Category Archives: Scotland

Poundage rates for Scotland and England

Tories In Disarray Over Business Rates

One of the main lines of Tory attack for the upcoming council elections is the increase in business rates. The Tories love to portray themselves as THE pro-business party, so they’ve been pushing this theme relentlessly. All of the sycophantic media has been slavishly publishing the Tory propaganda. So I thought we should take a look at the issue and see if the Tory claims bear close scrutiny.

What are business rates?

Here’s how they are described on the myscotgov website: “Business rates (also called non-domestic rates) are a tax on business property to help pay for local council services. They are based on the property and generally don’t reflect the turnover or profits of your business. If you have business premises, it’s important to consider business rates in your financial planning.”

So business rates are based on the property value, not the profitability of the business. Its stands to reason then that if the property value increases then the business rates increase also. There’s even a kind bit of advice on the website, best keep those rates in mind when doing your financial planning. I’m sure most well run businesses would heed that advice.

Who decides on the value of the property?

As we all know, property values vary over time. If we want businesses to pay the correct amount then their properties must be revalued from time to time; in Scotland this is carried out every 5 years. This valuation is performed by the Scottish Assessors Association who are an independent body. The assessors for each area are appointed by a cross party committee of councillors, one of the Aberdeenshire Council Committee members was Cllr Gillian Owen, Conservative and Unionist Party. So if the Tories are complaining about the valuations, they only have themselves to blame.

How are business rates calculated?

Once the rateable value of the property has been determined then the business rates can be worked out. The Scottish Government sets the rate which is known as the poundage rate, i.e. how many pence in the pound will be charged. The poundage rate normally increases with inflation (RPI) and it also matches the increases in England. The Eric Young & Co website has the details:

Poundage rates for Scotland and England

Poundage rates for Scotland and England

So we can see that the poundage rate increase for properties valued below £35000 is exactly the same as the English rate for properties below £18000. The more expensive properties then have to pay a Large Property Supplement. In England this starts at a lower rate than in Scotland (1.3%) but the Scottish rate is higher (2.6%).

What’s the problem?

With the increases being closely matched then you would expect there to be howls of discontent in England too. Poor Victoria Beckham’s store rateable valuation is up 415%. But it can’t be the annual increase that the Tories are moaning about , it must be the revaluation

What does the UK government have to say about it? Well a government spokesman said, “This revaluation improves the fairness of rate bills by making sure they more closely reflect the property market.”

Oh, according to the tory government in Westminster the revaluation improves fairness. The message couldn’t have reached the branch office then because Ruth Davidson says this on the branch office website, “This revaluation is threatening jobs and the wider economy, and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Which is it? Either fairness is improved or jobs are threatened, I’m a bit confused.

Perhaps Murdo Fraser can enlighten us?

He says, “This is fast becoming a crisis for businesses the length and breadth of the country. Many say they face closure, while others are being forced to hike their prices to cover these increased costs. This is not an acceptable state of affairs, and we need to know what Scotland’s finance secretary intends to do about this. It’s time for the SNP to prove it’s not an anti-business government and take some meaningful action to help these businesses which are the lifeblood of our economy.”

So the SNP government is anti-business, what does that make the Tories in Westminster then?

Hmm, maybe we can get some help from the tory candidates for the upcoming council elections?

Here’s Colin Clarke, currently the Conservative and Unionist party councillor for Inverurie and district.

“Inverurie has a thriving town centre with a strong High Street shopping culture, but local firms are being squeezed by SNP tax policy. We should be supporting our employers, especially during the current downturn in the north-east economy. Many of these are family firms with strong links to the local area, but they are being hit with ever-increasing bills. I want to see a freeze on business rates to offer some relief to these companies which are finding it tough at the moment.”

So the increase doesn’t support employers in Scotland but improves fairness in England.

He goes on to say, “At the moment, it seems the SNP see the north-east and towns like Inverurie as a cash cow, with rising income tax, stamp duty and business rates providing a triple whammy of higher bills”

Oh dear Colin, you’re a liar. There has been no increase in income tax in Scotland. The income tax rate next year is exactly the same as it was last year. In fact most people will paying less income tax next year than they did this year due to the lower earnings limit being raised.

