Monday, 31 May 2010

Is New Legislation Required?

What's a politician's best friend? Their Blackberry? Their laptop? Their shredder? Aye, that's it!

All too often, when a scandal hits the government, we hear about shredders being busy. They were especially 'busy' in Downing Street before the police investigated the Cash for Peerages incident.

Once again the troubled quango, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, is in the news. It's alleged that receipts from business trips worth more than £32,000 were shredded.

Is it time legislation was passed to stop this blatant abuse in public offices? Businesses are required to keep all records for a period of at least 6 years. Documents relating to government grants must generally be kept for 4 years and where grant aid is being received, no document should be destroyed without consulting the relevant government department.

Shouldn't the same rules apply to government departments and any organisation which receives taxpayers' money? I certainly think so.

Another Tragic Loss

A Royal Marine has been killed in Afghanistan in an explosion the MoD has confirmed.

The marine from 40 Commando was killed in an explosion in Helmand Province yesterday. This is the second fatality the Marines have suffered within a few days. Cpl Stephen Curley, 26, who was killed last Wednesday also belonged to 40 Commando.

The total fatalities in this pointless war now stands at 289. Every loss in this was is a tragedy because we should not be there. Back in the early 2000s there may have been a case for us to there for a short time but we should have pulled out years ago. Our presence does nothing for the security of Britain - on the contrary.

David Cameron is convening a secret summit of military experts on the war in Afghanistan. The great and the good are said to be attending. It's all very well talking but it's long past time something was done about the withdrawal of our troops. I read that we cannot withdraw because the Taliban would just return to their usual behaviour. Of course they will but surely we're not going to be present for decades. If the Afghans want change in their country then let them bring it about themselves. Take those wishing to learn military skills to a neutral country and teach them there.

The time for talking is over. It's time to make our own decisions rather than wait for President Obama to give us our instructions. It's time to plan our withdrawal and whether its dignified, as some commentators say must be, or whether it's a scramble I don't care. We have little dignity left as a country being willing to rush into wars these days. Politicians started this. They must finish it. Now.

Oh Danny Boy

Nick Clegg really needs to take some urgent action to sort out his MPs. The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has been found to have done a 'Hazel Blears' - avoiding paying capital gains tax when he sold his taxpayer-funded second home at a profit.

There is no suggestion that Mr Alexander has broken any tax laws but he has used a loophole in the tax system for personal financial gain.

In the first televised leaders' debate Mr Clegg said: "There are MPs who flipped one property to the next, buying property, paid by you the taxpayer, and then they would do the properties up, paid for by you and pocket the difference in personal profit."

I don't expect he was aware one of his bright young things had done exactly that.

Time for the libdems to get their own house in order before they start legislating for a reduction in our standards of living.

Made It!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Blair to Cash In on the Climate Change Scam

Tony Blair has recently told friends he needs £5 million a year to fund his lifestyle.

He's nothing to worry about though, not yet anyway. He's recently agreed to be paid £700,000 a year to act as a 'strategic advisor' to Khosia Ventures, a venture capitalist firm founded by Indian billionaire Vinod Khosia.

His role? To advise the company on how to make money from the climate change scam.

In a recent statement Mr Blair said: "Solving the climate crisis is more than just a political agenda item; it's an urgent priority that requires innovation, creativity and ambition."

'Golf Buggies' to Afghanistan and a Secret Meeting

A senior Army officer called the £7 million procurement of 75 unarmoured vehicles 'a belated April Fool joke'.

The MoD have issued a contract to supply the £93,000-a-time Springers which are built around a similar frame to a golf buggy.

They are being used in Afghanistan to move combat supplies from helicopter landing sites to patrol bases. Quad bikes, costing just £20,000, had been doing the job. The Springer is designed to be used in any terrain. But they're not armoured and therefore cannot be used in areas where there may be bombs. Andrew Tyler, chief operating officer for MoD Defence Equipment and Support, claimed the contract 'demonstrates that we're continuing to invest in vehicles for the frontline'.

How anyone can substantiate tarting up a golf buggy frame and selling the result for £93,000 defeats me. The Springer was produced by Derbyshire-based Enhanced Protection Systems (EPS) and is designed specifically for rugged, desert conditions.

David Cameron has convened a secret meeting of military experts, ministers and Tory MPs at Chequers to review strategy on Afghanistan amid growing signs of division over the mission's objectives.

The meeting will be on Tuesday and also be attended by members of the new National Security Council.

Government officials stressed last night that they were not anticipating any dramatic change of policy although it is reported that there is increasing scepticism in both political and military circles over whether some of the original objectives in Afghanistan are achievable.

Denis McShane, writing in today's Observer, says it is time to end the 'blood sacrifice' of British soldiers and calls for them to be brought home.

"The White House is clearly looking for an exit strategy," the Labour MP says.

The Tory MP and former infantry officer Patrick Mercer said: "There are huge questions that need to be asked on foreign and development policy and difficult questions that need to be made in the current economic climate."

It's pleasing to see more than lip-service being paid to the war in Afghanistan by the new Westminster government.

Dennis Hopper 1936 - 2010

Saturday, 29 May 2010

David Laws Resigns

According to the BBC David Laws had resigned. David Cameron and Nick Clegg paid tribute to Mr Laws saying they hoped he would return.

