Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dimbleby's Derision

On Thursday night I was shocked to hear the manner in which David Dimbleby spoke to Nicola Sturgeon on the BBC flagship programme Question Time, which was broadcast from Glasgow.  What he said is well reported here by Joan McAlpine.

Perhaps Mr Dimbleby isn't happy 'his' programme is now produced from Glasgow and he has to visit occasionally, but at his age he ought to know by now that Scotland differs from England in many ways and when it is broadcast from Scotland our issues should take precedent.

There's no point in complaining to the BBC because the usual response will be received. 'Question Time is a UK programme' is a likely reply.  Shamefully, on this week's programme, they couldn't produce any Scottish politicians other than Ms Sturgeon who regularly attends this programme in support of Scotland.  She coped admirably with Dimbleby's snubs and I'm sure she had far less airtime than any other panellist on this show.  Ed, the libdem individual, seemed to be given as much interrupted airtime as he desired - and that was a fair bit.

Mark has been noting the BBC's broadcasting hours given to Labour's Scottish branch's conference in Oban.  There have been 20 hours of broadcasting, according to his calculations, and yet the SNP conference received a mere 3 hours.  He suggests some of you may wish to add to the 38 Degrees Campaign forum if you want to add your views.

Do we have an impartial BBC?  Not in Scotland.  The quicker we have control of our own broadcasting the better.  Of course that would mean having our own fiscal powers and that wouldn't suit Mr Dimbleby in the least, would it.

Two Left Feet? You're Not Alone

I haven't decided who is braver, Mr du Beck or Miss Widdecombe.  Both are highly entertaining though.  So, for all you folk who think you'll never be able to dance, I hope this inspires you - one way or the other. Also I hope it makes you smile on this lovely autumnal Sunday morning.

With thanks to TT.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Video In Full

I make no excuse for reposting this morning's post and making it easier for you to view what I consider to be a valuable contribution to the 'fake charities' debate.

Can I thank Sue for all her hard work and patience on how to download the video to here. Unfortunately, because I use Mac, I only managed it so far myself.  Without such kindness and help from other bloggers, (you too Microwave Dave), I'd be struggling into next week with this problem and even then it could well never be resolved.

Watching me, watching you.......

On Thursday there was a Parliamentary debate about the Internet and Privacy.


Some MPs expressed concern at the data-gathering exploits of Google, and disputed Google's assertion that their trawling of Wi-Fi details was 'accidental'.

I too cannot believe that such a technically-astute company on a photo-gathering exercise, could simultaneously acquire wi-fi data, and store it, and geo-locate it, 'inadvertently'.

The UK is described as as being 'the most surveilled country' among the industrialized Western nations. Details of some of the mass surveillance in the United Kingdom can be found here

MP Robert Halfon stated "My question is this: are we sleepwalking into a privatised surveillance society? How can we stop it?"

I can understand Mr Halfon's concern. How dare a private company try to break the government's monopoly!

Bad Science

'My devoted follower' - I'm so fortunate to have one - Clams Linguini has sent me the link to a video which unfortunately I can't download directly.

The subject is 'Bad science in a good cause is just bad science' and Professor John Davies, Director of the Centre of Applied Pyschology, Strathclyde University, Glasgow, explains his reasons for this statement.

For those who are interested in hearing the words of an eminent academic berating the brainwashing 'charities' - using the anti-smoking government funded organisations as his example - this is 4 minutes well spent.

The video can be viewed here.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Dundee's V & A

click to enlarge

The above are the six final designs on the shortlist for the new branch of the V & A to be built at Dundee's waterfront.  I visited the exhibition and found none complimented the beautiful Tay estuary and the designs felt alien to my native city.

You can view them here and make up your own mind.

The public exhibition has now closed but there is one contribution which the panel should respect.  Dundee Civic Trust wants three of the designs to be rejected and has cast doubt on whether the blueprint by Kengo Kuma can be delivered within the agreed budget.

Dundee Civic Trust's planning group chairman, Jack Searle, wrote:

"The trust has, on a number of occasions, been asked by the press and others as to our position on the shortlisted schemes. We still feel that the V&A building should have been sited at the end of the open space at the heart of the new Waterfront but recognise that a different decision has now been reached.
"As our membership encompasses a wide range of opinions the trust does not wish to indicate a clear preference for one particular scheme.
"However there are some general points which the trust feels are worth making and which in our view significantly narrows the number of acceptable schemes. The first is that whatever the design selected, it must have an external form which will register strongly from both of the principal approaches to the city from the south, namely the Tay Road Bridge and the Tay Rail Bridge.
"It also seems essential that final design looks radically different from any of the other buildings on the Waterfront. All would need to go through the complicated process of development of a project from a design model to a completed building.
"This can result in greatly increased costs and in a loss of the clarity of the design due to structural requirements.

