My Policies by Policy Area

Campaign leaflets and posters

In case anyone who's decided to vote for me wants to help the campaign by downloading and printing leaflets to hand out or posters to put in their car or house windows i'll be uploading some to the links below.

leaflet (word 2007) or leaflet (adobe reader 9) ; (if you don't have adobe reader 9 you can download it free at the adobe website www.adobe.com

Poster (word 2007 doc) or Poster (adobe reader 9 pdf) ; (if you don't have adobe reader 9 you can download it free at the adobe website www.adobe.com


 

Contact Me

You can contact me by email at calgacus86@hotmail.com or dmcf@calgacus17.plus.com

Job Creation / Economic Recovery / A New Economy

An Apprenticeship Law -  to get people the skills they need to get back into work and end the shortage of skilled trades people (carpenters, joiners, electricians, etc). In the late 70s there was an apprenticeship law requiring companies to take on apprentices or pay a tax (to prevent companies who failed to train apprentices poaching trained employees at no cost).  It was abolished by the Thatcher government. A new apprenticeship law would create jobs and end shortages of skilled trades-people.

A 35 hour working week to create jobs – In France it created 350,000 new jobs between 1998 and 2002 and reduced stress and exhaustion (that’s according to the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies). It could do the same here. Currently millions are unemployed while those in work are over-worked, stressed and tired. People who aren’t tired can do the same work, more efficiently, in less time. It was scrapped by the conservative French President Sarkozy and his allies in the French parliament in 2008.

Invest in Green Energy Technology - The first wave power system was designed by a Scottish company – and Scotland is well placed to benefit from wave power itself, but because of a lack of interest from the British government it’s Portugal, not Scotland, that was the first country to generate electricity from waves at sea on a large scale. While there has been some government and big company investment in wind power turbines, which have begun to rapidly increase in efficiency and output as a result – and created some jobs – we need to capitalise on the benefits of our geography and weather by investing more in various green energy sources – wind, wave, tidal and (to a lesser extent) solar. If government helped Scottish companies to get into these businesses then we could get jobs both in constructing them (using the skills of ship-builders and welders for instance) and in erecting and maintaining them.

Government support for firms producing efficient, low emission vehicles, electric powered vehicles and hybrid cars - We should also be developing Scottish firms producing low emission, fuel efficient, low petrol cost cars as well as cars with electric engines and hybrid cars that can run on either petrol or electricity. These will all be growing markets as oil supplies begin to decline and petrol prices increase further.

Tax reductions for small and medium sized businesses, funded by tax increases on big businesses The Guardian newspaper reported in October 2008 that ‘Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) - those employing below 250 people account for almost 60% of private sector employment - 13.5 million people - and 51.5% of the private sector's total turnover, the equivalent of £1,440bn...’ ; and they don’t take those jobs abroad at the drop of a hat like ‘foreign direct investment’ by big multinational firms.

No taxes for new small businesses for the first three years or until they make a profit
Small businesses, unlike big multinational companies, do not relocate to another country, taking all the jobs they provided with them, at the drop of a hat, so often. To prevent anyone from exploiting this, any firm which has not gone bankrupt and which chooses to relocate within the country, move to another country or close down will be liable to pay all the taxes from which they were exempt during those three years or less. Of the total number of SMEs the vast majority employ fewer than 50 workers.

Increased government funding for scientific research The few jobs and relatively low pay for scientific research in the UK is creating a ‘brain drain’ of Scottish and British people moving abroad for employment elsewhere. We need to increase the number of governmental scientific research posts in the UK, widen the scope of research (e.g growing beneficial bacteria and microbes which can live on pollutants and break them down to render them relatively harmless) and increase pay for researchers. This would have all kinds of knock on effects in developing scientific breakthroughs that could create jobs and reduce problems like pollution and climate change which affect the health of millions.

More Government grants and subsidies or tax breaks for research into technological ,organisational and other innovations – It’s not only scientists who come up with innovative technologies and ideas and new and better ways of doing things, amateur inventors, business-people, charities, academic researchers, community organisers and others do too.

Taxation

Fairer Taxes


- No income tax on the first £10,000 of individual income. Currently people going into relatively low-paid jobs lose their benefits and face an incredibly complicated tax credits system. It would be simpler and fairer and save on administration costs to not tax the first £10,000 of income. (My leaflets say £15,000, but thinking about it, this may well not be possible if public services and investment are to be maintained)

- A 50% rate of income tax on individual income over £150,000 (this would not be 50% of all income, but 50% of any income over £150,000 – e.g someone earning £200,000 a year would be taxed half of the top £50,000 or £25,000)  

- A 60% rate of income tax on individual income over £300,000

- A 70% rate of income tax on individual income over £500,000

- A local income tax to replace the Council Tax - Income taxes are the fairest taxes. The Council Tax is a strange cross between the unfair rates and income tax.

Crack down on tax evasion and avoidance by billionaires and big firms by co-operating with the rest of the EU and the OECD to close down tax havens. If they refuse to co-operate, ban all transfers of money to and from them and the UK and EU and ban all tourism to them until they agree to minimum EU and OECD wide tax rates. This tax evasion is estimated to cost the UK up to £85bn a year


End waste of taxpayers’ money


If cuts in public spending are required they should be in areas of massive waste which the main parties refuse to consider cutting as companies donating to their party funds profit from them. The current costs of these dwarf any supposed “efficiency savings” that could be made.

- No new PFIs/PPPs and look for breaches of contract to end existing ones – PFIs and PPPs are pushing up taxes and resulting in service cuts. Experts in NHS finance like Professor Allyson Pollock have shown that PFIs and PPPs cost between two and dozens of times as much as financing new hospital and school capital projects from taxation or by taking a loan from the private sector at 3 to 5% interest rates would. While PFIs and PPPs’ costs are not counted as debt this is a mere accounting trick which covers up the vast costs over decades under PPP and PFI contracts. The complexity of consortia with many sub-contracts also results in ridiculous delays in maintenance. Not even a light bulb can be changed in a PFI or PPP hospital without filling out forms and waiting for firms to haggle over who has the right to replace it (at several times the ordinary cost). It’s vital that the maintenance aspects of the contracts be renegotiated as soon as possible and that government lawyers be put on the look out for any breach of contract by PFI consortia so that these disasters can be ended. Under Brown as Chancellor and Prime Minister local councils have been given no option for funding any capital project except to accept a PFI or PPP – if they refuse the Treasury has refused them them funding. Smaller firms which are sub-contracted by the consortia of larger firms given PFI contracts are also often short-changed and paid late by the larger firms.

- End Export Credit Guarantees for arms exports – These are a waste of taxpayers’ money as they effectively subsidise arms sales to dictatorships and occupying forces

- No more public subsidies to privatised rail companies who take profits while taxpayers pay most of the costs of new investment

Effective Regulation of banks, companies and the economy

Charge banks interest on bail-out money to compensate pension holders – Banks which only avoided bankruptcy with tax-payers’ money  are demanding an average of 13.9% interest on loans and paying their senior managers bonuses of a million pounds each. People who lost their pensions deserve money back.

Regulate banks properly – Otherwise another financial crisis is inevitable.  It should be illegal for banks taking deposits from savers to gamble their money, with taxpayers forced to bail them out if the gamble doesn’t pay off.  Competition laws should be used to split banks up and prevent mergers.

A government bank branch in every post office to provide fair interest rates and banking charges. Then people can put their money in a reliable bank and afford loans. They can also provide competition to prevent the big private banks operating informal interest rate and bank charge cartels (oligopolies).

