Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Old Days

I've just come across these wonderful photos taken by Neil Aird at Prestwick. I remember those happy days so well. What's so different from today is the almost total lack of security at airports back then even though we were at the height of the cold war and Prestwick was very much in the front line.

(Other locations are here.)

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Scotblogs Awards

The Scotblogs Awards has been announced:
As such, there will be two stages to the awards. The first stage, which will run from now until 6pm on Wednesday 13 January 2010, will be a nominations stage. I know that some bloggers prefer not to be involved in such blogging awards. So before voting commences, those who would rather opt out can, while everyone else can nominate their favourite blogs.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Oil and Deficits

Calum Cashley has already been on the case over this report in the Scotsman.

Here is Calum's main point:

The Government paper is alleged to indicate that Scotland would have "a massive £3.5 billion budget deficit" - the UK deficit last year was £49.3bn. Scotland has about 9% of the UK population, so our population share of the UK deficit would be £4.44bn, so Scotland is performing better in economic terms than the UK. Since 1980 Scotland is supposed to have an accumulated deficit of £23.5bn, but the UK has carried a £353.2bn deficit over that period, and Scotland's population share of that deficit would have been£31.79bn. So what the Scotland Office / Treasury report actually shows is that Scotland performs better than the UK economically.
I wouldn't be in the least surprised if the UK government is being economical with the truth about oil and deficits. But I've always thought that an independent Scotland could survive and prosper even with no oil revenues. In fact, we might even be better off without oil. What matters are the cultural attitudes of the population and the economic policies carried out by the government. Scotland has had a business oriented population in the past and it can have one again in the future.

Bad Timing

They could have timed this one better:
Delta Air Lines Inc. is mulling a partnership with a Nigerian airline that could result in joint marketing efforts between the two carriers as they seek to build business in Africa's most populous nation.
(Delta Air Lines now owns Northwest)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Snow


P1010926
Originally uploaded by David Farrer


P1010928
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Friday, 18 December 2009

Cancel the London Olympics

According to the British Olympic Association the planned London games aren't just about sport:
It was evident that the ‘sports benefit’ alone was not going to be a sufficient argument to persuade these two partners of the merits of mounting a bid – let alone staging an Olympic Games. Strategies were developed and deployed around regeneration, legacy, employment, tourism, new housing and the health of the nation.
The Mayor of London agrees:
During the Games, a steady influx of spectators will boost business, jobs and tourism across the capital and the UK. Visitors will need accommodation and food, and can be expected to explore all London has to offer in terms of shopping, attractions, theatre and more.
But it's all nonsense, isn't it? Britain is just about the most tourist-unfriendly country in the world. It's not merely that Shetland has more CCTV cameras than San Francisco's finest, but that the relentless war on photography by Britain's police forces continues despite repeated reassurances to the contrary.

I say enough is enough.

When the world learns of hundreds or thousands of Olympic visitors being harassed and arrested for taking photos of London's tourist sites one of our few remaining industries will be killed stone dead.

It's not too late.

Cancel the London Olympics now.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

News of the Cheese

"Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?" is attributed to de Gaulle.

Good question. Perhaps we in Scotland need 246 varieties of political blogs. Not so as we can be "governed" but so as we can be free.

I note with interest that the Universality of Cheese is back online.

In the Sunday Times today Mark MacLachlan tells his side of the story of how his blog went offline in the first place.

And doesn't this quote show that Scotland's parliament is perfectly capable of taking its rightful place alongside those of other nations?

The image of our parliament as a dignified cathedral for the cut and thrust of hard-edged debate goes out the window when one witnesses the jockeying in the Garden Lobby canteen. Here, MSPs, journalists, political TV correspondents, civil servants and lowly country mice like me jostle for a decent table from which to eavesdrop on political rivals. The amount of swivel-necking is a sight to behold as people indulge in conversations over each other’s shoulders, eyes keen on the prize of spotting the bigger dog, what they’re having for lunch and with whom.
And then they pass the port to the left...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Connections?

From Page 1 of today's Scotsman:
A BLEAK forecast for Scotland's economy warns of "a slow recovery in 2010, with only modest growth likely" and says unemployment may continue to rise.

The assessment, from the Scottish Government's chief economic adviser Dr Andrew Goudie, suggests growth in Scotland is likely to lag behind the 1 to 1.5 per cent figure for the whole of the UK given by Chancellor Alistair Darling in this week's Pre-Budget Report (PBR).

From Page 23 of today's Scotsman:
A MILL worker who said her life's ambition was "to destroy the capitalist system" has become the first woman to be quoted on the Canongate Wall of the Parliament building in Edinburgh.
Move along please. No connection to see here...

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Bring back the United Kingdom!

No, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I mean the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Actually, that's not what I mean.

What we want is the United Kingdom of Ireland and Great Britain.

Capital to be Dublin. Finance Minister to be Irish.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The year's most hilarious story

There's a call for banks to make more £5 notes available from cash machines:
Mr Bailey said: “In the New Year, I hope and expect that we will take these examples to other financial institutions and major retailers to make the case for a change of policy towards issuing £5 notes.

“We are very keen to get £5 notes into circulation.”

Of course, the best way to ensure that the high street banks feel that it's worthwhile to put fivers in cash machines would be for the Bank of England to stop inflating the money supply, thus making fivers more valuable.

Oh yes, who exactly is this Mr Bailey?

...the Bank’s chief cashier whose signature is on every note it issues.
Just throw away your pen!

The Times they are a changing

We were in the Edinburgh branch of Borders earlier today. Mrs. F&W said: "Seeing all these empty shelves makes you realise just how ominous are the economic signs." Absolutely right of course. Closing down before the Christmas rush: things must be really bad.

What I'll miss most about Borders is the tremendous selection of magazines. When we first bought the flat here in Edinburgh there was a WH Smith and a John Menzies on Princes Street, both with a large selection of magazines. Then there was the Edinburgh Bookshop on George Street. When it was acquired by James Thin the magazines went. I told the manager that I wouldn't be back. For books Waterstones was better but the magazines had meant that I used to patronise the old Bookshop. Borders gave us an alternative that we regularly frequented even though it's on the opposite side of town.

It's all part of the decline of the printed word, and I'm not happy about it. I subscribe to two American libertarian magazines. A couple of months ago I tried to resubscribe to one of them that I've read since the very first issue. I still possess every copy. Initially I was told that it was no longer economic to send copies abroad. They've now relented and will continue to supply me but at a considerably higher price than for an online subscription.

We're going to see more and more of this and I believe that's what's behind the MSM's animosity to bloggers. I understand their position: their livelihood is at stake. But, been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Mergers, takeovers and closures - yep, seen all of that. The market's always changing and that's often uncomfortable for us. But as Mrs T used to say: there is no alternative. We either accept change and adapt to it or we're out of the game. That's a message the MSM needs to take on board. As does Scotland, actually.

Freedom and Whisky

Mentioned in the Sunday Times:
There is Freedom and Whisky, a non–aligned libertarian with independence tendencies
A wholly accurate description from the MSM.

A former advertising man wonders...

I wonder what would happen if the Scottish Government were to withdraw all advertising from the Scottish mainstream press.

You know, put all ads on line. On blogs, even...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Dog and Cheese

There's no doubt about what's most exercised the Scottish blogosphere this week.

So far I've spotted these:

Advanced Media Watch

Andrew Reeves

Fraser Macpherson

Joan Mc Alpine

SNP Tactical Voting

The Grumpy Spindoctor

Moridura

Planet Politics

Yapping Yousuf

Pseudepigrapha

Dark Lochnagar

Subrosa

and, I'm guessing here:

Scunnert Nation.

This week's episode is on the front page of today's Scotland on Sunday:

THE SNP was last night embroiled in a scandal after an aide to the Constitution Minister used the internet to smear political rivals by posting scurrilous allegations about their private lives.

