Friday 28 February 2003

Where my taxes go - part 2

"Police Constable Huffy" was depressed. So this young woman gets a huge pension to cheer her up. According to the Daily Mail, the pension is worth "almost £1,000,000".


She is also pursuing a claim against Lothian and Borders at an employment tribunal, alleging that she was the victim of sexism, cronyism, and bullying.
No doubt that will cost me a bit more.

A Glasgow employment lawyer is quoted as saying: "This case could have widespread implications for police and other civil servants..."

Indeed it could. At this rate, there will soon be no taxpayers left to finance any civil "servants".

Nice "work" if you can get it

So this is where my taxes go. There's no stopping Labour's cronies:
Joan Aitken, previously a part-time chairwoman of employment tribunals, has been appointed the new traffic commissioner for Scotland on a salary of £70,000 a year, up 40% on her reputed wage as Scottish prisons complaints commissioner.
The Nationalists don't seem to approve:
Mike Russell, for the SNP, said yesterday: "She appears to be a professional quango sitter, having made a career out of moving from one well paid public appointment to another despite concerns about her closeness to Labour.
And the Tories are critical too:
Phil Gallie, for the Tories, said: "There seems to be a career path set ahead of this woman, despite questions over her earlier performance as a part-time chairman of employment tribunals."
Mr Russell and Mr Gallie are right to express concern, but the real question that they should be asking is why all of these quangos exist in the first place. Do the SNP and the Conservatives actually intend to privatise most government activities and abolish quangos or merely put their people into them?

Wednesday 26 February 2003

OK, I'm not Tony Benn - can I get a tax cut?

David MacPhail (2nd letter) thinks that those who support an attack on Iraq should be made to fund it by means of a special higher tax rate. Does that mean that those of us who oppose state education, welfare and health services can get a reduction in tax?

Am I the new Tony Benn?

Fordyce Maxwell says that it is time to stop the blooming blogging. Yes, it can take up quite an amount of time. But Mr Maxwell hasn't quite got the point of it:
Think of several million Tony Benns anxious to unload each day's unedited gems and you have blogging. Stop it now.
Tony Benn! Almost all political blogs are conservative or libertarian and regard the likes of Tony Benn as the enemy. Like American talk-radio, blogging has arisen in opposition to the dominance of the left in the press and on television.
Targeted ads?

Now, the ads put on this site by Blogger are for the Oban Caledonian Hotel and highland cattle. Last week we had kilts and tartan. Is this really a coincidence?

Tuesday 25 February 2003

Silencing the feuding neighbours

The Scottish Conservatives are fighting an election. But some help is not welcome:
At least three constituency associations have sent messages to Central Office requesting that no members of the shadow cabinet - including the leader - visit their constituencies during the election campaign.

"We don’t want voters to be reminded of what is happening in London," said one senior Scottish Tory. "Everyone is thoroughly cheesed off. We have an election coming in two months and the last thing we need is this distraction going on in the background."

This is probably a wise move.

School lessons

So our top-performing state school is the only one not under local authority control:
The Glasgow school, where Sam Galbraith, the former education minister, sends his children, has been praised for its outstanding academic achievement since adopting independent status in 1987.

Jordanhill - formerly part of a teacher-training college - is funded directly by the Executive. It opted out of council control when the college decided it no longer needed the school and the local authority did not want it.

Labour hates the idea of directly-funded schools, which are able to escape from the dead hand of control by its know-nothing councillors. That doesn't stop the former education minister from sending his children to the type of school Labour wants to kill off.

I liked this comment from Chris Woodhead:

"Too few pupils from disadvantaged homes go to university because too many attend state schools in which inadequate teaching, low expectations and poor discipline combine to ensure that they end up knowing little or nothing.

"The tragedy is that the government’s absurd decision to load the university admissions dice in favour of candidates from such schools will remove the imperative to improve."

That's exactly right. I suppose that these educational victims, "knowing little or nothing", will become the next generation of Labour politicians.

Monday 24 February 2003

One tax for them, one tax for us

Fergus Ewing MSP wants to remove the 50% council-tax rebate that is currently available to second-home owners.