Enforce the anti-monopoly and competition laws – Beyond a certain point bigger is not better for companies. RBS, Enron, World.com and many others show that once companies get beyond a certain size they tend to become less efficient and more likely to go bankrupt or be hiding financial irregularities (and even sometimes outright fraud).

Vast multinational firms also have no loyalty to any country and the lack of face to face meetings between top management and the majority of employees makes it easy for them to sack people and move employment abroad. The process of infinite take-overs also leads to a few big firms in every sector , causing oligopoly (unofficial price fixing cartels among a few big firms).

This can only be changed by enforcing anti-monopoly and competition laws to bar take-overs that would make firms too big to regulate or risk bankruptcy by over-extension or oligopoly – and where firms are already too big by using the same laws to break them up.

Laws to punish corrupt MPs, close loopholes that allow corruption

Make it a criminal offence for MPs to take any money except their salary and solely justifiable, work-related expenses; ban them from holding paid positions with companies


 


Stephen Byers


We need new laws to make it a criminal offence for MPs to accept money other than their salary and justified expenses. Stephen Byers (Labour - above) and John Butterfill (Conservative - below) are just the tip of the iceberg.


John Butterfill


MPs like Stephen Byers (Labour), Geoff Hoon (Labour) and John Butterfill (Conservative) have been caught on video offering to influence government policy and vote certain ways in parliament in return for money - yet as the law stands this is not illegal. This is the tip of the ice-berg. Our political system has become corrupt. We need new laws to make political parties, MPs or candidates accepting money for party funds, campaign funds or for themselves a criminal offence with punishments varying from fines to jail, along with being banned from standing for any elected office for 5 years, 10 years or for life, depending on the amounts involved and the seriousness of the offence.


All candidates' political campaigns should be publicly funded during elections, with maybe £3,000 each going to each candidate, all of which will have to be spent only on that election campaign. Spending it on anything else should be a criminal offence too. This would cost millions of pounds of taxpayers' money at every election, but it would save taxpayers many billions of pounds each year, by reducing corruption. Billionaires and big firms would find it much harder to buy influence to get hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money in reduced and avoided taxes, public subsidies to their companies (e.g PFIs, PPPs, subsidised privatised rail, subsidies to arms companies like BAE).


MPs should also be banned from being employed by any company for 4 years after leaving office, to prevent companies buying influence by offering employment to former MPs and government ministers. During this period MPs should be paid the average wage (around £20,000 a year) rather than their usually salary (of around £60,000). This would also be spending a modest amount of money in order to save billions lost through corruption.


To read more on this see this blog post

End PFIs and PPPs

No new PFIs/PPPs and look for breaches of contract to end existing ones – PFIs and PPPs are pushing up taxes and resulting in service cuts. Experts in NHS finance like Professor Allyson Pollock have shown that PFIs and PPP funded projects cost between two and dozens of times as much as financing new hospital and school capital projects from taxation or by taking a loan from the private sector at 3 to 5% interest rates would.


 


Wishaw general hospital


Wishaw General Hospital - built on a PFI contract, it has less beds and less trained staff than the hospitals it replaced as a result, costs more than alternative funding methods and maintenance is slow, complicated and expensive


 


While PFIs and PPPs’ costs are not counted as debt this is a mere accounting trick which covers up the vast costs over decades under PPP and PFI contracts. The complexity of consortia with many sub-contracts also results in ridiculous delays in maintenance.


Staff say not even a light bulb can be changed in a PFI or PPP hospital without filling out forms and waiting for firms to haggle over who has the right to replace it (at several times the ordinary cost). It’s vital that the maintenance aspects of the contracts be renegotiated as soon as possible and that government lawyers be put on the lookout for any breach of contract by PFI consortia so that these disasters can be ended.


 Under Brown as Chancellor and Prime Minister local councils have been given no option for funding any capital project except to accept a PFI or PPP – if they refuse the Treasury has refused them them funding. Smaller firms which are sub-contracted by the consortia of larger firms given PFI contracts are also often short-changed and paid late by the larger firms.


- A typical PFI/PPPP hospital replaces existing hospitals rather than being an additional hospital - and has roughly one third less beds and staff than the hospital it replaces due to the massive cost of PFI contracts which involve payments over up to 80 years. Source - research by Professor Allyson Pollock & others British Medical Journal 17th July 1999 and British Medical Journal 18th May 2002 and British Medical Journal 26th April 2003


South Lanarkshire Council have given the largest school PFI contract in the UK to a consortium led by AMEC construction - the same firm that got the contract to build Cumberland Infirmary on a PFI contract. Staff there say cardiac patients ended up covered in sewage from burst pipes, there were power cuts in the middle of attempts to ventilate patients , equipment was left broken , maintenance wasn't carried out properly due to engineers being sacked and the hospital has less staff and 90 fewer beds than the hospitals it replaced - while the health authority has to pay the AMEC consortium £11 million of rent annually. Does this make you trust AMEC's InspirED consortium to build our schools ?


- PFI buildings usually have inferior lighting, temperature regulation and acoustics as well as less space for beds or tables for pupils. SourceAudit Commission cited in The Guardian


- PFI contracts earn firms involved 3 to 10 times the profits of a standard contract – costing the taxpayer considerably more as a result. SourceMajor Contractors Group quoted in The Guardian

Transport

Re-nationalise the railways – Since privatisation the private rail companies have taken all the profits while getting large subsidies on the costs of investment in the rail network from taxpayers’ money. At the same time they’ve increased fares at an overall rate since privatisation of well above the rate of inflation. Despite public subsidies train fares are currently more expensive than flying. The House of Commons Transport Committee reported in July last year that things have not improved.


 This is not the investment in the rail network we were promised privatisation would deliver. Re-nationalisation would save taxpayers money twice in the long run – in reduced fare costs and in rail profits being re-invested in expanding the rail network to open up new stations, improve safety and increase the regularity and speed of rail services.


Only re-nationalisation can stop taxpayers and rail travellers being ripped off and make train travel cheaper, safer, more affordable and more convenient with more regular trains. This would also help reduce air pollution and climate change.


Rail operators ( like National Express on the East Coast main line ) who benefited from a public subsidy when they were making a profit have also dropped contracts the moment they started making a loss during a recession, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill – privatised railways don’t work and cost us money.


High Speed Train


Seventeen years after privatisation taxpayers subsidise rail firms more and pay higher fares than ever before, yet we still don’t have high speed trains like the one shown above.


Instead most of our trains still look like the one below.


Wishaw Train Station


The re-nationalisation of Railtrack by the establishment of Network Rail as a nationalised firm was seen by a gullible media as the government doing something ‘socialist’. In fact it’s been the opposite. By maintaining the separation between rail operators running trains (mostly private companies) who get all the profits and those responsible for maintenance and safety (Network Rail), which can’t possibly make a profit, the government has increased the burden on the taxpayer. The re-nationalisation of Railtrack at least allowed the opportunity to stop risking safety by trying to run a company whose only business was safety and maintenance for profit. This opportunity was not taken – and the government has said it plans to privatise Network Rail as soon as it can, which will further endanger safety despite the number of deaths each year on the railways rising from 288 in 2004 to 319 in 2008


Despite massive public subsidies and fare rises over 4,000 people were injured on British railways in 2008 – although this is a fall from the over 5,000 injured in 2004 it remains too high – and fatalities rose. The strike action which rail unions are balloting for is partly due to planned cuts in the numbers of maintenance and repair workers which could further compromise safety and lead to more deaths.


Regulation of petrol prices and breaking up big oil companies if necessary– Petrol prices have continued to rise even after the price of oil and petrol on global markets has fallen. While taxes on petrol have to be gradually increased to reduce air pollution (which kills millions through lung cancers) and climate change this should not be done before the government has provided affordable, reliable train services and an expanded rail network. Regulators need to crack down on informal pricing cartels by big oil companies – and if necessary use competition law to break up the biggest firms to promote competition.


