Do the charitable thing – end private schools' tax breaks Kevin McKenna The Observer, Sunday 10 February 2013 . The SNP have a moral duty to tackle the iniquity at the heart of the education system . A dazzling new entry is about to take its place in the long and glorious canon of spurious foreign junkets made by Scottish politicians. Our transport minister, Keith Brown, plans to visit Holland to discover why loads of its citizens use bikes to get around the place. Ever mindful of my responsibility to the public purse, I'm happy to save the minister an easyJet fare. The reason why lots more Dutch people get on their bikes, Mr Brown, is because Holland has no hills, whereas Scotland is built on them.
Each year since the SNP came to power, their admirable commitment to social justice has been accompanied by lots of wee environmental bells and whistles: a few million here for bendy buses; a couple of million there for cycle routes. I suppose these things are important because if we do become independent in 2014 it would be good to have the garden looking at its best. They're not as remotely important, though, as matters of social justice and that's where the SNP must focus all their efforts if they are to bridge the independence credibility gap.
Yet almost six years have passed since the SNP first won power in Scotland and still they continue to scorn their biggest and easiest opportunity to make Scotland a fairer country. All they have to do is move to end the charitable status of public schools, these elitist bastions of privilege in our midst. For there is no greater tool of social engineering and no greater obstacle to social mobility. Remove their charitable status, which allows them to avoid tens of millions of pounds of non-domestic rates, then sit back and watch them disappear one by one. Then their pupils can learn what it's like to take their chances like everyone else and make something of their lives without artificial stimulants.
Certainly, successive education ministers have looked at ending this iniquitous device that ensures we, the idiot taxpayers, maintain all our little Sebastians and Julias in the manner to which they are accustomed. Broadly speaking, this means being given unfair advantages and access to a lifestyle and opportunities that are beyond the reach of the majority of our children. The supporters of these schools insist that there is an important issue about choice for the tiny elite of parents who can afford their prohibitive fees.
It's not choice, though, when such a privileged education is denied to more than 90% of our children for reasons beyond their control. As such, it merely supports an ancient social and cultural structure designed to ensure that power, wealth and influence will remain with an entitled and undeserving elite. It is woven into the fabric of Scotland's history and there are few signs that it will end in the near future.
Last week, the results of a study commissioned by the Jimmy Reid Foundation revealed that our political class – those who both make and influence policy decisions – are gathered, to an overwhelmingly degree, from among Scotland's most affluent people. People who come from lower-income backgrounds are virtually excluded from the system. I suspect that a study into the educational backgrounds of our judges and top civil servants would reveal a similar tale of collective privilege.
It wouldn't be difficult to begin dismantling Scotland's network of private schools. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has set these schools a test that is designed to measure the benefits they provide to the unwashed public loitering outside their walls. If they don't meet the test, these schools stand to lose tens of millions of pounds of state subsidies. Even now, dozens of Scotland's schools, which charge up to £30,000 a year, are scrabbling around their ledgers trying to find ways of increasing the numbers of pupils to whom they grant some worthless parcel of assistance. It is a tiresome Punch and Judy exercise that insults the intelligence of all who participate.
The sole purpose of Scotland's fee-paying schools is to charge as much money as people are willing to pay to ensure that they remain as elitist and exclusive as the Queen of Sheba's suspender belt. Assisting a few worthy plebs and throwing loaves of bread to the community at large are simply the chores they must undertake to qualify for the public subsidies that keep them alive and allow them to provide their state-of-the-art sports centres and their skiing trips to the French Alps. The charade must end now.
Another byproduct of entering Scotland's fee-paying community is that you'll get a solid grounding in geopolitics and Britain's defence policy. For it seems that, as well as paying their rates bill and constructing their leisure facilities, we also pay for the children of army top brass to be educated within Scotland's independent sector. Officers earning annual salaries of more than £100,000 a year can bill the taxpayer for sending their kids to the pick of these schools. So there it is then: Scotland's hard-pressed taxpayers are unwittingly paying for a Sandringham satellite. Absolutely spiffing.
Perhaps the biggest confidence trick being pulled on the non-cheating public by Scotland's private school establishment is the employment of our teachers. This is how it currently works: we unassisted taxpayers and ratepayers spend millions of pounds each year funding four or five years of university education for our student teachers. We do this in the reasonable expectation that they will then deploy their skills in teaching our children. So why do we turn a blind eye to those teachers who, having received their publicly funded qualifications, then choose to work only with the gilded offspring of the richest in the country? So, along with depriving these establishments of the oxygen of their charitable status, we should also tax them further for the right to employ teachers whose education the rest of us funded.
The defenders of Scotland's fee-paying schools will accuse those who want to see them reclaimed by the state of crude political and economic revanchism. It's not as unsophisticated, though, as tricking the public into paying for an educational reward scheme for Scotland's rich.
This is a wee comment I made in 2009 regarding all the half wits that were hell bent on destroying a community radio station, for their own vanity. It is not only the chief spoiled selfish witless article who no doubt should be feeling under pressure, but all of those who played their malevolent parts in destroying Leith fm, only to put a baggage of fakery in it's place. Both O S C R and O F C O M were well advised & warned but chose to back the wrong donkey. Could not resist having a very hearty laugh.
Our bodies get Vitamin D from the sun, but as dermatologist Richard Weller suggests, sunlight may confer another surprising benefit too. New research by his team shows that nitric oxide, a chemical transmitter stored in huge reserves in the skin, can be released by UV light, to great benefit for blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. What does it mean? Well, it might begin to explain why Scots get sick more than Australians
Joyce McMillan: Shamed nation dying of greed . Published on Friday 8 February 2013 00:00 . The NHS and banking scandals reflect the corruption and moral vacuum threatening the heart of the UK, writes Joyce McMillan . IT’S A strange experience, to open the newspapers and see the word “shame” blazoned across the headlines on both of the leading stories of the day; shame in the National Health Service, and shame in the world of finance, as the twin scandals at Mid Staffordshire hospitals, and in those upper echelons of the banking industry where the Libor borrowing rate was fixed and corrupted, are finally exposed to public gaze.
Those responsible, of course, still seem largely shameless, in the manner perfected by the 21st century British boss class. In the aftermath of the Mid Staffordshire scandal – in which up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died unnecessarily, in conditions of thirst, hunger, filth, isolation and misery which almost defy description – no-one has been prosecuted; and almost incredibly, the man who was then in overall charge of the West Midlands Hospital Trust, Sir David Nicholson, is now head of the entire English NHS, with no intention of resigning.
As for the bankers – well, despite their egregious role in almost bringing the entire global economy to its knees in 2008, no banker has yet been imprisoned in the UK for his role in this orgy of irresponsible and fradulent trading.
In both cases, there is neither punishment for the individuals responsible, nor a significant dismantling of the systems which spawned them; and to say that this situation is morally and socially unsustainable is barely to hint the depths of public anger and disillusion that these abuses have brought in their wake.
So what is it, we have to ask, that underpins this growing culture of impunity, among Britain’s business leaders and top public managers? In essence, they all seem to have entered a world where, despite recognising the existence of concepts like decency, honesty, compassion and legality – and perhaps even trying to express them in their private lives – they have felt permitted and even encouraged, in their professional environment, to ignore, or even directly challenge those values, in pursuit of a set of goals defined entirely in financial terms.
The report into the Staffordshire scandal should make fascinating reading for anyone interested in the importing of inappropriate sub-business language into British public services over the last generation; apparently managers “put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety”.
Yet even in the private sector, it seems, a bottom-line approach ungoverned by any sense of legality, or ethics leads rapidly to chaos. A major bank may not have the same overwhelming duty of care and compassion as a hospital trust, but it still has an obligation to operate within the law, and to avoid fraudulent dealings; and it needs to have this kind of decent and lawful behaviour written into its organisational DNA, from top to bottom, if those at lower levels are to feel empowered to do their jobs properly – just as a hospital trust management needs to send out signals that patient care comes first, if nurses and ward managers are to feel empowered to deliver that care.
And it’s because the cultural shift involved in this collapse of ethical behaviour has been so profound – starting at the top of our society, and filtering down to the lowest levels, in the form of casual workplace cynicism, and the taking out of violent and abusive feelings on the very weakest – that all the measures proposed to counter it seem so pathetic, and in some cases so laughably misconceived.
Faced with an English NHS corrupted over decades by the risible idea that it is a “business”, for example, David Cameron’s best proposal for restoring some heart and compassion to the service is apparently to make good treatment of patients the subject of performance-related pay; thereby reifying the very notion – that nothing matters or motivates people, except money – that is causing the rot.
Faced with a banking sector in which almost every senior player seems implicated, at some level, in condoning or failing to prevent corrupt and irresponsible behaviour, it seems the best the government can do is to whimper from the sidelines about ring-fencing some aspects of banking activity.
