Saturday, 2 August 2014

Some facts about Scotland's Food Banks

Food banks are not new. Food banks are not unique to Scotland. Food banks are not unique to the UK (e.g. Germany).  I donate to food banks. If we look at who uses food banks, it is hard to see how they can disappear overnight. This short blog is about food banks in Scotland and their link with The Scottish Welfare Fund.

Scotland's deputy first minister announced last year that a welfare fund had been set up to to help "the country's most vulnerable people" - "The Scottish Welfare Fund". The UK Government contributed £24m and Holyrood provided £9m. This money could be used to provide "crisis payments for those who could not afford to feed their children" due to benefit delays. So far, so good.

In September we heard that the money was not being spent as "many people who tell councils they have financial difficulties are advised to go to food banks – without being told about cash or voucher help available under the new £33m Scottish Welfare Fund.".  Not so good.

In October last year we heard that this money was still not getting to families. Sturgeon was urged to act. Did she?

In May the SNP Scot Gov answered this question on their website: 
Question: "Will you be sent to a foodbank if you apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund?"
SNP Gov Answer: "Possibly: For some Councils, the local foodbank is a part of the way they offer help through the Scottish Welfare Fund.".
So rather than making payments to the needy, the SNP Gov are sending them to food banks. Why?

We now know that £4.3m of the The Scottish Welfare Fund has gone unclaimed. Why are families using food banks when this money is available to them? They are entitled to it! Even in Glasgow, 10% of the budget is unspent.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

McKee, Swinney, £400,000 & Greenfold Systems Limited

Ivan McKee is a "Director" of Business for Scotland. BfS is described as a "business network for pro-independence business people and professionals".  Business for Scotland produce highly biased "analysis" on a broad range of topics (not just business related). BfS are a key part of SNP's #YesScotland, and often share meetings with leading members of the SNP. For example, McKee and John Swinney recently ran a  meeting together in Dunfermline - I am sure Swinney was very grateful for McKee's support.

Other than his links with BfS, it is not clear what wee Ivan's business experience isWonder no more! It turns out that he is based in Morpeth (England) and is the Director of a company known as Greenfold Systems Limited which is registered in Leigh (England). Nothing wrong with that.

In February 2013 it was announced that the Scottish Government had given Greenfold Systems Limited a £400,000 RSA grant. Following this, the SNP's John Swinney visited their Dunfermline base on 1st of May 2013. Lovely. 

(Swinney & McKee are in the middle)

What is interesting is that it was around this time that Business for Scotland was registered (23rd of August 2012) and launched (14th of May 2013). Nothing wrong with that.

I am sure that this is all above board, but one has to wonder why McKee is so shy about his links with Greenfold Systems Limited? Perhaps it is simply because the other directors think we are #BetterTogether?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Business for Scotland - Who are these people?

Hardly a week goes by without a major Scottish employer raising concerns about Scotland leaving the UK. These range from massive employers like Standard Life and the Weir Group, to smaller outfits like the Orion Group. Even CBI Scotland has raised concerns with MSPs. Support for the SNP case is less clear. We know that tax exile Jim McColl  and "devout capitalist" Brian Souter support the nationalist cause, but other than that support is thin on the ground.

To paper over this crack, SNP's #YesScotland have Business for Scotland. BfS is described as a "business network for pro-independence business people and professionals".  Business for Scotland produce highly biased "analysis" on a broad range of topics (not just business related). They also claim to have 1700 members. Out of the reported 1700 members, their website lists a modest 60 or so. Who are these people? What companies do they run? How many people do they employ? Lets take a look:

Oops, let's remove the unknowns:

I have listed the members at the bottom of this page. It appears that most are shy about the name of their company and/or its size - I am sure they are all genuine. Perhaps I should have heard of some of the others, but I have't. Inspection shows that many are very small - either sole traders or perhaps part-time efforts. This is not a bad thing, but it shows that Business for Scotland is no counterbalance to the detailed and independent judgements made by companies such as  Standard Life and the Weir Group, or even smaller outfits like the Orion Group. Remember this. 

What about the other 1640 members BfS claim to have? Without any information, we can only make assumptions. To avoid this uncertainty, I would like to challenge BfS to list all of their members, the name of their companies and their size. Why wouldn't they want to do that? 