Reduce import and road taxes on hybrid vehicles and on cars with the lowest petrol consumption, increase them on cars with poor fuel efficiency – This is the only way to reduce air pollution and climate change.


Increase tax on aviation fuel – as suggested by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee in 2003. Flying is far more polluting than train travel, but much cheaper –  train journeys should be cheaper than flying

Defend our Royal Mail and Post Offices

The Royal Mail deliver on unprofitable routes that private firms would not, yet government and opposition demand they produce the same profits as private businesses which cherry-pick the most profitable business. Royal Mail are legally obliged to deliver on behalf of private firms who take the profit. Demanding Royal Mail equal or exceed the private sector’s level of profits on those wildly unequal terms is ludicrous. The Royal Mail and Post Offices are public services. Public services are there to provide a service, not to make a profit and can’t be run like companies. Thousands of Post Offices have been closed, forcing pensioners who have no cars to make long bus journeys to send parcels or collect pension money.


Royal Mail


The BBC’s Panorama showed in December 2009 that Royal Mail management are setting staff impossible tasks based on faulty methods. For instance, when timing how long it should take posties to deliver mail, they measured the length of road on a map. Anyone who has either worked as a postie or delivered leaflets knows that that isn’t the real distance you walk in making deliveries – because the real distance includes the walk from the road to every house and back, which, when it involves dozens, hundreds or thousands of houses makes it much further than it looks on a map.

Managers also tell staff they’re expected to walk at 4 miles an hour all day, while carrying bags of letters and parcels. Panorama got a fitness specialist to attempt it for a few days. He said it was hard even for him and he couldn’t have kept it up every day. Obviously the top management at Royal Mail either have no clue what the job actually involves – and need to spend some time trying to carry out their own demands to see if they’re even close to realistic – or else they have the same agenda as the government and the Conservative party – to set Royal Mail staff impossible tasks in order to try to use failure to achieve the impossible as a way to justify privatisation.

Funding should be provided to re-open rural post offices closed in cuts and the drive to privatise royal mail should be ended.

The Labour government already tried to privatise royal mail (backing down due to a backbench rebellion by some Labour MPs) and have made it clear they will look for a new ‘strategic partner’ (company to sell Royal Mail to) in future. The Conservatives also aim to privatise the Royal Mail.


Open a government bank branch in every post office


Government run bank branches in post offices could get them more business at the same time as providing fair interest rates and lower banking charges.  Then people can put their money in a reliable bank and afford loans. They can also provide competition to prevent the big private banks operating informal interest rate and bank charge cartels (oligopolies).

 


Foreign Policy - on Iran, Afghanistan, dictatorships and Israel-Palestine

See the sub-sections for my foreign policy for my election manifesto.

Afghanistan - Why we should bring our troops home

The war isn’t preventing Al Qa’ida training – the 9-11 hijackers trained at flight schools in the US; and 9 years after the invasion large parts of Afghanistan are still Taliban controlled. US intelligence reports 90% of NATO’s opponents in Afghanistan are not Taliban but local tribes resisting foreign invasion by NATO forces just as they resisted Soviet forces when they invade in the 1980s.


Our troops and Afghan civilians are dying (the latter continuing to die in NATO airstrikes and night raids as well as Taliban suicide bombings and attacks) without stopping Al Qa’ida or terrorism in any way. The war actually provides Al Qa’ida with a recruiting point. Labour, Liberals and Conservatives would keep troops there.


Afghans prepare the bodies of 8 boys, now recognised as civilians, killed in a NATO and Afghan army night raid on the village of Ghazi Khan in December 2009 – similar raids have killed civilians since


Afghans prepare the bodies of 8 boys, now recognised as civilians, killed in a NATO and Afghan army night raid on the village of Ghazi Khan in December 2009 – similar raids have killed civilians since


Seventy percent of Afghans say poverty and unemployment are the main causes of war in Afghanistan, with most people unable to get jobs or an income except by being a policeman, a soldier, a fighter for the Taliban or involved in the heroin trade.


Afghan children, barefoot and hungry


Afghan children, barefoot and hungry


Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan from 1994 to 2008 increasing hugelyThe best way to end the war would be to create jobs in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. One way to do this and reduce heroin production too would be to fund opiate based painkiller factories using poppy crops for medical painkillers rather than for heroin instead, to provide jobs other than in the heroin trade or as Taliban fighters, as suggested by the International Council on Security and Development and backed by the European Parliament.


The war, which is supposedly about reducing heroin production and stopping heroin being smuggled abroad, has actually led to a huge increase in production since the invasion, in both Taliban and Afghan government or NATO held areas. (For more on this see the red UN bar graph in this BBC report, as well as Professor Peter Dale Scott’s article here and this report on heroin smuggling from Afghanistan to Russia rocketing since the invasion in 2001)


Soldiers who have served in Afghanistan but now oppose the war and refuse to go back like Lance Corporal Joe Glenton have been sent to jail for taking a stand for what they believe in, even after they risked their lives for our country and told the truth as they see it, from their personal experience, about the war. This is completely unjust and shows how wrong government policy on Afghanistan and towards our troops has become. Of course prisoners can’t vote, so Joe Glenton, who has committed no crime except to serve his country and his conscience, won’t be able to vote in this election. That makes it more important that others speak out and vote against the war on his behalf.


Lance Corporal Joe Glenton – Jailed for refusing to go back to Afghanistan


Lance Corporal Joe Glenton – Jailed for refusing to go back to Afghanistan


Around 3,000 of the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan won’t even be able to vote in this election due to logistical problems.


To read more about the war in Afghanistan, civilian casualties in it and it's impact on womens' rights, aid distribution and other issues see this blog post and this one and the sources for both.


To read about the other reasons for the war in Afghanistan - especially the evidence that it's to secure a pipeline route for oil and gas from former Soviet Republics to the Indian Ocean click this link

End support for dictatorships

End British government support for dictatorships - it backfires and increases terrorism


British governments under both the Conservatives and Labour have supported dictatorships with political backing, arms sales, training for their police and militaries, military aid (subsidising their arms purchases) and tacit guarantees that they will use force to stop their own people overthrowing them


They continue to do so to this day, backing everyone from the corrupt, torturing, extreme fundamentalist Saudi monarchy in Saudi Arabia, to President Mubarak in Egypt and Colonel Gadaffi in Libya, to mention just a few.


The theory is that these governments are "moderates" who will prevent extremists getting into power.


Tell that to the family of the Lebanese TV psychic sentenced to death for witch-craft in Saudi Arabia recently (and only having his execution postponed because of international media coverage), or the parents of the girls who burned to death when their school went on fire, because the religious police of Saudi Arabia forced them back into the burning building to die in case they were seen "improperly dressed" in the street. Many Saudis and foriegners in Saudi are tortured into confessing to crimes they didn't commit, then executed with their confession as the only evidence.


Apart from being extreme themselves these dictatorships close off any possibility of Muslims and other opponents of the dictatorships (from liberals to socialists, conservatives, environmentalists and feminists) being able to express their views peacefully. This boosts terrorist groups as they can point to it as evidence that they will never be allowed to promote their beliefs through campaigning peaceful, democratic elections - and gain new recruits as a result (which is also why refusing to recognise Hamas' victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections found free and fair by EU election observers in 2006 is a mistake).


