percentage, what percentage of EU citizens live in cities? 80%

Q5. According to reports in the press, about 98% of all Spanish people participate in what every Christmas? (1st begun in 1812) A: The national lottery

Q6. Which country has most public holidays in the EU and which country has least? A: Finland 14 (most) UK 8 (least)

Q7. Which country has won the Eurovision song contest most times? A: Ireland - 7 times. (Luxembourg, France & UK - 5 times)

Q8. Europe is the continent visited by most tourists: in fact, six EU countries were in the world's top ten destinations in 2006. Name them? A: France, Spain, Italy, UK, Germany, Austria

Q9. To the nearest thousand, how many staff are employed by the European Commission? A: circa 30 000

Q10. Which EU countries have the greatest and least population density? A: Netherlands (474 inhabitants per km2) & Finland (17 inhabitants per km2)

As promised, I shall try to post a longer, more general, euro-quiz on Europe Day May 9th and offer some form of European prize to the winning entry, should there be more than one entrant.

Fuel gloom

Grangemouth refinery strike with possibility of more to come, predictions of unleaded costing £1.50 a litre by the end of the summer,record profits for BP and Shell, OPEC waring of the $200 barrel of oil, BA announcing fuel duty surcharge etc. No wonder I'm feeling somewhat gloomy about transport prices today.

Although I'm a non-driver I shall shortly be moving to a rural location where I will be dependent on my partner and her car (or taxis) for transport to the nearest town. The car is fuel efficient as it gets about 11 - 12 miles per litre and, because of the small engine, attracts the lowest Road Tax charge. The fuel costs don't just affect how much we travel it affects almost every aspect of our lives. Fuel goes up, flights go up and holidays abroad go up. Fuel goes up, haulage costs go up and food, drink & clothing goes up. Fuel goes up and public transport fares go up and so on. We, as a society, need to take a thorough look at our love affair with cars and roads and we need to do it before it's too late.

Some off the top of my head ideas: more freight onto the rail network and new track laid; reduce road tax for rural postcodes; more buses at more useful times in rural areas; severe tax surcharge for "Chelsea tractors" registered in urban postcodes; tax surcharge for each vehicle above one registered at a domestic address; scrap the fuel duty escalator and instigate a cut; ban gas guzzling motor sports such as rallying and f1 (sorry DoctorVee); windfall tax on oil companies and I'm sure that there are many, many other potential options. Any suggestions welcome.

Watch the missing idiot!

I know most people in Scotland don't see that the London Mayoral campaign has much relevance to them but this little film pretty much hits the mark about Boris.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Now some bad news - Grangemouth strike still on

They say Ross Finnie has more than a passing resemblance to Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army. Today we saw Eck Salmond taking on the Corporal Jones role of running around in turmoil shouting "Don't panic!" to the people of Scotland. When Eck tells me not to panic and not to panic buy fuel, my initial response is to panic, but not to panic buy fuel 'cos I don't have a car and can't drive.

Seriously though, this dispute at Grangemouth is getting very, very worrysome. We now have the company, Ineos, suing the union, Unite, over claims that the pension fund had been raided to the tune of £40 Million. Talks at ACAS have also broken down, the Grangemouth shut-down continues and the strikes on Sunday and Monday are still on the cards.

The dispute is centred on Ineos plans to change the current Final Salary pension scheme. The wish to close membership to any new employees and pay 6% per annum to the existing 1/60th salary scheme. The union has said that company will be penalising employees for taking early retirement and in a strike ballot got the endorsement of 97% of their 1250 Grangemouth employees. As far as I can see one side is being as intransigent as the other and no-one seems much interested in compromise.

All the trade organisation, the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government have said that as long as people don't panic then we have nearly 70 days worth of supply left. Sadly they are all being unrealistic - we now live in a much more self centred society (thanks Thatcher you auld hag) and people will simply put their own needs first.

My solution: well there's the nub. People won't stop panicking until there is settlement of the dispute. My suggestion is that both sides go back to ACAS and accept their decision as legally binding. It seems the only feasible way out. Other ideas and opinions welcome.

The other possible solution would be bang the two sets of heads together until they see some bloody sense!

More good news!

It always gives me pleasure to see an arsehole get his come-uppance and millionaire Euan Snowie got his yesterday when he lost his legal bid to keep us, the great unwashed, from rambling across his estate.

He had gone to law to challenge the "Right to Roam" legislation which was enacted by the previous Lib Dem & Labour Executive. He was attempting to stop public access to his 70 acre Boquhan House estate which is near Kippen. he had closed and padlocked the western gates to the estate in 2005. After receiveing numerous complaints Stirling Council raised the case in Court.