Durability problems

"Problems of maintenance and durability do not affect models but they do affect buildings. For all these reasons the trust would expect that the panel judging the schemes will have architectural, costing and engineering advice within its ranks which would enable it to foresee such problems."
On the siting and designs, Mr Searle added, "The need to provide some form of sheltered access from the shore to the selected building is particularly important, whichever design is selected.
"Three of the designs have buildings which go straight into the river, and hence will have a band around them which will lie between high and low water marks.
"Given the usual consequences of staining and weed growth, how this is dealt with will be crucial to the image of the building in use. The exposed nature of the building, not just to a river environment but to a marine environment, will have real implications for the choice of materials employed on the exterior of the building.

"In particular the use of concrete can be guaranteed to result in the visual deterioration of the building in a short period of time. Whilst the long views across the Tay are magnificent, the tidal and muddy nature of the river at its edge is not particularly attractive.
"Accordingly there would seem to be some question as to why access decks for some of the schemes feature holes in them looking down into the river.
"It is important that any elements above the general roof line are designed to contribute to the overall design and not to detract from it as the top of any selected design will be visible not only from the level of the High Street but also from the Tay road and rail bridges. Many otherwise attractive buildings are ruined by the addition of various boxes to accommodate everything from lift motors to water tanks to access stairs to cleaning facilities."
"On the basis of these points and a general evaluation of the schemes the trust is of the opinion that the Sutherland Hussey, Steven Holl and Snohetta designs should be rejected at this stage.

Other doubt

"We also have some doubts as to whether the very much larger building designed by Kengo Kuma could be delivered within the agreed budget. Finally, whatever scheme is selected it is important that the Discovery is provided with an attractive setting in its own right and not just left in a residual corner."
We can hope the DCT's concerns are taken seriously and Dundee doesn't end up with a building like the Scottish Parliament which is already looking down at heel and it's just over ten years old.  When I went to view the designs I heard the words 'The Guggenheim' mentioned often by staff.  I doubt if any of them has visited the Guggenheim because if they had they would know a busy elevated road ran right over the top of the famous building and the approach from the back of it shows none of it's gleaming splendour.  That can only be found viewing it from the front.
Dundee's V & A will only be accessible from the waterfront and as the DCT mentions, the building needs to look welcoming on a wet and windy winter's day. Let's hope, in their desperation to have an 'in vogue' architect design this building, the decision makers get it right.  DCT has only left two designs they think are worth considering.  Would you think they're suitable?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Disarray in the Renewables Industry

The windfarm industry seems to be in a little difficulty. Yesterday it was reported that Scotland's largest wind turbine manufacturer has filed for insolvency only 18 months after the Scottish government ploughed millions of pounds of grant funding into the project in a bid to rescue the factory, which employs about 120 people.  Such a shame of these people lose their jobs but hopefully their skills are transferable to other sectors of the engineering industry.

Today we're told more than 230 separate local campaign groups against windfarms are operating across the UK and these groups are scoring striking successes in defeating planned windfarms - even when faced with the weight of official recommendations.

In the last 12 months to September, there has been a 50% drop in planning approvals in England and approvals for windfarms in Scotland have also fallen.  The figures are revealed in a report, which will be published next week, on the state of the industry.

Windfarms are ugly and an eyesore.  Nobody could possibly think otherwise unless they're viewing them from a distance of over 20 miles and it's the eyesore and noise which are the main objections from campaigners.  They want all windfarms to be built off-shore but environmentalists and industry experts say this is unrealistic.  The time needed to build off-shore farms can be up to seven years, they are more expensive and the technology is still relatively immature.

Perhaps it's time for both the Scottish and Westminster governments to reassess their plans to have windfarms generate more than a quarter of Britain's electricity.  People are now realising, in order to reach that target, the whole country will have to be covered in these massive turbines.

A spokesman, from Friends of the Earth, said he could understand why people were opposed to windfarms in their local areas but a compromise needed to be found.

"The dilemma is that we believe people should be able to say what they want where they live but at the same time every part of the country has to do its bit if we are to get emissions down to a sustainable level."

Campaigners will be thrilled to know FotE are on their side - but only as long as they reduce their emissions.  How about local governments offices closing half a day a week?  That would reduce local emissions and possibly cause far less upset that the sight and sound of a windfarm in the locality.


FMQs 28 October 2010

The economy was the main feature today.  All party leaders concentrated on how money was distributed.

Iain Gray, in an attempt to galvanise support from his party for their conference this coming weekend, returned, for the umpteenth time, to the question of the surplus of newly qualified teachers currently without employment.  The First Minister responded by stating, among other facts, that it was mainly Labour councils who were reducing teacher numbers. A weak effort from the Labour leader.

