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Am I Predujust?

The ride out this morning was in very light winds, but no frost; however I was unfortunate enough to get caught out in a shower of, extremely cold, rain.

Yesterday I filled the sink with water and taking both wheels off the bike passed their tyres under the water to test for leaks (a cargo, ship hates to carry). All was well, and today no punctures, hip, hip – replacement.

I have ordered a pair of Schwalbe tyres with puncture resistance built in, which I am told are on their way, and should arrive by the 10th – what surprised me was that they have white walls, a bit posh then, like the American bikes of the 40s – 50s.  

Anyone who has not switched off to politics by now must be very concerned at how our democracy has become, just another word, in a long list of words that have lost any credibility. We have the leaders of our respective countries England and Scotland able to lie with impunity and no one but no one bats an eyelid.

At this time within the SNP, and it would be of little interest if the SNP were only another political party, but they are not, they are the government at Holyrood, so it does matter that they are talking about laws to curb

Misogyny

Racism

Ableism

Biphobia

Homophobia

Lisbophobia

Ageism

Islamophobia

Exnophbia

Sectariasms

Antisemitistm

Classism

Hate Crime.

Most of which I was blissfully unaware of, and the problem I have with putting legislation in place in order to curb all forms of abuse, that can be hurtful, if you are on the receiving end – but who decides what is and what is not a racist remark, if they are not actually there at the time or understand the context of the conversation, how can they possibly judge.

I once had a conversation with a Salvation Army officer, a clever chap, an academic about racism, asking when friendly banter stops being friendly banter and becomes racism.

I had been telling him about a friend of mine (back in the beginning of the 1960s) he came from Jamaica, a happy go lucky chap, we had enjoyed many a great night out together. I loved his company, and he, being a magnet for pretty girls, was a big bonus for me too, and no, I did not always end up with the ugly one. My friend (no names no pack drill) was a handsome sod. His skin shone black as black could be under the hot Cyprian sun, however next day suffering from a hangover his skin lost much of its colour and would go a sort of ashen, this would prompt me to tell him,

“Rasus, you need a re-spray”.

“And you could do with some sun yourself Honky” he would reply. (Such banter would never be tolerated today).

When I finished my story I asked “Who decides what someone’s intention was in a situation where they were not present? – He answered

“Only the black person can answer that”

I must admit I had not thought of racism like that and was much more careful with my language in future years. 

If you go onto Facebook the abuse from committee members of the SNP is everywhere, yet these are the same people wishing to re-write the laws of the land to cover such abuse, but who, I ask again, will judge?

We see how the Blairites in the Labour party used the charge of anti-Semitism to oust Corbyn from his position as leader of the party. Now am I anti-Semitic because I too believe that the UK government should speak out against the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, no of course not. But you can see how all this can become very dangerous to our democracy.             

If you have any doubts about your moral compass simply buy a copy of “The Blind Side” based on a true story. A well-to-do, Leigh Anne Tuohy, played brilliantly by Sandra Bullock, takes a black homeless teenager into her (all white family) home, becoming his legal guardian. In a conversation amongst her, upper-class white female friends she is asked if she is not concerned about a Big Black Boy sleeping under the same roof, – what about Collin (Leigh Anne’s teenage daughter) – on her return Leigh Ann asks her daughter,

“Are you uncomfortable with Michael staying here?”

Collin answers, “I don’t listen to what those stupid kids at school say”

Leigh Anne, “What do those stupid kids from school say?”

Collin, “It’s really not worth repeating.”   

This is where I am on this – we should not, as grown up adults, need people to tell us what is right and what is wrong. If people call me names then it is they that have the problem, not me.

Before you go changing laws that puts innocent people in the dock, try better education in our schools.

Stay safe.

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Suzi Quatro and Punctures

The pavements were white with frost and froze over puddles as I set out on my bike, accompanied this morning with Suzi Quatro – upbeat cadence. I stayed well away from cycle tracks and back roads preferring the bus routes that would have been salted, woooosh – woooosh, the world has gone and got itself in one hell of a hurry.

Cupar, Pitscottie, had now fallen under my wheel; the B939 back into St Andrews is still closed for repair so my only option was the road via Craigtoun and home. There has been much damage to trees, on today’s run, even more so than after the high winds of last week, possibly the first storm did the damage, taking little to bring them down in the second storm.

At the little wood where the Kinness Burn crosses under the road, I had another puncture, front-wheel this time and a quick-release wheel. The offending object seemed to be a panel pin; I will check the tyres over carefully now that I am back in the warmth, just in case there is more, potential, puncture material hiding in the treads. Freezing fingers, toes and lugs are not conducive to kerb-side repairs, I think I will order those puncture resistance tyres now, and not put them off any longer.

As you enter St Andrews from this direction you dip down, and once more cross over the Kinness Burn, then it is a sharp and very steep climb out of the dell. It does not look all that steep at the first sight until you get halfway up then you start to feel it and I was blowing hard as I pushed my way up the incline, these small wheels do not give much momentum.

When I lived (just outside) Bradford, I could not believe the number of people that suffered from diabetes, even my big sister, who you would not consider overweight. I mentioned this in conversation with a member of the cycling club, who just happened to be a GP. For this was something that I had never really come into contact with before, here it seemed to be almost an epidemic, especially amongst the Asian population.

“There is a cure,” he told me; “get out of breath at least once a day.”

Many, many years on from that conversation, as I puffed my way up this short sharp climb, the conversation and cure for diabetes, once more burst into my head.

Stay safe.

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No News Day

Monday once more and Hamilton was, very reluctant to rise from my warm cosy bed this morning. But as the light started to intensify and my surroundings materialised from the gloom, I gave myself a good talking too, climbed from my bed and padded off to the bathroom, the morning shower always helps wake up sleepyheads. 

Opening up the blinds to a wet, dreich and windy, Scottish winter morning did nothing to lift my spirits; I could happily have scooted off back to bed with a book.

I switched between the three news channels, to see what was going on in the world – the BBC Breakfast – why do they even bother, yes it is that bad. Sky News, were showing dogs dressed up in fancy dresses, what is this nonsense?

RT was running a piece on the problems that Canadians are facing in South Africa trying to get back home. The Canadian government is being accused of abandoning its citizens in South Africa by putting log jams in the way of their returning home. The government will not accept COVID tests from South African labs so Canadian citizens can no longer fly directly from South Africa. Canadians, desperate to get back home, are having to fly into Ethiopia, where they will book themselves into a hotel, take a test, waiting three days for the results before they can fly home. The problem, there is a civil war going on in Ethiopia at the present.

Al Jazeera, tell us that there are problems nearer home.  In France and Belgium, people have been taking to the streets over, high fuel costs driving people into fuel poverty.

Here in Scotland, we are so browbeaten by the propaganda pouring out of our media every day we no longer protest on the streets we just accept everything thrown at us and greet about it amounts ourselves. As for the Scottish excuse for a government, they blame Boris, and behind closed doors make deals with him to stay in power, Sturgeon calls it “The Four-Nation Approach” Aye right. 

So much going on in the EU at present that is not reported on – well we have had Brexit, taking back control, so are not interested in ‘Johnnie Foreigner’ anymore. These things are never straightforward. The EU countries are trying to move away from fossil fuel and nuclear energy (Germany was the first to move in this direction.) Wind power was hailed as the new panacea, but, there has been little wind in 2021,

We have all seen the little rubber boats heading across the Channel on almost flat seas.

The cost of gas has rocketed, so using more gas, as a baseload, is only exasperating the situation. In order to try and alleviate the problem, (Remember France has presidential elections in the foreseeable future, focusing minds.) The EU is talking about taking money from big energy companies to subsidise people’s energy bills. 

Of course if Scotland had been an independent country, we would be sitting on a gold mine, the EU would happily pay for the network of undersea cables required to ship all that electricity, Scotland would be able to generate, into Europe, in fact it was being discus before Brexit killed it off.   Scotland has lots of wind and mountainous seas. This if of course why Alex Salmond was such a visionary, so keen to push, wind, wave and tidal power, when in office.  Sadly for Scotland, Alex fell on his sword after the 2014 referendum, feeling it was the honourable thing to do. This handed power to Nicola Sturgeon, who in turn quickly handed Scotland’s power back to Westminster, why, well she is a Unionist at heart, for Unionism keeps her in power. C’est La Vie.    

RT covered the civil war in Ethiopia – riots in the streets of Europe’s capitals, the Myanmar Court – handing down a four-year sentence on Sung San Suu Kyi, well she dared to oppose the army led dictatorship in her country. Like Scotland now, politics has become too closely intertwined with the law and should be opposed at every turn.  Speaking out against such dictatorship abroad and (elected) dictatorships her in Scotland, is a no-no, unless we happen to be discussing China or Russia. Politics is a dirty business.

So there we have it, the reason that fewer and fewer people in Scotland are getting their news from the mainstream media, who in the main follow the government line, and are turning instead to social media, and foreign  programs broadcast into the UK by RT and Al Jazeera.     

Stay safe.

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This time it is Sunday, and no mistake.

It was a fine early morning ride out on the bike, cold and crisp and still that low watery sun that is so blinding. I was on my conventional bike today, for the day had not started well, all dressed up and would you believe it, a rear-wheel puncture in the e-bike. I did not go far, over to Pitscottie and back, but I did have to put some time in since the weather over next week is not looking great, high winds, snow, cats and dogs…………

On my return, I set about the repair of my folding bike. Thankfully it had happened at home, for I delved into my pannier bag, yes, there it was the spare tube, and puncture repair outfit, hand pump, as per the old Scout handbook ‘be prepared’. Ah, not quick-release wheels on this bike, but 15mm nuts and no spanner, oops.

The puncture was caused by a tiny slither of steel that was very reluctant to be pulled from the tire and when it finally succumbs, it left a, relatively, larger hole, so two repairs tyre and tube. All back together again, and the pannier bag, well that is a little heavier after a small adjustable spanner has been added.

The tyres appear to be so thin that, as they say in Fife, you could pap peas through, I will buy a set of Schwalbe, puncture resistance tyres, before I go anywhere out with local area, for Sod’s Law dictates, If you have a puncture it is always at the most inconvenient time, rain, snow, in the dark………… here at home I have my get-you-home-service my bus pass.

Oh, Christmas Tree, oh, Christmas Tree.

The girls (my neighbours) have started putting up the Christmas decorations – they had finished the tree by the time of my return, nice one, looking, good girls. Sadly there will be no Christmas party this year, still under COVID-19 restrictions, (I wonder if they will have one at number 10 this year-possibly not). Although the coffee mornings (gossip mornings) have returned, our dinning-in-nights, normally held once a month, where we send out to the local chippie for fish and chips, and of course, there is always, something to wash it down on the table.

However, already we see the difference over these past months, now that we have all had our three jabs, things have relaxed a little, just to have proper conversations with you neighbours and a bit of a laugh together is great medicine for all, more so us senior citizens.

Time for a bit to eat now, so time to put on the mince and tatties

Stay safe.  

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Scotland’s Justice in the Dock – Again!

Re-blog Iain Lawson blog – Yours for Scotland.

It seems inconceivable 

It seems crazy but there is a belief the Scottish Government are planning to introduce jury free trials in Scotland for sexual offences.

This at the same time as there is a group of rogue women throwing about smear and innuendo like confetti against political opponents. These women enjoy a special status of anonymity that protects their identity while no such protection exists for their intended victims.

We have just witnessed Craig Murray’s release after he was convicted in a Scottish Court by a judge. A trial where he was not permitted to know exactly what he had done, where he was not permitted to lodge his defence or appeal against the judgement. He spent months in jail on the whim of a judge, his crime only known in the mind of the judge. The first person in the World to be convicted of ”jigsaw identification”. Operating on new rules, created by who other than the judge herself, who determined that journalists like Craig and bloggers like myself should be judged on stricter unwritten rules than journalists working for the giant newspaper corporations. Who decided that was fair? Where does that legislation exist? Why should freedom of speech be graded in this way? In my view, he would NEVER have been convicted by any jury in Scotland. I am sure the EHRC will correct the wrong and again the Scottish “Justice” system will be the subject of condemnation and ridicule.

Will it surprise you to learn that Lady Dorian, the judge concerned is a leading advocate of jury free trials for sexual offences? Looking at her handling of both the Alex Salmond trial where she ruled out the defence lodging WhatsApp messages that clearly demonstrated Alex Salmond was the victim of an organised, malicious plot, involving many of the prosecution witnesses, and also her conviction of Craig Murray in a concocted evidenced trial that will remain a permanent stain on Scotland’s Justice System, adding Scotland to the list of renegade nations that jails political prisoners. We need to be very wary of this Lady.

We are told the reason for getting rid of jury trials is that the conviction rates are not “high” enough. To me, that is the most dangerous warning sign that this is very, very wrong and DANGEROUS!

Do we want Justice being determined by a judge anxious to keep their quota of guilty verdicts up? If you want more convictions invest in better-trained police and medical personnel, improve the quality and depth of the prosecution evidence, improve the confidence levels of the “victim” of the crime but find more people guilty, just because the politicians want a higher level of successful prosecutions is very dangerous…and another step along the road to fascism. We need the safety valve of a jury to stop the State from interfering in trials to create the right POLITICAL outcome.

They say timing is everything. At the current time, with the legal system the subject of widespread criticism and distrust, as Scotland’s Government seems to have completely lost any moral compass it might have once have possessed, it can be absolutely guaranteed that any move to hand judgements in cases of a sexual nature solely to a judge with no involvement of a jury of our peers, will be opposed in the most energetic manner.

I hope for and expect much more from the leading figures in Scotland amongst our legal fraternity in opposing any suggestion of moving in this deeply flawed direction. These are offences that can result in lengthy jail time. We have witnessed, very recently a very clear example of where an innocent man, was singled out and the subject of blatant trivial, malicious false accusation. We know in Scotland we have a rogue band of anonymous women only to be happy to mount false and malicious allegations as a political tool to intimidate political rivals.

If ever there was a country that needed the protection of independent juries to separate and regulate the power of the judges and politicians it is Scotland in the 21st Century. How shameful is that?

I am, as always Yours for Scotland Iain Lawson

I agree with all of this it is a disgrace that Scottish Law once held as a gold standard of law has been reduced to this, It is the First Minister that should be in the dock along with the women that stood in court and lied through there teeth, knowing that their identity was secure. What happened to the charge of perjury in this Country?

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Saturday and not Sunday

Still manage to get out for an hour or so on my bike each day, although the conditions have not been of their best, low sun, cold winds and yesterday ground frost on the cycle path (never salted). Still, we have not died a winter yet.

Pottering in my workshop mostly making shavings, sawdust and not much else, that is the trouble with second-hand timber it takes a lot of preparation before you can even start. Still stops me from wearing, which is the object of the exercise.

I was sitting reading sometime just after 8 o’clock on Saturday evening, when Charles came to the door, in his hand was a DVD he thought I might like, We share DVDs.

Schindler’s List is a 1993 American film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the 1982 historical fiction novel Schindler’s Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally.  The film follows Oskar Schindler,  a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War 11. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Goth  and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern

Ideas for a film about the SchindlerJuden were proposed as early as 1963. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden made it his life’s mission to tell Schindler’s story. Spielberg became interested when executive Sidney Sheinberg sent him a book review of Schindler’s Ark. Universal Pictures bought the rights to the novel, but Spielberg, unsure if he was ready to make a film about the Holocaust, tried to pass the project to several directors before deciding to direct it.

Schindler's List - Wikipedia

The movie was shot in black and white which was a good call adding drama and authenticity to the setting – then we see a stroke of Spielberg’s genius – Schindler sees a girl in red during the liquidation of the Kraków ghetto. The red coat is one of the few instances of colour used in this predominantly black and white film. Later we see a small girl’s body being carted off to the incinerator, clothed in a muddy red coat.

It was after midnight before the film ended – stretching to around four hours, however, the movie was so enthralling that the hours flew by.  

The use of black and white in films is not unknown of course.

Paper Moon is a 1973 American film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and released by Paramount Pictures. The film has adapted the script from the 1971 novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown. The film was shot in Black and, a bold choice. But did give the feeling of 1930 in which the film was set, in Kansas and Missouri during the Great Depression. It stars the real-life father and daughter pairing of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as protagonists Moze and Addie.

Tatum O’Neal received widespread praise from critics for her performance as Addie, earning her for Best Supporting Actress making her the youngest competitive winner in the history of the Academy Awards. 

Tatum O’Neal in 1978 won her, well deserved, Academy for Paper Moon

Road to Perdition is 2002, shot in black and white, for the same reasons as both the others, directed by Sam Mendes. The screenplay was adapted by David Self from the novel of the same name and written by Max Allan Collins.

Road To Perdition Revisited | Reel Antagonist

The film stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig. The plot takes place (like Paper Moon) in 1931, during the Great Depression, following a mob enforcer and his son as they seek vengeance against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family.

Stay safe.

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Wednesday

Wednesday – where did the week go? The wind has risen once more and bloody cold with it, so I thought I would dig up the Chrysanthemum stools and overwinter them in the cold frame, for that I would have to go down to my ‘free’ compost supplier.

Trundling down the road the sun was low and blinding, I hate out on a bike in these conditions you can so easily be un-seen by motorists. All’s well that ends well, I made it home safely.

After lifting the stools I turned over the bed, and low and behold WORMS, yippee!

By the time I had cleaned up the onion and garlic beds, bedded down the stools, and put away the working tools it was near 2 o’clock in the afternoon, where did the day go?

Never mind my books arrived from Amazon, yes, I know, but they are good at marketing, have a good variety of books to choose from, and deliver the next day – and why they continue to expand. The big fault I have with them is, – if they continue to harvest my buying preferences and constantly remind me of the bargains to be had. They should at least give me FREE internet access.

The two books are ‘Finntopia’ by Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen, as you will have guessed it is all about Finland. No idea of its contents, but the dust cover, taken from an oil painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (Skaters near the Shore of Kalela1896.) is worth the cover price (sorry did not mean that to happen, it just slipped out). And the other is ‘Slow Down’ again by Danny Dorling, The end of the great acceleration- and why it’s a Good Thing. This is the one I wanted to buy, having heard Danny being interviewed on RT Going Underground. Ended up buying his latest book too, maybe it was that dust cover to blame.  Anyway should keep me going until Christmas. They are not books to read for their storyline, more coffee table books, to pick up and lay down, gives you time to filter the information as you proceed through the book.

Charles wants me to make him something to send out to his wife, (still not sure about that definition). and I have been contemplating what to make. Anyway, I have found out she was born in the year of the tiger so was thinking of a Led lamp shining up out of a wooden base and illuminating the Perspex cut out of a tiger, small and easy to post.  

The holly tree outside my window that a week ago was hanging with red berries is almost stripped of them now, possibly the wind more than the Pigeons that cling, upside down, precariously from its delicate branched, to get at the fruits.

Even under clear skies, darkness has come upon my living room once more, such as winter days in Scotland, blink and you miss them.

Stay safe. 

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Magic Words, That Don’t Travel Well.

It was much milder today, but only in comparison with the colder day that have just passed. Out along the cycle track, on reaching Guardbridge the tide was fully in and slack, its waters like a mirror reflecting the estuary banks and sky. Up and into Strathkinness, and dropped down to the crossroads. The road back into St Andrews is still under repair and closed to traffic, so up over the hill and back in via Graigtoun Country Park, very enjoyable.  

I believe it would have been around 2013 that Lesley Riddoch was doing her tramping around the Nordic countries, Norway, Iceland, and Faro. I attended all of her audio presentations where we saw wee films of each of her journeys. The idea behind it was to show what an independent Scotland could achieve if, independent.  

I have always believed that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation, but even after the celebrations, it would, I believe, take a couple of generations to achieve, the full benefits that come with running your own affairs. Building the infrastructure, and economy of self-sufficiency, and changing the mindset of our politicians, away from the path that lead us here in the first place, would not be easy. Then again, to my mind, the rewards would make the initial hardships worth the journey.

In her books, of which I have read a couple, we find the lass talks a lot about, these nations being Happy – Clappy. What makes their people so different to the Scots, when they are more or less small nations, and at or around the same latitude? Lesley talks a lot about land reform; how Scotland is still very much, well, medieval in the ways in which its land is governed. Her theories and books intrigued me, I wanted to find out more, and I went on to read others, writing in a manner, closely related to her own thinking.

Bertil Marklund – author of ‘The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer’

“Only the Nordic countries are known for their pared-down simplicity……. Apply this ethos to health – and it is important for me to express that to live a healthy life, you do not have to go to extremes. It’s the small and simple changes that amount to a happier, healthier life.”

And there was me thinking it was all about gene pool.

The more I searched the more there seems to be a boom in books about HOW if we live the Nordic way, you will live longer. They all had magic words to describe how to be more Swedish, more Danish, and more Finnish.

In Swedish the word is LAGOM, meaning ‘just the right amount’ – in Denmark the magic word is HYGGE, meaning an atmosphere of cosiness, closeness and comfortable conviviality. In Norway we get the word, KOSELIG, meaning nearly the same thing with some subtle differences, candles, and cushions and closing the door on unwanted intrusions, feature heavily in hygge. All of course take a whole book to explain the magic word.

It is not just Nordic countries that get such treatment. In Japan the equivalent concept is IKIGAI, and not surprisingly, like all the others, the Japanese defies translation into English also.

However, apart from a secret word, when you dive deeper al these countries have something in common – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Finland, they are all remarkably amongst the most equitable countries in the world. So it has nothing to do with soft furnishings cosiness and lighting, but everything to do with genuine equality of opportunity and outcome. Oh, and just in case you were wondering – the untranslatable secret word in Finland is SISU.   

Is it true that the Nordic countries have more equality across their citizens and since I was most interested in old age pensioners, (since I am one) that is the figures I concentrated on and not surprisingly when you compare pensioners income poverty levels of the elderly (2015) age 65+ – it is clear that OAP in Finland is much better served.

Men – Finland 3.2% – UK 11.1% – US 17.2%

Percentage with incomes less than 50% of median household disposable income,

Women – Finland 6.8% – UK 16.0% – US 23.9%

Source: OECD (2017a: 135) and OECD. Stat (2018b)

Finland and the UK appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum in Europe – and when you compare Finland to the US, it is as if you are comparing life on a different planet.

Not surprisingly in Finland, this has made a great improvement in men’s health, in the most recent six years (ONS 2018). In contrast to the UK has seen the worst health decline of any European country in the same period.  

In Finland by 2017 women’s life expectancy had reached 85.6 years, and in England life expectancy was 81.7 years (Eurostat’s 2019b). By 2018 women in the UK had a life expectancy of 81.0 and men 79.24 years – below their 2014 levels, (Hiam et al. 2020). The UK is increasingly seen across Europe as a state that represents failure. But what would it take for the UK to be more like Finland?    

The ability to enjoy a long and comfortable old age – is, of course, about far more than simply receiving an adequate pension to live on when you can no longer work.  If you live in a country where you have to drive or go online to access the social security system, then what happens once you are too old to drive, or if you have never used the internet, or – like so many people in advanced old age – you have multiple disabilities? What happens if you are afraid and lonely? What happens to you if you are living in a society where people have been brought up not to care and just to look out for themselves, I’m all right Jack? 

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, in 2021, observed:

“If you want the American dream, go to Finland” (Fleetwood).

Ed Miliband mentioned Finland because he was calling for slight increases in public spending in the UK, was being cut to the bone. And 2022 saw incredibly low state spending in the US. 

I looked on the surface that all countries in the affluent world saw, that what looked on the surface, a dramatic rise in public spending after the 2008 crash. But that was because states had to bail out the banks and often GDP at that time fell, so public spending as a proportion of GDP appeared to quickly rise in most countries in 2008 and 2009 due to bank bailout spending.

At the time of Miliband’s comment, ‘if you wish to achieve the American dream go to Finland’, public spending in Finland was rapidly rising towards 58 per cent of GDP. Whilst all the affluent countries increased their public spending, for all the reasons above, Finland increased taxation significantly to ensure that public services and state pensions and benefits did not have to fall, or fell only slightly.  

And why Finland has a Happy – Clappy peoples, and the UK are where they are in the league tables, for public health, welfare, social affordable housing, poor pensions, drug abuse, alcoholism, underachievers, and grinding poverty, in every part of the country (apart for possibly London).  Poverty is at the heart of all our ills and that is a government decision, not some strange word that can not be translated into English.

Stay safe

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Just When You Thought ………..

Monday, once more and the same old routine, ‘rain comes down and it soaks my skin – the sun comes out and I’m sweating again – life gets tedious – doesn’t it?’  

The weekend weather battered the hell out of last of the flowers in the garden and brought down some trees by the St Andrews museum. Outdoors, broken twigs were strewn widely over the garden and the broken stems of flowers caused their heads to hung limp and shattered towards the ground. 

I brought them indoors, but could not bring myself to throw them out so stuffed them in a jam jar and put them on the window. They give the kitchen a wee lift. I have always liked chrysanthemums; the strong smell they give off fills the room, and my head, with memories of a good time in the company of my mother, whose home was always full of flowers many of which came from my allotment, in her later years. 

I did go out for a short ride this morning, into a strong, and bitterly cold, wind. A lazy day, really but that is what winter is all about – recharging batteries, is it not?

Monday was laundry day, as it is every Monday morning and a bit of shopping, thrown in, so better go and rescue my washing from the machine.   

