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The truths they don't want you to read....

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Caption competition....


Alex Salmond is introduced to the SNP Group on the Council.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Thank you, and good night

Two maxims for Thursday:
  1. You get what you vote for
  2. If you don't vote, don't complain
I've voted, very carefully.

When I stood down 5 years ago it was to attend to a young family and a  small and growing business.

I made the right choice then.

Today we have three intelligent, beautiful self-confident children who are comfortable and capable in almost any situation, and make us very proud.

In October it will be eight years since we set up our own business, and by that time we will be the largest Chartered Accountancy practice in the Western Isles, growing at a phenomenal rate.

But that takes time, and the blog has suffered - indeed, although there is no shortage of ideas, there is no time to type them all up when there are over a thousand fee-paying clients to keep happy.

In addition, certain potential conflicts have to be avoided as our client base expands; and sometimes others rear their heads for reasons I didn't remotely consider.  Some comments have targeted clients (although the commentators perhaps didn't know) which have caused other issues to arise.

The personal abuse has been mostly pathetic and laughable, and I have enjoyed grinding axes on the chips on each shoulder; and the capability to upset more than one political party at a time required a lot of mischievous practice to achieve.

The shining of light into murky crevices has been the most satisfying aspect, and one that will continue in a different form; however uncomfortable that may be for those with much to hide.

The reasons will become clearer in the coming months, but it's been a blast.

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back much, much later.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Fading memories

Isn't it all a bit pathetic - and frankly unbelievable - that neither the Westminster nor Holyrood Governments can manage to draw up a list of meetings with self-important tycoons, without managing to omit one or more of these events.

The "Oops, I forgot all about it..." defence has worn so thin as to be nothing more than a veneer that politicians use to cover their own embarrassment.

Perhaps the most information that has come out is in showing how little difference there is between the lying capacity and duplicity of all of the political parties.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

UHI - the future?

The report in The Herald vindicates what I have been saying for a few years.

The sad part is that the centralisation is being driven by Government as a cost saving measure, when skills should be grouped in devolved centres of excellence - finance in island X, student records in island Y and admin in location Z.

It's a lot like the stupidity of having CalMac in Gourock when it should be in Barra (or Colonsay, or Lewis) with the directors not allowed to fly.

Sadly, the aspiration for devolution seems to stop at Edinburgh....

Eats shoots and leaves


The SNP advert on Hebrides News seems to be advocating communal leasing.... 

Hopefully, the education policy is to a higher standard of literacy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Election prophesies

"Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future", Mao Tse Tung

I'm having real difficulty in working out who might remain after the election, as it is a bit easier to identify those who look like being elected in their communities.

I look at the lists and despair at some of the candidates.  Truly despairs.  Especially, when I think that some of these will actually get their incompetent paws on the reins of power.  It is moderately comforting that they will be so out of their depth that any damage they do will be minimal.

The incoming Council will be worse than the last, despite the presence of some extremely able individuals, and it is clear to me that the gap between the best and worst Councillors is widening at every election.  But then we get who we vote for.

The easy prophesy first.  The only people who will be re-elected at the first round, for varying reasons, will be John MacKay, Charlie Nicolson and and Catherine MacDonald.

Most of the rest will be relying upon 3rd and 4th votes to get in. 

In Ness, Alasdair Dunlop should fill the vacancy, and Iain Morrison should be back.

In Stornoway North, Murdo Murray should get in, as should Iain "Sheep" MacAulay, but which of the sitting Councillors will go?

In Point I think that perhaps only 1 of the existing Councillors will survive, but I'm really torn as to who will replace them.  My head says Iain Don MacIver and Alasdair MacLeod.

In North Lochs and Uig, Norman Angus MacDonald will replace Norman Angus MacDonald - Puss to replace Docus.  I think Annie MacDonald might squeeze back in, but the rest is a lottery.

Poor, poor, residents of South Lochs and Harris.  Three of the four candidates don't even live in the ward, and one didn't seen to have realised the date of the elections when he booked his holidays in the Himalayas, where he will be advised by the voters that they come first.  DJ MacRae looks to be one of the very few bright spots for the Labour Party with his unique take on Council politics.  His presence will certainly be distinctive and he will have an inimitable approach to decision making.

