Saturday, 30 November 2002

Socialism rebutted

Regular Scotsman correspondents, John Webb and Bruce Crichton, again demolish the socialists' arguments.

Nuts about Brazil...

... is a most apposite title for this article. Chrissy Iley writes about visiting Brazil:
It’s the perfect moment for it. The place is still exotic without being alienating or frightening and, with a new government led by Lula da Silva, it’s poised on the brink of a new era - it’s becoming more international and cosmopolitan. Brazil will soon be keeping up the same beat as the rest of the world. So get there now.
"Exotic without being alienating or frightening" and "poised on the brink of a new era", she thinks. Well, here's what President-elect da Silva said:
In order to achieve yesterday’s result, it was of fundamental importance that the Workers’ Party, a party of the left, should have understood the need of allying itself with other political parties. The PL (Liberal Party), the PcdoB (Communist Party of Brazil), the PMN (National Mobilization Party) and the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) lent their inestimable support in the first ballot. They were joined in the second ballot by the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party), the PPS (Popular Socialist Party), the PDT (Democratic Labour Party), the PV (Green Party), the PTB (Brazilian Labour Party), the PHS (Humanist Solidarity Party), the PSDC (Christian Social Democracy Party), and the PGT (General Workers’ Party).
Workers, communists, "mobilizers", more communists, socialists, more socialists, labourites, greens, more labourites, humanists, social democrats and more workers! And I'd bet that the "liberals" are nothing of the sort. What a tragedy for Brazil - "keeping up the same beat" as all too much of the rest of the world.

Friday, 29 November 2002

Let's celebrate

Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day. The Scotsman diary tells us that:
ANYONE in doubt as to how to celebrate St Andrew’s Day tomorrow should take their lead from La Bamba Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen, which is planning to substitute beef with red-hot chilli. Haggis, neeps and tatties are being jettisoned to create such culinary delights as Blaw Yer Mooth Off Burritos, Nae mild Nachos, Tartan Army Tortillas, and Mary Quesidillas of Scots. "Our chilli haggis dishes will add spice to the St Andrew’s Day fiesta," explains La Bamba’s managing director, Stephen Dillon.
Sounds like a hot time in auld Aberdeen tomorrow. It's too far for a night out so I'll stick to something more traditionally Scottish. Something more in line with the name of this website is quite capable of "blawing yer mooth off".

Scottish Politician of the Year... Malcolm Chisholm, the Health Minister. Like Jamieson, Chisholm is another unreconstructed left-winger but I have to confess that he was a more impressive speaker than the other ministers I heard during my visit to the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

Should she resign?

Education Minister Cathie Jamieson doesn't seem to support her own government's policy:
The left-of-centre Labour MSP refrained from endorsing publicly the Scottish Executive's collectively-agreed description of the fire strike as "unacceptable"
In yesterday's Scotsman, Peter MacMahon wrote:
On Tuesday evening and again yesterday morning, Cathy Jamieson, his minister for education and party deputy, was fielded by the Executive to answer questions in the wake of Dr Simpson’s resignation. Asked if she agreed with the First Minister’s assertion that the firefighters’ strike was "unacceptable", Ms Jamieson resolutely refused to do so.

It is clear from her performance that Ms Jamieson, who has an impeccable left-wing pedigree within the Labour Party, thinks no such thing. As a veteran of the campaign to retain Labour’s Clause Four, which committed the party to sub-Marxist nationalisation, and a long-standing activist within the anti-Blairite Grassroots Alliance, Ms Jamieson was only being true to her beliefs. It very likely that she believes in giving the firefighters a 40 per cent pay rise.

I don't always agree with Peter MacMahon ( a former Labour spin doctor), but here he is absolutely correct:
She is a minister in the Scottish government that is at one with its UK counterpart in condemning the strike; is dealing with the consequences of providing fire cover using Green Goddesses and troops; and is determined there should be no pay rise above 4 per cent without significant changes in working practices. By refusing to condemn the strike, Ms Jamieson is therefore in a position that makes it difficult for her to remain a minister. Plainly, she does not fully support Executive policy. By refusing to condemn the strike, Ms Jamieson is therefore in a position that makes it difficult for her to remain a minister. Plainly, she does not fully support Executive policy.
Jack McConnell should sack her. The trouble is that he is running out of untarnished backbenchers to promote.

