Monday, 5 October 2015

How to spin real failure into virtual success

DOUGLAS SHEPHERD reflects on the tractor factory-style propaganda being used to sell a Scottish Corporate Plan

Those of us old enough to have witnessed the dark arts of the USSR propaganda machinery powered by that country's official news agency Tass, or who used to listen in amazement to chairman Mao's Chinese spin doctors will, I suspect, recall how productivity at Siberian tractor plants or Peking's state-owned textile mills was always better or higher than the year before.

I have to confess that only last week my mind flitted back to those heady days of fifty or sixty years ago after a communique from the propaganda section at Scottish Borders Council appeared on the local authority's website - how Kruschev and Mao would have loved the opportunity to promote their brands of Communism via the internet.

The old CCCP and the People's Republic of China produced regular five-year economic plans which were guaranteed to meet their targets even before the ink was dry on those ambitious state documents. And the vast majority of the populace believed their leaders had achieved great things no matter the levels of poverty and hunger being inflicted on the masses.

Here in the Scottish Borders we are currently prospering under the council's  uplifting Corporate Plan (2013-2018). Members of the Politburo (sorry, Star Chamber) at Newtown St Boswells are being told this week: "We have made significant progress against our eight priorities in the last two years", and "Progress against our eight priorities has been made while we have undergone a radical transformation of the organisation." See, just like those tractor factories mentioned above.

So, on the face of it, all eight issues at or near the top of SBC's wish list have been improved over the last two years, thanks to the efforts of er...the council.

We won't bother you with the full list, but here at Not Just Sheep & Rugby we were particularly interested in what the 'updated version' of the Corporate Plan had to say about Priority 5 - Maintaining and improving our high quality environment.

Here's a relevant extract from the document: "The annual percentage of household waste landfilled has increased by 5% compared to the same quarter the previous year, in line with projections associated with the removal of the garden waste service".

And that's sold to the public by the propagandists as part of the progression! Unfortunately some of the long suffering Borders peasants might regard it as a failure. Our so-called high quality environment may not have been helped either by the council achieving a 20% increase in methane emissions from the Easter Langlee tip last year. No mention of that in the upbeat Corporate Plan.

Mind you, we are told it is important to note the council has "saved" £450,000 per annum by removing the green bin uplifts. So does that include the increased landfill tax on the extra 1,970 tonnes of rubbish buried at Easter Langlee in 2014?

In a reference to 'priorities for the future' the master plan states: "Revisit our waste strategy to create efficiency savings, reduce expenditure and provide additional income through the implementation of a revised strategy that is financially and environmentally sustainable."

The maintenance  and improvement of our high quality environment will soon include endless fleets of diesel-guzzling lorries lugging all of the Borders' household waste through our green and pleasant land to a treatment plant far far away. But no doubt that too will be dressed up as a resounding success. The retired scribes from the Siberian tractor factory must be looking at the Borders in wondrous admiration and respect.

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