South Uist and Barra is a crazy wide-open race.  I though Donald Manford was out, as the lightening rod for the abolition of RET, but now I'm not so sure.  He will not, however, under any circumstances, be Chair of Transportation after the elections.  Ronnie MacKinnon will be back.  As for the rest, given the history in this ward, I suspect the other sitting Councillors are in serious danger of all losing.

The rest of the wards are too crazy to call, although the fate of certain individual individuals is really clear.

This is not an election for the faint-hearted candidate, and I think that virtually all of them should be preparing two speeches.

I think I get an invitation to the count, but I'm not sure my stomach can take the sight of certain individuals saying vacuous crap they don't believe in.

By their leaflets shall you know them.....

If a politician tells you all about their commitment to creating jobs on the island, and has their election address printed off the island, doesn't that stink of hypocrisy?  

If they break their promises that easily......

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ups and downs

It was a series of conversations with people in the tourism industry that identified two interlined issues.

I was initially astonished to hear that the Lewis & Harris tourism trade is down by about 25% compared to last year, and that this looks like being the trend for the entire year.

It's actually quite obviously - with hindsight - that the success of tourism was grossly oversold last year.  The truth is that the demand for beds was wildly distorted by the demands of the contractors who were absorbing so many bed nights.

They were generally occupying the cheaper accommodation and pushing the tourists into higher priced/better accommodation, giving a huge boost to hotels and the higher-end Guest Houses.  Suddenly, this year there is a dearth of tourists - or more accurately, the number are back to where they were before the major construction worker inflow took place.

In the meantime, the demand has encouraged more people to make houses available for self-catering, and I understand that there are more than 100 extra properties available this year then 2/3 years ago.  This excess supply is pushing down prices, and fewer people are going to have a decent living.

There are a couple of other issues that need to be resolved too.

I am reliably informed that there are more available beds in Harris than the ferry could cope with, if all the guests left on the same day.  There will have to be a lot of work by the industry in encouraging different patterns of visiting.

Allied to this, a recurring and long-flagged up issue arises.  The ferries are not big enough and potential and actual tourists are being turned away due to a lack of capacity.  You reduce fares, passenger numbers increase.  It's not rocket science, and we need a practical demonstration that RET is here to stay by the Government committing to new, much larger ferries on all routes: and not another 'consultation' to defer the issue.

It was during the course of these chats that I was told some important and sensitive information about a local business, which I can't even hint at, due to real or perceived client conflicts.

In just the past few weeks, our firm has won some new major local clients which has effectively blocked me from commenting on some major local issues due to the business or location of the clients, and some topics are now completely off limits for me, which is a bit of an explanation to an anon correspondent.

This has been a growing problem, that is going to have to be addressed by me....

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Taxation neeedn't be taxing. But it is.

I've decided to move the accountancy practice offshore.

Nicolson Accountancy EU Sarl will be based in Luxembourg, and the Stornoway office will become an 'order fulfilment centre'.

I will employ literally a brace of people in Luxembourg, one to answer the phone and one to spend all day taking money to the banks, and as there is no tax to pay in the UK, I can cut prices by over 20%, driving the competition into the wall.

I'll then fill this gap, by getting a Scottish Government grant to expand the premises and bring employment to an unemployment blackspot; that I have helped create.

Alternatively, I'll mortgage everything I have.  Lend it all to a British Virgin Islands company, who lends it back to the UK company at double the interest rate I pay.  I'll get a tax deduction on all this interest on money I borrowed but don't actually need, whilst the BVI company will earn it all tax-free and pay of my mortgages and give me a very nice lifestyle.

Any spare cash will be lent back unnecessarily to the UK company in a tax-deductible/tax-free circle that continues until UK Corporation Tax becomes zero.  At this point, I'll trumpet my multi-million pound investment in Scotland, and be invited for tea at Bute House (which will appear on the official record).

