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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Out of the mouths of children.....

SNH Gagging childrenThe children of Barra have had a long and illustrious history of activism, and successful activism, on community issues.

It was thanks to sustained pressure from the school children that Barra got mobile phones; and they even went to the House of Commons to campaign for the retention of the air service to Barra.

They know their community and are not scared to make their views known. Model children for the future in other words.

Or not, as the case may be if you are a Quango.

Sources in the Education Department have told me that when Scottish National Heritage heard that the school children of Barra were going to demonstrate yesterday against SNH and the possible designation of the Sound of Barra as a Marine Special Area of Conservation, then SNH jumped into action.

Phone calls, faxes and assorted threats later, the Education Department instructed the two Barra schools not to allow their children to show their views on the possible designation, as it wasn't the media image that SNH wanted to give.

SNH are, of course, happy to go into schools and give their perspective, but any contrary view meets with this heavy handed approach. It looks like democracy only works one way in their mind.

Does the Minister know what is being done by the organisation is is nominally responsible for?

The actual meeting in the Craigard was full to overflow, but SNH refused to discuss the issues, clkaiming that they were there to have only an informal chat, mingle and make small talk. Which required about 75% of the attendees to leave the room so that SNH, assorted hangers-on, and the vast coterie of officials, could have cheese and wine and make meaningless noises.

All at vast public expense.

SNH is held in such huge contempt by large sections of the public that it claims to represent that the need for it's very existence is questioned by most of those directly affected. This reflects very, very, badly on the entire process and consequently upon the Government itself, who seem unable - or perhaps unwilling - to take any action to bring the organisation under control.

This cavalier behaviour cannot be allowed to continue, but we've been saying this for a decade, and it is only getting worse, not better.

If they can't debate with the children who will be directly affected by the decisions they want to bring in, then why should they be trusted that what they are doing is the right thing?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Council complaints procedures - the black hole

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is seeking an urgent meeting with the Comhairle, about their handiling of complaints.

The policy is clear:
Your complaint will be acknowledged by, or on behalf of, the Head of Service within three working days of receipt.[...]

You will be advised in writing of the outcome of your complaint within 21 days and be given the opportunity to discuss the outcome if you so wish. If a decision cannot be given within 21 days you will be informed of the reasons for any delay.
Today, it is now 150 days since a complaint I made was acknowledged, and 170 since it was received without any further update being received.

Good stuff!

No doubt Audit & Scrutiny Committee will have a very good look at whatever the Ombudsman says.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ferry subsidies are allowed

Was there anyone who really thought that - post Altmark - there was no way that CalMac could continue to receive a subsidy?

Cllr Manford and I read the decision carefully some 6 years ago, and only the blind or terminally stupid could have tried to insist that tendering was essential on life-line ferry services.

So it proved, when Scottish Labour continued to drive through the ludicrous deconstruction of CalMac into goodness knows how many companies to meet some fabled (and utterly unjustified) 'European' requirement for a west-coast maritime Railtrack.

Thankfully, Europe have eventually made the position clear and we can now see the CalMac ferries being brought back into a sensible single structure; rather than the fragmented shambles it has become.

Can't we? Can't we?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Raft of school closures on the horizon

That's the headline in Hebrides News.

This is not about new schools, per se, but about balancing the budget.

The Council face a number of very serious challenges in achieving the aim of rationalisation:
  • The parents and teachers don't trust you
  • What Councillor is going to vote to close a school in his ward?
  • The Government want to protect rural schools, at a cost to the Council; not the Government
  • Our MSP has made protection of Gaelic a higher priority than educational quality
  • Is there actually a coherent plan?
On the positive side, the Chair of Education - Morag Munro - is probably the very best person to have in post to make these decisions and drive them through.

However, I predict many tears before bedtime, and many changes to the plans before the communities accept the inevitable - the money isn't there to keep all the schools open; and it is not in your children's best educational interest to be educated in a class of three in a semi-derelict building.

Anyone understand this?

Congratulations to my brother who has just seen a patent of his published for approval.

I might be being just a bit thick, but does anyone understand just what "Secure Boot with Optional Components Method" actually means?

