Helen Martin: Let’s undo last year’s mistakes

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YOU know the world isn’t going your way when your wishes for 2016 are the same ones you had for 2015, and instead of getting better, things are getting worse.

Topping my list is the “named person” or “state guardian” the Scottish government is imposing on every child on the basis that a teacher, social worker or other “responsible” person is required to supervise and if necessary, overrule parents.

Now Borders taxi drivers contracted to take kids to school have been ordered by Child Protection to report to the authorities anything relevant they hear kids saying in the cab. And figures from the General Teaching Council for Scotland show 1522 teachers have had criminal convictions in the last three years. The majority were for motoring offences, but also included were drugs, firearms and fraud, with 96 involving violent or sexual crimes and 14 crimes against children.

Teachers are no better or worse, more saintly or perfect, or less flawed than any other profession. I await the first law suit when a parent discovers their child’s state-appointed named person – in whatever job – turns out to be a paedophile or a wife-beater.

Also on my “getting worse” list is Scotland’s attitude to asylum seekers. Accepting genuine refugees is vital. But for prosecutors to ignore any crimes asylum seekers committed in order to reach the UK, as ordered by the Lord Advocate, is madness. Stealing someone’s ID, making false claims, refusing to co-operate with medical examinations and immigration officials, or worse? Great lessons for becoming a Scottish citizen.

Number three in my parade of horrors is the BBC licence fee and its administration. These people refuse to believe we now have a generation of young adults who really don’t possess a TV set and send out a barrage of threatening letters. And through the Freedom of Information Act (which government and local authority forces want to restrict for obvious reasons) we learn that within days of the death of 75-year-olds – entitled to a free licence – the grieving family is hounded, hit with an order to pay up for a full licence and told that if they don’t, they will be visited by inspectors. Why should any broadcasting company get away with that?

In fourth place are local councillors with delusions of grandeur, none more so than Lesley Hinds. Her recent Open Space event, where she engaged with community groups and, as she put it, “ordinary people”, and listened to what they had to say, was fine. It was her description of it as “risky” and “a new approach for mainstream politics” that had me in stitches. What does she think local councillors are meant to do? Sit in an ivory tower as extraordinary mortals and exercise their own superior judgement? David Cameron and Barack Obama are big fish in mainstream politics. Oor Les is but an ambitious tiddler in an Edinburgh goldfish bowl.

Finally, there’s the New Year Honours, otherwise known as Cameron’s Cronies. His Australian election mastermind Lynton Crosby got a knighthood and among more of his mates was Edinburgh’s Mark McInnes (CBE), director of the Scottish Conservatives. Both were honoured for political service, for which read “Conservative service”. I take it back. Cameron isn’t just a mainstream politician. He thinks he’s Henry VIII.

Stop sectarian chants by playing crowdless

IF Rangers’ sectarian chants were aimed at any ethnic minority other than Catholics there would be hell to pay. Instead the club deems the “Fenian” rants as merely “inappropriate” and, because there are thousands of fans involved, metaphorically throws its hands up and says “what can we do?” apart from promising to work with police to identify the culprits. Aye right!

It’s their problem and they have to take the hit. The SFA, SPL, the law, or the government could solve it once and for all by forcing Rangers to play crowdless, behind closed doors, and making them compensate opposing teams for loss of ticket revenue.

They may be the worst and a hideous national and international embarrassment, but one biting of the bullet should be enough to show the pond life in other clubs that the days of football stadiums being exempt from sectarian or racist behaviour that would otherwise be illegal, are over.

Diamonds, duck breasts and dental disasters

IT wasn’t my best festive season. The diamond fell out of my engagement ring – where I don’t know, there one minute and gone the next. The insurance company, who we’ve been with for about a decade with no claim, wants the jeweller to carry out a forensic investigation to ensure I’m not on the fiddle before they pay out for repair.

We had duck breast for Christmas dinner – at least my guests did, along with the cat who made off with mine.

Probably couldn’t have eaten it anyway. For three weeks I’ve had toothache that progressed to an abscess, antibiotics and painkillers – it’s a complicated extraction that has to wait until after the holiday season.

But hey – at least I wasn’t flooded out. And from the right, I sometimes look ten years younger thanks to the Botox effect of the swelling.

Rampant royal approval

SEX shop boss Jacqueline Gold who runs Ann Summers, bagged a CBE, and boasted that Zara Phillips held AS parties. Where would a “By Royal Appointment” sticker fit on a Rampant Rabbit?