Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Sadly they cannot hear

I'm aghast.
The Labour party needs to re-think.  They failed to gain enough seats in England and they were trounced in Scotland.  All the debate at the moment seems to centre on 'we lost in England because we were too left-leaning'.  Blair, Mandelson, that other Miliband - even Lord Sugar are all lining up behind this analysis.
So what happened in Scotland?  Surely SNP won because it gave a coherent anti-austerity (ie more leftward) message.  Can't anyone see that maybe if Labour had articulated that message in England they might have had more success?
Apparently not.  And this (once again) exposes a complete inability of the English and the establishment to understand what is happening in Scotland.  It seems their analysis cant get beyond the 'religious hysteria' interpretation of events in Scotland so offensively described in the Telegraph today.  This reveals (once again) how the English and the establishment regard Scots as some weird tribe, ancient and unfathomable and very clearly anti-English.  (I'll say it again just for the record - what is happening in Scotland is nothing to do with anti-Englishness).  In Scotland we cant help but see this insistence on an anti-English interpretation as divisive and, frankly, racist.  So the English perception of anti-Englishness begets anti-Englishness.  As an Englishman in Scotland this is very sad.
I've given up on the Union, but I do still care for the Labour party.  Here's an alternative analysis of the election (for them, sadly, to ignore).

  1. The SNP gave a message of hope.  This gained most momentum during indyref but was very well articulated during the election.  This 'hope' wasn't Stalinist (referencing that Telegraph article again) - it was a simple idea that you grow the economy by investing in it:  it was a simple idea that economic growth on the back of low wages and zero hour contracts isn't worth having.
  2. But the SNP did something else really very important.  In the indyref there was a massive ground campaign to get all those who are disenfranchised  - all of those for whom politics had seemingly lost all meaning, to register to vote.  These abandoned folk used to be represented by Labour, but they've been forgotten in the Blairite lust to bed big business.
It's really that simple.  Offer hope, and engage those who need hope most.  And get away from this idea that there is a relationship between anti-austerity and anti-business.  Business sees the need for investment, business sees the need for an educated, healthy and engaged workforce, business sees the need for money to circulate in the economy (rather than concentrate at the top), business understands the need for social cohesion.

But I fear no-one is listening to Scotland and I am aghast.

(Oh and here is that offensive Telegraph article - but I dont single out the telegraph there's much worse elsewhere - including the Mail yesterday)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11594721/For-the-good-of-the-Union-its-time-for-England-to-stand-up-to-the-Scots.html

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Leadership without integrity always fails in the end

I was against the notion of this referendum, deeply distrustful of any nationalist stance.  And for a long time I was in the NO camp.  It’s possible that I would have been swayed by YES eventually – I’m a lefty idealist, easy pickings for the heady optimism of the YES campaign, but that’s not what happened.  What happened is that NO lost me, NO pushed me to the YES side, and I can remember exactly when it happened.

George Osborne journeyed to Edinburgh and announced that Scotland could not have the pound, and then Cameron gave his silly little speech at the Olympic Village.  That’s when NO lost me.

Osborne calculated that the fear of not having the pound would galvanise business and voters into the NO camp.  It might have worked but for the fact that this is such a patently stupid idea.  The UK currency needs every asset it can lay its hands on in order to support an extra-ordinary and dangerous deficit.  The over-inflated pound based on an over-inflated banking sector cannot afford to lose the security of Scotland’s oil and whiskey.  Osborne’s move encouraged many of us to look into the details of this state of affairs.  And most of us who did were shocked at the precariousness of the UK economy and saw how the monied classes, typified by over-privileged Osborne, benefitted from this whilst the rest of us wallowed in ‘austerity’.

It could have been a lot different.  If Osborne had said that Scotland probably could have the pound but the whys and wherefores of this would be difficult he would have opened a debate the fundamental conclusion of which would have been – What on Earth is the point of being an independent country if you accede control of your currency to a much larger economy?  This is a massive weakness in the YES stance, and yet it has scarcely been aired because YES have been able to steal the initiative with slogans like It’s our pound too (and those English twits are trying to bully us).

