Tuesday, 30 March 2004

Reality denial

I’m afraid that nonsense about football isn’t confined to politicians. If anything, this is even worse:
The Derbyshire Times has been shown the red card by organisers of a junior football league, after the newspaper correctly reported on a big-scoring match.

Sheffield and District Junior Sunday League has banned all of its clubs from contacting the paper to publicise its results following a report on a 29-0 win by Brampton Rovers Under-9s.

So what's the problem? Was the report incorrect? No, but it was politically incorrect:
.. because the league doesn't allow scores over 14 to be reported.
The league also objects to terms like "comprehensive trouncing", "thrashed" and "hammered". Member clubs who send real results to newspapers face "internal disciplinary procedures".

This is beyond parody. How on earth are the young players going to cope with the real world? I suppose that the answer is that they won't need to. The country will have self-destructed by the time these unfortunate children reach adulthood.

And the spending goes on...

This time it's for youth football:
Scottish youth football is to receive a £30m investment in an attempt to turn around the game's fortune and produce future star players.

Organisers of the 10-year plan hope to change the way the youth game is financed and organised.

Sports Minister Frank McAveety will launch the scheme on Tuesday at Hampden Park.

There's no explanation in this BBC report of who exactly is going to cough up for this "investment", only who's going to run it. Note however the presence of the Sports Minister.

If we go over to the website of the Scottish Football Association all becomes clear:

Significantly, the plan now has a long-term funding strategy in place. The SFA will contribute £10m towards its implementation over 10 years, supported by Government funding of £12.2m administered by sportscotland. A further £8.9m, currently being jointly invested in community programmes by the SFA and local authorities, will be redirected to support the Action Plan, working in conjunction with the local authorities.
Why should the taxpayer be funding football? I'd like Frank McAveety to buy me a new digital camera. Perhaps even a new car. I don't suppose he's even going to buy me a pint.

Monday, 29 March 2004

Smoke, drink and law 'n' order

Tourism is said to be our biggest industry. Guests in Scotland enjoy visiting our traditional pubs and taking in the atmosphere. Sometimes that atmosphere is smoky. If you don't like it, go elsewhere. And I say that as a non-smoker.

I even spotted a few delegates from the Democrats Abroad conference in a smoky Edinburgh pub on Saturday. Hey, all those American liberals (sic) were probably really in town to enjoy a sly cigarette, now that they're illegal in so many bars in the land of the free. Just like in Ireland for goodness sake.

And are the Scottish "authorities" planning to take advantage of these spreading bans?

Not quite:

While the number of smoke-free areas in public places has increased, only 11 per cent of businesses in the food and entertainment sector have complied with all four of the voluntary charter's requirements, while seven out of ten pubs allow smoking on their premises. Nothing has been ruled in or out. Legislation is clearly an option to help improve this, and we will consider an extension of the voluntary approach.
And as if that's not enough the Scottish health fanatics have further plans:
VICTIMS of violent drunks should be allowed to sue pub owners for instigating alcohol-fuelled attacks, police and industry figures said yesterday.
No one expects the police to quaintly give priority to catching criminals. How much better to recommend that victims sue publicans. But what's this about "industry figures"? It turns out that the "industry figure" who seems to be in favour of this proposal doesn't actually operate a bar. He is a lawyer who specialises in licensing matters. It's one thing to be called to the bar, but it's rather more difficult to run one.

Here's some common sense:

Mairi Clark, editor of MA Scotland, the trade newspaper for pubs and clubs in Scotland, said the concept of server liability may cause controversy.

She said: "It is perfectly possible that victims of attacks could sue the pub and clubs where it took place. Server liability could be a bit of a prickly subject as there is only so much that pub and club owners can do."

Damned right. This would cause controversy. How much simpler to go back to first principles: the police catch the criminals; the victims sue the criminals; the publicans get on with running a business - smoky or otherwise.

Speaking for the people

Tom Miers is the executive director of the Policy Institute. Today, he lays out the case for vouchers in the education and health sectors.

After telling us about an ever-so-slight movement down that road in England, we get the bad news:

Worryingly, there is no sign of the Scottish Executive following suit. We could be left with the last state-owned monopoly health and education systems in the West - a disaster for our healthcare and schooling.
Mr Myers points out that private provision of services would lead to lower costs. That in turn could enable state spending to be cut:
But this tardiness does offer Scotland an opportunity to improve what vouchers offer. For voucher schemes of the Blair kind have a very serious flaw: while they offer the benefits of competition on quality, they do not allow competition on price. The state will still have to decide how much to spend on health and education.

But even this allowance could be calculated automatically on the basis of average costs in the market. So overall public spending would fall, as providers became more efficient - or rise if they discovered new technologies to sell to their customers.

This is all very well, but we need to ask ourselves why there is no big demand for the introduction of vouchers. Surely it's because almost everyone thinks that private provision is inherently expensive and that the state must therefore run education and health services as well as paying for them. But that's not correct. When we allow for the huge sums spent on bureaucracy in state provision, it would be possible to let everyone use far superior private services at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Why aren't the Scottish Conservatives pointing this out? Are they afraid of upsetting the unionised public sector workforce? Even now, there's still more of us in the private sector. Who will speak for them?

Friday, 26 March 2004

Power or principles?

I do think that the Liberal Democrats need to decide just what they are for, other than merely being in government:
THE Scottish Liberal Democrats were yesterday accused of selling out their principles in a vote at Holyrood over GM crops.

The majority of Liberal MSPs refused to support a Green motion calling for ministers to rethink their strategy on GM crops, choosing instead to back the Scottish Executive.

Naturally, other MSPs took advantage of the LibDem's discomfiture:
Following yesterday’s vote, opposition parties immediately accused the Liberal Democrats of abandoning their policies and selling out the democratic process.

The last Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto states that until the public debate on GM is concluded, they would not permit any further GM field trials or commercial growing of GM crops.

More worrying for the LD's is the reaction of their own voters. There was a phone-in on Radio Scotland earlier today to coincide with the party's Dundee conference. I heard a lot of anger from LibDem voters who thought that their MSPs were putting power before principle. One Glaswegian-sounding caller said, "Most LibDems are in the north of Scotland and as far I am concerned the further north they go the better!" I can easily foresee a Conservative revival in those small town and rural areas that they once controlled.

Wednesday, 24 March 2004

The Freedom Ride

This year Tax Freedom Day for the UK falls on 30th May. The Scotsman seems to think that the same date applies north of the border. Maybe, maybe not. But the paper tells us of an interesting way to celebrate the event, whenever it occurs:
One way the institute suggests commemorating the day that we start to work for ourselves is to find a glamorous woman willing to ride down Princes Street that morning, naked on a white stallion, as a devolved Lady Godiva. "We all remember her lack of clothes, but few remember she was protesting against high taxes," Dr Eamonn Butler of the ASI reminds us.
I have a better plan. The rider on the white stallion should be none other than the Chancellor himself.

Some authorities claim that no society can withstand a tax level of greater than 25% of national wealth. That seems a bit wimpish to me: I'd prefer something like 2.5%, if not less. But for the sake of argument let's accept that 25% limit. That means that Tax Freedom Day should fall no later than 31st March.

If TFD falls before the end of January the Chancellor should be allowed to ride down Princes Street fully clothed. A February date would mean a journey without coat or hat on one of those days when the cold east wind blows in from Siberia. Should TFD fall in March, Mr Brown would be required to parade in his underpants - just when the tourist season gets going.

But what if the Chancellor exceeds the 25% limit and is still taxing us on April Fool's Day? Then, I'm afraid, Mr Brown would have to perform the full Monty, or rather, Godiva. In all likelihood Tax Freedom Day will soon be some time in August and the Freedom Ride can become a much-loved feature of the Edinburgh Festival.

Tuesday, 23 March 2004

Utopia in West Lothian?

There is a plan to build a small new town in West Lothian:
The proposal to build 1,200 homes, a school, health centre, sports hall and factory space, backed by the Kwit-Fit tycoon, Sir Tom Farmer, may be given the green light by councillors.
No real surprise here given the booming house market in nearby Edinburgh.