Mark MacLachlan, 46, has been forced to quit as Michael Russell's office manager after he used his blog and other electronic communications to spread abusive and defamatory messages about senior Labour and Tory figures.

And last week another nationalist blog closed down.

Joan McAlpine asks some good questions that go beyond the "smeargate" angle:

The whole row throws up some very interesting questions about mainstream media v bloggers. Is it reasonable to expect bloggers to play by the same rules as professional commentators? Are bloggers doing what journalists used to do, and should still be doing: getting up the noses of the powerful? Or do they use their anonymity to defame and offend in a way which is unacceptable?
I'd say yes, yes, and they shouldn't.

Of course we bloggers have to accept that we are subject to the same laws as are the mainstream. The fact that we should all enjoy total freedom of speech is another matter for another time.

And yes, bloggers are increasingly doing what the mainstream is failing to do. The exposure of the global warming scam is a good example. And I personally would be very much poorer if I'd taken investment advice from the regular press instead of reading good blogs and books written by those bloggers.

On the anonymity question, I am more ambivalent. I post under my real name - there really is a David Farrer. But (without defending defamation) I can see why others may not wish to go down that route. Especially here in Scotland.

And what's so different about Scotland, you might ask.

Until 2002 I'd spent the whole of my adult life in London. One of the first things that I was told when I came here is that "Edinburgh is a small place." And it's true. So is probably everywhere else outside London. What you quickly learn here is that everyone really does seem to know everyone else, especially in business/professional/media/political circles. The question is: how does that affect bloggers?

I think that it means that we should concentrate on ideology and not personalities. I find it quite healthy that folk with very different ideas can have a good argument over a pint or two without coming to blows. Such behaviour is necessary in a smaller city. Of course, it helps that we libertarians have the correct ideas and that the others don't...

Old Etonian becomes party leader

Congratulations.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Bella Caledonia

This morning I went along to the first session of this event. I sat beside Christopher Harvie MSP whom I'd met once before and later had a chat with Jeff of SNP Tactical Voting.

This was a gathering of the "nationalist left", but I noted that Pat Kane did describe the web as being a creation of "civil society". Very good. But later there was a reference to the awful prospect of school privatisation. Needless to say I support the privatisation of schools, but perhaps we libertarians need to improve our marketing.

What I should have done is to stand up and say that it's the de-statistisation of schools that we want. I have no problem with all schools being owned by private companies, or with them being owned by parents, or with them being owned by teachers' co-operatives. Just as long as the mixture of school ownership emerges voluntarily from Pat's civil society. Getting schools out of the deadly hand of state control is what matters. For the record, I have no doubt that a free society would see all three types of ownership that I've described as well as others that I can't begin to imagine. That's the beauty of liberty.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Scottish Review

I recommend all readers to subscribe to the excellent Scottish Review, which is published by Kenneth Roy. Ken has done some fantastic work recently in exposing the huge salaries enjoyed by some of the bosses at some of Scotland's quangos, especially those in the NHS.

I've been blogging now for not too far short of eight years and in that period I've made it a strict rule not to quote more than a small amount of text from other sites.

But I'm making an exception here. This is what this week's Scottish Review has to say about events following its recent revelations:

... it came to our notice that a vital section of the Scottish Government's official website – the online directory of non-departmental public bodies – had effectively been killed. It was there in full last week when the Scottish Review, using information gathered partly from the directory, partly from our own research, published a league table of the highest earners in the non-departmental public sector and the national press picked up our work, using substantial extracts. It was there in full the following day when the First Minister, Alex Salmond, faced awkward questions about our list from the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Tavish Scott. It was there in full as recently as Tuesday, when we last checked. But it is not there now.

What was there before? In almost all cases there was a useful description of the organisation's remit; its grant-in-aid from public funds; a complete list of its members – their names, occupations, towns of residence, dates of appointment, and remuneration from public funds; the name of the chief executive, if applicable, and his or her salary. All that has gone. When we clicked the 'cached' option in an effort to retrieve the data, we discovered that all the former pages had been systematically taken down.

What is there now? Only the email addresses of Scotland's quangos and links to their websites. We can testify to the enormous difficulty of obtaining information about remuneration from these websites; in the cases of area health boards it required patience and tenacity over a period of weeks.

What we have witnessed this week is the abrupt withdrawal by the Scottish Government of the single most valuable source of information about Scotland's public bodies and a full-frontal attack on freedom of information. Why has it happened?

I've just sent off my subscription to the Scottish Review. Please do the same.

There are lots of Scots like myself who are coming to the conclusion that the British state is kaput. Here's a site I've recently discovered that makes that line of argument.

And Bill Jamieson's piece in today's Scotsman is superb, but unfortunately behind the subscription wall. From my dead tree version I note that Bill says:

We are as good as bust, gutted with debt, spent out and played out, with the UK or what passes for it, in the terminal ward ... Little wonder that Jim Sillars in an electrifying pamphlet this month urges Scots to get shot of all of this.
The Jim Sillars piece is here and makes fascinating reading.

The general election approaches and previously Tory voters like myself must make our choice. If I lived in Leith I'd be voting for Iain McGill, whom I know. But I don't live in Leith and I'm seriously thinking of voting SNP, despite the awful appearance by the smug and schoolmarmish nanny statist Nicola Sturgeon on Question Time last night.

The Scottish Review's reporting reminds us that the SNP really does have to understand that we the people own the government and not the other way round.

Monday, 23 November 2009

In the meantime, before the IMF moves in...

A new report into eight local authorities is out:
Councils in the west of Scotland should work more closely together to help protect public services from cuts, a new report will say.
I always hate it when I read that, "a new report will say." Is it out or not?

But back to the main point. I note that:

BBC Scotland understands one recommendation is to have a single shared roads maintenance service.
There's a lot of other worthy stuff about efficiency and so on.

But the truth is that no government operation has any real way of knowing whether it's efficient or not. Sure, we can all point out some piece of nonsense or another and suggest all kinds of mergers (to save money) or de-mergers (to give more local control) but we can only obtain the best mixture of organisational sizes once all of these government functions have been privatised.

Those that aren't abolished, of course.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

We are Wardog

I am taking this opportunity to link to Bill Cameron's post on the Wardog affair. Non-Scottish readers will no doubt be asking: "What Wardog affair?"

Here's Bill:

... his final message indicates that he has been going through a rough time and has had various pressures exerted upon him which he says have left him with no alternative but to cease blogging. All his earlier articles have now been removed, as well as all his links, etc.
Wardog was a pro-SNP blogger who has fallen foul of Scotland's pro-Labour media establishment. Although Wardog's blog has now been deleted, I was able to retrieve this from my newsreader:
This week's flurry of excitement over a few posts has led to my decision to end this blog.

I've been contemplating it for a wee while now, as in common with others, I find maintaining a regular posting cycle conflicts with my life & work and today's shenanigans has effectively put the nail in this particular coffin.

It's been fun, I've enjoyed the debate, argument, humour and characters that inhabit the Scottish political blogosphere but when I'm getting called at home from the Scottish Political Editors of the News of the World, Scotsman and Herald and they are also calling my place of employment and lodging serious allegations against me (which I consider to be spurious & completely unfounded)...

....well I'm afraid I obviously have to call it a day.

Thankyou to everyone that contributed.

Life's too short for this kind of nonsense and I have a lot to be getting on with.

A' the best

Wardog

Note what I've underlined.

We are getting closer and closer to the huge cuts that are going to be imposed by whoever's unlucky enough to win the next General Election. Stupidly, both Labour and the Conservatives want to win. The pro-Labour media predominates in Scotland to an unhealthy degree and I foresee a very nasty campaign with no holds barred.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Chief

I favour the direct election of police chiefs. The police themselves aren't so keen:
Sir Hugh suggested that some chief officers would resign rather than accept the Conservative plans.

