Saturday, 31 December 2011


Another year over, and a new one just begun...

... And an opportunity for us to thank all of you who read this blog for your support over the year. 

We really appreciate your visits and your comments. Without them the blog would be rather a waste of time.

We were genuinely proud that Munguin's Republic did so well in the Total Politics Blog Awards, and so we want to say thank you to all of you who voted for us.

So to all of you, wherever you are:

A Guid New Year; 

Bliadhna Mhath Ur; 

Une Bonne Annee; 

Happy New Year; 

Prost Neujhar; 

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda. 


Always good to put on a show for the neighbours, don't you think.

Despite all the evidence of doom and gloom, the English Culture Secretary, the man some people call Jeremy Hunt, has announced that London's Olympics will not be austerity Olympics. Apart from MPs, top businessmen, the royals, lords and anyone from the city, the rest of us are living austerity lives, and will be, all the way through next year, but the Olympics will be lavish.

Yes, fut coat and no knickers Hunt promises us a show to remember. After all, it will be a time for people like him and Cameron and Prince Sebastian and all their business rich mates, to enjoy the best of everything at our expense, even down to having special lanes on roads reserved just for them.

There was a choice, according to that great expert of all things economic and sporting. We could say that because these are austere times we should pare everything back, or we could say that because there are times of austerity we must harness the Olympics. "People", he said,"would not forgive us" if we didn't make the most of the opportunity to spend spend spend. He said that it was going to be an incredible expression of British culture, British history and British creativity. 

What is the fool on about? 

It's the bloody Olympics; they belong to a city, in this case London. Most of the rest of us will see what we see on tv, just as if they had been staged in Paris, Ulan Bator, or the Moon! The only difference is we have all had to go without to pay for  our betters to prance around self importantly on the telly.

Most of the promises that came with the Olympics have already been broken. I seem to remember in the dim and distant past, that there were to cost around £3 billion; now that figure is nearly £10 billion, and rising. 
The security budget, the extent of which we will never know, has been more than doubled recently, as has the "showbiz" part of it, the opening and closing parts, where doubtless, the likes of Prince Sebastian Cameron and H h h h hunt will be sitting in a grand box along with the Queen.

There was supposed to be an increase in sporting activity throughout the four countries that are paying for it; in fact sporting activity has actually dropped off. 

There were promises about the stadia being taken over by private companies; now it appears that nothing can be agreed and extra costs are to fall on the government, ie us, for them.

The accommodation of the athletes' village cost a billion to build and was supposed to earn a profit when it was sold; however, it only raised around half of that.

The Treasury is currently analysing the economic impact of the Games, but Mr Hunt, the genius that he is, has pre-empted them to tell us that it will be significant. Well, that's all right then. Thank God they have him; whatever would they do without him?


It's December 31: a time to reflect on the year past.

For Scotland it has been momentous. There was a general election which produced an SNP majority government, though the system was designed specifically to avoid any majority government, much less an SNP one. 

So far, with the exception of the Sectarian legislation, all has been well and support for the government has increased rather than diminished in the months since May.

John Swinney has worked miracles with ever decreasing financial settlements over the years  first from Labour and now the Liberal Tory coalition and has continued his magic touch, and Scotland's pensioners, sick, poor and those looking for homes, enjoy much that England's equivalents do not.

Of course, despite having made it clear before the election that the referendum would be in the second half of the 5 year-parliament, the opposition parties seem to find little else to question the government about. And talking about opposition parties, all but the Greens have had a change of leader since May. 

First the Liberals, having swapped their 16 seats for 5, swapped Tavish Scott for Willie Rennie, a bad deal in my estimation. Tavish, despite his intense dislike of the SNP, had at least heard of constructive opposition and was prepared to apply it for the benefit of his country. Willie, maybe having failed to realise that his party had lost 2/3 of its seats because of its participation in Westminster with David Cameron and Tavish's inability before the election to distance himself from that, threw away his opportunity to start a fightback and backed Cleggameron's policies from day one. Duh!