Thursday, 28 November 2002

A day out

I visited the Scottish Parliament for the first time this afternoon. On arrival, I noticed that all of the members' seats were occupied by a group of schoolchildren and I commented to the security guy that the MSPs were getting younger. He replied that it was because of "all the pills they had been taking"! He also agreed that the schoolchildren were probably more sensible than the politicians. Sadly, the children moved to the visitors' gallery and the "real" legislators arrived.

First Minister's question time was fun. Jack McConnell looked smaller than I had imagined and seemed nervous when challenged about the NHS. The Presiding Officer (speaker), Sir David Steel, told the Scottish Nationalists that they were making too much noise when McConnell was speaking but I heard them afterwards saying that Labour do the same when the SNP have the floor.

The Scottish Parliament has a semi-circular seating arrangement rather than the supposedly more confrontational Westminster face-to-face layout. The inter-party shouting and rivalry seemed just the same to me. I shall have to visit the tax-consumers more often.

Wednesday, 27 November 2002

No more "productivity" please.

The letter from John Stewart calls for fewer MSPs. Fair enough. But I don't like his idea of increasing MSPs' "working" hours. It's bad enough having to pay politicians' salaries without encouraging them to be more "productive". Pay them if we must, but no more legislation please.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Here today, gone tomorrow?

The self-deposed minister, Dr Simpson, was regularly to be seen on televised broadcasts of the Scottish Parliament. He was always there smiling immediately behind and to the left of Jack McConnell at First Minister's question time. I expect that NuLab will spin him off-screen by McConnell's next presentation on Thursday.

Wind farms

There is an ongoing debate in Scotland about whether wind farms discourage tourists from visiting the countryside.

But there is controversy:

A "flawed" survey of 180 tourists by VisitScotland suggests that half of Scotland's visitors think wind farms would be a blot on the landscape, while a quarter of those questioned said they would avoid areas where wind farms were built.

Chris Tomlinson, BWEA head of planning, said: "Unfortunately, this study is flawed given that the methodology has been tailored towards achieving a negative response to wind farms. Only 180 people were interviewed and the sample was self-selected.

I am a keen landscape photographer (a good site here) and I must say that the wind farms that I have seen make an interesting addition to the scenery. Of course, they wouldn't be necessary if the greens weren't so anti-nuclear.

The election looms

The general election for the Scottish parliament is just five months away. Today, a Labour minister has been forced out following his remarks about the firefighters' strike. The Edinburgh Evening News makes a good point:
With the Confederation of British Industry this week making clear that business’ honey-moon with Mr Blair and his party is over, the future could scarcely be bleaker.

Except that in Scotland it is. If the strike drags on into the new year, Labour faces a disaster in May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

I heard the the SNP leader on the radio a few minutes ago. He sounded very cheerful.

Minister resigns

I have just heard that Dr Richard Simpson, Scotland's Deputy Justice Minister, has resigned. Dr Simpson, who was in charge of Scotland's fire service, had got himself into trouble over remarks he allegedly made about striking firefighters:
The minister responsible for the fire service in Scotland has resigned after claims he described striking firefighters as "fascist bastards".
Note that:
It was reported that he said: "We must not give into the bastards. These people aren't socialists, they're protectionists, they're fascists - the kind of people who supported Mussolini."
It is sad to think that a man with a doctorate fails to realise that fascists are socialists and that socialists are protectionists.

I suspect that Dr Simpson will be merely the first political victim of the firefighters' strike.

Monday, 25 November 2002

Bonjour. Je suis le professeur.

This school has what seems to be an excellent idea:
At Walker Road, pupils don't have 'French lessons'. Instead, French-born teachers Sylvie Grigas and Philippe Couineaux teach the normal curriculum entirely in French.
Of course the children may pay more attention to glamorous French teachers than to local ones.

