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Saturday, November 27, 2010


I am more than a little annoyed at the Herald for refusing to publish a reply to 3 letters on Tuesday replying to mine on Monday. 2 of them singled mine out & 1 accused me, correctly as it turned out, of an error. When anybody is accused of being wrong & makes no attempt to explain the assumption must, as with the BBC, that one has no answer. By censoring my reply the Herald have deliberately & falsely given that wrong impression. They have not answered my email, for example asking for a shorter letter. This is not the first time they have done so & I must take it further.

Here is the correct most recent (as far as I know) figures Ben had referred to.

As sent to the Herald ----- I see that once again my letter in reply to criticism has gone unpublished & I again repost it, marginally tweaked. The editorial duty to allow such replies has been accepted by the PCC. I quote

"The newspaper published reader's letters which named the complainant and challenged him to reply to questions. The second letter was headlined "Answers, please" and there is no doubt that the editor was under an obligation to publish the complainant's answers. The complaint against the Derby Evening Telegraph is upheld. T9605-1983"

No doubt there are several more recent acknowledgements of the duty but 1 suffices.

I find it strange that when unconnected opposing writers single my contribution out & previously a prospective MP has done so as being particularly well informed, you do not welcome my reply, on purely commercial grounds.

Unless you intend to publish in Friday's edition I must insist on a response.
Firstly I must acknowledge that Dan Hansen is correct - that I had not realised the figures I had extrapolated were out of date & I apologise. His source (Scottish Government - Staristics/Browse/Business/Trend/Data ) does indeed show wind & other "alternatives" up to 8.6% of our electricity (still less than the 11% previously said) which is still a very small return for £1 bn a year subsidy. In another way the current figures are worse than I thought. I had said that Holyrood's unanimous & in my opinion insane, decision to cut half our CO2 producing power over the next 10 years, to ameliorate the "catastrophic global warming they allege we are experiencing today. Including all our nuclear I thought that would mean losing "only" 50% in total. However by the figures Dan provided it is actually 58% (nuclear now being 31% & pumped storage in practice being powered by off peak nuclear) of our electric capacity that will be destroyed. If a decade of subsidising windmills can raise it to only 8.6% it is unwise in the extreme to hope that the next decade will produce another 58%.

By comparison with the unending windmill subsidies, since nuclear plants are available worldwide for £1 billion a shot, they need zero public subsidy to achieve what windmills promise but cannot achieve for so many billions.

There is also the letter from Scottish Renewables, nominally the "renewable industry" lobby organisation, but because so many government quangos & organisations appear on its list of funders, effectively a government propaganda organisation itself. The lady says that more that 1/5th of our electricity comes from renewables (the figures given above say 18%) which is within hailing distance of the "nearly a quarter" she claimed in a letter here in March. I can assure her I represent none of the "vested interests" she says are promoting "myths" unless it is the common interest of us all that we have power which is not only competitively priced but, even more importantly will, fail when we have a completely windless fortnight as happened in February 2009. Her claim that windpower, which is far more expensive than coal, gas or nuclear can have any significant role in an "optimum" power supply is clearly itself a myth presented by the "vested interest" that employs he since "most expensive & unreliable" is not optimum.

I cannot add to the letter from Brian Samuel. It is unfortunate that people like him, who represent the best engineering traditions of Scotland & who have kept our lights on for decades do not receive the public respect that seems to be given by the media to hired lobbyists, anti-technology activists & even MSPs.

I apologise to readers for the numerous & confusing figures (even I find them confusing). Unfortunately power policy depends on figures rather than wishes & the results of pretending otherwise will be catastrophic.

Neil Craig

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Friday, November 26, 2010


Not my idea, I have lifted it bodily from The Air Vent (via the Global Warming Policy Foundation) but it is a brilliant one:

By Sean M O’Brien

Up until now, peer review has been held up as the gold standard in scientific discourse. Recent developments in the climate science arena, such as Climategate, have led many to conclude that peer review is not all that it is cracked up to be. Having said that, peer review may well be perfectly adequate as a scientific standard when the issues in debate are the mating habits of squirrels. However, if the issue in debate is whether or not trillions of dollars should be spent combating global warming, perhaps a new more rigorous standard should be applied.

I propose that henceforth, five levels of scientific rigour be defined. In brief, they are Level zero which is grey literature from advocacy organisations such as the WWF. Level one, which is the current peer review process. Level two, which I will call replicatable, is the current peer review process but with mandatory archiving of data and software code within six months of publication. Level three, which I will call audited, is where an authoritative body of some sort holds a competition on the internet to “find something wrong” with the calculations in the paper with a prize for any independent researcher who can find incorrect calculations. Level four is what I will call Cross Examined and is where the paper in question is deemed so important that, a full scale “internet trial” is conducted. You can think of it as a Scopes Monkey Trial of the researchers and their paper by competent legal personnel advised by scientists. It would mainly consist of oral testimony but with anyone on the internet free to comment and interject in any forum they wish. Naturally these comments can inform the questions put to the researchers.

