Thursday, 29 January 2009

Those Budget Negotiations

I hear that the Lib Dems are backpeddling furiously and have gone cap-in-hand to the SNP promising to forget about their demands for a 2p tax cut. I'm surprised it took them so long.

Meanwhile, I understand that Labour are continuing to take stick from their Cosla loving cooncillors and are also looking for a way out.

Some pundits wondered why John Swinney simply didn't give in to the demands of the Greens for extra cash, but had he done so, then the Tories would have held out for a proportionate increase in their negotiated settlement. Clearly, Mr Swinney was between a rock and a hard place on that one, and whilst he may have been able to give the Greens what they wanted, he would have struggled to provide the extra to meet the Tories' demands. Especially given that budget calculations seemed to be worked out on the backs of envelopes with five minutes before the vote last night.

For the SNP, a deal with the Lib Dems will allow them to give the Greens a swift kick in the proverbial for their audacity. The Lib Dems will be delighted with a get-out given their rather poor poll ratings just now. No party wants a Scottish Parliament election right now, and if, in the unlikely event that this happened, there is no doubt in my mind that the Lib Dems would be biggest losers.

It will be interesting to see who comes out with what at the end of this. The possibility that Patrick Harvie's gamble may see him lose everything he had in his hand last night may well prove to be a very real one.

Labour Press Release

It had been mooted that Labour would have been on something of high this morning after defeating the government yesterday.

Judging by the rather badly written press release (below) they issued this morning, that's not the case. Word is that the some senior Labour cooncillors are on the attack about yesterday's performance, and Iain Gray is taking flak for it.

It should be borne in mind that whilst the 'historic concordat' seems to be falling apart at the seams, there are any number of labour cooncillors happy to support it through Cosla, and they were keen to see the budget passed.

Labour in the Scottish Parliament News Release
Immediate Release 29 January 2009 LABOUR: SCRAP TORY LIE LEAFLET NOW

Labour this morning demanded that the Scottish Conservatives immediately cease distributing a leaflet about the Scottish budget vote after it was found to contain seven falsehoods.

The leaflet, distributed this morning at railway stations, claimed that, because of the vote, a catalogue of disaster would now immediately follow, including council tax rising by £350, health budgets being slashed by £650 million and fewer police on the streets.

In fact, none of that will happen and a new, hopefully improved, budget will be considered by MSPs within a fortnight.

Each of the claims made by the Tories is utterly untrue. Labour's Business Manager, Michael McMahon said: "This is despicable and baseless scaremongering with not one iota of truth. The Tories lost the vote yesterday and have egg on their face. "The Tories may have a new 'celebrity' spin-doctor, but Annabel Goldie needs to bring him into line. This type of complete falsehood has no place in a modern politics. Voters want politicians to be straightforward and truthful. "They Tories could not win the argument, and they could not win the vote, so they stoop to blatant lies. What we need is a budget for the people of Scotland not a short-term political fix for the SNP and their Tory lap-dogs. "The fact is that the budget can be fixed in a fortnight, or even sooner if there is political will. There is no reason for any taxes to rise or services to be cut. "This Scottish budget is a serious process and the Scottish Conservative party needs to behave in a grown-up way." ENDS

Glasgow Valentines Day Gift

This cheeky little gift set was spotted in Haddows, Copland Road, Govan last night - apparently they sell like hot cakes! A bottle of Buckfast, 20 Mayfair and a packet of skins - you couldn't make it up! BUCKY GIFT PACK ONLY £9.08!



Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Budget

I have to say, I didn't see that coming! With the votes at 64-64, the casting vote lay with the Presiding Officer. Convention suggests he should vote for the status quo, and he did so.

The Garden Lobby was bristling with journalists immediately afterwards, with a mass exodus to an SNP press conference shortly after that.

I watched the budget debate, and John Swinney gave a steady and competent performance. Head and shoulders above the other speakers however was Derek Brownlee whose barnstorming efforts landed heavy blows against Labour. Jeremy Purves for the Lib Dems was weak with a dull, pedestrian delivery. Labour's contribution was hesitant and unpolished.

So what now? I just spoke with one Lib Dem MSP who wants to see an election. Given that election dates for the Scottish Parliament are pretty much cast in stone, that's not going to happen.

The Presiding Officer is holding a meeting tomorrow morning to look at the next step, and the SNP may have to do some fancy fiscal footwork to get the Greens on board. The Tories supported the budget, but are now saying that they cannot guarantee to support a different budget that the SNP may bring forward.

Swinney needs to get a budget passed soon, or the ramifications for local authorities, businesses and council tax payers could be horrendous.

Labour, who threatened a vote of no confidence in the immediate aftermath of the vote, have backed away from this slightly and are now saying that they will do this if the budget fails again.

Personally, I think Labour have come out of this rather badly, and the worst is yet to come for them if this continues to go wrong.

I believe this will be resolved soon enough. The SNP will negotiate with the Greens and bring back a budget with enough money in it to provide the home insulation investment that Patrick Harvie wants.

Interesting times...............

Monday, 26 January 2009

The SNP Retorts

Following my last post (no, not the bugle variety) on Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill missing the important knife crime summit in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP have hit back claiming that knife crime is not in the portfolio of the Justice Secretary. Apparently it is the brief of Fergus Ewing.

