Saturday, 25 December 2021

Oh little town of Bedlam, how shrill do we hear you lie.

 As my late friend, the Reverend I M Jolly would remind us, "Life is like an ash tray, fu' o little doots".

Wise words indeed as we approach a new year where we have a Prime Minister who wouldnae ken which way is up, even if it was tattooed on abody else's foreheids.

Then we have the "Covid"; bringing death and suffering in levels not kenned lang syne forbye the plagues o' Egypt. Only kept at bay by those who hae merked their door, "Awa an bile yer heid, ye bam, we've aa hud thon booster jag.". Jist lik Moses telt thon Isrealites tae pit thon merk o Cain, back in the day, an lik Moses we're alsae plagued wi false prophet's takin fowk fae the truth o' it.

Whit numpty cam up wi the idea thit a load o top scientists aa git the gither tae poison abody aa o'er the wurld?

Thit it wis aa Bill Gates fault cos he wanted governments tae tak o'er aa oor heids wi a Microsoft app?

Whit sort aa fowk tak bleach tae self treat the Covid, kin they naw read the labels thit speirs "POISON" dinnae tak a dram, in reid letters?

I member as a bairn fowk banging on aboot "horse tablets" whin takin peels bit they wernae fae the actual vets.

Noo is a manny o God I shud be on the fire an brimstone aboot prayin tae God tae save yirsel's an the sermon shud be getting yees aa doon oan yer hunkers askin fir God tae forgee yer sins and save yer soul fae the Covid wi a Knoxian fervour, burning with Calvinist self righteousness, bit a cannae.

See aa thon pastors in the USA whit speired "hopes and prayers" wid save thir sel's and their congregations fae Covid?

Weel maybees sticks in ma craw tae tell ye this, its naw goan as well as wis maybees thocht in thir "Holy Fervour". It turns oot maist o them hae deid fae the Covid alang wi big chunks o thir congregations. Forbye, God taks tent o the scientists mair than prayers, sae maybees we aa shud an aw an jist git the jab an be happy tae feel a bitty wabbit fir a couple o days.

Noo, I ken is muckle abit mRNA an strands as the next mun which i ken tae be 'bugger aa', if ye'll pardoney moi ma Francais, yet thir ir fowk wha widdnae ken wan end o a syringe fae t'other waxing loud abit this an thit statistic thit the jab is a killer jist because aa the evidence we ken tells us thir is a mickle "risk", bit tae pit it in perspective its naw is muckle a risk is "hopes and prayers" which is the alternate, whit e'r wi ye pit it.

Its a sair fecht fir aa the doctors an nurses whit are caring fir the seek fae Covid, whit iver type, wi last ditch treatment tryin tae save lives o' fowk whas lungs are jist aboot knackered alang wi thir kidneys an hert bit whin fowk tak aboot "personal freedoms" a doot they hivnae spent a wheen o minutes in an ICU ir assisted ventilation ward watching fowk struggle tae breathe ir takin thir last breath. Maist thit ir noo seriously unweel an it death's door wi the Covid ir those wha hivnae hud the jab, fir whit iver reason.

The bottom line here is; wi "personal freedom" alsae gangs "personal responsibility", ye cannae hae wan wi oot t'other, is the guid book pit it, "loo yer neebour is yersel" an it is in thit licht this wee sermon caa's tae an end.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

The Little Lies are the Dangerous Ones

I am looking at the current state of the UK Government and in 50 years of active political engagement first with the old Liberal Party, then the coalesced Liberal Democrats and, since my return to Scotland, the SNP I have never seen such levels of corruption in a UK Government than are extant now.

The economic theorists call it "Disaster Capitalism" where previous publicly owned assets and services are sold off at bargain basement prices with the "little lie" that this is the only way to protect the service or the public can buy shares in the newly privatised company at special rates, scam. Those who purchased British Gas shares have seen their value collapse as a succession of take overs and buy outs diluted their original holdings of "non voting" shares.

The reality and aim of "Disaster Capitalism" is to focus wealth and power in an ever smaller group of people, to deliberately grow the divide between the super rich and the rest of society. It is an economic theory of division, break up of cultural and societal norms, hatred and violence. One manifestation of "Disaster Capitalism" was the Trump supporters attempts to suborn Congress by "taking it over" because the guy who had made them all worse off, given even greater tax breaks to his rich pals at their expense had been democratically beaten in the presidential "race". It was a classic case of the Scottish football supporters oft heard cry of "we wis robbed" taken to the extreme because they did not like the "refs" decision, there had been no electoral scam. Their man lost fair and square and by quite a margin.