Mr Ewing says:

local authorities should be given discretionary powers to remove the special relief enjoyed by holiday home owners. "Those who purchase a house intending to use it for holiday purposes should be able to afford the full council-tax rate,"
Well, if ability to pay were the issue, I would point out that Mr Ewing and his fellow MSPs earn about twice the national average. I therefore propose that local authorities should have "discretionary powers" to double the council-tax paid by politicians.

Mr Ewing wishes to retain the 50% discount for a lucky few:

"I have been contacted by a number of crofters who point out that they have a heritage home acquired from their family passed on to them and that if the current discount of council tax for these properties - usually in the most remote areas - is removed, they would be unable to maintain the link with the croft."

"This is a distinct category, which should be acknowledged by Highland Council."

He said many people have had to leave the croft to find employment and it would be wrong to force them to extinguish the link with their families and culture because of the tax system.

This is outrageous. I am sure that many of the non-crofting second-home owners would love to live all-the-year-round in the Highlands and don't because they too need to earn a living elsewhere. Why are their heritage and their culture less important?

Good news

According to this story, young Scots are the most ambitious in the UK:
Fiona Moriarty, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, backed the findings of the study. She said: "Since arriving in Scotland, I have found a drive and determination that does not exist south of the Border. That includes encouraging children in their education.
In my previous post, I said that the Scottish Labour party was the source of much of the anti-entrepreneurialism that pervades this country. Much of our intellectual class is actively hostile to business. It is therefore pleasing to read that many of our young folk are able to see through the nonsense that surrounds them and to focus on achievement.
What a nerve!

This is unbelievable. The Secretary of State for Scotland calls for Scots to be more entrepreneurial:

"We really need to get out of this psychological problem of (not) celebrating success. We have got success in the Scottish economy."

Giving her view that efforts to change attitudes should begin in schools, she added: "Our cup is always half-empty. It is never half-full. We have an inability to say to people: 'Well done.'

"That is one of the big factors that limits entrepreneurship in Scotland. It breeds a climate of risk aversion."

All very well except for the small point that Helen Liddell's own Scottish Labour party is just about the most anti-entrepreneurial organisation on the planet.

The article goes on to say:

Highlighting research undertaken by Scottish Enterprise in the 1990s, Liddell said: "When people were asked about entrepreneurs, they seemed to see them more in the form of Arthur Daley (a second-hand car dealer in the television series Minder) rather than the men and women who are creating real opportunities in Scotland."

Liddell said of successful Scottish entrepreneurs: "I think they come in for a lot of stick."

Yes. They get the "stick" from her own party. Anyone who thinks that Labour is a friend of business is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Liddell isn't known as "Stalin's Granny" for nothing.

Sunday 23 February 2003

Thatcher endorses freedom and whisky

Today's Sunday Times tells us that Maggie had an "unsuspected reliance on whisky in times of crisis".

According to Lady Thatcher's former personal assistant:

"You must have whisky to give you energy." Her favourite Scotch was Bells.

At the height of the Falklands crisis in 1982, drink had also fortified her. "We'd sit on her floor at night. By the end of the Falklands I'd become hooked on whisky and soda."

None of this is surprising to those of us who voted for her. I must say, though, Tony Blair looks like he could do with a few drams these days.

Friday 21 February 2003

Strange coincidence?

If you read this site on a PC you will be used to seeing the ads at the top of the page. They don't appear on Apples, at least not on mine. Until a few minutes ago that is. An ad has appeared on my site for Scottish kilts and tartan - most appropriate for a Scottish-based blog. It's probably a coincidence but could it be that the acquisition of Blogger by Google has brought some much needed business expertise on board? As a former advertising person myself, I think that ads targeted at individual blogs would be a very astute move.

Labour's troubles

Former Scottish health minister, Susan Deacon, has tabled a motion against her party's policy on Iraq:
Ms Deacon - a fierce political opponent of Jack McConnell, the First Minister - and six other Labour MSPs signed the motion in a direct challenge to the party leadership in Edinburgh and London.
Ms Deacon is not without support from her Labour colleagues:
FRIENDS of Susan Deacon, the former minister who stirred a rebellion in Labour ranks over her party's stance on the war against Iraq, claim she has been overwhelmed by grassroots support.
Now, it looks as though Jack McConnell may be missing from the proposed pre-election television debate:
As his rivals prepare to take their places for the live head-to-head discussions during the imminent election campaign, Jack McConnell, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, is still, apparently, "making up his mind" on whether to appear.
As Maggie Thatcher would put it, McConnell is giving the appearance of being "frit". With the start of the likely Iraq war getting pushed back, the nearer it gets to May 1st, the date of the Scottish election. A quick allied victory by late April would suit McConnell perfectly but anything else could see Labour out of office.

