Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Same old tunes on the Ross Bandstand.

Saturday's March of the McGlashans saw the usual uneasy alliance of Wee Eck, Margo, Patrick and Foxy, plus assorted hangers-on, all proclaiming their very different ideas of a separatist Scotland to a small and motley band of historical re-enactment enthusiasts, Basques, Venetians, Flemish, CND members, 32-county Irish republicans, Tommy Sheridan groupies and pot-smokers (sorry, the Legalise Cannabis Campaign). But the rhetoric was entirely predicable.

El Presidente opened with “Let’s think of some of the things Westminster chooses. Why should they choose austerity when we want to choose investment? We choose a different way to protect the people of Scotland and we want the right to choose whether our people should be sent into illegal wars and we want the right to choose to remove weapons of mass destruction from the shores of Scotland.”

Well, it's not just Westminster who chose austerity. Our neighbours in Eck's infamous "arc of prosperity" chose austerity too, and much more severe than ours. Though, being the small and vulnerable nation that it is, it was probably more of a necessity than a choice in Ireland's case.

As for "sending our people into illegal wars", well it may be news to Eck, but National Service ended 50 years ago. Our armed forces now consist of people who volunteered of their own free will to serve the UK. Anyone who joins up, especially in the last decade or so, does so in the full knowledge, or even expectation, or, dare I say it, even hope, that they will see active service, with all the risks to life and limb that that entails. This is amply illustrated by the fact that recruitment into HM Forces from, of all places, the Republic of Ireland, has increased in recent years. Scotland separating from the UK wouldn't stop those Scots who wanted to join the UK military from doing so, just as they do now.

And the right to choose to remove weapons of mass destruction? As Dr Michael Williams of Royal Holloway College pointed out this month, the UK's nuclear deterrent ain't going anywhere anytime soon; “Due to the sheer impossibility of relocating the assets at Faslane in the near term (if ever) a condition of Scottish independence will need to be long-term basing rights of the UK fleet in Faslane.”

Of course Eck claimed the recent British Social Attitudes survey "showed that independence was now the most popular option". Well, that 43% response that the nationalists have seized on with glee actually required a weasel-worded question which made no mention at all of the I-word. The more explicit question only resulted in 32% in favour of independence. Which just goes to prove how important it is for the referendum question to be clear and honest.

As for the supporting acts, Aamer Anwar made the embarrassing confession that he had been “inspired” by the film Braveheart. A film once described by John O'Farrell as being so historically inaccurate that it could not have been more historically inaccurate, even if a plasticine dog had been inserted in the film and the title changed to William Wallace and Gromit. Anwar went on: "The soul of Scotland, long suppressed, is finally finding its voice." Oops. Obviously didn't get the memo from Wee Eck earlier this year that "Scotland is not oppressed and we have no need to be liberated". Colin Fox announced “This is the beginning of the Scottish spring”. Sorry Colin, Gorgeous George got there first with his "Bradford Spring". Although to be fair, Foxy probably beats him for sheer ludicrousness by a nose.

Monday, 17 September 2012

On the benefits of unification ...by the SNP.

So, according to the Riaghaltas na h-Alba, we can look forward to a new, unified national Police Service of Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as of the 1st of April next year.

Curious about the justifications given for the unification of these services, Union Jock decided to peruse the Scottish Government's Police Reform Programme Outline Business Case, published in September 2011. Cutting to the chase (Chapter 8: Identifying the Preferred Option), the main benefit proposed is, of course, cost saving, due to the obvious economies of scale: an estimated annual recurring cash saving of £106 million, they claim.

But there are non-monetary benefits as well. According to the business case, these are as follows:

Retaining separate forces would perpetuate the existing inequalities of provision across Scotland. Compared to an alternative option of a small number of regional authorities, the unified option would remove unnecessary duplication and ensure consistency across Scotland, given the autonomy the regional bodies would have in developing their own delivery models. The regional option would also require the most complex, lengthy and potentially risky transformation programme. So a single service model presents the best opportunity to drive out duplication, ensure consistency, and rationalise existing systems and structures as far as possible. Efficiencies would be realised through economies of scale; expertise, capability and budgets could be pooled at a national level then targeted to local need. Stopping the duplication of support services and deploying specialist resources flexibly across all of Scotland in line with need, would protect the services people care about most and lead to a safer Scotland. Anything short of full unification would involve a series of compromises and sub-optimal arrangements which would cumulatively undermine the economic and organisational case.

So, in short, the SNP administration say that maintaining separate fiefdoms is bad because it wastes money, leads to inefficiencies and inequalities and prevents the pooling of resources. Only by unification can a service to the public be provided effectively. In addition, complex, lengthy and risky transformation programmes are best avoided.

Fancy that.