Oh? This is news to me, and indeed to many others. Kenny MacAskill and Fergus Ewing have issued twenty five written answers on knife crime. Of these twenty five, Mr MacAskill has answered seventeen of them. A total of 68%.

Take a look at the Scottish Government's website. You can find two press releases on the subject, both issued by one K MacAskill. During the summer recess, it was Mr MacAskill that was interviewed on TV announcing the bold (and utterly useless measure) of a scheme to licence non domestic knife sellers in a bid to combat knife crime.

So if it's not his brief, why is he doing all the announcements and most of the answers on it?

Supporters of the SNP claim that it was not necessary to have two ministers at the summit, and it is important to promote the Homecoming.

Whilst I appreciate the benefits that the Homecoming could bring, and I very much hope those benefits materialise, I can't help but think it is more important to address the issue of knife crime in Scotland than it is to address the haggis in Canada.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Where's Kenny?


Tommorrow, there is a Public Petitions Committee debate in the Scottish Parliament on knife crime.
The debate has been organised by the committee in response to the petition by John Muir whose son was stabbed to death in 2007. The committee bring together for the first time a wide cross-section of groups and individuals affected by knife crime such as the victims, young people, police, the legal profession, community groups and medical staff.
The organisers stated their desire for the debate to provide a real opportunity for people’s voices to be heard, to create fresh thinking on how to tackle knife culture and map out where we go from here.

The Scottish Parliament media team describe it as a "catalyst for change"
Given the circumstances surrounding this debate, given the importance of the subject matter, and given Kenny MacAskill's many pronouncements on this subject, you'd think the Justice Secretary would actually be there wouldn't you?
You'd be wrong. He's off to Canada for a Burns Supper. Nice to see he has got his priorities right.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

That cheap pint........

Pub chain Wetherspoons announced that they were selling a pint for 99p.

The knee-jerk reaction was as rapid as it was predictable. The anti drink lobby and the hand wringing professionally concerned were out in force lambasting the company for what some described as irresponsible selling of alcohol.

But amidst all of this, there was an opportunity to see how the SNP's proposals on alcohol, led by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (described by journalist Tom Little as a zealot in this article) would affect offers such as these.

Well, if we assume that the beer in question was 4% ABV (not an unreasonable assumption), and we apply the SNP's suggested minimum price per unit of alcohol of 35p, then it turns out that Wetherspoons, or anyone else for that matter, could actually sell a pint for the grand total of 80p.

A whole 19p less than the pint currently offered, and still within 'Kenny's Law'.

Personally, I like a bargain, and I enjoy a pint (though not for the past 13 weeks due to my diet), so I certainly don't mind combining the two. I appreciate that we need to address our relationship with alcohol, but trying to price the stuff out of people's reach simply won't cut it. Those that want to, or need to buy the stuff will continue to do so, and they will fund the extra cost from other parts of the household budget. Like so many other of Mr MacAskill's pronouncements, this one will have the sum total of no effect on the problem whatsoever.

Monday, 19 January 2009

SSPCA

Boss and I paid a visit to the Angus SSPCA rescue and rehoming centre on Friday. On one level it was great to see the work that the SSPCA does in rescuing animals from neglect and abuse, but heartbreaking to hear about some of the suffering that animals are put through by their owners.

One owner had a got a friend to hold his dog whilst he shot it thirteen times in the head with an air rifle in a bid to kill it. The dog survived and is back to full health thanks to the SSPCA who are also seeking to have the owner prosecuted for his actions. If found guilty, I hope the judicial system dishes out a sentence that reflects the pain and suffering of the dog, as well as the cost in time and money to the SSPCA who rescued it (though I doubt it to be honest).

I miss having a dog and given the travelling I do, it would be unfair to have one at the moment, but I'll be more likely to give a home to a rescue dog when I do get one.

Boss and I were so impressed with the work of the SSPCA that we gave a £50 donation to assist with their work.

If you're thinking of getting a pet, please think about giving a rescue animal a second chance.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I'm Back...............

Sorry for the absence which went on far longer than I intended, and many thanks to those who contacted me to see if I was actually alive.

I had lots of things I wanted to blog about, but didn't have the time and then fell ill over Christmas which largely kept me away from things.

So, since the last time I posted, I had hoped to have a couple of weeks of complete down time over the festive period, but in reality it just didn't happen with various things coming up.

I had a fairly quiet Christmas and New Year, though all in all it was an enjoyable time.

Yesterday I was presented with my martial arts Knife Instructors Certificate (see photo above) and I also received a very nice Bowie knife, which will take pride of place in the living room.

I'm in Parliament today, and am attending a reception tonight for Japan Week, which I'm looking forward to.

I'm heading back north first thing tomorrow as I have my committee meeting, which may or may not drag on for hours. Its a relatively short agenda, with little contentious content, but you just never can tell.

Planning for the 4th July event continues to go well and seems to be shaping up nicely. I'm hoping it will be a good one.

Anyway, I aim to blog far more often than I have been doing recently, so I'll be updating more regularly.

Cheers

Jim