A wee tale about how delaying changes to Fixed Odd Betting Terminals, helps not a single problem gambler, but instead preserves betting companies donations to the Tory party.

Flicking through Hansard (As you do when your cats decide they want feeding at 02:00 hours, leaving you wide awake post enforced nurturing), I spotted the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright’s defence of the further delay the reduction of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) maximum stake from £100 to £2.

 

“It also has to be recognised that, right though this change is, money for public services coming from the use of FOBTs has to be replaced, or public services will have less funding.”

 

Quantum of the “Money for public services” is absent from the debate, as is the cost to public services from problem gamblers. I suspect omission of the first value, is prompted by the second value.

 

A recent study by the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR) estimated that

 

“the current population of problem gamblers are associated with between £260 million and £1.2 billion a year of extra cost to government. These costs were spread across health (primary care, mental health services, secondary mental health services and hospital inpatient services), welfare and employment (Job seeker allowance claimants and lost labour tax receipts), housing (statutory homelessness applications), and criminal justice (incarcerations)”

 

This study formed part of the governments own impact study on the (then) proposed changes to FOBT’s. The impact study also estimated11.5% of players are problem gamblers and a further 32% are considered at risk of harm)

 

So why the delay?

 

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) “The Evening Times reports that there are more than 800 FOBTs and 200 betting shops in the city of Glasgow alone, and that £31 million a year is lost to these machines. What does the Minister say to my constituents, who are losing out every day to these machines?”

 

Jeremy Wright stated, inter alia, the betting industry needed time to adjust to a reduced revenue, job losses et al, but at a cost of £260m-£1.2 billion, does such a delay represent good value for money from the public purse? I’d aver it doesn’t.

 

There’s an uncomfortable link between the gambling industry and the Tory party, last year Bet Fred donated £166,000 via their firm Rainy City Investments.

 

Bet Fred are in line for a £1 billion windfall after winning a VAT appeal against HM Revenue and Customs earlier this year, which I assume won’t slave the pain of FOBT changes?

 

William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral have spent £18,018 entertaining 12 MPs since 2016, a figure increased from roughly £2000 per year in the previous 3 years. 40% of the increased hospitality coincided with the announcement of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) review into book makers.

 

Of the £18,018 in hospitality the biggest beneficiaries are two Conservative MPs, Philip Davies and Laurence Robertson. Phillip Davies was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (27 Feb 2006 to 30 Mar 2015) and is currently co-chair of Betting and Gaming All-Party Parliamentary Group.

 

Such delays and associated costs are typical of the Tories spendthrift ways, whilst purporting to protecting the public purse. There’s a history of wasting public money of failed projects.

 

Within the Government’s £455bn project portfolio, projects worth a total of £159bn are rated amber/red or red – meaning their successful delivery appears ‘in doubt’ or ‘unachievable’. These projects include

 

HS2 (which of course won’t be coming to Scotland

Apprenticeship Reform

Helena Airport

Astute Boats

Land Environment Systems

 

Scaremongering? Well a quick peek in the past shows a plethora of failed Government projects, here’s just a couple;

 

The NHS National Program for IT failed at a cost of 10 billion (25% of our block grant value).

 

Libra System for Magistrates saw the government pay Fujitsu circa £319 million, even though the government had to dump Fujitsu before they finished the contract.

 

This is a government that wastes money hand over fist, whilst purporting to protect the public purse.

 

This is a government that seems to think little of the harm FOBT’s do to the individual and community, in favour of maintaining a tax revenue stream, it’s the same government that’s content to force families on to universal credit with a loss of around £286 per month (Child Poverty Action Group) or if folk are on disability benefits the loss is far greater, despite underpaying benefits by £14 billion per year.

 

Then again, this is a government determined to effect greater damage on our industries than Thatcher ever could via Brexit, so should we be surprised?

 

A wee tale about how Labour in Scotland returned £1.5 billion to Westminster rather than implement equal pay; build hospitals; improve public services; maintain historic building etc.

