Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Our new national anthem

Not long ago, there was a big hoo-ha about us deciding on a new national anthem. Apparently the singing about fighting the English was deemed too anti-British and negative for 'the best small country in the world'. This debate, unsurprisingly broke out in the lead up to Labour's failed title defence against those lovers of 'Anglo-bashing' Nationalists.

This debate seems to have fizzled out recently though, which is a shame, as this is when you catch politicians, when asked anything about music, try to sound hip, hop and most of all happenin'.

But we should have a debate about it, and then, more important than a debate, action.

Let's finally decide on our national anthem. Whether you want to keep O Flower of Scotland, write words to Highland Cathedral or just happy to have anything by Runrig, let's hear some suggestions. Better still, write to your MSP. Let's have a new anthem by the time we play our first match in South Africa 2010.

I personally like the image of Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond duetting 'I'm a Scotsman' to the tune of 'The Scatman'. I fear this dream will never be truly realised, not in public anyway.

So anyone who has a better suggestion than Frankie Miller's Caledonia please feel free to hit me with it, but I personally, cannot think of anything and am strongly advocating it. On this topic, please remember to put it to the Hampden/Murrayfield test (depending on which type of school you went to) where it's got to sound good sung by 50,000 pissed up fans.

I would also like to state, right now, that I have the power of veto over the following...
500 miles - proclaimers
Rod Stewart - anything by
David Sneddon - anything by
Scotland the Brave
Go lassie go - think of the Hampden test
anything else by the proclaimers
Folk music.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Why don't they like us?

Surprisingly, despite the title, this isn't about the LibDems.

There has been a bit of negativity towards us Scots of late at Westminster.

A Scotsman as PM, the Barnett formula, wanting control of our own oil, West Lothian question?

There is a nasty side to all of this where, right now in English politics, it's a bit like 'Bash the Scots - win our votes' ("The question is not whether I'm paranoid, it's whether I'm paranoid enough" - anonymous). And with the Tories having no realistic chance of making headway up here, I wouldn't blame them for using it to gain votes down there.

But as if this wasn't all bad enough, it seems like America isn't exactly 'warm for our form' these days either.

First of all, the US Library of Congress wants to reclassify all Scots literary works as a subsection of English literature.

Then, American Express offered SNP Tactical Voting a lower exchange in the U.S for his Scottish, Clydesdale Bank money than he would have received for English notes.

And now I find out, much to my horror, that haggis is banned in the Land of the Free and has been since 1989!

What next?

Friday, 18 January 2008


The sackings of SportScotland and the Institute of Sport's heads is a strange move by Salmond.

Julia Bracewell and Dougie Donnelly have been fired out of a very political cannon amid an odd spell in the SNP's governance. Now, if you are going to merge two very significant bodies into one, then of course, restructuring will inevitably follow. But Salmond has not yet given any reason why either got the chop other than "restructuring".

These are two figures who are highly respected in their fields, and who have been doing a very credible job. Usually, these are the sort of people you want to keep, especially with the experience they now have.

Excuse my cycnicism, but having lived in a country ruled by Labour for the last ten years, I cannot help but expect someone who's a bit too cosy to Salmond will be the new chair of the new sporting quango. Maybe I'll be wrong, and I hope I am, because so far wobbly-face has disproved my belief that all politicians and parties are the same. Somehow, I'm not brimming with confidence.

The SNP offered a manifesto pledge to scrap SportScotland, have now been accused of "performing a U-turn". I really hate it when opposition parties do this.

Oi, Nicol Stephen, U-turn's aren't always a bad thing. In fact, in your coalition with manifesto-driven Labour (I say in jest), you weren't exactly strict on your own beliefs and promises. Some might say you had a liberal approach to such behaviour?

Hypothetically Nicol, if I was angry with my wife and said "I'm going to hit her", then when I got home, and thought about it a bit more and decided that this might not be a good idea and performed a U-turn, you'd probably issue a press release (which is something of a hobby on the LibDem cv) condemning me for such a U-turn, proclaiming I should have carried out my promises.

So the SNP thought one thing, said 'This is what we believe' then monitored the situation a bit more and then said, 'Actually, this is what we're going to do. It's a wee bit different to what we said before, but we think it's best this way instead." Therefore, I will not criticise any party for performing a change of opinion when they are doing it for what they believe are the right reasons. I may not agree with the new policy, but that does not mean a U-turn was wrong.

So if the Lib Dems want to pick holes in a policy, then pick holes in a policy, but that's not what they do.

I do, though, think the sackings were strange. I know a lot about the Institute of Sport and SportScotland. I have trained at the Institute and applied for funding from SportScotland (rejected). Bracewell and Donnelly were committed professionals and I pray that the new appointee is a senior figure from the sporting world who can push forward the agendas that have been so well managed under these two in the past. Also, announcing reorganisation so close to the Olympics and in the early stages of our Commonwealth Games build-up, when the first steps of implementation are critical so athletes successes is a very rash move. No comment from the SNP on what qualities these heads would have lacked. No explanation on why so suddenly, this decision was taken, seemingly with very little consultation.