Well, enough; and under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that ever-larger numbers of thinking Scots are tempted by the idea of a fresh start in a fresh nation. Yet in truth, there is no mainstream party, at either UK or Scottish level, that will finally call this corrupt and self-serving elite for what it has become, or will name the frightening process of splitting and denial which sets in, when modern bosses convince themselves – like so many apparatchiks of some old Stalinist state – that in order to do their jobs properly, they have to suppress their own natural moral sentiments, and trample over everyone else’s, in the service of the prevailing business ideology.
For you can split the human psyche for a while of course; long enough to pocket the thick end of a billion quid as personal wealth, if you are a lucky player in the banking sector. But when it comes to constructing a society with the strength and resilience to survive shocks, to maintain its institutions, to look towards a credible future – well then, you need to put the psyche together again, to balance freedom and ambition with security and justice, individual opportunity with the need for a strong and decent convivial life.
To trade honestly, to care for the sick, to meet crime with justice, to do as we would be done by; these are the cornerstones of any civilisation. And it is therefore difficult to feel anything but contempt for the market-dazzled generation of politicians who decreed that we could afford to put these values on the back-burner, while a bunch of blank-eyed business school graduates, taught to pride themselves on their emotional and civic dysfunction, told us how to run our lives and our institutions.
For in their seduction by a creed so obviously wrong-headed, and their sheer lack of practical political wisdom, those politicians have gradually conspired to bring almost every institution in British life into increasing disrepute; and the nation itself – given another year or two of shame and impunity on this scale – to what may be the brink of dissolution.
The Caledonian Mercury Scientists at Heriot Watt University have developed a technique that uses 3D printing to produce clusters of stem cells. They believe this could pave the way to produce purpose-built replacement organs for patients.
According to a report from GlobalWebIndexOne Pinterest may have dominated U.S. Growth in 2012, but Twitter had the largest global growth. In 2012, monthly worldwide active Twitter users grew 40% from Q2 to Q4, nearly a 288 million user increase.
Information for those involved in education in Edinburgh, teachers, learners or parents (RT @forthone: Web Team: Leith Academy will be closed today due to a heating problem but wil re-open on Wednesday.
WCyclone Bike Track . Join us Tues 7th – Thurs 9th May for PHASE 2 (the Technical Route in the woods!) of the creation of a new local resource – a Mountain Bike Track called Cyclone . Last year we had an enormously successful first 2 days volunteering (for which we gratefully acknowledge the enormous support of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Gas Networks and State Street – who provided in total over 75 volunteers as well as heeps of hardcore and food!) . In May we begin work on the exciting ‘wooded’ area and will transfer it into a fantastic interwoven technical bike track. Join us and help build it. 9 am each day. . Food and hot drinks will be supplied. . For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .
What is Cyclone? Peter Airlie - MYDG staffmember, MY Adventure and long term volunteer in the Muirhouse Community has negotiated the lease from Edinburgh City Council of a fantastic piece of land at Gypsy Brae that, thanks to Starbucks, State Street volunteers and Scottish Gas Networks (SGN) volunteers is, or at least part of the land, is being turned into a Bike Track called ‘Cyclone’. What do you mean by a bike track? By ’Bike Track’ in this case we mean a short circuit (which may be added to later) for children, families and adults to practice their mountain biking and downhill skills. The circuit will be a short one way narrow path with some small purpose built bumps, humps and tight bends as well as 1 or 2 larger jumps for the more daring. Members of the public will be able to use the track all year at their own risk but MYDG & MY adventure will run regular training sessions to learn and develop your mountain bike skills. Where is it? Gypsy Brae is a stretch of land on the North Shore of Edinburgh, Granton, slightly West of the West Shore Industrial Estate – the land is tucked behind Craigroyston House, accessed by the corner of West Shore Road see map below:
Grid ref 219773 Whats happening on the 7th May? We will begin clearing any litter, marking out the route for the shortest loop. Then we’ll dig the foundations, trim low branches and pour in some hardcore and Wind stone as required (all by hand so we need as many volunteers as possible) Let us know you’re coming by texting 077794 467 351 or email email@example.com and he’ll make sure we have enough food and refreshments for you.
Many thanks to Starbucks, State Street volunteers and Scottish Gas Network volunteers and Edinburgh City Council for making this fantastic community project possible.
From the evening news 24.09.12: Mountain bike track tipped to create Muirhouse sporting legacy
A NEW mountain bike track being built in Muirhouse will make a “lasting contribution” to the sport in North Edinburgh, supporters have claimed.