In his judgement Sheriff Andrew Cubie said:
"Mr Snowie's position appeared to be that if someone was not courteous to him then they could not under any circumstance be a genuine recreational walker."

The Rambler's Association Scotland welcomed the judgement, with President Denis Canavan saying: "The decision also sends a message to local authorities that access rights apply along driveways and past gatehouses.

"There are a number of cases around the country where signs have been erected and gates locked and we hope the authorities will now take action knowing that the courts will back them up."

Hopefully Ann Gloag's exemption at her Kinfauns Castle estate will now be reviewed.

Good news!

Ha! The thieving gits that are our country's banks have deservedly had their arses kicked in court today. The BBC News Website has the full story.

This means that the OFT can tell the shower of bankers (yes, you can do the rhyming slang) to cut their charges and it also means that thousands of people ripped off by them have a chance of getting their dosh back. Of course the banks will appeal to the highest level possible rather than admit they were overcharging us.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

European Quiz

In advance of Europe Day on May 9th the EP UK Office have sent out a European Quiz book. So I thought I'd use one of the quizzes from it to test your European knowledge. This one is just for fun and to whet your appetite for a larger one on May 9th, for which I'll supply some appropriate Euro goodies for the winning entry. MEP staff are banned form participating!

Q1. How many members states are there in the European Union?

Q2. How many official languages does the EU have?

Q3. Which is the biggest country in the EU by land mass?

Q4. To the nearest full percentage, what percentage of EU citizens live in cities?

Q5. According to reports in the press, about 98% of all Spanish people participate in what every Christmas? (1st begun in 1812)

Q6. Which country has most public holidays in the EU and which country has least?

Q7. Which country has won the Eurovision song contest most times?

Q8. Europe is the continent visited by most tourists: i fact, six EU countries were in the world's top ten destinations in 2006. Name them?

Q9. To the nearest thousand, how many staff are employed by the European Commission?

Q10. Which EU countries have the greatest and least population density?

Many thanks to the UK office of the European Parliament for this quiz.

Have fun!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Lewis wind farm plan rejected

The Scottish Government have finally come out and reject plans to build a 181 turbine wind farm on the island of Lewis.

Scottish ministers decided the project would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated under the European Commission (EC) Birds Directive and protected under the EC Habitats Directive.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said: "The Lewis Wind Farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds.
"This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles.
"I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion."

This is a rare case of this blog and blogger being in agreement with the Gnat run Scottish Government. Well done to them for making the correct decision even if they hummed and hawed for far too long over it.

Is Scotland about to grind to a stop?

Very worrying news concerning the potential 48 hour strike by staff at Scotland's only oil refinery at Grangemouth. Most papers up here had headlines this morning about motorists already starting to panic buy fuel. The Scotsman reported at 5am there were queues at the pumps, sales were up 50% and the 1st petrol station had sold out.

The dispute is between members of the Unite union and workers employed at the plant which is owned by Ineos and is centred on pension arrangements. The Scottish Government has offered independent mediators to try and break the deadlock although Westminster has ultimate authority regarding fuel supplies.

Grangemouth's owners have started the process of closing the refinery down ahead of the walk-out by the 1200 workers next Sunday and Monday. It is thought that it could take up to a month to fully restart operations and have supplies running at normal levels. Ineos have suggested that the shut-down could cause "Chaos" for fuel supplies but Unison have described this as "scaremongering".

I suspect that I shall be returning to this subject as events take their course but it's bloody worrying even for a non driver!

Eck in fantasyland

Eck Salmond heid honcho of the Gnats seems to be living in fantasyland if he believes that they can gain at least an extra 14 seats at the next Westminster election. Reasons? Well at the 2005 Westminster election the Gnats won 6 seats and came 2nd in 20. Two of their held seats Perth & North Perthshire and Angus are held by a small majority (Perth 1521, Angus 1601) and are vulnerable to folk voting Tory to oust the Gnat type tactical voting.

