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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to post a url link

In the comments to the Joke of the Day thread someone has posted the following link, which is cut-off due to the width of the space for comments:

It is much easier to embed the link into a posting, such as this example.

To do so use < to start, then a href="url_here" then > the word you want to highlight and then < /a > to close the comment. Obviously delete the spaces and extraneous words which I can't replicate without the instructions disappearing and this post being rejected, but there should be no spaces in the text between the <> except at a href which does require a space.

Badly composed links will be rejected by Blogger, so persistence is the key. The preview can also sometimes be difficult to read.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Joke of the day

How many members of the Lords Day Observance Society does it take to change a lightbulb?


CBI back Trump

With the CBI opposing the inquiry into the Trump affair,

"[They] said an investigation would be justified if there was evidence or informed suspicion of wrongdoing, but that so far neither had been turned up."

Can it get more embarrassing for Alex Salmond?

Trump's henchmen have agreed to appear in front of the inquiry, surely now appreciating that an investigation can be a way to clear the air and remove suspicion. Which is more than can be said for the CBI.


South Uist Qinetiq MOD rocket rangeWhen the MOD first set up in Uist in the late 1950's there was a concern that we would become overly dependent on the rocket range and that the impact of all the 'immigrants' would cause irreparable damage to the community.

Hindsight shows that the Rocket Range was a wonderful employment opportunity for the local residents, who gained high-tech skills that were transferable to other sectors. The influx of 'immigrants' - mostly young soldiers - led to many of them marrying into the community and bringing new ideas and new life blood to the islands.

The number of business that have been set-up on the back of the MOD involvement in the islands is huge, and it stemmed and reversed the serious decline in population.

(I will let other compare the MOD in Uist to what could have been with windfarms in Lewis)

It all went a lot wrong in 2001, when Qinetiq became the proud owners of the range, under a quasi-privatisation move by the Labour Government. Following blindly in the footsteps of Thatcher, Qinetiq was sold at a knock-down price to private equity group the Carlyle Group (directors include George Bush Snr & Jnr and John Major).

Now the range is under threat with cost-cutting and rationalisation, and the likelihood of the good prospects for work drying up, the Uists will be facing uncertainty. All of which can be traced back to the dogmatic approach of Tony Blair, in trying to emulate his heroine - Thatcher.

Will the jobs and future of the islands be sacrificed to make George Bush richer? Probably. Will they care? Not a jot. Can the British Government stop them? Almost certainly not.

Globalisation: isn't it such fun?

It is if you are Tony Blair, advising both Zurich and JP Morgan on the topic at a mere £5m per annum.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Life in Stornoway

There is a perception that the islands swing between excessive piety and excessive debauchery, but the truth is that Lewis has exactly the same problems and issues as most other places, with a few exceptions, but that often the extremes make the best stories.

The past week has seen the clash between tradition and modernisation come to the fore over the issue of Sunday licences for public houses.

On Sundays it used to be the case that the swings in one playpark were chained - the action of one man, on his own volition rather than as part of a policy - to prevent the children of Lewis enjoying anything other than solemnity. The new playpark in Stornoway is even closer this man, Travis Bickle, and I will watch with interest his actions when the facility opens.

One petrol station is open, a few pubs and hotels, but no leisure facilities, so the choices for much of Stornoway are limited. (Uist and Barra are much more relaxed about Sundays). The end result of this has been a traditional Saturday night fever of dancing, drinking and partying until long after the pubs close at 11pm. Bizarrely, Friday nights - where the pubs stay open until 1am - are very quiet.

This week, 9 public houses obtained licences until 1am Sunday morning despite the objections of the Free Church. Over a number of years, the Church have shown spectacular and repeated incompetence in submitting objections, which have repeatedly been thrown out for almost the same reasons. The three members of the Free Church declared an interest and came out of the meeting, leaving the other seven members of the Licensing Board to decide to decline to consider the objection.

With the remaining 4 establishments in town likely to apply for the same late licences, it would appear that the attempt by the Board to set policies to restrict the granting of late licences looks set to fail. Primarily, because those who are trying to drive this through will have to declare an interest and leave the meeting.

The next move by the Board is to consider the 'overprovision' of alcohol licences in the Western Isles (for which read Stornoway). The prospect of the Board (which includes 6 teetotal members) wandering the streets late on a Saturday night in an effort to establish which pub/club/hotel is 'surplus to requirements' looks set to bring general hilarity and ridicule onto the Board.

Alternatively, there will have to be a desktop exercise augmented by hearsay, rumour and gossip
to determine which licences will be targeted. This will bring widespread hilarity and ridicule, and - as night follows day - another visit to the Sheriff Court where the Board will lose. Again. And again.

But a bigger question on the declaration of interest remains unanswered. Did the three gentlemen declare an interest because:-
  • They are members of the Free Church, who were the objectors?
  • Their own views meant they couldn't take an objective stance?
  • The view of the Free Church means that they cannot take an objective stance?
Whichever it is, it will make for interesting future meetings of the Board.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kennedy backs Obama

My first thought was, "Has Charlie been at the whisky?" closely followed by "Why are the press covering this?"

Of course, the truth was even stranger. It's Ted "my brother was president" Kennedy.

Instead of having the backing of a hard-drinking political nearly-was he has the backing of a hard-drinking political time-server.

Whether the endorsement by a time-served 'liberal' with all the contempt that tends to bring from middle-America is helpful is unclear, but the BBC report seems to imply that the endorsement was more of a reaction to Bill Clinton's aggressive campaigning in South Carolina, where suggestions of racist language by the ex-President seem to have driven Teddy into pledging his support for Obama.