But this plan is newsworthy:

Among the ambitious plans for Whitecross is that it should be a sanctuary free of crime and other social problems - with its own policing, transport and refuse collection.
Excellent. I do hope that this development goes ahead. What lessons will the councillors of West Lothian (Lab 17, SNP 12, Con 1, Other 2) learn if a privately policed town becomes "free of crime and other social problems"?

How to abolish tax

The IEA's John Blundell wants Edinburgh City Council to pay us a dividend instead of charging council tax. This would be achieved through mass privatisation of city services. This seems to be an excellent idea. Even I would concede that the Blundell plan would give us a small government:
My ideal local authority would have no more than three employees: A manager to put everything out to tender; a lawyer to check the contract details and a book-keeper to pay the dividend out to every citizen.
Once we get down to three bureaucrats we can look for further cuts. Surely the legal and the bookkeeping functions can be contracted out?

I do have one little quibble with Mr Blundell's article:

Edinburgh City Council has a budget of £790m to service the 450,000 population. But only 91 per cent of citizens pay this tax, and 96 per cent of businesses.
Maybe 91% of citizens send cheques to the City Council, but that doesn't mean that they have all paid "tax". No one who lives on welfare or who works for the state pays tax: it's merely a bookkeeping entry. I'd be surprised if the true level of taxpaying in Scotland extends to much beyond half of the population.

Scotch Nationalism?

It's the most embarrassing mistake of the year:
... it appears the leader of the Scottish National Party has difficulty spelling the name of Scotland’s national drink.

At a time when the industry is at loggerheads with the government over the Chancellor’s controversial strip-stamps scheme to enforce duty payment, the SNP announced that John Swinney, MSP, was due to meet "whiskey" bosses to discuss the industry’s future.

As readers of this blog will know, it's "whisky" in Scotland (also in Canada and now Wales), but "whiskey" in Ireland and the USA. The Nationalists blame the use of an American spell checker. That's not good enough. The "English" version of English is still used in Scotland and, anyway, surely the SNP should know the correct spelling of our national drink.

I trust that SNP politicians will not compound this error by taking ice in their whisky. Shortly, they will have the opportunity.

Monday, 22 March 2004

Don't mention the score!

I went out for a lunchtime beverage today. About a dozen persons of the Frog persuasion were still in my local and showing no signs of leaving, having not been sent homewards to think again. One of the regulars was loudly insisting that the "Greatest Frenchman Now Alive" was someone by the name of Emmanuel Dorado. Our French visitors were puzzled. But there is indeed such a person and he lives nearby.

Grave offence

The ned culture enters new territory:
TWO teenagers are to become the first people in more than 100 years to go on trial accused of breaking an ancient "grave-robbing" law.

The two young men, aged 17 and 15, are set to stand trial this week at the High Court in Edinburgh accused of "violation of sepulchre".

"Violation of Sepulchre". What a fantastic charge. Can you imagine the EU coming up with terminology like that?

Of course, I may be misreading the situation:

The pair are accused of violating the tomb of one of Scotland’s most brutal historical figures, Sir George ‘Bloody’ Mackenzie, a former Lord Advocate during the reign of King Charles II.

Mackenzie earned the nickname for his prosecution of the Scottish Presbyterian Covenanters, which lasted between 1684 and 1688 and saw many sent to their deaths. He also founded the National Library of Advocates in 1687.

Perhaps the accused were protesting against Mackenzie's outrages against the Covenanters. Nah: It's probably because the guy founded a library.

No surprises here!

Isn't this just what we would expect?
SCOTS proved themselves to be the brains of Britain as they saw off the competition to take the top spot in the BBC’s Test The Nation quiz on Saturday night.
Men just pipped women to the post in their general knowledge know-how, with an average of 38 points to 36.
The brainiest age group was 55-69, with 44 points, compared to teenagers (16-19) who scored an average of just 32 correct answers.
So, middle-aged Scots males should be running the country, if not the world.

It's just as well that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are both under 55, or this theory would be a load of rubbish.....

