Thursday, 31 October 2002

Let the customer pay

A big row is developing about university tuition. The Principal of St Andrews, Dr Brian Lang has:
split from the country’s other universities by calling for the effective privatisation of the sector, demanding that the Scottish Executive now tables proposals requiring students to pay several thousands of pounds a year.
I have heard all the usual leftists say that it would be outrageous for students to pay the full cost of their education. In other words, the taxpayers in general, most of whom don't go to university, should subsidise those who do. Nonsense. Make the customers pay. Incidentally, the total cost need not be as high as some think. In the Edinburgh Evening News, Peter Clarke says:
Yet universities see themselves as nationalised industries unable to charge the market rates for their ability to boost the life chances of students enjoying the strange mixture of scholarship and holiday camp that is college life. Edinburgh is certainly far richer for our universities. Perhaps they might copy the example of Britain’s only private university. At Buckingham you graduate in two years rather than the leisurely four. It is perplexing that so much of education’s horizons are still set by the needs of the medieval harvest seasons.
Private universities are they way forward.

British History 102

Joyce Malcolm has replied to my e-mail and says:
The crime statistics are computed for England and Wales, not Britain. The laws are British. And the history I covered in my book went back to the late middle ages when there was an English government. I do know the difference. The difference between crime statistics being only for England and laws being for the UK can make for some reader confusion. Sorry to have seemed confusing.
Fair enough. But in the article she wrote:
This sea change in English crime followed a sea change in government policies. Gun regulations have been part of a more general disarmament based on the proposition that people don’t need to protect themselves because society will protect them. It also will protect their neighbors: Police advise those who witness a crime to "walk on by" and let the professionals handle it.

This is a reversal of centuries of common law that not only permitted but expected individuals to defend themselves, their families, and their neighbors when other help was not available. It was a legal tradition passed on to Americans. Personal security was ranked first among an individual’s rights by William Blackstone, the great 18th-century exponent of the common law. It was a right, he argued, that no government could take away, since no government could protect the individual in his moment of need. A century later Blackstone’s illustrious successor, A.V. Dicey, cautioned, "discourage self-help and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians."

But modern English governments have put public order ahead of the individual’s right to personal safety. First the government clamped down on private possession of guns; then it forbade people to carry any article that might be used for self-defense; finally, the vigor of that self-defense was to be judged by what, in hindsight, seemed "reasonable in the circumstances."

I think that there is a clear suggestion that there was an "English" government post-Blackstone, that is after the Treaty and Acts of Union.

I make such a big deal out of this issue because strong and bitterly angry objections to use of the term "England" when "Britain" (or the "UK") is correct have appeared in the correspondence columns of the Scottish press virtually daily in the thirty odd years that I have been a reader. I have no doubt at all that this misuse of terms is overwhelmingly the cause of modern Scottish nationalism. The future of the UK is at stake.

I thank Joyce Malcolm for her reply.

Wednesday, 30 October 2002

Fishy stories?

I don't trust EU officials including when they are talking about fish stocks:
Fishermen say stocks of cod - which thrive in freezing waters - are only down because global warming has raised the North Sea temperature by two degrees and forced the fish north.
According to the website of the Peterhead fishing boat Budding Rose:
Although the scientific evidence of the state of the Cod fishery is poor, and as a result Cod quotas have drastically cut, the Budding Rose and Lapwing experienced the best fishing of COD they have seen in these waters for sometime.

Tuesday, 29 October 2002

British History 101

Patrick Crozier has suggested that the last English government was "about 1534 when Wales was integrated". A very good point, Patrick.

I did a bit of research into the history of Wales on this site. There was continuous English involvement in Wales from the time of the Norman Conquest. Then:

In 1294, the Statute of Rhuddlan confirmed Edward's plans regarding the governing of Wales (apart from the Marches, left more or less as quasi-independent earldoms as rewards for their help in disposing of the Welsh problem). The statute created the counties of Anglesey, Caernarfon and Merioneth, to be governed by the Justice of North Wales; Flint, to be placed under the Justice of Chester and the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan to be left under the Justice of South Wales.

