Friday 26 January 2007

Are we for real?

I recently finished reading the Roy Jenkins biography of Gladstone and what an excellent book it was. But perhaps I've been conned. How do I know that this "Gladstone" character actually existed? For that matter, was there really a Palmerston, a Disraeli or even a Queen Victoria? And this "London" place - is it real? I think I've been there, but what does that prove?

The reason I'm asking these seemingly bizarre questions is that my current reading matter is the Killing of History by Australian academic Keith Windschuttle.

The author is angry that history departments down under have been taken over by practitioners of "cultural relativism", "semiotics", "structuralism", "post-structuralism", "discourse theory", "postmodernism", "hermeneutics" and much more of the same. For them, we can't possibly "know" anything. Any opinion is as good as any other. "Reality" is merely an assumption, probably of exploitative white males. Perhaps because Mr Windschuttle is an academic he refrains from what most Ozzies and other decent folk would say: these characters are raving nutcases. And they inhabit most of the humanities departments in the whole of the Anglosphere, not just in history and not just in Australia. None of these charlatans would survive for a moment if they didn't have the taxpayer financing their nefarious activities. I doubt if they'd make it as sellers of the Big Issue. And this ladies and gentlemen is why any attempt by our government to promote "Britishness" is doomed to fail. Our educational establishment is under the control of the same lunatics. For them, all cultures are equal. Except ours; it is uniquely evil.

Don't we live in interesting times?

Wednesday 24 January 2007

Nothing to do with Cherie Blair?

And with one leap Labour's free!

It could be so:

Legal action is being considered which could stop the Scottish Parliament election from taking place because prisoners are excluded from voting.
If the election is postponed, or even declared void retrospectively, 99% of the Scottish population will consider it to have been a "fix".

Sunday 21 January 2007

Greetings from Albania

I'm referring of course to the words of Simon Heffer in a recent piece in the Telegraph in which he describes Scotland as:
a bad-weather theme park, or the Albania of Western Europe
Well, weather's a matter of taste but I note that the annual rainfall here in Edinburgh is very similar to that in London and if all that global warming talk turns out to be correct (probably it won't) I'll be happily enjoying some nice bottles of Cotes de Forth. But Albania?

What Heffer's on about is Scotland's claimed status as an economic basket case that can only survive on English handouts.

It so happens that I've just finished reading Living with Leviathan by David B Smith, and very interesting it is. Most of the book concerns the excessive size of the UK state and why that size is extremely harmful. But what interested me most was Chapter 5 - Does Britain have Regional Justice in Tax and Spend? Mr Smith thinks not.

(Nationalist readers will be amused by this statement:

Another quirk in the ONS data is that there is an ‘extra-regio' component of GVA (gross value added), which reflects activities such as North Sea energy production that cannot be allocated to specific regions,
I think that what Mr Smith really means is "cannot be allocated" without causing Gordon Brown's head to explode. But what I'm about to discuss assumes that Scotland is not credited with any of the oil revenue.)

Mr Smith finds that the Scottish GVA per capita comes in at 96.2 against a UK index of 100. That puts us economically below London, the Southeast and the East of England, but above the other eight UK regions. Not too bad, I'd say. Smith then does something rather clever. He adjusts the regional per capita output figures to take account of the differing costs of living. Scotland's "real" GVA per capita now comes out at 101.8 against the UK's 100. So we produce a bit less than the UK average but it goes further.

The big difference is in government spending. Per capita, Scotland's is the fourth highest of the twelve regions. It seems quite clear that our English friends are fully justified in complaining about Scottish expenditure (and the West Lothian Question of course) but the level of state spending doesn't mean that Scotland is akin to Albania, merely that our statist and vote-seeking politicians have been skilled at extracting dosh that we don't actually need!

Even more interestingly, Mr Smith writes about:

the more disturbing possibility that high levels of government spending are themselves responsible for many of the problems of the poorer regions of the UK – even if the public spending is not financed through taxation but by transfers from other parts of the country.
How could that be? The answer is that the same amount of dole money, incapacity benefit, old age pension, minimum wage and government salaries, etc. etc. goes much further in those parts of the UK that are "remote" from London. Hence, the attractions of finding a job in the stressful, competitive, globalising and wealth-creating private sector in, say, Scotland, are much less than they are in the high-cost Southeast. A government job that pays the same wage in Livingston as in Luton is a much better deal. So, quite apart from the fact that Scotland's better-funded NHS and education systems aren't performing any better than those down south, their financing actively harms the Scottish economy. We'd be better off without the "subsidy", especially as our output is already pretty average by UK standards. Higher in real terms actually, considering the cost of living differentials. Indeed, one could even argue that if some of our excessively large public sector workforce moved into the private sector, we'd produce considerably more than the UK average.