President Mubarak of Egypt has banned the main opposition party - the Muslim brotherhood- because it opposes him - and has gained backing from western governments to do so because the Muslim brotherhood are Islamic fundamentalists. However they fail to notice what experts like Professor Fawaz Gerges and investigative journalists like Loretta Napolini have - that Islamic political parties are not always allies of violent jihadists. In fact Gerges has pointed out that the Muslim brotherhoods in Jordan and Egypt are often targets of terrorist attacks by violent jihadists who see anyone involved in the democratic process as a "collaborator".


By preventing Islamic parties taking part in democratic politics the dictatorships backed by the British, French and American governments are not reducing terrorism, but increasing it, by making more Muslims in their countries conclude that the only way they will be allowed any say at all in the government of their countries is by meeting the violence of the dictators with violence of their own.


As Gerges shows in his book "the Far Enemy" our governments' backing for these dictatorships led to September 11th. Bin Laden's second in command Zawahiri was originally joined al Qa'ida to try to get revenge for being tortured by the US, French and British backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypty.


Zarqawi was similarly radicalised by being tortured by the British backed monarchy of Jordan.


Backing dictatorships is both wrong and increases the threat of terrorist attacks on civilians in our own country


The recognition given by the British, US and EU governments to regimes installed by military coups involving the torture and killing of thousands in Thailand and in Honduras is almost as bad.


So is the refusal to allow Jean Bertrand Aristide, the elected President of Haiti, who remains the most popular politician in the country due to his concern for the poor and hungry majority there, to return to his country. Aristide was elected by a large majority in 1991, overthrown by a US and French military coup, restored with many conditions (all of which made the poor of Haiti poorer) in 1994, re-elected again, then overthrown again in another US backed coup in 2004.


These dictatorships are one of the main reasons why so many people in these countries are poor, hungry and oppressed - and why even the minority who aren't poor want to go abroad to a democracy where they're free to express their opinions without being tortured, jailed or executed without fair trial.


They tend to be corrupt as well, taking much of the aid meant for their people for themselves.


They're not even reliable allies either. The British and American governments backed Saddam Hussein's dictatorship for decades - then ended up at war with him; just as the US did with Noriega in Panama. All the Shah's regime did was provoke an Islamic revolution in Iran - if the CIA and MI6 hadn't overthrown the moderate nationalist Mossadeq for trying to nationalise his own country's oil industry in 1953 there would have been no Islamic revolution in 1979 and no hostility between Iranians and the US and Britisih governments. Support for General Musharraf's military dictatorship similarly back-fired. He played a double game - aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan while fighting those in Pakistan (much like his successors). British and American support for Islam Karimov's dictatorship in Uzbekistan resulted in them saying nothing while people were boiled alive and had their fingernails pulled out (with the excellent British Ambassador Craig Murray sacked for criticising this) - yet Karimov returned to the Russian side soon after.


All support for dictatorships should be ended.

Iran : Why we should rule out British or Scottish involvement in “stronger sanctions”, air strikes or war on Iran

Iran’s leaders have proven they don’t want to commit national suicide


The first reason why we should have nothing to do with plans to use “stronger” sanctions or air strikes to try to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons is that the current Iranian leadership, while they are extremely brutal in repressing dissent in Iran, have shown that they are against making any move that would result in national suicide for Iran (which is what using nuclear weapons on nuclear armed states like Israel or their allies would be).


In 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war a US warship – the USS Vincennes – shot down an Iranian Airbus passenger plane killing over 200 civilians on board. Iran’s government and military took this as a sign that the US was about to join the war directly on Saddam’s side (rather than backing, arming and funding him as they did from the 1970s till 1991). The man who is now ‘The Leader’ of Iran (almost a theocratic dictator) – Ayatollah Khameini was one of the people who then persuaded Ayatollah Khomeini to make peace with Iraq rather than risk his regime being overthrown. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, now head of more than one of the influential ‘governing councils’ also helped persuade Khameini to back down, as did the officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (President Ahmadinejad is a former Revolutionary Guardsman).


Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khameini


Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khameini (above) and , chair of influential ruling councils in Iran (below) both persuaded Khomeini to make peace rather than risk being defeated in 1988


Ayatollah Rafsanjani  


For the same reasons Iran would not provide terrorist groups with nuclear weapons, as this would just be suicide by proxy – just as Saddam, despite all the scare-mongering, never provided terrorist groups he backed with chemical weapons when he had them from the 1980s till 1991 – and would not have in 2003 either, for the same reason.


That means Iranians who want nuclear weapons want them as a deterrent, not to attack other nations with them This means that if Iran is developing a nuclear weapon it’s doing so for the same reason other countries (including Israel) already have – as a deterrent to deter other countries from making conventional, WMD or nuclear attacks on Iran, as experts on Iran like Ray Takeyh of the US Council on Foreign Relations and British former diplomat Michael Axworthy say.


The governments of the US, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China all armed and funded Saddam while he invaded Iran and used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds (most notoriously at Halabja) and on Iranians (US funding for Saddam continuing after Halabja). Chemical weapons were also used by Saddam against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. Chemical munitions and the materials to produce them plus delivery systems were provided by the US, British, French , Chinese and German governments among others. Aid from the US and UK to Saddam continued after Halabja.


Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988


Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988


Iranians have not forgotten this, nor the US and British backed military coup against the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953 (when he tried to nationalise his country’s oil industry). Iran is almost alone in having no nuclear deterrent and no powerful, reliable ally that can provide one to cover it from attack by either conventional forces or with WMDs.


Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld has said that "The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy."


Offline sources for above two sections:


Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174


Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233


Ahmadinejad did not say Iran would “wipe Israel off the map” and would have no control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


President Ahmadinejad of Iran has had demonstrators and striking teachers beaten, tortured,  jailed and killed, but did not say he’d wipe Israel off the map – and would not have control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them


He made the same speech Khomeini had made every year since the Islamic Revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship in 1979, in which he said that he hoped that the “illegal regime which rules over Quods [in Jerusalem] will be erased from the pages of history” (1).


That is fairly clearly a call for “regime change” rather than a threat of nuclear Holocaust – and Ahmadinejad in interviews with French television channels compared Israel to the former Soviet Union, pointing out that the people of the Soviet Union had overthrown their government and the country no longer exists as a result. Israel and the US, both of which actually have nuclear weapons and actually plan to use them to attack Iran, are never accused of calling for a “nuclear Holocaust” against Iran when they talk of nuclear air strikes or “regime change” (1).


Nor would Ahmadinejad have control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them. Iran’s Presidents have very few powers and are not the Commander in Chief of Iran’s military. The ‘Leader’ Ayatollah Khameini, who persuaded Khomeini to back down in 1988, would be (2), (3).


(1) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006, (hardback edition)


(2) = Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' , http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/iran.htm


(3) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite', http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1185293,00.html


Air Strikes would not stop Iran developing nuclear weapons
and might make them do so


Experts, even hawkish ones such as Michael E. O'Hanlon and Bruce Reidel, are against air strikes on Iran because they could not prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. For instance Hanlon and Reidel say:


even a massive strike would not slow Iran’s progress towards a bomb for long. We cannot be sure we know where all existing Iranian facilities to enrich uranium are located – as the revelation of yet another previously unknown site near Qom last year reminded us. Even if we did strike most or all existing facilities, Iran can rebuild fairly fast and would surely expel inspectors and burrow further underground when building its next facilities. It would be even harder to find, and strike, those assets.”


They don’t mention the other possibility – that if Iran is genuinely only developing nuclear programmes for nuclear energy to supply electricity (as they claim they are) air-strikes might make them decide to build nuclear weapons as a deterrent against further attacks.