Then the Tories swapped the estimable Annabel Goldie, a woman much more popular than her party, for Ruth Davidson, who had only just been elected to her seat a few months before. In doing so they threw away the opportunity to move forward as a new distinctly Scottish right of centre party under Murdo Fraser, and lost a good deal of support, including from our own resident Tory (or ex-Tory), Dean from New Right.

Finally Labour ditched the inestimable Iain 'don't sleep in the subway' Gray, a dreary soul who never seemed to make the right decision and whined his way through FMQs every week before being left battered and bruised. Iain had presided over Labour's most humiliating defeat ever in Scotland, and it was clear to everyone that a drastic change  of direction was needed, so Labour elected the woman who had been second in charge under the catastrophe, Johann Lamont. Smart thinking.

Each one of the parties has failed to see that there is a new politics in Scotland. Maybe we are on the road to independence; maybe devo max, or independence light, but the status quo is not an option, and sticking to it, on orders from their London bosses, may minimise the damage done to the government (which is of course all about change), but it's not what is best for Scotland.  

While a new separate identity is what people seem to want, Willie Rennie walks around in Clegg's shadow and Ruth is David's woman all the way. After all, David's own strategist man came to Scotland to give her campaign advice.

Whilst it is true that Mrs Lamont in now supposedly leader of everything she surveys in Scotland: (in order of importance, or should that be 'impotence') MSPs, MPs, MEPs, Councillors, the tea fund? the Lords, it's not quite clear what that means. 

Do Labour's English/Scottish stars, Spud and Wee Doogie, at Defence and Foreign Affairs respectively, report to her? Would they continue to do so were Labour in government? Does Vinegar Maggie report to her? Who's boss of whom? 

I suspect that the changes in Labour's constitution are cosmetic only and that orders will inevitably continue to come from London. I don't see Johann as a rebel. But I wonder how long it will be before someone blows a hole in the pretence. That will be interesting.

So far there has been an air of unfinished business about parliament. Now the new leaders are all in place, let's hope that somehow, together we can take Scotland forward to survive what everyone predicts will be battering year all over Europe.

Friday, 30 December 2011


Isn't British democracy wonderful?

It's not bad enough that we have an unelected head of state, an upper house mish mash of  aristocrats, English bishops, failed politicians, old politicians and creeps, a lower house which can command a huge majority on 30% of the vote and which is whipped into shape by enforcers, but worse, it is revealed today, under the 30 year rule, that a presidential style prime minister can walk over the cabinet with no repercussions...well, except that her decisions can cost us all billions.

The cabinet was against the purchase of Trident's first version--C4.  But in a secret deal with Jimmy Carter, the then president of the United States, the purchase went ahead anyway, because Mrs Thatcher wanted it. She was told that a debate was necessary because two-thirds of the party and two thirds of the Cabinet were against the purchase of Trident, but she was disinclined to bother much about debate.

The original cost was to be £5 billion. A lot of money now, but very much more in the late 70s. 

However the cost was doubled when Ronnie Reagan was elected and decided to go for the Bells and Whistles version of Trident. The British system had to work in concert with the American's, and so the cost became £10 billion.

Failure to buy the system would have left France as the only nuclear power in Europe, and Mrs Thatcher's dislike and mistrust of the French wouldn't allow her to tolerate them having something that England didn't. Entitlement to a seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council would also have been impossible without nuclear weaponry, and that Mrs Thatcher could not contemplate. Her status as a world leader would have been diminished and she would have been excluded from the most secret of talks with the American president.

So taking advice from Cabinet Secretary, Robert Armstrong in the form of a hand-written top secret note, that going it alone had precedents (Harold Macmillan had done the same thing over Polaris, and Harold Wilson over Chevaline), she decided to ignore the wishes of her Cabinet and do what she wanted.

And so the billions were spent and we have been lumbered with this useless supposedly "independent" deterrent (that we have to have permission from America to use) in Scotland. Effectively, it is extra nuclear capacity for America that the idiot Brits pay for and house in return for a seat at the top table.

On balance though, Mrs Thatcher did buy an ironing board for herself at a cost of £19! (damned expensive ironing board in 1979), and sent back bedding and crockery which had been ordered on her behalf for Downing Street, saying that she would provide her own. So it wasn't all bad. [By contrast Mr Cameron spent £30,000 in his first year, doing up the flat above the office.]

