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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wee W

It is a great shame to hear the news that Wee W is to close in the New Year.

It will leave a vacuum in Cromwell Street that may be very difficult to fill and will further reduce the choice for consumers in the islands.

The local individuals who put their money behind this venture deserve the praise for their investment in the community, and their attempts to restore the sense of how "Woolworths" was and could have been.

As I have said before, this is not going to be the last local casualty in the coming recession and it exemplifies the weakness of the local economy.  A weakness that is not being addressed in any way by Government.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Donald

As in "What the Donald Duck is that on your head"?

An acquaintance sent on a report in the Telegraph from three years ago about the patronising arrival of Trump, in which I am quoted.

But it is the quote from the walking hairpiece of vanity that really stands out:
He also revealed that he was planning to invest in charitable ventures on the island. 
Vanity, thy name is hairweave
Any news from anyone about any investment or indeed any gift?
Local councillors were also rubbing their hands in anticipation after he said he would consider funding the restoration of Lews Castle that overlooks Stornoway and has long been in need of a benefactor. 
Indeed, who can forget the sight of the Councillors almost curtseying in front of the power on Mammon and vast credit lines?  With Councillor Sanctimonious having invited the money lender into the temple, has he ever tried to follow up a single promise made by Trump about improving the islands?  Or was the brief moment of self-aggrandisement by proximity enough to stop him asking difficult questions?

We were the location for a few minutes of good press for him, and he got to destroy ancient sand dunes for a World Class (sic) Country Club, with golf course attached.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Taxing the disabled

With the proposed changes to the Blue Badge scheme, it is now going to cost you £20 to get and renew your new Blue Badge.

This is maximum charge possible, and given the magnificently overblown and complex plan to stop 'fraud', that cost is bound to increase dramatically in future years.

Of course, the real problem is actually cars with Blue Badges being driven and parked by able bodied relatives (just go to Tesco or the Co-op and see what I mean) rather than forged badges.

FFS, due to a missing Traffic Warden in Stornoway we can't even enforce parking violations or use of the car park without either paying or displaying.  In the islands, these badges are not going to be enforced, except in the rarest circumstances, which makes it nothing more than a tax on the disabled.

Based on 1,110 users in the islands and a pass through charge of £4.60 plus VAT, perhaps the Comhairle can find the estimated £6,100 required to keep this scheme free for the islands. 

Following on from an earlier post, will the emasculated 18* SNP hopefuls say anything to John Swinney to try and exempt disabled islanders from this ludicrous tax?

Ta to H for the tip-off.

* Yes, I know that might be unfair, but get used to it; you're going to get worse.

Harris Tweed Hebrides

There has been so much good news and so many press releases acclaiming this company that we are almost expected to accept the total world domination as a matter of course.

That's not to demean in any way what has been achieved in growing from nothing to 95% of the industry in a matter of a couple of years; albeit assisted by the suicidal business polices of Mr Haggas.

So amongst all this good news, why are the accounts to December 2010 now nearly three months overdue at Companies House, and why is the Annual Return overdue?

And why was a new company called Harris Tweed Hebrides Shawbost Ltd formed in November 2011?

The sole director is Malcolm Holmes (no, not the drummer in OMD!) of Tods Murray, solicitors, whose work skills includes expertise in corporate reorganisation.  With the one share held by nominees, I suspect a major restructuring is in prospect.

The question is: why?  With 5 mortgages, the suspicion is clear.

Interested observers will be intrigued by the eclectic list of members, who presumably have provided significant investments in the company.  Uist readers will recognise the Storas unofficial executive board.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Council support settlement

So the numbers are in, and grim reading they make for the Western Isles. 

The Revenue grant drops from just under £112m this financial year to £108m in 2014/15, and it is the effect of both inflation and the centrally agreed pay increases that are going to be the real impacts.

Allow for 4% inflation, and the Revenue grant should have grown to £126m, meaning a cut of around £18 over 4 years.

That's bad.  Very, very bad.

And then it gets worse.

Look at the Capital grant which drops from £8m to £1m over the period to 2015/16, giving a total cut in the cash available to the Council of £25m.
Going down the pan

That is way beyond horrendous.

