Sunday 31 March 2013


Labour and the SNP working together
When you think about it, it's just madness that we live like we do
Now, it's up to you Labour...
Despite the obvious advantages, people still think we can't go it alone. They thing we need the likes of Cameron and Osborne,  and the most inept government ever
Er um well yeah... I am a liar.
Get back across that line in the sand
Let's stop all their benefits
And, after all there are so many jobs waiting to be filled...aren't there?
Oh Lord, don't they make you laugh


Drunk as a Lord!
In desperation, and in my opinion, for the want of any decent argument that really addresses why we might be better together, there are some silly and sad accusations being made by unionist parties.

But all's fair in love and war... and ... independence debates, and I'm  certain that there are some on the independence side who blether though a hole in their backsides.

It's to be expected, and best largely forgotten.

But some things are so low and despicable that they just cannot be ignored.

It probably no great surprise to anyone that George Foulkes managed to be responsible for at least one of these things. It isn't to me anyway, because I've never heard him say one sensible thing yet.

But this tweet takes the biscuit.

“Horsemeat in school dinners,14 year old raped in City bus & Orkney firm in administration yet all we hear from SNP Govt. is more on Indyref!”

He has reduced the argument to trading on children being raped. Well done Foulkes. If you were on the Yes side of the argument I'd be hoping that you would leave the country for an expended holiday of say 2 years in Antarctica.

It was not only despicable though; it was also very stupid.

No one, not the parents of the girl who was raped, or the girl herself, not her friends or family, not ardent unionists, not anyone, will believe for a second that, had there not been an independence debate going on at the moment, this outrage would not have happened.

The police dealing with the case will be furious to think that Foulkes imagines that they were too busy debating independence to bother paroling the streets fighting crime.

Surely Foulkes isn't suggesting that, when Labour was in power in Edinburgh for 8 years, there were no rapes, no companies in administration and no scandals regarding food, because they had no distractions about independence. 

And when Labour was in power in London on and off in the 60s, and 70s, were there any cases of underage sexual activity... Oh yes, wait, what about the BBC and all the carryings on there we've recently come to know about?

The government continues to concern itself with all the things it is charged with running. Indeed I read somewhere that YouGov had a survey showing after 6 years in power this government has a positive rating of +14 with the public (compared to the seriously negative one of -42 for the coalition unionist government in London. It has not neglected its duties because of the referendum. Mr Foulkes needs to know that there are people who CAN walk and chew gum!

What a silly little man he is. I never thought I'd quote David Cameron, but in this case I'm happy to say that his "too many tweets makes a twat" comment is pretty appropriate. 

My advice to all politicians is, don't tweet when you're drunk. It's very silly. 

If you start off not too bright, being on the outside of a bottle of whisky isn't going to make you sound like Einstein. 

Using kids as political pawns is cheap and nasty and I'd have thought beneath even the likes of George Foulkes. 

I'm so very glad he's not on our side.

