HAPPY JULY 4

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Two hundred and forty-two years ago, meeting in the Pensylvania State House, the 13 North American colonies of Britain declared themselves to be independent states.

They never looked back and all this time later they are still celebrating that action as the right decision. 

So, on the 4th of July 2018, we wish the USA all the very best, and of course an especially happy Independence Day to Munguin’s friends over there. (We have many American readers, but Danny and Jon are the main contributors, and we are grateful for their input, so special words of thanks to them).

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Ruth Davidson used a Shakespearian quote to insult him.  I prefer something more Scottish from our Bard. What about: “Thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense”?

The current president is just a blip. (Well he’s obviously a lot more things, but what I mean is he is temporary.) Hopefully, though, people will remember what a clown he was and how the rest of the world laughed at him and they will resolve to vote more carefully in future. Mrs May can be grateful that whilst she is an utter laughing stock, she is infinitely less important in the scheme of things than he is… and Donald has certainly “Trumped” her as the world-class eejit. She’s merely a third-rate eejit.

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Trump: Will you be my bromance, buddy?  Macron: (to self… Oh, Lord this is embarrassing) Erm, je suis vraiment désolé. Je ne comprends pas un seul mot d’anglais. En tout cas, qui êtes-vous exactement? Et pouvez-vous arrêter de me tenir la main, idiot en orange ?

Anyway, forget about him tomorrow, Americans.  Enjoy the fireworks and the feasts and have a great day.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the boot will be on the other foot and our friends in the States will be wishing us the same thing.

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Talking of Trump, Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf wrote to the Treasury asking that they pay for any security expenses of having Trump in our country. They invited him, not us. He has no official business in Scotland. 

He has received an answer in the affirmative from the Rt Hon Truss. Of course, it seems to me to be particularly bad manners to write to someone by their first name, and sign with your full name, and even worse, your style.  And what is all the numbering of paragraphs about?

Who on earth does that?

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Truss was herself, the English Justice Secretary. Fortunately, Humza doesn’t have to dress himself up like some pantomime character to do his job.

WHO SHOULD PAY FOR TRUMP’S JOLLY?

Humza Yousaf Retweeted ScotsPolFed

It is simply unacceptable that UK Govt has so far refused to say that they will pick up the policing bill for President Trump’s visit, he is a guest of the UK Govt. I’ll be writing to the UK Govt demanding an urgent resolution to this matter.

We did not invite him. I’m pretty certain most of us don’t want him here.
What do you think?

HERE’S THE NEW CABINET

So, this is the new cabinet, with junior ministers to be announced tomorrow.

Personally, I’m sorry to see Shona Robison, my own MSP and a friend, go, but having read her letter of resignation, I can understand why she made the choice to resign.  Shona has had a hard year with the death of both her parents and a personal health scare to cope with. She is in a new relationship now and I wish her every happiness. I hope she’ll continue to be our MSP because she’s a damned good one.

Britain spends less than most of Europe on its health services, below the EU average, and way below countries like France and Germany, but for all that, Shona has managed to make NHSS the best of the four UK services. Jeane Freeman has big boots to fill, but her first-rate setting up of Social Security Scotland makes me sure we will be in safe hands.

Jackson Carlaw put out a generous and courteous tweet:

I shadowed for many years & appreciated her genuine concern for the NHS. A hugely challenging brief & while did not call for her to go, now is the time for fresh leadership & thinking. On a personal level, I wish her well & thank her for her courtesy.

Anas Sarwar, on the other hand, not only made a bit of a mess of the grammar but was left looking rather petty and silly by comparison:

A personal congratulations to Humza, too. I remember Munguin, he and I met on the Edinburgh March in 2012. He was busy, but he took time to meet with Munguin and have a photograph taken with him (which I have subsequently managed to mislay). He may have uttered a few words to me as well!

He’s done a great job with transport… again, Scottish trains, poor by EU standards, are the best in the UK. It is gratifying to see his promotion to Justice Secretary.

