Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Council, The Budget and The Black, Black Hole (Full Version)

The following is the full version of a letter that was sent to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 22/11/15.

Dear Sir,

A few days ago I received in the mail North Lanarkshire Council’s “Our Budget Challenge” booklet. This glossy (and no doubt costly) rag is a mixture of misdirection and spin and it’s genuinely a wonder it can actually passed off as a council publication and not a Labour Party one. The booklet attempts to show that North Lanarkshire’s budget is being cut by Holyrood and is trying to lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the SNP government. It illustrates it’s claims with a graph showing funding being cut by £2.5 billion, hoping perhaps that people won’t notice that this refers to Scotland as a whole and this doesn’t reflect the fact that in the same time period the Scottish Government has taken over funding of police and fire services, so local authorities no longer have to fund these from their own budgets, and that their available funding has remained broadly the same. In September 2015 the Daily Record actually reported that impartial researchers have calculated that the Scottish Government have actually OVERFUNDED the council tax freeze and notes that the Scottish Government have put in £165 million to local authorities to compensate local authorities. Labour’s Jackie Baillie and Kezia Dugdale are no strangers to figures that don’t add up and I sense their input to the council’s booklet. In fact there’s barely a mention of Westminster cuts at all! These are the at the very root of austerity for goodness sakes!

The booklet then goes on to detail some options and invites you to go online and indicate which budget cuts you support. These are a mixture of the vague and the distasteful. For example removing 4 posts from the Chief Executives office would save £170,000. Which posts? It doesn’t say. Probably not the Chief Executive’s…

It states they could save £92,000 by forcing employees to pay for their own disclosure checks so they can do their own jobs! Or how about being asked to review community learning and development services to save over £3 million? Tick the box and see 85 souls hit the dole. Just click your mouse, it’s easy. Only it isn’t. The decisions to be made are horrific and will have an impact across North Lanarkshire. From nursery schools to pensioners, no one will be unaffected. But cynical North Lanarkshire Council have thought of a way to help spread the blame; they are asking YOU to make the decisions. When the cuts start to bite they can always turn round and claim that ‘you, the public endorsed these cuts’. The answer then is NOT to endorse the cuts, to go online and vote no to every last one and make these councillors do what they were elected to do, and what’s more to make them take responsibility for what they are about to do.

One thing which has been avoided by everyone including the SNP opposition group, and this is the most important point of all this debate is the fact these £45 million of cuts follow hard on the heels of North Lanarkshire Council losing a £70 million court battle over equal pay. Surely this explains the black hole in the budget? In any other walk of life the people responsible would be sacked: in North Lanarkshire they retire with pensions which would sicken you. If this was Iceland the people responsible would heading for jail, not holiday homes, and we are forced to pick up the tab. It’s an utter scandal that his happens, the only scandal greater than this is that we accept it, we allow it, and do nothing about it. We deserve everything we get in that case.

The final and most cynical of all the questions on NLC’s budget challenge is a simple Yes or No tick the box one. Innocuously worded, it asks if you would be willing to pay more council tax to help protect public services. Who wouldn’t? But the question doesn’t say how much extra they want you to pay, or what these services are. This question is part of a co-ordinated effort by Labour as a bitter opposition to end the council tax freeze which has helped protect so many Scots over the last few years. None of us need reminded of the extravagant spending by NLC in the past, on folly after folly. Public sculptures and roadside decorations (1.5 million pound for Cumbernauld’s Waves for example), monuments to Labour’s own self indulgence. Labour have railed against this freeze for years, only to backtrack whenever we are in sniffing distance of an election. But the Tory cuts are getting deeper and it cannot last forever. Labour have supported austerity at UK level for years, yet have been trying to end it in Scotland through heavier taxation. This week Labour are sending a group of councillors to protest outside our national parliament calling on them to end the council tax freeze, and the arguments they shall use are those false ones I have mentioned above. They should hang their heads in shame because they will be there parroting Labour falsehoods and turning a blind eye to their own criminal loss of £70 million. It’s time the people of North Lanarkshire took the protest to their door in Motherwell and called on them to answer for the financial storm which is about to hit us all.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy,

 

The Council, The Budget and The Black, Black Hole…

Letter to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 22/11/15 (Edited at Editorial Request)

