Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Referendum Letters: 23/04/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

This week Gordon Brown came out of retirement to lecture us all on the pensions timebomb that awaits us in an independent Scotland. According to the media one of Britains worst ever Prime Ministers, if not the worst ever is now “a well respected political heavyweight”. Gordon Brown is to pensions what David Moyes is to managing Manchester United, so it was no surprise that he dished out a few facts and ran off before they could be questioned, much as George Osborne did a few months back. Never mind the quality, feel the gravitas…

Mr Brown’s decision to talk at us, rather than with us leaves us to interpret things ourselves, or rely on other political heavyweights such as Ian Gray to interpret things for us. Mr Gray, like Tom Clarke a few weeks back on tax, manages to muddy the waters rather than clarify them. In a television interview he said that bigger nations are in a better position to manage pensions, yet the UK pension was reported in the English editions of some newspapers as being the 4th worst in the developed world and when you actually look at the figures, they show that some of the largest countries have some of the worst pension systems.

Which makes you ask, where did Mr Brown obtain his statistics? Apparently, from a leaked government document. Why is there no inquiry into the leaking of this? Is it because it wasn’t leaked in the traditional sense, it was simply supplied to Mr Brown by his Tory chums so that he could do their dirty work for them?

In any case Mr Brown should have paid more attention to the facts and figures in the secret report which we cannot see, as it would appear the figures don’t add up. That is to be expected, as he has previous for that, having raided pension funds and sold off the UK’s gold reserves to balance the books in the past. According to Mr Brown 259,000 pensioners in Scotland receive on average of £20 a week disability support, at a cost to the taxpayer of £1 billion a year. Yet 259,000 multiplied by £20 a week is only £269 million pounds, nowhere near a billion. Similarly he claimed that £700 million is paid in credits to 248,000 Scots per year at an average of £25 a week. 248,000 multiplied by £25 a week is £322 million! With arithmetic like that it’s no wonder he left the economy in tatters. It seems that his tactic is to take the actual figures and then double or treble them, before shouting it out and running away before anyone gets a chance to question it.

And here was me thinking Better Together were going to be more positive in their outlook. Two weeks ago George Roberston was warning that the “forces of darkness” lay in wait for an independent scotland. At the end of last week it was Philip Hammond claiming an independent Scotland was at risk from an attack from space, this week they are trying to frighten us with killer pensions. 

The affordability of pensions comes not from the size of the country, but how wealthy that country is. Scotland has the chance to takes it’s wealth and make it work for it, and provide a decent pension system which will pay something more than what is forecast in the United Kingdom, a less than minimum wage pittance topped up with food banks and charity.

When Mr Brown, and Mr Clarke and Ms Nash and their ilk warn that jobs and pensions are at risk, they are correct. What they fail to tell you is that the jobs and pensions they are referring to are their own. An independent Scotland means the wheels come off their taxpayer funded gravy train forever. Is it any wonder that they will try any scare story in the book to keep their gravy train on track? 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 14/04/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to Sam Daly’s letter in last weeks Advertiser. I assume that from his letter that he is unhappy that the SNP’s definition of those who are poor differs markedly from his. Perhaps Mr Daly would like to bring in means testing, and all the costs that come with it? There are thousands of families across the country who work who no doubt would fall on the wrong side of Mr Daly’s line, and for whom a few days sick means losing wages they cannot afford to lose, leaving them to decide whether they can actually afford the medicine that will make them better. It’s all very well saying him that he is happy to pay more tax for better services, but he doesn’t speak for those I have mentioned. The truth is by stripping away the costly administration of the prescription system, it is possible to give everyone, irrespective of income, free prescriptions for little more than was already being paid. Isn’t that a fairer system? Or would he prefer that those who can as he puts it, afford it, can pay for it but not use it? 

He also states that our health service is in sharp decline due to funding cuts. Perhaps Mr Daly is unaware that our NHS, while independent of the English NHS since 1948, receives it’s funding as part of the block grant created under the Barnett Formula. This gives Scotland an allowance based on it receiving a small fixed percentage of how much England spends. As England moves towards a privatised NHS, government expenditure has dropped. PPP and PFI, along with privatisation ad directly billing the sick for treatment means that their NHS spending is dropping, and will continue to drop, and if their budget goes down so must ours, irrespective of our needs or our contributions. Even if Mr Daly’s generous offer to pay more tax was taken up it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, because if England spends less, they will give us less of our money back to spend. Yet we Scot’s are the ones labelled subsidy junkies! 