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Post Script:

Some comments on Sarwar’s tweet…

Anas, my husband is a hospital consultant and has been for decades. He is clear that under the NHS has never been better. He swears that under it was an utter shambles. So suggest you get help for your verbal diarrhoea (LMR)

Just spoke to a Senior Specialist Nurse in the NHS and I quote: “. needs to stop playing political football with the NHS. He’s just shown why Labour aren’t fit to govern” (Colin Alexander Storrier)

I work in the NHS in Glasgow. I have friends and relatives in Wales and England and I can tell you that the service we have up here in Scotland is miles ahead of what they have elsewhere. (Purple Monkey)

Factually incorrect and seriously lacking class. I give you Anas Sarwar, who luckily is destined never to be in charge of anything. ( )

Delete this, you poor excuse for a human being and public servant. Once you’ve deleted this, delete your account you quilt. The legacy of Ms Robison is the best NHS in UK and that really sticks in your craw! Now, sling your hook! (Davidlikesguys)

Well if failure is the best performing Health service in the U.K What the hell would you call what’s going on in And as far as funding goes It’s Central government to blame in but the SNP’s fault in Scotland? How would you square that? (Lez)

And there are many many more…

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RANDOM THOUGHTS

I see the bumbling fool of a Foreign Secretary would like his own plane for Brexit. 

So that’s Liam Fox that wants a royal yacht so he can sail his way around the world avoiding questioning on any trade deals he has failed to get, and BoJo, who wants a private plane. We should maybe just commit to a fleet, which of course they will have built in Korea.

Boris does have the use of a plane at the moment, but the Queen has first dibs on it, and then Charlie, then the Prime Minister… and when he can get his hands on it, he complains that it’s grey. 

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Well, honestly, fancy expecting a man of Boris’s standing to travel in a grey plane. Mrs May should resign immediately.

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Labour in Scotland “Nationalise our railways!”

Labour in London “Nationalise our railways!”

Labour in Wales, where they are actually in Govt: “Erm…look there’s a squirrel!”

What a shower of hypocrites!

No, seriously. the Labour Welsh government has just awarded the 15-year franchise to run Wales-only trains to KeolisAmey, a French transport company.

Why, Labour?

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Caroline Nokes is the immigration minister. That means she works in the Home Office looking after immigration. One of the most important issues in immigration at the moment is that of the Irish border question. The rights of people in Northern Ireland to have both Irish and British citizenship, to travel freely between the two countries and to work in one and live in the other. It is, no one would deny, a complex issue but it seems that Ms Nokes just couldn’t be bothered.

The relevant document is only 35 pages long, yet her excuse to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, before which she was appearing, was that she was giving birth when it was signed (20 years ago) and that she has only been Immigration minister for 5 months.

You’d have thought that she might have been able to fit in a 35-page document in 5 months, or maybe get someone a bit cleverer to summarise it for her.

This, incidentally, is the woman who compared the Scottish government to Lincolnshire County Council.

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Isn’t it all going well?

 

 

 

YOU SEE, THEY JUST CAN’T HELP IT

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One might equally have asked the Member for Lothian Region if she could have come back from the Australian Jungle and got on with the day job.

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Or maybe they might have asked her why, when she was leader of the Scottish Labour Party, she thought that it was a good idea to visit  America to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

See, by now Kez, I’d have thought that you might have learned that people who live in glass houses should probably buy VERY big curtains.

Of all the train companies in this Benighted Kingdom, ScotRail has the best performance.

In fairness, Kezia may not have noticed that there is a howling gale across Scotland and that there has been torrential rain. An unfortunate outcome of this is that outdoor things tend not to work at 100% capacity… and I might say, wouldn’t do even if she, or her daft new boss, were the first minister.

As we have said before, reasoned and reasonable criticism is the job of opposition. Criticism for the sake of criticism is not.

Powerful and dynamic though the first minister may be, the winds and the waves do not obey her, no more does the rain.

Grow up, Kez.

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Of course, it’s the Daily Mail, so it’s unadulterated rubbish.

