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Capital ideas

Brian Taylor | 14:51 UK time, Friday, 14 November 2008

If not PPP/PFI, then what? And when? What system is Scotland to use for funding capital projects?

SNP ministers adamantly insist there is no slippage in building new schools and the like across the country.

Pretty well everyone else says that there is.

Alex Salmond and John Swinney have several substantive points to make in response.

Firstly, they note that changed rules mean it will no longer be possible to keep PPP/PFI off balance sheet - which lessens its attraction.

Secondly, they note the excesses of the early contracts which leave public authorities facing all the financial risk while private firms gain huge profits.

Thirdly, they say that their new Scottish Futures Trust is working hard on ideas to transform the capital funding system.

Fair enough. But, once more, what? And when?

It seems to me that the options are limited.

One can use straightforward public sector capital spending as is being done with the new Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

However, the Scottish Government has no borrowing powers of its own (something that is being closely scrutinised within the present debate over the financing of devolved Scotland.)

Having no substantive source of revenue of its own (again, for now), it can issue no bonds.

Ministers say bonds might be collectively issued by local authorities.

But are those likely to be attractive in the currently constrained market? Mr Salmond says they could be financially competitive. Others harbour doubts.

To be clear, the Scottish Government has not completely ruled out the use of PPP/PFI.

Indeed, it has sustained existing contracts.

However, it is now being argued that local authorities and others are unwilling to risk the expense of preparing such plans, given the stated ideological opposition to this method of finance from ministers.

Without endorsing the apocalyptic rhetoric of some of the Scottish Government's political critics, it is still reasonable to ask for an alternative narrative to be presented.

What? And when?

Comments

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  • 1. At 3:50pm on 14 Nov 2008, HudmaToungue wrote:

    Why the sudden urgency Brian?

    As we know, Rome was not built in a week, so why must Schools

    Not a new problem, because years of no investment in our infrastructure has caught up with us

    We want the best for our kids, but we are unwilling to pay for it - or are we?

    If we paid a tax, that was truly ring fenced, then I am quite sure that most would willingly pay up

    But there could be another method - why not let all Local Education Authorities gain Charitable status like their Private School cousins and everyone will be a winner

    Level playing fields spring to mind Brian

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  • 2. At 4:18pm on 14 Nov 2008, crazyislander wrote:

    There is also one other problem local authorities are struggling with on school building projects. They put jobs out to tender and find only one of the 'big boys' submit a reply and safe in the knowledge that they cannot be beaten the contractor refuses to have late completion penalties etc.. The projects take ages to finish thus costing the Authority vast sums.

    A recent documentary on either Panorama or Dispatches revealed a nice little scam whereby all the 'big boy' contractors get together to share the project tenders out and thus are able to fix the price and the conditions. Has the Scottish Government any control over this? Has the UK Government any control over this?

    My suggestion to stop it would be mandatory late completion fees if the late completion is caused by the contractors.

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  • 3. At 4:18pm on 14 Nov 2008, Blackivar wrote:

    I have to say it amused me greatly to hear Alex Salmond taking credit for new schools in West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde yesterday at FMQs.

    I seem to remember these schools were launched under a labour government and non SNP councils (Labour in West Dunbartonshire and Lib Dem in Inverclyde)

    Is this not a bit disingenuous?

    Why can't the government just come out and say - "fair cop, you're right, we haven't commissioned any new buildings."

    I know the SNP are looking for a better funding method and I detest PFI/PPP or whatever we call it these days but inordinately expensive schools are still better than no schools at all.

    Surely the education of the nation's children takes priority.

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  • 4. At 4:52pm on 14 Nov 2008, rabbiehippo wrote:

    #2 I heard on the radio yesterday that the 4 big car windscreen companies had been caught in cahoots to set the prices to car manufacturers and were being fined billions of pounds ... how long till the big building companies are investigated for possibly the same ? PFI/PPP is definatly not the way to go.

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  • 5. At 5:13pm on 14 Nov 2008, minuend wrote:

    Many foreign governments, Japan in particular, are now actively promoting worldwide the sale of local government bonds as an ultra safe asset for investment amid all this financial turmoil.

    Even the UK Treasury is now urgently looking at local government bonds as a replacement for funding capital projects because in 2009 PFI/PPP debt will come back onto the governments books.

    So you are talking clap-trap Brian, or the Labourites who fed you this nonsense are talking clap-trap.

    It is because of the financial turmoil that national and local government bonds have become very attractive to both hard pressed governments and investors.

    As a result the Scottish Futures Trust will become an international benchmark for funding capital projects.

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  • 6. At 6:23pm on 14 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Enough distractions, Brian: as one of the few people with a vote on the Scottish Politician of the Year awards ... how on earth do you justify being on a panel that selects Alastair "we're all doomed" Darling as the 'Best Scot at Westminster', followed by the intellectual midget Brown and Murphy (a slanderer of nearly all European nations - that no one had heard of until a couple months ago)?

    In fairness, it seems equally bizarre that the list for Holyrood was all SNP. Goldie deserved a look in for something, surely - I don't like her, I don't agree with her politics ... but she has undoubted political talent. Which leads me onto Tavish Scott even being nominated for the debater award?! ...

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  • 7. At 6:36pm on 14 Nov 2008, Cjenscook wrote:

    In fact, while it may be conventional, it is not actually necessary for government to borrow, on or off balance sheet.

    It is quite straightforward - if unconventional - for land and buildings (or other productive assets) to be maintained in public ownership and for finance to be raised without borrowing by "unitisation" ofa rental payment within a partnership-based legal framework.

    An agreed (probably index-linked) rental would be paid in respect of the value of the land and buildings, and this may be "unitised" within a partnership-based framework into (say) billionths.

    This creates what is essentially a new form of Public Equity, but within a partnership framework, not a conventional Company vehicle., whether or not "For Profit"

    This method wipes the floor with conventional borrowing because:

    (a) there need be no capital repayment (although a maintenance and depreciation provision is wise) - this alone can halve the cost;

    (b) the rate of return in respect of an index-linked investment will be less than interest rates.

    The outcome is a tradable, low risk Unit conferring a reasonable index-linked income stream

    It's not Rocket Science, and in fact there has been a very similar >£1bn "Capital Partnership" deal done in the private sector, while the relevant vehicle - the UK LLP, is routinely in public sector use eg City of Glasgow now has at least three, albeit conventionally financed.