Perhaps former Provost Councillor Jill Webster can enlighten us? She gets a mention in the Evening Express. “Cllr Jill Webster said her own manufacturing business faces a six-figure increase which was “quite shocking”. She added: “The Finance Secretary should have done something about this one earlier and rushed this North-east situation on earlier.””

A six figure increase! That sounds dramatic, lets take a look at this claim then:

Cllr Webster,or Jilly as she’s known, runs a couple of businesses at the same time as being a councillor. She does this on a part-time basis we are told, does that mean she is a part-time councillor? Anyway the businesses in question are Rubberatkins Ltd and Reactive Downhole Tools Ltd. A quick search for the Rubbertkins business yields the postcode AB23 8GW.

Lets see how much the rateable value has increased by entering the postcode into the search engine on the SAA website. This tells us the current rateable value is £209000. Looking at the proposed valuation on the same page we see that it will be £307000, that’s an increase of £98000. But that is the rateable value, not the actual business rate, which can be estimated by the business rate calculator on the mygov website. This yields a business rate of £151044.

Rubberatkins business rates 2017

Rubberatkins business rates 2017

But Jilly said that her business faced a six figure increase, so at least £100000 then. Lets work it out shall we?

Her old rateable value was £209000. The old rate was 48.0% up to £35000 then 49.3% above that. Which give us £12250 + £85782 = £98032. So the increase is £53012. It looks like Jilly can’t do her sums.

I wonder what could have cause the increase in the rateable value? Could it be the 1000 square meter extension to the business premises that is mentioned on the company website? Looks like our Jilly didn’t heed the Scottish Government’s advice to “consider business rates in your financial planning.” If she did then she would have seen the business rate rise coming.

So there we have it, the Tories say that the business rates rise is about improving fairness in England but is all kinds of SNP bad in Scotland. Tories’ council candidates lie and can’t do their sums. Who would vote for them?

 

shovel-faced lesbian

sorry but i’m a jock
it won’t be much of a shock
that i want to break holyrood
and steal power back for good

once i get my orders from may
i execute them without delay
my words and fundamentalism
spread by organs of imperialism

keeping the rich nests feathered
is the reason i am bothered
hopefully an ermine coat
can clothe this unworthy scot

i can lie to order
knowing the media won’t bother
chastising my deceit
i’m just protecting the elite

the will of the people means nothing
when we have migrants needing expelling
human rights will be eviscerated
once we have brexited

i tell you what to do without mandate
while my chums pollute and rape
the country into which i was born
your criticism only brings scorn

you won’t be getting a referendum
the thought makes snackbeard glum
you’d only vote yes, that’s true
then i’d have to wear flat shoes

Respect democracy

It’s the phrase of choice for British Nationalists, isn’t it? They’re always telling us that we need to respect the result of our independence referendum. They use this phrase as a shield to deflect any and all criticisms of the UK, the stock phrase being “well you voted for it.” And they’re quite correct.

We voted for the status quo, we voted to remain the junior partner in a UK which was a member of the EU. Indeed we were told that the only way to preserve EU membership was to vote No in our referendum. We were promised other things if we voted to continue to be subservient to our London government, but they were more threats than promises. They were threats about HMRC jobs, threats about Royal Navy ships built on the Clyde, threats about our economy and it’s reliance on oil. But one of the biggest threats was the one about our membership of the EU. The architect of this programme of fear mongering dubbed it Project Fear.

It must be some quirk of fate then which moved the HMRC jobs to England, delayed the building of Type 26 frigates indefinitely and drove the price of oil to sustained lows. It must be a pure coincidence that we now find ourselves heading for the EU’s exit door (the one which confounded Nigel Farage). In fact it must just be a fluke that all of the British Nationalists’ threats have come to pass.

But we have to respect democracy, don’t we? We have to respect the fact that 55% of Scots voted to remain a part of one of the most corrupt states on the planet based upon the threats and promises of the serried ranks of corporations, politicians, media and monarchs. Forget the 45% that voted to jettison a 300 year old union which has extracted so much from Scotland that our economy can’t sustain itself. We don’t count because we didn’t win.

We have more democracy to respect now in the shape of the EU referendum. In reality it was more like a Nuremberg rally than an exercise in democracy. Project Fear took time out from demonising the Scottish independence movement and it focused it’s dull gaze, Theresa May like, on “immigrants”.