The circuit, to be sited at Gypsy Brae recreation ground, was given the green light following a Dragons’ Den-style pitch by community activist Peter Airlie to a panel of investors including representatives from coffee shop chain Starbucks, Edinburgh City Council and other businesses.
In addition to a £2000 investment, the pitch secured support in kind for the new sports facility, including a 50-strong workforce taken from State Street Bank and Scottish Gas Networks, who will roll up their sleeves and join a community bid to install the track over two days.
The council also pledged to donate 40 tonnes of hardcore material which will form the terrain for the family friendly circuit, while the whole plot is being rented for just £1 a year. Organisers intend to construct a more technically advanced course in the future.
It is hoped that the new Cyclone Mountain Bike Track, launched by Muirhouse Youth Development Group (MYDG), will encourage more people to take up physical activity in one of the most socially deprived areas of Edinburgh.
Speaking about his bid for funding, key organiser Peter Airlie said: “I had to walk into a room with about ten people and do a pitch in front of them.
I’m quite happy to talk normally but I’d been expecting about two people from Starbucks so it was quite nerve-wracking, but everyone seemed to like the project so I didn’t really need to talk them into it.”
Mr Airlie explained that many local youngsters had expressed a desire to try their hand at mountain biking but a lack of facilities prompted him to investigate setting up a community course in Muirhouse.
“We do the cycling proficiency and one of the big things we always get is, ‘Where can we go mountain biking?’” he said. “But that’s Glentress, and it’s an hour-and-a-half away so the idea was to bring a mini-Glentress to the city so they can cycle straight from their door.
“It’s off-road so it will keep them healthy and out of trouble because the track is in the middle of nowhere where there’s nothing to do. It will give them a chance to go somewhere without being in danger.”
Jonny Kinross, social enterprise manager of MY Adventure – the commercial arm of MYDG – said: “Peter Airlie’s Cyclone Bike Track project is radical and creative and probably the envy of many a politician and strategist, having successfully got together council, community projects and big business at a national and local level to make a lasting contribution to mountain biking and cycling in North Edinburgh.
“This will raise the profile of the community across Edinburgh and create something the whole city will benefit from.”
Marketing Leith wants to go after cruise line business and charm seaborne tourists. . AN ambitious bid has been launched to promote Leith as a haven for cruise line tourism to reap the rewards of an untapped industry. . Marketing Leith has devised attention-grabbing stunts – such as welcoming disembarking tourists with a pipe band and holding flamboyant fireworks displays on the eve of the ship’s departure – to put the area on the map of vibrant cruise destinations.
A neon “welcome” sign could be mounted on the roof of Ocean Terminal, while a deal has been struck to distribute promotional pamphlets promoting Leith to voyagers aboard a major cruise liner.
The move to rebrand the district comes as Marketing Leith is today set to lobby the city for a slice of the funding pot granted to Marketing Edinburgh to promote the port district separately.
Forth Ports, which operates Leith docklands, has confirmed that passenger numbers from cruise vessels have “risen steadily” over recent years, with an estimated 20,000 visitors expected this year.
Alex Wilson, secretary of Marketing Leith, said it was determined to reverse the trend of cruise tourists ignoring Leith in favour of venturing to the Highlands in coaches.
“We get hundreds of passengers mooring up in the afternoon with many piling up to the north of Scotland coming back the next day and setting off on the ship. Barely one of them sets foot in Leith. The idea is that if Leith ups its game and puts on a show, that will feed back to the rest of the cruise industry and attract other liners here.
“It appears to the casual visitor that Leith is ignored and sidelined by the City of Edinburgh, and Marketing Edinburgh, which concentrates on the Old and New Towns. It means Leith is a like a desert at peak times in terms of footfall.”
He said the group was going to “challenge” Edinburgh City Council for a portion of the annual funding given to Marketing Edinburgh.
Gordon Robertson, chair of Marketing Edinburgh’s interim management group, said the agency was the “best model” to promote the Capital across international markets but welcomed “further dialogue” with Marketing Leith.
A spokesman for Forth Ports: “A large number of cruise passengers pass through the Port of Leith each year, bringing investment to the Edinburgh area, and we’re proud to be able to facilitate this boost. We are looking at upgrading our cruise terminal facilities in Leith and would welcome any initiative that helps attract visitors.”
Councillor Frank Ross, economy convener, said: “The council continues to make great efforts to work with businesses in Leith to support new initiatives and boost the local economy. These include the I Love Leith branding, the Shop Idol window dressing competitions and promotion of art work in empty shops and on shutters.