    The mechanism also works for affordable housing: see

    http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisJCook/equity-shares-a-solution-to-the-credit-crash-presentation





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  • 8. At 6:37pm on 14 Nov 2008, Dave McEwan Hill wrote:

    I would be very happy to hear the SNP Government say that they would not lay another brick to build anything, be it school or hospital, with money we don't have. Labour may have had built several hundred schools and several hospitals.
    They paid for none of them.
    We will be paying for them to greedy contracters and their greedy bankers for the next thirty years or more out of revenues that would be better used on paying teachers, maintaining prwsnt properties and other social needs.
    When we need the next round of schools we'll still be paying for this lot.
    It's crazy.
    As John Swinney has pointed out he has to finds over £1billion a year to pay the debts on "Labour's" schools and hospitals before he looks at doing anything else.
    As far as I'm concerned we should be only building what we can out of current revenues.
    I note the the SNP is building the new nearly £1 billion Southern General Hospital in Glasgow this way without leaving any debt to future generations. Why is the press not headlining this?

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  • 9. At 6:55pm on 14 Nov 2008, greenockboy wrote:

    Best Scot at Westminster
    WINNER: Alistair Darling (Lab), for his quiet handling of unprecedented international financial and banking crisis.
    Runners-up: Gordon Brown (Lab) and Jim Murphy (Lab).

    This is a joke right?

    The UK is the worst positioned country of all the developed countries to withstand the global financial crisis. Gordon Brown's mismanagement of the economy and his longest run of non stop borrowing is about to be called in.

    Just how many 'U' turns has Darling performed lately? The inheritance tax, the 10% band fiasco leading to a change in taxation of earnings for 2008-09, the ripping up of the 'golden rules'. A quiet handling of the banking crisis saw dithering over Northern Rock, so quiet were they that they appeared comatose.

    Jim Murphy has told more whoppers than Billy Liar. His suggestion that Iceland, Ireland and Norway are insolvent were insulting in the extreme.

    He followed this up with a statement in the House of commons that a Norwegian minister had attacked the SNP and that there was "growing anger" in Norway with the SNP. It was pure fabrication, so much so that the Norwegian minister concerned felt compelled to write a letter to an English national paper saying so. The letter hasn't yet found it's way into a Scottish newspaper.

    Murphy has also stated that no-one, yes no-one, in Scotland wishes changes to Holyrood in the form of more powers. Apparently everyone is very happy with it just the way it is.

    If I had carte blanche to say whatever I wanted, regardless of truth, then I could be Secretary for State for Scotland.

    Murphy has yet to be taken to task by a single Scottish journalist for these outrageous remarks.

    Best Scots at Westminster eh? .... don't make me laugh.

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  • 10. At 9:41pm on 14 Nov 2008, enneffess wrote:

    Anything is better than PFI.

    Will the Scottish Government be able to come up with a better solution.

    My own simplistic view is that councils should own their own buildings. It means costs should be kept reasonable and the buildings can be used for a variety of purposes.

    My eldest son's school was a pfi project. It was desperately needed, since the old school was falling apart.

    However, all the clubs - including his Boys Brigade - which used the old building were not allowed the use of the new one.

    It seems that a lot of councils have tried to turn themselves into property and land dealers - and now look what is happening in a few areas.

    Councils sole purpose is to provide and support the local community. Not play the business game which most of them are sorely ill-equipped to play.

    PFI was a huge mistake as it has allowed councils to spend huge amounts of taxpayers money without any accountability.

    I still have a lot of issues with the SNP, but if they can replace PFI with something a bit more sensible then I will support their efforts in this area.

    Small footnote on wasting public money - what about the news that a lawyer wants a 250 year old murder case reopened? Who is going to benefit, and how much will he be making? Perhaps we could reopen the allegation that Robert Bruce committed murder.......


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  • 11. At 10:29pm on 14 Nov 2008, frankly_francophone wrote:

    #9 greenockboy

    "The UK is the worst positioned country of all the developed countries to withstand the global financial crisis."

    Unfortunately for those who would prefer not to believe this, the facts do tend to support the contention that that is pretty much the case. All of the economic statistics that I have seen recently do so. If one takes at random, for instance, figures for car sales in the EU, which I came across today, the state showing the healthiest figures is, as you will doubtless not be surprised to learn from me, France, with a fall of only about 9 per cent. The latest figure for the UK is about 23 per cent, which is actually the second-worst in the EU in this particular sector, the worst being the figure for Spain.

    If the present English government can manage to position its economy so badly in relation to France in this sector, which is an important one, and so badly in relation to France in the financial sector with particular reference to the housing market, which is structured quite differently there, where protected long-term tenancy is extremely common in preference to sub-prime mortgage-burdened home-ownership, which is a particular poison of the Anglo-Americans, you might reasonably be expected to question the quality of governance of the English government's Labour recipients of Best Scot at Westminster accolades. Carry on giving one another prizes if you must, but your ship is still sinking.

    As for the Scottish Government's SFT funding mechanism, it is to be doubted whether such shrewd operators as the SNP ministers would be clinging to it if they did not think they were on to a good thing. It will be interesting to see what comes of it. Congratulations to Ms Sturgeon, incidentally, for her Scottish Politician of the Year award. No one could seriously question the appropriateness of that. If there were an award for shouting intemperately from a prepared script while wearing a red tie, the leader of the Labour group at the Scottish Parliament would have won it hands down, of course.

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  • 12. At 10:38pm on 14 Nov 2008, quietscotsmac wrote:

    # 3
    'I seem to remember these schools were launched under a labour government and non SNP councils (Labour in West Dunbartonshire and Lib Dem in Inverclyde)

    Is this not a bit disingenuous?'

    I think it's a lot less disingenuous than the fact that so few schools have been built in the past 40 years. The complete lack of maintenance of many schools has allowed them to fall into such disrepair that now new buildings are required. Scotland was ruled by labour councils then.

    At FMQs Ian Gray was shouting about 'where are the new classrooms for our children?'

    Labour have to decide their priorities here. Is it a rise in the standard of education or posh new classrooms. There's not enough money for both at present. I would prefer a rise in educational standards as the present system of aiming our education to the lowest common denominator (I speak about primary schools) does hold back the brighter children sadly.

