Archive for June, 2010

Alex Neil MSP Psalm 116:11


Alex Neil MSP on the “public  sector junket culture”, October 2008.

Alex Neil MSP in the “public sector junket culture”, June 2010.

Alex Neil MSP Could Buy a Lot of Caravans for £100,000


During the expenses scandal at Westminster, the LibDems and SNP were keen to present a pious public image of themselves. As the former now are discovering, one reason for this was their then lack of any importance in the political landscape.

Despite representing Central Scotland, SNP Housing Minister, Alex Neil used Holyrood rules to purchase an overnight home in Edinburgh when he was elected in 1999. Paying only an initial deposit of £4,720 from his own pocket, mortgage repayments (not counting other sundries) were paid for by Holyrood. The Sunday Herald reports that he sold the property earlier this month for £200,000: thus securing a pre-tax profit of over £100,000, and escaping an increase on CGT imposed by the emergency budget.


Scottish Homes Expo – a Response from Highland Council


I previously wrote on financial assistance given to the Scottish Homes Expo in Inverness from the Inverness Common Good Fund: to allow free access for school-children during its planned run in August. In addition, I wrote to my local councilors in Ward 2.

Impressively, less than a fortnight later, I have received a response from the Chief Executive’s office. First, it disabused me of one misapprehension: namely that SHE is a private commercial enterprise; instead a Social Enterprise Company run by public entities such as the Council or the Highland Housing Alliance or the Forestry Commission Scotland.

Fair enough, I had become preoccupied with the [future] sale of the snazzy eco-homes for £90,000 or so. If as much of the monies from the Council and ICGF possible are to be recouped from these sales, I – and I am sure many of the revolting Inversneckians – would be mollified.


Community Centres and Social Buildings in Thurso


… or the absence of them. Until 2006, the Dounreay Sports and Social Club ran from the Viewfirth building on Brownhill. When I returned to Thurso in 2008, one of the first sights which struck me was that this old Victorian schoolmaster’s house had been levelled: after becoming self-funding, the DSSC was unable to run at a profit even with a bar.

With the costs of renovation being too high, the site was levelled. A planned community group, as Dounreay Stakeholders Group (suceeded by the Viewfirth Redevelopment Steering Group, to establish a new social club came to nowt.

That year was a double-whammy for Thurso as the town hall also closed, for essential repairs but also to pass control to the obliquely named Caithness Horizons.

Although I have found the museum at Caithness Horizons interesting enough, and the building continues to host community events/displays, it was a major loss of social space; leaving the largest town north of Inverness with little more social buildings than the British Legion.

Further opportunities for boredom came in September 2009 when the All Star Factory cinema and bowling alley closed after more sudden financial problems. The site was sold at auction in March 2010 for 1/3 of the asking price.

For once, the previous owners did not purchase the site.  Purchased by Gunns of Lybster, there was a desire to turn at least some of the site into commericial and student rented accommodation.  But, the kybosh appears to have been put on it: and it now sits for rent.

If the Viewfirth Redevelopment Steering Group still is active, why not there?

The Ongoing War


At dawn 60 years ago today, North Korean armed columns under Kim Il-sung crossed the 38th parallel into South Korean territory. Then, as threatened now, a principal target was Seoul: which fell by 28 June 1950.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Israel Launches Spy Satellite


The BBC reports that Israel has launched a new spy-satellite to observe Iranian nuclear facilities.

In 2004, a predescessor had exploded on launch, when the BBC again had reported:

Israel embarked on its own spy satellite programme in the 1970s when the US turned down requests for intelligence.
In 1973, the US withheld satellite data from Israel before the Yom Kippur war when Israeli officials said they were only getting “crumbs” from America.

So much for DC being in hock to the Israelis.

The Red-Nosed Mr. Huhne



On his Twitter feed ChrisBryantMP has opined that “Chris huhne deserves privacy”. In general, I think Huhne deserves ridicule, but this refers explicitly to his announcement that he has separated from his wife of 25 years, with whom he has had five children and one grandchild; and moved in Carina Trimingham, who had acted as Brian Paddick’s press officer during the 2008 London Mayoral campaign.

Even though they have willingly placed themselves in the public sphere, politicians should still have their personal lives treated with respect. Yet, increasingly, weighty politicians are intertwining their public images with their personal lives: which they presumably seek to present as wholesome.

Off the top of my head, I do not know to what extent, during the General Election campaign, Huhne used his marriage as a campaign tool; but his Party leader did, as did his Party leader’s new best friend. From reports, however, Huhne has been involved with Trimingham for a year now.

As far as I am concerned, married couples can get divorced if they wish, but whilst they are married – with any lovely associated tax and legal perks – it remains some sort of gesture of trust. As I write this missive, the televisual device is showing a highly Scottish-sounding David Tennant on The Chatterly Affair reclaim the word puritanical as representing an awareness of and responsibility for their own morality.

So, at the very least, Huhne is not being puritanical.  It is like Christopher Timothy and Carol Drinkwater all over again.

BP Mourns Death of Gary Coleman


Why the anger?

Wilted Tulips



With the exception of Khrushchev handing the Crimean peninsular to Ukraine, all modern ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet Union can be assumed to have been caused to the madness of the web-toed demon, Stalin.

It all looked so good when the tulips were repotted in the Tian Shan, and the not-so-benign autocrat Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled to the arms of another head of state who, in a previous life, would have been his factory supervisor; and Kyrgyzstan entered an interim Government under Roza Otunbayeva. Alas, this being part of the former Soviet Union which is not on the Baltic, the weather report has been received and it is “Showers of Bastards Everywhere”.

Unlike Harriet Harman, maybe, Otunbayeva explicitly has eschewed Executive power for herself, but was stepping into the breach to save her country from a major break-down of civil order. Judging by the gender-dynamics in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, and even Russia, it was unlikely that the Kyrgyz (more on this ethnically precise term shortly) would have tolerated a female leader before a female Regent under a powerful male leader.


A Pay Freeze at £140,000 is Not the Same as One at £14,000


Cross-posted at Harry’s Place.

The Press and Journal reports on fulsome support from Local Authority Chief Executives for freezes on their pay. Alistair Dodds of Highland Council:

Highland Council chief executive Alistair Dodds, who is paid £140,112 a year, added: “It is important that chief executives show leadership on this issue in these times of budget challenges.”

Although much less egregious than Fred Goodwin splashing out on a £3.5 millions gaff in Edinburgh, pay freezes on such salaries don’t have the same impact as on a clerical worker at £14,000. Indeed, as the Highland News reports, there appears little initiative to reduce high-end salaries for new staff:

So it will come as a surprise to many haunted by the spectre of swingeing cuts to learn that the £46,000-a-year post of Gaelic development manager has just been filled despite it having been vacant for the past six months.

Gaelic promotion attracts a very vocal lobby and has Scottish Government backing while others question how essential it is to spend public money on. But leaving aside these issues, it seems odd to make an appointment to such a senior post at this stage when the council is supposed to be looking at all areas for savings.

Adding to the unease among frontline service staff and users is likely to be the move, due to be debated yesterday (Wednesday), to extend the £51,000-a-year temporary post of “strategic performance and business intelligence manager” in the chief executive’s department.