Friday, October 28, 2005


From The Edinburgh Evening news, 27 October 2005:

Much Labour and yet so little in return.


I have been asked by many why I left New Labour and joined the SNP.

It's important that I make my position clear as it was a move I made only after a great deal of consideration.

After all, I had been a member of the Labour Party for over 20 years, serving as a councillor since 1988 and holding positions including Group Secretary and Whip, culminating as Deputy Lord Provost. In addition, I had years of activity in the trade union movement including serving on the National Executive of CPSA.

The council has achieved things of which I am proud, though certain recent threatened school closures and current transport chaos are not among them.

It's impossible to be unaware of the problems and disappointment some recent council decisions have caused. I still, though, have friends in the party - though I think some may be reviewing their membership for similar reasons.

My reasons are twofold. Firstly, in the new world in which we now live, I am convinced that Scotland as an independent nation cannot only prosper but deliver the dreams and aspirations that Scots possess for their country. I have always been a proud Scot but worried about an independent Scotland surviving in the big wide world.

Recently, though, I have seen what other small nations, such as Lithuania and the other Baltic States, can do. Countries with smaller populations and far fewer resources have achieved so much more. They do not have the potential wealth possessed by Scotland as the largest oil producer in the European Union. Yet they stand proud as independent nations and work towards delivering their people's dreams of a vibrant economy and social justice. The time has came for Scotland to move on from devolution to being an independent nation within the European Community.

Secondly, but equally, New Labour no longer adheres to the values of the party I joined. I became a member at the height of Margaret Thatcher's reign and Scotland was suffering under her yoke. I stood with others in opposing the worst excesses of her rule.

Some years later, I and other members in New Labour were told that to be electable, we were required to follow the policies of Tony Blair. Like others, I rejoiced when the party came to power in 1997, but that was in the belief that it would change the way we were being governed, not simply continue the Tory policies that were failing Scotland.

But nothing changed. Tony Blair has acted in an arrogant and high-handed fashion, ignoring not just the wishes of ordinary Labour members, but the needs and wants of the people of Scotland. They are not acting as a Labour government should. Draconian security measures such as expensive but ineffective ID cards are being implemented.

Now a Labour minister seeks to instigate lie detector tests for benefit claimants, some of the weakest and most vulnerable in our community. The party I was proud to join would have opposed these policies, not thought about introducing them.

The New Labour leadership in Scotland sought to allay fears by suggesting matters would change when Blair departed. But, at their recent conference, the PM announced his intention to drive on with so-called reforms and heir apparent Gordon Brown indicated that there would be no change under his government.

During the same conference, a party stalwart, Walter Wolfgang, was manhandled and ejected for daring to criticise a New Labour minister. I knew then the time was up. The Labour Party will not change, but Scotland has.

Scotland can do so much better than this. Our economy is underperforming and there are areas of poverty and deprivation that are scandalous in a developed country. The oil wealth that lies off our shores must be used to benefit the people of Scotland, not frittered away. Norway, for example, has recently announced its intention to use its oil wealth to eradicate poverty. Scotland could do likewise. When other nations smaller than Scotland are not only joining the European Union, but prospering within it, it is time for Scotland to return to being an independent nation.
The SNP is the only party that represents the hopes and dreams of those who seek a social democratic Scotland. It offers the opportunity for Scotland to be the nation that we know it can be - a vibrant economy and socially just land, like other small nations like Ireland, Denmark or Finland.

The SNP stands up for the policies and principles that the people of Scotland believe in - justice, fairness and opportunity. New Labour betrayed the principles I adhered to. It's up to others to consider their political future. I have taken a positive, rather than negative, step.

Steve Cardownie is Edinburgh City Council's Deputy Lord Provost. He left the Labour Party and joined the SNP this week

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Scottish National Party:
Websites: Scottish National Party

Thursday, October 27, 2005

UK government spends less in Scotland than it claims?

The London government lied about Scotland's oil wealth. It seems that the London government's figures on government spending in Scotland are also wrong!

The Press Association, 26 Oct 2005, reported that, according to two economists, UK Treasury blunders have overstated the amount of public spending in Scotland.

The combined effect of a series of errors is to overstate public spending in Scotland by £500 million a year, the economists have claimed.

The allegation comes from husband-and-wife team Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, who said they uncovered the errors using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Their findings are published in the latest Quarterly Economic Commentary of the Fraser of Allander Institute, a research body at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

Authors of the commentary said the Cuthberts' calculations had implications for the Executive's annual estimates of Scotland's public spending, tax revenues, and the balance between the two - by slightly lowering the net borrowing estimate from 11.3% of gross domestic product in 2002-03 to 10.6%. The Cuthberts' argument is likely to be seized on by the SNP.

