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Showing posts from February, 2013

Scotland built on slavery

When the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 – 26 years after the trade itself had been done away with. it paid  the equivalent to £2 billion today which  was said to be equal to 40% of the government's entire budget in compensation to slave-owners.

Colonel John Gordon of Cluny, who in 1851 forced some 3000 of his tenants on the Outer Hebrides to emigrate to Canada. Cluny died in 185 received a total of £24,964 in compensation, relating to 1383 slaves across six plantations in Tobago, in the southern Caribbean.

Other Scots include James Cheyne, who cleared tenants from the Isle of Lismore in the 1840s and 1850s; the Malcolms of Poltalloch, who were involved in clearances in Argyll; Sir Archibald Alison, a noted social commentator; James McCall and Patrick Maxwell Stewart, who both had substantial holdings in railways; the Marquis of Breadalbane, and Sir William Forbes.

The figure was £6 for a child, an average of £50 for an able fieldworker, or between £18 a…

Capitalism - Flogging a dead horse

Most people are several generations away from the actual hands-on experience of producing their own food and this leads to many misconceptions such as over-romanticizing it but armers have a CEO mentality. They make decisions based on return on investment. The food system is in a crisis because of the way that food is produced. Most people's food budget is spent on processed food, which is where the big food processing conglomerates like PepsiCo, Nestle and Kraft make their money. The industry has worked with food scientists to develop foods using fat, sugar and salt that affect brain chemistry and are literally addicting, making people continually crave junk food. The ingredients that give junk food their taste and texture are relatively cheap. These sweeteners, oils and chemicals are big business. When food becomes a commodity, it goes where profits can be made.

 Today, twenty food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, even organic brands. Four large chains,…

Let them eat coco-pops

Kelloggs vice President Jodi Gibson says one in eight people around the world face food insecurity issues every day.

 The company is pledging to provide one and a half billion servings of their cereals to children and families in need through an anti-hunger program by the end of 2016.

A nice piece of advertising and product placement. Perhaps it may counter the negative publicity it received when Oxfam named them among the worst offenders of 10 multinational companies, lacking in efforts to ensure rights of workers and farmers, protect women, ease climate change and provide transparency of their supply chains.

 The hundreds of brands lining supermarket shelves are predominantly owned by just 10 huge companies, which have combined revenues of more than $1bn a day. 80% of the world's hungry people work in food production, and these companies employ millions of people in developing countries to grow their ingredients.

THE PLIGHT OF THE AGED

After a life of wage slavery in the factory or office many workers imagine that retirement will ease the burdens of poverty and anxiety , but alas capitalism doesn't work that way. 'Pensioners are at increasing risk of spending their old age in poverty, with living costs for the over-75s rising by more than a quarter in just five years. Research by AXA, the insurance group, found that people between 65 and 74 faced cost-of-living increases 5.2 per cent a year - significantly higher than the 0.3 per cent rise experienced by those between 50 and 64.' (Times, 25 February) Michelle Mitchell, director general of Age UK's Charity summed up their plight with these words. 'Steep hikes in the cost of living in recent years have left many older people on low incomes feeling forced to cut back on essential items such as food, heating and clothes.' RD

MacCapitalism

In a mock independence referendum students at Glasgow university voted "No" by a margin of nearly two to one. Just 967 votes (37 per cent) were cast in favour of independence, with 1,614 (62 per cent) against. There were eight spoiled ballots. In the actual debate, according to an Al-jazeera report, nationalists chanted “in-de-pendence”, while some at the back of the hall responded with cries of “the workers have no country.”

 The Socialist Party of Great Britain seeks to abolish all nation states and we stand firmly against the proponents of nationalism in Scotland and in other parts of the world. We make a call for workers of the world to unite. We do not think this demand is some utopian hope. Capitalism itself is leading the world in that direction of  breaking down national barriers with globalisation driving workers towards a potential of integrate and fuse.  Will socialism be achieved as the product of a big bang, a simultaneous, worldwide revolt of the working class…

Ice wars

The Arctic is home to unique human communities whose livelihoods and communities are increasingly challenged by the effects of climate change. Melting ice, stronger storms, growing erosion, thawing permafrost, more unpredictable weather and other direct effects of climate change are already impacting indigenous communities. But warming temperatures and melting ice are also making possible more commercial, transport and military initiatives in the region. New sea routes are being opened, new enterprises are being planned, new drilling and mining licenses are being issued and new tourist destinations are opening up. The movement of more people to the Arctic region will have significant effects on indigenous populations, cultures and livelihoods.