In 2009, in private audience with the Queen at Balmoral (something not granted to the Daily Mail “journalists”), Alex Salmond and HM discussed flag flying after which he ordered that the Royal Standard be flown on “royal occasions”, rather than the union flag.

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“I remember the occasion very well,” Salmond said in a post on his website.

“Her Majesty asked me if the Lion Rampant was a popular flag in Scotland.

“I was able to assure her that it was and indeed much beloved of Scottish football and rugby fans. Thus I brought the new policy into effect and left the union flag flying, as appropriate, at armed forces day and Remembrance Sunday.”

And that makes sense. Flying a royal standard is a great deal more respectful to the Queen personally than flying any other flag.

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Happy to correct if wrong, but which part of the Telegraph front page article is wrong. They quote advice issued by your government that only the Satire should be flown on all occasions apart from Remembrance Sunday. Does that document not exist?

1/2 It has been practice to fly Lion Rampant on Royal occasions since 2010. I have not ordered, instructed, authorized any change – indeed there has been no change. Civil servants recently updated published guidance to reflect the long standing practice…

Needless to say the ever moronic Murdo Fraser made a fool of himself by comparing Nicola’s tweets to those of Donald Trump’s. UH? Get back on the meds, Murdo.

Fraser said: “This is a desperate attempt by Nicola Sturgeon to spin her way out of trouble.

“The SNP is more interested in lowering Union Flags than raising standards in schools and hospitals.

“The First Minister’s Trump-style Twitter denial by candlelight last night does nothing to change the facts.”

Well, in that respect, of course, he is right. The fact is that there has been no change.

Mr Fraser must have been going around with his head under his arm because this has been the policy since 2010. Does he not notice anything around him?

As we said, Murdo, it was agreed with the Queen 9 years ago!

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Have you ever had a private audience of the Queen, Murdo? Awe well never mind. Maybe when whatever Rangers are called now win the Cup, huh?

Anyway, we look forward to the Mail’s apology in 5pt  type on page 42.

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BRITAIN’S CHRISTIAN VALUES?

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I noted that in Mrs May’s Christmas message to us lesser beings (painful to watch as she tries to emote), she wanted to remind us that this is a Christian country.

She said: “Let us take pride in our Christian heritage and the confidence it gives us to ensure that in Britain you can practice your faith free from question or fear”.

She is, of course, the English/female version of the Gordon Brown “son of the manse”, the “vicar’s daughter”

 

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Arlene must have told her what to wear.

 

I managed to avoid the Queen’s Christmas message (well done. Tris) but I’d lay a pound to a penny that she reminded us that in her long reign she has always tried to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. After all, she tells us that every year.

And we all know that the real power in the country is held by an unelected Christian fundamentalist, who apparently believes that the world was created by God 6,000 years ago and that he laboured for 6 days doing it, and took the seventh day off. And you mustn’t call her a dinosaur because there never was such a thing!

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And yet these three women, strong advocates of Christianity, oversee a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

It’s a mean cruel little place in which a woman who is going to marry into the royal family can spend £55,000 on a dress for a photoshoot, parliament can spend tens of billions on doing up its own buildings, Buckingham Palace gets extra money for repairs… and at the same time doctors are prescribing food to patients who are ill because of malnutrition and  we see the return of Victorian poverty illnesses like rickets.

And that’s BEFORE we leave the EU, which now all but a few predict will be an economic disaster for Britain at least for the foreseeable future.

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The following came from readers comments in the article above. Just how inhuman do you have to be to put this kind of regime into operation?

Examples of Benefit Sanctions

“One case where the claimant’s wife went into premature labour and had to go to hospital. This caused the claimant to miss an appointment. No leeway given”

“It’s Christmas Day and you don’t fill in your job search evidence form to show that you’ve looked for all the new jobs that are advertised on Christmas Day. You are sanctioned. Merry Christmas”

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the jobcentre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week”

“A London man missed his Jobcentre appointments for two weeks because he was in hospital after being hit by a car. He was sanctioned”

“You’ve been unemployed for seven months and are forced onto a workfare scheme in a shop miles away, but can’t afford to travel. You offer to work in a nearer branch but are refused and get sanctioned for not attending your placement”

“You are a mum of two and are five minutes late for your jobcentre appointment. You show the advisor the clock on your phone, which is running late. You are sanctioned for a month”

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“A man with heart problems who was on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) had a heart attack during a work capability assessment. He was then sanctioned for failing to complete the assessment”

“A man who had gotten a job that was scheduled to begin in two weeks’time was sanctioned for not looking for work as he waited for the role to start”

“Army veteran Stephen Taylor, 60, whose Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was stopped after he sold poppies in memory of fallen soldiers”

“A man had to miss his regular appointment at the job centre to attend his father’s funeral. He was sanctioned even though he told DWP staff in advance”

“Ceri Padley, 26, had her benefits sanctioned after she missed an appointment at the jobcentre – because she was at a job interview”

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“A man got sanctioned for missing his slot to sign on – as he was attending a work programme interview. He was then sanctioned as he could not afford to travel for his job search”

“Mother-of-three Angie Godwin, 27, said her benefits were sanctioned after she applied for a role jobcentre staff said was beyond her”

“Sofya Harrison was sanctioned for attending a job interview and moving her signing-on to another day”

“Michael, 54, had his benefits sanctioned for four months for failing to undertake a week’s work experience at a charity shop. The charity shop had told him they didn’t want him there”

“Terry Eaton, 58, was sanctioned because he didn’t have the bus fare he needed to attend an appointment with the jobcentre”.

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Added to this they removed £30 a week from the sickest people, they are in the throes of rolling out a system for benefits (Universal Credit) that does not work (still!) but not in Cabinet ministers’ constituencies, and amongst a list of other miserable mean minded policies aimed at saving money at all costs, most of the people of Grenfell Tower (the building that burned down because the richest council in England couldn’t be bothered putting proper insulation on it because it was populated by poor people, and for whom there was recently a big service in London, with bigwigs including Charles and William and the Maybot herself), are still homeless, and May laughed off the notion of child homelessness on the basis that kids weren’t actually sleeping on the cold streets in the open air…as many adults are. All fur coats and no knickers!

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In England, NHS trusts are cancelling non-emergency operations as their health service falls apart for lack of money, staff and someone to manage it. Schools in some areas are washing kids’ clothes and taking parents to food banks or feeding them in breakfast clubs, while at the same time begging for money for books from richer parents. Prisons in England are in many cases privatised. The staffing levels are ridiculously low and the population ridiculously high. Violence is rife and riots are frequent.

I could go on, through other areas of public life: ships that are letting in water and that were built to carry aircraft we haven’t bought, Cabinet ministers falling like ninepins because they lie to the prime minister… the lowest pensions in the developed world to show how little we care about our elderly population (unless they are royal or lords) and the total mess that is Brexit deteriorating by the day…but by now you’re getting bored.

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A lot of Munguin’s readership is Scottish. We are lucky. Our health service is the best performing in the UK, as are our trains. Our prisons are better managed, and so far I’ve heard nothing of rickets. Far from perfect, we may be, but we are lucky. It’s no joke to be in England and not to be rich. (They find money for rich people)

So that is the Britain which hails blue passports as a major achievement.

That’s the Queen’s idea of a Christian society.

That’s Mrs May’s idea of Christian government.

I’m not a Christian, but I was forced as a schoolboy to go to daily Christian services at school in England and made to do two lessons a week of Bible Study, so I know a few things about the basic principles of Christianity after all these years.

Either our teachers were lying, or the people who oversee this mess, Liz, Arlene and the Maybot don’t even begin to resemble Christians.

