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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Out for consultation.

Well Eck has gone and done it now. He’s just whipped out his plan for the future. It’s written down in a book and it’s now out for consultation.

The MSM are all over it like a rash. Don’t worry though because they won’t do anything as rash as actually reading it. So far, every bit of TV news I’ve seen has featured people with unionist views. One lady actually went as far as saying that it would make the Queen sad if Scotland got independence. One of the BBC Scotland chaps also suggested that we wouldn’t get to use the pound and we’d end up using the Euro. He can read the future!

The inference is that Eck has caved. No he’s not gone down a very dark hole under the ground and crawled about on his hands and knees with a fetching helmet with a wee light on it. Eck is not the type to do that. He has higher goals like progressing the aims of his party to achieve independence for the people of Scotland.

Some of his opponents are not quite as keen on this idea. The merry band of men and the occasional woman in the Palace of Westminster have their own ideas. Regardless of the clear political mandate that Eck has to hold a referendum Call me Dave, Ed Moribund and the other one, you know, the one who says one thing and then does another. No that’s not right they all do that. No this is the one who has Paddy Pantsdown in his party. You know, him, the one that students love?

Anyway, Call me Dave says it’s his ball and Eck can’t play unless he does what he’s told. That’s kind of surprising. You’d think that Call me Dave would just let Eck get on with it. Call me Dave’s always saying that there is no appetite for independence from the Scottish people. So, under those circumstances Eck will be toiling. It’s not as if Call me Dave along with Ed Moribund, the Other One, ex-Scottish person Wee Dougie Alexander, ex-Scottish person Jim (The Hatchett) Murphy, Ex-chancellor and ex-Scottish person A Darling, famous Fifer, ex-Prime Minister and ex-Scotsman Gordon Brown and ex-Prime Minister and ex-Scotsman Tiny Blur to name a few, will do anything underhand to make sure it never happens. Oh no.

Eck has a few aces up his sleeve. There’s Nippy Sturgeon for start, she won’t be taking any prisoners that’s for sure. Eck also has a Marine on the team. Yes a real Marine. Okay Paddy Pantsdown may have been in the SAS but he’s not as sharp as he once was. There’s also John Swinney who, unusually for a Chancellor, can add up and understands finance! Sean Connery is on side too albeit from a distance which luckily his financial support can manage.

I’m not sure if Eck is going to send me and everyone else in Scotland a copy of the document or he’s going to deliver it personally. I’m sure he’d want to deliver it personally but he is a busy man after all.

Eck can relax, safe in the knowledge of having the full backing of the BBC to ensure his message gets across without bias and without loading any discussion panel with anti-referendum people and inserting a chairperson who is a unionist. Oh no. The BBC will ensure that the platforms are balanced and without any form of bias at all. Definitely. Totally. Completely. Oh yes.

Oh goody!

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Idle hands

To my mind, as feeble as it is, lacking in brain cells and easily distracted, there seems to be a bit of parallel occurring between the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments.

You may have noticed that both parliaments don’t have much in the way of meaty subjects to debate. So many of Call me Dave’s performances are mere theatre, played splendidly well by said Call me Dave for the benefits of the MSM. He’s a marketing man don’t you know. He knows how to spin a good yarn, strike a pose and keep on saying things with conviction even when everyone knows, including himself that it is patently wide of the mark. (And that’s being generous).

Let’s consider some examples. The famous veto. Oh come on! There was no vote, nothing changed and he did not veto anything. He knows it too. But marketing man just keeps on saying it and the MSM keep on referring to it.

Next up is the breast augmentation situation. Call me Dave says it’s the moral responsibility of the private clinics who did the implanting to remove and replace them. Wrong and he knows it. The implants were certified for use by the EU CE quality system. The implants were used on the basis that the quality was guaranteed by the EU. Dave can do nothing. If he tries to force the clinics to do anything, which he won’t because he knows he can’t, the clinics only need to head for court safe in the knowledge that it’s the EU to blame.

Then we have the safety of shipping. Dave knows an opportunity and the sunken Italian cruise liner gives him another platform. If there are lessons to be learned Dave is going to make sure we learn them and that our ships will be safer because of it. Complete hog wash. Dave can’t do anything it’s an EU competency and one which the EU have mucked up. They have taken years to look at cruise ship safety. They even commissioned a report from some shipping experts headed by a professor from Glasgow Uni, which described exactly how a cruise ship would fail if holed below the water line just like the Italian ship. They did nothing with it though.