The Arctic is inhabited by approximately 4 million people of whom 400,000 are considered indigenous. Approximately two-thirds of the total population in the Arctic lives in relatively large settlements, although indigenous peoples living in circ…

Trade Wars

The Pacific War against Japan was never a contest between democracy and fascism, as we have been taught. Neither the British nor the U.S. or the Dutch had ever entertained democracy for Asian peoples. Chiang Kai-shek remained a U.S. ally throughout the war and British historian Christopher Thorne has commented that, “if the term ‘fascist’ is to be employed in a non-European context for the 1930s, to no regime is it more appropriate to attach it than that of the Kuomintang in China.”

Leaving aside the conspiracy theory that the American government knew of the Pearl Harbor attack would take place and chose to allow it to happen, there is no question that an attack from Japan was probable. Contrary to U.S. political folklore, Japan’s subsequent attack was launched on a U.S. naval colony in Polynesia not U.S. territory (Hawaii only became a US state in 1959). And it cannot properly be described as a surprise.

In 1932, the Ottawa Conference cut off Japanese trade with the British Commonwea…

YOU LUCKY WORKERS

Capitalism is a complex society with apparently inexplicable booms and slumps, so it is good that we have experts like the following genius in charge. Lord Lipsey, a Labour member of the House of Lords economic affairs committee recently came up with this gem. 'The employment figures mean that, whether or not the recession is working, it is not really hurting — at least not really hurting the people who still have jobs and don't claim benefits," he said. "An unemployment-lite recession has nothing like the social impact of a job-crushing one." He said it is much better to be poor with a job than without one.' (Daily Telegraph, 22 February) Better with a job than on the dole? Wow, we wonder what years of economic study lie behind that profundity.RD

Talking socialism

Cde Donnelly will open the March 20th Branch talk with the subject The Rise of Chinese Capitalism

Cde Cumming will open theApril 17th Branch talk with the subject The Curse of Capitalism

The proposed Day School programme
Saturday, 11th May

POLITICS TODAY

1pm to 2.15pm The Rise of Scottish Nationalism Vic Vanni
2.15pm to 3.30pm The Occupy Movement John Cumming
3,45pm to 5pm The Threat of War Brian Gardner

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often m…

DESPERATE FOR A JOB

Some politicians have a twisted way of defending capitalism. If unemployment grows it is not because of the slumps and booms of the system but because of the "workshy" unemployed. The following news item seems to contradict that view. 'But when Costa Coffee advertised for three full-time and five part-time baristas to staff a new shop in the Mapperley area of the city, the company never could have imagined it would get 1,701 applicants in two months, some with 10 to 15 years' experience in retail behind them.' (Guardian, 20 February) Serving coffee in a Costa Coffee shop is hardly a wonderful job but 1,701 desperate workers showed that they were not workshy. RD

The UN at the North Pole

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil is in the Arctic. Several companies, including Russia's Rosneft, Norway's Statoil and U.S.-based Exxon Mobil are getting ready to drill in areas of melting sea ice, despite the risks, technological difficulties and costs. Some countries have estimated that the Northern Sea Route would be turned into a shipping highway, with a 40-fold increase in shipping by 2020. There is also likely to be a boom in fisheries. A widely predicted northward shift in sub-arctic fish species, including Atlantic and Pacific cod, is now being detected. It is estimated that fish catches in the high latitudes, including the Arctic, could increase by 30 to 70 percent by 2055.