Kenneth, whatever you are doing is highly impressive but totally unintelligible to us mere mortals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Edwyn Collins - utter genius

Edwyn CollinsFriday night saw us out and about on the town, which is extremely unusual, as we normally prefer dinner and a few drinks on a Saturday.

We had booked tickets for Edwyn Collins at An Lanntair, and due to mainland travel and sick children we really weren't sure that we were going to make it.

What a night we had! Truly one of the best nights out we have had in a very long time, and the best live music that we have seen in years.

The support act, "The 1990s" came highly recommended by one of our staff, who had seen them live previously. They had a difficult job warming up the crowd who were predominantly slightly older than their usual target market i.e. 40-somethings and older. However, they were very good, suitably loud and made an excellent counter balance to the main attraction.

Although sparsely attended, the tour which is billed as "The Restoration of Edwyn Collins" (a reference to his serious illness) was utterly wonderful, from the moment Edwyn walked onto stage and perched on the speaker to the end of the encour. I saw the set list as we went to our seats and was delighted to see a mix of old and new, covering the Orange Juice years right up to a new song he had co-written with someone from the Cribs.

The highly professional band - which included the guitarist from Primal Scream - were absolutely excellent, and provided an excellent backing to an highly emotional and personal set from Edwyn. The songs were all so obviously chosen from an extensive catalogue to relate to his 'restoration', but poignancy never became mawkishness; and there was absolutely no suggestion of any self-pity.

My good lady ended up dancing to "A Girl Like You" along with some of the 1990s.

Afterwards we stopped in the bar for a beer or three, and ended up being very late talking to the bands, the management (Mrs Collins) and to Edwyn himself.

I remember seeing Edwyn and Orange Juice in (I think) the Locarno in the early 1980's, but it might have been the Edinburgh College of Art. And Friday night was every bit as good, as I'm not sure I would be up to a mosh-pit any longer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Five mainland firms in running to build new island schools

Did any of the local firms try to get on the tender list, or did none of them make it to the event in Glasgow?

I was told UBC were going to try to get on the shortlist.

I can see the successful bidder coming here, setting up a base to try and win other work before, during and after the schools project, and destroying the local construction industry.

Actually, the Council will be the ones destroying the local construction industry as all the capital budgets are being raided and committed to this project, meaning that nothing else of significance is going to be built or repaired.

Good news for the islands? Hardly.

Good news for the mainland consultants? Snouts in troughs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

#Things can only get better#

A Scottish Government press release gives a flavour of the economic problems facing Scotland.


Scotland's Chief Statistician today announced the release of Gross Domestic Product for Scotland for 2009 Q2.

This quarterly publication measures growth, in real terms, in Gross Domestic Product at Basic Prices, also known as Gross Value Added, for Scotland.

The main findings are:

* GDP fell by 3.2 per cent annually and fell by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2009 (seasonally adjusted)
* In the year to end-October 2009, the Scottish service sector fell by 2.5 per cent, the production sector declined by 5.7 per cent and the construction sector fell by 6.3 per cent
* In the second quarter of 2009, the service sector fell by 0.4 per cent, the production sector declined by 1.9 per cent and the construction sector fell by 2.8 per cent


I'm not going to shoot the messenger, but I am going to caution against the impact of trying to spend your way out of this deep hole. As in the 1980's, manufacturing is being hit especially hard and the capacity of the Scottish and British economy to recover seems to lie with services and with public sector spending.

Neither of these are the way to built a strong long-lasting and resilient economy, with the former being more transitory and easily transferable to a lower-cost country; and the later having the effect of smothering the country with bureaucracy and paperwork whilst delivering ego-stroking and over-priced capital projects at the expense of public services.

Counter-cyclical spending is - of course - part of the answer, but there is also going to have to be economic contraction towards the essential public sector core. And that is a fact that the Scottish Government would do well to acknowledge and take action upon now, before the Westminster Government force these unpleasant decisions upon them.

And, yes, I do realise that provoking a battle may be part of the strategy, but that's not really going to help economic growth.

Bank regulation

This is obviously the be all and end all to avoiding another economic crisis, isn't it?