The annual figures for government spending and revenue for Scotland, largely based on Treasury figures, regularly provoke a political row, with the SNP claiming Scotland more than pays its way if oil revenues are taken into account, while Labour argues that Scotland has a structural deficit.

The Cuthberts argue that at least £4.4 billion of certain types of spending in areas like prisons, courts and nature conservation is excluded from a particular category of public spending in England, but not in Scotland.

Another anomaly relates to the way Scottish public spending covers national museums, galleries and libraries that will also be used by some people south of the border. Yet the fact that some Scots will use similar institutions in England is also brought into the Scottish spending equation, say the Cuthberts.

There are also several cases where spending in wrongly attributed, say the Cuthberts, citing one example where, it is claimed, the Department for Work and Pensions wrongly identified that it had spent £57 million of its European expenditure in Scotland - even though this function was devolved and the money had already been included under money spent by the Executive.
And export promotion and inward investment specifically for the benefit of England was recorded as being for the benefit of all parts of Britain, said the Cuthberts.

They argue the errors are all symptoms of a more general problem - the failure of the Treasury to cross-check the results of two separate sets of calculations. Rectifying the errors would produce "much more informative" analysis of the effects of devolution.

Press Association Ltd

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The good news on the economy

Quotes from an article entitled 'Window of opportunity' by RON CLARK, October 25 2005.

"Scotland has doubled its GDP in 35 years, it has a world-class earner in the whisky industry, tourism is thriving, there are high quality jobs in engineering, shipbuilding and aerospace, financial services are solid and our banks are punching well above their weight on the world stage...

"Scotland's industrial zenith was in 1913, when the Clyde dominated world shipping. But a changing landscape of new consumer industries which were location, rather than resource-orientated saw Scotland's per capita GDP slip to 90% of the UK's by the fifties. By the mid-nineties, however, GDP was ahead of the UK – a "significant, second-wind recovery...fuelled by foreign investment, financial services and North Sea oil."


Monday, October 24, 2005

Young boy trapped in flat with dead mum for up to 6 weeks; how uncaring are the people of Edinburgh?


What is the state of family life in Edinburgh, capital of Scotland?

How neighbourly are the people of Edinburgh?

How efficient are the police, teachers and social workers?


Three-year-old Michael McGarrity was trapped in an Edinburgh council flat for about six weeks.

His mother, Anne-Marie, lay dead on the living room floor.

Michael was too small to unlock the flat's door.

The staff at the nursery that Michael attended waited about six weeks before contacting Michel's grandmother.

Grandmother contacted the police.

The police came to the block of flats but got no reply. They went away.

It was only on their second visit to the block of flats that they entered Michael's flat and discovered Michael.

When police broke into the flat, Michael was beside the body of his mother.

He was like a skeleton and barely able to stand.

1. While alone in the flat, 'Michael pushed letters back through on to the concrete landing'.

2. Neighbours reportedly complained to the building's concierge several times of a strong smell coming from the flat and the presence of flies.

3. Michael had been a regular attender at a local nursery. Michael's absence from the nursery school was not reported for 6 weeks.

4. Michael and his mother had apparently not been visited by members of the extended family for some time. Sources say several family members are now contesting the right to raise Michael.

5. Next-door neighbour Moira Chisholm said she often enjoyed a chat and a coffee with Michael's mother Anne Marie on the balcony in the summer. She added:"She was an active women, always out and about. She used to take Michael to nursery every day and a lot of people round here can't be bothered to take their kids to nursery. She was a good mum."

Mrs Chisholm said that in the days leading up to the discovery of Anne-Marie's body, she noticed dozens of bluebottles gathering on her living room wall, which connected to Anne-Marie's flat, and in the hallway outside.

"I knocked on her door a couple of times after I noticed mail popping back out on to the landing. I started to think to myself that something wasn't right. I went down to the concierge's office a couple of times saying I hadn't seen Anne-Marie for a while and maybe they should investigate. I also noticed that her fob on the security door hadn't been used for a couple of weeks."

6. When the police came round to the flat the first time, they did not enter the flat.

Will anything change? The Scots seem like the people of some enslaved Soviet republic.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alex Salmond on growing unease: ID cards, terror laws...