The main effect of this idea would be to shift the public debate to a new level. Instead of the phrase “the science is peer reviewed” being used to silence sceptics, the phrase “the science is only at level 1” would be used to prompt debate.

What is needed to give this idea teeth is a law. Let us call it the Scientific Integrity Act. Let me focus the discussion from here forward on the United States as most people from around the world will be familiar with how the process of government operates there. The key thing about the Scientific Integrity act is that it should place a limit of the amount of government spending and / or related industry and consumer costs, that can be legislated for based on the level at which the science is at. To take an example. Level 1 science, would not be allowed to justify any government spending or imposed costs. Level two science might perhaps justify $10 million dollars of government spend and $50 million of imposed costs and so on. Needless to say, any proposal with trillion dollar price tags would need level four science to justify it.

Another facet of the law would be that researchers in receipt of a federal grant have to designate their research paper as being at a particular level. In order to encourage realistic assessments of papers by their authors, a penalty system would be included that would operate like this. If a researcher designates their paper as a level three, then should an independent researcher find something wrong with the maths, the funding agency who funded the study would pay a fee to the independent researcher. The fee would be the equivalent of the cost of producing the paper. Naturally a funding agency that got hit as a result of the sloppy mathematics of a researcher would be less likely to fund more bad science by the researcher.

So the big question is of course how would level four scientific papers be selected. I see it working like this. Any government agencies, or legislators, that wish to propose laws based on science, have to nominate ten scientific papers to be assessed at level 4. One would hope they would pick the ten best papers, but just in case, there would be a provision for a minority of legislators in the relevant legislature to substitute five of them. IE if the majority in a 100 seat legislature propose some legislation and nominate 10 papers, then a grouping of 20 legislators would have the right to substitute five of them for other papers.

I would not see anyone sitting in judgment on level four papers. Remember in order to get to Level four, they will already have been audited at Level three so the math will be correct or at least defensible. Rather I would see questioning both orally and via written submissions of researchers as to why they made particular decisions and interpretations. This information would then be available on the web to anyone and the preponderance of scientific opinion and comment would influence legislators to vote for or against the legislation.

Let us consider a hypothetical example. Supposing a researcher decided to use a non-standard mathematical technique that had the effect of producing a particular shape for plotted data even if random number were fed into it. Then, if the researcher tried to defend this notion on the stand, one would expect that the legal teams questioning him would expose this and that the legislators would spot this for what it was. (Then again, one would hope that the paper in question would not have made it past level three in any case.)

Some people, especially AGW believers, may view this proposal as being expensive, both in terms of cost and in that it would delay much needed action. I would maintain the opposite. Currently billions are being spent to persuade an increasingly sceptical public that the world is about to fry and despite the billions, legislative attempts to curb carbon emissions have stalled in most countries across the world. The cheapest and fastest way to get action would be to simply put the top ten research papers that prove the AGW hypothesis through a level four Scopes Monkey type trial.

If the science emerges unscathed from this process, then I for one can see myself persuaded. I suspect that many other sceptics, as opposed to contrarians, would similarly be persuaded. So let us issue the challenge to the AGW community. Name your top ten papers and let’s put them on trial.

With regard to how to progress this idea, I would suggest three things.

Firstly, someone or somebody should do an audit of all the scientific papers referenced in the IPCC reports to see if they are at level one or two. Level two remember is where the data and code is released within six months of the publication of the paper. Perhaps a project similar to might be the way to go. Given what I read on the various sceptic climate blogs, I suspect that little enough of the science would make it to level two. As an aside, Donna LaFramboise already did a similar audit looking for grey literature references across one of the IPCC reports and found that 35% of the references were level zero. Imagine the change in discourse if one could confidently say that most of the science in IPCC 4 is level zero or one.

Secondly shift the debate. When discussing the issue with friends or in the media, explain the levels and ask them would they think it reasonable that the science behind a measure that will cost billions should be subject to a certain amount of scrutiny.

And finally, all those Republican controlled state legislatures across America should put forward a Scientific Integrity act in their state. Given the power balance federally there would be no point in introducing the act federally at this time. However, a couple of state legislatures enacting a Scientific Integrity bill would put huge pressure on the AGW community to nominate the top ten papers and put them on trial

I have been unstinting in my enthusiasm for X_Prizes as a means of encouraging technological breakthroughs, being at least 33-100 times more effective than conventional government funding. However I had not been able to see any way of using it on pure research because that does not produce a specific unimpeachable result you can forecast up front, without which prizes have to be awarded subjectively & we are back where we started.