Air strikes would kill civilians
and might involve tactical nuclear weapons


A US F117 Nighthawk stealth bomber drops  a 'bunker buster bomb' in military tests in Utah


A US F117 Nighthawk stealth bomber drops a 'bunker buster bomb' in military tests in Utah


The US and Israel both have plans for air-strikes with ‘bunker buster’ bombs, with both planning for the possibility of using ‘tactical nuclear’ weapons dropped from aircraft in the hope of destroying or setting back Iran’s nuclear programme.


According to the renowned American journalist Seymour Hersh, Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the same position under Bush, travelled to Europe in 2007 to try to persuade the British government and other NATO allies to back the idea of tactical nuclear air-strikes on Iran, targeting suspected nuclear programme sites.


Former CIA counter-terrorism officer Phillip Giraldi told journalists that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had opposed the idea, but that the plan included "a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons"


Israel has similarly had plans for using tactical nuclear weapons in airstrikes on Iran since at least 2007.


The Obama administration’s new policy on nuclear first strikes has been widely praised, yet it permits nuclear strikes on countries which the US deems to have breached the non-proliferation treaty – like Iran – the exact wording being:


The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”


Of course the US alleges that Iran is not in compliance with the Treaty (though Iran was one of the first countries to sign it).


An early tactical nuclear weapon designed to be dropped as a bomb from a plane in the 1960s


An early tactical nuclear weapon designed to be dropped as a bomb from a plane in the 1960s


In March this year President Obama ordered large quantities of bunker buster bombs delivered to the US air base at Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands (8). The Chagos Islands are British dependencies (former colonies) in the Indian Ocean, previously inhabited by the Chagos Islanders, but the US and British militaries forcibly deported them from their homes in the 1950s to make way for the US military, navy and air-force bases.


If the ‘bunker busters’ are anything like the ones the US supplied to Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war they’ll also include Depleted Uranium, dust from which causes high rates of cancers for decades afterwards – and so effectively ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (9) (more on this later).


Diego Garcia was one of the staging posts for the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq.


Some see this as preparation for US airstrikes on Iran, others claim the original destination for the bombs was Israel, with Obama sending them to Diego Garcia a sign that he wouldn’t back Israeli airstrikes on Iran (10), (11).


It could mean that Obama plans to make the operation an American one though.


Dan Plesch, the Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at London University, told reporters
They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran...US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours” (12).


If air strikes targeting suspected nuclear facilities go ahead civilian ‘collateral damage’ is guaranteed, both due to missing targets – and more commonly due to wrongly identifying civilian targets as military or nuclear programme facilities. In the 1991 Gulf War the US dropped ‘bunker buster’ bombs like the ones Obama is storing at Diego Garcia. One took out what US commanders believed to be a ‘command and control centre’ that might contain Saddam Hussein. In fact the Al Ameriyeh bunker in Baghdad contained hundreds of civilians, using it as an air raid shelter – and 408 were killed.


A modern 'bunker buster'


A modern 'bunker buster'


Hundreds more cases of civilian deaths due to wrongly identified targets (and even targeting of civilian targets) took place in the Gulf war and continued in ‘patrolling the No-Fly Zones’ between 1991 and 2003, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths caused directly and indirectly by bombing (22) – (24). They continued in Kosovo and Serbia in 1999, in the Iraq war and in airstrikes in Afghanistan from October 2001 to present.


 If tactical nuclear weapons are used then a legacy of radiation sickness, still births, illnesses, high rates of fatal cancers among infants and deformities may result for decades, as for decades after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and in the years since US and British forces used depleted uranium (DU), napalm and compounds with similar effects and white phosphorus in Iraq from 1991 on.


A girl in Fallujah , Iraq , who was born without a left hand - one of the less distressing of the huge number of birth defects among children born there since the 2004 Coalition assaults


The most recent examples have come from Fallujah where the rates of birth defects among newborn babies have increased massively since the April and November 2004 assaults by coalition forces employing DU and white phosphorus.


Obama’s Policy on Iran has more similarities than differences from Bush’s

Barack Obama

President Obama

During the 2008 Presidential election Obama made a campaign pledge in a speech to AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee):

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions

He went on to say that, like Bush, he would use initial diplomacy as a means of getting other governments to support sanctions or military action

Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States


Obama’s description of Iran in his speech could have come from Bush or Cheney :

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

The false claims are identical to the ones made by the Bush administration. First that there is definitive proof that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. There isn’t any. Second that if Iran got nuclear weapons it would give them to terrorist groups, which is as ludicrous as Bush administration claims that Saddam would give nuclear weapons to Al Qa’ida or Palestinian terrorist groups if he had them. In fact when Saddam did have WMDs in the form of chemical warheads for his Scud missiles - and was at war with the US in 1991 - he neither used them on other countries nor gave them to terrorist groups, because the first would have been personal and national suicide and the second would have been national suicide by proxy. His only attacks on Israel and Kuwait with scuds used conventional warheads. (1).

Of course in the case of Iraq no amount of evidence from UN weapons inspections teams, the CIA or the Iraq Weapons Survey Group that Saddam had no significant WMD capability was good enough. It may well be that the same lobby groups – the Israeli government, AIPAC, the oil and arms companies and hawks on the right of the Republican and Democratic parties - want a US war on Iran no matter what.

It also ignores the fact that the US, the UK and its allies can’t be in danger from Iran even if it did develop nuclear weapons, as Iran, like Saddam would be deterred from making nuclear attacks on us by the certainty of a massively larger nuclear counter-strike that would wipe Iran off the map.


(1) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (Nye is a former CIA officer)


(see my blog post here for full sources on the above)


Air Strikes would make Iranian politics more extreme
and cause revenge terrorist attacks

The London bombings


Any air strikes on Iran and the resulting ‘collateral damage’ civilian casualties would lead to widespread anger in Iran and the Muslim world. Iranian politics would become more hostile to any countries involved.

This would also create the risk of more revenge terrorist attacks on civilians in the countries whose governments ordered the attacks – just as the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the London bombings and the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq led to the Madrid bombings.


Israel and it’s US ally’s military power and nuclear arsenals dwarfs Iran’s

US supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jets

US supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jets

Even if Iran did develop nuclear weapons they would not allow it to attack Israel or other countries, whose militaries are massively better armed, with far more advanced warplanes, tanks and artillery. Israel is estimated to have at least 80 nuclear warheads, some missile mounted, others to be dropped from aircraft.


Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld says thatWe Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us....”.

The Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev – the centre of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme

The Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev – the centre of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme

On top of this Israel has the US as an ally – and even after the reductions in the recent nuclear treaty with Russia, the US will still have over 1,500 deployed nuclear warheads and many thousands of advanced aircraft.

Wider sanctions could kill huge numbers of civilians,
as they did in Iraq from 1991 to 2003

An Iraqi mother with her child in 2000 during the sanctions which lasted from the end of the 1991 war till the 2003 invasion

Obama used the US-Russian nuclear treaty, which reduced US and Russian deployed nuclear warheads by 30% to around 1,550 each (plus undeployed warheads), to talk of progress to a world free of nuclear weapons.

There is no prospect of the major powers giving up all their nuclear weapons though – and the dark side of Obama’s policy is that he is using the token reductions in the treaty to push for “stronger sanctions” or airstrikes on Iran, either of which could kill large numbers of civilians.

While the sanctions so far applied to Iran have been limited ones targeting certain individuals’ foreign bank accounts and travel and banning exports of nuclear material to Iran, extending sanctions to make them more general could result in Iran not being able to afford to import enough food and medicines for it’s population, like US sanctions on Iraq from 1991 to 2003, which killed around 5,000 children a month plus thousands of adults according to two UN officials who resigned as heads of the sanctions programme – Dennis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck.

