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RECORD VIEW; Leaders who won't listen.

TONY Blair takes one teensie-weensie step back from war, but George W Bush takes two giant strides closer to unleashing an onslaught against Iraq. Who should we believe?

The Prime Minister insists there is "no rush to war". He says it is still not inevitable and weapons inspectors will be given until at least February 28 to hunt down any weapons of mass destruction held by Saddam Hussein.

But the President declares that, although a second UN resolution would be "helpful", he doesn't need it. He regards the world- wide protest rallies as an irrelevance - and his friend Tony is "a courageous leader" for also discounting the millions who marched at the weekend.

Blair - with his personal poll rating at an all-time low, plunging from plus 41 to minus 20 in 18 months - has shifted ground again. Those who do not accept the case for war either don't understand the moral argument or are anti-American.

Only one thing is clear: on either side of the Atlantic, there is a leader who refuses to listen.

Giro grief

FOR many OAPs, their most precious possession is their pension book. Benefit claimants depend on their giros.

They know the system works, week in and week out. Now, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are worried about the Government plan to pay their money into a new "universal bank".

It's a system that could cause them unnecessary difficulty and might lead to real hardship.

More than half of Scotland's pensioners who do not have a bank account will have to go through a complicated procedure to open one and benefit claimants will have difficulty getting one without official ID such as passports or driving licences. Both groups fear charges on bank accounts.

Life is hard enough for old folk and poor families and the benefits system is supposed to help them. The Government shouldn't be using it to give them extra worries.

University for all

A UNIVERSITY education should be open to all and not just a well-heeled "elite". It is vital to the nation's future that youngsters with potential should be given every chance to develop.

Edinburgh University is to discriminate in favour of students from state schools who may not have the highest qualifications, but have overcome difficulties.

Special consideration will be given to those who are the first generation of their family to go to university, who come from schools with no tradition of sending pupils to university and are from within Scotland.

Posh private schools (and the Tories) don't like the ending of privileged treatment for a favoured few. Good.

Sporran legion

RUN up a debt in Barcelona and you'll be hounded by El Cobrador Escoses, the Scottish Debt Collector.

The senor in full Highlander outfit with "see you, Jimenez" bonnet targets people who have welched.

He isn't so much frightening as embarrassing, although he trades on the reputation of Scots for being a bit aggressive. Whatever gave them that idea?

Next time the Tartan Army go to Spain, it should do wonders for bill- paying.
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Title Annotation:Record View
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 19, 2003
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