Sean O'Brien has end runned this by making it not the initial research but the checking of it that is the subject of the prize. That is an elegant solution. Because such a prize is open to all there is no government gatekeeper to ensure only the politically correct can check it. Since I would suspect the prize for checking the maths of a theory need almost never exceed £10,000 it would be very inexpensive, by government standards. Indeed financially it could be run privately though this would reduce its credibility.

Stephen McIntyre investigated the Hockey Stick theory, which had passed "peer review". It would only have partly reached level 2 because, unintentionally, Michael Mann had left information on his calculations on a different obscure site & McIntyre found them. Stephen McIntyre's investigation was at level 3 & he proved beyond doubt, that it was fraudulent. This was long after the IPCC had, obviously without any serious checking, announced it as unimpeachable & spread it all over their report. Had there been level 3 prizes in place at the time I think it impossible that none of the thousands of people on the IPCC, whose specific duty it was to satisfy themselves on its accuracy, would have seen if a prize was available & if none of them had somebody else would.

Indeed if Mann had known that even politically correct theories would have been thoroughly & impartially checked I doubt he would have tried it in the first place.

Note Sean's point about it being [possible for individual states to adopt this (as pointed out it is inexpensive). If it were adopted by the UK it would certainly greatly add to the credibility of British science. It is also something the Scottish government alone could adopt with the same effect for Scottish science.

The Catastrophic Warming Hypothesis has passed level 1, "peer review", (to the shame of the chosen reviewers. On many occasions they have failed level 2, making the figures available. The Linear Non-Threshold Hypothesis on radiation has not, as far as I know, even officially passed level 1, it was simply politically adopted. Bernard Cohen's work on the opposing radiation theory, Hormesis, has passed levels 1 & 2 & being a real scientist I assume would be happy to have it tested on level 3.

And if we are going to have some appointed members of the House of Lords we could do much worse (indeed we already do much worse) than giving that as part of major prizes.

UPDATE. The BBC have officially replied here not disputing both lies (indeed making one worse). They have no intention of correcting & claim that censoring scepticism & reporting purely from the alarmist side is showing "due balance" for "minority" scepticism.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010


I sent this yesterday to numerous BBC emails & also to the programme's presenter Professor Iain Stewart. I quickly got a reply from Professor Stewart & the correspondence is reprinted. I don't think it needs explanation.

I have not yet received any response whatsoever from any BBC representative, disputing in any way the accuracy of my accusation. I don't think that needs explanation either. I will be notifying them & Professor Richard Tait Chairman of the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee & if any of them do choose to factually dispute that the BBC are "fascist" & "censors in a manner reminiscent of the era of Lysenkoism" I will certainly publish their defence.
trust us on that

I understand that the BBC has recently publicly alleged that they will, in future, make a serious attempt to maintain something approaching impartiality, as required by their charter, at least on the subject of alleged catastrophic global warming. I was thus disappointed, though I admit not surprised, to see Sunday's episode of Making Scotland's landscape. I think you will agree this 1 hour programme about alleged catastrophic warming made no attempt whatsoever to balance the hypothesis that we are in the process of experiencing catastrophic warming with the observed fact that we are not.

There were numerous factual untruths in what can only politely be described as a pack of untruthful ecofascist propaganda, with lots of mood music, fitting the assumption that the practical purpose of the BBC is to promote scare stories designed to keep the people cowed & eager to be led by authoritarian big government fascists.

2 particularly egregious lies:

Firstly the "experiment" of testing 2 bottles, one filled with air & one allegedly filled with CO2 were exposed to sunlight & the latter was observed to become 2.5 C warmer. What was omitted was that the actual increase in CO2 is approximately 1 part in 10,000. Thus for the "experiment" to be meaningful the sample used would have had to be of the same order. Had the BBC broadcast an experiment showing alleged "catastrophic global warming" to be 0.00025 C that would have been accurate & acceptable (in theory to both sides) though you might have found some difficulty in accurately measuring it.

Second was the claim of catastrophic warming that "the level of consensus is greater than in any other area of science". Ignoring the fact that even one of its major proponents, Professor Jones, has acknowledged that there is no statistical evidence of warming having happened over the last 15 years whereas I have just produced evidence of Isaac Newton's Law working by placing a pen in mid air & observing it fail to float. Even taking the new view of science as a matter of counting opinions rather than of evidence that claim is untrue. The Oregon Petition shows 31,000 scientists who dissociate themselves from the warming scare (probably many more now). If the BBC was being remotely truthful they would be able to name at least 32,000 scientists who reject the consensus that gravity works in the manner described by Newton, as slightly amended by Mr Albert Einstein. I will be interested to see if the BBC claim to be able to find 1/10,000th as many & are that thus any employee of that organisation is able to claim being 10,000th of the way to remotely truthful.

Professor Stewart & the BBC should apologise for all untruths in a manner as public as the original programme.

I would also like to know if, in an attempt to even appear balanced, the BBC intend to show a programme produced by a scientific sceptic, in which he is free to speak without interruption as Professor Stewart was, within the next 2 months? I assure you, in the interests of balance, that if such a sceptic demonstrated the same untruthfulness as professor Stewart, for example claiming that CO2 is a lifeform native to the planet Zarg, I would be equally scathing. This is known as balance. Fortunately, as I'm sure you know, no sceptic has demonstrated anything close to that ignorance or dishonesty endemic in the alarmist movement.

So far the BBC have made no slightest attempt to show such balance, Their so-called 'news" consistently censors or denigrates scientific scepticism, usually both, in a manner reminiscent of the era of Lysenkoism.

Were the BBC to be remotely interested in even appearing not to be fascist censors or indeed were they not fully convinced that "catastrophic warming" is indeed a fraud that cannot survive open examination they would long ago have been willing to broadcast a genuine debate on the subject. Their continuous, deliberate & total refusal to allow free debate demonstrates their continuous & total commitment to propagandising & lying in the fascist cause.

Or do either Professor Stewart or anybody at all in the BBC dispute the facts in any way?

Neil Craig

Your message regarding the Climate episode emphasises that it was dealing with catastrophic warming, and that is not the case. The word ‘catastrophic’ was employed in one sentence, near the end, which simply noted…

“Unchecked, climate change could be catastrophic. But, unlike the people of Skara Brae or Culbin Sands, we now have the knowledge and technology to do something about it.”

In other words, this was a nod to future worst-case scenarios. So, instead about peddling an extremist notion of dangerous warming, I think our outline of how we got to where we are today was fairly modest and conservative.

I shall let the BBC employees comment on the new editorial guidelines, which ask for balance in proportion with the scientific consensus not 50:50 ‘impartiality’. It is that balance that I want to address. I am not a BBC employee, so I do not represent the BBC’s views on climate change. Instead, as a geoscientist, I represent my geoscience community. In that regard I follow the consensus of earth scientists, some of them climate scientists, who support the prevailing hypothesis of human-accelerated warming. The Geological Society of London, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union are among the long list of international scientific bodies that have produced clear position statements arguing that the climate is warming, that the warming relates to human action, and that action is principally the burning of fossil fuel leading to rising greenhouse emissions. To suggest that this is a BBC led view is preposterous, unless you feel the world’s major academic institutions are following a media cabal.

Moreover, this isn’t just the case of a few politically-motivated geoscience groupings. The latest review of geoscience opinion on the issue of climate change, published last year in the American Geophysical Union’s Transactions, found overwhelming agreement (>80%) among geoscientists (and >97% among climate scientists) with the statement that ‘ human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?’ They concluded their review with the remark.

‘It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long- term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.’

Source: Doran, P.T & Kendall Zimmerman, M. 2009. Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. EOS Transactions, volume 90 number 3 20 january 2009

I have little doubt that this will induce no change in your view that ‘global warming’ is a myth. But it really ought to make you appreciate that the BBC is not the target. Your target will need to be the whole geoscience community.



Thank you for your very prompt reply. I will look forward to seeing if anybody working directly for the BBC replies at all.

On the point of catastrophe, even leaving out the fact that you did use the term, if warming is merely within historical parameters & I believe the evidence is that it is clearly well within them, then it is not a matter requiring action let alone scaremongering. The entire coverage implies that it is catastrophic.

We may also legitimately discuss the degree of "consensus" among scientists. I have asked organisations representing hundreds of thousands of alarmists to name 2 scientists who support the alarmist case & are not ultimately funded by government & have only twice received even 1 - Professor James Lovelock from the environment editor of the Independent & from somebody on a South African site - Professor James Lovelock. As you may know Lovelock has, since the emails came out, reconsidered his position & now says only the sceptics have kept the discussion "sane". You may know more but you will understand that I find a "consensus" that excludes the large majority of its putative members unimpressive.

The BBC should change their minds & acknowledge the propriety of broadcasting genuine debate on the subject. Something they have repeatedly refused. I hope you agree that would be more in keeping with true science than their wholly one-sided reportage. It is certainly infinitely more in keeping with their purported commitment to balance.

I note you do not dispute either of my specific complaints. We may leave it at that for now until the BBC have had time to say whether they believe I am wrong.