War on Iran would put British troops in Afghanistan at further risk

War on Iran would also result in Iran stepping up arms and training to opponents of NATO in Afghanistan, resulting in more deaths among British troops there (though they should be brought home in any case – see my policy page on Afghanistan for the reasons why)

Housing - rebuild council housing stock

Councils need to provide more council housing


Allowing council house tenants to buy their properties allowed many people to become home owners for the first time. They should be allowed to keep their houses

However far too many council houses were sold off or transferred to tenants associations, leaving a shortage resulting in long waiting lists for council houses for those who need them. Councils need to start buying houses when they're on sale and ensuring half of all new houses built are council houses in order to be able to provide enough to reduce waiting times and homelessness.

Poverty Reduction

Enforce the minimum wage and increase it at the same rate that average earnings increase  - The minimum wage is one of the few real achievements of Labour in power (largely due to pressure from trade unions) and it’s been steadily increased, which is also real progress. There are still too many cases of employers paying less than the minimum wage though. It needs to be better enforced by employing more people to check it’s being paid.

Simpler, fairer benefits and taxes – Scrap tax credits and replace them with no income tax on the first £15,000 of individual income. Tax credits and existing benefits are ridiculously complicated, resulting in £16 billion in benefits and tax credits going unclaimed by people entitled to them each year compared to only £1 billion a year going to benefit fraudsters. The over-complicated benefits system results in those who are entitled to benefits not receiving them and allows for fraud by those who know the system inside out. With simpler fairer taxes and benefits those not in work will be able to claim benefit and those going into relatively low paid jobs will not end up with less money in work than they had on benefits.

Create Jobs – The other way to reduce poverty is to create more jobs and give people who lack skills apprenticeships so they can get those skills. For policies to create those jobs and apprentice ships see my policies on Job Creation

Guarantee State Pensions – and raise them by index linking raises in them to increases in average earnings. Pensioners should not have to end their lives having to choose between eating and heating their homes.

Health and Education

End the Private Finance Initiatives/Public Private Partnership Programmes which are leading to cuts in beds and staff numbers in our hospitals and schools and to higher taxes in order to fund hire purchase gone bad on a grand scale. That would allow NHS trusts to employ more fully trained staff in each hospital, allowing shifts to be made shorter, so junior doctors, nurses and untrained auxiliaries aren’t forced to make life or death decisions when too tired to think and remember clearly – and that they’re trained to do the job they’re asked to do in the case of orderlies or auxiliaries. For more on why PFIs and PPPs are bad for taxpayers, staff and patients click here

Ensure history continues to be taught in schools –
and allow children to specialise in any period of history that interests them, rather than being restricted to certain periods taught in the syllabus.
Teach the broad sweep of history and the big events, worldwide, not just certain periods and not just British or Scottish history. Do not use history as a propaganda tool to make people ‘proud to be Scottish’ or ‘proud to be British’ as this leads to a biased and distorted view of historical and current events.

Make Modern Studies about how politics works in practice and the big issues
, not just the minutiae of how MPs are elected.

Use an apprenticeship law and technical colleges to give children who are not academically inclined a way to start learning a trade like engineering, vehicle mechanic, carpenter, joiner, electrician etc. Then, when they’re employed in that trade they can get further education in it.

Don’t assume that children are either academically inclined or else practically inclined though – many may be both.

Teach Grammar in English Lessons to help children learn other languages – Not knowing the grammatical structure of their own language makes it much harder for students to learn other languages (a problem I have myself due to only having had one 1 hour period of grammar in my entire education).

Constitutional and Electoral Reform and a Referendum on Independence

A referendum on Independence for Scotland

Devolution and the Scottish Parliament have been a big step forward, not least because the Scottish Parliament elections include some MSPs elected by proportional representation (though all should be).

However the Scottish Parliament lacks power over even many vital domestic policies – from energy policy and railways in Scotland to immigration, health and safety, social security and employment law.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the London bombings and attempted Glasgow airport attack and the risk of British involvement in a US-led war on Iran (even under Obama), all the results of decisions which no Scottish government could have got through the Scottish Parliament, all suggest we need control of our own foreign policy too – which means independence, either inside Europe (like Sweden) or outside Europe (like Norway).

It was not a co-incidence that London and Glasgow and Madrid were all the targets of terrorist attacks, while Oslo and Stockholm were not. Britain and Spain had troops in Iraq at the time of both bombings – Norway and Sweden didn’t. Being part of the UK is not making us safer, but putting us in greater danger.

Being independent within the EU would give us the economic security and the protection of being part of a larger bloc without bringing the risks on us which British governments have by following US foreign policy.

Many people are against independence and in any referendum on whether to stay part of the UK or not they would have the same say and vote as everyone else. If a referendum is held then the majority will decide whether Scotland stays as part of the UK, is independent within the EU, or independent outside the EU.

 

Proportional Representation for all elections

P.R is the only fully democratic election system, because it’s the only one in which everyone’s vote counts equally. Under first-past-the-post systems (like those for the Westminster Parliament and for the first vote in Scottish Parliament elections) any votes which don’t go to the candidate who got most votes in that constituency simply don’t count at all – they’re effectively counted, then thrown in the bin as far as representatives elected goes.

There is no truth in the claim that PR results in greater control for party leaders, that’s only true where parties are not internally democratic. Any bill to make all elections by proportional representation could also include a clause to require the position of candidates on a party list to be decided by a vote by party members, with candidates for that party ranked on the party list

Independent candidates (i.e candidates who are not members of any party) and small parties would stand a much better chance of being elected under proportional representation. The Scottish Parliament’s Additional Member System (the 2nd vote on the regional list by PR in Scottish Parliament elections) shows that in Scotland it would be independent candidates, Greens, Socialists and campaigners for the elderly who would be elected under P.R here, not the BNP. In England the BNP might gain some seats for a while, but non-racist small parties and independents would gain far more.

The Alternative Vote system proposed by the Labour party would be an improvement on first-past-the-post, allowing voters to vote for three candidates in order of preference (1st, 2nd and 3rd).  However it would still mean that once one candidate got over 50% of the vote no other votes in that constituency would count. So rather than say up to 60% of the vote going uncounted in many constituencies under first-past-the-post.

 

A written and codified constitution, drafted by an elected constitutional assembly

The UK's 'unwritten' constitution has in effect been no constitution at all, with the exception of the general principles of the legal systems of England and Wales on the one hand, Scotland on the other and the embodiment of European Human Rights treaties into law with the Human Rights Acts (which the government 'opts out of' whenever it feels like it).

While some documents and principles exist in English and Welsh law and in Scots law they have not been codified into any kind of single written constitution. Whether the UK stays together or Scotland becomes independent we need a codified, written constitution. The best way to write one is to have elections to a temporary constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution.

International Trade and Aid

A 15 Year Old Haitian girl shot dead by Haitian police after the earthquake for stealing paintings


A 15-year-old girl shot dead by Haitian police after the earthquake for stealing paintings ; Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters


Unfair trade and unfair conditions on aid kill just as surely through starvation, diseases caused by lack of clean water and lack of medical treatment


Fair trade not ‘free trade'


We need fair trade rather than free trade so that we gradually level up third world living standards instead of levelling down our own wages and employment levels to third world ones.


Completely ‘Free trade’ harms the majority in all countries to benefit a handful. Forcing third world countries to open up their markets to imports from companies based here and allowing unrestricted imports from third world countries where these companies have relocated most of their production (and increasingly services) to will benefit only the heads of the multinational companies and their shareholders at the expense of the majority in all countries. Support the World Development Movement’s ‘Fair Trade not Free Trade’ campaign – www.wdm.org.uk


We live in a world in which millions starve to death every year to profit the wealthiest, in which many are reduced to slow starvation and watching their children starve and die in front of their eyes. In Haiti unfair trade deals imposed by the US and EU result in people buying 'mud cakes' of mud with salt mixed into it in order to try to fill their own and their children's stomachs, because they can't afford to buy food. The average person in much of the world struggles to survive on under $2 a day (under £1 and 31 pence a day).