No, of course not, as The Governor of the Bank of England explicitly stated:
Mervyn King said it was a "delusion" that tightening regulation could stop banks' most risky activities from failing and leading to huge losses.
The real secret to avoiding losses in in risk pricing, and bank regulation and stopping the biggest bonuses won't stop the same happening again. They might slightly mitigate the risk, but that is going to be insignificant, unless the risk pricing is directly related to the bonuses.

To explain: the banks will normally charge you a higher rate of interest if your borrowings are considered to be of higher risk (duh!!) or if they fund a bigger percentage - nothing different than you or I would do if asked for a few grand by a mate.

Where it all went wrong was that reward was being based on the loans being issued (more accurately the interest received, or expected to be received) and consequently the bankers persuaded the risk departments to lower the rating and hence the interest they were charging. Because, er, everyone else was doing it.

Bonuses flew out the doors as a common interest in ignoring reality meant extra special pay-days for the front -line staff and those tasked with keeping them under control.

Where banks will succeed in the future is in getting the risk pricing right.

Customers will always be there to draw down the borrowings and if Mr X and his risky new business gets two only offers of Base +10% and Base +15%, there will still be some who will pay that premium. But the bankers must be rewarded not just on the higher interest they earn, but also charged for the defaults that emerge,which means longer term incentive schemes and less focus on champagne by the case tomorrow.

This of course not a reflection on the real bankers in the real branches who deal with real money and who we see in the street every week, but instead the nation of spivs that have been created over the past 20 years.

Rant over. Clients with good businesses unable to renew or extend overdraft facilities as the banks are lending any money, despite the promises to do so; excessive security demands from risk departments that have gone from tarts to prudes overnight.

Conflicts of interest...

The Minute of the Human Resource sub-Committee of 27 August 2009 was pushed through my letterbox last night (many thanks to whoever), and just what an eye-opener it was.....

19. The Chief Executive submitted a Report to enable the Sub-Committee to consider a request for retirement in the interest of efficiency of the service by employee OP. The Report detailed the terms of the request, the financial consequences of the request and provided details of how these financial consequences could be met.

The Sub-Committee adjourend at 2:50pm and re-convened at 4:00pm on Tuesday 1 September 2009 [the next day] when the following Members were found to be present.

Norman A MacDonald (Chairman)
Angus Campbell
Annie MacDonald
Norman M MacLeod

It was agree that employee OP be retired in the interests of the efficiency of the service with immediate effect subject to:

(a) thew agreement of employee OP to relinquish the right to pay in lieu of notice;
(b) no compensation payment being made other than in respect of accrued pension rights; and
(c) the agreement of employee OP to sign a Compromise Agreement consistent with the terms of the draft attached as Appendix 1 to the Report as amended to take account of the foregoing paragraphs (a) and (b)


Councillors may wish to ask
  • why a suspended employee was able to retire before the discipline process was completed?
  • just what the Compromise Agreement said? (any chance of a copy, please)
  • just who was covering their backside using public money to try to hide a problem?
  • why Councillors are still being kept in the dark about the complaint and the its subsequent handling?
  • where is the Audit & Scrutiny Committee in all of this?
Given that the Chair of the Committee and the Chief Executive's office were both intimately involved in directing and deciding upon the course of events that formed the basis of the original complaint, did neither think that there might just be the tinniest suggestion of a conflict of interest?

Tackling the BNP

It is no good having ex-Generals complaining about the BNP 'hijacking' symbols of Britain's military successes and expecting anything to com from it, other than good publicity for the BNP.

If they have successfully used Churchill or (ironically and unwittingly) Polish spitfire pilots as part of their campaign against immigration, then that is because they understand how to connect with their key voters and their potential voters. Perhaps better than any other party.

If they are the only party playing on folk memories as an electoral tool, then they are doing because it is effective.

Presumably these same ex-Generals wouldn't want to see any PM awarding medals to the military in case that could be perceived to be some kind of implied political advantage for Gordon Brown or David Cameron.

The bottom line is that a political party that we don't like is able to deliver its message efficiently and effectively; and instead of addressing the issue too many people want to brush it under the carpet, which will only invigorate its activists and supporters who ill feel further marginalised and excluded by political society.

If the military symbols are significant and strike a strong positive chord with voters, then the mainstream parties need to use these images and attitudes to draw people away form the negative and poisonous views of the BNP and back into the the fold.