Lets have a look at the 20 seats where they are second:
Airdrie & Shotts. Labour majority 14 o84. Swing required 21.2%.
Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill. Labour majority 19 519. Swing required 25.5%.
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East. Labour majority 11 562. Swing required 14.8%.
Dundee West. Labour majority 5 379. Swing required 7.3%.
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow. Labour majority 14 723. Swing required 15.4%.
Falkirk. Labour majority 13 475. Swing required 14.7%.
Glasgow East. Labour majority 13 507. Swing required 21.8%.
Glasgow North East (Speaker). Speaker majority 10 134. Swing required 17.8%.
Glasgow South West. Labour majority 13 896. Swing required 22.4%.
Glenrothes. Labour majority 10 664. Swing required 14.3%.
Inverclyde. Labour majority 11 259. Swing required 15.6%.
Kilmarnock & Loudon. Labour majority 8 703. Swing required 9.8%.
Kircaldy & Cowdenbeath. Labour majority 18 216. Swing required 21.8%.
Lanark & Hamilton East. Labour majority 11 947. Swing required 13.7%.
Linlithgow & East Falkirk. Labour majority 11 202. 12%.
Livingston. Labour majority 13 097. Swing required 14.8%.
Motherwell & Wishaw. Labour majority 15 222. Swing required 20.5%.
Ochil & South Perthshire. Labour majority 688. Swing required 0.735%.
Paisley & Renfrewshire North. Labour majority 11 001. Swing required 13.5%.
West Dunbartonshire. Labour majority 12 553. Swing required 15.1%.

As they borrowed two seats from us at last year's Holyrood elections they must be added as Westminster targets too:
Argyll & Bute. Lib Dem majority over Gnats (4th) 9 070. Swing required 10.5%.
Gordon. Lib Dem majority over Gnats (4th) 12 910. Swing required 14.5%.

In a YouGov opinion poll which was published on the 8th of April voting intentions in Scotland were listed as Labour 35% Gnat 31%. Bearing in mind that Labour polled 38.9% and the Gnats 17.7% at the last Westminster election this shows that the Gnats have achieved a swing of 8.6% since then. This would mean that of their Labour target seats they would win Ochil & South Perthshire, Dundee West and be quite close to (but no coconut) Kilmarnock & Loudon. Say they also win one seat from us but lose one of their holds to the Tories, then they would have a grand total of 8 Westminster seats. A far, far cry from the 20 that Eck wants - does the man's arrogance and smugness have no end?

Being slightly less controversial, I would argue that voters tend to punish an unpopular government with whatever club available. This in Scotland could see us taking Aberdeen South, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh North & Leith and Glasgow North with the Tories possibly taking Dumfries & Galloway, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh South West & Stirling. Of course this will only happen if the current Government continue with their lack of popularity and remember that Broon will probably, given our current political landscape, continue until 2010. The Gnats also need to remember that people vote differently when voting for Westminster than they do for Holyrood.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

And just who is paying for this nonsense?

A retired teacher who claimed that he was discriminated against because he was bald has lost his Industrial Tribunal hearing where he was claiming compensation from Falkirk Council.

Sixty one year old James Campbell who used to teach art at Denny High School had claimed that he was discriminated against because pupils would shout "baldy" at him. The three person Tribunal Chair ruled: "If baldness was to be regarded as an impairment then perhaps a physical feature such as a big nose, big ears or being smaller than average height might of themselves be regarded as an impairment under the DDA."

Thank goodness that he did make such a ruling or taxpayers would be paying out a fortune in claims such as this. Campbell should be made to pay the cost of the Employment Tribunal and I wonder how a spurious case such as this made it as fat as getting to Tribunal in the first place?

Campbell is further claiming constructive and unfair dismissal against the Council and these hearings will take place at a later date.

"Slasher" Swinney

So Finance Minister John Swinney reckons that he's found £600 million of savings in this years budget. Well has he? Not quite - around £400 million has still to be identified by Councils, Health Boards, Crown Office, Police, Universities and Colleges will all be attacked by "Slasher" Swinney.
Councils will have to find £174 million in savings and the NHS boards will have to save £154 million. Councils on the worst settlement will be hardest hit and lets hope the NHS savings/cuts come from bureaucracy rather than front line services. I don't know about you but take a Council Tax freeze and add £174 million in "savings", suddenly we have the Scottish Government cutting services to the people of Scotland.

Lib Dem Finance Spokesperson, Tavish Scott MSP, said:
"Health Boards, local Councils, Universities and colleges have just been given a target with no evidence or detail on how they will meet it."

Your chance to be in Who's Who in the Lib Dems

Jo Christie-Smith has taken on the daunting challenge of Editing the next edition of "Who's Who in the Liberal Democrats" and is actively encouraging all party members to have an entry. If you would like to join me in having an entry in the next edition, which is being published online, then drop Jo a line to: info@whoswholibdems.org.uk

In Jo's own words:
We’re looking to increase the number of entries from Liberal Democrats like never before; you may think you’re a small cog in the big Lib Dem wheel but you’re really interesting to us and to our Who's Who Readers. So, please sign up to be included! We want everybody, councillors, MPs, local party officers, bloggers, any sort of candidates, party leaders, blog readers, leaflet delivers...everybody!!

