Mar 022017
 

With thanks to Guy Ingerson.

This weekend Scotland learned that the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and possible future contender for Labour leader, thinks the Scottish Independence movement is on par with the rise of far-right nationalism across Europe and the election of Donald Trump.

While the war of words in both the press and social media raged on, Aberdeen Greens grappled with being lumped in with the likes of the BNP.

Aberdeen Branch Co-Convenor and candidate for George St/Harbour ward Guy Ingerson said:

“Waking up of a morning to see Sadiq Khan compare pro-independence parties like ours with Donald Trump was frankly baffling and enraging. We Greens have been leading the fight against Trump and people like him since our inception. We seek to build bridges between communities, not burn them.

We call for Aberdeen Council and Labour leader Cllr Jenny Laing to clarify if she agrees with Sadiq Khan? Does she really thing pro-independence voters are bigots?”

Branch Co-Convenor and prominent independence campaigner Myshele Haywood said

“The vast majority of the independence movement has been internationalist and opposed to racism. We want an independent Scotland in order to be an example to world of what a sustainable and socially just society can look like. The movements Sadiq Khan is comparing us to are the polar opposite.”

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Jan 272017
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

The SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, Eilidh Whiteford, has called for the UK Government to come clean to Parliament following the revelations that the Prime Minister knew of a failed Trident test just weeks before a vote on renewal of the UK’s WMDs last year.
PM Theresa May refused four times on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show to answer the presenter’s question on whether she knew about the test failure before the vote was taken.

Parliament voted to renew the deterrent, which experts believe could cost more than £200bn.

SNP MPs opposed the renewal, while Labour were divided. Each missile is estimated to cost £17m, and only five tests have been carried out since the year 2000.

During an Urgent Question to the Defence Secretary yesterday, Michael Fallon MP refused to confirm the details of the failed test, whilst a US Official confirmed the information to CNN.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Whilst the Defence Secretary was refusing to confirm any information during today’s Urgent Question, a US official briefed news channel CNN on the details of the failed test mission.

“It is simply not acceptable that the UK Government has not come clean on the facts of this failure, but US press outlets have received an update from officials in the White House.

“The Prime Minister has real questions to answer about why parliament has not learned about this failure until now, despite knowing the about the failure when she came to Parliament to force a vote on the renewal of the deterrent.

“Notwithstanding the immorality and expense of weapons of mass destruction, capable of incinerating cities, the Government’s stonewalling of legitimate questions about whether the system is working properly only fuels concerns about Trident.”

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Oct 012015
 

Old Susannah makes a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with some timely political definitions. By Suzanne Kelly

Dictionary‘In a Pig’s Ear’, I thought upon hearing a recent piece of political gossip; ‘Someone’s telling porkies’. The story put a look on my face akin to the look worn by Milliband  in this photo from August.

Perhaps the tail in question, no doubt circulated by some squealer or other, was actually about the MP Richard Bacon? Perhaps a politician with their nose in the trough was behind the rumour? Doubtless some sow-and-sow was hamming it up to give us all a good ribbing. Truly, I never sausage a strange series of news headlines as those that were trotted out last week.

But it was true; Jeremy Corbyn is now Labour Leader.

Think of all that hard work that Tony Blair accomplished in modernising and improving Labour. What if it were all for nowt? All that creative writing that got the dodgy dossier ‘sexed up’ (not in the David Cameron sense of course)? What if we hadn’t got rid of Sadaam Hussein? What if Tony hadn’t been the Middle East Peace Envoy and had restored the balance of power we’re seeing the benefits of now?

No, Corbyn and his crazy ideas have to go.

Aside from worrying about someone who wants people earning decent wages, who wants to home these pesky immigrants/refugees, who wants to prevent nuclear war, it was a good week. I had a few lovely drinks down at Café 52 during the warm weather; and a few drinks in BrewDog. The BrewDog Jackhammer margarita remains my favourite beer cocktail, but Krakatoa has the tiki cocktail supremacy in Aberdeen sewn up.

My last cocktail there was a practically fluorescent purple delight, delicately flavoured with violets. As I can’t remember the name of it off hand, I’ll just have to go back and try some more of them. Nicely done Flash.

Under the Hammer has some of my artwork on show with the wonderful paintings of Neale Bothwell and some amazing prints from Graham, legendary contributor to Viz Magazine. His Black Bag, Faithful Borders Binliner’s escapades are on display and available as a limited print. Result!