Had Osborne taken this route we could have had a much more mature debate about monetary policies; we could have exposed the dangers to rUK of an independent Scotland.  This would have swayed the debate towards a We need you Scotland,  rather than the You need us Scotland.   All the arguments of the You need us Scotland would still have been aired, but the stance is fundamentally different, more respectful, honest and with an integrity that the Cameron love-bomb, Osborne shit-bomb dualism simply doesn’t have.

This lack respect, borne of an empire-stained Eton/Bullingdon superciliousness and above all the consequent lack of integrity of the NO campaign that has been it’s fundamental weakness.  And the blame for this lies squarely on Cameron and Osborne.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Eradicate the dinosaurs

Last night I was at a YES rally featuring Jean Urquhart and John Finnie, both Independent MSP’s, both defectors from the SNP.

The evening began with this:

An amusing little piece, but a somewhat vacuous contribution to the indy debate.  The connotation is that only news in London is news and somehow independence will rid us of this imbalance.  I’m an avid reader of the Northern Times, well maybe 10% of it – the rest is all about what’s happening in Golspie and Brora – of very little interest to me.  It was the first of many cheap shots.

After another video describing the implosion of the NHS in England Jean made her opening address.  She began by describing the lack of democracy at the time of the Act of Union, and riots on the streets of Edinburgh.  She said that Scotland was once great, and that the genetic inventiveness of the Scots is still around, if only we were independent.

John Finnie gave us a discourse on the evils of Westminster and English public schools and trumpeted the tolerance of the Scots to in-migration.  Apparently Poles, people from the Indian sub-continent, Africans, Europeans  - they’ve all been welcomed.  He failed to mention one of the biggest in-migrations to Scotland over the last few decades – the English.  I wondered why.  He bemoaned the London economy sucking the life out of the rest of the UK. 

Between his nationalistic ramblings he gave an interesting analysis of the decline of conservatism, the labour party and latterly the liberals in Scotland and pointed out that independence was the only way Scotland could get the Government it wanted.  But much of his incogent presentation erred into the party political – cheap shots at other parties and their policies, and vague promises of something for everyone after independence.

For me the evening epitomised what is wrong with the YES campaign.  In my little social media bubble I’ve been drawn to the more radical vision of Independence, of an inclusive society underscored by a written constitution empowering and resourcing local decision-making.  A chance to be rid of the establishment dinosaurs centred around Westminster and to bring power to the people.

These MSPs presented the oh-so-nearly anti-English Scottish nationalism that I’ve spent much of my 30 years in Scotland banging my head against.  Last night was almost enough to drive me back into the NO camp.

But it didn’t.  If we get a YES vote the work begins on September 19th – and a priority is to get to grips with that constitution, and rid ourselves of those dinosaurs: - including John Finnie and Jean Urquhart and others of their ilk who who think that Scottish people are somehow better than others.  They are not, but they do deserve to control who governs them, and have a direct say in what happens.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Carry on up the Khyber?

There’s a war memorial outside Inverness station.  It lists around 120 young men who died in a largely forgotten war in Egypt in the 1880s and it carefully differentiates those killed in action and those (the vast majority) killed by disease, and goes to the trouble of naming individual places they were fighting in, including the rather painful sounding deaths ‘up the Nile’.

The debate over Scottish independence is increasingly and surprisingly becoming about a somewhat idealised and backward looking vision of Britishness versus an equally idealised critique of post Thatcherite neoliberalism and the yawning democratic deficit.  It’s becoming an extraordinary debate driven by the Scottish left and completely out-flanking both the peculiar alliance that is Better Together and the somewhat distasteful Scottish Nationalist movement who we can thank for awakening the nationalist cause in the first place.

On the YES side it's increasingly about freeing Scotland from the Westminster political elite and bringing power back to the people.  There’s an irony here – given that the Scottish Nationalist Party has gone to great lengths to remove powers from local authorities – centralising power to Holyrood.  But so much of this debate is free from party politics – the independence movement now has virtually nothing to do with the SNP and while the much despised Mr Salmond allows himself to be distracted by the nonsensical scare mongering of the NO campaign, many of us are starting to dream of something much much better.