This is what the disaster capitalism being pursued by the likes of Rees-Mogg and his hedge fund pals does, the drip, drip, drip of corrosive little lies in the media to shift what should be a governmental responsibility to being some one else's fault until the great unwashed lose their orientation and start self justifying why it is right the NHS should be run by the more "effective" private sector up to the point they next want to use the NHS and, in England, can wait up to six weeks for a NHS GP appointment in many health trust areas. Of course the lack of appointments is not the government's fault it is the "lazy" GPs fault and has nothing to do with the UK Government ignoring all the warnings of the collapse of GP services across the UK as the last of the "baby boom" generations retire. The BMA GP committees best attempts at ensuring few would want to be GPs with their constant cries of being overworked and GP services near the point of collapse; not a good recruiting image to enthuse any young Doctor to take on GP training. Now throw in Brexit and the movement of EU doctors and nurses back to their own countries and you have a disaster on your hands, a disaster the private health and insurance sector are rubbing their hands in glee over.

The latest (English) Government GP contract in England has a number of penalty clauses which will make it even harder to provide traditional GP services. GPs in England are now heading down the same death by medical corporations tunnel which NHS dentistry in England was driven down in the 1990's, it is already happening with GP contracts being handed out to the likes of Virgin Healthcare to provide services because there are no GPs who want to take on the job. The big US health Insurance Corporations are already sticking their fingers into this pie via a number of UK health shell companies who have a surprising number of both Labour and Tory MPs on their boards or acting as "advisers".

There is evidence that corporate run GP services are deliberately delaying NHS appointments but are offering next day appointments for £50 a time with their "private GP services" which turn out to be the doctor you would see in six weeks on the NHS. Of course any prescription from the private GP appointment would be a private prescription; "That'll be another £25 per item, I thank you." and the returns from disaster capitalism grow ever greater with top and bottom slicing going on.

We are not talking about entrepreneurs or free marketeers for whom the shrinking market caused by Disaster Capitalism is an anathema, as are the hard borders to trade and movement of employees this extreme form imposes as part of its process of greater control by fewer people. Brexit was "done" because the current cabal at the centre of the Tory Government are pursuing disaster capitalism to enrich themselves and their close friends at the expense of the UK State and its taxpayers  and for no other reason.

The lie they sold to get Brexit done only really appealed to those who believe the old adage "an Englishman's home is his castle" and the ethnic view that "All foreigners are bad for the country and a threat to us English" except that is not actually what the current Tory Government believes as an Englishman's home is actually an acrue-able asset in their eyes to make them richer or foreclose on their mortgage when they lose their job or stagflation eats up the margin between home and homelessness. The Tory Government believe homelessness is the fault of the homeless so there will be no tears at Tory HQ or in Westminster as you lose your home.

Unfortunately, like the Trump supporters belief in the second coming of their man to be made President instead of Bidden, a large enough volume of English voters bought the narrow, ethnic, English nationalistic pish spouted by the likes of Farage and still can not face up to their failure. In the meantime the UK standard of living plummets as stagflation takes its toll on wages and living costs. Previously solid SME's go to the wall and the energy "free market" falls to bits around us as all the smaller supplier fry are destroyed.

None of this is any worry to the Tory disaster capitalists as the companies they invest in hoover up ever greater proportions of the UK energy market for themselves while the collapsed SME's are not worth the trouble. Anyway; who needs to make anything in the UK when you can get it from SE Asia cheaper.

The Cambo Oil and Gas Field will go ahead, as climate change is just another thread to disaster capitalism's potential income stream and the shareholder value of hard assets like oil and gas will remain at a premium. No matter what was decided at COP26 in Glasgow, shareholder value and return rules for the disaster capitalist. Next move will be for the big corporations to buy up fresh water licenses and turn that into a shareholder asset, as water shortages increasingly stalk the world as part and parcel of climate change. Nestle are just one big corporation who are looking into the feasibility of turning fresh water into an asset and the potential returns doing so will bring.