Taken from publictechnology:

SNP leader pinpoints growing unease over security and ID Cards

Public Technology October 20 2005

SNP Leader Alex Salmond MP will use his speech to the 30th Anniversary conference of the Scottish Legal Action Group in Edinburgh this evening (Thursday) to highlight the growing unease in Scotland over the government's security agenda - of which ID Cards are a central cornerstone.

Mr Salmond will warn that Labour's plans for ID cards and a national identity register, and the increasing use of anti-terror laws, mark a dangerous new direction for the state and state powers which runs contrary to centuries of Scottish freedoms.

Speaking before the event, Mr Salmond said:"We are entering an important period for Scotland. A period that will define the sort of country we are, and determine the freedoms we hold as citizens.

"Across Scotland I am picking up a great deal of unease and concern at the direction the government is trying to take us. Hard won personal freedoms are threatened to an extent I never thought possible. We are sliding towards a big brother Britain.

"I don't want to be part of a country where the first instinct of the police when they see an 82 year old pensioner being assaulted is to detain that pensioner under anti-terror laws. The police would have served us better by arresting Walter Wolfgang's assailants.

"I don't want to be part of a society where a woman on her way to work is prevented by terror laws from walking along a cycle path in Dundee.

"If the government gets its way, within a few years, every Scot will be forced to register their personal details in a centralised database.

"There are huge practical arguments against the introduction of ID cards - they are technically unproven and will impose an identity tax of hundreds of pounds on a family of four. But there are also vital issues of principle.

"A great deal is being done in the name of protecting us from terror, but truly effective measures such as using evidence from telephone tapping in court are blocked because they would open government ministers to judicial scrutiny.

"Labour won the support of just 21.6% of the electorate in May and yet has an unassailable majority in the House of Commons. There is no effective control or limit on Tony Blair.

"We have every reason to feel uneasy, and every reason to expect Scotland's Parliament to offer protection."


Worst in Scotland for drugs - Dumfries and Galloway?


Think of the police in Dumfries in Galloway and you think of the Lockerbie Bomb Trial.

And this: Police chief- Lockerbie evidence was faked

And this: Pan Am Flight 103 hit Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. The Dumfries and Galloway police began to investigate. But for two days it was "difficult" for them to collect evidence as "CIA agents combed the countryside for the luggage of the dead American intelligence agents and a suitcase full of heroin...."

According to the BBC, 14 October 2005:

Research carried in 2004 showed that 52% of those with a drug problem in Dumfries and Galloway were aged between 15 and 19 when their addiction began.

This compares with 38% in the Greater Glasgow health board area.

Researchers from the Centre for Drugs Misuse Research (CDMR) at Glasgow University found that the prevalence of misuse in the Dumfries and Galloway area had risen significantly between 2000 and 2003.

The prevalence figure, which is expressed as a percentage of those aged between 15 and 54 who use problem drugs (mainly heroin), had risen from 1.6% to 2.43%, a rate higher than both Edinburgh (2.10%) and Aberdeen (2.03%).


Wednesday, October 12, 2005


The following letter appeared in The Herald, 12 October 2005:

Brian Anderson (Letters, October 11) touches a very raw nerve with his ominous question, "What will become of Scotland when the oil is gone?" and "we become a liability to England," suggesting that England may well insist on its own independence from us.

I was reminded of a fascinating article in The Herald on obscure words from around the world.

The Pascuense inhabitants of Easter Island apparently had the word "tingo", meaning to borrow objects from a friend's house until there is nothing left.

Scotland is in the process is being systematically "tingo-ed" as many recent reports on Scotland's oil, Scotland's coastline and, more recently, the treachery of Glasgow being used as a pawn by Westminster (October 10) to negotiate the location of the European police centre to prosperous Hampshire.

We are a disgracefully apathetic and timid nation that cannot even respond to the revelation of the shocking oil cover-up to remove two Labour politicians at the recent by-elections.

Nigel Dewar Gibb, Glasgow.


London is the problem for Scottish business

Iain MacWhirter, in The Herald, 12 October 2005, wrote about Scotland's poor rate of business start-ups, running at less than one-third of England's.

According to MacWhirter:

1. Certain areas are well sown-up by informal cartels. Try to muscle in on the estate-agent business, the law, or Scottish financial services in Edinburgh and you'll find you won't get very far if you haven't been to the right school.

2. In the Highlands, most of the private sector is run by incomers, largely because local Scottish businessmen preferred to sell up and retire.

3. What tends to happen to most indigenous Scottish businesses, once they get going, is that their owners sell them to English-based companies.

4. Most people who try to set up in business find that it is a lot easier to set up in the south-east of England. Why? Because there are lots more people there with high salaries and more money to spend.