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


It was either these Irn Bru ads, or Kim Jong Il's funeral. On balance I thought that these were moderately more entertaining.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

I'm not Prince Charles' biggest fan, as most of you will know, but after reading this, I'm very glad that I don't have to live in his Duchy. I thought you might like to read it too. Far too much privilege, far too little accountability or democracy. My thanks to the author of Cornish Republican for bringing it to my attention.

For the information of anyone who is remotely interested, Kate Middleton wore a pair of earrings to go to the kirk on Christmas day. They were a present from her husband, William, and according to AOL News, they cost £1,900. I wonder how many of his colleagues in Search and Rescue, Wales, were able to spend that much money on their wives... or come to that, how AOL News found out how much he spent on her...
Talking of royalty, you have to hand it to Phil. He certainly knows how to enjoy himself. He got out of hospital this morning, and although we only have the BBC reporter's word for it, he was told to rest for some time. But instead the old goat was out shooting defenceless birds this afternoon. Whatever you think of that (and I take a dim view of it), you have to laugh at the Telegraph's reporting: "Dressed smartly in a blue shirt with a green patterned tie and grey jacket, he sat in the passenger seat of a blue Range Rover for the 60 mile, one hour 13 minute journey."!!!!!!!! Goodness. He was dressed smartly, was he? How else was he going to be dressed? With his money he's hardly likely to look like he fell out of a bin, is he? Oh yeah...and the journey was 1 hour and 13 minutes? Bang on.

Sinead O'Connor latest marriage lasted 16 days... that's a record, even by her standards.

Alex Salmond has gone and got himself voted Briton of the Year. He is reported delighted! Oh the irony.
Those who predicted that Scots looking for cheap, cheap booze would head over the border to England for their Diamond White cider and offers of '3 for the price of 2', were a wee bit previous in their predictions. Cameron has just announced a similar scheme of minimum pricing for his country. It had to come. Chief medical officers in all parts of the UK have been advising it for a long time. It's not perfect, and i don't think it's the only solution, but it may help a little.

Monday, 26 December 2011


At Number 2 in the Irish Republic's charts, some 47 years after its first appearance there and  22 years after its last appearance there, it's back, proving that you can't keep a good song down. They filmed the video in Downtown Galway, she filmed it in Downtown Paris, but they met in Downtown London to record it.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


It's time of year for messages. Well, yes, of course, if you had the misfortune to be in a supermarket yesterday, you'll know that (but only if you are Scottish and so know that messages, as well as being things that people send, are also 'the shopping', 'the marketing', and 'les commissions', depending on where you are).

But beside that, I suppose in order to give the news media something to report on Christmas day, it's also the time for the other kind of messages.

So today, I've heard the Pope's "Urbi et Orbi", in which, not surprisingly he talked about a global picture, and a rather unhappy one it is too. We're a long way from peace in Afghanistan, Iraq, North  Africa, the Middle and Near East and another year has passed and the Palestinian/Israeli situation is no better. He also reminded us that there are people starving and suffering from floods in Africa and in South Asia. 

As you know, I'm not religious, but it was all rather sobering.

The Archbishop of Canterbury concentrated on the riots that took place in England last summer, and bankers, seeming to make little difference between the thoughtlessness that motivates both.

The Queen talked mainly about her family, which was probably wise, given that her message has to be approved by Downing Street, which wouldn't be too keen on her giving the bankers a kicking, or the student protesters who had the audacity to poke her son's squeeze with a stick (although I bet Phil had a good laugh at that one).

Closer to home both the First Minister and the leader of the Labour opposition thanked the people who will work over Christmas to keep up safe in so many ways, soldiers, nurses, doctors, police, firemen, and of course the volunteers who will give up their holiday to help those less fortunate. 

Ruth Davidson seemed to leave only a message for the Tory faithful, urging them to greater action in the New Year.

Willie Rennie, gave a largely political message attacking the SNP for making the wrong decisions and asking for strong Liberal voices to benefit the community. 

So, that only leaves one message left to cover. Mine. It's short and it's sweet.