Thursday 20 February 2003

Reality bites back

A report says that Scottish water charges are too high:
In a damning report issued yesterday, Alan Sutherland, the water industry regulator for Scotland, said household water and sewerage bills last year were 60 per cent higher than they would have been if the three former Scottish water authorities had been as efficient as their England and Welsh counterparts.
But why is this?
John Scott, the Scottish Tory environmental spokesman, said it came as no surprise that charges in England were substantially cheaper than in Scotland.

He believed the benefits of competition had helped to drive down prices for English consumers.

In other words, the English "counterparts" are capitalist organisations owned by profit-seeking shareholders whereas we Scots benefit from publicly (sic) owned water bodies who charge us 60% more than is necessary. Isn't socialism wonderful?

"University" update

Professor Hare of Heriot-Watt also opposes Edinburgh University's new dumb-down admission policy.


Radio Scotland's arts presenter has resigned and complains that the station has a "London bias":
Morton said he could not understand why the national station of Scotland covers so many London events, when it could speak more with a "Scottish voice". He told The Herald: "It has always puzzled me that ... it should be so deferential to London."
Most Scots think that the BBC just doesn't understand that the UK consists of four distinct entities, each with its own culture and now governed in different ways. The belief that the BBC is really English is one of the main driving-forces behind Scottish nationalism. But as Brian Morton says, the BBC is actually biased towards London rather than England. The centralisation of so much of British life in London is why our chaotic transport system never gets fixed, it's the cause of the North-South divide in the housing and job markets and it's something that no politician considers worthy of attention.

Wednesday 19 February 2003

Farewell Edinburgh "University"

The forces of darkness march on:
From next year, the university will consider every applicant's family background as well as their exam results before offering to accept them on a course.
The University says that state-educated students are already achieving better results than those educated in the private sector. This new proposal is not needed and is wrong in principle. The value of an Edinburgh degree will be undermined in the marketplace. The Edinburgh authorities should be leading the call for the privatisation of the university. That's the only way to ensure quality.

Monday 17 February 2003

Rail links

This gentleman is correct. There is no point in building a half-hearted rail link to Edinburgh airport that merely enables people to get to and from the city centre a few minutes quicker than by the existing bus service. The ideal would be to redirect the Glasgow and Aberdeen railway lines via a station under the Edinburgh terminal building at. I suspect that the real reason for rejecting this scheme has little to do with economics. Such an obvious solution would enable Edinburgh to become the prime airport for central Scotland and that could never be proposed a few weeks before Labour's mass of Glasgow MSPs face the electorate in May.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man?

Tony Blair has an unexpected fan.

A world turned upside down

George Kerevan has an excellent article in today's Scotsman.
This clutching at the UN straw for comfort intrigues me. The UN is merely a gathering place of nation states, most of which are far from working democracies. What moral force lies in that? The UN has a rotten track record of looking after ordinary people. In 1994, it stood by while 800,000 died in ethnic violence in Rwanda. In 1995, the UN peacekeepers actually withdrew from Srebrenica to let in the Serbian fascists, who promptly shot 2,000 locals in the head. Unfortunately, no amount of marching and no amount of UN resolutions will alter the dark nature of the historical period we are now entering....

...We are living through one of those great phase changes in world history, but hardly anybody has noticed - except the inhuman stock exchange, a few prescient intellectuals in the White House bunker, and an isolated John Lloyd at the New Statesman



At one level, it is about the sudden integration of global economies into a single, free-market system after the fall of communism, and the tensions this has unleashed. For most of the world, this has led to vastly improving standards of living, health and opportunity. But the rapidity of change is also convulsing parts of the globe unprepared for such a revolution but which are too weak to avoid being pulled into the new One World System.
I read this article on a bus as it was passing one of Scotland's many disused coalmines - in this case one that has been converted into a museum. It occurred to me that many of the anti-war marchers in Glasgow on Saturday were indeed reacting against the de-industrialisation of Scotland and all the changes that have followed from it. But globalisation is not going to go away (thank goodness), and the appropriate response is to embrace modernity, not reject it. Scottish Labour has never welcomed change and its activists hate capitalism. Global political and economic events will impact on the Scottish elections in May.