''I would not be surprised to see chief officers not want to be part of a system where they can be told how to deliver policing,'' he said.

I'm dining with our local Chief Constable next month, so I know what I'll be discussing with him...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

New links in the blogroll

Scot Goes Pop

Munguin's Republic

David Torrance

Scotland Unspun

Pseudepigrapha

Paging the IMF

At first sight, here's some good news:
Scottish Parliament bosses have put forward plans for a cut in their overall budget for the coming year

But let's have a look at this:

The expenses bill for MSPs increased last year by more than 8% to £10.9m, the Scottish Parliament has said. Holyrood bosses put the £876,587 rise in 2008-09 partly down to an increase in members' staff salaries.
I'd be astounded if Holyrood (or Westminster, for that matter) actually cuts expenditure voluntarily. I think they're going to keep the spending going right down to the last penny.

Dryburgh Abbey last Sunday


P1010899
Originally uploaded by David Farrer


P1010911
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

The others are here.

HQ blues

Does it matter where a company's head office is located?

That's a question that's often asked here in Scotland. And the answer is, of course, yes. The head office creates work for all kinds of suppliers: from taxi drivers to auditors; from travel agents to lawyers.

So news that some top functions at RBS may be moving to London is certainly bad news for Edinburgh and Scotland:

FORMER Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir George Mathewson has voiced doubts about whether the bank will be run from Scotland in future.
Why London? Because London is calling the shots at RBS these days.

When I actually lived in London, this was never mentioned as an issue down there. So many companies are based in London that the odd merger or takeover never threatened London's financial position.

But perhaps things are changing. Here's the key quote regarding BA and Iberia:

The combined company would be incorporated in Spain for tax purposes with the majority of board and shareholder meetings taking place in Madrid. The operating and financial headquarters of the new group would be in London, they said.
This sounds all too familiar to me. Just how long will it be before all managerial control is moved to Madrid?

Now, as a good libertarian, I have no problem with the new airline being based at Barajas instead of Heathrow. There shouldn't "be a law against it". But as we Scots know all to well, a country starts to run into all kinds of problems if takeovers are almost entirely one-way.

The answer to these situations is obvious: create a pro-business environment in one's own country - whether that's seen as Scotland or the UK. There's not much sign of that happening these days is there?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

6.6 years!

As soon as I read this story I could guess what was coming.

Here's the first quote:

The first stage in Glasgow City Council’s trawl for redundancy volunteers will see letters sent to all 3500 employees aged 50-plus by the end of the month
And the bit that I expected is this:
As part of the deal, employees aged 50 or over with access to a pension will receive up to 6.6 added years’ pension and up to 30 weeks’ redundancy pay, while those with no access to a pension are able to apply for up to 66 weeks’ redundancy pay.
I'd love someone to have given me 6.6 added years' pension but I'm employed in the private sector - by my own company, in fact. Funnily enough my company doesn't have any pension provision for its staff (me) and if it did it would have to generate more income to pay for it. In other words, I'd have to work more hours and pay a lot more tax thus funding government employees who can retire early. The pensions that I do have on top of the state one have all been saved by myself when working in various private sector jobs over many years.

It is quite outrageous that local (and national) government workers can get these hugely inflated pension benefits when retiring early. Here in Edinburgh the Lothian Pension Fund employer contribution rate is over 20% of gross salary. That too is an outrageously high figure and helps explain the parlous state of the national finances. Needless to say, the removal of almost, if not all, of these state employees is a matter of the highest urgency.

Monday, 9 November 2009

My bit of the Wall


P1010866
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Liberated during a day trip from London in November 1989.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The destruction of Scotland

These practitioners of the global warming scam plan to destroy the Scottish economy. Maybe not directly, but that's what they are effectively proposing:
Domestic flights must be faced out by the end of next year if Britain is to avoid “a climate emergency”, a group of MPs has said.
The UK is just about the most centralised advanced country of its size. And the "centre" is down at the far end of a long, narrow island. The abolition of domestic UK flying would kill off the Scottish economy. Unsurprisingly, all but one of these MPs represent southern seats at Westminster. OK, here's the deal: abolish domestic flying but move the UK parliament to Glasgow. That'll sort them.

Crimea

This guided missile cruiser (Moskva) is based at Sevastopol.


DSC_2239
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Other photos from the area are here:

Sevastopol.

For the Crimean War, see here:

Valley of Death.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The state marches on

This is so depressing:
In her closing speech to conference in Inverness, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sounded the death knell of the "right-to-buy", the emblematic policy of the Thatcher revolution, which allowed council tenants to buy their homes.

She also revealed that Stracathro hospital, which the previous Labour-Liberal executive had handed over to an independent operator, would now be returning to full NHS control.

The government should have nothing to do with housing provision. Nor should it provide health services. The only legitimate function of the state is to protect us against aggressors.

I've more or less decided to vote SNP at the next election as I did at the European one but this kind of thing will make folk like me think seriously about voting otherwise.

I think that it's fairly likely that the English will eventually expel Scotland from the Union. The English establishment won't be happy about that - they understand that an independent England would be less likely to have a seat in the UN Security Council, would be outvoted in the EU by France and Italy and would face considerable resource shortages that the Union makes less dangerous.

But plenty of English rank and file voters think that Scotland is a socialist basket case that they'd be well shot of. This SNP decision will do nothing to alter that widely held opinion. I can only presume that the SNP are deliberately encouraging anti-Scottish views down south. God help us if the SNP really does believe in this statist nonsense.

Red October?

It was a bit strange to wake up next to Soviet Russian warships.

More photos from Sevastopol will follow. The Russian Navy has a lease on part of this now Ukrainian port.


DSC_2117
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

More photos

from my recent trip:

Messina

Katakolon

Nafplion

Istanbul

Sochi

Batumi

Trabzon.

No surrender

This guy is holding out against a Turkish version of Donald Trump:


P1010689
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Back again

First photos from the holiday are of Rome, Civitavecchia and Stromboli.

These Italian communists look somewhat more bourgeois than ours...


DSC_1640
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Posts, or rather the lack of them!

I have a big project going on at the moment. Blogging will resume ASAP.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Airport traffic

Once again, Edinburgh airport is beating Glasgow:
Passenger numbers at Edinburgh airport increased by 4.8% in August, one of the few airports which recorded growth.

The figures from airport operator BAA showed that Glasgow had the sharpest decrease in traffic with a fall of 13.4%

Unlike some residents of the capital I am a fan of Glasgow. Scotland needs a prosperous Glasgow. Clearly Edinburgh's benefited from the Festival, which seemed to be busier than ever this year, and Glasgow depends on outward holiday traffic to greater extent than Edinburgh.

I fear that the SNP administration is making the same mistakes as its Labour predecessor. This remains typical of the Scottish government's mindset:

Mr Swinney questioned the drinks firm's claim that the rescue package was not viable.

"There's two points of basic economics at stake in this," he said.

"The first point is the fact that the Kilmarnock economy will be devastated and the Scottish Government and the UK Government will have to pick up the pieces, at a cost we estimate at £14m a year.

"The second point of basic economics is that when you come to a proposal with a financial gap of let's say £3 to £4m, and a company is making profits of £2bn, I don't think it's an unreasonable proposition to say to the company you have a corporate social responsibility to protect communities that have served you well."

The Kilmarnock economy will only be "devastated" to the extent that new entrepreneurs fail to make up for the lost Diageo jobs. Instead of government "picking up the pieces" why not remove the barriers to entrepreneurship? That's what will make the west of Scotland prosperous and help Glasgow airport boom again. And Prestwick of course.

