Didn’t make it to Tannadice on Saturday. (I was chairing a debate in Edinburgh on EU policy. There’s dedication, eh?)
But congrats to the lads on a great victory - and here’s hoping the two-goal hero Barry Robson stays at United, among his many friends and admirers.
On the sporting front, I toddled out to Braehead on Sunday to watch the Scottish Rocks basketball team take on the might of Newcastle Eagles. (Rocks won - but not by a big enough margin to progress in the Trophy.)
My eye was drawn to the Eagles sponsor, Northern Rock. Today, of course, we learned that the Rock is to get a significant sponsor of its own: HM Treasury.
Not exactly a shirt sponsor, perhaps, except in the sense that every one of us is putting our shirt on the rescue working.
On his blog, my colleague Robert Peston says the deal to guarantee bonds to be issued by Northern Rock adds up to public financial support to a private enterprise that is “breathtakingly large and without precedent.” Quite.
The Rock, of course, made its name as a mortgage lender. The current jitters in financial markets can largely be traced to problems which emerged in sub-prime mortgage lending.
Translation of sub-prime? It means lending to people who can’t really afford the loan.
So it must have taken a certain courage for Scotland’s Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell to choose today to announce his latest housing inititiative. (NB: Doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just courageous.)
Mr Maxwell is promoting LIFT: that’s the low-cost initiative for first-time buyers. It’s a shared equity scheme whereby those who can’t afford the full cost of house purchase get support from a housing association.
Say there’s a house on the market in a property hot-spot for £100,000. A young couple, for example, might stump up £60k, with the rest invested by the association. When the house is sold on, the association would recoup its money.
Today’s move extends the scheme to Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Stirling and Perth and Kinross.
Arguments for and against. Isn’t this just attracting folk into the market who can’t afford it? No, say ministers, great care will be taken. This is not exploitation, sub-prime style.
It’s aimed at hot-spots. Won’t this just help keep prices in those areas artificially high? Isn’t there a case for letting them reduce, under market forces. No, say ministers. This will only help a few hundred at most. It shouldn’t distort the market.
What about the homeless? Shouldn’t they be the priority, instead of putative home-owners? Look, say ministers, at the many other elements of housing policy, including expanding the housing sector, boosting the role of local authorities and ending the right to buy on new social housing.
As ever, friends, over to you.