I hope you had a happy day. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011


I see that Willie Hague has condemned the bombings in Iraq yesterday which cost at least 60 lives.

They were probably sectarian in origin, inspired by the exile of the Shi'ite deputy first minister to the Kurdish north of the country, and were exploded as the last Americans left Iraq.

I join with Mr Hague in condemning the killings.

I did not, however, join with Mr Hague and his party when they stood four-square behind Tony Blair and George Bush in their determination to beat Hans Blix to the starting line by bombing the hell out of the country, in the name of some mystical weapons of mass destruction, which the Americas just absolutely KNEW were there, and they had photographs to prove it.  The British secret service too, had incontrovertible evidence of their existence, based on a ten year old PhD thesis written by an Iraqi dissident.

Needless to say, the photographs were as reliable as the thesis, because in the intervening 8 years, although hundreds of thousands of people have died, innumerable have been maimed and injured, homes and  businesses lost, millions spent, and a massive step back has been taken in human rights, particularly for women,  not a single weapon or trace of a weapon has been found.

George DubYa Bush has retired to a job more suited to his doubtless talents (chopping down trees on his extensive Texas ranch),  and Antony Linton Blair has turned into a money making machine caring not what he does to make a buck. To cover for his iniquitousness he has apparently become some sort of Christian (although a bloody funny sort of Christian it seems to me).
Two not very wise monkeys. 
I assume that everyone who was anyone knew that this WMD nonsense was a scam.

I imagine that Saddam had simply become an irritation to the West, that is to say Bushair (a sort of amalgam of Bush and Blair, with our man hanging out from behind DubYa).

So back to Mr Hague.

Democracy is a grand system of government, and dictatorship is not. But not one size fits all in this world, and depending on the country you have to rule, sometimes you need to do what you need to do. Sometimes there is no other way to rule. Democracy hasn't really worked that well in Iraq, has it?

Try to think of this the next time the opportunity to through Britain's weight around arises.

Unless you REALLY know how to fix something, even if it's broke, don't try. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Following news that Scottish businesses have won 133 of the 171 contracts through the Glasgow Business Portal, Shona Robison, Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport said, in a statement to parliament, that Glasgow 2014 is providing economic hope in a challenging climate.

Shona announced that many of the venues are already in place, and that work is continuing on the others, on schedule. She talked about the legacy for Glasgow, including improved public transport and reduced congestion. Local companies and business throughout Scotland are benefiting from the contracts, and work has been provided, especially for young people. 

The opening and closing ceremonies will provide opportunities for Scotland's abundant creative talent.

There is a genuine intention to ensure that Scots benefit from the games in the provision of sporting facilities all over the country. It was a condition of the games award to Glasgow, and it is being fulfilled. Even now, nearly 3 years before the events, 41 Community Sports Hubs have been created and more are on their way. Shona wants to see 150 of these hubs by 2016, at least half of them in schools and using school facilities.

It may seem hypocritical for me to lambaste the Olympic Games in London, which we are helping to pay for, and then to support the Commonwealth Games which we are paying for in total. But it is more the mismanagement of the Olympics rather than the games and the money that is being thrown around like confetti that angers me. I hope too that the sponsors who have demanded so much in London realise that they have done themselves no good at all. Greedy McDonalds, Mastercard Coka Cola, etc. London is all business, and very little sport.

However, in Shona Robison we have a sports minister who passionately believes in sport. And she sees that the way to make this event a success for ALL of Scotland, and not just Glasgow, is to make sure it touches all of us.

These community sporting facilities will do that. It is, however, important that people are aware of where they are, and how to access them.

I'm not just backing this because it is the SNP government which is running it. This must be a non-political event. Remember that it was Jack McConnell's Labour Executive that did all the ground work, and Jack, I suppose, who expected to be the first minister to oversee the games. And of course Glasgow Council (Labour controlled) is hugely involved in the organisation.
I'm sure too that Shona will get support and encouragement from the sports shadows of the main parties, Patricia Ferguson and Alex Johnstone. Ministers and shadows for young people's employment need to work together  too over this.