Friday 29 March 2013


I was amused by this opinion piece in the Mirror, written by Brian Reade, and on the subject of the Bedroom tax, and just what this government of rich boys is doing to one class of people (theirs), compared with another class (definitely no one they have ever met)
Apparently we have agreed to pay the new governor of the Bank of Britain, no, sorry, England, along with his salary of nearly £900,000 a year (didn't Eric Pickles get himself in a strop about people in public service earning more that the prime minister?), £5,000 a week housing allowance
No wonder they have had to reduce everyone else's entitlement.
It appears that George Osborne has been able to surmount the immigration laws which say that you can only employ a foreigner (from outside of the European Economic Area) if no one within the EEA can do, or is willing to do, the job. So, out of the 500 million plus people from all of Europe, including, in London some of the highest paid bankers in the world, there is no one, who can run the bank of Bri, England.
Amazing! Well, enjoy Mr Reade's comments. He's far funnier than I am.
A vampire on a week-long bender would not have as much blood as currently leaks from my heart at the plight of Diana Carney.
The wife of the next Bank of England Governor says her family are struggling to afford a home in London as they relocate from Canada, despite her millionaire hubby’s £874,000-a-year salary.
She blames those pesky French tax emigres for taking up all the “suitable homes” in our capital, and she doesn’t know where to turn. Sacre bleu!
Maybe we should organise a whip-round? No, hang on, we’ve already done that by agreeing to give the Carneys a £5,000-a-week housing allowance.
So maybe she should have a word with the family friend in his 40s I was talking to this week, who, like 660,000 others, is sinking under a cloud of fear, panic and depression at the bedroom tax which kicks in on Monday.
He’s been out of work for two years, and despite a daily search, can’t (like Mrs Carney in a Mayfair estate agency) find anything suitable.
Since his mother died, he lives alone, and although he’s asked to be moved into a smaller housing association property, none is available.
So he faces the prospect of moving many miles away from where he’s lived all his life, going into sheltered accommodation with pensioners, or seeing his benefit slashed from £70 a week to £52.
Like more than 80% of everyone affected by the bedroom tax, he has no viable alternative but to stay put and instead of crawling along the breadline, sink below it.
And there are many, disabled people especially, who are worse off than him.
There couldn’t be a worse time to do this to the poor.
The lack of housing in Britain has rarely been as stark, and the jobless situation in many towns and cities where the public sector is being slashed has rarely been as bleak.
The Tories know this. Yet still they push through this vicious attack on the most vulnerable people, with slavering lips.
Hoping the odd leaked story to the Press about a jobless mother of eight living in a mansion will make the electorate believe that’s the norm and give them votes for hammering the spongers.
But what they’re really pushing is desperate people into homelessness, food banks, loan sharks, crime, mental illness and suicide.
Contrast the gravity of their housing anguish with Mrs Carney’s and you’ll see we truly do live in Dickensian times.
It’s still a Tale Of Two Cities. The few who work in the City of London are rewarded for their failure and propped up by a gold-plated safety blanket.
The jobless masses in other ­cities are human collateral in an ­ideological war they never asked for, and they are powerless to fight back in it.
There are 2.5 million people on the dole, many made jobless through a banker-induced depression.
Yet there are currently 770 known bankers in the UK earning more than £1 million a year.
The reckless who gambled with your money and mis-sold insurance which resulted in billions being stolen from hard-working people prosper, while those at the bottom perish.
We call this a Christian country. But maybe we should ask this Easter why we don’t put that philosophy into action.
Because we can crucify those at the top as much as we like but they always seem to rise up from the dead.
Meanwhile the poor, as the Bible says, will always be with us.
And from Monday we’ll ensure many are considerably poorer.

Tuesday 26 March 2013


The UK Border Agency is a joke. It always has been. 

Boxes of files get lost. There is a 20+ year backlog of cases, some dating from the 1990s. There are 100,000 items of post which have not been opened,  over 40,000 non-asylum cases have not been checked with the police data bases. No-one knows who is in the country and who is not.

And amazingly, the head of the UKBA, Lin Homes, who, It seems to me, must be one of the most incompetent managers in England, was recently given a new job as head of HMRC. God help taxpayers, great and small!

So today, in line with the government's recent realisation that UKIP has replaced the Tories as the home of the rabid right and the Liberals as the home of the protest voter, prime minster in waiting Theresa May has split UKBA and brought it back under government control... well, under Home Office control, heaven help us. (You'll remember that the Home Office was so inefficient that it didn't know that it was employing illegal immigrants as cleaners.  Seriously!)

The thing that interests me is that Mrs May said in her speech: "UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm’s length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture. So I can tell the House that the new entities will not have agency status and will sit in the Home Office, reporting to ministers."

Given that only this weekend we learned that Job Centre Plus (a government agency) was sanctioning people for no other reason than that they had to meet targets, which the Department of Work and Pensions 'knew nothing about', and that ATOS, a private company, contracted at enormous cost to the taxpayer to operate a diabolical campaign against disabled and sick people, was also operating a target scheme which, unsurprisingly, the government 'knew nothing about', isn't it time that the UK government woke up to the fact that it isn't just the Border Agency which operated closed  secret and defensive culture, and that it might be a good idea to look at all the other private companies and agencies which are failing dismally to provide good value for money to British taxpayers.
My first port of call, if I were the government, would be to look carefully at HMRC, where, as I mentioned Ms Homes has found a comfortable billet  and which has, it seems, a record similar to the UKBA, with letters  and phone calls going unanswered, hundreds of thousands of wrong tax codes, and files on pensioners going missing. Putting Homes in charge of this chaos was hardly a smart move!