    Yes Brian, I agree it's about time the SNP brought forward more detail about how to fund any public projects. Their hands are more or less tied as you acknowledge, but we do need some information about future funding.


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  • 13. At 10:40pm on 14 Nov 2008, bluelaw wrote:

    excellent post greenockboy.

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  • 14. At 05:49am on 15 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7730724.stm

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  • 15. At 09:32am on 15 Nov 2008, kaybraes wrote:

    9 greenockboy.
    Right on! Who did the voting ? Glasgow city council ?

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  • 16. At 10:55am on 15 Nov 2008, nursebill wrote:

    Brian,I fear that PFI/PPP will become a lot more attractive under this Westminster government once they've given enough taxpayers money to the banks to enable those 125%mortgages to start up again,as well as pad those expense accounts.Westminster will then direct more taxpayers money to companies in a panic move to get those companies back to work paying their usual minimum rates to their workers and their usual xmas bonuses to themselves.
    SFT may not be perfect but it seems to be better,fairer and more economic to the public purse.At least it's different to the norm and seems the least change available under the current devolved settlement.

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  • 17. At 1:11pm on 15 Nov 2008, dreamyoga wrote:

    The continued use of PPP cannot be tenable until such times that the value for money calculations that the PPP, so called best value test , is predicated upon.

    This test is related to risk transfer and optimism bias guesses that are weighted in favour of PPP as the authorities have no other recourse to deliver their statutory obligations as they relate to the facility interface provision.

    I am of the opinion that if one were to dig deep enough into the basis of optimism bias and compared a record of the first pass of these calcs versus the last pass you would find some interesting adjustments that when assessed against the authorities governance requirements of accuracy and transparency would find some local authority officers significantly exposed.

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  • 18. At 2:14pm on 15 Nov 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    PFI is just like credit card borrowing very expensive in the longer term. Page 12 is the one to read.

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  • 19. At 2:47pm on 15 Nov 2008, sid the sceptic wrote:

    this is part of the biggest piece of political spin ever attempted.
    where we Joe public are going to be asked to forget about the past 11 years and all that Blair,Brown, darling and now Murphy have been up to.
    just forget who it was that allowed the conditions for the banks to do what they have done.
    just forget who it was that allowed all the venture capitalist's to move in to the UK , make billions but pay no tax?
    just forget who told us that being greedy was OK.
    just forget who told us being up to our necks in debt was OK
    just forget who told us he had stopped all the years of boom and bust.
    just forget all the wee tricks like ppp or pfi that don't need to appear on any ones balance sheet's.
    BECAUSE- Mr brown can solve all the worlds problems all you need to do is give your bank's billions with no string's attached so they can continue to do what they have being doing for the past 11 years and demand the "independent" Bank of England drop the interest rate if and when they are told to. it has not even started to take effect in the UK and brown is off to America to tell the world what to do. the arrogance of the man knows no bounds.

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  • 20. At 2:50pm on 15 Nov 2008, sid the sceptic wrote:

    and while I am at it. why should the world take a lecture from the leader of the country with the worst personal debt figures per person in europe if not the world??

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  • 21. At 3:58pm on 15 Nov 2008, MaliceTown wrote:

    PPI/PFI, is not to be sniffed at, I would rather my daughter learned in a modern school than a decaying one. What of the cost? Those of us with a mortgage will be paying that for the rest of our lives, I see more value in school building and hospitals.

    Good to see Alex Salmond carving a new career as a comedian! Not much of a stretch!

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  • 22. At 4:40pm on 15 Nov 2008, Dave McEwan Hill wrote:

    21

    I'm afraid it's Malice Town that is the comedian.
    What is we do? We just keep borrowing money that actually doesn't exist?

    We are well on the way to 2nd world status as a failed state with national debt now more than annual GDP and he thinks its all right to borrow more.

    At some point reality always kicks in.
    This is what is happening at the moment.

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  • 23. At 5:01pm on 15 Nov 2008, rabbiehippo wrote:

    #22 Look at 21's profile .... little anti devolution, anti SNP sound bites .... only one post per topic yer right id say he is a comedian . Now that PPI/PPP is coming onto the balance sheets Gordon is not gonna look to rosy then. Good on the SNP to look to other means to finance projects and i hope that the other 2 Scottish parties (Con/Lib) look at this properly.

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  • 24. At 5:15pm on 15 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Because of PFI the current Scottish Government has to set a full 1 billion aside at the start of every financial year to pay for the projects of the previous administration (these pay-outs will continue for 30+ years). The few 'decaying schools' are directly linked to the exorbitant prices paid by the previous Labour administration for a handful of 'state of the art' schools which have - for the most part - turned out to be horribly ill-designed and/or inappropriate for use: open plan, extensive unsupervis-able ‘link’ corridors and inadequate heating systems – amongst other examples. (There are of course exceptions).

    If you look at the geographical distribution the worst schools - in terms of the fabric of the buildings – they will be in the same authority areas as the new city academies in disguise ... money in local authorities budgets can only be spent once, unfortunately. The great Labour lie is: that this is not true, and we can spend the same money multiple times on multiple projects. Think of the way the national debt has been massaged to around half the level via excluding the banking bailout, PFI and others.

    Also, PFI is a particularly bad system if you have no real borrowing powers as a government, and have to rely on a single 'block grant' (manipulated downward by spiteful political enemies).

    I see more value in improving educational standards and returning the NHS to its original ideals (long abandoned by Labour), free at the point of need. Yes, the mass of schools built in the late 70s are not particularly attractive; but it would be a lot cheaper to renovate all of them thoroughly than replace a further handful for political purposes. The standards of care and education within the buildings is more important that the aesthetic of the buildings themselves. Whilst we operate under the tight - and increasingly tightening - constraints of the Union, we must use the little ‘pocket-money’ allowed us carefully.

    I am currently living in Michigan; where the State has so overspent on PFI that the school kids are required to provide their own paper, jotters and textbooks as a result by many local authorities. Similarly, subsidised meals for the worst off are being cut back. There are the same issues over here - the same horrible exploitation of future education budgets by private firms ... and all the while encouraged by ideologues motivated by short-term party political gain. This has actually had spillover effects, cutting the funding to Counties as a whole, and leading to extensively potholed public roads and the cut-back of other services. The chief difference is that the career politicians advocating PFI, don't need to pretend to be ‘of the left’ over here, as the do at home.