Working with young people has taught me how important this is. This is our opportunity. We must grab it with both hands. The difference to young people that, for example, Spook's* football academy makes, is outstanding. Lads want to be successful. They just need the opportunity. Sport can give them that.

Scotland will ensure that opportunity for, and encouragement to participate in, sport, and therefore enjoy a healthier  and better life will be provided. 

In doing that we'll not only be  fulfilling our commitment to the Commonwealth Games Organisers, we will help our kids to find better ways of passing their lives than with booze, drugs and computer games.

 (You remember Spook don't you? Accountant, ex-blogger, footballer and friend to many of us.) 


There has been a lot of discussion recently about what marriage means, what it should mean and if and how we should amend the laws relating to it. 

Reading around the subject today I found an interesting fact.

In the American state of Minnesota (that's one of the big ones, in the middle at the top, surrounded by Canada to the north, the Dakotas to the west, Iowa to the south and Michigan and Wisconsin to the East), adultery is a crime (Statute 609.36), punishable in law by a fine of $3,000,  1 year's imprisonment... or both.

So what, you may say, a lot of countries have old laws, based on strict adherence to the Old Testament's or Torah's, teachings of Leviticus (Vayikra), which should have been repealed years ago, but were simply forgotten. The police would never act upon them.

After all, until a few years ago you weren't allowed to buy sugar or carrots in England on a Sunday, alcohol sales were banned in some parts of Wales and in the Western Isles of Scotland pretty much everything was banned on the 'Sabbath' (which wasn't Saturday, but Sunday!) if it didn't involve reading the Bible. 

But in this case, you would be wrong. A Democrat Senator tried to have the law repealed in 2010, but an organisation called the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) objected. The MFC not only wanted the law retained, they wanted it strengthened. They said it sent a message to the public about how important marriage is and they were supported by the Republicans.

As far as I can make out, no actual strengthening was done, but the law remains on statute. To strengthen marriage however (and placate the MFC), the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, Amy Koch, brought  forward legislation guaranteeing that marriage would always (in that state) be between a man and a woman. (The constitutional amendment, of course, has to be voted on in a referendum to take place at the same time as the Presidential election in November next year.)

So we can deduce from that that Amy Koch is strong on marriage, or can we?

No. In fact, Mrs Koch might have been better advised to avoid getting involved in the subject of marriage altogether, because it has come to light that Mrs Koch has been conducting an affair with one of her subordinates, and has been obliged to resign her leadership. 


I expect that she will be glad that they didn't strengthen the penalty for adultery to, say ten years or $100,000

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for You Little People, and Dirty Deals for the Big Boys

I was just heading to bed when I noticed this story in the Telegraph.

It appears that, at this time when the country is desperate for cash, when everything is being cut, people are losing jobs and sick and old people are being denied services they paid for and expected, the Revenue (Her Majesty's), which we thought to be rather inefficient and disorganised, disenchanting and disillusioned, in fact a bit lame, is actually crashingly dishonest. It has been doing deals with large companies, which have seen them excused from paying billions in tax.

Last year, millions of us were sent notices demanding tax which, entirely by the fault of the Revenue, had not been collected in previous years; some others were lucky enough to receive rebates, because the HMRC had been taking money from them when it shouldn't have been. 

I had personally phoned and phoned to get something done about my tax, and every time I spoke to a different person in a call centre promised that action would be taken. It never was, of course. In the end I gave up because there are only so many years in my life and I'm not going to spend them in fruitless, expensive, frustrating calls to HMRC.

So now Margaret Hodge, no less, has said that there is £25 billion of tax outstanding from the biggest companies. £25 billion!!! That's almost the Scottish Government's budget. 

Hodge is concerned, rightly, that big companies are treated more favourably than ordinary tax payers. In Britain? The bastion of fairness, of justice and equality?  No, surely not?

Well yes, and what is even more disgusting is that HMCR won't tell the Commons Accounts Committee before which they were summoned, who owes what. Companies involved include Vodafone and ...wait for it, Goldman Sachs. Surely the byword for all that is evil in business. 

So this government committee had to depend on the testimony of a whistle blower for the estimate. 