5. Why are salaries so much higher in England? Because there are more skilled people, capable of adding value and more businesses employing them to do precisely that.

6. Why aren't there more of these capable people in Scotland? Answer: because most of them have left Scotland to work in England.

For decades, centuries even, we have been exporting skilled and educated workers and entrepreneurs who find that the best opportunities lie in England or abroad.

7. The magnetic attraction of the metropolis is the greatest inhibitor of Scottish enterprise. If anything is "crowding out business" it is London.

8. If Scotland is to start growing again, it must somehow level this billiard table by creating a climate in which capital and skills remain here instead of migrating south.

9. This can only mean a structure of fiscal incentives which will keep Scottish businesses in Scotland, encourage new ones to form and attract established businesses from abroad.Only then will the state diminish in relative size.

10. The amazing thing is that just about everyone agrees with this analysis – even the Scottish Tories, who are now taking fiscal autonomy seriously.


Secret plan for Lockerbie bomber; Megrahi to leave Britain.

Lucy Adams, at The Herald, 12 October 2005, has an exclusive.

She writes that there have been secret talks aimed at moving the Lockerbie bomber from Scotland to North Africa.

If Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi moves to Libya, this would probably mean the end of his appeal against his 27-year jail sentence.

UK and American security agencies would prefer the case not to be reopened publicly.

Police chief- Lockerbie evidence was faked

(A Pan Am report is believed to have concluded that the bomb was not aimed at the killing of Americans in general, but was targeted specifically to kill a small band of DIA operatives that had uncovered a drugs ring run by a CIA unit in Lebanon.The drugs-ring is said to have been set up by Israeli Mossad agents.)

According to The Herald:

A successful appeal by Megrahi 'would prove highly embarrassing for the Scottish judicial system'.

A transfer 'would infuriate some of the families, and critics of the original conviction, who believe Megrahi is innocent and want a public inquiry'.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is considering whether Megrahi can appeal. 'It is expected next year to refer the case back to the appeal court because of new evidence, said to undermine his conviction'.

British, US, and Libyan officials 'have met in London and Geneva to discuss whether Megrahi could be moved to a prison in Libya or neighbouring African country before the decision is made.

'A source close to the discussions said that, once Megrahi was back in Libya, the application to the commission could be dropped...

'Insiders said the US State Department, Musa Kusa, former head of Libyan intelligence, and Foreign Office officials have all been involved...

'Megrahi's wife, Aisha, and family left their safe house in Newton Mearns, near Glasgow, this year and returned to Libya.

Tam Dalyell, former MP, said "people are discussing preparations" and it shows the government "would want to avoid the horror of the commission finding that the verdict was unsafe and . . . to save the face of Scottish justice".


Extract froma Herald editorial:

"The US lifted its sanctions against Libya last year.

"In common with other developed countries, it wants to exploit Libya's oil reserves, the biggest in Africa and among the easiest to refine and cheapest to produce.

"George W Bush has cited Libya's transformation as vindication of the big-stick approach against WMD and the terror network. That approach has, of course, failed spectacularly in Iraq.

"Washington would not want to risk its one debatable success, in Libya, being undermined by damaging new detail emerging about its new friend against terror."


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scotland worse than Belarus? Proportionally more people in the public sector in Scotland than in the former Soviet Union.

Scotland 0
Belarus 1

What is wrong with Scotland is that it no longer produces enough things that are useful.

In the Scottish national newspapers, on 7 October 2005, 158 jobs were advertised.

105 of those were in the public sector.

'Public sector' jobs usually mean things like 'accessibility strategy manager' rather than doctor or nurse.

Scotland has great oil wealth but the money is either going to London or it is being wasted on accessibility strategy managers.

Eddie Barnes, in Scotland on Sunday, 9 October 2004, revealed the 'state's grip on Scotland'.

Barnes writes that 'the ballooning public sector is strangling wealth creation'.

The findings show that in some areas like Ayrshire, three-quarters of the local economy is made up of the billions of pounds pumped in by the government.


Under New Labour it can be difficult for busines to flourish. Certain taxes are higher than in countries such as Ireland. Key workers get sucked into the public sector by the lure of high wages and good pensions.


According to Scotland on Sunday:

In Argyll and Clyde, 76% of the economy is generated from the state, in the form of spending by councils, health boards and through other forms of government activity. In Ayrshire and Arran, the figure is 74%. In Lanarkshire, it is 72%.