The Tory leader Annabel Goldie and the LibDem leader Tavish Scott both made good points.  The Tories want to know if the Scottish Government plan to introduce some form of contribution from university students.  Alex Salmond replied a decision would be made once the inquiry and other investigations relating to university funding, reported their findings next year.  A clever side-step from the FM because these reports will not be available until after the May elections.

Tavish Scott is after those NHS bureaucrats who earn more than £50,000 a year.  He wanted to know what the FM was doing about reducing the number of them.  This was today's question which certainly sent the FM into full waffle-flow.  He didn't know why the numbers had increased but insisted the increase in NHS staff had been in front line services.  Mr Scott knew better and Mr Salmond knew it.  I hope the LibDems keep banging the drum on this one because there has to be a reduction in NHS bureaucracy if moral of front line staff is to be upheld.

Other questions included the worries about the Moray bases and the serious allegations of abuse in a care home in Margaret Curran's constituency.

Some good information this week if you listen between the lines.

Democracy Live hasn't uploaded the video as yet although it ought to be online at HolyroodTV by this evening. The General Question Time, prior to today's FMQs, may interest some of you.  Subjects discussion included broadband throughout Scotland and the Carbon Trust.  Unfortunately the video will not download but you can view it here.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Change for the Good

Since the 2007 Scottish Parliament election I've protested about the use of electronic counting machines being used in future elections.  The 2007 fiasco, which used these machines, saw almost 150,000 ballot paper spoiled - the largest number of rejected ballots in UK electoral history.

Under the new Scottish Parliament (Elections Etc) Order 2010 new measures have included abandoning the human-programmed machines and decided to return to  human hand counting.  A good move.

An opportunity was missed though because the postal voting system also requires some scrutiny.  Postal votes should only be available for those who are completely unable to make it to their local polling station or those who are not in the country on polling day.  With the introduction of companies like this one, postal voting has become a major part of our election process and it's now in the interests of political parties to have big numbers using the system.

Other changes to be introduced for the Scottish elections next May include:

* The reintroduction of separate ballot papers for the constituency and regional votes.

* A longer period - extended by an additional seven working days - between the close of nominations and the election which, it is hoped, will improve the way posta votes are handled.

* Registered party names to appear first on the regional ballot paper followed by the party description, with the option to use the preface 'Scottish'.

The result of an inquiry into the failings of the 2007 Scottish elections concluded that the Scotland Office's decision to combine the names of constituency and regional candidates on a single ballot paper was the main reason for the spoiled papers.  As the Westminster government seems to be intent upon having its voting reform referendum on the same day as the Scottish elections, I wonder if it will be the excuse for any mess next May.


I can't think of a better subject for this morning other than recommend this post on Dr Grumble's blog.

It's lengthy but thankfully free of jargon and should give us all food for thought.

Although it applies to England, I found it very informative as some of the ideas could drift north of the border.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Here are a couple of quotes but please do read the whole article.

'All hospitals, public and private, will be answerable only to the central regulator, Monitor, which is concerned only to ensure that they stay solvent and behave competitively.

They will be supervised for safety and quality by the Care Quality Commission, but the CQC is notoriously feeble: it gave mid-Staffordshire top marks when several hundred patients had been dying there from neglect.'

'The proposed change that has attracted most attention is the shift of commissioning from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to ‘local consortia of GP practices’. This is being done on the grounds that ‘primary care professionals’ are best placed to know what is best for patients, and will engage in ‘more effective dialogue and partnership with hospital specialists’. Who could object to that?
You do wonder why PCTs haven’t previously been told to organise such a dialogue between GPs and specialists; but the more important point is that GPs can’t in fact do commissioning.'

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

My Country's Laws Count for Nothing

I know next to nothing about the law on a professional basis.  My own dealings with legal people have ensured the legal profession made far more out of them than me.

The Cadder case did attract my attention though and I've followed it through the legal eagle blogger Peat Worrier. The verdict on this case was given today.

Kenny MacAskill announced in the Scottish Parliament today that he will propose changes to the Scottish legal system tomorrow and is expected to carry the Parliament with him.  The new rules, it is understood, will increase the length of time a suspect can be held without charge from the current six hours to twelve.  That time can be doubled if a senior officer deems it appropriate.

For those of you outside England who aren't too aware of the Scottish legal system, for decades we have had many safety nets available to protect anyone under suspicion of committing a crime.  In the case of Cadder, I understand an offer was made to him to contact a solicitor yet he refused.  Then he made particular confessions without a solicitor present.  His appeal was on the grounds that his human rights were abused but do read Peat Worrier and other sites by googling 'Cadder'.

There's a morsel of relief from the decision today. Past cases will be excluded from appeal and only those pending will have to adhere to the decision.

