Monday, 30 March 2015

Time To Close Religious Schools

Facebook inspired this post.  The other day I noticed a question being asked - ‘Did you go to Sunday school?’ and was amazed at the number of responses such a simple question received. People detailed the names of their Sunday schools and I calculated, very roughly, that the responses were split quite evenly in favour of Sunday schools. There were several exceptions when commentators said they were a ‘waste of time’, ‘free parking for parents’ etc.  Here in rural Perthshire, Sunday schools still exist.  I’ve no idea of the attendance numbers but I have attended several Harvest Festivals and plenty children contribute to these occasions.

During a brief discussion about this with an online friend, he made clear he had no religious beliefs and apologised if anything he had said offended me. I replied I was not offended in the least and consider myself more in the ‘spiritual’ than the ‘religious’ box if boxes had to be ticked.  Perhaps there is a fine line between religious and spiritual, because I would like to think deeply religious people do have an association with their spiritual side, although recent happenings in the middle east imposes doubt.

However, away from Sunday schools, more concerning is the numbers of British Muslim young people who are attracted to fight with the terrorist organisation IS.  Court orders show a total of eight pupils from the same Academy in Tower Hamlets have shown an interest in Islamic fanaticism. How many more faith schools, funded by the state, are there in the UK which follow their own religious itineraries?

In the past 20 odd years politicians have gradually introduced us as a ‘secular society’.  All well and good and I approve of tolerance is all religions to aid peace and enable us all to live together in harmony.  This isn’t happening.  Recently one father of a child who has absconded to Syria blamed the police for his child’s choice to join IS. Let’s not forget, 15 year olds today are much more mature than a 15 year old in the 50s and 60s.  This same father was invited to Parliament to give evidence at a home affairs select committee and denied even knowing what Islamic radicalisation was. Obviously no official investigation was made into the father’s background prior to his invitation and subsequent apology from the police,  until the Daily Mail uncovered the father’s beliefs.

Our society has changed radically in the past 20 years and it’s time all state funded religious schools were closed. Every child should be taught in schools which have the same curriculum and rules. That includes all Christian faith schools which are paid for by taxpayers. Each child will then have an equal opportunity within the state education system.

Keep religion out of our state schools. In 2009 there were 6,867 faith schools in England, with 395 in Scotland and 263 in Wales.  Until 1959, the state paid for only half the capital costs of religious schools, but in the past 50 years the cost borne by the government has soared, finally rising from 85 to 90 per cent under Tony Blair in 2001.  Increasingly, the 10% of capital costs that religious foundations are supposed to pay has slipped. Schools are claiming ‘exceptional circumstances; so often that the average contribution made by foundations behind faith schools is just 7.4%, and this results in additional costs of millions to the taxpayer.

For parents who what their children to be taught the family religion then let it happen outwith their state education. Every child must have the same chance.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Election Fever

Whoever would have guessed there’s a General Election in a few weeks?

Initially I thought the campaign would be rather exciting but it has become the same old tedious nonsense with politicians attempting to smear those of a different view rather than show their supposed talents with proposals for a better Britain.

The most farcical stunt so far is Danny Alexander’s silly attempt at being Chancellor of the Exchequer and posing on the steps of the Treasury with his luminous yellow briefcase (above). An alternative budget?  We could all make up one of those.  On a more serious note, I was surprised it was deemed suitable for the House of Commons, but with so much of our laws now decided in Europe, our elected representatives have plenty time on their hands, so where were they?

It seems Nick Clegg departed as soon as his party’s budget speech was over, but then he had other places to go, people to see, posturing to do.  All of this would be amusing if these people weren’t totally subsidised by us.

Meanwhile, I’ve read so many articles telling me what a lovely bloke Ed Miliband is, even if he does have two kitchens and prefers to keep the press confined to the spare.  I’m sure Mr Miliband is a pleasant man but I certainly don’t want him running this country.

David Cameron can’t be anything more than he is - a salesman.  Currently the media is still concentrating on UKIP so we’ve heard nothing too negative from Mr Cameron as yet; in fact we were given a tour of his kitchen to show that he enjoys sardine sandwiches for lunch.

Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job and is receiving good publicity, although I’d suggest that some English journalists are finding it difficult to understand why the SNP is doing so well at the moment.  No time for laurel resting though.

Exciting times ahead.  I can but hope the two ‘big’ parties and the yellow one will be brought down a peg or three on election day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Video All Parents In Scotland Should See

The NO2NP campaign video, from their recent Inverness roadshow, addresses the ‘named person’ issue.