But I digress. This Corbyn business has to be nipped in the bud. Here are a few timely definitions to show why there’s no room in Left Wing politics for a man who’s clearly Left Wing.

Trident: (Modern English Compound Noun) United States nuclear weaponry deployment system kindly gifted to a grateful UK and its taxpayers, keeping us safe from harm.

It was quite a political party for Labour in Brighton. According to the BBC Corbyn doesn’t like nuclear weapons:

“no way that he [Corbyn] would ever use nuclear weapons because they are “immoral”.”

Clearly someone who is so naive cannot be trusted to blow the bad guys up when it comes down to it. Now that they know that, they’ll be able to destroy the world before the West gets a chance to. Alas! We’ve simply got to win the last war, don’t we?

Some champion of the working man Corbyn proves to be – doesn’t he know lots of people work on Trident? What’s more important, making people retrain into other lines of work, or ensuring we can end the world? Keep those Trident jobs going; I hope the men and women who earn their living by ensuring our tax pounds are diverted from the NHS, welfare and education for this gangbuster guarantee of safety are as proud of what they do as I am proud of them.

Trident is a bargain at twice the price; first, we get to keep that ‘Special Relationship’ going with the USA. Makes me warm just thinking of that time Thatcher danced with Ronald Reagan. Secondly, it’s great at keeping us safe (even if those Russian jets which keep flying over England don’t realise it). Third – just think of the economic benefit.

There are over 500 civilians in Scotland employed because of Trident! Result!  What’s more important, ethics and the world’s ecological health and species survival, or economics? I don’t think I need to spell it out any more than that. Further, our defence budget is around 30 billion or so (at least that we know about), and you’ve got to keep that growing. There may be a time for beating swords into ploughshares in the future. This ain’t it.

Foreign Policy: (English Compound Noun) strategies and values applied to international diplomacy.

You’d think the guy would have learned a thing or two from Brown or Blair, but apparently not. Here’s what Corbyn has to say about foreign policy:

“I argue for a different type of foreign policy based on political and not military solutions; on genuine internationalism that recognises that all human life is precious, no matter what nationality; and solidarity with the oppressed across the globe from the subjugated Palestinians to the displaced Chagos Islanders.” http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/priorities/peace/

Again, there is this childish idealism that the left should actually have something to do with left wing, socialist values and human rights. He should have been disabused of this idea at one of Labour’s long ago Brighton conventions. A terrorist named Walter Wolfgang (yes, I did write about him once before) was removed from the room for interrupting proceedings under the newly created Blair-framed terrorism act.

In point of fact, the ever trustworthy Jack Straw was apparently speaking at the time, telling us why we needed to bomb Iraq. For whatever reason, Wolfgang disagreed. Of course this heckler was a life-long Labour supporter, who in his advancing 80 years must have lost the plot and thought criticising Blair was still allowed. The arrest threat was dropped, but at least we taught this dangerous terrorist a good lesson.

What Corbyn needs is a profile and popularity boost, and nothing says popular like invading the Falklands or Iraq. Hope he’s got a good war up his sleeve somewhere. After all, at first we all trusted Tony ‘Things can only get Better’ Blair and his charmingly toothsome wife Cherie with her arresting smile.

Morality: (English from the Latin) relating to what is good or bad behaviour.

If you needed any further reason to distrust Jeremy, did you know he’s been DIVORCED? Just what kind of person would do something so immoral and still think they had a right to be the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister?

No, I for one am happy to stick to Right Wing, Conservative family values.

And there you have the case against Corbyn. Old Susannah is off out now to a pork roast. I hear that some of our best political leaders like pulled pork. Or something like that.

Until the next time I take pen and oink to paper, tally ho, cheerio, etc.

Next week: Definition of the phrase ‘to go the whole hog’

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Oct 012015
 
At Scottish CND AGM

Christian Allard MSP at an AGM for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP

SNP MSP Christian Allard has written to regional Labour politicians seeking clarity on their position on Trident renewal – after a week in which Labour conference was ‘marred in confusion’ on the issue.

Despite previously giving assurances that Labour conference would have an open debate on Trident – and that Labour MPs would vote with the SNP on the issue – Jeremy Corbyn has since shied away from debating Trident, while his party’s Conference quietly voted to restate their position in favour of a “a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a continuous at-sea deterrent.”