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  • 25. At 6:38pm on 15 Nov 2008, Dave McEwan Hill wrote:

    pattymkirkwood

    Superbe post. Says it all.

    I worked in education in Africa in a big scheme to get every child into school.


    We had schools which were merely roofs...
    Cement bags cut up and used to write on..
    Slates and scrapers instead of jotters

    The important element in all of it was the teacher and the respect of the African child who would crawl hands and knees to get to lessons.

    We don't need educational palaces. We need practical well run schools with good , motivated teachers and we certainly shouldn't be building schools we can't pay for just to let some politician strut about.

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  • 26. At 6:58pm on 15 Nov 2008, Tom wrote:

    MaliceTown:

    #21.

    "PPI/PFI, is not to be sniffed at, I would rather my daughter learned in a modern school than a decaying one. What of the cost? Those of us with a mortgage will be paying that for the rest of our lives, I see more value in school building and hospitals."

    People can walk away from school with the best grades in the country, while attending a school with the worst reputation. If they can do that, then people can still receive a good education in older schools. It's not where you learn from because if that person does not want an education then they will not have one at the end of the day.

    Besides why should my children foot the bill for schools and hospitals before they have started working? Plus you have to consider that new schools with eventually have to be built which will mean greater debt...

    You daughter may be in a modern school now but her children may not be.

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  • 27. At 9:55pm on 15 Nov 2008, enneffess wrote:

    While I do not agree with PFI at all, school buildings are falling apart and need urgently replaced. This is true of many schools in South Lanarkshire.

    So what are the available alternatives? I'm not being sarcastic here, but apart from a council paying for the construction in the normal manner, I have no idea.

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  • 28. At 10:14pm on 15 Nov 2008, Tom wrote:

    Neil_Small147:

    It's difficult. Other alternatives must be found because PFI is unsustainable and in the long run, not worth it.

    I guess we will end up copying some other countries plan like we usually do.

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  • 29. At 10:37pm on 15 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Neil - both North and South Lanarkshire are meant to be particularly bad ... probably something to do with the fact they used PFI extensively.

    Here is a classic example of the sort of trouble brought on by PFI (this one is North Lanarkshire),

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/uk_news/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7039543.stm

    Sneckedagain - thanks. People get overly hung up on the fabric of the building. We are unfortunately in a situation where we can't afford everything we want. So, for goodness sake, maintain the buildings - and concentrate on the actual standard of education - (not shiny new buildings).

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  • 30. At 10:46pm on 15 Nov 2008, Raven2012 wrote:

    Oh Brian, once upon a time I believed you were impartial, sigh.........
    et tu bruti.......
    Can you still manage to put the light out at night and fall asleep without any hint of letting your country down.
    You are becoming a modern day version of something that you detested when you were young and full of passion for your country.
    Please turn around Brian, stuff the margage, stuff the loans, you are big enough to earn a packet away from the GBBC.
    Don't be another of history's dissapointments.

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  • 31. At 10:52pm on 15 Nov 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    # Neil_Small147

    For a start don't replace Trident that will free up about £76 billion, a lot of useful building money there. We are spend over £2 billion per annum on 2 wars neither of which we should be involved in. For decades the UK governments have been building flashy new projects rather than putting a proper maintence program into local and national infrastructure which would of alleviated a lot of the problems the country now faces. Time to take stock.

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  • 32. At 11:17pm on 15 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    While we are on ways of saving money: don't forget ID cards. Apparently we all want those now (despite the horrendous cost, and the fact that you will now need a new set of eyes and fingerprints if you have your identity stolen)! For legal reasons I should point out that line is one of Frankie Boyle's.

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  • 33. At 11:49pm on 15 Nov 2008, Tom wrote:

    #31.

    "We are spend over ?2 billion per annum on 2 wars neither of which we should be involved in."

    I am sure Afganistan is not one of those wars. After all Afganistan effects Scotland, Britain and the rest of Europe through the illegal drugs trades.

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  • 34. At 00:29am on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Thomas, I don't want to get into a long-running debate on this. But, if one were to take a purely 'selfish view' on Afghanistan and ask what would be best for Scotland, the UK and Europe ... then we should have left the Taliban in charge! They are the only grouping to have successfully pushed down poppy production in that country in the time we have records, and they did so very effectively toward the end of their rule.

    Production has exploded in recent years since the fighting has intensified and the few NATO troops have been present. There is just no way of justifying to a poor Afghan (no such thing as an 'Afghan' really, but go with this) farmer that he must grow another cash crop instead, when poppy is so much more valuable than any other option.

    If we are in Afghanistan to fight the opium poppy then we will be there forever and a day! You could buy much of the crop with a fraction of the cash spent on the wars and use it for medical opiates. There would be fewer deaths adopting a similar strategy too. It could even be used to strengthen the central govt. over local warlords.

    Also, as a country (GB) that has unsuccessfully tried to subdue both Afghanistan and Iraq in the early part of the c20th ... it is frankly remarkable that we find ourselves in either theatre again! Why is it our leaders learn nothing from history?

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  • 35. At 00:43am on 16 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    I realised I'd become ill-tempered over the last few days - apologies to anyone I offended.

    Calman advisers back new tax powers for Scottish Parliament - just so we can gear up for Brian's next blog (unless it's going to be on fitba' again).

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  • 36. At 01:07am on 16 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    Prime minister plans to change Act of Settlement to prevent SNP using it as a weapon in an independence referendum - report in the Sunday Times.

    OK, the Times isn't the least biased paper, but why have Labour ignored such a clearly discriminatory measure for so long?

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  • 37. At 10:41am on 16 Nov 2008, enneffess wrote:

    29. At 10:37pm on 15 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:
    Neil - both North and South Lanarkshire are meant to be particularly bad ... probably something to do with the fact they used PFI extensively.


    I line in South Lanarkshire, and here a few of their more interesting actions:

    Double glazing fitted into flats around 1997-99. Good work, however the council only obtained a one year guarantee!

    Capital repairs on flats roofs and new roughcast on walls. Scaffolding removed before work complete. One roof wrong fitted and blew off in a gale. Blocking a road to remove scaffolding at 8am in the morning, so about 40 cars trapped on a Monday!

    90% of factoring repairs not checked. In one case a block of eight flats were charged about £900 to fix leaks. The fix? A bucket place under a pipe.