Alison Preuss has done a great deal in the field of home education in recent years and has also been vocal with regard to the Scottish government's ‘named person’ policy.

In the video she details out the small print within the policy document. Please circulate this if possible as it is vital, for the sake of parents and children, that all parents in Scotland have this information.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Ashcroft Poll and an Interesting Scenario

I’ve never given much credence to polls but the latest Lord Ashcroft poll regarding Scotland’s voting intentions has created quite a stooshie in the media.

The 'shock and horror’ if it was very evident on Andrew Neil’s face when he interviewed Alex Salmond on yesterday’s Daily Politics show on BBC2.

Whilst browsing through the newspapers this morning I noticed one commenter on the Guardian article - yes I do read that newspaper occasionally - wrote the following.  It seemed an paragraph of amusing nonsense when first read, but then it occurred to me that the commenter wasn’t wrong when he says ‘stranger things have happened’.  They have indeed. 

Well call me Mr Cynical but I'd be astonished if the Tories and Labour aren't doing a little back room dealing and discussing the merits of a grand coalition. It's not hard to imagine the speech in the rose garden a'la Cameron and Clegg but with Milliband and Cameron this time.
'In this time of instability, financial insecurity, global threats, Isis etc etc, we have both discussed the issues at hand and in light of the fact we both got approximately 50% of (English) votes we think that, and more importantly we think it's what the electorate would want, is that what Britain needs now is stability. Therefore myself and Ed have decided that together we will now form a Grand Coalition as we look to usher in a new era of Consensus Politics, a politics of common ground, shared endeavour, not locking horns but bringing the best of all talents together for the common good. The road ahead will be rocky and we wont agree on everything, but what we do agree on is the need to make Britain (England) great again.' 
Flashbulbs and much jollity from UK Media ensues.
If you take time to think about it then it's probably the next logical progression for both parties. You would have various MP's squealing but if the English electorate went for it then they'd quieten down quick enough rather than lose their seats. Ukip would gain a few members, you'd probably get a new, far more left leaning, Labour party under a new name, and Scotland would declare independence within a decade, and that's being generous. England would become a one party state for the forseeable future, if it isn't already...
The reason that this isn't entirely implausible is because if the SNP wipe out Labour, or near enough, then neither party have anything to lose by excluding Scotland from the democratic process. Another part of the the logical endgame.
Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Does Scotland Need ID Cards?


Today the Scottish Government are debating the requirement for identity cards.

The LibDems have been vocal about this issue.  In 2005 the SNP joined with the Libdems against the creation of ID cards so what has changed in the past 10 years?

Since being elected to power the SNP has been quietly gathering information on Scotland’s population; much of it under the umbrella of ‘protection of children’, yet everyone’s NHS records are now on a government database.  Why that is necessary I’ve no idea as medics don’t seem to be able to access them.  Surely I’m not the only person to attend a hospital appointment only to have to give the specialist my medical history as ’ no records were available’.  A couple of times when I questioned why they were not accessible through the (compulsory) computer which sits on every NHS desk, I was told the system was inadequate.

The SNP’s policy of placing every child’s personal information on a database is abhorred by many (including myself) but it feels as if the many protestors are being treated with disdain.

John Swinney said on STV recently:

 “We prize our freedom and our privacy in Scotland. Quite rightly, we guard it ferociously and are vigilant about protecting our personal information.
“I can re-state our commitment today that under this Scottish Government there will never be ID cards or anything remotely resembling them.
“We cherish personal privacy and will protect it. Indeed, it was this government that took the initiative in 2009 to set up an expert group to develop Identity Management and Privacy Principles — principles published in 2010, and updated in 2014.
“We will continue to lead good practice and act in a way that is consistent with these principles. We are not and we will not create a new database. We will not be sharing health records.
“We will listen carefully to all consultation responses. And we will act in a manner that is consistent with our long-standing principles in protecting personal data. Decisions will only be taken after full scrutiny by Parliament of any eventual proposals. That is the principle upon which our government is run and will remain so.”
Unfortunately I don’t believe Mr Swinney on this occasion.  The SNP’s disregard of opinion about their ‘named person’ section of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act has greatly reduced my trust in the Scottish Government. Nor do I believe our NHS details will not be sold to the higher bidder.

Surely if there is a need for a national ID card it could be along the lines of the basic cards such as Student IDs or YoungScot IDs, but with using iris recognition to deter fraud.  The technology is there if the desire is strong enough.  Indeed a national ID card may be sensible in this day and age, but one which holds all your personal data?  That is an invasion of personal privacy.

I’ll be recording the debate this afternoon.  It should be interesting.

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