Sunday, 23 February 2014

Huffing and puffing

BESIDES the EU and immigration, if there's one other that seems to make Ukip mad it's windfarms.
Nigel Farage is forever railing against turbines, damning them as ugly, unwanted and a costly waste.
So it will no doubt come as a surprise to the Ukip leader to learn today that his own economic spokesman is doing rather nicely from windfarm deals for his Scottish estates.
Here's a longer version of the story in today's Sunday Herald.

Tom Gordon
Scottish Political Editor

A LEADING member of Ukip has been accused of hypocrisy after striking windfarm deals for his Scottish estates despite the party’s vehement opposition to “disgusting ghastly” turbines.

Ukip economic spokesman Professor Tim Congdon, a leading Thatcherite economist, has cashed in on deals with SSE in Argyll and E.On Renewables in Caithness, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

His action is at odds with Ukip’s long-standing opposition to windfarms on the grounds they are economically “unsustainable” and eyesores imposed on local communities.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage says windfarm expansion is “madness” and in 2012 attacked David Cameron for pursuing “this loopy idea that we can cover Britain in ugly disgusting ghastly windmills”.
Ukip is also opposing windfarms in the Forest of Dean, where Congdon has been selected as the Ukip candidate for the 2015 general election.
Alan Preest, the Ukip county councillor in the seat, recently said wind turbines were “all about greed” and “a blot on thelandscape”.
Congdon admitted he was “maybe hypocritical”, but told the Sunday Herald it had been hard to turn down the money for his family’s sake.
“What the hell do I do?” he said.
According to public records, Congdon has granted SSE access to a haul track through three forests he owns in Kintyre so the electricity giant can build its new 10-turbine windfarm at Cour.
The route of the SSE access route through Prof Congdon's Achaglass estate (my highlight)

SSE is upgrading the track to allow heavy vehicles to get from the A83 north of Clachan to the Cour site.
Congdon last night refused to say what he was being paid, but hinted it was considerable.

Part of SSE's planning application for the Cour track over Prof Congdon's land

Congdon also signed an agreement with E.On Climate and Renewables UK Developments Ltd in 2010 for a potential windfarm at Hollandmey Forest in Caithness.
Although E.On ultimately chose not to proceed with the project, Congdon was entitled to payments for the early test and lease stages.
The 2010 agreement between Prof Congdon and E.On for Hollandmey
The terms included a £10,000 “option fee” and £25,000 “Hollandmey Farmhouse Compensation”.
Congdon was also in line for a “planning consent success fee” of £3000 per megawatt of installed capacity if E.On erected turbines on his land.
Congdon, 63, was a Treasury adviser from 1992 to 1997 and founded the respected economic consultancy Lombard Street Research.
He left the Tories in 2007 for Ukip, complaining Cameron had burdened the party with “badly-rationalised environmentalism”.
SNP Highlands MSP Rob Gibson said: “This incoherent and hypocritical stance shows exactly why Ukip will always be a total irrelevance in Scotland.”
Green MSP Alison Johnstone added: “If Ukip had their way they’d deny rural communities a choice of generating clean power and vital funding. It speaks volumes that they say one thing to voters while their advisor does the exact opposite.”
Congdon explained that he had bought both estates as forestry investments, and had not planned for them to be involved in windfarms.
Prof Tim Congdon: too much dosh to say no
However the money on offer was irresistible.
He said: “I just simply can’t turn [it] down...
“The sums of money are not the kind of thing that one can... 
“I’m not doing anything illegal or immoral according to the society in which I live by pursuing this business opportunity.
“What the hell do I do? It's not just me, there’s my family involved as well.”
Asked about the charge of hypocrisy, he said: “I think that’s a fair allegation to make. Maybe I’m hypocritical, but actually you don’t know my views on renewables, and every political party has a range of beliefs. The key thing for me is I want Britain out of the European Union.”

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Office

MORE mutterings reach us about life at Yes Scotland.
As if losing all five of your "top team" directors isn't bad enough, this week the Yes campaign had to file its first set of annual accounts at Companies House.
They were signed off just 24 hours day before deadline.
Highly abbreviated, they run to just six pages, and don't say very much.
Which is perfectly legal, but not exactly the fulsome transparency we had been led to expect.
However they do contain one nugget - the start up costs for Yes Scotland's flagship HQ.
They weren't  cheap. Oh no.