Labour MSPs in the North East have since come under pressure to clarify their own position – and whether they agree with their newly elected leader or with the decision of the party’s conference this week.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“Labour are absolutely all over the place on Trident – with Jeremy Corbyn promising one thing and their party conference voting to back precisely the opposite.

“It’s clear that Labour no longer has a coherent position on anything – and it’s time that Labour gave people the North East the clarity they deserve on their own position. 

“The idea of spending £100bn on useless, immoral and wasteful weapons of mass destruction would be completely indefensible at any time – but at a time of austerity with reliance on foodbanks increasing and more and more people being pushed into poverty by Tory cuts, it’s nothing less than an outrage.

“Labour’s support for Trident renewal is yet more evidence that Labour are changing Corbyn, rather than Corbyn changing Labour. First he signs up to austerity – now the party sign up to Trident.  It’s now time that they finally made clear where they stand on this issue.”

Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) added:

“Aberdeen and District CND strongly support both Jeremy Corbyn’s and the SNP’s stance on Trident. A major reason that Jeremy Corbyn received such massive support in the Labour leadership elections was for his long term support for the CND.

“We are greatly concerned about the stance presently being taken by some leading figures in the Labour Party and also for the misguided support for Trident by some Unions. By renewing Trident Britain would be going against the Nuclear-Non Proliferation treaty of which it is a signed up member.  

“The Labour party at both UK and Scottish levels needs to have a democratic debate concerning Trident – it is not a decision which should be blocked by a few powerful individuals.”

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Mar 202015
 

11 February, 2015: Former Aberdeen City Chief Executive Valerie Watts, is called as an important witness in a Standards Commission hearing taking place in Aberdeen’s townhouse. Seven elected councillors are accused of using council facilities for political ends concerning a letter sent to residents. Despite a month’s notice of this hearing, despite agreeing to participate (and the ability to join from Northern Ireland via video link), Watts fails to join.

Watts gives the excuse that she has a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in Stormont which clashes with the hearing. The Aberdeen hearing is thus stalled.

Aberdeen Voice researched Watts’ diary conflict claims, and learned there are :  “…no records held in the Department that indicate that Valerie Watts had to attend a meeting on 11 February 2015.” (letter to S Kelly from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety 19 March 2015). So why didn’t she participate in the hearing when she had previously agreed to do so? Suzanne Kelly reports.

marischalpic

Background

During the independence referendum,  Aberdeen City Council sent a letter to city residents advising them the council had voted to back the ‘No’ Vote.
It was a heated time; many residents were angered, feeling the city should not have mentioned the referendum issue at all.

The Standards Commission decided that a hearing was required into the matter, and on 11 February 2015 it summoned many of those involved to a hearing at the Town House.

The city’s legal advisors, officers and elected councillors (several of whom were the subject of the hearing) all turned out as requested.

One of the Commission’s witnesses was to be Valerie Watts. Watts had been the £148,000 per year Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council; the hearing expected her to participate via a video link. She had after all indicated her willingness.

Watts did not appear at the hearing. She called off, apparently claiming she  needed ‘to meet with the Permanent Secretary’ on the day instead. Watts is back in Stormont where she earlier worked, now in The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. There was apparently very little notice given to the hearing organisers, and no explanation of why a video link was not viable.

With no testimony, the matter is unresolved – no one is cleared, no one is exonerated. The ball has been kicked into touch – until after the elections in May. Considering the hearing was to be into whether or not council materials had been used for political purposes, the hearing’s delay  until after the election seems rather ironic.

The local newspaper the Evening Express reported:

“The hearing was due to run for three days but has now been deferred as former chief executive Valerie Watts, who was to give evidence via video link from Northern Ireland, cancelled at the last minute as she had another meeting.

“Ian Gordon, the hearing chairman, called her late call-off “disrespectful” and “bordering on contempt”.

“Ms Watts could not be reached for comment.”

The Evening Express’ sister  paper The Press & Journal confirmed this excuse involved the Permanent Secretary:

 “After the morning session, Ranald Macpherson, representing the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life, said Mrs Watts had been called away “to a meeting with the permanent secretary””

When Ms Watts refused to explain this scheduling conundrum, freedom of information requests were launched. When did she know about the hearing?

witnesses were expected to attend by agreement

When did she know about the apparent clash with the Permanent Secretary’s meeting?