At this point, if anyone can find the missing local Labour Party, they should be asking if the MSP, MP and the SNP Councillors (current and potential) actually support the cuts.  Or is any of the 18 going to actually break rank and speak for themselves and "fight for the isles" (sic) as they promise?

Expect blood and bile in the Council chamber when the cuts are discussed.

My sources suggest that other public bodies are going to see similar size cuts announced in the coming months.

An open email to Tony Robson, Stornoway Amenity Trust


New Year Celebrations

As a resident of Stornoway who is interested in the amenity of the town, and as someone who is a long term supporter of your very worthwhile projects, I must protest in the strongest terms at the decision to terminate the New Year celebrations early, to avoid running into Sunday.

Firstly, can you advise me exactly who made this decision; and after consulting with whom?

Secondly, can you please ensure that this matter is reconsidered by the entire Amenity Trust at the earliest possible opportunity, as it is giving an utterly wrong impression of life in Lewis.

With Public Houses having late licences until early Sunday morning, I am sure that it is really the aspiration of the Amenity Trust to provide family enjoyment, and to encourage the family to be together at the celebration of the New Year; rather than to see participants believe that the only way to celebrate in Stornoway is in the pub.

The decision gives the impression to potential visitors of not so much an air of quaintness, but more an air of weirdness and a certain detachment from reality.  This will only continue to be played up by the national media.

It is not too late to retrieve the situation, and I truly hope that the celebrations - thanks to the very hard work of the Trust members - are successful.  And held at midnight.

Yours sincerely


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Eurozone

After the announcement of the plan for the compulsory harmonisation of Corporate Tax and VAT across member states, do the SNP still advocate an Independent Scotland joining the EMU?

To do so would give away most of the economic levers - remember the Laffer curve, which proved that a 10% Corporate Tax rate meant that Ireland was the model for  tax strategy? - and pass the first stage of economic control to Brussels.  After you join, how can you actually leave Greater Europe?

Alternatively, are we be in control of our own destiny by keeping Sterling, and allowing yet another foreign institution to dictate fiscal policy and to effectively set Scotland's interest rate policy and determine Scotland's borrowing capability?

So under the current SNP proposals, which bunch of foreigners do they intend to have controlling an Independent Scotland's currency?

Hard questions: but one's that are going to be asked in the coming years, and to which there is no easy answers.

Another victim of the recession

I'm told that the Receivers arrived at MacAskill Haulage this morning, and whilst deliveries are being made today, ther is no guarantee of what is going to happen tomorrow.

It appears (and this is informed speculation) that the bank wanted borrowings reduced, but that the cash wasn't being generated to do this.

I am told that the business is asset rich and cash poor, and that it seems likely that the cash is there to pay back most if not all creditors.  This would seem to concur with the fact that the accounts are not overdue.

Hopefully something can be rescued from the wreckage.

Moral dilemma

If the consumption of alcohol is such a problem that we have to introduce minimum alcohol pricing to impose the health benefits on the public in Scotland; then why is it acceptable to triumph the growth of sales of our national poison of choice - whisky - to China?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Youth Employment Minister

Isn't the appointment of a 4th Minster in the Education Portfolio to deal with Youth (un)Employment a sign that the past 5 years haven't recognised the importance of the issue, or how it has grown over time.

Obviously, if the rate of unemployment isn't brought down then it will obviously be a failure, until they appoint yet someone else to split and hide the problem.

The noises are good; but the policies are vacuous; and I suspect that we well see 'make work' schemes to take NEETS of the list and then claim these as a success.

Perhaps the Gazette do journalism rather than just printing press releases.....

Monday, December 05, 2011

Europe - our future(?)

Just a few years back, the Celtic Tiger of Ireland was apparently the target that we should seek to attain.

This week, the basically announced their further, deeper, insolvency and their to cut, cut, cut and cut further into social spending and public services.

Then it was the Arc of Prosperity; until Iceland went 'behind over chest'.

Last month it was the Isle of Man.

Next year it is Scandinavia, apparently.

