Canadians have gone to the polls in a federal election with a firm warning from election officials: Please do not eat your ballots.
Tuesday 29 June 2004
JACK McConnell admitted last night that Scotland’s public sector was too big and something needed to be done about it.Oh dear. I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised at this kind of thinking but the truth is that our private sector is so small precisely because the public sector is so big.
But the First Minister insisted that the solution was to increase the size of the private sector, not shrink the public sector.
SCOTLAND has an inspiring new symbol - created using £300,000 of public cash - to promote the country abroad. It features a white, diagonal cross on a blue background and will be called... the Saltire.It is of course ridiculous to spend all that money on discovering what any normal person already knows: that the Saltire is an appropriate symbol for Scotland.
Hold on a minute. Isn’t that the very same design that has been a proud symbol of Scottishness for almost 1,200 years? Isn’t it already on flags flying from hundreds of major buildings? Isn’t it imprinted on the consciousness of five million Scots at home, and more abroad?
Well, yes, but that hasn’t stopped the Scottish Executive spending a third of a million pounds and many weeks canvassing world opinion on what should be the ultimate symbol of Scottishness, and deciding: it is the cross of St Andrew.
But let's look on the bright side. Normally government projects incur a huge amount of tax-financed expenditure - thus taking resources from the productive part of the economy - and then cause further harm by actually implementing the policy itself. In this case the £300,000 has indeed been wasted, but, amazingly, the correct solution has been found. Is this a first?
Monday 28 June 2004
ANYONE who believes the national stereotype of the Germans as humourless might like to ponder the following Teutonic rib-tickler: How did the Grand Canyon originate? Answer: A Scottish tourist lost a 50-cent piece.I understand why this sort of thing annoys many folk (as detailed in the article), but on balance I agree with this observation:
This, and dozens of jokes like it, is popular in Germany, where the stereotype of the tight-fisted Scot is alive and well.
As well as provoking mirth, the alleged meanness of Scots is also a powerful marketing tool. The phrase Schottenpreis - literally ‘Scotsman’s price’ - is used in countless adverts to persuade German consumers that something is dirt cheap.
Ted Cowan, professor of Scottish history at Glasgow University, said the Scots should live and let live. "I think that of all people, the Scots should know how to have a sense of humour. There are worse things which can be said about people than that they are rather too careful with money."We should take advantage of this image. Shouldn't Scottish financial institutions be proclaiming our reputation for financial prudence in their advertising campaigns and try to expand in the German market?
Better still, why don't we slash Scottish government expenditure and encourage German firms to move here to enjoy a "Schottentax"?
According to British tourism officials, the introduction of a ban on smoking in public in Ireland earlier this year has triggered a boom in foreign holidays designed around the nicotine habit — with Scotland a favoured destination.It's not only tourists who are coming over:
Mary White, Amy Kissane and Mairead Curry, all students from Co Westmeath, are spending the summer working in Edinburgh, so that they can smoke in public.The Scottish Executive wants to encourage young people to come here and work - and they are! Needless to say our politicians will introduce the same neo-fascist laws in our own country, thus undermining the tourism boost as well as the influx of young workers. Oh well.
“The options were to stay at home and find work or to come to Scotland, where we knew we could enjoy a fag in the pub,” said White, 20, a business studies student. “Coming to Scotland is like being let out of jail. As soon as I got off the plane, I sat on my bag and lit up.”
Friday 25 June 2004
1: Be Brave and Aggressive
Grab all opportunities
Use varying methods of attack
Be versatile and agile
Attack one target at a time
Don’t plan everything in detail
Use top quality weapons
2: Be Prepared
Keep weapons in good conditions
Keep in shape
Find good battle comrades
Agree on important points
Choose one chief
3: Be a good merchant
Find out what the market needs
Don't promise what you can't keep
Don't promise overpayment
Arrange things so that you can return
4: Keep the camp in order
Keep things tidy and organised
Arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group
Make sure everybody does useful work
Consult all members of the group for advice
Not too bad a set of rules for libertarians.
Monday 21 June 2004
It looks like Scotland is to come into some unexpected cash:
This will give Mr McConnell a budget enjoyed by no other comparable leader in the EU. Scotland’s health spending, as a share of the economy, will be the highest not just in the 25-member European Union, but in the developed world.No doubt McConnell will waste the cash on typical Labour boondoggles. If he must spend taxpayers' money why not invest in a world-class transport system like Norway's?