Sunday, 24 November 2002

A Scottish welcome

Contrary to what some may think, English people generally settle well in Scotland:
'The idea that there are little groups of English people being persecuted in Scotland doesn't seem to hold at all. '
It seems as though English people in Scotland see problems in the same places as do Scots:
English composer Dave Heath moved to Scotland with his partner, Angela Tunstall, in 1993 to work with the BT Scottish Ensemble. They eventually settled in Edinburgh with their children in 1997. Any anti-English sentiment Heath has experienced has tended to be within the press -- and primarily related to football
I remember many, many people up here saying during the World Cup that they had no problem with the English team or the English fans but couldn't stand the English media.

Saturday, 23 November 2002

"It's Not For Girls"...

... it says on the Yorkie Bar that my wife bought for me today. Wrapped in blue, it carries a drawing of a woman with a red diagonal line over her and the words "Not Available In Pink" on the reverse. Surely an example of "hate speech"? Shouldn't the Chocolate Equality Commission be on the case? Well, this site examines the issues. Some of the great British public remain relaxed:
The advert for Yorkie chocolate is in no way offensive to women, most chocolate products are aimed at women and Yorkie is more likely to be bought by men and so is aimed at them - gently poking in the process and suggesting that women to FIND THE PRODUCT DESIRABLE but humourously challenging them to buy it - that is A JOKE.

Friday, 22 November 2002

Why do the Scots get upset?

In Business AM today it was reported that Magnus Linklater, a Times columnist and former Scotsman editor, gave a talk in Glasgow last night. He told his audience about a Times editorial conference. Apparently, one of the editorial hotshots could name the entire Israeli cabinet but didn't know who was the First Minister of Scotland. The US equivalent would be a Washington Post editor being similarly informed about Israel but not knowing that Jeb Bush was governor of Florida.

The Scottish Nationalists don't need to try. The English media does the job for them.


You can now comment on Freedom and Whisky postings.

Telling it like it is

The pupils of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling asked members of the Scottish Parliament to use more Scots words. Yesterday, MSPs agreed to help. The winner in meeting the challenge is clear:
Fergus Ewing (SNP) then rose to his feet to announce: "The word I choose to highlight is ‘bluffelheid’."
And would this wonderful word be useful for politicians? A "bluffelheid", Mr Ewing told us, is:
defined as "a person who has a very large head but a very small brain".
The presumption of innocence is being whittled away by our government. I suggest that all politicians must be assumed to be "bluffelheids" until they can prove to the contrary.

Thursday, 21 November 2002

Does the South-east sudsidise the rest of the UK?

Well, Mike Denham writing in the Spectator thinks so:
Economically, this area is ahead of every other region. It has 35 per cent of the country’s population, but produces 42 per cent of its output. Average productivity per head is a whopping 35 per cent higher than elsewhere. If the rest of the country could match this, Britain would be the most productive of all the major European economies.
I'm not sure it's as simple as that. The UK is probably the most centralised of all modern countries. Even after devolution, 87% of our taxes are levied at the national level. In the US it's 18%. In the rest of Europe taxes are levied roughly half by the national governments and half locally. Where the taxes are collected goes economic and political power. I remember reading some years ago that Washington DC had the highest per-capita wages in the US and that most of them were dependent in some way on the federal government. That's in a country levying a mere 18% of taxation at the centre.

A very large part of London's economy is there precisely because it is the capital city of a country whose government spends some 40% of our GDP and whose London-resident ministers channel almost all of that expenditure through the London-based civil service. This in turn means that London hosts the national press (English, not British actually), the BBC, commercial TV, media-associated industries like advertising and PR, the political parties, almost all lobbyists, charities, trades unions and professional organisations. This centralisation of decision makers and influencers in turn makes London the natural location for the head offices of companies whose operations are spread throughout Britain. All of this is why the South-east dominates our economy and why it is impossible to solve the imbalances in housing and transport.

If we want to see a more economically balanced Britain we can either reduce government expenditure to, say, 10% of GDP, or we can spread government more evenly throughout the country. I support the first option. I suspect that neither will be implemented.

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

Fiscal Independence

This topic just won't go away:
Professor Donald MacRae, chief economist of Lloyds TSB Scotland, told an audience at the University of Abertay Dundee, that reserved fiscal powers are limiting the potential of Scotland’s economy, and that the country is falling well behind its competitors in terms of business growth
Members of the Scottish Parliament can't be expected to exercise proper responsibility unless they raise their own revenue:
Fiscal devolution brings fiscal responsibility and accountability - tax and spend becomes truly tax and spend, not just spend.