“We will continue to work closely with local groups and businesses to support economic activity in the area.”
Castle FM DJs boycott station after massive row . By KATE PICKLES Published on Saturday 16 March 2013 12:00 . THEY’VE all gone radio ga ga. Presenters at a Capital radio station have staged a walk-out after a furious row with management. The station’s top names, including John Leslie and Donny Hughes, are boycotting the airwaves at 98.8 Castle FM following a massive bust-up.
The spat has led to a mass walk-out, by about 50 staff, which has left it operating as a “ghost station”.
Desperate station bosses have been forced advertise for fresh talent on trade website Gumtree. And a police probe is under way after a complaint was made relating to the financial handling of the charity.
Former TV presenter John, 48, who made his comeback as a drive-time presenter at the station in November, said he feared it was in danger of collapse. He said: “It’s not good. It’s a ghost station at the moment, simple as that. It was going really well and it’s a shame it’s stopped now but it’s not appropriate for DJs to carry on while this is going on.
“If you are running a charity station then it has to be well run. I just hope that something is going to be sorted and we start again but it doesn’t look like that’s possible at the moment.
“I don’t think it should be lost to the city, that would be a real shame.”
Castle FM, originally Leith FM, was first established in 2007 and is almost entirely run by volunteers, broadcasting a mix of music throughout the week and specialist music shows in the evening and at weekends. At the time of its Castle FM relaunch last March, it boasted 200,000 listeners.
Its new £10,000 studio, paid for through fundraising and public donations, was named after Sir Tom Farmer, who was guest of honour at the celebrations.
But the station has fallen from grace after a row erupted at its annual general meeting in January.
Sources say two people were “forcibly ejected” from the meeting after an argument spiralled out of control.
“There were two people that were forcibly ejected, which isn’t normal. This is a charity and the people working for it are all volunteers – you don’t expect to have people removed for speaking out.”
Insiders say the charity has been struggling to pay bills and members voted to establish a steering committee to help.
But they claim this was rejected by the station’s chairman, Michael Templeton, who is also charity trustee and company director.
Calls were made for him to stand down but these were ignored and led to an “unworkable situation” culminating in the mass exodus last week.
The insider said: “The majority of presenters voted for him to leave the charity but his position was just to ignore the vote.
“It’s a horrible situation. A lot of the presenters say they are not going back.
“It’s so sad and I really feel for the people that have put all their time and effort into this station. Nothing is being broadcast and the website hasn’t been updated.”
The Gumtree advert, which was placed on the free trading site on Thursday, has advertised for a variety of voluntary staff. It reads: “Ever wanted to work in radio? 98.8 Castle FM is a local radio station in Edinburgh, based in Leith we broadcast 24hrs a day.
“98.8 Castle FM is now looking for new radio presenters/DJs, we also need help in the office. The positions are unpaid and are open to everyone over 15 years old.”
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We can confirm a complaint has been received and an investigation is under way.”
It is not known if the station is in breach of its broadcast licence conditions – given that it’s currently failing to broadcast any live material.
Mr Templeton and 98.8 Castle FM could not be contacted to comment.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing paves the way for destructive new biomass plants . 07 February 2013 . Energy Minister Fergus Ewing's decision today (7 February) on new subsidies for biomass will see Forth Energy's three proposed biomass plants net £221m in subsidies each year if they are given the go-ahead. The decision on these plants also rests with the Energy Minister.
The announcement paves the way for new, large-scale and destructive biomass power stations by failing to close a loophole in legislation that will see plants with efficiencies as low as 35% receiving massive subsidies.
Campaigners are appalled by today's announcement as it is actually worse than the original proposals being consulted on.
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, said: "We hope that those MSPs who will be debating and voting on the proposal will send a strong message to the Scottish Government that those proposals must be reviewed. A cap on electricity-only biomass power stations is worthless if any energy company can evade it by using the tiniest amount of heat."
In a recent Parliamentary Debate on biomass, seven MSPs spoke out against the proposed subsidies and the impact that they would have on communities, carbon emissions and global forests, showing widespread cross-party concern that the Government proposals would incentivise large, polluting and inefficient biomass power stations.
The Scottish Government previously warned that "large-scale electricity-only biomass is inefficient and requires more wood than the UK can produce". Today's announcement contradicts this, as the proposed cap on the size of electricity-only power stations which would receive subsidies has been increased and a loop-hole allowing virtually any biomass plant access to subsidies has not been closed. The loophole is such that a large-scale power station using a small amount of excess heat just to dry its own woodchip would qualify for Government subsidies.