In the new counties the English pattern of courts was firmly set in place though some Welsh Law was retained in a few civil actions, mainly concerning minor land disputes. The Welsh counties did not elect representatives to Parliament; they remained outside the jurisdiction of the central courts of Westminster. Edward was more than jubilant; for all practical purposes, his troubles with the Welsh were at an end. From that time forward, Wales was to live under an alien political system, playing a subordinate role as an integral part of the kingdom of England. It was as if a nation or a people never existed.

Moving on to the sixteenth century:
After Henry VIII had broken with Rome, he felt ready to further show his power as rightful king of Wales as well as England. The first of the Acts of Union (a modern term describing several acts of legislation having to do with Wales) took place in 1536. Its provisions ensured the political annexation of Wales to England, for it gave notice that part of their intent was "[henceforth] . . .to utterly extirpate all and singular the sinister usage and customs differing from the same {English laws]."

Yet, it must be noted that the Act, one of the most important in the whole history of Wales, was passed without consultation with the Welsh people; there was no agreement of a central Welsh authority or parliament, simply because such an authority did not exist.

So, Wales was formally integrated into England in 1536 but had been subject to strong English control since 1294 and less so before then.

The difference for Scotland was that the union with England in 1707 was the result of Acts being voluntarily passed in both the Edinburgh and London parliaments to combine into a new British parliament. After 1536, then, the London parliament ruled both England and Wales but without the agreement of any Welsh legislature. You could say that it was the parliament of England and Wales or of England and its Welsh colony.

British History 100

There is an interesting article on reasononline by Joyce Malcolm who has written a book on gun control in Britain. Unfortunately, she makes the common and annoying error of mixing up "England" and "Britain". I have sent her this e-mail:
I enjoyed reading your article on Reason Online and look forward to getting the book. But what on earth is the "English government"? The last time there was such an entity was 69 years before the American Declaration of Independence. Hey, even Tony Blair isn't English! Nor are the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord Chancellor, the Leader of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Commons, theTransport Secretary, the Chairman of the Labour party, the leader of the Conservative party, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, etc. etc.

Best wishes
David Farrer

I look forward to a reply....

Monday, 28 October 2002

One law for them and one law for us

Why shouldn't Lord Irvine pay tax on the art that he has "borrowed" from the public?

Tory hopefuls

A few weeks ago columnist Katie Grant wrote that there were only four real Tories in the Scottish parliament. It is likely that the only Conservatives to be elected in next May's election will come from the proportional representation category of candidates. Hence the importance of candidates' ranking on the party lists which are selected by rank-and-file members. The results are now out. The four "real" Tories have done well. Jamie McGrigor has topped the Highlands and Islands list. In Mid Scotland and Fife, Murdo Fraser and Brian Monteith hold the first two places. The fourth "real" Tory, James Douglas-Hamilton, gained second place in the Lothians area, beaten only by party leader David McLetchie. I have met three of the four and they certainly show libertarian tendencies. Well done guys.

Sunday, 27 October 2002


Matthew Lynn gives prize idiotarian Naomi Klein a good fisking:
So, how potent an intellect is Klein? The answer can be found in her new book and the lecture series to support it. Fences and Windows purports to be a serious work of economic, political and social commentary. Under the microscope it turns out to be a collection of prejudices masquerading as arguments and distortions dressed up to look like facts. Its arguments range from the sentimental to the odd and incomprehensible.

Artists against elitists

A couple of months ago I blogged about the Fife artist, Jack Vettriano, and discussed his rejection by the arts establishment. Now, other artists are speaking out:
Several leading figures in the arts world have added their weight to a growing campaign for the work of painter Jack Vettriano to be properly recognised by the Scottish arts establishment.
Perhaps the establishment has a problem with Vettriano's previous career as a coal miner, but as painter Joseph Maxwell says:
"His prints have sold more than anyone else in the country and there’s nothing to say that it is bad art. What’s wrong with the National Galleries recognising the public love of Vettriano? It’s the public’s gallery after all.
Indeed, our National Galleries do belong to the public and not to the tax-consuming elitists who can't compete with a successful artist like Jack Vettriano.

Jack sees the light

I have always been a fan of Glasgow Herald columnist, Jack McLean. Described as the Urban Voltaire, Jack writes a very readable diary about his life as a man-about-town. Recently, he has been relentlessly pursued by the tax authorities and has been in fear of losing his beloved home.

