Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Why do Police Scotland not budge on voluntary civil aviation help?

In 2013, Willie Rennie MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Scottish Liberal Democrats) asked the Scottish Government what the position was on the role of the civil air patrol service in carrying out extended searches and about what discussions it had had with the service regarding its future role. (S4W-18227).

 Kenny MacAskill replied that the Scottish Government valued the contributions of volunteers, including Civil Air Patrol members to resilience and emergency response work, and that it had been in discussion with Civil Air Patrol, Police Scotland and the Civil Aviation Authority on the issue.

The Scottish Government and Police Scotland had asked the Civil Aviation Authority to determine measures necessary to be taken to remove any regulatory barriers to Police Scotland tasking Civil Air Patrol to assist in search operations.

Mr Rennie also asked the Scottish Government what its position was on Police Scotland’s then decision to no longer use the civil air patrol service and what discussions it had had with Police Scotland regarding that. (S4W-18228).

Mr MacAskill replied that tasking decisions on the use of particular assets are operational matters for Police Scotland. The Scottish Government and Police Scotland had asked the Civil Aviation Authority to determine what measures could be taken to remove any existing regulatory barriers to Police Scotland working with the Civil Air Patrol service.

Since then not much progress appears to have been reported and just this week we have had the horrible news of a crashed car going unnoticed for 3 days despite at least one report to a control room.  Mr Rennie has commented on the tragedy but even he has failed to connect the matter with his his earlier questions, which he does not appear since to have pursued anyway.

Now, lines of sight are an interesting topic - I can quite see why someone sitting in a car, a police patrol car for example, might not see a crashed vehicle lying below his line of vision  below a bank.

But I also know that the perspective chances quite considerable from a more elevated position - from an aircraft flying overhead, for example.   In the case in point, woodland may have obscured even that line of sight.

None of this is a good reason for Police Scotland to not work with the Civil Air Patrol. The  Police do so in England.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Unionist Strategy for Scotland's Holyrood Elections.

The SNP won 56 seats out of 59 on the first past the post vote - the Unionist vote was as good, about equal to the nationalist vote, but divided between Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems. 

Had the Unionist held open primaries to select a Unionist Candidate per seat, the Unionist side might have taken half the seats.

In late summer 2014, after the referendum , I suggested Unionist should discuss this - the Conservatives replied the next day stating they would do no deals. 

In North East Fife (NEF), the Lib Dems really believed that they would get more than the SNP even when Ashcroft polls showed the SNP on 40/45% with Lib Dems on 30% and Tories on 14% - and the result was on those lines.

The Tories, likewise, told all who would listen that they were going to win. 

Party came before common sense and statistics. That was clear, as even the NO campaign saw each party trying to get credit for being the backbone of Unionism. 

Tories here (NEF) would not concede that a single Unionist would be better, as they wanted the satisfaction of Tories beating the Lib Dems, which they thought they'd do as Ming Campbell had stood down.

It is now past time for Unionists in Scotland to reform - they need a broad coalition or at least a deal to stop the SNP clean-sweeping at Holyrood in 2016. 

I suggest they hold cross party open primaries to select the single Unionist candidate for in each constituency.  The parties should still put forward full party list for the Additional Members contest.

The alternative way to put the full glare on the SNP in power in Holyrood is for Cameron to give Holyrood full fiscal autonomy now.

The SNP, Sturgeon and Swiney, should immediatley have to carry the full the can for a Scottish Budget from the Autumn statement onwards.  That would remove any case the SNP could make to blame Westmintser as usual, and dodge those realities already evident  - such as the poorer showing of the NHS and Education in Scotland compared to England, etc.

Let Unionist parties in Scotland now develop a joint selfless strategy.

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.

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.