The Fair Pay strike in Glasgow, supported by Labour in Scotland (LIS) and the GMB and Unison, is perhaps one of the most cynical manipulation of the GMB membership I can think of.

 

I think it’s clear to most folk the issue about pay wasn’t of the SNP’s doing, but is a toxic legacy from the LIS era when coincidently, a certain Richard Leonard was an organiser for the GMB union representing workers in manufacturing, commercial and public services across Scotland.

 

It should be noted that Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken announced as soon as the SNP won the GCC leadership, those women with pay claims had won their case, as far as the SNP were concerned.

 

The members are absolutely right to feel aggrieved having waited so long for the pay adjustment, but as leader of told BBC radio yesterday morning, not only does she have 30 employees working to resolve the matter, she plans to start payments at the start of the next financial year, and as yet she’s to agree quantum with the unions and their legal team.

 

GMB members would be right to view the GMB and LIS’s cynical approach as a further grievance and sue for the loss of two days pay. They wouldn’t be the first to sue the GMB for poor advice on this pay issue.

 

There’s more to it though, whilst it’s cost the members striking two days pay, in the wider community the cost will be greater.  Schools and nurseries closing may require parents to take time off, and for those low-income family’s loss of free school dinners will put more pressure on already tight budgets.

 

Then there’s the vulnerable who would usually get care visits throughout the day, some require around four daily visits, who’s going to step in, Family? Not all vulnerable folk have family members able to at the drop of a hat take over caring duties. Personally; my nearest relative lives in Portsmouth and is himself in poor health.

 

A responsible union would have agreed a Life and Limb cover, for the vulnerable, and Glasgow City Council thought that was the case, but a spokesman said: “We believed we had an agreement on providing life and limb cover for our most vulnerable citizens – indeed, the unions told the public that cover would be in place. “It won’t. There has been absolutely no meaningful effort from the unions to work with us and their membership to ensure that life and limb cover will be in place.”

 

On UNISON’s own page they made this statement “The strike will affect schools, nurseries, home care, cleaning and catering across the city – but UNISON regional organiser Mandy McDowell is keen to stress that the union and its members will make sure there is full life and limb cover for services helping vulnerable people.” So where is it then?

 

Let me be very clear, I have no issues with strikes having been a union official for eight years, but I do have an issue with leaving vulnerable folk sitting in their own excrement for up to 48 hours, so as your union and Labour in Scotland can try to score political points. You know what? I suspect that many of the carers out there will feel exactly the same when they return to work to find clients in a states of distress.

 

As for Labour, well as the below article demonstrates, they had £1.5 Billion in surplus funds in 2006, but rather than investing in equal pay, or indeed any other Scottish services, it sent the money back to the Westminster treasury.

 

 

 

Treasury could force Holyrood to conform

 

Douglas Fraser, Scottish Political Editor (The Herald)

 

The Treasury’s moves to whip Holyrood ministers into line in the spending of devolved money was last night condemned as thwarting the will of the Scottish Parliament.

 

The Scottish National Party reacted angrily to The Herald’s disclosure that ministers from the Scottish Executive are being forced to conform to Whitehall’s policies if they are to have access to £1.5bn.

 

John Swinney, the party’s finance spokesman, said: “This is a scandalous indictment of the executive’s mismanagement of the public finances of Scotland. They have failed to draw down the money to which Scotland is entitled, and they risk falling into the trap of a London treasury cash grab.”

 

The row is about accountability. More than £25bn is granted from the Treasury to Holyrood each year, and in choosing how to spend it, the executive is accountable to the Scottish Parliament and to Audit Scotland, and not to MPs or Whitehall ministers.

 

The executive has left funds unspent at the end of each financial year, provoking criticism from opposition parties. In the most recent figures, for 2004-05, the underspend was relatively low, at £273m.

 

That unspent money has amassed in a vast savings account held by the Treasury. As The Herald revealed four months ago, that had accumulated by last year to £1.5bn.