I won't précis the whole story, this post is linked to the article in the Telegraph.  But I will say that there's a pattern emerging here. In the last few years we have been told (and seen for ourselves) that the Home Office in London is completely out of control and "not fit for purpose". Actually it's not fit for anything. Remember this "great department of state" while responsible for immigration, was actually employing illegal immigrants... Yep!

The Ministry of Defence's attitude to purchasing equipment reminds me of my attitude to buying crisps.  It spends billions like I would spend 50p on a packet of of pickled onion only to discover that they were bouffing and dump them. An organisation that was buying light bulbs at £22, when any fool can get the same ones for 65p in the 99p shop, is hardly one that you would want to trust with the life of your brother or son out there at the sharp end.

The Revenue (which is due to be taking over the payment of some benefits from 2013) seems to have joined the band of London government departments which couldn't run a booze up in a distillery.

Serious suggestion to Osborne. Get it sorted tout de suite matey. Tell these cheats and thieves that we want our money and we want it now before you are downgraded to "junk", which is what you are.

No wonder they didn't want the EU rules and regulations in the affairs of London. It is as bent and corrupt as anywhere in the world. 

Something rotten in the state of England, I fear.

(* Click on cartoon to enlarge.)

(I'll apologise in advance for any mistakes. This was a rushed job! I'll correct it tomorrow.)

Monday, 19 December 2011


This is a letter to Johann Lamont from Patrick Small. It was first published in Product Magazine, but I saw it in, and lifted from, Labour Hame, where it was contributed by Duncan Macniven

I think it encapsulates the issues that Ms Lamont needs to address over the next few months, but will, unfortunately, almost certainly not. 

The most important of them, I think, is the constant whining and criticising. Not everything the government does is good, no one would pretend that. But not everything it does is bad either. So stop the automatic sniping. No one takes you seriously if all you can do is whine. Start constructive opposition and you will gain respect. And tell that to Maggie Curran too!

Dear Johann
Congratulations on your victory. If you’re to dispel the notion that Scottish Labour leaders have steadily diminished since Donald Dewar, each one seeming progressively less capable and less attuned to the country they seek to lead, you’re going to need to take advice from across the board. For what it’s worth, here’s mine:
1. Get Humble
Labour didn’t just lose the election in May, you got horsed. You are where you are because the Scottish electorate put you there. Your victory speech suggested you you may understand this. So shut down the old duffers. Whenever Brian Wilson or John McTernan take to the airwaves you can almost feel thousands of voters turning away. The Wilson/McTernan message is one of simple entitlement: Labour dominance is the natural order, the election results of 2007 and 2011 were some kind of aberration, instead of the democratic choice of the Scottish people.
2. Endless Naysaying is a No No
The art of opposition requires that you choose carefully when to be positive about your opponents. A constant stream of negativity will just put people off. So commend and support the SNP government where it does things well. You will look like a bigger politician, and a potential first minister, instead of a slightly nippy loser. Iain Gray didn’t get this, and look what happened to him.
3. Apologise
Your party decided to oppose the Scottish government’s attempts to introduce a “Tesco tax” on the supermarkets, a modest proposal which would have brought in revenue from the very rich. You opposed this -either because you’re funded by Sainsbury’s or due to basic political lunacy. If you’re committed to being the Supermarket Owners’ Party, don’t expect to be taken seriously on social justice. And without a commitment to social justice, Labour can really pack up and go home. Just apologise. People will respect you for it, and it will mark you out as different from your predecessor.
4. Develop policies for a difficult age
Your victory speech also intimated a desire to develop real policies that might
work for Scotland. If they could be new, original, practical and costed that would be good. Top of these should be social and economic justice, taming feral banks and corporate excess, tackling drugs and homelessness and developing a climate change strategy. You might think these are intractable problems but if you have nothing new to say about them, don’t stand for high office. And don’t say you can only articulate policy in line with the powers devolved in the Scotland Act, that’s just going to make you look like a pygmy. Build links with community and campaign groups and talk honestly about poverty in Scotland. No-one else does.
5. Ditch Trident
We relentlessly hear about the age of austerity, the dark days ahead, the lack of cash and the “logic” of cuts. On Saturday you said we were “no longer living in an age of plenty”. But Trident, and its £75 billion price tag is to be left untouched. This has been shut down as a subject of serious debate in mainstream British politics. Except that last May the Scottish people elected two Greens and 69 SNP MSPs. Both parties’ manifestos explicitly reject nuclear warheads on the Clyde. You have previously suggested you may be against Trident, but have now gone quiet on the issue. If you really want to look people in the eye and say we must carry on closing schools and nurseries but keep blindly paying through the nose for a Cold War relic, you’re going to project both dishonesty and contempt for mainstream Scottish opinion.
Scotland needs an articulate, imaginative opposition to function as a healthy democracy. If Labour can’t provide this, something else will fill the vacuum quicker than you think.
First published in PRODUCT magazine.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


