Blogging from the Murcia region of Spain until early June, when I return to the Highlands of Scotland for a few months
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 12 May 2017

General Election 2017 - Candidates in Highland Council and Moray Council constituencies

There is to be a General Election across the whole of the UK on 8th June 2017.

There are three parliamentary constituencies for Westminster elections (i.e. the UK Parliament) in the Highland Council area, and these are:
- Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (INBS/INBandS);
- Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (CSER/CSandER);
- Ross, Skye and Lochaber (RSL).

Because of the low population densities in most parts of the extremely large Highland Council area, the three parliamentary constituencies each cover quite large geographic areas too.

In addition and because of its proximity to the east of the Highland Council area, I have decided to cover the Moray Council area for this election, which has one parliamentary constituency for Westminster elections, namely Moray, nice and simple.

This article indicates no particular political preference for any candidate - it is intended to be purely factual and "neutral" and is published for my own reference over the coming weeks and in the hope it may be useful for others; because of the unexpected nature of this election, some relevant websites have not [yet] been updated to show important information, but one can expect the larger media outlets to "catch up" in coming days, meantime I have relied solely upon the official websites of the two council areas where the four constituencies I refer to here are located. In other articles I am likely to publish in coming days, my own political leanings, and recommendations for voting, will be made clear. Those who are familiar with my blog, or who happen to know me personally, will already know what my own views most probably are of course.

Because I live in the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency, I will cover it first and in a little more detail because, as well as listing the candidates, I include links to websites where available (or at least those I have identified so far), shown as national (UK), dedicated Scottish (SC), whilst some have a local Party website (LPW), and some candidates have their own personal websites:

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
Boyd, Dr Donald MacLeod
Scottish Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship" - UK - SC - his website
Cunningham, Ritchie
Scottish Liberal Democrats - UK - SC - LPW
Hendry, Drew
Scottish National Party - UK/SC - his SNP page
Robb, Mike
Scottish Labour Party - UK - SC - his Labour page
Tulloch, Nicholas
Scottish Conservative and Unionist - UK - SC - LPW

For the other two Highland Council constituencies, the candidates are:

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Bell, Olivia
Scottish Labour Party
Mackie, Struan
Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Monaghan, Paul
Scottish National Party
Stone, Jamie
Scottish Liberal Democrats

Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Blackford, Ian
Scottish National Party
Campbell, Ronnie the Crofter
Davis, Jean
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Mackenzie, Robert
Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Ó Donnghaile, Peter
Scottish Labour Party
Sturrock, Stick
Something New

For the Moray Council constituency, the candidates are:

Glen, Anne Betty
Kirby, Jo
Scottish Labour Party
Linklater, Alex
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Robertson, Angus
Scottish National Party
Ross, Douglas
Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Sources used:
- The website of Highland Council is here and its election page can be viewed here, and all details are either in that page, or in linked pages from there.
- The website of Moray Council is here and its election page can be viewed here, and all details are in various linked pages from there, for candidates in the .pdf page here.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Local Government election - Highland Council - 4th May 2017 - results

( please see the ADDENDUM at the end)

Overall an excellent result for the Conservatives throughout Scotland and in my local government area - Highland Region - a pretty good result too, in fact an amazingly good outcome from a very low starting position for the party in Scotland.

In Scotland overall, though, let's not kid ourselves, the SNP retains the largest number of seats, albeit suffering a small loss in numbers of seats (-7). However, and pleasingly, it is Labour that has lost the most (-133), as have "Independent" (-26) and the Liberal Democrat (-3). Two groups have gained seats - Conservatives (+164) and Green (+5). The Conservatives have gone from 4th place to 2nd place in numbers of seats, overtaking both Labour, quite extraordinarily, and "Independent". You can see full results for Scotland here.

As for Highland Council, where I live, there are 74 seats in all, and the Conservatives have increased from a standing start of "zero", to take 10 seats, really very good indeed. You can see summary details with changes in the BBC website here.

In the Highland Council website you can see full summary seat holdings after all results have been declared, plus details for each Council Ward of which candidates have been elected - visit its website here.