Does the Permanent secretary call last minute ad-hoc meetings?

Why wouldn’t Watts simply have explained to the PS that she was expected to join a hearing in Scotland by Skype on the 11th February? Was there in fact a clash at all?

As further information is released shedding light on the matter, it looks as if the excuse given for this disrespect has been somewhat disingenuous, perhaps even misleading.

Invitation to a hearing.

Aberdeen Voice has obtained documents which seem to clearly indicate that Watts had a one month advance notice of this meeting, and she appears to have agreed to give her evidence by video link. The office of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland advised Aberdeen Voice on 16 March:

“Arrangements for the hearing were made by the Standards Commission. Although the Commission has power to require the attendance of witnesses, the position in this case was that witnesses were expected to attend by agreement. This office was responsible for the arrangements made with Valerie Watts. Any communications with Valerie Watts was both by telephone and by email… 

“Ms Watts was given one month’s notice of our intention to call her as a witness at the hearing on 11 February 2015. Ms Watts agreed in telephone conversations in advance to give evidence by video-link at 4pm on 11 February 2015.

“Ms Watts was informed on 12 January 2015 that she was required to give evidence at this hearing.”
(email to S Kelly from the office of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland

Meetings with the Permanent Secretary

Of course now that Watts is back in Northern Ireland, she must prioritise her engagements, and meeting the Permanent Secretary would be an important meeting.  Watts could reasonably have been expected to tell the PS’s office she had a long-standing agreement to give evidence at a hearing.  Whether or not the PS knew of the hearing is still unclear.  What is clear is that this is the official list of engagements involving Watts and the PS as supplied following a FOI:

“Permanent Secretary meetings in 2015 that Valerie Watts was invited to attend:

Weekly Thursday morning meetings, 9am – 10am, with other attendees, (exceptions of 15 & 22 January and 5, 19, and 26 February), organised by telephone in advance;

14 January, 10am, without other attendees, organised via telephone;

22 January, 2pm, with other attendees, organised via e-mail;

23 January, 2:30pm, with other attendees, organised via telephone;

23 January, 3:30pm, with other attendees, organised via telephone;

13 February, 12:30pm, with other attendees, organised via telephone; and

3 March, 9:30am, with other attendees, organised via telephone.

“As per your e-mail of 4 March 2015, confirming that you were content that your request for a review of DHSSPS/2015-0017 be treated under the response to DHSSPS/2015-0026, I can confirm there are no records held in the Department that indicate that Valerie Watts had to attend a meeting on 11 February 2015. 

“However, on receipt of the original enquiries from you, Valerie Watts was given the opportunity to comment (see her comments above). Copies of the e-mails are attached for information. Her response in no way had any bearing on the previous response to you.”
(letter to Kelly from DHSSPS 19 March 2015).

This crucial, not to be postponed or missed appointment with the PS comes two days before the scheduled 13 February meeting they would have seen each other at. The mysterious 11 February meeting with the PS for which the hearing was in effect jilted came 18 days after the two had last met on 23 January.

For this meeting to have trumped the Aberdeen hearing and yet not have made it onto any record supplied under Freedom of Information requests is remarkable.

If there is no record of Watts being required by the PS on the date of the Aberdeen hearing, and also having a meeting with the PS on 13 February (these meetings do not seem like rare affairs), either there was no meeting, or whatever business was to have been discussed by Watts and the PS on 11 February was not as important as the Aberdeen hearing, set one month in advance.

Watts the story?

Watts was asked by her own department to help them answer freedom of information questions about her non-appearance;  her suggested response includes:

“1.  The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety hold no records in relation to this matter.” and “The Chief Executive of the Care Board for Northern Ireland carries the unique responsibility for the prioritisation of commitments in relation to the responsibilities of her current post.” (emails supplied under FOI).

(For the record, it is clear from other correspondence received that information as to meeting schedules is held)

A few questions for the witness.

It would be interesting to know who in Watts’ new role in Stormont knew of her hearing appointment.

If so, when did they know about it? Who was involved in deciding to skip the Aberdeen hearing:  i.e. did the PS tell her to skip the hearing, or did she decide to skip the hearing without consulting anyone? Was this newly-scheduled PS meeting of such urgency that it meant a video link to the hearing was totally impossible? If so, who took that decision?

