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Friday, 7 February 2014

Scotland the Proud

I was nineteen before I first visited Scotland - a long weekend with a school mate studying there. He was living in the basement of an old stone house on the edge of Loanhead, with the Esk thundering through a deep gorge below the house. A long evening walking trip with pub stops thrown in ended at the Roslin Arms, and a Scots wedding party, which sucked us in with such a warmth of welcome that I hardly noticed the volume of Whisky I drank. A near-suicidal stumble home in the dark on a narrow path beside a sheer drop to the river, audible far below but not visible, and Scotland had won my heart. I loved the country. The following day we accidentally found the only Tory in Loanhead - a town red to the bone. He was a local curiosity, like a calf with two heads. 

Even then, in the seventies, I was happy to recognise Scotland's separate status; the banknotes, the law system and most noticeably the liberal pub opening hours (at a time when English pubs were closed by law from 2pm to 5pm, watching a Pink Panther video in an Edinburgh pub in mid-afternoon brought to reality the great figures of Scots Liberalism and the Enlightenment). It was then, and is now, a separate nation, united only under the same crown. 

And now in my mature years a committed Localist, I welcome wholly and fully that which is being described as 'Devo Max' - and described as though it were an English gift to Scotland, and not Scotland's right. Yes, Scotland should set and raise her own taxes, determine her own public spending, paying over a precept only to the UK Treasury for common and Kingdom-wide expenses. I also believe England should have the same rights, and Wales, and as far as its people want, the Province of Northern Ireland carved out of the ancient Kingdom of Ulster. 

The vote of course is a matter for the people of Scotland. I hope they vote 'No'. But I also hope Scotland throws off the shackles of London centralism and achieves true federal status within the realm - and that the rest of us follow.      

Labour's Localism incompatible with Socialism

As a mark of just how far things have come for the stagnant old parties' efforts to find a USP that keeps them on the same centreground, Mary Riddell comments on Labour's tentative moves to explore Localism. They say it's more than Localism, but it doesn't seem to be - it's hardly the same creature as that described by Simon Jenkins in Big Bang Localism, and developed by Helena Kennedy's Power Inquiry. The difficulty is that Localism is completely incompatible with the one-size-fits-all, command and control Central State at the heart of Socialist dogma. 

Don't worry. Miliband no more intends to erode the powers exercised by Brussels, Whitehall and Westminster than Cameron did with his spectacular 'Localism Lite' - which after a great deal of sound and fury gave villagers the right to, er, run their own village hall.

No, Labour, like the Tories, are simply looking to sell the alternatives necessary to rein back spending on Welfare. Labour's Localism is little more than enabling the institutionalisation of Food Banks - and extending this to the care of the elderly in a sort of  'adopt a granny' scheme.

Miliband has thrown in the idea at an early stage of devolving State spending to the lowest possible level only to allow this to be rapidly killed by Balls. Spending is funded by tax, and the only tax that's even partially decided at local level is Council Tax - just 5% of the State's tax take. And as Council Tax is capped and regulated by the State, it's fair to say that 100% of tax in the UK is set and levied at a national level. Having a power to spend without having a power to tax isn't Localism - it's just being the milk monitor, handing out Labour's pre-determined ration of State goods. And you can be sure that Labour will condition the milk monitor's job with a plethora of restrictions to ensure that the other central tenet of Socialism, enforced equality of outcome, is maintained.  

If either Miliband or Cameron declared that they intended to devolve all taxation decisions (except those relating to defence, the courts, diplomacy and other essential national-level functions) to local level in the Swiss manner then I'd listen. But they won't.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Pressure on Fake Charities

It is sad but instructive that it is not the government but the IEA that is leading a new campaign against fake charities - a genre of tax consumption first brought to prominence by Chris Mounsey on his DK blog.

Whitehall and Westminster still find these abominations too convenient. The contrived 'pressure' brought by fake campaign groups actually funded by the departments they pretend to lobby too frequently leads to ill considered and poorly supported legislation that happens to fit with the narrow obsessions of a particular minister or mandarin. 

The Fake Charities were an easy win for Cameron in 2010; four years on and he's done nothing. Yet again, it will be public pressure bearing directly on MPs that will be the impetus for change. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

UK Corruption - Political Class grossly corrupt

From the EU's report, it's clear that the UK is largely free of the endemic low level corruption that pervades other nations in the Empire; we don't bribe traffic cops to avoid three points (the political class just lie about who was driving) or bribe doctors to treat us or to get medicines. With the exception of the banks and the global corporates, which are mired in fraud, duplicity and cheating, our smaller traders and merchants are largely honest and consumer transactions fair. In other words, at the level of most citizens, most merchants and most low level public servants we are what we have long been - an honest and fair nation. 

The corruption and rottenness is at the top of the pyramid and amongst the multinational and mega corporates, amongst the politicos and their dags, running wild amongst the quangos and fake charities. And since taking office, Cameron and his failing government have done precisely nothing to tackle it. We have a Speaker that condones it, is a part of it. And our major news organisation is so riddled with greed, corruption, fraud and mismanagement that it is no longer fit for purpose, no longer a moral force.

And they lie and lie and lie. To select committees, to the tame media, to each other and most of all to us. They have long since cast their lot with the most profoundly corrupt presence in the whole of Europe - the EU itself, fount of fraud, corruption and mendacity, robber of democracy, cheat of nations, adulterer of free trade, overseer of corporatism. The battle lines are clear.

Monday, 3 February 2014

EU Corruption bombshell: UK is least corrupt of the 28 with 0% bribery

As is usual with big ticket EU announcements, once you get past the smoke and flatus and look at the facts a very different picture emerges than that which the EU wish to present. The 'Europe is full of Corruption and only the EU can co-ordinate a meaningful response' meme of the latest scare is no different. Look through the base data for the Eurobarometer survey and the scare starts to fade away.

For instance, when asked whether during the past 12 months they had been requested to bribe healthcare providers, police or customs officers or private companies, 0% of Brits responded positively, emerging as Europe's squeakiest clean nation. At the other end of the scale, 29% of Latvian and 25% of Romanian respondents reported having to bribe officials (Page 81). 

On one thing at least the people of Europe are united; 70% of European citizens think that the EU itself is profoundly corrupt. And that may be the truest fact to emerge from this particular exercise in support of the Federasts.

Yet more Erasmus students for London

In what must surely be an unintended consequence, the UK is set to enjoy the company of several thousand additional 'