Monday, December 05, 2005

Campaign For A Scottish Olympic Team

Scotland and England to go alone in the Olympics

As Rhys Wynne reports on Smiling under Buses, there's now a Campaign For A Scottish Olympic Team.

About time! Scotland sends its own team to the Commonwealth Games, and our sportswomen and sportsmen are as successful as those of other small nations in international competitions - it's only sensible that we should have our own team in the Olympics. And we can do that even in the present devolutionary set-up; there's no legal barrier.

So visit the Campaign's website or subscribe to their blog. Let's give our sportspeople the support they deserve, so that they can represent Scotland in the 2012 Olympics.

Thanks for the link, Rhys.

The Misery Of Dial-up

I've just changed my broadband ISP. For more than a week I've been between between ISPs and could only connect to the internet by a dial-up modem.

It was awful. Pages took AGES to load. It took 20 minutes to download one music track. A full-length movie was out of the question. How did I put up with that for 2 years when I first got a computer?

Now my new broadband account is up and running. What a relief!

But this experience showed me how long the supermidge blog takes to load for dial-up readers. I'm going to see if I can simplify the template so that it will load faster. Or maybe I'll choose a new template.

Watch this space!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

You Do it First, Gordon

Take a pay cut, Brown to ask public sector

According to the Scotsman, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has asked public sector trade unions to limit pay claims to 2%, which is less than the rate of inflation. But private sector pay rises are running at 4.2% and most public sector employees earn less than comparable private sector workers as it is. Why should they agree to drop further behind just so that the figures will look good when the Chancellor presents his budgets?

Government Ministers are public sector workers. Are Brown and his colleagues going to limit their own pay increases to 2%?

Background To The Scottish Asylum Debate

Asylum seekers

The above post by HW on Holyrood Chronicles explains the main events and issues of the Scottish debate on asylum seekers clearly and straightforwardly without any emotionalism or party politics. It's essential reading for non-Scots, or anyone who came in in the middle of the debate and doesn't fully understand it.

While you're at Holyrood Chronicles I recommend reading some of HW's previous posts on this topic.

Calling Welsh Blogs!

Does anyone know any good Welsh political blogs (in English) or a site which might list them?

I've got lots of Scottish blogs, some Irish blogs and a few American blogs on my blogroll - but when I did a blog search for "Welsh politics" I got very few results.

If you know of any Welsh blogs, post a comment with the site url and I'll investigate your suggestion for possible inclusion on the supermidge blogroll.

If anyone of any nationality wants to include supermidge on their blogroll, please go ahead!

Friday, November 25, 2005

New Scottish Visitors Are Poles Apart

Four years after 9/11, visitor numbers finally recover
City tourism chiefs pull in Poles to prop up numbers
Edinburgh's second Polish airlink

An Office of National Stastics report mentioned in the Scotsman says that the number of foreigners visiting Scotland increased 12% between 2000 and 2004.

But unlike the elderly Americans who used to come looking for their ancestors, most of the new visitors are young and come from places like China and eastern Europe. There's a long history of friendship between Scotland and Poland, and Edinburgh seems to be particularly popular with Polish visitors; both SkyEurope and Centralwings have recently started regular passenger flights.

Today's visitors are more interested in present-day Scotland. They appreciate fashionable shops and restaurants and good entertainment, and they want to do all sorts of things while they're here.

So a big welcome to our new visitors. They're much more fun than geriatric Bush-babies.

Cheers!

Not Sewel Any More?

MSPs in debate over name
Procedures Committee recommends overhaul of the 'Sewel' process

The Scotsman reports that the Scottish Parliament's Procedures Committee has recommended that Sewel motions (which allow the Scottish Executive to let the UK Government pass laws on devolved matters) should in future be called legislative consent motions. (Their present name is that of the Labour Lord who invented them.) At least the suggested name would make their purpose clearer.

But, as the Committee also suggests, using these motions too often can produce controversy and misunderstanding. Such motions should only be needed rarely and each case should be fully discussed by the Scottish Parliament. However, the present Labour/Lib Dem Executive shout "Sewel!" every time Scottish opinion on an issue differs from that of the British Government.

Areas of government were devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that our parliament could pass laws on those matters to suit Scottish needs and Scottish opinion. The Scottish Executive should legislate for Scotland instead of continually ducking out of making decisions to avoid displeasing Tony Bliar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

McConnell And "Dawn Raids" - What's The Truth?

Asylum row takes another twist

According to Scottish TV News a spokesperson for Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell said on Wednesday that he didn't even discuss the matter of "dawn raids" with the UK Home Office.

The forced removal of asylum-seeking families whose applications are rejected has been widely criticised in Scotland. Home Office officials come to a family's house in the early morning. They handcuff the parents in front of their children, then take the confused and often frightened children to a different place from their parents. The children don't see their parents again until just before they are all put on a plane to take them to their home country.

McConnell said he would negotiate "a protocol" with the UK Home Office to ensure that this kind kind of treatment would no longer happen in Scotland, but the Home Office said there was no possibility of such a protocol.

On Tuesday SNP Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon said
"We need to know if the First Minister was misinformed or if he misled Parliament."

Now on Wednesday a spokesperson has said that Jack McConnell and the Home Office didn't discuss the matter.

Today (Thursday) McConnell himself will have to answer MSPs' questions at the weekly First Minister's Questions session. If he doesn't explain satisfactorily why he said one thing and now his spokesperson is saying another, we'll all know that Jack McConnell has turned into a Jack Bliar.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Scotland Needs Asylum Seekers' Fresh Talents

Call for asylum employment rights
Committee urges Executive to consult Home Office on employment for asylum seekers

As the BBC reports, the Scottish Parliament's European and External Relations Committee have proposed that the Scottish Executive should include the 21% of asylum seekers who are university educated in the Fresh Talent scheme. Scotland could benefit from their knowledge and experience, but under present UK Home Office rules only 7% of such people are allowed to work, and most of those are in low-level jobs which don't use their abilities.

This problem again illustrates the need for the Scottish Parliament's remit to cover migration to Scotland. Present UK immigration policies seem to be designed to get rid of would-be migrants as soon as possible to avoid overcrowding in southern England.

Scotland needs to attract skilled and talented workers to counteract the projected decline in Scottish working-age population from 2009 onwards. If all asylum seekers in Scotland were able to take jobs suiting their skills and experience this would help the Scottish economy, help the asylum seekers financially, speed asylum seekers' integration and mean they could no longer be condemned as "benefit scroungers".

UPDATE

Here is a link to more information about the Fresh Talent scheme in case anyone wants to apply. WARNING: although the Fresh Talent initiave is Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell's pet scheme he's unlikely to support it (or anything else) against the UK Home Office.

I've also updated the link to the BBC report. It wotks at the moment (00.56 am on Thursday) anyway.

DLA Applications Are More Disabling For Scots

Scots wait longer for disability payments

The Scotsman reports that people in Scotland who apply for the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have to wait longer than people in England for their claims to be processed. The Edinburgh benefits office takes an average of 39.3 days to process a DLA claim.

I don't believe that Scottish benefits clerks are less efficient or competent than English ones, so what's the reason for the discrepancy? Is there a staff shortage, are the computers out of date - or is there a delay because most social work matters come under the Scottish Executive while the benefits office is administered by the British Government?

The DLA is only paid to severely disabled people whose disability creates a long-term financial burden. Scottish applicants need the allowance as much and as quickly as English applicants. We need to have all benefits administered by the Scottish Parliament so that there can be easier liaison between benefits clerks and local authority social work departments, leading to quicker payments of urgently-needed allowances.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

10 Days To the Independence Convention

Independence Convention launches on national day

Iain MacLaren's two posts on Small Nation are a reminder that the inaugural public meeting of the Independence Convention starts at 7 pm on Wednesday 30 November 2005 at Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh. The Convention has also been mentioned several times on Joe Middleton's blog.

The Convention was set up by the Scottish National Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish Green Party and independent MSPs to harness the growing support for independence across the whole Scottish political spectrum. This was highlighted by a recent Scotland On Sunday poll which showed that only 27% of Scots still consider themselves British. Local Authorities in particular are frustrated at the Scottish Parliament's limited powers and the frequent confusion about which parliament deals with what.

The SNP has produced a Google map giving the location of Dynamic Earth and directions for getting there. But register with the Independence Convention even if you can't go to the public meeting. They'll keep you updated about what's going on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Victory For One Small Woman

Mexican woman battles Coke, wins

Aljazeera told on Tuesday how Raquel Chavez, owner of La Racha, a Mexican corner shop, took on the Coca-Cola organization and won. Some of Mrs. Chavez's customers wanted to buy Big Cola while others wanted to buy Coke, but Coca-Cola said she couldn't sell both brands. So she decided to fight the multinational for her customers' right to choose.

Mrs. Chavez has battled a tough neighbourhood and even armed robbers to make her store successful, but even she didn't expect to beat the might of the Coca-Cola group. She didn't win much financially; it cost a lot to combat Coca-Cola's tactics. But she's proud to know that she's one of the very few people who have challenged a multinational and come out on top.

So if you're ever in Iztapalapa, pop into La Racha and buy some Big Cola. Raquel Chavez has fought hard for the right to sell it to you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

But They Don't Make Irn-Bru!

Salmon-flavored soda, anyone?

On Tuesday CNN ran a story about Jones Soda, acompany which manufacturers some very unusual flavoured drinks and apparently gets orders for them from all over America.

I love salmon; I like brocoli casserole; I can even eat turkey ... but TO DRINK?

NOTE:

Irn-Bru is Scotland's most popular soft drink. It's made from a recipe which is supposed to be known only to members of the Barr family.

Yes ... I Mean No ... I Mean ...

Lib Dems accused over council tax

The Scotsman says on Tuesday that Liberal Democrat MSP George Lyon will tell the Local Government and Transport Committee not to scrap the Council Tax although Lib Dem policy is to abolish the tax.

But why does Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan call this hypocrisy? It's just another example of the dithering attitude that the Lib Dems inherited from the Liberal Party. Whatever the question, they're always "not sure".

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Apology To Supermidge Readers

I'm sorry I've been posting less often recently, but I've been unexpectedly busy. Thanks to those who have commented on my previous posts - I promise I'll deal with your comments this weekend. After that I should be back to normal again. Keep reading supermidge!

SFA Supports A Scottish Team

Scots Opt Out Of GB Football Team

Yahoo! Sport reports that the SFA has refused to take part in an all-Dritish football team in the next Olympic Games, arguing that such a team could be used as a precedent for excluding Scotland from future international football events such as the World Cup. The SFA gets a lot of criticism so it's good to be able to praise them for puting Scottish football interests first. Of course we should have a Scottish football team in the Olympics, like other small countries.

And like those countries we should also have Scottish teams in the other Olympic sports. If our athletes, swimmers &c. are good enough for a British team then they're good enough to represent Scotland. Let's see some other sports following the SFA's lead and standing up for the interests of Scottish sportswomen and sportsmen and their Scottish supporters!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Do Scottish Tories Have A Future?

In response to my post Even Tories Shouldn't Trust Journalists Anonymous said:
I'd like to see some kind of new centre right political force in Scotland. Do you think there's the slightest chance that out of the debris that is the Scottish Conservative party a radical Forsythe type party, commited to fiscal independance could emerge? Why shouldnt there be centre right AND left wing (SNP) currents to the Nationalist movement. Logically it doesnt make sense.

While I don't agree that the Scottish National Party is left wing, I think there's definitely room for a party which embodies Scottish Conservative values, both before and after independence. But a new party might not be the best answer due to the long time needed to build up a power base.

But if the present Scottish Conservative And Unionist Party wants to regain (or even retain) any support in Scotland it will have to change. Alex C has an excellent post on this subject on Land Of The Nearly Free. Scottish Conservatives who want a future for their party should heed his criticisms and implement his suggested improvements.

Most importantly, the party should drop the "And Unionist" part of its name and give positive support to Scottish independence. And .... would individual Conservatives please TRY not to be smug?

UPDATE

I've now re-enabled comments on this post in case people want to continue the discussion. I don't plan to comment further on this subject, but readers are welcome to do so.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Meet The Email Worm!

AGH! Sassy Worm Virus Song!!

The above link from Got Laughs has nothing to do with politics.

Enjoy!