Dear Sir,

Last week I received North Lanarkshire Council’s “Our Budget Challenge” booklet; a mixture of misdirection and spin and it’s a wonder it can be passed off as a council publication, as it reads like a Labour Party one. It attempts to show that NLC’s budget is being cut and tries to lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the SNP government, while all but ignoring Westminsters role. It is illustrated with a graph showing funding being cut by £2.5 billion, hoping that people won’t notice that this refers to Scotland as a whole, not NLC, and this doesn’t reflect that in the same time period the Scottish Government has taken over funding of police and fire services, so local authorities no longer have to fund these from their budgets, and available funding has remained broadly the same. In September 2015 the Daily Record reported that impartial researchers stated the Scottish Government actually OVERFUNDED the council tax freeze and had put in £165 million to compensate local authorities. The booklet asks us to go online and indicate which budget cuts we support. Removing four posts from the Chief Executives office would save £170,000. Which posts? It doesn’t say. Approving a ‘review’ of community learning and development services saves over £3 million and sees 85 souls hit the dole. The list goes on and on but cynical NLC have thought of a way to help spread the blame; they are asking YOU to make these decisions. When the cuts start to bite they can turn round and claim that ‘the public endorsed these cuts’. The answer then is NOT to endorse the cuts. Go online and vote no to every last one and make these councillors take responsibility for what they are about to do. The most important point of all this debate goes almost unnoticed: these £45 million of cuts follow hard on the heels of North Lanarkshire Council losing a £70 million court battle over equal pay. Surely this explains the black hole in the budget? In any other walk of life the people responsible would be sacked, in Iceland they would be sent to jail; in North Lanarkshire they retire with huge pensions. The final and most cynical of all the questions on NLC’s budget challenge is a simple and innocuously worded one that asks if you would be willing to pay more council tax to help protect public services. Who wouldn’t? But the question doesn’t say how much extra they want you to pay, or which services would be protected. This is part of a co-ordinated effort against the council tax freeze by a bitter Labour opposition. This week a group of NLC Labour councillors are to protest outside Holyrood calling on them to end the council tax freeze, a move that would be completely unnecessary if they themselves had not lost £70 million! It’s the people of North Lanarkshire who should be protesting about NLC’s scandalous management and demanding that those incompetents be sacked instead.

Yours,

Jim Cassidy

 

 

Blocked by Nicola Sturgeon: Does The Truth Hurt?

La-la-la-la-la: I can't hear you!
La-la-la-la-la: I can’t hear you!

I have on numerous occasions attempted to alert Nicola Sturgeon to the goings on in North Lanarkshire SNP with no response. The thing with Twitter is that Nicola has made a great deal about operating her own account; it’s not some minion operating it but her personally. So I can only assume that Ms Sturgeon does not wish to acknowledge, discuss or even be reminded of the bullying culture in North Lanarkshire SNP as she has blocked me from following her on Twitter. I’ll let you be the judge.

3 Months of Silence From The SNP

It is now three whole months since I submitted a Data Protection Complaint to SNP headquarters in Edinburgh, a copy of which was sent to Nicola Sturgeon. Apart from the initial acknowledgement from Patrick Grady I have received no correspondence to update me on the progress (or lack of) the promised investigation.

My complaint was referred to the Information Commissioners Office and the SNP’s complete disregard for their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act are now being investigated by them.

Elaine (Not C) Smith MSP, Calmac and Hypocrisy

Letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 15th November 2015 (This is an edited version of a fuller letter sent to RMT News, on the same date).

Dear Sir, 

I see that Coatbridge MSP Elaine (Not C) Smith, a vocal cheerleader for Better Together, is now silent as the 2000 jobs which would have been secure running Scotlands tax system are lost to Croydon. She is silent now that Scotland is about to say ta-ta to the last of its steel industry. She is silent on the subject of her party siding with the Tories to deny Scotland the chance to operate it’s own tax credit system, and instead implementing a system where we can use our Westminster pocket money to top up the benefits they are about to cut. She has however not been silent on the alleged privatisation of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry contract. As people across the country who are not afforded the same airtime as Ms Smith have repeatedly pointed out, this is not privatisation. In fact it’s the same tendering process that the Labour/Lib-Dem Scottish Executive followed when the contract was awarded to Caledonian MacBrayne in 2006. Back then the SNP claimed this was privatisation by the back door, a charge denied by Labour then, yet employed by Labour now they are in opposition. So if we can take that hypocrisy away we are left with the argument as to whether Calmac or Serco should be awarded the contract. From a moral point of view you could say that Serco should be discounted, having as they do a horrendous record across the world in workplace relations. They are involved in almost every sphere of life, from office cleaners to atomic weapons, and at the end of it all the money they generate goes to private shareholders; they have the global financial clout to outbid anyone, anywhere, should they wish to do so. Calmac know that they must put a bid in which is sufficiently within the same ballpark that the Scottish Government can point to aspects of the bid which will compensate for what will undoubtedly be a poorer bid in strictly monetary terms. I hope they are successful in doing so because I feel that at present we are seeing the asset stripping of everything that a future independent Scotland will need and It would be far easier to nationalise a Calmac owned ferry service than a Serco owned one. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

