Friday, March 09, 2007

Cromar - Scotland

Originally uploaded by fitaloon.
I will be busy this weekend with too many things to mention so I'll leave you with a view down into the Valley where I live.

Also A little poem about it too.

The Slack of Tillylodge

By George Stephen

Lo, what a prospect meets the eyes
When, gazing raptured o'er Cromar,
Beyond the Grampian peaks arise
The crowning heights of Lochnagar.

Though many a fateful year has passed
Since first I raptured to this view,
Each time's more sacred than the last
As I my eager tryst renew.

I love the Valley of the Dee
As scanned from viewpoints near and far;
But no spot is more dear to me
Than Slack of Tillylodge in Mar.

And sometimes by the Aegean Sea,
By beaches red with blood-soaked arms,
The Slack of Tillylodge for me
Seemed Paradise 'mid war's arms.*

As Moses viewed the Promised Land,
Beyond dear Jordan's stream afar;
So on this vantage ground I stand,
And long for lovely Lochnagar.

Mr sacred tryst I oft renew,
I long to be three even now;
And heaven seems nearer as I view
The hills beyond Cromar's dear howe.

*While on service in Gallipoli with the 89th Field Ambulance in 1915, I became very friendly with Major George Davidson of Torphins, son of the Rev. Dr. Davidson of Logie Coldstone. Many an evening Dr. Davidson would come to my dug-out and say: "Aye, Stephen, how would you like to be going round by Willie Robbie's tonight, and be having a look at the hills across the Howe of Mar?"

(From The Deeside Field, 2nd Series, No.6 1970)

Cameron sacks Tory front-bencher over 'black bastards' gibe

The title of this entry shows just how inaccurate papers can be when they want to sensationalise their news headlines. If the headline had said the truth that Patrick Mercer had said the following

"But that's the way it is in the Army. If someone is slow on the assault course, you'd get people shouting: 'Come on you fat bastard, come on you ginger bastard, come on you black bastard.'"
It wouldn't have had quite the same effect.

I thought long and hard on what to say on this entry because it's a very delicately balanced matter, where does racism start as against PC speak, and also because we are now so scared about discussing racism that even someone trying to talk about racism gets tainted with it.

Most people in this country (the UK) are to some extent xenophobes, in that we don't like change and mistrust the stranger in our midst. This might apply to the townie who moves to a rural area, the English person who moves to Scotland (or Vice-Versa) or the, dare I use this word, immigrant who arrives from somewhere else in the world.

We will regard them with suspicion until they become part of the scenery. I know some people in villages in Scotland, who even after 30 years are still regarded as "white settlers". My Father-in-Law is one of the "White Settlers", before that he had been 20 odd years in the Marines where he had the dual problems of being Scottish and a stand out Carrot Top.

What I am trying to say is that we as a nation take a long time to get over our fears, and to counter these fears we tend to react against them in a less than tolerant manner, but gradually over time things become better as we realise that these fears were groundless. What was said or done 30 years ago was not acceptable 20 years ago and what was said or done 20 years ago was not acceptable 10 years ago, and so it goes on, as we all, hopefully adapt and learn.

To go back to Patrick Mercer there appears to be no doubt that he was a good soldier and leader of men (and women!). When he left the army back in 1999, nearly ten years ago, he then moved into the vastly different Political world and appeared to take to it very well, this is not surprising in some ways, as the organisational and people skills he learned whilst in service would have helped him to get things done.

However being a politician is a vastly different "game" you need to think more on the actions and reactions of your words rather than your deeds. So when he said
"I came across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but who used racism as cover for their misdemeanours,"
It was taken literally to mean that a lot of ethnic soldiers were idle and useless and hiding behind racism. Not the words of a great politician. What exactly did he mean? Was he mis-quoted? Was it just clumsy phrasing? Patrick Mercer says, he meant that he had met a couple of men like this in his 20 years of service.

Unfortunately the whole tone of the Times article appears to have Patrick Mercer take on a slightly Old World and Colonel Blimp type image. It appears to say that racism was tolerated under his command and that he himself allowed it to happen.

From all accounts this appears to have been untrue. He was backed by one of the members of his battalion, Leroy Hutchison, who said

"In my 12 years with the battalion no form of racism went unpunished."

Patrick Mercer has accused the Times of putting an "extremely mendacious angle" on his comments. I would suggest that he helped then do this to some extent by his misunderstanding of what Politics is about.

He is guilty not of being a racist, but, of not being a Politician and this is why David Cameron has rightly sacked him from the Front Bench. I am sure he will continue being an effective MP.

One final thought from Muhammed Ali in 1996 which is very relevant to these times and especially to all the men and women in the services.

"When people are forced to interact to survive, their prejudices diminish."

It just takes too long elsewhere.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Scotsman - Bill for CalMac tender is £15m

The price of putting the CalMac ferry contract out to tender has been put at £15M according to an official Government response. As only one company, CalMac, is left in the tender this is perhaps rather a lot. However it may be the tip of the iceberg as the P&J reports the cost may be more properly put at £40m

Many other countries with similar sort of situations have managed to work out a way round the EEC legislation but we appear to be unable or unwilling to do this.

As one comment put it

The world belongs to the Lord,
And all that it contains
Except the Western Isles
For they belong to McBraynes

The Scotsman - Bill for CalMac tender is £15m

NHS blames Kylie for cancer target failures

Apparently Kylie is behind (nice one) problems with some regions in Scotland failing to make their targets. This would of course be the "Kylie" defence when Patricia Hewitt comes to explaining why the NHS is in such a mess.

Highland NHS in particular struggled.

An NHS Highland board meeting heard that, while in Scotland as a whole there had been a 20 per cent increase in breast-cancer referrals in the past year, referrals there had soared by 40 per cent in 12 months.

Elaine Mead, NHS Highland's chief operating officer, admitted the board's cancer waiting-time statistics were "very poor" but she said work was going on to improve the situation.

Christine McIntosh, the board's cancer network manager, said: "The Kylie effect is thought to be at least partly behind the increase in referrals seen across the country.

One can only think the highlands are more Kylie daft than the rest of the country.

The Scotsman - NHS blames Kylie for cancer target failures

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

AC Milan 1-0 Celtic (agg 1-0)

Hard luck to Celtic who battled hard but in the end lost out in extra time to AC Milan.

I have two sad wee boys here , but one who is happier as, thanks to ex-Celt Henrik Larsson, Man Utd managed to get past Lille.

BBC SPORT | Football | Europe | AC Milan 1-0 Celtic (agg 1-0)

Shock as 8000 Car Workers made Redundant.

If the details of this headline were true then every paper and TV station would be blaring it out 24 hours per day. But as its rich doctors who cares. It is the last story on the Health page on the BBC web site. It barely mentions on others. Channel 4 is about the only notable exception.

Review of flawed recruitment process welcome but does not go far enough, says BMA

The Department of Health has today (Tuesday 6 March, 2007) announced a review of the Medical Training Application Service for junior doctors.

In response, Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, says:

“The government has finally been forced to address the appalling problems with this system. We have been warning since last summer that these reforms were being rushed through too quickly. From the point of view of the thousands of doctors who’ve been messed around, given incorrect information, or denied job opportunities that they deserved, it’s a shame the government didn’t listen then.

“Not only is this response, too late, it also does not go far enough. While we welcome a review, the only fair solution now is for the interview process to be suspended until it can be clearly shown that no doctor has been disadvantaged as a result of the government’s mistakes.

We are disappointed that the government has not invited a BMA representative to sit on the review panel, given that despite all the problems we have always tried to work constructively with them to make this process work.”

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA Consultants Committee, adds:

“We have repeatedly highlighted countless problems with this system. The flawed implementation process has caused the medical profession to lose faith that we are appointing the best doctors to care for patients. Consultants have been placed in an impossible position by having to shortlist forms in too short a time. A review is welcome, but action is necessary and overdue.”