I was rather surprised to see that Scotsman columnist Bill Jamieson sees merit in fiscal devolution:

MacRae is at pains not to do down the Scottish economy as a hopeless and irredeemable failure. But he rightly identifies the core problem: the structural asymmetry that has left the Scottish parliament as a spending and tax revenue disbursement machine with none of the real choice-making and discipline that comes with having to raise the money to be spent. Scotland’s MSPs have no real concern for the health and wealth of Scotland’s economy, since their powers are limited to dividing up the Westminster block grant.
Absolutely. Let's make our politicians really responsible for their actions.

Glasgow Airport

There is an interesting article today in BusinessAM (registration and payment required). Glasgow’s harbour operator, Clydeport PLC, is being taken over by Peel Holdings, a company that already runs Liverpool Airport. It seems that Peel Holdings are considering the acquisition of Glasgow Airport should it ever be offered for sale by owners BAA.

Many are of the opinion that BAA’s ownership of both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports is harmful to the Scottish economy. I agree. We need some competition between the two airports assuming that the politicians never agree to allow the construction of a new airport equidistant from the two cities.

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

Blame it on capitalism

Mary Kenny writes in The Spectator about the decline in Britain's morals:
There is, in British society at present, a most disastrous retreat from bourgeois culture, as the reports of Theodore Dalrymple in this magazine so alarmingly illustrate
Fair enough. Dalrymple is one of the best observers of our social scene.

But what's this, Mary:

Capitalism has produced an uncouth strain of people who have no idea how to behave, think only of their own gratification, shriek foul-mouthed abuse at anyone who frustrates their whims for two seconds, and have never been properly told off for their appalling conduct.
The "disastrous retreat from bourgeois culture" has been caused by socialism, not capitalism. Government owned courts refuse to punish criminality, government owned schools relentlessly dumb-down British children and government welfare allows the underclass to live without showing respect to others. Capitalism is the friend of bourgeois culture, not its enemy.


A month ago I wrote about the cost of the employers' (that's us) contribution to firefighters' pensions. According to the Daily Mail, the employers' contribution was 22% on top of basic pay. Today the Glasgow Herald says that the contribution is 25%. The various government and union websites that I searched mention only employees' pension deductions and not the additional sums paid by the taxpayers. That makes the total current package £26,904 (not the much quoted average "pay" of £21,431) and the total being demanded £37,500 (not £30,000 which would be the basic pay). I suspect that the majority of private sector workers get NO pension contributions on top of their basic pay. Those that do are seeing the value of their pensions being whittled away as a result of red tape and taxation hitting the underlying investments.

I would like to see journalists quoting total "package" values when writing about people's wages in future.

Monday, 18 November 2002

The customer's always right...

...unless he's too wet! An Edinburgh schoolboy tried to take a bus home. But:
Tommy Lindsay was on his way home from his after-school drama club in the pouring rain when he tried to board a number 3 Lothian bus.

But the youngster says the driver stopped him, insisting he was too wet to get on, and then pulled away, leaving the soaking schoolboy facing a half-hour walk home alone in the dark.

Perhaps I don't need to point out that Lothian Buses is a "public" and not a private organisation. The typical government response:
The spokesman would make no comment on whether or not it was company policy to refuse entry to a bus because a person was too wet.
I have a comment. Privatise them. Now.


I found this pro-North Korean story on the web today. Maybe it's wishful thinking on the part of the author but it's certainly scary:
North Korea has 500-1000 missiles that can reach any target in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam. It is not likely that North Korea has enough nuclear warheads for all of its missiles, but it does have more than enough biochemical warheads for its missiles. The 'experts' say that North Korean missiles are 'wobbly' and inaccurate. Missiles tipped with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are not meant to take out military targets that require pinpoint accuracy, but they are terror weapons for extended civilian targets - cities, water reservoirs, power grids, and so on.