Postscript: Since publishing this blog, Douglas Fraser has said "Business for Scotland says it's got more than 1700 individuals signed up as members, though it's a long way from having them all named on its website... 'yes' support is largely coming from smaller businesses, and typically ones that trade only in Scotland.".

List of BfS members (let me know if you spot an error)
  • Richard Arkless runs LED Warehouse Ltd (established May 2013)  - number of employees not noted, but he has "over 13000 fans on Facebook".
  • Tony Banks runs Balhousie Care Group which "employs over a 1000 staff" (not all full time). However, despite being a BfS director, Banks insists Balhousie Care Group is “neutral” in the independence debate.
  • Bruce Alexander runs Xeroshield - it appears to employ him and one other person. 
  • Ian Blackford - non-exec director of a number of companies, including Ricky Nicol’s Commsworld - number of employees not noted.
  • Ken Cairnduff - no company name noted. 
  • David Cairns - no company name noted. 
  • Chris Chirnside - no company name noted.  
  • John Cooke - no company name noted.  
  • Adam Davidson runs a BoConcept franchise- number of employees not noted. He doesn't trust the BBC, but does trust all manner of nationalists bloggers. 
  • Ron Dickinson - no company name noted. 
  • Fraser Duff - no company name noted.  
  • David Dwyer runs Inspire Web Development (Inspire IT Services) - number of employees not noted
  • Eric Flannigan - no company name noted.
  • Paul Fletcher - no company name noted. 
  • Alex Grant - Retired from BMI.
  • Rachel Homes is a lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University. She asserts that “to compete and flourish, Scotland’s financial services sector needs the fiscal powers that Luxembourg has in the taxation regime for investment funds".
  • David Hood - no company name noted. 
  • Martin Jack - no company name noted. 
  • Joe Lafferty runs Lifetree - it appears to employ him and one other person. 
  • Mark Lister - no company name noted. He feels "Thatcher purged inefficient industries, but didn’t tackle the causes or instigate alternatives. Neither has anyone else since her".
  • Andy Lamb does not run his own company but works for ECCS Group. 
  • Paula Livingstone - is the founder of Rustyice Solutions and Apogee Internet - number of employees not noted.
  • Andy Lythgoe - no company name noted. 
  • Helen MacDonough - no company name noted. 
  • Ian McDougall is MD of McDougall Johnstone - number of employees not noted.
  • David Macfarlane - no company name noted.
  • Donald Maclean runs Business Cost Consultants (not listed with Companies House) - number of employees not noted.
  • Dave McGrath is Managing Director at Richard Irvin Sustainable Energy Limited - number of employees not noted.
  • Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp  - no company name noted (other than BfS).  Interestingly, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is a failed SNP candidate. 
  • Eric McLean runs McLean CC (not listed with Companies House) and e-Diligent Ltd (established May 2012) - number of employees not noted.
  • Ivan McKee - no company name noted (other than BfS).
  • Catherine McLean - self-employed.
  • Sheila McLean - no company name noted. 
  • Ken McNeil is the principal of McNeil Stevens Financial Planning (not listed with Companies House) - number of employees not noted.
  • Les Meikle run Wise Property Care - number of employees not noted.
  • David Morrison - no company name noted. "He knows the signs of a dying business and GB plc is certainly that." - strong case for currency union! 
  • Brian Murray - no company name noted. 
  • Jil Murphy is a partner ThinRedLine Design (not listed with Companies House) - number of employees not noted.
  • Ricky Nicol runs Commsworld  - number of employees not noted.
  • Douglas Norris - no company name noted
  • Eunice Olumide - no company name noted, but she is a "global super model"!
  • Jim Osborne is a retired insurance claim investigator.
  • Jamie Rae - no company name noted.
  • Andrew Richardson - no company name noted.
  • Susan Robertson no company name noted.
  • Ben Rogers does not run a company, but is  is currently Digital Lead at GFI Software.
  • Michelle Rodger runs Tartan Cat Communications (not listed with Companies House - number of employees not noted.
  • Thomas Scott - no company name noted.
  • Gary H Sutherland runs EmployEasily HR Services Limited and Business Hub Limited (not listed with Companies House - may be based in England) - number of employees not noted.
  • Philip Stewart runs Kangaroo Print and Advertising (not listed with Companies House - number of employees not noted.
  • Peter Syme - no company name noted.  
  • Iain Taylor runs e-corporate which is a "virtual law firm" (listed with Companies House as a Dormant Company).  
  • Michelle Thomson - no company name noted (other than BfS). 
  • Malcolm Wadia is a Director of Plysim  - number of employees not noted. 
  • Kenneth Wardrop - self-employed. 
  • Sarah Jane Walls runs The Residence Glasgow and Transdynamic. "The Residence is Scotland’s first fully equipped Pilates facility offering Mr Pilates’ full range for the first time in Scotland at this level."- number of employees not noted.
  • Gerry Wallace is Managing Director of GEM Lift Services Ltd - employs less than 10 people. 
  • Charlie Watt - no company name noted. 
  • Willie Wilson - no company name noted.
  • Ekaterina Zelenkova - no company name noted. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A No Vote is a Vote for the Status Quo