The former, is of course, the Amazon style; and I didn't appreciate the full extent of their tax manipulation until this week, thinking that my spend was recycling in the UK.  It's not.

According to the Guardian, there are 2,265 employed by Amazon in the UK, and 164 in Luxembourg covering the entire EU.  But the UK seems bizarrely unprofitable, generating a mere £3m in taxable profits compared to an expected £100m.

The second is the News International structure, with debt used to move profits around.  It is surprisingly easy to do this, and has recently been enshrined in law as completely permissible - for large companies multi-nationals only.

So the correct and fair question that needs ananswer is: What will be the tax position of these two examples in an Independent Scotland?

Are we to become a "tax haven" as Francis Maude was rightly pilloried for aspiring to, or will we follow the Scandanavian model and insist on profits earned being tax here?

The SNP cannot remain silent on this, or try and deflect to the current taxation policies in the UK, for the very simple reason that we are supposed to be looking forward to a bright new future, not building a future based on past mistakes.

Political parties have to issue manifestos that address the real issues, or they will find themselves flailing about, in the same way that MacNeil did with a Shetland opt-out from Independence.

This is the biggest decision in many generations, and no-one seems prepared to try to come up with answers to some of the key questions and that, I am afraid, is just not good enough.  If 50 years of waiting, and 5 years in power are not long enough to find coherent answers then there is something far wrong.

Are the politicians too emotionally in hock to the multi-nationals to ever consider the impact on the wider economy of a grant-shopping, grant-hopping, local-economy destroying giant?

Are we to become a nation of over-taxed individuals, flipping burgers and packing books to pay the taxes for the social services, whilst the multi-nationals take the profits tax-free to Luxembourg and the Caribbean?

Or is the country going to take it's share of taxable income from the multi-nationals and build schools, Universities, roads and a sense of a viable future?

The absence of any kind of answer is - sadly - very telling, and will result in an eroded Scottish tax base, as the moderately wealthy emigrate in search of a better balance between taxation and standard of life; and the wealthiest emulate the multi-nationals.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Unblogged the Jedi has

My post makes no sense without the full impact of the article, so it has been hidden. Pending developments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Council candidates

Some very interesting contests are in the offing, if the people who have told me they are standing are actually standing.

The SNP candidates look to be having a hard time against some ex-SNP independents, which is going to raise all sorts of interesting questions in the minds of the voters; and may explain why the SNP letter writers have been fulminating about (Labour) "Independents" and why you shouldn't vote for "Independents".

I understand that the Labour list will be formally announced later today, or tomorrow, as they are still not 100% certain of their numbers.  Better late than never, I suppose, but hardly the way to run a campaign.

Labour candidates are reported to number anything between 1 and 12, depending on who you speak to, put I think it is going to be in the range of 5-8, if my numbers add up.

As the likely "official opposition" in the new Council, it seems Labour's biggest enemy is Labour, and I foresee wonderfully eccentric policies being expounded, revised and disavowed as the two (three?) sides fight for control of the moribund beast. 

Interesting multi-cornered fights look likely in South Uist & Barra, Stornoway N&S, North Lochs, Point and Broadbay, where incumbency may be as much a problem as an advantage; and where Party candidates look likely to face still opposition from those who have left the Party.

To the victors, the spoils.  Which in this case means severe budget cuts, a centralising Government in Edinburgh, and a very limited set of options for enhanced service delivery.

Good luck one and all.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A poet writes .... with apologies to TS Elliot

Dr Allan, Dr Allan
  there's no one like the Doctor
He reads the SNP script out loud
   like a tired actor
His powers of vacuity
   would make a fecker stare
But when the public want answers
   Dr Allan isn't there

You may seek him in the streets
   and look up in the air
But at the hint of protest -
   the Doctor isn't there

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The SNP view on ferry fares

Which SNP Council candidate and MPs assistant gave the following memorable quote about today's rally:

We have a 4,500 majority, so what do we care?

I'm sure the people of Ness will bear that in mind when they come to vote.

Conspicuous by their absence

I attended the Outer Hebrides Transport Group march and rally in the town centre today.