How much public money was spent on the derailed hearing is unknown – transport, accommodation, civil servant’s time – would be among the costs incurred; perhaps we should be told.

Summing up

Given various previous bumps in Ms Watts’ tenure as Chief Executive in Aberdeen (see https://aberdeenvoice.com/2014/03/valerie-watts-long-thanks-for-errr/ ), perhaps the various Standards and Ethics bodies may wish to turn their attention in her direction?

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Jan 232015
 

Alex-Salmond-cropWith thanks to Ann-Marie Parry, Parliamentary Assistant to Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has described the news that the Chilcot Inquiry will not be published until after the general election as a “classic establishment stitch-up”.

The Aberdeenshire East MSP said:

“Neither Labour nor Tory leaderships want this report out now. The hand wringing about delay is a mere cover for a classic establishment stitch up.

“We are now in the ridiculous position where Tony Blair has seen key sections of the report but not the rest of us.”

Mr Salmond who, as an MP, led a parliamentary campaign to impeach former Prime Minister Blair over the war said:

“Labour doesn’t want it out because of the inevitable revelations about Blair and other cheerleaders for the war.

“The Tories don’t want it out because David Cameron was pro war and the Tory leadership in 2003 under Iain Duncan Smith were as gung-ho as Labour.

“With a very few honourable exceptions most Westminster politicians would really like Chilcot to stay in the long grass for as long as possible.

“Chilcot has allowed himself to be blocked, tackled and delayed for years.”

Mr Salmond also said the “Maxwellisation” process, which allows individuals due to be criticised in an official report to see the criticism and respond prior to publication, had become a “device for procrastination”.

He added:

“Chilcot’s long wrangle with the Whitehall mandarins over Prime Ministerial correspondence was another stalling tactic.

“How could there be any serious objection to publication of talks between Blair and George W Bush, when Blair’s key wartime henchman Alistair Campbell had already published his own version in his diaries.

“There are a few decent MPs left at Westminster.

“They should make it clear that further delay is not acceptable and demand publication of at least a summary report now.”

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Nov 212014
 

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP

Christian Allard MSP at Holyroodfeat

SNP MSP Christian Allard has said Scottish Labour must come clean over Trident after Scottish Labour’s Neil Findlay MSP claimed that his party would not toe the Westminster line on the issue under his leadership.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Findlay claimed that there was no issue with different parts of the UK Labour party having different policy positions – and claimed that the Labour Party in Scotland had opposed the renewal of Trident ‘for some time’.

On 6th August 2014, Neil Findlay and Labour voted against a Scottish Parliamentary motion calling for the calling for the ‘speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons’, and failed to propose any amendment.

At SNP Conference this weekend, SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon said that any Labour Westminster Government that had to depend on SNP votes would have to “think again” about putting a new generation of nuclear weapons in Scottish waters.

Commenting, North East MSP Christian Allard said:

“Neil Findlay’s latest remarks are yet another example of shambolic to-ing and fro-ing from the Labour ‘branch office’ in attempt to redress their continued free-fall in the polls.

“Mr Findlay voted against a Parliamentary motion supporting the ‘speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons’ before the referendum, and is now trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by saying ‘it’s already Labour Party policy in Scotland to oppose the renewal of Trident.’

“Yet Mr Findlay’s colleagues, including Jim Murphy, have spoken against the party becoming unilateralist and getting rid of Trident – Labour must come clean on their position.

“Both Holyrood and London Labour have toed the Westminster line and voted for renewal time and again.

“By contrast, as Nicola Sturgeon pointed out at SNP conference, a Westminster Labour Government forced to rely on SNP votes would have to think again on Trident renewal.”

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Oct 242014
 

With thanks to Stuart Donaldson, Constituency Officer to Christian Allard MSP

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood2SNP MSP Christian Allard has criticised Labour’s record on housing as well as branding a Labour MSP’s comments as an attempt at political point scoring.

Mr Allard has written to Richard Baker regarding his comments which appeared in the Buchan Observer on Tuesday 21 October.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“It is extremely disingenuous for Richard Baker to criticise the Scottish Government on its record for delivering affordable housing considering Labour’s extremely poor performance while in administration.