All the television channels are talking about the new variant of COVID-19, giving Oor Nicola a further few minutes in the sun, (because the new variant is present in Scotland). We have all the usual pundits and so-called experts on giving us their pennyworth,

When you have a problem – you will always find plenty of FREE advice forthcoming – and that is usually all it is worth – sweet Fanny Adams.  

The only piece of truth we heard this morning was from, a very frustrated, Director-General of WHO – he told us again what we must do to get ourselves out of this hole we call COVID –19, and strangely enough, it is the same advice he gave two years ago at the start of this nightmare, TEST – TRACE and now that we have a vaccine, VACCINATE the WORLD’S population for no one is safe until everyone is safe, (Repeated for the slow learners).

Then again there is no profit for anyone in handing out free vaccines to third world countries, is there? After almost two years we still have a situation where only one in four of the hospital staff in South Africa has been vaccinated. Not because they do not want to receive vaccination, but because the northern rich countries – America, the UK, and Europe are reluctant to share, and will not until they extract their pound of flesh. (Oh and don’t mention Sputnik V, that’s Russian, and any country that vaccinated people with that, well, they will not be allowed to travel anywhere in the world now.)   

Still, there is a silver lining to all this doom and gloom, whilst the media is engrossed in the new variant, Boris, the fat (lazy) controller is out of the limelight over illegal immigration, border issues in Northern Ireland, disputed with the EU, poverty, homelessness, A&E waiting lists, cancer screening………… and likewise Oor Nicola, here in Scotland can press on with men with beards who wear as frock bill, that can now call themselves WOMEN and yes when convicted of a crime that involves a prison sentence can ask to be housed in a WOMAN’S prison – yes even if they do have a beard and a Willie. There is always a silver lining –

Reminding me of a line from Chalet Girl –

“Change is good,” the home help tells Bill Bailey, (Kim’s, the chalet girl’s father) “Where is Kim’s mother anyway?” she asks.

“The cemetery – change is not always good” he replies.

Stay safe.     

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We must stand back and see the Bigger Picture

The worst thing about growing old is – remembering when you were young. However on the plus side of the equation, I have absorbed a lot of life during my time here on earth, and old age (retirement) has given me the time to filter, analyse and even question many of my long-held beliefs.

My grandmother would tell us how we would eat a peck of dirt before we died. Yet my mother, God bless her, was very liberal with her carbolic soap, bleach, disinfectants around the home, in order to keep me and my siblings clean, purified in body and our home, shielded against the invisible enemies – germs?

Now I find out from a British philosopher of science, John Dupre that my grandmother was right all along. Things get even stranger when we find out that over evolutionary time. Humans have two sets of DNA – one contained in the nucleus of each of our cells, and the other in the mitochondria of organelle that live within the cell itself. Biologist now believes that the second set, the mitochondrial DNA, is derived from bacteria that were engulfed by our cells at some point in the evolutionary past,(that peck of dirt that my grandmother told me about). And far from it being something we should attack with every chemical and medicine known to man – we need it to break down and convert food into energy that our bodies can use.   

And just as we discover that our bodies are not really our own – or as John Dupre put it – “these things make it hard to claim that a creature is self-sufficient or even that you can mark out where ‘it’ ends and another one begins.”

Likewise, as we have found that our bodies are not really our own we find out from biologists that trees are not really singular units either.

Are you still with me?

Biologists have discovered that trees depend on certain kinds of fungi in the soil: hair-thin structures called hyphae, these hyphae interact with the cells in the roots of the trees to form mycorrhiza. The fungi benefit by receiving some of the sugar that plants produce through photosynthesis (which can not be made underground), whilst the trees receive its nitrogen, which they cannot produce for themselves, and without which they cannot survive.  

This reciprocal arrangement is not just confined to the two parties the invisible fungal networks also connect the roots of different trees to one another.  This can happen sometimes over great distances, forming an underground network that allows them to communicate, and even to share energy, nutrients and medicine.  (The ecologist Robert Macfarlane will explain all if you care to read his work).

And once you get your head around that – like Alice in Wonderland – it gets stranger and stranger. Dr Suzanne Simard, professor in the department of forest and conservation at the University of British Columbia, has argued that mycorrhiza networks amongst plants operate like neural networks in humans and other animals; they function in remarkably similar ways, passing information between nodes. And just as the structure of neural networks enables cognition and intelligence in animals, mycorrhizal networks provide similar capacities to plants. This is not just a theory but groundbreaking published research on plants.

This is all very new research and although none of this is saying that plant intelligence is exactly like that of animals. But here’s the thing, Simard points out,

“If you listen to some of the early teachings of the Coast Salish and the Indigenous people along the western coast of North America, they knew (about these insights) already. It’s in the writing and in the oral history. The idea of the mother tree has long been there. The fungal networks, the below-ground networks that keep the whole forest healthy communication with each other, that’s all there. They used to call the trees the tree people…..Western science shut that down for a while and now we’re getting back to it.”

Trees aren’t only connected with each other. They are also connected with ‘us’. Over the past few years, research into human-tree relationships has yielded some fascinating and striking findings.

Maybe (before it is too late) people will wake up to the evidence that operates at the planetary level, between entire Earth-systems processes. How plants, animals (Which we humans are part of) and bacterial biomes interact with the land, the atmosphere and the oceans in a way that regulate everything from the temperature of the planet’s surface to the salinity of the seas to the composition of the air. The planet is one, a giant system of interlocking systems. We – the soil – the seas – the plants that grow on the land and the animal and fish that depend on the seas – the very air we breathe, all one system. We have to stop thinking of them as individual parts of our world. This is the Gaia hypothesis, so named after the goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology. These findings of biogeochemistry and earth–system sciences would come as no surprise to people who long regarded the Earth as a living being, or even as a mother.   

We have to stop governments around the world from destroying this delicate Earth system for as we can see it would take only one part to be destroyed to affect all of the other parts of the system, and that includes (if you have not worked it out yet) the human race.

Continuing with the ideology of a capitalist system, that requires constant growth to survive, will only lead us down the wrong road, literally, a dead end. Sustainable growth that provides for all the worlds people, in a sustainable way, is the only way out of this crisis of global warming.

Stay safe.

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Are We Singing The Same Old Song?

I had overwintered on the delta of the Fraser River, and when spring came at last to Columbia, I continued my journey south and down the west coast of America. The climate is very much influenced by a phenomenon known as ENSO – this has a lot to do with the waters of the Pacific becoming warmer than normal. You have El Nino years and La Nina years. I have no idea whether it was an El or a La Nina that year but it was bloody cold as I crossed the border into the US and wet all the way into Seattle; however the temperature never really dropped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit from then on.

At school I had been greatly influenced by the Geographical magazine that our teacher left around the place, the panoramic coloured photographs of Oregon, featured in one of the copies had influenced me so much, I had decided, that when I left school I would emigrate to Oregon and cut down the giant redwood trees there. By the time I did make it to Oregon, I would have been most reluctant to cut down any of these beautiful giants.

I was feeling fit after winter months spent in Canada and the job that included a flat made it easy for me to safe for my continued trip. So with sillar in my pocket and a fresh pair of legs, I set off down the California Coast, destination San Diego. Years of 1950s cowboy movies had left a lasting impression on the young lad, San Diego was a wild town on the Mexican border, where cowboys with white hats, would outshoot those with black hats.  If you are thinking of cycling the pacific coast route you can expect endless coastline – from rugged rocky Oregon to clear blue Los Angeles beaches (but beware of strong winds blowing off the sea)– ancient forests and a lot of magnificent sights to see along the way. The Pacific Coast from Vancouver in Canada to the Mexican Border is around 1,800 miles and took me the best part of a month to ride, but I did make many stops along the way, however, once more I diverse.

I had spent several days around Los Angeles and some of that time was dedicated to reading about the Hawaiian Islands, that lie along the Tropic of Cancer, and I really wanted to sail there, I bummed up and own the harbour trying to pick up a working passage, but alas it was not to be. With money short and still only halfway into my journey, I shelved the trip for another time.

The other day I was reading a piece by a famous anthropologist, he had written about the first inhabitants of the Pacific islands. He started his story, telling us how as a young postgraduate student,

“I would often emerge from the classroom feeling overwhelmed with a sense of new perspective, as if he had stepped out of the prosaic little cottage only to find himself on the lip of a vast escarpment, with landscapes of time rolling out before me.”

Tens of thousands of years ago, the first humans set out from Africa on migration across the planet. The ecosystems they encountered from savannah to desert, jungles to steppes, and wetlands to tundra, all posed new challenges for those early peoples. First, they had to suss out how these ecosystems worked so that they could live within them sustainably. They would study other species they depended on for nourishment and sustenance. Sometimes they were successful other times they failed.   

We know that when the European first landed in Canada and the Americas, they depended very much on native tribes to see them through their first year. We also know when Civil Servants in London mapped out towns and cities in Australia; they managed on many occasions to get it badly wrong, simply because they had never ever been to Australia – many had in fact never outside London. Knowledge of the terrain, climate, and what survives best and what certainly does not – is the difference between life and death.

Nowhere was this knowledge more crucial than during the Austronesian expansion when humans left mainland Asia about two or three thousand years ago and settled throughout the vast network of islands that stretch south and east into the Pacific Ocean.    

Leaving an enormous continent governed by stable monsoon weather left them with a culture that had instilled in them from childhood, endless resources at their disposal; the land was theirs to do as they will with.  This they copied on the islands of Austronesia. However, they quickly came to realise that mainland civilisation did not work out quite so well on the islands.  Settlers cobbled up the island’s megafauna in a bonanza of easy protein. Giant turtles, birds, fish and other easy prey – the low hanging fruits of the island had all been picked. They chopped down trees and grew crops on the clearings they had made, all with devastating consequences. Keystone species died off. Ecosystems fell out of balance. Live began to unravel. Many societies collapsed completely – islands were simply abandoned.  

But some did not the humans learned from their mistakes and worked within the bounds of the island’s ecosystems.  They had to swap the ideology of expansion for the ideology of integration. They had to learn to pay attention to the other species – learn their habits, their languages, and their relationships with others. They had to learn how much they could safely take from any given community and how to give back in order to ensure its continuation.

This planet we call ‘Earth’ is simply that an island, travelling through time and space. Its ecosystems must be sustained and thrive if we are to survive as a race of humans. We must not only learn to protect but enrich this small island of our, for if it dies, we too will die.

Today we stand at a crossroads and our future could go either way. We are a civilisation obsessed with expansion (growth – capitalism) that has suddenly discovered, just how variable our planet is, yet still, we cling to our reckless old ideology from our past.  

I hear a Shadow Minister in an interview on a political news programme the other day. She was decrying the Johnston government about their handling of (well just about everything) and of course, the interviewer (reading from the newscaster’s playbook) asked how Labour would handle the situation, which of course would involve more spending. And when he received his reply it was easy pickings for she had fallen into his big bear trap. All he had to ask then was – and how will a Labour government pay for it? – This Groundhog Day scenario is played out almost daily on our television screens. And always reminds me of a line from Educating Rita,

“Have I taught you a new song to sing, Rita, or just a different song, that sounds shrill on your lips?”

Stay safe.

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MACASKILL QUIZZES PRESIDING OFFICER OVER DRACONIAN PROTEST POWERS

When I read this today, it did not surprise me one bit. Scotland is being controlled and led by Westminster through the Scottish Office, not Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon, as First Minister, is now their puppet. So keen to stay in her post she has climbed into bed with the Tory party, and now with the Green party under her control, she feels fireproof.

The prize of staying in power is so strong for the SNP that they were happy to play the Tory’s, Westminster game. (Keeping the SNP in power in Scotland, keeps the Tories in power at Westminster).

I listened to the Sturgeon, interview on Channel 4 yesterday and I noted that she is still peddling the old chestnut that she believes in Scottish independence, however, she told us that she hoped to hold a referendum (not in 2022 as she stated before the Scottish Elections) but this date has now slipped to the end of 2023, and will continue to slip all the way to the next Scottish elections (if not kicked out of office before then).

After the interview, the political commentator, summing up, told us that it was not within Sturgeon’s gift to hold a referendum and even if the Scottish Parliament put forward a bill to hold one then it would end up in the (English) Supreme Court.

And, we have seen this played out before – Scotland won its case at the Supreme Court, Westminster appeal the ruling – giving the Lords time to amend the law to kill the threat to their power at Westminster.

Power devolved is power retained.

The Scottish people are being hoodwinked with this untruth that the SNP will ever hold a referendum on independence, and know perfectly well that putting forward a bill to hold one is stupid since they know it will land the Scottish parliament in court, (at a great financial cost to the Scottish taxpayer). And maybe that is fine with Sturgeon, she can then go into the next Holyrood elections saying – It’s him, it’s him again, that’s stopping us holding a referendum. (Nicola Sturgeon – pants on fire).  

There is only one way to gain independence and that is for a party such as Alba to be voted into power on a platform of – ‘If we are successful in winning a majority in a Scottish election we will march on Westminster demanding they start talks on an independent settlement, immediately.’ No government on earth can deny the legitimate call of the Scottish people to dissolve their alliance with another country.    

EMBARGO: Thursday 25 November 2021, 00:01 hrs

MACASKILL QUIZZES PRESIDING OFFICER OVER DRACONIAN PROTEST POWERS

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT MUST “COME CLEAN” OVERJUSTIFICATION FOR NEW LAW

ALBA Party Depute Leader Kenny MacAskill MP has sent a further letter to the Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone MSP challenging the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) to publish the justification for the introduction of new powers contained in The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Scottish Sites under Section 129) Order 2021 (SI 2021, No. 1021) to limit demonstrations and protest at the Scottish Parliament building and grounds which came into force on 1 October. 

 “COP26 showed that it was possible for the police to ensure public order and safety without recourse to additional draconian powers.  Like many others including Amnesty International and the recent SNP Conference, I remain unconvinced that these powers serve any meaningful purpose other than to create barriers between the public and those they elect”.   

The wording of the Order can be viewed here: The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Scottish Sites under Section 129) Order 2021 (legislation.gov.uk)

The introduction of this new law was condemned at the time by Amnesty International and by a resolution of the SNP Conference. Moves by ALBA MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey to have the issue debated in the House of Commons, while ultimately unsuccessful, were supported by the SNP MPs Douglas Chapman and Joanna Cherry.

Stay safe.

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The Face of Failed Foreign Policy,

Tonight we heard of the tragedy unfolding in the English Channel – an accident waiting to happen some would say, and the English are blaming the French and the French are blaming the English, and they are both right, for they are both to blame.

When I first started sailing, out of sight, of land it was on a very seaworthy boat of 27 feet in length and well equipped, and although I had little experience of blue water sailing, I had over the years, sailed most weekends in coastal waters and had a Yachtsman’s certificate and radio licence. Still, when you are out at sea, even in a well-founded craft, such as this, you feel very tiny indeed and not at all as confident as in the relative safety of coastal waters. I have sailed to France a few times and always found the English Channel, daunting. Knowing what I know, you would have to be pretty desperate to risk your life in an overloaded rubber boat across the English Channel, even if you can on a clear day see the White Cliffs of Dover.

Patel tells us these people are not proper asylum-seeking – migrants escaping a life-threatening situation, in coming to England, they have travelled through half of Europe or across the Baltic countries, so that is where they must stay, these people, she will tell you are in fact ‘Economic Migrants’ (even although many of their immediate family are already settled in England) and is there really any difference anyway? All migrants are looking to better their lives and those of their families; you could say the same about the Irish, or the Scots wishing to move to London to better themselves. Or the retired English that moves to Scotland on their retirement because of free health care.   

The saddest part of this story, flashed across our television screens this evening, is that it was predictable, and the result of British and French foreign policy – colonization, regime change, corporate plunder and wars to back up all of the above.

Yes, the US played a big part in all of this but, they have little to fear, migrants from a land torn by their wars, may be willing to risk, water cannon, pepper spray, even bullets to cross borders into Europe, or a rubber boat to England, but unlikely to try to reach America by the same means.

Nigeria, 1973

Tigray region of Ethiopia, 1984

Mali, 1985

Kuwait 1991

Burundi 1994

Bosnia

Rwanda 1995

…………………………. This is the real face of their, wars against humanity, and their weapon sales to puppet dictatorships that they themselves have installed.

Not some medieval movie, a story from or long-forgotten history – no this is within the last three decades, and we have not even mentioned -the Falkland war, wars across the Middle East, Noth Africa and Afghanistan.

Oh, soldier, soldier,

You frighten me,

In all your bind brutality,

For behind the soldier mask I see,

A man- just like me.

Stay safe.

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Global Warming and Frogs

With my woolly hat pulled down hard over my lugs, boy it was cold out, still less so than yesterday. I headed down to the cycle track, and on towards Guardbridge, then climbed, what is locally known as the West Third. Up and into Strathkinness dropped down the hill on the other side to the crossroads at the other side of the village.  Here I had intended turning left and back, wind assisted, into St Andrews. The powers that be had given up on patching on top of patches and were now scarifying the road so I was forced to continue up onto the unclassified road back home via Graigtoun. It is all down hill from this second crossroads and today wind assisted, so I was soon back at City Park, faced cheeks glowing like Rudolph’s nose, and grinning like a fool from the exhilaration.   

Red skies at night – Shepherds delight.

I love this time of year, the freshness of it all, the stunning skies at dusk and dawn, the clarity and detail of the surrounding landscape. May have to dig out my long johns, for they tell us that snow is on the way, (and people will soon have to scrap that Global Warming, from their windscreens.)

I watched a documentary on television; it was about a frog that I knew nothing off. The species is known to be quite widely distributed in the Western Ghats, ranging from the Camel’s Hump Hill Range in the north, all the way to the northernmost portions of the Agasthyamalai Hill Range in the south of India.

Named the Purple pig-nosed frog, its long nose helps it slurp insects and termites since it lives much of its life underground. During the heavy monsoons it comes from it’s borrow to mate. They mount females and grip them amplexus along the vertebral column. Around 3000 eggs are laid in a rock pool and the tadpoles metamorphose after around 100 days and have little suckers to help them cling to rocks in the fast flowing streams.

The makers of the film spend many wet dank nights, in the dark, monsoon drenched forests, searching for their quarry to photograph. What came over very strongly was that global warming was upsetting the monsoon seasons, sometimes late sometimes they simply did not arrive. And although the natives of the area could adapt quickly to the rising temperature their crops and the frogs could not, now less and less male frogs are finding females to mate with. If they can not find a mate during the two weeks monsoon season then it back underground they go until next year’s monsoon season.

What troubles me, the evidence is everywhere, global warming is real, its here, we live with it every day. Yet the politicians seem to have this attitude,

“It will be all right on the night”.

When nuclear power was hailed as the saviour of mans energy needs, back at the start of the 1960s. When we were told that the electricity would cost so little that it would cost more to send out the bill than the cost of the electricity on that bill. And when people asked about ‘The nuclear waste created’ how would we dispose of it? When people asked about the ‘cost of decommissioning’ how would it be paid for? The answer from the politicians was very woolly – we have plenty of time to work that one out. They have not, worked it out, and the problem is still with us six decades on. The poison chalice has simply been passed down from Labour to Tory – Tory to Labour.  Will global warming received any more urgency? – dream on.    

Stay safe.

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Just Another Political Party

Tory! Tory! Tory!

Nicola Sturgeon faces pivotal week with Alex Salmond reports due | Scottish  politics | The Guardian

Out! Out! Out!

It is getting to the point that there is not a fag paper between the ideology of the political parties in the UK and Scottland has followed suit – How long I wonder before Nicola Sturgeon announces at her parties conference,

“Scottish Independence is not such a Good Idea”

The truth is, Nicola Sturgeon sees her job as “Keeping my party in power” as she said at the Edinburgh Book Festival, this is the most truthful statement I have heard from the woman. It all went downhill after that. (Pants on Fire).

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Salt of the Earth

Well, the ride turned into a dookin’, still, we peddled on, I just had to work off all those calories accumulated yesterday.

It all started when I was asked to build another of Mrs Sinclair’s purchases – this time a flat-pack – crap – chipboard – folding table. I just can not understand it. You see beautiful, well made, last a lifetime, Oak drop leave tables in salerooms and they have difficulty getting a bid on them, yet thousands – hundreds of thousands, of these flat-pack pieces of furnisher, from China and Sweden, pore into the country every day, and lasts about as long as a toy, given at Christmas, will last, possibly all the through until February.

But I diverse, when it was all together and placed under her window, a-ha, that is why Charles received her big chair; you know the one that had to be dismantled to get it out the door. There I go again off on a tangent, well to end this saga.

I was rewarded with a pack of six chocolate covered, mini sponge cakes, and although I did try to hide them in a cupboard I kept remembering where they were and scoffed the lot. (Sound of whiplash) come on you Christians, peddle faster.  

I lived next door to a young woman from Northern Ireland; she spoke at twenty to the dozen in her beautiful NI brogue, one of her overused sayings was ‘He’s the salt of the earth’. There are not many people I would go as far as to say that about, but Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado born 8th February 1944 would certainly be one, and top of the list.

In one line from the movie “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” and delivered by Spencer Tracy,

“I can understand why he had little to say about himself – who the hell would believe him?”

The same could be said about Sebastiao Salgado.

Most of us will already be familiar with the man through his photography, stunning, black and white, social documentary photographs from his travels to some 120 countries on his photographic projects, around the world and published in numerous books and publications. His most famous photographs are of Serra Pelada, a gold mine in Brazil. However, the one that sticks in my head is of a giant iceberg, as it succumbs to wind and weather as it slowly drifted south.

In the late 1999s, Salgado quit photography,

“I was sick. I was not well, I have lost faith in the species” he told the Canadian, Globe and Mail newspaper.

He and his wife, Lelia, who were living abroad at that time, decided to return to his childhood home, his parent’s farm in Brazil, that they had recently inherited. His youthful memories were full of a magical forest, teeming with life and flowing with water. Sadly when they returned, it was to find a devastated land. The forest was gone, and deforestation had left the land dry, barren and lifeless. The springs had stopped flowing. The hills eroded and the soil turned to dust. 

Most would not even have bothered unpacking and headed straight back to the airport, but as if in a bid to heal a deeper trauma, the Salgado’s decided to try to heal the earth, through reforestation of the Fazenda Balcao, (Balcao Farm) by Instituto Terra. Together, Lelia and Sebastiao started their work in the 1990s and by 1998 had succeeded in turning 17,000 acres into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra.  The institute is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.

Between 2004 and 2011, Salgado worked on Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.

If there was a lifeline for this world of ours – it was thrown to us by the work of the Salgado’s. But as we can see from my previous blogs, time is not on our side, we must remember the butterflies of the El Yunque forest and how they are the canaries in the coalmine.

No one knows where the tipping point will be but already the world leaders are back peddling on commitments made about reducing global warming, and many like myself, believe that unless they seriously start talking about ditching ‘Growth for Grows Sake’ – capitalism – and start to talk about ‘Steady-State’ 

Never extract more than the ecosystem can regenerate.

Never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb. 

And again in the words of a teenager,

“We cannot save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

Greta Thunberg.

 Keep safe.

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America’s Obsession with Guns.

Strong winds are still very much dominating our weather here in Fife, so we will once more be playing back and forth along the cycle track, and in the relative shelter of the hedgerow.

Yesterday I copied a satirical blog from Iain, on the Scottish justice system – at least we could laugh at that and although justice was far from being ‘seen to being done and however poor we might have seen the judgment handed down by her Ladyship, clearly influenced by political pressure and showed the Scottish justice system in a very poor light – sending an innocent man to prison – however, no one was shot and killed.

Yesterday on all the major media channels we witnessed footage, along with their report, on the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial. What does this say about the American people, their government, and their justice system? A country that allow vigilantes onto their streets with semi-automatic weapons? All played out in full view of the police, America’s bastions of law and order?

We see a running battle where a teenager, brandishing an illegally bought semi-automatic weapon, clearly not right in the head and out of control. He shoots three unarmed people, with impunity, killing two and life long injures to the other, then walk free from the courtroom without charges being brought against him.

To add insult to injury up pops someone running for Congress and in front of the worlds media, upholds the verdict. Then again we did see pictures of him outside his home, posing like Clyde Barrow or his sidekick Bonnie Parker, (with a machine gun), he with his semi-automatic weapon.     

Oh, how I love my guns, I do,

Yes, they are designed to kill, that true,

But the more I have in my collection,

The BIGGER grows my ERECTION.  

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Don’t you just love the Scottish justice system?