In my own Council Ward (Ward 18 - Nairn and Cawdor), which has 4 of the 74 seats, the four councillors who have been elected are:
- FRASER, Laurie ("Independent")
- HEGGIE, Tom ("Independent")
- MACDONALD, Liz (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- SAGGERS, Peter (Scottish Conservative and Unionist)

With the remainder being unelected and eliminated:
- CUNNINGHAM, Ritchie (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
- FULLER, Stephen (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- GREEN, Michael ("Independent")
- MACKINTOSH, Andrew (Scottish Labour Party)
- MCINTOSH, Louis (Scottish Socialist Party)
- MCIVOR, Paul ("Independent")

More detailed voting information for Ward 18 - Nairn and Cawdor is available in the Highland Council website here, from which two .PDF files may be downloaded, yielding what to me is the extraordinary and pleasing result that, looking at 1st Preference Votes alone, the Conservative councillor Peter Saggers was second only to one of the Independent councillors Tom Heggie, both newly-elected at this election. The other two councillors elected were both re-elected, having been councillors in several previous councils. What is even more extraordinary, and pleasing to me, is that the re-elected SNP councillor Liz MacDonald in fact came 4th in 1st preference votes, whereas the other re-elected Independent councillor Laurie Fraser came 3rd in 1st preference votes. The two councillors who were not re-elected, but had been councillors upto now were Stephen Fuller and Michael Green.

Turning to the way in which the preference votes worked out in Ward 18, only one councillor was elected at Stage 1 and that is Tom Heggie who received 1,144 at this stage, because he exceeded the required quota of 1,061 votes. One councillor was elected at Stage 7, Liz MacDonald (647 1st pref votes). The remaining two elected councillors were elected at Stage 9, namely Peter Saggers (816 1st pref votes) and Laurie Fraser (694 1st pref votes). (Please also see the ADDENDUM at the end.)

Finally, for the parts of the UK which had local elections yesterday (much of England, all of Scotland and Wales), you can see full results here, but although all results have already been declared in England, Scotland and Wales, there are parts of England for which there are different procedures so are not incorporated into the linked BBC page because they now have Mayoral elections instead, and you can find those results here, however results in two Council Mayoral elections are shown separately in two separate pages - these are Doncaster (result here) and North Tyneside (result here). NB/ Please remember that there are parts of England where the election-cycle did not fall this time, as is the case with the whole of Northern Ireland.

ADDENDUM (Friday 5MAY2017 23.56 BST) I have now re-visited the Highland Council page already linked to above, but for the sake of convenience I repeat it here, where there is now another very interesting document in .PDF format to download, entitled "Candidate Votes Per Stage Report" which details how eligible votes evolved stage by stage until the quota of four elected councillors was arrived at. There is a further report also in .PDF format called "Transfers Report" which analyses in detail how this process evolved. Finally there is another report in 'raw' .CSV format called "Preference Profile Report Ward 18 Nairn and Cawdor" which provides further detail for those interested in a further level of analysis (if you haven't already thrown away your "Poll Card" you can see how your own votes were recorded in the system by checking against your own "Number on Register" by scrolling down the 4-digit reference in the left-most column of this .CSV report, although I suspect that the digits which follow have been further 'randomised' for added security, after re-examination of my own preference votes).

Monday, 1 May 2017

Alex Salmond and his silly letter to "The Scotsman" newspaper

I first became aware of this via a Facebook page I follow, but think it requires a mention here too, specially as we are only three days away from local government elections in Scotland, when we all have a chance to reduce the presence of the SNP, if not 'send them packing' entirely (my preferred option).

The Scotsman has now published Alex Salmond's letter in a separate "rebuttal" article and you can read what it says here.

You can also read the original article, written by Euan McColm to which Mr Salmond has taken exception, by clicking here. Nothing in Mr McColm's article is, in my opinion, any way intemperate, or "over the top", indeed I think it goes out of its way to present both sides of a very contentious debate.

Below I reprint my own comment, first published as my response to the brief posting I saw in the Facebook page I referred to above, which really only linked to Mr Salmond's letter, so that more people might see it:

Golly, his ego is so huge he can't take a bit of honest commentary! This is the guy who tried to bluff his way through an interview with Andrew Neil only this morning and Andrew wasn't taking any of his nonsense either (* - see at end). He is divisive, it's what a lot of people think, amongst which I'm happy to count myself.

I am totally cheesed of with this narcissist. He tried to imply in his silly letter that the criticism of him by McColm was merely as a proxy for covert commentary on Sturgeon, but in my opinion he deserves plenty of obloquy directed at him personally, both for his performance as First Minister, and perhaps even more so since he stepped down and has behaved in increasingly quixotic and erratic ways. Obviously I can't see into the author's mind, but in my opinion there's plenty of justified criticism to share between both Salmond and Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP 'cult' in government, including the completely useless John Swinney and Humza Youssef, and they're just the names that immediately pop into my head, because there are many more incompetents in that crowd of shysters to choose from for a tongue-lashing.