Saturday 19 June 2004
Saturday 12 June 2004
Thursday 10 June 2004
I think it's probable that UKIP won't do as well here as in England. Not because we're more in favour of the EU - opinion polls show Scots to be more eurosceptic than folk down south.
Labour is in trouble with its core vote because of the Iraq war. The LibDems are in coalition with Labour here and therefore seen to be less distinct than in England. The Nationalists are going trough a bad patch with a considerable amount of infighting. And the Tories - well they seem to be doing quite well and there was even speculation in the press recently that they may come top in Scotland! Their supporters may well decide that such an unusual opportunity is not to be missed and I therefore expect there to be less of a switch to the UKIP than elsewhere. But we shall find out on Monday.
She told a packed court in her home city of Brighton, Sussex, she had not paid the fines because of a £15,000 university debt.What a nerve! This "anti-capitalist" can afford to run a car and is whingeing about paying her student loan. She should sell the car if she's unable to afford her debt repayments, but I imagine that it'll be those us who are "pro-capitalist" who end up out of pocket.
Wearing jeans and an anti-capitalist T-shirt, she was twice told to be quiet by the magistrate.
When asked why she had failed to make the payments, dating back to April last year, she said: 'I haven't had enough money. I left university with £15,000 worth of student loans thanks to Mr Blair.
'It's thanks to Tony Blair, who said he was going to prioritise education and bring back grants and promised he wouldn't introduce top-up fees.'
Tuesday 8 June 2004
The cunning FlashCam device is triggered by movement and flashes twice.Excellent news. I am working on a similar device: the PolCam.
The first flash prompts those caught in the camera’s view to look towards it, then a second flash captures the offenders on film.
The United States-built equipment also issues a warning in an American accent.
It states: "You are in a restricted area. Law enforcement agencies have been advised of your presence."
Before the October opening, the cunning PolCam will be installed in the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.
It will be triggered by movement of MSPs whenever they stand up to speak in the chamber.
The Scottish-built equipment will issue a warning in the accent of an irate taxpayer.
It states: "You are in an area paid for by the people. The taxpayer has been advised of your presence. You do not need to tax anything, but anything that you do tax will be noted down and may be used in evidence against you."
People talk about putting rail at the heart of the country’s econ-omic growth, but the message coming from those with power to influence matters is hardly encouraging.And Mr Elder's solution is - surprise, surprise:
A national strategy is needed, and sooner rather than later.The national strategy that is required is really rather simple. It doesn't need an army of civil servants "planning" transport. God forbid. What is required is the proper recognition of property rights - something the Scottish Executive avoids at all costs.
Private road owners would ensure that vehicles pay the full cost of use. That may be more than what is currently collected in taxes. It may be less. But without privatisation of roads we will never enjoy a rational transport system. I'd be amazed if such a transport regime didn't include a sizable rail component.
Monday 7 June 2004
The major analysis of spending habits uncovered a generation of young people in Scotland who have lost their parents’ instinct to save for the future. It shows they would rather spend their money on alcohol, fast food, fashion accessories and mobile phones than build a nest egg.But are young people really to blame?
"Perhaps younger people look at their parents and realise that they have spent their lives saving and don’t have much to show for it. Their pensions may be worthless, which makes young people think it is a waste of time to build a nest egg. Instead, they decide to spend the money while they are young and can enjoy it. Their thinking is that they will worry about it in the future," she said.The government has harmed private pensions by abolishing tax relief on dividends and by increasing red tape on productive companies. Clearly, inflation is on its way back big-time - how else will we pay for the chancellor's spending plans? Increasing inflation will reduce the value of any savings one may make for retirement. On top of that, the benefits system makes it not worth investing in a pension fund unless a very sizable sum can be amassed. So maybe the young folk are right: eat, drink and be merry while you can and, if you're really clever, get a job with the government and all your pension problems will be solved. Until the country goes bust, that is.
Saturday 5 June 2004
It is instructive, therefore, to discover, that Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, has demanded that all Tory candidates in next week’s elections, sign up to the party’s recent deal with the ultra-federalist, left-leaning European Peoples Party. Failure to sign would lead to deselection.Even the Telegraph's pro-Conservative Charles Moore criticises the EPP link in today's paper.
What is the EPP action plan the Tories have pledged themselves to? Phasing out the national veto; a pan-European president; a pan-European tax; and a single currency.