The BBC reports that, "Senator Kennedy is now expected to campaign with his son, congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, for the man who would be the first US black president."

It then gives us the following picture, with possibly the least necessary caption of all time.

Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy
Edward Kennedy (R) is expected
to campaign with Mr Obama (L)

Despite the intervention of Senator Kennedy, I hope Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination and go on to the White House in triumph.

Gaelic Digital channel

Gaelic Digital TV Contrary to my expectations, the BBC Trust have approved the provision of a Gaelic Digital channel.

But with serious caveats, one of which largely undermines the whole purpose of the channel.
  • There will be no broadcast on Freeview - cable, satellite and analogue only. There is no cable in the Highlands, and analogue is being phased out in 2010/11
  • The channel must markedly improve the quality and quantity of broadcast material
  • And extend the current audience
  • And be culturally significant for Scotland as a whole
Two cheers? Perhaps one cheer only.

With the channel up for a further review in 2010 it strikes me that necessity has forced the approval of the channel, but that the conditions are extremely difficult to attain, allowing the BBC to take a fresh look at the overall viability in a mere two years.

Meanwhile, with all eyes on the next review and the impossibility of the tasks that have been set in such a short-time, the future of the service remains (deliberately) insecure.

This option was always a cheap and easy solution allowing the Government to avoid a full-scale S4C type channel, by throwing a small bone and forcing the channel into a niche service provider. Which will undoubtedly deliver smaller and smaller viewers, whilst the highly skilled programme makers put their time and effort into good quality programmes that no-one sees.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Look back in sorrow

Having been able to mull over the consequences of the likely refusal of the Lewis Wind Power scheme, I think it is time to review where we stand and to try to find a constructive way forward for the islands.

I haven't actually seen the letter from the Executive, nor do I have any idea what the response from LWP will be, but I don't see the Executive changing their minds, unless they have made a huge blunder in fact or in law.

Firstly, I think we should all be grateful that the decision has been taken quickly. The original suggestion from our MP that it go to a 'time limited public inquiry' was so ludicrous - mainly as there is no such legislative power to have such an inquiry - that he quickly, and quietly changed his position.

If there were such fundamental problems with any development on this site surely these should have been identified a long time back so as to save us all this uncertainty. And it would have avoided me and my fellow councillors spending two years of our time considering the application. And saving all the costs involved in the process.

We now need to understand just what the implications are for that area with the designations in place. Can any development take place, or is it effectively sterilised forever from all developments?

Someone asked about when the designations were brought in. They came into place in 1999 or 2000, just when I was first elected, and I clearly recollect being told by the SNH Officers that the designations would not prevent any development taking place. Cllr Angus Graham was very careful to ask that question more than once, and to check and recheck the answer, and with that assurance the Comhairle did not object to the designation. We were lied to.

There have been a number of attacks on the Vice-Convener over his support for the scheme, and it is fair to say that the Comhairle must now find alternative development options to bring forward. But the Comhairle cannot do this in isolation, nor can it solve all the problems with a wave of a magical wand.

The moor is now to remain as an important habitat for birds, so it is not unreasonable to expect the RSPB and SNH to make a major investment in the islands to attract visitors to this hugely important site. As far as I can ascertain, the RSPB spend pennies - other than an salary - out of the £70m annual income yet are able to pronounce to the world on the importance of the birdlife. Or is the role of the guardians to object and not build up an asset?

I am far from convinced that tourism is the future for prosperity. The vagaries of weather and exchange rates will leave us badly exposed to an unreliable stream of visitors. And without the critical mass to allow us to develop further facilities to attract further visitors, it is going to remain largely a semi-professional and low-level activity.

Finally, and most importantly, our parliamentarians now have an enormous responsibility to help attract employment to the islands. The public sector is bloated and growing, and without new entrepreneurs coming here development, incomes and prospects will remain in stasis, and the community will not grow. Simply saying NO to a proposal is not a long-term strategy. Whatever influence they may have needs to be brought to bear to force the Government(s) to recognise the fragility of the islands. And trying to take the Lewis chessmen back to Edinburgh will do not a single thing from the islands.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Team Trump decline to be courteous

So the bewigged ones minions have declined to attend a Government Committee investigating the contentious planning application in Aberdeen.

The Government may not have the power to force them, which is a ludicrous and indefensible situation, and one that would normally have Alex Salmond champing at the bit. Strangely, not this time.

It is imperative that they attend so that the Committee fully understand the circumstances surrounding the application, otherwise the stench of dodgy dealings will never go away. And the sooner the SNP realise that immutable truth the better.

However, I have been sent footage of the Trump executives demonstrating their independence, individuality, and getting into training for their attendance.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lewis Wind Power refused

As forecast by me, it looks like birds are more important than people.

I expect that LWP will now submit the amended application for the Stornoway Trust lands only, at an early date.

A very, very, disappointing outcome for the islands.

Update 12:58 from Scottish Executive website:
The Lewis wind farm application is currently under consideration by Scottish Ministers.

Due to a large amount of speculation about the progress of the application and when a decision will be announced, it is worth noting that no final decision has been taken and Ministers are working towards finalising and announcing a decision in the near future.

Update 26/1: The STV report on the news is available here.

Marine Protection

Later today Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North & Leith, introduces a bill into the House of Commons for the second reading.

The bill is entitled the Environmental Protection (Transfers at Sea) Bill, and seeks to prevent ship-to-ship transfers in non-regulated areas.

The Bill, which is only a few clauses long, would prevent transfers except on harbours with full oil spill prevention equipment, and effectively ensure that these transfers cannot take place in the Firth Of Forth.

It will also reduce the number of oil tankers passing the coast of the Western Isles on the way from the Baltic to the south of England where they undertake STS operations in Torbay, and is a campaign that I have been involved in for a number of years.