All we are doing is making martyrs and storing up trouble for the future, when decisive leadership is urgently needed.

I don't particularly relish seeing the BNP on Question Time, but they need to be exposed, and beaten in logical argument, and the responsibility lies with the other members of the panel to put aside their own divisions and achieve that single important end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sgoiltean Ùra - the story so far

I don't know how Hebrides News got the story of the offer of £10,000 of taxpayers money we received from Sgoiltean Ùra, but I can (obviously) confirm that it is correct and that they also offered to pay some - and only some - of our legal fees.

Without admitting liability.

I hadn't really wanted this to get into the public domain for reasons I won't go into at present, but the legal defences are now in from Sgoiltean Ùra, and whilst they are a public document, there are good tactical reasons for keeping my cards close to my chest at the moment.

I'm not going elaborate any more at the moment, as the period for adjustments in the Court of Session is still open (search for Nicolson) for another few weeks, and there are other matters going on in parallel.

I can also confirm that complaints have gone to Audit Scotland and detailed complaints will be following to the Public Service Ombudsman and to the Standards Commission. About who and what I'm not saying.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Gordon Brown is a .....

Gordon Browntry this at home......

Thanks to "you know who you are".

Alex Salmond's best quotes

Which of the following was actually said by Alex Salmond this week?
  1. Kenny MacAskill is like Mahatma Gandhi.
  2. Nicola Sturgeon is the new Mother Teresa
  3. Jim Mather knows more about economics than John Maynard Keynes (but less than me)
  4. The SNP have improved yields from Gaelic peat banks by 40% this year
  5. Alasdair Allan is Scotland first professional cage fighter
  6. If we spend even more money that we haven't got, then everything will be fine
  7. All of the above

Geographic illiteracy

The country is on the move again.....
"We are a Nordic, European country, currently part of a debt-laden sub-prime toxic assent currency we don't want to be part of and which is not serving our interests well."
Said John Swinney, Finance Minister, and thankfully not Minister with Responsibility for Knowing Where we Are.

Until recently we were a 'Celtic Tiger' until the Eurozone went into meltdown and that analogy was binned.

If we are going to move again, can I request that we become a Mediterranean country, or perhaps a sub-tropical Caribbean paradise and international banking haven. That would solve many of the problems in one fell swoop.

A Lewis summer
Coll Beach in the New Scotland

But the statement deserves closer examination, especially in terms of the context in which it was uttered.

This was during a debate about whether Scotland should hold a referendum on joining the Euro, and see us become "part of a debt-laden sub-prime toxic assent currency we don't want to be part of and which is not serving our interests well".

The ironies were glossed over, not least those from the National Secretary who said that a referendum was:
"the politics of moral failure"
Sorry? Are you saying that assessing the will of the people is some kind of weakness? What next: the abolition of elections to show your moral superiority?

All in all, it was a pretty poor showing, with only some minor headline grabbing and little of substance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Missing, presumed acting under orders

With the SNP Conference in full swing in Inverness (of which much more later) one prominent local member is absent.

Is it a Councillor?
Is it long time activist?
Is it a newly enthused new young member?

No. None of the above.

So just who 'forgot' to go to Conference? Given that Conference is almost mandatory these days.

Spotted in Oban attending the Mod, having a diary mistake, is none other than Angus B MacNeil MP.

Any suggestions why he has skipped out of the most important event in the SNP calendar?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Berlusconi backs Blair for EU job

Blair and Berlusconi
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has endorsed Tony Blair as his preferred candidate to be president of the European Union.
One is a right-wing millionaire megalomaniac within Messianic self-belief who destroyed the economy of his country, and the other is Prime Minister of Italy.

As you're judged by the company you keep then you can already see where the EU is going.

Is there nothing Tony won't do for a large wedge of cash?

Vodka and saunas...

Sauna in the western isles (not)...and other gratuitous stereotypes, doesn't take away from the technological success of Finland. Nor the (hugely ambitious) depth of their broadband ambitions for the public.

As in all of the public.
Kudos to the Finnish government, which has just introduced laws guaranteeing broadband access to every person living in Finland (5.5 million people, give or take).

This is reportedly a first worldwide.