I'd probably include your membership number in your email too.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Hear Hear Jeremy

Commenting on Fiona Hyslop's visit to China, Scottish Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Spokesperson Jeremy Purvis MSP said:

“No-one would deny the need for there to be close links on education policy between Scotland and China, but Fiona Hyslop’s visit is wholly inappropriate given the international concerns expressed over the current situation in Tibet.

“It jars that a Scottish minister seems to be content with ignoring international concern and only making glib comments on human rights issue for the benefit of the Scottish press, whilst at the same time leaders such as President Sarkozy have a much clearer stance.

“We called on the Scottish Government to postpone the visit during this sensitive time and we have been proved correct given the recent powerful demonstrations around the world.”

This rightly backs up the previous comments of Tavish Scott MSP and it is a position that I took in my recent post.

Free Tibet!

Simply chilling

News in the media today that 60% of us are not paying into a private pension which is the highest figure since records began and amounts to somewhere around 22 million working adults in the UK. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the figures have gone from 43% of women and 54% of men in 1996/7 to 37% of women and 43% of men in 2005/6. Less than a third of final salary schemes are open to new workers whereas in 2002 the figure was 83%.

I'm fortunate that I'm in a job where my employer pays 15% of my gross salary into my private pension fund (Note to self: change pension company back to environmentally responsible provider) but Catherine, who is a pensions professional, assures me that I should be paying a further 7% to bring my contributions up to a level which will provide my required retirement income. My current situation lasts only until June 2009 when my employer retires and most jobs in my field offer a maximum employer contribution of 8%.

Dr Ros Altman, former Government pensions adviser, said: At the moment there is a pensions crisis but we are heading for a pensioner crisis. If you don't get people to save, they will be retiring in abject poverty. there will be all these armies of people with nothing to live on."

Danny Alexander MP, Lib Dem work & pensions spokesperson, said: These figures highlight the worrying tendency of increasing numbers of people to save for their retirement. The Government must be clear that relying on the derisory state pension will not give people the standard of living in retirement that they may imagine."

The current £90 a week state pension would be around £145 if it had remained linked to average earnings. The Government Personal Account scheme starts in 2012. Employers must contribute to employee pension schemes but employees themselves can opt out.

Perhaps the time has come for the Government and all political parties to take hard decisions and make us all bite the bullet on our poor pension provision.

Another Worst ScotSnail rip-off

Thankfully my daily commuting days are nearly behind me as I prepare to move to the country as Worst ScotSnail are raising train fares in the Strathclyde area by around 5%. This means that a peak time return from Irvine to Glasgow will rise from £9.00 to £9.45 which means that in the event of the trains running to schedule my return commute will cost me 13.5p per minute. In comparison my future twice weekly return journey from Perth to Glasgow will work out at 10.85p per minute.

Question to Worst ScotSnail - why are you ripping off commuters on the Ayrshire line?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Taking the spirit of free enterprise too far

The Tories claim to be the party of free enterprise and according to allegations in today's press someone at their Scottish HQ in Edinburgh has taken this belief a tad too far. It seem that they have had to call in Lothian & Borders finest after an office worker managed, allegedly, to make off with £150 000 from their coffers.

A Scottish Tory spokesperson has said:
"The whole thing has been a major embarrassment. It has shown the accounting system was not too robust - which is why nobody noticed until it was too late. An individual has been referred to Lothian & Borders police."

Couldn't happen to a nicer party.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Interest rates down to 5%

It has been announced by the Bank of England that interest rates will be cut by one quarter of one percent to 5%. this is the third cut since December and had been widely predicted. I rather suspect that we will see further cuts before this "economic downturn" passes us by.

As someone who is in the process of selling a house without needing to buy another I am finding all the continuing talk of plummeting house prices rather bloody annoying. The media seem hell bent on talking us into recession and the Great British Public are beginning to run about like headless chickens - DON'T PANIC! The vast majority of people do not have anything to seriously worry about. A correction downwards in house prices, whilst uncomfortable for me, is of benefit to those trying to get onto the housing ladder. The removal of 100% mortgages less so but should you be buying a house if you need a 100% mortgage or should you not be better off trying for something a little cheaper? I realise that these thoughts may will sit ill with some of those living in London and the Home Counties but there will be many in other parts of the UK who feel that far too much attention is paid to those two areas anyway.