Theresa May

Theresa May

If anybody doubts that propaganda works, witness the sharp increase in racist attacks since the result of the EU referendum was announced. I hear that the Brexiteers are to rename England to Xenophobia.

But forget how the campaign was won. After all it’s not the means which counts in a referendum, it’s the result which matters. Slim as it was it was the result was still a majority for leaving the EU. That’s cool, I respect that. I respect the fact that the UK as a whole wishes to turn insular and cut itself off from the rest of the world. I respect the fact that the UK wishes to cancel all of the trade deals which currently exist between the EU and the rest of the world.

However, respect is a two-way street. So now that I have proclaimed my respect for the result, so must the British Nationalists. They must respect the fact that an overwhelming majority of Scots voted to remain within the EU, as did the people of Northern Ireland. I doubt that they will, after all we are the losers again. The British Nationalist will not respect our vote in the EU referendum just like they will not respect our qualified vote in the independence referendum. So why on earth should we respect the result of either referendum?

As far as I am concerned all bets are off. We voted to stay in this toxic union called the UK on condition that we retained our EU membership. Now that we are to be torn out of the EU by the votes of another country why should we stay in the UK?

What is to come is one of the most uncertain periods our country has ever faced. We will face massive upheaval, economic shocks and political mismanagement on an unprecedented scale. Given that we can clearly see our fate, how can we best navigate our way safely through its turbulent waters? To which ship should we pin our colours to? Should it be the slave ship Xenophobia with its crew of 65 million (foreigners not welcome), or should it be the cruise liner Europe with its crew of 742.5 million? My money, and most of the rest of the world’s money, is on the EU.

The only way that this can be achieved is for Scotland to become an independent nation once more. For that to happen we will need to hold and win a second independence referendum, we don’t have much time but the broad Yes movement is still with us. Let’s get going. The British Nationalists have already begun, but now their arguments ring hollow and we are no longer afraid. Saor Alba

Angus Glens mountain hare slaughter. Courtesy of Raptor Persecution Scotland

The tears of our land

The Gift of Grouse, a lobby group for the blood sports industry in Scotland, have issued a press release in which they seek to reassure us that it’s good to burn vast strips of our countryside, they laughingly call it Heather on FireOK! They even have a Twitter hashtag for it #hetheronfireok!, although if they were truly understood Twitter they would know that hashtags don’t use punctuation marks. Muirburn is the name that is used for burning the heather, it is used in order to control scrub and to re-generate the heather. This then provides food for grouse.

The whole purpose of this group is to portray the blood sports estates in a benign light, like they are really managing the landscape for the benefit of all. But this is not the case, the continued burning of the heather prevents the land from regenerating naturally and produces a variegated landscape with which we have become all to familiar. Have a look at this picture from Google Maps, it shows the area around Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. It could be a photo from any upland area in Scotland.

Balmoral courtesy of Google Maps

Balmoral courtesy of Google Maps

There can be no doubt that the landscape is being intensively managed, each one of those strips is the result of burning. Muirburn is governed by the Muirburn Code, regular readers of this site will know that when something is governed by a code there are vested interests at play.

Muirburn is not a harmless thing, it is not some necessary evil which we should accept. It is the wanton destruction of our native environment for the purpose of providing “sport” to the select few who can afford to pay upwards £140 for the privilege of killing a brace of black grouse. When the heather is set alight most larger mammals and birds will get away, but lots of smaller animals, reptiles and invertebrates will be killed since they are just too slow to get away.

Muirburn significantly lowers the water table in the burnt areas, this results in the drying out of the peat which releases carbon into the atmosphere. It also affects the amount of water which the peat can store, combine this with the draining of the peat bogs on the grouse moors and any excessive rainfall is going to rush into the rivers and produce flooding downstream, as happened in Ballater, just downriver of the above photo, last winter. These floods are the tears of our land.

Flooding endangers lives and property, it results in increases in insurance premiums for everyone. In effect all of us are paying for the effects of this poor land management, witness the announcement of the Flood Re scheme yesterday. At least it will help some homeowners to insure their properties, but this will be achieved by foisting a levy onto all insurers, who will pass the cost on to everyone. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be happy because he has just increased the Insurance Premium Tax by 0.5% to 10%, this is after a rise of 3.5% last November.