North Korea has a small fleet of ICBMs - estimated to be a dozen or so. Some of these may reach the US homeland with WMD warheads. Even a single WMD warhead exploding in the United States will cause a pandemonium and major economic disruptions. North Korea's ICBMs are more for political objectives than military. The real punch will come from North Korea's medium and short-range missiles launched from 'fishing' boats on the US homeland from its coastal waters.

Unlike in the Korean War of 1950-53, when Japan escaped unscathed, the next war will see Japanese cities in ruins and its economy devastated. Japanese cities are well within the range of North Korea's 500+ mid-range missiles and North Korea's special forces.

Sunday, 17 November 2002

Where's the opposition?

At last weekend's conference, Sean Gabb told us that there is an opposition to New Labour but it is not to be found on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons. In Scotland on Sunday, Kirsty Milne is thinking along the same lines:
If there is a revival on the right, it is unlikely to start among the quarrelsome Conservatives in the Commons. It is more likely to come in a sudden, single-issue gust, through a movement like the Countryside Alliance or a "No" campaign against the euro. There will be an opposition - just not as we know it.

Europe's prospects

Bill Jamieson continues his critique of the EU. Writing about the situation in Germany, he says:
Faced with this appalling picture, Britain’s pro-EU establishment has just nothing to say. Its dwindling members have watched the economic decline of Germany and the deepening slowdown across the euro zone as if in a state of disbelief and denial that the economic model into which they wished to decant the British economy has spectacularly unravelled before their eyes. They are at a complete loss to advance any coherent analysis as to why this has happened, still less any policy for getting Europe out of this mess.
The demise of the EU as a beneficial economic construct, or one in which its people had hope of better times and an end to the relentless slide of Europe on the global stage, is now at an advanced and highly critical stage.This is an extraordinary confession of the political bankruptcy of Europe, and a measure of how complete is the intellectual collapse of the remaining pro-Euroists in Britain.

When this busted flush gets round, there is every possibility of a ferocious policy reassessment, not just of Britain’s status as a "pre in" but of how long we can pretending we really want a place at the rotten heart of Europe. The collapse of idea in Europe may yet be the event that will snap Britain awake from a 30-year delusion.

The "political bankruptcy of Europe", the "intellectual collapse of the remaining pro-Euroists", "this busted flush" - I suspect that it won't be too long before some mainstream politicians see a gaping hole in the political marketplace. Yes, it's time to get out.

Saturday, 16 November 2002

Ryrie's Bar update

I forgot to mention that during the quiet period an elderly lady came into the bar asking if she could sell the Salvation Army's War Cry. She was allowed in and made sales. About twenty minutes later in came a scruffy individual trying to sell the Socialist Worker (surely a contradiction in terms). He was immediately shown the door.

Saturday afternoon outing

I decided to partake of a small beverage at Ryrie’s Bar this afternoon. At 4pm there were seven customers and eight bar staff. Most of the locals were a mile away at Murrayfield watching the Scottish rugby team thrash South Africa by 21 to 6.

By 5pm it seemed that there were 700 customers and still 8 bar staff. If the Springbok fans weren’t so big we could have fitted in 1,000.

The football results were on the TV and Kilmarnock, Ayr and Newcastle all won. What a day. If I had placed a bet on this felicitous turn of events I could have bought the pub.

Friday, 15 November 2002

The candidate

Gavin Esler thinks that Hillary Clinton may be the Democrats' only hope for the 2004 presidential election. I presume this is the same Mrs Clinton who, according to an opinion poll this week, would be beaten by George Bush by 55% to 38% were the election being held now. Poor old Al Gore would do better, getting 41% against 53% for President Bush. Now if it had been Hillary and not Al who had invented the internet, she might stand a chance.


The National Trust for Scotland is being criticised for not accepting Euros:
The failure of the Scottish body to act has sparked criticism that it will spoil efforts to make Edinburgh more attractive to visitors from overseas.
As a member of the NTS, I support their decision not to waste our resources. Does anyone seriously think that someone from the Eurozone is going to travel all the way to Scotland without knowing to bring some sterling?

Thursday, 14 November 2002

Scottish Tories

If our local Tories don't do too well in next year's elections, will they look for a new leader? I was intrigued to read of speculation that Murdo Fraser is being discussed as a possible successor to David McLetchie. According to columnist Katie Grant, Fraser is one of the four real Tories in the Scottish Parliament.