Richard Russell speaks

Great quote on Jim Puplava's site this week:
Let me get this straight.

Obama's healthcare plan will be written by a committee whose head says he doesn't understand it, passed by a congress that hasn't read it and whose members are exempt from it, signed by a President who smokes in secret, funded by a Treasury Secretary who does not pay his taxes, overseen by a Surgeon General who is obese, and financed by a country that is broke.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I hate Aviva

I've got a couple of pension policies that I'm drawing from Aviva (Norwich Union in the good old days). One is at a fixed annual rate and the other is RPI linked.

Today I received a letter from Aviva that said:

Your payments are changing because the gross amount from policy number xxxxxx has been reduced and this will affect how much we pay you.

Do I need to do anything?

No, I've written this letter for your information only. You don't need to take any action. Your payments will be made in the normal way.

Unbelievable. Wouldn't I like to know by just how much this pension has been reduced? Of course I would. Why didn't they tell me? How do they know that I don't have to take any action on spending? I phoned Aviva ("You may be charged from calls from this mobile") and after being kept on hold by the operative I was told that they had no record of the letter. They'll get back to me tomorrow. Hopefully.

I guess the RPI reduction will be quite small and I may well have earned enough this morning to cover the annual reduction. But for goodness sake - writing to folk saying that their pension is to be cut surely requires telling them by how much, does it not?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Let's vote

There's been quite a bit of anger at the news of bonuses paid to Scotland's top policeman:
MSPs have reacted angrily to revelations that the chief constable of Scotland's largest police force was awarded almost £65,000 of perks on top of his £170,000 salary.

Stephen House, of Strathclyde Police, received a bonus, a housing allowance and even a council tax subsidy last year. The taxpayer also footed the tax bill for his private use of a car.

Here is a response from a member of the public.

Is the chief worth all this money? How can we tell when he's in the public sector? The best way is to have police chiefs stand for election. That way they'd have to spend their time providing the sort of service wanted by the public instead of lording over us as the para-military wing of the Labour party.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

More from the Book Festival

On Wednesday we went to hear Dan Cruickshank, the architectural guru. Cruickshank certainly knows his stuff but I found his presentation technique a bit wearing after a while. Session chairman Ruth Wishart asked if he would be rendered speechless were his hands to be tied together. Probably yes...

Later on we listened to Lindsey Davis, the "goddess of Roman crime" according to the programme. This was a very good event and was chaired by local crime writer Lin Anderson who lives in Edinburgh's "writers' block" alongside Rowling, McCall Smith and Rankin. Afterwards I told Anderson that someone should write a crime novel in which a publisher gets bumped off by an irate reader fed up with the changing size of books in a series. Watch this space...

Thursday found us at yet another McCall Smith evening. He's a friend of Laura Bush, thought that New Yorkers were "insincere" at his event there, but very much enjoyed appearances in Hollywood, Philadelphia and Texas. McCall Smith writes from 4 till 6 AM, sleeps for two hours, has breakfast, and then starts work again.

Friday saw the appearance of former Labour minister Chris Mullin. An enjoyable performance from this socialist who told some good stories about Blair, Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh. Pity about his politics.

Later on I went to the Beyond Devolution evening in the Spiegeltent in which one can have a bevvy while listening to the politicos... Henry McLeish (second First Minister!) and the three others all more-or-less agreed on a federal solution for Scotland within the UK. I told Tom Brown about the Freedom and Whisky plan. The man was so impressed that he got me a wee dram.

Saturday brought us the Scotland's Future event, with Ming Campbell, George Foulkes, Fiona Hyslop and Michael Forsyth. Hyslop told me afterwards that she thought the Megrahi affair would die down soon but she seemed nervous about the whole thing. The audience was 50/50 on the MacAskill decision.

At noon today it was time to hear Tom Morton and Alan Clements talking about their new thrillers. I've read the Clements one and shall probably get Morton's book too. Clements' wife was sitting just behind me and sounds just like she does on the telly.

Lockerbie

This is my reply on an American site to the claims in today's Sunday Times about a Libyan oil deal:
I'm not convinced.

I was born near Lockerbie and vote for the Scottish National Party whose justice minister released Megrahi. I think Mr MacAskill made the wrong decision, but I don't believe that he was motivated by considerations of oil.

The SNP hates the Labour party and vice versa. I can think of no reason why the SNP would do something to favour the UK Labour government. On the contrary, the SNP uses every opportunity it can to embarrass Labour and usually succeeds.

As for oil, Scotland contains around 95% of the UK North Sea oil reserves but has only 8.5% of its population. For 40 years or so the SNP has argued that an independent Scotland with its oil resources would be as rich as Norway. Again, why would the SNP agree to an oil deal that would benefit its main enemy, the Labour party?

I think that what you see is what you get. I've been to several political gatherings in the last two weeks during the Edinburgh Festival. Only yesterday I heard the SNP education minister assure her audience that MacAskill's decision was based solely on Megrahi's health condition. I've heard the same from other SNP politicians. Once again, I think MacAskill made the wrong decision, as do most folk in Scotland.

The SNP is a coalition of of people who favour Scottish independence. Some are on the left and some are on the right. I'd place MacAskill on the left, and a different justice minister from his party might well have come to the opposite conclusion about a Megrahi release.

As for those who think that MacAskill's release of Megrahi was some sort of anti-American move, consider this: the country that lost the highest proportion of its population on that terrible night was Scotland.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Book Festival - a quick update

Saturday: Ian Jack (former Granta editor) and Sarah Lyall (London-based US journalist) spoke about Britishness. Mrs F&W bought The Field Guide to the British, or rather the paperback edition, which has been changed to The Field Guide to the English. Jack, a London-based Scot, thought that it was actually a guide to the southern English. He's probably correct.

Saturday evening: McCall Smith again. Still excellent value.

Sunday: Matthew D'Ancona cancelled which was just as well as it clashed with a summer party that I wanted to attend. The party went on so well that I bailed out of the Paddy Ashdown event. Got my money back though...

On Sunday evening I went to listen to Quintin Jardine, creator of the Bob Skinner crime novels. Like Jardine, Skinner lives in Gullane (incidentally, McCall Smith champions the "Gillin" pronunciation). Jardine supports Motherwell, as does Skinner. But Jardine insisted that he wasn't Skinner, seeing himself more as a McIlhenney character. Jardine thought that Kenny McAskill was a "national hero".

Friday, 21 August 2009

Steve Bloom

Wildlife photograper Steve Bloom was at the Book Festival today:

Thursday, 20 August 2009

More from the Book Festival

Yesterday we went to hear Sandy McCall Smith in conversation with James Naughtie. As always, McCall Smith was in good form. He could probably pack in big Edinburgh crowds every week of the year. As always with Sandy there was nothing threatening, nothing nasty. Just quite a few of us thinking that McCall Smith's civilised world is quite achievable once the political class has been sorted out...

Afterwards I listened to Antony Beevor speaking about his new book on D-Day. Or, more precisely, on the Battle for Normandy. His talk was mainly about the fighting after the landings. Having read his Stalingrad and Berlin, this is certainly one to get once the paperback is out.

This afternoon it was time to hear Claire Harman and Charlotte Higgins on Jane Austen and Ancient Greece respectively. A very enjoyable session with both ladies dealing well with the other's speciality. Another sell out - as have been eight of nine events so far.

Lockerbie

I posted this brief message on an American site earlier:
I was born a few miles from Lockerbie and know people who were there on the night of the downing of the 747. God damn whoever did it.

I also vote for the Scottish National Party, the folk who want independence for Scotland. That's mainly because voting SNP is the best way up here to defeat Labour, but also because I expect that Scotland will become independent eventually and I'd quite like to be around long enough to see how it all works out.

