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

Friday, September 29, 2006


Was that a mosquito I saw flying around in my kitchen, before I falttened it with a large magazine?

It looked a hell of a lot like this:

Now, I know how they fly, 'cause they eat me alive on holiday, and this was one.

What is going on with the climate?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

CalMac fares

I was interested to see that CalMac sneaked out a press release announcing fares were being increased by a "reasonable" 2.2%.

Personally, I would have thought that the most "reasonable" approach would be to reduce the prices significantly and to allow the public to travel at a level of cost that reflects the miles travelled, and not the whim of the Executive.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Desperate politicans

Isn't it funny that Gordon Brown claims to be a fan of the Arctic Monkeys when talking to GQ, but when pressed he cannot name a single track by them, and refers to Coldplay as his favourites.

Alan McGhee famously referred to them as "music for bed wetters", whilst Gordon admits his iPod contains political speeches rather than music. Sad.

This week we bought: Gnarls Barkley, Razorlight, Muse and a few others, but mostly I'm playing Babyshambles - Down in Albion - when we get home. I know the words to most of the songs; sing badly off key; and play them loud. I hope I'm not a sad politician.


It is sometimes amazing how much other people “know” about you – even things you didn’t know yourself.

However, you get used to these malicious rumours and carry on regardless.

This week I have been accused of being an employee of Amec (which obviously conflicts with my role in planning). A certain newspaper was fed this story, which I can unreservedly refute – I have not, never, ever been employed by Amec, any subsidiary, associate, nor has any friend or relation. Nor has my wife or my business. My goldfishes refuse to confirm or deny they hold shares, but as they have left their money to Nemo, I think I’m OK.

Strangest of all, today I was told my website had been taken down by the Police due to libellous comments. This is self-evidently wrong; legally implausible (if not impossible); and betrays the source of the gossip [I didn’t delete your offensive and threatening email!] but also shows the level of interest and controversy I kick up. I’m quite proud of that, in a modest kind of way (smiley).


The past week has been very quiet posting wise, as we have been moving the business to new and larger premises. We had a mere week to do the modifications to the premises, acquire the fittings and get it all working before BT moved our phones.


It was me up the ladder on Saturday outside painting most of the front of the building; and me on Sunday and Monday aching like the unfit person I am. Sue and I spent the past week trying to juggle work, moving, decorating and the kids and somehow it has worked. We were both knackered by the weekend, but a good Saturday night out does wonders for a few hours, anyway.

However, we opened today, and it has been crazy. Situation normal.

Many thanks to Ray, Murdo and Mike for their help.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So this is democracy...

This is what all these people died for? To allow us to achieve a level of inhumanity to man, below that which was evil.

Presumably George Bush is now guilty (by commission and omission) of all the sins he accused Saddam of? But, I forget, Saddam was our friend who turned against *us* and consequently desrves all he gets. As opposed to everything we gave - and sold to him - in the past.


These two stories were beside each other on the BBC website today.

"The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith says he now favours allowing intercept evidence to be used in court"
"Biotech boss 'shocked by arrest'".

I think Lord Goldsmith may have been thinking only about *real* criminals and not his mates who get favours or else he'd be offering up the Downing Street communications log.

Is it any wonder that the public are cynical about politics?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cal Mac goes offshore

The madness of CalMac tendering continues ....

In order to comply with European rules that needn't have applied, the Executive forced CalMac to tender. This was designed to ensure the Executive paid the minimum subsidy for the service.

As a consequence, the staff are now employed in Guernsey and pay no National Insurance, and now CalMac is moving it's headquarters offshore to avoid Corporation Tax. Did no-one in the Executive do the sums and follow the logic through so that they are supporting companies avoiding Corporation Tax.

First the tax offices were sold to a Bermuda based company (Mapelely Steps Ltd) who will avoid UK tax on all the rental income the Government pays it, and now a publicly owned company is moving its domain to win a contract that it should have had be rights.

The world is going mad, and the only winners are the lawyers and accountants who are advising CalMac how to avoid paying it's fair share to the Treasury. Surely, some MSPs must be prepared to stand up and object to this.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Animal Liberation

Is it just me or are the ALF becoming the new fascists?