 

Caledonian MacBrayne and The Politics of Hypocrisy

Letter to RMT News, 15th November 2015

From RMT News, November 2015
From RMT News, November 2015

Dear RMT News, 

I was disappointed to see that Coatbridge MSP Elaine (Not C) Smith given considerable space in Novembers RMT news and I was more disappointed to see that Mrs Smith remains convenor of the RMT group of MSPs. Mrs Smith, a vocal cheerleader for the pro UK Better Together campaign, is strangely silent as the 2000 jobs which would have been secure running Scotlands tax system are lost to Croydon. She is silent now that Scotland is about to say ta-ta to the last of its steel industry. She is silent on the subject of her party siding with the Tories to deny Scotland the chance to operate it’s own tax credit system, and instead implementing a system where we can use our Westminster pocket money to top up the benefits they are about to cut.

In the Scottish Parliament she has however not been silent on the alleged privatisation of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry contract. As people across the country who are not afforded the same airtime as Mrs Smith have repeatedly pointed out, this is not privatisation. In fact it’s the same tendering process that the Labour/Lib-Dem Scottish Executive followed when the contract was awarded to Caledonian MacBrayne in 2007. Back then the SNP claimed this was privatisation by the back door, a charge denied by Labour then, yet employed by Labour now they are in opposition. So if we can take that hypocrisy away we are left with the argument as to whether Calmac or Serco should be awarded the contract. From a moral point of view you could say that Serco should be discounted, having as they do a horrendous record across the world in workplace relations. They are involved in almost every sphere of life, from office cleaners to atomic weapons, and at the end of it all the money they generate goes to private shareholders. They have the global financial clout to outbid anyone, anywhere, should they wish to do so. Calmac know that they must put a bid in which is sufficiently within the same ballpark that the Scottish Government can point to aspects of the bid which will compensate for what will undoubtedly be a poorer bid in strictly monetary terms in order to give them the contract, and I hope they are successful in doing so because I feel that at present we are seeing the asset stripping of everything that a future independent Scotland will need and in my view it would be far easier to renationalise a Calmac owned ferry service than a Serco owned one.

But I for one will not be standing alongside Mrs Smith and parroting her reasons for campaigning, which in the main are that anything the SNP does is bad, nor shall I share anything with a logo created by the treacherous Daily Record. The RMT, in aligning with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Daily Record appear to have chosen to ally itself with two organisations which are entirely out of step with the mood of, if not outright destested by a huge proportion of the Scottish electorate. I understand that the RMT has for the last few years campaigned on an anti EU stance, but I am sure it would not share a platform nor give a column to the odious UKIP politician Nigel Farage, even though his stated aim of a UK outside the EU is in line with this unions. Its apparent endorsement of the Labour Party’s Scottish branch is therefore viewed with equal distaste by this member. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

 

 

The Politics Of Grief

The attacks in Paris which left so many dead and injured are a tragedy, of that there is no doubt. I am not one for making statements of support whenever such events occur. I think that one’s sympathy in such situations goes without saying. Political leaders are different and are expected to comment, to offer condolences and support on behalf of their nation or their party. That too goes without saying. What I find absolutely crass and tasteless is the actions of those who use such events to engage in petty and utterly childish games of political one-upmanship. There is no dignity in crowing that you are better at grieving than your opposition. There is no decorum in slating your political opponents and turning what should be a solemn and thoughtful time into a competition to see who can grieve better than who. If you have an axe to grind with an opponent, incidents such as this really aren’t the situations to do so.

Social media is a fantastic tool, if used wisely. For many out there, today has not been a shining example.

Eric Holford: The Iain Duncan Smith Fan Club

Eric Holford Response in The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
Eric Holford Response in The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

My recent letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser about Conservative and Unionist candidate Eric Holford generated a response from the great man himself, and I have reproduced this below. He states that I’m possibly confused about his stance on the NHS, this may be down to the fact my letter was heavily edited (see HERE for submitted and printed version):

https://anindependentscotsman.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/vote-tory-just-dont-come-running-to-me-if-you-break-your-leg/

Mr Holfords views on the NHS can clearly be seen on his Facebook posts; he believes that the NHS should NOT be protected from the effects of austerity. If that’s no longer his view I’d be interested to hear why not.

Eric Holfords views on the NHS.
Eric Holfords views on the NHS.

