I wonder how reassured Gibraltar Defence Police officers were by the Chief Minister’s comments on GBC Television’s Direct Democracy programme a couple of weeks ago? Fabian Picardo was quizzed about the state of negotiations for the transfer of the force from the Ministry of Defence to the Gibraltar Government.
He pointed out that what’s being talked about at the moment is a transfer of ownership, but not yet an amalgamation with the Royal Gibraltar Police as the GDP Federation is seeking. While stating that the youngest officer in the GDP today will retire as an officer of the RGP Mr Picardo offered no timeframe, suggesting that for older officers the merger may come too late.
The Chief Minister claimed that a “forced” merger now would be a disaster because by pushing two organisations together you put people’s careers out of joint. Maybe though it’s GDP officers’ noses that will be put out of joint by delaying the amalgamation: because of the ongoing MOD pay freeze, they earn 40% less than their RGP counterparts and Mr Picardo made it very clear they would not get a 40% pay rise the day the GDP came to be owned by the government.
In a recent column I highlighted an international survey that suggested attitudes to car ownership might be changing, with more and more people seeing ride sharing and summoning a taxi with their smartphone when they need to as viable alternatives to owning a car.
It’s a slow process though. Two-thirds of those sampled preferred to have their own wheels and I’m pretty sure that in Gibraltar, which has one of the highest car densities per capita in the world, that proportion would be higher still.
On Direct Democracy, it was put to Fabian Picardo that the time for tough decisions on car ownership and pollution would have to come. He partly sidestepped the issue by focusing in his answer on vehicle emissions. In five years’ time, he mused, cars may not pollute as manufacturers switch to electricity as the main means of propulsion. Problem solved.
But that still leaves traffic congestion. Whatever cars are powered by, they occupy physical space and that’s not going to change because they’re “cleaner”, or even driverless. By not addressing this aspect of the question, Mr Picardo drove me to conclude that we should not, as a community, expect to see radical measures to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads anytime soon.
BLUEWATER UP THE CREEK?
Direct Democracy also served to confirm that a development once hailed as the largest ever inward investment into Gibraltar is dead in the water.
When it was launched in 2015, Blue Water Gibraltar was to provide more than a thousand affordable homes, 450 high-end apartments, a five-star hotel and a Super Yacht marina, among other amenities. Not to mention payment by the developers, Camoren, of an £83m premium to the government.
That’s all now gone to pot.
The Chief Minister said he believed the East Side project would still go ahead but in a different “incarnation” with the government itself developing a (presumably smaller) plot, perpendicular rather than parallel to the Rock as Blue Water would have been.
Brexit, it seems, has made Camoren vote with their feet. Dragging them so much they never made it here.