Patricia's response is awaited, though it looks like she' doing a Gordo and has disappeared, and is certainly not available to her constituents.

BBC report here.

Much better Channel 4 report of chaos here which includes decent video report.

Newswire Article: Review of flawed recruitment process welcome but does not go far enough, says BMA 06/03/2007

How Blair has stood by Niger Claim

Do you know what the "Niger Claim" is. According to this article it is notorius and first surfaced in Britain.

You might not know it by that name but is has led to one of the biggest on-going disasters the world has seen. The "Niger Claim" refers to how Iraq was attempting to get its Uranium from Niger for Saddam's supposed nuclear programme.

Unfortunately the "claim" as reported by the Indepedent

which was picked up by President George Bush in his January 2003 State of the
Union speech three months before the invasion, was used as a key piece of
evidence to justify the war. But the alleged incriminating documents forwarded
to the UN nuclear agency were found to be a crude fake.

turned out to be a fake.

The Independent goes on to say
The fallout from the flawed intelligence has claimed a slew of victims in
Washington, including the scalp of the Central Intelligence Agency chief George
Yesterday, almost four years after the Iraq invasion, the nuclear
dossier led to the toppling of a central White House figure, when Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of
However, despite the CIA's reservations over the central claim that
Saddam was allegedly attempting to buy yellowcake from Africa for his nuclear
weapons programme, and the White House having formally backed away from the
report, the British Government still clings to its original position.

So now you know what the "Niger Claim" is. Perhaps Mr Blair will use the Elf Defence to justify his claims.

Oh, by the way pop along to Iraq Dossier for more details on the work of fiction that took us to war.

Independent Online Edition > Americas

Aberdeen Councillor Quits - Update 3

A further update on this story of an Aberdeen Lib Dem Councillor, Raymond Hutcheon, quitting after 20 Years.

According to the local rag, the P&J, a 17 year old girl, Kylie Hufton, appeared on petition at Aberdeen Sheriff Court charged with allegedly conspiring to abduct and assault Councillor Hutcheon.

I'll leave you to ponder on that one.

Both Raymond Hutcheon and Kate Dean, Lib Dem and local Council leader, declined to comment yesterday.

The P&J had some more information on Raymond:

Yesterday, the councillor's home in Corsehill Croft, which has around an acre of land and stands on one corner of a busy crossroads, remained deserted.

The garden was uncared for, littered with broken glass and bits of cable and plastic.

A rusty blue van, a caravan, a trailer and a Ford Escort with no numberplate sat in the back garden and an adjoining yard was a mess of car parts and junk. There was another old van in the yard, emblazoned with Raymond Hutcheon Ltd, which had a dirty mattress inside.

The house was in a dishevelled state. Paint was peeling from the front entrance and glass panes in the back porch were smashed. Dead plants, keys and medicine bottles were scattered on windowsills.

Neighbours were reluctant to criticise Mr Hutcheon but described him variously as "foolish", "naive" and "misled".

One neighbour said there were regular "comings and goings" at the councillor's house during the night and women would get out of cars and taxis would arrive.

The Elf defence

The BBC reports the defence used in the following case:

A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

It went on to say:

Robert Boyd, 45, from Broadlands in Carrickfergus, is accused of holding up staff at the Orchid shop in Belfast disguised in a wig, hat and glasses.

He told the court he had been involved in a role-playing game at the time, and his character was an elf named Beho.

He denies robbery but says he may have blurred reality and fantasy.

He also said it "could be right" that Beho had intended to rob the shop - although he told the jury he could not remember what was going through his mind at the time.

I can think of a few other people in our government who might need to use a similar type of defence shortly.

Hat Tip to Yokel on PB for this gem.

UPDATE. Elf Defence fails

BBC NEWS Northern Ireland Elf defence for 'lingerie thief'

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Aberdeen Councillor quits - Part 2

I knew this was going to break into something bigger when I blogged on this earlier, it just had that feel to it. It now appears that Councillor Hutcheon was the subject of a possible abduction/assault plot with links to the earlier murder of Robert Mair.