According to campaigners, highly inefficient biomass power stations, such as those proposed by Forth Energy for Grangemouth, Dundee and Rosyth, are now exempt from the cap through the loop-hole, by being classed as 'combined heat and power'. These three power stations alone could attract over £5 billion in subsidies throughout their 25-year lifespan and are expected to burn millions of tonnes of wood from the Americas.
Andrew Llanwarne, Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "It's scarcely credible that the Scottish Government can proceed in a way that is so blatantly contrary to its own stated policy which favours small scale biomass plants producing heat or combined heat and power, using local sources of fuel. It shows a cavalier approach to the use of public funds, when billions of pounds can be used as an inducement for power stations with only 35% efficiency. And then they have the astounding nerve to call this "good quality" CHP, despite it being only half the efficiency required by the EU. It is a totally irresponsible and contradictory approach to so-called 'sustainable' economic growth, seemingly designed only to fill the pockets of big corporations."
The decision also has substantial implications for Scotland's carbon emission reduction targets. Biomass power stations emit around 50% more CO2 per unit of energy than coal power stations and a growing number of studies show that their overall climate impact is likely to be even worse than that of coal for at least one or two generations.
Camper missing after getting separated from father near Loch Awe STV 4 February 2013 15:43 GMT
A camper has been reported missing after getting separated from his father in Argyll.
Michael Pringle disappeared in the Loch Awe area of Oban in the early hours of Sunday.
The 25-year-old had visited the Tight Line pub in the area before becoming separated from his father on returning to the campsite.
Strathclyde Police said Mr Pringle, of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, was last seen walked on the A85 near Kilchurn Castle on the north east end of Loch Awe.
Inspector Julie McLeish, of Oban Police Office, said: "Michael has never been missing before, and he is not from the area so as time passes we are becoming increasingly concerned for his well being and safety."
Mr Pringle is described as being around 5ft 9in, of slim build and with short dark hair. When last seen he was wearing a green camouflage-type jacket over a fishing wader suit.
Anyone with information, or who saw the missing man around the area of Kilchurn Castle, is asked to get in touch with police on 01631 510 500.
I WAS quite happy to have the equal marriage debate pass me by. It wasn't featuring in the pub with my mates, more importantly it wasn't featuring on my twitter timeline! It seems certain to pass in both Westminster and Holyrood by a significant majority and with support from members of all sides.
This is the result I'm hoping for, as well as expecting. Besides, nobody had asked me to express a view on it, backing up my instinct that there are other, more contentious issues to hand.
Yesterday I was asked though - by many people. 20 out of 650 (I'll call them the 3%) Conservative constituency chairs had written to the Prime Minister demanding a delay in the equal marriage legislation. This was big news on a slow news day.
People wanted to know, are we the nasty party again? (We never were for my money.) Were they talking for me as Chair of Edinburgh North & Leith? (No, not at all.) As a Christian conservative and libertarian how would I cast my vote if I had one?
I'm just amazed that there is even a debate about this. Here we have the Government agreeing that the state has no right to control an aspect of people lives, we've cross-party support for it, it's going to pass and it's some Conservatives arguing that the State should retain a veto in a very personal choice of who and how you choose to arrange your life?
It's maybe the most Conservative thing this Government (hamstrung as it is by the Lib Dems) has actually done. Talk of rolling back the influence of the state is cheap, actions are much harder to see evidence of.
The idea that it's appropriate for the state to approve or veto someones choice of marriage partner is laughable - to use The SNPs argument re the Union - do you imagine if the vote was the other way round ie. to implement an unequal marriage law that it would provoke such a serious debate? It wouldn't get off the ground as a serious bill.
Cameron's very first conference speech as leader was a good one - he's mastered that part very well - and he declared to loud applause that he does not support gay marriage despite being a conservative - he supports gay marriage because he's a Conservative.
In 2010 in our equalities manifesto there was a clear commitment to move for equal marriage. This was the manifesto we stood on and won the keys back to No.10 on the back of.
The grumbling of the 3% that it's not necessary, wasn't in out manifesto or party policy does not stand up to scrutiny.
For me the more surprising thing is that a Government is actually doing something that it said it would! No wonder some folks have been wrong footed!
Fair play to Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Salmond and Harvie for all backing it. The grumblers muttering about voting for other parties in future will be hard pressed to find a credible party offering a different party line - there's no such party.
Looking forwards to the law passing and fingers crossed it's the first of many overly intrusive interfering laws that our Parliament's choose to scrap over the next few years.
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