Mr Holford seems to be for assisted suicide, but has concerns that prescribing medicines which “prolong life” mean that people are living longer.

It would also appear that Mr Holford would like to see a return to means testing for prescriptions because “the richest one in seven” are eligible for them. Mr Holford appears to want to bring back a prescription charge which largely pays for the administration of the system and which will hit the working poor hardest because one in seven people are judged rich enough to pay a charge. The fact they are already probably paying 20%, 40% or more of their income in tax must be lost him. It’s estimated that after administration costs this would take around £50 million. With 5 million Scots, that equates to around £10 a head. I’d rather that was spread across the nation so than everyone, regardless of income, has access to good quality medication, unlike in England where the working poor who are deemed to rich to qualify for free prescriptions are often resorted to buying cheap, knocked off and often fake medicines. It is not unusual for people in England to ask their GP “Which of the items I have just been prescribed do I least need?” Should this be the system we aspire to just because the likes of JK Rowling are able to get the odd dose of medicine without passing over some actual ready cash?

Mr Holford also says that he would prefer to use this money to employ 1000 nurses. It costs around £70,000 to train a nurse for 3 years. Is the plan to train new nurses or attract qualified staff from abroad? You can’t increase nursing staff without also increasing support staff at the same time. Given that Jim Murphy claimed it would cost £250 million for 1000 nurses, and scrapping free prescriptions would free up only £50 million, where’s the rest of the money coming from? Increased tax or cuts elsewhere?

Mr Holford says that Scottish NHS spending has been protected by the Tories and has been cut by the SNP. He then cites two interviews by Tory stalwart and formerly respected journalist Andrew Neil, where Neil claimed that Scottish budgets have been protected by the Tories. Anyone who has followed the online debate between Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland and an increasingly irate and abusive Mr Neil would know that Mr Neil’s figures were slightly off, to put it charitably. Audit Scotland, Fiscal Affairs Scotland and economists Jim & Margaret Cuthbert are all of the opinion that Mr Neils reading of the figures he supplied were correct, but they are all agreed that in relation to this debate Mr Neil is using the WRONG figures, and there has been an actual cut of some 6-10% in real terms.

Who was right in the Andrew Neil Scottish Budget Row?

To put it simply, in terms even Kezia Dugdale could understand, if I have a salary of £10,000 and I receive no raise for 3 years, while my employer could reasonably say that they have maintained my wages with no cuts, if in the interim the rate of inflation has risen, tax has gone up, etc, then my real terms cash available to be spent goes down. Were Mr Neil not a paid BBC employee and journalist his online and often on screen output would be dismissed as trolling. Instead he becomes a point of reference for unionists everywhere.

Mr Holford has pointed out in both of his letters that he is disabled, and that point now needs no repetition. Every disabled person has a story to tell, some are not as fortunate in some regards as Mr Holford. He was, if I understand correctly, made redundant, and used that cash to start a successful business. If only everyone had that opportunity! Sadly they don’t, and as I said previously many disabled people would never be able to enter mainstream work and have seen employers such as Remploy who focused purely on those people closed down. Many years ago Norman Tebbit was criticised for telling workers to “get on their bikes” and go and find work. Mr Holford seems to be exhorting the disabled to get in their wheelchairs and do likewise. For some that is not, and never will be, an option. I’m positive about that.

Letter to The National: Trident and Trolls

Submitted to The National, 07/11/15

Dear Sir,

I read Keith Howell’s letter in The National where he said those MSP’s who supported Trident should not be seen as pro WMD, but as multilateral disarmists, and I noted Brian Quails response where he states that Mr Howell’s view is “hideously wrong”.

Readers should perhaps be aware of Mr Howell’s history. He regularly points out his perceived evils of Scottish nationalism to newspapers across Scotland and the globe: In 2014 he personally took out a full page advert in the Metro newspaper where he railed against Scottish independence, he runs a hardline unionist website, where he describes himself as a “moderate provocateur”. I feel that I would not be wrong in saying that rocks would melt under the sun before he found a positive case for anything which advanced the cause of Scottish nationalism or indeed was complementary of any policy advanced by a nationalist party, and that The National would in future be better using the room wasted on his words, which are at all times against the very cause which brought this paper into being, to continue to print views which collectively discuss how we can shape and bring about a better Scotland.

If I want to read views such as Mr Howells there are plenty other newspapers I can read, and I choose not to. Mr Howells actions in writing to the National are the same as those people who seek out online pro-independence discussions to disrupt them, in modern parlance ‘trolling’. The National should remember the number one rule in this sphere: do not feed the trolls.

Yours,
James Cassidy