I hope that all members will support this, as it is a major step forward in protecting the marine environment.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Farewell Peter Hain

Peter Hain
Peter Hain addresses the Commons
The Minister for day-glo skin and tanning booths has resigned to "spend more time with his ultraviolet radiation source".

Confounding all expectations of maintaining a stiff upper lip and claiming that he was "too busy" with "important things" to know what is going on.

The mere £10,000,000 donated to his campaign to become emperor of the world was an oversight for which he "has taken full responsibility". That is responsibility for blaming his assistants for no covering up properly.

The resignation is entirely voluntary, and bears absolutely no relation to the fact that the matter has been referred to Inspector Knacker of the Yard for further investigations.

Mr Hain has been roundly condemned by his colleagues for flaunting the convention that MPs are innocent until proven guilty. And it is really, really embarrassing. And their local party disown them. And their fingers are prized off the expenses forms. And when they have another job to go to.

The Tories have put down a motion condemning the resignation, as it "Stops us being able to embarrass the Prime Minister who is sitting next to this sleaze bag, and means that we might have to find something new to say."

Peter Hain's skin-tone is illegal under the Geneva Convention.

Planning permissions

News from Wales on how not to handle planning applications.

Ceredigion Council have been reprimanded for granting approval to applications from Welsh language speakers irrespective of the advice from the planning officers.

The senior planning officer warned that the Council could lose its powers if it continued to breach the regulations by showing bias in favour of Welsh speakers, and he described the manifestation of the bias...

"What's happening is that time and time again we refer to the fact that the applicant is a local Welsh speaker. We have to look at the application, not the applicant."

and he continues

"Whilst the planning system should take account of the needs and interest of the Welsh language, the fact that the applicant is a local, Welsh-speaking person active in the community does not outweigh the environmental harm."

and he rounds of by adding

"Moreover it would be discriminatory to grant permission solely or largely on the grounds that the applicant is Donald Trump."

Or words to that effect.

The Trump inquiry

As the Inquiry by the Local Government and Communities Committee staggers to a stuttering slow and painful death, some interesting and unusual facts to come to light.

Mr Salmond revealed he used his mobile phone to call the government's chief planner, Jim Mackinnon, during a meeting with the Trump Organisation in an Aberdeen hotel, then handed the phone to the US tycoon's right-hand man, George Sorial, so he could set up a meeting with the civil servant. He said he had done nothing wrong because he had attended the meeting in his capacity as MSP for Gordon.

Decidedly strange behaviour. Imagine the outcry if Lewis Wind Power met with our former MSP, Alasdair Morrison, and he placed a call there and then to the Chief Planner to arrange a meeting... (if he had even got through!)... the day before a major decision on the application was taken.

However, the best bit is life imitating art:-

Mr Allan, an SNP MSP, said: "What we have had is a very lame witch-hunt and attempt to nail the first minister, but they have failed to come up with an accusation to put to him, although the issue has been strung out for three weeks.

Or as his motion to the Parliament in December apparently said:-

Alasdair Allan calls on all MSPs, MPs, Councillors, Journalists and members of the public to desist from interfering in the crucial and independent Parliamentary investigation. At this time the making of scurrilous and unfounded allegations by Nicol Stephen and repeated by those who do not know the full facts will only prolong the anguish of those who have been falsely accused by muck-racking journalists reporting the facts. It is crucial that the Committee investigate the crucial documents that are being prepared at the moment and that the crucial decision to clear Mr Salmond is taken objectively and quickly, so that he can move on to ensuring that permission is granted to Mr Tramp.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anyone recognise...

.. the numbers 13a and £129,200?

Not quite Snow White ....

According to the paper of record, The Sun....

A gang of crooks is robbing long-distance coaches by smuggling dwarves into their holds inside sports bags.

Once inside the buses the tiny thieves slip out from their hiding place to rifle through the belongings of travellers above them. They then take their loot back to their hiding place and wait to be collected by another gang member when the coach reaches its destination.

The gang has stolen thousands of pounds in cash, gems and other valuables over the past several months. Swebus, which operates coach services across Sweden, confirmed the losses. “We think it is a short, young person, dwarves or perhaps children,” said Ingvar Ryggasjo, sales manager for Swebus. “We are taking extra security measures and are thinking of installing video surveillance cameras.”

He said on one occasion a light-fingered litle person was smuggled aboard a bus in a hockey bag. One woman reported seeing two men squeezing the large, heavy bag into the luggage space under the bus. After arriving she found a camera, purse and other items missing. Police are quizzing “people of limited stature” with criminal records, according to a spokesman in Stockholm.

With friends like this....

Donald Trump speaking about Alex Salmond (my emphasis) about the proposed golf development in Aberdeenshire....

"Alex Salmond and I have virtually never even talked about this job but I know for a fact that he - and anyone else who's representing Scotland, unless they're the enemy - wants billions of pounds to come into Aberdeenshire and Scotland."

"Virtually"? So it was discussed.

"Enemy"? Or as we know them, the other residents of the area.

"Billions"? It was only an unbelievable £1bn in November.

The Government need to find that barge pole, and quick.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where Scotland leads....

With MSPs expenses available in great detail, just what has Westminster to hide?

Perhaps the truth will be available soon, given that the Information Commissioner has just ruled that a detailed request for expenses for St Tony Blair, Gordon "I'm not Tony"Brown, John "Two Jags" Prescott, Michael "Something of the night" Howard, Charles "Large whisky please" Kennedy, and Jonathan "Dodgy expenses" Sayeed must be released.

I look forward to all the expenses being fully detailed...which will be quite entertaining in some cases.