In praise of a capitalist

I wrote about Mr Vettriano's problems with the arts establishment some time ago. Nothing has changed:
The national galleries in Scotland and England refuse to display his work, and declined to comment on their reasons when asked by the South Bank Show for a programme on Vettriano broadcast last night.
There's no reason for Mr Vettriano to be surprised about his rejection, which is not despite his being Britain's most popular painter but precisely because of that. The people who run the arts establishment are tax-consuming welfare recipients. Vettriano is a successful capitalist. Perhaps, deep down, Vettriano knows that his taxes are financing those who think that his work isn't good enough to be displayed in the "national" galleries. Well, that's the sort of world we live in. Mr Vettriano should be proud of his success and pay no more attention to the arts parasites.

Saturday, 20 March 2004

The modern world: All Greek to us?

Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren sich weiss Rechenschaft zu geben bleibt im Dunklen unerfahren mag von Tag zu Tag er leben.


(He who cannot give account of the last three thousand years rests in darkness unexperienced though he lives from day to day.)

It looks as though future generations of Scots will indeed rest in darkness:
LATIN and ancient Greek are on course to die out as academic subjects in Scotland according to leading education figures.

The prediction comes in the wake of Strathclyde University’s decision to scrap the last available course for students to qualify as classics teachers.

On second thoughts, do we want future generations to learn about thirty centuries that were dominated by dead white imperialistic males? Instead of teaching classics Strathclyde is offering something far more "relevant" and "appropriate": a BA in Community Arts,
with the opportunity to specialise in music, art, dance or drama in work with young people and adults, with a bias towards those discriminated against by society.
But isn't "society" now discriminating against would-be classicists?

Thursday, 18 March 2004

Creating money out of thin air

So, "Scotland" has hit the jackpot:
SCOTLAND is to get an unexpected £600 million Budget boost thanks to Gordon Brown’s decision to increase spending on education and science in England and Wales.
Isn't that wonderful? Another £600 million goes into the Scottish economy.

Not quite. A bit further into this rather misleading article there's this little observation:

As a result of the Barnett Formula, the Scottish Executive will have at least £183m extra in 2006-7 and a further £407m in 2007-8.
Aha! It's not "Scotland" that gets the £600 million, but the Scottish Executive. Not quite the same thing. Now I know that some of our friends down south think that all of Scotland's public expenditure is financed by England, but there are some of us up here who actually pay taxes. According to some previously issued government figures we do in fact pay our full way in the union. So this "£600 million Budget boost" is merely (sic) another transfer from the taxpayer to the taxconsumer. Hardly newsworthy, is it?

Tuesday, 16 March 2004

Free speech

They're at it again. The EU wants to restrict freedom of speech:
A proposal known as the "Rome II" agreement is currently being drawn up in Brussels with the aim of making it easier for European citizens to make cross-border claims for compensation in cases such as road accidents or the sale of faulty goods.

However, the deal as currently framed also extends to the laws of defamation, which publishers fear could trigger an avalanche of costly lawsuits against UK newspapers and magazines all over Europe.

This is not good news:
Glasgow media lawyer Campbell Deane believes the proposal would be a disaster if it were introduced in its current form.

"As a legal adviser, you would potentially have to be aware of the legal issues in not just one jurisdiction, but 25 different legal frameworks," he points out. "If a British newspaper published a story about someone who lives in France, for example, and that person claims that they have been defamed or their privacy has been invaded, they would be able to sue in France."

A spokeswoman for the Periodical Publishers' Association says:
What’s at issue is that Brussels is harmonising rules which don’t need to be harmonised.

In America, the states all have different legal systems and they’ve never seen fit to harmonise the rules.

But they do need to be harmonised - if you're in the EU. That's what it's for. Duh!

By the way, sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that I occasionally comment about Scotland. Please note that I do not live in Scotland; I have never been to Scotland; I have no idea where Scotland is. People offended by this blog should note that it is written from a satellite that is in geosynchronous orbit above 50.52N, 4.22E, and my homemade, nuclear-powered ray gun is aimed at this building.

Wrong statue?