Was he pressurised? We'll never know. Mr Laws is a person who prefers to keep things close to his chest.

He's made the right move. He knows he broke rules and his excuses were pathetic.

Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he had always admired Mr Laws' integrity and he hoped he would one day be able to return to government.

He said Mr Laws' privacy had now been "cruelly shattered".

I've no sympathy. Maybe Mr Laws may understand the legislation government makes can 'cruelly shatter' many lives for no reason at all.

In his defence it would appear he resigned before he was pushed.

Libdems Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander will take over his post Downing Street has announced.

Doesn't that go to show that the Scottish Secretary's post is redundant?

How Long Do You Work for the Taxman?

Laws for the Rich and Laws for the Poor

This morning I listened to Paddy Ashdown discussing the very recent disclosure that David Laws has been claiming expenses for a home owned by his partner. According to the Green Book that is against parliamentary rules. Paddy Ashdown's argument was that the word 'partner' is ill-defined and the relevant parliamentary authorities will give a judgement on the definition.

c. A domestic partner.

For Mr Ashdown to suggest it is the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner to define the word is insulting to the general population. We know the definition where the laws are concerned.

Week in and week out we hear about people, who claim benefits, being convicted of fraud because they were caught cohabiting with a partner. Do you think the judge would accept the defence of: "I did not reveal we were partners when I claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit because I wanted to protect my privacy. We are very private people and made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that is our right." Can you hear any judge saying: "Auch that's fine then. Just pay back the money you've stolen from the taxpayer and that'll be the end of it." Of course not. Mr, Ms or Mrs would be labelled a benefits cheat and fined or imprisoned.

To say that he didn't consider himself in a partnership because they do not have joint bank accounts and have different social lives is quite unbelievable from an educated person. Many legally married people and cohabitees do not have joint accounts and happily live diverse social lives. I've never had a joint bank account in my life.

It is not my intention to judge David Laws but I must say Paddy Ashdown's contribution earlier today did little to help his case. The man may be excellent at his job and may well be able to earn far more in private business but it is his choice to be a full-time politician. To call him naive is plain stupid. If he did not understand the meaning of a word or phrase there were plenty in Westminster with whom he could have discussed the matter in confidence. If he doesn't trust the parliamentary system why should we?

To suggest that not even his friends and family knew of his relationship is absurd. Many of them would have known no matter how hard he tried to hide it and I'm surprised at him using his sexuality as an excuse, because that's what it is. Within the Westminster bubble it is quite possibly well known which MPs are gay. Does it matter to the public? Not in the least.

Just a thought - would Paddy Ashdown defend the alleged benefits cheat so fervently? Somehow I think not.

Lordy, At Last!

Above is the former First Minister of Scotland Dr Jack Wilson McConnell MSP. In an effort to avoid any misunderstanding, he's the one in the kilt. (Has anyone ever found out the name of the bloke in the bunnet?)

Shortly Mr McConnell will be sworn in as Lord McConnell of 'somewhere in the west'.

So Jack's finally be awarded his ermine robe and £300 a day attendance fee. They've been promised long enough. Will he leave the Scottish Parliament? (Lord) George Foulkes somehow manages to be an MSP and a member of the House of Lords so there is no reason why Jack couldn't follow in his footsteps.

Friday, 28 May 2010

People in Greenhouses Shouldn't Throw Stones - Guest Post

People in Greenhouses Shouldn't Throw Stones

Edward Spalton

Belief in man-made global warming caused by so-called greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), water vapour (H2O), ozone (O3) and nitrous oxide (N20) has produced enormous public concern and a huge structure of very costly political, financial and technical measures to cope with it. Even religion is invoked.

This whole edifice depends on a belief in the greenhouse hypothesis – the way in which a greenhouse is thought to produce a much higher temperature inside than in the surrounding atmosphere. If that hypothesis is shown to be false, then everything else collapses completely.

The hypothesis is an old one, dating as far back as 1824 (Fourier). Glass is opaque to some radiation in the infra-red (IR) part of the spectrum – the part we call heat radiation. Direct sunlight passes through the glass, losing a little of its infra-red on the way in. The remaining radiation from the sun is absorbed by the ground in the greenhouse and re-emitted in the lower frequencies of infra-red. The glass traps these rays and re-emits them back into the greenhouse, stoking up the heat. The greenhouse is a radiation trap – or so the hypothesis states. The “greenhouse gases” mentioned above have some similar properties to the glass.

It is assumed that nearly all the sun's radiation (such as light) is turned to heat radiation at the ground – called a transformation of wavelength. That the infra-red radiated back by the glass further warms the ground and therefore the air in the greenhouse. Physics teachers and textbooks have taught this for more than a century and so it is considered an established fact. Hardly anybody has tested the hypothesis by experiment.

One man did, a very eminent American scientist Professor R.W. Wood (1868-1955), who is sometimes called “the father of both infra-red and ultra-violet photography”. Wood earned numerous degrees from Harvard, MIT and the University of Chicago. He became full time professor of “optical physics” at John Hopkins University from 1901 until his death and is credited with many patents and experimental techniques. His notes from a very elegant experiment which he did in 1909 should be better known. They come from an age before scientists dressed up their work in impenetrable jargon and are easy to understand.


