Brown may help or hinder by taking the centre stage

I SEE that our former Prime Minister Gordon Brown re-entered the political fray this week with a speech calling upon the UK to become a partnership of equals.

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Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown

Sounds interesting. I, like many, remain unsure whether the involvement of both Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling boosts the No campaign, or pushes people towards the Yes campaign.

If this new initiative carries such merit, it is interesting to ponder on the reasons why they chose not to do it during their many years in power.

Much more likely is that the increasingly probable spectre of an independent Scotland is concentrating minds and bringing devolution policies into sharp focus.

Mr Brown, supported by LibDem Sir Menzies Campbell, is calling upon all camps in the Better Together Campaign to unify behind a vision of Devolution Max in Scotland.

This would include some controls over income tax, where Mr Brown says the first 5p of tax could go to the Scottish Government, with 15p going to Westminster.

It is a proposal that will matter little to most of the electorate, as it remains unclear to them quite how such a division would improve our lot.

As it is, the involvement of Mr Brown is another attempt by the Better Together campaign to occupy the political central ground.

More and more powers for an almost independent Scotland would surely kill off the notion of real independence.

On the opposite side of the debate, the SNP continues to reel from the seemingly never ending list of companies who say they're "off" if Scotland becomes independent.

A little like the sterling issue, there appears to be no Plan B for such announcements, each of which deals a blow to the prospect of a Yes vote.

WITH all parties still seeking to occupy the middle ground, it feels like both camps have run a little out of steam.

I am sure that they will re-energise as the spring turns to summer.

With over one in 10 Scots still undecided, the independence referendum is still there to be won or lost.

Or, with the increasingly centrist policies of both campaigns, the undecided may elect to stay just that.

THIS week's walkout at the Faslane nuclear submarine base was, at the very least, seriously concerning to many of us.

The 800 staff walked out in a dispute over pay, led by their union, Unite. The base, home to Trident, our nuclear deterrent, is run by private firm Babcock.

Unite claim the 2% pay rise offered is less than the 9% that bosses were paid.

They are also angry that the top four company directors will share bonuses of some £7 million.

I have to confess that my sympathy, on this issue, lies with the workforce.

A workforce, for whom this strike is their first strike in 42 years.

However, I have little time for strike action.

Having experienced it at first hand, neither side wins.

It inevitably ends with at least two losers, one of which may have lost slightly less than the other.

In many countries around the world, key safety staff, ie firefighters and nuclear staff, are prevented from taking strike action on the grounds of public safety.

In my opinion, the same judgements should apply here.

The Government, not the private sector, should determine pay and conditions in such services, as they do with the military and the police.

How many jobs would have been lost had the Grangemouth refinery been allowed to close?

Out of touch bosses and politically ambitious union officials shouldn't be allowed to close down the provision of key services.

The workforce at Faslane deserve fair pay, and the public deserve to be reassured of the safety of our nuclear threat.

Time then that the Government does what Governments are elected to do ... intervene and fix the issue.

ACCORDING to the British Chambers of Commerce, and a number of business analysts, the green shoots of economic recovery are now as strong as the early spring flowers in the garden.

They forecast that by this summer, the size of the UK economy will overtake the peak level it was at before the 2008 crash.

Although youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, most other indicators point to sustained growth.

The last five years have brought misery and difficulty for many in our society.

With businesses now rehiring and interest rates low, the opportunity exists for many to work their way back into credit.

That can only be sustained by employers paying a decent, living wage.

As spring turns to summer, let's hope that it is a season of prosperity.

Prosperity, shared amongst all.

A separate and unequal society has never worked and it never will.

It would be wonderful to reflect upon a summer of relative prosperity, rather than the icy blast of a cold winter ahead.

All equal, all fair, fingers crossed.

I SEE that the clock is now ticking on the introduction of a new regulator of the payday loans industry.

The new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) plans to toughen up the rules on lending and interest rates and stop companies making a fast buck out of those who are most needy and vulnerable.

The FCA will take over regulation of the industry on April 1.

The industry reckons that the rules on compliance will see 25% of payday loan companies unable to comply and, as a consequence, go out of business.

Just a shame that the figure wasn't as high as their interest rates.

100% going out of business, now that's a nice figure.

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