Starting July 2010, every person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabit broadband connection as an intermediate step, says the Ministry of Transport and Communications. By the end of 2015, the legal right will be extended to an impressive 100 Mb broadband connection for everyone.Finnish vodka
Read that and weep.

Finland is the country that is home to Nokia and who have sought to find practical uses for every element of IT in an effort to benefit the entire population

We are the country where broadband is dependent upon tidal conditions.

Anyone know when the next flight to Helsinki is?

MP's expenses

fat catThe politicians really, really just don't get it, do they?

Their self-build ivory towers have put them so out of touch with reality that it is frightening.

Somehow many of them still believe that they should receive tax-free lump sums for anything and everything that they can conjure up and write on a claim form.

And then they complain when they are told their claims are excessive.

Excessive, mind, when in fact many of them are totally f'ing outrageous.

All the while they still happily employ family members on a fat salary and enjoy a tax-free profit on their flats that have been paid for by the taxpayer.

Hopefully reality will bite* after the next election.

* Not a reference to Toblerone

Scam emails

If you receive an email that looks like this, please ignore it as it is a scam to obtain your credit card details. (I have removed the hyperlink). These messages are coming thick and fast to all sorts of email addresses, and one give away is the address to which the message is sent is not easily recognisable. This one came to tom at sparkes dot co dot uk.


From: HM Revenue and Customs []

Taxpayer ID: tom-00000222351832UK
Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)

Please review your tax statement on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website (click on the link below):

review tax statement for taxpayer id: tom-00000222351832UK

HM Revenue and Customs

Monday, October 12, 2009

Desperate times

The planned £16,000,000,000 sale of the 'non-financial' assets held by central and local Government is nothing if not a desperate attempt to plug the enormous hole in the economy.

A hole created (or at very least encouraged) by Gordon Brown himself.

The sheer desperation is dispiriting, indicating as it does that the problem is even deeper than they are letting on.

But the noxious smell of sulphur indicates that dirty politics are at work here, and not genuine economic thought:
Ahead of the speech Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio 4's Today the sell-offs, which he said was an alternative to "savage" cuts planned by the Conservatives, could include local authority-owned airports.
Yes, it is all party political, not what is best for you and I. The ground for the main battlefield of the next election is already being laid. And it consists of (as Labour will portray it) sensible measures already taken to help the economy recover versus selling your granny to an organ farm.

Vince Cable has the best take on this,and I am in total agreement with him:
"What worries me about the government proposal is that they're proposing to sell off in very depressed markets, under very depressed markets for land and for shares."
Who can forget Brown's masterly sale of the UK Gold Reserves at $300 per ounce between 1999 and 2002. Gold now stands at £1,050 for the self-same oz.

It is a buyer's market, and the public are going to be scalped in these deals. But what is that cost in comparison to the possibility of re-election.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

RET - the questions continue

An email has been sent out to many local residents apparently using the ADS database, which reads as follows (my emphasis):

Dear Member,

The Scottish Government launched the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pilot scheme in October 2008, reducing fares by 40% on ferry routes between the Western Isles and the Scottish mainland. Halcrow has been commissioned to evaluate the ongoing operation of the pilot scheme and assess its value for money for Scottish taxpayers. With this in mind, we are asking for your permission to participate in an online survey to hear your views on how RET has impacted on your life over its first year of operation. The results from the survey will inform the interim evaluation of the pilot scheme which is currently being undertaken.

Please be assured that your responses will be treated in strictest confidence and all completed responses will be entered into a prize draw, as a token of our thanks for participating in the survey.

I am asking whether you would be agreeable to being contacted by the consultant above for the purposes of evaluating the Scottish Government’s Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pilot scheme.

Your agreement to participate in the evaluation will be accepted on the basis that your e-mail details will be provided to the chosen consultant solely for that purpose. All responses will be treated confidentially by the Scottish Government and the consultant.

I would be grateful if you would confirm by responding to this email by 14th October 2009 whether you are willing to participate in the evaluation of the Road Equivalent Tariff pilot.

Yours sincerely


Now call me a cynic, but....

Assess its value for money for Scottish taxpayers seems to make the principal criteria cost, rather than the economic benefit (or impact) on the islands, which is a worrying starting point.