Bungling Boris is just the useful fool the disaster capitalist thinkers in the Tories, Rees-Mogg, Gove et al needed to hide behind to get the real job, wrecking the UK economy, done while lining their own pockets, those of their backers and Tory Grandees.

This is the UK economic cycle Scotland is currently bound in, it is not one I wish to be part of and whether Scotland can weather the economic storm being generated by Tory disaster capitalism, in the UK, until 2023 is a serious concern of mine.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

The Emperor's Empty Promises

Most readers will know Hans Andersen's tale of the "Emperor's New Clothes", many will have read articles describing our current Prime Minister in exactly those terms; vain, haughty, arrogant and ignorant.

He claims to fashion himself on Churchill but his delivery is more that of Hitler - vague, vain glorious, blustering doggerel, promising the world will be ours; but only if we are good boys and girls and do what he says.

He leads a cabinet which appears incompetent, busily back stabbing, fawning over the Boris, praising his disasters as massive successes, again just like Hitler's acolytes, while ignoring the objective evidence that all Boris is managing to do is reduce the UK to a western version of Lebanon with power cuts, food shortages, fuel shortages and the rest while his hedgefund pals (and probably himself) look forward to making a killing, betting on the collapse of Sterling within the next few months.

Locally to me, the Scottish Secretary has been playing the "improve the A75" card without actually telling us if the UK Treasury will cough up the billions required to dual the road from the M74 to Stranrear. They had a photo op of Jack and his MSP minions standing by a sign on the A75 looking serious, published in all the local papers, yet there was no information about them having any discussion with Transport Scotland who are responsible for the trunk road or either of the contractors who maintain it.

The dualling as far as Auchencairn is, in engineering terms, fairly straight forward, well once they resolve the route and land disputes about where the Springholm / Crocketford by-pass will go. But from Auchenlaire on there are some serious engineering problems to be overcome from the extremely narrow section of road along the cliffs, building across the Merse at Creetown, crossing the deep peat of the Machars and the need for a tunnel or a cutting on the Glen Luce by-pass.

Those who use the road across the Machars from Newton Stewart to Glen Luce will tell you how quickly a newly laid road surface becomes corrugated on the A75 due to the deep peat under some sections of the road.

Yet Mr Jack opines that his friend Sunak in the UK Treasury will throw enough billions of pounds at the project so all these inherent problems will just disappear and like magic, a dualled A75 will just appear.

The problem for me is, we hear these sort of promises from the local Conservative MP only when he realises he and his MSPs are in a political hole, like the damage caused to his constituents' businesses, many of whom he needs to keep his seat, by Brexit - especially on the sea food and agricultural side.

The A75, yes, but nothing to say about how he will canvass his fellow ministers to meet the needs of an area with some of the lowest average wages in Scotland for whom the loss of £20 a week in Universal Credit is a big deal and the rising energy costs means cooking or heating but not both.

Mr Jack, if the UK Treasury can find the billions to dual the A 75 to save you and your MSPs electoral skin then it can afford to keep the £20 Universal Credit uplift. It is surely a worry to you that families with both parents working, in your constituency, have to be referred to the local food bank?

You have claimed £100,000 of pounds from the EU and expect the UK Taxpayer to pay you for being an MP, then extra for being a Secretary of State, pay for all your staff and your expenses. To add insult to injury the costs of the Scottish Office are deducted from Scotland's tax take to fund the Tory / Britannia propaganda your "Scotch" office churns out.

Could you not just bung the local food banks £10,000 from your own pocket to help out with the disaster your government's policies are creating in your constituency? You would hardly miss it. Then again, you would probably charge it to Scottish Office expenses so it would really be a Scottish Taxpayer donation.

The definition of a Tory in trouble: they promise much but never deliver. The A75 is not going to be dualled any time soon because the UK Treasury will say "NO" to money being invested in Scottish infrastructure with the big bogey men of independence and stagflation of Brexit lurking ever more menacingly over his shoulder and with it a run on the pound.

50 years along and we are economically back where we started in the 1970's with the threat of power cuts, strikes, labour shortages all rearing their ugly heads. By Christmas, Boris will be talking about or even implementing a three day week to deal with energy shortages and facing all the problems that drove Heath from office in 1974.