The same lobby group also released a PR piece about the culling of mountain hares, they place the usual spin on it about protection of the environment blah, blah, blah. But the harsh reality is this (photo courtesy of Raptor Persecution Scotland):

Angus Glens mountain hare slaughter. Courtesy of Raptor Persecution Scotland

Angus Glens mountain hare slaughter. Courtesy of Raptor Persecution Scotland

You see, mountain hares get in the way of grouse shooting. The reason for this slaughter, which repeats itself across Scotland, is cited that the hares spread ticks. That is why they must be butchered annually. And all because the the rich folk want to pursue “the sport of kings.”

These shooting estates are very often owned through offshore tax havens so it is almost impossible to find out who the beneficial owners are, perhaps the Panama Papers may throw some light on some of them. But you ca be sure that every one of the blood sports estates will be receiving a hefty subsidy from the EU. That’s more of our money going to them, but we can’t find out how much or to whom. Most of the blood sports estates are run at a loss, which helps to minimise the owners’ tax liabilities elsewhere. Leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab once more.

To my mind the only way to really get a grip on these blood sports estates, and to find out who the beneficial owners are, is to make them all apply for a licence. We could call it the “blood sports licensing scheme”. We could then ensure that the land is being managed in a manner which befits the many, not the rich few.

The Scottish Government needs to be much bolder in its next term. To that end we cannot allow the pressure groups like The Gift of Grouse and Scottish Land & Estates to dominate the debate. The land belongs to all of us, it is merely being (mis)managed by these people. If this is an issue which you feel strongly about, make your voice heard. After all there are elections soon, don’t let the entirety of the debate be about tax. It’s our land after all.

 

Yet another establishment whitewash

Dame Janet Smith has published her review into the predatory paedophile, serial sex abuser, rapist and necrophiliac, Sir Jimmy Savile at the BBC. In it she concludes that Sir jimmy Savile was indeed a rapist, sex abuser and paedophile while he worked at the BBC. Happily she also concludes that management knew nothing about it, some junior plebs knew some stuff but they failed to report it. So that’s alright then.

Another review was conducted into the sexual activities of another BBC employee, Stuart Hall (formerly OBE), by Dame Linda Hobbs. This review was originally going to be included in the Sir Jimmy Savile review but Dame Janet Smith had a conflict of interest because she knows personally a member of BBC senior management at BBC North West. It’s curious how this conflict did not prevent her from conducting the rest of the Savile review, especially since she concluded that Savile abused his victims “in virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked.” Presumable he Sir Jimmy Savile never worked at BBC North West then?

Sir Jimmy Savile presenting Top of The Pops from BBC North West's studio in Manchester

Sir Jimmy Savile presenting Top of The Pops from BBC North West’s studio in Manchester

The Stuart Hall review concluded that some management may have known something about his paedophile activities but nothing specific so nothing was done. Both reports conclude that no one is to blame because of a culture of fear at the BBC which still exists today, as could other predatory rapists and paedophiles. So that’s alright then. The review cost £6.5 million of TV licence payers’ money and the BBC Trust must think it money well spent, since none of them were at all to blame.

These reviews remind me of the Cullen Inquiry into the Dunblane shootings, which was generally derided as a whitewash since it didn’t look into the allegations that the murderer was heavily involved with a VIP paedophile ring which operated at a military school which has the Duke of Edinburgh is the patron; the school is called the Queen Victoria School. Another inquiry has been started into whether there was a police cover up at the time. Lord Burton, a former head mason, alleged that a paedophile ring may have operated at the school which was based around a masonic sect known as the Speculative Society.

Lord Burton said, “The Housemaster told me of how, in about 1990, he believed boys from his then school were being bullied by their peers at the school and sexually abused, both at the school and away from the school. He told me the latter was done by a clique of paedophiles connected with the school (teachers etc. and their friends) and another group of “toffs” who visited the school and took carefully targeted boys away for weekends.”

The modus operandi of the establishment seems to be:

  1. Event occurs which public demand action over
  2. Establish inquiry which takes years
  3. Inquiry eventually reports once furore has died down a bit
  4. No one is to blame but lessons are learned
  5. Carry on as before

How long are we going to take this for? How many must be killed and/or abused before we put a stop to this? We can make a start by getting rid of the BBC, the home of paedophiles and corruption. We can legally withdraw our funding from the nonces, a quick search on the internet will tell you all you need to know.

As a final thought, here’s a picture of the Dunblane murderer and a couple of well known faces:

Two of the men in this photo have had whitewash inquiries carried out on them

The establishment have whitewashed inquiries into two of the men in this photo

Tunnocks: British not Scottish

Tea cakes, block lists and floods

We’ve been taking a break over the festive period, recharging the batteries and letting the belt buckle out a notch. It was a nice feeling to just let it all pass by for a change. But now we’re back and there are a few things which are just asking for mention, so here we go…

Thomas Tunnocks Ltd, a family run business which sells cakes and biscuits, has been in the press because they are apparently going to drop the lion rampant from their packaging outside of Scotland. From what I know of businesses their primary goal is to make money. So it follows that this change in marketing policy is intended to make the business more money by pitching the re-branded product as “Tunnocks Great British Teacake”. So it also follows that marketing yourself as Scottish south of the border doesn’t make as much money. The question is, why?

Could it be that the relentless propaganda campaign, which first reared its ugly head as “Project Fear”, is having an effect on Scottish companies who trade in England? Is this then the positive case for the Union, where to identify yourself as Scottish is to appear to be something Other?

Alex Salmond Pickpocket

Alex Salmond Pickpocket

Othering is defined as “the process of casting a group, an individual or an object into the role of the ‘other’ and establishing one’s own identity through opposition to and, frequently, vilification of this Other.” So the Othering is obviously working, because Thomas Tunnocks Ltd feel that they have to market themselves as British in order to make more profits. Boyd Tunnock, the managing director, said, “We could have said Scottish but you’re then promoting Scotland.” So promoting Scotland is a bad thing, a loss maker for your brand.

Of course we also have to ask why the company decided to publicise this re-branding as they did, with the political element? Well the company was firmly behind a No vote during the referendum so there may be a clue there. It also says to the people of Scotland that the Scottish brand is as dead as a Jim Murphy’s political career. It says that if you want to succeed in this marvelous United Kingdom then you have to present yourself as British, not Welsh, not Northern Irish, definitely not Scottish. It says that the only culture that’s worth anything in our land is British, harking back to the glorious days of imperialism when most of the planet was under the British heel. Lovely, but I won’t be signing up for any of that. So here is my New Year’s resolution: I shall be giving up biscuits (got to get that belt down a notch or two after all.)

Elsewhere, Wings Over Scotland have published a piece advising people to update their Twitter accounts with the reverend’s personal block list (which I feature on, because of this post I believe). I find this very disturbing, it plays sweetly into the hands of the press with their “brainwashed Nats” narrative. No doubt Wings is the lightning rod which attracts most of the ire from pro Union types and I’m sure that the reverend can do without the abuse (although he probably provokes most of it). But to advise your readers to block others just because you blocked them smacks of censorship and helps to drive a wedge into the pro independence camp. In short I believe that it is counter productive, and quite creepy too.

Some of you may have heard that there has been some flooding in Scotland, did you? But I’ll bet we probably all know that there has been flooding in England because there was wall to wall coverage of it on all media outlets. The flooding was caused by exceptional rainfall which our rivers and streams can’t cope with but we can’t call it “Climate Change” because that would be to brand ourselves as loonie lefties.

What we can say is, “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors. However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.” That quote is from the Met Office Chief Scientist, Julia Slingo. I assume the paper that she is referring to is this one.

So we can say that there is more chance of bucket loads of rain during the winter because of greenhouse gasses. That being the case, we should prepare ourselves for for it, shouldn’t we? Well it would appear that Scotland has been doing more preparing than England, at least according to Dr John Robertson on Newsnet.scot. I’ll let you read the piece but the most surprising part of it was that because Scotland is more prepared for flooding then our insurance premiums should be lower. Apparently we subsidise the unprepared parts of the UK to the tune of up to £430 per year. Now that’s pooling and sharing for you. No wonder we’re Better Together.

 

Warmongering Tories

Bombs away

So it begins, the UK is now bombing Syria after all the Tories cheered the vote in favour of another illegal misadventure in the Middle East last night. We can expect to have full war rhetoric from the MSM from now until eternity, for there is no end for this war and our Dear Leader has already stated that this war would take “some time“, a nice open ended statement there. We are seeing a continuation of the perpetual war.

