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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Information for Councillors

Did you know that you are expected to approve the creation of a Gaelic school at Sandwick at the coming series of meetings?

No you didn't because it is going to be presented to you as a fait accompli at a coming meeting.

Sources in Sandwick told me a few weeks back that the staff had already been told that the school was (not might, subject to consultation and Councillor approval) being turned into a Gaelic Medium school for the greater Stornoway area.

Today I received a copy of the informal and unbinding unannounced non-consultation about the proposed possible maybe perhaps changes to the catchment areas for Laxdale and Stornoway Primary.  However, the heading of the letter included references to Sandwick which were totally absent from the body of the letter.

As a give away, the pdf from the Education Department was entitled "Sty Pri and Laxdale catchment Gaelic school" and issued by the Director.

Now you know how you are expected to think and vote, so as not to upset the decisions already taken on your behalf to create a Gaelic ghetto.

No fee will be charged for this information.

Public sector funding cuts

There is a most interesting report from the Scottish Agricultural College about the impact of public sector cuts on the Western Isles, which highlights that the impact of any cuts fall most disproportionally on the Western Isles.

Indeed, the Western Isles are the most vulnerable area in the whole of Scotland due to the high number of people employed in the public sector, and the low percentage of people of working age.

So let's think through how this can best be addressed to reduce the impact.

The Government is already cutting 2.5% off the Council budget, so there is a huge impact.

Inflation at 3-4% will make another big hole, and is in reality a cut, and Council Tax is to be frozen, which cuts another 0.4% off the Council budget.

So we can look forward to a serious impact on the local economy over the coming years.

Simply asking for more public sector funds won't wash; and doesn't solve the problem.

The over-dependence can only be solved by growing the private sector which means that the Council, the Government and the Enterprise Agency have all got to foster and nurture a spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the islands to reduce the dependency.

It is not a quick or easy solution, and it is being addressed only tangentially at the moment, as neither the political will in the Government nor in the higher echelons of the Council to actively address the issue.  It's not about handing out grants, nor about small scale fiscal encouragement, but about a fundamental reappraisal of what is being done by the public sector, and why it remains in their death-grip.

I certainly don't have the answers, but I do know that the status quo isn't working in diversifying the economy, and the effect of that will become all too apparent all too soon.

Gaelic TV debate

So who do you think won the debate last night?

Was anyone actually persuaded how to cast their vote as a result of the 'debate'?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Tonight, for the first time in 9 months I find myself without a publication to read, incredibly, I am up to date with the following publications that are delivered to the house:-

The Herald
The Times
Stornoway Gussett
Weekend FT
Accountancy Age
Recycling World
Private Eye
Tax Tips and Advice
Financial Management
The Accountants Magazine
Tax Advisor
Fortean Times
STEP Journal (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners)

That really is a sad reading list of recycling bag fillers from which I really need to get a life.

Back to a book or two now to get through that ever larger towering pile....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pairc - the latest

I can see where this is all going, and it isn't going to be pleasant.

It does, however, underline one simple fact.

The legislation and it's subsequent amendments are incompetent and not fit for purpose, and the actions of the Government in making a last-minute decision demonstrates that this is the case.

If these legal actions are resolved before the end of the coming Holyrood Parliament then I will be surprised.  Two years for the Judicial Review and a couple of years for the most recent action to come to closure, through all the stages, and they are likely to run consequetively, rather than concurrently.

All the time the estate value will rise as the planning consents move forward and deals are done, until lo and behold at the other end Pairc Trust cannot afford the now vastly larger sums.

Cue more legal actions and shouting, but little success.

At which point the Minister will promise new legislation to stop this ever happening again.

Lews Castle construction works

Anyone know why they are marking out areas to the back of the Castle?

There's people in day-glow jackets and hard hats, and a digger in situ, along with a specialist team (?) from the mainland, whose name I couldn't quite read from the side of thier pick-up.

Any information gratefully received.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mugshot of the Day

The Sheriff in Maricopa County takes a rather robust approach to law enforcement, and his past record includes making convicts wear pink underwear and listen to classical music in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate.

And have a look at the talented bunch of arrestees that he has to work with.

The website may very well say that they are all innocent until proven guilty, but there are some in the line up that you just can't help have a gut feeling about.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Electoral visit

Just had the Tory Candidate in the office handing out leaflets - not that he is stereotyping accountants or anything.

I just missed him.

But I should be able to get the letter opener out of the brick wall later.

Three of us were sitting upstairs listening to him giving his patter to the one poor member of staff, and it was very amusing for us; if not for her. 

Kudos to the guy for trying harder than most of the previous Tory candidates - was it last time that one of them set foot on the islands for the first time on Polling Day? - and better luck finding a seat elsewhere.

Installing new software.....

And I was given the following choices....

Presumably the welcome screen invites to you "Have a Guinness while you are waiting for the program to load".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Busy, busy, busy

Question of the day, on a tax return: "Did you a power station in 2010?"

Busy bidding for some major work with a significant international business or two , as well as serving international clients' deadlines.  Stupid us for taking holidays!