Evaluate the ongoing operation reads to me like an escape route being set-up by the Government.

Take a step back, and look at the current economic climate and there are going to have to be big cuts in various places and there is no good reason why RET should be excluded from the review, unless we can demonstrate that the economic impact is such that removal of RET will cripple the Western Isles economy.

The Taskforce worked wonders on the Uist rocket range, despite having only very short notice of the proposals. This time the Council (I'm not expecting HIE to deliver much) and anyone else they can bring in will need to start work soon on building the case and persuading Ministers of the importance of the scheme.

I expect the review will be completed sometime just ahead of the Holyrood election, but the decision will be taken by the incoming party. That might be our opportunity to get the parties competing to offer the best deal.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Buy Local

Buying locally - which means small local shops, rather than the nearest superstore - is an admirable message and one I don't always achieve.

Buy Local

There is always the problem that the local shops don't stock what you need, and you need it now!

And (let's be honest) there can also be a price issue.

The news that Amazon have removed the delivery contract from the Royal Mail for items over 500g is undoubtedly going to have a serious impact here.

Not just because of the amount that is bought from Amazon, but the impact it will have on other mail-order companies, and then on the viability of the postal system as a whole.

(added later) There are also a large number of businesses locally who rely on a good reliable postal service for exporting goods, and if the Royal Mail prices increase then it could force some of them out of business.

The playing field is not level. The Post Office must deliver to every address at the same price. The new entrants into the market can cherry-pick the most profitable business.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: the only way to protect the Royal Mail service Universal Service Obligation is for new entrants in the UK-wide postal market to be forced to provide a USO within (perhaps) five years of entering into the market.

That will both challenge and protect the Royal Mail through the changes in the market, whilst meeting the Government's primary objective of deregulation.

Watch the local politicians wring their hands in despair at the potential impact on these islands, and see if any actually have a sensible solution.....

(Thanks to a twitterer for the tip-off)

Update: Exiting from the first update, what is the GoogleAds on the Blogger page
Beat the postal strike
Send with the UK's best carriers. Book online now from only £6.50.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

RET the saga never ends

One upon time, Angus MacNeil believed in and campaigned for *real* RET and not the poor relative we have been given....

From: John MacInnes [] 
Sent: 14 December 2005 13:45

For immediate release: Wednesday, December 14th



Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, yesterday (Tuesday)brought the issue of Road Equivalent Tariffs for ferries to the House of Commons in an adjournment debate on Rural and Island Transport.

Speaking after the debate, Mr MacNeil said:

"This short debate was raised by the Member for the Isle of Wight, and I felt it was important to raise the issue of Road Equivalent Tariffs which are of major importance to my constituency.

"It is one of the most crucial points for islanders, be they on the Isle of Wight or the Scottish islands of Na h-Eileanan an Iar that a mile travelled at sea should be equivalent to a mile travelled on land.

"It is important that there should be some equality in fares to overcome the disadvantage of island living.

"This issue will not go away.  It is vital that the Government understands how important this issue is to island communities."


Contact - Angus MacNeil: 07733 077799
If only he actually believed what he once mouthed he would be trying to get us the real deal from his colleagues in Holyrood instead of telling us to be happy with what they have deigned to give us.

Football and broadband

Football is not a topic that normally excites me very much - the World Cup just about does it - but when football meets technology there can be some unfortunate results.

Some of you out there are undoubtedly England supporters, but if you fancy watching the Ukraine game then you are going to have to sign up to a website, as it is only available on line.

With a fairly decent 8Mb connection actually delivering c.3Mb at home and at work, I could easily watch the game live. I hesitate to think what it is going to look like on the West Side, in Uist or in Barra, but I would guess it will be pretty unwatchable.

I predict that where football leads, then other sports will follow, and other events won't be far behind.

The call to have them broadcast free on terrestrial TV is great, until you realise that someone (i.e. the taxpayer) has to pick up the tab by outbidding the commercial companies for a business filled with overpaid prima donnas.