“Notes on the Theory of the Greenhouse by Professor R.W. Wood

There appears to be a widespread belief that the comparatively high temperature produced within a closed space covered with glass, and exposed to solar radiation, results from a transformation of wave-length, that is, that the heat waves from the sun, which are able to penetrate the glass, fall upon the walls of the enclosure and raise its temperature: the heat energy is re-emitted by the walls in the form of much longer waves, which are unable to penetrate the glass, the greenhouse acting as a radiation trap.

I have always felt some doubt as to whether the action played any large part in the elevation of temperature. It appeared much more probable that the part played by the glass was the prevention of the escape of warm air heated by the ground within the enclosure. If we open the doors of a greenhouse on a cold, windy day, the trapping of radiation appears to lose much of its efficacy. As a matter of fact I am of the opinion that a greenhouse made of a glass transparent to waves of every possible length would show a temperature nearly, if not quite, as high as that observed in a glass house. The transparent screen allows the solar radiation to warm the ground, and the ground in turn turn warms the air, but only the limited amount within the enclosure. In the open, the ground is continually brought into contact with cold air by convection currents.

To test the matter I constructed two enclosures of dead black cardboard, one covered with a glass plate, the other with a plate of rock salt of equal thickness. The bulb of a thermometer was inserted into each enclosure and the whole packed in cotton with the exception of the transparent plates which were exposed. When exposed to sunlight the temperature rose gradually to 65 degrees centigrade, the enclosure with the salt plate keeping a little ahead of the other, owing to the fact that it transmitted the longer waves from the sun, which were stopped by the glass. In order to eliminate this action the sunlight was first passed through a glass plate.

There was now scarcely a difference of one degree between the temperatures of the two enclosures. The maximum temperature reached was about 55 degrees. From what we know about the distribution of energy in the spectrum of the radiation emitted by a body at 55 degrees it is clear that a rock salt plate is capable of transmitting practically all of it, while the glass plate stops it entirely. This shows us that the loss of temperature of the ground by radiation is very small in comparison to the loss by convection. , in other words we gain very little from the circumstance that radiation is trapped.

Is it therefore necessary to pay attention to trapped radiation in deducing the temperature of a planet as affected by its atmosphere?.


The solar rays penetrate the atmosphere, warm the ground which in turn warms the atmosphere by contact and by convection currents. The heat received is thus stored in the atmosphere, remaining there on account of the very low radiating power of a gas. It seems to me very doubtful if the atmosphere is warmed to any great extent by absorbing the radiation from the ground, even under the most favourable conditions”.

So, even if the “greenhouse gases” really do behave like the glass in a greenhouse, the effect is negligible. Until somebody conducts a real experiment (not a computer model) to disprove Professor Wood's experiment, we can stop building wind turbines, sack the carbon traders and busybody officials and tear up the silly claims for “climate compensation” from Third World countries – because carbon dioxide is not causing anything except increased plant growth to feed a hungry world. Al Gore and the other investors in “green” technologies can only thrive when the law compels us to use their products or our taxes subsidise them. That is what drives their campaign. They can vote themselves rich. Now they are like the people who made the Emperor's new clothes – and we can see through them.

Of course, there is every economic reason to improve the insulation of our buildings and the efficiency with which we use expensive fuels. Neither should we stop improving control over real pollutants – but carbon dioxide is not one of them. According to best scientific estimate , on a scale of 300 million years it is at a very low level. So a rise of 40% from this low level is nothing to get excited about and it is a marvellous, non-polluting fertiliser.

I am indebted to The Revd Philip Foster MA (Nat. Sci. & Theol) for drawing Professor Wood's paper to my attention)

I also recommend his book “While the Earth Endures: Creation, Cosmology and Climate Change” and

“Climategate: the CRUtape Letters” by Stephen Mosher & Thomas Fuller

both published in the UK by

SMP Ltd, 1 Barnfield, Common Lane, Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdon, PE28 9AX

The SNP and Independence

I've been critical about how the SNP handled the general election campaign and was pleased to read Alex Porter's excellent assessments, here and here.

He too supports Scottish independence and is unafraid, unlike many, to be clear as to where the problems lie.

The SNP has had chances in the past year to push ahead with an independence agenda but failed. The result? The vacuous, policy-devoid labour party won the general election by some miles.

Only recently I suggested if the SNP prefer the politics of devolution then they could at least be honest with the electorate. We deserve to know.

Has the BBC's Question Time Had Its Day?

Last night's Question Time came from Gravesend in Kent. The panel consisted of John Redwood MP, Susan Kramer, former Libdem MP who lost to Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park seat, Alastair Campbell, Piers Morgan and Sir Max Hastings. One elected politician in a panel of five.

David Dimbleby, the show's host, explained that No 10 had made it clear that a Cabinet minister was 'available' to appear but only if Mr Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.

Number 10 asked for him to be replaced by a shadow minister but the BBC refused on a point of 'fundamental principle'.

Gavin Allen, the show's executive editor, said it was the first time in his three years in the job that No 10 had made such a demand. "It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel," he said.

"Parties are free to accept or reject those invitations but they do not have a right of veto over other panelists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.

Mr Allen continues to dig a bigger hole for himself when he said Mr Campbell was one of the most 'senior and influential' figures in the Labour movement. A matter of opinion Mr Allen, a matter of opinion. The juvenile behaviour of Campbell holding up a photograph of David Laws at the end of the programme, while suggesting he had been scheduled to appear, was pathetic.