I don't have anything against the poet Robert Fergusson, who is to be honoured by a new statue:
The statue is to be erected outside the Canongate Kirkyard, where he was buried after dying in an asylum aged just 24. The poet was credited with inspiring Robert Burns, and the memorial marks the end of a four-year campaign to recognise his work. The dedication event is expected to be attended by Scotland’s poet laureate, Edwin Morgan, as well as other leading figures from Scotland’s literary scene.
It's just that a rather more important person is also buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. Surely there should be a statue of Adam Smith in the area. Perhaps I should organise a fund for an Adam Smith statue to be erected outside the new Scottish Parliament building, which is just down the road from the great economist's resting place.

I even have the appropriate quotation for the Holyrood statue:

It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs.


I have developed an insane desire to brush up on my schoolboy French. A little Googling brought me to this Figaro interview with Jim Rogers. The author of Adventure Capitalist (an excellent book) isn't bullish on the Euro. Or the dollar.

Monday, 15 March 2004

Mob rule?

The Scottish education system has triumphed.

A survey asked people throughout the UK a rather challenging question: Who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer? And the response shocked even this cynical blogger:

The study found 43% of the Welsh could not name Mr Brown, nor could 47% of people in the north of England.
But here in Scotland we know better, don't we?

Well, sort of:

Up to 33% of Scots did not realise that Gordon Brown heads the Treasury, even though he is a fellow countryman.

Of that third, 18% thought Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was chancellor, 4% named Tory leader Michael Howard and some named ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke.

To think that the votes of these people determine who rules the country.

After Wednesday's budget we may wish that Greg Dyke were the Chancellor.

Spend, spend and spend again

I note this call for further government expenditure:
Women drug addicts should be paid to take contraception to stop them having children, according to a drugs expert.
And a response:
Campaign group Scotland Against Drugs called for more support services and warned against infringing human rights.
Yes, there would be an infringement of human rights, but not quite in the way suggested by Scotland Against Drugs. I don't think that anyone is saying that women should be forced to take contraception, so their rights wouldn't be infringed. But the rights of taxpayers would be infringed by the additional public expenditure that this plan would necessitate.

Here's a better idea: Instead of paying women not to have children, why not stop paying them to have children?

Steven Thoburn R.I.P.

The Metric Martyr has died:
A FRUIT and vegetable trader who fought a three-year legal battle after being prosecuted for selling in pounds and ounces has died at his home from a suspected heart attack. He was 39.
Was his early death brought on by stress caused by the prosecution instigated by Sunderland City Council? I don't know, but Steven was a hero. History will remember him.

Saturday, 13 March 2004

Schools and houses

Thanks to Andrew Duffin for pointing me towards another excellent article from the Scotsman's George Kerevan.

Mr Kerevan writes about:

... the terrible mistakes made in Scottish education policy in the last decades of the 20th century - mistakes that have left us with poor literacy and low secondary school completion rates.
I believe that the destruction of our world-beating education system is the greatest crime committed by Scotland's cultural Marxists. Mr Kerevan is an ex-Marxist who saw the light. Not too long ago he described himself to me as "a kind of Hayekian anarchist".

Kerevan tells us that Fred Forrester (a former teachers' union leader) has also learned some home truths:

"Almost uniquely among public services, education, if it is to be effective, requires a commitment from those being educated in terms of both individual aspiration and family and community support."
and that:
... aspiration is always associated with housing tenure.
I have always believed that Scotland's weak entrepreneurial culture is connected with the unusually high degree of public housing provision. That's especially true in the Glasgow conurbation.

George Kerevan calls for the introduction of Swedish-style independent schools. I'm sure that would be an improvement on Scotland's Stalinist educational disaster-zone. But it's not enough. We need to get rid of the welfare mentality that is the inevitable result of mass subsidised council housing. Maybe we should just give all the council houses to the tenants and end all further payments. That way we could improve our schools and the prospects for the economy.

Friday, 12 March 2004

Thursday, 11 March 2004

The invisible fist strikes again

I noted an interesting new use of technology in the Scotsman the other day:
HOMEOWNERS who previously thought their properties were un-insurable due to flood risk may soon be eligible to qualify for cover again.

The insurance giant, Norwich Union, has developed a new digital computer model that will identify individual properties at risk of flooding, the company announced yesterday.