Callaghan's Government was equally incompetent and all that saved the UK from collapse was the discovery of oil and gas, in commercial quantities, off Scotland. The income from which the Thatcher Government used to rebuild London and the City in her own image. 

I need say no more.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Alba : Quo Vadis?

 So why did a party, Alba was formed in early 2020, suddenly arrive on the scene, when there were already three "list parties" up and running, just days after Mr Salmond's attempts to run down the SNP First Minister came to a clunking halt when the Holyrood investigator on "Minister's lying to Parliament" comes up with a report there had been no breach of the ministerial code by Ms Sturgeon on the issue Mr Salmond complained about while at the same time the Holyrood Committee appointed to look into the failure of the Civil Service Sexual Harassment protocol, which was found to be flawed in the original case brought against Mr Salmond, descended into a partisan falling out as the Unionist members found they could not pin anything on Ms Sturgeon either.

Anyone know how or why Alba suddenly arrived and basically told the other newly arrived list vote parties to get behind Alba and drop all their proposed candidates?

For those of us with an understanding of SNP internal politics it was no surprise to see Mr MacAskill defect nor George Kernevan's "Road to Damascus" moment. Both had been thwarted in internal SNP NEC elections and now felt side lined and put out to grass by the membership and leadership. We waited with baited breath for the other obvious defector, Joanne Cherry, to announce she was going as well, after her very public falling out with Mr Blackford and demotion. Surely Alba with its anti-woke platform would suit her better with her well known views on the transgender legislation and its threat to women of what ever sexuality. Then again maybe she looked at the Alba women activists and some of their frankly homophobic views and decided it was better to stay put for now. Maybe she thinks, like many do, Alba will be a one election wonder and not be able to offer her, as an ambitious woman, any political future. We do not know but Ms Cherry, for now, stays within the SNP camp, even if she is not a very happy camper.

Then there is the problem for us active SNP members when Alba started claiming to be there to "help" the SNP while making statements about the EU, a future referendum, currency and transgender legislation which are diametrically opposite to SNP Policy. How does this reflect "help"?

Not soon afterwards Mr Salmond had changed his mind about "helping the SNP" and stated Alba's job in the next Holyrood Parliament "would be to hold the SNP's feet to the fire". In most normal people's minds that looks a pretty aggressive statement for a party whose initial line was "helping the SNP".

We have recently had a piece by Mr Kernevan in the National which made clear that Alba's role would be to break the status quo of SNP dominance at Holyrood and remould Scottish politics, Alba are going to be the grit in the SNP oyster. This is now a long way from "helping the SNP" and is a clear statement of intent to wreck the SNP.

Then we have the continuing arguments from both sides using statistical models either to back up SNP 1&2 or to prove Alba can win seats if they can get their vote to over 6% in any list constituency. The problem for Alba is there is no way of telling if the seats they win will be at the Greens or SNP expense no matter how they try to play it. The most likely result is they will replace Greens and leave the Unionists, they claim they are after, intact. To have a real impact on Unionist list seats Alba needs to be polling at over 15% and the Greens hold at their 12 % share. Outside of the Alba activist community few everyday voters will be likely to vote for Alba, mostly because normal folk vote for the party they trust and has a decent record in Holyrood, so where will they gain the further 9% over the base 6% they already claim to have, to actually threaten Unionist list seats?

Alba also have a fundamental problem in their populist leader, Mr Salmond, who is a marmite politician in the real world, he is either liked or disliked.  Given the result of his appearance at the Holyrood committee and Ms Sturgeon's response, the SNP added more new members. The last figures I saw were 100 SNP members resigned (to move to Alba) in a one week period while 300 joined. Since 2014 my own SNP branch, in a rural area, has gone from 28 members to over 150. We have had five new members since the New Year.

Given the current levels of support for the SNP across Scotland, just where will Alba get its vote from, outside of its own circle of activists and their friends?

Then there is the small issue of where is Alba getting its funding from?

No matter where I have looked on the net, there is no open source available to see where Alba funds are coming from.

The lunatic fringe claim that Alba is backed by Russian oligarchs on behalf of Putin but I find that hard to believe as it would be political suicide for Mr Salmond. Others claim it is Tory dark money behind Alba or the UK SIS both of which, politically, are equally disastrous for Alba and very unlikely to be true. Maybe Mr Salmond and the founder of Alba are paying for campaigning and seat deposits out of their own pockets or the candidates are paying their own deposits. As long as Alba fail declare where their funding is coming from, the tin foil hat brigade will continue to have a field day.