Last September, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest level in the satellite record, which dates back to 1979, and scientists say there could be an ice-free summer by 2030-2040. The Greenland ice cap has also been mel…

China at the South Pole

China is boosting its presence in Antarctica with an eye on the icy continent’s vast untapped resources, even though it could take 35 years to start exploiting them. Antarctic Treaty members, which include China, have agreed not to exploit Antarctic resources until 2048, but there is nothing to stop them doing geographical surveys.  China already has as many permanent research stations as the U.S. in Antarctica — including the Great Wall Station on King George Island off the Antarctic Peninsula, Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen) Station in the east and Kunlun Station in the interior. Now the Chinese appear poised to start work on a fourth station close to the main U.S. base — McMurdo Station — in a part of Antarctica known as the Ross Dependency that is administered by New Zealand.

 Anne-Marie Brady, a political science professor at New Zealand’s Canterbury University and editor of The Polar Journal, wrote in a recently published research paper that China is clearly interested in Antarctic res…

A crazy world

There are 870 million hungry people in the world today, experts estimate, yet around the world 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year.

Millions of tons of food, particularly perishable fresh produce, also go to waste in the developing world as a result of poor transport networks or lack of markets, storage facilities, and processing equipment.

“I have witnessed people throwing away tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits, among other produce, simply because they did not find a market for it, and they have nowhere to keep it,”said Jane Kathure Biashara, a Kenyan community development expert

HARD TIMES?

The idea that the present economic downturn is affecting everyone from the richest to the poorest was recently given credence by this report. 'Britain's richest man took a small cut in pay last year. Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive of Arcelor Mittal, banked $3.87m (£2.49) in pay and perks from the steel giant, down from $4m previously. .... Lakshmi Mittal's 40% stake in Arcelor Mittal is worth $10.3bn (£6.6bn). The Sunday Times Rich List estimates his fortune at £12.7 bn.' (Sunday Times, 17 February) Wow, a fall from $4m to a mere $3.87m. It's tough at the top! RD

Weans in need

One in five children is living in poverty in parts of almost every local council area in Scotland. Nearly all of Scotland’s local authorities – 27 out of 32 – have council wards where more than 20 per cent of their children live in poverty, according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty. Children were classed as being in poverty if their family is forced to live on 60 per cent or less of median UK income.

Children in the Glasgow North East constituency have 43 per cent classed as poor. A third of children live in poverty in Scotland’s biggest city of Glasgow, while Dundee had more than a quarter classed as poor. Edinburgh had almost one in five children in poverty, with a similar figure for Fife, East Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire.

 Recent forecasts indicate that at least 65,000 more children in Scotland will be living below the breadline by the end of the decade – a far cry from promises made in 1999 to end child poverty by 2020.


Percentage of children living in poverty
By local a…

Socialism is the antidote

Some say the world is divided into independent, territorially-based states representing and pursuing the interests of capitalists from within their borders, and that the world economy is characterised by competing separate national capitals only. Others view the capitalist system as a single economy, even if divided politically and geographically, into separate “nation states”, and that the recent globalisation represents the emergence of a global capitalist class not tied to a particular national state. Those holding the latter idea fully understand that national states have not disappeared and are still powerful players in the capitalist economy but argue that the transnational capitalist class uses them, through favourable politicians and governments, to pursue its transnational interests (rather than them being used by a national capitalist class to pursue its national interests).

However, any transnational capitalist class would only be a section of the capitalist class of the w…

One World Socialists

The Greeks in the 4th Century BCE  coined the term “cosmopolitan” – meaning citizen of the world and that all human ethnic groups belong to a single community.   Diogenes it is said was asked where he came from and he answered: "'I am a citizen of the world". Eugene Debs of the American Socialist Party at the turn of the 20th Century said "I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World."

The importance of local democracy has to be seen in the context of the modern world. People aren't just concerned about whether a piece of local land should be used for housing, growing food, a cricket pitch or left as it is. People are engaged with issues affecting them which extend far beyond their local areas. So, as well as being citizens of their parish or district they would also be citizens of the world with all the opportunities for, and responsibilities of decision making and action in every sphere of life. Some of the pro…