This is a war devoid of strategy or a clear objective, we were told that the target was Daesh but just 2 years ago the target was Assad. So which one is it, or is it both? No doubt we will be treated to some carefully vetted footage of bombs exploding, the camera position being 20000ft up. These will show the bomb hitting a nice safe target, with no civilian casualties in view. The mission will be called “successful”. We will not see the collateral damage, we will not see the bombs that go astray, as some bombs inevitably do.

The RAF were launching the first airstrikes against Syrian targets within 57 minutes of the vote, they “successfully” blew up some oil wells which were “successfully” destroyed just over a month ago. Either the first “bombing” wasn’t that successful or Daesh is very good at repairing the damage. Mind you it could be that the first mission did not take place at all, or was it the second one, who’s to know? But the RAF were “successful” which means that there will be huge oil fires burning in Syria and an environmental catastrophe as well. Those are the hallmarks of success in this perpetual war. At least there were no civilian casualties, or so we’re told.

The people of Syria must be thanking their lucky stars that there are even more heavily armed warplanes in their skies tonight keeping them safe. But it is the good old Tories who they really have to thank for all the extra thousands of pounds of high explosive flying overhead. The blue tories, the red tories and the yellow tories trooped off down the “non terrorist sympathiser” lobby and the share price of arms firms soared.

97% of Scotland’s MPs voted against bombing Syria, yet we find ourselves in yet another illegal foreign war. Only two Scottish MPs voted to send in the bombers: Viceroy David Mundell (blue Tory) and former Viceroy (and liar) Alistair Carmichael (yellow Tory). Let us remember these two when the terrorists turn up in our cities seeking revenge. We shall not forget that it was them who brought death and destruction to the people of Syria, and probably us too.

Warmongering Tories

Warmongering Tories

Given previous engagements by Russia and France in Syria, it seems likely that we will see a terrorist attack against the UK within 2 months. This will be used to justify the bombing of Syria. We will be told, “These are the exactly the type of attacks which we are bombing Syria to prevent.” The irony will be astounding. The attackers will be UK citizens. Apparently there have been 7 terrorist conspiracies uncovered in the past 6 months, so we have got to ask: how many arrests were made? How many were convicted? What were they convicted of? What were their sentences?

Then again the story could be untrue, couldn’t it? We are entering a period where the MSM will parrot the government in all things, they will not question the government’s story in any way. Everything that you see and hear about Daesh and the war in Syria should be taken with a very large pinch of salt, for it will most likely be pure propaganda.

I hate salt.

Hellfire Missile

Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s off to war we go.

Our beloved leader, Chairman Cameron, was making the case for bombing Daesh (IS) in Syria today. He tried to persuade parliament that bombing Syria was a good idea 2 years ago, but that time we would have been bombing Syrian government forces. The ones that IS were fighting. So we would have been allies then. Hmm. This time , however, the bogeyman is Daesh so the Syrian government will be our allies. Double hmm.

Comrade Cameron told the house of commons that bombing Daesh “would make us safer.” That’s an interesting assertion that should be challenged. You see France decided that it would be a good idea to start bombing Daesh in Syria and the bombing campaign started on 27th September 2015. Daesh affiliated terrorists killed 130 and injured 368 on 13th November 2015. Russia started bombing Daesh in Syria on 30th September 2015, Daesh affiliated terrorists blew up a Russian passenger jet, killing all 224 persons on board, on 31st October 2015. So the evidence doesn’t really stack up on our Dear Leader’s assertions.

The main problem with bombing Syria is that it is a sovereign state, the only legal way to bomb it is with the agreement of the Syrian government. Something which the UK does not have. But who cares about legality? Tony Blair didn’t and he got away with it, so why should David Cameron? The Syrian government has already asked someone to aid in their fight, Russia. It is conceivable that the Russians would start to enforce the sovereignty of Syria, after all they have the means to do so and the shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey also gives them a motive. There is a very real danger of the Syrian civil war spiralling into a full blown regional conflict, do we really want to get sucked into that?

The simple fact is that bombing of Syria will not defeat Daesh, if this was not the case then the combined might of Russia, USA, Saudi Arabia and others would have bombed them into oblivion by now. After years of civil war there is nothing left to bomb in Syria. Daesh have adapted to the threat from the skies and they still take territory. The only way to militarily defeat Daesh is to fight them on the ground.