No Government has the money to deliver that at the present time - regardless of historic promises to do so - and if this deal proves financially successful the ball will start rolling.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Farewell Harriet Harman

She stands accused of causing a car crash whilst making a call on her mobile and then driving off without leaving her details.
the fragrant Harriet Harman
She strongly denies this, and so she should as she is reported to have wound her window down and called out:
“I’m Harriet Harman — you know where you can get hold of me.”
That should be enough to get her off the hook. I mean it's not like she was employing an illegal immigrant to work for her.

One of the many reasons the Police like you to hang around after an accident - apart from making sure that you are Harriet Harman and not some stranger shouting random names out of a car window -is to check that you are not under the influence of any substances, such as G&T.

I think she is going to have to be charged for leaving the scene of an accident; be fined; proclaim her innocence and saintlyhood; and carry on regardless. Such is the moral stature of politicians today.

However, hopefully her mobile phone records will hang her - despite protestations that it was urgent Government business to talk to her nanny (or whoever) - and we will see the end of this ghastly, worthless, self-serving career politician.

Cont page 94

That is a phrase well know to readers of the Private Eye, but on the page 94 of Saturday's Times Magazine is an advert that - sadly - sums up the state of the Harris Tweed industry.

Harris Tweed jackets at a special offer of £150 each, down from £300 and available in only four styles.

This offer can only be thanks to the relentless drive and marketing skill of Brian Haggas who bought the biggest mill and has obviously succeeded in his ambition to make Harris Tweed a high-quality, high-value product again. Not.

Just how low can the world-famous product go, before it bounces back to its rightful heights?

Just so you understand the target market, watch the wonderful Major Hoad explain what sort of jacket you want and need....

There is more of this wonderful - indeed incomparable - stuff on YouTube.

All of which might explain why Harris Tweed is where it is.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Business developments in Barra

Just why are Marine Harvest calling an urgent meeting in Barra on Tuesday?

A meeting to which the Community Councillors, as well as Councillors and the public are being invited to attend by Platform PR of Edinburgh.

Inside information to the usual address please....

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another good man moves on

A very, very, senior Council officer - for whom I have a lot of time and respect - is shortly to be on the move to pastures new.

So what is driving this person away, and leaving a truly enormous hole in the organisation?

I am told that it is all to do with the atmosphere in the building and the way in which the Comhairle is being run by the senior Councillors and by top management.

All Councillors need to start asking themselves "Just what is happening?" and then taking steps to remedy the situation.

This is no time to try to abrogate your responsibilities, or to rely on others. You are there to run the Council, not be run by it.

How your money is spent

Staff are the most important element in any organisation and it is important to treat them all fairly, equally and equitably.

If management send out the wrong messages, or act improperly, then the impact on staff motivation can be severe.

So how is it done in the Council?

A little bird reports the following series of events.....
  • Senior employee sent home due to a serious breach of trust
  • Disciplinary process starts
  • Senior employee goes on the sick
  • Senior employee has holiday in the sun (to recover their health, obviously)
  • Senior employee gets offered early retirement, not quite in the terms they had been angling for, but nice enough thank you very much
  • Employee leaves and disciplinary process lapses
The first 5 stages have concluded, and I think it only needs senior Councillors and the Chief Executive to sign this off for the final event to happen.

That is our money that is being used to send the message to staff that the way to get the early retirement you have been requesting is: do something that would get you the sack in a private business. Yes, and with an enhanced pension too.

There is, as always, a lot more to this than meets the eye, and you can visualise the fingers being pointed and the blame being shifted.

Where is Audit Scotland in all of this? I don't know, but I do know that I will be writing to them in due course.

The Council economic strategy

I am told that the meeting held in Uist on Monday was poorly attended by local businesses as there was a general feeling amongst businessmen that the future was rather stark, and no amount of window dressing could hide that.

However, at the meeting the Council priorities were apparently outlined and can be encapsulated in the following terms:
No spending on roads; put all the money into schools and housing.
That prospect went down like a lead balloon, but it seems to form the basis of the current thinking in Sandwick Road as I have had the same proposition floated in front of me on other occasions.

If only it were that simple; not least because most of the little available capital has already been allocated to specific projects, leaving only a few crumbs to be argued over.

The impact of the Government cuts (both Westminster and Edinburgh) is going to be very significant, and tough decisions are going to have to be taken - not least about whether the earlier commitments are still sensible or if they need to be revisited.