Even Tories Shouldn't Trust Journalists

Tory whip quits over McLetchie plot

As The Scotsman reports on Saturday, Conservative MSP Brian Monteith sent emails to the Scotland On Sunday Editor leaking the expenses details which caused David McLetchie to resign from the Scottish Tory leadership. Now the newspaper has decided to publish the emails, so Monteith has resigned from from the Scottish Parliament's Conservative Group. Was Monteith really so naive as to think Scotland On Sunday wouldn't publish the emails?

What's going on in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party? I thought they had enough problems trying to avoid losing votes without their members plotting against one another. Arthur's Seat hasn't yet (10.22 a.m.) commented on the Monteih development. Will Mr. Seat please enlighten the blogosphere?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Let's Catch Up With The Catalans

Spain debates Catalonia autonomy

The BBC said on Wednesday that the Spanish government has announced proposals to extend Catalunya's autonomy - in terms which suggest they realise it's the next step to full independence.

Catalunya gained its present level of autonomy in 1978. In 1979 Labour Party trickery meant that Scotland had to wait another 20 years before it got any self-government at all. Even now the Scottish Executive has nothing like the same powers as the Catalan government.

The Scottish Executive likes to compare Scotland with Catalunya. So Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell will now pressure British Prime Minister Tony B Liar to introduce proposals for Scotland similar to those for Catalunya .... won't he? If not, he should resign - because he's no good for Scotland.

Let's catch up - then keep up - with the Catalans!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

McLetchie's Cloud Has A Silver Lining

MSPs expense claims to be posted online

As indicated by The Scotsman on Wednesday, David McLetchie's resignation as leader of the Scottish Parliament's Tory Group will benefit voters financially as well as politically. If every receipt has to be published on the internet, this will encourage MSPs to think twice before they spend public money on frivolous items of dubious relevance to their parliamentary duties (like frequent taxi trips to private law firms) and then sneak the expenditure past parliament clerks by calling it "other expenses".

Once the techology is in place, the "full disclosure" system should save the Scottish Parliament a lot of money; other legislatures, please copy!

So what will the money be spent on?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Would You Pass The "Britishness" Test?

Test ignites questions of Britishness

On Tuesday The Scotsman listed some of the questions that people applying for British citizenship in future will have to answer. The examples show that whoever compiled the test has equated "British" with "English"; many people born in Scotland and Wales would have difficulty answering some of them.

For instance:

3) What is the Church of England and who is its head? Is it: (a) Catholic; the Pope (b) Anglican; Archbishop of Canterbury (c) Anglican; Vicar of Dibley (d) Anglican, the Queen

The Church of England isn't active in Scotland. I don't know (and don't need to know) whether its official head is the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Queen.

7) Which of these courts use a jury system? (a) Magistrates' Court (b) Crown Court (c) Youth Court (d) County Court

All these courts are (presumably) part of the English legal system. In Scotland the main court is the Sheriff Court.

Some questions are unnecessary:

1) Where are the Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?

People living in Scotland might never have to go to England. Why should they need to know about English dialects?

The answer to some questions depends on whether you're talking about theory or practical experience:

5) Do women have the same access to promotion and high salary as men?

A lot of employers don't practise what New Labour preaches.

And some questions are just daft:

9) If you spill somebody's pint in a pub, should you: (a) Offer to buy the person another pint (b) Dry their shirt with your own (c) Challenge them to a fight in the pub car park (d) Run off

If the person whose beer you you knocked over is large, male and inebriated, the only sensible answer is (d)!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Quake Survivors Need Cash Now!

UN warns quake funds drying up
Quake aid shortfall upsets aid workers
Oxfam publishes quake appeal tables

Aljazeera reported on Friday that the UN will have to drastically reduce aid supplies to 2.3 million people unless they get more money. But more aid, not less, will be needed when winter comes.

Relief workers don't understand why the international response to such an enormous disaster has been much less than the response to the tsunami disaster last Christmas.The Scotsman reported that Qxfam's league tables show that only Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Luxembourg (4 small countries) have donated an appropriate amount to the appeal.

Rich countries are only too ready to "help" when a political crisis develops. Explain the desperate situation to your elected representatives and tell them that a big donation of aid now will not only save lives, it will create international goodwill towards your country.