A Thieves Den

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

It has been described as the biggest banking fraud in history yet no-one has been prosecuted for the Libor fixing scandal. The financial rewards of rigging rates were, and are, immense. For example RBS’s rates, currencies and commodities group — the one where Libor rigging and other forms of market manipulation are believed to be commonplace — saw its income rise by 87% in the half year to June 2008, at a time when the overall income RBS Global Banking and Markets fell 10%. Royal Bank of Scotland admitted that between 2006 and 2010 staff based in London, Singapore, Tokyo and the US conspired to manipulate the global financial benchmark, the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) calculated in both Swiss Francs and Japanese Yen. By pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud in its Japanese arm, RBS managed to avoid having its US operations shut down by the US Department of Justice.  Libor is a glo…

More Food for thought

The recent news has brought forward another horrific fire at a nightclub in Brazil as you have probably heard. These fires rival those at clothing factories for highlighting the sheer stupidity or outright nastiness of the system. Allegations from this latest one include security staff stopping patrons from fleeing from the fire as they hadn't paid their tabs (apparently it is the custom there to run up a tab and pay at the end of the night); fire extinguishers that do not work; allowing pyrotechnics by the band members to create a spectacle; expired fire permits; locked doors. Some may not be true but all of these things pop up regularly in these continuing tragedies. There must be thousands of places like this one just waiting for an accident to happen. One must ask why the system allows it. Where are the inspections, the licences, the authorities responsible? Obviously to demand a safe environment and proper supervision would cost money, drive investors …

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

It is popular for politicians to pretend that workers in Britain are enjoying steadily improving living standards, but from time to time the truth leaks out. 'Food prices are rising more than three times faster than the average worker's pay package as the cost of living 'crisis' continues, official figures revealed yesterday. While the average private sector worker's pay has risen by just 1.4 per cent - and millions of State workers are subject to a pay freeze - food prices have risen by 4.5 per cent in the last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The crippling cost of the weekly trip to the supermarket is the most striking figure in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for January.' (Daily Mail, 13 February) A food price rise of 4.5 per cent against a 1.4 per cent wage rise? It doesn't take a master statistician to see the flaw in the "steadily improving standard of living" argument. RD

Food for thought

The level of paranoia in the US regarding guns and bad people around every corner has spawned some crazy solutions. In a small town in Texas, the local council elected to let teachers carry concealed weapons in the school. School Superintendent Thweatt commented, " We don't have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution. A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible holstered weapon, but our teachers have master's degrees and are older and have extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children."
Better still, why not arm all the children, then you would have a couple of hundred shooters ready to blast away! John Ayers

worth every penny?

Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, asserts that its cheif executive, Stephen Hester,  is only “modestly paid” - at £7.8 million a year. “Stephen is doing one of the most difficult, demanding and challenging jobs in world business. He has been paid well below the market rate compared to others in the same job.” Hampton explained.

Hester’s £7.8m package is made up of a basic salary of £1.2m, plus a maximum annual bonus of £2.4m and a further £4.2m that can be earned through the bank’s long term incentive schemes.

Food for thought

In 1994 when South Africans voted in Nelson Mandela's government in the country's first democratic election, education was the way to raise the level of the black population. Now, as South Africa grapples with poverty, economic inequality, crime, and soaring youth unemployment (welcome to the capitalist norm), the education system, which is training for a job, hasn't done anything to change South Africa. Of the 1.1 million born since 1994, less than half have taken the Graduation Exam and the ones who take it and pass (75%) are receiving something less than valid as pass marks hover around the 30-40% range, something that probably wouldn't get them a job if any were available. This is a failure of capitalist education that is job oriented and not to develop one's knowledge and person to the fullest. John Ayers

They never learn

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the fighters France is battling in northern Mali are some of the very same ones it helped arm in Libya.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he favored the idea of arming Syrian militants.

Food for thought

The International Energy Agency has said that the US will become energy self-sufficient by 2035 and is counting on massive expansion of the technique of fracking shale to get oil and gas. Sounds good but, as usual, it comes with a price. In this case environmental -- what happens to water tables, for example? The drilling industry refuses to disclose the toxins included in the fluid injected into the shale but it is known (Toronto Star, Dec 8, 2012) that it contains the carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde. This and a host of other problems will not stop the mad search for more oil and gas (and profit) as long as we tolerate this system. John Ayers

