Saturday, 28 January 2012

Budget? BODGET

People who pay cash in hand to tradesmen are “diddling” the economy and diverting money from hospitals and schools. So says, Dave Hartnett, the country’s most senior taxman.

Let’s see now. That is the man who let Tesco off millions and had a mountain of meals on Big Business that Red Rum couldn’t jump over.

Listen up, Dave. The Government owes £1 trillion. Used, presumably, to pay £9.3 billion for the Olympic Games (including £23 million for the opening ceremony which stars a procession of underpaid nurses), plus several millions a year for upkeep of the sites; £32 billion for the HS2 High Speed train; heaven knows how many billions in bonuses for the bosses of nationalised banks; £1 billion to shore up the Houses of Parliament against chronic subsidence, its moral subsidence remaining unchecked; £150 billion to replace lost revenue on London properties placed offshore; £7.6 million owed by foreigners who reneged on their NHS bills and more millions lost on overseas students who renege on university loans; £400 million aid to Pakistan to be spent on protecting women; and £32 million to demolish Middlesbrough Arts Centre that nobody wanted.

There could be 750,000 (one in five) fraudulent council and housing association tenancies in England, vastly outstripping the Government’s estimate of 50,000.The cost to the taxpayer could be as much as £13.5 billion a year.

MPs get a £5 million subsidy on meals and drinks. BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten wants management NOT to cut £15m from the budget of the BBC's 40 local radio stations. The BBC spent more than £11 million ferrying staff around Britain and putting them up in flats and hotels during the past two years as part of its efforts to move production outside London. The £2 billion move to Media City in Salford has resulted in only 16 new jobs, eight of them temporary.

We are not alone. “Free” Scotland faces a bill of £140 billion as the cost of independence.

That’s life in austerity UK but hold your foot up...

If we are borrowing so much, surely there is more than enough left to buy 85-year-old Our Gracious and her 90-year-old ailing husband a £60 million yacht? Just think of the peerages it would earn. By the same token, two thirds of councils have slashed their budgets for elderly care homes and a third of our old people cannot afford basic household items. Wouldn’t Our Gracious, who promised to dedicate Her Life to Her People, prefer it if we spent the £60 million on caring for poverty stricken and sick pensioners? Look after the “trillions”, Dave, and the “pennies” will look after themselves.

There will always be an England - which when you see how it has turned out is a pity. There won’t always be a Scotland, which would be no bad thing, but the greatest loss would be Great Britain.

Great Britain came about as a result of an ill advised Scottish overseas venture. In 1698 William Paterson tried to launch a Scottish Trading Colony in the Americas. Its failure bankrupted the Company of Scotland and the Scottish nation. At Queen Anne’s urging, England paid off the Scottish debt. The price was joining the Union as a junior partner. England did not want it because it meant accepting Scottish MPs and the Scots did not want it because they valued their independence. The Scots Establishment can hardly be blamed for trying to dissolve the partnership. Sensibly the Scots population still don’t want it, though on this side of the Border there is overwhelming support. It is the Establishment which opposes it.

Perhaps they fear the solution which Salmond really wants. An independence where Scotland gets the oil but England continues to pay the bills. The last things the SNP wants are the debts of the Royal Bank of Scotland, compulsory conversion to the Euro, ownership of the bankrupt ship yards. They are keeping the nuclear submarine base because we cannot afford to build another in England.

Much is made of Voltaire’s view that Edinburgh was the most civilised city in Europe. So it was, in the middle class drawing rooms of that city. The tartan myth was invented there, practically single-handedly by Walter Scott, a bankrupt novelist with delusions of grandeur. He invented the Highlands, though much of the area was aboriginal, living at a subsistence level which shocked Dr Johnson.

A more recent Boswell, Neil Oliver, a young man with long hair and a short memory, has recently dominated our TV screens with a history of Scotland. That is a contradiction in terms. The history of Scotland is a recital of betrayal of a subdued lower class by its leaders. The chiefs sold their clans to the English; the Jacobite revolution began the decimation of the Highlands which the Clearances completed. Prebble in his history of Culloden writes of the clansmen, many of them mere boys, who were forced to fight for far-from-bonnie Prince Charlie, a half Polish drunk and wife beater. In the Clearances what was left of the clansmen were exported to make room for sheep and sporting estates.

Good came out of Evil. It was those expatriate Scots who made the Empire work. A combination of Scottish industry and English luck was irresistible. But then, as now, as Sam Johnson pointed out, “The noblest prospect a Scotsman sees is the High Road that leads to England.”

They colonised the Inns of Court and Grub Street whilst the English filled the ranks of the Highland regiments. When I joined the Black Watch (RHR), a CSM, two corporals and a piper came from the same Manchester suburb as I did. Most Scotsmen went into Corps where they learned a useful trade. My Scottish relatives were horrified at my choice. A shrewd bunch, I doubt if they are members of the SNP.

I was interested to see that the gaffed Salmond wants to claim the Scottish regiments as his defence force. Fine by me. I am sick of seeing Jocks wasted in unnecessary wars but there is a slight problem. Any time now the MOD axe is going to fall on another highland regiment because they are having trouble recruiting and are seriously under strength. So much trouble in fact that they are now recruiting in Fiji and the ranks are filling with exotics from faraway places. They are still Jocks, of course, because when you join a highland regiment you join a family and they are “bonnie fechters”, witness the medals they win. Will Fiji, one wonders, get a vote in the Salmond ruffle?