OK, let us jump ahead and Alba get say 5 MSPs from their 6% vote share in each of the Central Belt list regions, what are their options?

Having annoyed the Greens and SNP by taking list seats from them while leaving Unionist seats intact, Alba are unlikely to be invited to any discussions on a future referendum. The two bigger pro-Independence parties will first look to isolate Alba MSPs and leave them to shout into the wind. The Holyrood committee system will also ensure Alba will be seen on few if any committees. Those with longer memories will remember how quickly the SSP were reduced to silence and doing what they were telt, in the early days of Holyrood, even with firebrand Tommy (now an Alba member) at the helm. How many MSPs does the SSP have now?

What then is left to the 5 Alba MSPs to do in this situation?

Do they sit in the members' cafeteria thinking up dark plots to bring down the SNP and Greens, stabbing waxen images of Ms Sturgeon with pins, while Scotland is on the verge of independence?

What do they do with their once a month question to the First Minister?

The options are they either carp from the sidelines with their once a month FMQ, pretty ineffectively, as their only support when doing that will be from the Unionist Parties or do they do the politically sensible thing and seek to co-operate with the Greens and SNP. This rather dampens Mr Salmond's claims of "holding SNP feet to the fire" as they will be very junior partners and on a very tight leash if they agree to work with the SNP and Greens on independence; with both parties having agreed a path, with well established plans and a referendum bill ready and waiting to go to Holyrood, post 6th May 2021.

Ultimately any future Alba policy on co-operation by any of their potential MSPs with the SNP and Greens will be decided by just how badly Mr Salmond wants his name in lights as one of the bringers of independence to Scotland and to secure his place in Scotland's political history. 

I think we all know the answer to that one, at least.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A Clippie's Tale

 As a lad at Uni I used tae wurk fir Alexander's o' Fife oot o thir Dumfy depot as a clippie.

It wis guid wurk wi lots o' overtime and wurkin' doubles, especially Seterday whin it wis double time, richt haundy fir a student looking tae build a stash afore the next term. Noo a days ye widnae be allowed tae work the hoors we did, double shifts Seterday an Sunday, hauf shifts on tap o yer ain during the week.  Thon EU maximum hoors fowk we be giein it laldie an naw mistake. The Traffic Officers noo wid hae yer clippie license aff ye afore ye cud say Carnegie Ha' if you workit thon hoors we did back then.

There wis jist a couple o late nicht buses ye didnae want tae be rosterit fir, ane tae Balingry an tither tae Blairha' whit some cried Blairsheugh. In those days thon wir still mining villages an' on a Seterday after a bevvy an a dance at the Kinema Ba' room they cud git rither frisky.

Anywies ae Seterday I hud a keek on the roster an thir it wis, ma sterter fir ten, last bus, Kinema tae Blairha'. I kenned the driver, we aften did the Perth tae Edinburgh run, sa aa say's "Whit wir up agin Fred?"

He says, " Nae bother, you willnae tak your bag as ye onlie let fowk wi Kinema tickets on the bus bit a wid tak yer ticket machine."

"Whit fir?"

"Sel defence" says he an he's naw kiddin, "If there's a bit o a fecht ye ask nicely tae git thon tae stop. If they dinnae, ye gie me three on the bell an I'll hed tae the nearest polis. If they tak a swing at ye, pit yer ticket machine afore yer pus sae they'll hit it rither than you, maistly thon 'll dae the trick. If it disnae an they come it ye agin, ye can ae hit them in the belly wie yer machine, hard mind, an pit them doon."

Seterday birls roon. There we ir ootside the Kinema Ba' room in doon toon Dunfermilne, checkin' tickets and countin fowk on as we hiv tae stay within oor PSV carriage limit. Whin the bus is foo, a cries tae the driver tae shut the doors an tak position between his cubby hole an the passengers fir baith oor saftey.

He's keeking frae time tae time up his periscope tae check the upper deck, doonstairs it maistly winching couples, mair interested in a canoodle an a bit o a grope, thin a fecht.

Wir jist commin tae Oakley whin he says, "A fecht upstairs, aff ye go, an member whit a telt ye."

