Sunday, 7 December 2008

Green-Gate

The scandal now known as "Green-gate" really is the most spun, useless and obtuse scandal in British political history, with so many people spouting opinions, when in possession of so few facts. This seems to have developed into the media's favourite game of find a scapegoat... and hound them.

Yes, the arrest of the Conservative MP, Damian Green was heavy handed, perhaps our politicians should be made aware that no our police are not particularly good at their job, but they were following up a valid complaint about a security leek (in their own cack handed way). In any case, the civil servant involved has broken the rules by passing those documents to Green. He deserves the outcome of any disciplinary procedures which may or may not be ongoing.

What is particularly distasteful is the hunting of the Speaker, Michael Martin. Not sure whether he is good at his job, but since so many people up to this point have been found wanting, why focus on one person. Especially using such racist terminology as "Gorbals Mick", which for example, the Daily Mail writer Quentin Letts first used on Martin when he was first elected.

In the past month, we have had the high profile failure of a social services department come to light, our Police, gradually being shown to have been unable to spot and stop a mass serial killer, while our Bankers are on the verge of getting away with causing the biggest economic downturn due to their greed. And this is what vexes our chattering classes. Time for a reality check boys and girls.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The End Of New Labour... In Office.

It’s so very difficult to describe how much Brown and Darling have completely flunked the PBR. Unless you are a parent, or a pensioner (though that warm feeling won’t last very long if you are either), what really did the Pre-Budget Report do for you.

VAT has been cut to 1992 levels, which would be great… if anybody had money to spend. Assuming of course that our shops and retailers passed on the 2.5% decrease. None of the tax cuts will create the necessary stimulus to create the needed liquid economy. In a sense, this is the perfect New Labour budget, the illusion of actions being taken, with ther reality of rearranging the deck-chairs on the titanic.

That’s before I touch on the pain to come, with the announcement of Ni and income tax rises. National Insurance is set to rise by equivalent of 0.5% from 2011. There are also proposed income tax rises, set to come in after the next general election, should New Labour win that election. Darling announced that the top rate of tax will go up to 45% for those earning £150000 and over. It is this measure which has seen commentators and columnists claim the end of New Labour, which is nonsense. They should have either set the threshold at £100000, set the new top rate at 50%, or both.

To announce a tax raising measure, to pay off an estimated half a trillion pound debt, which would only bring in £650 million in its first year, really is defeating the purpose. In any case, there should have been a raft of tax avoidance issues announced, as people who find themselves in the higher rate of tax are more likely to adopt tax avoidance procedures.

Brown and Darling have really gambled, but have spent the money on the wrong things, and have continued to compromise with the top earners and bankers who put the country in this position in the first place. Either way, it is very difficult to escape the conclusion that New Labour, when announcing the PBR, had just lost the next General Election.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Gordon To The Rescue!

One of the things which is striking about the current recession is that both the causes and fault have not really been discussed. As a result, our dear leader Gordon Brown has been portrayed as some sort of Superman by comrades, spin-doctors and allies in the press. Admittedly, he has done something to try and soften the downturn, though I would prefer that he “bails out” the hard working tax-payers and low paid who will find themselves behind the 8 ball when the storm hits, rather than the bankers who put us here in the first place.

This perhaps is the quandry behind the lack of anything that will stick to our dear leader. Brown hasn’t done that much in the past year which the Conservatives, in their heart of hearts, would disagree with. He has continued the ‘lasiz faire’ economics which was laid down by Thatcher, Howe and Lawson 30 years ago. Regulations have been dispensed with and direct taxation has come down, even if there has been a dramatic rise in indirect taxation over the past 10 years. Brown’s big failure, which has led to the credit crunch and this recession, has its seeds in his adherence to the listed ‘Thatcherite’ principles.

Had Brown imposed stricter regulations on our Banks, they might not have over-extended themselves by importing sub-prime principles to our mortgage markets or by going after, excuse the pun, a quick buck, by buying up American sub-prime debts. Brown has instead, left the stable door open. Even now, Brown and Darling are reticent to take action against the banks who have refused to pass on any of the 2% in interest cuts.

Of course, many people take their lead from the top, and this government has not set a good example with the extensive use of the capital projects version of the second mortgage, PFI/PPP. As much as £40 billion has been spent on expensive refurbishment projects for our Hospitals and Schools, with large sums not actually going towards funding the building works, but towards consultation fees for the various firms involved. At the moment, none of these fees will appear on any government books, as they have been deemed to be ‘off-sheet’. We have been promised that these will appear on-sheet by 2011, after the next election.

In the mean-time, on Monday we have the most important Pre-Budget report since… well the Budget was held at this time of year (1996 I believe). Targeted tax cuts have been hinted at, with the Conservatives claiming that this is irresponsible. One way that New Labour could be really responsible would be to raise income taxes for higher earners.

Raising the top rate of Income tax above its current rate of 40% is another course of action which Brown could have adopted, to slow the economy down. Again, Brown stuck to ‘Thatcherite’ principles and kept income tax for big earners low, the sort of big earner’s whose irresponsibility have led to the current recession. This course of action would be preferable to the other alternative being touted on Robert Peston’s blog, that of VAT being raised to 22.5%. VAT, apart from being a regressive tax, tends to be most penal on the low earners who would gain from tax cuts.

What Brown has successfully done again is marginalise the Conservatives. Cameron’s sudden policy announcement, that they would drop the policy of keeping in place the next cycle of public spending, which ends in 2011, shows a nervousness that perhaps the (poor) tactic of blaming Brown of economic miss-management has not gone as planned. The Conservitives now find themselves where they were in 2001 and 2005, arguing for economic policies which are not universally popular or acclaimed. Brown is at fault for the recession, because he followed the Thatcherite policies which brought us here. Promising more Thatcherisim to get us out of the recession, at a time where the right wing orthodoxy is being more and more questioned, is entirely the wrong tactic for Cameron. This move only brings the date of the next General Election closer, an election which could be very uncomfortable for Cameron.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Unwanted Saviours?

So let me get this right, the SNP are accusing New Labour of trying to force through the merger of Lloyds TSB and HBOS, by any means necessary, even if this includes sullying the good name of the SNP appointed savours of Scottish banking, George Mathewson (right) and Peter Burt (left).
Bearing in mind that.. er … New Labour are bending over backwards to help Gordon Brown’s chum Victor Blank in his quest to take over HBOS, could the SNP not find better candidates to front their rescue of the Bank of Scotland than Mathewson and Burt. These are precisely the kind of bankers who sowed the seeds of the Credit Crunch.
Burt was the Chairman who oversaw (ie; was instrumental in) the “merger” of Halifax and the Bank of Scotland in 2000, a merger which saw Halifax’s lemmings over the cliff top like business plan adopted throughout the group. No good business sense shown there.
Mathewson, on the other hand, appointed and supported Scottish banking’s equivalent to Frankenstein’s monster, Fred ‘the shred’ Goodwin. His support of Goodwin culminated in the decision which has (almost) destroyed another Scottish institution, RBS. That decision can be described in 2 words. ABN Amro.
Ideal candidates to save The Bank of Scotland don’t you think?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Political Footballs

Whatever you think about our political leaders, today at Prime Ministers Question’s neither Brown or Cameron covered themselves in glory.

The Baby P trial has exposed not just the failures of the Social Services in the Haringey area of North London, failures which bizarrely are being investigated by the chair of the department under investigation. Surely the phrase conflict of interest came to the mind of whoever made or verified this decision. There are also questions to be asked about the education standards in Haringey. I am amazed that in the 21st century, there are people in this country who cannot read or write, this is the case for the parents of the child.