What Mr Allen fails to understand is that the British public like fair play and his adoration of Mr Campbell is seen as favouritism - by me anyway. In recent years the quality of debate of Question Time has diminished, with the occasional exception. The few times they base the programme in Scotland many of the panel are bussed (or taxied) in from England and have little knowledge of Scottish politics.

I would like to see No 10 continuing to make a stand by refusing to present a government minister unless there is a shadow government minister also on the panel. If the BBC want a quality political discussion programme that is the way to proceed.

Maybe it is time for the BBC to close the curtains on the David Dimbleby chat show.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Leave the Varifocals at Home

Are you over 65? If so do you, or anyone of that age you know, wear varifocals? If so read on.

An Australian study says that falls are a leading cause of death and disability in the elderly, but research says 40% could be prevented if single=lens glasses were worn outside.

Researchers from Sydney recruited more than 600 people from age 65 with a history of galls. All of them used varifocals and not single lens glasses and wore them outside at least three times a week. Half were given single lens glasses for going out and the other half were not. In all, the first group had 8% fewer falls than the second. For those who regularly went outside, the difference was significant - with 40% fewer incidents.

Based on the findings, the authors recommend that older people who are active outside should be advised to switch between single and varifocal glasses - despite the inconvenience. The UK's College of Optometrists welcomed the study, but stressed some people did find it frustrating to have two pairs of glasses.

I've worn variofocals for some years now, although I only use them at home for watching television or for reading very small print but I can believe this study. Walking on uneven surfaces or going down stairs can be slightly disorientating.

Remember, if anyone you know wears variofocals, do ask them if they find wearing them outside difficult at times. If so, perhaps you could suggest they bought a pair of single-lens glasses for outdoors. After all they will be much cheaper than spending months recuperating from broken bones.

FMQs 27 May 2010

Update: There is a dispute about Iain Gray's accusations regarding Skills Development Scotland.


Another member of our army was killed in Afghanstan yesterday. He was a Royal Marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines, serving as part of Combined Force Sangin.

He was killed in an explosion while he was conducting a ground domination foot patrol through the souther Green Zone in order to reassure local nationals and understand their concerns about living in the area.

More life-long grief for another family and friends. A young life lost for no good reason.

In an attempt to stem the criticism of the lack of bomb disposal experts, combat engineers, (of the Royal Engineers), will now be tasked with blowing up many of the improvised devices rather than having to dismantle every one of them. This will mean that soldiers with less training will be able to neutralise the devices, lessening the pressure on the ATOs. Sources said it was a temporary measure.

The move is controversial. One former high threat operative with 11 EOD, Major Chris Hunter, said: "Only the most experienced operative will know whether a device can be exploded or has to be dealt with in place."

The British armed forces death toll for the Afghanistan war now stands at 288.

Afghanistan Update

Yesterday, another British soldier lost his life in Afghanistan. He belonged to the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South) and died from a gunshot wound sustained during a small arms fire engagement with insurgent forces in the Nahr-e Saraj areas of Helmand yesterday morning. Another family suffer the grief of an unnecessary death, the number which now amount to 287.

After his visit to the area last weekend Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, has made a statement. Nothing much of interest in it but I expect he had to account for the upset to our soldiers' regular routines with his VIP visit (accompanied by other ministers).

Yesterday there was an informative article in the German Spiegel which states 'When Washington starts withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, its NATO allies in Europe will quickly rush to the exits...' Most Afghans believe that the US endgame is already well under way.

More than $25 billion has been poured into efforts to rebuild the Afghan army and police, but they are still largely illiterate, undertrained and irresponsible and nowhere near ready to take over nation-building tasks. Do read it. Seldom do our MSM report so much detail.

If the Americans are planning to start withdrawing a year from now then surely we will proceed to a similar timetable. At present Liam Fox insists there is no plan for withdrawal. I don't believe him.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Blackberrys and Rubbish

Biffa, one of the UK's biggest rubbish collection companies, has given 15,00 of their binmen Blackberry-type devices so they can 'get more done on the move'.

I was under the impression a binman's job was hard enough having to wheel bins to and fro all day but Biffa has other ideas. "Binmen could use the rugged Blackberrys to collect data from customers, download maps and communicate with head office," they said.

The devices could also be used to take photos of overfilled bins or catch households who have put general waste in their recycling bin.

"They can take pictures, but they won't as standard," a representative of Biffa said. "If there are any defects or a health and safety problem, they might take pictures".

Any problem to do with bin collection possibly comes under health and safety legislation so don't be surprised if you see your local binman taking a snap of your bin contents before he trundles it off to be emptied. Now you know what's going on in the rubbish collection industry you'll may be less surprised when the council letter, stating the amount of your fine, drops through your letter box.

Trumped Again?

Things aren't running too smoothly for Donald Trump's billion pound golf course in Aberdeenshire.

Since he received the planning go-ahead for his project there have been many protests at the way in which the Trump empire has handled matters - not least his treatment of people who have homes in the area.