Our Dear Leader has the solution though. He has managed to magic 70000 “moderate” jihadists from the harsh desert sands. They will be trained and armed by British military personnel and then set loose upon the hapless Daesh. But there’s a couple of problems with this. We have already trained and armed the Iraqi army who turned tail at the sight of the black flags and left all of their wonderful western equipment for Daesh to use as it pleased. The USA has already tried this and it was a disaster with most of the trainees selling their equipment to Daesh and others, some of them even went on to fight for Daesh. Another problem is that Russia is bombing the groups which have magically increased in size, does that mean that Russia will be bombing our troops? Then there is the small matter of the EU arms embargo, supplying arms to Syria is illegal, so how is that going to work?

Assuming that we do go bombing in Syria we can rest assured that the weapons that will be used are “precision” weapons. They will dangle under the shiny new drones which are to be bought with the money that the OBR conjured out of thin air in the Autumn Statement. The weapons of choice will be the GBU-12, a 500lb guided bomb, and the AGM 114 Hellfire missile. The GBU 12 has a “casualty radius” of between 200 – 300 ft. 50% of the people caught in this area will perish. The Hellfire missile is a modified anti-tank weapon which is fitted with a fragmentation sleeve around the warhead, it has a “wounding radius” of 65 feet and a “kill radius” of 50 ft. Again, if one goes off near you, it’s going to hurt. There will be innocent victims caught up in these bombs, but they will be called “militants” or “combatants” in order to hide the war crime. Anyone who wants to find out more about the use of drones have a look here.

My final point about the upcoming misadventure into another Middle Eastern war is this, how do we know if we’ve won? Do we have to kill all of Daesh or is it just a set ratio? Is it 90%, would that be a victory? How can we tell when we have reached the desired ratio, will we send Daesh some census papers? How much magic money will be committed to the reconstruction of Syria, because if you blow it up you have to fix it, that is laid down in the Geneva Convention. How long will that take? Did Comrade Cameron mention this or was it overlooked in all the excitement of talking about war?

The whole proposal is a disaster waiting to happen. No one knows what the objective is, Daesh or Assad? No one knows how to win. No one knows how to tell if we’ve won. The risks of sparking a wider conflict are huge and increasing by the day. This is one fight which we should leave the hell alone.

One last word for those who advocate putting “boots on the ground”, get yourself down to the Army careers office. I’m sure they will have some boots and rifle for you to take with you to the sandpit. I wish you luck, you’ll need it.

 

Fluffy

I must be unreasonable

So the Scotland Bill has passed through the house of commons, a bit like a turd is passed through the human body, and the Smith Agreement has been delivered in full. According to Fluffy, the Viceroy and Governor General of Scotland, “These improvements will strengthen the Scotland Bill and put beyond any reasonable doubt for any reasonable person that the Government is delivering the Smith Agreement exactly as we promised we would.”

Notice how he uses the word “reasonable” twice in that sentence. The first instance is “beyond reasonable doubt”, this term used as the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction. We’ll take a look at that one in a moment. The second use is “for any reasonable person”, again this is a legal term applied in common law. By using it here Fluffy is suggesting that if you disagree with him then you are clearly unreasonable. I must be unreasonable then, for the evidence that I will present here clearly shows, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Smith Agreement is not delivered in full by the current Scotland Bill 2015-16. The Vow has not been delivered either, despite it’s promises being as woolly as Fluffy’s hair.

The only concrete promise in The Vow is, “The Scottish Parliament is permanent.” This was agreed by the Smith Commission, the agreement states, “UK legislation will state that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are permanent institutions.”

So what does the Scotland Bill say about the permanence of the Scottish Parliament? “The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.” So it would appear that the Scotland Bill does indeed make the Scottish Parliament permanent.

But what’s this? Two paragraphs down the bill states, “In view of that commitment it is declared that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are not to be abolished except on the basis of a decision of the people of Scotland voting in a referendum.” In other words, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government CAN be abolished. That doesn’t sound very permanent to me. But then I must be unreasonable. Or maybe I am reasonable and Fluffy is lying.