The SNP currently runs the Scottish Government within the wider UK. Legal matters are under the control of the Scottish administration.

But something fishy is going on here, I suspect. The SNP leader, First Minister Alex Salmond, never misses the slightest opportunity to create division between Scotland and the wider UK in his quest for independence. But not in this instance. As mentioned above, Peter Mandelson (probably the most powerful UK Minister other than the PM - or even more so according to some) has been liaising with the Libyans, as have others. Tony Blair (whose government destroyed Britain's liberties) had meetings with Gaddafi and Blair always has an agenda. Why hasn't Alex Salmond defied the UK government's wish to keep in with the Libyans? I don't know, but I feel sure that there's a lot more going on than simply a stupid decision by the Scottish Justice Minister (who regularly demonstrates stupidity, by the way).

(Conspiracy note: the spell checker can cope with Gaddafi, but not Mandelson or Salmond...)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Double-cross

My father spent part of the War training to be a mountain soldier. Or so he thought. Actually, he was being conned, as were the Germans. It was all part of Operation Fortitude North.

The art of military deception was the subject of Nick Rankin's wonderful presentation this afternoon. We heard it all, from the invention of camouflage to Monty's Double. I asked Rankin whether he thought that deception was being undertaken in Afghanistan. He thought it likely but perhaps not as much as should be done. Of course, he'd have to have killed the entire audience if he'd revealed the full story...

I am very much looking forward to reading the book.

Food break

This morning we went along to listen to the stepson of the Duke of Rothesay.

Tom Parker Bowles gave us an excellent talk, which was chaired by Al Senter, a book festival regular who was clearly in his element hearing about food. As indeed were we all.

TPB came up to the land of the deep-fried Mars Bar (yes, Senter mentioned it) to tell us about his new book Full English:

I decided to find out the truth about English food, how it evolved and what went wrong. Girding my belly and sharpening my knife, I would eat my way round the country to find out whether we are at the dawn of a renaissance in English food. Or whether we, a nation eternally uninterested in what we eat, have left it too late.
And that's just what we were served. A pleasant change from the dismal science.

Globalism again

Later on it was time to hear Dan Atkinson of the Mail on Sunday and Larry Elliott of the Guardian. This was a much better event. I'd thought that we would be treated to a right-left battle but they'd actually written a book together. Both seemed to agree on the pattern of the financial crisis. Elliott described the five stages of a boom and bust cycle with stage one being the economic expansion.

During questions I suggested that there was an earlier stage zero and that that was the critical one. I meant of course the creation of the fresh fiat money that drives the artificial boom and is the ultimate cause of the inevitable bust. Both authors agreed, and Elliott told the audience that there were only three consistent explanations for the crisis: the Green one, the Marxist one and the Austrian one. It wasn't entirely clear that the man from the Guardian wasn't a closet Austrian...

Chairman Iain Macwhirter of the Herald and the Rector of Edinburgh University said to me that the abolition of well-established fractional reserve banking would lead to deflation. There wasn't time for me to explain quickly to a large audience that moderate deflation was a good thing but I did point out that FRB had led to numerous depressions and that only the Austrians had forecast the one that started in 1929. One never knows: the next Mises may have sitting in the audience!

Greens and Reds

On Sunday I went to a couple of events in the Global Economy strand. First off were Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and Graham Turner of the Guardian. Simms spoke well but had apparently swallowed a green/red random buzzword generating machine. It rapidly became obvious that Simms is a high heid yin in the global warming cult. He mentioned a debate he'd had with an opponent from what was inevitably described as a "right wing" think tank. But these greens rarely describe themselves as "left wing", do they? Simms decried the idea that information can save us from the perceived over-use of stuff. But it's brainpower and imagination that are the key economic resources, not mere information, and certainly not stuff.

Turner told us that he was the preferred economist of the Socialist Workers Party. Some of what he had to say was interesting, for example his belief that the monetary expansion in the west was created deliberately to make workers feel happy with their house prices going up at a time when their real wages were facing downward pressure from China and India. What was depressing was the impression I got that most of this Anglo-Scottish audience had no alternative answers to the challenge from the green and red juggernaut.

And so it begins

It's only Monday morning and I've already managed to get to four events at the book festival.

First off on Saturday was Daniel Depp, brother of the more famous Johnny. This wasn't a particularly interesting talk, but Mrs F&W bought the book and no doubt I'll get round to reading it sometime.

Later on I heard Scottish crime writers Allan Guthrie and Stuart MacBride in a packed Peppers Theatre. This was a lively event chaired by the ever-ebullient Brian Taylor of BBC Scotland. Taylor was almost late as he had been delayed by Edinburgh's tramworks (sic). Guthrie was suitably somber as he read from his new prison novel Slammer. MacBride gave us an entertaining reading, swearing and singing performance. Aberdeen is the setting for MacBride's crime novels and apparently the city isn't as anti-Polish as claimed by some newspapers. Disconcertingly, the extremely theatrical MacBride's physical appearance reminded me of a colleague who is considerably more taciturn.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Have I just read the Scotsman's most ludicrous article ever?

After reading the paper for more than thirty years, I think that I may have done just that.

Steve Glover's piece seems to be connected with the International Television Festival. Let's start here:

But here, unlike most European countries, there's no real difference between the two likely future governments
OK. So far so good. But here's the next bit:
Each passionately subscribes to a form of free market militancy that seems uniquely ill-chosen for the exigencies of the current recession. We're left with a choice between two leaders, each of whom belongs, in world economic terms, to the same faction of the free market Taleban
Can any sentient person think that Britain's two main parties are wedded to the free market? Since 1997 Labour has waged a relentless attack on the freedoms of the British public. The "free market" is simply freedom in action. It's what people do when the government doesn't step in and control things. Just because Labour has sweetheart deals with certain private companies doesn't mean that we enjoy a free market. Just the opposite in fact. And as for the Conservatives, one only needs to see how scared they are of any discussion about the NHS. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives (not to mention the bizarrely named "Liberal" Democrats) have any understanding of what a free market means.

Nor has Mr Glover.

But it gets worse:

The real political power, though, lies not in erasing a conversation but in not allowing it to take place at all. The unlikely father of this technique is surely the Austrian aristocrat and economist Friedrich August Von Hayek. If you've never heard of him, you've seen more than enough of his ideas on television.
Well I have indeed heard of Hayek, and, unlike Mr Glover I suspect, I met Hayek, and I have read all of his books. But I don't recall hearing about Hayek's career as a television producer...

Here's the next bit:

In common with many intellectuals between the wars, Hayek condemned the rise of the new Nazi state. What was unique about his critique was that he felt the Nazis were too left-wing, accusing them of socialism by other means.
Give us a break! Here's a clue Mr Glover: Nazi means National Socialist.

Glover continues:

Hayek, having endured decades of rejection by the political and academic elites as, well, frankly, a headbanger, found a saviour for his theory of monetarism in General Pinochet of Chile, but Pinochet's initiation of the idea resulted in economic catastrophe.
Not quite. Pinochet adopted the "monetarist" policies of Milton Friedman, not Hayek's theories. The term "monetarism" is associated with Friedman's Chicago School of Economics, not with the very different Hayekian Austrian School. Does Glover understand the difference? Besides, what "economic catastrophe" happened in Chile anyway?

Then we get this:

Hayek argued that all western civilisation as we know it advanced from the ownership of private property. This is an impressive and persuasive thesis. Indeed, the only thing it lacks is any evidence whatsoever to support it.
"Persuasive" but without evidence! Look around the world Mr Glover.

Here's the next bit:

Nevertheless, its assumptions underlie the Thatcherite slogan, "The Property Owner's Democracy". This is a phrase that becomes ever more oxymoronic the longer you think about it, but it inspired our hard-of-thinking television programmers to launch an entire genre.