So I goes up tae the top deck an thirs a couple o drunks, it the back, gien it handbags it twenty paces. Sae a askit o them tae stop, nicely. Mind these fowk are hard graftin' miners sae nicely meant a liberal use o' the word 'Feck'. Ane sets hisel' doon but the ither decides he's naw takin this fae a wee runt o a clippe, nae mair thin a boy. He's goin tae sort me oot. I see the first haymaker comin' an pit up ma ticket machine as telt an richt enuch he barks his knuckles oan ma punch. By noo the guy whit he wis fechtin wie is crying, "Set doon Geordie an stap makin an erse o' yersel."

So I asks Geordie to feckin set his erse doon as his pal wis askin but naw Geordie decides on a second swing. This ane stert'd fae behint his richt erse cheek an as it cam above oxter level I beltit him in the belly wi ma ticket machine an doon he went. I tak a few steps back in case he boaked, bit he didnae an the guy he'd been fechting wie pit him on a set.

These days thir wid be a hue an cry if a clippie walloped a passenger lik I did thon nicht. I wid be up afore the magistrates fir common assaut. Bit thon wis different, these wir hard fowk who wir nae scared tae hae a fecht tae sort oot whit wis whit. 

So the crack wis aa about wha I didnae boot him aff an mak him walk fae Oakley tae Blairha'. Weel done lad that'll sort him, he'll naw try thon on yer bus agin, Are ye naw takin him tae the Oakley polis they'll gie him a room fer the nicht.

Wan joker cries, "Aa noo ken why they ca' thir ticket machine a punch." tae much hilarity aa roon.

A gits doon tae ma driver an he gies me a keek an in thit unnerstatit wie o Fife fowk looks an says, "Aye, ye'll dae.' 

Weel thons as guid as ony nichthood ir beltie laird fae the Quin, fir me.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The Salmond Debacle

I have spent most of my life analysing processes and procedures, how things actually happen, whether disease in my early career or, after having to retire from the medical profession on ill health grounds, management and production processes in multinational companies. 

What does it look like if I apply process analysis to the Salmond Debacle?

To do that we need to make clear some definitions which over the period of the debacle have become blurred.

The Permanent Secretary is the senior civil servant in Scotland and leads the 5000 plus people working for the Scottish Government. The Permanent Secretary supports the government in developing, implementing and communicating its policies. The current Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government is Leslie Evans. This organisation I will refer to as the "Civil Service".

The Scottish Government is the devolved government of Scotland. It was formed in 1999 as the Scottish Executive following the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution. The Scottish Government consists of the Scottish Ministers, which is used to describe their collective legal functions. This organisation I will refer to as the "Scottish Government".

Her Majesty's Advocate, known as the Lord Advocate  is the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for both civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. They are the chief public prosecutor for Scotland and all prosecutions on indictment are conducted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, nominally in the Lord Advocate's name. This is the Lord Advocate appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister, with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.

Above him is the UK Government appointed minister who advises the UK Cabinet on Scots Law, constitutional practice and the implications of Westminster legislation upon it, known confusingly as the Advocate General.

The timeline appear to be:

The head of the civil service in Scotland received complaints from female civil servants that they had been sexually abused by Alex Salmond. Problem there was no civil service procedure that covers allegations against non-civil servants working with civil servants. Problem solved by creating a new process and the head of the Civil Service in Scotland signing off and the First Minister approving the procedure now in place.

Problem 1: the civil service investigating officer who was going to be appointed starts taking statements from complainants before she was formally appointed which was clearly in breach of the due process. Instead of shutting down the investigation and appointing a different investigating officer they ploughed ahead.

Problem 2: news of the internal, confidential investigation is leaked to the media.

Problem 3: The Civil Service legal team say they should drop the investigation as it has not followed due process and if Salmond takes them to court they will lose. The decision is made to pursue the case in the Court of Session but by who? It could only be Leslie Evans as the First Minister is isolated from the investigation and any decision making under the procedure. The procedure is clear; the current First Minister can not be involved in any decision nor is informed at any point during the investigation.

Alex Salmond's legal team seeks to negotiate an out of court settlement but are rebuffed, the court case goes ahead, the Scottish Government on the Civil Service's behalf concedes the case at the pre-trial hearing and ends up paying out £100,000 in costs.