But, what's this? On Saturday, Jack writes:

It took a capitalist organisation, dedicated to making profit, to save me from eviction and homelessness. When a young woman called Mia Dussin rang me last Friday to suggest that the Clydesdale Bank, for whom she works, might be able to help me, little did I realise that today I would be sitting with her and her manager, another young woman, this one called Paula Flannigan, while I hear, at first with incredulity, that I will still have a roof over my head. The two girls were charming and nice, the way bankers are supposed not to act. But, then, in the various crises over the past while, Scottish Power, Scottish Gas, British Telecom, and assorted other greedy capitalistic firms have been sending me letters saying things like: “We can defer payment just now. But can we help?” In a wee touch of contrast, the non-profit-making authorities who allege they are here to make all our lives absolutely stoating have been pursuing me like something out of the Sicilian Mafia. I don't know why this is, but am somehow reminded of the fact that Donald Dewar (our late, very socialist, first minister) had about a squillion quid in his will and Tom Winning (the late Scottish cardinal) left two grand.
Jack was once a teacher and when he recalls those days his comments on the state education system are worthy of a life-long libertarian. Otherwise, Jack has always appeared to be a standard leftist member of the chattering classes, uttering the usual anti-capitalist cliches. Now, Jack has discovered that profit-seeking companies survive by helping their customers and that his experiences with the Glasgow Education Department are echoed elsewhere in the public sector. Welcome to the real world, Jack.

Saturday, 26 October 2002

The voters decide

I was pleased by the news that Sir Clement Freud has beaten Germaine Greer in the contest to become rector of St Andrews University. In her campaign, Ms Greer:
also faced opposition from a group stemming from the Liberty Club, a right-wing student organisation, calling itself the "Anyone but Greer" campaign. These, however, were dismissed by Miss Greer as a ‘glorified boys’ drinking club’."
The Liberty Club is a libertarian group, not "right-wing", and I suspect that Ms Greer made the same mistake as the Scotsman journalists. As for a "glorified boys’ drinking club", I have attended a Liberty Club event and can confirm that members do indeed enjoy the odd bevvy, but they are not all males. In other words, they fit the profile of 99% of Scottish students. No wonder they sent Ms Greer homeward to think again.
No blogging....

...on Friday because was "down for repairs".

Thursday, 24 October 2002

A smart President

I was pleased to read that President Bush has become a customer of Reid & Taylor, the Scottish weaving company which was also patronised by my grandfather. As a child, I was always told that the cloth from Langholm was the best in the world. The President's tailor is:
tailoring the suits from the Scots fabric for next summer, and the president has already expressed an interest in a very expensive cloth for which Reid & Taylor has just won exclusive world rights. Escorial 12 Micron, at £800 per metre, is so rare that only one or two flocks in every Escorial breed have the ability to produce it. The miniature sheep can be traced back to the 16th century when Moorish invaders introduced them to Spain from north Africa to make ultra-soft garments for King Phillip II.
I'm not too sure what to make of the fact that the President may soon be wearing suits made from the wool of miniature Islamic sheep...

Wednesday, 23 October 2002

We are the masters now

It looks as though EU plans could result in the Scottish fishing industry being wiped out at a cost of 20,000 jobs. In an earlier report in Tuesday's Daily Mail, I read that EU proposals for deep-sea fishing off our North-West coast would give France 80% of the quota, another 18% split between Ireland and Spain leaving 2% for Scottish fishermen. And Scottish taxpayers would have to fund the policing of this arrangement which covers areas that are entirely within UK territorial waters. Will our politicians do anything about this? Of course not.

Mark my words. It's only a matter of time before the EU lays claim to North Sea oil.

Tuesday, 22 October 2002

The pensions rip off

There is an excellent article in today's Daily Mail (no link) by city editor Alex Brummer. Much has appeared in the newspapers recently about the problems facing those of us with private sector pensions. Final salary schemes are being withdrawn and annuity rates are falling continuously. One of Gordon Brown's first acts was to hit private pension funds with a £5 billion tax increase. Now, there is talk of taxation of lump sum withdrawals from pension funds which are currently tax free and a reduction of tax relief on contributions. Brummer says that the real pension scandal is the vast amount being paid to state pensioners. I agree.

He gives the example of a not-too-high-up NHS consultant retiring on £45,000 per year. The cost to the taxpayer (excluding prospective inflation) would be £1,400,000. A teacher can expect to receive some £800,000.