He then goes on to complain that the SNP only agreed to pay the Bedroom Tax, which our Labour MP failed to oppose, when forced to do so. He completely misses the point that this is a completely unfair tax, as rotten as the Poll Tax, which should never have been imposed in the first place! Even worse than that, was that the money to pay this unfair tax had to be found from somewhere, so other budgets suffered because of it. Why complain about Social Services having their budgets frozen and then support stripping money through a completely pointless tax, designed to hammer those who can least afford it? 

Mr Daly seems to be parroting the ever more out of touch Johann Lamont, a woman at the head of a party now so bitter and twisted that it would scrap every last decent thing which has been put in place by the SNP, precisely because it was done by the SNP. The fact that at some point along the line she supported these policies makes no difference, and now she cries that Scots just want something for nothing! The SNP have succeeded where she and her party failed. God forbid that woman ever becomes First Minister, as she is all for reintroducing prescription charges, imposing higher council taxes, scrapping free bus travel for the elderly and supports cutting the amount of money that Scotland gets via the Barnett Formula. When I say that she supports it a cut, what I of course mean is that she is proposing that Scotland raise more of its own tax, which would indirectly lead to a cut in our block grant, and a massive drop in what Scotland gets, as the oil revenue which trickles back to Scotland would be turned off entirely. It’s just that Mrs Lamont doesn’t understand it’s a cut. Her recent shambolic television appearances when she had to speak without having things written down proved that. Other Labour figures have chipped in to provide clarity, such as Tom Clarke MP, only to muddy the waters by contradicting what their leader says, as it appears they don’t understand it either. 

Finally, as I’m sure Mr Daly knows all too well, the cuts to the opening times at Airdrie Police Station were carried out by Police Scotland, NOT the SNP, but why let the truth get in the way of things?. Even then I fail to understand his point. If you have lost your purse and can’t afford travel to the station, why does it make a bit of difference whether someone is manning the desk? You can call 101 to report it anyway. To me it makes more sense to actually have the police out on the ground dealing with crime rather than at a desk on the off chance that someone will want to drop by at three in the morning.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Refererendum Letters: 29/03/14

Dear Sir, 

Once again I am forced to write to correct David Stephen’s factual inaccuracies and related scare stories. Apparently now Scotland won’t be allowed to join NATO, because NATO is a nuclear organisation and an independent Scotland would be non nuclear. As a civilian Mr Stephen’s knowledge of NATO seems somewhat limited. NATO is a group of countries which co-operate militarily to provide mutual defence and security. NATO say on their own very informative website that membership is open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.” 

Nothing written there about being forced to house nuclear weapons. Of the 28 member countries only three are themselves nuclear armed. A further 5 countries host nuclear weapons on behalf of other states. There used to be 8 countries hosting WMDs on behalf of others, but since 1984 three withdrew from these agreements, Greece in 2001, Canada in 1984 and the UK in 1992. Yes, that UK. The one which now says that to refuse other NATO countries from basing WMDs on your soil will see you refused entry! 

Only this week NATO appointed Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg as head of NATO, even though his country does not host WMD’s. In the last 15 years 10 former members of the Warsaw Pact have been admitted to NATO. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall these countries were sworn enemies of NATO, but are now valued members.

Mr Stephen and his unionist fear-mongers assertation that Scotland, whose soldiers have played a part in many NATO deployments, would now be refused membership is clearly nonsense on stilts. Even more nonsense is that we could be involved in a Crimean style conflict where we would be at risk of attack from a larger neighbour. We only have one! Is Mr Stephen seriously trying to suggest that if we vote Yes to being independent that England will invade Scotland? Why on earth would they do that? It’s not as if we have oil or anything. 

