Sunday, 28 August 2011

How To Discourage People From Coming To Your City

Watching Scotland’s three representatives in the Europa League fall before the competition proper started was depressing & dispiriting. Yet it wasn’t as depressing as the shockingly small minded and short termist decision made by Edinburgh City Council over the trams debacle.

To be fair to this lot, they have form with terrible decisions on this project.  Whether it is their choice of contractor or whether it is the contract decisions, Edinburgh City Council have not covered themselves in glory with this project.  Come to think of it, not very many of Scotland’s politicians have covered themselves in glory with calls for a public inquiry.  The terms of which must look into how a local council made such a balls up.
What this cock up will do is put our leaders off of any kind of transport projects, unless it relates to roads.  Rather than be put off of these kind of projects, Scotland needs more of these kind of projects.  Take for example Glasgow.  To the uninitiated pedestrian, it is not the most accessible place to get around.  A certain amount of local knowledge is needed to get around Glasgow, what number of bus to get or where exactly the Underground stations are.  Before the mishandled Trams project in Edinburgh, a route from east to west and a route from north to south would have been conceivable.

Not just Glasgow.  It is shocking that a town the size of Paisley does not have a single transport hub.  East Kilbride has a bus station, which is fairly easy to use and find busses that will take you to where you want to go.  Yet Paisley, which is now struggling to hold on to it’s status as Scotland’s largest town has no such facility.  With the added element of their busses effectively stopping after about 7pm, city – you’re having a laugh!

When I visited Manchester (above) to see Depeche Mode just before Christmas 2009, I was very impressed with how easy it was to get around the city.  The trams were easy to use, there was a bus that took us from the train station to the Arndale Centre, and there were no sullen drivers spitting “Twoseventyfiiiivvve” at you.  All in all, a very pleasant experience which is the way it should be.  Yet I don’t remember headlines about how over budget the Manchester tram’s were, I don’t remember stories about how badly run the building of the trams were.  Indeed the trams are undergoing an expansion programme.  Go to places like Amsterdam, Munich or Berlin and it’s exactly the same thing.  So what’s the problem Edinburgh?

For a country that relies so much on tourism, we show no desire to improve the transport infrastructure – which would attract more visitors & help those of us that stay here.  Even the other project our politicians were very keen on – the Glasgow Airport Rail Link – showed a distinct lack of thought.  Had it been a proposal to link up Glasgow Airport to Govan, Braehead Shopping Centre and Renfrew it would have been much more beneficial to those communities and to the West of Scotland as a whole than an express service between Glasgow & the Airport. 

There are transport projects that are desirable that would help people to get around our towns and cities that little bit easier.  Those projects are the true victims of Edinburgh City Councils ineptitude, as it will now be just that little bit more difficult to get those projects off the ground.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

If It's August, It Must Be Time To Discuss Megrahi (Again)

There are several key indicators that summer is coming to an end.  The football is back, Scottish clubs have embarrassed themselves in European competition, the Oval test match, the silly season and, most of all, talk about how stupid/reckless/immoral/brave/honourable (delete where applicable) Kenny MacAskill was in releasing the man (left) convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

The latest instalment comes with the background of the ongoing Arab Spring claiming the West’s favourite pantomime dictator, Muammar Gadaffi, as it’s latest victim.  The latest flaring up of this uprising has forced that decision back on to the news cycles as Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and the US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Mitt???) have all called for Megrahi not to be brought back to Scotland, but to be brought to the USA for trial.

While those noises continue to rumble from across the pond, a look at Lalland Peat Worrier’s post on the subject makes the point that this claim would contravene the fifth amendment of the United States constitution; our own government continues to dig a deeper hole with its scant mistrust of Holyrood.  Hague, when questioned about Megrahi said “It was, of course, a matter for the Scottish executive (sic)... and so it's not a matter I can control, but if I was a Scottish minister rather than a UK minister I would be looking to urgently review the situation to see what I could do about it."

The utterly galling aspect of this is that all this discussion ignores the very large elephant in the room, that there are severe doubts about the veracity of the conviction.  There is doubt about the route of the bomb into Heathrow, there is doubt about the identification of Megrahi and there is doubt about what type of detonator was used in the bomb.  Wherever you look at the case, there is flimsy evidence against Megrahi creaking under the weight of evidence pointing to Megrahi’s innocence.  There’s even room for MacAskill’s favourite legal tactic, the prosecution withholding evidence – in this case the break in at Heathrow on the morning of the bombing which was not revealed until September 2001.