Limited blogging today...

... because the broadband was down for a few hours. How did we live without it?

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

Who's got your money?

I regularly have a look at several financial websites. One of my favourites is Financial Sense Online. The Saturday internet radio broadcasts are always worth listening to. I recommend tuning into the second hour of the November 9th broadcast to hear an interview with Dr Lawrence Parks who has written What Does Mr Greenspan Really Think? If you want to know where your pension has gone, listen and read.

University funding

The Principal of Aberdeen University says that graduates should donate more to their colleges. Students at the Open University pay a higher proportion of the cost of their education than do those attending "conventional" universities and the lecturers know this. Perhaps that is why the OU comes in at ninth position in terms of teaching quality in a survey of 100 British universities.

Another new airline

After yesterday's news of new flights at Prestwick, it has been announced that CSA Czech Airlines will be operating between Edinburgh and Prague. This will link what have been described as Europe's two most attractive cities.

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

It's a dog's life

So West Virginia's civil servants musn't appear in TV commercials. Nonsense. Let them earn an honest living.

Blame it on "Global Warming"

Scotland's rail services have been hit by a series of landslides this year. The Glasgow Herald reporter writes that:
Global warming has been blamed for the recent spate of landslides causing havoc for rail travellers across Scotland
What the railway spokesman actually said was:
We have obviously been aware of the climatic change over the past few years, and we have put a significant investment programme in place to deal with structures and drainage problems.
And a Glasgow University geographer pointed out that:
climate change was often used as a convenient scapegoat blamed for flooding and landslides. "Landslides are not necessarily caused by extra rainfall," said Dr Evans. "If you steepen a slope artificially, the slope is going to be unstable, as the land tries to return to its natural form. Engineers attempt to restrain the slope, but their solutions are sometimes inadequate. "There are more people than ever before, and we are digging and creating more structures than ever before, so that our engineering solutions need to be modified - otherwise, if the climate continues to become warmer and wetter, we are going to see an increase in landslides and other problems. Other countries have heavy rainfall, yet do not suffer the same problems."
So some of the problems we face may be caused by inadequate engineering solutions, not by the weather.

Note that the geography lecturer says "if the climate continues to become warmer and wetter", not that it will. Perhaps the works of Lomborg are reaching our universities.

More cheap flights

The KLM subsidiary Buzz is to fly between Prestwick and Bournemouth.

Monday, 11 November 2002

Going to London

I first visited London when I was about ten years old. The family undertook a two-day car journey to cover the 400 miles to London. This was before the days of motorways. The idea of going by plane would have seemed extraordinary. In 1948, there were two flights a day from Edinburgh to London by DC-3. This provided 60 seats each way. By 1969, ten daily Vickers Vanguard flights to Heathrow gave us about 1,100 seats in each direction. Now, there are 59 daily flights from Edinburgh to the five London airports. That amounts to some 9,000 seats each way. And it can be cheap. My flight back from the Libertarian conference cost the equivalent of five beers. The recent boom at Edinburgh Airport is largely driven by the growth of low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. Their web-based booking and pricing systems enable them to raise and lower fares in response to constantly changing demand. It’s raw capitalism in action. Adam Smith would have loved it.

The Conference

I spent the weekend in London attending the Libertarian Alliance conference which was held in association with Libertarian International. Several of the regular bloggers from Samizdata were present including Brian Micklethwait who now has his own education blog. Also there were Patrick Crozier of Croziervision and UK Transport, Alice Bachini of A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside and Tim Evans of CNE Health.

What I found surprising in this large gathering of British, European and North American libertarians was just how many were not familiar with the world of blogging. This is actually reassuring. The blog is a wonderful propaganda tool for spreading libertarian ideas and at the conference I realised that we are only just starting to use it.

Saturday, 9 November 2002

A result

I wasn't surprised to hear that the strike on the Glasgow Underground had been resolved and that the sacked drivers were reinstated. The tough management action seems to have shocked the union and that has probably helped to sort this out so quickly.