There is a pattern here. Every time the Scottish Government put forward any policy, particularly one which required friendly co-operation the toys are thrown out of the unionist pram. “No, you can’t“ is the now well worn refrain on everything from currency, to health to defence and more. “We won’t let you” say the unionists. Yet time and time again we see that what politicians say and what they do can sometimes be miles apart. Our local MP’s are a case in point. Pamela Nash railed against welfare cuts on her own website (read it quickly before she takes it down) yet voted for them last week in London. As did Tom Clarke. “Mair faces than the toon clock” has never been so apt. 

Come September if we vote Yes we will have the choice to apply to join NATO as an independent country in our own right. There will be no arm twisting to keep Weapons of Mass Destruction in Scotland, because the vast majority of NATO members are in exactly the same position as we are. The remaining UK will have to find an alternative home for its nuclear arsenal, and it’s not really our fault they have no Plan B. They have had sufficient notice that this was possible and have chosen to ignore it. Perhaps the USA will allow them to be based there until the remaining UK knows what it is doing. One thing is certain, they will not be based in Scotland. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 18/11/13

Dear Sir,

Imagine it is the day of a big football match. Two teams are to line up with the result hanging on the outcome of this one game. One player decides he wants’ the day off, and agrees with a player in the other team that he won’t play either, so that it’s still even on both sides. Complete nonsense I know, but that is what Pamela Nash is asking us to believe as explanation for her non-attendance at the vote her own party called to have the bedroom tax repealed. Apparently, she says, this is due to a parliamentary procedure called “pairing”. Even as the “baby of the house” she should be aware that pairing is not permitted at important votes, and she must have been aware that even if this wasn’t deemed important by the Labour Party it was important to the people who put her in a job, the people of Airdrie, and should have attended regardless. Of course, she couldn’t as she had an important meeting in Vienna at the ESPI Conference on Space against Youth Unemployment, no doubt all expenses paid. No need for her to worry about the roof over her head, on that night or any night. I hope she slept easy discussing job options in the stars that some of her constituents will be looking up at when there is no roof over their head and they are on the streets.

The fact there were numerous flights available to get her back to London for the vote has not gone unnoticed, and it seems that this MP who is not unknown for enjoying away days at others expense, such as her trip to Glastonbury, put a free night in Vienna on the taxpayers tab rather than hurry back for the job she was elected to do.

It seems to me that Ms Nash is following in the footsteps of a long line of Labour politicians who see Airdrie as a safe Labour seat, with no effort required beyond polling day. I can only hope that the people of Airdrie get the chance to boot Ms Nash’s career into space before the inevitable Conservative election victory sees them reduce the number of MP’s in Scotland and strip them of powers to solve the West Lothian question at the same time. 

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 27/07/13

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

I saw in a recent Advertiser that Alex Neil MSP had announced more funding to maintain services at Monklands Hospital. In a time of cuts that is to be applauded. Something that money can’t buy though is a change in the attitude of some of the staff there, especially in relation to the care of the elderly. Over the last year I have seen various family members having to be admitted to Monklands, and while some care has been adequate, never has it been outstanding. What stands above that though are the occasions when it has been shambolic, disjointed and uncaring. Undiagnosed injuries, paying scant attention to records (if they are even available), even the basics such as getting a patients name right. Every complaint can usually be laid at another department’s door, no one ever holds their hands up with a simple “sorry”, no doubt for fear of litigation.

My (and my family’s) experience has been one that has made me increasingly angry. Trying to complain can be like banging your head against a brick wall, and even the “we must learn lessons” line us usually trotted out as the feeblest of apologies has to be dragged out kicking and screaming.

On a recent visit, after running the gauntlet of smokers who guard the entrance, I noticed a visitor having to go and fetch a nurse to attend to a patient. The visitor didn’t know the patient, but saw that the aid alarm which the patient had sounded was being ignored. It wasn’t that there was no nurse available, just that they chose to ignore it. My heart goes out to those poor souls who have no visitors and no one to speak up for them. While others are visited, many of these old folk, many of whom have dementia are left to lie and look at the walls, denied even the small luxury of a television, either unable to operate the complicated controls or unable to afford the astronomical cost of switching it on, which would make even a loan shark blush.