ALDE backing for Tibet

The European Parliament voted this morning on a key resolution on the ongoing political tension over China's policy on Tibet ahead of its hosting of the Beijing Olympics this summer.

Graham Watson (UK, Lib Dem), Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, said:"There is no doubt that the cause of the Tibetan people is a just one, and all EU Member States should unite behind a common position, sending an ultimatum to the Chinese authorities that if they wish to have the political legitimacy at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, then they have until August 8th to open meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama and release political prisoners or those imprisoned for freedom of thought like Hu Jia.

"This is not an attack on the Olympic Games but rather a defence of the spirit of the Games themselves - breaking down political barriers through sport."The IOC should publish the terms of the host-city contract so we can all judge the requirements on China for holding the Olympics in terms of press freedom and human rights."

ALDE Human rights spokesperson, Marco Cappato (Italy, Radicals), added:"His Holiness the Dalai Lama has constantly made appeals on his people to avoid any violence. China should acknowledge and give credit to this effort. It would surely ease the process towards the opening of a dialogue.

"We regret that the majority of the Parliament did not see fit to call upon the Council to invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels. We have now missed an opportunity to encourage the EU to agree a common policy on Tibet and on relations with China."

Gordon Brown looks ridiculous

Dear Gordon,

I must say that I find your position of not attending the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing but not boycotting it either as unfathomable. Until yesterday we had all understood that you were going to attend the ceremony - that's certainly what the Downing Street spin suggested. Now you come out and say that you aren't going but it's not a boycott.

Perhaps it's time to show a bit of moral backbone here Gordon. Please come out and back the oppressed people of Tibet by saying that China needs to improve the situation there and you are not going to the opening ceremony as a protest. The British people believe that the situation in Tibet is wrong so why not take decisive action and show us a bit of leadership for once.
Yours in disgust,

Iain Rubie Dale

Free Tibet!
The BBC's Nick Robinson has more on this story.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

We shouldn't get our kilts in a twist

I see that some sections of the Scottish meeja are getting all steamed up about the English Democrats posters which are supposedly insulting to Scots and allegedly racist. Quick frankly I see it as a quite amusing attempt, by a fringe party and it's candidate for London Mayor, to gain free publicity. What they quite conveniently do forget is that London and Londoners are hugely subsidised by the rest of the UK and, of course, think the world revolves round London - it doesn't!

Well said Nick Clegg

It was reported this morning that the Law Lords have ruled that the Government are not to be forced into holding a Public Inquiry into the Iraq war.

Responding to the news Lib Dem Federal leader Nick Clegg said:
"This ruling will be extremely disappointing for the families involved.

"It is simply adding insult to injury after Gordon Brown recently promised to hold an inquiry, but just not yet.

"Whatever the Prime Minister or the Law Lords say, natural justice demands that a full public inquiry is held without further delay.

"How can our brave troops and their families ever trust the Government again unless they are sure lessons have been learnt from the disastrous decision to invade Iraq?"

Max Mosley's credibility gone

The refusal of a High Court Judge to black Max Mosley's attempts to block the release of a video of him with 5 prostitutes has left what remains of his credibility in tatters. Mosley, Son of the British Union of Fascists Leader Oswald Mosley, is currently the President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), although there have been numerous calls for him to resign including from retired F1 ace Sir Jackie Stewart.

I have never cared for Mosley's style whilst F1 supremo but nor do I care for the News of the World as a "newspaper" and it's intrusive style. I also think that private lives should be that - private. Furthermore the fact that significant numbers of human beings sell their bodies for a living is a shame on our 21st century society.

Despite Mosley's lawsuit against the News of the World for "Breach of Privacy" I cannot see him remaining in his post as FIA President. Too many people have criticised him and he was asked by the Crown Prince not to attend last Sunday's Grand Prix which was held in his country of Bahrain.

Ryanair under investigation

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have finally lost patience with budget airline Ryanair and have reported them to the Office of Fair trading (OFT) over what are considered "a catalogue of breaches" of advertising codes. It seems that the ASA have found Ryanair in breach of rules seven times over two years.

The Director General of the ASA said: "It is very disappointing, but absolutely necessary, that we have had to take this course of action. The ASA have given Ryanair every opportunity to put it's house in order and ensure that it's advertising adheres to the code."

He added: "We would prefer to work with advertisers within the self-regulatory system rather than call in a statutory body, but Ryanair's approach has left us with no option but to refer them to the OFT."

Well then, another good reason for me to avoid using them.