One of the issues concerning the proposed new single police force for Scotland, highlighted by Les Gray, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, pictured), is that the new body will be due to pay VAT.

Mr Gray suggests that the bill might be as much as £22 million per annum (-500 officers). He doesn't seem to mention that the savings of having one administration would be around £125 million (using the Acpos figures, +3,000 officers). Net balance: +2,500 officers.

I know which I'd rather have.

It couldn't be that Acpos is looking after the interests of the most senior officers, the need for whom would be substantially reduced under the single force plan, could it? You have one police force, you need one chief constable!

Having no knowledge at all of the regulations regarding the payment of VAT, I'm not sure why one police force covering five million people would be due for VAT and eight forces covering the same population would not. I'm sure however, that if Mr Gray says that it is so, then it will be so.

But, one thing is for sure, if Scotland were independent we could make our own VAT rules, which might not involve the police paying it. And even if they did, they would at least be paying it to the Scottish government, so it could be recycled for the good of the country.


The BBC doesn't rate Scotland as being of much importance, we all know. After complaints last year that their "British" riots coverage was causing cancellations in the Scottish tourist trade, they rather forcedly agreed to refer to the riots as "English", although you could almost hear the contempt in their voices as they emphasised the word, as in "We have to call them English riots otherwise these chippy Scots get all bent out of shape about their tourism". This reluctant demarcation lasted for a while.

However, I've noticed that the Beeb is slipping back to its bad old ways. Recent news about the shameful neglect of dementia patients in English hospitals was reported simply as "failings in the NHS", never mind that there are separate services for the different countries .

And yesterday BBC news gave Scotland a 30-second acknowledgement of the election of the new leader of the opposition, somewhere towards the bottom of the running order. (Imagine how they will treat the election of Mr Miliband's successor. More that 30 seconds?)

Right after that we were transported to a shopping centre in Gateshead, where the annual unseemly rush to grab money in the name of Jesus Christ was at full tilt, in what we must remember the prime minister has described as a Christian country.

We were introduced to a succession of women, dressed in their finest, telling us how hard things were this year; that they were trying not to get too overdrawn and that they had had to think about what presents to buy this year (in so doing admitting that in the past they didn't bother with thinking).

Then, as if we hadn't had enough, we went to London's Oxford Street where more celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was taking place.

I'm sure that Ms Lamont will be pleased that she got some coverage in Munguin's Republic, because the national broadcaster sure as hell wasn't interested.

I understand that the bulk of the BBC's viewers weren't much interested in what was going on up in haggis land, which is precisely why we should have control of our own broadcasting.

Because we, in our turn, are not that interested in how the citizens of Mr Camergoon's Christian country show respect for their saviour.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


Labour's Scottish branch has elected Johann Lamont as their leader with 51.77% of the vote. 

Her old job of Deputy Leader has been taken for the first time by an MP based in London, Anas Sarwar, reflecting the fact that their leadership is, as of now, over the entire Scottish branch of Labour (as Iain Gray always wanted it to be) and not just over the group of MSPs in Holyrood. 

Munguin's Republic offers most hearty congratulations to both of them.

In the last few months three of the four opposition parties in Holyrood have changed their leadership. Two chose people entirely new to Holyrood. Now that the new leaders are in place (and having been Deputy Leader, and a member for the parliament since its inception Johann will hit the ground running), we must get to grips with the challenges that the next few years will bring.