Will this make our legal system fairer?  I don't think so but I certainly think it will make lawyers richer including those who offer legal aid.  Earlier tonight I think it was the HR lawyer Paul McBride I heard on radio saying:  "It's a disgrace that a court in England can overturn law made by Scottish judges but that's the way it is in the Scottish devolution settlement." Forgive me if I have the wrong lawyer but I had just jumped in the car.  The words are certainly those of a prominent Scottish lawyer.

Time we took Independence rather than asking for it because now it's more than obvious our laws, (which protect us), count for nothing and a court in another country can over-rule our justices.  Of course if people still want to be part of the EU then it will ever be thus.

Photography and Fiction

Minutes after taking this photograph up Glenshee yesterday, my camera decided it was past its sell-by date.  Further photographs I took are completely distorted and having poured over the manual last night, I think the picture control button has lost any control.

Rather than send it off for repair - because I know that will possibly cost more than a new camera - I'm going to spend a while this morning making an effort to find another decent 'point and shoot' piece of equipment.  Any advice will be most welcome.

It's been mentioned by a few of my readers that I haven't acknowledged we now have a published author in the Scottish blogosphere - although it must be said that his blog has a much wider audience than Scotland. Congratulations to him and my offer of organising his official book signing still stands.  Dare I say that I wouldn't be keen on standing around up the Grampians, even though the publication date is April.  A couple of trestle tables, (one to hold the tipples), on Aberdeen beach would be a great revenue because parking would be free, it's easily accessible and most of all smokers could enjoy their tobacco without harrassment.  Then again, he may prefer the classy environment of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.  Here's his promotional cover. I'm going to buy it. But only if it's signed.

Off to browse the Which website before my £1month's trial runs out.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Council Housing

When I was growing up where people lived didn't concern me much, if at all.  Truthfully I couldn't tell you if, from those childhood friends I had outside the block of privately rented flat in which I grew up, lived in council houses or not. The fact they had a home and family was possibly what registered in my childish mind.

I can recall when I learned about council houses.  For years, when I walked to my granny's house, I passed a really posh lamp on the pavement.  It was an electric lamp by then but had originally been a gas lamp.  Highly ornate and painted within an inch of its life with black gloss and gold paint, the Provost of Dundee's lamp stood outside his house. When I asked my Dad about it he explained the lamp was a public acknowledgment of the Provost's abode, outside which it stood in state.  I found out in later years that the lamp stood outside a council house, and some Provosts in Dundee in my lifetime weren't far short of a bob or two.

Unfortunately I can't find a photograph of the Dundee Provost's lamp but the one shown above is that from Bridge of Allan which has close associations with Robert Louis Stevenson.

I'm drifting from the point of this post.

David Cameron has announced plans to end lifetime council tenancies. I'm sure this applies only to England but shouldn't the Scottish government have such a policy  Is it right that people, like the old Lord Provosts, who were perhaps in those days voluntary politicians but didn't really spent a penny out of their own pocket on creating better communities.

It's not often I agree with Tory policies but I certainly never agreed with Maggie Thatcher's idea of selling off council house stock. She was thinking of quick money and not the future of those less able to buy their own homes.  Over the years I've seen so many people make profits of thousands of pounds  by selling a council house rented by a deceased family member just because they were named on the rent book.

Why should those, who do require council (social as it's called these days) housing be  able to pass on their rented property to any of their extended family? It's difficult enough these days to protect my own home when I've owned homes for 30 odd years. Yes. you may think that's not a long time, but I can tell you, as s single woman with a child back in the early 80s, it was hell on earth to find a building society or bank to take me on.  They all wanted a 'man's' signature regardless of my respectable proof of income.

I persevered and eventually I persuaded a bank, with which I had had a considerable balance for some years, to take me on.  I never let them down.

But is it right for council tenants to have a lifetime guarantee of ownership, and for their extended family to inherit the property when they die?

No.  Social (or council housing as it was know until Labor introduced the 'social housing' label) is for those who are in need.  In recent years those who are in need have been denied a home because there are none available.

Have a look at the qualifications for council housing today.   It astonished me.  Now I know how an elderly friend feels.  She applied for a sheltered house and said she was happy to pay the full rent, knowing she had a small income from the sale of her property.  She was told she was at the bottom of the list as so many others came before her.  Why she asked.  'Because you've been a home owner' was the response.

Here are the qualifications for a council house in Scotland.

If you have special needs, the council's social work department may be able to help you access accommodation that's suitable for you. This may be the case if you:
  • are elderly or infirm
  • have mental health issues
  • have a disability
  • have learning difficulties
  • are a young person who needs support living independently
  • are a refugee or asylum seeker
  • are an ex-offender
  • have an alcohol or drug related problem

Is it any wonder why some of us older Scots don't disagree with the Westminster government's decision to stop certain aspects of council housing tenancies which are passed on to other family members?