The intemperate rush into heavy debt, and subsequent tragedy fuelled by Location, Location, Location and its endless imitators that saturate our television schedules, has slowed.

And what precisely has this to do with Hayek? Austrians believe in the abolition of state-created fiat money, which is the root cause of the property boom and bust.

Let's ignore Glover's Alabamaphobia * and his blaming Hayek for "Dragons' Den" and "Gok Wan", but consider Glover's odd theory that connects Hayek with neo-conservatism. I suspect that Glover doesn't have a clue about what the term neo-conservatism actually means. Nor does it seem likely that he's read one of Hayek's most famous essays: Why I am Not a Conservative.

(* America's third blackest state)

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Is Sunderland the Scotland of England, so to speak?

I went out for a quiet Saturday lunchtime beverage today only to find the local packed with football fans wearing red and white tops. They were Sunderland supporters up here for a friendly against Hearts. I doubt that I've ever heard such loud and continuous singing from any group of fans before. What was fascinating was that every song seemed to be about local rival Newcastle and not about Sunderland itself. I raised this point with one of the visitors and he confirmed that the destruction of the Geordie team was at least as important as any success for the Wearsiders. Just like how many Scots think about England I suggested. The smaller team agonizes about the bigger one (historically in the case of Newcastle!) who, most annoyingly, doesn't reciprocate.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Libertarians and the police

I see that the much talked about (though yet to be seen) public sector spending cuts will probably affect the police:
SCOTLAND'S police forces have issued a stark warning that they will have to cut the number of officers unless more funding can be found.

The largest police force, Strathclyde, is facing an "absolutely dire" funding gap of up to £34.7 million in 2010-11, it said. By 2013-14, it could hit £66m.

One proposal is to charge for policing the likes of Orange Order parades:
The cost, which cannot be recovered from such organisations as they are non-profit-making, was compared with the £60,000 bill for the three recent Take That concerts at Hampden Park in Glasgow, which the event promoters met.
There's a certain degree of philosophical confusion here: everything humans do is designed to improve our lot. I fail to see why the police should differentiate between activities in which the expected benefit is expressed in monetary terms or otherwise.

In an anarcho-capitalist society things would be very straightforward. The owners of streets would decide the terms of entry, of use and of any additional charges that may be levied to police any unusual events that may be allowed.

But we don't live in an anarcho-capitalist society, unfortunately. In our state-controlled society I'm very uncomfortable with the police having powers to charge some people for their services and not others.

What we should be looking at is levying financial charges against those who break the law. Charge criminals (properly defined) with the costs of their arrest, trial and any necessary restitution to victims.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Saviour of the Labour party!

Could this really be genuine?
The document lists Obama's parents as Barack Hussein Obama and Stanley Ann Obama, formerly Stanley Ann Dunham, the birth date as Aug. 4, 1961, and the hospital of birth as Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya.
Perhaps Obama is really British. If so, could he not take over as leader of the Labour party? As prime minister? Peter Mandelson is so last week...

Libertarian Party in Scotland

I went along to this event at Cloisters Bar yesterday. At one point I counted a dozen attendees, which seemed a pretty good turnout. I formed the impression that the younger generation of libertarians had got the message in a different way from how it was in the good old days.

Back in the 70's and 80's one read Rand, Mises, Rothbard and Hayek, went to a few meetings in smoke-filled rooms, and gradually realised that Libertarianism was correct, but also that there were only around ten of us in the country. Nowadays the Internet is what matters and the conversion rate is much faster. I still think the youngsters should read the libertarian classics though.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Twibbon

I've just added a Twibbon to my Twitter profile. The Twibbon demonstrates your support for an existing Twibbon cause or for a new one that you can create and gets added to your Twitter avatar.

I urge all Libertarian Alliance supporters to adopt the LA Twibbon.

The Twibbon was invented 12 days ago by Storm Ideas Ltd, which is connected with Edinburgh web design company Storm ID Ltd. So far some 88,000 users have signed up.

(Disclosure: I do Storm's accounts!)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What a load of rubbish

The refuse collection problem in Edinburgh continues:
Some collections of household rubbish are running four weeks behind schedule in a dispute involving refuse collectors, according to a report.

Refuse collectors in Edinburgh have been working-to-rule for several weeks in protest at plans to change the way they are paid.

The local Tories have set up a facebook group about the awful mess the city's in just as the Festival season is starting. Fair enough, but what's the real problem here?

The real problem is ownership, or rather lack of it. The technology of keeping our streets clean isn't terribly difficult. I ask this: Just how many Edinburgh houses are rubbish-strewn inside? Not too many I suspect, especially the ones that are privately owned. And that gives a clue as to the answer. If the streets of Edinburgh were owned by hundreds or indeed thousands of competing private organisations, would not those profit-seeking owners have sorted out the mess earlier? The economic incentives under political ownership rarely work.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Big One

Liberty 2009

The Annual Conference of the Libertarian Alliance. In association with the Libertarian International.

National Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place, Westminster, London, SW1A 2HE

Saturday 24 October 2009

09.00am - 10.00am Registration and Refreshments

10.00am – 10.05am Introduction

Dr. Sean Gabb (Director, Libertarian Alliance)

10.05am – 10.45am

Session 1: The UK Libertarian Party: A Showcase Presentation

• Speaker: Chris Mounsey (Communications Director, UK Libertarian Party; Blogger, The Devils Kitchen)

• Moderator: Dr. Tim Evans (President, Libertarian Alliance)

10.45am – 11.15am Coffee Break

11.15am – 12.15pm Session 2: Thoughts on Objectivism and the Philosophy of Ayn Rand

• Speaker: Professor Tibor Machan (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Auburn University; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University; Adjunct Scholar at the CATO Institute)

• Moderator: Dr. Sean Gabb (Director, Libertarian Alliance)

12.15pm – 2.00pm Free time for Lunch in the local area

2.00pm – 2.45pm Session 3 The State the Treasury is Now In:The Urgent Need for a Rediscovery of the Private Supply of Public Goods

• Speaker: Dr. Richard Wellings (Deputy Editorial Director, Institute of Economic Affairs)

• Moderator: David Farrer (Financial Director, Libertarian Alliance)

2.45pm – 3.30pm Session 4 A Libertarian Critique of the European Union

• Speaker: Josie Appleton (Convenor, Manifesto Club)

• Moderator: Christian Michel (European Director, Libertarian Alliance; President, Libertarian International)

3.30pm – 4.00pm Coffee Break

4.00pm – 5.00pm Session 5 A Libertarian Critique of Karl Popper • Speakers: Dr. Jan Lester (Libertarian Alliance)

• Moderator: Patrick Crozier (Transport Spokesman, Libertarian Alliance)

5.00pm – 7.30pm Free Time and Cash Bar

7.30pm – 10.30pm 2008 LA Annual Dinner and Awards

• Award 1 LA Liberty In Action Award 2009 • Award 2 LA Liberty in Theory Award 2009 • After Dinner Speaker

Sunday 25 October 2008

09.30am - 10.00am Refreshments

10.00am – 10.45am Session 6 A Classical Liberal Perspective on International Relations

• Speaker: Dr. Razeen Sally (Senior Lecturer, International Relations Department, London School of Economics) TBC

• Moderator: David Carr (Legal Affairs Spokesman, Libertarian Alliance)

10.45am – 11.30am Session 7 Thoughts of a Libertarian Muslim

• Speakers: Babek Farrahi (London Correspondent, Diplomatic Courier Magazine)

• Moderator: David McDonagh (Libertarian Alliance)

11.30am – 12.00pm Coffee Break

12.00pm - 12.45pm Session 8 A Personal Story: A Libertarian Perspective on Being Home Educated

• Speakers: Sophie Robbins (Home Educated Student; blogger, ValleyForge)

• Moderator: Nigel Meek (Editorial and Subscription Director, Libertarian Alliance)

12.45pm-2.15pm Free-Time for Lunch in the Local Area

2.15pm – 3.00pm Session 9 Tories and the Liberal Democrats: Prospects for a Classical Liberal Agenda

• Speakers: Shane Frith (Director, Progressive Vision)

Mark Littlewood (Campaign Director, Progressive Vision; Blogger, Liberal Vision)

• Moderator: David Davis (LA Blogmaster, Libertarian Alliance)

3.00pm – 3.45pm Session 10 Banking, Honest Money and the Free Market

• Speaker: Dr. Anthony J. Evans (Assistant Professor of Economics and Course Director, MEB London, ESCP Europe Business School; Academic Director, The Cobden Centre)

• Moderator: Christian Michel (European Director, Libertarian Alliance; President, Libertarian International)

3.45pm - 5.00pm Drinks Reception

disappointment.