Time to stop the torch

I applaud those who have been protesting China's human rights abuses in Tibet. For many many years now the chinese government have been getting away with severe human rights abuses in Tibet and indeed all over China. These abuses must stop and western leaders & Governments must considerably increase pressure on the vile Chinese regime.

Although I don't believe that the Olympics should ever have been awarded to China, I equally don't believe that boycotting the games will achieve the aim of improving civil liberties and human rights although a significant act of pressure would be for Gordon Brown and all leaders of the worlds democracies to boycott the opening ceremony.

The words of Tibet's Chinese backed Governor Qiangba Puncog chill my blood when I read them. He said that the authorities would "severely punish" anyone who tried to obstruct the passage of the torch through Tibet. In my opinion the relay should stop now and the IOC need to have the moral backbone to condemn China's behaviour and that of their team of thugs who are travelling with the torch.

Free Tibet!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Today's only post

This will be my only post today as I have been too busy beforehand and am now in a mood so foul that I'm sure that I'd end up committing some written crime beyond reason. Hopefully I shall have calmed down to a frenzy by tomorrow and shall be able share my normal quota of rants and ramblings with the wider world.

Monday, 7 April 2008

A little help please

Catherine phones with the news that her telephone and Internet service provider Pipex has been taken over by Tiscali, which is very, very bad news as we shall now have to get rid of Pipex. Why? Because of the utterly appalling reputation which Tiscali has - my ex-colleague Michael had Tiscali on his PC in the office and barely a day went past without him berating them. Catherine also has had a number of people suggesting that they would not use them.

Bearing in mind that my new abode is in a rural location without cabling and that the max broadband we can get down the phone is 1.5mb, can anyone suggest a good ISP and telephone service provider who can also supply a WiFi link for my trusty laptop?

You input will be gratefully received. Thanks.

Don't expel Martin Ford

The Lib Dem group on Aberdeenshire Council are today going to vote on a proposal to expel Councillor Martin Ford from the group. Martin voted according to standard procedure over the Trump plans - it's normal for the chair to vote for status quo if there is a tied vote. To expel him from the group would be petty, mean spirited and pathetic.

To those who intend being party of this political lynch-mob I say; what part of Liberal Democrats do you not understand?

Friday, 4 April 2008

£4000 grub bill for John "Two bellies" Prescott

The Commons authorities have released details of 6 MP's expenses due to a freedom of information request by the BBC in 2005.

The highlight of the disclosures so far is that John Prescott claimed £4000 in one year for food.
Why on earth should we taxpayers be subsidising MP's food?
More information to come as the details trickle out but meanwhile the BBC News has further information.

Chooky Embra no well

The Beeb are reporting that 86 year old Phil the Greek has been taken to hospital suffering from a chest infection. Bet you that this will be the main story on all BBC bulletins for the rest of the day and real stories will be kicked down the schedules. Pah!

Electoral Commission starts elections consultation

The Electoral Commission has launched a consultation into the way elections are run across the UK. It follows their December 2007 paper which found that in a number of areas the electoral administration was stretched to "breaking point"

Andy O’Neill, the head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, said: “While our independent review of the Scottish elections in 2007 by Ron Gould has already prompted debate we’re keen to move the discussion forward and identify the functions and principles of effective electoral administration that will deliver a first class service to electors and candidates. This is the first step we’re taking in that process to stimulate debate and discussion around issues impacting electoral administration.

“We want those with an interest in well run elections to engage with this debate about the need for change and give us their ideas on how we can deliver a system of electoral administration which serves the interests of the voter with impartiality and transparency.”

The consultation paper can be found here.

Hat tip: Holyrood Magazine

Small victory cheers me

A small victory against journalistic misrepresentation had put a smile on my face today.
The BBC in a story on the Highland & Islands section of their news website had alleged that a march in Inverness by the Apprentice Boys of Derry would be able to go ahead as "European Laws prevented the council from banning it". I therefore got on the phone to their online news section and queried what European Law they referred to. They said that they'd check it out and get back to me. The text in question disappeared a few seconds later!

Record mince, Courier mince, Press and Journal mince

Three papers and three sets of lazy or lying journalists, take your pick.
As previously posted on this blog, there is NO THREAT TO MINCE PRODUCED BY INDEPENDENT BUTCHERS.

The truth of the matter can be found on the website of my employer Elspeth Attwooll MEP

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Blogger in agreement with Labour Minister shock!

Well there must be pigs flying past a blue moon as I find myself in agreement with Gordy Broon's Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe! He has broken with his Ministerial colleague and said that publicans were "right to be upset" with the tax hikes imposed by Chancellor Alistair Darling in his recent budget.