HelloThere .by Iain lawson – at Craig Murray’s first conversation with another prisoner in the Edinburgh jail.HELLO, THEREWhat’s your name? Craig MurrayWhat are you in for? Not sure, nobody can tell me. Surely the Police must have said? Nope, not a word I heard it was jigsaw identification. I asked about it in here but nobody knew anything about it. This is usually regarded as a University of Offending but nobody has a clue, including the screws. Jigsaw identification, where are they going to put you, the games room? Come on, the trial must have spelt it out, told you what you had done, laid out the evidence?. The judge must have explained it precisely before you were sentenced? Nope, she skipped that bit, not one phrase, not one example, she told me that my “offence” was very clear in her mind. Surely the witnesses must have said something? There were no witnesses, the only evidence against me was in the judge’s mind and she was determined it would remain there and not be revealed or explained. Did the jury just ignore all this? There was no jury. So there was no stated evidence, no witnesses, no jury, a judge who refused to specify what had been written that created the offence in the first place, that denied you the opportunity to present much of your defence evidence, then denied you the right of appeal at the end of it? Is that why it’s called jigsaw identification? You have to find or imagine the jigsaw pieces yourself, nobody else knows them, then you have to fit them out properly, all without a picture and when you do that, you can’t show anyone or tell them what you did? Yip that is pretty much it.Can’t see them selling many of that puzzle. Oh, they won’t I am the first person in a hundred years who seems to have managed it! What was your secret? I don’t know and if I did I couldn’t tell you. There is something funny about this. You have been set up, who did you upset? Well, it wasn’t me it was a largely female jury that tossed out a lot of spurious charges devised as a plot against someone I knew. I, as a journalist, made the mistake of reporting the trial in an accurate and fair manner. Indeed I was the only journalist whose reports tied in and explained the jury’s eventual decision. That’s what really upset the plotters. Who were the plotters? Sorry, can’t tell you. Somebody must know? Plenty of people know alright. They just can’t tell you. Why the trial is over, you can tell me who the “ accused” was whose defence evidence the jury believed. You can tell me the names of the defence witnesses but you can’t tell me the names of a single one of his accusers. The ones the jury disbelieved as the jury’s decision was that not a single crime was committed. That can’t be, right? These were quite powerful people and their leader did not take part in the trial itself but the leader is the thread that ties a lot of them together. That is common in the criminal world, Mr Big rarely dirties his hands but gets the underlings to do the dirty work So there was a Mr Big involved? Be careful with your pronouns or you will fall victim to the Hate Crime Bill or GRA. What’s that? You don’t want to know? It will soon be the law and before you know it others will be getting jailed for not supporting biology deniers. You might get a few men wearing dresses in here but I think they will probably opt for the female prisons. They can do that? Oh yes, it’s called self ID. CAN I KEEP MY BEARD? Yes, no problem and before you ask, you can keep that as well. Things have changed a lot in the time I have been inside. I didn’t see this happening in Scotland under Alex Salmond. It didn’t, it was someone else. I am, as always your FOR SCOTLAND

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COP 26 – The Parties Over My Freind.

I have read many articles over these last few months, telling us that technology is the way to escape global warming it is not, the silver bullet, the panacea. Yes, we have come a long way to change to renewable over the last decade, so ask yourself this, “Why is CO2 in the atmosphere still rising?”

Growth is the enemy; growth is embedded in our economics and politics the system can’t survive without it. So it is no surprise to learn that governments around the world have placed the full force of the state behind perpetuating the treadmill of accumulation – growth when we should be cutting back on growth ‘for growth’s sake’.

If we tally up the total weight of all the stuff humans extract and consume each year, including biomass, minerals, fossil fuels and construction materials we find that in the first half of the 1900s it jumped from 7 billion tons per year to 14 billion tons per year – then came the decades after 1945 something truly astonishing happened. As GDP growth becomes entrenched as a core political objective around the world and expansion starts to accelerate, material use explodes.  35 million tones in 1980 – 50 billion tones by 2000 an eye-watering 92 billion tons by 2017

Facts are facts, the evidence about the relationship between economic growth and ecological breakdown continues to pill up yet growth remains entrenched. But so long as we go down the path of constant growth we can never build enough clean energy, to outweigh the amount required to meet even a 3% annual growth, from where we are today.

If clean energy was the silver bullet that many put their trust in – but whilst wind and sunshine are clean the infrastructure we need to capture it is not.

In 2017 the World Bank released a report looking at the increase in material extraction that would be required to build enough solar and wind utilities to produce an annual output of about 7 terawatts of electricity by 2050 (about enough to the power needed for about half of the global economy).  Double these figures and the results would be 34 billion metric tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead, 50 million tons of zinc, 162 million tons of aluminium and no less than 4.5 billion tons of iron. The same is true for silver, which a critical ingredient in solar panels is. Silver extraction will go up 38% and perhaps as much as 105%. Demand for indium, also essential to solar technology, will more than triple and could end up skyrocketing by 920%

We also need to think about vehicles – yes we need to change to e-cars but we also need to reduce their usage. And as we run out of known deposits of key materials – what next excavating the polar regions – the sea bed………..

No, believing that GDP should continue to grow year on year, is unsustainable, and that is where we must look for a solution.

The scale of resources that will be required to go ‘Green’ is staggering. Take silver, the Penasquito open cast mine in Mexico is the biggest in the world, it covers an area of 40 square miles, a sprawling open-cast site. With two tailing dumps full of toxic sludge held back by a wall 7 miles around and as high as a fifty-story skyscraper. Penasquito will produce 11,000 tons of silver in the next ten years before the reserves are exhausted. The transition the global economy to renewable will require 130 mines on the scale of Penasquito.  

Lithium is another ecological disaster. It takes 500,000 gallons of water to produce a single ton of lithium. Even at present levels of extraction, this is causing real problems. In the Andes, where most of the world’s lithium is located, mining companies are burning through the water table and leaving farmers with nothing to irrigate their crops.  Lithium mines have poisoned rivers from Chile to Argentina, Nevada to Tibet, killing off whole freshwater ecosystems and the Lithium boom has barely started. I read that, I read that the Bolivia government will receive 30 trillion dollars from its Lithium deposits – I wonder how much of that will be invested to clean up the mess afterwards or the companies simply go into receivership and leave the ecological disaster for others to clean up. And how much of the 30 trillion will go to help the people of Bolivia – and how much will be squirrelled away by corrupt parliamentarians. Or does that only happen at Westminster?

And remember this is simply to power the global economy by 2050 – add to this the energy needs to for future growth – even after achieving full energy transition – to keep the global economy growing it would mean doubling the total global stock of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries every thirty or forty years forever and ever and ever…….

Let’s suppose we were able to move to 100% clean energy, what would we do with it?

If following the capitalist system of ever-increasing growth year on year, we would be simply swapping one problem for another, doing exactly the same things we did under fossil fuels. We would raze more forests, trawl more fish, mine more mountains, build more roads, expand industrial farming, and send more waste to landfills.

There is no future in Capitalism and constant growth, it has failed. The whole idea behind using clean energy to power a ‘Green Growth’ system is only so that we can keep growing material production and consumption – otherwise what would be the point – why would we need to keep growing energy demand???????

Stay safe.

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A Joy for any Girl or Boy.

The finished rocking horse/chair – I could do with a pair of bar end stoppers to complete its ensemble since the handlebars are just that cut-down, bicycle drop handlebar. The rails, rockers and glue blocks, Ashwood, from a single bed that was to be thrown out. The head is made from Oak, part of a bar top from the Rule in South Street. Decoration, part of an old curtain given to me by the girls and some other odds and sods from my scrap box. I like it and have had lots of fun and games making it, now it is over to some smaller kids to enjoy.

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Rocking

Another find day cycling, we even had some sunshine.  I did go around the charity shops looking for cotton material with a big rose pattern on it, but it would seem flower pattern dresses are no longer in vogue. However the girls came up trumps with an old bathroom curtain – just big enough for the job, I like it.

I have not tried sticking material onto wood before and if I ever did it again I would do so before I fitted hooves and saddle, cutting wet material with a Stanley knife is not easy, but we got there in the end. Just a bit of detail on the head and we are there.

It’s all those pesky Russians again; it’s them again, mum.

Refuges on the Polish – Belarus border it is all about Russia and how they are trying to destabilise the EU, codswallop!   

If you want to know who is responsible for the migration problems into Europe look no farther than France, England, and the United States of America. It was they that invaded Syria – Libya – and Afghanistan and caused one million people to be displaced.

Now we hear that the UK government (not without Americas say so) have sent troops to Poland to help with the crises there. Why are the EU not, along with the Polish and the Belarus governments, getting around the table and sorting this out – simple really America and their yappy little lap dog (England) want the trouble to escalate and blame Russia that is what is at the heart of the matter.

Already they are building larger docking facilities in the Black Sea so that large American and British warships can dock there. They have been trying to get Ukraine into NATO so that they can have American and British troops right along Russia’s southern border. Remember the regime change in Ukraine (America put their man in power) the Russians retaliated when their only ice-free naval port and only exit to the Mediterranean Sea was threatened – they isolated the Crime and the eastern fringes of Ukrain to protect their southern borders. Whilst there is a dispute between Ukraine and Russia, over Crime, and lands that once belonged to Ukrain, nothing can be done about bringing Ukraine into NATO for it would mean that Russians claim to the Crime would have to be accepted by the UN – so look out for, Ukraine (under America’s guidance) trying to kissing and making up with Putin over Crime. I think Putin is too long in the tooth to fall for that one. For it would mean Ukraine would then be free to join NATO.  

What the US and UK fail to realise is that this is not the 1970 – 1980 Russia going with a begging bowl to the International Monetary Fund, Russian is a powerful country in its own right now, Putin had made it so, and he will not be pushed around by the west. The US is playing a very dangerous game here – sabre rattling only takes one side to slip and it will be a full-scale war, and after Iraq- Syria – Libya and Afghanistan you would have to put your money on Russia, to triumph. We can only hope that this is all talk and no substance from the US.   

Stay safe

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Today had been a bit different

The wind was light but no sun as I headed out on my morning run. Only out for one hour since I was expecting the woman from the cat sanctuary to call and pick up books and bric-a-brac, for their charity shops and Amazon would be delivering my wood glue, almost out. So a day at home was planned.

I spread my big trampoline out on the grass and move my workshop outdoors – lots of noisy machines, sawdust and shaving – not good for the bedroom carpet.

Back indoors and started to put things together, not there yet, but at least you can see what I’m trying to acheive, a small child’s rocking chair.

I have been thinking about colours, and have come up with this crazy idea. I love the Wemyss cats, with their gay decoration of flowers, you just have to smile when you see them – what if I went to the charity shop and picked up a flower-patterned dress, made from thin cotton and covered the main body in floral material – that would work, (I’m sure the arty farty people will have a name for it.)

Doesn’t time fly when you are busy – I could kill for a pot of tea now, and my belly thinks my throat has been cut?

I have really enjoyed my day.

Stay safe.  

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Revolution in the Air

Well, here it is for what it’s worth, my summing up and the road map for hope, and a way out of the mess we now find ourselves.

When people talk about – overthrowing or abolishing capitalism – unease descends – what will replace it? Those that call for revolution really tell us what the ‘new’ will look like. They leave a void to be filled and can be filled by some nightmare scenarios. Better the devil you know, they will tell you, right? Well not if it means the end of civilisation as we know it.

Firstly we need to release our system from growth, once we get that, we see what a post-capitalist economy might look like, and strangely enough, it is not the command-and-control fiasco of the Soviet Union, or back to the cave in a loincloth. In fact, it will seem very familiar to us all. An economy where people produce and sell useful goods and services, (not plastic promotional items that end up in our seas) an economy where people make rational, informed decisions about what to buy – and where people get compensated with a fair wage for their labour.  An economy that satisfies human needs while minimising waste. An economy that circulates money to those who need it, an economy where innovation makes better, longer-lasting products, reduces ecological pressure, frees up labour time and improves human welfare, an economy that responds to, rather than ignores, the health of the ecology on which we all depend. However, let us be clear, none of this will be easy. Many believe this is an impossible dream, there is no such animal, they will tell you, for it would require a totalitarian government imposing from above when exactly the opposite is true. 

Scientists at Harvard and Yale published a remarkable study on how people make decisions about the natural world. Would people, given a free choice, choose to share finite resources with future generations?

You will gain little from parking resources for future generations, for there is no reciprocal response. The rational choice the economists expected from the groups, they had set up and given common resources to be managed across generations, would be to simply exhaust their resources in the now and leave the future generations with little or nothing.

They found that on average 65 per cent of individuals chose to use their share sustainable, taking from their pool only that which left enough for the pool to regenerate itself. The opposite of what the economists predicted.

However, the other 32 per cent chose to liquidate their share of the resources in pursuit of a quick buck. 

But the good news is that when all the groups came together and acted collectively in direct democracy, 68 per cent were able to overrule the selfish minority and keep their destructive impulses in check. Wow democracy in action, we are saved, well no.

To get to a steady-state economy that states,

Never extract more than ecosystems can regenerate.

Never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb.

This would require caps on resources use and waste, and for decades we have been told by economists that such caps are impossible, because people will see them as irrational. Yet given the chance – this is exactly what people want. It shows it is not human nature that is the problem here. It is that we have a political system that allows a few people to sabotage our collective future, for their own gains.

Whit! But we live in a democracy, don’t we?  Well yes, kind of. But you see democracies are not really very democratic.

In the United States, corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising, and where there are few restrictions on donations to political parties, under the banner of ‘Free Speech’. This system places politicians at the mercy of corporations and billionaires and under pressure to align with the policy preferences of the elites.  In 2010, $3.55 billion was spent on lobbying up from $1.45 billion in 1998. And it paid off, one study found that money spent on lobbying the US Congress earned returns of up to 22,000 per cent in the form of tax breaks and profits from preferential treatment.

It would appear that the United States resembles a plutocracy more than democracy.

Britain shows similar tendencies, but for different reasons. Britain has a financial hub and economic powerhouse – The City of London, totally immune from many of the nation’s democratic laws and free of parliamentary oversight.  The City of London council is allocated not chosen by residents, but given to businesses – the bigger the business the more votes on the council. In the House of Lords, the chamber is filled not by election members but by appointment. With ninety-six seats for aristocratic families, twenty-six were set aside for the Church of England and many ‘Sold’ to individuals in return for large campaign donations.

Give three million to the Tory party and you too can be a Lord.

We also see the same plutocratic tendencies when it comes to financing. Shareholder votes are controlled by massive mutual funds like BlackRock and Vanguard that have no democratic legitimacy.  

Then there is the media in Britain, three companies’ control 70 per cent of the newspaper market. And half of those are owned by Rupert Murdoch. In the US six companies’ control 90 per cent of all media. It is impossible to have a real democratic conversation about the economy under these conditions.

One of the main reasons we are at this time staring down the barrel of an ecological crisis is because our political systems have been completely corrupted. Those that wish to sustain our planet’s ecology for future generations (and from the studies carried out that is the majority of the people who live on this planet) are trumped by a minority of elites who are quite happy to liquidate everything.    

What if we were able to have an open democratic conversation about what kind of economy we want? What would that look like? How would we distribute resources? I do not have the answers to any of these questions – only to say, it would look a lot different to what we already have, and no one seems to want.

In an age of ecological breakdown, we must break this barrier down. We must subject capitalism to scrutiny – to reason. The journey to a post-capitalist economy begins with the most basic act of democracy.

I will end my story here, for you all have the power at your fingertips to carry on the research. Mostly my thought have come curtsy of The Guardian Newspaper over the last decade and from a lot of reading, and from my own observations over the many years watching politics played out in the UK.

The voters should hold the key to our democracy a democracy that is the will of the people. But as we have seen, here in the UK and in the US the people have little say over decisions made about our future.

There is a glimmer of hope for the people of Scotland over their rUK counterparts – we could make the citizens of Scotland sovereign once more, by declaring independence and making our own chooses over our welfare and the welfare of our lands. 

Stay safe.

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Some News From the Home Front.

I was up every hour on the hour from around 4 O’clock in the morning, why? Well I had to be in Dundee for 9 O’clock for my big day – I was going to be fitted with my new hearing aids. I finally rose at 6 O’clock and before I had turned around it was, get my skates on, time – home again by 10 o’clock.

So what’s the verdict? Well, we live in a very noisy world, that’s for sure, my floorboards squeak and my electric clock has one hell of a tick that I never heard before. So, yes, brilliant – once you get over the cost, £2995.00 little wonder that the NHS has given up on issuing hearing aids. Still, I’m sure they will find other ways to spend their money.

The bad news, if the undertaker comes in the near future he will be out of luck, the state will have to cremate me.

I have not really been paying much attention to the Cop (out) 26 in Glasgow; well everyone and their dog knew how it would turn out. Photo opportunities, and back-slapping but no real commitment to do anything much about global warming.

Talking about photo opportunities Oor Nicola has been embarrassing us all by running around the venue like a teenage autograph hunter, let loose at a Hollywood gala, having selfies taken with all the Celebes. She is of course avoiding, like the plague, Francois Legault, leader of the province of Quebec in Canada, well she would not wish to be associated with anyone trying to break away from Mother Parliament.         

As for Boris, he was up at COP 26 yesterday, not that he is really all that interested in global warming. No, it seems that things were getting a bit hot for him in London. People accusing his Tory friends of misbehaving and corruption, who could think such a thing of a Right Honourable Gentleman? Of course, I do not believe for one moment this was why he came north in such haste – politicians have skin like a rhinoceros, nothing is going to penetrate or upset, thick-skinned Boris.   

I loved the story in the Guardian about Julia (Hurricane) Hawkins; who set a new world record for the 100m sprint, at Louisiana Senior Games on Sunday. The time, 1 minute 2.95 seconds, ‘World record’ – you can’t be serious?  Oh, I forgot to say, Julia, is 105 years old.  

You may remember me telling you that Charles is an academic (school teacher) – over at the café today, he was telling me he would have liked to write his memoirs but his hands shake so much now he can’t.

“I still touch-type above 80 words per minute,” I told him. If you get yourself a Dictaphone I will type up whatever you speak into it and pass it back to you for proofing. He seemed excited about the idea. (Writing will be the easy part – getting it published will be the problem.) Still, he told me his story would be very funny and I could have half the royalties – hold me back.

Had to put my furnisher removal hat on, and move a chair, not a problem, two-minute job. Well, that was until it would not go through the doorway, it had a swivel underneath so that was the first to come off, still no joy, next remove the door. Another ‘two-minute’ job ticked off, must be time for tea now.  

Stay safe.

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“Capitalism does more harm than good”

Fred Jameson famously said

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”

And if that were the truth we really would be staring into an abyss. But things are changing. In 2017 an American named Trevor Hill stood up during a televised town hall meeting in New York and posed a simple question to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives at the time and one of the most powerful people in the world. He had read a study by Harvard University that showed that 51 per cent of Americans between the age of eighteen and twenty-nine no longer supported capitalism and asked whether the Democrats, Pelosi’s party, could embrace the fast-changing reality and stake out a vision for an alternative economy.

Pelosi was visibly taken aback.

“I thank you for your question,” she said “but I’m sorry to say we’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is”

The footage went viral. It was powerful because it dramatised the taboo against questioning capitalism, now here it was, right out in the open, the cat was finally out of the bag.

Hill was no lefty just a bright kid informed and curious about the world. He had asked a sincere question, and yet Pelosi, stammering and defensive, was unable to accept it, and unable to say why she held such a view.

Pelosi’s response “That’s just the way it is” did not shut down the question it only pulled back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. 

A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64 per cent of people in Britain believe capitalism is unfair. In the US, it was as high as 55 per cent, Germany, a solid 77 per cent. A survey in 2020 by the Edelman Trust Barometer showed that a majority of people around the world (56 per cent) agree with the statement,

“Capitalism does more harm than good”

In France, it was as high as 69 per cent. In India, it’s a staggering 74 per cent. And on top of all these a full three-quarters of people across all major capitalist economies say they believe corporations are corrupt.

In 2019 the European Council on Foreign Relations asked people in fourteen EU countries,

“Do you believe that environment should be made a priority even if doing so DAMAGES economic growth?”

Surely no one was going to agree with such a trade-off. Yet large majorities (between 55 and 70 per cent said YES.

Hope over fear.

All my life politicians of all colours and shades have told me we need growth in order to improve people’s lives but this has turned out to be untrue. We are now well past the point in this country where the relationship between GDP and well-being completely breaks down. It is not Growth that matters it is how income and resources are distributed, that is what matters.

(In Scotland we badly need Land Reform)

Consider this – over the past 40 years, 28 per cent of all new income from global GDP growth has gone to the richest 1 per cent  (all already million if not billionaires). Pretty staggering really, for it means that one-third of all labour, all the resources we extract, and all the CO2 we have emitted over the past half-century has been done to make rich people richer.

Now once you get your head around this and realise WE DO NOT NEED GROWTH we are free to think about something better than CAPITALISM.

Scientists have made it clear to us that the only way out of trouble and keep global warming down under 1.5 degrees C, or even 2 degrees C, is for high-income countries, to slow down the pace of extraction, and the production of waste. Reducing resource use removes pressure from ecosystems and gives nature a fighting chance of a comeback. This they call – “DEGROWTH” remember it, you should be hearing a lot about it in the near future.

Today’s scientists are now being heard and listened too, (possibly because of the internet, and why it is such a threat to capitalist thinking and needs to be shut down).

Biologists are discovering the humans are not standalone individuals but composed of microorganisms on which we depend for functions as basic as digestion.

Psychiatrists are learning that spending time around plants is essential to people’s mental health, and indeed that certain plants can heal humans from complex psychological traumas, (gardeners were way ahead of them on that one).

Ecologists are learning that trees, far from being inanimate, communicate with each other and even share food and medicines through invisible mycelia networks in the soil.

Quantum physicists are teaching us that individual particles that appear to be distinct are interlinked with others, even across vast distances. And Earth-systems scientists are finding evidence that the planet itself operates like a living superorganism. 

It is not just or economics that needs to change. We need to change the way we see the world and our place within it.

For over 300,000 years humans have lived on this planet, and they did so in relative harmony with the Earth’s ecosystems. It was only with the rise in capitalism a few hundred years ago and the acceleration of industrialisation, and from the 1950s that things began to tip out of balance.  Strangely enough, our problems have little to do with humans and more to do with an economic system – one that is recent in origin, which came about at a particular time and a particular place in history.  Once we get our head around this we can start to ask a new question,

“How did this happen?” “Where did capitalism come from?” “Why did it take hold?”

Every schoolchild learned that feudalism was a brutal system that produced terrible human misery. However contrary to narratives that were abounding at schools it was not capitalism that put an end to this system. The victory was in fact even more remarkable, it is down to the courageous struggle fought by a long tradition of everyday revolutionaries who have for some reason been written out of the story.

In the early 1300s, commoners across Europe began rebelling against the feudal system. They refused to submit to unpaid labour, they rejected the taxes and tithes extracted by nobles and the church and began demanding direct control over the land they tilled. This was organised resistance. And in some cases, it grew into outright military conflicts. In 1323, peasants and workers took up arms in Flanders in a battle that lasted five years before their defeat by Flemish nobility. Similar rebellions erupted elsewhere across Europe, in Bruges, Ghent, Florence, liege and Paris.  Most of these were quickly put down by well-armed militaries. Then came the Black Death of 1347, this triggered social and political crises.

Strangely enough, it proved to be a blessing in disguise, because labour was scarce and land abundant, suddenly peasants and workers had more bargaining power, they demander more pay, lower rents, Nobles were not happy they were caught on the back foot. Now the balance of power favoured the commoner. This was their chance to change the very foundations of the social and political order. As confidence grew the rebellions gained traction. (Read Wat Tyler – England)

The rebellions spread right across Europe and in England serfdom was completely eradicated in the wake of the 1381 revolt. Surfs became free farmers, subsisting on their own land. With free access to commons, pasture for grazing, forests for game and timber, waterways for fishing and irrigation. They worked for wages if they wanted extra income. In Germany, peasants came to control up to 90 per cent of the countries land.

Once the peasants owned the land they of course would look after it better than under the feudal system, which had been a disaster for the ecosystem. Democratic assemblies were set up with careful rules that regulated tillage, grazing and forest use. Europe’s soils began to recover and the forest re-grew. 

Hardly surprising that this did not please the elites, who considered high wages as scandalous and were irritated that commoners would only hire themselves out for short periods or limited tasks. As national income was shared more evenly across the population it became more difficult for nobles to gain large fortunes on the backs of the poor. The post-feudalist society brought with it self-sufficiency, high wages, grassroots democracy and collective management of resources.

What this new society may have grown to look like we will never know for it was brutally crushed by nobles and Church.

The merchant bourgeoisie united in an organised attempt to end peasant autonomy and drive wages back down. They did so, not by re-ensuring peasants that would have proved impossible. Rather they evicted them from the land in a sustained and often violent campaign of eviction. As for the commons, collective managed pastures, forests and rivers that sustained rural communities, they were fenced off and privatised for elite use. They became, in a word, property.

For the first time in history, commoners were systematically denied access to the most basic resources necessary for survival. People were left without homes and food. We don’t need to romanticise subsistence life to recognise that ENCLOSURE produced conditions that were far worse than under serfdom, the word POVERTY came into common use.

If you travel up the Sma’ Glen and stop in the lay-by halfway up you will be able to read a notice that will tell you, the highland clearances came about because people left Scotland for a better life, no they were driven off the land by absentee landlords. 

Enclosure worked like magic for the capitalists of Europe, it gave them huge amounts of land and resources that had previously been off-limits. Some form of accumulation was necessary for the rise of capitalism. Adam Smith called this “Previous Accumulation” and claimed that it came about because a few people worked really hard and saved their earnings – such an idyllic tale, that is still repeated in textbooks. Karl Marx insisted on calling it “primitive accumulation”, to highlight the barbaric nature of the violence it entailed.

Now we really have the rise of capitalism – lots of cheap labour was now available. With subsistence economies destroyed and commons fenced off, people had no choice but to sell their labour for wages, not now, for a bit of extra income like under the previous regime, but simply in order to survive.

