Martin Hannan: Greedy excuses all a bit rich

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AT heart, I am a simple man. I like to see things in black and white, though if you spend enough time in journalism, you learn that life is full of shades, some of them even grey.

Maybe I am too simplistic, but it seems to me that in Edinburgh and the rest of the UK, not to mention most of the developed world, we have got things all wrong with our economies and our way of life.

I am not a rich person, though I would very much like to be. I have no envy of wealthy people, as those I know have mostly gained their money legitimately and worked hard for it. So when I say how much I detest unfettered capitalism and greedy capitalists, I am not talking about entrepreneurs such as Sir Tom Farmer of this parish.

No, I am specifically referring to those people and corporations who put their own greedy desires above all else, and who use capitalism for their own rapacious ends.

Let me give you a few examples from the last week alone.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is the chemicals giant that illegally stifled the launch of a cheaper rival drug, and which was fined £37 million for doing so by the Competition and Markets Authority. It stiffed the NHS and the taxpayers who fund it for millions, yet the company says it is considering an appeal. Forget it, GSK, you were caught and you should take your punishment.

George Osborne’s family have been revealed as serial tax avoiders. Now there’s a good example from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, don’t you think?

Google got off lightly on their tax bill, paying £130m in back taxes when much more than that should have been paid. And the big banks announced they would be paying £5 BILLION in bonuses this year. That includes banks part-owned by the British state.

These are just a few of the excesses of unfettered capitalism. Yet in my simple way, I can solve all the economic woes of every developed country.

Capitalists get away with their greed because they always have the fall-back position of saying that, by law, companies must do their best for their shareholders. It’s the law in almost every country with any kind of business legislation – shareholders’ interests must come first.

So why not change that law? Why doesn’t every country in the world pass a law simultaneously that, from now on, the prime duty of all companies and managers should be to their respective communities and countries.

They must pay full tax in whichever country they make money, and never indulge in tax avoidance or evasion. They must ensure that all employees are properly remunerated with no distinction between men and women. All companies must have “green” practices and avoid pollution or be fined heavily.

Shareholders will get their “take” only after communities and countries get their due proceeds. It won’t happen, of course, because too many politicians around the world are in the pay of the multinationals and banks.

Yet all capitalists should remember this. We, the people, have the ultimate power called the law, and if you carry on with your greed, with your avarice and insatiable robbery of the common good, then we might just decide to stop you.

I’ve got that sinking feeling

Edinburgh is sinking. I am afraid that is the only conclusion I can make from the emergence of so many potholes on the city’s roads in the past few weeks.

Clearly the entire capital city of Scotland is dropping into a huge mire that lies underneath Edinburgh, because pothole by pothole, little bits of our roads are disappearing. Or else some council or other isn’t doing its job properly.

I invite concerned citizens everywhere to bombard the city council with this question – how much have you had to pay in compensation to motorists whose vehicles were damaged by potholes?

Here to stay ... and Nats a fact

As a member of the SNP, it never ceases to amaze me that, with few exceptions, the press in this country is in thrall to unionism. There are those which are openly pro-Tory like the Telegraph, Express and Daily Mail, and I have no problem with that. There are those like the Daily Record that seem to think the Labour hegemony will be restored any day now and the SNP is just a flash in the pan, and that’s just daft.

So here’s a message for the media – we, the SNP, are here to stay and we are only going to get stronger.

Isn’t it time the press at least reflected the fact that the SNP is Scotland’s most popular party?

Cashing in on a leap year

Four years ago I wrote in this column that any annually salaried person who was working on February 29 was being ripped off because you were effectively giving your employer an extra day’s work. I still feel that way, but now I am a freelance, so thank you Leap Year for an extra day’s income.

It’s the hottest ticket in town

There are thousands of lucky people who will be converging on Easter Road tonight for the Scottish Cup replay. Uefa’s rules mean the match won’t be televised, so I am very envious of those who have a ticket.