Let me repeat Dave can do nothing, apart from posture, spin and behave like a marketing person. So much of the Westminster’s Parliament competencies have been ceded to the EU that there is little for the Westminster Parliament to do. That’s why we get all these tedious little laws, which add little, as existing laws would do equally as well if they were actually applied.

Unfortunately Alex has also been infected with the “being seen to do something approach” rather than actually adding something meaningful. The religious hatred and bigotry related to football bill is badly framed and imprecise. Existing laws are a better way of doing things. That good old Scottish favourite “breach of the peace” covers this type of situation. It always did and it always will. All it needed was one of the top Bobbies in Scotland to go on TV and say they’d be using this law to crack down on religious bigotry as practiced by both sides and then done just that. Now we are stuck with a shambles of a law, which will be challenged at a future date by someone prosecuted under it. The European Court of Human Rights beckons, as does the resulting compensation claim, which of course the taxpayer will stump up for.

If there is any saving grace in all of this, it is that in Holyrood there is much less opportunity to make laws as there are so few devolved powers. No bad thing in a way. The present governmental incumbents seemed particularly unsuitable for governing. Lucky us.

So Westminster is subservient to the EU and Holyrood is subservient to Westminster AND the EU. No bad thing in a way. Making bad laws are worse than doing nothing at all.

What is it that they say about idle hands? I think maybe the devil is involved maybe?

Scottish Independence may change all of this of course. Let’s hope.

 

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This is just rubbish!

Why are Edinburgh Councillors making decisions not to do things when if they’d been implemented they would have allowed significant cost savings to be achieved? By cost savings we are talking about £200M plus. Not a trifling sum by anyone’s standards.

Exhibit one – refuse and recycling collection and road cleaning and ground maintenance.

“The council spent two years investigating the possibility of contracting the job to a private company. Firm Enterprise had been chosen by officials to take control of recycling, bin collection, road cleaning and ground maintenance in Edinburgh for the next seven years. The council said it would save the local authority over £70m over that period. The council will now implement an in-house improvement plan for environment services.”

( The above is an extract from The Holyrood website). 

The preferred bidder has a significant track record of doing this for other large councils in England. They would also have simplified recycling collections by moving to a single large bin for recycling rather than the two box system in place presently. The wishes of council taxpayers haven’t been taken into account. A decision made based on protecting the current workforce, which, for the most part would have kept their jobs due to the TUPE rules. Lucky them.

Also bear in mind that there was more than one company tendering, all of who would have spent a lot of time and money going through the process. Those that reached the final selection would have spent even more. What a waste.

Just like buses which come along two at once, as far as Edinburgh Council is concerned, bad decisions seem to follow that trend also.

“Mitie has missed out on an £170 million facilities management contract with Edinburgh City Council, despite claims that the deal would have saved the council £115m.”

(The above and the following in italics and quotes are from Construction News.)

The vote went as follows – “Councillors at Edinburgh, run by a Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition, voted 31 to 23 to terminate the procurement process”.

We even get an explanation – “The joint Labour/SNP amendment highlighted the loss of public sector jobs and an adverse impact on the local economy.  It said the risk to local services, and local accountability was “too great” and the estimated level of savings are “unlikely to outweigh the dis-benefits.”

Dis-benefits? Are we having a stab at introducing a new word into the English language?

“According to the original officer’s report, outsourcing to Mitie would have created £51.5m of savings over seven years – £13.5m more than the internal improvement plan, which would save £38m.  It would have meant an extra £39m of revenue savings in the council’s 2011/12 revenue budget process.

That report also said there would have been a pipeline of business cases to develop the service and support property rationalisation, potentially making another £63.3m of efficiency savings. 

The report added that outsourcing would have brought 200 jobs to the city and £6m investment in schools, and was supported by an Ernst and Young report concluding there was “moderately low confidence” in the internal improvement plan”.

Once again the Council stopped the procurement process leaving the participant tenderers high and dry having spent a lot of time on money trying to win the contract in good faith.

Again the taxpayers wishes haven’t been taken into account. Again the existing workforce and local suppliers have been protected. Lucky them.

Bearing in mind that we’ve already had the Tram saga with a final bill of over £1 Billion. Then we have the property repair scam. It looks like the Councillors have money to burn. What will the next project be do you think? It’ll be along in a moment that’s for sure. It won’t be cheap that’s also for sure.

In both of the above cases the bids and their benefits were audited by one of the big four accounting firms who also know how to charge. They reported that the preferred bidders would indeed deliver as promised, were much cheaper than the councils existing service teams and also commented on the councils own attempts to reduce costs as being statistically unlikely.

Is there no come back for the council taxpayers? Is there no come back from the Scottish Government who provide s significant amount of the councils budget in the shape of granting?

Is there no compulsion on the council to accept the best value for money bid regardless if it’s in house or not?

I’m all for encouraging local councillors to question council officers to make sure that they are doing their jobs and their recommendations are sound. However, the decisions made here do not seem to be based on contractual issues they have been based on political posturing and more seriously protecting their workforce when so many of the people they represent do not have the same level of job protection and have suffered significantly.

 
 

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Supplying education

At times you wonder if the people making decisions, which affect, our lives actually know anything about the subject in question? If they do, do they actually see the bigger picture?

Yes, we’re on the subject of education again. You might want to look at Shuggy’s Blog. He makes a good job of laying out the problems and issues relating to Supply Teaching. You will be aware that supply teachers are now paid at the rate of £70.00 per day. That’s pretty much unskilled labour rates. It doesn’t sound like the remuneration that you expect a teacher, who may be responsible for your child, to receive.

I’d like to expand this however. Supply teachers are required when a teacher is away from school which might be for meetings, training, exam development or illness.

If teachers have to go to meetings, training or exam/curriculum/course development it’s not always going to be the case that these can be held after school and also fit within timetabled out of class time. This means there is always going to be a need for that sort of cover. There are probably ways in which this could be reduced however, better planning in schools, appropriate short-term availability of additional staff, Heidies, Depute and Assistant Heidies and/or part-time or job sharing teachers helping out. But there will always be a supply teacher need, even if reduced significantly.

Illness is another issue altogether. Teachers are subjected to any bugs, flu, colds; you name it stuff as they deal with upwards of ten children whilst mixing with many more during a normal school day. That’s unavoidable and results in potentially more time off, but of course there are other factors to consider.

Children shouldn’t really go to school with any sort of infectious condition. If they do they may spread it to other children and of course schoolteachers and staff. If a child takes ill during a school day the parents are advised to keep them off for 48 hours at least. In many cases however, childcare is either too difficult to arrange or too expensive meaning children go to school when they are ill and go back more quickly than they should. Teachers get ill. Some are off for stress, illness or injury whilst a percentage may be swinging the lead as other members of the population do at times.

These are just a small number of issues, which may require supply teachers to be employed. In a lot of cases supply teachers may not be able to put together meaningful lessons or may not be familiar with the subject or confident enough. These situations are the responsibility of senior teaching staff to ensure supply teachers are effective. If they are not, the school will not use them again, providing a level of quality control.

The supply teaching service should be a useful tool for schools to gain access to experienced teachers who have cut their hours or provide an opportunity for newly qualified teachers to gain further experience and teaching practice. It is also of benefit to those teachers who wish to reduce their hours but who, under the current system cannot do so for financial reasons.

The big question is why would the EIS agree to such poor levels of remuneration? There is no merit in saying that supply teachers do not offer the same standard of education as full time teachers. Teaching is not just about teaching it’s about maintaining discipline in class and ensuring the classroom environment is safe and remains so. Again the schools could develop lesson content, which would be used when supply teachers were required and ensure the supply teacher being used is appropriately knowledgable.

I’m assuming that the £70.00 per day rate was negotiated on the basis that the savings from the previously set rate would be used to provide part of the 1% pay increase for full-time teachers. It doesn’t sound as if it has been thought out particularly well.

This leaves education poorer than before. Teachers aren’t going to go to work for £70.00 per day, or rather good teachers aren’t. There is also a human element to this. Local authorities are forever singing the praises of maintaining services in-house as it saves jobs and ensures a better remuneration for workers. Will the councils take the moral view on this and pay more? I doubt it.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Doom and Gloom

This jollyly titled article was originally written for the Subrosa Blondes Blog and is reproduced here with permissions. You might want to add Subrosa to your blog list and visit her often. The blog covers a lot of topics and is very accessible.

This article refers to the BBC News on Monday 16th or Tuesday 17th Jan 2012.

Well that’s it then. Another BBC News at 6:00 and then BBC Scotland News. What fun.