 

Mr Swinney described it then as an “election war chest”, and Tom McCabe, the finance minister, responded that most of the money was allocated.

 

If it is a war chest, Gordon Brown is doing nothing to help Jack McConnell with his re-election efforts in May next year.

 

Treasury reluctance to let Scottish ministers draw on that fund means that £135m was withdrawn in the first half of last financial year, reducing to £35m, or 2% of the fund, for the second half. It will not be known until July how much has been added to the fund during the past financial year.

 

In past years, when the treasury was running a surplus, the money was released on request. But the chancellor’s department now says it needs to ensure money is not being wasted on inefficient bureaucracy.

 

The executive’s cut in business rates requires a drawdown of around £280m, but in Whitehall that is seen as Scotland using its funds to undercut England as a more attractive part of the UK to locate.

 

The new approach gives scope for the Treasury to challenge the Scottish Parliament’s choice of funding free personal care for the elderly.

 

The executive’s private concerns are not being made public, because ministers fear a row could create bigger problems. But the Treasury will also have been made aware it risks a nationalist backlash.

 

That began yesterday, with Mr Swinney saying: “The Treasury stance makes a mockery of devolution because what it effectively does is give the treasury a veto over decisions arrived at by the democratically-elected Scottish Parliament.”

A wee tale of how Raynair could learn about dealing with racists from the people of Scotland, First Bus and Police Scotland

 

 

I was pretty shocked at the Ryan Air passenger who refused to be seated with a woman of colour.

 

I was outraged by Ryanair allowing the abuser to remain on the flight, but proud of the fellow passenger that intervened.

 

I’ve been there.

 

Around six years ago, I boarded my usual bus home. I took the first available seat next to an older guy who immediately dug me in the ribs telling I couldn’t sit there. I looked around to see if he perhaps had a relative or pal joining. Not seeing anyone, I simply said to the effect “It’s empty so I’ll sit where I like” His reply “I don’t sit next the likes of you” and continued to push me, as if to get me off the seat.

 

I spoke with the driver who told him to behave himself. Then the two mature ladies sat behind him, gave him a mouthful, telling him he couldn’t speak to black people like that, and to behave himself. He didn’t seem to want to settle down, so one of the women got up, gave me her seat and sat next the old guy. She spent the rest of the journey giving him a piece of her mind,

 

At my stop, I was ready for him, just as I was leaving I took a picture of him and reported the incident to police Scotland.

 

Police Scotland were pretty impressive, I printed the picture off and took it to them. They very much kept in contact, updating me that they had the video footage from the bus, but had simply been unable to find the guy.

 

At six months they informed me there was no longer ay real prospect of finding him, so I just let the matter rest.

 

Maybe a year passed, I was getting on my bus and who did I spot but the same guy. He saw me but there wasn’t a hint of recognition.

 

I bided my time, in the hope that when he got off I’d follow him to get his address for the police.

 

Then I spotted two police officers. I told the driver there was a guy guilty of a hate crime on board, and would please pull up next to the police, he did.

 

I explained the situation to the officers, who removed the guy from the bus and arrested him.

 

One quipped, “It’s a good day for you, but your bus has gone” As luck would have it, I could see my front door from where the bus had dropped me.

 

I got a call the following morning from the police. They described the offender as elderly and completely in shock, having spent the night in the cells and wanted to know if I wanted him to be prosecuted?

 

I decided not to go any further. He’d had a night in the cells and was in no doubt his behaviour would not be tolerated, I was content to let him off with a warning from the police in the hope that mercy might have him rethinking his prejudice.

 

Perhaps Raynair should take a look at how we do things in Scotland?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sooo, companies receiving government assistance in Scotland will have to pay the living wage from the financial year. I may have played a part in this.

 

 

I may have played a part in this.