    Six secondary schools reduced to three. Despite council assurances at the time it is now noted that capacity has almost reached maximum, yet the council insists on selling land for private housing.

    One new PFI funded school not ready for opening. One that was completed full of problems, including science classrooms with fume cupboards that were not allowed to be used. Heating control problems; the school is far to hot. Massive car parking and transport problems. Two schools have been merged into one. School transport still not sorted.

    I know about all of these cases because I am directly affected.

    PFI is great for them; lots of money and no responsibility.



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  • 38. At 10:50am on 16 Nov 2008, excellentcatblogger wrote:

    #36 oldnat

    Personally I would prefer to have a Scottish catholic as Prime Minister. The current one sucks big time!

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  • 39. At 11:02am on 16 Nov 2008, scottishrepublic wrote:

    Keep it up Brown, I love the fact that Westminster will be in breach of the Act of Union 1707.

    I think we all know that the reversal of the key item in the Act would be seen as a breach of contract by the London Government.

    It is already a fact that Scotland would support the end of religous discrimination under a Free Scotland, but that decision is only up for a vote for the Scottish Nation. Englishman Brown will have little or no say on the matter.

    On the subject of funding for Schools and Community Projects, Westminster has 100 billion in debts that do not even appear on their books, whilst New Labour has run up a bill of 22 billion on Scottish Schools and Hospitals, because of many years of starvation of funds from the foreign power that runs our Nation.

    Brian Taylor obviously gets his topics for Brians Blether from Jim Murphy and Brown through Seton at the BBC. Why hasnt Brian called for Londons funding of these projects, or demanded that Scotland had the ability to raise its own funding at better commercial rates. Come on Brian, a bit of balance please. If not for our sake then maybe for the Scottish Bairns if you care at all.

    No more long term debts for Scots of the Future. Glenrothes has shown us how little Scots realise the hole that London is leading us to. Coronation Street or Eastenders is way more important than the Scottish Children future after all.

    What a lame hopeless Nation Scotland is. They surely are anglinised now. Now lets have a quick singalong. Jerusalem, Jerusalem la la la la la. or how about that old time favourite Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of la la la la. Brings a tear to many Scots English Eyes

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  • 40. At 11:12am on 16 Nov 2008, scottishrepublic wrote:

    ThomasPorter,

    Sorry my friend but its 38.7 Billion a year on the Armed Forces. Thats a lot less than the Scottish Economy was by quite a bit, but more than we get as pocketmoney from the Foreign Power that runs our Country.

    The Taliban actually got rid of 96% of Poppy Production when they ran their own Country. It was only increased to fund the fight against the Invading Army that put a puppet Government in place. Thats a fact Thomas and today the British People can celebrate that another one of our young people will not be returning to their Mums and Dads thanks to Brown. 125 DEAD YOUNG PEOPLE WHO COULD HAVE HAD A MEANINGFUL LIFE. Good on Brown, Blair and Bush. Never mind Blair converted to Catholiticsm so he could confess his guilt yet still get in to heaven.

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  • 41. At 11:19am on 16 Nov 2008, flyfifer wrote:

    'greenockboy' mentioned the Norwegian Minister who felt compelled to write a letter after the lies told by Murphy. He said Scottish newspapers had not printed the letter and story surrounding the lies.
    The Courier (Fife version) related the whole sorry saga in detail.
    Yes, Mr Murphy is a Billy Liar and I can't figure out why journalists are not hounding him for it, including Brian Taylor. None of them are slow at castigating the SNP Government if something is not correct.

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  • 42. At 1:41pm on 16 Nov 2008, HughEdinburgh wrote:

    I thought it was a bit rich of the London Labour Party complaining about George Osborne talking down sterling.

    However, London Labour are the masters at talking everything down, especially talking down Scotland.

    No point in continually reminding us what powers we don't have Brian. Just remind us instead why we don't have these powers, and how they were taken away from us.

    Stop talking Scotland down, and show more respect. That goes for all the London based parties.

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  • 43. At 2:13pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    # 37 - Neil, thanks for the details. First I have heard of as installed heating system being too powerful!

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  • 44. At 3:16pm on 16 Nov 2008, Tom wrote:

    scottishrepublic:

    #40.

    "The Taliban actually got rid of 96% of Poppy Production when they ran their own Country."

    Evidence please.

    "It was only increased to fund the fight against the Invading Army that put a puppet Government in place."

    I doubt this very much. You are assuming the farmers are collectivly growing poppies to use the profits against the legal occupation? Farmers can make hundreds more pounds per bag then crop filled bags. I am sure many are growing poppies for wealth rather then political reasons.

    Again, evidence please? Humour me.

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  • 45. At 3:28pm on 16 Nov 2008, enneffess wrote:

    On poppy production, I think you need to look at why farmers do it.

    Reason 1 is likely to be financial. As long as addicts want to poison themselves, then the farmer doesn't give a monkeys who uses it. He will almost certainly be earning more than from normal crops.

    Reason 2 could be security. If you have an armed man "asking" you to grow poppies. What will you do?

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  • 46. At 3:43pm on 16 Nov 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    #44 Thomas_Porter

    Poppies

    2001 was when the Taliban banned it's growing as unislamic.

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  • 47. At 4:10pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Taliban’s Eradication of Poppies is Convulsing Opium Market – New York Times 2001,

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03E4DC113EF930A25755C0A9679C8B63

    BBC article in 2002, poppy production now on the upswing after removal of the Taliban,

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2202148.stm

    49% increase in poppy production in Afghanistan in 2006 alone,

    http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/pp062607.shtml

    Overall estimates year by year Afghanistan, notice the Taliban clamp down in 2000-2001 and the aftermath of the US-NATO intervention,

    http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/data/upimages/opium_graph_afghanistan.gif

    All credit to the guardian for publishing this article after the ‘Northern Alliance’ victory over the Taliban … predicting what has happened since in November 2001,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/25/afghanistan.drugstrade

    Hope the link to production table comes out ok!



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  • 48. At 4:34pm on 16 Nov 2008, aye_write wrote:

    35. oldnat

    "I realised I'd become ill-tempered over the last few days - apologies to anyone I offended."

    Surely not oldnat!

    ;-)





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  • 49. At 4:46pm on 16 Nov 2008, Tom wrote:

    #46.