Sunday 16 February 2003

No comment

The "Haloscan" comment system has gone down again. According to their website:

We're doing some work on the server and will have the site restored soon. Thanks for your patience. Update We've run into a couple problems and are trying to get this sorted out as fast as possible. (12:25AM 2/16/2003)
Let's hope that it's working again shortly.

Saturday 15 February 2003

Sad news ...

... about the death of Dolly the sheep.

Sheep "can live to 11 or 12" say the scientists. But how old was Dolly?

Dolly was born in July 1996 after being cloned from the udder cell of a six-year-old adult ewe, and named after the singer Dolly Parton.
Some have said that this means that Dolly was really twelve years old. Whatever her age, she certainly warrants her coming display in the National Museum.

Friday 14 February 2003

A Prime Minister in difficulties

Over on Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait asks, "Is Blair now in real trouble?" I certainly think so. The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has just addressed the UN Security Council and I have rarely heard a cabinet minister sound so nervous. Tomorrow, Blair will give a speech to Labour's spring conference, which is taking place in Glasgow. Some 25,000 demonstrators are expected to be outside the conference hall when Blair is speaking. Many will be Labour activists:
the issue has split the party and along with many Labour backbench MPs, activists remain unconvinced by the data delivered to the UN by the weapons inspectors. It is understood a majority of delegates at the conference will have more sympathy for the massive anti-war protests planned for Glasgow and London than for Mr Blair’s point of view.

The march due to take place in Glasgow will be the biggest public protest ever to be staged in the city.

And the elections for the Scottish parliament are now only eleven weeks away:
John Swinney, the Scottish National Party leader, is set to address the anti-war march in Glasgow at a venue near the Labour conference. The SNP yesterday leapt on the results of an opinion poll which showed that half of all Scots are against a war in the Gulf.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader at Westminster, said: "The results of this poll show clearly that over half of all voters in Scotland are less likely to vote for the Labour Party in May if the UK goes to war against Iraq without a new UN mandate.

"Of more concern to Jack McConnell is the fact that 45 per cent of Labour voters would be less likely to vote for him if we went to war on this basis.

Labour support is already dropping in the Scottish opinion polls. If there isn't a satisfactory result in Iraq by mid-April, we may see a change of regime in the Scottish parliament.

Pull the other one

So Gordon Brown is to produce a budget for business:
He will say: "The next stage of our programme, one of the themes of the budget, is to work with business, to strengthen competition, enterprise, investment and markets in our economy. To cut the cost of starting investing, hiring and training, to encourage entrepreneurship, to work to improve our work permit system, and continue our reforms of the business tax regime for entrepreneurs, to open up whole sectors of the economy so that more jobs and lower prices can result."
Brown remains an unreconstructed leftist who has piled regulation after regulation on business, especially on the small company sector that is the main hope for new job creation. Is he really going to withdraw all of the red tape introduced by his government? Nobody should fall for his spin.
The Liberty Dragon

A warm welcome to a new blog from Wales.

Wednesday 12 February 2003

Some Euro-realism

Now that Margo MacDonald has parted company with the SNP, she is free to speak her mind about the EU:
I'm appalled at the dictatorial, centralist, undemocratic and anti-internationalist tone of the draft European Constitution produced by former right-wing French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing. No more EU, say I.
Margo still seems to believe in much of the old-time leftist nonsense, but she asks some pertinent questions:
So does this draft EU constitution have anything to recommend it? Probably not, excepting its usefulness in spelling out what the EU should not be doing.
As she points out, the SNP is totally confused about the EU.

Tuesday 11 February 2003

Blundell Mail PLC?