The new technology should mean far more accurate premiums for an estimated five million people living in flood risk areas across the UK.

Insurance is based on the principle of accurate risk assessment, and this new procedure will help that task:
Unlike previous systems, which tended to lump all post codes together and penalise some homeowners who had never been flooded, the insurer believes that more people are likely to benefit from the computer model as it may indicate that their property is not in fact at risk, or will not flood as often as previously thought.
So here is a fine example of the market in action. Those living in less-risky areas will benefit from falling insurance premiums and house builders will need to avoid flood-prone sites.

Regular readers may suspect that I haven't got to the punch line yet. And they are correct!

Our friends in Brussels don't approve of the insurance principle. A few days before the article on flooding, the IEA's John Blundell had this to say:

I have just stumbled upon a proposal so ludicrous that I can only take pleasure in putting in the boot. The innovation comes from the European Commission. You may think it a wee bit technical and tedious but there is comedy if you are patient.

"The Impact Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between women and men in the access and supply of goods and services" sounds mildly virtuous, even blameless. Yet it is a heavy-handed imposition of falsehoods. It requires that insurance companies do not differentiate between men and women, whether it be for motor insurance or pensions.

And so in the name of the sacred religion of "equality" it will be illegal for insurers to discriminate between male and female drivers.

But actions have consequences:

Paul MacDonnell of the Irish Insurance Federation expresses his exasperation: "In motor insurance, where objective sex-specific claims data justifies differences between men and women drivers, particularly amongst younger, less experienced drivers, equalising the premiums to the benefit of young males without improving their risk profile will bring more high risk drivers on to the road, thus making our roads less safe for all road users."
The same nonsense is proposed for pensions. At present, a lump sum of £100,000 will provide an annual pension of £6,658 for a sixty-year-old man, but only £6,331 for a woman of similar age. That's because women live longer than men: the insurance companies' actuaries expect the total payout to be the same for both sexes. But that's "unfair", whine the arithmetically challenged bureaucrats of the Frankenreich, who want both sexes to receive identical annual amounts. So instead we'll get an even more unfair system that will result in men getting a smaller lifetime payout than women.

In reality, of course, single men will simply invest less in private pension plans, thus putting even more pressure on state schemes.

Anti-social workers

16-year-old Thomas Shields was sentenced to life for a vicious murder.

A straightforward case, you may think. Unless you're a "social" worker, that is:

Lord Hardie said that, by law, only a life sentence could be imposed for murder. However, he also had to fix the minimum period that Shields would have to serve before he became eligible for parole which might or might not be granted at the end of the period.

As is customary, the judge had obtained a background report, prepared by a social worker, to assist him in passing sentence. The report looked at non-custodial options.

"For a social worker to be considering options of fines, community service, probation, and discussing probation with the accused and ascertaining whether he would agree to comply with probation conditions, is absurd," Lord Hardie said.

"Quite honestly, it is failing to comply with the obligations of the social work department to the court. To discuss with any person the option of probation in such a case not only confers on the accused a false sense of hope but is a total waste of public money."

Judges are often accused of being out-of-touch. Not this time. We need a mass cull of public sector workers and this case demonstrates that social workers should be at the top of the hit list.

Wednesday, 10 March 2004

And Soweto is the new tartan ...

The City of Glasgow has launched its new PR campaign:
As well as the promotional material featuring individuals, two posters have been devised with the slogans "Discover Mackintosh's art nouveau masterpiece: It's called Glasgow" and "Glasgow: The New Black".
The latter seems to be a rather unfortunate slogan given recent racist attacks in the city.

I note that the supposedly Scottish version of the Daily Mail has made a bit of a faux pas.

According to the Mail:

... yesterday it emerged that the multi-million pound campaign to bring visitors to Glasgow is being fronted by a Russian model.
Tourist chiefs are "red-faced" about the Eastern lady, and Tory MSP Jamie McGrigor said:
It might have been better to have used a native girl to represent Scotland. There are plenty of pretty Scottish girls.
I'm sure that Jamie understands the difference between Scottish and English girls. The "Scottish" Daily Mail apparently doesn't, for it turns out that the "Russian" model:
" ... was born and raised in the mainly Muslim town of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan."
Oh dear.