Also, centralisation is something on which the SNP have long been critical of Labour. So merging the polar opposites of sports development (grassroots and elite performers) smacks of centralisation to me and many in the sporting world. Each needs an individual programme and detailed attention, but the needs of one top, top athlete and creating good local sports facilities for a community are not easily matched and it is therefore difficult to understand the need for one central organisation. The new organisation will, at the very least in parts, have to be separated into these two specialisms, and I would have expected using the two former heads, even if it was under the chair of some higher post, would have been a sensible solution.

But to bring in someone new, who presumably doesn't have experience of heading up a Scottish sports related government organisation, when you have just sacked two such people who were regarded as good at the job, just flashes the nightmare of 'jobs for the boys'.

In the meantime, I'll watch this space, but with a worried look on my face.

Kids today - youth + justice

First thing's first, ASBOs are a joke.

I don't mind sounding like my grandpa when I say- 'the youth of today' needs to be addressed.

David Cameron has accused the government of abandoning their programme of 'Respect', and considering the events of the last few weeks, despite my great aversion to DC, I'd have to agree with him. "The Tories have always been strong on law & order, always" my father tells me.

If that is true and they proved it with policy, and I'm not questioning my dad, he's a very wise man, but I might even consider voting for them. Cameron has floated the idea of a form of National Service (national citizen's service) for all young people...

"something that every 16-year-old should do to learn about their duties and responsibilities as a citizen and inspire them as being part of our country instead of being people who hang round on street corners".

I get the basic idea, but does this go far enough? I like Cameron's suggestion that there should be an element of army training involved - BOOT CAMPS.

America has such schemes where citizens who overstep the mark of acceptable behaviour are sent to boot camps, not for a predetermined stretch of time, but until they're considered to be reformed - or as I like to think of it, taught a lesson.
Combine this with America's 'three strikes and you're out' crime initiative and I think we're on our way to having a real deterrent, making a real difference and finally having an effective policy, especially for youth crime.

ASBOs are not deterrents. There is one kid I read about who had 38 separate ASBOs! Surely receiving anything more than three should set off alarm bells with a) the parents b) the police and c) the numerous judges who each time let him walk free knowing that the twenty or thirty previous ASBOs hadn't made a difference.

If any party was to announce a policy of 'under-18s inactive curfews', I'd join them.
We shouldn't have folk hanging round the streets.

"There's nothing for us to do" is no justification for just hanging about.

Now I know that some people will read this and say "too harsh", "police state" etc, but to be honest, I don't care if it is a bit harsh. If, as they say, there's nothing for them to do, then being at home will make no difference to their actions. Also, how can we, as a nation, accept this excuse, when by a long way, the majority of teenagers in the country are not loitering, causing trouble, getting ASBOs, getting drunk on the streets. Where are the well-bahaved youth of today spending their time? I don't know, but they're doing it peacefully, quietly and acceptably.

So come on politicians, ignore the claims of police state, and heavy-handed, let's fix this.

No loitering outside after 8pm. - Three strikes and you're off to boot camp.

No more ASBOs. If someone commits a crime, send them to prison.

Build more prisons. Stop comparing ourselves to foreign statistics on prison population, worried that it will make us look bad, because if bad people are out in the community, then bad things will happen in the community. Then crime stats go up.

I'd rather we had a high prison population and a low crime rate than the other way around.

More than fifty per cent of crimes are committed by repeat offenders, we need to be tougher on crime, tough on the causes of crime - criminals. Teaching RESPECT ain't gonna cut it, we need to say, in the words of DC, "enough is enough".

Sunday, 13 January 2008

A more powerful Salmond

Was thinking...
If Salmond's life-long, very wet-dream of Scottish independence was to come true, and we presumably, and rightly, kept control of our (short term) money-spinning oilfields, could we not join OPEC?

I appreciate this is a long shot and slightly out there, but, seriously, think about it...

The OPEC statute stipulates that: "any country with a substantial net export of crude petroleum, which has fundamentally similar interests to those of Member Countries (making money?), may become a Full Member of the Organisation...".

Picture it, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Alex Salmond, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and all the other members, sat round the table.

Scotland : The most influential wee country in the world

Friday, 11 January 2008

He's Hain A Laugh

So Gordon Brown is standing by his Pensions Secretary?

Er, what? How can you stand by him when he's essentially done one of two things:

1) Set up a bogus company/forum through which to channel his fake tan stained cash

2) Allowed his 'staff' to 'siphen' cash which was donated to a - ahem - 'legit' political policy group

Which ever of these oversights it is, it doesn't really matter because he didn't even declare the money. Can Mr Brown really expect all of these rules to be in place but never enforced?