There was an excellent turnout of 1,000 (?) marchers and 50+ lorries and vans.

I had a chat with, and spotted a lot of, candidates for the local Council elections and if I hadn't been shepherding three kids around I would have spoken with many more.  I wasn't being rude, just busy with kids and a flight to catch.

Absent from the entire march were any SNP Council candidates - although one activist was on the fringes, obviously to report back - which, as Angus Campbell says, tells you all you need to know about their position on RET.

Woody made an excellent point that has been missed in much of the debate, which is that there are incremental increases in the fares over the next three years adding £600 to the cost of an lorry across the Minch.

All that will come out of YOUR pocket, as food prices rises; as deliveries cost more; and, as the other businesses on the island have to pass on the costs.

I hope that the press coverage is good, as this is such a major issue for the islands.

Gail Robertson, the organiser of the campaign, deserves to be roundly congratulated for taking the bull by the horns.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who has your name and personal details?

The Information Commissioner was established to protect individuals from organisations who took personal information and tried to use it for their own personal gain.

I've blogged on this topic many times before, and yet the same culprits reappear, thinking that the law doesn't apply to them.  You will remember the denial of any responsibility, followed by the swift registration.

The Register of Data Controllers is available here, and you can easily check for eligible organisations by searching by postcode.

So when  voter gets the following through his mail box...


With this document
 and a return address of this

Which given that the Western Isles Constituency SNP are not a registered Data Controller, means that this mailshot is illegal.  Again.

But that's not all, the Electoral Commission have issued guidance for Political Parties after it appear that (particularly Asian) families were being forced to hand over real and fraudulent postal votes to political parties.

The guidance is very clear, and reads:
Candidates and canvassers are advised:
  • not to handle or help voters complete their postal ballot papers;
  • to encourage voters to post or deliver ballot papers themselves;
  • if asked to take a completed ballot paper to make sure that the voter has sealed it first, and to post or return it to the Returning Officer immediately;
  • to ensure that voters complete ballot papers in secret and seal them personally; and
  • not to solicit completed postal ballot papers from electors.
Obviously with special exclusions for Lochs and Harris.  Although voters may wish to test this by complaining to the Information Commissioner.

Of course, opposing candidates may wish to point out to the Returning Officer that the cost of building this database of 16,000 (?) voters should be spread over the election expenses of each of the SNP Candidates - along with postage and printing.  Alternatively, the database was provided in breach of the Data Protection Act by a Data Controller.

In addition, as the SNP Council web site claims to have been commercially produced by a web design company, then a share of that cost too, needs to be added.  Unless the web designer is lying about his clients.

Still, as Stornoway resident Philip McLean said, I am the enemy within

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Absent Allan

Poor Mr Allan can't make the rally on Saturday due to an unspecified and possibly mythical diary clash.

One can only suspect fear of conflict has filled the diary, as a senior source confirms that there are no official appointments, and Allan had planned to be canvassing with SNP Council candidates this weekend - until the rally was announced.

Never mind.

The semi-literate content of the letter indicates panic, BS and obfuscation.
I have been in touch with the Transport Minister on behalf of around a dozen of them in recent days to convey their feelings. I am very willing to take up the case of any other company or community affected in the days and moths ahead...
I'm reliable informed that the dozen (or so) hauliers are actually two major hauliers, and a few other small hauliers who have been cold called and whose anger has been expressed, and ignored.

However, the moths seem to be on the same intellectual level...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The triumph of ignorance

What an open goal has been left by our MP when discussing the constitutional future.  No doubt he has been summoned to be given a severe dressing down, for letting 80 years of policy formulation unravel in one inglorious sentence.

With only a few decades to try and iron out these issues, and only a few million lines from the spin-doctors on what to say, one of the sheep has upset the entire flocking debate.

If there had been less emphasis from SNP HQ on obedience, and more on intelligence, when selecting candidates then this sort of problem wouldn't have arisen, but instead there is now a huge an unnecessary debate about a non-topic that has suddenly been given legs.