Who is the Chief Executive?

One organisation in the Western Isles has the unlikely distinction of having two Chief Executives, a problem that has dragged on for five months.

I refer, of course, to the Western Isles Health Board where the current/past/suspended Chief Executive has been replaced pending investigations into his CV.

Of course, it is never as simple as that, but with the NHS still paying Laurence Irvine £5,000 per month pending conclusion of the investigation, one could reasonably expect that the investigation would proceed apace. This exchange in the Audit Committee is enlightening.....

George Foulkes:You did not succeed in getting a permanent chief executive, though, did you?
Malcolm Wright: A permanent chief executive [Laurence Irvine] was appointed and we handed over—
George Foulkes:
But he is suspended, is he not?
Malcolm Wright: I understand so.
George Foulkes: Whose fault was that?
Ronnie Cleland: This is a difficult area, convener. It is difficult to discuss the allocation of blame, given the situation with the chief executive.
The Temporary Convener: Okay.
Ronnie Cleland: I am not trying to avoid the question.
George Foulkes: No—it is a difficult situation legally.

Clear as mud.

The allegations - as I understand them - would seem to be reasonably easy to resolve. So why the delay?

It is my understanding that there is not enough to remove Mr Irvine from post, but perhaps enough to undermine his position, and to avoid an Industrial Tribunal the lawyers are negotiating an early retirement package that can be justified to Parliament.

Meantime, Mr Irvine is still nominally in charge of the Health Board - although, practically, he has no remit - and the ship sails on, holed underwater.

This may become a theme, but can someone - please, please - take a decision and allow us to move forward?

Population projections

The Registrar General hs produced a new list of expected population changes by Council area up to 2031.

The good news is that we aren't facing the worst population decline.

Only the eighth worst.

The staggeringly bad news is that we face the worst 'natural change' - births versus deaths - of minus 15%, with the next worst being a mere 9.1% drop.

The situation is remedied by a projected net inward migration of 9.5%.

Inward migration is loaded with all sorts of assumptions about the nature of the immigrants, but which I take to be primarily the older age group and largely, to put it crudely, beyond childbearing age.

The impact on the communities can easily be guessed at - with schools having insufficient pupils, irrespective of the outcome of any current consultations - and the islands becoming a retirement home, rather than a thriving community.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Jeremy Paxman has dangly knackersIn an incredible act of pomposity, Jeremy Paxman has written to Marks and Spencer about a matter of global importance ....

"There's no other way to put this. Their pants no longer provide adequate support. The other thing is socks. Even among those of us who clip our toenails very rigorously, they appear to be wearing out much more quickly on the big toe."

What? Go somewhere else you silly twat. The streets are filled with things called shops.

"But I do feel that someone should take up this mighty battle. I was astonished, when I raised it with people, that they all said the same thing. It has been the subject of widespread consultation, from my gym to the Houses of Parliament."

What the....? Have they nothing better to do in the Houses of Parliament than discuss M&S socks?

What is the main topic of discussion amongst our elected parliamentarians? Global recession? Nuclear weapons in Pakistan? Governmental lies? Or whether Jeremy's knackers are held up by his pants?

He and Sir Stuart Rose would meet...

Please, please, rescue me from those with more time than common sense....

Northern Rock

Northern Rock and Government incompetenceJust when you think it can't get any worse; handled more badly; or cost us as taxpayers any more; along comes Alasdair Darling to dig a hole and throw some more of our money into it.

  • The bank had a lot of good debts that it used to borrow more money
  • The good debts it had were long term loans
  • The money it borrowed was repayable short-term
  • The money it borrowed was put into higher risk investments to get the best return
  • The shareholders loved the dividend increases, which gave them a good return
  • The shareholders loved the increase in the share price, which went up six fold in six years
  • Short term borrowing dried up
  • The high risk investments proved to be more risk than return
  • The shareholders look to have lost out

So far so much like any other business. Until the Government have tried to manage an orderly sale by pumping in billions of our pounds to keep the bank solvent, and then to manage the disposal.

It might work, if only the Government weren't so desperately incompetent.

No-one can afford to buy the bank and repay the money to the Government. Europe won't allow the Government to give continuing support. The amount put in by Government continues to grow.

And no-one can seem to take any decisive action.

The interests of the shareholders seem to be paramount, but they get the biggest rewards when things go well; and they must take the ultimate risk when it goes belly-up.

Nationalisation was the only option, and remains the only option, as Europe will not allow the level of support that Darling hopes, and turning the loan into Bonds will simply lumber the now terminal bank with debt it won't be able to repay, whilst the taxpayers now take the shareholders risk but without the return.

It is the indecision and inability to be brutal that is prologuing the death of a once great institution and giving the shareholders false hope. Pull the plug, and pass it to the Bank of England asap, and then try to sell the loan book at some time in the future.

Or is Nationalisation now such a dirty word in the Labour Party?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Renewable energy

There are few politicians who do not pay lip service to just how much they support renewable energy, and just how important it is in ensuring that we have a balanced energy supply in the future.

I say "lip service", because almost without exception there is an important caveat to their statements. A prime example came about this week.

An SNP MSP has expressed concern about the visual impact of wind farm developments in his constituency. "Wind farms must be sited in appropriate locations that do not diminish an area's scenic character." Mr Crawford added that he was a supporter of wind farms and their ability to generate "clean, renewable" sources of energy and said they were vital to meet the targets set by the Scottish Government to reduce the country's carbon footprint.

And I could quote numerous examples from our own MP and MSP.

With the UK now having to deliver 15% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020, the options are starting to get limited.