Repeat after me: Just as Scotland isn't (and wasn't) part of England, Uzbekistan isn't (and wasn't) part of Russia. Like Russia, it was part of the USSR. (Assuming that it's not still part of the USSR of course.)

Monday, 8 March 2004

Spring has arrived ...

... and I photographed these in Charlotte Square today:

Unfortunately this attractive building in the Square ...

... has been misappropriated from the people:

A little later I spotted this notice outside Haymarket Station:

Here's a link to the website.

Saturday, 6 March 2004

Maybe it's because I'm a Glaswegian!

Some Glaswegian teenagers are beginning to sound like Londoners:
Previous investigations have found English accents were creeping into the Glaswegian parlance, with many people pronouncing "bother" as the Cockney "bovver" instead of the more traditional "nae bother".

Other examples include the word "think".

In EastEnders the word is often pronounced "fink" and according to academics it is becoming more prevalent than the typical Glasgow "hink".

What's amusing is to note that many of the victims of this Cockney imperialism are the future voters of our all-too-numerous socialist parties:
The Glasgow results challenge the theory of face-to-face influence because the children who displayed these tendencies were not the younger, more mobile, middle-class speakers, but typically non-mobile working class adolescents.

This has led to speculation that exposure to soaps might be responsible.

I wonder what the Scottish Socialists will make of the true Scots accent being confined to the genteel suburbs while the denizens of Glasgow's council estates sound like Thatcherite Essex Boys.

Thank goodness £124,000 of taxpayers' money is being spent investigating this phenomenon...

Tory handicap

Michael Howard doesn't think too much of some university courses:
Mr Howard said he would like to see a reduction in the number of off-beat courses which universities offer in increasing numbers, claiming the students involved would be better off gaining practical experience.

He used the example of golf management, which has recently been introduced as a BA course at Birmingham University.

But why is this any of Mr Howard's business? He's not a university entrepreneur; he's just another overpaid tax consumer. Howard should be demanding that education be removed from the state sector altogether.

It may well be true that "people who want to be involved in golf management might find their time better spent on the course rather than writing essays" but how can we possibly know without a free market?

Thursday, 4 March 2004

Only the unfettered free market is "fair".

It's not too often that we see a good letter in the Glasgow Herald. This one from Michael Palmer is an exception:
My point was entirely the opposite: it is not resources that are the deciding factor in a country's wealth but productivity. How else could Hong Kong with millions of people in a tiny area be so much better off than all of the economic basket cases in the world with infinitely greater natural resources?
Exactly. Scotland would have better off without the oil but with a capitalist culture that respects property rights.

(Hopefully I have worked out how to link to the new Herald website. You may have to press an extra key or two.)

Wednesday, 3 March 2004

Balanced Budget Shock

Yet another row has erupted in the nightmarish world of Scottish public sector finance. This time, it's in the Borders:
Andrew Tulley, the high-profile leader who stepped down two years ago in the wake of a £4 million overspend by the council’s education department, said the new administration had failed to learn the financial lessons of that debacle.
So has Mr Tully seen the light? Does he now recognise that his regime's "overspending" was a mistake?

Not quite:

Mr Tulley said: "The information in the latest report on the revenue budget, including the massive £3.5 million underspend clearly shows the council is not yet back on a sound financial footing.
Underspend! Good grief. What a disaster.

But not to worry:

... David Parker, the leader of the ruling coalition of independents and Conservatives, said: "Taking financial advice from Drew Tulley would be like taking childcare advice from King Herod.
Nice turn of phrase, although probably politically incorrect.

Mr Parker continued:

In real terms there will not be an underspend, but a break-even budget at the end of the financial year.
Well, that's OK then. Surely no one would expect the Tories to underspend. That might have led to calls for a tax cut.

But a break-even budget's not too bad these days. Should we move the Scottish Parliament to Hawick?

Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Edinburgh views

A few days ago Andy Wood asked for a photograph of Adam Smith's grave and here it is:

This one gets in a bit more closely:

Finally, this is the view seen from Smith's grave in the Canongate Kirkyard looking towards the former Royal High School building.