Global Govanhill

Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow is home to some 15,000 has people from an estimated 42 different nationalities living within one square mile. Why Govanhill?  The availability of cheap, private-let housing is one practical reason. Also, immigration is self-perpetuating – the presence of an established community makes it more likely others will come and settle. Govanhill was at one time a mining village outside Glasgow. It started to expand significantly from 1837 with the foundation of the Govan Iron Works, known to this day, even though it is long gone, as Dixon’s Blazes. The Irish also began to arrive in Glasgow in large numbers at around this time, estimated at more than 1,000 people a week during 1848 – escaping the famine and seeking employment. In the 1960s, with the demolition of the Gorbals tenements, a second wave of Irish moved to Govanhill. At the end of the 19th century, heavy industry began to draw Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Significant immigration from the In…

Food for thought

lLast month I reported on the expanding military deployments of Japan.
This month it is the German's turn. Chancellor, Angela Merkle, recently
told a military gathering that German deployment overseas, "will soon
encompass the entire globe." The German defence minister concurred, "Now
we are in a position and have the duty, even, to make our impact felt."
This emphasizes yet again that capitalism is a competitive system where
everybody must look out for themselves and he who has the biggest club
wins. Not too far from our caveman days are we? John Ayers

class loyalty

The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Scottish workers are being caught up by the "patriotism" of the referendum debate - either for independence or for the union. Capitalism has reached a point at which it threatens all humanity and not just the divided national, religious, racial (or other falsely labeled) identity groups.

The patriotism of the capitalist class is better called national chauvinism. This "patriotism" equates loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the capitalist-controlled government and its policies. It seeks the acquiescence of workers in the crimes, aggressions, depredations and depravities of the ruling class and its agents.  It is intended to trick workers into sanctioning whatever is deemed in the interests of the business class. It's nationalistic baloney asserts that our interests as a “nation” are totally bound up with, if not identical , to those of our exploiters. But as we know, in c…

Food for thought

In a remote corner of the Amazon lies one of its most stunning sites --
a series of caves and rock shelters guarding the secrets of human beings
who lived there more than 8 000 years ago. The mining companies, with
the compliance of the Brazilian government have discovered iron ore in
the region, mined and sent to China to make steel. It's a huge source of
income for the country that is hosting the next Olympics and the World
Cup of soccer. Expansion of the mining operation will destroy the caves,
treasured by scholars. What a dilemma! What to do? As we know, capital
will win out in the end as logic goes out of the window. John Ayers

TOUGH AT THE TOP?

The new governor of the Bank of England has taken over this top post at a time when we are told we will all have to make sacrifices in order to get out of this economic slump. 'The next Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been forced to defend his £800,000-a-year deal under questioning from MPs. Mr Carney's base salary of £480,000 is more than that of his US and European equivalents combined – and he will also receive a £250,000 housing allowance on top. ............... Justifying the housing allowance, Mr Carney pointed out that London was a far more costly place to live than his present home city of Ottawa. "I am moving from one of the cheapest capitals in the world to one of the most expensive," he said.' (Independent, 7 February) Mr Carney is an example to us all. He is prepared to scrape by in expensive London on a mere £250,000 housing allowance. RD

Food for thought

Recent years have seen a massive flood in New Orleans caused by neglect, the sub-prime mortgage disaster, the Enron and Lehman Brothers scandals, several European countries on the edge of bankruptcy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an un-civil war in Syria, massive unemployment around the world, blatant rape and genocide in the Congo, global warming, destruction of the land, sea, and air by pollution, deforestation, people losing their pensions, escalating violence, riots, and arson. Have we missed something? People tell us that socialism would bring chaos! John Ayers

BALDERDASH FROM A BILLIONAIRE

Socialists are not the only people to comment on the gap between the rich and the poor inside capitalism. Here is an Indian billionaire on the subject. 'Azim Premji, the billionaire philanthropist and chairman of Wipro, the IT service group, said that practices such as flying in American bands for weddings at $1 million a time were damaging in India, where official statistics last year suggested that 360 million people were living in the depths of poverty.' (Times, 4 February) Mr Premji's futile solution to the problem is philanthropy by the owning class whereas the solution of socialists is for the working class to abolish capitalism. RD

