Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | February 12, 2009

Labour’s farce display over Local Council Tax


There’s a farcical image – the leader of an opposition party, who forced the abandonment of a policy document, then demanding an apology – because his party blocked change:

Apology call after tax decision

Alex Salmond has come under opposition pressure to say sorry for dropping plans to replace council tax with a 3p local income tax.

Scots Labour leader Iain Gray, who tore up a copy of the SNP manifesto during question time at Holyrood, said Mr Salmond had been short-selling voters.

Ministers said legislation to bring in local income tax would not be put before the current parliament.

To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story: “You really are a sad little man.”

To be fair, I’m neither coming out in support or against the SNP – but this issue really highlights the playground politics of the Scottish Parliament.

It’s sad, it’s pathetic, that when ministers should be looking to represent their constituents, they instead represent their political party allegiances. And in this case, as in so many others, the Scottish Labour party just acts as embittered, and incapable of doing anything constructive – just party posturing.

Scotland harks to the past of kings – certainly we could do with one now, if it helps remove party politics. We should have a better level of conduct from our elected representatives, instead of them acting like spoilt children on a personal marketing weekend.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | January 7, 2009

West Coast Main Line: Problems again

It’s kind of ridiculous that after years and billions spent “upgrading” the West Coast Main Line, problems continue to arise.

A small plane crash can’t be helped, but we already had signalling problems, cracked lines – and now the powerlines are down at Euston:

Thousands face further rail chaos

Rail passengers are facing long delays after a power failure halted all trains in and out of London Euston.

London Midland and Virgin services to and from Euston have been suspended after cables came down in north-west London as a train was passing through.

Travel to Birmingham and north-west England is affected, as are regular commuter lines in and out of London.

Engineers are working to fix the lines and Network Rail said it hoped to have a limited service restored soon.

What an impressive farce this is all turning into.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 23, 2008

Branson lays into MSRA

It’s not a uniquely Scottish problem, but MRSA is no laughing matter – as is the problems it causes.

And now Richard Branson wants to clean it up.

Not sure about anyone else reading this, but I certainly know people who have gone into hospital only to be unnecessarily exposed to MRSA.

It seems the problem is that it is simply cheaper to stick MRSA patients into a ward with other patients, even those with open wounds.

As a BMA spokesperson stated: “This proposal will cost a great deal of money and risk further reductions in the number of health professionals available to treat patients at a time when we are critically short of staff and beds.”

Which is absolutely the wrong approach to medicine in my opinion – to think about costs before patient safety.

In the meantime, our NHS has been crippled by bean-counters looking to fix statistics, rather than doctors and nurses helping patients.

Perhaps Richard Branson as the new vice-president of the Patients Association can help turn this sickness within the NHS itself – but against a mighty bureaucratic machine, I’m not holding my breath.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 22, 2008

Durness gives clues to Prehistoric Mystery

Interesting indeed – tiny meteorite particles found in rocks on a beach near Durness have yielded clues to a possible catastrophic prehistoric event:

Tiny clues to collision in space

Evidence that a massive meteorite shower had an impact on Earth on a global scale 470 million years ago have been found on a Highlands beach.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen uncovered tiny remnants of meteorites, smaller than a grain of sand, within rocks in Sutherland.

The find is linked to others made in China, the US and Australia.

The scientists think the meteorites – a result of a collision in space – triggered earthquakes and tsunamis.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 19, 2008

The Fishing Industry is Stupid

Yet again we witness the obscene act of the UK government fighting to save an anachronistic industry on the brink of death – in order to allow it to kill itself.

Yes, it’s that time of year when despite scientific warnings of killing off North Sea cod and other significant fish stocks, instead the government let’s it continue on regardless.

The Fishing Industry is Stupid – big letters – because rather than plan for the long-term sustainability of their industry, they insist on pushing for short-term gains in order to destroy any remaining biodiversity in the North Sea to provide one-last-gasp for fishermen.

Every other traditional industry has died – I’m originally from Hull in East Yorkshire which was once a major whaling port. That industry is dead. It’s fishing industry is also almost entirely gone. My mum’s side of the family worked on the railways – and now most branch lines have been ripped up and the stations converted into homes. My dad’s side of the family worked in the coal mines, and now that industry is almost dead in the UK except for a few isolated instances.

The UK has changed and evolved as required – as industries died, new ones have replaced them. But not the fishing industry. The government still insists on banging the drum of this parasitic industry despite the fact we’ve seen destruction of fishing grounds elsewhere across the world, and despite warnings of it happening in the North Sea and other UK coastlines, we still have to watch it happen because of 2,000 jobs.