More on health food

I saw this in the Royal Mile today. Now we know why Edinburgh is below Glasgow in the slim-towns league.

Monday, 1 March 2004

Glasgow: the healthy city

What on earth can we make of this?
Hull is the chubbiest town in Britain - while Kingston upon Thames is the leanest, an obesity league table has revealed.
And why Hull? It's "Up North" - from an English perspective, that is - and being northern isn't good for you:
The most likely to be overweight were white, working class families who have poor education and do little exercise. In contrast, people in the leanest towns are more likely to have the money to eat well and exercise. The towns with the poorest health were found to be working-class areas where people tended to be less well educated. The majority of the worst 10 areas were in the North of England and Wales, while the majority of the healthiest places were in the south east.
The accompanying chart does indeed show that most of Britain's chubbiest towns are in the north of England, especially Lancashire.

Unsurprisingly, the health food and exercise-minded folk are predominantly to be found in London's most prosperous boroughs and in the Surrey stockbroker belt.

And what of Scotland?

True to its image, middle-class Edinburgh comes in at number sixteen in the list of Britain's slimmest towns, no doubt because the residents have:

... better education about health issues. They will also have the money to buy lower-fat or organic foods.
But, how about this? Beating Edinburgh in the slim-town charts at number twelve is - wait for it - Glasgow!

The report claims that the lardbutt cities tend to contain:

... white working class people living in areas of council flats where diet is poor and exercise isn't taken regularly.

They are fairly old-fashioned communities, with more chip shops than Thai restaurants, for example.

I don't want to perpetuate a stereotype - for I do love the dear green place - but doesn't that sound just a tiny bit like Glasgow?

Was this survey carried out solely in the West End or Pollokshields? Do Glaswegians get an unusual amount of exercise running after rival members of the Old Firm? I think we should be told. In the meantime, perhaps I should catch a train through to Queen Street and treat myself to a large fish supper. Thai restaurants? Bah!

High finance

At the end of 2001 I switched my Standard Life pension policy out of the with-profits fund into the cash fund as I was convinced that the bonus element of my investment was at risk in the stock market bubble that the central banking system had created. This turned out to be an excellent decision as the bonuses have been cut five times since then.

Standard Life's own management haven't been doing too badly over that period:

Standard Life revealed last Friday that its former chief executive, Iain Lumsden, received a pay package, excluding pension contributions, worth about £1m in 2003. His final-year remuneration rose 12 per cent from 2002, and included a performance-related bonus of £125,000.
Now I recognise that these payments are justified by contractual arrangements made previously, but are they wise? I think not, and now Standard Life has decided to allow policyholders to have a vote on directors' remuneration.


Crucially, the vote will not be binding, but it will provide a closely-watched insight into how Standard Life investors feel the management of the group is performing.
What will happen if the members vote against the rises, as I certainly would were I still eligible to vote? Business leaders must be seen to be acting fairly if capitalism is to survive. Mr Lumsden and his former colleagues should share some of the losses suffered by Standard Life's investors.

Didn't politicians used to meet in smoke-filled rooms?

I don't smoke and don't particularly enjoy smoke in pubs. But pubs and restaurants are not public property and in a free society it's up to the owners of those premises to set whatever rules they want.

An Edinburgh pub owner has decided to ban smoking and he hopes to gain business as a result. Good luck to him I say. But I also wish good luck to those publicans who make the decision to allow smoking. We should let the market decide what mixture we get between smoking and non-smoking pubs.

These people understand:

Simon Clark, a director of Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) said: "We have always said that there’s clearly a niche market for non-smoking pubs and restaurants and certainly there is a need for this in a city the size of Edinburgh. This shows there is no need for government intervention."
That's the practical and the moral solution to this non-problem. Sadly though, we live in the age of the health fascist:
But the anti-smoking group Ash Scotland and the British Medical Association have condemned Scottish politicians for caving in to pressure from landlords and smoking groups to rule out an outright ban.
Ban, tax, regulate. Ban, tax, regulate.

What miserable lives these people lead. The nanny state will be the death of us all, smokers and non-smokers.