Rejected by the English

The proposed merger between the Scottish and English actuarial bodies has failed
But while the 73.5% of faculty votes comfortably beat the 66% threshold needed for change, only 71.6% of votes in the far bigger institute backed the proposal, short of the 75% needed.
I'm pleased with this result. Scotland benefits tremendously from having its own civil society, including separate professional bodies.

What's particularly interesting is that the plan failed because the English body rejected the proposed merger whereas the Scottish body was in favour. It's not entirely fanciful to think that this outcome may portend similar developments in the wider political sphere...

Expert opinions

I see that some "experts" have written to the Queen after she had wondered, "why nobody had predicted the credit crunch":
The letter ends: "In summary the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole."
But plenty of bright people had understood the risks and many of their followers had structured our investments accordingly.

The real question is this: Is it significant that the LSE experts are financed by the taxpayer and have a vested interest in the system that failed whereas the Mises chaps aren't and don't?

(Incidentally, I wonder which brand of expert will be appearing at George Watson's.)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Top ten blogs

Any votes for this site will be much appreciated. See to the left.

You'll have had your tea...


P1010491
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Stands Scotland where it did?

And now one of those stories that get the cybernats worked up no end. (See the comments.)
Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at Edinburgh University, described the idea of Scotland having the best education system was "one of the great education myths".

He said: "Unintentionally, a vast experiment that tests some of these claims has been conducted since 1997 as policies in the four nations have diverged since devolution.

"What is little realised, and never celebrated, is that the clear winner in this is the much- disdained England."

I always thought that Professor Paterson was one of Scottish education's useful idiots, but it seems like he's seen the light.

The problem with English education is not that it's too fragmented compared with what's available in Scotland but that it's not fragmented enough. And the same is therefore even more true up here. There is absolutely no reason why the state should be running any schools. If it must finance education, let it be by means of vouchers, although personally I don't think that the state should even go that far.

I'm quite favourable to the idea of independence, but Scotland does seem to have an inordinate number of foolish people when it comes to education. I'm glad to note that Professor Paterson may not be one of them.

Scottish Enlightenment: RIP

Here's another one of those "political correctness gone mad" stories:
A PRIMARY school has been told it has to pay for a professional joiner to hang children's artwork on the wall – because of health and safety fears.

Pirniehall Primary in Pilton has been landed with the £350 bill after parents were warned it was against the rules to put up the pictures themselves

What's particularly amusing is the response of a local Green Party councillor:
She said: "Nobody wants to expose children to unnecessary risks but this is taking things too far."
Unnecessary risks! This is the same "Green" party that's so irresolutely opposed to clean nuclear energy and that wants to cover the country with spinning death traps.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Photos

I've been away for a family gathering in the Lake District.

Here are some colour photos.


P1010505
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

And some in black and white.


P1010525
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Johnnie Walker - born 1820, no longer going strong

Johnnie Walker is leaving Kilmarnock, the town where he was born:
LIKE THE square bottle and the slanting label, the Striding Man logo has helped make Johnnie Walker one of the world's most iconic drinks. The image of the cane-toting dandy struts above the factory where the whisky is bottled, a building that dominates Kilmarnock physically, emotionally and economically.

Last Wednesday the Striding Man lost his confident swagger. Diageo, the world's biggest drinks manufacturer, announced it was closing the plant with the loss of 700 jobs.

After almost 200 years, Johnnie Walker is striding away from his Ayrshire roots."

There's a great deal of anger in the town:
"I think the area is finished once they've gone. Unemployment is bad enough without this adding to it. What's Kilmarnock going to be like in two or three years? A ghost town."

Outside, 67-year-old Sam Anderson, the head barman, and Andrew Davidson, his 74-year-old customer, go through the litany of the town's industrial dead. "Massey Fergusson, Saxone - gone," chants Sam.

"You used to be able to leave your job one day and walk into a new one the next. Now there's no jobs," says Andrew

I have Kilmarnock connections.

My late father used to work for Saxone, mentioned above. He joined Saxone after leaving the army and we lived in Stewarton, a few miles to the north. That's where I started school. When I was six a transfer took us to Leeds for three years. A move back to the shoe company's HQ led to us renting in Kilmarnock for a few months before buying a house in Prestwick where I lived until I was eighteen. Then another transfer took us down to London.

My memories of Kilmarnock are a bit hazy. I do remember my father taking to a few games at the nearby Rugby Park and I still look out for Killie's results every week during the football season. As a director of a prominent local company my father got to know Willie Ross, the town's MP and later Secretary of State for Scotland. Despite being a staunch Tory my father used to enjoy a dram or two on the London sleeper with the hardline socialist politician. Naturally, they drank Johnnie Walker. And now it's gone.

I read an editorial somewhere that pointed out that the Diageo-owned Guinness HQ is Ireland's number one tourist destination and why not try the same thing in Kilmarnock? A good question.

But there are deeper issues.

For as long as I can remember Scotland has suffered from the departure or downsizing of well-known companies. Up here, we all know the importance of having locally-based employers. If Johnnie Walker had still been locally-owned would it have left Kilmarnock? Probably not.

But all those folk who are moaning about profit being put before people are missing the point. Profit is about people. Without profit there won't be any jobs, something hundreds of thousands of "public" sector workers will shortly find out.

The key to long-term prosperity is a well-educated population, free trade, respect for property rights, and the rule of law. That's the only way to build up a critical mass of home-based companies. Another thing needed is to strip away all that red tape that gives an artificial advantage to big companies like Diageo. Few Scottish politicians understand this, or if they do they're afraid to say so.

What Kilmarnock needs is an outward-looking population that's as well-educated as any in the world. Somehow I think that my father and Willie Ross might have agreed on that.


Friday, 3 July 2009

Photos from last weekend

Glenfinnan

Mallaig

Portree

Kyleakin

Duirinish

Plockton


DSC_1481
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Are you being served?

I wrote recently about my recent Demon and Barclaycard problems. The Demon tech guy told me that I would get a free new router because the two-year-old one had only stopped working as a result of Demon's "upgraded" service. Demon HQ told me that it would only be free if I re-subscribed for another year. I did so, and yes, I got an invoice for £25.00 today.

Some people are much easier to deal with. I bought a new Hyundai Getz in September 2004 and it's been an excellent purchase. However, we had a bit of a scare last Sunday evening at Kyle of Lochalsh. I couldn't get the petrol cover to open. The garage attendant, another motorist and Mrs F&W had a go and eventually Mrs F&W succeeded. I filled the car right up to the top and we got back home on Monday with the tank more than half full but with the cover out of order again. At 8.30 this morning I took the car into Archer's of Edinburgh, the local Hyundai dealership. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that the work would be done immediately and that I may as well wait. Sure enough, by 9.30 the car was returned to me in full working order. Here's the non-Demon bit: there was no charge as it was covered by Hyundai's 5 year warranty policy and the car had been washed.