I'm an omnivore, and I resent someone telling me I am wrong, any more than I will tell a veggy, vegan or breathearian that they are wrong. I declare an interest in that my brother is a vegetarian who eats salmon.

To see the ALF apparently releasing live fish into the sea to die is worse than by-catches and most of what the ALF accuse scientists of doing.

The world is going mad, and we are standing by and letting the extremists run the roost. I'm as partial to a nice salad as the next man, but if we weren't meant to eat meat, why have we got incisor teeth/

I've never hurt an animal for fun, but I have no qualms about eating anything and everything. To see the self righteous so-and-so's telling us not to eat Guga just puts my back up.

I just want to eat anything and everything just to annoy the ALF.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Patricia Hewitt

To say that I think that Patricia Hewitt is a sanctimonious, patronising, brown-nosing soundbite on legs, is to be polite to her.

Her latest vacuous statement suggesting a public vote for the next Labour leader betrays a desperate need to appear relevant, whilst avoiding taking any kind of view on the situation.

What are you actually suggesting Patricia??? A text vote
a la Big Brother which will inevitably result in a write-in candidate winning (David Cameron?) or an open Internetpoll which will inevitably be hacked.

Perhaps she meant a General Election, which tends to have the characteristics she expounds in her best management speak; 'a "new politics of public engagement" would "enormously strengthen the authority of the new leadership".'

Er, yes, the public might be less turned off if there was less mindless drivel and more politicians prepared to say what they actually mean, and take responsibility for their decisions. As far as I can tell, her track record involves avoiding decisions.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mallaig ferry

I really don't know what all the fuss is about -- except that it seems to be manufactured to create an appearance of doing something. The Council had this debate in 2002, in Sgoil Lionaclete, which was obviously staged for local consumption.

The Councillor for Lochboisdale moved that the Lochboisdale/Castlebay/Oban timetable was unacceptable, and he wanted CalMac to change the timetable so that the ferry went more frequently to Lochboisdale from Oban, and then to Castlebay.

Having seen CalMac's "divide and conquer" tactics before, I moved that the Comahirle demand an extra sailing (which would result in parity between Uist and Barra) and that we demand a Lochboisdale-Mallaig service as the ambition of the Comhairle. Bizarrely, some of the Uist Councillors were more concerned about point scoring against Barra than actually getting a better service and this was voted down, which let CalMac off the hook. (It's not clear from the minute, but only I and Donald Manford voted for a Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry!)

Four years later it looks like it might happen sometime soonish, but what a wasted four years.

Berneray to Harris

Following an earlier post about the proposed causeway, I was asked to obtain a copy of the document from the Comhairle for public viewing. The Comhairle should be posting a copy on their server in due course, but until then a copy can be accessed here. This file is 6Mb in size, and runs to 130 pages, so you may prefer to save it to your hard disk, and I hope I stay within bandwidth limits!

All comments - pro or anti - will be passed to the Comhairle, in due course.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I’m barely home before I’m away again. This time business takes me to Skye and Uist with a large number of clients to see in a very short period of time – as usual.

The trip has proved very successful, seeing every client I expected to, bar one, and some new clients to boot. The absence of broadband, wireless connections or even mobile phone signals in much of the islands is frustrating, but it was only a few years ago that you could live without any of these, so it is a challenge to go back to the last decade and relive the hardships!

The ferry from Berneray is cancelled due to low tides, so I find myself with four hours to burn before the next, and after buying a newspaper in Lochmaddy I wile away a few minutes working out how the rudimentary SatNav works. Having got it working (and heaven alone knows why I bothered) it guides me in the quickest route from Lochmaddy to Stornoway, which as it turns out involves the ferry to Skye and apparently 11 hours of travel.

“Prepare to turn left”, I am instructed, and I do so early, stopping off in the Lochmaddy Hotel for some lunch, much to the apparent disgust of the voice. After lunch it is silent until I remember and switch it on as I pass Donnie Johnson’s quarry. I disregard the instruction to “Make a U-turn, if safe!” and carry on to Otternish, where apparently I remain “off road” until Leverburgh.

The long goodbye

Politics and leadership should have one overriding experience which all aspiring leaders should recognise – when it is time to call it a day.

It is better to go, rather than be deposed; and it is better to control one’s exit rather than have circumstances forced upon you. Tony Blair has failed – and failed spectacularly – in seeing this coming, and then failing to deal with the inevitable.