As a report in the Sunday Herald today points out,

The amount of electricity that would be generated by the 153 wind farms currently held up in the planning queue is enough to provide 60% of all Scotland's power, and could easily replace the nation's nuclear power stations at Hunterston in North Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian.

Bizarrely, all of which means that nuclear seems more - not less - likely as a result of the attitude of the nimby SNP MSPs.

This is going to be exacerbated next week, as I am very reliably told that the decision on the Lewis Wind Power scheme will be for refusal.

Obviously, I'll be very disappointed if that is the case - but I'm delighted that there will be no Public Inquiry as demanded by our parliamentarians - but I understand that a new application for the Stornoway Trust lands only will then be submitted, and is likely to be approved. In other words, the turbines are only unacceptable in some places.

But the development of renewable energy in the islands will be pushed back a few years, and we will face further uncertainty and depopulation in the meantime.

Whatever the decision turns out to be, it is not about winners and losers, but about doing the best for the islands, and I trust that both sides in this debate will work together in the future with that aim in mind.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Drugs bust

The public seem to be surprised that £70,000 of cocaine was seized on the MV Hebrides as it sailed between Uig, Skye, and Tarbert, Harris.

This is the first Class A seizure in the islands.

But not the first appearance of Class A drugs in the islands, where there is a small but persistent hard drugs problem.

A public toilet in Stornoway used to have a problem with discarded needles, as well as being a meeting place for some groups of males.

I took the difficult decision to have the toilet closed (it is due to reopen four years later, having been rebuilt) and had to justify the decision on Isles FM, our local community radio station. Rather than highlight the drugs issue, I became the first - and probably only - person to use the word 'cottaging' on air. This provoked the phone call to the studio from an old cailleach (Old woman) who asked "De tha seo cottaging?" (What is cottaging?). The tactful answer was, "If you don't know, they you don't want to know"

But back to the story.

I understand that, the 'intelligence led operation' came about following another recent drugs raid in Lewis which - in best tradition of Angus Og - produced the dealers' detailed records of customers and suppliers and deals made. This produced another round of raids, more seizures, and inevitably more work for the Procurator Fiscal.

All round, a good result into which Muggins the Mule has sailed.....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Glasgow life

Glasgow knife woman racist mad cowNow I know that this is not typical of Glasgow, but I just have to bring it to wider attention.

Mary McKay was charged with stabbing Tarik Husan at a bus stop on Tollcross Road, Glasgow, for no apparent reason.

Mr Husan's friend Sarbaz Kamil asked McKay why she had attacked and she replied: "You're all terrorists."

Later McKay said: "I hope the guy is dead. I just stabbed a guy with the same colour of skin as a terrorist."

Ignoring the rampant racism (and why wasn't she charged with a racially aggravated crime), Ms McKay and her QC demonstrated a fine grasp of how not to plead mitigating circumstances. The mitigating excuse for her action deserves to be brought to a wider public, nay the world...

"Her intention was to take a 62 bus and stab her mother but she missed the bus and stabbed the complainer instead."

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Red-throated divers

With about 60 breeding pairs of these birds in the Lewis Peatlands - about 6.4% of the UK population or about 0.8% of the world population - they are a major reason for the objections to the proposed Lewis Wind Farm.

This week, the Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds was published by the RSPB and addressed the issue of the impact on bird populations of climactic change.

The answer was startling - the populations will move about 550km North East by the end of the century.

That's 55km per decade - almost 35 miles - that the birds will move their nesting.

Or another way of looking at it is that they will have left Lewis and moved to the mainland by 2020.

So when the RSPB say, "we need urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and redouble our efforts for nature conservation, if we are to avoid calamitous impacts on birds". That'll include supporting the Lewis Wind Power scheme then?

If the birds are moving North East at such a rate, then what bird populations are going to be left on the island, unless we do something about renewable energy, and quickly?

Trouble in Barra

CalMac have made available on their website the details of the tenders which they submitted for the Lochboisdale-Mallaig route, and lo and behold it matches with everything I was told and has been claimed here.

The full FoI request has not reached any of the parties who submitted it. Yet.

The FoI requests came from Cllr Donald Manford and Stòras Uibhist.

The fall out in Barra is - I am told - horrific, with questions about who was doing what behind whose back; and accusations about the MP and MSP are flying around.

No doubt they will make a full and detailed comment in due course, but I am told that details of their meetings and calls will be made available if they try and wriggle out of their actions.

(Details of those who requested the FoI added at 11:30)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Loganair and BE

With the ending of the BA Franchise for Loganair, everyone expected a straight foll-over of the contract.

What a surprise to find that Loganair will now be part of BE.

After BE acquired the BA Connect routes last year, it opened up many more opportunities for travellers from the islands to get to other locations. Flying exclusively with BA meant that most travel had to be via London, and that you had to book with different airlines to get anywhere.

There are definitely more direct options with BE to travel to locations other than London, but - and this is a big but - how will this impact of the tourists when there are potentially two different carriers? Will we see visitors happy to change airlines in Glasgow, rather than be through ticketed? Or will we attract a new variety of 'regional' tourists - Newquay to Sy for the surfing?

As with every change, it is going to be unsettling, but we will have to make the best of the new opportunities presented.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lochboisdale-Mallaig update

The following comment was made on the posting immediately below, but is potentially so explosive that I think it merits it's own post. The FoI request will prove the accruacy or otherwise of these claims, but if they are even partially true, expect fireworks.....

Insider said...

Almost there, Angus, but just a few corrections to complete the full picture.

Barra was not to be cut-off entirely, the Lochboisdale-Castlebay run was to eventually disappear, as 'the passengers could travel via Eriskay to Uist'. There were to two runs a week using the MV Clansman via Coll and Tiree, taking us back 25 years, and adding hours to the journey. All this was to be subject to 'consultation' with the people of Barra, once it was accepted by the Government.