The pressure group Tripping Up Trump has claimed to have bought a 'significant' piece of land owned by Michael Forbes, whose home on the Menie Estate is under threat from compulsory purchase. TUT said they had used the same land rules, adapted to Scots law, used by the Heathrow anti-expansion protestors to buy a plot of land near the airport to block the construction of a third runway.

It was confirmed by the Glasgow-based firm of solicitors Bready & Co that TUT has now acquired land at Mill of Menie to defend the homes under threat of compulsory purchase. 'The Trump Organisation will now have to deal with many more objectors than they anticipated' they stated.

TUT spokesman Martin Glegg said thousands of members of the public will have the chance to sign up and have their names placed on the deeds, creating a major legal headache for any compulsory purchase order.

"It won't just be a few local families Trump would have to take to court to compulsory purchase it will now be hundreds of others," he said.

I wish them every success with this latest venture. Trump's behaviour at times has left families in despair and they deserve all the support they can gather to stop Aberdeenshire Council purchasing their homes under Compulsory Purchase legislation. Let's not forget, initially Donald Trump only wanted Mr Forbes' land and no other. When Mr Forbes refused to sell that is when Trump turned nasty, really nasty.

The EU Springs a Warming Surprise

Europe will introduce a surprise new plan today to combat global warming, committing Britain and the rest of the EU to the most ambitious targets in the world. The plan proposes a massive increase in the target for cutting greenhouse has emissions in this decade.

The EU is determined to press ahead with the cuts despite the financial problems many countries are facing. The plan would cost the EU an extra £33 billion a year by 2020 according to a draft of the Commission's communication leaked to The Times. The existing target of a 20% cut is already due to cost £48 billion.

The Commission's argument is:

'... the lower target has become much easier to meet because of the recession, which resulted in the EU’s emissions falling more than 10 per cent last year as thousands of factories closed or cut production. Emissions last year were already 14 per cent below 1990 levels.

It's appalling we are associated with an organisation which uses the loss of businesses as a reason to increase costs of a dubious science. The spin-off could well mean higher utility bills, carbon taxes on road fuel and other sources of emissions could be introduced to claw the money from the struggling public.

How much more will we accept before we protest about our membership of the EU?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Latest Controversial TV Advert

The first television advert for unplanned pregnancy advice will be screened tonight. It's said Christian bodies are outraged and are considering legal action to stop the broadcast.

Marie Stopes hopes its advertisement for unplanned pregnancy advice will raise awareness of sexual health. It comes after a study found less than half of UK adults knew where to go for advice in the event of an unplanned pregnancy other than their GP.

The director of the Christian Legal Centre slammed the commercial as an advert for the 'destruction of human life'. Its director said: "Members of the public will be enraged that such adverts are allowed to be beamed into their living rooms, especially as early as 10.10pm, when very many teenagers are around."

Surely that the point of the advertisement - to target teenagers.

I know a little about the work of the Marie Stopes organisation and have found it most professional and staffed by those who are extremely well informed in all areas of sexual health. The advertisement is not in the least offensive and quietly informative.

Sex education in schools hasn't helped decrease the number of teenage pregnancies much over the years; neither has it influenced the cases of STDs. Perhaps it is time the real experts became involved and if that necessitates the use of television advertisements I'm all for it.

Iain Dale has a breakdown of the latest Department of Health figures for abortions in England and Wales 2009. What is interesting is that 6,643 abortions for non-residents were carried out in hospitals and clinics in 2009. It's not my intention to start a debate about abortion. Suffice to say I am very firmly pro-choice even after listening to all sides of the argument over the years.

The Orange Digital Campaign Awards (NOT)

The Orange Digital Campaign Awards (Not): a gentle protest

As most of my regular readers know I'm not particularly interested in awards, but I have been contacted by Matt Wardman of the Wardman Wire who has asked me to bring the Orange Digital Campaign awards (NOT) #orangedigitalawards to your attention. You can read all about them in more detail at the link but briefly these are awards which will be given to people and parties judged to have made excellent use of campaigning in the Election.

One of my reasons for agreeing is because I use Orange and another is that I disagree with panels of judges not being nomination independently, as has happened in the original awards. Matt details the panel for these awards and yes, they are all leading journalists and bloggers but all are Westminster-focussed. None has the slightest interest in Scotland or Wales and Matt's intention is widen the remit to the whole of the UK.

He asks you to:

  1. Nominate the best example of digital campaigning known to you.
  2. Link back to this post or comment here, so I can add it to the list.
  3. Start your title “Orange Digital Campaigning Awards (NOT)”, including the hashtag #orangedigitalawards.
  4. Tag some others who can help us find the best online campaigning.

I'm going to limit my choice to 6 bloggers who, in my opinion worked hard throughout the election. They are:

Scotland Unspun (Scottish independence)
Fitaloon (Conservative)
Autonomous Mind (conservative with a small 'c')
Dick Puddlecote (Libertarian)

If you do feel like taking part in this (NOT) award gentle protest please do. You can nominate yourself or any other blog you feel would be worthy of an accolade. Go for it - you know you want to!

Let me state here and now I'm not promoting Matt's gentle protest for the first prize of a year's travel anywhere in the world. I believe the prize also includes the cost of staying at 5 star hotels and an acceptable amount of daily spending money - enough to ensure the winner would feel comfortable browsing the shops of Rome or Madrid. No, no, it's not for the prize. It's for a principle which is fairness. As we say here 'We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns'.