    2001 was the only drop in the amount of opium produced. Before, and much of after we continue to see the same amount produced year in, and year out. The only time we see a rise is in the most recent years.

    Does this prove that the Taliban cleaned up Afganistan's opium trade? No. Using the evidence you provided anyway.

    #47.

    Using #46 evidence and using what you have provided, 2001 appears to be the only year which opium levels dropped. The Taliban became against opium production but even they never controlled all of Afganistan before 2001 because your sources say local warlords continued to grow poppies which still led to the West, still creating Afganistan as one of the main opium producing countries in the world. Within one season we witnessed the Taliban return back to allowing opium. If their opinion can change that fast I still don't believe we should not congratulate them for eradicating opium production when it last for one year...

    #40's comment was quite misleading, "The Taliban actually got rid of 96% of Poppy Production when they ran their own Country."

    Because when they ran the country opium production continued and only stopped or miminised for one year.



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  • 50. At 5:11pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    #49 Thomas - the point is the Taliban controlled c90% of Afghanistan until 2000-2001, the Northern Alliance was held up in a few valleys in the extreme North - not good areas for production anyway! The Taliban did nothing to 'allow' production afterwards, they lost their central authority and local strongmen made local decisions.

    All of the increases after 2001 happened under the New Government's and NATO's watch! The fact remains that the Taliban are the only regime in Afghanistan to have successfully reduced Afghanistan's production of opium: and it was some reduction as even you have to acknowledge.

    I am not defending the Taliban ... merely pointing you to some facts. Also, the Northern Alliance which is the only actual 'Afghan' force behind the current government - never banned poppy production at all, they have no interest in curtailing it. This is due in part to the fact that they are less of a centralized structure than the Taliban ... they are just a loose alliance of various warlords ('friendly' for now) which finance all their campaigns on the poppy crop locally. Also, the main routes out of the country now go north through their heartlands to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan (depending on the ethnicity of the traders).

    The Taliban wiped out 75% of the world's production in 2000-2001, and Afghanistan accounts for roughly 90% of the world's production. So 0.75/0.9 = c83% of their own production cut would seem a more reasonable figure than 96%. All the stats in my previous post can be tracked back to United Nations Drug Control Program figures incidentally. If you doubt any of them, you should browse their website and confirm them for yourself.

    This level of complexity is exactly why we shouldn't be in Afghanistan there are no 'good guys' to support 'bad guys' to fight ... only shades of grey. As outsiders we are simply not equipped to be able to make the sort of judgements required, that is why other potential solutions (such as using the crop as a centralizing influence, and for medical opiates - which are in short supply), while disengaging militarily have such merit.

    Also, most of the Taliban (non-Pashtun) units just deserted en masse to the Northern Alliance when the war started to turn their way. Again, there is no way we should be involved in a war so far away that our policy makers cannot even fully comprehend. There are other (cheaper AND more ethical) solutions.

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  • 51. At 5:42pm on 16 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    #50 pattymkirkwood

    I agree with you, but it's also worth bearing in mind that it's pretty meaningless to think of a "border" between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's simply a line drawn through Pashtun territory by the British Empire.

    Pakistan had virtually eliminated the poppy trade by 2000, but Poppy cultivation in Pakistan increased due to war on terror, says US

    "According to the State Departments annual report on drug trafficking and production, the imperative of combating militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) diverted resources and political attention away from Pakistans goal of returning to a poppy-free status."

    While one can understand the US wanting to "fight back" after 9/11, and their allies supporting them, the Afghan war was ill thought out. Embarking on military action without a clear purpose is usually unwise.

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  • 52. At 6:07pm on 16 Nov 2008, rabbiehippo wrote:

    Good to see that if your not happy with Brians blog you change the subject ;o)} lol

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  • 53. At 6:10pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Oldnat - absolutely, equally so with the northern borders and to-a-lesser-extent even that with Iran. 'Afghanistan' is an idea which does not feature heavily in the minds of many 'Afghans' themselves, and the boundaries of the country are (for the most part) all very notional.

    'We' in the West made a mistake, and the vast majority were caught up in the belief 'that we must do something' (myself amongst them). But, there is no need to keep on reinforcing failure, in a war - as you correctly state - no-one is quite sure why they are fighting!

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  • 54. At 6:15pm on 16 Nov 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    I think its called diversification! (opium - buildings).

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  • 55. At 6:16pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    Rabbiehippo - of course! What else is one to do when such 'filler' is the chosen topic? Also, some of us had an (admittedly brief) attempt at it earlier on.

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  • 56. At 6:24pm on 16 Nov 2008, northhighlander wrote:

    Re PFI / PPP

    I can agree with some of the comments, PFI /PPP is expensive. It does however have one thing in its favour, it does actually deliver buildings. Most of the issues raised are contract management issues, these arise no matter what type of funding is in place.

    If the SFT works then this will be an excellent achievement that I am sure will be copied the world over. But I see one problem. We haven't laid a brick yet. We don't know how or if it is going to work.

    My children go to a sceondary school that is absolutley appalling. It was deemed unsatisfactory 25 years ago when I attended. Successive governments have made promises but nothing has happened. The council agree it needs rebuilt but say no PPP means no new schools.

    So we are left with our children queuing for the few operational toilets, learning in class rooms with plaster falling off the walls, but hey its really a good thing, because we are not giving money to greedy contractors and bankers.

    Sorry but every child has a right to a decent education, that can only happen in a decent school. Ours is like a third world school, guess what teachers are difficult to attract, turnover is high and results are falling.

    So Mr S needs to get his finger out and quick. The excuses are wearing thin and the Labour/ Lib commissioned new buildings to open are coming to an end. What is his team going to do for soundbites then? Open individual walls of the two buildings commissioned so far?

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  • 57. At 6:52pm on 16 Nov 2008, pattymkirkwood wrote:

    The few buildings delivered by PFI have serious issues and lead to the deprivation of other schools of funding to pay off the long-term debt incurred. Why is it that people are of the opinion that schools are somehow 'disposable'? They may not have been made of the best materials initially, but it is possible to upgrade them (and a hell of alot cheaper than financing the few 'shiny few', for the photo-call politics of the past)!

    What percentage of Scotland's schools, hospitals (and other public buildings) were financed by PFI?

    How many times more do the advocates of PFI suggest we do the same?