John Blundell thinks that it is time to privatise the Royal Mail. Why not?
In 1680, a merchant, William Dockwra, offered to deliver all letters and parcels under 1lb for a penny. It was a huge success. He was suppressed and punished as the Duke of York, the Kings’s brother, had an income from the Post Office revenue. His Majesty’s security could not be challenged by impertinent entrepreneurs offering cheaper or faster deliveries.
The state is not your friend.

Monday 10 February 2003

A second opinion

I wasn't the only one to spot that Carol Craig's book contains some fundamental errors. In today's Scotsman, George Kerevan makes similar points to mine:
Could Carol have traversed the long road to political sanity and the realisation that Scotland is indeed in the grip of a collectivist zeitgeist that strangles our economy with excess regulation and taxes and that turns our schools into under-performing human battery farms? Could she? No, she couldn’t. For Carol Craig’s individualist terminology means quite the opposite of what the words ordinarily imply.

Read the introduction to her book and she is at great pains to point out that she rejects the free market. She adds: " I’m no fan of American individualism, believing it not only results in a high crime rate but also in the type of dangerous selfishness apparent in Americans’ response to the Kyoto agreement on climate control." In other words, she rejects drawing any political, constitutional, economic or fiscal consequences from her analysis that Scots suffer from a lack of individualism, creativity or risk taking.

On Saturday, the book wasn't available at Ottakars, Waterstones or Borders. When I manage to find a copy, I shall report further.

Mark this

It is surely extraordinary that the market value of Edinburgh based banks is now double that of the entire German banking industry.
The advantage of home schooling

Jack McEwen is to start studying for a degree at the age of eight. How is he able to do this:

With no TV reception to their remote farmhouse in Moray, there is plenty of time to read and learn.

Melissa McEwen, Jack's 37-year-old mother, has taught both boys at home since they were first able to talk.

Congratulations to Jack and Melissa.

Sunday 9 February 2003

Weasel alert

I have registered a new blog by the name of axisofweasels. I am open to offers from any parties wishing to acquire this site. Payment will be accepted in the form of a lifetime supply of Château Haut-Bages-Libéral. Chateau "Liberal" (in its correct sense). I like the sound of that. And besides:
These wines, whose superiority was confirmed and officially recognized in 1855, are much appreciated by Anglo-Saxon consumers.
I look forward to hearing from M. Chirac.

.....but political correctness marches on

The lunatics are still running the asylum:
Amazing Grace has been banned from civil wedding ceremonies in Scotland because of its religious content.
If certain asylum seekers wanted to get married using their religious music, would they face a ban?

Political correctness under attack .....

A lawyer tells the truth:
In an article for the political magazine Holyrood out this week, Duff (a senior defence lawyer) says the Crown Office is "running scared of ever refraining from prosecution in alleged rape cases, leading to the present situation where hopeless prosecutions are mounted, resulting in inevitable acquittals and the skewing of statistics, adding yet more fuel to the fire of controversy".

On racist offences, he suggests the reforms are likely to fail the country’s black population.

"So rigid is the instruction given to formerly independent lawyers that they can never, without Crown Office permission, drop the most trivial of so-called racist offences in a plea bargain process," he says.

It's no surprise that the Crown Office "condemned Duff’s outburst as 'reactionary' ".

No sooner blogged than done

So, the Lord Chancellor has listened to the people, or at least to Tony Blair:
Gibson (a Labour MP) said last night it was obvious Lord Irvine had come under pressure from the prime minister to reject the huge pay hike
Of course, the rise has been "put on hold", not cancelled. I trust that Irvine doesn't think that the rise can be sneaked back in later without all hell breaking loose.

Saturday 8 February 2003

The champagne lifestyle

I am seriously reconsidering my plan to consume my bottle of champagne when Tony Blair is removed from Downing Street. It might be more satisfying to celebrate the ousting of Derry Irvine:
TONY Blair’s mentor and friend, Lord "Derry" Irvine of Lairg, was awarded a 12.6 per cent pay rise yesterday - almost four times as much as troops heading for potential war in the Gulf.

The inflation-busting award - denounced as "incredible" - will make the Lord Chancellor the highest-paid politician in Britain, with an annual salary of £202,736.

To think that my wife and I were once enjoying a drink in a Westminster pub when this champion tax-consumer came in, sat at the next table and royally indulged himself at our expense. I am pleased to note that many Labour MPs are outraged at Irvine's new "package".

Anyway, Blair's about to join the Tories!

Labour threatened

The latest opinion poll in the Glasgow Herald (no links on Saturdays) shows:
Labour support on 32% for the constituency vote, down from 40% the previous month
The Herald attributes this fall to anti-war sentiment, although a conversation I had with a local Labour activist leads me to believe that Blair is less isolated in his party than we may think.

Friday 7 February 2003

A Tory vote-winner?

The Scottish election is now less than three months away. Labour is surely vulnerable on crime. At last, the Conservatives are campaigning on what should be a vote-winning topic for them. If they wanted to be really radical, the Tories should oppose the ludicrous war on drugs and demand that police resources are used against crimes that actually have victims.

A change of mind

I have previously criticised Gavin Esler for an unthinking anti-Americanism. He seems to have changed his mind:
It is a mark of British arrogance, especially in some of our newspapers, that there remains an assumption here that our dim cousins across the Atlantic are capable only of a very simplistic approach to foreign affairs. It is true that throughout the Nineties Americans switched off from abroad, and pulled back from a real world role.

But British rage against the Americans for being stupid is merely a British Caliban seeing its own face in the mirror. The reflection, and the anti-Americanism, are both ugly.

Well said.

Thursday 6 February 2003

Mind your own business!

Boots plan to close their factory in the constituency of Helen Liddell, the Secretary of State for Scotland. She says that she:

will demand a "full explanation" from Boots
Liddell has been underemployed since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and serves no useful purpose. Instead of demanding "full explanations" from private-sector companies, Stalin's Granny (as she is known) should start her own business and aspire to live as a self-made millionaire.

Part two

Here is the second instalment of Dr Carol Craig's article about Scotland's "crisis of confidence". More good stuff, although I didn't like this:
I'm also no fan of American individualism, believing it not only results in a high crime rate but also in the type of dangerous selfishness apparent in the Americans' response to the Kyoto agreement on climate control.
I hope to be able to listen to her:
Carol Craig will be speaking about her book at Waterstone's, Glasgow, on Monday, March 3, at 7pm, and at West End Waterstone's, Edinburgh, on Tuesday, March 4, at 6pm.
If possible, I'll give her a few facts about Kyoto!

The millionaires next door

Thomas Stanley and William Danko's The Millionaire Next Door tells us that "wealthy individuals do not all belong to an elite group of highly educated and exceedingly lucky people who often inherit their money and spend it on lavish purchases and pampered lifestyles" but rather "that a significant number of America's wealthy are far more likely to work hard, save diligently, and live well below their means".

Now we know that it's true here too.

A new survey tells us where Britain's millionaires live. The number one spot is held by Hampstead in London, well-known as the home of media folk and represented at Westminster by Glenda Jackson. The second and third most popular areas for millionaires are both in Edinburgh:

THEY epitomise leafy suburbia with their rows of neat bungalows and terraced mansions but beneath the douce facades of Edinburgh's Blackhall and Morningside there appear to be hearts of gold. The unassuming streets a few miles west of the centre of the capital in Blackhall are home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the UK, with the exception of the north London suburb of Hampstead.
I was discussing this news with a group of people in the city centre who didn't even know that there was an area of Edinburgh called Blackhall! No "pampered lifestyles" there. Nevertheless:
266 Blackhall residents fall into the six-figure bracket, eclipsing affluent areas of London such as Kensington, Chelsea and St John's Wood.
I find it reassuring that the reputation that Scots have for being "careful with money" is borne out by this survey which shows that five of the fifteen wealthiest areas in Britain are north of the border. Sadly, my part of Edinburgh is a mere number 58 on the list.

Wednesday 5 February 2003

A question of confidence

There is a fascinating article in today's Glasgow Herald. Dr Carol Craig has written a book about Scotland's "damaging crisis of confidence":
There is a paradox at the heart of what it means to be Scottish. Our lives are shaped by two contradictory pressures pulling us in opposite directions. Together, they account for much of what I believe to be a national crisis of confidence. The first is the pressure to achieve; to make something of yourself and prove your worth. It's an impetus which has fuelled many fine Scottish achievements and led to the Scots' reputation as one of the most ambitious, hard-working, and innovative people in the world.