 

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Nope, Daily Mail. We shall sneer and sneer and better than sneer at your iconic blue passports, ya roasters. The moronic thing is that they won’t be iconic. They will look exactly like everyone else’s passports because they are required to meet standards set by the UN. And, you could have had blue passports all along, of course, but then you wouldn’t have been able to blame that on the EU. The EU never demanded red.  Maybe you could put a wee story in them so that we will have something to read while we queue at immigration as aliens instead of EU citizens?

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS

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It sounds a bit like “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, but I remember my father saying something about politicians which went… “you play ball with me, and I’ll hit you over the head with the bat.”

That seems more likely to me. Be wary.

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I see that after a protracted period of donning camouflage gear, hiding in the shadows and being uncustomarily camera shy, Ruth Davidson has emerged to explain to the BBC, and to us, why she has allowed the reinstatement of racist councillors.

 

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Ooooops….

 

She says that everyone must be given a second chance; a chance to change their behaviour. I agree with her. People need a second chance. Even people who are late for m Jobcentre interviews. But it seems to me that the councillors are mature people and that to change their outlooks on race and homophobia, not to mention what is appropriate behaviour online, may take a little time.

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I think, had I been Ruth, I’d have seen how the training was going before I welcomed these people back into the fold. But that’s me, and I’m not a Tory.

Oh, and now Ruth, then there’s this MP chappie who made a racist comment today about Travellers and inspired this email from a young traveller. Best get him in for a session on views… and while you’re on it, there’s always Murdo.

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You’ve got some right charmers in your party, haven’t you?

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She might, while she’s in the mood to speak out,  like to apologise for this. After all, Scots voted to stay in the UK union and to stay in the European union. I certainly know some who changed their mind about independence for Scotland when they were told they would be thrown out of the EU and would find themselves a small country on the edge of Europe, all alone, with no trading partners, apparently waiting in a (non-existent) queue for EU membership.

Then, because we were not independent, Scotland’s substantial vote to remain in the EU was overturned by a very marginal vote in England to leave the EU.

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The broad shoulders of the union spat that one back in our faces. We’ve got Darling’s “best of both worlds” sitting here alone and scrambling around for a trade deal, any trade deal, with Donald J Bloody Trump.  Still, Alistair is now a right honourable and noble aristocrat with a great job for life. So all the travails won’t bother him. Privilege of Peerage, don’t you know?

Thanks, Ruth. Your lies facilitated this.

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a thick

These broad shoulders don’t half cost a lot when it comes to getting about. So grateful to be part of the United Kingdom.

Labour seems to be determined to blame the SNP for the fact that we have a privatised railway system in Scotland. And that ScotRail is operated by a Dutch company.

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The Scottish government, following the Smith Commission, was granted powers to award rail franchises to public sector organisations in the 2016 Act (too late for the last bidding process). Humza is preparing a government bid for a future bidding process.

It strikes me, though, that Labour’s 1997 manifesto for the Uk contained a promise to renationalise the railways which never came to pass when they won… and in the 13 years that they were in power.

Odd that! But in the meantime:

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In view of recent discussions about GERS, I thought you might be interested in this article that Iain sent me.

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Oh and lastly, but not leastly, this gem…

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But, but….

SO HOW ARE WE DOING?

 

Just to cheer you up…

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Well, unemployment is down. ..
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…and growth is up…
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…and we seem to be doing better with wages…
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And foreign direct investment is ahead of the other two Celtic countries and all the regions of England with the exception of the London powerhouse.

 

It’s not all peaches and cream, and we’re not claiming all the credit for the Scottish parliament and government (before you start, Niko!).

Economic levers are massively (or bigly as Trump would say) in the hands of London so unemployment, for example, may be affected by decisions taken in London as well as Edinburgh. But there has also been good news for NHS Scotland with our waiting times lower than the other three countries and our university students are the most likely to be employed.

The Ernst and Young survey is largely positive but it warns that once the uncertainty surrounding Brexit takes hold, we could be in for a bumpy ride. As I said, decisions taken in London can affect our economic outlook.

BREAKING: performance now moved ahead of Improvement Plan target. PPM 93.7% (4% ahead of Eng/Wales) well done to railway workers!