    Consider that the payments are already eating up 1/33rd of the whole budget of the Scottish Government every financial year.

    Consider all the essential services that must be run out of that budget (including education), before blindly saying we must have more of the same.

    Again, I am currently living in Michigan, they went down this road years ago and are still paying through the nose for it - with all the knock-on consequences on other services that implies. Indeed, actual education budgets are being slashed by some counties (leading to huge increases in class sizes, cut-backs of school meals and class material provision) to pay off the PFI financed schools in which these unfortunate pupils now sit! Some of the new schools (familiar territory here for those familiar with projects in Scotland) do not meet the basic requirements - leading to litigation: yet another way to waste money that could be spent on education.

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  • 58. At 8:02pm on 16 Nov 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    #56

    PFI

    The last paragraph

    With respect to the second point, our analysis suggests that PFI is an expensive way of financing and delivering public services that may, where public expenditure is constrained, lead to cuts in public services and/or tax rises. In contrast, we suggest that the chief beneficiaries are the providers of finance and some, but not necessarily all of the private sector service providers rather than the public sector.

    One might have a new school but no janitor.

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  • 59. At 8:06pm on 16 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    #56 northhighlander

    Wick I presume, since Dingwall and Lochaber have had a new build or major refurbishment, and Portree (another C rated school) also got a new build.

    Quite how Highland Council rated Portree and Wick as only "poor" instead of "bad" is a strange decision.

    The fact that Wick has not been inspected for a long time probably hasn't helped. A bad report from HMIe on accommodation usually helps, but it still took Highland an incredibly long time to upgrade Portree after a terrible report on its accommodation in 1996.

    If I remember Wick HS correctly, it's a ramshackle mix of the original 19th century building, a 1960s(?) extension and a collection of huts.

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  • 60. At 9:27pm on 16 Nov 2008, cloch2 wrote:

    The bottom line is that the Scottish Futures Fund is a farce. Another ill thought out unworkable policy from the SNP. Thanks to the SNP Gov't the Labour controlled Invercylde Council will be able to boast some os the best secondary schools within the country all through PPP. All this while SNP Councils are still navel gazing.

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  • 61. At 9:57pm on 16 Nov 2008, Older than the Pyramids wrote:

    Any truth in the rumour that, on the back of Alex Salmond's triumph for Children In Need, Iain Gray is begging to be dropped into the Australian jungle on "I'm A Celebrity..." only to be told that he doesn't qualify?

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  • 62. At 10:11pm on 16 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    #60 cloch2

    All 7 of Inverclyde's Secondary schools were in "poor" condition.

    Your PPP scheme through Miller Construction will deliver 2 new secondary and 2 new primary schools.

    The more important question, given that PPP has been identified as being a very expensive method of delivery, is will Inverclyde be able to fund the improvement of their other schools while they pay the 30 year costs of this scheme?

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  • 63. At 11:12pm on 16 Nov 2008, Dave McEwan Hill wrote:

    Some points on previous posts which have wandered all over the place away from the topic

    If the Catholic Church had been a democracy Tony Blair wouldn't have got into it.

    We are in Afghanistan because of the access it gives us through pipelines to the oil in the Central Asian republics. The opium story is a red herring. We could buy all the opium ten times over for the money the military operation is costing is costing. You cannot "enforce" democracy on any community either. We are being lied to as usual on all aspects of our Afghan engagement.

    The town that I live in built a High School in Victorian times. It was replaced in the early sixties by a shiny new High School. This has now been knocked down and replaced by another shiny new PFI High School. Construction professionals give this one thirty to forty years. Meanwhile the Victorian High School , now a large and very spacious primary school, stands a exactly as it always has and will still be standing I'm sure when the new PFI one is demolished. Lesson there somewhere.
    I believe all this hullabaloo about schools is mostly synthetic as Labour, who let them all rot or commissioned PFI new ones, can't come up with anything even mildly constructive in the Scottish Parliament but they feel obliged to make a lot of noise. I refer again to the Scottish Government's decision to build the new Glasgow Southern General Hospital entirely out of current revenues
    That is what we should be doing with everything and if we don't have the money we shouldn't run up debt.
    Labour has ruined UK's public finances for a generation and a dose of realism is very useful.
    You cannot maintain a civilised level of social spending without a progressive taxation system and a real Labour Government would have acted on that premise rather than adopt Tory PFI strategy which has built huge debt liabilty to every tax payer which must inevitably lead to a reducing level of useful social spending

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  • 64. At 11:44pm on 16 Nov 2008, cloch2 wrote:

    #oldnat62

    I've looked at Inverclyde's school proposals, I stay close to that area. They will be opening a new secondary school early next year. With the PPP schools also in the pipeline. More interestingly they also have proposals for a new joint campus for a non denominational and Catholic school in Port Glasgow, all fully costed with financial closure. Five new secondary schools and one refurbished secondary. Also as you rightly say two new primary schools. They must be doing something right.

    My point is that none of this has been done with the Scottish Futures Fund.

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  • 65. At 11:49pm on 16 Nov 2008, Tully wrote:

    This thread reads like an SNP love-in. Sorry to burst your bubble but the SNP Scottish Futures Trust is based on Argyll and Bute Council's NPDO model. This model took the best of PPP - a massive injection of private finance to enable it to build new schools -(refurbishing old schools is really not a good idea - 60s and 70s buildings all suffer from the same defects 'flat leaking roofs, poor floor, wall and ceiling surfaces, cheap joinery, single glazed windows and worst of all inadequate heating and power supplies' Audit commission 1988) - whilst at the same time it capped the amount of profit the private consortium could make. At the end of the contract (which is to design, build, operate and maintain these buildings for 30 years) Independent reviewers have confirmed that at the end of the contract the private sector company in Argyll and Bute will be making (minimum) donations to an eduational charity of around £18million. This figure is likely to increase. And as for the SNP numpties who post reports about schools being too small - try reading the reports in closer detail - the PPP model transfers all of the risks to the private sectro - if the school is too small - the Private Sector have to fix it FOR THE SAME PRICE. In Argyll and Bute their NPDO/PPP scheme allowed them to build 10 new schools - costing over £90 million - when their yearly total capital budget for schools was under £2 million.
    If you don't like it - knock it - but please come up with an alternative - that's not rhetoric.