Inflation is down. The comments were directed at it still being too high and the historical editorial was that interest rates should be put up. No sign of any cheer then, that inflation was going down. Not a glimmer. Good news? Not for the BBC apparently.

Then there was that happy soul and interesting character Ed Moribund. Ed thinks it’s a good idea that public sector pay rises are kept at 1%. His pals in the unions think this is an appalling idea. They would though because that’s their job. Ed reckons that a 1% increase means more people will be kept in work. He may well have a point, however; his party have spent the last few months rubbishing even the notion of a 1% pay restriction. Now he is agreeing with Call me Dave and Boy George Osborne. He’s also agreed with them about the union and they will jointly oppose the SNP notion that Scotland should leave the UK. That’s a lot of agreement between the government and the opposition. Not much cheer in this article on the BBC news either.

Oh well maybe the Scottish News will be chock-a-block with chuckles? Then again, perhaps not. Highland Council voted to oppose a wind farm in the Cairngorms. This isn’t good apparently. No real mention of how 31 wind turbines 360 feet high might be detrimental to the environment. Unsightly? Damaging to birds? Expensive to erect and run and producing the most expensive electricity possible.

The very next item , and this is hard to believe, covered Big Power Week. We have the power? No, but we have incredibly expensive electricity and gas. Big Power Week is being carried out by the Citizens Advise Bureau. They have advisors all over Scotland this week providing advice to the public so they can reduce their gas and electricity bills. Good idea.

There’s one bit of advice they could provide to people, well certain people who work in government like a Mr A Salmond, a Mr D Cameron, a Mr C Huhne and a Ms C Lucas amongst others. Remove the renewables levy from electricity bills saving everyone 20% on their bills immediately. That would ease household budgets and reduce inflation.

At least the Scottish News has a saving grace the weather ladies. Thon wee Cubie lassie and Judith Ralston do a good job of presenting the weather news.

Which brings me to my final gripe. Who trains the BBC presenters in hand waving? Do they go to classes and learn how to develop waving and personalise the waving, gesturing and general wafting to match their personality. Just give us the news wave free please and try to keep it within balanced bounds. I know that is a big ask but we can only try eh?

 
 

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Stargazing; an alien concept.

That Brian Cox chap has had a busy week. Stargazing live was on and he took a sizeable part of it. He was helped of course by various sciency sort or people and Dara Ó Briain, who has a physic degree also but has turned to comedy instead.

They switched the lights off all over the country and people looked through telescope sort of things and saw stars and planets and the like. The amount of light towns and cities produce isn’t good for stargazing as you would imagine although it makes life a lot safer and easier when walking and driving about in the dark, as long as you are watching the road/pavement rather than Stargazing. It seemed a pretty interesting programme although some of the boffins were a bit serious.

Enter the Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop. Now Mr Bishop can be entertaining at times but I doubt that Brian and Dara expected him to start asking hard questions about science. I really liked one of his questions, which was related to the topic of aliens hearing a broadcast from Earth of finding one of the probes out for the very purpose of being found by the aliens.

The scientists were offering opinions about what aliens might look like depending on the planet they originated from. We were even provided with artist’s likenesses of what these creatures might look like. One looked like a flying blue basking shark.

Here comes John. John asked why aliens were portrayed as being similar to humans. A good question I thought. The answer bore a striking resemblance to climate science. Science has rules, which are universal which means alien beings would follow our general structure. There was a further unsaid implication that John should maybe restrain himself from such questioning since he didn’t know what he was talking about.

However, not to be deterred John ploughed on. He didn’t think that would be the case. Surely the aliens could take any sort of form. He wasn’t going to get an answer, he did try, but it wasn’t a starter really.

We are all the result of our experiences, which makes it very difficult for us to think out of the box as it were. We have to have really great imaginations or an intellect suited to making substantial leaps to be able to move the game on. Einstein could do it (science link there are you impressed?). James Dyson completely redesigned vacuum cleaners, Steve Jobs came up with a series of innovative products and Frank Gehry seriously evolved architecture and produce some absolutely amazing buildings.

What about Terry Nation and Raymond Cusick? No idea who they are? Well they managed more than our scientists. They managed to come up with Daleks. The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation and designed by BBC designer Raymond Cusick for Dr Who. Daleks don’t have two eyes, two legs or are obese. If you set aside the fact that they can’t climb stairs they are quite formidable.