Fixing staff attitudes and the uncaring culture at Monklands Hospital may not be the big headline grabber that Alex Neil would like, but to those who use the hospital it is every bit as important as financial investment, although I’m sure he’ll find it much harder to deliver.  

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 26/01/13

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

In reply to ex-councillor John Love’s letter of 23/01/13,  may I point out that continually repeating a lie will not make it true, however much he wishes otherwise. If Scotland votes YES in 2014 the Scottish Government will have the mandate to begin the negotiations for independence, with a projected timescale of two years before the election of the first independent parliament.Anyone can check this fact out online at the BBC website- “Q&A on the Scottish Independence Referendum”. On his second point, perhaps he should choose his friends more carefully. On 13th January 2012 Scotland on Sunday, and next day the BBC (no great friends of independence) amongst others reported that his friend Michael Moore MP had refused to enter pre-referendum negotiations, stating that “it would be a betrayal of our responsibilities, for UK ministers to act on behalf of only part of the UK against Scotland’s interests in some kind pre-negotiation.” He then went on to say that if Scotland votes YES “the UK government would have to “prioritise” the interests of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish and would be unable to give the Scottish Government everything that it wanted.” He has been roundly condemned by all sides, including his Tory colleagues because he has made his position clear that there is no contingency plan in the event of a YES vote. Rather than aid a swift and controlled transition of power, and it seems to me his response is to pretend it cannot happen, and if it does make it as difficult as possible for all the people of Scotland. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

If John Love and his ilk are willing to pass off complete untruths as fact, how can they be believed on anything? I’ve quoted my sources which any reader can check out. It’s time we had a bit of honesty here, is that possible Mr Love?

Yours Sincerely,

 

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 26/12/12

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I would like to reply to the letter by David Stephen in the Advertiser of 19/12/12. I feel compelled to point out a number of details of Mr Stephen’s argument which don’t stand up to scrutiny. In 2014 we will have a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country. If we vote Yes this only gives the Scottish Government the mandate to begin the negotiations which will lead to this country becoming independent. If we vote Yes on the Saturday (or whichever day it is held) we will not be independent by the following morning. Our passports will still be valid, the trains will still run and the sun will still rise. If we vote Yes it is my understanding that we would be looking to elect our first independent government in 2016, as the negotiations would take a period of time. I’m sure that in two years the government will be able to sort out Mr Stephens beloved passport, along with many other questions which he could already find the answer to online.

As for noise and bluster from all sides, yes I do include the SNP in that. I am not aware if Mr Stephen represents any particular group or party, but for the sake of clarity I am not a member of the SNP. I disagree with them on a number of policies, primarily on the siting of wind turbines throughout the Highlands, and am not backward at saying so. However I believe that Scotland is big enough to make its own decisions and should take its place in the international arena as an independent country, and for that reason I will be voting Yes for independence.

How I vote after independence is another matter. I would like to think am intelligent enough to realise that, despite how some of the TV and print media are portraying things, I am not voting on whether I like Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon. This is after all not the X-Factor. If we vote Yes, Scotland will be independent long after these people have gone from politics. Neither do I believe that a vote for independence is a vote for SNP government in perpetuity, and that in an independent Scotland I will at least be able to vote for the parties knowing they will be making their own decisions, not waiting on instructions from London.

Almost 200 years ago in 1820 many of the people of Airdrie took part in massed gatherings calling for independence. Over 10,000 gathered in the town to demand independence. Members of a band were arrested for playing Scot’s Wha Hae, and Government troops were showered with stones as they rode through the town from Edinburgh to quell the uprising in Glasgow, for which three men were executed and a number exiled to Australia. We are lucky, as unlike then we do have freedom of speech. Mr Stephens letter proves that. Unlike the United Kingdom of almost 200 years ago, no one is being jailed or hanged for seeking independence. In 2014 we will get the chance to choose, peacefully, whether we wish to remain part of the union or not. We have the chance to vote for a government who can decide policy on whether it is good for the people of Scotland, and not as a puppet government which has one eye on whether it is in line with the policy being pursued south of the border.

If Mr Stephen thinks that that is the right direction for Scotland for the 21st Century and beyond, he has the right to say so and argue his case, but surely if his case is so strong he does not need to make half baked claims about passports.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy