Wednesday 31 May 2006

I’m supporting England. Unfortunately

Why unfortunately? Because Scotland aren’t playing.

Let me explain.

My background is British in a way that doesn’t apply to politicians like Jack McConnell who have been criticised for not supporting the English team. My late father was English but lived in Scotland for a long time. My mother is Scottish but now lives in England. One of my sisters was born in Scotland, the other in England. I lived in southwest Scotland until I was 6, then moved to Leeds for 3 years, and then back to Ayrshire until I was 18. Just after I left school the family moved to London where I lived and worked for many years. Now I am back in Scotland again. Because I was born here I support Scotland when they play against anyone, especially England, but support England when they play against other countries.

Most Scots don’t have that kind of mixed family background and I think that it’s entirely understandable that they aren’t supporting England in the World Cup. Hang on, say the English, why don’t the Scots support “their fellow British team”? Because, in footballing terms, it’s not a fellow team, but is perceived by Scots to be the number one rival. If Celtic are playing against Barcelona in a European match, do Rangers fans cheer on their “fellow” Glaswegians? Aye, right! Were Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham fans in tears over Arsenal’s recent defeat in the Champions’ League final? I don't think so.

But, say our English neighbours, we would always support a fellow British team. I heard that being argued on the radio in an Edinburgh cafĂ© yesterday morning. And the previous week. And the week before. But Scotland aren’t (sadly) a threat to England. It’s no big deal for English folk to support Scotland in those circumstances. But let’s imagine a World Cup final between Germany and Brazil. Will the pubs of England be full of fans cheering on their fellow European team?

Just possibly not.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

The John Major Rap

In a recent comment Andrew Duffin mentioned the John Major cones hotline.

This has reminded me of the 1992 general election in which Mr Major's government was rather unexpectedly re-elected. Shortly afterwards, Mrs F&W and myself took a trip from London to Scotland. To pass the time and keep myself awake I started to invent (and perform!) some rap lyrics. The one that we both remember was composed on the Dumfries bypass and refers to an imaginary conversation between the victorious Prime Minister and the new MP for Hampstead, Ms Glenda Jackson.

To understand the sheer brilliance (if I may be so modest) of this composition you will have to be familiar with the works of Ayn Rand:

Now Johnnie said to Glenda, the new MP,
Don't you take that line with me,
I think you've got your knickers in a twist,
You Mystic, Altruist, Collect-iv-ist!

Monday 29 May 2006

Farewell Inspector Rebus

Yes, the Lothian and Borders Police have finally pensioned him off:
EVERY police officer in Scotland will have to undergo regular fitness tests under plans to get overweight staff into shape, The Scotsman has learned.

Chief constables want to introduce routine fitness checks for serving officers, which will see police undertake a series of tests such as running, step-ups and cycling.

Hang on a moment and hear me out. Believe it or not, I've actually been into the Inspector's office now and again. Solely in the course of duty, you understand. And guess what - there's never been any sign of police officers performing press-ups or 100-metre sprints. But the inhabitants of the Ox - one of whom is the great man himself - do undertake something far more challenging than mere training in "suppleness, strength and stamina". They actually, think. As in reading books and newspapers. As in watching the news on the pub television instead of MTV. As in the pub having a supply of dictionaries for us to consult.

Police officers need to be "fit for purpose", as the modern jargon goes. But in my book that means having an almost religious reverence for Britain's traditional liberties and the rule of law. That's far more important than physical fitness. Let's keep Rebus on the force and get rid of some the Chief Constables who don't seem to have a clue about the proper role of the police in a civilised society.

Teaching with the left foot

Here's an interesting letter from a teacher who objects to having to reveal his religion when applying for jobs:
Asking me if I am a Catholic or not when applying for a job is religious discrimination, sectarian and bigoted, but you never pursue this. Why not?

Why is the First Minister, Jack McConnell, shy of this issue? One thing is for sure; if Rangers issued an application form with such an anti-Catholic question, he would be all over your front pages for weeks condemning their sectarian employment policy.

The writer is correct in stating that the First Minister would fly into a rage if Rangers were to act as described.

But L McDowell misses the real point: Rangers and Celtic are private organisations. In my view they should be free to discriminate in favour or against anyone for any reason whatsoever. Equally of course, we, the public, should take any such discrimination into account when deciding whether or not to support such a team.

It's quite a different matter when we come to the writer's job applications because the schools in question aren't privately owned but are paid for by the taxpayer. Government schools shouldn't discriminate on grounds of religion and it's a nonsense that Scotland has two separate state education systems. One would be bad enough!

Sunday 28 May 2006

But she is political

Well, it's certainly true that this woman has been influential:
Maureen Moore, the director of ASH Scotland, is the highest new entry in Scotland on Sunday's annual Power 100 list for helping to force through Scotland's groundbreaking ban on smoking in public places.
But then I read this comment from one of the judges:
Magnus Linklater, the chairman of the judging panel, said politicians had been deliberately excluded from the list. "The Power 100 is a list of people who have had a major impact on Scottish life in the past year, outside the Holyrood goldfish bowl.
It's true that Ms Moore hasn't been elected to the Scottish Parliament but that doesn't mean that she's not political. Note the words "helping to force through".

I know that I've linked to this book before, but the message (paging David Cameron) needs to be constantly reinforced:

"There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others."
Ms Moore didn't run a campaign to persuade the owners of private businesses (they're not "public" places) to ban smoking - that would be "work". Such a campaign would have been entirely legitimate - indeed, I might have supported it myself. But no, she got politicians to force through a ban - that's "robbery". She's as much a politician - and as harmful to our liberties - as any elected MSP.

Down with the Tsar

Can you believe it? We're going to spend £300,000 a year on yet another Scottish "Tsar":
A ROADWORKS tsar with wide-ranging powers to veto or delay ill-planned highway closures will be appointed within months, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

From the start of 2007, utility companies who break the strict new standards will be hit with £5,000 fines, and badly- affected stretches of highway could be declared roadworks-free for years

Yes, I know that Tsars are all the rage now in Scotland, but this is ridiculous. The reason that roadworks are uncoordinated is because the roads are owned and run by the government. A road Tsar won't solve the problem. Mass privatisation and the incentives it will bring is the answer.

Monday 22 May 2006

Just as well...

(Hat Tip Iain Dale)

Having taken the quiz, I get this result:

Which country should you REALLY be living in?

The United Kingdom

You have pride in yourself and pride in your country. You believe that history and culture is an important factor to the future of your country, and that traditions and values should be upheld. You love your scones and tea, and reading soppy romance novels. The UK is where you should be...

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Going by the numbers

Believe it or not, I often agree with the Nationalists in saying that London's domination of the economy is to a considerable extent caused by the UK's unique degree of political centralisation. But this is just ridiculous:
According to a Parliamentary Answer by the Home Office there are less people working for the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) in Scotland than working at Gatwick Airport. Commenting on the answer the SNP's Shadow Home Affairs spokesperson, Stewart Hosie MP, said that it highlighted the metropolitan employment bias of the London Government.
I know that this may seem rather odd to Scottish politicians but the purpose of jobs is to provide a service. The resulting employment is a consequence of that service provision. The IND's purpose is to man the borders. Whether they actually do so is quite another matter of course. Is it not just possible that the large immigration staff at Gatwick has something to do with passenger numbers?

From the website of the Civil Aviation Authority we find the following figures for international passengers in 2005 (in thousands):

Gatwick 28,752
Glasgow 4,174
Edinburgh 2,332
Prestwick 1,769
Aberdeen 1,124
Scatsa 111
Inverness 6
Sumburgh 3

So that's 9,519 thousand international passengers in Scotland (plus around 100,000 on the Zeebrugge/Rosyth ferry) as against 28,752 thousand at Gatwick. It seems to me that the staff numbers are about right, unless of course the SNP think that passengers arriving at Scottish airports from England should be given the once over by the immigration officers.

(On that last point, I was rather surprised to learn that domestic passengers at Edinburgh were 6,116 thousand which is damned close to Heathrow's 6,673K.

And a question: are all those "international" passengers at Scatsa travelling to and from Norway or do oil rigs count as "abroad"?)

Thursday 18 May 2006

Get it now!

It'll be out of date by next week!

(UPDATE: website here)

Wednesday 17 May 2006

Turf war

Does this surprise anyone? Scotland's new public access law has created some problems:
During a meeting at Prestwick golf club the cross-party golf club heard complaints of dogs fouling greens, shoppers taking shortcuts across fairways and about altercations between walkers and tourists playing golf.

Alastair Morrison, the MSP who chairs the group, said: "There has been a great increase in the number of incidences where people have not been accessing golf courses responsibly."

Mr Morrison is a member of the Labour party - you know, the people who brought in the new public access law. He's not exactly a fan of property rights, as we can read here:
In these writings I've also quoted Alasdair Morrison MSP. Speaking around the same time as Wilson's magnificent speech, he said: "Notice has now been served on rapacious landowners who have abused wealth and privilege. An unstoppable reforming process has begun."
So, the "unstoppable reforming process" hasn't quite worked out as its proponents expected, has it? People aren't "accessing golf courses responsibly". Of course not. If you spend your life proclaiming that private property is a wicked evil, to be opposed at every turn, this is exactly the outcome that you'll achieve.

Note this too:

Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland (RS) said she was disappointed golfers had gone straight to members of the Scottish parliament rather than talk to groups like hers.
What a cheek: RS didn't hesitate to advocate legislation to get what they wanted, did they? They weren't happy just to "talk".

When I lived in Prestwick, it was perfectly normal to cross golf courses without behaving aggressively. But that was because everyone knew that the courses were private property and that we were lucky to be able to have access.

Note the bit about altercations with tourists. I can see a terrible consequence of Scotland's attack on property rights. Eventually, a visitor will get attacked. Word will get out abroad. Tourists will stop coming here and idiot politicians will have destroyed yet another industry.

Monday 15 May 2006

Not mine, unfortunately

Readers will know that I am interested in photography. I think that these ones from a student in Glasgow are fantastic.

The price of justice

These legal reforms seem to be sensible enough:
Figures for the first year of the new system showed there was a 144% rise in early guilty pleas, resulting in fewer people being called to court.
It's the job of opposition politicians to monitor and challenge the executive (paging David Cameron) and a Tory MSP makes this point:
However, Conservative MSP Bill Aitken criticised the new sentence discounts for those pleading guilty.

He claimed this had resulted in too many criminals serving a minimal amount of time in prison.

The discount problem is caused by the system's emphasis on prison instead of compensation for victims. Criminals should pay full compensation for their actions, including the costs of any necessary police and court time. It follows, I think, that a guilty plea should result in a "discount" in respect of court time not incurred but not of course for either compensation to the victim or the cost of policing.

Constable, where's yer troosers?

If the police wore kilts, would they have this problem:
Police officers have been caught short after being supplied with the wrong trousers.
Perhaps not, although those north-easterly winds could present a different challenge.

I can't say that I'm surprised about any of this. When one reads that:

The Grampian force is switching to a more casual uniform in June,
you just know a mistake's been made.

I imagine that some sociology graduate in the Grampian force has decided that the police should appear to be more "inclusive". Why not go the whole hog and put the officers in shell suits and baseball hats? What most of us want is to see more police on the beat dealing with genuine crime and deterring neds, not trying to be fashion models.

Monday 8 May 2006


The final batch of photos from my recent visit to East Fife is now up on Scottish Clouds. These ones were taken at Crail and Anstruther.

Some readers may have eaten at one of these two establishments:

Fife - Crail 23rd April 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

The liquidity problem

An irate blogger writes:
Where in the UK would you, the costomer, have to pay should you water supply pipe burst at a point after it enters your property. The answer is only one place Scotland. In 1997 all the water authourities in Great Britain agreed guaranteeing free repairs of services into customers home, except for Scottish Water.
I have no strong feelings about who should "pay" for such damages - it they're repaired "free" the cost will of course be built into the overall charge for the water supply.

The writer goes on to ask:

So why is Scotland alone in the UK for facing these charges?
But instead of providing an answer, we get this:
Water is a basic necessity of life, however with the companies currently running our supply looking for profit in such scurrelous ways is it not time to return these area monopolies to be returned to public ownership or become a non-profit organisation?
What's astounding is that the writer - a LibDem candidate in the last general election - doesn't seem to know that Scottish Water is already a non-profit, publicly owned organisation and has one of the worst reputations for water supply in the UK. The English companies that provide the "free" service are profit-seeking capitalists. Lucky England.

Bookkeeping, government style

I've just come across this story about Scottish Enterprise (sic):
THE Scottish Executive is set to agree a multi-million-pound rescue package for Scotland's troubled economic development agency.

Nicol Stephen, the enterprise minister, yesterday revealed that ministers were looking at a complicated accounting device to wipe out overspending at Scottish Enterprise.

He told Holyrood's enterprise committee that the agency had spent £25 million from last year's budget on economic development projects, but the money should have been set aside to cover "other costs" such as depreciation and property expenses.

Whenever the taxpayer reads about "a complicated accounting device" he should reach for his revolver. It seems to me that here we have a failure to understand basic accounting principles. Depreciation is a process by which the cost incurred in purchasing an asset is spread over several years profit and loss accounts based on the expected useful life of the asset. The point is that one doesn't "set aside" money to cover depreciation - it's already been spent when the asset in question was purchased. Doesn't the enterprise minister understand this? Why didn't any other MSP jump on this statement?

No shit Sherlock?

Just visit Dundee!

Thursday 4 May 2006

The colour question

A Labour MSP wants legislation to control sunbeds. Some of my fellow bloggers see this as just another example of the nanny state. I'm not so sure. Consider that most Labour politicians are Celtic fans. Sunbeds turn you orange. QED.

Wednesday 3 May 2006

The second postcard...

... was from WaterSense, which is
a partnership of WWF Scotland (funded by HSBC), the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Water
The postcard informs me that:
Most homes contain a range of toxic chemicals, in products such as toiletries, household cleaners and pesticides. Many of these end up going down the drain and entering the water system
You know, I've just had my morning shower, and yes, the gunk did go down the drain. Who'd have thunk it?

Does anyone in these organisations not realise how patronising these messages are, at least to those of us who don't need the help offered by the first postcard? It's no wonder that there is an almost universal contempt for the state, its employees, and above all, for politicians.

The first postcard...

... that I received yesterday was jointly from Communities Scotland and Learndirect Scotland - both offshoots of the Scottish Executive and both funded by yours truly. I am being offered "help with reading writing or numbers". The Scottish Executive has destroyed this country's once-proud education system and is now hiring yet more bureaucrats to sort out the result.

If I call 0808 100 1080 I can get help with "handling bills and bank statements". Should I pass the number on to Gordon Brown?

Monday 1 May 2006

Unintended consequences

Last summer there was a posting over on the Adam Smith Institute blog:
I have long suspected that Communist propaganda in general will be looked back on by historians as having had very different results to those intended.
Indeed, the writer suggests that naive Chinese government propaganda may well have contributed to that country's eventual adoption of a form of capitalism.

Over the last day or so we have been reading about the death of the (so-called) economist J.K. Galbraith. Some readers may be surprised to hear that I owe a great deal to Galbraith. When I moved to London at the age of eighteen I had no interest in politics. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties before I even started reading a daily newspaper.

One day I came across a copy of The Affluent Society and, for reasons that I certainly can't remember, decided to buy a copy. Perhaps the book was in the news at the time.

I was fascinated by my first exposure to the world of economics. Everything Galbraith wrote seemed to make perfect sense. As the weeks and months went on I read more and more. But fairly soon I discovered a book called Right Turn that was published by an offshoot of the IEA. Here was a group of writers diametrically opposed to Galbraith, and they made sense too! Clearly I needed to read even more widely. And that's what led me to discover Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard and dozens of other libertarian writers who were able to convince me that Galbraith was utterly confused as were and are all of those politicians, journalists and academics who have yet to move on to the next stage of learning.