As far as the information in the public domain is concerned at some point prior to the Court case Salmond and Sturgeon met to discuss the situation, what was actually said at the meeting is in the realms of "she said, an I said, an she said Naw a didnae ..." and depends on which side of the fence you sit.

The key questions about the criminal case procedure are: 

  1. After the failed Court of Session hearing compromised any future case against Mr Salmond, why was the police investigation not halted?  
  2. Who then decided there was adequate evidence to pursue a prosecution? 
  3. There is only one person who could have taken that decision, the Lord Advocate, in a case involving a senior politician
  4. Why did he?  Given the investigation was already seriously compromised by leaks in the media and on social networks naming the "victims" and suggesting they were not being as straight as they claimed and had ulterior motives.

So the Sheriff Court Case went ahead with a female judge and a predominantly female jury, who after hearing all the evidence found Mr Salmond not guilty and innocent of all charges against him.

At no time during this process is the Scottish Government directly involved in any of the decision making as it was either a Civil Service decision or the Lord Advocate's independent decision to pursue the criminal case on a purely legal basis. The Scottish Government will have been informed of the process going on but had no power to intervene.

Meanwhile in the corridors in Holyrood and SNP HQ the gossips are at work filling in all the empty spaces I have highlighted, filling them with conjecture, political plotting, its known Mr Morrell hates Salmond so he must be the instigator, corridor gossip becomes media gossip, e.mails backing up the latest intrigue are leaked, confidential material pertinent to the case against Mr Salmond is leaked. The gossip pot is stirred and heated to the point it boils over, as more and more conjecture is thrown on the fire. He said / she said ....

Folk with an axe to grind about the delay to an independence referendum take up Salmond's case pointing fingers at SNP high heid yins as the culprits who tried to do down their man, the only man that can bring independence in their eyes, as the SNP are too feart, too fat and happy with the status quo, naw interested in independence anytime soon.

The question no one is asking is:  Just who can gain from all this froth and furore?

It certainly is not the SNP, the Scottish independence movement at large, the push for a referendum in Autumn 2021 or even Mr Salmond, who is now being seen as part of the problem by many both inside and outside the SNP.

For me the "Holyrood inquiry" is looking in all the wrong places if they actually want an answer, too wrapped up in the gossip and the "he said /she said and when" mire. Asking all the wrong questions for all the wrong reasons. Conflating civil service / Lord Advocate decision making with the Scottish Government being kept informed.

There are only two players who know what actually happened, when and why, Leslie Evans (as Head of the Civil Service in Scotland) and the Lord Advocate, James Wolfe QC.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

A Crab's Tale

 So there me and my mate, Paul, were scavenging along the bottom of Loch Fyne, as per, when we espied a nice bit of rotten mackerel sitting doing not much. So after a bit of a kerfuffle with some dumped fishing gear we tuck in heartily. We are having a post postprandial nap when, with out a bye your leave, we are heading towards the surface at a rate of knots.

This human then kindly releases us from the fishing gear, measures us up for a new suit and decides Paul mustn't need one and lobs him back, while for some reason he puts rubber bands on my claws and plonks me in a bin with lots of strangers. Needless to say we are all giving each other weird looks and as usual some nutter is waving her claws about claiming its the end of the world and we are all doomed to the great cooking pot in the sky. My old Gran used to go on about that as well until, one day, she just disappeared. The tone of the place dropped when a lobster dropped in beside us, I mean you can't trust those over grown shrimps, can you? They makes my exoskeleton shiver, they does.

Must have been about half a tide later, usually when Paul and me are loitering around Ottier Ferry looking for the girls, that we get another shift into a bigger bin which, at least, has some sea in it. It gets a bit crowded after a while but at least that lobster's gone. Some lads have decided to start an escape committee as they are starting to think the nutter crab is right, for once, so pile one on top of the other. Just when they are about to succeed some one in the bottom layer has to scratch his backside, as per, and down they all fall.

Then a human puts a lid on us and there is a bit of shoogling and banging and we're on the move again, some of the lads get land sick, not I good sign thinks I. Another couple of tides and we stop. Some human opens the top and we are all hoping for some nosh but zip, nada and to be honest we could do with a tidal run as, not to put to fine a point, on it the water is now honking. I mean all those lads and lasses cramped up in a small space, what would you expect.