At the moment the now ex-councillor is keeping quiet as to his reasons for resigning.

This is not the first time that Raymond Hutcheon, a councillor for the past twenty years, has been in trouble, five years ago he was warned by the police for Kerb Crawling and then a few months later he had to quit the Governorship of a Local school for children with behaviour problems after a relationship with a former prostititute and drug addict.

Quite how a man with this sort of background can have been a councillor and then on so many committees is quite beyond me. I imagine the Police were most interested in his being on the Police Board, and as for being on the Standards and Scrutiny committee... Words fail me.

The Herald has many details here

Video report here:

The Daily Record reported in 2005:

A KERB-CRAWLING councillor appointed to probe Scotland's sex industry claimed last night: 'I'm the ideal man for the job.'

Raymond Hutcheon, 48, escaped with a warning after being caught by police with a young woman in his van in 2002.

Months later, he was forced to resign from a school board after moving another girl - former vice girl and drug addict Nicola Stewart - into his Aberdeen home.

That relationship has now collapsed.

The Record can now reveal that Hutcheon has been appointed to a Holyrood team to form policy on how to control lap-dancing bars, sex shops and massage parlours.

Last night, the Liberal Democrat Aberdeen city councillor admitted he didn't tell Parliament bosses about his troubled past.

But he insisted it made him the ideal candidate to work alongside police chiefs, legal experts and leading academics.

Hutcheon confessed: 'I was a bit naive in thinking that this wouldn't drag everything back out again. If I had been spineless I would have said 'no' to going on this body and what happened in my private life would not have been revisited.

'Whether it changes the perspective of the others on this working group as to my suitability is down to them.

'All my skeletons are out of the cupboard, in living Technicolor.

'At certain times in the last couple of days I've really thought, 'I'm an idiot - I should have said no and just walked away from it'.'

In 2002, Hutcheon was spotted with a vice girl in his van a few hundred yards from Aberdeen University medical centre, where he works as an illustrator.

He was approached by two police officers but let off with a caution.

Hutcheon was then called to a meeting with the city council's legal director Crawford Langley, where he admitted the incident.

Yesterday, he claimed it was all a 'misunderstanding'.

And he added: 'The person I was speaking to was a drug addict who had to fund her addiction.'

Privately, Hutcheon has insisted he was trying to help the woman as she was the daughter of a constituent.

He claimed: 'If I had said more at the time I am quite sure it would never have been classed as kerb-crawling.'

Just months later, divorced Hutcheon moved a former drug-addicted prostitute into the home he shared with his 91-year-old mother and his two children.

The bizarre set-up shocked many of his colleagues. He was forced to resign from the board of governors at Aberdeen's Oakbank School for disturbed and difficult youngsters.

The revelations also didn't sit well with his position on the council's standards and scrutiny committee, which sets the code of conduct for council members.

Hutcheon yesterday admitted: 'It really was a very difficult time. We were an item. She was staying in my house at that time.

'Our friends were aware of what her problems had been. We were not trying to hide anything.

'My marriage broke up four or five years before that time.

'I was a single bloke in a relationship with a single female who had a dodgy background.

'She was someone who was living in my house with me. She wasn't someone I was keeping hidden away.'

Hutcheon said his priority had been to protect Nicola, who was trying to wean herself off drugs.

Last night, he confirmed the relationship was now over, claiming the publicity surrounding the affair 'certainly didn't help'.

Hutcheon said he hoped he would be still made welcome on the new working group, launched last week by the minister for finance and public service reform,Tom McCabe.

The group, including council and police chiefs, is chaired by Linda Costelloe Baker, the Scottish legal services ombudsman.

They will be given a whole year to come up with a report on massage parlours, sex shops, lap-dancing and pole-dancing bars.

One source said Councillor Hutcheon's experiences made him 'an inspired choice' for the 12--member working party.