Sunday 24 March 2013




Saturday 23 March 2013


At the last general election for the UK parliament Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron refused to debate with Alex Salmond. 

Only the three main parties would debate, said they.  Although I thought it was unfair, after all, the SNP had seven seats in Scotland and the Conservatives only had one, I could see some sort of reasoning.

Alex Salmond had no chance whatsoever of being first minister of Britain, although, if that was the criterion, what, I wondered, was Nick Clegg doing there? He had no chance either.

Now there is a chance for the First Minister of Scotland and the Prime Minister of the UK to debate, and once again the opportunity has been turned down.

Mr Cameron will not debate with Mr Salmond. He says that Mr Salmond should debate with Mr Darling. 

I'm not sure on basis these things are decided. I realise that people like Cameron, and for all I know, Salmond, are 'position concious'. I know that Mr Cameron is distantly related to the Queen through his mother, and closely related with immense wealth through his late father, and that Alex Salmond is neither. So they are not really in the same "class"... and that sort of thing means a lot to Tories.

It would also be true to say that Mr Cameron is the Prime Minister of the UK, and no doubt considers himself to be a very important man on the world stage, second only perhaps to Mr Obama. He likely sees Mr Salmond as a mere administrator of what Tony Blair described as a parish council.

This referendum is not about political parties or position, though, so who should debate with whom?

Alistair Darling is head of the Better Together or No campaign (although so, it would seem is Anas Sarwar). Alex Salmond is not head of the Yes campaign.

Yes is not about the SNP, and No is not about Labour.

There are, we all know, many Labour supporters who are for independence, and this is shown in the growing movement started by Allan Grogan, which works with the Yes Campaign. 

We also know that there are Liberals who are pro independence (they have a group on Facebook) and there may even be Tories who are. The stance of the Green Party and Scottish Socialists is pro independence too, and there is a Trades Unions for independence Movement.

As has been said many times, people who vote SNP may not be for independence. Many voted for a good solid government after 4 years of good governance from the SNP, (I think many voters were simply terrified at the idea of Iain Gray as First Minister!). An IPSOS poll the other day showed that, after 7 years in government the SNP still have a positive rating of +12 points compared with the UK government's -41 after only 2.75 years! 

So we can't really have the YES and NO sides represented by individual politicians. Darling is the exception because he doesn't represents a political party as such. He, despite being a Labour backbencher, represents the Tories and the Liberals in his position as head of the No campaign. Perhaps he would debate with Blair Jenkins

But the head of government in Scotland and head of government in the UK, would not be an unreasonable debating combination.

According to this article from The Scottish Sun, the public wants to see a debate between the two of them, even if it might be a little infra dignitatus for Cameron. It would certainly arouse interest as they are both extremely prominent people.

The trouble is that Cameron knows full well he would be beaten to a pulp, unless he got one of his friends from the BBC to chair the debate. 

To start with Cameron's arguments are always based on the GREAT in Great Britain (although in this case it actually only means big!). He trumpets the embassies, the 4th largest military spend, the influence with America and in the EU, and the position on the UN Security Council  the clout that Britain has everywhere....

Now, much of that stuff is dubious anyway. We can't afford the military and are having to cut; we have almost no clout with America, we are likely to leave the EU; and our position in the security council must be in doubt in the next ten years as the balance of power changes from West to East.

But even if some of it were true, it's not putting food on the table, clothes on the kids, or stopping old people freezing to death, never mind paying the mortgage and buying a new car or a holiday in the sun.

Secondly, Alex Salmond is a consummate performer. Even his worst enemies can't deny he is brilliant in debate. If you disagree with every word he says, he puts it over well; he isn't patronising and he makes sense. Despite getting on well with the Queen, he has no friends at the palace. He got where he is today by being good at what he does. 

David Cameron, on the other hand, is poor in debate and has little grasp of detail. He has a tendency to be patronising, and when someone scores a point on him he has a tendency to lose his temper and become Mr Flashman. Cameron got where he is today by a combination of money and contacts (including some in the palace).

If the two debated Salmond would win hands down and the Yes campaign would move forward in the polls. Most of the people in Scotland who dislike Salmond, also dislike Cameron (even the Tories).

Methinks Cameron, to use his own rather patronising word, is "feirt", and if he refuses accept this debate, he will be remembered as a coward, who knew he was beaten before he opened his mouth, and/or a snob, who thought he was above debating with a mere first minister.

Friday 22 March 2013


Scots have nothing to lose going the ‘indy’ route

Yes. The country is financially stronger than the United Kingdom as a whole and its people desire a government very different from the one sitting at the Westminster Parliament, London.
Under the current devolved settlement, Scotland has a parliament sitting in Holyrood, Edinburgh, which controls a paltry 16% of the country’s tax base. The game-changing economic and social policy levers remain in the hands of the U.K. government, leaving Scotland unable to properly tackle some of its social ills or take full advantage of its many natural resources.
Scotland’s union with England and the other parts of the U.K. is not offering Scots the best option. The current political landscape across the nations of the U.K. is one where Westminster is controlled by a Conservative-Liberal coalition government that was roundly rejected by Scottish voters at the last election; just one Conservative member of Parliament hails from a seat north of the border.
London makes the crucial decisions and, unsurprisingly, makes them in the interests of the city and its surrounding area. It places little importance on improving the social and economic well-being of Scotland. Those who say no to independence will be guaranteeing a continuation of this sorry state of affairs.
Scotland should no longer allow a distant parliament governed by political parties it didn’t vote for to dictate the country’s future path. And the idea, promoted by many newspapers and British state television, that Scotland survives on handouts from London and gets far too many “freebies” is not just incorrect, it is divisive.
Recent figures revealed in “The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2011-12 Report” show that, rather than enjoying handouts, Scotland is paying more money in tax than it receives in U.K. public spending, to the tune of around £863 per head of its population.
Newspapers the length and breadth of the U.K. continue to run baseless front-page scare stories about independence. What many of these failing newspapers make clear is that the so-called “union” of countries is viewed by London as being one they control.
As for the wording of the referendum question “Should Scotland be an independent country?,” one Daily Telegraph newspaper columnist wrote: “If the British government ‘allows’ this question to go forward, it deserves to lose.”
Scots are very much the second-class citizens of the union, only independence can change this. Most newspapers in the U.K. are losing their influence though, as readers increasingly turn away from a printed press clearly biased on this subject, and look online for their news.
This is especially true of the younger generation, who are using the Internet to access more balanced articles on Scottish independence. And the possible effects of this were highlighted in a recent opinion poll, where a majority of 18-24 year olds supported independence.
The democratic, economic and social inequalities being experienced in a Scotland tethered to a union designed to work for the benefit of one constituent — England — can end next year if Scots back themselves and say yes to independence. Because energy-rich Scotland has the people, economy and social solidarity to chart its own course, for the benefits of all that choose to call the country home.
There is even more to Scotland’s economic potential as an independent country than its booming oil and renewable energy industries. It has a number of world- class business sectors; including food and drink, life sciences and a first-class education system. Scotland has much to offer — both to itself and the world.
For 40 years, Scotland’s oil and gas wealth has been used to prop up the U.K. economy and bankroll expensive infrastructure projects in London and the south of England.
In return, Scots have witnessed the country’s manufacturing base destroyed and its social ills escalate.
Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, governed at a local level by the same political party — the increasingly right wing and unionist Labour Party — for much of the last half century, has some of the worst mortality and child poverty rates in the developed world. The notion that the country will face some sort of biblical apocalypse if it becomes independent; as most Scottish and U.K. newspapers seem to imply is unfounded and insulting.
The business and economic case for Scotland being independent is strong. Of course there will be challenges but when things do go wrong, as they have been going for some time now, Edinburgh will have a sovereign parliament that can make decisions in the interests of the people who voted them into power: the Scottish electorate.
As Scots singer Eddie Reader retweeted: “indy (independence) gives us uncertainty with power, U.K. gives uncertainty without power.”
According to most opinion polls, Scots trust Edinburgh’s Parliament a lot more than Westminster when it comes to acting in their best interests.
So Scots should say yes next year to giving their Edinburgh Parliament the natural powers of independence needed to reroute the country on to a positive path and, crucially, bring democracy closer to the people.
* Emphases and illustrations are mine. Click on pictures to enlarge (but I take no responsibility for anyone clicking on Cameron).