Finally, whilst the SNP have successfully stifled dissent amongst their own members, officials, elected people and supporters, Scotland is not yet a "one party state" and until they are mad enough to try and make dissent illegal, people like me will not hesitate to call these obsessives out on their many and varied deficiencies, not least for the incompetent way they have run the Scottish Government since they managed to bamboozle the Scottish elecotrate into voting them into power.

Golly, how I loathe these people!

* - Alex Salmond was a guest yesterday on BBC Sunday Politics, hosted by Andrew Neil, and you can view the whole interview below as someone has kindly uploaded it to YouTube:

Keep Scotland British! You know it makes sense!

If you're in Scotland vote "Anyone but SNP" in the 4th May and 8th June elections

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A week today vote "Anyone but SNP" in the 4th May Scottish Local Government Elections

Just a wee reminder:

When voting in the Local Government Elections on Thursday 4th May 2017, if you are in Scotland, please use your voting choices by voting for "Anyone but SNP", whilst avoiding voting for the Greens, or any "Independent" council candidate who has a record of supporting the SNP/Green "Scottish separation/indpendence" agenda, preferably using at least one of your preference votes (as high up in your list of preferences as possible), by voting Conservative .

Wherever else you are in the UK (if not in Scotland), I similarly urge you to vote Conservative in next week's Local Government Elections too.

After the final push for next week's Local Government Elections, we voters have a few weeks of respite before returning to the voting booths again on Thursday 8th June to vote in the General Election, when it is doubly important, for those of us in Scotland, to reduce the representation of the SNP at Westminster as much as possible, either by voting for the political party you favour personally (Conservatives in my case, or Labour, LibDems or even, at a pinch, UKIP), or by voting "tactically" for another political party which seems likely to do well in your own constituency - all to maximise the chances of defeating and ejecting sitting SNP MPs. The Spectator magazine has a useful article here to assist you in how best to deploy your "tactical vote" in Scottish constituencies for the Westminster election on 8th June to have the maximum anti-SNP value. The Scottish Greens are allied with the SNP in aiming to split the UK asunder too, so wherever you are please don't vote for them either.

If you are elsewhere in the UK, in England or Wales, I urge you to vote vote Conservative, to unseat as many Labour and LibDem sitting MPs as possible; in Northern Ireland please show your support by voting for a political party which supports the UK.
Keep Scotland British!
Help to re-elect a Conservative Government!
You know it makes sense!

Friday, 21 April 2017

In the General Election on 8th June - vote Conservative

Just five weeks after the upcoming Local Government elections on 4th May, we will be having a General Election in the UK on 8th June.

Do you want the sensible, rational policies offered by the Conservatives, or do you favour a shambolic government by a very left-wing and dysfunctional 'socialist' Labour Party, either alone or in coalition with its fellow-travellers on the left, the SNP and the LibDems?

The choice is very clear:

Vote Conservative! You know it makes sense!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

If you're in Scotland vote "Anyone but SNP" in the 4th May and 8th June elections

Local Government Elections are being held throughout the UK (except NI) on 4th May and a General Election is being called for 8th June throughout the whole of the UK.

Wherever you are in the UK, I urge you to vote Conservative in the General Election and if you are in Scotland, when voting in the Local Government Elections please use your voting choices by voting for "Anyone but SNP", whilst avoiding voting for the Greens, or any "Independent" council candidate who has a record of supporting the SNP/Green "Scottish separation/indpendence" agenda.

Keep Scotland British! You know it makes sense!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Local Government election - Highland Council - 4th May 2017 - candidates list

On 4th May 2017, elections will be held for Local Government throughout the UK (except for Northern Ireland, where I understand the next local government elections will be held in 2019, the last having been held in 2014). You can find information about these elections, and links to fuller information about them via the following links:

- The Electoral Commission;
- General information in the BBC website about Local Government elections in 2017;
- Information in the BBC website about Scottish local elections 2017 (incl. links to all Scottish Council official websites).

I live in the Highland Council local government area, and its website is here, from which there are links to the dedicated Local Government Elections Thursday 4 May 2017 'microsite' here. Various relevant documents are downloadable (in .pdf and other formats) from there.

Highland Council has 21 "Wards" and a list of all candidates (ward by ward) in the forthcoming local government elections is downloadable (in .pdf format) here.