 

Back in January 2017, somewhat outraged how the likes of BHS, JD Sports and Sports Direct were reported to abuse their workers I wrote to my MSP Bob Doris MSP SNP, with a cunning plan. Here’s his letter to Keith Brown Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work,

 

“Dear Keith,

I have been contacted by a constituent of mine regarding the poor employment practices by BHS, JD Sports and Sports Direct.

 

Although the constituent is aware that these matters, unfortunately, remain within the realm of reserved powers and therefore not within the Scottish Government’s jurisdiction…as my constituent has articulated, relating to how the Scottish Government could ensure that businesses commit to fair treatment of their employees.

 

My constituent in particular mentions support of the Scottish Government in relation to grants and loans. He suggests terms and conditions could be attached to such financial support to promote improved working conditions and employment practices…”

 

I was that constituent.

 

You see, I had experienced the way companies treat their workforce as a Union officer.

 

One particular trick was to take government support, but as soon as those funds ran out, the company would start outsourcing the work.

 

The company I worked for opened a call centre in Glasgow from scratch and was granted (as I recall) £10m by the then Labour in Scotland government.

 

Those funds were contingent on recruiting an agreed number of workers over several years. The company would receive a percentage of the money annually as they hit the workforce target.

 

I do recall a rather panicked HR manager, explaining to me that there was to be an urgent recruitment drive as the last of the grant was due and they’d not got the required bums on seats.

 

It was a great place to work, out union was well established, and a basic grade customer advisor could earn around £21k with bonus and an additional £6k if they worked the Sunday shift.

 

That was the last recruitment drive, bye and bye, the treatment of our members deteriorated.

 

The pressure to hit impossible targets was immense. Members were expected to hit compliance targets 100% and as all the calls were recorded, they faced the sack if they were heard to be non-compliant.

 

As the on-site head of the union, I was lucky that most of my team had worked on the phones for a good few years. So, they had the skills to forensically examine all the evidence managers said they had against our members. Around 60% of the noncompliance cases were dismissed, as my team found the member was compliant.

 

Our team found ourselves in nothing short of a constant battle with managers wanting to sack members for poor performance. However, we found that some of the managers had not supported our members as policy dictated (Indeed one faked the members file and was sacked himself), so were able to save a lot of members jobs.

 

Sickness increased and but for our understanding of the Equality Act, we’d have lost even more members. In one case the sacked member explained he was epileptic, and that his manager knew, but had no occupational health record to support the claim. We lost the dismissal case, but he won an industrial tribunal, when we obtained the hidden occupational health report confirming his condition.

 

We then learned that the business was using outsource companies. It became clear that an outsourced worker doing the same job as our members, was attractive to the business as they only earned minimum wage. So pressure was on managers to get rid of the expensive in-house staff.

 

Of course, the company claimed that calls into the centre had fallen, so there wasn’t a need to recruit more staff, unfortunately for them, one of our members obtained a document showing the opposite, but that the ratio of outsourced workers was rapidly increasing. At that point around 70% of the work was outsourced.

 

Despite our best efforts, though normal attrition and further disciplinary actions the number of workers fell steeply.

 

Then the company planned to outsource the whole centre. Interestingly a certain Andy Kerr (Deputy General Secretary of the CWU), called all officers to a meeting in York, to discuss how we could fight the company plans. At the start of the meeting Andy Kerr breezily announced that the transfer would happen whatever we did.

 

At that meeting I did a piece to camera in which I mentioned the companies premise for the transfer was false and discussed the leaked document. (which I’d also given to our National Officer weeks earlier)

 

My interview was cut as was any mention of the leaked document.

 

The transfer went ahead, but I took voluntary redundancy on the basis that if the union isn’t behind you it was already a lost battle.

 

The reason I wrote to Bob Doris, was that to my mind, if businesses receive our tax money as grants, then they need to provide ethical working practices and sustainable jobs.

 

We should not allow businesses to take from our communities without a long-term commitment to sustain the communities.

 

We certainly shouldn’t entertain companies with government funds, when they perpetuate poverty by paying minimum wages and little (if any) Tax.