Here's a longer version of the story in today's Sunday Herald 

Tom Gordon
Scottish Political Editor

YES Scotland spent £171,000 of the donations it received to help secure independence on fitting out its designer office, it has emerged.

The cross-party campaign splashed £170,965 on preparing its 3500 square foot HQ on Glasgow’s Hope Street, and buying computers and other office equipment, its first accounts reveal.

The cost - equal to 10% of all Yes Scotland's declared donations - reflect its decision to  move into a bare, unfurnished basement with no internal dividing walls, forcing it to pay extra for the designers, materials and manpower to create an entire office suite from scratch.

Great, we'll take it: the office before Yes Scotland moved in
The symbolic Hope Street address was meant to underscore the Yes camp’s upbeat mood.
The refurbishment also created a drop-in area for voters to learn about independence and buy Yes goods, albeit next to a dingy back alley.
But one insider said the lavish office was now regarded as having been “a mistake” and blamed it on Yes Scotland getting carried away by an initial rush of money, leading to unnecessary spending, including hiring five highly-paid directors who have all since left.
In contrast, the pro-UK Better Together campaign moved into low-key serviced offices a few blocks from Yes Scotland and spent £5000 on computers. 
One source close to Yes Scotland said there had been mutterings from staff about the costs.
“People were rolling their eyes at such a posh office, but at the time there was this idea that Yes Scotland was going to have limitless money.
“The problem was they got money up front, felt they were in a strong financial position, and went for fanciness they didn’t need.
“Even though in a campaign £100,000 is not a lot of money, it’s still money that could have been used for something else.”
The Sunday Herald revealed last week that Yes Scotland had laid off the last two members of its original five-strong “top team” ofdirectors, who were appointed in September 2012, prompting claims the outfit was in meltdown.
Yes Scotland, which denies it has money problems, has also delayed publication of its donor income, despite chief executive Blair Jenkins promising financial transparency.
Better Together said that, rather than the Hope Street HQ symbolising hope, it represented the financial recklessness typical of the Yes camp.
An insider said: “Blair Jenkins seems to be a big fan of blowing money, especially when it’s not his own. I’m sure that the directors of Yes Scotland who have been sacked in recent weeks will take great comfort from the fact that they got to work in an expensively assembled office for a few months before the cash ran out.”
Inside the money pit 
A senior SNP member added: “The office spending smacks of a vanity project, and helps explain why many party members feel Yes Scotland isn’t delivering on the ground.”
According to the missives of let, Yes Scotland’s annual rent and service charges for 136 Hope Street are £48,790 and £19,167.50 respectively.
The service charge, calculated at £5.50 a square foot, reflects the office’s large size.
With the lease due to run for 28 months until Christmas Eve 2014, it means Yes Scotland’s office spending, before utility bills, is likely to exceed a third of a million pounds.
The initial outlay is logged under “tangible fixed assets” in accounts filed last week by the official Yes campaign vehicle Yes Scotland Ltd.
How to spend a full 10% of your £1.7m donations
However depreciation meant the investment was written down to £113,997 by the end of Yes Scotland’s accounting year on 30 April 2013.
During the same year, Yes Scotland’s drew most of its income from £1.7m in donations given to help achieve a Yes vote in the referendum.
Yes Scotland refused to provide a breakdown of how much it spent on fitting out the office and how much went on computers and other kit.
A spokesman said: “Our HQ in Glasgow's Hope Street, in the heart of Scotland's largest city and used by all parts of the broad Yes movement, is the hub of the biggest and most important campaign in Scotland's history - a campaign that will determine the future of our country. 
"Unlike our opponents, our Hope Street HQ also warmly welcomes people to come in to our public area where they can ask questions about independence, browse themselves for information in our interactive digital corner and purchase Yes goods. 
"The HQ, in terms of location, the services it provides and its role as the nerve centre for the Yes movement, matches the crucial importance of this campaign."