That man who supports independence
Him in that parliament; him on the telly – aye, him
Papers say he’s the only one to share the dream, don’t they
He’s only one man mind you.

But see that mother who supports independence
Lives down the road from me – aye, her
Wakes up, rubs her eyes, brews the tea
Comes by with her shopping and all that
Has three kids, penniless as she is
Wants them to go to university she says
She’s only one mother mind you.

And see that guy who supports independence
Spoke to him on the bus to work – aye, him
Works a shift, dreams, gets by
Says he’s all green; windfarms, nae trident and that
Wants a government closer to home
So’s he can keep up a wage
He’s only one guy mind you.

And see that migrant who supports independence
Came from India with his family – aye, him
Lives in an old tenement
True Scotsman to the bone
Says India did it years ago: What’s taking you so long?
Self-governance, the human struggle and all that
He’s only one migrant mind you.

And see that teacher who supports independence
Works in that school round the corner – aye, her
Holds class, reads books, tells stories
The power of imagination! she tells them
And they listen to her and dream
Says it’s a new chapter, a new start and all that
She’s only one teacher mind you.

But see what the papers call a one-man band
All posturing, politics and that
Sounds more like an orchestra out on the streets
Waking restless dreamers to a call.

Andrew Redmond Barr
National Collective

Thursday 21 March 2013


The employment minister, Mark Hoban,  assured MPs on Tuesday: "There are no league tables in place. We do not set targets for sanctions. I have made that point in previous discussions."
A leaked email, however  shows staff being warned by a manager that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.
[Question: Could anyone at the Department of Work and Pensions find their backside, using both hands, in ten minutes, with a map and clues?]
I have worked for the DWP, albeit briefly (thank heavens), and my honest opinion is that probably 'no, they could not'. Any of the original staff who actually did know what they were doing (and there were some) have either moved on, or retired.
I've never worked for such a chaotic shambolic organisation in my life. I've never worked with so many people who really had no clue what they were doing.
This ineptitude appears to reach up to the dizzy heights of the DWP ministerial floor. 
How incredibly embarrassing for Hoban to have given an assurance, and reminded critics that this was not the first time he had been obliged to give this assurance, that no such targets were set, and then for an email to come to light showing that, guess what... he was fibbing.
Just a small part of the email which has been leaked shows what kind of an organisation we are dealing with here. 
"Our district manager is not pleased … because senior managers are under pressure to improve our office output and move up the league he has to apply some pressure downwards." She continues: "Guys, we really need to up the game here. The 5% target is one thing – the fact that we are seeing over 300 people a week and only submitting six of them for possible doubts is simply not quite credible."
"Obviously if I am on a PIP [performance improvement plan] to improve my team's Stricter Benefit Regime referral rate I will not have a choice but to consider implementing PIPs for those individuals who are clearly not delivering SBR within the team."
These people's business are other people's lives. I'm all for sanctions being applied, but not to fit some sort of target to keep the management bonuses afloat.
The email writer says that she is looking for a target of 25 people a week to be sanctioned. To save her bacon.
Some time ago a newspaper, I think it was the Guardian, did a report about how JC+ managers were dealing with the fact that they have targets to get people off benefits, but that in many, if not most, areas there simply weren't any jobs. So, inventive staff had to find other ways of avoiding disciplinary procedures, and to get their claim count down, they had to apply incredibly strict rules, like anyone being late for their appointments would be disallowed for 6 weeks, anyone failing to apply for a suggested job, no matter how unsuitable, would be disallowed... etc.
The DWP denied this too, just like they denied that ATOS had targets...
No wonder they managed to make such a mess of the slave labour programme and had to have the law changed to avoid recompensing unemployed people who prefer to be employees rather than slaves.