Also, isn’t about time that we had parenting classes for teenage/young mothers?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Two Tribes - The Glenrothes Aftermath

Quite a few of my recent posts have been about Renfrewshire council struggling to come to terms with the mess left behind by the previous regime, and having to enforce unpopular cuts and fee rises in order to meet its commitments. Sound familiar?

It is this exact facsimile of circumstances which has been the determining factor in New Labour’s by-election win last night. This was the central issue of this election, with the SNP candidate apparently being challenged in shops about his council’s budget cuts. While campaigning on Wednesday, Salmond was also hijacked by save South Primary School protesters from Paisley.

The fact that New Labour won is not a surprise, this election was always going to be nip and tuck. The majority of 6737 is something of a shock, it is believed that Brown thought that his party would lose the by-election up till 10:30 last night, when the votes started arriving at the count. This is the first concrete proof of a Brown bounce post the mass nationalisation of our banking system. Whether this holds up, meaning a General Election at some point in 2009, is anyone’s guess. I reckon we won’t get an election before October next year (I still think Cameron will win it, with a majority in single figures).

For the vanquished there are problems ahead. The Lib Dems and the Conservatives lost their deposits. For the conservitives to be able to claim that they have a mandate to govern Scotland, they must poll better than the 1639 in Glasgow East and 1381 in Glenrothes if they are to claim some sort of mandate. The Lib Dems are just going nowhere. Tavish Scott really has to pull his finger out, as the Lib Dems have shown their lack of patience in recent years with their leaders'. How much longer has he got?

For the SNP, the Blairesque honeymoon is well and truly over. To complain about this and that, to say well we got a 5% swing on our Westminster vote (in 2005) when they won pretty much the same seat in the Holyrood elections 18 months ago is a bit petulant (the swing between 2007 and 2008 being 15.2% to New Labour, if my calculations are wrong, I apologise). I saw Angus Robertson MP even try and convince us last night that the result was a good one. Politicians must realise that trying to convince us that Blue is Green is incredibly tiresome and risable to the electorate, if so why do they do it?

Like it or not the SNP government have suffered a setback, the best thing for them to do would be to stop the rotund winging and get on with the job. As a famous golfer would put it (Bobby Jones I think, not Donald Trump) “You have to play the ball where it lies

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Long Night Is Over

Conventional wisdom supposedly dictates that policy and political ideas are formed in the USA, our political classes look to America for new ideas on PR and selling the message like people obsessed. Blogging and online campaigning are the revelations of this Presidential race.

What I am trying to do is to pinpoint why the election of Barack Obama is so historic, without mentioning the R word, or the B word. Instead, lets mention the fact that, by all accounts, Obama is the most left wing president elect since, well Kennedy possibly. By promising to cut taxes for those less well off, and by putting taxes up for those more well off, well that suspiciously sounds like Socialism.

If it is, then good!

I do have a theory that we are at the beginning of the end of the right wing consensus, both in the United States and here in the UK. The Credit Crunch, and the growing public disquiet about the excessive executive pay being one sign, and our political leaders (here in the UK at least) lack of ideas on the correct way out of this economic crisis. Now this electorial victory, and the gains in both houses in Congress. Like I was trying to say earlier, British politics seams to assimilate ideas originally roadtested in America. Lets hope that Obama brings some good ideas to the table.

Oh and by the way, congratulations to the USA in your wisdom in electing Obama.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Scotland.... SOLD! To the Highest Bidder!

So the SNP cave in and grant Trumps' wish to build Trumptown, as intended by Trump with no consideration to the local enviroment. Whatever the "economic benefits" of this project, the SNP government, and the rest of the political classes for that matter if Lewis MacDonald (New Labour's 'Tourism' spokesman) and David 'taxi for' McLetchie are any sort of barometer, have signaled that Scotland is for sale.

Sorry, but I feel strongly that Scotland lost something that money cannot buy today.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Causing Offence...

Or alternatively, just keep digging…

I was going to write about Sach’s-gate, but decided that firstly I had said all I was going to say on the subject commenting on SNPTactialvoting and Tom Harris’ blog and secondly because Brand’s resignation from Radio 2 will take some heat out of the situation.

The Third reason, is that I have come across a more offensive remark, uttered by someone who really, no really, should know better. Yes step up Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Scottish branch of the Flat Earth Society. What, you might think I more offensive than leaving offensive messages and suggesting that you/your mate has slept with one of your grandchildren. Well judge for yourselves as speaking about the Human Embryology Act, currently going through the Houses of Parliament, he said…

"The grotesque implications of these procedures are utterly horrifying and fly in the face of all medical guidance on consent to research."

He also went on to compare the “procedures” to "Nazi-style experiments”. For someone who believes in alleviating the suffering of man-kind, to compare the 21st Century technology involved with stem-cell research, which has the potential to open up a front in the fight against the degenerative diseases like Motor-Neurone, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s as well as more well known conditions like Cancer and Heart Disease to the application of technology to further the Aryian race, which included the systemic destruction of anyone different to the Nazi’s, most famously the Jew’s, its just warped.

Cardinal O’Brien admits that his comments were made to court publicity, well I hope people hear his comment’s and think what a hypocrite for a man who is supposed to promote the human spirit, to try and deny 21st century medicine to our ill people, and to justify it in the sickest of terms.

One question though, if 18000 people complained, to the BBC, to OFCOM about Brand and Ross’ teenage snickering, who do I complain to about O’Brien. He who does not exist perhaps?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Consultation

Consult: V 1) To seek information or advice from (a person, book etc): to take counsel (with) 2) To take (feelings etc) into consideration.

Consultation: N Consulting: a meeting for this purpose.

Note that description of the word consultation, because at the moment there are consultation exercises happening at the moment which would break the trade’s description act.

The Post Office, having decided to close 43 post offices out of the original list, they have decided that they would like to close (in a more permanent fashion than is currently planned) the PO in Linwood. Whatever the arguments for closing these branches, and these seem to hinge on the vagaries of finance and commercial confidentiality, the consultation process surrounding Linwood does seem to have the air of going through the motions. Sorry, but Linwood will close.

The other consultation process involves Renfrewshire Council’s intention to close South Primary School. It is now clear that Renfrewshire Council is sinking further into debt, no doubt hindered by the £149 million second mortgage which paid for the ongoing renovations of Renfrewshire’s schools. This is New Labours parting gift to the voters of Renfrewshire. However the SNP/Lib Dem administration have made a bad situation worse. The cuts to public services, coupled with the warden fee hikes were inadvisable and poorly handled to say the least.

However the announcement of the closure of the South, smacks of some sort of desperation. Coming so soon after the announcement concerning the inflation busting wage rises for the Councils heads of service, its very poor timing. Something which has cropped up in Cllr Kelly’s blog is that there may be some sort of ulterior motive for this closure. There is the (unsubstantiated) rumour that Aldi, having bought the land at the Vitafoam factory, would like some more land for an access road. Land for houses is always popular, even in this economic climate. I’m sure that Renfrewshire Council’s favourite house builder, Robertson’s, would be interested more land.

However, this is just rumour and speculation. What is true is that Renfrewshire Council, like the Post Office, are intent on closing a vital community facility for reasons which are not cast iron.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Where's Angus.... ?

You may remember when New Labour were up to their necks in all sorts of fund related corruption allegations, various MP's were not backwards in in announcing that they would seek police intervention. The trailblazer for this course of action was the SNP MP for Na-H-Eileanan Angus McNeil.

With all the allegations surrounding "Boy George" Osborne, you would think that MP's would be lining up to report the matter to Inspector Knacker. So far no complaint to the Met.

At the moment, it is just all about the he said she said, at least untill someone makes a complaint.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Four Years On.... Scotland V Norway Previe

Revenge is possibly something on the mind of the Scotland players. Almost exactly 4 years ago, Norway came to Hampden and became the third side to win there in World Cup qualifiers (After Poland in 1965 and Wales in 1985, Belarus have also won a World Cup qualifier at Hampden in October 2005), pretty much ending the Berti Voghts era.

Again, this is a must win match, Scotland despite the win in Iceland are still behind the 8-ball thanks to their loss in Macedonia. As I said in an earlier blog, the away tie in Macedonia is possibly the toughest away tie (except the Holland tie) in the group. But to drop all 3 points, not the best start.

However, there are signs that George Burley is getting things right, I think that he must stick with a 3 man centre midfield, continuing the thread here established by Craig Brown with his use of 3-5-2, going up to Alex McLeish’s favoured 4-5-1. I was taken aback by the criticism of Burley after the Macedonia, led by Grumpy Jim Traynor. I did wonder, when listening to his phone in show, when did we turn into England. The negativity coming from the callers was strange, and somewhat Un-Scottish!

This is a must win game for Scotland, and is a vital one for Norway (who only have a 2-2 home draw against Iceland so far in this group), the key rivals for the playoff place. A win on Saturday will set Scotland up for the toughest game of the group, Holland in Amsterdam in March.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Next Government?

This blog was supposed to be posted on Monday.


On the face of it, David Cameron is an absolute shoo in to be the next Prime Minister, there is nothing to worry him as he moves toward an expected landslide at the next election. Well that’s not really true. Apart from not wanting to be the conservative’s version of Kinnock. Remember, he lead in the polls up to 4 days before the ‘92 election before his fate was sealed with what those traumatised will only refer to as ‘Sheffield’.

No, Cameron’s problem is that despite the 15 point leads in the polls, and the praise from the Anglo-centric media, there are areas completely immune to the Cameron effect, the North of England, and specifically Scotland. Missed in the heat of the Glasgow East by-election was really how badly the Tories did in this area, 3rd some 10000 votes behind second place.

I suspect that it will be business as usual regarding this ‘problem‘, that lip-service will be paid to us Scots, its not as if very many swing seats are here North of the border. Theoretically, Cameron’s biggest problem, to team Cameron at least, is to give some policy announcements, and put some flesh on previous policy statements, the sermon at St Jude’s, at the start of the Glasgow East by-election campaign, springs readily to mind where he blamed fat people, poor people etc etc for their own predicament. How very Thatcherite.

To return from the tangent though, the fact that the “next government” will only poll about 25% at most (and only get 1, maybe 2 but at most 4 out of 59 Scottish MP’s) at the next election should be a cause for concern for Conservative MP’s. If they believe in the Union, now is the chance to show that concern, because any more of the lip service that we have been getting, and there will be no more United Kingdom in 4 years.

Been Away...

Good god, been away on holiday. You turn your back any the whole world ecconomy falls apart & New Labour MP's Don't knife Brown in the back!

Appologies for not blogging about the New Labour conference, i would have blogged about the Conservative one at the weekend, but we had PC problems. Thjs one will be up soon though, with some updates to follow soon after that...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The End of Super Squirrel...

About 20 odd years ago, my dad took me into Paisley to open my first bank account, my parents had accounts with the TSB and the Bank of Scotland. In my infinate wisdom, i choose to join the bank which gave nine year olds with a bit of Christmas money the most freebies, so i joined the Bank of Scotland (hence the reference to Super Squirrel, the symbol of the Bank of Scotlands banking for children).

Although my current account is now with another bank, there is a part of me that is sad about the demise of the Bank of Scotland. Their problems did start with the merger with the Halifax. Moving my current account from HBOS was purely down to their Current Account product discriminating against low wage earners. Thats not to say that what has happened to them over the past few days is justified. I feel sorry for the loss that will visit the HBOS employees in the weeks and months to come.

If anything, what we have seen this week, with the collapse of Lehman, and the butchering of HBOS, which appears to have broken every city rule in the book (even Brown has bent the rules by speaking to Victor Blank, the chairman of Lloyds TSB before the takeover), isthe ugly face of capitalism.

Almost as ugly however is the response from our elected representatives. More shutting-of-the-door-after-the horse-has-bolted from Brown & Darling. Some hand wringing from Comedy Dave. Salmonds response takes the biscuit. He described the city traders as "spivs and speculators". Of course the SNP's main priority, which is steadily being revealed to us, is to make Scotland a good place to do business. Obvously not a man who has heard the phrase "Those who live by the sword, die by the sword"

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Conference Time Is Here Again...

In the same way that the Charity Shield and the European pre-qualifiers are the unofficial start of the football season, the party conferences are the start of the political “season” which will take us to the spring elections. These are scheduled to be just local elections and the European elections. However we are now due a General Election within the next 18 months, one which the timing is still very much in the gift of the Prime Minister. These conferences are an ideal time to take stock with where each party is. In the Next few weeks, New Labour will be in Manchester, while the Conservatives will be in Birmingham. This week has seen the TUC conference, but the party conferences begin properly with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth.

12 months ago, the Lib-Dems were recovering from a poor showing at the English Council Elections, and more significantly, in the elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Since last year we have seen the resignation of their leader at Westminster, Menzies Campbell (for the reason that his age was damaging the party) and the resignation of their leader in Hollyrood, Nicol Stephen (to spend time with his family). For their replacements, Nick Clegg (top) and Tavish Scott, this will be a key moment for both of them. With the New Labour project unravelling by the day, this is the perfect opportunity for the Lib Dem’s to regain some ground after the advances made on their ground by David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

However, the question remains, and this might just be a key question. What are the Lib-Dems for? For a few years now the debate has been going on about whether the Lib Dems should be about liberal social policies (socialist lite, so to speak) or should they follow a liberal economic path, the route espoused by the grouping behind The Orange Book (a collection of essays about liberal economic policies put together by the MP David Laws). Clegg is known to be from the Orange Book wing of the party (it is not known however where Scott stands). If the Orange Book wing win the argument, this could win votes in England, but would cost votes in the left wing orientated Scotland.

So to sum up, what are the Lib Dem’s aims for this week? For starters, they have to start to marry the two visions for the party & come up with policies which reflect this. Targeted tax cuts to ‘the less wealthy’ would be a welcome start, as would be the restoration (of the potentially vote winning) of the policy on a top rate 50% tax band. Clegg has already mentioned something about this, while Tavish Scott (right) has called for a 2% tax cut in the Scottish Budget, which will be next week. They have 2 years of haemorrhaging votes, in the aftermath of the removal of Charles Kennedy, to make up. As is outlined at the start, there is at most 18 months to do this. If they can’t, Cameron will be Number 10’s next resident.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Road To South Africa Begins…

There have been qualifiers in most parts of the world, notably in South America, but for the majority of European Countries, World Cup qualifying begins in earnest today, and for the home countries it’s a very mixed start. Wales should have no problems at home to Azerbaijan, while Northern Ireland attempt to carry on the momentum from their almost successful Euro 2008 campaign, with a tricky away trip to Slovakia. For England & Scotland, it is two very mixed starts.

Our qualifying group (of The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland & FYR Macedonia) theoretically should be escapable, compared to having 3 of the World Cup quarter finalists in our qualifying group last time (see below) , however when exactly have Scotland ever stuck to the script. For example, today’s game in Macedonia should be the easiest away fixture on the list. However Macedonia’s ranking is lower than their results suggest, draws in England (twice, during qualifying for the last 2 European Championships, picture below), their star player (Pandev) plies his trade with Lazio while others in the team are with respectable clubs in Belgium, Germany and France. Scotland being Scotland this could be the toughest fixture of the whole campaign, including the fixture in Amsterdam in March next year.





As opposed to the rest of the group, when we have had recent fixtures against the other teams, in qualifying for Euro 2004 and the last World Cup, this will be the first time that Scotland have played Macedonia, and only the second of the former Yugoslavian teams that Scotland have faced (we faced Croatia in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup). If Scotland escape with a draw, it could set us up nicely for the away trip on Wednesday to Iceland. 4 points out of 6 is a must from our opening fixtures.

In sharp contrast, England start away to Andorra, which WILL be their easiest away fixture in their qualifying group, and is also the only away fixture in Western Europe. Their qualifying group is something of a tour of the former eastern bloc, and also a list of banana skins (Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus & Kazakhstan being the other teams in England’s group). With only the top team qualifying as of right (with the second placed team facing a play-off), this looks to be a tough group for England. Ukraine will be smarting from finishing 4th in Euro 2008 qualifying (behind Italy, France & Scotland) and will want to put on a better show, while England’s next game (which is away to…) their rivals from the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Croatia will want to achieve their 4th World Cup finals appearance in a row, and will be confident of doing so after their performance in qualifying for the finals of Euro 2008, and some of their performances in the finals themselves.

In assessing England’s chances of qualifying from their group, you cannot underestimate how difficult this group is. Yet the English media are already doing exactly that, by focusing on how England are playing, the style of play, the absence of Michael Owen from the current squad… anything really than the match in hand. As with Scotland, 4 points from the away games in Barcelona and Zagreb are a must for England.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Foot In Mouth 2

The Scottish Government has repeated its calls for Scotland to have its own, separate team at the Olympics. Ministers said it would be good for Scottish sport. The SNP wants to hold an independence referendum in 2010 - two years before the Games in London.

Asked what Mr Maxwell would say to those Scots who would rather see Scotland's athletes play a big role in Team GB, Mr Maxwell replied: "What I would say to them, do Irish athletes want to rejoin the UK and be part of the UK team? Do we want to get rid of the GB team and have a European team because a European team would sweep the board? So I think you have to think about whether or not it's appropriate in the level you represent your own country in. I think it's quite right you represent your own country."

We finally have a team of winners at the Olympics, and this guy is calling for a seperate Scottish Olympic team. Chris Hoy has already said that he wouldn't be where he is today without the backup of the BOA, while Scotland saw the accrimonious defection about 8 years ago of champion squash player Peter Nicol.

A seperate Scottish Olympic team would be good, but i have one question for Stewart Maxwell, Show us the money!


Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Scotland And Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher is one of those people who polarizes opinion. Nearly 18 years since she left office, there is still a visceral hatred of her and her policies across pretty much most of Scotland. The Poll Tax would be top of most people's list, followed by her treatment of the Unions (which in a way they deserved) & ordinary workers generally (which in no way they deserved). Her use of "Scotland's Oil", to fund tax cuts for the rich and putting people on the dole, creating the feral classes that we have today is another of her great policies. Oh and the Falkland's has to be in there too, 250 British soldiers sacrificed for a landslide win in the following Westminster election. The best way to sum up Thatcherism would be Eddie George's quote, several years after she had gone funnily enough, that "Unemployment in the North is a price worth paying for low inflation". Not the most, um, unifying of periods shall we say.

Funnily enough I had bought a book on the Miners Strike, David Peace's "GB84" a couple of weeks ago, still not read it yet, so this predate's my real reason for bringing up Thatch. Our fearless leader, Alex Salmond, gave an interview for an online politics magazine, where it is said that he praised Thatch. The interview was by Iain Dale, the Conservitive blogger, and the offending piece goes something like this…

Dale: "Ten years ago, the Conservatives were seen as a terrible enemy by the SNP, and they saw you as very left-wing. It seems to me that you have tried to change that, and create a big tent for the SNP."
Salmond: "I suppose I have tried to bring the SNP into the mainstream of Scotland. We have a very competitive economic agenda. Many business people have warmed towards the SNP. We need a competitive edge, a competitive advantage - get on with it, get things done, speed up decision making, reduce bureaucracy. The SNP has a strong social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself. One of the reasons Scotland didn't take to Lady Thatcher was because of that. We didn't mind the economic side so much. But we didn't like the social side at all."

So there we have it, we didn't mind the economic side of her policies so much. We. Thankfully for Salmond's sake, there are not any lynching parties with torches and pitch forks outside Bute House from the communities which Thatch destroyed . What planet is he from to come away with something as ludicrous as that? Has his foot been surgically removed from his mouth yet?

Of course, because this is the first, huge, own goal from Salmond. The New Labour politicians have been demanding an apology for the remarks, conveniently ignoring the theft of several conservative policies by New Labour to gain votes with the Daily Mail reading middle England. PFI/PPP, ID Cards, 42 day detention, scrapping of the 10p tax rate, tax cuts for the rich, Non Dom tax cuts, still no taxation plans for private equity firms, Out sourcing of our Civil Service, ram-rod refusal to scrap Council Tax… the list goes on.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Tragedy & Farce, The Season Starts Here…

The Scottish football season gets in full swing tomorrow, with the start of the Scottish Premier League season, its 10th under the SPL banner, and there are dark clouds hanging over it. The tragedy comes with the news of the death last week of the esteemed broadcaster, Journalist, former school-teacher and Brains of Britain winner Bob Crampsey. The thing that I will miss the most is the knowledge and the precise ability to place any event in the mad world of Scottish football in its place in the grand scheme of things. This is something that most pundits who comment on Scottish football can't do without resorting to hyperbole.

The farce element to the build up to the new season comes in the shape of Rangers embarrassing European Cup exit at the hands of FBK Kaunas. How embarrassing? Well only the late Mr. Crampsey knows. It's not the first time that Rangers & Walter Smith have crashed out of Europe before the end of the Summer holidays, remember AEK Athens in 1994 (When Smith had just signed Brian Laudrup and Basil Boli) and then there was IFK Gothenburg in 1997. Rangers, under Smith, have also crashed out in the early stages of European competition to the likes of Sparta Prague (1991/92) and Levski Sofia (1993/94).

This is of course a major embarrassment to Scottish Football and Rangers, though there is the financial consideration of losing an estimated £10 million from failing to make the "Champions League" stage of the European Cup. However if you ignore the crisis headlines surrounding Ibrox, you will see that this may be a blessing in disguise.

Of the examples mentioned above, Rangers went on to claim at least the Championship in every season bar the 1997/98 season (IFK Gothenburg). More recently, when eliminated from the UEFA Cup in 2002/03 by Viktoria Zizkov in the 1st Round, they went on to claim the treble of Championship, Scottish Cup and League Cup, though Celtic's march to Seville might also have been a contributing factor here. This is why I think that if Rangers can shake off the hangover from last season quickly enough, they will regain the Championship from Celtic, by a margin of between 4-6 points.

Elsewhere, Motherwell and Dundee United will fight it out for 3rd place, I take Dundee United to finish 3rd. The mighty Buds will continue the painfully slow progress that we have made by finishing 9th. I'm not really sure if moving stadiums mid season is a help or a hindrance, I just hope that it doesn't backfire. The Relegation issue is perhaps the closest to call. If Hamilton Accies go down, it will be down to a lack of experience at the top level. Having said that, I don't think that they will go down. I would say that Inverness or Kilmarnock are more likely candidates for the drop.

Whatever happens, hopefully season 2008/09 will be as eventful as last season. Oh, and i hope we win on Sunday!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Closing Near You...

This Tuesday sees the release of what the Post Office have called “Area 5 Plan” – essentially this is the closure programe for large parts of West Central Scotland out with the Glasgow area. This means that closures will be announced for Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and (very much on our doorstep) Renfrewshire.
The most interesting aspect of this is the random jockeying that has been going on in the Renfrewshire media, mostly played out in the letters page’s of the Paisley Daily Express. One letter caught my eye in April, I can’t remember who wrote it, but he said that any scare stories, which he believed were put around by the SNP, that appeared in the media were nonsense, and that there would be no post office closures in Paisley or Renfrewshire. Im not sure where he got his information from, but everywhere else had suffered Post Office closures, therefore the law of averages says, no dictates, that there will be closures here to. This started some of the afore mentioned jockeying with the SNP saying that this person didn’t know what he was talking about, and that he was clearly a Labour man.
Whatever happens on Tuesday, I hope that the local Labour politicians know who to blame. In Private Eye, date April 4th 2008, they ran an article which placed the blame at the door of the now former Chancellor, Gordon Brown…
The current policy originates in the governments Shareholder Executive, announced by Gordon Brown in 2002 with the task to “better fulfill (the government’s) role as shareholder” of 25 publicly-owned companies like Royal Mail. Its target, on which bosses bonuses depended, was to increase the value of the six largest companies by £1bn by 2007.
Out went any notion that public corporations were also there to provide a public service. The men bought in for the job, first led by ex-CSFB investment banker Richard Gillingwater and now by former Deutsche Bank analyst Stephen Lovegrove, duly hit the target.
This was achieved largely by boosting the financial (if not service) results at Royal Mail following the installation of senior management, including chief executive Adam Crozier on multi million bonuses for boosting profits without penalty for service shortcomings. Unsuprisingly under Crozier & co, closures and redundancies have been the order of the day
.”
The article goes on to outline that the Shareholder executive has a financial interest in cutting costs, and that they advise ministers on the companies that they “run” (into the ground).
So dear reader, if you see a New Labour MP, MSP or councilor complaining about the cuts on Tuesday, or any time soon, remind them that they are at fault for the backdoor privatization of the Post Office.
PS: Adam Crozier is the former Chief executive of the FA, who appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson. He acknowledged that there was corruption at her heart of football, only to be put in his place by the Premierships chairmen. The Chairman of the Post Office is the former Chief Executive of Leeds United, Alan Leighton. His involvement in the demise of Leeds from the Premiership is detailed in the book “Broken Dreams” by Tom Boyer

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Honeymoons End

All honeymoons end, even the one enjoyed by the Blair government ended, at some point in 2000 (about the time of the fuel protests and the slow handclap by the WI). But the current SNP/Lib Dem administration in Renfrewshire, it is safe to say has reached the end of its honeymoon, even if there are some who said it ended just after they took office.

On Thursday 26th June, the ruling SNP/Lib Dem coalition awarded pay-rises to the directors & heads of services at Renfrewshire Council well in excess of inflation. The 20 heads of service will receive rises of 17%, up to £78045, while the directors will see their wages rise by a measly 6.7%, up to £101985. That's a total of £2172810, or 4/10 of a PPP repayment.

In the current economic climate, this is simply offensive, for an organization in debt, this is madness. Remember that not so long ago, Renfrewshire council were in trouble with our elderly for increasing warden charges in sheltered housing areas, on top of the myriad of cuts to community services. Our rulers are asking us, the plebs, to tighten our belts. Meanwhile at Mill Street its trebles all round, and that's just the cuts to the library service! (Presumably to make way for these wage increases, and not just to service Renfrewshire's large PPP debt). I don't normally see eye to eye with Terry Kelly, but he more than has a point when he says "The rise of more than £11000 is more than some of our lowest paid workers get in a year and quite frankly, I feel that is obscene".

The leader of the council, Derek Mackay, in response said something about paying the going rate for staff. You know, the stuff that Michael Heseltine, Brian Mahwinney, Peter Lilley and other right wing members of the Major Government used to trot out when the bosses of (recently privatized at the time) utilities got criticism for their fat cat pay. Interestingly, the fat cats remain, but the current (New Labour or SNP) government(s) don't criticize them for their inflation busting, economy wrecking largesse.

To come back from that tangent, Mackay went on to say "What should we do, bury our heads in the sand and wait for this mystic time when people are going to jump for joy at the news that highly paid officials are getting an increase? We cannot hold off any longer on this or we will find that we have lost all our good staff because we were not willing to pay them what they are worth"

This would be great, if the majority of staff were getting the same increases, or if the staff getting the increases were any good at their jobs. As far as I can see, Paisley's still going down the pan, we still have feral teenagers rampaging through our streets at night, with nothing to do. We are supposed to have community wardens, for all the good it does. They and their bright red uniforms and their fleet of red mini-vans should be the first thing to be axed instead of putting charges up for wardens at sheltered housing areas. Paisley town centre is still a mess, with empty shops. Littlewoods is still empty, as is the area where Arnotts used to be, 5 years ago. Can you tell that I think that they're simply not worth it.

The pay rise really does smack of the new British disease, the one of 'rewarding failure'. And is something that cannot go on. New Labour do it at Westminster by saying nothing about the bonuses that the bosses of the High Street banks get, even though it is their failures & hubris that have caused the credit crunch. Our devolved government here are not any better in this respect, and it would appear neither are the nearly new brooms in Cotton Street. With the difficulty in squaring the deficit bequeathed to them by the previous administration, this potentially could be a "jump the shark" moment for the SNP/Lib Dem. The problem is, if they sink, what are the alternatives for 2011.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Sma Shot Day


This weekend was the annual Sma Shot day in Paisley. Not the nicest day overall, which was a shame. This extract about what the day is about comes from the Renfrewshire Council website...

"One of the oldest workers' festivals in the world takes place in Paisley this weekend.The traditional Sma' Shot Day celebrates the historic victory of the weavers over the mill owners of 19th century Paisley.

The event, which takes place this Saturday (5 July), has developed into an annual celebration of arts and culture in Renfrewshire.The festival is the result of a political battle between the weavers of Paisley (who created the famous Paisley pattern cashmere shawls) and the mill-owners.The Sma' (small) Shot was a thread binding the shawls together. However, as it was unseen, the manufacturers, also known as the corks, refused to pay for the thread which the weavers had to buy.

The Charleston drum, which was beaten through the streets of Paisley to summon the weavers in times of trouble, was used to rally them in protest marches. After a long hard struggle, the manufacturers backed down and the weavers were paid for the Sma' Shot. The first Saturday in July was declared a public holiday by the weavers, who beat the drum and took part in the annual trip until 1975.

However, in 1986, local councillors and the people of Paisley revived the traditional event and the Charleston drum still rallies the people for a procession through the streets, led by an effigy of one of the mill owners known as The Cork.The burning of The Cork is the climax to the Sma' Shot Story as told by PACE Theatre Company.Provost Celia Lawson said: "Sma' Shot Day is a unique tradition and an important celebration of Paisley's cultural heritage."The parade will set off from Brodie Park at 11am and will weave its way through the streets to Abbey Close beside Paisley Town Hall.Once there, entertainment will include stalls, funfairs, the re-enactment of the Sma' Shot story, Loud 'n' Proud celebrating the Charleston Drum with a drumming extravaganza, and the burning of The Cork.Coinciding with Sma' Shot day this year is the Danny Kyle Memorial Concert, being held in Paisley Town Hall at 7.30pm.The concert commemorates 10 years since the death of one of Scotland's most famous folk musicians, and a number of acts are paying tribute."

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Motty Versus Greeny - 2 years on...

Hi there.

Reading through 200percent's blog today, there was a bit about the retirement from live matches of the BBC's main Football comentator John Mottson. In one of my first blogs, i gave my take on Football comentators...

"This entry however is inspired by something i was discussing with a friend on Tuesday about football comentators.
I must admit that i am not a fan of football comentators on the tellevision, Mottson, Tyldsley, et al. Not even the Scottish football comentators of days gone by like Montford & McPherson are to my tastes ( I do like Jock Brown though). No, i prefer the comentators on the radio, like Green, Ingham & Begg.
I think this is because Television comentators tend to tell you the obvious things, a lot, and give you useless information as well. The constant crowbaring of references to England do not go down well either. Fine if England are due to play any of the teams involved, not fine in say Togo versus Switzerland.
I certainly feel that these reasons certainly curtails my enjoyment of football on the TV. I feel that Football comentators have a lot to learn from comentators of other sports. I think that it was Richie Benaud, the don of Cricket comentators, who said that he learned to not speak, unless he had somethin useful to say. Here here!!"


As for Motson, Im not sure if we'll miss him. The joke up here is that there are spread bets on when the first mention of England or 1966 is in a match, any match. Even France v Italy, but i can point readers on to another excellent article on Motson, by the scottish journalist Ian Bell, which appeared in the Sunday Herald last week.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Exit Wendy...

Hmmm, Wendy Alexander here goes…
Admit it, she was the most recent example of the adage that the ideas people are not necessarily leadership material, though she wasn’t in the job long enough to show any ideas. The only thing that she did come up with was the U-turn regarding the independence question, which I still believe might have been a master-stroke… had her party not have some sort of bad reaction against the idea.
I also suspect that “Bring it on… “ might be another part as to why she has gone. Not many people with in the Scottish Labour camp, I think, were happy with her after that. The finances of her leadership bid, while the main part of why Alexander is no longer Leader in Holyrood, cannot be discounted as the only reason. While the Guido Fawkes website and the Sunday Herald have been claiming exclusive rights on the story, a far more interesting question has to be, who leaked the documents? Especially as it appears that the leak might have come from her own side...

Monday, 19 May 2008

SNP/Lib Dems to Run Renfrewshire - 1 Year On

It has been a year since the SNP took over Renfrewshire Council, and while it has been too early to give final judgements, there have been a few mistakes worthy of comment. In the first budget, the SNP/Lib Dem administration made cuts to key public services, in particular…


The removal of National Priorities Action Fund.
Cuts to Supported Study.
Cuts to Secondary, Primary and Special school budgets
Reduction in resource provision to support raising achievement.
Closure of Bargarran Community Library & libraries in Todholm and Elderslie.
Review of Day Care services for older people.
Charges for Day Care Services for older people.
Increase in charges for community alarm services.


Predictably the New Labour opposition has pounced on this, dusting off the old slur of the Tartan Tories. OK, this has been a mistake by the SNP administration, but what this spells out to me is that the previous administration have spent beyond their means, and in the process have created a black hole in Renfrewshire Councils funding. It doesn’t take brains of Britain to work out the cause.


New Council Headquarters, including brand new swanky £250,000 paths. Cost to Renfrewshire council taxpayers £20 million
Renovation of Renfrewshire Councils Schools under PPP - £16 million (Councillor Terry Kelly gave this figure during the 2007 council elections), though according to the Partnerships UK website this contract (which will run for 32 years) is worth £194.2 million.


And that’s just the known knowns, as Donald Rumsfeld would say.
During my “discussions” with Councillor Kelly on his blog, I did ask him what New Labour would do to alleviate the budgeting problem which Renfrewshire council clearly has, his answer was to deny that there was a black hole in Renfrewshire’s budget, and to blame it on the SNP policy to freeze council tax. This was before the council leader Derek Mackay said in his Paisley Daily Express column on May 15th that they faced “real financial difficulties”. At least Mr Mackay (& for that matter Mr Salmond) recognizes that there are many council tax payers who are equally in financial difficulties, and that the well of “putting taxes up” to pay for these projects will work or be tolerated so far.


Rather than cut some of the services outlined above, perhaps our councilors should be cutting waste, like their own expenses. My own choice of target, in terms of council services, would be the Community wardens who should be axed next, they might look nice in their shiny red vans but they are far too ineffective against Glenburn ‘neds’, who seem to roam free across the estate (some of their handiwork can be seen above). Getting the police to do their job in this area might be a good idea too.

Update: The Sunday Herald is running an expose on PFI/PPP projects in Scotland. This looks to be a Scottish angle to the stories already running in the news magazine Private Eye.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Our dear leader speaks!

I heard our fearless leader this morning on Radio 4 being interviewed, he just doesn’t get it! With all the talk of weathering the storm and inflation targets, the one question Humphries should have asked, but didn’t was You ask people to take inflation wage rises, but how do you expect people to survive when wage rises are being wiped out by inflationary pressures? Brown wants people to not have real term wage increases, this will not work.

Apart from that, the thing that struck me was how much he kept on repeating the same mantra “we are making the correct decisions”. Smacks a bit of Blair if you ask me, but obviously they are not making the correct decisions if they deliberately make the poorest, hardest working, in our society even more poor, then in trying to alleviate the situation, still leave 1000000 people worse off than they were. The words backside and elbow spring readily to mind!
One of the problems for the Government is that for too many people, the government is seen as not doing very much while the country slides towards recession, or even as was reported the other day stagflation.

Holiday!!!!!!

Hullo.

Sorry i haven't been blogging of late. I was away a couple of weeks ago, and it has taken a while to get back to normal.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Trumping Success?


“Donald Trump said he would secure his £1bn Aberdeenshire golf resort plans because of who he is and his Scottish roots, it has emerged. The comments came in the latest edition of Vanity Fair magazine from an interview carried out last November, before the plans hit objections.
In the article, Mr Trump said: "If Jack Nicklaus tried to do this he'd have zero chance, but they like what I've done, and because I am who I am and my mother is Scottish, between you and me... I'm going to get it."

Got to say that as far as own goals go, this is a fairly spectacular one. Appearing to be arrogant in front of Scottish people is somewhat akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

As has been discussed here, I am not a supporter of the plans, and I am not happy that the opposition at Holyrood have decided that US dollars is preferable to the stunning countryside which would be destroyed by the Golf Resort, and the holiday homes (all 950 of them), and the holiday villas (36 of those) and not forgetting the housing development (quoted to be about 1500 of those) as most of the bids supporters seem to have done. All on a site of natural beauty and of scientific interest. The opposition at Holyrood has instead attacked the handling of the proposal by the SNP minority administration. Famously the Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen said that he smelled sleaze during First Ministers questions. Not quite sure how his smelling was after the mauling that he received from Alex Salmond, but he did not repeat the allegation.

This proposal has now been sent to a public inquiry, which will begin in June. No doubt the supporters of this plan will just keep spinning.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Oh been busy

Hi there.

Sorry i haven't been on of late, new job and doing a course at University just now. Need to go so i'll see you soon...

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Sports Picks of 2007 - 21st November

European Championship, Qualifying Group E : England 2 Croatia 3

England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 after losing a sensational game against Croatia at Wembley. England went 2-0 down when Scott Carson, in for Paul Robinson, fumbled Nico Kranjcar's shot into the net and then Ivica Olic slipped in a second.
Frank Lampard pulled one back from the spot after Jermain Defoe was fouled, before David Beckham, winning a 99th cap, set up Peter Crouch to level it. But Mladen Petric fired in from 25 yards to break England's hearts.


The result, coupled with Russia's slender 1-0 win over Andorra, means England will not be going to next summer's tournament in Austria and Switzerland.


Quite arguably the game of the year, a result which exposed the hype and hyperbole of the “Golden Generation” for what it really was. Croatia bulldozed and embarrassed their hosts in the first half, playing fantastic, sweet, passing football. It was an emperor’s new clothes moment. Yet the second-half still shows that Croatia still have a bit to go before emulating the class of 1998 with a major semi final. Certain dark horses for next years European Championships.

But enough of the suadenfreude. England in a way, find themselves in the same position that Scotland were in at the start of the Berti Vogt’s era. Top League full of foreign players, which were stifling the progress of young Scottish talent. The collapse in TV revenues in season 2001/02, rather than signal the beginning of the end of the Scottish game as we know it, was a blessing in disguise as the high earning foreign players were released, young talent was pressed into first team action. This is how the likes of McFadden & Pearson (at Motherwell), O’Connor, Riordan and Brown (at Hibernian) and Gordon (at Hearts) got their break.

I’m not saying that something dramatic like that should happen to the English Premiership, which after all was given the FA’s blessing because it was supposed to help the national team, but something is not going right if an English international is being kept out of a Portsmouth side by a Zimbabwean international. That’s Zimbabwe, who are not at the ongoing African Cup of Nations. After all, it wasn’t the halt in importing foreigner footballers per se which cleared the decks for young Scottish players, just the ones who were as good, but not of a significantly better standard than the young Scottish players.

Not that any of this is likely to happen in England any time soon, managers will try and find the best players to fit into their teams, no matter where they come from. It wont stop the likes of Harry Redknapp moan about the timing of the African Cup of Nations, hmmm….

While the shortage in young English talent should be of concern, another area that should cause alarm was highlighted during this campaign. Steve McLarens alarming lack of tactical nous was highlighted almost everywhere up to his sacking the day after this game. Conveniently ignored though was that McLaren was, in effect the leading English front runner for the post when he got the job just before the last World Cup. He was the last Englishman to win a domestic trophy, the League Cup with Middlesbrough in 2004, and took them to the UEFA Cup final before leaving to join the England set up. Perhaps the 4-0 rout by Sevillia in that final was a harbinger of things to come.

Yet amazingly for a country the size of England, the English championship has been won by teams managed by Englishmen 6 times in the past 25 years (Paisley & Fagin, twice, for Liverpool, Kendall for Everton, twice and Wilkinson for Leeds), while the FA cup has been won twice by teams managed by English managers in the past 20 years (Bobby Gould managing Wimbledon in 1988, and Joe Royle managing Everton in 1995). This lack of English managerial talent is quite endemic. Again, English football has fallen behind even Scotland in this area, the SFA set up coaching courses in the early 1980’s, the chap who set the courses up was a coach by the name of Andy Roxburgh.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the FA once again went for a foreign manager, this time in the shape of Fabio Capello (right), considering the paucity of suitable candidates. However well the cracks are papered over, English football is at a crossroads. For its own sake, it must consider the future of the national team. Like it was supposed to when the Premier League was set up in 1991.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Sports Picks of 2007 - 17th November

European Championship, Qualifying Group B : Scotland 1 Italy 2

Italy ended Scotland's Euro 2008 dream and ensured their own qualification for next summer's finals thanks to a Christian Panucci stoppage-time goal. Luca Toni had stunned the Scots by stabbing the ball home from five yards with less than two minutes gone.

But Ferguson forced the ball home when Lee McCulloch's effort was saved after 65 minutes only for Panucci to head home from a disputed Pirlo free kick. The Scots believed that Alan Hutton had been fouled and the resulting goal meant that Italy qualify along with France, with the Scots in third, before both have to play their final Group B games in midweek.
The campaign to qualify for the European Championships has seen one of the most unlikely comebacks. The Scotland national team looked to be going the way that the Wales and Northern Ireland teams had gone not so long ago. Yet just as Wales enjoyed a renascence, getting to a playoff of qualifying for a major championship 4 years ago, Scotland began its journey back from the wilderness at about the same time. Bizarrely I think that being in “the group of death” helped.

Lets be honest, we didn’t think that we would qualify. France, Italy and Ukraine were the top seeds in our group, which was hard enough before the three of them made the World Cup quarter finals (with France and Italy contesting the final). Below them was a list of teams, for whom playing against was no a pleasant experience for Scotland sides of the recent past. Lithuania (lost to them away in 2003) & the Faroes (Drew twice away from home, in 1999 and in 2002). Georgia were the only unknowns. What happened next was the roller-coaster ride of all roller-coaster rides. And it ended here, at Hampden, with a game against the World Champions, with a win for either team meaning qualification.

The hype was just incredible.

The game itself just went past in a blur. Thinking about it now, Scotland really have themselves to blame, and not just for losing to Georgia in October. A win there would have seen us home and dry. In the Italy game though, we controlled about 75% of the game. We fell asleep in the first couple of minutes, and let Toni in to score. Italy came back into the game after we equalised. We fell asleep at the end when defending the free kick, which Pannucci scored from (top picture).

The campaign was a return to the old Scottish way of doing things, glorious failure. We really should have qualified, especially after the 1-0 win in Paris. Its one thing to have a backs to the wall defeat against one of the worlds best sides at home, like we did last year. Its another thing to eclipse that with a win in the back yard of one of the best sides of the world, and to make them look impotent up front into the bargain. After about an hour I thought to myself that this will probably turn out to be a 0-0 draw, reached for a paper to skim through, and missed McFadden’s goal (pictured).
But fail to qualify we did. We failed not because we had the two world cup finalists in our group, but because we failed to beat Georgia in Georgia, and made defensive errors against Italy. Typical Scotland.

So where do we go from here? Alex McLeish resigned 10 days after the Italy game to manage Birmingham City, which leaves a vacuum at the top of the Scotland game. Of the supposed shortlisted candidates, Tommy Burns and George Burley would be my own preferred candidates, Burns having bossed Celtic a decade ago creating an excellent passing side, but one which crumbled under pressure. Burley took Ipswich from 1st Division to Europe in 3 seasons, and also put together the Hearts side which was top of the league when Romanov fell out with him and dismissed him. That Hearts side went on to lift the Scottish Cup and split the Old Firm.

Of the other two, Mark McGee has had a chequered past managing in the English lower divisions. However this season, his Motherwell side have been playing some excellent football, pushing for a place in the UEFA Cup next season. The dignified way that the Motherwell, and their manager dealt with the untimely death of their captain, Phil O’Donnell, has also brought praise McGee’s way. But McGee’s Motherwell side is still something of a work in progress. Which brings us to Souness. On paper Souness would be, of the four, the ideal candidate. Over 50 Scotland caps, a hatful of trophies as a player. Managed Rangers and Liverpool, then in Italy, Turkey (where the chairman of his bitter rivals described him as “a cripple” – which is why he planted the flag at the end of the Turkish Cup final in 1996), Portugal and back here with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle. Yet there are doubts over his management skills. Hmmm, I know what you think.