As Greenpeace rightly point out: “Today’s announcement is disastrous for the fishing industry. The cod quota could lead to fishermen fishing themselves out of a job, because these catch levels could see an end to North Sea cod.

“We’re forced to witness the annual farce of bungling bureaucrats seriously jeopardising the future for cod and the UK fishing industry.

“Moves towards more selective nets and closing areas to reduce discards are very welcome – but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the scientific advice.”

Too right.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 19, 2008

Lockerbie: 20 years on

The BBC reports that Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing.

While the article waxes on the humanitarian side, there’s little coverage of the farce that resulted form trying to enforce a prosecution, with a mixture of politics, foreign policy, and the judicial system becoming a confused mess as the search went on for the easiest scapegoat.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was eventually jailed – and is now on his second appeal – is currently suffering from cancer, and even one of the bereaved parents is calling for a compassionate release.

Ironically, it took until last month for Libyan compensation to start being distributed.

In the meantime, on a lighter note, the man who missed Pan-Am 103 by minutes – and lived to tell the tale.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 19, 2008

HBOS in damage limitation over job losses

The new boss of HBOS in Scotland has pledged sensitivity over job losses – which in corporate speak means that HBOS is on a damage limitation exercise.

Because the effects of large scale job losses are not simply inevitable, but will also be damaging for HBOS as a brand – at least in Scotland, where there has been a vitriolic attitude to the Lloyds TSB take-over move.

The main problem for the new Lloyds TSB-HBOS group is that it now simply has too many branches and employees – here in Nairn there are 4 banks on the high street – and this includes one Lloyds and one Bank of Scotland branch. In business terms, it’s a cause of extra expense to be trimmed.

Because of the size of HBOS in Scotland, job losses are likely to be very large – and with one third of unemployed facing potential financial ruin, in an economic crisis where repossessions could hit 75,000 over 2009, the outlook is not good.

No wonder the new Lloyds Group is showing a lot of sensitivity to brand protection.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 11, 2008

SNP Transport review “just a wish list”

Despite the pomp and ceremony of yesterday’s announced Strategic Transport Review, it is becoming increasingly clear that all the SNP has done is catalogued outstanding transport requests into a single wish list, with no real commitments in terms of dates of money for any of these projects.

In that regard it can only come as a disappointment, as all the SNP have really achieved is a bit of flag-waving – the only commitment is to get everything done within 20 years.

Whether the SNP are able to see any of this through is absolutely moot, and experience of Scottish politics so far suggests plenty of wranging and over-runs.

Still, on issues close to me such as dualling the A9, A96, and adding a Nairn bypass, it’s good to see these on the political table. The big worry is that they will merely stay there for a long time to come.

Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 10, 2008

SNP to dual A9 and A96

Welcome news indeed – the Scottish National Party (SNP) has launched its Strategic Transport Projects Review, and listed dualling of the A9 and A96 as key priorities, which is absolutely welcome.

The coverage on the BBC underlines the white elephant in the room, though – that much of this development plan really hinges on getting a cut-price Firth of Forth bridge. Which could prove terribly optimistic.

Running a business in the Highlands I’m acutely aware of the transport limitations, and that dualling the A9 is an essential part of connecting Inverness with the major centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Additionally welcome is the dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn, as this is an absolutely key link to Inverness Airport (aka Dalacross Airport), which is growing in importance as a transport centre for business as well as domestic users.

As a general consumer in the Highlands, despite living near Inverness, I’m acutely aware of the problems with deliveries from the rest of the UK, as a number of sites in England simply will not deliver to anywhere in the Highlands, or else will do so at an extra charge.

The review also covers a number of concerns about various road across the Highlands, which were voted as unpopular in a survey a couple of years ago, so seems well-targeted.

So the Strategic Transport Projects Review is certainly very welcome.

But…it has to be cautiously welcomed.

Much of the review seems to basically cover every transport project that has been suggested as being required, so the review reads more as an inventory of outstanding work – with no timescales attached other than completion within 20 years.

The problem here is that 20 years is an awfully long time in politics, and with the nasty opposition fighting in Holyrood, it remains to be seen whether the review is an action plan or an optional shopping list.

The transport issues highlighted in the report certainly deserve a lot of attention, but the competition for each one to be prioritised is likely to be high.

While I would expect the dualling of the A9 to come sooner rather than later, other smaller projects may find themselves pushed further and further back, and much seems to be running on a cheap Firth of Forth crossing.