Because of the mess that greed has got us into, the UK is in a very serious financial situation. Even Tory MPs like Douglas Carswell are warning against the smugness that Cameron and Osborne are showing in relation to the worsening financial situation. The UK too may soon find itself lamenting its loss of the much prized AAA status.

Scotland is unfortunately in this mess every bit as much as the UK. I've just listened to FMQs and I'm disappointed that even as Iain Gray bowed out of his leadership, it was all about carping and point scoring. 

We all want a better Scotland, although clearly each party has different ideas of how this can be achieved. None is mad; none is bad. We are all just different.

My plea to Johann and to the other party leaders, including the first minister, is this:

It is a time for, in as much as it is possible, working together. 

As leaders you set the tone for debate in parliament. Let's see if the watchword, at least for the duration of the financial crisis, can be "cooperation". 

As Nicola Sturgeon said on election night, the SNP does not have the monopoly on good ideas. Other parties can, if they offer the help constructively, make an impression on the dire straits we find ourselves in.

Let's stop  carping about the independence referendum. It is going to happen towards the end of the parliament. That's a done and dusted fact. In the meantime there is a country out here that sent you people, of all political colours, to parliament, not to point score, but to do your best for us.

If you can't do that, then move the hell over and let someone else do it.

Friday, 16 December 2011


A few weeks ago I signed a petition requesting, or possibly even demanding, that the parliament of the European Union reject trade preferences for Uzbekistan and that they should take tougher action to stop child slavery in the country.

Craig Murray, ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, has previously reported that over one million children are used as slave labour during cotton harvesting in the country. They receive little or nothing for their work, and because they are charged for their transport to and from the cotton fields many are left in debt.

I'm not sure how the petition hoped that the second part of that demand would be fulfilled but the first half seemed simple enough. I don't think that the EU should be buying cotton which has been picked by kids of 10 to be used within its borders.

Many large supermarkets have already refused to buy cotton products which use material made from Uzbek cotton, and finally on Thursday the parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject a textile trade deal between the union and Uzbekistan citing child slavery as its reason.

I hope that a market the size of the EU (Europe buys 1/3 of the Uzbekistan's cotton/cotton products) refusing to do business with the country will force its leaders to look again at its production methods, and the people it uses as slaves.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


You may remember that a lad was walking home from his girlfriend's house on one hot night of the London riots in August. He was thirsty and helped himself to two bottles of water from a shop that had been looted and was sitting open. Total value of his theft, around £2.80. He was sent to prison for 6 months. 

With the agreement of the government courts were encouraged to hand down severe sentences to anyone who had been even remotely involved. For example, two lads who posted invitations to the riots on the Facebook pages were sentenced to 4 years in prison.

When cases went to the English Appeal Court they were upheld.

Baron Haddingfield, a man in a position where no one would question his integrity because of his station, a man who was bowed and scraped to, who was entitled to a chauffeur driven car, and who was called a Noble Lord, in fact a man people might have been expected to look up to stole, not 2 bottles of water worth £2.80, but £28,000. He was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment but actually only served 9 weeks because he was feeling poorly.

Baroness Uddin stole £125,000 from us by pretending that she lived at the seaside and was obliged to purchase another house in London because she had to attend the House of Lords. In fact she had had the house in London for many years. Her kids had been brought up there. The seaside flat was unfurnished and she never went there. It was all a great big scam to make her some money. And she went further. She would walk into the Lords, sign in, and walk out another door, spending less than 5 minutes in the building. For that she claimed her daily allowance of £300. 

She hasn't been sent to prison at all, although the police are said to be looking into her case a couple of years on.

But now the House of Lords has decided to punish them and all their grubby little mates most severely. Yes, draconian measures are to be taken.

From now on they won't be allowed to return to the House of Privilege until the money has been repaid, or until the next UK General Election, whichever comes first. They will, of course retain their titles and styles.

Nooooooooooo, I hear you cry in unison, at the severity of the punishment. Take it to the European Court of Lordly Rights.

The Lords' authorities have decided against trying to pursue noble members through the courts as they think that judges would not be prepared to hear cases involving the rights of the house.

Dear dear, and I thought London had police! Where's Cressida Dick when you erm need her?