Way to go.

(UPDATE: Demon is refunding the £25 router cost plus £35 in respect of phone calls)

Monday, 29 June 2009

Where's this?

We've been away for the weekend. Where were we?

No Googling!


DSC_1408
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Friday, 26 June 2009

The end of civilisation?

In Scotland anyway, according to my colleague Neil Craig:
I previously quoted an SF writer on how nations decivilise & it seems appropriate. Scotland's parliament has unanimously voted for barbarism.
Neil's writing about the recent the unanimous vote at Holyrood:
SCOTLAND yesterday made itself a world leader in the battle against global warming, as MSPs gave unanimous backing to a bill enshrining a 42% cut in carbon emissions by the year 2020.

It means that Scotland will be lauded as the most forward-looking nation in the world in the run-up to the Copenhagen environmental summit later this year. But behind the rhetoric at Holyrood it was accepted that there were many caveats to the commitment.

Behind the subscription wall, the Scotsman's Bill Jamieson is in fine form, calling our new law "complete twaddle".

Bill points out that the man-made global warming theory is certainly not universally accepted by scientists. I'm not a scientist but I've been around long enough to recognise a probable scam when I see one. It's no coincidence, as the Marxists would say, that most of the scientists calling for more environmental laws owe their livings to the state.

But the really scary thing is that unanimous vote. There wasn't a single MSP willing to oppose the fashionable consensus even though that consensus is so last year and is under rapidly growing attack.

You know there's going to be a libertarian point here, don't you? And here it is.

There is a good reason why market solutions beat statist ones. When the state lays down the law, that's it. Everyone must act the same way. Choice is not allowed. The market on the other hand allows choice. There doesn't have to be one "correct" solution; there can be dozens or hundreds. And that's why the state should be kept in its box. That's why we should decentralise decision making away from politicians. When MSPs agree on everything, we should be on our guard. It's scary to know that no one at Holyrood bothered to look into the actual climate debate that's going on. Or worse, did so and were too afraid to rock the boat.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

24th June

The Berlin Airlift started on 24th June 1948.

The C47 (Douglas DC3) did much of the lifting:

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I am offended

Here's another of those "offensive" flag stories, this time involving the National Library of Scotland:
... a member of staff was told to remove several Saltires, a Lion Rampant and a red tartan chair from his work station.
Fair enough in certain circumstances, I think.

Like this:

According to Martyn Wade, National Librarian, "We merely asked a single individual to remove what we considered to be an excessive display of large flags from a desk in a shared, professional work area, and we would have done so regardless of what the flag was or indeed any other adornment."
That sounds fine - it's just a regular matter of common sense rules in the workplace.

Or is it?

How about this:

It was, according to Director of Customer Services Alex Miller, a nationalistic display "more appropriate to the football terraces."

Ms Miller's concern, she said, was that the display might intimidate non-Scottish colleagues.

For goodness sake. This is the National Library of Scotland. If someone is intimidated by a display on the grounds that it is Scottish they shouldn't be working in our National Library. More to the point, why on earth are there so many managers in the public sector who have no loyalty to those who pay their wages?

Boycotts

Lesley Riddoch's Scotsman pieces are behind the registration wall.

I quote from yesterday's dead tree version :

... Fred Goodwin, who retreated to Europe before offering surrender terms - £4 million for public acceptance and reintegration into Scottish society. It's interesting to note that boycotts still work so effectively, and that Sir Fred values a hassle-free walk to the Morningside shops so highly
That's a very important libertarian point.

In an earlier post I mentioned the widespread belief that "there ought to be a law against it" whenever some social problem arises. Of course, we only need two laws at all:

(1) Don't initiate force or fraud

(2) Keep your agreements.

It's not clear to me that Sir Fred broke either of those two "laws", although that's not to say that he shouldn't have been fired by his employers for incompetence. Subject to contract, needless-to-say. Assuming that Sir Fred didn't break either of the two legitimate laws, and that his employers have dealt with him according to their own rules, any action on the part of outraged third parties should be in the form of boycotts and not in calls for state action. Boycotts are an appropriate way for civil society to encourage compliance with generally accepted modes of behaviour.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Why are lawyers being made redundant?

It's not just older lawyers who are suffering during the recession:
DOZENS of young lawyers are being cast adrift at the end of their training contracts, The Scotsman can reveal.

As the recession bites into some of Scotland's biggest law firms, one legal recruitment agency has reported a threefold rise in the number of newly qualified solicitors on its books.

The truth is that these youngsters are victims of our monetary system. When money is created out of thin air the inevitable result is an artificial boom, especially in capital goods industries. Read here for details. In Britain and the US this means housing and commercial property. And guess what lots of lawyers spend their time on. Yes: property.

The artificial property boom caused more people to choose to become lawyers than would otherwise have been the case. And now they're suffering the consequences. And if the boom is restarted by the political class the resulting bust will be even bigger.

We need to weed out all of those "investments" that were made erroneously. Until that's done we won't see a proper recovery. Only then will we know how many lawyers are actually required.

Why is it all so difficult?

On Saturday 13th the Internet was working fine as mentioned here. But there was no connection at all from Sunday until the new router arrived on Wednesday. That's the router that was ordered on the Friday night and which the UK part of Demon knew nothing about but the Indian part did. The new router didn't actually work as promised but an efficient lady in India managed to get me back online during what was my 39th phone call to Demon. Answering the questionnaire that was sent out afterwards I recommended that she be made managing director of Demon or at least get a huge payrise. She's probably President of India by now.

Next: I took out two insurance policies against identity theft - one for myself and one for Mrs F&W. The policies arrived the other day but got Mrs F&W's name wrong. And this is about identity theft...

Next: A few weeks ago Barclaycard phoned up to say that they had identified possible fraudulent use of my card. Full marks for this - the transactions, some of which were going through as we spoke, were indeed fraudulent. My card was immediately cancelled but I had to wait a few days before Barclaycard could confirm that the items in question had been caught in time. Fortunately they were, my next statement was OK and a new card was received a few days later.

So far, so good.

Last Saturday I received a communication from Barclaycard asking me to sign an indemnity form. But the "fraudulent" items listed were what were genuine transactions on the new card and not the actual fraudulent ones on the old card. In fact, they were for the purchases of the two identity theft insurance policies! And, "Had I cut up both cards?" - err, no, only the old one. Incidentally, the new card worked fine earlier today for an enormous purchase of tickets for the Edinburgh International Book Festival...

When I phoned Barclaycard this morning I failed the security check because I couldn't confirm which "catalogue" I had ordered from (none), nor which "photographic studio" I had patronised (none). Presumably these were some of the items caught earlier by Barclaycard but whose full details are unknown to me. I was advised to go to a local branch and speak to a "personal banker". When I suggested that Barclaycard paid for me to do this at my normal hourly rate the conversation came to a rapid end. I phoned back again and this time managed to pass the security check, which was now about genuine items on my old card. It was totally impossible however to get Barclaycard to understand that the items on the new card were genuine but that I couldn't give an indemnity covering all of the fraudulent items without knowing what they were. Needless-to-say I was unable to get the phone number of any of the Edinburgh branches from the Barclays call centre.

So, should there be "a law against it?"

In other words, is all this inefficiency the fault of capitalism?

No, although it's partly the fault of some capitalists who don't train their staff properly. But state owned operations are at least as inefficient and aren't subject to market forces that will eventually weed out the useless companies.

And there's another thing. I can't help wondering if the real problem isn't the catastrophic decline of state education in the UK. Back to that Demon lady in India. I've no idea where she went to school but I do know that many of the poorest parents in India manage to send their children to private schools. We in Britain should do the same.