Elsewhere in the Mail, I read that firefighters benefit from an employer pension contribution of 22% on top of their salary. That means that a firefighter with five year's service gets a package actually worth £26,268 pa and not the £21,531 pa which is bandied about. The claimed increase would take the total package up to £36,600. To retire on £20,000 pa (2/3 of the claimed basic salary) would require a pension fund of about £560,000 for a 50 year old firefighter. How many private sector workers in jobs requiring no academic or professional qualifications can save over half a million pounds by the age of fifty?

I hope that Brummer and the Daily Mail continue this campaign for pension justice. We certainly can't expect anything from Conservative MPs. They've got their own snouts in the pension trough.

Monday, 21 October 2002

They know who won Big Brother but they don't know who is Big Brother!

So more people know who was the winner of the TV programme Big Brother than that Gordon Brown is in the cabinet. Roll on the happy day when the winners of TV shows are more significant to the economy than spendthrift politicians.

They belong to us

Evening News reader, W. Wilson, is quite right to point out that the fire engines belong to the taxpayers. Why, then, is the army not going to be allowed to use them in the event of a strike? As I always thought, Blair is just another statist in hock to the trade unions.

The Auld Alliance updated

The French are now distilling their own malt whisky! What's more, they spell whisky correctly: without an "e".

Sunday, 20 October 2002

The continuing crisis

Labour may well face real trouble in next May's elections if the mess doesn't get sorted soon

Saturday, 19 October 2002

We're the tops!

Am I becoming an old fogey when I find it rather odd to learn that John Lennon and Princess Diana are among the top ten Britons of all time? The Scotsman has published its own list of top ten Scots as picked by "a specially-selected panel". I have no problem with most of the list but can the top ten really include Billy Connelly but not Adam Smith or Andrew Carnegie? It turns out that the "specially-selected panel" is made up of four politicians, four artists, two sportsmen, two media commentators and one academic. Where are the business managers and entrepreneurs on the panel? At least seven and probably ten of the panel of thirteen work for the state. Fortunately, Scotland has produced more than its share of inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. It's a pity that more of them don't make it on to the "specially-selected panels" of our major newspapers.

Friday, 18 October 2002

Lies, damned lies and statistics

I am glad that Tory education spokesman, Brian Monteith, has criticised the recent report that claimed that private education was a waste of money. The Scotsman editorial rightly states:
Professor Lindsay prefers his brand of failed social engineering to recognising the need for a fresh approach.
The "fresh approach" required is the abolition of state education. When that happens, the price in the private sector will fall dramatically as the market expands bringing economies of scale and more competition. Whether there would be a need for Professors of Education is another question....

Labour's accounting problems

The story continues to run and run:
after it emerged that dozens of other constituency parties had almost certainly failed to declare cash donations from trade unions.
Tony Blair is telling Scottish Labour to sort out the slack accounting in its local parties but what's to say that the same sloppiness isn't occurring elsewhere in the UK?

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Our threatened rights

There is a new website dealing with the European Arrest Warrant. Thanks to both Airstrip One and Edge of England's Sword for this. Has your MP/MSP ever mentioned it?

Failed counterfeiters

I am not too surprised to read that the government can't even make a profit from making money!


Welcome back to CrozierVision which is again on-line if not exactly on-air.

Wednesday, 16 October 2002

Policing the community

In Florida's Daytona Beach, taxpayers' money is being used in imaginative ways.:
The city fathers are tired of holding the title of the country’s premier fleshpot resort and, embarrassed by their beach’s reputation for swimwear skimpy enough to make an episode of Baywatch look tame, have ordered an official cover-up
The Libertarian party went door to door gathering signatures for a petition and distributing a memo stating: "This ordinance is the antithesis of the values for which we stand."
Here in Edinburgh, the sex police face more interesting challenges........

Tuesday, 15 October 2002

To lose one First Minister may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two would look like carelessness

The McConnell row is hotting up:
LABOUR today admitted union cash donated to First Minister Jack McConnell’s constituency party had illegally not been declared.
The Tories in the Scottish Parliament brought about the demise of our previous First Minister (something which seems rather unlikely at the Westminster level!) but it couldn't be about to happen again. Or could it?

