Sunday, 17 May 2015

UN is not fit - it must get a peace-maker role

The UN needs to mandate action (I have written about the drag of a single veto - it should not stop an 80% mandate of the General Assembly) for the best and most effective forces in the world to implement - the British Armed Forces. No dodgy Blairite dossiers, no wishy-washy bomb from a safe distance USA sorties - any soldier knows one must take and hold ground to neutralize an opponent.

Mercenaries from South Africa have proved quietly decisive in helping the Nigerian military turn around its campaign against Boko Haram, writes Colin Freeman in Abuja

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Will a Unionist Coalescence in Scotland come too late?

The Unionist vote in NE Fife is deeply split between the Lib Dems (albeit diminished) and the Conservatives.

That split will let the SNP in.

Obviously, neither candidate can attract enough of the other party's support to succeed. Their coalition is a now thing of the past and, I think, as evidenced by the fact that their campaigns are led by their Scottish Leaders, both MSPs, not by Westminster candidates, that they are really simply laying their own ground now for the 2016 Holyrood battle.

Even then they would still split the Unionist vote though PR will help them get seats each. In the meantime, the lack of cohesion amongst Unionists backfoots us at Westminster. Will recovery by the time we fight Holyrood be possible? Will the SNP at Westminster damage the Union within months?

The time is coming for a Unionist coalescence in Scotland. Certainly , that'd be on the cards if separatism does befall us. I expect an anti-nationalist re-alignment will be a foremost consideration for many after 8th May.

Standing as an Independent, of course, I hoped that my party neutrality, and long record of commitment in NE Fife could be a rallying point. Any vote for me cannot worsen the existing split and is still an option for all Party loyalists to counter the SNP without voting for the "other" party. I am to the right of centre of course, on most issues on inter-national importance though a Conservative once "accused" me of being a "socialist" on things like Health and welfare - I suppose because I do recognize that state and society support is necessary for many.

Getting this of my chest will not be of much general good; it is probably all too late now as the Unionist champions are both convinced, in North East Fife, that they alone will secure 100% of the other's support.

Best advice is to vote for what you want - and it is possible that not all "yes" voters want a heavily socialist overspending back room patch up at Westminster.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The MP for North East Fife will serve at Westminster, not Holyrood.

There are important local matters that an MP can fight on: For example, our landscape is changing, with wind turbines becoming an increasingly obvious and mostly unwelcome feature. That happens because Westminster has accepted EU renewable energy targets and carbon footprint thresholds. And sanctions paying subsidies for uneconomic wind energy systems which the people who are now setting them up know that they would not pursue if they had to pay foot the bill. Instead, energy users have their bills loaded with a surcharge to bung the wind industry - FITs or Feed In Tariffs cost all of us and benefit the few. Westminster should stop that nonsense.

Defence too, matters locally. Changes at Leuchars will be sorted out in the medium term as the Army replaces the RAF as the main unit there but the change was a mistake. Ming Campbell said it was a strategic mistake. In a way, but not as he meant it, he was right. The strategic error is in the dangerous cut in defences, the reduced size of the RAF fast jet fleet, not so much where the vestiges of the RAF as we knew it are based.

But even on his own measure, that closing RAF Leuchars was a strategic error, the Liberal Democrat's past Leader and Defence Spokesman, rolled with the decision and continued to support the coalition which made, in Ming's terms, the disastrous mistake. He should have really stood up for us and resigned the whip, not back off on a matter of principle. He must have known he was going to retire, so he had little to loose, surely? The impact of a senior resignation would have rattled a cage or two.

We have to restore defence spending to at least meet the agreed NATO targets; it does many things beyond the obvious necessary restoration of defence capacity. It is one of the few real ways in which a government can create real jobs, in the armed services, and in the defence industry. My manifesto, written in March, also advanced my view that we need to strengthen the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) with hospital ships - in fact with purpose built hospital, rescue and support ships. They would be roled to do what the Prime Minister has now tasked HMS Bulwark to do - a humanitarian mission to rescue and help people in distress; they'd be able also to deploy Field Hospitals ashore (useful for Refugee situations, or for survivors of Natural Disasters), produce water and supply energy, whilst still having the ability to carry out their normal role of RAS (Resupply At Sea).

There are many issues for your MP to address, like those above. It is, now, for your MSP and councillors to try to get the NHS and Education right in Scotland: I assume all the other candidates do accept the existence of the Scottish Parliament.

Friday, 24 April 2015

What is going on?

An interesting slant of politics in Scotland.  I was asked to comment on the apparent status of the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat.

What on earth is our focus now in Scotland?  

In my view, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath cannot be regarded as Labour’s safest seat – Gordon Brown is the reason it had that status.

No other Labour figure left in Scotland matches up to his reputation. 

The same lesson holds now for the other parties – the Conservatives, for example, field Ruth Davidson as their asset – perhaps that is true – but who is their top slot leading light actually standing for Westminster?  And that question also applies to the Liberal Democrats.  Of course, Salmond has been outshone by Nicola as well.

None of this is surprising – even the media seem only to be capable of raising Scottish Parliament and Council issues. 

The whole devolution exercise has caused a schism in politics with a loss of focus here of what matters outside of Scotland; it all plays into the hands of the SNP. 

I do not believe that all of the electorate are taken in by this drift – after all is said and done, the SNP lost the referendum.  All Scottish Parties need to remember that.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Make the Big Breaks for Small Business

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), small business to you and me, are the true creators of real, productive jobs in the United Kingdom.   They provide more jobs than do the PLCs.

David Cameron has promised to create 2 million jobs – promised – that word again.   Hard to believe particularly as the only jobs government creates are those in the public tax payer funded sector.   That is not entirely nugatory of course, we sell medical training to overseas student through NHS teaching hospitals, for example, and employing armed forces leads to creation of jobs in industry, manufacturing equipment and building ships.  That said, it is really the private sector which has the potential  to create jobs.

The business environment, however, can kill small business.   We now have EU procurement rules that makes selling to the public sector a game for the multi-nationals, we have all too tight restrictions, often unnecessary, in the work place and restrictions like the working time directive. 

But I consider that the biggest problems for Small Business to overcome are rates and slow or late payers.   We can tackle both.

Business Rates need to be simplified, and divided into two bands; a band for PLCs, which the chancellor can see as a reasonable source of revenue, and a band for SMEs.  Given that we have a large SME sector, it is acceptable for them to pay rates as a resource for the common good, but the system must not weigh against them in favour of PLCss as now. A corner shop pays more in proportion than does a supermarket.  Those hit thus, will know that.

I propose a simpler system based on a straight forward levy per square foot for both PLCs and SMEs, regardless of location. That will help city centre businesses and encourage revitalising small traders in town centre etc.  Secondly, the rate set for SMEs would be in a band factors lower than the PLC band.    I support local responsibility local authorities should be the rate setters for their areas.

Now the big one – dealing with late payers, by whom I mean PLCs, and even local authorities, who keep SMEs waiting for payment.  Indeed, bigger SMEs might well be guilty too.  

The man with the power and tools to sort this out is our dear friend the VAT man.  VAT registered businesses have to render their dues to the VAT man on a regular basis and can be hammered if they do not pay.  All the VAT mand needs to do, is to require VAT payers to include in their returns on VAT , the additional information of how much they owe their creditors beyond a 30 day limit.  There would be an automatic fine by the VAT man on that figure (helping his public pot) and inducing the slow payers to pay on time.   Being a slow payer would be highly uneconomic, and would probably dry up.