Wednesday 20 March 2013


Yesterday New One Nation Labour did something shameful.

It agreed to an emergency session in parliament to change the law ex post facto in order to ensure that some of the UK's poorest people were done out of a payment to which the law said they were entitled. And then, whilst not voting with the government Labour ordered its members not to vote against them, allowing it to pass with ease. A few decent Labour MPs who remember what Labour used to be about defied the party and voted against the Tories.

The DWP failed in their responsibilities to explain properly the slave labour element of Workfare programmes, in which unemployed people are sent to work for nothing for certain down market grasping stores, and the penalty for refusing to do this work, or being dismissed from it, is sanctioning and removal from entitlements. 

The Court of Appeal in London found this to be illegal and clearly the unemployed people who had been sanctioned were entitled to reclaim the money that had been taken from them illegally.

Approximately 230,000 people were owed on average around £550 each.

With help from Labour, the government were able to get rid of that particular debt and deal with the judgement that it had broken the law...  by changing the law retrospectively.

When I started work in the employment business in 1996, there was a Tory scheme called "Project Work". It took long term unemployed people from the register for three months during which they were paid a "training allowance" (the same as their JSA +£10) and, following two weeks' induction, put them into "work" for 18 hours a week. 

Major's Tories had wanted to put them into factories and shops, but the unions, and Labour were resolutely against this, on the basis that a post filled by someone still on the dole, denied that post to a genuine jobseeker and subsidised the company by providing it with free labour. 

If a business required workers it should recruit them and pay them, the thinking went. As a result of this, work experience in 'Project Work' had to be in charities, churches and the likes.

Clearly New One Nation Labour no longer care about that. I can't help but think that it is time that the unions looked hard at how much they want to keep supporting this party.

Ironically, perhaps, the decision to back this, while it must have been backed by "Red" Ed!!!, came from Liam “I am afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck!” Byrne, the man who rented an apartment at £2,400 a month plus £400 a week for food, and tried to add room service to his expenses bill.

On a wider, and much more frightening level, the UK government has just crossed the Rubicon. With an unwritten constitution, parliament has set a precedent. Whatever displeases it can now be removed with retrospective legislation. The possible consequences of this are incredibly frightening.

The sooner we are out of this undemocratic union, the better.

Monday 18 March 2013


With The Liberals now apparently passionate about a parliament for the Northern Isles, let's take a look at the party's track record on devolving powers, bearing in mind how dedicated they are to federalism and greater autonomy: 

*First Scottish General Election, 1999* 

1999: in coalition government with Labour: nothing 

2000: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

2001: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

2002: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

*Scottish General Election, 2003* 

2003: in coalition government with Labour: nothing 

2004: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

2005: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

2006: in coalition government with Labour: nothing

*Scottish General Election, 2007* 
out of power

*UK General Election, 2010* 

2010: in coalition government with Tories: nothing 

2011: in coalition government with Tories: nothing 

2012: in coalition government with Tories: nothing 

Hmm... Good one, guys. 

Random Thoughts...

SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson: "Defence personnel numbers were cut in Scotland by 28% compared to 12% across UK between 2000-2010. Source: Liam Fox"

On Tuesday Labour MPs are expected to vote for Duncan Smith’s emergency bill which will steal money straight from claimants illegally sanctioned by the DWP.
These laws are being introduced simply to cover up Iain Duncan Smith’s incompetent drafting of legislation, the Commons' and Lords'  inability to recognise it, and the DWP's inability to clearly explain to claimants what is expected of them.
What is really worrying is that they can, and are prepared to legislate to change retrospectively, leaving poor people out of pocket to the tune of £500 in some cases, when it was all their fault. 

Bravo Labour, that's the way to win votes anywhere that they think that slave labour is the British rather than the Brutish way.
HM Revenue and Customs has been roundly criticised by Margaret Hodge's Public Accounts Committee, for failing to answer 20 million phone calls a year and for failing to respond to 33% of letters within 15 days. Its response is to close 281 local centres where face to face communication can take place, sacking 1,300 staff in the process. That should work then!