More trouble for Labour in Fife

Following Labour's recent local election loss in Fife one of their councillors has given up his Labour credentials and has become an independent. This time Labour can't deny the connection with former First Minister, Henry McLeish:
Mr Taylor, a former vice-chairman of the Central Fife Labour Party, was a strong critic of the position of Mr McLeish before the former first minister announced recently that he would not be standing as the Scottish Parliament candidate for Central Fife next May. He was also critical of the handling of the funding controversy over the Third Age group, the charity which rented accommodation at Mr McLeish’s constituency office.

Labour's troubles

The row over the finances of the First Minister's local party continues. I think that McConnell needs to bring in a firm of outside auditors otherwise he may go the way of his predecessor. Perhaps best not to hire Arthur Andersen!

To me, a fascinating aspect of this saga is the existence of the North Lanarkshire Municipal Bank. Why anyone would trust their money to a bank operated by one of our most notorious local authorities is quite beyond me. It seems as if most customers are also employees of the local council:

North Lanarkshire Municipal Bank has approximately 11,000 active accounts and operates out of 11 local council offices. As the largest Municipal Bank in Scotland, anecdotal evidence of its customer base suggests that approximately 50% are council employees and the remainder are traditional working-class employees, over 45 years of age.
Do these employees know what risks they are running?

Monday, 14 October 2002

Value for money?

In his letter, Dennis Gratton says that the new Scottish Parliament building (£300 million) will serve a useful purpose unlike London's Millennium Dome (£800 million). Is that so? We only need two laws: keep your agreements (contract) and don't interfere with others (tort/criminal). All the rest is so much hot air. I fear that there will be plenty of that in our new parliament building.

Normal service resumes - at Freedom and Whisky and in Scottish politics

Now that I have returned from two weeks abroad, blogging will start again on a regular basis.

I am not surprised to find that yet another Labour financial scandal has erupted during my absence. Our previous First Minister, Henry McLeish, was forced from office over party financial irregularities and now Jack McConnell is in deep doodoo. As a former First Minister, McLeish gets a very nice pension despite being forced out. Is McConnell next to go? Perhaps the plan is to allow all Labour MSPs to get a chance at being First Minister between now and the next election so as every one of them can retire in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Monday, 7 October 2002

Further announcement

Blogging will continue to be limited until the end of this week.

Friday, 4 October 2002

Pull the other one!

So, Labour has lost control of Fife Council. Nevertheless:
The leader of Fife Council has denied that the Henry McLeish controversy was the reason behind Labour losing overall control of the authority.
Well, I'm not too sure about that. After all:
The by-election defeat was the third for Labour in Fife this year
and Fife just happens to be the personal fiefdom of our late unlamented First Minister. I have little doubt that the huge publicity about McLeish's expenses has much to do with Labour's electoral problems in Fife. Eventually, the Scottish people will see through the wholly unsavoury nature of the Labour party, and not just in Fife. An ideologically sound opposition would be able to destroy Labour in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. Why are we waiting?

Thursday, 3 October 2002

The people's health service

Even though Scotland spends 20% more than England on (government) health, we still wait longer to see a doctor. Why am I not surprised?

More on the economy

The Scotsman editorial on yesterday's Fraser of Allander report points out that the Institute doesn't agree with calls for the abolition of Scottish "Enterprise". But the Scotsman thinks that:
Those thriving service sectors underlined by Fraser of Allander - financial services and retail - have never been particularly influenced by SDA or Scottish Enterprise activities. Perhaps the theory needs revising. Commercial Scotland is now "developed". It is the public sector which is the last bastion of low productivity and lack of entrepreneurial drive. QED.
Absolutely. But let's not forget that low productivity and lack of entrepreneurial drive in the public sector necessitate mass privatisation.

Wednesday, 2 October 2002

The Scottish Economy

If the Scottish economy is really coming out of recession we should be pleased, but the Fraser of Allander Institute:

warned the economy was still vulnerable to political uncertainties elsewhere and that it “will remain below trend for the foreseeable future”.
Probably true, but I feel that socialism's domination of the Scotiish intellectual class is as much to blame for our economic problems as "uncertainties elsewhere". The Institute:
warned that Scotland should focus on building a strong indigenous enterprise culture.
Sadly, "enterprise" remains a dirty word for the majority of our politicians, teachers and "public" servants.