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  • 66. At 00:28am on 17 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    So no definite recommendations to Calman from Muscatelli according to the Herald and the Scotsman

    Brian will doubtless give us the arguments later.

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  • 67. At 00:35am on 17 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    Interesting that in Times article reports that "Suggestions that the economists favoured greater power over taxes being transferred to Edinburgh were dismissed by the UK Government yesterday" and a UK Government source said “That is untrue. The report is a survey of what goes on in other places around the world. It will tell us about the principles of various systems and the trade-offs involved, but it will not recommend anything.”

    How can a UK Government source have this insider information on an "independent" report?

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  • 68. At 00:41am on 17 Nov 2008, oldnat wrote:

    #64 cloch2

    I've read the agreement with Miller Construction too.

    The question is not whether new schools are being built, but whether the additional cost involved in the PPP scheme will prevent the improvement of all the other schools that need to be upgraded.

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  • 69. At 12:38pm on 17 Nov 2008, BoNG0_1 wrote:

    Point of note: At a time when Labour are financially and cynically raping Scotland, Brian Taylor has managed to keep the Blogs limited to a UK football team and the argument over PFI/PPP versus SFT.

    Only full fiscal autonomy will allow Holyrood to achieve the best results regarding serving the people of Scotland.

    Prople of Glenrothes, I hope you are seeing this... Labour are clearly against a suitable level of fiscal power and thus are against your best interests.

    This issue is not going away... no matter how much Taylor tries to hide from it.

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  • 70. At 12:47pm on 17 Nov 2008, northhighlander wrote:

    Re 59

    Oldnat

    Wick is indeed the location, the condition of the school is appalling. It ihas recently had an HMI inspection and an invitation was made to the FM on a recent visit to Caithness to take a look for himself, he declined as he has no intention of doing anything to help.

    I don't believe there can be a worse school in Scotland or indeed the rest of the UK. Now I don't blame the SNP for the lack of previous action, our LD MSP Mr Stone is guilty of the most appalling politics on this issue but the fact remains the current government is doing nothing to sort out the situation.

    The SFT model should have been ready to roll, the SNP hads a long time waiting for the chance to govern so should have been properly prepared. Especially as it appears it is not really original thinking.

    Mr S made a lot of noise about 200 schools going to be built in the current governmets term, obviously he is an accountant with not a clue about the reality of the situation, but what really annoys me is that Wick is not one of the 200.

    We don't vote SNP in sufficient numbers to warrant a new school. It really is as simple as that.

    So another reason why the Highlands would be no better off with independance. Tories in Westminster, SNP in holyrood, labour in both, results the same for us I'm afraid.

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  • 71. At 12:53pm on 17 Nov 2008, northhighlander wrote:

    Re Religion

    I note all the comments on the idea of removing the bar on Catholics becoming King or Queen.

    My point is really who cares about either the royal family or religion? Both are of little relevance to the daily lives of the vast majority of the population of the UK.

    Scotland in particular would be a better place if religion was even less of an issue, far more harm is done in the name of religion than good.

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  • 72. At 2:11pm on 17 Nov 2008, Dunroamin wrote:

    64. cloch2:"I've looked at Inverclyde's school proposals, I stay close to that area. They will be opening a new secondary school early next year. With the PPP schools also in the pipeline. More interestingly they also have proposals for a new joint campus for a non denominational and Catholic school in Port Glasgow, all fully costed with financial closure. Five new secondary schools and one refurbished secondary. Also as you rightly say two new primary schools. They must be doing something right.

    My point is that none of this has been done with the Scottish Futures Fund."


    None of this was done by Salmond's little Holyrood party either.

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  • 73. At 6:59pm on 17 Nov 2008, gt-cri wrote:

    #56 northhighlander wrote:

    "So we are left with our children queuing for the few operational toilets, learning in class rooms with plaster falling off the walls, but hey its really a good thing, because we are not giving money to greedy contractors and bankers."

    If this is true, the council's Environmental Health Department should be brought in to ensure there are enough sanitary facilities for the children, as there are rules on the sharing of facilities. Also, re: plaster falling off the walls- The HSE Executive should be called upon to inspect and determine if a hazard to health is present.
    Highland Council is not too big, nor powerful to be taken to task. Remember, a school is a place of work and therefore should be up to the standards for such.

    Do not blame central Government school-building for poor maintenance; it is the local authority that is responsible.

    Take any and all legal action you can and a change-of-heart shall occur. The Parent Council is a good place to start- GET DIRECTLY INVOLVED!

    My local High School has also been highlighted as requiring replacement and is subject to renovation soon. My eldest shall attend in two years; I can't wait to ensure it has been satisfactorily upgraded, for myself.

    If not, they should beware!

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  • 74. At 7:48pm on 17 Nov 2008, gt-cri wrote:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]Further to my #73, having had a look at a presentation by the Wick High School Parent Council, it would seem they are taking strong action and I am more sympathetic with Northhighlanders points. Although, moaning about Alex Salmond's refusal to visit and shouting "Get your finger out" is not going to improve the schools condition. Make them all take notice, startinh with HRC! Use the posters on this blog to increase the pressure by asking them to help, by looking for themselves! see: auckengill.com/whs It shows that action has been highlighted as necessary since 2003/2004 (before the Unionists start crowing). Please all, sign the petition to help the Parent Council. I would also strongly encourage the P.C. to contact the HSE and demand a Fire Risk Assessment be carried out by HRC, to ascertain if the "stuck" windows could be deemed a barrier to escape, in the event of the worst happening. The temperature control issues can also be investigated by the HSE. All avenues should be investigated to make sure WHS goes up the priority list of HRC. We can all moan. It takes strength of character and courage of conviction, to moan to the right people and get more of them on your side!

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  • 75. At 10:50am on 18 Nov 2008, Dave McEwan Hill wrote:

    Local authorities are responsible for educational provision and the fact that standards vary from area to area indicates that some of them do it better than others and for a variety of reasons.

    I believe there is an argument for national government to be made much more responsible, as it used to be (as I believe that geriatric care should be back in the NHS portfolio) but there is a counter argument that the present arrangement of local responsibility should provide better local solutions.
    I suspect the truth is that national government prefers local government to take the strain in both these areas.

    We all underestimate the escalating weight of responsibilty that has been thrust on the shoulders of our local councillors over the last number of decades. In truth it is more strenuous to be a councillor often than to be an MP or an MSP.

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