 

Hopefully the SNP has struck a huge win for Scottish workers in insisting the living wage is paid by companies received government assistance. It’s managed to work round a reserved issue.

 

And you wonder why Westminster won’t devolve employment law to Scotland?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wee tale about why unionists should fear Westminster as much as Nationalists

When unionists reflect on their desire to remain in the UK, they may want to read the quotation taken from “European Economic Area (EEA) Migration in the UK: Final report Migration Advisory (MAC) Committee September 2018”

 

“Migration is much less effective at dealing with a rising old age dependency ratio than increases in the pension age and immigration may not be an effective strategy for sustaining remote communities unless the reasons for locals leaving are addressed.”

 

Let’s be very clear here, rather than Scotland maintaining and growing its population and attracting professionals for Schools and Hospitals via immigration, Westminster would rather increase our retirement age again, which in 2019 rises to 66 (by 2020) and to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

 

But that’s not all. According to Age UK “The State Pension age is going to be kept under review, which means that it could change again in the future, depending on different factors, such as changes in life expectancy”

 

Life expectancy has increased for Scotland as a whole and is expected to reach 82.3 years for males and 85.0 years for females by 2039, which it would seem has instilled fear within the Westminster treasury unburdened (it would appear) with the £14 billion it has in unclaimed benefits per year.

 

As to working past 67 I wonder what occupations Westminster expect to still be fit enough to work? I’m minded of the melancholy press reports of 77-year-old bus driver who killed two people whilst driving his bus, he was later found to be suffering from dementia.

 

I’m sure there are many Scots of 67 plus years who remain sprightly with their faculties intact, I’d aver however, they have by that age contributed enough to the economy and have earned the right to retire.

 

Will folk feel under pressure to work past their health limitations for fear of destitution, because of the cruelly capricious nature of disability benefits, which have been denied to even moribund folk?

 

The Norwegian system (a common comparison model) enables their workers to withdraw their pension after 40 years of contributions, meaning a full pension can be drawn at 62.

 

 

There’s more to the shackles to which Westminster binds the Scottish government.

 

The immigration CAP which applies to non-EU immigrants, essentially is a lottery of 20,700 working visas per year, allocated monthly (2587) and available to those applying with a guaranteed salary of £20,800.

 

However, if demand exceeds the monthly allocation, the government then raises the salary threshold as happened last year (December) when it raised the salary requirement to £55,000, a salary that far exceeds the starting pay of many professionals our country is short of.

 

Moreover, as the MACs’ earlier report acknowledges “…. but we heard evidence that in practice it (the CAP) prioritises those roles with the very highest salaries to the exclusion of other criteria—disadvantaging Scottish businesses in favour of those in London and the South East who offer the highest salaries.”

 

Now I’m a critic Westminster’s policies and have argued before their tendency not to perform any real diligence in respect of the policy and us the stake holder, as is amply demonstrated by the paucity of Brexit impact studies.

 

However, the MAC is scathing of the government’s indolence around impact studies “There is insufficient attention given by the Government to monitoring or evaluating the impact of policy changes.  We know little about the impact of the immigration skills charge, the health charge or changes to the Tier 2 system.”

 

The MAC further report’s “There is a need for much more systematic evaluation of whether labour migration policies are achieving their intended goals. This requires much better use of existing data.”

 

With the Union, I foresee a Scotland deprived of the means to prosper via an adequate workforce. Instead the folk of Scotland will be forced to work well beyond a healthy age without the professionals to turn to for health needs.

 

Westminster polices are akin to a house built without foundations, the consistent lack of due diligence is frankly, hare-brained and denies the people of Scotland the aspirations we have, of being a successful independent country.

 

If the time for independence is not now, surely it must be very close?

 

 

 

 

A wee story about how BSE made rUK quite mad at Scottish Farmers

Whilst I don’t condone the transportation of live cattle, what has pricked my curiosity, is the BBC’s claim that “About 5,000 calves were shipped to Europe last year from Scotland yet none were exported from England”

To address an emotive industry is commendable, however isolating just one aspect (Scottish calves) is, I’d aver, somewhat questionable.