Monday, April 18, 2011


I've spoke to SNP supporters and to Labour supporters and both seem to be only slightly positive about their expectations for the election.

Neither side are really positive, although both are 'confident'.

Only one solution to the tedium - a totally unscientific poll.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sue me; you'll win

Irrespective of whether you agree with the recent case in Lewis about suing the Council over religious education, isn't the issue clear?

If the cost of the legal actionexceeds the possible payout, then they will settle.

Whatever happened to principles?

If I sue the Council for £1,000 with a non-win/no-fee solicitor for any spurious complaint, am I going to get a pay-out regardless?

It looks very much like the Council has realised the weakness of its case, and got out before it was done over by the Court.  However, it reflects very badly on seniotr management - and not just in the Education Dept - that it got this far before it was abandoned at the last minute.

Has the Council got principles that it sticks to, or not?

Pairc - hellos and vigilantes

Pairc Trust refute "accusations and lies"

Actually the truth of the press statement is that "Pairc Trust deny 'accusations and lies'".

If the Pairc Trust need to rebut the allegations by providing the evidence to prove that the claims by Barry Lomas are wrong, by simply producing the evidence that his claims are wrong.

Many of the claims on this blog are scandalous (if they are wrong)  but they need to be addressed and rebutted - rather than denied - by Pairc Trust.  If they don't rebut them now, they the Minister amend the funders will expect them to do so, and community will never, ever, be united and supportive of the bid unless these matters are put to bed.

Of course, they can also actually be refuted, which requires the Trust to demonstrate that the comments are fundamentally wrong, which they have not done.

I carry no flame for the landlord, but if he has made libellous statements about the directors, then sue, and prove them wrong.  It should be easy according to the Trust press release, and I'll be happy to support the Trust by telling their solicitors about what is being said by the community and what needs to be addressed.

As I said before, if this goes wrong then the rest of Scotland will suffer the backlash.  This is very serious high-risk game by both parties who have all to lose and all to gain.  The trouble is, I know which side is smarter and has laid the best ground for their claims.

Principles are going to be set in law, and the entire community want to have the best possible case put forward and not some factually inaccurate case that will be picked apart in court.

I'm butying shares in solicitors....

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I came back from holiday expecting to have lots of insulting things to say about the two/four candidates, ow the jet lag has passed.

We have the two main parties who seem determined to bore the candidates by barely rising to the level of tedium; on a good day.

Where's the real local policies and the real excitment?

Boredom is not really a way to motivate the electorate.

I feel an electoral coma coming on....

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Schools building project

Irrespective of the merits or demerits of FMP as the contractors to the schools project, for the Comhairle to deny that they had anything to do with the selection of the nature of the contract, and to try to highlight the negligible benefits to the local contractors in the grand scheme of things is disingenuous at best and downright insulting at worst.

Let me make this clear for the umpteenth time - and I know what happened because I was there and saw the disaster unfold in the private discussions which precluded public comment - the decision to have one huge contract was a joint decision of the Scottish Government and the Comhairle.

The (previous Labour) Government defined the scheme as being one that needed to go out as one package to attract the best price.  The Comhairle agreed in outline to the terms as it was the only way that it could be afforded under the finance made available.  A scheme was drawn up to bridge the gap, which led to the need for school closures and savings in the education department budget.

I could never get detailed financials, as the cost of running them through the model that we weren't allowed to understand was prohibitive.  But all these costs (£2m for accountants alone IIRC) were paid by the Government .... when they could have gone to funding the gap and keeping schools open. (This was a significant factor in my decision not to stand again in 2007, as colleagues will confirm)

The incoming SNP Government made clear that the financial package was the same, by which time the Comhairle were almost committed to the project and the single (non-island) contractor by virtue of the timescale, project size and financial complexity.

It could have been parcelled out - we had those discussions - but the Government set the parameters that prevented this and the Comhairle never fought that corner as hard as it could.

I would have more respect if the Comhairle made this position clear, rather than claiming nebulous benefits spinning off FMP, whilst the Economic Development Dept try to encourage the circulation of cash in the local economy.

Of course, there is the issue of delivery on time; build quality; and other construction factors that won't be evident until long after the buildings are complete, and we must factor that into the equation.

But the gratuitous insults to the local construction industry and the short-term damage to the local economy will take a long time to be recovered from.

And the smell of BS from the White House reaches across the Atlantic and poisons my nostrils.

On May 5 remember that it's not this Government or the last Government or the Comhairle, but all three together, that have created the financial maelstrom that has closed businesses and schools. 

Friday, April 01, 2011

A poisoned chalice

My usually reliable sources tell me of some problems at the Callanish visitors centre that are the source of many red faces in the Council offices.

I am told that the expansion plans for the centre require the title for the land to be transferred so that grant funding can be released.

The reason for the red faces?

Well, it appears that the Comhairle gifted some of the land to the Centre some years ago, only to now find that it wasn't Council owned land.

Rather than trying to sort the problem, there seems to be a lot of paper shuffling and a desperate desire not to have to deal with this.

Could this be in any way related to the fact that the legal section at that time employed one M Burr, and that is why the Councillors are being kept in the dark again?