Erm, no. Even if #indyref did not happen, Scotland is guaranteed more powers in 2016 under the Scotland Act (2012). Before this Act, Holyrood controlled 70% of public spending in Scotland, but only 12% of taxation. The Scotland Act sees this significantly increased. To be clear, this is the "biggest transfer of financial powers from London to Scotland since the act of union in 1707". 

In addition to bringing in a new Scottish rate of income tax and borrowing powers worth, the Scotland Act (2012) provides powers over air guns, drink-driving and speed limits to Holyrood. It will also devolve stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax, and give the Scottish Parliament a role in appointments in broadcasting and the Crown Estate. Lastly, Holyrood will have the power to introduce new taxes. With these powers, Holyrood has the power to raise taxes to fund policies to, for example, reduce inequality. 

Where are the SNP's proposals to use these powers? They don't exist as they know that greater discussion of these powers will undermine its case for independence. They also know that talk of raising taxes to help the vulnerable will worry the regressive element in their core support.

So is this all we will get if we vote No. Absolutely not! Although there is a strong argument for fully implementing the Scotland Act (2012) before we consider more devolution, the public and political parties are keen to increase what is on offer. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories have all said more devolution is on offer: 
It is therefore very clear that a No vote is not a vote for the status quo. However, don't expect Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories to publish a tax payer funded White Paper like Salmond's "Argos Catalogue without Prices". Nonetheless, it is clear that the three #BetterTogether parties will make a core common offering to us which will deliver significant benefits without the risks involved with leaving the UK.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A Yes vote means saying goodbye to the Tories!

Now the first thing to remember is that quite a lot of people in Scotland vote Tory. It is like masturbation: a lot of people do it, but only a few admit to it! The image below shows that at the last General Election the Tories, the SNP & the Lib-Dems all had about the same vote share.

So why all the fuss about the Tories then? The answer is simple: the SNP need Labour voters on their side if they are to win #indyref.  It was not always like this. Indeed, in the 2007-11 parliament the SNP relied on Tory support to pass each of its budgets. This is because, there is a synergy between the "conservative" polices both SNP and the Tories aspire to. Ruth Davidson on SNP voters: "A significant proportion of them have voted Conservative in the past, the Tartan Tories that exist within the SNP as they call them". The key to Salmond's success has been his ability to dress up his regressive polices as something which benefit the working class. Some would call it dishonestLastly, never forget that Salmond has claimed Scots "didn't mind" Margaret Thatcher's notorious 1980s economic policies.

Indyref is not about the SNP.

We know that #YesScotland is dominated by the SNP in terms of staff and funding. No other party has given money to #YesScotland - in fact, they benefit from the extra exposure #YesScot gives them. On this very point, a former #YesScot executive went on the record and revealed that the: “organisation has become little more than an SNP front in recent months, which is ironic given the amount of effort that was put into fighting that perception in the early days.”

Nonetheless, this tweet from the SSP tells us that for #YesScotland, #indyref is about Salmond v Cameron, or perhaps SNP v the Tories.

It also shows us that the SSP have forgotten they are socialists. Take a look at the SNP policies SSP are keen to protect - none help the poorest Scots. For example, 

Also, never forget that Salmond has claimed Scots "didn't mind" Margaret Thatcher's notorious 1980s economic policies.