And DONATE NOW

Saturday, October 29, 2005

No Way To Treat A Family

Another asylum seeking family removed from Scotland

The Scottish TV report on Friday showed that the Kupeli family are intelligent, modern and keen to share in community life. Scotland should be welcoming such people, not deporting them. We need young families to counteract the age imbalance and stop population decline, and the Kupelis had integrated well and were respected by their neighbours.

The British government's anti-asylum policy is geared to the needs and attitudes of Southern England, and the cold, authoritarian methods used by immigration officials are unsuitable when children are involved.

The Scottish Parliament needs powers immediately to make immigration policies which suit the Scottish context and to deal with asylum requests humanely and caringly.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Steve Cardownie, Welcome To The SNP!

So much Labour and yet so little in return

It's a big step when someone switches parties after more than 20 years of active politics, but Edinburgh's Deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie has joined the Scottish National Party for very good reasons.

Edinburgh will be an even better city now that its Deputy Lord Provost is publicly committed to an independent, forward-looking, caring Scotland which will benefit all Scottish people. I hope you enjoy being an SNP member, Steve; I'm sure you won't regret joining.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scottish Executive's Twisted Logic About ASBOs

Progress on tackling antisocial behaviour

On Thursday the Scottish Executive reported that the year 2004-2005 saw a 42% increase in Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in Scotland - and claimed this showed the success of their policies.

What the figures do show is that the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act has not only failed to reduce antisocial behaviour, it has made things worse. If the Executive's policies had worked there would have been less need for ASBOs, not more.

This is one more example of the Labour Party's twisted logic. They describe failure as success in an effort to diguise the fact that their policies are ineffective.

Edinburgh Labour Councillors Are Nuts

Cardownie to fly to Taipei despite overseas travel ban

Now that Deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie has joined the Scottish National Party the Edinburgh Labour Party no longer has an overall majority on Edinburgh Council. OK they're miffed, but they're taking their disapproval of Mr. Cardownie to ridiculous lengths.

The Evening News reported on Wednesday that the Labour Group voted to ban Mr. Cardownie from representing Edinburgh in Taiwan at the invitation of Taipei Council , and they're trying to prevent him from representing the City at a prestigious international event for young footballers in Xi'an, China, in November.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Cardownie has gone to Taipei anyway. He was invited in his official capacity of Deputy Lord Provost of Edinburgh and he was elected to that post by all Edinburgh councillors, not just the Labour Group. It's Steve Cardownie's job to represent Edinburgh abroad, particularly when the trip is paid for by the overseas city concerned.

Edinburgh Labour councillors should come to their senses and accept that they're now only the largest party on Edinburgh Council - before they turn Scotland's Capital into an international joke.

Yay - Good For Andy!

Murray holds nerve to beat Henman

The BBC reports that Scotland's Andy Murray has beaten England's Tim Henman in the Swiss Indoors Championship. But .... "his compatriot"?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Did They Expect?

Study results 'state the obvious'

I don't often agree with Tories, but the Scottish Executive's expenditure of £57,000 to discover that 96% of students taking a social work degree want to become social workers was a total waste of resources. Why didn't they use the money to study something useful - like how the course could be improved to produce better social workers?

Next they'll be studying how many people taking medical degrees want to become doctors!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Airguns Can Kill!

SNP urges airgun licensing scheme

The British Government's proposals to register airgun dealers are not enough.

The dealers aren't the real problem. When Mark Bonini killed 2-year-old Andrew Morton in March 2005 he had bought his airgun legally. The new proposals won't prevent irresponsible people from being able to buy airguns.

The BBC reports that Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie (SNP) has proposed a licensing scheme for airguns so that they can only be sold to people who have a legitimate reason for owning a gun and are emotionally mature enough to use it properly. I don't support restrictions on personal liberty unless they're necessary, but airguns in the wrong hands can be dangerous weapons.

The Scottish Parliament urgently needs the power to legislate on things like airgun control so that we can have a sensible, effective scheme geared to the Scottish situation.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jack Who?

'Mr. England' bemuses Alabama locals

CNN reports that when British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Alabama last weekend nobody knew who he was. And US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice anticipated Scottish and Welsh independence by calling him "Mr. England".

At least Rice realises that Straw doesn't represent Scottish opinion!

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