Once again I thank you for courteously responding so much faster than anybody at the BBC has felt able to.

Neil Craig

Thanks Neil, but confused by your take on Lovelock’s stance. I know the piece that you refer to, in the Guardian, in which he celebrates the sceptical stance for making climate scientists take more responsibility. But in no way does he distance himself from the view that climate change is reality,


‘I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.’

‘I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change. We're very active animals. We like to think: "Ah yes, this will be a good policy," but it's almost never that simple. Wars show this to be true. People are very certain they are fighting a just cause, but it doesn't always work out like that. Climate change is kind of a repetition of a war-time situation. It could quite easily lead to a physical war. That's why I always come back to the safest thing to do being adaptation.’

Those don’t seem to me to be the views that suggest it isn’t happening.


No the article I referred to was in the Sunday Times

“I think you have to accept that the sceptics have kept us sane — some of them, anyway,” he said. “They have been a breath of fresh air. They have kept us from regarding the science of climate change as a religion. It had gone too far that way. There is a role for sceptics in science. They shouldn’t be brushed aside. It is clear that the angel side wasn’t without sin.” ...

But he is concerned that the projections are relying on computer models based primarily on atmospheric physics, because models of that kind have let us down before...

“What would you bet will happen this century?” a mathematician asked him. Lovelock predicted a temperature rise in the middle range of current projections — about 1C-2C — which we could live with.

I did subsequently read something in the Guardian which, to my jaundiced eye, seemed to be long on what the Guardian journalist had been told to say & light on phrases the interviewee had said. You may know how journalists work.

I suspect the reality will be less than the 1-2C change he still expects & higher than the 0.00025 C your experiment, done correctly, would seem to suggest but both are well within historic experience.& therefore provably not catastrophic.

That our politicians have passed laws requiring the destruction of as much as 80% of our electric capacity (which is closely linked to GNP) bringing us back to Victorian standards, for the purpose of ameliorating such a, historically largely beneficial, rise does indeed seem to me to be insane. Unfortunately I do not think anybody relying on your programme alone could have come to any conclusion but that such insanity was desirable. Since you have already described the claim of "dangerous warming" as "extremist" I hope you will accept how regretable that was.

Neil Craig

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Kabuki is the highly stylized classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.
The description has been used to describe the American airport security system in which since racial profiling is forbidden blonde Swedish girls are as likely to be examined as aggressive looking bearded Arabic men (probably moreso, its a more fun job). Stylized, elaborate, dramatic without doing anything.

The phrase seems equally apt when describing the show of "public consultation" going on over the Forth crossing & indeed other sizable public projects. We all know perfectly well that the great & powerful Alex has decreed that we spend £2.3 bn (& counting) on a pointless new bridge though a new lane (max cost £10 mill) would do at least equally well. Nobody expects that complaints by the people of Queensferry will be allowed to stop that under any circumstances (nor should they if it were of real national interest). Nonetheless our civil service go through the theatre of holding a pointless "Inquiry".

This is from the Scotsman
RESIDENTS who spent months putting together evidence on their concerns about the new Forth Road Bridge are calling for a rethink of the system for handling major projects after the Scottish Parliament committee considering the plans threw out all their objections...

"We had two weeks to prepare witness statements on why we were still objecting - that was not a particular problem.

Then we had a rebuttal from Transport Scotland, which was 300 pages. We had 14 days to read that, interpret it and draft our own rebuttal.

"It was a ludicrous timetable. These are people who work full-time, people who have children and other family members to look after. We are not full-time paid administrators.

"Transport Scotland had tight deadlines too, but they have full-time staff and people who were brought in especially to deal with this evidence."

But lets look at the cost. It probably takes at least a couple of hours of somebody's time to write a page of "rebuttal" & another hour of somebody's time to check it & another supervisor to keep an eye on these two intellectuals [2.48 July11] & then a lawyer to check it out. Total civil service costs seem to be a bit over £100,000 per employee which means £50 per hour. 5 hours per page for a 300 page "rebuttal" is £75,000. Bear in mind that this is not their opening or closing document it is just a small part. There is also the costs of their lawyers all over the shop. Beyond that is the cost of Holyrood running it. Yet this is only 1 small complaint led by the community council of Queensferry village. The serious criticism is technical. So all in all the total cost of public inquiry "theater" is likely to be at least 100 times that - £7.5 million.

But this is before anybody has even looked seriously at turning a spade. Every part of the building will require similar time by chairwarmers going over everything in the same useless way. On another occasion Steuart pointed out to me that the government's report on licencing new reactor design many of the figures are given in Imperial units (foot, pound etc). For those who don't get the significance engineers, always & everywhere use the SI system (metre, kilometer, gram,kilogram) because it is the only sane one to calculate in, so the government committee on licencing nuclear engineering is being run by civil servants who know no engineering (top civil servants all did classics) & who can thus have nothing useful to say on the subject - the licencing examination is just theatre. Damned expensive theatre since it adds years to the time when workers can start building, hopefully before the lights fail, but nothing more than theatre.