Joking apart who knows what an alien would look like, if in fact they even exist and if they’d be willing to share family snaps. It might be the case that they would be less advanced than humans, which would probably be a bad thing.

The “righteous” here on Earth would setup charities to help them develop, extend politically correct rules to make sure they didn’t suffer from inequality and give them large sums of money to mitigate the effects of global warming although they wouldn’t really have such a thing just like here on Earth. They’d stop them smoking, drinking and deep-frying Earth Bars too.

In other words the aliens be stuffed. Best that they just keep hidden then I’d suggest.

 

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It’s an ill wind, an ill wind indeed.

Fame and Fortune.

You’re a celebrity, whatever that means, and you get paid loads of money. You are in the lime-light, you enjoy a lavish lifestyle and people give you stuff so your fans see you with it. You get awards. You are driven most places in cars with blacked out windows so the gawpers and paparazzi can’t see in

You make a film, an album, a TV programme, write a book (well someone does that for you really but don’t tell anyone) and sometimes you give a speech. When you are doing something which shows you in a good light, you want people to know about it and you avail yourself to journalists and photographers for as much time as it takes. No problem.

Then a silly story appears in the press about you, which is true, partially true or not true at all and you are horrified. You run to Uncle Matt Crawford (name changed to protect the innocent) or hit the courts for an injunction or most likely both. No problem. You are entitled to your privacy unless you decide otherwise like when it suits your PR activities.

Then one of your mates tells you that they think their mobile phone has been hacked. Hacked you say what’s hacked? The press have been getting access to your phone voicemail. You are of course shocked. You get messages, which could cause you problems if they were made public. You are horrified. You are advised to change the pin number on your voice mail but you don’t, well not yet anyway.

Then you think about things and how, lo and behold, there have been times when the paparazzi have been waiting for you. How did they know where you’d be? Then you think of other examples when reporters have been on hand at odd places as well.

YOU’VE HAD YOUR PHONE HACKED TOO! Shock! Horror! Probe!

Another call to Uncle Matt. Uncle Matt is good at keeping things quiet but he also knows an opportunity when he sees one. A large band waggon comes along and Uncle Matt gets you a seat on it along with some of his other “clients” and although there is a small charge for this service (I say small but that’s a euphemism) it will be worth it.

Soon you’re on the evening news almost in tears because your private life has been breached. Bad men and maybe even bad ladies have hacked your phone causing you distress. Another nice Uncle, Uncle Shark who happens to be a lawyer, suggests you sue the press. Which one to sue though? Uncle Shark suggests you go for the biggest fish because they have more money and also because everyone is going to do it to them even the government.

Before you know where you are you’ve been a star witness at the Leveson Enquiry and then the newspaper group you were suing settles and you get a nice wee bung. £40,000. That’s handy. Always nice to get a bonus. It’ll be reduced by £10,000 for your lawyer and PR fees but hey it’s a result.

Far from the truth do you think Dear Reader?

Almost all of the newspapers have been guilty of hacking phones. If they did it once does that make them any better than those did it a number of times? Make your own mind up.

My advice to the newspapers, like they would be interested, is not to carry any coverage of “celebrities” in your rag unless they or their publicist or film company, publisher, record label etc. etc. pay advertising rates for the coverage. The article, when it appears, should also be labelled as an advertising piece when it appears.. No more shots of them on the red carpet. No more coverage of the arrival of children, weight gain/loss, holidays and everything lese they get fro free now.

No more wee chats with BBC/ITV/Sky presenters on chat shows. Oh no. The BBC shouldn’t be doing that anyway it’s advertising. ITV and Sky can make up their own minds but they should charge the celebs to appear since it will be advertising of celebrities products. Why aren’t TV company shareholders asking why these people get free advertising? They can well afford to pay.

Charge them for publicity and/or starve them of publicity and see how long it is before they start squealing.

If there is a sniff of celebrity impropriety, and you just know there will be by the bucket full, the press should investigate but do so with the highest standards of journalism and accuracy.

They wanted privacy, they have it. Unless they carry on in an illegal or immoral way. Don’t worry about Uncle Matt. He’s a good Christian so he will be the first one to point the finger when they misbehave. He’ll be approaching editors and journos to help them ensure they have the facts as accurate as possible. He may even help provide more “background” information, as he will be appalled by theses celebs, he has represented in the past.

No need for Leveson to report then. Done and dusted. End

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in General, Politics

 

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