Food for thought

The Toronto Star (Jan 12) had an article that focused on the enormous difference between capitalism and, if not socialism, at least communalism. A young woman, Mariangela, and her boyfriend had moved to Rome having lost their jobs in Italy's economic slump, one that has resulted in thirty-five per cent youth unemployment. They didn't move to Rome to find work, but to find a home. They joined other squatters in an abandoned building. Mariangela commented, " The first night I slept here, I woke up in the morning and thought, how nice! I don't have to pay rent anymore. I don't have to worry about not being able to make ends meet." Though the building leaves a lot to be desired, the communal atmosphere makes up for it. Mariangela continued, " You don't have to worry about going hungry. People check on their neighbours and help each other out if they need something." This proves the communal ethic exists, works, and hasn't …

Rab Wilson - poet

Continuing our occasional working-class/socialist themed poetry posts

Labour


The bricht rays o the Winter Solstice daws,
Streakin oot owre the Mauchline Basin Plain,
Lichtin oan a slumberin colossus,
The lanely relic o a bygone age.
The horrals o the Barony proudly staun,
Implacable; a great, grey ghaist o steel.
The ‘A’ Frame, lik some occult wicker-man,
Grim emissary o some auncient god,
Wha, like a god, demandit sweit an tears,
An the bluid o thaim wha wir sacrificed
Oan the altar o Mammon an progress.
They're mindit oan a memorial stane,
The men wha dee'd here, an the men wha leeved.
Twa thoosan pair o eident carefu hauns,
The miners an jiners an engineers,
Wha nevvir aince thocht, as they lauched an joked,
That Fate micht hae a sense o humour tae.
The knowledge they hud sae painfully won,
Wid disappear in that terrible year,
Swept awa bi the haun o history.

Nou the bus drives by wi young Jim an Tam,
Past chain-link fences, roostit 'Keep-Oot' signs,
Oan their wey tae the Technic…

Food for thought

The richest people on earth got richer in 2012, adding $241 billion
(US) to their total worth according to The Bloomberg Billionaires Index,
a daily ranking of the world's one hundred wealthiest individuals. The
overall wealth of the world's top tycoons stood at $1.9 trillion by
January 1^st . "Last year was a great one for the world's billionaires"
said John Casimatidis, the owner of the Red Apple Group. This shows two
things -- just how much wealth can be made by the exploitation of the
working class, and that something is very wrong with our current society
where, for many, unemployment and being homeless is the order of the
day, and where millions exist on a dollar or two a day. John Ayers

The War-Lord

"If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game...It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful,"  Prince Harry comparing war in Afghanistan where real people die to playing a virtual realityvideo game.

SHORTCOMINGS IN THE NHS

Some "expert" or other is always pontificating about the National Health Service. Journalists and politicians espouse various schemes of improvement. Here though are the views of people that should know a little about the subject - the nurses. 'More than half of nurses think their ward or unit is "dangerously understaffed", a survey revealed yesterday. More than three quarters said they had witnessed "poor" care in their ward or unit in the past year, with nearly 30 per cent saying they regularly saw poor care. The Nursing Times polled 600 of its readers for the survey on issues like patient safety, NHS culture and staffing, the majority claimed the ratio of patients to each nurse could compromise patient care.' (Sunday Express, 3 February) Underfunded? Understaffed? Good enough for the working class inside the profit system. RD

POLITICAL PROMISES AND POVERTY

Politicians like to pose as the friend of British working families but government ministers have admitted for the first time that as many as 100,000 children from working families will be forced into poverty as a result of the Government's plans to cut benefits for the poorest. 'Official figures show that a total of 200,000 youngsters from all families will be pushed into child poverty as a result of George Osborne's 1 per cent cap on benefits from April, in effect a real-terms cut in welfare payments. But Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, revealed in a parliamentary written answer last week that 50 per cent of those children come from families where at least one parent is in work. This new figure undermines claims by the Chancellor, George Osborne, that the cap on benefits is designed to target Britain's jobless "shirkers" . The children will join the 3.6 million already classed as living in poverty. Two-thirds of th…

Mince and Tatties?

Next time you tuck into your mince and tatties you should be aware that it is meal of fat and gristle and tatties. And is doesn't seem like it will get any  better.