Friday, 8 November 2002

Public "servants"

What a surprise! It turns out that:
The expenses bill run up by the 129 members of the Scottish Parliament went up by more than £1 million last year, to almost £8 million, it emerged yesterday.
The top spender was the MSP for Kilmarnock, Margaret Jamieson, who:
refused to talk about her extraordinarily high expenses claim yesterday.

However, a Labour Party spokeswoman explained later that an "over-zealous" official in Ms Jamieson’s constituency office had simply ordered too many pre-paid envelopes and this was the reason for the £16,000 Ms Jamieson claimed for stationery.

In fact, so many pre-paid envelopes were ordered for the office that 13,000 have already had to be returned because there is no room to store them all.

Surely the backs of the pre-paid envelopes could have been used for creating Labour's next lot of policies.

Good news....

.... for my old hometown airport. Low-cost flights to the Mediterranean are to be flown from Prestwick Airport by the Edinburgh company Globespan which is launching its own airline.

Narrow escape....

...for the Clydesdale Bank which actually considered doing away with its 164 year-old name:
Steve Targett, chief executive of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, revealed yesterday that National Australia Bank shelved plans for a complete merger of its four UK banks in the spring.

We looked at it earlier this year, but decided not to do it. The strength of each of the brands in their local areas is too strong. The drawbacks would have outweighed the benefits.

Damned right. Scots are probably the most sensitive people on earth about matters of identity (with Yorkshiremen not too far behind!). A change to some bland global name would have cost the Clydesdale a huge chunk of its customers. Whoever decided to "consider" this plan is completely out of touch with the market. Why are some businesspeople so stupid?

More criticism of Rogerson

First, a letter from Andrew Medworth of Selwyn College, Cambridge and also one from Bruce Crichton, Rogerson's original target. There is another anti-Rogerson letter from Valda Redfern in the printed version of The Scotsman.

Thursday, 7 November 2002

Hello Mr Rogerson

There has been a response to the John Rogerson letter that I mentioned on Tuesday. The Scotsman has published replies from DSA Murray of Dorking and also from John Webb of Sheffield

The verdict

In April I wrote about the case of the plane spotters convicted in Greece. I am glad that they have been found not guilty on appeal. I can only presume that the judges had a look at this site from which full information about the world's air forces can be found.

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

Astounding News

On the day that the Republicans retained the House and won the Senate, the Labour-dominated Strathclyde Passenger Transport has done a "Ronald Reagan" by sacking drivers on the Glasgow Underground who have been on unofficial strike for one day. I can't think what to say about this other than more news must follow.

Canine news

Greyfriars Bobby guarded his master's grave for 14 years. Bobby himself now rests in Greyfriars Kirkyard. A new film of Bobby's life is being made but a row has broken out. It is claimed that the real Bobby was a Skye Terrier. The star of the new film is a West Highland Terrier. The historian of the Skye Terrier Club says of the Westie:
I also have one and she would go with anyone in a minute - no way would a Westie devote its life to a dead master, it would be off with the first kind look it got
As for the rival:
A Skye Terrier, on the other hand, is a thinker, very loyal and has a terrific memory.
Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith needs to appoint a few of these to the shadow cabinet.

Tuesday, 5 November 2002

No freedom, no whisky?

City of Edinburgh officials are threatening M's Seafood Restaurant and Whisky Bar, alleging that it is operating as a pub. Why don't the bureaucrats just mind their own business and enjoy one of the £225 nips of whisky? As for myself, I never pay more than £200 a shot.........

Free market myth?

John Rogerson's letter in today's Scotsman states:
The western free market, competitive economy is a myth, dispelled by the subsidies to oil, gas, the nuclear industry, bio-technology, drug companies, defence, transport and farming. There are also relocation grants and regional assistance.
Bruce Crichton, a target of Mr Rogerson, has, as Rogerson knows full well, written numerous letters to the paper advocating a totally laissez-faire economy in which there would be no "subsidies", "grants" or "regional assistance". Why don't socialists like Rogerson actually read some books about freedom?

Monday, 4 November 2002

Would Beckham go to jail?