If £7.5 million minimum is being spent on stuff wholly untelated to even looking at building something I think we can assume that is only about 1% of what will ne spent on overseeing things actually being done. This fits well with Richard Rogers complaint that of the £670 million spent building the Millenium Dome, only $46 million was spent on actually building it, the rest being paper shuffling theatre.

So that would be £750 million on Kabuki Theatre for the bridge. Minimum estimate. So far.

Small wonder it is budgeted at £2,300 million when the last one cost an inflation adjusted £320 million.

Or we could just spend £10 million on a new tidal central lane & increase the capacity of the current bridge by 50%. Though no Kabuki theatre jobs in that.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Dear Alex Salmond,
You have defended
John Swinney's budget statement that the SNP had decided not to use the Tartan Tax which was still "Within the Parliament's existing revenue powers". You now say the SNP already knew they had previously given away this power saying
“John was stating what is true, that we don’t have proposals to raise taxation in Scotland because we think it would be the wrong thing to do. Our proposal is to have the economic powers to enable us to grow our economy out of the Westminster cuts.”

Thus you acknowledge that raising our income tax would be economically damaging by removing incentives. Few economists would disagree. However unless you have some reason to believe the Westminster government have had the improbable skill to set income tax at precisely the heretofore unknown point where taxing people does not in any way disincentivise effort, for both the UK & Scottish peoples, you are thereby acknowledging that varying our income tax downwards would have a real positive effect on our economic growth. Again few economists would disagree.

However there does seem to be a discrepancy.

You are on record as saying you will be unstinting in "We need the economic and financial powers to build a [Celtic] lion economy" matching Ireland's 7% annual growth over 20 years & indeed went into the last election saying you wanted the power to vary Corporation Tax.

You are now on record as acknowledging that the power to lower income tax is indeed useful in achieving that aim.

You are also on record as not only not doing so but saying that you have deliberately deprived the Scottish people, for the next several years, of the power needed to achieve that aim.

Perhaps you could explain
Should Mr Salmond or any assistant choose to explain I will, of course, publish it.

At the same time I am putting up Michael Moore's original letter. It seems to gave had far less coverage the Mr Salmond's reply to it:

"Dear Alex

I noted that John Swinney MSP made the following remarks in the Scottish Parliament yesterday:

'Within the Parliament's existing revenue powers, we have explored options for maximising our income. We have been mindful of the need to consider the effect of the significant tax rises that the UK Government has announced before we act. I therefore confirm that we will not raise the Scottish variable rate of income tax.'
I was about to write to you and others on the Scottish variable rate (SVR) to make it absolutely clear that this is a power which cannot, at this time, be exercised by the Scottish Parliament. Indeed, for the reasons I explain below, it could not now be used until 2013-14 at the earliest. You will be aware that the arrangements between HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the then Scottish Executive, put in place at the commencement of devolution and intended to ensure the SVR of income tax could be invoked within
10 months, lapsed in 2007.

Section 80 of the Scotland Act 1998 allows for any administrative costs incurred by HMRC in relation to the Scottish Parliament's tax varying power to be met by Scottish Ministers. It is an established principle that the costs of devolution should be met from the Scottish Budget.

I am not privy to the dialogue which took place between your Administration and the previous UK Government in the past three years. However I do know that the Scottish Government confirmed in August this year that it was not able to commit the necessary resources to enable HMRC to proceed with work on PAYE systems to allow the SVR to be available in the first tax year after the 2011 election.

As the system has not been funded and maintained to allow for delivery within the ten month time frame under the original arrangements, HMRC would, in fact, now need two years' notice in order to invoke the SVR. This would mean that a new Scottish Parliament, elected at the May 2011 elections, would not be able invoke
the SVR until at least the 2013-14 tax year.

It is not yet publicly known whether the Scottish political parties will propose using the SVR in their programmes for the 2011-15 Parliament. I do believe that they must be advised well in advance of next year's elections that the SVR, in practical terms, cannot be invoked until the penultimate year of the next Parliament.