I agree with Osborne's plan.  Build and let homes to those who are in need but let's stop the culture of allowing their benefactors from making money from the properties.  It's not right.  Our political masters have persuaded is that home ownership is the way forward.  To allow those whose families have rented taxpayer subsidised property to have first call on their sale is unfair.

Thankfully the Scottish government has halted the sale of council houses.  I just hope that England follows suit for the sake of younger generations.

Later I will discuss the many housing associations which have sprung up out of the blue to make offers to those who wish council housing.  It's another subject altogether.

Another Mini Swinney Arrives

A few years ago I was informed Derek Brownlee was nicknamed 'Mini Swinney' by his parliamentary colleagues.  For those of you who have little knowledge of the Scottish Parliament, Derek Brownlee is the Tory finance spokesman and John Swinney is the SNP government's Finance Secretary.  The nickname is a compliment to Mr Brownlee as Mr Swinney is held in high regard for his skill at dealing with the finances of Scotland and I'm not alone in thinking Mr Brownlee, of all the shadow finance spokes-persons, is the most able.

However, now he's been usurped because John Swinney and his wife Elizabeth Quigley have announced the birth of their first child, Matthew Kenneth Swinney, who was born on Friday.  John has two other children from a previous marriage.

Elizabeth has multiple sclerosis and has done much to promote further research into this disease which is more common in Scotland than anywhere in the world.

I'm sure the voters in North Perthshire would join with me in sending best wishes to our MSP, his wife and new baby son.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Butter Up Your Friends

Pass The Butter .. Please.     

This is interesting . .. . 

  was originally manufactured to fatten  turkeys.  When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put  all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their  heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get  their money back. 
It was a white substance with no food appeal  so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter.  How do you like it?   They have come out  with some clever new flavourings..    

The difference between margarine and butter?   

Read on to the end...gets very interesting!    

Both  have the same amount of calories. 

Butter  is slightly higher in saturated fats at 
8  grams; compared   to 5 grams for margarine. 

margarine can increase  heart disease in women by  53%  over   eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent  Harvard  Medical Study. 

butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in  other foods. 

  has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and  
only  because  they are added! 

  tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of  other foods. 

  has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years 

And now, for Margarine.. 

Very High in Trans 
fatty acids

Triples risk of coronary 
heart disease 
Increases  total cholesterol
 and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and  lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol) 

Increases  the risk of cancers up to five times..

Lowers  quality of 
breast milk. 

Decreases immune response. 

insulin response. 

And  here's the most disturbing fact.... HERE  IS  THE  PART  THAT  IS  VERY INTERESTING! 

Margarine  is but ONE  MOLECULE  away  from being PLASTIC... and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT 

These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life  and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is  added,  changing the molecular structure of the  substance).    

You  can try this yourself: 

Purchase  a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded  area.  Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things: 

 *  no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it  (that should tell you something) 

 *  it does not rot or smell differently because it has 
 no nutritional value ; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.  Why?   Because it is nearly plastic .  Would you melt your Tupperware and  spread that  on your toast?   

MSPs Won't Be Happy with This Colleague

Recognise the MSP in the photograph?  I don't, but then again I would know my own list MSPs if I met them in the street.

He is Jackson Carlaw.  As far as I'm aware he is Deputy Chairman of the Scottish Conservatives and he contested the Eastwood constituency at both the 2003 and 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections.  He didn't succeed but managed to acquire his seat through the part list system.

Mr Carlaw has published a document outlining his view of the Scottish Parliamentary system which he considers is failing and could be improved. He criticised the short working week during which MSPs sit in plenary session for just eight and a half hours and he branded the weekly First Minister's Questions half hour as "tedious verbal torture" with failings on all sides.

Speaking at his party conference he added: "By no means is this a criticism of any MSP or any party.  Nor am I seeking to present myself as some sort of political paragon.  But I do believe Parliament could work harder on behalf of the people of Scotland."

That won't go down well with his fellow MSPs.  Nobody likes to be told they don't give value for money to their customers - particularly by another employee.

Does he have a point?  I don't know, although I can hear every MSP denying this accusation and saying they work harder than anyone else in the country with their constituency work demanding long, arduous hours as well as the burden of their Holyrood commitments.  If that is the case then it's such a shame that so many of our MSPs don't move into the business sector and start creating jobs.  We need more hard working people in the private sector because Scotland needs more job creators.  Without them our economy will be paralysed for years.

As well as hard working individuals we need risk takers, because that's what the private sector do - take risks.  If their risks fail then there's no money in the bank and of course if they succeed they're well rewarded.