With 25% of oil revenue taken out of the equation, John Swinney's numbers look ridiculous, and that axle will be ground for the next two years.

But it is the phrase allowing an opt out for communities:
“if there was a big enough drive for self-determination”
that really intrigues.

If 75% of Edinburgh voters opt to reject independence, does that mean they remain part of England (with the Parliament in a foreign country?!)?

As in the 1979 Referendum, is there to a be a 40% of the potential voters hurdle to prove "a big enough drive"?

Would 30% of all voters for independence versus 25% against be enough of mandate, or would 70% not supporting be "enough of a drive AGAINST self-determination"?

Can Point cede from Scotland?

Can of worms.  Both barrels shooting through both the feet in the mouth.  Idiot.

The focus of the debate has now moved to oil and the economy, and not in a good way for the SNP.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Priorities

We may have seen RET dismantled, ferry fares spiraling, ferry services getting worse and ADS stopped for business travel, but if anyone needs to know about the potential frequency of non-existent flights from Prestwick to Ekaterinburg, then Angus MacNeil is your man.

Perhaps he could ask the Secretary of State to lobby the Scottish Government to reinstate RET and ADS, if he has nothing better to do.

Candidates

The tag "A vague attempt at humour" tends to be a give away.

Let me just make it clear that none of the alleged Labour Council candidates have ever:
  • Headbutted comrades in the Strangers Bar of the House of Commons
  • Had an affair with a girl 1/3 of their age
  • Claimed more than £1m in travel expenses
  • Had a father who idolised Hitler
  • Been photographed in compromising positions with ladies of the night by the News of the World
  • Brought half of Glasgow to tears
  • Murdered their nanny
And no-one in their right mind should try to match the list to any people real, dead, imaginary or standing for Council.

One helpful tip to the Labour Party........

If you are going to run some candidates in the election, it does assist the electorate if you make an announcement BEFORE the polls close.

----

I'm just wondering if I should changed the second paragraph to start "To the best of my knowledge...".

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's the economy, stupid! (updated thrice)

With the population in the islands expected to crash by nearly 11% in the next 25 years the demographics look ominous for the islands.

It is not so much the absolute change that is the scary factor, and more the relative ageing of the population that poses such a threat the future economic viability of the islands.


The curve is more a death spiral, with - for instance - future school provision requirements looking to be grossly over-estimated at the moment.  There will be fewer pupils attracting smaller grant support to pay for ageing and more expensive buildings.

The lack of economic development in the islands is a very major issue.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it may be the potentially terminal issue if it is not addressed.  For without economic growth there won't be the children to fill the schools or build new businesses or inherit their parent's hard work.

When was the last time that the Scottish Government announced something positive for the future economy of the islands?

Just this week we are told to be grateful for the reinstatement of single-journey fares for hay lorries and vivier tanks.  A discount that should never have been abolished, and we are expected to cheer to the rafters when it is reinstated our MSP makes false claims of his successes.

Businesses cannot plan if they cannot be sure about the future.  With commercial RET up and down like the proverbial, how can long term investment be secured, when the Government doesn't know (or won't say) if a policy is staying, going, being amended or "out to consultation".

My good lady wife is away this week meeting with large existing clients to discuss extending the services we provide.  This has huge potential, not least as the clients are keen to see what we can do.

But as it is a business flight, there is no ADS available, increasing fares by 167% which is just enough of an impediment to make us consider if the journey is really necessary.  We are trying to win work for the islands, but Government cost-cutting is affecting our ability to create employment.

I know of one large capital investment that has been cancelled, as the additional costs for transporting building materials have tipped the balance - and that was in the service sector.  How is affecting those who have to use the large hauliers as a matter of course?

Incoming Councillors must be forced to pledge to continue the fight against this policy before it drives the economy, and the future of the islands, over the edge.

Update: I can't use specifics for professional reasons, but Ian MacIver can.

Update 2: I'm told that the poor truaghan Alasdair Allan has resorted to telling hauliers that tale that full RET will be reintroduced in an Independent Scotland.  Presumably with the choice of gold or silver cutlery in the dining room.