For that reason, I am copying this letter to Annabel Goldie MSP, lain Gray MSP, Margo MacDonald MSP, Tavish Scott MSP and Patrick Harvie MSP as well as to David Gauke MP, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

Yours sincerely


(HT to Caron's Musings where both letters are reprinted - she may censor to promote murder, genocide, ethnic cleansing, child rape & cannibalism in the Nazi cause, like almost all LibDem bloggers but credit where it is due)

Monday, November 22, 2010


Wimdmill with 20 year design life

This is the second letter in the Herald today. Ist Herald letter they've published since March & the first since May 2009 on this subject though my letters have certainly attracted attention.
Jim Mather defends the SNP's position on not building new conventional power plants by saying "by 2008, Scotland was producing 11% of its consumption from wind" & implicitly more now.

His own government's figures available on Scottish Energy Study: Volume 1: Energy in Scotland: Supply and Demand figure 21 indeed show "renewables" make up 11% of Scottish electricity generation. However what this omits is that this is all renewables undifferentiated & that for decades hydro power has made up 10% of our power.

Certainly rain has not ceased thus much of the 11% he claims must still be hydro power, probably 10% of it. I hope next year the government will give figures in more detail but in any case 1% is not enough to keep the lights on when Holyrood has voted unanimously to close 42% of CO2 generating power within 10 years. Combined with the nuclear closure that is half of all electricity. 1% of power produced by windmillery does not inspire confidence that it can replace 50% within 10 years & suggests Rupert Soames is, if anything, being optimistic when he says we face blackouts if we are not "pouring concrete" for practical plants "within 2 years."

Just 1% also seems a poor return for spending £1 bn a year subsidising "renewables." That would be enough, through our tax varying powers, to cut every body's income tax by 3p - or at least it would have been had the SNP not decided, while claiming their failure to improve the economy was because they need "more powers", to give away the real power we have but which it has been feart to use.

Italics for small bits edited out, all of which simply tightens up & improves the letter.

The original letter from Jim Mather, whom I regard as the brains of the SNP & thus seems to have limited influence, is here. I will advise if there is a reply disputing my "11% is all renewables not just wind".

The first letter comes from Prof Colin McInnes, to whom I have no problem yielding. It concentrates on comparing the astronomical cost of wind, particularly if it becomes a large part of our power, with that of nuclear.
renewables obligation costs of £37 per MW-hour have already led to a bill of more than £200m per year for consumers.

However, this pales in comparison to the cost of the much larger 11GW of offshore wind to be installed in Scottish waters, as advocated by Mr Mather and others. The offshore wind deployment will require £30bn of capital and up to £57bn in renewable obligation payments over the 20-year design life of the plant. For the best part of £90bn, we will receive only 20 years of fluctuating electrical energy.

For a fraction of the cost of offshore wind, we could secure a compact, carbon-free nuclear base load capacity with a useful 60-year design life. Assessments of full life-cycle costs by professional engineers clearly demonstrate that nuclear (6-8p per kW-hour) is significantly cheaper than coal with carbon capture (10-16p per kW-hour), and vastly cheaper than offshore wind (15-21p per kW-hour) and can be comparable with low carbon gas (6-11p per kW-hour).

The 3rd letter is on the same line saying that pouring money into "renewables" means
...greater reliance on importing power from elsewhere to cover our erratic supply situation. Most likely, much of this will come from the increased nuclear capability that more rational administrations are now planning.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010


We have a quite astonishing political pantomime going on in Scotland. It reminds me of a situation comedy some years ago about an evil corporation having grabbed a public park which had been willed to the city in perpetuity on a token $1 rent & the city council forgot to pay the $1.

A few days ago a LibDim Michael Moore issued a letter saying that the ability of the Scottish government to vary income tax by 3p, the purpose of the 2nd question in the devolution referendum, had lapsed because the SNP government had failed, since 2007, to pay to upkeep the computer programme needed to carry it out.
Mr Moore said: "It is now clear that because the system has not been maintained at the previous 10-month readiness, HMRC would require two years' notice to invoke the SVR (Scottish Variable Rate).

"I am conscious that the various political parties will be considering their policy programmes for next year's Holyrood election.

"I felt it was imperative to inform them that this tax power, which formed part of the original devolution settlement, is not available to whoever forms the next Scottish government."

Alex Salmond has loudly counterattacked pointing out that it was not just that they had failed to pay the £50,000 annually to maintain the programme but also that Moore had not mentioned that a further £7 million one off was going to be needed as their share of a revamping of the relevant Inland Revenue computer system. He weakened this slightly by saying on TV today that he didn't expect that revamp to be completed before 2012. That would be 1 such revamp in 12 years which, at the rate computerisation proceeds is not excessive. The cost may be high because every civil service computerisation seems to be atrociously expensive but there is no reason to think it is out of line with such civil service projects in Scotland. When you bear in mind that the tax varying powers could return (or raise) £1 billion annually this is small beer.
The then Scottish Executive paid the UK Government £12 million in 2000 to add SVR functionality to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax collection systems. Thereafter, an annual fee of £50,000 was paid.