Let’s take a look at some of the other parts of the Smith Agreement. There’s the part which deals with the Crown Estate which states, “Responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland, and the revenue generated from these assets, will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament. This will include the Crown Estate’s seabed, urban assets, rural estates, mineral and fishing rights, and the Scottish foreshore for which
it is responsible.” The Scotland Bill states, “The Treasury may make a scheme transferring on the transfer date all the existing Scottish functions of the Crown Estate Commissioners
(“the Commissioners”) to the Scottish Ministers or a person nominated by the Scottish Ministers (“the transferee”).”

So the Treasury “may” make a scheme, although it doesn’t have to if Gideon doesn’t want to. What if he’s blown all the dough on hookers and coke and he’s feeling a bit skint. He may decide that he won’t make that scheme after all. But let’s assume that he’s feeling all warm and fuzzy and makes the scheme after all, what would it contain? Well it would contain all of the Crown Estate wouldn’t it?

Errr no, You see, two paragraphs down there’s this, “Where immediately before the transfer date part of the Crown Estate consists of property, rights or interests held by a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, subsection (2)(a) excludes—
(a) the property, rights or interests, and
(b) any property, rights or interests in, or in a member of, a partner in the limited partnership.”

So the whole of the Crown Estate in Scotland is not being devolved, as was agreed by the Smith Commission. So it would be reasonable to say that the whole of the Smith Agreement is not being delivered by the shiny new Scotland Bill.

Here’s another part of the Smith Agreement, “The Scottish Parliament will have the power to prevent the proliferation of Payday Loan shops.” What do we find in the Scotland Bill? Well nothing as it happens. Now why could that be I wonder? It would be because the Tories are largely funded by people associated with legal loan shark companies would it? Surely that’s what any reasonable person would think, isn’t it? But it’s just another part of the Smith Agreement which is not featured in the Scotland Bill.

As for the rest of the Scotland Bill, it’s beyond me. The language is couched in the most tortuous legalese that lawyers will be cashing in for years. But It would be reasonable to say that the it’s beyond reasonable doubt that the entire Smith Agreement has not been delivered by the Scotland Bill 2015-16 as it currently stands. Does that sound reasonable to you?

What about the veto which wasn’t a veto? You know the one where the Scottish Government has to consult the Secretary of State and get his agreement before they can implement anything. Well there’s this in the Bill, “If—
(a) the Scottish Ministers make regulations to which this section applies,
and
(b) the Secretary of State considers that it is not practicable to implement a change made by the regulations by the time that change is to start to have effect, (our emphasis)
the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument amend
the regulations so that the change is to start to have effect from a time later than
the time originally set.

So Fluffy could say, “Yer nae deing that until 2025!” That sounds like a veto to me, or am I just being unreasonable?

Better Together?

Willie’s gone Wonka

The opinion polls make dire reading for the Lib Dems these days, with a projected 5% of the vote for the Scottish Parliamentary elections next year. So Wee Willie Rennie has jumped on the UK Labour Party’s Scottish Branch Manager’s wheeze to try to entice Yes voters back into the fold by allowing their MSPs to speak for Independence in the event of another independence referendum. Notice that the Umpa Lumpa’s will only be allowed to campaign for a Yes vote, not necessarily vote Yes.

They must think we’re daft. Who is going to trust these people? Remember that Wee Willie backs the self-confessed liar Alistair Carmichael. One of the newly ennobled Lib Dem peers, Malcolm Bruce, famously said, “If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or even told a brazen lie, including cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, [should be removed] we would clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest.”  Why would anybody vote for the Liar Democrats? As for Kezia Dugdale, she lies on a daily basis. She doesn’t even blush these days. I wonder if the Conservative and Unionist party will come out with a similar ploy?

But what of it? Well it shows that the writing is on the wall for the Unionist parties. People just don’t trust them anymore. No amount of grand standing, no amount of positive media coverage is going to change people’s point of view. That’s why we are hearing them tell us that they may kind of support some idea of independence if the need arises in the future. I haven’t laughed this much since I heard of David Hameron’s porcine fellatio.

However, what it does show us is that the Scottish constitutional question is still very much alive. They are starting to realise that, if they want to survive another election, they will have to move with the current. That current is moving inexorably towards independence now. There is still much work to be done, but surely we have earned a brief moment to smile.