Some Things Money Can't Buy

Today was the State Opening of Parliament which all elected MPs should attend. Yet there was one very obvious absentee.

Gordon Brown is the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath yet he was nowhere to be seen. I'm informed he's been out and about in Fife so why couldn't he not represent the people who elected him at this traditional ceremony?

Within many sectors of society there are events each employee must attend without excuse or question. Not for one minute could I visualise any member of the military ignoring a traditional occasion to which they had been 'invited'. It is their responsibility to attend or pay the consequences.

In his 'farewell' speech Gordon Brown said he did not enjoy the socialising side of being PM. Surely it occurred to him that being 'people' friendly' was a vital party of any public service job. Unless he produced a sick note for today then I consider his non-attendance most discourteous. Then again Mr Brown isn't known for his good manners or courtesy. It goes to show that they're something not even millionaire labour ex-prime ministers can buy.

During lunch, around 12.40pm, I switched on Sky News to find Angus Robertson being interviewed. In recent weeks I've been critical of SNP MPs and MSPs being negative in their speeches and interviews, but it was a pleasure to see Mr Robertson being positive about the contents of the Queen's Speech which affected Scotland. In fact he was very nearly complimentary! Well done Mr Robertson - more of the same please. Let Scotland be seen as having a courteous, dignified government and not the negative, spinning and profoundly ill-mannered attitude that pervades the labour party.

Walk On By

Shoppers ignored a dying man as he lay slumped on the pavement in broad daylight in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. It took nearly two hours before someone came to the aid of the man, in his 50s, lying outside a row of busy shops with a shopping bag, containing milk, by his side.

Alarmed passer-by Tony Poll, 33, dialled 999 when he saw the man. "Even as I stopped to help, people were saying 'leave him, he's just drunk'," he said.

"I knew he was dead when I stopped and I honestly believe if someone had rung earlier it would have been a different story."

The report mentions 'Britain's walk-on-by' society which I consider unfair to Scotland and the majority of Scots. When I was a teenager I went to work in various parts of England and the biggest cultural difference was the lack of interest people have in each other. It shocked me then and I can still feel tremors of insecurity writing about it.

Of course that was in the 60s and some will say society was different then. Of course it was. But in the large cities of England there was something missing even then; something the Scots had and still have. That was their interest in their fellow man. Many cities in England are much larger than Dundee where I grew up but even today I never feel insular in the busy streets of Glasgow or Edinburgh in the same way as I do in London or Birmingham.

Perhaps I'm beginning to look at my homeland through rose-tinted glasses but I can't imagine any person lying for two hours on the pavement of a busy Scottish city.

Not so long ago I was speaking with a couple who had moved to Scotland from the south east. Both had spent many holidays here and always intended to retire somewhere north of the border. The conversation turned to neighbours and how they had not really known their previous neighbours at all well. My contribution was along the lines of: "If your curtains are closed all day in this area, someone will be sure to notice and ask if you're ok,"- only to be met with the retort, "I've forgotten how nosy the Scots were."

Therein lies the difference. What one person translates as concern for others can be translated as nosiness by another. It's a fine line, but I'd much prefer to be called nosy that disinterested in my fellow man. It could save a life and it's well worth the insult.

The State Opening of Parliament is Today

Peter Brookes of the Times

Monday, 24 May 2010

Does Scotland Need a New Political Party?

Michael Forsyth has criticised the Scottish tories describing them as a marginalised force. His comments also included other brutal truths such as 'the membership and the constituencies have been allowed to atrophy'.

The tories only have one Scottish seat in Westminster and I doubt if they will ever make a comeback here north of the border. In the Scottish parliament their representation is due to the voting system and not the fact that they were elected by the public.

Since the general election I've been wondering if Scotland needs a new right-of-centre party. The SNP, labour and the libdems are all left of centre and anyone in the middle ground or slightly to the right has nowhere else to go other than the conservatives. Why didn't people vote for them?

Maybe this explains it. There are people who feel the SNP's determination to be 'in' the EU is a mistake. I come into that category and, like the blogger, I would much prefer the issue to be debated using examples such as Norway and Switzerland's connection to the EU as alternatives to full membership.

Many right-of-centre people support independence for Scotland and they're torn between voting tory or SNP. The SNP is the only main non-unionist party in Scotland. Maybe it is time for a new party to replace the tories. One which is sceptical of the EU yet supports independence and with a right-of-centre agenda.

A Very British Hero

Staff Sargeant Oz Schmid was killed in Afghanistan last year. He was a member of the army's elite bomb disposal unit and died while attempting to defuse a bomb.

His wife Christina has been looking into her late husband's final days and the pressures faced by his unit. Panorama are to broadcast her account of 'A Very British Hero' tonight on BBC One, at 20.30pm.

The MoD has reported that the army's top bomb disposal officer has resigned. Col Bob Seddon, of the Royal Logistics Corps, quite over fears bomb disposal training could be compromised. Col Sneddon would not have made his decision lightly. He would have tried every avenue available to him to voice his concerns. Yet he must have felt they were disregarded. The army has begun to offer £50,000 payments to top bomb disposal soldiers willing to sign on for another tour of duty in Afghanistan as a bid to ease the pressure on the units already deployed. That shows how right Col Sneddon is in his fears.