 


End foreign aid, arms sales to and trade deals with dictatorships and sweatshops


A lack of restrictions on trading with sweatshops and dictatorships results in unemployment here and exploitation there. Trade sanctions on and a ban on arms sales to any country whose government is not democratically elected and which tortures, jails without fair trial and kills its people. Make EU trade deals with them conditional on allowing opposition parties and fair elections, freeing dissidents and allowing independent trade unions and a decent minimum wage. Trading with these countries makes British people unemployed as companies move to them for cheap labour. End arms sales to Israel until settlements, sieges and occupations are ended.


End Tied Aid


While the government claims to have end 'tied aid' - aid made conditional on it being spent on buying products or contracts or services from companies based in the donor country - the reality is that it continues. For instance 40% of all aid to Afghanistan from NATO countries has gone to consultants or companies based in the donor government's country. The average consultant is paid £500,000 a year.


 


Deliver the Promised Aid


Governments in the "developed" world continually pledge aid and then fail to deliver nearly as much as they pledged. For instance in Afghanistan between 2001 and March 2008 foreign governments pledged $25 billion in aid - but delivered only $10 billion.


 


Stop attaching conditions to aid that hurt the poorest


Stop making aid conditional on privatisation, cuts in benefits and ending subsidies on the prices of basic essentials like fuel and food. Aid should benefit the poorest, not punish them. The worst offenders here are the IFIs (International Financial Institutiorns) - the IMF and World Bank, but the US and EU are also riding rough-shod over the needs of the poorest in the poorest countries in order to benefit the wealthiest people in the world and big companies.

Environment, Energy, Pollution, Climate Change, Planning and related Health Issues

Environment, Energy, Pollution, Climate Change, Planning and related Health Issues

The world's largest wave power station ; invented in Scotland , but used first in Portugal

The world's largest wave power station ; invented in Scotland , but used first in Portugal

 

Reduce water pollution and high levels of pesticides in food

Increase fines for agricultural and industrial pollution.Tests of food in supermarkets show levels of pesticides in non-organic fruit and vegetables remain far above safe levels. These pesticides are carcinogens (i.e cause cancer) and also run off into streams amd rivers, poisoning fish and wildlife. Farmers should be offered grants and subsidies to go organic and fines for pesticide pollution should be increased. Most chemical pesticides should be banned. In order to stop crops being destroyed by pests we should return to using predators such as ladybirds and birds, along with a move from mono-culture back to multi-culture. Pesticides kill the natural predators that keep insects from destroying crops.

Increase tax on aviation fuel

As suggested by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee in 2003.Flying is far more polluting than train travel, but much cheaper – train journeys should be cheaper than flying

 

Reduce import and road taxes on hybrid vehicles and on cars with the lowest petrol consumption

Also increase them on cars with poor fuel efficiency. This is the only way to reduce air pollution and climate change.

 

Invest in Green Energy Technologies

To create jobs and reduce global warming and other forms of pollution.

The first wave power system was designed by a Scottish company – and Scotland is well placed to benefit from wave power itself, but because of a lack of interest from the British government it’s Portugal, not Scotland, that was the first country to generate electricity from waves at sea on a large scale. While there has been some government and big company investment in wind power turbines, which have begun to rapidly increase in efficiency and output as a result – and created some jobs – we need to capitalise on the benefits of our geography and weather by investing more in various green energy sources – wind, wave, tidal and (to a lesser extent) solar. If government helped Scottish companies to get into these businesses then we could get jobs both in constructing them (using the skills of ship-builders and welders for instance) and in erecting and maintaining them.

Green energy sources do not include new nuclear power stations as existing stations have failed to safely deal with existing nuclear waste and leukaemia in children is found in higher rates around every nuclear power station. When the costs of dealing with waste and decommissioning are factored in they don't provide cheaper energy either.

It can't include coal either, as clean burning coal technology simply does not exist yet. If it's developed, then coal might be a viable fuel again. Until then we must rely on gas (not green, but relatively clean burning for a fossil fuel) and green energy sources such as wind, wave and tidal power.

 

End open-cast mining in Lanarkshire

It provides few jobs and many experts say it causes asthma and lung cancer due to diesel fumes and coal dust. Clean burning coal technology to stop coal power stations' emmissions causing lung cancers, acid rain and climate change does not exist yet.

 

Give local residents an equal say in planning decisions

The assumption should not always be that the developer is always right. People dismissed as 'NIMBYs' have been shown to improve the results of planning decisions for everyone where they have input into those decisions

Potential environmental pollution, long-term health risks to local people and risk to rare wildlife must be taken into account in all planning decisions.

Protect greenbelt. There are plenty of brownfield sites which could be built on - the only difference being the greater cost to the developer of cleaning them up first.

Nuclear Weapons and Defence

Nuclear Weapons / Deterrents ?


If the majority of Scots voted for independence in a referendum and independent Scotland would not have any more need for them than Norway has, as long as, like Norway, it didn’t deploy troops abroad. The EU may need them in order to be able to have a foreign policy of it’s own rather than being dependent on the US for nuclear deterrence, but Britain on its own can’t afford them any more. If there was an EU nuclear deterrent it could be afforded by having a joint Anglo-French deterrent force or an EU nuclear deterrent funded by the whole EU. It would not need to be much bigger than the current UK Trident submarine fleet.


Redirect Military spending to the Conventional Forces


so that if the British or Scottish people decide to back UN intervention to prevent genocides such as Rwanda (shamefully not stopped), or have to defend Britain or Scotland against invasion due to unforeseen events in the future, our troops go into battle properly equipped and protected.

Agriculture / Farming

More regulation of the prices paid to farmers by supermarkets which are currently often unfairly low, often so low that farmers are being forced to supply goods at a loss to keep their contracts with supermarkets.

Fairer subsidies – With EU farming subsidies based on hectares of land and head of animals big agricultural businesses and large scale landowners currently get bigger subsidies than struggling small farmers. Small farmers should get bigger subsidies proportional to the size of their farms than large scale farming businesses, funded by a reduction in those for large scale farms. Large scale farms’ subsidies should also be cut to allow third world farmers to compete with them, while the increased subsidies for small farmers would stop them being driven out of business by cheap third world imports.

Subsidies and taxes should favour local produce - Where possible taxes and subsidies should favour local produce rather than produce from further away or from abroad, in order to help native Scottish and British farms and reduce the pollution and climate change caused by transporting food over long distances. Farms should also be offered subsidies and grants if they reduce water pollution and switch to organic production by ending the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

End battery farming of chickens and high density indoor farming of pigs
which are cruel and also lead to the spread of diseases like bird flu and swine flu among animals and people

Switch from monoculture back to multiculture - By mixing many different types of fruit and nut bearing trees and plants along with vegetables and herbs that deter insect pests the output of food per hectare or acre could be greatly increased.

Abortion and Adoption

Abortion – Increase government funding for adoption programmes, make sure all women considering abortion for non-medical reasons are offered the alternative of adoption. -  No-one is in favour of abortion and I would like to reduce the number of abortions to those which are unavoidable due to medical risks to the mother’s life. However it would be wrong to do this by banning abortion as this would lead to many teenagers and women dying in back-street abortions, as they did before abortion was legalised. The best way to reduce abortions would be to increase government funding for adoption agencies and charities in order to give as many women as possible the option of having a baby they can’t support adopted by loving parents rather than aborted.