My wife has raised a very interesting question about the alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

Let us imagine that an armed intruder has entered the Beckham residence in the middle of the night. According to the BBC:

David Beckham said he would protect his family
Mr Beckham is a very fit athlete. Let us suppose that there is a struggle resulting in the death of the intruder. Would the police charge Beckham with murder? If they did, and especially if he were imprisoned, there would be a enormous public outcry. I have little doubt that it would be led by Tony Blair assisted by the massed ranks of New Labour. Hypocrites

A question of innocence

Writing about the John Leslie affair, Jimmy Reid asks if the presumption of innocence still applies in the UK. It may well do in this case but it's amazing how little outcry there is from journalists about the many reversals of this traditional safeguard being introduced by the EU.

Welcome to a new blog

It's Brian's EDUCATION Blog from Brian Micklethwait of Samizdata.

Sunday, 3 November 2002

Mon Dieu!

The Sunday Herald has been listening in to Tony and Jacques.

Is the Scottish press barking?

Scotland on Sunday columnist Gerald Warner is on fine form today:
In a real democracy, the relationship between the media and the governing élite is that of a pack of rottweilers maintaining surveillance on a gang of burglars. In Scotland, it more closely resembles the relationship between the Brigade of Guards and the sovereign.
Keep biting, Gerald.

Never on a Sunday?

No great surprise here:
The Scottish council which opposed Sunday flights to the Isle of Lewis has made a surprising U-turn by booking tickets for its staff to travel on the Sabbath.
Now that Loganair has borne the criticism of those opposed to the Sunday air service to Stornoway the local council which opposed the new flights has decided to use them. Consistency? No, they're politicians.

More fishy business

As I thought, the likely EU rules for North Sea fishing will treat some as more equal than others:
Under the plans which have been submitted to the EU, the Danes and Norwegians will be allowed to catch cod, whiting and haddock accidentally while fishing for sand eels which are processed and used for animal feed and fertiliser.

The tiny fish are caught in nets with mesh sizes as small as 9mm. Under EU rules, trawlers which fish for so-called industrial species are permitted to catch up to 5% of white fish as part of their haul. And there are no plans to clamp down on the practice.

So accidental catching of cod is OK unless you're Scottish:
However, Scottish fishing crews will be banned from trawling for whiting and haddock because of fears that they might accidentally net cod while at sea, even though stocks of haddock and whiting are not facing the same threat. In addition, industrial fisheries are also seen as damaging to the recovery of cod stocks because cod feed on sand eels and other small fish.
Amazingly, the UK seems to have less clout than the Norwegians who aren't even members of the EU.

Saturday, 2 November 2002

And also happy birthday to...

...Natalie Solent
Happy birthday....

... to Samizdata. One year old today.

Is this really enterprise?

The Taiwanese company Chunghwa is the latest casualty in Scotland's "Silicon Glen". There is increasing concern about the long-standing policy of paying overseas companies to open factories over here. The sums of money are extraordinary:
Even with estimates of £80,000 of taxpayers’ money subsidising the employment of each of the 600 people employed by Chunghwa at its Mossend plant, it is by no means the most costly of the firms which were drawn to Scotland by the favourable deals on offer.
but few seem yet to oppose the principle of using taxpayers' cash to subsidise businesses:
The experience has taught the Scottish Executive a lesson it will not forget. With the Motorola closure came the realisation that the policy of throwing money at overseas companies was no longer a viable proposition and the economic aftershocks of 11 September only confirmed the wisdom of that decision. Annual inward investment to Scotland slumped from more than £1 billion to less than £300 million.

Until the Motorola closure, 60 per cent - about £70 million a year - of the RSA budget went to overseas companies. The Executive concluded that the ration had to be reversed, with money going into the development of indigenous companies which would not disappear overseas when the going got tough.

We don't need taxpayers' "money going into the development of indigenous companies" at the command of government. What local businesses - existing and potential - need is for politicians to get out of the way, or, as M. Legendre told Colbert: Laissez-nous faire.

Friday, 1 November 2002

A matter of trust

If the public thinks that the black newscaster Sir Trevor McDonald is Britain's most trustworthy person why do we need a plethora of "anti-racist" legislation? Perhaps it's to protect poor Ali G who is the only person to trail Tony Blair in the "Trust Index".

you choose the voice

The voice of Scotland!

For readers outwith (good Scottish word) Scotland, click on this and then on UKM007 or UKF013 to hear how the locals speak.