Perhaps at some point we might not need role models to aspire to, and actually become the leaders not the followers.

One could almost suggest that the Scottish Government were talking down Scotland.

There is no doubt that many of these countries have better levels of social services and more intensive public services, and we could properly consider these as valid aspirations.  So how are they paid for?

Well £8/pint is a start.  Higher taxes at lower income levels is another (and lower taxes at higher income levels!).  A fat bureaucracy is another.  No, make that a grossly obese bureaucracy.

I'm sure there are many good points and I look forward to hearing these.

(I remember having a 1/2 litre with a Norwegian in Denmark.  I paid £5.50 a pint some 10 years ago, and the Norwegian thought this was dirt cheap.  Our tax practice has lots of other numbers that will boggle your mind.)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

How others see us......

Two almost unbelievable pieces of news, that are guaranteed to keep us as the community that time forgot and where dinosaurs still run wild.
Hogmanay celebrations on Lewis will be cut short an hour before the bells – to avoid offending strict religious groups by partying on a Sunday.
With almost a quarter of the residents of Lewis expected at the event, which is being paid for by a Council grant, it looks like the whole rationale of the event will be lost by the plug being pulled at 11pm.

Of course, it will actually be midnight GMT, so perhaps the solution is to have a separate time zone for Lewis and Harris (and bits of N Uist).  As your ferry docks - Bing! Bong! - "Turn your watches back to 1970".

Mad fecking protestor

In a further burst of the true spirit of Christmas, the recording of an Ecumenical Christmas service in Martins Memorial Church last night was the subject to picketing by various Christian groups who objected to a Priest, a Minister from the Church of Scotland and a Minister from the Free Church (this sounds like the start of a joke, but it so isn't) holding a joint service.  Hopefully, the media will reveal exactly who was outside, rather than in, and we can all hold them in the respect they are due.

The spirit of Pastor Jack Glass lives on....

Still we are not as bad as the spokesman for the Reformed Unfree Alternative Church (continuing) in Saudi Arabia who have adversely assessed the proposition that women should be allowed to drive.

The report contains graphic warnings that letting women drive would increase prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The next challenge for the Council....

A Devon town council has been acting "unlawfully" by listing prayers on its meeting agendas, the National Secular Society told the High Court.
Given that every meeting of the Full Council at the Comhairle currently starts with prayer, just how long before a mischievous Councillor asks for a review of its lawfulness?

I recall the look of horror, anger and then mock piety on the face of one current sanctimonious Councillor every time a Catholic prayer (sic) started proceedings.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


The announcement of the extension of RET  to inter-island ferries was well signalled by our MP and MSP allegedly writing to the Minister just a few weeks ago.  Never was a planted question ever so obvious.

With our two Parliamentarians (sic) never scared to ask a planted question, the impending good news was transparent.

The Comhairle had lobbied for this for years, with MacNeil and Allan refusing to make the case on many occasions.  This is a Council triumph that we should applaud.

So what was the catch.

Well, I was a bit astonished - given the inside information I had - that MacNeil was kicking up a stink about CalMac (prop A Salmond) about 5m commericals facing higher charges from CalMac.

Now the truth is out and it will no doubt suffer from an absence of analysis from the local rags.

Yes: inter-island ferries will get RET.

NO: the introduction of inter-island RET will be 'over time'.

No: RET is not permanent. It is a 'long term feature'.  Which in a marvellous break with spin and a deep descent into honesty, means that it can be withdrawn as easily as it can be applied.

No: Ferry fares increase by 5%, making them even less than the promised RET than when they were announced.

No: The savings to the local communities will be offset by higher charges to commercial, meaning it is a zero sum game.

The losers will include Barratlantic with exports from Barra causing much more, so our fish and shellfish exports will now become less competitive.  Our imports of food, building materials and household goods will also become more expensive.

Nevertheless, lets all be grateful for the slight of hand than mugs Peter to rob Paul.

Now the real question: there was never a logical argument for not having RET on inter-island ferries.  Why is there any argument about not having ADS on inter-island flights?

And why have out Parliamentarians been so quiet? (Apart from the fact that they have been told to be so quiet about these issues).