I was amused to note that the EPP's website seems to think that the UK has taken over the Faroe Islands! No bad thing I say. I can see several advantages in the return of British imperialism:
1. The "British" Broadcasting Corporation might finally realise that places like Manchester are not in "the North".
2. Presumably we would have a larger share of all that forty-dollars-a-barrel North Sea oil.
3. Five British teams would be eligible to take part in the World Cup.
4. I would have to make a trip to the Faroes to visit Britain's most northerly bar, having already made the pilgrimage to the existing titleholder.
Friday 4 June 2004
LABOUR’S war of succession flared again yesterday, when Tony Blair’s closest aide claimed Gordon Brown could never become Prime Minister - because he is Scottish.I don't really think that Brown's nationality rules him out as Prime Minister in the reasonably near future, but the West Lothian Question really does need to be answered. My own preference is for Scots MPs to be barred from debating or voting on England-only laws, with a corresponding reduction in salary. However, if we get a few more of those Commons votes that force through English-only legislation with the help of Scottish MPs, who knows what will happen? Maybe then English Labour MPs would indeed refuse to pick Brown as leader. We could even have a West Lothian Question in the Labour leadership election itself, whenever it eventually comes. What on earth would happen if Gordon Brown received a majority vote but only by including Scots?
It's interesting to note that the Scotsman's political correspondent doesn't seem to consider Edinburgh-born Tony Blair as being Scottish:
If Mr Powell did assert that Mr Brown could not become Prime Minister because he is a Scot, he clearly has not read a history of the occupants of Downing Street. In the 70 years between 1894 and 1964, there have been seven Scottish prime ministers who covered a total of 25 years.Of course, Tony is probably the only person born north of the border who doesn't proclaim his own Scottish nationality.
TICKET touts were charging up to £120 for the chance to see the Dalai Lama give his only public talk in Edinburgh yesterday.Corrected version:
Eager to cash in on the last day of a six-day Scottish visit by the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, ticket prices, originally £15, soared as crowds turned up outside the Usher Hall for the world peace flag ceremony and concert.
Heroic entrepreneurs enable keen Buddhists to see their leader despite market misjudgement by managers of government-owned concert hall
Thursday 3 June 2004
It may seem unkind to pick on Greens when there are far more sinister (BNP) and nuttier (UKIP) forces out there, but it is worrying that so many otherwise sensible folk think Green is the way to go.I agree that the BNP are sinister, but why is it "nuttier" to favour the retention of Britain's independence than to advocate policies that would cause the deaths of millions of human beings?
Calling Toneboy a liar seems a bit mild compared to the headline in The Sun today:
Minister is an EU traitorAccording to the paper:
BRITAIN has been secretly signed up to an astonishing blueprint for an EU superstate, it emerged last night.Michael Howard says:
EU minister Denis MacShane has backed plans to surrender huge swathes of power to Brussels.
OUT would go Westminster’s right to set taxes, foreign, defence and immigration policy.
OUT would go our cherished seat at the top table of the world’s most powerful bodies.
"Any idea that Britain’s sovereignty is safe in the hands of this Government has been blown out of the water.”Quite correct of course, but what will Mr Howard do about it? Why won't he say that there could well be a need to withdraw from the EU - even if he doesn't think that we've reached that point yet? Unless that option is available, the Frankenreich can roll all over us.
Wednesday 2 June 2004
Yesterday's decision by the Scottish Premier League seems to me to be quite wrong:
SUPPORTERS and politicians in the Highlands united last night in condemnation of the Scottish Premier League’s decision to block Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s promotion to its ranks.The SPL insists that member clubs have stadia that can seat at least 10,000 people. Inverness doesn't meet that stipulation but has agreed a deal with Aberdeen allowing the use of their ground for home matches. The SPL has vetoed that deal. Actually, I think that it was a nonsense to expect Inverness fans to travel 100 miles or so to Aberdeen to watch their team's "home" games, but that's been ruled out now. Inverness normally attracts only two or three thousand spectators, although more could have been expected were they to play in the Premier League. The SPL should welcome Inverness into their ranks - they have earned that right fair-and-square. If the Inverness ground were to be filled to capacity (2,280 sitting plus 4,000 standing) every two weeks that would provide the sort of atmosphere that is sadly lacking nowadays anywhere outside Ibrox or Parkhead.
The Division 1 champions do not meet the SPL stadium criteria but had agreed a ground-share deal with Aberdeen to allow them to take their place in the top flight.