And yes, even the trains are more likely to be on time here than anywhere else.

FACTS ON TRAVEL CONCESSION CARD

From the minister

I hope that makes it clear.

As Humza says, the opposition, many of whom were against universal benefits, and wanted to do away with, for example, universal free prescriptions, are lying, haven’t bothered to find out the facts, or have and are too stupid to understand them. One of these!

No one is taking your card away. There will be a consultation about how to make it sustainable over a period. The scheme is likely to be extended in some ways to help people who need it.

The scheme, brought in by the Labour/Liberal government is admirable. It really is a generous project covering the whole of Scotland.

It encourages less-well-off older and disabled people to make journeys that would be beyond their means. It encourages them out of the house, in to the town, or to another town, to meet friends and do their own shopping. In short, it is good for their morale, health and wellbeing. On colder days it is a way of keeping warm and saving on the household heating bill. (Yes, I’ve known people who did that… HAD to do that!)

In the case of richer people, who can afford the bus fare, it encourages them to leave the car behind and use public transport, reducing congestion on the roads, pollution and overflowing parking facilities in town. Of course, that doesn’t work for everyone. You still get Lady Whatsit and her chauffeur driven Bentley taking up the road, but for most people it is an incentive to leave the car behind. That has to be a good thing.

It reduces wear and tear on the already damaged roads. And it almost undoubtedly reduces the number of accidents, a good thing on its own, but with the additional benefit of reducing pressure on the emergency services.

It ensures that buses run throughout the day, providing a better service for those who need them. Buses are no longer a real public service. They are for profit. If there is no money to be made on a route during the day, the bus company will reduce the service to the absolutely minimum required to retain the franchise for that route, making life more difficult for fare paying passengers outside of peak travel times, for getting to hospital appointments, jobcentre interviews, and shopping.

In a perfect world we would all have free, or at least reasonably priced clean, efficient and reliable public transport. We don’t live in a perfect world.

Let’s wait for the consultations before we get bent out of shape. If we have something to say, let’s contribute to these consultations and try to get the best deal for the public with limited money that can be made available.

Carlaw hits the buffers

2It’s hard to credit the amount of time and effort, social media space and press attention that Humza Yousaf has got following the breakdown of a train a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve lost count of the number of times  his resignation has been demanded despite the fact that rail in Scotland, or at least that part of it that Scotland controls, is doing rather well by comparison with the chaos that abounds in some parts of England.

You’ll no doubt remember the classy comments made by one of the sillier Tories.

Needless to say, Jackson Carlaw, as deputy tank commander, had to get his dig in too. The Scottish people wanted a transport minister who used trains, he claimed (although to the best of my knowledge transport also includes road, cars, buses, bikes and planes… so why demand he use trains?)

1The minister doesn’t use trains or it would show in his MSP expenses. The public would be furious that the transport minister had never set foot upon a train, he claimed proudly, as if he’d dealt the man a body blow.

Needless to say, as it was Jackson Carlaw, it was rubbish.

Humza is a minister and his travel costs from Glasgow to Edinburgh have by law to be attributed to ministerial expenses, and not constituency MSP expenses.

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So the facts are something like this:

Between May and November the minister took 34 train trips, 28 between Glasgow and Edinburgh stations.

Mr Carlaw only took five trips between the cities. So Humza used the train a good deal more than Mr Carlaw. To add insult to injury, Mr Carlaw’s claims for  mileage in his car came to  £878, including 21 trips between his home and parliament. This is rather more expensive than taking the train.  (A return fare costs £27,20 and the mileage cost is £46,80.) Still, Mr Carlaw is an important and busy man! Why would he take the train?

It is becoming clearer to me by the day why Mr Carlaw’s business career was less that hugely successful. Clearly he doesn’t do his research before he opens his mouth,  he isn’t terribly economical with his expenses, and he can’t count.

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Just after I uploaded this, I discovered these tweet which explains where Mr C gets his sharp wit.

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Make what you will of them….