Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How many rogues make a parcel?

In the wake of the Scottish National Party's defeat by Labour in the Glenrothes by-election (which was widely predicted to be an SNP walk-over), SNP leader Alex Salmond has accepted personal responsibility for the defeat. What he means, as I understand it, is that he accepts that he misjudged the campaign and got the mood of the Glenrothes electorate wrong. But I'd like to add my own perspective. I don't live in Glenrothes, but I have voted SNP for many years now in Westminster (UK) parliementary elections, and usually in elections for the Scottish Parliament as well (there was a period when I voted for the Scottish Socialist Party, but they descended into a farcical furore of backbiting and became utterly irrelevant, so I deserted them again).

However, I can say with reasonable certainty that I will not be voting for the SNP again any time soon, and the blame for that lies wholly with Alex Salmond. The reasons are twofold: the economy, and the environment. I no longer trust Salmond with either, and as long as he is in a position of influence in the SNP they can take a hike as far as I'm concerned.

The economy first. The attentive among you will know that I work for HBOS, a once-successful bank which has been, how shall I put this, managed down the toilet by Andy Hornby and his executive. The bank's woes were compounded by aggressive short-selling by some traders which drove our stock price down, and we were on the verge of collapse when Lloyds TSB, another UK bank with (different) problems of its own, offered to take us over to form the largest banking organisation in Britain. The British government cleared the takeover under its competition rules, and offered to take large minority stakes in both banks (effectively ending our liquidity problems) if the merger went ahead.

Obviously the planned takeover has been controversial, especially to those who had failed to notice that Bank Of Scotland had already lost its independence and separate corporate identity seven years ago when it merged with the Halifax Building Society to form HBOS plc. The alternatives, however, are all worse, especially in terms of protection of jobs in both Scotland and England. If the merger doesn't go ahead, there's no government money on the table, and the likelihood is that HBOS stock will tank big-time, and probably so will LTSB's. Then the government, committed to preventing banking failures, will have to nationalise HBOS and possibly LTSB. Then what? Bad news for employees, if the fate of Northern Rock is a guide. Probably the enforced merger of whichever banks are nationalised at the time (how many state-owned banks do you need?) with more job losses. As a senior union representative, my concern is primarily with protecting members' jobs wherever they are. Nobody pretends that the merger will happen without some lost jobs, but at present it seems the best bet by a long way.

To Salmond, however, the takeover is terrible because it represents the loss of a Scottish bank. OK, our registered office is in Edinburgh, but the centre of gravity of HBOS has always been in West Yorkshire, so this is naive in the extreme. He seems to think that HBOS could survive happliy on its own provided the UK government poured money into it. Perhaps it could, but the money isn't on offer under those terms, for excellent reasons (see under "managing down the toilet" above) and it's difficult to see how that scenario could fail to end up with state ownership of HBOS once a renewed lack of market confidence pushed the stock price down again. Anyway, Salmond has been mouthing off at every possible opportunity about all the obstacles he and his (Scottish) government intend to put in the way of the merger. Well, he may be concerned but I'm committed (like the chicken and the pig in eggs and bacon), and to me his bleatings signify that he puts party political advantage ahead of Scottish and English jobs. Not a vote-winner here.
On the economy, I have long been irritated by the SNP's logorrheic lip service to concern over climate change, which it combines with a doctrinaire refusal to countenance any use of nuclear energy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Ideology 1: environmental value 0.

But the final straw came this last week when it was announced that Donald Trump had been given permission to build a gigantic golf course and housing development on a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Menie, one of our most sensitive wildlife habitats. The local council (Aberdeenshire) had duly considered the application, and after objections from local residents and many environmental bodies such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, they rejected it. And that would have been that, had Alex Salmond, oneof the local Members of Parliament, not bene lobbied by the Trump organisation. A few words (strictly unofficial, of course, as it was none of Salmond's business to interfere in the planning process) and as if by magic the relevant SNP government minister at Holyrood - John Swinney - decided to call in the planning application for review. And this week that review was completed, and imagine everyone's surprise when it was decided that the boost to jobs on Alex Salmond's constituency far outweighed a few birds and sand dunes.

So to sum up: Alex Salmond doesn't give a toss about the environment in Scotland, though he cares very much about sucking up to big corporations. He talks a lot about global warming, but not only does he rule out the use of the best available technology for combatting it, he encourages insensitive tourist development which will significantly add to it. He is committed to increasing employment in his own constituency while playing politics - and ill-informed politics at that - with thousands of jobs elsewhere in Scotland and England.

Vote for his party? Go to hell.


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