Helen Martin: No wonder we don't trust our politicians
COLD callers knocking on your door, whether they are political canvassers, selling household goods out of a holdall, or collecting for charities, are not always welcome, especially if you are busy or in the midst of a tricky task.
But providing they are genuine, at least they are putting some effort into door knocking and pounding the streets, unlike pestering emails and nuisance phone calls. And as I discovered last week, sometimes you can learn a lot.
It was an icy cold day. The charity fundraiser had a bit of a sniffle and explained he was part of a one-off campaign by Erskine, who run four nursing and care homes in Scotland for veterans including their home in Gilmerton.
The aim is to knock on every door in Scotland to get as many folk as possible signed up to support their work. And why? Because Erskine is desperate. Just as the NHS is struggling with the extra needs of an ageing population, Erskine is overwhelmed by the number of service men and women who need their help following active duty in the many war zones Britain has been involved in over the past few decades.
Some are pensioners or those suffering from dementia. After all Erskine was set up in 1916 to cater initially for those who served in the First World War. Then came Word War II.
Since then there has been a consistent history of smaller but still brutal conflicts which, as well as loss of life, have left combatants disabled, injured or severely traumatised. Demand has grown and Erskine now needs £9 million every year, or £171,000 each week, if they are to avoid turning the needy away.
They are specialists in the complexity of war injuries and understanding the life-changing psychological damage troops can suffer years after their battle experience.
I know something of that because my father, in special ops in the Second World War, won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He had lost a lung, had bullet hole scars in his back, had been taken prisoner, escaped back through war-torn France . . . all before he was 25. His physical injuries had healed but, as is the recognised period which post-traumatic stress symptoms take to fully develop, it was 12 to 15 years later when his life – and ours as a family – fell apart.
And when that happens, alcohol abuse, personality changes and other symptoms, especially in a proud, decorated, brave former soldier, often prevent the victim seeking help. It’s the same today.
Then I asked the fundraiser the same question any of us would. How much financial support does Erskine get from the Government? The answer is – zero. The two world wars were massive and essential for freedom. But what makes the lack of national support even worse in modern times is the avoidable wars into which our forces have been deployed for political ends.
Sending troops into battle on that basis, and not caring for them when they return is not only primitive and disgusting, it is yet another essential the government should be funding rather than giving foreign “aid” to India and China.
If politicians wonder why the world’s electorate is gradually turning against established political practices and the political classes who adhere to them and their twisted priorities, they should start by looking at Erskine.
They sniffed out Victoria’s secret
IT’S been revealed that the young Queen Victoria suffered from rank body odour, didn’t bathe regularly or change her clothes often enough. Great fodder for an ad agency representing a deodorant company, don’t you think?
Get full value for money first
CHARGING full council tax on 2000 second homes In Edinburgh, rather than the ten per cent discount currently enjoyed, is a dubious policy. Even worse is the Greens’ plan to charge double council tax.
What are they used for? Holidays, people who work in the city for a few days each week but live elsewhere, for out-of-town folk who regularly come to see their family, for separated couples still married but living apart?
Not only do part-time residents use fewer services, but a blanket decision would be unjust, while individual assessment would cost the council a fair proportion of what was to be gained.
Conservative Councillor Cameron Rose, pictured, is right when he says, before dumping more charges on citizens the council should be obliged to ensure it’s getting value for money out of every penny it already collects, either from government or rate-payers.
I’m at a net loss over communication
WHEN it comes to the communication of important information, online is quick, easy, cheap and for most, accessible.
But any communication specialist will explain, it is certainly not efficient, mainly because the onus is on the recipient to seek it out.
For example, every year dozens of travellers are scuppered at check-in because different countries require different lengths of future validity on a passport. How are passengers supposed to know that? By checking on the Passport Office’s website. But if your passport is valid, why would you?
Last year Education Secretary John Swinney put 20,000 pages of Curriculum for Excellence guidelines for teachers online.
Last week the General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said most teachers didn’t even know guidelines were there because “placing something on a website is not the same as ‘effective communication’”. Ten out of ten for the teacher. Nothing for the minister and his communication advisers.