“Between 2003 and 2007 Labour built a total of 6 houses. In contrast the Scottish Government is on target to deliver 30,000 new affordable homes by 2016. As of March this year the total delivered since 2011 was 19,900.

“The recent changes to the Help to Buy scheme also mean that the housing market has been made much more accessible to first time buyers. It is particularly useful here in the North East where there are many areas with higher than average house prices.

“I’m sure people in the North East will see Richard Baker’s comments for what they are, an attempt at political point scoring.

“This is becoming the norm for Labour politicians, even on the big issues facing our country. Perhaps this goes someway to explaining why the Labour vote is in freefall across Scotland and why they do not hold a single Scottish Parliamentary constituency seat in the North East.”

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Jun 202014
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryIt may seem like a lovely summer here in Aberdeen, but depending on  who you believe, we need to be on the lookout for dangerous foreign invaders of all kinds. Our lives, jobs and even our gardens are not safe from alien interlopers of one sort or another. More on that later.

However, along with locals and even some foreigners, I’ll brave the ever-present dangers to go to both the Gray’s School of Arts Degree show (Friday) and BrewDog’s Annual General Meeting (Saturday).

Apparently something is taking place in Brazil; it involves a bunch of foreigners getting together to play football.

This kind of foreign invasion is a good thing; it brings lots of investment apparently, unless you’ve the misfortune to be one of Brazil’s poor who are being turfed out of the makeshift homes that stand in the way of the beautiful game. 

Still, FIFA knows what’s best. That nice Mr Blatter does seem to have one or two critics of late; I can’t imagine why.

Let’s look at these foreign threats by way of a definition or two.

Foreign intervention: (Mod English Phrase) – An involvement in a sovereign state’s affairs by another state, body or army.

Back in the day, you may remember how the US and the UK kindly went to help make things better in Iraq. Tony Blair said our little intervention was the right thing to do; he should have known – he wrote most of the dossier supporting the case for us getting in there.

I can’t imagine why, but things don’t seem to have worked out quite like Tony said they would. He wants us to go back in, or rather to bomb a few people. We’ve never gone wrong listening to him in the past perhaps we should do as he says now.

There was a tiny parade of a million or so people in London back in the day, asking him not to go to war, but he bravely stood his ground, and took us to where we are today. Remember, it’s only a foreign invasion if it’s happening in the UK, not if it’s the UK going somewhere else and lending a friendly helping hand.

It’s important to remember there are good foreigners and bad ones.

The good ones want to come over and buy up our land, utilities, newspapers and other media, and of course businesses. The bad ones want to come over and work for us, live in decent rooms without getting ripped off, be treated fairly and other unreasonable demands. It’s very important to remember too that all of the rich ones are not involved in crime, and all of the non-wealthy immigrants are criminals.

We’re open for business – if you’ve got the right connections. Thankfully, we have all sorts of level-headed politicians looking out for our interests.

And UK residents who live abroad? Well, we’re not invading foreigners – we’re expats. That’s different.

But possibly the worst kinds of foreigners are the ones that are set to take over.

Romanians: (Proper noun) People born in, living in, or descended from citizens of Romania.

Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, has seized on yet another group of foreigners that we must be wary of, the wily, dangerous Romanians.  Here’s a little clip of Nigel explaining all to Jeremy Paxman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynq_KqlmHIY .

Nigel explains that Romanian organised criminals are the most prolific and dangerous in Europe. Paxman then quotes some statistics saying they’re no such thing. Paxman asks more questions; Farage gives brilliant answers that are not at all xenophobic, reactionary or racist. Farage worries that Romanian hordes will come to the UK and we’ll be inundated with their organised crime gangs.

It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure it will any day.

Paxman also asks some questions about UKIP members’ homophobic statements; Farage explains this is all down to the fact the members in question are old, and from a time when homosexuality was illegal – so it’s fair enough if they’re anti-gay. I’m sure you’re as happy as  I am with UKIP’s recent political gains. I wonder what’s next for this forward-looking, inclusive, tolerant party?   In the meantime forget about the politicians taking more than their share of expenses, billionaires avoiding taxes that should support our infrastructure – it’s Romanians we should be thinking about.

Invasive species: (Modern English compound noun) Flora and Fauna not native to the UK but which can be found here.

They’re over here, and they will soon outnumber their British counterparts. We’ve heard about the muntjack deer – dubbed the ‘Asbo’ deer by one of our SNH experts, publicity-shy Jamie.