The budget put 4p on a pint of beer, 3p on a pint of cider, 14p on a bottle of wine and a whopping 55p on a bottle of spirits.

Gavin Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said:
"Scottish distillers are astonished by the Chancellor’s announcement. The government’s own figures show that any duty increase on whisky is likely to reduce revenue at a time when public finances are tight.

A tax rise is a blow to international competitiveness when the industry has been investing
significantly to meet growing global demand for Scotch Whisky. It sets a damaging precedent
that export markets may follow.

Today’s introduction of a two percent above inflation ‘alcohol tax accelerator’ in future Budgets abandons moves to a fairer alcohol duty system in the UK and reverses the Treasury’s long held position that it must retain flexibility when setting alcohol duty rates.

The Budget will add 59 pence (excise tax and VAT) to the price of a bottle of Scotch Whisky and will push the tax burden on the final price of a typical bottle towards 75%."

Today’s duty rise is the biggest on Scotch Whisky since 1991. Despite its importance to the
domestic economy, UK excise duty on Scotch Whisky is now the fourth highest in the European Union."

Three more years of Worst SnotRail

Ah the Gnat Government, don't ya love 'em? NOT!
It's been announced that First Scotrail have had their franchise extended by another three years and without any prior consultation with anyone. It seems that First (sic) will be handing £70 million back to the "Government" as part of the stitch up, sorry, deal.

The STUC have been critical of the move saying that it was "hugely disappointing".

First Scotrail were fined £473 519 last year for failing to meet standards.

At least I'll not be commuting on a daily basis by rail when I move to Kinross-shire and for that relief much thanks.

More Trump arrogance

It's been reported today that in an interview with 'Vanity Fair' magazine (how apt!) Donald Trump has said of his planning application for Menie estate in Aberdeenshire "between you an me, I'm going to get it." This is despite the application having been called in by the Scottish Government and a Public Inquiry taking place.

He added: "If Jack Nicklaus had tried to do this, he'd have zero chance, but they like what I have done, and because I am who I am and my mother is Scottish. Between you and me, I'm going to get it."

Councillor Martin Ford, who controversially lost his position as Convener of Aberdeenshire Council's infrastructure committee over the issue, said: It is immaterial in planning law where your mother was born or how wealthy you are or what your character is like. I find it very disturbing that Mr Trump is so confident on which way the decision will go even before the inquiry has even begun."

Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP for Glasgow Region commented: "I have complete confidence the inquiry will be open and fair. This is just a reflection of Trump's arrogance. I think the title Vanity Fair says it all."

Interestingly enough Jack Nicklaus has had planning approval for a golf course on the Ury Estate near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. It doesn't plan to build on a SSSI.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Hurrah! Zanu-PF lose majority in Zimbabwe's Parliament

The BBC new has just published news that the Zimbabwe Election Commission has announced that Zanu-PF have "won" 94 seats with the opposition parties winning 105 and 1 Independent being elected. There are 207 seats in total in the Parliament. The true scale of the Zanu-PF defeat may have been greater if there were no irregularities in the counting process.

Now all we need is the true results of the Presidential election to be declared although the way things are looking at the moment it seems to be heading for a run-off between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC.

The MDC themselves announced figures collated from information posted at polling stations which suggested that the presidential result was:
Tsvangirai 50.3%
Mugabe 43.7%
Makoni 7%

Hopefully Mugabe will do the decent thing and walk away after all he's plundered the resource of a country, which was once described as Africa's breadbasket, for 28 years now. Indeed it has gone from breadbasket to economic basket case.

Cayman Went*

The story in yesterday's Guardian about a bloke walking into an aquarium in Norway and walking out with a cayman alligator had me hooting with laughter at the thought of someone nonchalantly strolling out with a bloody big 'gator tucked underneath his arm and nobody noticing.

It also gives me the opportunity to repeat the "Modern Urban Myth" about the old style North Lanarkshire Labour Councillor who said in full council: "Folk have been making allegations about how we run this council and I ken who the alligators are."

Also gives the chance to make the alligator sandwich joke............

*This post heading should bring a smile of recognition to anyone from the West of Scotland and leave the rest of the world gently scratching their heads.

Foul BNP rape appeaser sacked

Disgusting scum Nick Eriksen who is the BNP's Chief London organiser has been sacked from being a London Assembly candidate for foul comments on his blog about rape. I'm not going to give this creature's rantings any further publicity by repeating them as they can be found elsewhere online but sacking him as a candidate is the least that should happen to this individual.
Apparently he claims to have made his awful comments "in order to stimulate debate."