If such a theory was attached to every party manifesto - plus the necessity that every promise made should be legally binding - we may see a difference in our politicians.  All right I'm living in La-La land but I can dream now and again.


Friday, 22 October 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of being a Sailor

The calmness of the lapping waters surrounding the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides was disturbed this morning.

One report states a Royal Navy nuclear submarine was grounded on rocks just around three miles from the Isle of Skye road bridge with personnel said to have been trapped on board. The Royal Navy said the boat was on silt not rock.

The grounding of the HMS Astute, which cost £1.2 billion, comes at the end of a dire week for the Royal Navy which has seen its carrier force halved, Harrier jump jets axed and warship force reduced by almost a quarter.  The boat, which was handed over to the Navy by its builders BAE Systems in late August.  Hopefully it was re-floated at high tide around 7-o'clock.  It is then to be towed back to its base at Faslane over the course of several days.  It is suggested the boat ran aground outwith the safe sea lane marked on Admiralty charts.  The channel that runs underneath the Skye Bridge has red and green buoys known as lateral markers to ensure vessels do not run aground but HMS Astute appeared to be lying in shallow water several hundred metres beyond that safe route.  The Admiralty charts show submerged rocks in the area where it got into difficulty.

It's not the first time a submarine has grounded in these regional waters; in November 2002 HMS Trafalgar (S107) ran aground close to Skye, causing £5million worth of damage to her hull and injuring three sailors.

The MoD states: 'We are responding to the incident and can confirm that there are no injuries to personnel and the submarine remains watertight.  There is no indication of any environmental impact'.  Make of that what you will.  This blogger has done with an amusing slant.

It is believe the boat was undergoing sea trials as it is not expected to enter service until next year. Would a change of navigator be beneficial or is that done with computer software these days?  It would seem that the reliance is on modern technology.

Back in September the BBC Defence news team reported on how the HMS Astute was in a class of her own.  Today it's bottom of the class.  We've got to be grateful there are no icebergs floating round these waters.

The BBC's Political Correctness

For most of my lifetime I've thought the BBC spoke for the majority of the UK people,  their values such as free speech, being able to protest peacefully and reporting factually.

In the past few years it has shown itself to respect none of the above.  Nick Robinson should know better.  He's mixing with too many petulant MPs I think.

Thanks to OldRightie

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Gay Marriage

Most of you will know I'm pro-marriage.  Not because my own experience has been particularly utopian, but because I believe making a declaration of commitment to another publicly is the ultimate compliment to the person with whom you wish to share your life.

Another reason I'm pro-marriage is that it gives any children a more stable environment in which to develop.  Of course it's not always so, but that 'piece of paper' can make a difference between making efforts to resolve issues or just packing bags and leaving.  It also legally protects both partners should things go wrong in a far less complicated way that a 'bidey in' relationship, which can require costly legal documents to ensure the security of both should things go wrong.

There will be those who disagree of course and say that many cohabiting couples do provide a stable home for their children and I don't disagree with them.  So often I hear younger couples saying, "We'll get married when we can afford it," when they already have children yet currently it only costs £93.50 to get married in a Scottish registrar's office. Is it because people don't want the legal commitment of marriage, do they feel it's unnecessary or do they want the commitment but with all the glamour of an extravagant white wedding day?  Possibly a combination of all three.

An opinion poll carried out for the Scottish Green Party found that 58% of people agreed that same sex couples should be able to get married.  If they'd have asked me the percentage would have increased to 59%.

Why should same sex couples be denied the same rights as hetrosexual couples?  There are no reasons which stand up to scrutiny these days.

Isn't it strange though, that within today's hetrosexual society it appears there is less need or regard for the institution of marriage and it's the gay lobby which is requesting access to what some consider an out-dated and unnecessary ceremony?  Good luck to them.  I've witnessed the serious financial cost one gay couple has expended in a bid to protect each other when, if they were treated equally, it could have cost as little as £93.50.

Let's rid ourselves of this 'civil partnership' legislation - which sounds more like a military pact - and promote marriage for all couples. Marriage isn't all about sex, it's far more complex.  If those who disagree with homosexuality in general can look beyond the sex angle, then they should see that it's only right any couple should be able to make the ultimate commitment to their partner.


Yet Again

Yet again another of our armed services has been killed in Afghanistan, while politicians decide how much of our money they will distribute to the cause of interfering in another country's politics.  Why can't we leave countries to sort out their own problems?  History has proved that we cannot impose our values upon others without too many sacrifices of life and we have no moral right to do so.

The MoD named the soldier as Acting Cpl Barnsdale, from 33 Engineer Regiment, who was clearing improvised explosive devices when one detonated in the area east of Gereshk on Tuesday.  It was his second tour of duty in the country.