And Hutcheon himself admitted: 'What I have is experience of the drugs problem. I have that insight. It's certainly knowledge and information that I think may be helpful.

'Whether I'm still on the committee come the first meeting on April 20, we'll have to wait and see.

Announcing the group, McCabe, said: 'The Executive is committed to ensuring that people working in the adult entertainment industry are protected and that controls on the industry are as robust and effective as possible.

'The working group will review the scope and impact of adult entertainment in Scotland and make recommendations to Ministers on the way forward.'

But leading Tory MSP Bill Aitken said: 'This must be very embarrassing for the Scottish Executive. Clearly they did not research Councillor Hutcheon's background.

'I doubt if his fellow working group members will be overly delighted at some of his comments.

'I daresay this guy's being upfront about his past but it leaves the adult entertainment working party looking a bit risible.'

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: 'Membership of the working group reflects a diverse range of interests.

'The differing backgrounds of members will help the group in its work to review the industry.'

BBC NEWS | Scotland | North East/N Isles | Kidnap probe as councillor quits

Aberdeen Councillor resigns after search

BBC reports a Lib Dem councillor in Aberdeen has resigned after Police searched his house on Monday.

Apparently he tendered his resignation this morning.

The search was in connection with the death of Robert Mair.
Police were apparently looking for his car and dog after his body was discovered. These were found over the weekend.

Councillor Hutcheon served on a number of sub-committees including Drugs and Alcohol Task Group, Grampian Joint Police Board and Standards and Scrutiny.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | North East/N Isles | Councillor resigns after search

Record Tory poll lead, and it’s likely to grow

The poll in todays Times shows the Tories on 38%, Labour on 30% and Liberal Democrats on 18%.

This is from the pollster normally most kind to Labour.

Any less than 30% for Labour will take then into a critical point where their polling might drop off rapidly.

Roll on the next election.

Record Tory poll lead, and it’s likely to grow-News-Politics-TimesOnline

MMC & MTAS : The West Midlands Deanery Panel passes vote of no confidence

The MMC and MTAS system is beginning to fall apart at the seams. Previous posts had shown what effect this piece of Nu Labour is having on our young doctors.

Hopefully this will herald the demise of the person who is currently responsible for this pile of typically idealogically based garbage.

That will then definitely be the best year so far for the NHS.

NHS Blog Doctor: MMC & MTAS - part 6 : The West Midlands Deanery Panel passes vote of no confidence

Monday, March 05, 2007

Too few midwives, Too many risks

The numbers:

  • £1bn+ paid out by the NHS in compensation for maternity-related claims since 2001
  • 23% of pregnant women have Caesareans each year
  • 15% limit on Caesareans recommended by the World Health Organisation
  • 24% of birth units without proper medical support
  • 722,500 births in 2005
  • 17,000+ women harmed in maternity safety incidents since November 2003
  • 391 women died during, or shortly after, childbirth between 2000 and 2002
  • 48% of women have a normal birth
  • 63% of babies are delivered by midwives each year
  • 7,000+ maternity-related compensation claims since 1995
  • 10,000 too few registered midwives
  • 18,949 full-time equivalent midwives
  • 13 women die for every 100,000 births
  • 200% rise in elective Caesareans since 1980
  • 50% increase in emergency Caesareans in the past decade
  • £1.8bn spent on maternity services in 2006
  • £37.7m savings if Caesarean rate fell below 20 per cent
  • 1 in 4 chance that a pregnancy will end in miscarriage
  • 1 in 200 chance that a baby will be stillborn
  • 3,500 babies stillborn in the UK each year
  • 70% of stillbirths that remain a mystery
  • 159,642 Caesareans carried out in the UK each year

The UK now has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Europe, with 13 deaths per 100,000.

As the Blessed Hewitt said
"It was the best year from the patients' point of view. More people were treated, faster than ever before and more lives were saved than ever before.
Of course it has been a difficult year for staff, as we have had to sort out the large over-spend. But it is now clear we are absolutely back on track to get the NHS into financial balance by the end of the year."