Ahern quitting as Irish Premier

Bertie Ahern is stepping down as Irish Taoiseach next month it has been announced. He has been Leader of his Fianna Fail party since 1994 and has been Taoiseach since 1997, winning a third term in the 2007 elections.

The news comes a day after he commenced court proceedings to limit the scope of a Public Inquiry into planning corruption in the 1990s whilst Ahern was Minister for Finance. His finances are being probed by the inquiry.

Ahern said:" While I will be the first to admit that I've made mistakes in my life and in my career, one mistake I've never made was to enrich myself by misusing the trust of the people."

"I have never received a corrupt payment and I've never done anything to dishonour any office that I've ever held."

Ahern is Ireland's second longest serving Premier.

Speaker Martin makes arse of today's PMQs

Having just listened to PMQs in the House of Commons all I can say is that Gorbals Mick made a complete and total arse of things today. He is also showing considerable bias towards Labour.

Cock up one - refused to allow Vince Cable to refer to the queen in a question.

Cock up two - Then refused Vince a second question thus allowing Hattie Harman to evade answering.

Cock up three - Called a Labour MP who wasn't expecting to be called and hadn't a properly prepared question.

Cock up four - Decided that the MP he mistakenly called was taking to long to ask a question and shut him up!

The pillock should do the decent thing and resign now.

Gorbals Mick in yet another expenses row

The Westminster Parliament's standards commissioner, John Lyon, yesterday launched an inquiry into the expense claims of Commons Speaker Michael Martin who is nicknamed Gorbals Mick.

It relates to expense claims of over £4000 by the Speaker's wife for taking taxis during shopping trips. The commissioner said in response to the complaint: "In essence the part of your complaint I have accepted is that Mrs Martin's expenditure on taxis may not have been in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament and its associated rules." He added: "I am inviting Mr Speaker to let me have his comments on your complaint. Once I receive his response, I shall consider how to proceed."

This adds fuel to the fire of a growing list of financial questions surrounding Speaker Martin and will undoubtedly see more voices raised calling for his resignation.

The financial troubles:
- £4000 claimed by his wife for taxis.
- £75 000 towards the running costs of his Glasgow home which is mortgage free.
- £700 000 spent on the Speaker's official residence in London since he took office.
- £992 000 spent on the Speaker's garden.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

On selling up

Mixed feelings today as it's the 19th anniversary of Mum's death and Billy (my Brother) & I have instructed an estate agent to put the house on the market. I'm really looking forward to moving in with Catherine over in Kinross-shire but am naturally saddened at the end of an era in Irvine and in Herbertson Crescent especially. Our family are the only people who have ever occupied the house since it's construction in 1957; I sleep in the room in which I was born (lived in the house 1961-1980 & 1999-date); Mum died at home; many, happy memories and a few sad ones and a real, total feeling of breaking from my roots.

Tandem Bona Causa Triumphat as my town & school motto says.

Thanks Norman

Another friend, Norman Fraser has been in touch with details of this interestingly titled book and reviews thereof.

Councillor friend cleared by watchdog

My friend, Aberdeenshire Councillor Debra Storr has been cleared by Standards Commission of showing bias in her consideration of the proposed Trump "resort" for the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire. Debra said: "I am glad this has been cleared up. I try to provide my constituents with as much information as possible on what is happening and use every channel available to me."

Debra suggested that the Trump organisation was "closing down other businesses" after they attempted to stop access rights used by local fisherman Michael Forbes. The Council's legal chief had cleared Debra of any wrongdoing back in October last year.

The Trump organisation, in what some will see as bullying behaviour, claimed she may have breached the Councilor's Code of Conduct and threatened Debra with legal action after she published links to anti trump organisations on her personal website. Details of the Trump organisation's website were also published by Debra.

The Trump organisation should be billed for the costs of the investigation and Scottish authorities must stand up to aggressive and bullying tactics by organisations and businesses.

Tommy the Trot "sacked"

Former MSP and co-Leader of Solidarity (sic) has been binned by Scotland's only commercial talk radio station Talk 107 after 18 months of presenting his show "Saturday & Sunday Morning with Citizen Tommy". He admitted to being "gutted".

A talk 107 spokesperson said: ""Tommy's contract was up and we decided not to renew it. We have been making changes at the station and Tommy did not fit the new brief."

Regular readers will remember that Sheridan was arrested outside the radio station in December last year as part of a Lothian & borders Police investigation into accusations of perjury during his successful action for defamation against the News of the World.