A total of 341 British troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

More and more information is becoming available about the Afghanistan war and this gives an insight into this dirty war.

In Africa on Friday, a British civilian explosive expert was killed in South Sudan while clearing mines near the town of Kapoeta.  Most recently he had been leading teams of trained Sudanese mine clearance workers in removing landmines threatening communities in and around Kapoeta.  IEDs are responsible for thousands of civilian and military deaths around the world yet we have not invented a method of destroying them quickly and safely.

A referendum on independence for South Sudan is scheduled to be held in January 2011 but, regardless of the outcome, the country will have to spend decades ridding itself of these deadly weapons left from Africa's longest running civil war.  Many thousands of innocent people will be killed in the meantime.  There's no glory in war but for some there is so much financial reward that they consider the loss of lives a cost worth paying.  They are the real warmongers.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Take Your Pick

Dick Puddlecote -  A Libertarian Case for CCTV

Cranmer -  Katharine Birbalsingh

The Sheridan Trial

Think Defence -  SDSR in 10 Easy Pieces

Jan Boucek -  University funding deja vu

Pseudepigrapha - Hootsman Headlines

Lallands Peat Worrier -  We're the Jury!  Dread our fury!

Welcome to my World -  Seal'ed Documents

Dr Grumble -  Competing on Tax Rates

Old Rightie -  An NHS Experience

All Seeing Eye -  Gunboat Diplomacy

Another Side of Lesley Riddoch -  Megrahi Returns

Minimum Pricing by By-Law

Dundee licencing chief, Rod Wallace, is to ask city council officials to investigate the possibility of introducing minimum alcohol pricing in the city's pubs and clubs through a by-law.

A report claimed that three Scottish local authorities are looking at brining in their own price controls and Mr Wallace said the idea was "interesting" and merited further investigation.  Stirling is one of them.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and 10 primary care trusts in the area have been working on introducing a by-law for a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. They are expected to produce a report at the end of the month and they've received the backing of David Cameron.

It's understood Scotland's licensing act gave local authorities the power to make by-laws until the option was removed in the 2005 version of the legislation.  A Scottish Government amendment to the act could restore that power to the country's licencing boards and could prove much easier to implement than a national pricing policy.

Interesting days ahead with regard to minimum pricing of alcohol.  Firstly, I'm not sure if an amendment to the Licensing Act could be made without the consent of Parliament - I'm sure someone will know that answer - and secondly, will it move drinkers to a council area which didn't have a minimum pricing policy?  There's no need to travel many miles from Dundee before you leave that authority and either enter Angus or Perthshire. There is no mention of west coast or Highland council considering this move but it could be they will wait to see the outcome of Dundee and Stirling's efforts.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Oldies Misbehaving

For obvious reasons I was interested in the Herald's headline yesterday morning: 'Emergency trips to hospital by pensioners up by 25%'.

The article questions whether the Scottish government's 'flagship free personal care policy' has helped frail elderly people avoid spells on NHS wards.  Note the use of 'frail' to describe anyone over 60 who is unfortunate enough to have to be an in patient (or a 'service user' as they're described these days).  For the sake of clarity for my readers out-with Scotland, the free personal care for the elderly policy was brought in by the last Scottish government, the labour/libdem coalition.  The SNP government agreed to continue with it when they won power in 2007.

The article continues giving the financial cost of personal care and how that has doubled in the first five years of the policy.

LibDem MSP Ross Finnie, who was a cabinet minister when the policy was introduced lodged a parliamentary question on the number of hospital admission among the over 60s, which revealed a 26% increase - from 570,424 in 2000 to 719,677 last year.  He's disappointed in the rise in hospital admissions and states: "We cannot possibly have a position where we are providing funding and resource to allow more people to be treated in the community and find we are still treating them in hospital."

With medical technology moving fast, surely politicians understand that anyone, not only the elderly, may have to have a short stay in hospital in order to have certain tests and procedures.  Not everything can be done safely on a day-patient basis and let's not forget the stated number will contain re-admissions; those who have been sent home too quickly.

The SNP Government are onto it though.  They're currently carrying our Reshaping Care for Older People, which is an engagement exercise asking Scots how they think care for older people should be provided in the future.  I emailed a dozen over-60 Scots yesterday to ask if any had been invited to comment on the Reshaping exercise and the answers were all negative.  Who are they asking?

Lindsay Scott, the spokesman for the charity Age Scotland, gave his reason for the increase.  It's nothing to do with improved medical care, or the early snows in November last year causing many falls and fractures, but, "Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, may be behind the rising requirement for hospital care among pensioners."
This Scottish blogger will be delighted with this news.