I have one word for you Ms Hewitt - Bollocks.

Independent Online Edition > Health Medical

RecessMonkey (Alex Hilton) - RIP

Recess Monkey that infamous Labour Blogger has flamed and died after what appears to have been a "mistake" when he announced Margaret Thatchers death on his blog last night at 12:02. Despite repeated requests for sources or denials there was no reply all night.

Apparently this was just a joke as one of his "mates" had texted him with the information which was of course false. As he commented on his blog:

If you’re coming here for well-researched news from a well-resourced news team, I can only suggest you start maybe at
Mr Hilton then proceeded to put the information on his blog after presumably making no checks. One can only suspect his state of mind at the time, possibly overcome by his drunken stupor he forgot all in his haste to put out what he thought were glad tidings. Basking in the warmth of his feelings he went to bed warmed at the thought of his hated Maggie being dead.

His vapid apology this morning will only ensure his demise as a respected? blogger. Long may he Rest in Peace.

By the way Mr Hilton is currently doing the PR for Hilary Benn. That should go down a storm with Mr Benn Senior and Junior.

He is also the man behind the not very successful LabourHome website.

One suspects that Mr Hilton will have a hangover of more than one type this morning.

A final word from the lady herself

I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

RecessMonkey » Blog Archive » ***CORRECTION*** MAGGIE JUST OLD ***

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Nicol Stephen Faces Storm Over Party Donations (from Sunday Herald)

Tartan hero reveals that Nicol Stephen that well liked MSP has accepted some interesting donations from a local business man in Aberdeen.

Now Nicol is not a stranger from getting his nose into a trough and has been in trouble before for getting his finances sorted out.

Ian Suttie the business man concerned has also been the subject of some interesting deals with the collapse of the Richards Textile company one of the most recent.

Now planning permission for a £50 million "Urban" Village centered at the now defunct Richards premises is to be decided on shortly in Aberdeen.

There is of course no suggestion the donations and permission are linked.

Nicol Stephen Faces Storm Over Party Donations (from Sunday Herald)

Campbell sets five tests for LibDem Euthanasia Policy

Menzies Campbell the pension drawing leader of the Lib Dumbs has set himself five targets before he is allowed to put himself forward for Euthanasia.

His five points, that would allow him to try and become part of NuLab and all its lies and deceits as a government, are fairly straight forward and most decent governments could probably agree with them.

But for the Lib Dumbs to come forward with this at a stage when NuLab is likely to be the minority party is nothing short of political euthanasia for him and his party.

To line up with a detested and sinking party as a ruse to gain a tiny toehold in power will be doomed. Look to Scotland and what their link up with Scottish Labour has done to their popularity and standing.

And one final point where is that great point that Lib Dumbs always go on about Proportional Representation, has that disappeared into the abyss of Political expediency?

This is the politics of desperation and will no doubt rebound on them badly.

Maybe they do need to go back to a leader they can rely on.

Liberal Democrats : Campbell sets five tests for Gordon Brown

McConnell starts dirty war

I see even the Labour Heartlands in Scotland are turning against them.

Labour are going to stop campaigning on their achievements, tricky one that with so little achieved and concentrate on a negative campaign. With their ability to lie, lie and then lie agian this could be interesting as they will almost certainly be caught out a they try and spin themselves back to their troughs.

Apparently the campaign will be as follows:

  • Scottish Labour have 'given up' on positive electioneering
  • Plans to discredit SNP are revealed by party sources
  • Independence bashing will be at centre of campaign
A key source in Labour said:

"There is nothing that Labour can say that will change peoples' minds about Labour. There is no point in having a positive campaign because it doesn't wash. There isn't a bit of evidence to suggest that going positive will make any difference. They don't know Jack and they don't like Labour."
Just about says it all for the contempt Labour now has for the public.

My advice vote anyone but Labour and their lackeys the LibDems. They have failed Scotland too many times already. News - McConnell starts dirty war