This at the time was called Free Labour, but of course, it was anything but. Although they were not forced to work as slaves or serfs, nonetheless they had little choice, those who controlled the means of production could get away with paying rock-bottom wages and people would have to take it. Any wage, no matter how small, was better than death.

Capitalism rose on the back of organised violence, mass impoverishment, and the systematic destruction of self-sufficient subsistence economies, replaced by the satanic mills immortalised in the poetry of William Blake.

The enclosure brought many into the cities, refugees, who ended up in urban slums had no choice but to accept work for meagre wages, because the refugees were many and jobs were few, competition among workers drove down the cost of labour this, in turn, destroyed the GUILD system that had previously protected the livelihoods of skilled craftsmen. Now the threat of being replaced and under pressure to produce workers would work sixteen hours a day, just to keep their job.

Think what Maggie Thatcher was trying to achieve, kill off the unions, and privatise the major industries so that governments could no longer be held to ransom. (At Grangemouth when the men went on strike the owner simply told them he was closing the plant down if they demanded higher wages, it worked, better half a loaf than none) high unemployment will drive down wages, they will be glad of a job, is the mantra of the Tory party in the UK.

John Locke admitted that enclosure was a process of theft from the commons, and from commoners, but he argued that this theft was morally justifiable because it enabled a shift to commercial methods that increased output. Any increase in total output, he said was a contribution to the “Greater Good”.

The same argument is spouted today virtually anything can be justified if it contributes to GDP growth. It is of course a lie; the only good is to the pocketbook of the land or factory owner.

This capitalism was not something that just happened along, it was a conscious strategy on the part of Europe’s capitalists. They saw enclosure as a tool for enhancing the “industry” of the masses.

In 1695 the Quaker John Bellers wrote, our commons make the poor that are upon them too much like the Indians, a hindrance to industry and are nurseries of idleness and insolence. In 1771, Arthur Young noted that “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious”. In 1786 the reverend Joseph Townsend emphasised “It is only hunger which can spur and goad them on to labour”.  

You do not have to look far to see the Tory Ideology of today’s world – same words different era (Universal Credits, food Banks, School Uniform Banks.) “Well fucked and poorly glad”, was how the Church kept its parishioners in order. Today the capitalist system is doing the same with the same lies.

Simon Szreter, one of the world’s foremost historians and experts on public health data, has shown that this first century of the Industrial Revolution was characterised by a striking deterioration in life expectancy, down to levels not seen since the Black Death. In Manchester and Liverpool, the two giants of industrialisation, life expectancy collapsed compared to non-industrial parts of the country. In Manchester, it fell to a mere twenty-five years. The first few years of capitalism generated misery to a degree unknown in the pre-capitalism era.  

And why I voted Labour all my working life and served as a shop steward. Sadly there is no difference in the political parties anymore – the great Labour Party of the people became ‘New Labour’ or should we just call it by its real name, ‘The Tory Party. As for the SNP here in Scotland, Sturgeon will continue to dangle the indiref2 carrot in front of gullible voters noses so long as it keeps her in her post as First Minister, but the SNP policies of the post-2014 referendum are no different from the Tories, that Sturgeon now serves. However, like the Black Death before it, coronavirus and global warming, have stopped their ideology in its tracks, this may be the chink of light we needed in order to change the system.

This blog has become overly long, for I do go off on tangents, but next time I will try to tackle the thorny subject of what comes after the collapse of capitalism, global warming and post coronavirus. Ma wee heid is hurting already.

Stay safe.

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Still Talking

Yesterday was a good day, out on my bike, again in ice-cold air, although the winds were light. My shadow kept me company cycling alongside; I was pushing hard and getting a lot of pleasure from my ride.

Home and the girls needed some compost to fill the metal trough they had been given and wished to plant it up with bulbs, would I go to the shop? I had a better idea the horticultural society in St Andrews said for me to help myself to their heap of compost anytime I wish. I took the trailer up and filled two bags and returned with them, another job ticked off.

I

n the afternoon I decided to tackle the sides for the rocking horse, have you ever tried to get an 8X4 sheet of ply, down a narrow corridor and into an already overcrowded bedroom, not easy, chopped 3 feet off the sheet, that’s better.  I am always surprised by the time it takes to first sketch out, make a paper template, and then use it to mark out the design onto a board of ply. Even making the little bits and pieces such as glue blocs, all take time, putting it all together is the easy part, but then it’s all part of the fun.   

Some time back I read the book “Merchants of Doubt” and if there is anyone out there that still believes we live in a democracy they should read this book, (more so if you live in the US). It shows how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming – why they had deep connections in politics and industry, and how they ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. The same individuals who claim the science of global warming is “Not Settled” have also denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product”, wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it.

The facts have been piling up for decades. And yet for some reason, we have been unable to change course. The past half-century is littered with endless inaction by governments.

The first international climate summit was held in 1979.

James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist, gave his testimony to the US Congress in 1988, explaining how the combustion of fossil fuels was driving climate breakdown.

 The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 to set non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

International climate summits – the UN Congress of Parties – has been held annually since 1995 to negotiate plans for emissions reductions.

The UN framework has been extended three times, with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, and the Paris Agreement in 2015.

And yet global CO2 emissions continue to rise year on year, while ecosystems unravel, at an alarming pace.

So what’s the problem? Some point to fossil fuel companies and the vice-like grip they have on our political systems. And there is a lot of truth in that. Then we have the ‘Brown Envelopes’ being passed around our politicians and bankrolling political parties. They will either deny the science outright or will obstruct meaningful action whenever possible. It is in part their vigorous lobbying that has made international climate treaties none legally binding.

Fossil fuel companies and the politicians they have bought, in the main, have much to answer for. However, this doesn’t explain the failure to act. There’s something, even more, sinter going on. Our addiction to fossil fuels and the antics of the fossil fuel industry is only a symptom. What’s ultimately the driver is the economic system that has come to dominate more or less the entire planet over the past few centuries: CAPITALISM. That is the real enemy. 

Don’t get your knickers in a twist just yet, for before we take sides it is important to have a clear understanding of how capitalism works.

We tend to associate capitalism with ‘trade’ and ‘markets’ all innocent enough. But trade and markets have been around for thousands of years, and long before capitalism came into someone’s wet dream. For the most part trade and markets are pretty benign. What sets capitalism apart from most other economic systems is that it’s organised around constant expansion, GROWTH, measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This growth is for no other purpose than for its own sake. Every sector, every national economy must grow, endlessly with no end game.  

Think of nature, a living organism will grow to a point of maturity and then maintain a state of equilibrium. When growth fails to stop it is because of a coding error – think CANCER. Capitalism may sound very natural, so not to worry, but capitalism has a built is self destruct mechanism, and not at all-natural, it will, in time self destruct. 

Under capitalism, global GDP needs to keep growing by at least 2 to 3 per cent, year on year. Three per cent growth means doubling the size of the global economy every twenty-three years and doubling it again from its already doubled state. What’s the problem, you may ask? Well, the problem is that GDP is not a figure plucked from the air. GDP growth goes hand in glove with the global economy and this links it directly to energy and resource usage.

If science is to be believed we can not possibly roll out renewable energy fast enough to keep the temperature below 1.5 per cent or even 2 per cent – if growth is to be maintained, it’s just not possible.

There is another problem, if we ever did manage 100 per cent clean energy, yes it will help reduce CO2 into the atmosphere, but as we saw earlier, this is not the problem only the symptoms. To continue with growth, we will continue to extract, and at an ever-increasing rate, that is what capitalism demands. So all the technology in the world and all the clean energy in the world will not arrest – deforestation, overfishing, soil depletion, or mass extinction – clean energy will not stop the ecological disaster that befouls us.

However, the only reason world leaders continue with a capitalist economy that if growth stops – capitalism collapses. If capitalism collapses, we then end up in a recession, debts pile up, and people lose their jobs, their homes their healthcare, in essence, shattered lives and a shattered society. And that is why, no matter the colour of the political party, they all speak with one voice, capitalism is the only game in town, and the media will continue to assure you that all is well because the economy grow by X per cent last quarter, but as Greta Thunberg said, endless economic growth is a fairy tales.

It’s a paradox, capitalism is the cause of the collapse of our ecosystem (and our planet) but if we kill off capitalism we bring a different kind of collapse in on ourselves.

Certainly, technology will absolutely be essential in the battle to save the ecological devastation that will inevitably come to our planet, but it is no silver bullet or panacea.   

If cleaner energy is not the answer, if technology is not the answer, neither being able to stop us from pulling ever-greater swathes of nature into a circuit of extraction and production, where does that leave us?

Where we are now is at a point where we have overshot what science has told us in a safe boundary. And this is why Greta Thunberg’s words will come back again and again to haunt us.

“We are at the beginning of mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you!”

In one line, she put the truth out there for all to see.

I am franticly looking for answers to our dilemma, and I may have found a few to share on my next blog. So pull your head out of the gas oven, and get your box of tissues handy, for I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Stay safe.

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Less is More

Again the weather allowed me the opportunity to be out on my bike and in pleasant sunshine. Peddles turning at a constant cadence, I start to go into a Zen like state allowing me time for myself, free from all the distractions at home, my mind once more will dream old men’s dreams.

I first attended college when I was made unemployed by Maggie Thatcher, who has just closed all the heavy industry and coal mines in Scotland, destroying all the subsidiary companies that depended on them in their wake. At the Jobcentre, I was told that if I wished I could attend college 12 hours a week, free of charge and choose any subject I wished, a half-truth.  You had core subjects for 8 of those 12 hours. Writing a CV and writing letters to prospective employers, of which there were none or at least none for someone like me – over 50 years of age.

For the final 4 hours, we were taken into the refectory and tutors would come in and tell us they had one or possibly two places in their class, if you wished to take up the offer you simply stuck your hand up. Boy did these young girls catch on fast and it soon became clear that if I did not grab a spot soon I would miss out altogether. The last tutor in the door said he had two places in his class Desk Top Publishing. Now I had no idea what DTP was but up went my hand and I was in. it turned out to be the only class I really enjoyed. DTP set me on the course to University.

I was really too old to take up any serious employment when I finally left (my late start) now that may seem like a waste of my time and government money, but education, opened up a whole new world for me, I had learned how to learn. Alas being only a couple of years off retirement. The work I ended up doing for many years after that (by default) was as my mother’s carer, for which I was paid the princely sum of £45.00 per week. Oh, happy days.

I kept up my computer skills, mostly touch typing and since I was spending so much time at home decided to start up a part-time business vinyl ‘Sign Making’ – I bought some software, and spend months practising how to get the best from it before going to the expense of a vinyl cutter. All this could be done from home, I found it also amused mum, watching her child at play.

Now at that time in Bradford if you were not doing business with the local Pakistani businessmen, then you were not doing business. Try as I might, they did not understand the concept that ‘Less was more’

“You’re a chemist shop for goodness sake you do not have to list everything you sell on your sign, from medicines to sanitary towels, less is more. Make the important stuff stand out, not buried under a deluge of words.

In today’s society we imagine that technological innovation is the way to solve our problems, when we should be engaging in more imaginative thinking – social innovation too, why stop at CAPITALISM?

During the run-up to the Scottish Referendum on Independence, we in the Yes, camp dared to dream, the odds were stacked against us but we went out making the case for independence (stolen from us in the last weeks as it turned out). The excitement in the growing number of Yes, meetings, street stalls, marches was palpable, we moves a nation, we were willing to ask for MORE.

Surely we can imagine BIGGER than capitalism? No one has all the answers but with a little imagination, there is the possibility of an answer. There may be more.

Continuing with the status quo is a fantasy we must always ask for more. XR (Extinction Rebellion) is winning because people are finally willing to face their fears, and commit to doing something big about it. The XR are asking for less as more.

We need radical action – a revolution if you like – to transform the status quo rapidly, in ways that go beyond the capacity of normal politics. The post-coronavirus movement may be humanity’s last chance saloon, to create a far more equal and far more sustainable world.

I do not wish this to be all doom and gloom, but we must understand the motivation of XR to change the world order. For to ignore, is to not understand.

I wrote a piece about bird feeders some time back and the declining numbers of birds, especially the migratory birds to our shores. Much of this we believed was down to modern farming methods, spraying with insecticides killed off the insects that the birds fed on so their numbers declined, some close to extinction. But is this the whole story?

In 2018 I read a report in the Economist. A team of scientists published a study of insects in the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico. This is about as far away from highways, factories or farmers and their insecticides as you can get. Still, the scientists found that the insect biomass had declined by up to 98% over a thirty-six year period, almost total collapse. The scientists could not believe their figures at first – in the 1970s, following the rains, butterflies were in abundance.

Hardly surprising that the collapse of the insect population had in turn triggered the decline of a wide range of species that rely on insects for food, what had caused such a catastrophe? The scientists had found that the Rainforests in Puerto Rico had warmed by 2 degrees Centigrade over pre-industrial levels, twice as much as the world average of one degree Centigrade. Two degrees is enough to push many tropical insects beyond their thermal limits.

The average global temperatures are up by one degree Centigrade, so far. The American entomologist David Wagner tells us that as we begin to approach two degrees Centigrade insect populations could start collapsing everywhere. These dying butterflies, in the El Yunque forest, he assured us, are the canaries in the coalmine.     

I have seen many changes in farming practices in this country, small fields bordered by hedgerows, crop rotation with fallow years where fields were turned over to pasture (rest years). Then came the bigger machinery onto the farms, hedges and trees were ripped out and large acres of land were planted out with single crop, sprayed with insecticides and herbicides, and harvested by large combined harvesters. We now live in a land of the ceaseless plough. They called it the Green Revolution. But, from the ecology perspective is was anything but Green. 

At the beginning of the year, I took it upon myself to plant some seeds and grow on some transplants for our garden here at City Park. When I turned over the ground for their planting, I was shocked not to find one single earthworm or creepy-crawly of any description. Light years away from my allotment, where the land was constantly being feed with animal manure (dung). My compost box, where the manure was stored was a perfect place for Mrs Snail to lay her eggs, which would later hatch and if not removed would devour my young vegetables, likewise, cabbage butterflies. The abundance of earthworms on the allotment brought Mrs Mole to bide and raise her family.  You have to be a bit tolerant if you have an allotment. But commercial farming is different, and why it is so destructive to the Earth.

According to the UN scientists, forty per cent of the planet’s soils are now seriously degraded. Agricultural soil is being lost more than one hundred times faster than it is being formed. On industrial farms, earthworms’ biomass had dropped by eighty-three per cent and as the earthworms die off the organic content of soils will collapse, and has, by more than half.  Continuing down this path the scientist warns and the Earth will only be able to support another sixty years of harvests.

I was a bit of a folkie in my younger days. Pete Seeger was a singer-songwriter wrote some great sing-along songs, that everyone joined in on the chores, one of these was “Windy old weather” and the fifth verse told us,

Up jumped the herring
Right under the lee
He sang drafting’s finished
Why bother? Catch me – in this windy old weather ………..

And not just drifting – like our lands, something similar is happening in our oceans. Recent figures show that around 85 per cent of global fish stocks are now depleted or facing collapse. Haddock has fallen to 1 per cent of their former volume; halibut, those magnificent giants of the sea, they too, are now an endangered species at one-fifth of one per cent. Fish catches are beginning to decline around the world, for the first time in recorded history. In Asia-pacific, fishery yields are on track to hit zero by 2048.

Like agriculture, aggressive overfishing is to blame. In Scotland, fishing is controlled by five corporations (a cartel) they turned fishing into an act of warfare using industrial mega trawlers. They have the latest state of the art underwater cameras to show them the shoals of fish and can remotely set the depth and size of the neck of their nets so that the whole shoal is captured in one foul swoop. They tell us the nets are sized to catch only the larger fish and the smaller fish escape. However, if you are a small fish swimming in the middle of the giant shoal, your chances of escaping to the edge are slim indeed. One catch is enough to fill the ship’s quota so it’s off home we go with a fine catch, the bank manager will be pleased.

The EU tried to limit catches, but in Shetland, they had a system of pipes, the EU quota went to the market – when the quota was filled they flicked a gate and the extra fish went off down the other tube and onto the black market, why return dead fish to the sea? (No one was jailed for the practice).

Others scrape the seafloor in their hunt for increasingly scarce fish, hauling up hundreds of species in order to catch the few that have ‘market value’ turning coral gardens and colourful ecosystems into lifeless plains in the process.

Then there are other forces at work too. Farming chemicals like nitrogen (made from nitric acid – made from ammonia) and phosphorous (made from sulphuric acid) and other fertilisers made from mixed acids. All these chemicals are flowing into the rivers and ending up in the sea, creating giant algae blooms that cut off oxygen to the ecosystems that lie beneath them. Vast ‘dead zones are found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. And I do not even have to mention plastic pollution, plastic had become more numerous in our seas than fish, yet the industry still churns out more and more of these plastics every day, and what’s the government’s answer to it all – put 10p on a plastic shopping bag. 

In 2019 the (IPBEA) published its first comprehensive report, a groundbreaking document compiled from over 15,000 studies from around the world. It said that the number of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians has dropped by more than half. A quarter of all species are now at risk of extinction, strong stuff from people that are not known for such strong language. 

A serious study of stuffy journals by Jason Hickel, found scientists describing the extinction crisis as ‘biological annihilation, and concluded that it represents a ‘frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation. ‘Humanity will eventually pay a high price,’ the authors wrote, ‘for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.’ (extracts taken from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

I have seen this in my lifetime, yet up until a decade ago who was taking this seriously, ‘like Paddie’s shirt, it will all come out in the wash’ we are sleepwalking into mass extinction. 

I have no intention of writing a doomsday scenario but a blog on Hope. But hope alone is not enough we must first understand the problem before we can try to fix it. Some scientist’s worry we may not be able to hold temperature increases at two degrees as the Paris Agreement assumed. If we heat to two degrees, we might trigger a situation where the temperature spirals out of control and we would be powerless to respond. Keeping warming to more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade would mean cutting global emissions to zero much, much faster than anyone is presently planning for – in fact what followed in the wake of the Paris Agreement, is very little, the money promised still to be realised, as for cutting emissions, that was a pipe dream, pie in the sky, for it is being left to private companies, with private money, to come up with any solution.

I can only repeat the words of a teenager,

“We are at the beginning of mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you!” Greta Thunberg.

And will COP (out) in Glasgow be any different, from Paris? Don’t hold your breath. The next COP (out) is not scheduled for another two-decade – by which time it will all be over bar the ‘blame game’.  

Stay safe.

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My Cycling Thoughts for Today

The headwinds were light as I set out for Pitscottie, up and over the hill and into Cupar, where I called into the industrial estate, to purchase an 8X4 sheet of 12 mm plywood for a Christmas toy I am working on. They say they will deliver it this afternoon, great service.

Home by 1 O’clock and under the shower, split a soda farl in two and stuck both in the toaster, eaten with hot butter running down my fingers, you can’t take the lad anywhere or possibly back a second time to apologise for his appalling manners. It’s gid tell yir mum.  I could have drunk a well dry so two pots of tea followed the farl.

Something I love about cycling is that it slows your pace of life right down. It gives you time away from all the distractions at home – time to think. Today was no exception. I was thinking of COP (out) in Glasgow, has it been a success or failure?

“We don’t have a right to ask whether we are going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this Earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?” Wendell Berry.

XT (extinction rebellion) is often criticised for having demands that are unachievable when really it is a way of fixing our adrift civilisation. XT is a smoke alarm, an emergency brake a way of getting governments to face up to the reality of the crisis at hand. However that is just the start, what we have to figure out then, is a way to change everything, to create a better society that works for people and the planet.  

I am sure we all agree, we need to change, and that change must come sooner rather than later. We can not wait. We must change systems if we are to stop the growth juggernaut, from barrelling over us all.

As XR’s greatest supporter, Greta Thunberg, most memorably put it, when she spoke earlier this year to the global ‘elites’:

“We are at the beginning of mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you!”

We need to change the system, not for any ideological reason, but simply because the emergency demands it. I grow up with food rationing after the Second World War that was nothing to do with socialism, and everything to do with survival. Yet it did make society more equal, a beautiful coincidence: What we needed to do to survive then, is much the same as what we need to do to survive now. Changing the system for our survival will inevitably lead us to a more equal society, and a better quality of life. Both things are compatible – and possibly why the governments of the western world find it so difficult to do.

Tomorrow I will try to get my head around capitalism – a terrifying thought.

Stay safe.

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The weekend was…..

Not much changed over the weekend, and the only real story was the strength of the wind, and only then if you were on a bike. So another Monday, and the Monday routine begins again, Laundry, Aldi and my run out, it is also the end of the first week of Cop (out) in Glasgow, the great and the good have had their very expensive meal and headed home, business as usual.

Today we read that the US has signed a 650 million dollar deal to deliver missiles to Saudi Arabia, I wonder what the cost, in the Global Warming, the manufacture of armaments has on the world. For it’s the manufacturing process that is increasing global warming, and that is Capitalism drive.

Every day you will hear about GDP (gross domestic product) and politicians will be quick to point out that we need GDP growth if we are to pay for the services we all depend upon. Such growth can only be achieved if industry sells us more and more goods, and if you want cheaper goods then that will mean high production (economy of scale) sadly for the earth – this is the real driver of Global Warming.

Way back in the 1960s I first read the book ‘Small is Beautiful’ the author argued that rather than build big power stations we should have small units closer to where they were needed. It has taken a while but we now see this practice being acted out in some of the more remote areas of the world. Small production of electricity from small nuclear reactors (much like those in nuclear submarines) they are much more flexible, you do not have to run a huge generator at 95 per cent, it can not be shut down when demand is less, so it keeps up production and we keep the lights on all night to use up the surplus electricity, oh they will tell you it is for safety that the lights burn all night across the world, but is that really the truth?

High production means that goods can be made more cheaply, but it also means that the manufacturer must sell that overproduction and one way to do that is to build in a self destruct mechanism, we all know that that printer we depend on every day has a life expectancy of X hours then it will require replacing, and year on year that replacement date is getting shorter.

That Smartphone will be superseded by a new model almost as soon as you get it home and unpacked. The advertising men will be on your case selling you a new product almost as soon as you buy that supper duper model you have a burning need for.

Cars, those new electric cars that they are now trying to get you to buy, Oh so green, but are they really any greener or less polluting when it is the manufacturing process that accounts for the pollution, and the concrete and road surfaces production that these cars run on that is adding to Global Warming, and not so much the fuel they burn.

So what is the real solution to Global Warming?

Manufacture products that last, and can be reused.

There was a television series some years back called ‘Never mind the quality, feel the width’ maybe it is time to think QUALITY over WIDTH.

Reveres the Capitalist system for a more sustainable one, High-Quality health care, High-Quality services, such as water, power and the internet, accessible ‘To All’ not simply those that have access, the capital.  

We need to make goods, last longer, and around humans not around capitalism.  

Let’s slim down and build a world around – Less poverty – less insecurity – less fat cats. Then and only then will we start to tackle Global Warming.

How I hear you cry – well with the right catalyst, it can happen, just look what is happening in the US right now. Vaccinating the population against COVID-19, we would all agree is a good thing, right. Then why is there such a backlash against a president that wants (in his belief) the best for the population? He introduced that little word MANDATORY. As soon as you trample on peoples FREEDOMS you will be in soapy bubbles. People Power is how you achieve an end to Global Warming, and that has already begun on the streets of Glasgow, not within the COP (out) inside the arena.        

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It has been a fun-packed day

Charles had the carpet fitters in (some charity or other supplying them) a fabulous job grey carpet from end to end, real posh, all he needs now is some furnisher, however with the frequency of people moving in and out of here at the moment, he will soon have the rooms filled to overflowing, just look at me.

I went out on my bike, Strathkinness, down to the Eden Bridge, the road from here into Pitscottie is still closed so up to Diarise, Guardbridge and home. Cold, cold, wind, must rake out my winter gloves.

Charles caught me coming in, wanted nails and a hammer to hang mirror and pictures; I gave him a hammer drill, masonry bit, raw plugs, and screw nails, and left him to it.

No milk or bread, so off to the shops. As I passed Boots the optician, I thought, these guys do hearing aids, I wonder if they are any cheaper?

“Yes, we do”

Was the answer to my question, as to whether they did in fact did do hearing aids; well the shop is an optician. 

“Can I have an appointment, please?”

The girl disappeared through the back and then beckoned me to follow; I was led into a small office. Then another girl told me she had a slot before her next appointment. She explained right away that these hearing aids were not cheap – ranging from hundreds of pounds to top of the range a smidgen under £3,000. Well, that is better than the £5,550 quoted yesterday so I will not have to apply for a second mortgage, after all.  

We went through all the same procedures as yesterday and this time I saw the results on the monitor – most of the high sounds were clearly at or in the severe end of the graph, ho-hum.

There must be a lot of deaf people in St Andrews for her diary was booked up to the sky, not another appointment until the mid-week in December, how lucky was I to just walk in at that time.

Yes, I want a pair of hearing aids, but they do not keep stocks of them in the shop so I have another appointment (this time in her office at Dundee) seems there are fewer deaf people in Dundee, so a week tomorrow.

Better get over to Church Square toot sweet with my pennywhistle, and a notice,

PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY TO MY HEARING AID FUND.

Early afternoon was spent in the garden; it badly needed a bit of a tidy up. Cut back the Lupines and gave it good hoeing over, easy-peasy after all the rain of the past weeks. I was caught by Jean, she had been given a planter trough from somewhere and could I drill some holes in the bottom of it for her. Yes, of course.