The pressures on these people is enormous yet they receive little or no recognition. Mrs Schmid's recall of her husband saying he didn't wear all his protective clothing when working 'because it was unbearably hot given the high temperature' touched me deeply.

Anyone who is interested in the security of this country should watch this programme tonight. In fact it should be compulsory viewing. For those who defend the fact our troops are in Afghanistan, does it never occur to them why media interviewers are still asking politicans why we are there? The reason is because politicians don't want to tell us the truth. We're not there for the security of these islands, but we're there because the US wanted this war and, with the UK being their bestest allies, we toddled along too. We've had 286 funerals to prove it.

We shouldn't be bribing troops who haven't had enough time to recover from grueling tours. We should be withdrawing all troops, regrouping and retraining. Labour, with the help of politicians from other parties, put our troops into this war and have done nothing to ensure adequate staffing levels in this area. Col Sneddon's unit would have told those in authority years ago that they were understaffed. We've been in Afghanistan since 2001. It takes 6 years to train a bomb disposal expert. Terrorists have been using IEDs for years so politicians must have been aware they would play a major part in this war.

The blame lies firmly at the door of the last government. The new government would do well to take note that withdrawing our troops as quickly as possible is the only acceptable outcome for the UK. Spending billions building schools and propping up a corrupt government, which will immediately revert to its own habits once we do withdraw, is no longer an option.

Do watch the programme if you can or record it for later.

EU and the UK Budget

The Chancellor, in a private meeting with EU President Herman Van Rompuy last week, said that Britain wanted to help co-operation. But he made it clear that no financial sovereignty would be handed over to Brussels.

Mr Osborne told a gathering of his fellow finance ministers: "The first port of call is not the European Commission but national parliament."

A Brussels official said that only a flavour of the Budget details would be expected in advance.

"We would not be privy to the full national budget, but we would be given an explanation of what the Chancellor intends to do," the official added.

Isn't this behaviour from the EU an intrusion too far into UK affairs? This shows the dictatorial culture of the EU in simple terms. Is it any wonder some of us feel that the relationship with this mini-empire has to be renegotiated.

Climate Change Recedes

Chris Hulme, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has been very quiet since he took office.

Richard at EUReferendum voices my own opinion insofar as the heat has gone out of the subject. It's been proved that those who make millions from the hyperbole given over recent years have faded into the background. Possibly to count their earnings which have been colossal because many of us fell for the propaganda.

Not even the Greens are saying much. But as Richard suggests biodiversity is the next subject on the agenda. Will we be as gullible as we were regarding climate change? Time will tell.

It was the UN's International Day for Biological Diversity yesterday. Did you miss it?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

NHS Services

It has been widely reported that the NHS expenditure is to be ring-fenced.

Has anyone thought about the impact on front line services of a VAT increase?

We know that management in the NHS in Scotland is top heavy and the Scottish government has yet to deal with it, but from a UK perspective, do we realise what, with a 2.5% increase in the service will be the result?

The last labour government refused to raise VAT because it would affect their voters. They blame the increase of VAT on the last Tory government who raised it from 15% to 17.5%, yet it is the lowest in Europe.

Somehow, if an increase in VAT is in the forthcoming budget, there must be some way that the NHS is protected. Easy to do.

Utilities too ought to be protected from further VAT increases. I've just had a bill from my gas and electric company and they want more than my state pension in monthly payments. That's not because I'm extravagant with my heating and electric but because this winter has been extreme. Yes I received my £200 winter fuel payment but because I don't claim any benefits I am not entitled to any of the programmes utility companies offer.

With regard to NHS services I do hope people protest. In this area there are some agencies who offer little to their communities yet their payroll contributes to the excesses in the public sector - so many voluntary agencies use very genuine volunteers yet claim vast sums of money for 'core' staff who do little on the front line.

All the present government has to do is design an online 'Where Do You Think the NH Should Be Going and Why?' We will let them know the answers, not 'think tanks'.

Brown to Resurface for Scottish Elections

It's rumoured Gordon Brown has asked to be given a role in the Labour party's Holyrood campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

The leader of Labour's MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Iain Gray, says that Brown's offer, in an unsolicited letter, has been taken up by the party as it begins its attempt to unseat Alex Salmond by this time next year.

I thought Mr Brown was going to spend his spare time undertaking charity work. Campaigning for the labour party could, I suppose, be loosely interpreted as such.

Tom Brown, Mr Brown's old school pal, believes that Gordon wants one of the world's most important economic jobs as head of the International Monetary Fund. IMK insiders are thought to consider the former PM the ideal candidate to take over when France's Dominique Strauss-Kahn's term ends in 2012. Internationally his reputation remains intact and he is admired for the way he tackled the global banking crisis. An IMF source said: "He is very well regarded."

Jobs for the boys right enough. Of course Gordon Brown is 'well regarded' by the IMF - he saved the jobs of his banking friends. The article does mention that David Cameron may try to veto the appointment though as he accuses Brown of creating Britain's economic mess.

A Little Common Sense from the Coalition

Above is Richard Lochhead (left), Scotland's Fisheries minister. Along with Alex Salmond, Richard Lochhead has worked tirelessly for many years to ensure Scotland's fishing industry receives a fair deal in Europe.