HMRC said in 2007 that additional work was needed to maintain the readiness of the IT system, and in summer 2008 made clear that they would be installing a new IT platform. Scottish Government officials attempted to elicit information on what this meant for Scotland and the functionality of the 3p tax power.

We were finally asked on 28 July this year to pay over the sum of £7 million to HMRC for this purpose.
A careful reading of Salmond's letter shows no denial that they ceased paying the 50K in 2007 (no confirmation either but that is to be expected).

When did they know?

For decades the SNP's mantra has been that it is an "impossible task of transforming Scotland's economy with virtually no economic powers. The reality is that Scotland does not need more enterprise ministers; we need more economic powers for the Parliament" (Finance Minister John Swinney).

The new SNP line is that we meant to do that because our main economic power is useless, that no major Scottish party had wished to use it & that it would have been a waste to spend £7 million keeping it. Apart from the fact that this makes a joke of the SNP's entire raison d'etre, that we need more powers & ultimately independence to make Scotland successful it also means they are claiming to have deliberately lied to Parliament. Personally I think it is a lie. If it isn't a lie Salmond is lying. His claim that no party has supported using the tax cutting power is, at least nominally, a lie because in January 2009 the LibDims voted down the budget because they said they wanted to introduce a 2p tax cut. In fact they were lying too. They just wanted a bit of good publicity by appearing to actually do something & that such a cut would be popular. They never dreamt that Labour would vote against the budget too & it would fall. This is proven by (A) their total refusal to make any suggestions of what should be cut to pay for it & (B) the fact that as soon as they had won they, horrified at their "victory" changed their minds & voted for the budget without a whimper. Dishonest as the LDs certainly were Salmond's claim is equally dishonest. It also strongly suggests the SNP were not aware of their failure at the time since if they had said that they had waived this power it would have taken the wind out of the LibDim's sails. The Greens have also already said they want to raise the income tax rate so he is wrong on that point too.

If the SNP had known they had done this then their failure to inform Parliament is constitutionally a disgraceful deceit. Indeed only a few days ago John Swinney said, in his budget speech “Within the Parliament’s existing revenue powers, we have explored options for maximising our income. We have been mindful of the need to consider the effect of the significant tax rises that the UK Government has announced before we act. I therefore confirm that we will not raise the Scottish variable rate of income tax.”which, if he knew his party had erased that tax varying power, was a monumental & deliberate lie to Parliament in the most constitutionally important speech of the year. And for no serious gain. Another point is the the SNP's "big idea" changing rates into local income tax, depends on this same programming & they have continued to push, up to the present, for it to be introduced despite not only knowing that there was am ajority in Parliament against it but now, if we are to believe them, knowing it was no longer physically possible.

I am forced to the conclusion that this is incompetence rather than deliberate fraud. It is nonetheless as gross as such incompetence can be. The attempt to cover up by pretending it was intentional is then dishonest. Either they are incompetent liars who have no belief in their party's philosophical goal or they lying incompetents who have no belief in their party's philosophical goal - I go for the latter.

Fortunately the power is still legally there & can be revived, presumably by a larger payment than would have been needed to just keep it running. I hope it will be because I have long advocated cutting income tax by 3p as one of the things that would help us grow.

I would like to see a definitive statement whether the decision to let the power lapse, one of the most important things the SNP have done, was discussed & approved in cabinet - if it was not a boob it certainly must have been. If it was intentional when were they intending to come clean - sometine after the May election?

There are also questions for Labour. They were the government until June. Labour Ministers in London should have known of this, if they were more competent than their SNP counterparts appear. Were they? If so did they happen to mention it to the Scottish Labour leader. If not, why not? If so why did he keep silent? Could it all be a conspiracy of the numpties of all parties to kick into touch any need to make a decision on anything in future so that they couldn't come under pressure to lower or raise taxes? Thus they could all still draw their salaries & blame the English for everything without having to make a decision on anything but banning stuff.

If Scotland's Parliament is a real Parliament rather than a "wee pretendy parliament" they have only 1 option. All the other parties must call a vote of no confidence in the SNP government. They simply cannot pretend confidence in a government which has lied to them to hide its incompetence (or lied to them to hide its incompetent duplicity). This is what parties with any shred of honour would have to do. It would make little real difference because there is going to be an election in May - at best or worst it might move it forward a few months - but it would be the only constitutionally necessary thing to do.

I strongly doubt if any of them will do it
. It has long been obvious that none of our parties really disagree on anything substantive & not a single one of them has the backbone to stand up for the truth. The coming election, even more than the last UK election, was never going to be about discussing issues. It was never going to be about anything important. I suspect we are going to see it become even more banal than that.

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