Of course the Convener knew! All the non-executive directors were fully aware of the bid that was planned and submitted.

But a bit of background: the new proposal came about and was being activitely campaigned for by the SNP, and those leading the negotiations with CalMac and the Minister were:-
Angus B MacNeil MP
Alastair Allan MSP
Jim Mather MSP
Fergus Ewing MSP.

The Minister and the MSPs were told that this proposal had the majority support in both Uist and Barra.

The one person kept in the dark by his own side, and who was totally outside the loop - much to the embarassment of CalMac - was Cllr Donald Manford, the Chair of the Transport Committee on CnES, and member for Barra.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


An advance copy of part of the FoI request about the Mallaig-Lochboisdale tender documentation has made it's way into my hands.

And interesting reading it makes too.

Raising more questions than answers; and some serious questions too.

(Journalists: at this point stop! Unless you mention the blog in your 'exclusive' reports*)

According to the WHFP this week, the tender for Mallaig-Lochboisdale would cost only £600,000 extra to deliver. Wrong! But the question is who gave them this wrong information?

The tentacles stretching from CalMac to the Government seem to be rotten, and the questions must focus on who is misleading whom. And why?

The truth that will be out next week is that the non-compliant tender relates to a proposal included in the tender document (for a mere £600,000 pa extra ) to change the Oban-Castlebay-Lochboisdale service to become a Mallaig-Lochboisdale-Castlebay service.

This was non-compliant because no consultation had taken place with any of the affected communities in breach of every guideline covering CalMac's operations.

I understand that this was CalMac's response to the call from the previous administration for a Mallaig-Lochboisdale service, and when the impact was realised, the request was dropped like a hot potato.

But CalMac brought it back, despite being told it was unacceptable, obviously in the hope of getting the Civil Servants on board (no pun intended) for a politically unacceptable plan.

What is incomprehensible is that the Minister has not been open about this, and why CalMac have found it necessary to spin left, right and centre on this matter.

Unfortunately, this also raises a more local question: when did the Convener of the Comhairle know about this?

It is clear that CalMac cannot be trusted to deliver for the people of the Western Isles, as they are playing a political game aimed towards Edinburgh, and treated the people of these islands as third-class (steerage?).

The solution is surely to put Mallaig-Lochboisdale out to open tender, and leave Oban-Castlebay under CalMac control.

*Especially the Gazette who download files and then ignore the source!

New residents

What the islands thrive on is fresh blood coming in and bringing new skills, experiences and knowledge into the community. Working with the current residents brings rewards and enriches us all. Heaven knows, the islanders have done the same in every corner of the world.

What the islands don't need is house price speculation with non-residents cornering the market and pricing everyone else out - it's not like you can commute here to work.

It is good to see such a positive article in this weekend's Financial Times magazine, together with lovely photos and descriptions of how hard, but rewarding, it can be to live here, especially for those who have downsized and turned to crofting for a living.

Peter "poor adminstration" Hain

Peter Hain permatan twatPeter Hain (right) has already had a justified kicking in the blogosphere from those even more vitriolic and sweary than I, and totally justified too.

His latest statement (with no questions allowed) is a masterclass in evasion, pomposity, waffle and self-delusion, and proves that the 'great and the good' need to be culled often, painfully and publicly to remind us of the wise words of Voltaire "pour encourager les autres".
In a statement he said the idea he had attempted "to hide anything is absurd".

This from a Minister who is in charge of a vicious campaign to pursue 'benefit cheats' who are guilty until they can prove their innocence. Mr Hain also said the senior civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions was "satisfied" that none of the donations had breached the ministerial code.

The public are concerned about you rampant stupidity, gross misconduct and general unfittness for public office, not about an irrelevant (for these purposes) ministerial code.

In his statement, delivered to reporters outside his Neath constituency home Mr Hain said that it was after the end of the campaign that "the extent of outstanding debt became apparent to me".

My arse.

Having got the full support from Gordon Brown, I can no only conclude that he is toast as soon as the Commissioner for Standards lambasts him.

However, in true NuLab fashion (learnt from the Major Government) he will hold on for grim death before succumbing to the inevitable, making it an even more painful death for his party, and bringing them further into disrepute.

Last words to Nick Clegg (LibDem leader in case you had forgotten):
"From what I've heard I can't really distinguish between what appears to be either utter incompetence in the way his campaign was run, or deliberate obfuscation."

Friday, January 11, 2008

The 'safety' culture

Readers in the Western isles will remember this story...

An entire Coastguard unit has resigned in protest at the sacking of their leader - hours after he led the search for a father and son killed in a canoeing tragedy. [...] But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said he had contravened health and safety rules on a number of occasions and had to be disciplined.

When Mr Morrison got home after midnight, a full-time Coastguard official was waiting with a letter of dismissal. [...]

It is believed that the long-serving Mr Morrison had been warned in the past about the MCA's concerns relating to health and safety practices, and a series of informal meetings had been held with senior officials regarding them. The spokesman would not specify what those health and safety concerns had been, but said they involved Mr Morrison's "methodology" of working.

This practice now seems to be the norm....

A volunteer coastguard who won an award for rescuing a schoolgirl from a crumbling cliff ledge has resigned after a row over health and safety.

Paul Waugh climbed down to Faye Harrison, 13, who was hanging on by her fingertips and about to fall 200ft (60m) at Salburn-on-Sea, Teesside. He did not wear safety equipment as it would have taken time to go back to his vehicle which was some distance away.

Mr Waugh was later told he had broken rules and was under investigation. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was not looking for dead heroes.

