Sanjay SamaniCampaigner for Angus North & Mearns

The news that Angus Council are applying for a £12m grant from the Scottish Government for flood defences in Brechin is highly welcome. However the SNP Government needs to change the funding formula for flood defences and Angus Council need to reconsider their recent decision to cut funding for flood defences for Edzell.

Responding to the decision, Lib Dem Cllr David May commented,

“This is a positive move by Angus Council and there should be cross party support for the application for funding from the Scottish Government. As a member of the Angus Council administration in 2009, I called for financial aid from the SNP Government for the Brechin Flood defence scheme five years ago. It is welcome that a formal application has now been made.”

“Having visited the site of flooding in Brechin in 2009, I expressed my frustration at the time about the SNP Government’s funding formula that left Angus at a severe disadvantage. At the moment the Scottish Government uses a crude formula based on population, that boosts funding for big cities at the expense of rural communities such as Angus.”

“Angus Council should also work with the River South Esk Catchment Partnership to ensure that the flood defence schemes are sustainable and do not simply transfer the problem from Brechin to Montrose.”

From my perspective, this news is very welcome. However I do wonder whether it would have been necessary to apply for such a large grant, if the SNP Government had not changed the way flood defence funding is distributed in Scotland in 2009.

Had the SNP Government responded to our calls to change the funding formula, Angus Council may have had substantially more funds to deal with flooding in Brechin and elsewhere in Angus quite some time ago.

We now have detailed maps of the whole of Scotland showing where risks of flooding are the greatest. It will come as no surprise that rural communities in Angus are some of the most at risk. We therefore repeat our call on the Scottish Government to change the flood defence funding formula to be based on need not just a crude headcount.

Both Cllr David May and I have also called on Angus Council to reconsider their decision to cut funding for a flood defence scheme in Edzell.

Cllr David May said,

“Flooding in December 2012 left well over £1m of damage to homes and property in Edzell. I voted against the decision to cut the £600,000 scheme that would have prevented this from happening in Edzell again.”

Across Angus, in Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath and elsewhere, flooding has had a devastating, expensive impact. The SNP administrations on Angus Council and in the Scottish Government should be working together to ensure that Angus receives the funding it needs to address funding across the whole of Angus, as well as Brechin.

The following article in the Guardian showcases the tragedy of flooding.  Having spoken to victims of flooding in Stonehaven, it is clearly absolutely devastating.  There is irreparable damage to much of your possessions and possibly the fabric of your home or business, cleaning up the mess can take months and dealing with insurance companies can dominate your life for a year or more.

Somerset floods: living underwater – in pictures

With climate change, extreme weather and flooding are predicted to be more common.  It is critical that there are resilience plans in places at all levels of government and the local community.  It is positive that Councils in Tayside have worked to ensure community resilience plans are in place.

Angus and Mearns Lib Dems, specifically Councillors and representatives from Stonehaven, introduced a motion at Lib Dem conference, that was passed and adopted as policy, calling for agreement between the Scottish Government and the insurance industry to ensure that victims of flooding are treated fairly and not hit with punitive premium rises.  

I was delighted to support this motion and reassured that it was adopted as Lib Dem policy.

There is still an issue with regard to the Scottish Government formula for funding flood defences.  The current formula is based on a simplistic per-capita basis.  

The Scottish Government provided funding for an early warning system for flooding, which is now available by clicking here for Floodline.

There are also new maps highlighting the areas at risk for flooding throughout Scotland, available by clicking here.

There is therefore the information available needed to target flood defence funding where it is most needed.  Therefore it is sensible that the Scottish Government modify there formula for providing flood defence funding to be based on where it is most needed rather than a simplistic per-capita basis.  We made that call back in 2010, and the suggestion is still valid to ensure flood defence funding is targeted where it is most needed.

I take it all back, the NSA clearly have our best interests at heart.  It seems so obvious now that they have identified it.  How could we have been so stupid? Terrorists are so obviously using Angry Birds as a training tool for attacks on our critical agricultural infrastructure and using it as a inspiration for a vicious plot.  How did we not see this before?