I live in Ward 18 - Nairn and Cawdor, where the candidates (in alphabetic name order) are, with their political party affiliations, if any:

- CUNNINGHAM, Ritchie (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
- FRASER, Laurie ("Independent")
- FULLER, Stephen (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- GREEN, Michael ("Independent")
- HEGGIE, Tom ("Independent")
- MACDONALD, Liz (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- MACKINTOSH, Andrew (Scottish Labour Party)
- MCINTOSH, Louis (Scottish Socialist Party)
- MCIVOR, Paul ("Independent")
- SAGGERS, Peter (Scottish Conservative and Unionist)

Rules for voting
You can vote for as many or as few candidates as you wish, placing your choices in order of preference by putting 1, 2, 3 and so on in the boxes to the right of each candidate's name on your ballot paper.

Final Comments
This article is entirely apolitical and makes no comments, one way or the other, about any of the candidates - it is intended to be entirely factual only. I will probably be writing other articles in which my own preferences will be mentioned, although those who know me or who have read my blog in the past may well be aware of my general preferences already.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A brief "plug" for my YouTube channel

Although I have had a YouTube channel for not far short of ten years, I have done very little with it to date, partly beacuse of a lack of particularly good camera equipment, but more as a result of a lack of suitable editing software, other than of a very basic kind. However, at least as important a reason was lack of confidence, both in appearing before a camera and in how to structure and edit videos.

However, in the past couple of years, I have been subscribed to quite a decent number of YouTube channels, operated by various other people, and have been trying my best to glean tips from them. For the past few years too, I've had better camera equipment of various kinds and am planning to add additional equipment as I gain a little more confidence, and more recently I obtained a much better piece of editing software, although I am still very much feeling my way with that. But doing is learning, so that's what I am now trying to do a little more seriously than I have before. Along the way I'll no doubt continue to make glaring errors, but I hope to improve gradually.

Until now I have made almost zero effort to tell anyone else about my YouTube channel, other than close family and friends, but I think now is the time to at least make others more aware of it. If you do care to visit my channel, or even "subscribe" to it, I shall be very grateful - but please be gentle with your comments.

My YouTube channel may be visited here.
(To see links to videos I have uploaded, click on the "Videos" link from the link above.)
- as with all my other 'social media' accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube), there are permanent buttons/links in the right-hand column.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Brodie Castle near Nairn and the daffodils in Spring

I visited Brodie Castle near Nairn yesterday, as it was a reasonably pleasant Spring afternoon, with no rain forecast, mainly to see the Spring display of daffodils there, which as usual were rather nice, although perhaps not so good as in some previous years.

After concluding most of my walk around the grounds, I repaired to the cafe/tea-room in the Castle for coffee and cake, with a little shopping later on in the afternoon. I had an enjoyable day.

Here's a short video I took yesterday, which includes clips talen during my visit to Brodie Castle, as well as some clips taken at home before and after my little outing:

Saturday, 4 February 2017

"Theresa May wins Spain’s support over early deal for rights of expat Brits in Europe"

The title of this article, in quotations, is taken from an article published in the Daily Express newspaper yesterday evening - you can read it here.

I've no idea whether this Daily Express article is authoritative or speculative - it would be helpful to see a similar message in other parts of the mainstream media, not to mention direct quotes from both Mrs May for the UK and Sr Rajoy for Spain in particular, although the article does contain a number of direct statements attributed to a spokesman for Mrs May:

Comments directly attributed to a spokesman for Mrs Theresa May, British Prime Minister:

"They both agreed it was an area it would be good to get agreement early on in the negotiations.

"He said we need to get an agreement on reciprocal rights.

"We are firmly of the opinion that we want this issue that is resolved early. There is some broad agreement across member states but not all of them.

"They both agreed it would be an area it would be good to get an early agreement on."
On this basis, these are my remarks on what may have been achieved, but what obviously still requires to be formalised:

This sounds hopeful but I'd be cautious about over-optimism until formal agreement is reached - both the UK and Spain have an interest in resolving this issue quickly, but if Germany and some others remain intransigent, it may not happen so smoothly as this implies - my view is and has always been that the rights of existing EU27 residents in the UK must be protected; it is not the British government that is holding cross-border EU residents to ransom, despite attempts in some parts of the British media to paint this picture, it is countries like Germany.