But dead children seem to be acceptable to the MCA (A public agency in case you have forgotten).This is not about "Health and Safety", it is about pen-pushers with nothing better to do covering their arses to make sure they never carry any of the blame for anything. Ever.

It cannot be longer before the entire Coastguard are banned from cliff-edges as they are deemed "too dangerous" by some never-was who has never had to get their hands dirty.

There is a time and place for Health and Safety, and appropriate training is necessary, but when it results in this, and in children drowning whilst rescuers just watch, then you know it has just gone totally wrong.

Let's get some balance back into life, by reintroducing common sense at the expenses of petty rules.

Windfarm decision

So according to the Enterprise Minister speaking to Lesley Riddoch, "There is going to be a decision made very shortly", and "I think we have consulted widely and heard local opinion loud and clear."

All of which is slightly opaque, but there is one certainty - there will be no referendum.

Allied to the fairly vague press release issued by our MSP finally calling for a clear and early decision, it all seems to add up to an interesting few weeks.

I'm very pleased that the matter should be resolved soon.

Interpreting Mr Mather's words I think I can safely state that there is going to be no Public Local Inquiry, and we are going to get a clean decision. Mr Mather's words make me think it is going to be rejected, but Mr Allan's press release makes me think approval is on the cards. So I haven't a clue what the likely outcome is going to be.

If it is approved, I will be delighted, a position I have been advocating since I considered the proposals in detail.

If it is refused, then the question is "What now for Lewis?". I have also argued that if the moor is such an important national resource, then the community should be rewarded for not disturbing it. In other words, the Government should effectively buy the development rights from the public, providing the communities with alternative funding to allow them to develop. This what the political opponents should have been arguing, rather than just for a straight refusal.

However, I fear that the area will be sterilised by a refusal, preventing any future developments in the area whether by the community or third parties.

And with the community having a huge windfall snatched from under it's noses.

Refusal would bring with it a concomitant responsibility on the Government to find alternative opportunities for the islands to secure our future, rather than cast us aside as another St Kilda.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nuclear power stations

I'm delighted to see the Scottish Government putting it's foot down against the building of any new nuclear power stations in Scotland. It has my total support for it's stance.

However, the Scottish Government also needs to take early decisions on how it is to ensure continuity of power supplies by making decisions on the applications for renewable energy developments, and also to take other concomitant decisions on other sources.

The prevarication and delay in London - and hence the paralysis in the previous Scottish administration - means that the options are becoming time limited, and that difficult decisions are now becoming urgent, very urgent, or long overdue.

It is likely that we will have to have a mix of old and new technology, with an emphasis on testing and developing new renewable sources, as well as relying on some imports, but this is not the time for delay.

Nice work if you can get it....

Tony Blair rapacious gitSo instead of taking forward the small matter of peace in the middle-east as the Blessed Tony promised when he left office, he has instead got a job with rapacious international financiers.

Tony Blair has taken a part-time post with US investment bank JPMorgan.

Mr Blair, who stood down as UK prime minister in June last year, has been employed "in a senior advisory capacity", the bank said.

He said he looked forward to advising the bank on the "political and economic changes that globalisation brings".

It is not known how much JPMorgan will pay him, but some estimates say more than $1m (£500,000) a year. The bank said he had a "unique perspective".

Yes, $1m salary for a part time job.

Next, expect the dyed in the wool Thatcherite Socialist to become a non-resident of the UK and not pay any tax on that income here. Although the upsides are that we won't have to put up with his smarminess, and Cherie will have to go with him.

Perhaps this explains his knee-jerk opposition to having a higher rate of tax for the highest earners.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Three days into the New Year diet and I haven't broken yet. Yet.

A final feeding frenzy over the weekend to consume all the chocolate hidden in the house (to keep it away from the children you understand!) was very successful, and we found other treats that were duly scoffed.

Monday saw the new regime of fruit, vegetables, low-fat cooking, and no red wine kick in with the expected consequences of unbearable smugness and sky-high expectations.

Tuesday saw the new regime of fruit, vegetable, low-fat cooking and no red wine augmented by the first visit to the gym for a few weeks. Making my way there in shorts in freezing winds and driving rain saw the resolve start to crack. Badly. The only consolation was the prospect of a warm shower after I was finished - and boy, was I finished after half an hour.

Day three has brought the blessed relief of some red meat. Albeit stir fried with loads of veg.

The absence of pre-dinner snacks whilst the kids eat their tea has been easy, but the introduction of muesli with skimmed milk into my breakfast routine has been contrary to the Geneva Convention.

Still, the red wine has been replaced with white, and despite the throbbing pain in my body from the gym I will tell anyone who can be bothered to listen that I feel better already.

I may even managed a second week of it.

Angus on a dietWhat! No biscuits?

Bush's Middle-East tour

As the gormless one lands in Tel Aviv in his efforts to bring peace to the troubled Middle East look like he is doing something try to secure some sort of legacy for his Presidency, who is better placed to bring intellectual rigour to resolve the unresolvable regional issues in merely one - brief - visit.

There is just one question on everyone's lips as this process comes to a Press Conference frenzied climax stuttering slow death -- where is his bag-carrier, special emissary for peace in the Middle East, living saint and professional brown-noser Tony Blair?

Yo! Bitch!


Councillor or senior employee of the Comhairle?I understand that my former colleagues and all the new Councillors were flame grilled by the Vice-Convener yesterday at their not away day, to try to find the source of my previous posting.

Why limit your suspicions to the elected members?

As always, my lips are sealed about my sources, and I look forward to receiving a copy of the response from John Swinney in due course.