Only in oil-rich Grampian (35%) and finance-friendly Lothians (39%) do the figures fall below comparable English levels. Across the UK, state spending accounts for approximately 40% of the economy.

Alan Mitchell of CBI Scotland said: "To have that much of the economy generated by wealth spending rather than wealth creating can't be good for the Scottish economy long term.

"It has a major effect on the ability of companies to recruit and retain staff. Their margins are tight and they cannot compete in terms of holidays, pensions, childcare and all the other add-ons that the public sector can offer. If we don't have ambitious small to medium size businesses growing then we aren't going to develop that economy long term."

Jim Gorie, acting president of the Forum for Private Business in Scotland, added: "Excessive public spending starves the private sector of much-needed capital to help it modernise."

Jim Mather, enterprise spokesman for the SNP said high levels of public spending would leave Scotland dangerously exposed when government funding was cut back.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Tax powers for Scotland


With its oil wealth, Scotland should be as rich as Switzerland.

However, the oil wealth has been stolen.

Iain Macwhirter, in The Sunday Herald 9 October 2005, writes:

1. Scotland has lagged behind England for generations in terms of growth.

2. Scotland has been hammered by the over-centralisation of Britain and the concentration of economic activity in the southeast of England.

3. The latest European Cities Monitor report shows how Scottish cities are losing out to the rest of Europe in attracting investment.

4. There has been huge government investment – so called invisible public spending – in the southeast of England on everything from defence spending to the London Olympics

5. As a result of this historic imbalance, Scotland has shed population as educated and skilled workers move south after job opportunities.


Iain Macwhirter asks if the Tories are supporting tax powers for Scotland?

The Scottish Conservative leader, David McLetchie, seems to want to cut personal taxation and take control of stamp duty, excise duty and VAT to reduce the overall burden of taxation.

According to Macwhirter, 'all the big four Scottish parties have been converted in varying degrees to fiscal autonomy and a tax-cutting agenda...

'Many believe Scotland is now on a road that can only lead to a form of fiscal independence and a minimal state...

'The SNP has launched a tax commission to look at, among other things, the idea of a flat tax, abolishing higher rates of personal taxation...

'There is a very strong historic case for Scotland being allowed to use fiscal measures to counter this economic pull of the southeast of England even if this means gaining a competitive advantage over England in terms of investment.'


Forensic mix-up casts fresh Lockerbie doubt.,6903,1588101,00.html

Tony Thompson, in The Observer, 9 October 2005, writes that a 'Forensic mix-up casts fresh Lockerbie doubt'.

Megrahi's Lawyers are reported to have discovered 'anomalies suggesting vital evidence used to convict their client came from tests conducted months after the terror attack'.

According to The Observer:

Searches of the crash site found fragments of a Samsonite suitcase and parts of a Toshiba radio cassette player as well as several pieces of clothing covered in explosive residue. Investigators claimed both the suitcase and clothing were linked to Megrahi. To prove that the bomb was inside the case, investigators set off a series of explosions using an identical suitcase and contents to check how they would be damaged.

Megrahi's lawyers now believe material produced during these tests was mistakenly presented to the court as if it were the original suitcase. One source told The Observer: 'To say that the evidence recovered from the ground at Lockerbie and the material produced during the tests became mixed up would be something of an understatement. They became thoroughly confused.

'It casts serious doubts over the prosecution case because certain items that should have been destroyed if they were in the case containing the bomb are now known to have survived the blast.'

In one instance a charred Babygro was produced as evidence that it had been used to wrap the bomb. However, new evidence has emerged which suggests the garment was completely undamaged when it was found. Instead, a similar Babygro used during the explosive tests was presented to the court.

A key witness was the owner of a clothes shop in Malta where the items in the suitcase were allegedly bought. During the verdict, the judges admitted that the owner had failed to make a convincingly positive identification of Megrahi.

An anonymous former Scottish police chief last month gave Megrahi's lawyers a sworn signed statement claiming that key evidence in the trial was fabricated. The officer said that he had expected Megrahi to be acquitted at the trial or on appeal, but came forward when this did not happen.

After the trial, legal observers from around the world, including senior United Nations officials, expressed disquiet about the verdict.

Dr Jim Swire, who led the campaign for justice after losing his daughter, Flora, in the bombing, has also expressed doubts over Megrahi's guilt. 'I am aware there have been doubts about how some of the evidence ... came to be presented in court. It is in all our interests that areas of doubt are thoroughly examined.'

The Scottish criminal review is not expected to decide whether to refer Megrahi's case to the appeal court until next year at the earliest.