I remember the joy as Thatcher left No 10, although her handling of her final departure was magnificent, but the slow poison destroying her Premiership was there for all to see. Except her.

Tony Blair has it much worse, with him clutching the viper in No 11 warmly to his bosom; albeit with his hands around Gordon’s throat. The car crash is inevitable, and today’s announcement has only focussed everyone’s eyes on the accident blackspot. It is with some disbelief that I see a politician who seemed to be so at ease with the machinations of the media and his own back-benchers unable to see or stop his inevitable demise.

Bambi is truly caught in the spotlights of an oncoming lorry.

But it is easy to criticise, more difficult to say what should have been done. I think that the minute he made it clear that he would stand down in the third term, he was fatally wounded, and the time horizon was inevitably being redrawn closer and closer as Brown closes in. Instead of planning a glorious finale tour of the UK, his aides would have been better to plan a prolonged hand-over and exit starting at the coming Party Conference. A clear announcement that the Annual Conference would serve as the launch pad for the election would have left Tony with all the candidates praising him to high heaven as he said farewell, whilst leaving him in charge (or joint charge) for perhaps another six to nine months. He would have tied the winner into his manifesto, and ensured that he went in the best possible manner.

Instead, Conference is going to be a bloodbath of backstabbing and Tony being forced to confront his political mortality, whilst desperately trying to stop the coronation of Brown.

Thankfully, I don’t belong to a political party that behaves in such a way (joke!).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Edinburgh 2

"Why do they spell it funny?", an American tourist asked whilst trying to pronounce Edinbuuuurg and Musselbuuurg.

Having had a lovely weekend, which included an amazing Sudanese restaurant, the wonderful Creelers, and the Albanach Bar, we were roundly entertained by a gross couple of Yankees making their way to the airport to rebook their flights. They knew everything. And you heard that they knew everything.


KIMO was totally overshadowed by the announcement that ship-to-ship transfers have been approved for the Firth of Forth.

Having been closely involved in this issue since a major meeting in 2003, I feel totally betrayed by the Government (why am I so naive!) who have promised solution since at least 1999. The regulations to prevent this have been in draft since then, but could never be finalised.

The fact that the meeting in 2003 was at the headquarters of a company with responsibility for tidying up oil spills (OSL) should have tipped us off.

The matter is not closed. The letters between Rhona Brankin and Alasdair Darling showed a huge amount of buck passing, excusing justification and opportunity for political opportunism, if the pressure can be brought to bear. The holes in the legislation are immense and worrying, and the mass and mess of overlapping legislation screams for immediate attention. Which it won’t get.


COSLA was very useful, with an in depth discussion of the avian influenza problems and the recycling issues affecting other Scottish local authorities.

It is very clear that the Western Isles is miles ahead of most of the rest of Scotland with the next stage of recycling. I didn’t gloat, but I was pleased to hear a comparison with Denmark where the commercial businesses are forced to recycle, by joining a recycling programme that is at least as goods as the local authorities, and getting a tax credit for doing so. Carrot and stock is the only successful method I have ever found.

An article in today’s Times condemns the government for lack of leadership on this an other issues. I totally agree.

Bird flu is going to be a potentially huge problem in the next few months as the birds come back here. Thankfully, much preparatory work has been done and we should be ready for any infected birds.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Edinburgh 1

On Friday I had to go to COSLA and KIMO, which resulted in a Thursday night trip. As usual, Edinburgh was spectacular, and being the last week of the Festival it was rather busy. As Sue had business in Edinburgh with clients, we were able to extend the trip into a long weekend.

We went out on Thursday for a quiet drink – much as we love them, it’s wonderful to get a night away from the kids – and stopped at the Jolly Judge. As we sat outside, we were entertained by a group of 10-20 men and women doing the Tango (or possibly the Rumba) on a strip of lino that they had laid at the back of the University Halls beside the Assembly Hall.

They had obviously been there for some time, and it appeared to be a regular event, and for about an hour we were fascinated by the ability of the dancers. As a smooth mover on the dance floor* I was deeply impressed by their ability, and learned a lot about how to impress the ladiiieees.

* This is a lie. I dance like a geriatric.