It’s getting offal dark must be home time.

I am making a rocking chair for my niece’s, youngest daughter’s, child (imminent) Boy do I feel old. I have been working on the head that will fit in front of the seat; do you think it looks like a horse? I think he looks too sad for a child’s rocking chair; you’ll need to do a bit more work on that one Hamilton.

The other memorable moment was watching Mary Lou McDonald address her Sinn Fein conference; she spoke eloquently, with power, force and truth, about the overwhelming desire for change in Ireland. She described the partition of Ireland, correctly, as a violent assault. Clearly, we see daily a desire in Ireland for a unity poll; it is their right, in the Good Friday Agreement, where a generation in politics is described as seven years. Take note, Scotland.

I am not sure whether I read it somewhere or heard it from someone that NI was reluctant to join with the south, because there was no NHS in the south. The speed at which the NHS is disintegrating in the UK, this should no longer be a barrier to unification.

One other thought, at present the US President Biden (Roman Catholic) is a big supporter of NI making a bid for freedom, it would be much easier now with a sympathetic president in the White House, than when the Republicans retake power, (and remember Trump has not gone away or lost his apatite to regain the presidency) with a Trump and Johnston tag team there will be little chance of change in NI – unless it is to their advantage.   

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Hear, Hear.

What a strange old day I had yesterday, appointment at the hearing centre, so iron a shirt and press my trousers, you have to make the effort. Living in sheltered housing you get lazy about your dress, so it does you good to get dolled up from time to time.

The consultancy was very good; you even get to see inside your ear on the monitor, very, very hairy but no potatoes. Plugged into the computer the sound quality was perfect, but a bit big to carry around with you.

I had done a lot of research on the internet, and simple amplifying hearing aids are cheap enough, but I know from experience that they amplify all the problems as well as speech. I needed something that could be programmed to my hearing deficits. Also, I wanted an omnidirectional hearing aid, the old one I had from the NHS you had to be looking at the person speaking so problems when in a crowd, especially in a noisy environment like a pub. 

The hearing aids I was given to try worked really well, I was told,

“The best in the world, at this time,” my answer to that was,

 “And come with the best in the world price tag” and I was right, £5,500 the pair.

The cheapest of these non-amplifier hearing aids starts at £2,500 a pair. (I wonder if they give re-mortgage loans to the over 80s?)

The lad was good at selling the product, but a bad closer, I hope he is not dependent on sales to make up his wages, or his kids will go to bed hungry.

When in Dundee I went into the charity shops and looked over the DVD, you are seeing the same DVD over and over in different shops. I picked out “Shirley Valentine” manly for the actress Pauline Collins, her performance in Educating Rita was an Oscar-winning performance for me. The script was a laugh a minute, lines like, when she was, telling the wall, about her husband and how he had changed over the years,

“He came in smiling one day – and I didn’t recognise him.”

Or the British at the dinner table – they had gone to Greece on holiday but expected everything to be ‘British Seaside’ with the sun; Shirley looks into the camera and tells us,

“If they were at the Last Supper, they would have asked for chips”.

Tom Conti was well cast in the part of the Casanova and bar owner, and he looks like a Greek – if there is any such animal.

I will have to get myself fixed up with hearing aids if I am to have any quality of life, even if it does mean emptying my bank book. I just did not expect it to cost so much, a big hole in my holiday funds, and time slipping away to make up for any losses.  

A girl told me that her dad uses his smartphone, he simply puts it down in the middle of the table and he is then able to hear everyone around the table from it. Not sure how that works but worth looking into.  

Stay safe.

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TO IGNORE IS SIMPLY TO NOT UNDERSTAND

I was out at daybreak this morning for I have an appointment in Dundee later, hearing test, the mornings are cold, but this early the winds are non-existent. I pull my scarf up over my mouth for on morning like this; drawing in large quantities of ice-cold air can leave you with a soar throat.

I cut onto the perimeter track around the links this takes you out onto the West Sands. There were a few dogs out, exercising their owners, I miss the discipline of having a dog.

I spent my day down by the sea,

In salt sea air, running free,

I tried to catch seabirds on the beach,

But they fly so high, and out of reach.

Running, running, running,

Chasing waves down the shore

For them to reform,

And chase after me once more.

Spending more and more time in my workshop, for it is a long day when it is already dark O’clock by five in the afternoon – never really light during the day at all when the skies are overcast, by seven o’clock in the evening; it already feels like bedtime, ho-hum, winter in Scotland.

Summing Up,

“The people that are against something, are therefore the most knowledgeable about that subject.”

The speed of the Taliban victory took the US and its allies by surprise, if they did, then the US and its allies were the only ones that were taken by surprise.

Once President Biden, announced the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan the Afghan government’s days were numbered. The Afghan government never was a government of the people; it was a collection of corrupt pro-US warlords, masquerading as politicians, that filled their pocket with US dollars and when the Taliban moved in they took their ill-gotten gains and boarded the first plane out and into exile. The collapse may not have been on the scale of the fall of Saigon in 1975 but pretty chaotic anyway, and certainly no surprise.

The last US soldier left Kabul on August 31, Biden acknowledged the defeat not just of the war and occupation there but of the whole policy of liberal interventionism stating:

“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries”

So the wars started by George Bush – ably abetted by Tony Blair, have come to an ignominious end. There were many who saw that the war and interventions they instigated would not succeed in their aims, they have much to answer for.

The war in Afghanistan, Iraq, then Libya and Syria have seen more than a million dead, many more have become refugees and whole countries have been devastated by their consequences. The human cost has been immense, in countries wracked by war, along with those that took part in such wars.

Biden acknowledged in his speech that 18 veterans in the US commit suicide every day.

The US has spent $300 million a day on the Afghan war alone, at the expense of health care, education and much else. It has left Afghanistan one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. For all the talk of making Afghanistan free from terrorism, ISIS-K has grown as a force under the occupation, just as it did in Iraq. 

There is little sign of the government or media here in the UK facing up to the reality of the past 20 years of failure, yesterdays news, move on.

The tragedy is that the US has spent $2 trillion on the Afghan war alone (and we do not know the true expenditure by the UK government) but there is so little to show in terms of development, civil society or education. If the money spent on the war had gone towards some of the goals, we would be in a better place now.

One of the great shames of Britain in the 21st century is its barbaric attitude to refugees, the majority of whom are fleeing war, and most of whom only make it to neighbouring, and often very poor, countries. Again a fraction of the money spent on war would house, feed and educate these refugees.

How to win friends and influence people, (1) bomb the hell out of their country and kill large numbers of the population, mainly women and children? – Or – (2) feed, cloth, and house them, and supply them with medical care? Your choose.

In the UK racism against Muslims has been fanned by the wars across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Increasingly Islam is identified with extremism and terrorism. The government’s Prevent agenda here has led to accusations that, for example, Palestine solidarity is about supporting extremism or even terrorism. The growth of far-right organisations internationally has been fuelled by anti-Muslim racism. There has been an increase in attacks on Muslims and on mosques. There is noticeable Islamophobia in the governing Tory party.

Civil liberties, in the UK, are under attack with the Police Bill now going through Parliament threatening to place far more restrictive conditions on protest. (We see it already here in Scotland, government bodies asking Westminster to stop protesters outside OUR parliament building. And the AUOB marches, route changes at the last minute sending marchers out into the country and into housing estates rather than through the town centre, where they may be seen.)

Those who expose the truth about the wars also see themselves under attack, most obviously in the case of Julian Assange, who has endured long imprisonment and faces extradition to the US for his and Chelsea Manning’s exposures through Wikileaks.

The war has come full circle. Increase in racism aimed at a large minority of our citizens. Increase in repression from the state, including police and security services. In this sense, the war has come home.  This can only harm civil society and politics.

We saw it clearly enough in the opposition to Corbyn from inside the Labour party, from the residual of Blairites within the Parliamentary Labour Party. They hated his apology for Labour’s role in the Iraq war, his support for the Palestinians, and his opposition to nuclear weapons. These were the issues feared most by Labour’s right, much more so than his domestic policies. All of this makes it much harder for the opposition to express itself openly and democratically, a loss we must fight back against.  

There is no real democracy in the UK now. The country is led by a far-right Tory (duly elected) dictatorship, with a lukewarm and right of centre Labour Party more in tune with the Tories now than at any time in their history. Then we have the SNP keeping an extreme right-wing Tory party in power by taking up space on the opposition benches, they may as well be on the Tory benches. Here in Scotland, the situation is that Holyrood has become a branch office of Westminster, run through the Scottish Office, with no real power to do anything other than follow their leader Boris, for it is he that holds the purse strings so holds the power, and intends keeping the people of Scotland well fu**ed and poorly clad. C’est la vie.

Stay safe.   

Featured

If Only Nicola Would Act.

Not only had cyclists been subjected to some horrific weather over the past days, the flowers in the garden too have taken a bit of a battering. This morning I went out and cut the best of them and set them in ‘mum’s vase and put them on display in the library, don’t they look magnificent, (poetic licence). 

But before I set out on my morning ride I would like to share this with you, this is the sort of thing that should be distributed across Scotland so that everyone can read it.

If Only Nicola Would Act – A Guest post from Dr Mark McNaught.

This is a realistic option. Yes, it would take political courage and clever timing. What better time than now?

Scotland could have been Independent and in EFTA now. It still can and rapidly.

Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (SSRG)

Before the last May Holyrood election, we at the SSRG developed the Manifesto for Indy, which set forth how the election could be used as a plebiscite to become independent. We proposed that if a pro-independence majority were elected, the Scottish Parliament could pass a resolution proclaiming itself as the sole Parliament representing the sovereignty of the Scottish people, separate from the Westminster government, thus becoming fully independent. Despite some interest from the Independence for Scotland Party and the Alba Party, this proposal unfortunately did not bear fruit with the SNP and Greens, so we are where we are.

In February 2021, the SSRG had approached the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and asked them if this scenario were realized, could Scotland join EFTA? We received a response, which would not have been given if there were no agreement among the member states. Yes, Scotland could join provided that the Scottish Parliament had the competences to sign international treaties, and the powers to abide by them. They are agnostic as to how these powers would be acquired. The Scottish Government would simply send a letter to the EFTA Council requesting membership, which would be readily accepted. EFTA would then ask the European Economic Area (EEA) Council to allow Scotland to be readmitted to the single market, for which they foresaw no impediment to achieving.

Think about that for a moment. If the Manifesto for Indy had been embraced in the May Holyrood elections, and voters had been encouraged to vote for the SNP for the constituency seats and Alba party for list seats, there could have been a massive 90+ (out of 129) pro-independence majority in Holyrood. EFTA would have considered that sufficient for entry, and Scotland could have re-entered the single market. The adverse Brexit effects on Scottish fishing, tourism, education, and many other sectors of the economy could have been mitigated. Unfortunately, this course was not pursued.

While Scotland voted to remain in the EU in 2016, and despite innumerable proclamations by politicians that Scotland would not be dragged out of the EU against its will, it simply was. The rhetoric was futile. Scottish fishing, tourism, and other industries have been adversely affected, simply because Scotland is part of the UK and England voted to leave. Covid-19 has obviously played a role as well, but other European countries are coping much better with their economies than the UK. Scotland is economically chained to the UK, so bound to go down the Brexit drain with them. 

There is still a way out. In September, the SSRG published and sent to all SNP and Alba MPs, and SNP and Green MSPs a perfectly legitimate and legal means to achieve independence. Under this proposal, Scottish MPs as a party to the bilateral 1707 Treaty of Union vote to withdraw from it, and pro-independence MSPs would vote to confirm the Scottish Parliament as the sole representative of the sovereignty of the Scottish people.

We also re-contacted EFTA in October, and asked if this scenario was pursued, could Scotland join? They rapidly responded that EFTA membership for Scotland is essentially an open door, as long as the Scottish government has the competency to sign international treaties, and the powers to abide by them. This conversation affirmed that Scotland could have joined EFTA if the May elections had been used as a plebiscite on full independence, and still can if the SSRG strategy is pursued. This would allow Scotland to rejoin the European Economic Area (single market), and seek recognition as a sovereign state under international law, which it will achieve if the reasons are explained carefully to the international community. The UK has never been weaker and more internationally reviled than it is now, and the SSRG has it on good authority that many nations would rapidly recognise Scotland as an independent state. But Scotland has to do it for itself, no one else can.

Look at what is happening now with Brexit, and what many perceive to be incompetent, malevolent; and untrustworthy action by the UK government. They are undermining and seeking to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol, which they agreed to purportedly in ‘good faith. Tensions are rising with France overfishing permits, which could lead to Scottish Salmon being banned from French supermarket shelves. Yes, like it or not, Scotland is still part of the UK, which has increasingly become a pariah state, and we will suffer even more economically if we remain part of it. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

It is not too late for Scotland to rapidly become independent and join EFTA if the SSRG route to independence is pursued. We have been meticulously refining this proposal for months, getting input from academics and international law experts. We have concluded that nothing in the UK unwritten constitution prevents the SNP at Westminster from withdrawing from the archaic and scandalously sectarian 1707 Treaty of Union, the terms of which have been breached on many occasions. In Holyrood, the SNP and Green MSPs could then affirm the supremacy of the Scottish Parliament and the sovereignty of the Scottish people, rather than the ‘Crown in Parliament’ at Westminster. We at the SSRG, and we suspect the Scottish people more generally, would be incredulous if this opportunity were not seized, particularly by SNP MPs and MSPs as they have the pro-independence majority. That’s what they were elected to do, so they should hesitate no further.

The SNP hierarchy has ruled out any debate of a ‘Plan B’ for independence in their next online party conference. Improbably, they still seem to be hoping that Boris Johnson will issue a “Gold Standard” Section 30 order to hold a referendum, which he has repeatedly affirmed he would never do. Even if he did, there are highly problematic issues over the franchise and whether it could be bogged down in the courts for years. Achieving independence through this route is fraught with risk, and we hold that the SSRG route must be pursued if Scotland is to become independent anytime soon.

There was a time when it was official SNP policy, and even Margaret Thatcher recognized that if Scotland elected a pro-independence majority in Westminster, that would constitute a means to achieve independence. Even if the SNP decided to use the next Westminster general election as a plebiscite for independence, one could legitimately ask why?  The Westminster SNP MPs already have been given 3 massive pro-independence majorities in a row. Why can they not simply withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union given these mandates? When did the SNP policy change?

Scotland achieving independence through the SSRG plan will enable us to enter EFTA, and Scotland can subsequently:

Rejoin the EEA, reinstating the freedom of movement of people, goods, services, and capital.

Rejoin the Erasmus student exchange program, and any other EU programs à la carte as the other EFTA member states do. Scottish Universities would be able to participate in EU research programs on the same terms as EFTA members do.

Obviate any trade deals the UK government was or is negotiating involving Scottish goods. As an EFTA member, Scotland will be part of the EEA and be able to pursue its own trade agreements.

Given that EFTA and the UK have reached a post-Brexit trade agreement, Scotland as an EFTA member will be part of this agreement with England.

Trade between Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be unimpeded because Scotland will participate in the single market as part of the EEA.

Apply to rejoin the European Union subject to a referendum over whether to join the EU or remain in EFTA. As part of the EEA, Scotland would be in a much more favourable economic position to negotiate the terms of membership, and the EU would need to make a positive and convincing case to Scotland as to why being a member of the EU would be better than remaining in EFTA.

We at the SSRG are increasingly concerned over the lack of urgency of the current SNP government in preparing to achieve independence, and sceptical that it can achieve independence within our lifetimes if the Section 30 route is pursued. If SNP Parliamentarians in Westminster and Holyrood adopt the SSRG Route to Independence, Scotland could be an independent state in EFTA in a few short months. If not, it will languish in a dystopian Brexit UK, with the SNP Government merely holding out the forlorn possibility of holding a referendum in the next decade or so. This does not meet the urgency of the moment.

What we are witnessing is a dominant, democratically elected National Party whose raison d’être has been independent, actually refusing to use its (three successive) nationally elected majorities to withdraw Scotland from the repeatedly violated and repressive UK treaty-based alliance, the latter clearly no longer in Scotland’s national interest. We know from postcolonial literature why this is the case. But regardless of that, it needs to be pointed out, to the people, to the SNP, and to international entities including the UN, that successive elected Scottish National Party Scotland majorities of Members of the UK Parliament are effectively continuing to block and hence to thwart the wishes of an already sovereign Scottish people and the electorate to secure their liberation and exit from an unwanted and unfair repressive UK alliance. This inaction by Scotland’s elected national representatives, who are afforded political sovereignty over the people of Scotland, constitutes a usurpation of democracy and a denial of human rights of sovereign Scots, resulting in the Scottish people being held captive within the UK alliance arrangement, as well as withdrawn from the EU, against their expressed will.

What has Scotland got to lose by pursuing the SSRG Route? Independence will always have trade-offs, but given the exigent circumstances of Brexit and the withering reputation of the UK, it is certainly worth the risk. What better time to do so than during COP 26, when heads of state of the nations of the world will be in Glasgow and Scotland can begin seeking recognition?

MY COMMENTS (Iain)

It is tragic that at the very time when Scotland could promote the international case for Scottish Independence to the entire world, the nation of Scotland labours under an insipid Government with a leader happy to play the role of the colonial underling, issuing press releases and pretending to be relevant, operating from her obscure Committee of the “Regions” which is, in reality, the crèche where the children are placed while the grown-ups get on with the real work.

That Nicola accepts this in her own country is very dispiriting. It tells me that the Nicola of  “Secret Plan” fame ( whatever happened to that?) is clueless, a strategic disaster area, totally hopeless, weak-willed and stupid. That is me being kind because the alternative is she is a political coward.

We are witnessing the greatest opportunity any of us will see in our lifetimes to advance our cause. Instead Boris with his jibe about James Watt from Glasgow inventing the steam engine fuelled by coal 250 years before and set off the “doomsday clock”, blames Scotland for starting the climate emergency. Our leader plays tiddlywinks on the sidelines trying to kid on her statements have any relevance or meaning. This is a total joke. I feel sorry about it but she must surely realise she has brought this humiliation on herself with her total inaction on Independence.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland

And if I were to add my pennyworth to that “What is the Scottish Labour Party thinking about?” A velvet divorce from Westminster (still pals with shared interests) could see them back in power at Holyrood, bringing forward socialist policies once more, not an echo chamber to a far-right Tory government led by Boris Johnston, that will go on and on and on……………………………………  

Stay safe.

Featured

War Endless War.

The ride today was hell, into a biting strong wind thankfully I was well layered up. I did a wee job for my neighbour, on my return, taking down curtain poles and filling in holes in the walls where raw plugs had been inserted. I will be returning there again tomorrow lifting the carpets and re-laying them in Charles new home, he is walking around on bare boards at present. He is living on charitable handouts and help from neighbours, awaiting the social services sorting out his claim for support, returned to his country of origin from abroad, which has become a bit of a nightmare for him. It does not help that he is not a well man. I despair the state of social services today. Then Nicola Sturgeon did hand back control of social services to Westminster, and not as promised, C’est la vie.    

They do it in your name,

Despite the total catastrophic failure of the intervention in Iraq, we underestimate the determination of western politicians to advance their neo-imperial interests in the Middle East at our pearl. Armed intervention as a tool of policy is the tool of choice for the US and UK governments as we have seen in Iraq. 

The “Arab Spring” of 2011 provided the opportunities, for many countries across the Middle East to rise up against repressive governments, first in Tunisia then against the western-backed dictatorship in Egypt, with gusto. The uprising spread to other countries that the west regarded with disproval.  

The Libyan government of Muammar Gadhafi was one such oil-rich country that had attained one of the highest development levels in Africa and had long followed an anti-imperialist policy, the uprising started in the east of the country, they were demanding democratic rights. Under the guise of, prevent Gadhafi’s government from repressing the uprising, the British Prime Minister, at the time, Cameron and French President Sarkozy allied to demand intervention. Cameron was not in a position to do as Blair and Bush had done in Iraq, he would need US support (approval) to which President Obama secured, a limited UN mandate for war as well as the support of other states in the region. Cameron did not invade but simply bombed the hell out of the country, much as they had done in the Kosovo war of 1999. Fewer body bags for British soldiers and once more the innocent suffered disproportionably (collateral damage). 

The UN mandate, a mere, get us into war legitimise card, was soon turned into a mission to bring down Gadhafi rather than protecting protestors against his rule. This left many that had backed the original mandate at the UN feeling they had been had, as they certainly had, Russia amongst them.

Cameron’s hypocrisy had been evident from the outset; allegedly he was protecting protesters in Benghazi from Gadhafi in Libya, whilst turning a blind eye, even cheering on, the client dictatorship in Bahrain that was violently putting down its own Arab Spring. Opposition to the war was vocal enough in the country but much more muted in the Commons with only a handful of MPs voting against the war. Leaked documents in France made the neo-imperial intentions of the war clear – it was about controlling energy resources, extending strategic and business interests and installing pliable (puppet) governments.

Again like Iraq, the British intervention was a disaster for Libya that has barely managed a functioning government decade on.

The same story unfolded in Syria. A democratic movement against the Assad dictatorship rose up in towns and cities across the country and was met with repression. Sadly this movement was hijacked by western powers and various jihad’s movements sponsored by the western allies in the Gulf, turning a civil war into an international power struggle with unfortunate Syria as the playing field. The aim of the western intervention was as it had been in Libya, regime change to suit its own strategic interests, rather than helping the people of Syria.

Haunted by 2003, Ed Miliband, led Labour to oppose the plan and it fell in a Commons vote. As a consequence, Obama too abandoned the intervention and instead worked with Russia on a diplomatic plan to remove chemical weapons from Syria. However, the civil war struggles on, with no resolution in sight.

Whilst the tragedy of Syria is rooted in dictatorship and a popular movement against it, the self-interested western intervention has helped transform tragedy into calamity and produced another shattered society, again creating space for Islamic State to flourish. 

Yemen too has been wrecked by western interference. After the pliable dictatorship in place in 2011 crumbled under popular pressure, Yemen, a former colony of Britain who made a violent exit (remember, Mad Mitch?) fell into civil conflict, exacerbated into catastrophe by intervention by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, western powers and British in particular. Britain is no bystander in Yemen, but right at the heart of this, one more disaster by western powers. Supplier of military material, political and diplomatic support has been provided to the Saudis by Britain, in the stark moral responsibility for the immense suffering imposed on the Yemen people.

I am no historian or expert on foreign policies, but you do not have to be a doctor of international affairs to understand that these wars have been a calamity. They were launched to expand western power and interest in the post-Cold war era. They have caused millions of deaths, and millions of more refugees, incalculable material losses and have nowhere left a better situation than they found. They have not diminished the danger of terrorism; on the contrary, they have given it a cause. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya and Syria they have failed.  

Sadly they do it in your name – bad things only happen when good people stand idly by and do nothing.  

Stay Safe.

Featured

Wars and rumours of wars.

I was born in the middle of a war, the Second World War, 1939 – 1945, and I can not remember a time in all my years that there has not been some form of conflict somewhere around the world and the warmongering English has been at the heart of it all.

Once upon a time, wars were fought army against an army all that changed in the Second World War as the wholesale destruction of cities became acceptable, collateral damage. Civilians are the new cannon fodder, once the preserve of the 18th -19th-century soldier, now over 90 per cent of the casualties of war are civilians. War has now become a “Crime against Humanity”.

 Twenty years ago almost to the day, America declared the “War on Terror” and attacked Afghanistan in 2001. If it was Americas desire to disrupt the operations of al-Qaeda, it could have stopped there. But in January 2002 George Bush announced a vast escalation of the US’s aggressive ambitions and intentions, revealing the existence of the “Axis of Evil” encompassing Iraq, Iran and North Korea, all now targeted for regime change.

It quickly became clear that Iraq was the priority target almost immediately after 9/11, despite the absence of any Iraqi connection with the outrage (if there were states complicit in al-Qaeda’s rise they were US allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.) This was always about the US wishing to gain control of Iraq’s vast oil reserves and enhance the security of Israel.  

Tony Blair, leader of the ‘New Labour’ government, was on board from the start, which tells us much about ‘New Labour’ and how right-wing it had become, siding with a US right-wing Republican administration that shared none of the values of the Labour Party, or its better traditions at least.

Afghanistan by 2002 developed into a fully-fledged and open-ended military occupation, not ending with the “War on Terror” that soon extended into Iraq, Blair would be a key US partner on the new front, a war of choice unsupported by the provocation or by any pre-existing conflict which might normally be used to justify such aggressions, for aggression is the only word for it. In defiance of United Nations resolutions, Blair took the UK into an illegal war – The “Dodgy dossier” all spin and no truth in the lie that Saddam had the capacity to strike Britain with chemical weapons at 45 minutes notice.

Blair failed to move public opinion in the government’s favour, Blair’s policy was still seen as it was – an act of subservience to widely-reviled US administration bent on endless war.  

Inspections of Iraqi facilities by the United Nations, something to which Saddam agreed to in 2002, the inspections, led by Hans Blix, turned up nothing because, as it transpired in very short order after the invasion, there was nothing to find.

In September 2002, I travelled overnight to London, to join with 400,000 of my fellow “Stop the War” activists, we marched shoulder to shoulder under the slogan “Don’t Attack Iraq” the demonstration had been organised with the Muslim Association of Britain.

Opposition to the war was gathering apace across the UK notably in the trade union movement, and in the local Labour parties and also amongst Liberal Democrats.

Phoney legal advice whistled up from Lord Goldsmith under pressure from Blair made no difference to public opinion than Foreign Secretary Jack straw’s feeble attempts to undermine UN procedures with his invention of the notion of the “Unreasonable veto.”  This marked the start of a winter of mass campaigning against the looming war, including a day of direct action across the country in October. Local Stop the War groups mushroomed, here in Edinburgh our number was growing, pressuring constituency MPs to oppose Blair’s course of action.

On February 15th, 2003, I returned to London where I marched against the war, this time our numbers had swelled to two million, the largest demonstration ever held in this country by a long chalk. This was London, but repeated across the world; thirty million people took part in street protests worldwide.

Blair ignored the people of this country, and the 140 Labour MPs that voted against the war – Tony Blair stood by George Bush’s side in the onslaught against Iraq. France, Germany, Russia and China being among the states opposed to the aggression, a nakedly neo-colonial occupation regime under the US processes was established in an attempt to remake Iraqi governments stimulated religious sectarianism on the old divide-and-rule principles to effective disintegration of the Iraqi state, a circumstance which eventually created the conditions for the rise of the morbid Islamic state across much of the territory.

Hundreds of thousands died in the conflict, and millions of Iraqis were displaced internally or externally, the refugee camps are still with us today and mass migration into Europe, still poses a blight, for the European nations, from a war that these courtiers were against from the start. As for Blair’s England, they pulled up the drawbridge on, migrants risking life and lime to reach our shores, blaming the French and EU for not doing enough to stop them.

In Iraq, the countries economy was shattered, their museums looted and the only institution put under US military protection was the Oil Ministry. The occupation slid into the horrors of Abu Grahab and Guantanamo prisons.

The Iraq war stands today as the greatest crime of the 21st century, a crime against humanity.

As for Bush and Blair – rather than dragged to Den Hag as war criminals, they are looked upon as senior diplomats and their advice sot, on television political programmes, such as you will find on the BBC and Sky. Giving us some indication of just how corrupt our government system is, and how the mainstream media is simply their mouthpiece.    

Sorry, I should have said at the start that I am a member of Stop the War and have signed the Peace Pledge.

Stay safe.

Featured

Peeing it doon.

I did not even bother going out today is yuck out there. Being Sunday, the television is all about the Glasgow Cop (out.)

Andrew Marr said, “It is not all about blab, blab, blab.”

Clearly, he is not listening to himself from his own living room; it is exactly the same old politicians doing blab, blab, blab. Marr went on about how the UK is one of the least polluters in the world. Well yes, however, he failed to mention that before Margaret Thatcher closed down all the coal mines and heavy industry in the UK, the UK was one of the most industrial and polluting countries in the world and has been over the last 100 years. Then maybe the billions of tones of toxic fumes we pumped into the atmosphere over that time have somehow vanished into, what is now the new and ever so clean, thin air, over the UK.

We did not change to a greener energy source we simply outsoared our polluting industry to China and India. Now we are trying to take the moral high ground and point a finger at others. Boris Johnston even trumpeted this the other day in an interview from Italy; he told the rest of the world,

“We did it”

When talking about ending coal production. Or did they just swap one polluter for another, when oil and gas come on stream from the North Sea? Just because we did not burn all that oil and gas from the North Sea, ourselves, we are still complicit in its burning.  Don’t you just hate hypocrites? Yes, I do, with a vengeance.

I heard a little of the Alistair Jack interview, you know the guy who guises as Secretary of State for Scotland, whose job description is to look after the interests of Scottish people, at Westminster, no it’s not a Christmas joke, and yes I know he is not Santa Clause with a bag full of goodies. And to be fair, he is a Tory, and there is a lot of competition for those top jobs in Tory-land at Westminster, and more so when you wish to retire to the House of Lords, keeping Scotland down at heel, and under Westminster’s heel, will help keep you in a job and in the eye of those that will eventually get you into the Lords. It is what Darwin called the “Survival of the fittest”.

Then maybe I am being just a little unfair to our Secretary of State for Scotland, he has given us cheap flights to the highlands and islands, ‘not exactly green’ and doesn’t mention ferryboats passenger numbers that may suffer from all those extra cheap flights.

His party did promise to put a bit more money in projects in some parts of Scotland,  (approved by Westminster and bypassing Holyrood) but none will get us anywhere nearer a greener economy, in fact, all the concrete…..

And yes, he did say that he is ‘Very Upset’ that the Carbon Capture and Storage were not coming to Scotland – even although it is up and running and ready to go, and so badly needed if Scotland is to reach its global warming targets, (but if they were able to do that then that would really upset Boris.) think “levelling up.”

As for the NHS, with a great influx of visitors into Glasgow, rise even higher the daily Covid-19 cases, (already too high in the city) will this not affect an already overstretched, to breaking point, service?  – Not at all – Just keep singing ‘Happy birthday (twice) as you wash your hands.

Stay safe.

Featured

Twice around the Mulberries bush.

Twice around the Mulberries bush, well, cycle track actually. Home and under the shower, what did not go in the laundry basket was hung up to dry, cycling cape, cap, shoes, changed into dry clothes and umbrella to the fore, it was off up to Aldi.

I always visit Aldi once a week, to get the main shopping, potatoes, Nordpak spread, penne Pasta, Bananas organic, beans, mince, marmalade, soda scones, potato scones, tomatoes, tea, and marzipan bar, how did that get in there, must have fallen from the shelf into my basket as I passed. £12.33 help ma boab. Milk and bread I pick up in St Andrews if and when needed. The amount of people that shop at Aldi now speaks volumes.

As the Cop (out) in Glasgow grows ever nearer, Boris is back-peddling like mad to dampen down expectations. Chine leaders will not be attending; Russian leaders will not be attending, although he has managed to persuade the Indian PM to come along. As for America, well, it matters little what Biden spouts, or even promises for whatever it is, it is not in his gift to deliver on. Anything he promises will have to be signed off by Congress, good luck with that one, with mid-term elections on the horizon, as for Boris…

The French President punched poor Boris in the nose,

For stepping on those Franchise toes,

Boris, not being any kind of diplomat,

Got up and punched the Frenchman back.

The squabbling over, what is essentially a bad Brexit deal, that Boris no longer likes and has tried to bully the EU into changing, even threatening to tear up international treated, Sorry Boris, you make the bed you must now lie in it. He did say he had the ear of the German Chancellor in an interview this morning, don’t you mean the caretaker German Chancellor, who may be sympathetic to you Boris, but, that is as far as it will go, poor Boris, it seems no one loves him anymore, and council elections looming ominously nearer and nearer, and 2024 is not really that far off either, winter flu, coronavirus still not under control. The NHS falling apart, gas prices rising, rents rising, wages stagnant over the last decade (so reducing wages) and I did see a lot of empty shelves in Aldi today and Tesco yesterday when I went over for milk, Oh dear, Oh dear, Boris, you are in the poo. Now I would not wish to add to your troubles, but only to remind you of what the Tories did to Thatcher when she became a liability, no longer a vote winner, still, look on the bright side, your pension will be safe enough and they are warming a seat for you in the Lords.

The good news is the Rail Union had the right idea, strike (literally) when you are in a position of strength. They declared their intention to walk out on strike during the Cop in Glasgow, and it worked, fair fast, well-done lads. Sad that other unions such as those representing the NHS workers did not do likewise when they had the ball at their feet. Their union acted more like Ferdinand the Bull and went off to sit under his cork tree and smell the flowers.  I always had to smile when the announcer on the BBC News mentioned the ASLEF Union. (As Left my train at the Station and went on strike,) yes I know simple things amuse simple minds.      

Stay safe.

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We stand on the shoulders of giants.  

My cycling has been somewhat less than I would have liked over the past days, mostly due to ‘rain stopping play’, well not exactly stopping play but severely curtailed it, Hamilton the caped crusader (small boy in a big yellow cape).

We swap DVDs here in City Park, and I was given Aviator, starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

I have actually seen the Hughes H-4 Hercules in Long Beach California, registration numbers NX37602, (known as the spruce goose by critics), a cargo-carrying flying boat built by the Hughes Aircraft Company. The aircraft made only one brief flight on November 2nd 1947 and never went into production.

The movie used poetic licence giving the impression that the aircraft was the brainchild of Howard Hughes, but the concept of the aircraft was that of Henry J. Kaiser, a leading builder of the Liberty ship.  Kaiser collaborated with Howard Hughes on the aircraft designer the “HK-1” and creates what would become the largest aircraft yet built. It was designed to carry 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg), 750 fully equipped troops or two 30-ton M4 Sherman tanks. 

The design was really that of Henry J Kaiser a shipbuilder who saw the potential in a large transport plane capable of carrying large quantities of men and material across the Atlantic during World War Two, shipping being so hazardous due to the Wolf Packs of U-boats operating in the Atlantic at that time. Build from wood (using the Duramold process) because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminium. This was not a new concept for the very successful Second World War aircraft, the de Havilland DH. 98 Mosquito was a twin-engine and multitask aircraft constructed mainly from wood. 

You can read about the Hercules, at the time, the largest aircraft ever built, try to take in all the dimensions, over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block, but only when you see it in real life can you begin to understand how the Hercules was such a monumental undertaking. Not so much a flying boat as a flying ship.

In all, development costs for the plane reached $23 million (equivalent to around $211 million in today’s money), the project was scrapped on Hughes death.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.  

stay safe.

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Do I Hate Litter Louts? – Yes, With Gusto.

The skies over St Andrews narrow streets looked down and wept. The run was really a carbon copy of yesterday the only difference being I would be getting wet. Help ma boab, I’ve got my wee bike all dirty.

I stopped to take a picture of some mushrooms, on the verge by the side of the road (or at least they looked like mushrooms to me) and as I did so right beside was some discarded rubbish.

Why do people do that?

Surly if you are fit and able enough to carry a full drinks bottle or can all the way out here then it is more likely that you will have the ability to carry the empty container back home with you, or at least the nearest bin, which in this case was only about 1,000 yards away on the outskirts of St Andrews and not all that far into Strathkinness.

Yes I know that riders on the Tour De France do it all the time, showing a bad example I would say. But that is no excuse to emulate bad behaviour.  

Contrary to what you may believe, no fairies, with or without wings, having consumed the contents of a popular energy drink, will come during the night and clean up after you.

Keep Scotland Tidy – Dump Your Rubbish in England – and that includes those obscenities on the Clyde and at Rosyth Dockyard.

Signed, – Mr Angry.    

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Wet, Wet, Wet.

Drizzly rain today, maybe it will clear later, I wish it was later.

You remember Charles, he moved into number 9, well I bumped into him in the common room yesterday. I was looking for Ken, at the time, I had a book I thought he might like to read.

“Hi Charles, how is it going?” I asked.

Don’t know why, because I really do find it difficult to understand any reply he might give. I do have an appointment at the hearing centre in Dundee on the 3rd of November, November, where did the year go? I really do need to get this hearing problem of mine sorted out, it has made me an outcast, and communication is so vital at our age, but I diverse.

“I’m off to the café for a coffee, would you like to keep me company?” I asked Charles.”

“I don’t have any money” he replied.

“That is not what I asked”

The little café in South Street was full to overflowing, well at least the seating outside on the pavement. Wind blowing their customers huddled, dressed for winter, now seated on cold aluminium chairs, alongside aluminium tables, cupping their coffee cups. Pavement café life certainly works better in the south of France, still, looking on the bright side, it did leave plenty of room for us indoors.

The fruit scones had all been eaten, drat and double drat, so we had plain scones, with butter and strawberry jam along with our coffee. The conversation was difficult, but sitting only feet apart helped and his story unfolded.

Indeed, his wife was the young woman I had seen in the clip from his smartphone, and yes, she was a native of Thailand, thirty years his junior, as it turned out, he is 63. He was a schoolteacher out there, English and maths, and returned home when the illness took hold. He did give it a name, but I was still unable to catch it, maybe I will get him to write it down for me. Seems it attacks the nervous system and affects speech and balance mostly, a death blow for a teacher. I did ask if he would have stayed in Thailand had things been different. I did not have to wait for his answer; he could hardly hold back the tears.

It was then he brought out his smartphone, scrolled and stopped, scrolled and stopped until he found a picture he was looking for. He held it up for me to see. The picture was of his wife, alongside her stood a young girl, looking a little shy of puberty, but being slim and petite it was difficult to tell from a photograph.

“My daughter,” he said simply.

“When this virus is under control, maybe next spring, you could invite them over for a holiday; you know we have a guest suite here at City Park, for just such occasions?” – I then added, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” The words were out of my mouth before I had the opportunity to retract them. Spouting platitudes at such times are of little help and possibly I was insulting the man’s intelligence, by doing so.  It’s at times such as these I feel so blessed in my own life.

For some inexplicable reason I thought of the little French Calimero, Calimero was a newly hatched chicken that had entered into this unfair world. He would go around believing that the sky was falling on his head.

“Goodbye, cruel world” he would say, as he wandered through life.

Yes, life can deliver us such blows; we may even be dropped to the canvas, and out for the count, by them. William was suffering such a blow at this time, but I know he will recover, for a time he will crack a lousy joke. Like when I said,

“Until such times as you get fixed up with a television of your own, if there is anything you particularly wish to see, just let me know” he replied,

“Your television is too small” (it has a 54-inch screen). Yes, William may be down, but William is not out.  

Stay Safe.   

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What a great morning it has been, with the laundry out of the way, making it after nine o’clock, before I made the road. The wind was fresh but the air much warmer than it has been over the past week. It was one of those mornings when everything looks so bright and vibrant, crystal clear, sharp and rich in colour. I use to love walking the shore on such a morning, up and out before the maddening crowd.

From behind the flat cardboard silhouette,

In silence, she comes forth,

A slither of morning glory,

Travelling on an eastward course,

She sets windows on fire,

In homes around the bay,

Chasing the darkness from the land,

And ghosts and nightmares away,

But what cares I of poetic celestial light,

As I scamper along the shore,

Barking yelping happily at my might,

Seeing off flocks of seabirds,

Sending them skyward into flight,

And trot back in the glory

To my master’s side.

I travelled over to Guardbridge, then the climb up to Strathkinness summated Knock Hill and dropped down into the Eden valley. Both little car parks were full, the fishing must be good on this stretch of the river today. The road for Pitscottie was closed to traffic, there was a landslide on that road a few months back, and maybe they have decided to do something with it?  So I about-faced and crossed the Eden and climbed up to Daisy. I could have gone into Cupar and home that way but turned right and back into Guardbridge and home.

The thing about shorts runs like this you can put in that little extra, click up a gear or two and ‘make it hard for yourself as the maid said to the gardener when she sat on his knee.

The wee bike is performing well now, bedded in, rides smoother, and freewheels much better downhill, before there was always a bit of a drag.

Not much to write home about these days and maybe I should be putting myself out more, but………….

I watched a programme on television yesterday evening, Who Owns Scotland; it really was not much cop, nothing new, although I did like what the inhabitants of the little village of Huntley were up to. The town, like many small towns in Scotland, was dining, shops, offices and banks all closing, giving the place a down at heel appearance. The likelihood of anyone buying any of this closed property was slim at best.

A local farm came up for sale, and some of the residents gathered themselves into a local community group and decided to buy the farm for the village, public ownership, happening a lot in Scotland mostly in the western highlands and islands.

Once acquired they used part of the land for a wind farm, it can be very windy up there, if you have ever cycled the area you will already know this. This will ensure an income for the next 20-25 years. The farm buildings were renovated and turned into office space and workshops, then the cleaver part. They used this income generated to buy closed shops and empty buildings in Huntley, these buildings will be renovated or converted into townhouses, bringing people back into the community.

Brilliant I say. And this is exactly how Scotland was before the Local Councils became Regional Councils, and no longer employing people but have become management groups handing out contracts, and a long way from, local knowledge and what is really required on the ground in villages and towns at the fringes of these huge regions within they control.

A long time ago I read a book by a Scandinavian writer called “Small is Beautiful” that was all about getting back to government in the hands of local people (who best knew the local problems) rather than large power stations that were only efficient, running at around 95% so could not easily be closed down when demand was low, (at night) so we burned street lights all night and light up historic building all night, just to use the electricity that could not be stored. Where as a small local generating station would have been much more efficient. Sometimes there is no “Economy of Scale” and that is when small becomes beautiful. Now that we have small wind generators, that truth has been realised. My question would be, why is the council waiting for villager such as in Huntley to do what they are paid to do, by the very people that doing their job for them in Huntley?

Another problem arose in the programme, empty property. It is extremely difficult to find out who owns what in Scotland, mostly because of land banking. Large hotels that were once profitable but no longer are sold off to a developer for a nominal fee, these could be in any part of the world, or hidden under layers of different corporations in tax free shell companies that out Tory friends love. That developer simply sits on the property until the price rises, or they are given permission to develop the site, in the mean time it becomes an eye sore in the town.

Why does the government not take a leaf out of the recovery vehicle businesses play book? If you have an accident in your vehicle the police will contact the nearest recovery service. They will take it to their compound and charge the insurance company a fee for each and every day the vehicle is in their charge. The insurance companies not wishing to accumulate a large parking fee simply offer it to the recovery company for buttons and square up with the cars owner. The vehicle recovery company pass the wreck onto a breakers yard.

Now I’m sure somewhere in there, there is a bit that says – if you do not claim the vehicle or pay the recovery fee, within a set time, then we reserve the right to sell it to a breaker.

How hard would it be for the Scottish government to come up with a bill that transferred the land back to the government, if you do not develop the land that the empty property stands on, and simply used it as land banks, (paying a pittance to the council in tax for a dangerous eye sorer) Reserve the right to take the land back into public ownership, would in one swift move relegate the practice of ‘land banks’ into the history books.

Personally I would pass a law that said – All the land in Scotland belongs to the people and if you want to rent it to put a building on, fine you can have it for the lifetime of the lease and the land must be returned to the Government at the end of that term. Provisions could be in place to extend a lease of the land to an heir after it is returned.  (I always suspected you to be a communist at heart, Walter.)

As Boris would put it, Scotland need to “Take Back Control” 

Stay safe.         

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The Truth Will Find You Out.

This is an outstanding piece of journalism from Calton Jock, a blogger I have enjoyed over many years. He writes excellent, well-researched pieces and I commend his articles to all. This was first published on his own blog at Caltonjock.com on the 19th of October 2021.

An Innocuous Letter of Guidance From the First Minister to the Head of The Civil Service in Scotland or an Act of Political malevolence Designed to Destroy an Elder Statesman – Events Proved the latter

The Civil Service in Scotland – A preamble

Awareness of operational working relationships between the Scottish Government and the Civil Service in Scotland is necessary to fully understand the complexities that contributed to the scandal that engulfed both entities at the time the SNP government under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon decided on the political and personal destruction of Alex Salmond.

Responsibility for the governance of the Civil Service in Scotland is not devolved. It is accountable for its actions, through the Permanent Secretary of the Civil Service in Scotland to the Head of the Civil Service at Westminster. That person is presently the Head of the Westminster Governments Cabinet office.

Leslie Evans, who heads the Civil Service in Scotland reports to the First Minister of Scotland ensuring the provision of efficient service support to Scottish government ministers, at all times scrupulously adhering to the rules and regulations for the Civil Service enshrined by laws put in place by the government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at Westminster. It follows therefore that the rules can only be amended with the authority of the government at Westminster.

Proposals to make changes to the Civil Service complaints procedures were first muted by Nicola Sturgeon in October 2017, at the time Woke campaigners were on the warpath demanding the head of any person who, in their view was failing or had failed to adhere to their political agenda for major changes to the accepted norms of society as they presently exist, with the support of the vast bulk of the electorate.

Acting in isolation, without the authority of the Westminster government, Senior Scottish civil service officers accepted inappropriate instructions from Scottish political figures and in harmony with Political Advisors to the First, Minister revised Civil Service procedures introducing measures providing a means through which Scottish government ministers present and past could be charged with misconduct and harassment.

17 November 2017: Evans seeks approval of the Cabinet Office at Westminster 

Contact with the Cabinet Office at Westminster is gifted to the Permanent Secretary in Scotland and the proposed revisions to the Civil Service procedures were referred to the Cabinet Secretary at Westminster for final approval. Authority was denied, it being the view of Westminster that the proposed changes were ill-conceived, unworkable and a danger to democracy. 

Leslie Evans was caught between a rock and a hard place. Only a year or so until retirement, a damehood and a place in the lords was in jeopardy. 

But she was accountable to the Cabinet Secretary at Westminster. So allow me a wee bit of writer’s licence. I advance that, allowing time for the chickens without heads to run around for a day Evans decided to comply with the instructions from Westminster and put the proposed changes on the back burner. 

But the First Minster “GWOAT” and leader of the WOKE movement would not be denied and demanded action. 

An opportunity for political mischief was not lost on the Westminster government who advised Leslie Evans to protect herself and Westminster by ensuring Sturgeon’s orders were put in writing. 

Sturgeon duly shot herself and her government in the foot at a cost to the Scottish taxpayer of around £10-£20M. Money wasted on the futile and vindictive pursuit of a political rival by an elected politician.

22 Nov 2017:

Nicola Sturgeon’s “instruction from the First Minister” to Leslie Evans reads:

“As is clear from the continued media focus on cases of sexual harassment, in many instances, people are now making complaints regarding actions that took place some time ago. I wanted to make clear that in taking forward your review, and the new arrangements being developed, you should not be constrained by the passage of time. I would like you to consider ways in which we are able to address if necessary any concerns from staff, should any be raised, about the conduct of current Scottish Government ministers and also former ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of party. While I appreciate that the conduct of former Ministers would not be covered by the current Ministerial Code, I think it fair and reasonable that any complaints raised about their actions while they held office are considered against the standards expected of Ministers. I would be grateful for confirmation that this particular aspect is being included as part of the review you are leading.”

Afternote:

In her letter of instruction to Leslie Evans, Nicola Sturgeon wrote: “people are now making complaints regarding actions that took place some time ago” which was untrue since at the time she compiled the letter only two officers had come forward with minor concerns and both had expressly said they did not wish to make a formal complaint against Alex Salmond.

For those who are not yet familiar with the sequence of events leading up to Nicola Sturgeon “signing off” the “revised” complaints procedures, I have added an October-December 2017 timeline consolidating the views of an eminent Scottish judge who ordered the immediate withdrawal of the ill-conceived and badly drafted changes that had clearly been put in place with political malice aforethought and payment of Alex Salmond’s court costs (in excess of £500k). Reinforcing the views of many Scots that Alex Salmond had been fitted up.

The response from the Scottish government/head of the Civil Service was a statement that was crass in the extreme: “We might have lost a battle but the war goes on”. Is the reference to “WE” promotion of the WOKE agenda?

29 October 2017:

The timeline – Late October 2017: Aamer Anwar alleged the existence of a ‘ticking time bomb catalogue of sexual harassment at Holyrood.

31 Oct: Political journalist David Clegg/Daily Record received “heads up” information together with supporting government documentation from an unnamed senior political source in the Scottish Government regarding allegations of sexual misconduct by Alex Salmond during his time in office. How’s that for a spoiler? 

In October 2021 (four years later) The police have yet to identify the political criminal who leaked the information. A scurrilous act of betrayal.

31 Oct: A senior SNP officer, Ms Anne Harvey, based in Westminster had been inundated with telephone text messages seeking damming gossip about Alex Salmond. This suggested that a fishing expedition had started in earnest well before any formal complaints had been made. Anne worked with Alex Salmond for many years and was an important witness for the defence, (but her evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry was 90% plus redacted by the Crown before submission). She was also at the time, a close political friend of one of the complainers.

31 Oct: Holyrood civil service senior officers, including John Somers, the First Ministers “gatekeeper” were in attendance at a meeting convened by Nicola Sturgeon with the purpose of reviewing civil service procedures for the handling of workplace complaints. Nicola Sturgeon asked that a review of government policies and processes be completed to ensure that they were fit for purpose. This was not done!!

31 Oct: But James Hynd, Head of Cabinet, Parliament, and Governance, for the Scottish Government, apparently acting on his own initiative decided to target former ministers including them in his first draft of a revised policy. Why?? Because he believed he was in charge of the Scottish government’s ministerial code and he believed there was a “gap” that needed to be closed. In his evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry he also conceded he was well aware of gossip about alleged misconduct involving the former First Minister, Alex Salmond, before choosing to include former ministers in the new anti-harassment policy. But he insisted he alone had decided to make former ministers the focus of his first draft of the policy because he thought there was a  “gap” that needed to be closed.

02 Nov: MSP and minister Mark McDonald, was taken in to speak to John Swinney and the First Minister’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, and was told his name had come up in “chatter” around “MeToo”.

03 Nov: McDonald met Ms Lloyd, who revealed a complaint had been made against him about the offensive content of a social media message he had sent. Lloyd told him he would need to resign from the Government.

There were strong rumours that Alex Salmond was unhappy at the lack of progress on independence given the strong polling figures in favour of this and was considering a return to front line politics, possibly through the Aberdeen seat vacated by Mark McDonald when he was denied the Party whip in Holyrood. It was also rumoured that Alex would soon be installed as the editor of the Scotsman.

04 Nov: McDonald said Nicola Sturgeon phoned him in the afternoon and told him he would be expected to resign that evening.