Prime Minister: "I have every confidence that he made no known attempt to..."
Me : "He broke the rules"
Prime Minister: "I've known Peter for..."
Me : "He broke the rules"
Prime Minister: "Look, I think if we all just take a break and stop talking about it for a wee while then..."
Me : "He broke the feckin' rules, sack him, 'off him', make him the skin cancer tsar, I don't care, he has got to go somewhere where he gets paid less, that embarrasses him, and he has to 'think about what he has done' (are the prisons still full?)".

If Brown starts spouting the same rubbish as Scottish Labour, where they they describe Wendy's antics as a sort of 'unintentional criminality', then Brown really has lost all semblance of sense. Because Hain didn't plan on getting caught, does not an innocent man make. He knew what he was doing, we all do.

If you break the rules, you face the punishment. The guy at my work who got caught downloading porn knew that there was a rule against it, did it any way, got caught, got sacked. Easy.

Here's a guide for you Prime Minister...
Phone Peter Hain
Tell him, "I'm sorry Pete, we're going to have to lose you"
If he starts crying, occassionally say "Sorry dude, you ok?" and remind him that tears will make his fake tan streaky.
Get someone to write you a nice, complimentary statement about all he's achieved that you can read out.
Give someone else the job.
Not Ruth Kelly.

Bye Pete.

Monday, 7 January 2008

First Black President - Political Correctness

Obama, seemingly the new poster boy of everyone's blogs right now, is in pole position to become the first black President of the USA. I don't know enough about him (yet) to voice my support (a crushing blow to the Obama campaign, I'm sure), but from what I've heard so far, he seems like he can offer a genuinely new vision and approach to U.S (and subsequently world) politics (see Xpostfactoid's excellent "Obama praises..." entry on the topic).

However, if the U.S had the UK's atrocious wave of political correctness sweeping through it, I do not doubt there would be people claiming the White House should be renamed Alabaster House as a result. Please keep in mind, we are the nation that ruled that blackboards must now be labelled chalkboards and whiteboards be renamed wipeboards on the grounds of racial aggravation! Just thought I should point that out. It is this sort of politics and governance which is destroying our country.

Obama's campaign is not about whether he is black or white, and seemingly voters aren't turning to him on account of his race. They are beginning to follow a man who offers ideas, hope and change through both his policies and his personality. In this country however, there could not be a minority candidate standing as the leader of a party without his whole campaign becoming bogged down on the colour of his skin and being the first minority leader of a leading political party. Issues, policies, beliefs, ability to lead would all play second-fiddle to an agenda which would have no bearing on his aspirations.
Dealing with a money-thirsty NHS is no better handled by one single ethnic group.
Deciding on whether to invade another country would be better overseen by someone who has a level head, and sound judgement.
These are the qualities we should all be looking for in a country's representation.

The deputy leadership campaign for the Labour party offered a wicked insight into the political correctness that means we are losing sight of what this country needs. I was personally pleased that Harmann won in the end, due to my fear of nasal-Hazel Blears. However, her arguments that she should be elected, in part, on the basis that she was a woman, is insulting.

We want people leading the country, the party to be the best qualified, professionally, that we can find. Qualities such as inspiration, sound policy, integrity - these are what I hope we in the UK are looking at in a person when they stand in front of us, asking for our support, beit for election, policy-approval, or statements. But when such situations arise, like in America where a true contender steps up, but they are anything but white/male/straight/able-bodied, we tend to focus so closely on these characteristics that we lose sight of what we are asking them to do if they get the job. I want the right person for the job, not some gesture appointment.

Obama it seems is the country's hottest politician, much like Blair was back in the 90s. But if Tony Blair had been black, with exactly the same agenda and 'New Labour' dream, he would not have achieved anywhere near as much as he had. If we had someone as talented as Obama in this country, who was skillful enough, genuine enough, smart enough to make a major difference to British politics, we would lose what the candidate had to offer by not being able to get past his colour.

So, if my prediction of an Obama win comes to fruition, then I sincerely hope (and I'm confident Obama would agree) that his presidency isn't regarded as that of 'the first black President' but that it was 'a presidency of a damn good President'.

Something we here in the UK are not capable of as a nation, yet.

greedy b****r*s

So MPs want to increase their wages above the rate of inflation?

I'm not sure on what basis they can justify this 'money smells so sweet, more posh shoes for my feet' pay rise, but I would happily accept their increase on one, commonly used condition.

I would love to see Gordon Brown, stood at his (soon to be) dispatch(ed) box, announcing.

"Members of the House will only receive an inflation busting pay rise as long as
any increase is linked to reform and modernisation of working practises"

Every fireman, postman and other public service worker who has been fed this bullshoot, face-saving Government tool in order to receive the wages they deserve, through something called "hard work", I think would appreciate that MPs are required to face up to a changing economy just as much as everyone else.

Seriously though, I can't think of any other profession where you can effectively set your own wages. Why not let this decision be taken by the Auditor General? He's bound to have a some semblance of knowledge as to how much they should get in relation to the economy/govt expenditure/work rate.

But to hear Brown announce "reform and modernisation..." of MPs would set us up for an interesting few months of political hilarity and a few even more interesting suggestions in some people's blogs.