Wednesday, 7 April 2010

We won't fall for LibDem fuel con

THE perennial LibDem "fight" for fair fuel prices continues to be peddled by Lord Thurso and Charles Kennedy. Yet they do not have backing from their UK leader Nick Clegg.

Speaking a fortnight ago on the BBC, his chief-of-staff, Danny Alexander MP, directly contradicted his party leader who supports higher fuel taxes. It exposed to the people in the north how the LibDems say one thing here and another down south.

Nick Clegg, the party leader, ruled out a cut by saying it should stay in the budget. Danny Alexander must know that was the position. Voters should beware any claims by the LibDems in the Highlands and Islands of being the party of lower fuel costs. Do they think the people of the Highlands and Islands are stupid and won't notice?

The only party with a clear and consistent record against sky high fuel prices in the Highlands and Islands is the SNP, who stand up against London's fuel tax whammy. The Liberal Democrats failed to support a fuel duty regulator to stop volatile fuel prices when SNP MPs brought forward an amendment in budget debates last year.

Rising fuel taxes hiked by last week's Darling budget once again are having a huge effect in this constituency and across the country. Driving down prices is essential to the Highlands, to the Highland economy and to families in the Highlands in the country from under whose waters comes the black gold.

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I SERVE as deputy convener of the economy, energy and tourism committee and was proud to support the unanimous report on the future of banking and financial enterprises which we published ahead of the UK budget.

This has huge importance hereabouts. Farmers, small businesses, mortgage seekers and families seeking loans for home improvements are some of the victims of extortionate lending policies by the big two high street banks, RBS and the Lloyds Banking Group. They have a 75 per cent duopoly across Scotland, far more than in England and Wales.

We are looking for evidence from those who have been victims of what are nationalised banks in all but name, over which the UK Labour Government has control. But it seems that there is a silent pact. Government wants its huge investment paid back as quickly as possible. They do not insist on fair lending policies by Lloyds and RBS who in their turn want to be free to make themselves obscene profits once again.

The Scottish Government will act on the EET report. Also, the UK Treasury Committee has called for the socially useful banks to be separated from the casino activities of investment banking.

The good news is that Scottish insurance companies and asset managers are in good health and recruiting staff. They invest for the long term, as they have over the decades. But before people forget the near fatal financial collapse of September/October 2008 we need concerted international action. Britain, the EU and G20 all need to act soon. Would that Scotland could have the powers herself.

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ALBYN Housing Association officials and I paid a visit to the eco-friendly home development opposite Milton. Systems built in homes in the Alness and Invergordon areas during the oil boom were no patch on these new structures.

At last modern insulation allied to air source heat pumps and high-tech panels are making it much easier to build homes to stand the test of time.

What is even better for tenants or owners is the microscopic heating bills compared to those for older stock. The Scottish Government is rolling out affordable housing schemes like Milton to meet the demand, even in this recession.

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