But now an imminent scientist – who isn’t at all a headline-grabbing empire builder – has identified ‘the biggest threat to our ecology’.

Is it urban sprawl and the loss of green space in favour of tarmac? Is it that Scotland’s roads exceed acceptable levels of pollution for many years? Is it climate change? The decline of bee populations which may hurt pollination and crops? Rising sea levels? Godzilla?  Mothra? Obviously not – our biggest threat is the Rhododendron.

‘Destroy All Rhododendrons in Scotland’ is the battle-cry of scientist (so he must be taken seriously and will have no ulterior motives and won’t let any personal feelings interfere with his objective, rational position) James Fenton. What are Rhododendrons to him?

“It is probably the biggest ecological issue for Scotland. If we did nothing and came back in a thousand years, the landscape would be just one dark rhododendron forest.”

Well, he’s a scientist and he says so, so that’s that. He also says this invading foreign threat creates so many seeds that its spread is exponential. Old Susannah might then wonder why we’re not already in his supposed Rhododendron forest.

I guess we’re meant to think that there have never been any plants that naturalised in the UK and that were beneficial. I guess we’re supposed to forget about all the foreign confiers planted up and down the countryside (taking away many meadowlands in the process).

I guess the fact that many of the rhododendrons that are supposed to be destroyed support wildlife that has otherwise been displaced; bees seem rather partial to the flowers for one thing. I’m sure the bee population won’t mind if we take out this source of food immediately. No, Mr Fenton sounds completely calm, rational and logical to me.

Thankfully, he also seems to be something of an economics expert. For funnily enough, there’s money to be had by eradicating the Rhododendron Menace. According to the Herald article:

“The plant has been eradicated from some areas, including Knoydart in the West Highlands, where £250,000 in grants paid for a ten-year programme using local workers. Fenton said an eradication programme would boost the economy of rural areas.”

Funnily enough, the SNH will soon release its Rhododendron strategy.

Funnily enough, every time the SNH comes up with a new animal or plant to demonise, they also want to demand the right to tell private landowners what to do, and there is coincidentally a wee bit of money involved. Their guidelines on the deer population, including the invading threat that is the muntjack deer included a policy of ‘advising’ landowners how many deer should be slaughtered.

The landowners recently have disagreed with the SNH deer population figures, and don’t want to shoot as many deer as the SNH would like. Well, who are you going to believe – the people who are on the land and see the deer, or the guys with science degrees sitting in their offices writing papers, and getting their names into the papers who propose increasing the SNH’s powers?

These same scientists came up with the earth-shattering guideline that if a doe is shot, any fawns should be shot as well or they may starve. This came as a huge revelation to the people on the front lines of deer management; they’d never have guessed it.

Perhaps I’m wrong to see a pattern here, but it seems

1.  boffins get together and write a policy.

2.  the policy identifies a species of plant or animal that the SNH wants to get rid of or greatly curtail.

3.  articles appear in the media, happily going along with what the SNH wants.

4.  guidelines tell public and private sectors that they ‘should’ manage the plant/animal in question.

5.  grants spring up like mushrooms to help destroy the offending natural life form.

6.  guidelines turn into laws wit the SNH demanding control over private lands irrespective of the landowner’s own observations and wishes.

As the asthma and respiratory disease rates increase (and a link between dementia and particulate pollution has just been made), as green spaces disappear (or become nothing more than petri dishes for whatever style of land management is in vogue at the time), as the seas are increasingly polluted, as the bird, fish and bee populations diminish, it’s good to know that the real culprit in our environment’s destruction has been identified: death to all Rhododendrons.

Of course Fenton’s offered no explanation of what will become of the species now depending on the plant, or what will go in place of the destroyed invaders (perhaps we’ll just have holes in the ground). But he can’t be expected to think of everything, can he.

Old Susannah’s out now to look for Romanian crime gangs, Rhododendrons and other invading species. By the time I make it to my front door, I half expect that the ‘exponentially increasing’ Rhododendrons will have covered my street, but I’ll try and hack my way through the foliage, mindful that Romanian thieves may well be hiding in the boughs.

Thank goodness we have Fenton and Farage to look out for our welfare and propose sensible reforms.

Next week:  a report on the Rhododendron crisis, and an analysis on how many new plants have sprung up.

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