It would be interesting to chart the family trees of the Westminster politicians and especially the civil servants who in the 1880s thought that sending men to their deaths up the nile was a good idea.  How many great great grandchildren and great great grandnephews and nieces are still walking those corridors today?  Quite a few I’d be willing to wager.  These are the people who thwarted British labour governments in the 1960s and 70s and they are the men and women who send armies to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Feelings of superiority and Empire are almost genetically wired into their thinking.

There are no such ingrained delusions of British superiority at Holyrood.  Holyrood is far closer to a meritocracy than Westminster ever was or ever will be.  There is no bullying pompousness fostered by the English public school and Oxbridge elitism.  Holyrood will be far more reluctant to send its young to distant wars.  Holyrood knows that we live in a small country and that interfering in the affairs of other countries rarely leads to the desired outcomes.

So maybe those poor souls who died so far from home in the name of a long gone empire didn’t die in vain.  Maybe they can remind us that it’s not the people who want these wars, it’s the political elite.  And maybe, just maybe, a breaking away from that political elite is something worth voting for, worth risking all for in a peaceful revolution through the ballot box.

C’mon Scotland.  We can do this!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Half year results

What an amazing Summer!!  I refuse to listen to all you Southern moaners - we have had, and continue to have - the most stunning summer.  It started about April, briefly interrupted by some snow, and then day after day of clear bright dry days kept tingling fresh by light easterly breezes.  At the end of July the pattern changed  - the incessant sun was broken by the odd day of heavy downpour.  Very welcome rain.  The wind direction, or I should say breeze direction has shifted to being more in the west and south and this has made August a hot hot month, sultry, smouldering, sticky and midgey!   Thunderstorms are becoming a regular late afternoon feature.

But once the storm is over the midges re-apear - invigorated and hungrier than ever!  Despite the midges - which aren't that bad compared with other places I've been - the summer has been utterly magnificent.

Unless you happen to own a wind turbine of course.  Bloody rubbish.  Where's the soddin wind?

As a result of the gorgeous summer, overall cumulative yield has dropped from 104% at the end of March (roughly when 'summer' started), to 65% now.  35% down is an awful lot to make up in the coming half year.  The projected date for the party has disappeared into a quagmire of fog* cos the calculations become hugely complicated if production fails to average more than household consumption, which is unfortunately where we are at.

But I have faith.  One day it will be windy again.  And then I'll be complaining about having to die down wheelie bins and sheds and hapless goats and daughters and ........

* Sorry - that is an appalling metaphor - a quagmire of fog!?  Get a grip!
PS - once upon a time I found a spreadsheet where turbine owners could record their yield on a monthly basis for all to see - I can't find it again - if you know where it is please paste the link into comments or email me.  Thanks.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Smooth operators

I don't blog no more and I dont read the blogs I used to read religiously anymore but it's good to see that two old favourites Town Mouse and Stonehead are still at it, almost daily, and still finding new ways of not always saying things they've said already.

But I'm inspired to blog by Stoney and his Smoothies.  A wild variety of recipes here: http://stoneheadcroft.com/2012/06/24/stonehead-smoothies/

Summer is our smoothie season too.  Jussi makes the key ingredients - stewed rhubarb, goats yoghurt - and I add anything else I can find but nearly always a banana, at least one apple and orange juice, and abandoned jam if there is any.  But hey!  It's summer so chuck in peaches, nectarines and any other fruit you can find on offer and whizz in a blender for a not entirely smooth but utterly delicious drink that makes you feel healthy just by looking at it.


And The Girl has taken to contributing by making Cinnamon Swirls which, when taken with a smoothie, makes for a complete meal (and a much needed change from goat burgers). 

Almost the driest June on record..

Most of the UK has had staggeringly awful weather this summer - we've never had it so good.  Most of the UK has had double the average rainfall for the month with many areas having the highest recorded June rainfall ever.

We've had the driest June anyone can remember.  It would have been the driest June on record except for ONE day last week, when it rained very heavily.  May was also a stunningly good month and April was quite dry too.

It's been quite cool, with light easterly winds.  But cool is fine - it's the wet that's depressing when you spend a lot of time outside - and this year has been dry.


Here's proof: (you have to read all the way to the bottom to get to our truth...