04 Nov: McDonald resigned from his role as children’s minister in the Scottish Government.

04 Nov: In the evening, Sky News contacted the SNP Government parliamentary media office enquiring about Alex Salmond’s alleged misconduct with women at Edinburgh Airport. Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans and Liz Lloyd were informed. Both of them briefed the First Minister of events the morning after.

Afternote:

Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government, told the Inquiry that on 5 Mar 2017 she warned the first minister that Alex Salmond had been calling civil servants in connection with a Sky News investigation into an alleged incident at Edinburgh airport in 2007. 

The officials were a bit bewildered and unhappy about it and she advised the First Minister of her concerns. She was also worried that it could become a story and the Scottish Government needed to be ready because the media was very volatile reporting on everything. 

She went on to say that a whole range of un-named politicians inside the Scottish government had been raising concerns about alleged sexual misconduct involving ministers.

Rumours had began surfacing in early November 2017 at the height of the “MeToo” movement campaigning, soon after John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, announced a new zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

The briefing by Evans that rumours of misconduct included the former First Minister concentrated the minds of members of the Inquiry on the context of the closing statement of Ms Evans to suggest that the “new” sexual harassment policy had been “targeted at and designed to get Alex Salmond”.

Ms Evans denied that was the case. But in late 2018, Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament that she first learned Salmond was being investigated “when he told her” during a meeting at her home on 2 April 2018. But the government was forced to admit that she actually met one of Salmond’s closest former aides, Geoff Aberdein, in connection with the matter in her ministerial office on 29 March 2018.

06 Nov: Liz Lloyd said she had been approached by several civil servants who raised concerns that Mr Salmond and his representatives were reportedly contacting other civil servants to ask that they provide supportive statements to his legal representatives relating to the matters raised by Sky News. The civil servants intimated that political approaches were unwelcome. 

Lloyd was asked if she or some other Special Adviser could ask Alex Salmond to go through appropriate channels rather than approach people direct. 

She was informed shortly after that the Permanent Secretary’s office had also been approached by the same staff and was taking their request forward, so she made no approach to Alex Salmond.

08 Nov: The first draft of a new harassment policy “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Former Ministers.” written by top official James Hynd was circulated’

It stated that if a complaint would be lodged against a former minister and he/she was a member of the party in power, the First Minister should be informed immediately.

10 Nov: Leslie Evans appointed Gillian Russell, Scottish Government, Director of Safer Communities as the “confidential sounding board” for complainers.

10 Nov: Ms A told Gillian Russell of an incident involving herself and Alex Salmond following which Russell, with the consent of Ms A, updated Ms Richards, who in turn alerted Leslie Evans and through Judith Mackinnon.

The essence of the experience Miss A related was: At the end of a long evening, in Bute House, after dealing with “Chinese business” Alex Salmond suggested they could share some “Maotai”, a highly potent Chinese “rice” drink, a few bottles of which had been gifted to him. She accepted the invitation. There was no central heating in the lower floors of Bute House at the time and they retired upstairs to Alex’s bedroom where after indulging more than a few drinks they ended up quite tipsy. They both dozed off on a bed, fully dressed and enjoyed a “sleepy cuddle”. After a short period they both awakened. Ms A collected her papers. Alex kissed her on the cheek and she left to go downstairs. There was no intention of any non-consensual sex. Not long after, Ms A lodged a complaint against Alex.

The matter had been resolved to her satisfaction, using approved Civil Service procedures, following an unreserved apology from Alex.

Ms A was also offered a transfer away from Alex’s office without loss of rank or earnings but declined to state her preference to retain her employment and close her working relationship with him. Which they subsequently enjoyed for a number of years after. 

08-10 Nov: Ms B, related to Barbara Allison details of an alleged incident involving herself and Alex Salmond. Ms Richards and Ms Evans were notified.

Their express wish was only to be allowed a personal meeting with Nicola Sturgeon. On both counts, the civil service failed them and they paid the price of failure.

13-15 Nov: In an exchange of emails with senior civil servants, Mr Hynd advised, “officials will also need to alert the First Minister if a complaint is lodged against a minister because she’d “want to know straight away”.

16 Nov: McDonald was suspended by the SNP after a second complainer came forward against him.

16 Nov: Hynd emailed (Private Secretary 1 to Leslie Evans). (Policy on Complaints Against Ministers.” As requested”. James.

16 Nov: Hynd circulated to the Scottish Government civil service senior management team, and Liz Lloyd (first sight, at her request) a second draft procedure titled “Handling of sexual harassment complaints involving current or former ministers.”

16 Nov: A copy of the draft policy was sent to the UK Government’s Cabinet Office in Westminster for approval.

17 Nov: Approval was not forthcoming. Instead the response expressed grave concerns about implications for politicians throughout the UK if the Scottish Government would be permitted to act in isolation from the other governments of GB and Northern Ireland introducing a process for complaints about ministers and former ministers which had not been universally approved. 

The cabinet Office instructed that the policy changes should be deferred until such time as the other governments had completed their own reviews. 

Reference was also made to the unfairness of the revised policies which demanded standards of personal conduct for Scottish politicians greatly in excess of those for civil servants which had remained unchanged. Double standards were not acceptable. The document was unfit for the introduction.

Afternote:

The Westminster “Cabinet Office” exposed the hypocrisy of the intent behind the proposed changes and rightly blocked the proposals.

17 Nov: Hynd forwarded the Cabinet Office response to an unnamed private secretary in the Scottish Government, (possibly Somers) who replied: “Oh dear, I did wonder if that would be their reaction. Not sure how long their review will take but the First Minister and Leslie Evans are keen to resolve quickly and discuss on Tuesday. 

I suspect we don’t have a policy on former civil servants. But we are looking at this in the context of the overall review of policies and the justification for having something about Ministers is the action that Parliament is taking in light of allegations about MSP conduct which includes a recent SG Minister?”

Afternote: 

Questioned by the Parliamentary inquiry Hynd said: “Nicola Sturgeon was keen to take national leadership on the matter and delaying implementation of the new procedure was not an option for consideration.”

Comment: But of note was that the procedure for civil servants was not updated to include retrospective consideration of harassment allegations.

Afternote:

Lloyd stated that the inclusion of herself in the circulation of the draft procedure created a requirement to identify and amend the ministerial code, if necessary since the code was the responsibility of the First Minister.

Comment: But the Ministerial Code and the proposed complaints procedure were the business of the Civil Service and the unelected Miss Lloyd had no legitimate input.

20 Nov: Somers said complainer, Ms A, arranged a meeting with him at which she told him of her past experiences in a way that would improve the organization and make sure that no one else would have to go through that sort of thing again. 

She stressed she was not making a complaint, she simply wanted to assess her options for how she could best share the information. Her wish was to be allowed to speak to the First Minister which was why she had approached him.

Somers said he felt “overwhelmed” by the disclosure and informed his line manager Barbara Allison and the Director of Safer Communities, Gillian Russell.

21 Nov: Somers and two unnamed officers met with Ms A and advised her she would need to further discuss the matter with his line manager Barbara Allison, with a proviso that if she felt she was not being taken seriously or no one was listening to her, she should get back in touch with Somers who would set-up a personal meeting for her with the First Minister.

He never heard back from her. He went on to say that he did not tell the First Minister that Ms A had confided in him because it wasn’t his experience to share and had he done so he would have put the First Minister in a state of knowledge about something she could not have taken action upon until the new procedures were in place.

Afternote:

In her statement to the inquiry the Scottish Government’s Director for Communications, Ministerial Support & Facilities, Barbara Allison, who was Director of People from 2009 to 2016, said that Alex Salmond was a “visionary and dynamic” and although demanding and difficult to work for people also expressed that they enjoyed working for him. 

She had never heard of sexual misconduct concerns about him while he was the First Minister. Nor had she heard of any concerns being escalated to the status of formal complaints while she was in charge of human resources.

Afternote:

Allison also said she had not raised any issues of bullying or harassment with either Evans or Nicola Sturgeon and for clarity, she emphasized to the inquiry that she was not aware of any issues about sexual harassment” and added that she was a “huge advocate” for informal resolution, stating that if a matter could be resolved through this process, then “absolutely people must have recourse to a formal process”. 

She went on to tell the Parliamentary inquiry that she was first notified of concerns in November 2017 when two unnamed female civil servants, (Ms A and Ms B) raised them with her.

22 Nov: Nicola Sturgeon’s “instruction from the First Minister” was sent to Leslie Evans. It read:

“As is clear from the continued media focus on cases of sexual harassment, in many instances, people are now making complaints regarding actions that took place some time ago. I wanted to make clear that in taking forward your review, and the new arrangements being developed, you should not be constrained by the passage of time. I would like you to consider ways in which we are able to address if necessary any concerns from staff, should any be raised, about the conduct of current Scottish Government ministers and also former ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of party. While I appreciate that the conduct of former Ministers would not be covered by the current Ministerial Code, I think it fair and reasonable that any complaints raised about their actions while they held office are considered against the standards expected of Ministers. I would be grateful for confirmation that this particular aspect is being included as part of the review you are leading.”

Note: The letter of instruction makes no sense since the newly written draft procedure was already in place and circulated within the senior Civil Servant management team.

And James Hynd, the person who wrote the new procedure was not copied into the correspondence.

24 Nov: A fifth draft of Hynd’s, policy delegated authority to the Permanent Secretary to investigate complaints but made clear the First Minister should also be alerted. A copy was also sent to the First Minister.

23 Nov: Nicola Richards sent an e-mail to Leslie Evans, copied to Judith Mackinnon “we would need to consult with the individual before disclosing to another party or the Police because of the risk of the matter getting into the press and the individuals being identified.

We have a duty of care for our staff which means we shouldn’t do something that puts them at risk, so if they don’t want us to share information or go to the police, it would be very difficult to justify (sic) doing so (without putting them at risk of being identified and wider impacts).

This was subsequently changed on 9th January 2018 to read “SG as employer will not refer specific cases to police without the knowledge/consent of the employee.”

24 Nov: Lloyd, Somers, Hynd and a member of the Permanent Secretary’s office, attended a meeting to further discuss the content of the “instruction from the First Minister” and to establish and agree clear lines of responsibility between the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary. 

A second purpose was to reword the second draft procedure inserting changes designed to prevent the First Minister from stopping the Permanent Secretary from investigating a sexual harassment complaint made by a civil servant against a minister if the Permanent Secretary judged there was something to investigate. The change was put in place to protect the First Minister from criticism.

Additional input from Liz Lloyd included the view that it was essential that the First Minister should be made aware of an investigation or allegation into a serving minister, before the event, in order to determine if, under the ministerial code, that minister could remain in post whilst an investigation was conducted.

Yet she later stipulated that on that date she had no knowledge, of any of the allegations against Alex Salmond that were subsequently investigated under the new procedure.

29 Nov: Gillian Russell wrote to Ms A “as agreed, I sent your narrative on in confidence to Nicky (Richards) and Judith (Mackinnon). I have now been asked by Nicky and Judith if you would be prepared to speak to them following receipt of your narrative.

As part of this discussion, Nicky would like to share with you the developing policy for handling complaints against former and current ministers. This would give you an opportunity to test whether this would have helped at the time and also to consider next steps.” Later that day Ms A agreed to do so but reiterated her wish to speak first personally with Nicola Sturgeon.

Comment: So we have a potential complainant assisting the process of compiling the procedure to be used against the person she is complaining about. You couldn’t make it up!!

29 Nov: Ms Richards, met with Ms Evans, who then went on to have a “summit meeting with the First Minister, “to discuss the development of the proposed procedure”.

30 Nov: Richards emailed Hynd, the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat: “Would you be able to send me the latest version of the process I agreed with Leslie Evans that I would test against some key individuals?”

Comment: Just who the individuals were was not revealed.

01 Dec: Hynd sent the “eighth” harassment policy draft to Ms Richards.

04/05 Dec: Richards, redrafted parts of the “eighth” draft procedure completing her work 2334 hours on the evening of 5 Dec. 

She then forwarded it under cover of an email, to Evans, Hynd, MacKinnon, and an unnamed lawyer. The email stated: “As discussed earlier today, I’ve made some revisions to the process.”

06 Dec: Richards, met with Ms B and shared with her the content of the revised 8th draft procedure, seeking and gaining from Ms B confirmation that had the procedures been in place at the time she claimed she had been sexually harassed it would have been of benefit providing clear instructions as to the courses of action available to her.

Comment: Unbelievable!!

06 Dec: Mackinnon, met with Ms A and after sharing the draft procedures gained from her confirmation that had the new procedures been in place at the time she was sexually harassed it would have been of benefit providing clear instructions as to the courses of action available to her.

Comment: Unbelievable!!

06 Dec: Evans emailed Richards, Hynd, and a third person writing, “Spoke with John S (Swinney?) last night.

We agreed you would send up tweaked codes in the draft without any letters just now. and as discussed, info on the steps and touchpoints involved in the process is also useful. Keep me posted back in the office tomorrow but happy to talk. John (Swinney?) also I’m sure.”

Afternote: 

Evans told the inquiry team that she did not see a “natural role” for Special Advisor (Liz Lloyd) in the Scottish Government response to the judicial review brought by Alex Salmond. But a freedom of information response listed 17 meetings at which lawyers involved in the judicial review met with Nicola Sturgeon or senior staff, with Liz Lloyd present at three meetings in Oct and Nov 2018. Evans, faced with the facts, was forced to correct her evidence to confirm that Nicola Sturgeon’s political special advisor, Liz Lloyd, did fully participate in meetings at which the allegations against Alex Salmond were discussed.

Afternote: 

Somers told the inquiry that he had no involvement in the development of the procedure used against Alex Salmond. This is not true. Somers, in his capacity as Sturgeon’s Principal Private Secretary, had a key role in developing the policy at a critical time.

5 Dec 2017: The “letters” that Somers was subsequently instructed “not” to send to Sturgeon were the “tweaked codes” which Somers and Hynd had been instructed by Evans to draft in line with the procedure as it had existed prior to her discussion with Somers, and for the purpose of intimating the new procedure to former Ministers and former First Ministers when it would be approved by the First Minister in due course. The “letters” disappeared from the development process after the discussions and the Scottish Government has persistently refused to disclose the contents.

Exactly what comprised the “steps and touchpoints involved in the process” was discussed by Evans and Somers but the content remains guesswork since no-one at the inquiry asked Somers, or has ever asked Evans, what was meant by these terms. But what is clear is that both Evans herself and Somers were “happy to talk” to Richards, Hynd, and the third person about these “steps and touchpoints” in the radically recast procedure.

There is a hugely significant context of the very obvious involvement of Somers, acting on behalf of Sturgeon, in the development, actually, in the complete recast of the procedure. For now, it is worth noting that Somers’s evidence on affirmation was given, as Somers himself pointed out, with the specific advance endorsement of the Scottish Government. Civil Service jargon for “not my words govn’r!!””

05 Dec: First contact between the SG and Police Scotland was initiated by the Deputy Director of People, Ms Judith McKinnon, who on 5th December emailed the Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS), Head of Public Protection at Police Scotland.

Email response was sent on the same date and a physical meeting was arranged, which took place on 6th December, attended by the Deputy Director of People, Ms Judith MacKinnon, the DCS, the Chief Superintendent (CS), Local Policing Commander for Edinburgh Division and Detective Superintendent (DSU) for Edinburgh Division.

In addition to the email contact between Ms Judith McKinnon and the DCS and latterly to the DSU on the dates above, a number of telephone conversations and email exchanges took place between McKinnon, and the DSU on 30th January 2018; 31st January 2018; 18th April 2018; 19th April 2018; 1st August 2018; 2nd August 2018 and 3rd August 2018. 

The initial email contact indicated that advice was being sought on the SG approach to sexual harassment procedures responding to the “Metoo” movement, and, SG obligations in response to allegations made by staff or former staff which may constitute a criminal offence.

06 Dec: McKinnon provided information to the DCS and DSU about the reporting mechanism within the Scottish Parliament. A procedure very recently put in place in partnership with the Westminster government had responded to widespread media reporting of alleged inappropriate conduct involving members of the UK Parliament.

A ‘hotline’ number had been launched by the Scottish Parliament which directed callers to support agencies and, where appropriate, the police. Hotline responders would not report matters directly to the police but would direct callers to contact ‘101’ or ‘999’ in an emergency.

McKinnon, also provided advice that any potential victim or complainer would be provided with details of support and advocacy services. Which would allow concerns to be discussed with an experienced advocacy worker with knowledge of the criminal justice process and to support the individual to report matters to the police.

Advice would be given that where criminality was suspected, individuals would be directed to support and advocacy services, to enable them to make informed decisions about whether or not to report matters to the police. Information that was reiterated on several occasions to the police in discussions with McKinnon in the course of ongoing contact between December 2017 and August 2018.

A number of hypothetical questions were posed during email and telephone contact around the criminal justice process. 

Police Scotland advised that, without specific details, no appropriate response could be given and no assessment of risk could be made. It was further emphasised that individuals should be directed to the relevant support services as it appeared that the hypothetical questions were predicated upon a specific set of circumstances and the SG response to that set of circumstances, rather than the development of a generic procedure. The hypothetical questions also suggested more than one victim of potential criminality and as such, it was stressed that, without knowledge of the detail, any risk that a suspect might present, could not be properly assessed or mitigated.

It was highlighted by the police that that SG staff had not been trained to undertake such investigations or to engage with victims. No details of potential victims or perpetrators were provided by SG and, throughout the contact, Police Scotland encouraged SG to refer victims to appropriate support services. Police Scotland was not invited to provide comment in relation to a draft ‘procedure’ or framework for the handling of harassment complaints, nor was any draft or final document shared with Police Scotland.

On Tuesday 21st August 2018, complaints against the former First minister were formally referred to Police Scotland by the Scottish Government through the Crown Agent. This took place during a meeting at the Crown Office, Edinburgh, involving the Crown Agent, the Chief Constable and the DCS, Head of Public Protection.

Afternote:

Evidently, the Scottish Government had no interest in developing a comprehensive procedure covering harassment in the workplace. Discussions between Scottish Government representatives and the police centred on a number of hypothetical incidents each of which provided an indication that a very senior former politician was the subject under discussion.

The police backed off and raised warning signals about the SG methodology. They went on to advise that the Scottish Government was not qualified or trained to undertake investigations on its own and any alleged victims should be directed to “support and advocacy services” who could help them decide what to do and whether to involve the police.

The Scottish Government, ignored the advice and went on to conduct its own illegal and biased investigations and found Salmond guilty, and then when that illegality was about to be exposed it reported the complaints to the police AGAINST the express wishes of the complainers, and also against the rules it had itself written after taking the advice of the employees’ trade union.

Afternote:

Procedure: Para 19: Throughout the process, all available steps will be taken to support the staff member and ensure they are protected from any harmful behaviour. However, if at any point it becomes apparent to the SG that criminal behaviour might have occurred the SG may bring the matter directly to the attention of the Police. Also, if it became apparent that the matter being raised formed part of a wider pattern of behaviour, it may be necessary for the SG to consider involving the Police in light of the information provided. SG, as employer will not refer specific cases to the police without the knowledge/consent of the employee. Should either of these steps be necessary the staff member would be advised and supported throughout.

07 Dec: MacKinnon met with complainant Ms B.

10 Dec: Evidently there was a deadline for the submission of the procedure for the signature of the First Minster and this was confirmed in yet another email and document enclosure and to the same people in which Richards wrote: “I’ve updated the timeline and this is the final version of the policy I’ve sent to Evans.” The “air” of finality clearly suggested that the civil service team, supported by legal opinion were confident it would be signed off and introduced.

12 Dec: Leslie Evans and Nicola Sturgeon met and discussed the “new” procedures.

12 Dec: Evans wrote to Sturgeon: “You wrote me on 22 Nov regarding the review of the Scottish Government’s policies and processes on sexual harassment. As we have discussed, we have a shared commitment to ensure that the arrangements that are in place are effective and contribute to the work already in hand to promote an inclusive and respectful culture across the Scottish Government.

Your letter, in particular, asked me to consider as part of the review, ways in which any concerns raised by staff about the conduct of current or former Ministers could be addressed. I have developed, for your agreement, a process for how complaints of harassment, including sexual harassment, might be taken forward.

This new process aims to ensure that I am able to fulfil my duty of care to staff by taking the necessary steps to support the member of staff and to put in train any further action that might be required within the civil service as a result of the issues raised.

As far as current Ministers are concerned, the process will also assist you in taking forward your responsibilities under the Scottish Ministerial Code.

It also sets out how complaints against former Ministers will be handled. Given that the process engages the responsibility of the First Minister for the application of the Ministerial Code, we will seek approval for the ongoing application of the process on each occasion the Ministerial Code is updated.

I should be grateful to learn if you are content to adopt the process set out in the annex. As you have requested, I am happy to update the Cabinet about the outcome of the review whenever you wish.

14 Dec: Richards emailed Private Secretary (2) to Evans, Hynd, Mackinnon, and the Head of Branch, Peoples Directorate: Policy on Complaints against Ministers:

I’ve amended the letter and policy in line with our exchange. If this looks OK I’d like first for us to run this past the unions before the final exchange with the First Minister.

I think we should just share with the Unions the revised procedures part about current ministers because that is what would form part of our revised “fairness at work” policy. The process relating to former ministers is more for us to know what we would do rather than to have out there as a published policy. 

Comment: So the Unions would be provided with a selective brief omitting any reference to the retrospective investigation of ministers.

14 Dec: Hynd emailed Richards, Private Secretary 2, Mackinnon and, Head of Branch Peoples Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. Thanks for this. Some formatting wrinkles had crept in which I have now sorted in the attached version (‘final’). Other than the removal of references to ‘sexual’, the text remains the same as that which went to the First Minister and on which she commented.

14 Dec: Private Secretary 2 to Evans emailed Hynd, Richards, MacKinnon, and Head of Branch, Peoples Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. I’ve just spoken with Hynd about another few small adjustments – just to ensure using consistent terms throughout. Nothing substantive. Hynd is kindly making those adjustments and will circulate the final version shortly so Head of Branch, People Directorate 1 you may wish to hold off your preparation of the version for Unions meantime.

In terms of timing to the First Minister, we will put the procedure to the First Minister once we have the green light from Richards. If we want to appraise the Permanent Secretary of timings and sharing with Unions, she is tied up in interviews today till 15:00 and then on leave until Tuesday – but contactable.

14 Dec: Hynd emailed Private Secretary 2 to Evans, Richards, Mackinnon, and Head of Branch, People Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. Dear all. With sincere and deepest thanks to Private Secretary 2 to Evans, here is yet another ‘final’ version.

20 Dec: The First minister signed off the new procedure.

And that last line is what matters, 20 Dec: The First minister signed off the new procedure.

After reading this very detailed work, and timeline, and having read everything there was to be read during the trial of Alex Salmond, Where one of the women that (lied) to the court that she had been raped, turned out not even to have been there on the night in question.

Neither the judge nor the jury, even the dog in the street, believed the allegations against Alex Salmond. The whole thing was a stitch-up by Nicola Sturgeon, to stop a former First Minister coming back to Holyrood and threatening her power base, and pressing for an independent Scotland. For it is now clear that Nicola Sturgeon has no intentions of going down that road and upsetting her Tory friends at Westminster. And even after the trial was over, and Alex Salmond walking free from court, Nicola Sturgeon refused the judgment of the court, judge and jury, openly still said that Alex Salmond was guilty and had no right to be allowed back into Holyrood. Sturgeon’s Tory friends in the Media were quick to oblige by telling the world that there could be no smoke without fire. And on a BBC documentary later, the presenter put forward the theory that the court had got it wrong, Alex Salmond was still guilty of rape.

By the time the dust had settled, it was too late for Alex to run for the vacant seat in Aberdeen as an independent MSP. And too late to get the Alba bandwagon rolling in the run-up to the Holyrood elections, still, it was a fine effort, but there will be local elections in 2022. The General election is not expected until 2024 BUT, who knows if things start to go downhill for Boris he may jump the gun with a surprise election before this date, I suggest “Hope for the best – prepare for the worst” Alex. One thing is for sure Nicola has blotted her copybook and is on her way out.

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Sunday, Sunday, so good to me.

Sunday morning, sitting staring out of the window and thinking, how strange a day Saturday turned out to be.

Saturday, the heavy overnight rain had cleared leaving behind an overcast sky, ice-cold wind and more rain to come. My ride was short Guardbridge and back, feeling the better for it. I spent the rest of the day with Tina, box set as audio wallpaper, whilst trying to catch up on my reading, writing my blog and copy typing from iScot, where did the day go?

Here at City Park, I can go for weeks without meeting anyone, other than the manager in the morning, and then other days I see almost every one of my neighbours. People may die of leave (for a care home) and I may not find out for some time, it is just how things are.

The other day a lad I had never seen before came into the common room and asked,

“Are you Walter?”

He wanted me to show him how he could connect his smartphone to the Wifi signal in the building. He looked much younger than anyone in here and spoke and acted in a way that made me suspect that he had suffered a stroke. When I had given him the code for the Wifi, rather than thank me, he put his hands together, and gave a slight bow, much like you might see from an Indian who practices the teachings of Buda.

Turned out that he had just moved in across the corridor from me at number 9, and no he was not recovering from a stroke, but something else that I did not pick up on, before we parted, he put out his hand to shake, I hade no hesitation in taking the hand. It felt rough and hard like a builders hands, his grip strong and sincere, I liked him immediately.   

I had gone into the kitchen to make a pot of tea, then thought, why do I not go and knock on the door at number 9 and say I was thinking of going to the café for a coffee and fruit scone, would he like to come along? However, after ringing his bell a few times I received no answer, the best-laid schemes of mice and men.  

Last night, late, I was in the common room posting a piece I had just finished, strange I find most of my ideas come just before dawn or late in the evening when everyone else is thinking of going to bed, maybe there is too much noise, (going on) during the day to daydream and be creative.

I was surprised when Charles entered the room, he greeted me, but seeing that I was busy, so he made himself comfortable in the corner with his smartphone. When he saw I had finished what I was doing, he came over and showed me a sort of video on his phone, a young black girl (well younger than Charles by a few years), her face was a thing of beauty, shinning and very black, she was wearing the kind of broad toothy and happy smile, that you will only see on a black girl’s faces, she looked gorgeous. It, therefore, came as a shock when he told me this was his wife.

“She lives in Thailand,” he said

“Will she be joining you?” I asked

“No” he replied, without adding anything, so I did not spear, he will tell me in his own good time, if he wishes, maybe when we get to know each other better for I did put out the invitation to go for a coffee together sometime, which he readily accepted.  

My deftness forbids me from watching much television not because I can not hear the sound so much, but what I can hear is so distorted it may as well be in a foreign language. For this reason, I do watch a lot of DVD, for all but the very early movies on DVDs allows me to use the sub-title button, no television moves allows you to do this.

Thinking of something to keep the conversation going without appearing to be nosy, I asked if he liked to watch moves on DVD, and how I had a fair selection of films, collected from numerous charity shops over the years, that I would be happy for him to borrow.  

“I don’t have a television,” he told me,

I gave him my little 24-inch television that has a DVD/CD slot in the side, no big deal since it has been languishing in my cupboard, since the sale of my campervan. He was overjoyed and once more used his Buda stile hand jester to thank me.

I do not know what it was about William that made me wish to take such an interest. Yes, it can be difficult, to settle into a new neighbourhood, more so in a place where most of his neighbours are women, and elderly in comparison with yourself. Was this the reason, or maybe I was simply curious, after all, William was an oddball? Certainly, I was very interested to know his wife’s story, why she can’t (or won’t) come and live with him, for it is clear to me already that he misses her dearly.

Personally, I have always believed that immigration rules should not apply when it keeps two people apart that clearly love one another and wish to spend the rest of their life in each others company, regardless of where they are from in this world, for it is really just that, one world. Someone once said your freedom only exists until it comes to face to face with mine, but surely there is room for tolerance.

It has been a strange old day and no mistake.

Stay safe.

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A Tale of Two Different Worlds

Sometime, in some distant future, we will get the findings of an inquiry into how COVID-19 was handled in the UK, and whatever the finding of that inquiry, no one but no one will be held responsible. What we will get are the well-worn platitudes “Lessons will be learned” and from the Scottish First Minister, all the recommendations of the inquiry will be implemented.

The more I read Blinded by Corona by John Ashton the more I believe that Boris Johnston and Nicola Sturgeon, should be dragged into court and charged with, mass murder, on the grounds of incompetence.

Although the First Minister of Scotland already has her get out of jail free card, ‘I was only doing what I was told, by Westminster, working together for the good of all’, Aye right.

In Boris case, in his defence, the lawyer will tell you that Johnston had much on his plate at the time. He had recently left his second wife, Marina Wheeler, for another woman, Carrie Simmons, with the loose ends of another relationship still swirling around. And along with this his new girlfriend was expecting their first child. To his credit had won a general election and ‘Got Brexit Done’ So going off on an extended Christmas holiday to the private Caribbean island of Mustique, was well deserved. It was during this time that Britain was hit by severe flooding, but there were to be no COBR meetings.

Although the first reports of Coronavirus had reached the WHO on 31 December. No need to rush home. And when Boris did it was to take a break in his grace-and-favour mansion of Chevening in Kent, Chequers the sixteenth-century country house in Buckinghamshire.

His response to the rise in COVID-19 showed the same contempt. Although this emergency warranted a COBR meeting on the 24th of January, Johnston failed to appear. And if the report in the Sunday Times was anything to go by our leader missed four more meetings before chairing the first on 2nd March.

Here the people of the UK were facing what would turn out to be the biggest threat to life and limb and the economy in a century and all Johnston managed was a speech on the 11th of February, about constructing a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland,

What I want to know is why ‘the men in white coats did not remove him for his and our safety at this point. It must have been clear to everyone at this stage that the PM was not the man for the job and was totally incompetent.

As February became March coronavirus had spread rapidly around the world 88,000 cases globally with infections on every continent except Antarctica, the first case reported in the UK was on the 5th March, a 70-year-old woman. With a timeline of between 5-14 days incubation period, cases that were potentially linked to the half-term skiers.

I personally know, that during that half-term you could not move in the western highlands of Scotland for motor homes, campervans and caravans all bearing English registration plates.

Finally, having missed the first five meetings of COBR on COVID-19, Prime Minister Johnston attended and chaired his first on Monday 2 March. The virus was already rampant throughout the country. The following day he appeared on television from 10 Downing Street, flanked by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and two very large union flags, he looked shaken from what he must have heard at that meeting.

This was the first of what would become almost daily press conferences; Boris Johnston launched his Coronavirus Action Plan. Essentially, it was a repeat of Whitty’s four strands of ‘contain, delay, research and mitigate’. He went on to reassure us all (without any clinical proof) that,

“For the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus, this will be a mild disease from which they will speedily and fully recover.”

There was no plan either, just statements pinned to qualifiers such as ‘fabulous’ and ‘well- prepared’. ‘Let’s not forget, the prime minister said,

“We already have a fantastic NHS, fantastic testing systems and fantastic surveillance of the spread of disease… Our country remains extremely well-prepared as it has been since the outbreak began in Wuhan, several (wasted as it turned out) months ago.”

In an almost throw-away line, Johnston added,

“Crucially we must not forget what we can all do to fight this virus, which is to wash our hands…with soap and water… wash our hands with soap and hot water for the length of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday twice’. It was a leaf from the same sloppy imprecise script that we heard the Public Health England; give to the good people of Salisbury in 2018 over laundry and Novichok.

What amazes me, that with all this nonsense going on, no one but no one called out the government on this, we even had the main television channels showing children being taught in school how to wash their hands whilst singing ‘Happy birthday – twice.

Hear in Scotland we had the First Minster’s grandstanding at her daily press conference, reading out the daily figures and telling us ‘Yes, you guessed it’ to wash your hands’ although she did refrain from telling us to do it whilst singing ‘Happy birthday, twice’. 

Both north and south of the border, it all went downhill from here, whist well-prepared, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, New Zealand and Bahrain, countries that took this pandemic seriously from the start come out of it faster and with less collateral damage to their economies. The UK on the other hand has still to get a handle on the virus and is still deep in the coronavirus mire. And I will not even mention a death toll that was mostly due to the incompetence, of Johnston and Sturgeon.

Bahrain set up a Task Force under the Crown Prince that was so successful that they were praised by the WHO as an example to the world. Whist we sang ‘happy birthday’ and Johnston and Sturgeon, wash their hands of any responsibility.

Stay safe.

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Hope Over Fear

I read this in iScot magazine and was so blown away with The Indy Lawyer, Eva Comrie speech at George square Glasgow on the 19th September 2021. Hitting the nail on the head, in one constellation she said all that I have been trying to put over these last years, and I’m sure she speaks for many here in Scotland. I just had to type it out and print it here. I’m sure I am not infringing on any copyright and getting myself sued by an Indy layer, then again you can not take the breeks off a highland man.

Glasgow and I first became acquainted in December 1969, as I, a wee teuchter from Crieff, heather hinging oot ma ears arrived full of home to meet Santa and see the Christmas lights.

Mind-boggling sights greeted me – long- hair hippies in afghan coats, teddy boys we DA’s and brothel creepers country and western fans, buskers, made-up women in miniskirts, backcombed hair and leopard skin jackets. A whole, different exacting world, of folk who worked yeaning to get on in life, hoping for better days.

Another momentous event took place in December 1969 – Amoco struck oil in Scottish waters – and that Hogmanay I recall hiding behind the couch in our home as my parents’ friends, men with sideburns and Brylcreem, their wives on Babycham shouting like Lulu and Cilla, they all sang Flower of Scotland, dreaming of Stetsons, skyscrapers, sequins and success. Oil has brought them hope, for themselves and for their bairns.

But those folk in Glasgow and on my caravan site didn’t all live the rest of their lives in a land of plenty – for there was no oil fund for them- Scotland wisnae Dallas of Dubai, hadnae a Statoil or a Stavanger – instead unfurled the 3 day week, winters of discontent, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike, the riches of the North sea bankrolled ta development of London, Thatcher’s Britain, a series of illegal wars and the abomination on the Clyde.

And today in 2021 you can sit on your oil rig in the North Sea and look ashore to food banks. And school uniform banks. And baby banks. And soup kitchens. And welfare funds. In Scottish townsfolk who are skint get their cookers and fridges repossessed and this energy-rich country has rising gas and electricity bills and no national energy company. After 22 years of devolution at least 30% of our Scots folk live in poverty.

And half a century after the heroic efforts of Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie, Sammy Gilmore and UCS, we’ve a /Scottish government awarding shipbuilding contracts to foreign lands – Jimmy would be birlin and wondering who the rats after all are.  

The ghosts of those Glaswegian, my neighbours of 1969, and their compatriots are watching us now; their bones created this nation and comprise its soul; other Scots whose ashes are scattered to the four corners of the planet helped to build this world. Some of those emigrants left in fear but many departed in hope of finding the promised land. We weren’ae aye too wee, too poor, too stupid or too feart!

In Scotland 2021, no national bank, no national house building company, only beginning to look at a national care service but our education and health services are faltering for lack of visionary, lack of leader prepared to harness with a sense of urgency the collective efforts of those who seek to create a modern independent Scotland.

We’ve nurses doing extra shifts to make ends meet

We’ve care home workers taking on home careering, home helping and cleaning jobs to try to pay their way, their rent.

The working poor!

Single adults scrimp because their wages are insultingly low and bills unnecessarily high.

So, what’s tit to be Scotland? Will thousands of our people continue to cringe in embarrassment shuffling up a food bank queue looking at the ground trying to become invisible reduced to charitable handouts of pot noodles, pasta, tinned tomatoes, nappies, and baby milk?

We’ve lost Bathgate and Linwood, Methil, Singer, Timex, steel, textile, the woollen industry is decimated.

But Scotland’s economy is on the upward trend, with 4.7% growth in the last quarter; that tells us that our country’s problems are we need a government with better different priorities. Because by dint of birth or happenstance we are not all created equal, and we need a government that will seek to deliver equality by eradication the greatest driver of inequality is poverty.

And we need that autonomous government of our own, with all the economic levers of power, today, now, not in 2 years of 5 years or after yet another mandate and dangled carrot.

The ghosts of John Maclean, Matt McGinn, jimmy Reid, Mary Bargbour, Margo MacDonald, the men and women of those shipyards, jeans factories, woollen mills, mines and pits, steel fabrication yards, do you think they’re telling you to haud yer wheesht and hold for another few years, watch more of yer neighbours hunger, bairns fail as billions are poured into bombs and wars and PPE for cronies, tax breaks for the richest and loopholes for wastrels, spivs and tyrants. For a gravy train of Scots getting comfy in Westminster who needs reminding daily that it’s not their job to settle down but to settle up – now.

We can’t guarantee what our future as an independent country will look like, but we know what we have now, hunger, austerity, right-wing plans for authoritarian rule, Trident and its’ successor.

So, my relationship with Glasgow reached its pinnacle on the 17th September 2014 when we danced and sang in this very square full of hope that on the following day we’d see the end of Westminster’s grip on Scotland, their hold on our oil and all of our resources would expire, we nearly did it then because we weren’t feart. Let’s ensure that by this time next year 2022 we’re celebrating the restoration of our country’s freedom; an end to hunger, want, unnecessary waste of hope; new dawn when we take our futures back into our own hands, release the might of this country, cherish the dreams and achieve the potential of our greatest untapped resource, Scotland’s people.

Stay safe

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Two Jabs Later

It has been a funny old start to the weekend and no mistake. It really started at twenty minutes to eight o’clock on Thursday evening when I turned up at the Health Centre in St Andrews, to find that most of my neighbours were already there, all sitting along the corridors awaiting their turn for the flu and COVID booster jab. Not a problem, we are old hands at this now.

On Friday I awoke with a bit of stiffness in my left shoulder, much like it had taken a hard punch, so all was well.

I needed milk and bread and a few other bits and pieces so would make my run short this morning and because it would be short, I put a bit of effort into it. Out to Guardbridge, climb up to Strathkinness, but by the top of the hill I was not feeling well at all, I cut the run even shorter by heading back into St Andrews and home. By the time I had covered the few miles back home, I was feeling like shit. Breakfast and a large pot of tea helped a lot, but time to rest up. I picked up my copy of iScot that had just arrived, and started to read the next thing I knew I was wakening up three hours later, still in the chair with the magazine on the floor beside me, but feeling much better.

This morning I did a bit of light housework, then the shopping, and later, if I feel up to it, I will do a bit of gardening, tidying up required.

The shortening light has triggered the Chrysanthemums into flower, not a great show yet, but I will winter the stools indoors and plant them out again in the spring, for a better show next autumn, (gardeners always the optimist) and of course take cuttings, you can not have too many Chrysanthemums in your garden.     

Keep safe.  

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“How the Pandemic Ruined Britain’s Health and Wealth.

I have started reading Blinded by Corona by John Ashton, it should be read by every person having a vote in the next General Election so that they can make an informed choice about who they wish to govern them, I do not believe they will wish to choose either the Tories under Boris Johnston or the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon, both have failed us miserably, according to John Ashton. 

The Black Death or bubonic plague are well documented, the epidemic spread quickly from overcrowded parish to overcrowded parish. The wealthy fled to country properties taking the infection with them to smaller towns and rural areas, Eyam, in Derbyshire amongst them where 80% of the villagers died.  When the plague was diagnosed in a household, the inhabitants were sealed in, they either died or got better, quarantined. People walked down the middle of the road to stay away from houses, social distancing. They were told to scrub themselves and their clothing in carbolic disinfectant and paint the internal walls of their homes with lime wash, an antiseptic. We knew all this and had known it for a century or more. Yet when COVID-19 arrived in Europe, it seems we had learned nothing.

An epidemic was long predicted, and long overdue.  There was even a week-long exercise involving all the emergency services to see how they would cope if an epidemic, such as the Spanish Flu, were to occur again in this country again. The conclusion of the exercise was that the NHS would fail, and thousands would die. A little over a decade later that prediction became a reality COVID-19 arrived in the UK.

It was not as if we did not have adequate warning of how devastating this virus could be we had months as it spread west, first Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe, finally to our shores. Still, the government dithered. We saw the first cases in York, none in Scotland at that point, but still we did not have any contingency in place and we kept our borders wide open.

As the need for hospital beds increased, the bed blockers (the elderly) were moved out and into care homes, no matter that they tested positive to COVID-19, with the inevitable consequences. Whilst other countries were isolating people that tested positive in specially set up centres, we sent them home to self-isolate, to in fact spread the virus amongst their family and friends, well; we are British and have civil rights. These are the sort of legal arguments that should have come in the wake of the report written at the end of the exercise that said that the NHS would collapse under an epidemic scenario.   

Even when social distancing was a legal obligation, I saw crowded streets in St Andrews, people shoulder to shoulder, no face masks, they were still only obligatory if going into shops, although staffs in shops, at first, were exempt. The whole thing was so poorly managed you had to ask yourself, “Is anyone in charge here?”

John starts us off with a history lesson, the word plagues has provenance dating back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the bible. It was applied to catastrophic events including a population being overwhelmed by frogs, lice, boils and locusts to force the Pharaoh into allowing the Israelites to escape from slavery.

Leviticus, in the Old Testament, was the great book of the law. One of those laws was that you were not allowed to eat the meat of fallen stock that is an animal that has died from “Natural” causes. However, there was nothing stopping them from selling that meat in the next village. Yet here we are thousands of years on (and much the wiser) recycling meet of animals into animal feedstuffs, the cause of BSE in the UK in and around 1986.

In May 1997 along came, Hong Kong Bird flu, by December of that year the cross-species infection from fowl to human was confirmed with over 30 cases and four deaths. The Medical Officer of Health for Hong Kong, Margaret Chan, took the decision to have the entire Hong Kong poultry flock of over one million birds slaughtered. This prompt action ended the emergency but was an indication of what was coming over the next few years. The next respiratory virus with the apparent potential to cause a pandemic was SAR-CoV-19 in 2002; the outbreak caused 800 deaths from 8,000 cases in 37 countries until it petered out in July 2003.

When Ebola emerged in April 2014 in West Africa, a highly contagious virus with a mortality rate of at least 50% there was little interest in researching the virus or exploring the possibilities of developing a vaccine when financial returns to pharmaceutical companies would be so unlikely.  Likewise, with HIV/AIDS, it was only when infections began to occur among people from the developed countries that the rest of the world paid attention and even here it was slow off the mark.

John puts much of this “Slow to act” down to the overreaction of WHO to Swine flu in 2009. And the millennium bug, where millions were spent in prevention, that turned out not to be necessary. A waste of taxpayer’s money they cried.

New York September 11, 2001, changed all that. The fear of what our fellow humans might do raised public health as a key security objective. Up until this time the planning in the UK for such threats had been predominantly the province of the military and special intelligent agencies together with the police.

In the UK England abolished the Health Education Authority and replaced it with Health Protection Agency. This brought together the Public Health Laboratory Service and the national and regional laboratories along with the top-secret biological and chemical weapons laboratories in Porton Down. This was to prove critical in the 2018 Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

All Tracy Daskiewicz, the Wiltshire Director of Public health, knew was that two people collapsed on a bench for no apparent reason. She immediately understood the public health implications of the unspecified risk and set about contact tracing anyone near the couple, despite the incredulity of the police, and to establish a web of containment. This soon included sealing off Salisbury (Against strong business opposition) until the nature of the pathogen was established. After Novichok was identified at Porton down, it became clear that her prompt decisions on the ground had saved hundreds from death and disability. He goes on to tell how many changes were made in the UK, but like most things when the danger has passed, their maintenance falls by the wayside. John goes on to show how Public Health England came under attack by the Health Select Committee as being not fish not fowl, too close to the government to offer a critical voice nor close enough to be influential.

The downside rapidly became apparent. The local government has changed a great deal since 1974. Councils have become management offices. Many of the historic functions relevant to public health has been removed, long since privatised, or transformed into arm’s length organisations: municipal housing, water and sewerage, street cleansing, police constabularies, fire and rescue, recreation facilities and local schools, among others.  

Even though the 139 public-health directors had by 2020 side-lined, and the regional level diminished, in theory, they could still be activated in a crisis. Public Health England could instruct them to join the front-line as Public Health England had done in Salisbury in 2018. It has provided the Wiltshire public-health team with the authority, and access to data, it needed to deal well with the disaster. Likewise, with the national purview, Public Health England could have provided cabinet ministers with detailed steers on the areas bearing the brunt of a pandemic from local data gathered by its directors if there had been adequate testing capacity.   

However, in the case of COVID-19 which threatened the whole of the UK Public Health England acted very differently from when it was dealing with the isolated Skripal-Novichok spy crisis in Salisbury. Public Health England withheld the early information it received on the virus from its own local directors. Furthermore, it even refused to release all available data on the virus, including test results, if a local director specifically asked for it. In what must be one of the egregious scandals of public health, this stone-walling of its own staff on the ground continued for the duration of the lockdown.  

What Public Health England did do was instruct its staff under no circumstances to talk to the media without authorisation from Public Health England.

If Novichok had been handled like COVID-19, people might still be dying from the toxin and parts of the Salisbury economy might still unnecessarily be in lockdown.

This is just a flavour of the book, a must-read, “How the pandemic ruined Britain’s health and wealth.

Off on my run now, stay safe.  

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Honking Down Hill

Honking is the terminology used by cyclists when they rise from the saddle and force the pedals as they climb steep gradients.

I had dropped down onto the cycle path in ice-cold air and another one of those Irish, lazy winds, that can’t be bothered to go around you. By the end of the cycle track, I was wishing I had put on my winter gloved. Climbing out of Strathkinness and onto Knock Hill the wind was troublesome, then the steep downhill section to the Eden valley. Maybe the wind is funnelled along the valley floor, before hitting the face of the hill but as I crested the hill the wind was so strong I was almost going backwards. I dropped a cog and peddled, peddled, peddled, damn near had to honk, all the way to the bottom.

Now into the tranquillity of the Ceres burn valley, the sun was out casting dappled patterns onto the road ahead,

“Do I love you – my oh my – Rivers deep mountains high – ye, ye, do I love you, me oh my….”

A cyclist silently came up alongside

“Creeping Jesus” how embarrassing, then again it happens to me a lot.

“Tina Turner?” he asked, by way of introduction, “Bit of a fan are we?”

“Yes, I guess you could say that”

He was riding a lightweight road bike, not top of the range but up there. He told me he had not ridden a bike much since his teenage years, but now working from home, he felt he needed to be out of the house a bit more, so dusted off his bike, he had just turned 40, so a bit of a middle-age thing going on too.

Surprisingly the conversation was not about bikes or great bike rides, but Tina Turner, it turned out that he was a bit of a fan himself, well she has been around since 1957, decades really. I still listen to some of her early stuff when she was performing with Ike Turner.

“Did you see ‘One last time live in concert’ from the Wembley Stadium?” I asked, “How did she keep up that level of performance on stage, I don’t know what she was on but I could do with some myself.”

“And what about that gantry” he chipped in “Extending way out over the audience?” So he had seen the concert.  “The runway could have only been a couple of meters wide and there she was dancing back and forward along its length, the woman knows no fear.”

“Yes, any other industry and the Health and Safety man would have closed her down” I agreed.

All her concerts follow a well-versed pattern, however they just kept on getting better – better musicians, great backing singers, professional dancers, that became part of the performance (filling in during changes and wee rests) and of course new numbers added- 24/7 for example.   

All too soon we were into the village of Pitscottie and him off to Cupar, me to St Andrews, you meet the nicest people on bikes.

I did remember to put my Garmin on the bike today so:

Distance 16.1 miles

Time 1:22:59

Average speed 11.65 mph

Max speed 28.87 mph

Ascent 692 ft

Calories burned 638

Stay safe.

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“We need to take back control.”    

The morning came late; it was after 8 am before I made it onto the road. The low morning sun was bright and watery, I rechecked my rear light. Elie weather had told me that the wind would pick up between 20 -23 mph by mid-morning, the flags flying at right angles to their flagstaff confirmed their accuracy.  

I saw a cyclist, male, on a ladies framed bike; he was travelling along the pavement, so I nodded as I passed. Halfway along the cycle track, I saw the shadow of a cyclist behind so pulled over to the left, and give him the road; it was the cyclist I had passed earlier. He was pushing hard struggling to pass. So I jumped on his wheel, now my shadow cycled sat alongside his rear wheel. As he tired I put in a spurt and passed, looking back I saw he had given up and parked his bike by the fence. That competitive spirit never leaves you, I hope it never will.

As I neared Guardbridge, I turned onto the Strathkinness road, the road rises from sea level to 100m in about a mile and a half so a long climb. About 200 yards in front I spotted a lad on a road bike, he was peddling steady and easy up the climb. I surprisingly was gaining on him all the way. We crested the hill, more or less together, then his 700C wheels with their skinny tyres took over and left me for dead.   

There is a big stooshie going on over the supply of gas into Europe. The mainstream newspaper in the UK is telling us that the high price of gas is all because the Russian government (Putin) is using gas as a political weapon. 

So what is the truth behind the story? I watched Putin being interviewed on television, he was constantly asked why Russia was withholding gas to Europe – by the end of the interview, the Russian president must have been frustrated with the interviewer for constantly asking a question that he had fully answered a dozen times. He told her that Russia would supply as much gas as required by Europe, that the supply companies are in business to supply gas to anyone who wishes to buy. And repeated over and over, if Europe want Russian gas they must first ask for it, put in your order for gas and we will supply. We are already fulfilling all our contracts and more, he repeated.

So what is the problem? To find the answer we have to go to America, America is a supplier of gas to the world, it ships lots and lots of gas to the far eastern countries, so why not Europe? Simply really the far eastern countries are willing to pay the high market price for American gas, Europe is not. 

Rather than tell the British public that their gas bills will increase tenfold over the coming winter, because the supply companies have been privatised, and if these companies paid the market price for gas they would be supplying gas at a loss, and find themselves bankrupted – or they will have to increase gas bills by an alarming rate that will force more and more people into fuel poverty and show the government in a very bad light. The government may be forced to step in and put a price cap on gas, but would then have to subsidise the gas supply companies (bailout unprofitable companies.) They may have to increase pensions and income support credits, to cover the high cost of living. Remember that there will be a General Election a few years down the line.

When you are in the shit, blame Russia.

Europe is not held to ransom by the Russians, it is held to ransom by privatized fuel supply companies. Scotland needs a publicly owned grid, a publicly owned generating network of wind, wave, and tide. A publicly owned gas supply company, or as Boris would say:

“We need to take back control.”