It’s for these reasons that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission are rumoured to be set to release a report casting doubt on the conviction of Megrahi.  The American politicians you would expect to be ignorant of this, however for Hague to not take this into account before opening his mouth does not seem like the actions of a senior cabinet minister.  Then again, you can probably guess my opinion of this government. 

However the fear is that Megrahi will not live to see his name being cleared.  Not from the Cancer, but from zealous spooks keen to keep the truth from emerging. When thinking about this one should bear in mind the quote from the American senators speaking after a meeting of the British victims of Lockerbie “Your government and our government know exactly what happened at Lockerbie. But they are not going to tell you”.  One hopes that if a stable Libya emerges, that the day of truth also comes closer.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Some Quotes That Occured To Me About This Week

They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation” – Thatch, September 1987

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit” – Gordon Gekko “Wall Street” (1987)

Tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime” – Tony Blair, April 1994

I only wanted something else to do but hang around” – The Pet Shop Boys “Suburbia” – September 1986

Imagine you are 14 years old, and you live in a flat four stories up.  It’s the summer holidays and you don’t have any pocket money.  That’s your life…  you hang about the streets and you look bored bored bored.  And you look around you.  Who isn’t bored?  Who isn’t hanging around because they don’t have any money?” – David Cameron, July 2006

The handwringing apologists on the left relish the opportunity to try to blame the violence on poverty, social depravation and a disaffected black youth.  To blame the cuts is immoral and cynical” – The Daily Mail 10 August 2011

No Future, no future, no future for you” – The Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen” -  June 1977

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Hackergate Comes to Holyrood for A Day

This week saw the Scottish government attempt to distance themselves from the hackergate scandal threatening to engulf the government at Westminster.  By disclosing correspondence & meetings, the SNP hope that this will put the matter to rest.  With hindsight, it does not look particularly good for Salmond.

The disclosures revealed that Salmond first met the Dirty Digger in October 2007, with Salmond writing afterwards “I enjoyed our conversation and, as ever, found your views both insightful and stimulating”.  Salmond also invited the Digger to the Ryder Cup at Kentucky as part of a Scottish delegation (Murdoch, probably showing more political nous than Salmond at this point declined this invitation) and also to The Gathering, the centrepiece of the Year of Homecoming events – in the hope of securing television coverage on BSkyB.  Salmond also met the son of Digger, James Murdoch in January of this year, ostensibly to discuss “business opportunities for BSkyB in Scotland”.  Whether this evolved into a conversation about what will happen during the election is anyone’s guess.

It’s wrong for SNP supporters to claim that there can be nothing suspicious about Salmond’s meetings with the Murdoch’s because the Scottish Government do not hold the same powers over broadcasting & culture that Westminster does.  What the Scottish Government can do is pull limited economic levers in relation to business rates.  We can also speculate that maybe a future Scottish Government could entice NI to move to Glasgow lock stock and barrel because of the “excellent” corporation tax rates that the SNP are keen to put into place.  I’m not saying that will happen, it is just a possible scenario.

The difference between the SNP’s handling and Labour’s handling has been night and day, which shows that Labour haven’t learned from May.  While the SNP have at least been proactive in trying to convince us that nothing untoward happened, Labour have invited us to think in cynical terms about the SNP.  If we are to do this, let’s extend that cynical thought process to a party who enjoyed the support of the Digger for 12 years before the acrimonious split in 2009, who haven’t exactly been so forthcoming about their own meetings with Murdoch, NI or BSkyB.  What meetings did Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell enjoy with the Murdochs?

Labour have been happy to throw the mud around, but have been less than happy to disclose any of their own meetings.  If Labour are happy to ask us to believe that Salmond supped with the devil, to garner the approval of News International, perhaps we should ask what shape or form the pound of flesh took to pay for, say the noose front page from 3 May 2007?  Or did the Blair government pick up that particular tab?  After all  Rebeckah Wade (as she was at the time) thought of the prime minister as “her Tony”.