There should be no illusions about this - Brussels regards Britons in the rest of the EU and residents in the UK from the rest of the EU as bargaining chips in their plans to make the UK's exit (aka 'escape') from the clutches of the EU as painful as possible - the Eurozone is in such a mess that Brussels will go to almost any lengths to keep its banks afloat (notably Deutsche and certain of the French banks, which are heavily exposed in places like Spain, Italy and of course Greece, etc).

Personally I have few qualms about Merkel's 'crazy' immigration policy, because luckily the UK is not a member of the Schengen area, something which is only possible because the UK happens to be comprised of islands off the mainland of Europe (Ireland is also outside of the the Schengen area, it being a practical solution because of its long-standing relations with the UK, but is really for Ireland's convenience, especially given the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland dating back to, from memory, 1923 - long before either country joined the EEC (now EU).

It is no accident that thousands of prospective immigrants surged through Schengen in to Germany, Finland, amongst other destinations, and to Calais (hoping to smuggle themselves into the UK, until the French government at last took the situation in hand and dispersed them around the country). It is possible that a proportion of the large number of 'immigrants' referred to are genuine 'asylum seekers' to whom refuge must be granted, but it seems to be generally agreed that these represent at most 50% of the total numbers and perhaps considerably less. Although the rules for claiming 'asylum' are that a claim must be lodged in the first 'country of sanctuary' (often Greece or Italy within the EU, but also countries such as Turkey and Lebanon), it has always seemed to me only fair that all EU members should share the burden, certainly financially if not always physically - it is striking that the UK contributes more than the rest of the EU combined to this effort and is second only to the US in this financial assistance. Those 'first sanctuary' countries, all of them, have in my view tried their best to accommodate as many genuine refugees as they can, given their own high levels of unemployment and the fact that their economies are generally much less robust than some of the countries further north in the EU (Austria, Germany, Holland, Finland and of course the UK) and from what I can gather the two of them in the EU (Greece and Italy) had been pleading for help from the rest of the EU, both financial and practical, for some years, but had largely been ignored and left to get on with it as best they could, until the surge of numbers in the summer of 2015 shamed the EU and in particular Germany to accept as many as could travel there - the open Schengen border then (since restricted somewhat in practical terms) made transit across the continent fairly easy, if chaotic - but the drawback was that the huge numbers meant that any real effort to distinguish between 'immigrants' ('economic' or other) and genuine 'asylum seekers' became almost impossible, not aided by the fact that many discarded whatever ID they may have had, or obtained forged documentation from what were considered to be more acceptable 'asylum' countries, such as Syria or Iraq and a few others such as Sudan or South Sudan etc, when many of those concerned probably came from completely different countries, whilch although poor were not in a state of political turmoil requiring 'asylum'. This article is NOT about immigration or asylum, however, but it is impossible not to mention this topic when discussing wider matters relating to EU membership and the rights and responsibilities that status implies.

The UK will always need "immigrants" and generally welcomes them, as we have a robust economy and relatively low unemployment. We also have a long history of accepting refugees in need of asylum and I hope this will continue long into the future, quite apart from our international obligations in this regard. It seems to me that although relatively few genuine asylum seekers arrive direct in the UK from the countries they are fleeing from, even if through equally dangerous countries, that we have to play our part in helping, at the very least financially, those countries where genuine asylum seekers are likely arrive first in Europe. It is certainly unfair to leave it all to Italy and Greece within the EU, or Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which already have accommodated large numbers of refugees - and are not wealthy countries themselves - simply because geography places them in the path of these genuine refugees.

Coming back to the main topic of this article, however, I do hope the governments of the EU27 overall (and not just Spain, obviously one of the more important member states) will come to their senses and agree quickly measures to protect both EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 - the UK government and now apparently Spain want to get this matter resolved quickly. Let's hope sense will prevail in Brussels (& Germany) so that this agreement can de done quickly. Although I didn't agree with 'remainer' Theresa May's seeming intransigence, I have come to the conclusion her robust, but fair, attitude has been the better course to follow and will in due course stand the best chance of allowing this matter to be resolved in a common sense way. But it needs reciprocal good will from the EU27 too - given that, I do not think the UK will be found wanting. But we have taken the decision to depart the EU and the stamping of feet in frustration and anger by anyone is highly unlikely to change this and given the British nature is only likely to harden attitudes here, which frankly is the last thing I wish to see happen.

(NB/ This article is also cross-posted to my "Spanish" blog casabill - the blog [link] - see also link to relevant article).