There we have it.  If they can't find a reason for a 26% rise then it must be these disgusting smokers.  They're responsible.  Always.  For everything.

Such a shame Mr Scott doesn't read the statistics that smoking has decreased in Scotland - particularly among the older generation.  None of my friends now smoke.  They tolerate my habit in the same way as I tolerate their constant munching of chocolate or sucking of mints.  I don't inflict my habit upon them and vice versa.

Again I ask why politicians don't just ban smoking outright. The answer is obvious.  Who else would they have to blame for using hospital beds and the multitude of other deficiencies within our healthcare system?  It's sure to be smokers who are responsible for the abundance, nay excess, for managers within the NHS, or, older people who are receiving free personal care at home are misbehaving and thus requiring hospital in-patient treatment.

Don't you sometimes think once the older generation have ended their usefulness to society, by contributing their taxes for their working lives, that it would be cheaper to build Twilight Hotels in the rural countryside and let them bore each other to death.  A pharmacy stocked with painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers should be enough of a diet for them not to feel pain and therefore hospital stays would be obsolete.  Presently it seems they're a complete nuisance using hospital facilities when the taxpayer is funding their care at home. Really, they ought to stop misbehaving and start conforming. The boxes need to be ticked and they're upsetting the applecart.

The Reshaping exercise will have a solution though, never fear.

Saved By The Cost

Artist's impressed of carriers 
being built on the Clyde

Yesterday George Osborne ended the speculation that both of the aircraft carriers, presently being part-built by Clyde shipbuilders, will escape the budget cuts.  Good news for the west coast indeed as jobs will be saved for the near future.

However on Channel 4 News last night, William Hague made two astonishing comments.  Firstly, the decision to go ahead with the project was influenced by the fact that it would be far more expensive to cancel it.  The last labour government had tied up contracts to the extent that cancellation was impossible unless the government was prepared to lose many millions.

Secondly, the design doesn't allow for allied planes to land on the craft admitted William Hague.  Therefore US and French aircraft will be unable to utilise them and there will be no new fast jets for sometime after they come into service.

The aircraft carrier project has been on the cards since 2003 and yet we're still years away from a delivery date, although 2014 and 2016 have recently been suggested.  I know nothing about ship building but in the early 1900s it only took 3 years for Harland and Wolf, Belfast, to build the Titanic.  Ok, perhaps that's not a good example (I am watching the programme), but surely we can produce a warship in less than 13 years.

The Telegraph is reporting that, although the two carriers will enter service, one will be mothballed as soon as possible. Also said is that the first of the carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will come into service in2016 configured to carry helicopters, not jets. 'The second new carrier, HMS Prince of Wales,will arrive in 2019. At that point HMS Queen Elizabeth will be put into "extended readiness", effectively mothballed indefinitely'.  It could well be sold to another country in an attempt to recoup some of the building costs.

Alex Salmond led the protests to the Westminster government with regard to axing the carriers.  If he'd been told, before he put all that effort in, that they would cost far more to cancel than produce, I can imagine his saying, "Dinnae be daft."  Then again, he's an astute politician with a thorough knowledge of the workings of Westminster, so perhaps he have said, "That disnae surprise me".

It certainly shines some light on how badly this one project was managed by the last Labour government and how money was poured down the drain.  What else will come to light in the near future?

Monday, 18 October 2010

A Few Interesting Facts

This blogger has been scanning recent Parliamentary Answers and found some interesting facts.

I decided to have a read of his link and discovered the following.  You may well find some more which make you realise the poor level of administration we have within the civil service.

Departmental Assets

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which former (a) buildings and (b) land owned by (i) his Department and (ii) (A) non-departmental public bodies and (B) agencies for which his Department is responsible have been sold since May 2005; what the sale price of each was at the time of sale; and to which body the funds from the sale accrued in each case. [12340]
Norman Baker: The requested information has been placed in the Library of the House. Sales proceeds were retained by the Agency disposing of the land or building.
The Information requested at (ii) (A) is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Consultants

Alun Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) average and (b) highest daily rate paid to consultants by his Department was in each of the last five years. [13064]
Norman Baker: This information is not held centrally, and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Public Relations

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the monetary value was of (a) public opinion research and (b) public relations contracts awarded by his Department in each of the last five years in each (i) nation and (ii) region of the UK. [12444]

6 Sep 2010 : Column 181W
Norman Baker: The information requested is not available centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Do you see a pattern developing with the Secretary of State for Transport?  Mike Weir, Alun Cairns and Pete Wishart asked questions which would be of interest to the general public.  I'd like to know how much government has made from the sale of properties, the average and daily rate paid to consultants by the Department of Transport and the cost of his department's PR.

Our government compiles databases regularly and none of us is sure where our own personal details are kept or by whom.  That's a disproportionate cost.

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