We can hear human's shouting angrily at each other but as I don't savvy human its is all haddock to me.

Another tide or two and the water in the bin is now truly reeking, crabs are struggling to get their breath, some are saying the cooking pot in the sky would be better than this, others have just given up. We could have had a good snack on those, the rest of us, but no chance with these bleeding bands on our claws.

Eventually the humans dump the dead, the dying and the living in this big pit, I have a quick look round but there is no sea I can sense anywhere near.

I am just wiggling free to make a run for it when wham, a load of rotting Langoustines land on my head and, well, that was me kippered.

The one human phrase that stuck in my mind as I died was "F in Brexit" or something like that, which they were all shouting.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Brexit; The reality

 A guid new year tae ane an aa and we surely live in interesting times!

I have been struck how all the gammons and yoons on line and in the UK media are still trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Their cries of taking sovereignty back seek to hide all the things they did not think of in their rush to get out of the EU to save the City of London's status as a world centre for tax avoidance and money laundering.

One of the things no one seemed to notice is leaving the EU removes us from the European Postal Union. As most of us rarely post things you are well within your rights to say, "So?".

If you are running a business that relies on sending your goods to customers in Europe you could previously negotiate a bulk rate at around £13.50 a kg from the Post Office. As of the 1st January, with the UK now outside the EU Postal Union you are looking at £30 per kg to cover all the additional costs incurred by the Post Office. That is a fair dent in the gross profit margin your company or small business is taking and a major impairment on cash flow. This could well be a hit a small business can not take or company accountants will not be willing to take. In effect a loss of their export market to the EU countries.

I am used to flying into Europe and simply walking out to a taxi or train to take me where I am going. The reality is I now face visa delays at passport control as a "non EU Citizen". I will be delayed to ensure I have health insurance for my stay or a "green card" if I am going to hire a car, I may have to demonstrate I have enough capital to cover my expected stay and an address at which I am staying; all fairly normal requirements for an entry visa in most countries. When I travel to Japan or Nepal this takes a minimum of 15 minutes even before you get anywhere near passport control who will shift you to the back of the queue if there is the slightest error in the visa application.

As a business man, instead of being able to plan my visit to be at a meeting in time, I now have to think about traveling a day before at additional cost to my company. No more red eye flight from Edinburgh to Schipol for a meeting in Amsterdam at 1100 and back by teatime the same day.

I have relations in Northern Ireland but as yet I have no solid information of what are the requirements in terms of passport control. Do I apply for an EU visa and ensure I have a green card so I can take my grandson to Dublin Zoo about an hour or so from where they stay in Northern Ireland. Will Stena or P&O stop sailings to Northern Ireland from Loch Ryan as traffic shifts to Roselaire / Cherbourg - HGV's are the route's bed and butter.

Even though many folk in D&G whine about the state of the A75 and the need to dual it from Stranrear to Gretna, the drop off in traffic could make this moot and, with it, the knock effect to all the small businesses that, one way or another, service the HGV's traversing D&G from Gretna to Stranrear.

I wonder how haulage firms, like Coultards, in D&G will look on rigs being stuck for 24 hours on the old Castle Kennedy airfield for custom's checks and clearance, there is a serious cost to them of a rig sitting still, not earning, or for a contract driver not doing the "miles" they rely on to be paid.

All this even before considering the loss of markets in France and Spain for live shellfish and fresh fish from Scottish producers. We know what a delay either for the Euro Tunnel or at Dover cost for these exporters, the loss of around £5 million of product due to delays, just before Christmas 2020. As for the potential purchasers of live shellfish, in France and Spain, will they now find more reliable supplies as the Dover delay will have cost them lost income and loss of confidence in the ability of Scottish producers to supply these goods in prime condition.

No matter where I look, Brexit is a major disaster for SME's who have been supplying goods to the EU. There is no sector which will not be badly hit by increased costs and potential custom delays.

I could write another 1,000 words on the impact on health and care services through the loss of EU personnel under the not so pretty, Priti Patel"s immigration laws. Immigration Laws which would have not let her parents into the UK as Ugandan Asian refugees.

Usually I seek at least a bit of sardonic humour to leaven this dry bread but not today. Today I look at an impending wasteland of destroyed SME's across Scotland via a deal we did not vote for, agree to or wanted.