US and British spies ‘get personal data from Angry Birds

Angry Birds

 

Since the Syria conflict began in 2011, I have advocated that for humanitarian reasons, we need to be prepared to act if, and only if, necessary to prevent mass civilian casualties. I fully appreciate that there are many different factions involved, and intervention would be extremely difficult. Lessons from history show that despotic regimes can be forced to comply with international law and conventions if confronted with a genuine willingness to intervene by the international community. Saddam Hussein was believed to have been complying with UN resolutions by Hans Blix and the IAEA prior to the invasion of Iraq, because there was a credible threat of interventions.

Given the complexity of the Syrian situation and the perception that Western intervention is only done in self interest, I have advocated from the start that we should be building new alliances, and applying diplomatic pressure on the Arab League to take a lead on ensuring the conflict did not escalate into a humanitarian disaster. Unfortunately the Arab League’s initial intervention proved to be a damp squib. On the other hand, John Kerry did form new alliances in support of intervention after Assad’s use of chemical weapons, which will hopefully lay the ground work for future relations between the West and Middle East.

This latest article demonstrates again that the paralysis in the West over intervention in Syria, has yet again allowed a humanitarian disaster to unfold. 

Syria accused of torture and 11,000 executions

There is an argument that suggests that the US were too hasty to act after Assad’s heavy use of chemical weapons, and that the solution of destroying the stocks only came about because the Lib Dems in the UK government were not prepared to support the bombing.  However, I believe that whilst the Lib Dems allowed for the window of opportunity for this option to be explored, this solution was only possible because the US showed a willingness to intervene on humanitarian grounds.  The massacre of thousand by chemical weapons demonstrates that Assad did not fear intervention in the slightest until a credible threat was given by the US.

Nor was the solution of destroying the chemical weapons something the emerged just within that time frame.  On the contrary, the US Government began preparation for the disposal facilities in February 2013, months before the 21 August attack in the Ghouta region.

The US had identified a solution for Assad’s chemical weapon arsenal and the Ghouta incident provide the opportunity to  deploy it.  Assad would only comply with a credible threat of intervention, and the US needed to demonstrate that it was not acting unilaterally. With old alliances not provide the support, John Kerry rightly chose to look elsewhere for support, before heading to Russia to get agreement on a solution that dealt with the chemical weapons, but did not require intervention.

John Kerry toured a number of countries to secure their support for action, growing past the traditional alliances that no longer match the security challenges we now face.  I would seriously hope that this is the start of a new diplomatic relationship with the Middle East, that encourages the Arab League and other multinational groups to take a lead in their regional security.

Building new mutually beneficial relationships is the long term approach needed for Syria and for the Middle East, and should have begun in 2011, not in reaction to Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

I have over the years tried to highlight the national disgrace that was the NHS Programme for IT, and raising awareness that billions of pounds wasted by the last Labour government. I have been relatively quiet about this, since the Coalition government started winding it down.

This is how the Labour party handled your money. Should we ever trust them to run our economy whilst any of Gordon Brown’s back room team were involved?

But just as a final review, this is what the National Audit Office had to say about it in 2011:

“Today’s NAO report concludes that the £2.7 billion spent so far on care records systems does not represent value for money. And, based on performance so far, the NAO has no grounds for confidence that the remaining planned spending of £4.3 billion on care records systems will be any different.”

NAO Update 2011

And this is what the Public Accounts Committee had to say a month ago:

“The benefits flowing from the National Programme to date are extremely disappointing. The Department estimates £3.7 billion of benefits to March 2012, just half of the costs incurred.”

PAC Report 2013

Yesterday, Ed Miliband said the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Stephen Hester should not receive a bonus this year.

If Labour wanted control of executive pay of state owned banks, then they should have made renegotiation of contracts a condition of the bailout when they were in power.

Labour should have also demanded that all front office investment banking staff in those banks had to re-apply for their jobs, without any guaranteed bonuses.

Labour left the coalition toothless to deal with the issue. Once the banks returned to operational profitability, they lost the legal financial justification for placing investment banking front office staff under consultation to review pay and conditions.

Today, Vince Cable has proposed a series of measures to give shareholders a binding vote on executive pay, and crucially, given Sir Fred Goodwin’s deal at RBS, exit packages.

Vince Cable found himself unable to address high pay at RBS, Lloyds and HBOS, thanks to Labour’s failure to address the issue when it bailed out the banks.

Vince has done what Alistair Darling should have done, and proposed the legislation he needs to get the powers the government needs.

As the largest shareholder in RBS and other banks, the government will now be able to control the executive pay at those institutions, and fix the problems Labour created.

 

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