Note to BBC and Gazette: please read the copyright notice, and mention my Blog when you lift stories!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Capital budget

Would any Councillor be able to forward a copy of the letter from the Vice-Convener to John Swinney which suggests that the Comhairle capital budget could be cut by 30% under the new formula?

And a copy of the Committee papers would be nice too.

Enjoy your 'away day' tomorrow, which I understand is away in the sense of being held in the Members dining room, rather than in the Council Chamber. Any good gossip arising from this session will be gratefully received.

Update 2 hours later: Thanks to sources for the copy letter, which shows that permitted Capital Expenditure may drop from £11.3m to £4.3m, which will have a major impact.

It appears that the formula is based on population and road length, meaning that peripherality and the costs of service delivery to small and rural populations are not only excluded, but penalised. And the winners are???

I've also been sent a copy of the Committee papers, which I'll need time to digest.

Unbelievable, but sad

Thousands of Pakistanis have fled into Afghanistan with the security situation deteriorating in Pakistan's tribal regions over the past week. Hundreds of families, comprising some 6,000 mainly women and children, have been crossing the border.

According to the BBC, 'our strongman' in the region who is there to bolster the fight against terrorism and Al-Qaeda is presiding over a state that is in such a state that the citizens are going to Afghanistan to be safe.

With 'friends' like that .....

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sunday ferries - the end game?

I understand from reports from the highest levels, that the CalMac Board will recommend that a Sunday ferry run between Stornoway and Ullapool be operated from the commencement of the 2008 Summer timetables.

This is claimed to be in response the aspirations of those who want a late Saturday night ferry to allow sportsmen and women to take part in events on the mainland and get home before the Sunday; and, to level the increased traffic flows across all seven days when RET (or what passes for RET) is introduced on this route.

Of course, all this has to be approved by the Minister, who has already indicated that he has no intention of making any kind of decision about such a contentious decision - which in terms of the relevant legislation is by default an approval.

Other informants advise me that the Lord's Day Observance Society, headed by the Rev Coghill
will be seeking to arrange an anti-SNP vote at the next elections from their supporters. Which places a number of the signatories on the petition into a difficult position.

There is a very poisonous undercurrent of anti-Catholicism from a few of the LDOS supporters with Angus MacNeil MP - as a good Barra Catholic - being ascribed a central machiavellian role in the whole affair. Personally, I think such accusations are wildly wrong, but his failure to take any kind of stance on the issue is being taken as 'evidence' of his guilt.

One thing is for certain, the media will have a field day portraying the islands as backward, isolationist and obsessed with religion, whilst the real issues remain a mystery to the majority.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Nuclear plans awry. Again!

The dishonest way in which Tony Blair tried to force new nuclear power stations on the public hit the buffers last year when the Courts ruled that it was "seriously flawed" and "misleading".

You will remember that his strategy was not to do anything until there were no options BUT nuclear, and then present it as a fait accompli. Tony being Tony, he lost interest in his plans half way through and ended up driving to get someone else to drive through his plans, but without enough thought and planning going into it.


Now the latest review of the review has - according to the BBC - concluded that "Poor consultation practice wastes people's time and can seriously undermine people's trust in government", and that the whole process should start again, and this time address the real issues - which they detail.

It looks like the Government are now on a hiding to nothing with this, but because alternatives have been strangled at birth to try to make nuclear the only option, we face a serious energy problem in this country in the coming years. This will leave us reliant on other countries to meet our energy needs, and entirely at the mercy of the markets, whilst wave, wind and hydro are virtually ignored by Ministers and every new application meets with barrages of opposition.

Can anyone tell me what we are going to do for power if every alternative is unacceptable?

An inter-connector?

The news that the Scottish Government plan to include an inter-connector as a key element of the infrastructure plans has to be welcomed by all and sundry.

Unless you happen to be our MSP.

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, he has taken a totally negative stance and states that it doesn't mean that the big windfarms being approved.

Having conspicuously failed to do anything to support the plans for an inter-connector, our MSP and MP have continued to take the stance that it is A Bad Thing, as it may been seen to support the big windfarm applications.

This total absence of foresight; the failure to understand the big picture; the attempts to prevent the island moving forward; and, the inability to see past their obsessions have left the local SNP positioned as anti-renewable energy, and this was one of the key reasons why I said I refused to stand again as an SNP Councillor.

This inter-connector should be actively pursued by everyone and used as a tool to encourage the development of community windfarms; to encourage the hydrogen project at Lews Castle College; to attract the development of wave and tidal power of the west coast; and even to have the Pelamis built, tested and developed in the islands.

No. The local SNP would rather just be negative about the whole idea, instead of campaigning to have the sectoral opportunities located here. The saddest part is that many people from the islands will be working in the renewable sector - just commuting and working in Aberdeen, Orkney or even Nigg, when they would much rather be at home with their families building a secure future for their children.

(BTW, there is already a fibre-optic cable running from the Western Isles. Unfortunately it is a military one, and consequently "doesn't exist")

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wishes for 2008

My very best wishes for 2008 to all my readers, friends and family.

My hopes for the coming year include the usual aspirations for world peace, joy and happiness throughout the world and Scotland to win the Six Nations rugby.

However, I would like to thank the politicians at every level who have been the target of my observations, abuse and mischief that I have perpetrated in 2007.

This blog wouldn't be worth anything without your stupid comments, inconsistencies, self-importance, omissions and sporadic lack of ability. Indeed, some of the targets demonstrate a consistent lack of ability which provides much material.

Long may it continue.

But most of all, I'd like to thank everyone who comments - whether that be to attack or support anything I have said - as you are the ones who keep me right. Even if it is embarrassing when I get it wrong.

Thank you all.