So, I conclude that there's no need to buy that Albanian phrase book just yet. It's perfectly possible for Scotland to be a net financial contributor to the UK even without including the oil. On the other hand, the rants of Mr Heffer, and yes, his followers in the English blogosphere, might just annoy Scots enough to go it alone.

Sunday 14 January 2007

Cold's back and pies are back.

The cold's returned so blogging will remain light.

There is some good news though:

Pies back on The Horse Shoe menu.

The Horse Shoe bar Pies will return to The Horse Shoe bar on Monday. A campaign to restore pies to the menu at a traditional Glasgow pub has proved successful.

Pro-pie advocate David Hunter has placed this comment on my previous post:
Many thanks for all the comments in this post. I'm happy to say that M&B reversed their decision, which incidentally had been made by the local area manager and not by M&B senior management, and have returned the pies to there rightful place - in the pie warmer of The Horse Shoe Bar. One comment made "it takes months to find a customer, seconds to lose one" proved very true, as guys like myself and many others, left for other Glasgow locals that have stayed with tradition. Mind you there's not a lot of traditional pubs left. Monday 15 January 2007 sees the pie relaunched and McGhees who supply them have donated the first 100 FREE. Thanks again for all your support.

David Hunter

Horse Shoe Bar pie campaigner.

Here is the campaign's website.

Monday 8 January 2007

Would Scotland be allowed to join the EU?

That's the question raised here:
THE SNP's case for independence was dealt a damaging blow last night when the European Commission and senior academics challenged the Nationalists' core assumption - that an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.
As I write, there are 373 comments on this story on the Scotsman's website.

What it apparently boils down to is this: If Scotland decides to be independent, would what's left of the existing entity be deemed to be the continuing UK? I think that this is one of those "not-proven" situations, but read the Scotsman's comments.

We could argue like this. Great Britain was formed when the Scottish and English parliaments both ceased to exist in 1707 after the Treaty and Acts of Union. From then on there was one British parliament. (Wales had already been incorporated into England centuries earlier.) Similarly, in 1800 Ireland joined the union to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 part of Ireland became independent. So if Scotland became independent, what's left would be the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. On the other hand, we could claim that Wales was effectively part of England back in 1707 and the entity with which Ireland merged in 1800 was the 1707 union of Scotland and England. If either of the two "founding father" nations secedes, the whole union must be considered at an end and therefore all successor entities would equally have to apply to join the EU, the UN, NATO, or whatever.

There are legal opinions on both sides of the argument and I have no doubt that it would all come down to politics. Yes, Spain might want to veto Scottish entry so as not to encourage the Basques and Catalans (but Spain would no longer be able to harvest our fishing grounds!) If England, or England and Wales, or England Wales plus Northern Ireland were deemed to be the continuing UK, would they veto Scotland? Probably not, but we can hope! My view is that the EU is overwhelmingly a political construct. Its purpose is to create a super-power that would rival and then eclipse the US. Would the EU like Switzerland and Norway to join? Of course. Turkey? Perhaps not.

I think that it's inconceivable that the EU would somehow stop an independent Scotland from joining the club. It's not just the oil, the fresh water, the minerals and the renewable energy. What matters is that we're part of what the EU considers to be theirs.

Of course, if Alex Salmond could guarantee that we wouldn't be allowed to join the EU, the SNP would get my vote in May.

Terry's back!

And here is the link to Councillor Kelly's latest.

I usually follow the convention of quoting only limited parts from linked documents but am taking the liberty of re-posting all of Terry's post along with my own observations:

The above named site

he means Scottish Blogging Roundup.

is a self appointed

All blogs are "self appointed", including Terry's own one.

critic of peoples blogs, so what, well, it gives me a chance to let you know what some of these right wing/nationalists/libertarians are like and just how inane and pathetic they can be. Along with some other sites they have made a big ( bogus ) issue of me not posting comments, despite my statement that I would print anything which was not abusive, I also pointed out that I'm not aware of any way to disprove what they say,

Understandable - there is no way to disprove the assertion that socialism is a disastrous mistake.

Or perhaps can't disprove so they don't have to prove their allegations.


Anyway if you read this site which is really quite hard going,

In what way?

you will find this accusation levelled against me, then a wee bit further down you read that they have decided that they are censuring me and I'm to be excluded.

A private blogger has every right to exclude or include whomever he wishes. Censorship is a concept that only applies to state action. I look forward to your commenting on this blog.

Well what are we to make of this ? the brave new world of the libertarian blog didn't take long to buckle did it ? Mr Ferrer of Whiskey & Freedom has done the same, as have others, hardly a robust reaction from these brave ground breakers is it ?

Once more Terry spells my name incorrectly, spells our national drink incorrectly and gets the name of my blog wrong. I removed Terry from my blogroll for the reasons given at the time.

give me my old muddle headed mate 'reactionary snob' anytime, he talks absolute rubbish but at least he does it while standing on his feet.

You've got me there! I'm sitting down at the moment.

Friday 5 January 2007

Who took all the pies?

I accept that Mitchells and Butler have every right to decide what to sell in their pubs even when I deplore the decision in question:
The Horse Shoe bar in Drury Street has withdrawn pies from its menu on the instruction of its owners Mitchells and Butlers.

Bar owners are hoping "to broaden the pub's appeal to a wider customer base".

This is cultural vandalism. Like everywhere else in Britain, Glasgow already has plenty of pubs aimed at pleasing that so-called "wider customer base". The Horse Shoe Bar is world famous and well patronised precisely because it's not one of those damned plastic pubs that are full of plastic people who drink fancy water and whose idea of a square meal is a couple of lettuce leaves. Actually, I suspect that M&B are running scared of the health fascists on Glasgow Council and in the Scottish Parliament and wanted to implement their miserable new menu before it becomes compulsory. Anyway, if you want a "wider customer base" shouldn't they be serving more pies?

At least the customers are fighting back:

David Hunter, a Horseshoe regular, has launched an online vote asking punters to support his campaign to return pies to the menu.

His website says the pie has been a tradional (no BBC spellchecker?) snack with thousands of patrons.

"It's the natural choice with a pint," it adds.

It's at times like this that I wish I had enough money to buy Mitchells and Butlers and fire the idiots who made this decision.

I note that the people agree with me.

Tuesday 2 January 2007

Sleepwalking into independence

Is it just me? Does anyone else find this odd?

In today's Daily Mail (well, in the Scottish version) the main story is about the SNP's commanding lead in Labour's private opinion polls in the lead up to May's Holyrood election.

According to the Mail:

If it wins, the SNP has vowed to introduce legislation that would see a referendum on independence within 100 days.
That's highly misleading - it's the legislation, not the referendum itself that's planned for the first 100 days.

But Labour (according to the Mail) thinks that Messrs Brown, Darling, Reid and Alexander will be tied up fighting this referendum at exactly the same time as Brown takes over from Blair.

We are then told:

One minister with a Scottish constituency said: "This could wreck Gordon's blueprint for his first 100 days in office.

The polling from Scotland looks grim. Rather than focusing on the issues he wants to, Gordon could be sucked back into what essentially is parochial politics.

A "No" campaign would have to be spearheaded by him and other ministers from Scotland."

Forget for the moment that any referendum may well not take place until after Gordon Brown is on the dole queue; is it really the opinion of a Scottish minister that the question of the continuation of the UK is "parochial politics"? The mind boggles.

The Mail continues:

Key policy areas, such as plans for pay-as-you-go road tolls and ID cards, could prove impossible to implement if a Nationalist-controlled Scottish parliament - or an independent Scotland - refused to co-operate.
But if Scotland were independent, why would it have any input at all on whatever entity remained at Westminster? The previous paragraph is ludicrous. It would seem that the Mail's Deputy Political Editor just doesn't get it. If Scotland is independent, the UK won't somehow continue to exist as if nothing had happened. I see this article as another example of the Presumption of the English Norm: that if Scotland becomes independent, nothing will really have changed. Oh yes it will, and I sometimes think that the shock to England would be much greater than that felt in Scotland where at least the issue is discussed in a sensible way.

Monday 1 January 2007

Now and Then


From the Daily Telegraph:

New advertising rules that will officially label cheese as "junk food" were condemned yesterday by the dairy industry as unfair, misleading and counter-productive.

Foods caught by the junk food ban:

Marmite, Flora Lite, half-fat cheddar cheese, Dairylea triangles, bran flakes, camembert, sugar-coated puffed wheat, instant hot oat cereal, Jaffa cakes, reduced calorie mayonnaise, multi-grain hoop cereal, half-fat creme fraiche, takeaway chicken nuggets, potato waffles, Greek yoghurt (sheep), ham, sausages, bacon rashers, low-fat spreads, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, peanut butter, raisins, sultanas, currants, low-fat potato crisps, olive oil, butter, pizza, hamburgers, tomato ketchup, chocolate, brown sauce, cola, lemonade


From Gladstone, by Roy Jenkins:
When the Speaker (Denison) dined with Palmerston in his (Palmerston's) eighty-first year he was much struck by the Prime Minister consuming two plates of turtle soup, a dish of cod with oyster sauce, a pate, two entrees, a plate of mutton, a slice of ham, and a portion of pheasant.