The second pressure is to know your place and not get above yourself ...... Strangers to Scotland soon learn that one of the biggest gaffes is to indulge in self-praise.

I have no doubt that Dr Craig is spot-on and also that her book will create a great deal of controversy:
It is not difficult to see where this levelling impulse springs from. The Kirk, Robert Burns, and the Labour movement have all nourished the notion that it's wrong for people to think they're better than others
The consequences of Scotland's egalitarianism are dire:
No wonder a recent health report, based on focus groups, concludes that many of Scotland's burgeoning health and social problems are due to a widespread lack of ambition throughout Scottish life and a dependency culture.
The problem is much wider than politics, but to break the dependency culture I believe that it is necessary for the Scottish parliament to have total responsibility for raising all of its own expenditure, sending an agreed amount to London for common UK services.

Dr Craig writes about the "national question":

I believe Scotland's relationship with England has undoubtedly injured Scottish self-esteem. But I do not believe it is the most important factor. Nor do I accept that constitutional change, on its own, would dramatically boost Scottish self-confidence.

We must start being honest with ourselves. We must accept that many of our own attitudes are self-defeating. Then, and only then, will it be possible to lift the dead hand of the past and unblock all that dammed - or should that be damned? - Scottish potential.

I couldn't agree more. There is more of this in tomorrow's paper. I look forward to that and to reading the book.

Monday 3 February 2003

French lessons

I like this scheme in which six-year-old Scottish pupils are being taught in French:
Their French lessons are not formal French lessons, taught in a mixture of English and French. Instead, the children are taught part of the curriculum - art, drama, music and PE - entirely in French.
If only I had started learning another language at six! But why does it cost so much:
It has cost about £100,000 a year to run the project to date - probably unaffordable for the executive to introduce it into every primary school.
The Walker Road School has employed two native French-speaking teachers, but they must free up other staff during their lessons. Even if they didn't, we're talking of £50,000 each. Why do I find the economics of government education to be somewhat crazy?

The land issue

Of course I have great sympathy with Mark Ford whose father was murdered in Zimbabwe. Mr Ford has criticised Tory MSP, Bill Aitken, for stating about the new Scottish land law that:
"This type of legislation has no place in modern Scotland. It will have a dreadful effect not only on those living in rural areas, but on city dwellers whose hard-earned tax will be used to pay for this Mugabe-style land grab."
Mr Ford says:
"In Zimbabwe, farmers aren't being compensated . . . farms are basically being stolen," he said. "I don't see that happening in Scotland. It's a democracy and things will be done fairly and monitored by independent people."
Well, yes, it is true that the Scottish law has been brought in by a democratically elected parliament and that displaced property owners will be compensated, but the law is still wrong.

Back to Africa:

However, John Worswick, vice-chairman of Justice for Agriculture, an organisation set up to defend the rights of farmers in Zimbabwe, said the government was using Scotland's land bill to legitimise its own land reform programme.
The Zimbabwe government is using the Scottish law to defend its own land grabs. We should be ashamed to be in this position.

Sunday 2 February 2003

The Central Airport saga

I look forward to reading the David Hume Institute Central Scotland Airport study. Media reports have highlighted job losses if Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were to close and be replaced by a new airport between the two cities. Newspapers have claimed that total airport employment would fall from 7,000 to 3,000. As usual, the journalists don't seem to have heard of the economist Frederic Bastiat who always asked us to look at "the unseen as well as the seen". The question on employment should be: "How many jobs would Scotland gain by having better air services compared with the net loss of airport jobs?"

Much has been made of the potential creation of a Scottish "hub" airport. But hubs are no longer so attractive; indeed the problems faced by United and American have been linked to their hub and spoke system, one that has not been adopted by the hugely successful Southwest Airlines. What Scotland actually needs are simply more direct services to Europe and North America, not a "hub" airport. The solution is to expand Edinburgh airport:

Peter Burt said: 'What the report does show is that we would get almost as good a result [as a new central Scotland airport] if a second runway was built at Edinburgh, so long as infra structural improvements were put in place.
That will not be popular in Labour's heartland but it's what is needed for Scotland.