Live animal transports are a major industry, figures available show between 2012 and 2016 UK had exported £1.3 billion of live animals to the EU – England accounted for 84% of this total, with the East of England alone accounting for 66%. Scotland accounted for 9%, followed by Northern Ireland at 5% and Wales at 1%. (Commons Library Briefing, 12 June 2017)

Whilst there have been rumours and somewhat limp attempts to ban live animal exports through private members bills, I suspect there’s a different agenda linked to yet another pro Brexit attempt at demonising Scottish farmers in much the same way as it did with immigrants et al.

The Tory 2017 election manifesto states “As we leave the EU, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter”

Which highlights the that fact the UK government cannot ban such exports because such a ban would breach free movement of goods enshrined under EU law, presumably assuming future trading partners such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would allow such a ban?

The manifesto pledge is a red herring, as the RSPCA indicated “The UK will still be bound by those rules set by international bodies of which it is a member.  These include trade rules, as set by the WTO, and which limit its ability to ban imports exports or give any trade advantages to its own producers”. (The EU Referendum result: the impact on animal welfare FROM THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT)

All of which causes me to again question why its Scottish calves highlighted? What changes have occurred to bring Scottish cattle in the spotlight?

Could it be The World Organisation for Animal Health’s announcement in September 2017 stating the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) risk from beef raised in Scotland and Northern Ireland is at the safest level available – negligible risk? The announcement represents a real boost for Scottish (and Irish) farming, given the lamentable failing of the UK government to address the seasonal workers shortage.

Whilst England and Wales continue to be recognised as having controlled risk BSE status, in trading terms it means Scottish cattle farmers now have a competitive advantage over English and Welsh beef producers, an advantage that won’t be changed by Brexit, but if tarnishing Scottish Farmers produce reduces the competitive advantage and gets more uninformed  pro-Brexic votes (in the event of a People’s Vote being realised), maybe it explains why Scottish calves only were the subject of recent headlines?

 

If you’re using ‘Who Follows/Unfollows me’; Doodo.fun etc on Twitter you should read this

“Who Follows/Unfollows me”; Doodo.fun How to have your political position stolen and replaced, then have all your friends informed, and when they check your profile it suddenly reflects your ‘new’ allegiance.

 

We saw what Cambridge Analytica et al did with our data on facebook, which makes it very alarming to see twitter users are giving away complete control of their accounts to certain apps.

 

“Who Follows/Unfollows me” is one of these apps. Praying on our instinctive curiosity to see when we gain or lose followers, (Despite the stats being avialiable on your account by clicking your name and scrolling down) but as my late old mum was fond of saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Signing up for the app is easy, it asks you to sign in via Twitter, however I rather suspect folk are missing/ignoring the following info that pops up stating

 

This application will be able to:

 

Read Tweets from your timeline.

See who you follow and follow new people.

Update your profile.

Post Tweets for you.

Access your direct messages.

To be clear, whoever’s behind the app has FULL CONTROL of your twitter account FULL CONTROL, it could quite easily send a tweet along the lines of

 

“I used to support the SNP, but now I support the Tories” or which-ever party/cause the app owner supports.

 

Those cute/extraordinary/crazy Videos from dodo.fun ? Click on those and you’ll be giving the app exactly the same permissions as you’d have done with the “Who Follows/Unfollows me” app.

Getting Rid?

 

Feedback I’ve had from folk who have the app, report it’s difficult to remove via a tablet or phone.

 

On a PC it’s very straight forward

 

Click your profile picture

Select ‘Settings and Privacy’

Select ‘Apps’ on the left of the screen. (You may need to scroll down to see it.)

Click on ‘Apps’

Once you’ve found the app, simply ‘Revoke Access’

That’s you clear of it then, feel free to retweet to your followers