The UK have asked for an exemption from new EU regulations that limit the amount of fat and connective tissue that can be used to bulk up minced meat.Under the regulations, lean minced meat should have up to 19 per cent fat and collagen, while pure minced beef should contain no more than 35 per cent fat and collagen ( derived from the tendons and ligaments of animals and used to help bulk out meat and also used in cosmetic surgery).  In October last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued an “impact assessment” on the new EU regulations, which are due to come into force next year. The report states: “A significant proportion of mince meat currently sold in the UK contains a greater proportion of collagen than would be permitted."

BRAVERY, BOMBAST AND REALITY

Hollywood is fond of portraying the heroism of warfare. We are asked to believe that there is something ennobling about military conflict. These figures from the USA show that the horrors of war are so great that they often force soldiers to take their own life. 'In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. To put that another way, more of America's serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy. Across all branches of the US military and the reserves, a similar disturbing trend was recorded. In all, 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat.' (Guardian, 1 February) RD

Capital's apologists

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign, claimed that Scotland “might very well not have had a financial crisis” if it had been an independent country. This is a ridiculous claim. Some commentators have argued that, if Scotland had been independent, the banks would have been better regulated. The Scottish equivalent of the FSA would have stopped them from pursuing self-destructive courses, barred them from ballooning their balance sheets with dodgy loans and toxic assets, and insisted on higher capital ratios. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that it would have been any different.

The idea that Scotland’s banks – RBS and HBOS, whose combined assets were 21 times Scotland’s gross domestic product at the time of their near collapse (for the sake of comparison, Irish banks’ assets were 4.4 times Irish GDP at point of their October 2008 collapse, and Icelandic banks‘ assets were 9.8 times times Icelandic GDP) – would have been better-regulated if Scotland had b…

Separate Scotland

The voices of millions of Scots on low and average incomes rarely being heard, according to a report by a leading Scottish think tank. The Jimmy Reid Foundation's report, Not By The People concluded: "Scotland is run by people who pay higher-rate tax and they seek advice on how to run Scotland primarily from other people who pay higher-rate tax."

 Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teachers' union, said "This report describes a Scotland of two peoples; one runs the country, the other just lives here... Democracy is about more than simply voting twice a decade."

Although only 13% of Scots have incomes above £34,000, this group accounted for 67% of those giving evidence to committees and 71% of all appointments to public bodies.

In contrast, the 70% of Scots with incomes below the average salary of £24,500 accounted for 11% of public-sector appointments and just 3% of committee witnesses between 2007 and 2012.

The Foundation said it had deliberately er…

A Bosses' Scotland

Jim McColl, the founder and chairman of Clyde Blowers and one of the country’s richest men, has argued that Scottish independence would be the same as a “management buy-out” from the UK.

McColl who lives in Monaco explained “We have a government responsible for economic policy whose focus is not growth in Scotland but rather London and the south-east of England. That tells me Scotland is a nation in desperate need of a well-planned and thought-through management buy-out.”

The the pro-independence campaign Yes Scotland team plans to intensify its wooing of the capitalist class with plans to produce a “business plan” depicting Scotland as a new company seeking investment.

CBI Scotland however disageed with McColl reasoning. "... in actual fact the developing proposals of the Scottish Government are that all economic levers would not come to Scotland – for example, control over currency and interest rates.” it said.

As Scottish Courier has repeatedly said, the issue of an independent…

HIGH JINKS AT HIGH PRICES

From time to time the press like to run alarmist stories about young workers drinking too much. Some politicians even propose higher taxation on alcohol to stop "this national disgrace". No such alarm is expressed when the owning class have a night out celebrating though. Take the case of Tamara Eccleston daughter of the millionaire racing magnate. 'When it was her shout at Aura club in Mayfair, "haven of rich heritage and grandeur". Tamara Eccleston, 28, went for Cristal: a £5,000 Jerobaum, two bottles £2,660 and seven bottles of rose for her own table and a £465 bottle for every other table in the club, not forgetting a bottle for the paparazzi outside. With a bottle of Grey Goose vodka at only £225, the bill was £30,000 with £4,001.24 service." (Times, 31 January) RD