Immigration, Refugees and Asylum

Why Scotland needs refugees to prevent a growing proportion of pensioners relative to people in work, leaving us unable to afford pensions

Immigrants of all kinds are often presented as if they are merely a drain on the country. In Scotland this is very far from the truth. If it wasn't for immigration Scotland's population would be falling and ageing, with the proportion of pensioners increasing relative to the number of people left in work. Pretty soon the people in work would be unable to generate enough tax to pay the pensions of those no longer working. Immigrants' average age is much lower than the average age of people born here though and so immigration helps to ensure that we avoid the 'pensions bulge'. Even with the current levels of immigration Scotland's population is ageing with the number of pensioners projected to increase and the number of people of working age projected to fall. The latest General Register Office for Scotland statistics show this is already happening (see the table at the bottom of the page on that link).

 

End the hype on immigration, the myths and the hatred directed at all refugees and migrant workers

Right up until the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust irrational hatred of Jews was common all over the world - and considered normal and acceptable. Today the majority recognise this prejudice is wrong and unjustified, but new targets have been found - today all immigrants, refugees and migrant workers are widely hated as if all of them were criminals or exploiting the benefits system - they're not. The vast majority either want a job or are fleeing torture or death under dictatorships or in wars, or environmental catastrophes like the spread of deserts into areas that previously had water and where crops could be grown, or from flooding or extreme poverty and hunger. In Haiti for instance, even before the 'credit crisis' many people were reduced to buying 'mud cakes' of mud with salt mixed into it in order to try to fill their own and their children's stomachs, because they can't afford to buy food.

 

Myths about Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers – and the facts

There’s a lot of confusion and mis-information about immigration, refugees and asylum in the UK and Scotland.

 

Surveys show most people in the UK believe the UK has around 24% of the asylum seekers in the world. The true percentage is 3%. The average person surveyed thought there are over 50,000 asylum applications each year. In fact there are around 25,000.

 

It’s important to know what ‘asylum seeker’ means for instance. It does not mean ‘illegal immigrant’, nor ‘migrant worker’. It means someone who has applied to the Home Office of the British government asking for refugee status.

 

A refugee is technically someone who has been granted refugee status, though it also has a more general meaning of someone who has fled from their home due to natural disasters, wars, oppression, fear of being killed or tortured etc.).

 

An ‘illegal immigrant’ may be someone who has tried to sneak into the country without going through customs and through the process of applying to be a legal migrant worker or seeking asylum as a refugee. Some ‘illegal immigrants’ are actually genuine refugees in the wider sense of the word – they really are fleeing for their lives but are so scared of being sent back to their deaths that they avoid the authorities in the UK.

 

An ‘illegal immigrant’ may also be a migrant worker who has applied to work in the UK and had their application rejected, or an asylum seeker who has applied for refugee status and had their application refused by the Home Office, but has then gone into hiding to avoid deportation or refused to leave the country. Again, some of these kind of ‘illegal immigrants’ are actually genuine refugees, fleeing from torture, rape or death in their own country, but having had their application for refugee status rejected by the government here.

 

One of the myths about Asylum Seekers or refugees is that they don’t want to work, come here for the generous benefits and get more in benefits than people born here do. In fact asylum seekers are not allowed to work while they wait for their case to be heard and get lower benefits than people born here .

And here are the amounts paid per week to unemployed people born in the UK (or with UK citizenship) in jobseeker’s allowance:

£51.84 for people aged 16 to 24 (higher than the £38.18 to £50.81 paid to 16 to 18 year old asylum seekers)  and £65.45 for people aged 25 or more if contribution based (higher than the £35 to £42 per week paid to asylum seekers over 18)

If income based the amounts are the same except couples can get up to £102.75 a week , compared to £69.75 for asylum seeker’s benefit.

Research shows that claims of immigrants being put to the front of the queue for new council houses are not true either, with 90% of the people in Council Houses in the UK in 2009 having been born here. Immigrants are also a smaller percentage of the number of people in Social Housing (2%) then they are of the population as a whole (3%).

The number of immigrants coming to EU countries each year has also fell significantly between 2000 and 2008 (see page 4 of this UNHCR report)

To read more on the myths and facts on immigration see 'Bogus - Thirteen myths about immigrants and refugees' (written in 2005).

 

Deal with the causes of immigration, not just the symptoms

While most of the political parties are all for being “tough on immigration” they ignore the causes of mass immigration. Punishing, jailing and deporting refugees and migrant workers will not reduce the flow of immigrants. Only dealing with the causes of it will.

As long as we continue unfair trade practices that force 'developing' countries to open up their markets to government subsidised imports from the relatively rich countries (including Scotland and Britain), while putting barriers on trade for their exports to our countries, people in the 'developing' countries will be suffering so much hunger and poverty that they'll want to leave those countries and come here, rather than watch their children slowly starve or die of preventable diseases due to lack of clean water and money for food.

As long as our governments continue to help repressive dictatorships like the Saudi monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Mubarak in Egypt, the military installed governments of Honduras and Thailand and many others stay in power by selling them arms, training their troops and guaranteeing to use force to prevent them being overthrown people will continue to come here to try to keep themselves and their families safe and to enjoy the freedom of speech, freedom not to be tortured and freedom not to be jailed or executed without fair trial that we enjoy here.

 

Protect Genuine Refugees

People whose entire families have been murdered are being sent back to die. Whole families including children who have committed no crime are kept in ‘detention centres’ which are in reality more like jails for months or years while their appeals are heard – and then forcibly deported to torture or death.

 

Labour (other than a few decent back-benchers), the Conservatives, UKIP and the BNP would all continue this.

 

Here are a few examples out of thousands every year.

 

Zimbabwean asylum seeker Edneth Gotora is the widow of a senior member of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party broke into their house in 2002. They killed her husband and injured the couple's 4 year old daughter so badly that she later died. Edneth was taken to a 're-habilitation camp' where she was raped and tortured.  She escaped and managed to get to the UK where she sought asylum. Her application for asylum (refugee status) was refused by the Home Office in 2005 and she was held in Yarlswood ‘Detention Centre’ (a jail for people whose asylum applications have been rejected before they’re deported) for months until she was released on bail. Only the support of people in Stockton on Tees, churches, her MP and campaigners for refugees stopped her being deported immediately.

 

This was not an isolated case – and Edneth was relatively lucky. Black Zimbabwean asylum seekers are being refused asylum in large numbers and deported back to torture or death.

Charles Ndelemani, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition to Mugabe’s repressive government, faces being deported back to Zimbabwe, risking torture and probably death in April this year (2010).

 

The British government and the Conservatives claim to condemn Mugabe's government and the torture, rape and killing of Zimbabwean opposition supporters.

So why will neither of them accept black Zimbabwean asylum seekers from Zimbabwe ? While Mugabe's regime targets white farmers it kills 10 black MDC supporters for every white farmer. It's right that we accept white farmers who are fleeing Zimbabwe - but wrong that we dont accept black MDC supporters too.

 

Under the Conservatives and Tony Blair's 'New Labour' our record on asylum and immigration is shameful. The Labour government would not improve it - the Conservatives want to make it worse by having quotas for not only the number of asylum seekers to be deported each year but also the maximum number to be allowed into the country annually.

In detention centres families with children who have committed no crime are held for years.

Labour, Conservatives, UKIP and the BNP would continue these shameful policies.

 

Close detention centres, replace detention centre guards with police and customs officers

Criminalising large numbers of refugees and migrant workers who are mostly no threat to anyone is a huge waste of money and staff. Detention centres should be closed and the money saved spent on training and paying more police and customs officers who can target the minority of people - born here and immigrant or refugee - who are criminals and are a threat to others.