The bulk of the UK's fishing industry is based in Scotland yet the last labour government refused to allow the Scottish government's fisheries minister to attend European Fisheries Council talks. Only a few weeks ago Richard Lochhead said he had been barred from attending an EFC meeting in Vigo, Spain. Instead, the former Labour government sent a junior minister from the House of Lords.

It would appear David Cameron has taken the issue of the UK's fisheries to heart and recognises that Richard Lochhead is the most informed and capable person to speak on behalf of the UK at the council. UK ministers have told the First Minister that they will look favourably on calls from the Scottish government to play a key role in international negotiations on fisheries in Brussels.

A long overdue decision. The damage caused to this industry over the years has been excessive and all because those who have represented the UK in the past were badly prepared and/or had little interest. I know my friends in the north east will be delighted with this decision and finally Scotland will be recognised as a major player in an industry which provides us with one of our staple foods.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Local Letters

The past few days I've been doing my best to tidy up the garden in preparation for summer. Like many people I've lost quite a few long-standing shrubs and some other favourite perennials.

Most days I look at the letters page in my local paper. This letter caught my attention earlier. It's obviously in response to a recent thread regarding cats in the garden. I sympathise with him because I have many birds visiting the garden and the presence of even one cat can bring that pleasure to an immediate halt.

Zero tolerance for bird killers

Sir,—The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has published advice to cat lovers on how to prevent their pets from killing birds.

One recommendation is that owners should put a bell on their pet’s collar. I agree and suggest a ship’s bell or even a church one should do the trick.

source: Courier

Have A Go

Well I never as they say! I'm sure most of us have tried the Political Compass at some time I've just given it another go having tried it perhaps a year or so ago, (too hot for me to be in the garden). Can't believe I've moved to the left, although it's a position where I'm comfortable.

If you'd like to see where you are or if you've changed in any way, you can find out here.

Afghanistan Command Changes

A Royal Marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines, serving as part of Combined Force Sangin, was killed in Afghanistan yesterday.

He was conducting a joint foot patrol with the Afghan National Army to reassure and improve the security for the local population near Patrol Base Almas in Sangin, Helmand Province.

The death toll of our armed forces in Afghanistan has now risen to 286.

This weekend Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, intends to visit Afghanistan where eight thousand British soldiers are to be place under the control of the US in a major restructuring of NATO forces. The southern region of Helmand province, where troops currently take their orders from British General Nick Carter, is to be divided into two.

Major General Gordon Messenger, a British military spokesman, said: "This command and control change makes complete sense and is welcome. The span and complexity of the command challenge in southern Afghanistan has increased enormously in recent months and these changes provide the best command support to the troops on the ground." He said it was 'simply not the case' that the announcement meant the UK was handing its responsibilities to the Americans.

Kandahar, which has become the insurgents' stronghold, is to be the focus of the next military objective - another reason for the split. NATO says operations over the next few months in the area will be of critical significance to the future of Afghanistan.

In a significant shift from Labour's foreign policy, Liam Fox said that Britain was not a 'global policeman' and emphasised that the mission in Afghanistan was about making British streets safer rather than sending Afghan girls to school.

I look forward to hearing what he has to say after his fact finding visit, with William Haig, this weekend.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Road (Non)Sense

Back in December I was happy to report the long-awaited Aberdeen by-pass had been approved by the Scottish Government.

Now a group, calling themselves Road Sense, has lodged papers with the Court of Session in a last-ditch attempt to scupper the project. This group is the only objector to challenge government compulsory purchase orders for the 28-mile route.

Road Sense said a key element of its argument will be that government ministers restricted the remit of the public inquiry to the line of the route rather than whether the road was needed or not.

When asked about the impact of the legal action at Holyrood Stewart Stevenson, Transport Secretary, said: "It is likely that the actions of the objectors will significantly delay the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

"However, until we consider the terms of the challenge, it is difficult to be precise about the impact on the project timetable."

He reiterated that both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils were committed to providing 9.5% of the funding each, leaving the Scottish Government to cover 81%. The government will provide all of the money for the so-called fastlink from Stonehaven. Also he stated that ministers had deliberately split the project into chunks in order to safeguard the scheme in case of any legal challenge.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bob Collier said any further delays will add to the cost and inconvenience local business. "Debate on the AWPR has already gone through all the hoops imaginable and all the issues relating to the road were brought forward at the £2.5 million inquiry," he said.

I entirely concur with his final statement: "Further significant delay if the Road Sense challenge is upheld will result in a significant increase in costs and quite considerably frustration to potential users - in particular businesses in the north-east who have suffered for far too long from poor transport infrastructure."

Thank goodness the likes of Road Sense weren't around back in 1910 when Dundee built the Kingsway, the first ring road in Britain. That city's development would have been strangled without it.

Take Your Pick

Catosays - Have a warm day!

Constantly Furious - Off Your Trolleys

A Rabbit's Eye View - It Is All Within the Rules

Dizzy Thinks - Will someone please rid us of international development?

J Arthur MacNumpty - A Vision of the Scottish Tory Frontbench

Think Defence - A gentle reminder

Devil's Knife - In Europe, ruled by Europe...

Munguin's Republic - A wee note for Jim Murphy

Dick Puddlecote - There's None so Blind as a Scottish Publican

Rantin Rab - Welcome to my scheme

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