Its not just the SFA board who need to think of their next step, there are players in Scotland who are good enough to play in the biggest leagues in the world, for the biggest teams. I hope that their next moves are for the betterment of their game, and not for the betterment of their bank balances.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Sports Picks of 2007 - 7th September

World Cup: Group D, St Denis : France 12 Argentina 17

Argentina rocked tournament hosts France with a sensational 17-12 victory in the opening match of the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Paris. The inspired Pumas outplayed an error-ridden and nervous-looking France and took control with a first-half try from full-back Ignacio Corleto.

Centre Felipe Contepomi chipped in with 12 points to leave the 80,000-strong Stade de France crowd stunned. France could only muster four penalties from struggling fly-half David Skrela

This may come as some sort of heresy to some of my compatriots, who have a chip on their shoulder regarding the oval ball game, but this years Rugby World Cup was as well as being the most successful staging of the event, was also the best, most exciting sporting tournament since Euro 2000. On most of the match days, there was something exciting, interesting and challenging to watch. There were lots of games that I could have picked as moments. Standout moments include Wales last gasp 34-38 loss to Fiji, England being swept aside by South Africa in their pool game, England demolishing the Australia pack in their quarter final win, France’s quarter final win against New Zealand and the progress of Argentina.

Argentina’s run to the semi final started here, which is one of the reasons why I picked this game. To a non-union audience, this was something of an upset. To those in the know, the upset was more the poor form of the French in this match. France had previously lost 4 out of 5 tests against Argentina so this was expected to be a tight game. This game also set the tone for this tournament with games not entirely going the way that you would expect. Ireland might still have qualified from this group had they not have to beat Argentina and score 4 tries for the bonus point, which they had to do after failing to get a bonus point against Georgia. In the end, Ireland were flat and struggled to find their form, so deserved to go out. Argentina also did for Scotland, who should see it as an opportunity spurned to reach our first semi-final since 1991.
Argentina’s tactics here also started a mini renascence of the old style kicking game, which England went back to in the wake of their pool defeat to South Africa. This change of tactics was a key element in England’s run to the final. They had some tricky, but not insurmountable opposition in the shape of Tonga & Samoa before they got to play their quarter final against Australia.
France also built up momentum, from this particular game, and upset New Zealand. Perenial favourites for World Cups, but to throw George Gregans quote from 2003 at them – “Four more years boys!”. By which time it will have been 24 years since their triumph in the inaugural tournament. By sharp contrast, South Africa looked good from the off, even before the tornament began with a heavy defeat of Scotland at Murrayfield. South Africa (left) were worthy champions, even though they did have a scare against Fiji in the quarter Final.

In the final, South Africa were worthy winners, and overall they were worthy World Champions, but had the Cueto try been given it would have been a much more interesting game. It would have been interesting to see South Africa come under pressure. As it was, the Final was a poor match. Come to think of it, has there been a good World Cup final?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Sports Picks of 2007 - 29th August

Womans 400m Final : Ohuruogu claims gold for Britain

Christine Ohuruogu claimed Britain's first gold medal at the World Championships in Japan with a stunning victory in the women's 400m. Fellow Briton Nicola Sanders won silver while Jamaican Novlene Williams, who led for most of the race, came third. Ohuruogu, whose one-year ban for missing three out-of-competition tests expired earlier this month, looked out of contention on the back straight. But the 23-year-old timed her run to perfection to win in 49.61 seconds

First of all, can I say that it is disappointing that Scotland’s most prominent athlete, Lee McConnell (who participates in this event), has not pushed on and got herself into finals and possibly medal positions. Thanks.

This column though is about Christine Ohuruogu, and in a way the humbug that her win has uncovered. Firstly, I don’t know if she takes performance enhancing drugs, therefore im not going to accuse her of doing so. Suspicions are raised though if an athlete misses not just one or two, but three out of competition tests. The only other sportsperson I can think of that missed drug testing was the England defender Rio Ferdenand. In that case football got a hard time for banning him for only 6 months. Sure he missed the last European Championships, but still six months! Ohuruogu’s original punishment was a year ban from the athletics authorities, and the mandatory life ban from representing Britain at the Olympics, this ban is the same sentence as those found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

While this was harsh, I felt that this was maybe fair, though I can’t say for certain given that we don’t know of the circumstances surrounding the missed tests. What I don’t think should have happened is that the BOA punishment should be dropped, which is what happened at the end of November. I think that this sends out mixed messages to athletes, taking performance enhancing drugs, who are actively trying to evade detection. The BOA, have been shown to be not so hard-line on drug-taking as the may think that they are. If there are mitigating circumstances, this should have had an effect on the sentence, not meant the removal of it. I feel that this tarnishes the British reputation for being hard-line on substance abuse.

Unfortunately, those drugs tests will mean that there will be an element of suspicion surrounding her. This is a great pity because Christine Ohuruogu quite clearly is (at the moment) the only cast iron medal prospect that we have in British athletics. This 400 metres win, as well as giving some hope for the future of British athletics, was one of the athletics highlights of the decade, and there aren’t very many of those.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Sporting Picks of 2007 - 17th March

World Cup Group D, Jamaica: Ireland 133-7 beat Pakistan 132 by three wickets

Ireland produced one of the greatest victories in cricket's rich history by beating Pakistan on St Patrick's Day amid unbelievable tension in Jamaica.
Led by their brilliant wicket-keeper batsman Niall O'Brien, they reached a rain-adjusted target of 128 with three wickets remaining in near darkness. Ireland's fans, who had been there to witness the tie against Zimbabwe, could barely contain themselves afterwards.
The result means Pakistan, ranked fourth in the world, are already out.


The Cricket World Cup was not a good event. There were several reasons for this, it was too long and the format was too convoluted, the big teams were off form, and the stadiums were empty and devoid of local Caribbean atmosphere. This match however, became the biggest story of the World Cup, and not just because it was a big upset. No, a huge upset. Bigger than the defeat of India by Bangladesh on the same day in Trinidad.

I can’t really stress how much Ireland were expected to be the whipping boys of this group, but to bowl Pakistan out for a low total, and chase it down successfully makes this one of the performances of the year (even if this was not one of Pakistan’s greater incarnations).

However, this result was put into the shade by the death later on/the following day of the Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer. This event was made worse by the suggestion that there was foul play involved, with hints and rumours of betting syndicates seeking revenge for a result gone wrong. Bob Woolmer’s death was a great loss to the game. He was a talented coach, setting up the South Africa side to challenge Australia at the best Test side. There was talk, albeit unfounded ones, that he would replace Duncan Fletcher in the summer (of 2007).

Whatever happened, the events in Kingston on the night of 17th March put a shadow over this event, from which it never really recovered. It’s a pity because there were some really good performances during this world cup, which sadly will be forgotten.

Monday, 7 January 2008

TV Pick of 2007 2 - Mock the Week

In the third of my blogs looking back to 2007, the last of my television picks is the BBC’s near the knuckle satirical quiz show…

Mock The Week could have made it into my list last year. Thankfuly it didn’t because this year it has been funnier, and nearer the bone, that last years episodes ever were. There are 3 reasons why it is so funny…
1) It’s combines the best attributes of the panel show, spontaneity, quick wittedness, and an environment which breeds humour. The format itself is not entirely unlike “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” , not suprising as the same team who brought it to Channel 4 are behind Mock The Week.

2) It has overtaken “Have I Got News For You” as the funniest satirical show on television. There is a certain chemistry between the 5 regulars (the host Dara O’Briain included). NB to the producers of Have I Got News For You: You lost it when you bagged Deayton.

3) Frankie Boyle

Kinda sums it up really…

Happy New Year!

Hi there, just wishing you all a happy new year, and may 2008 be a better year than 2007.

Look, flying pigs....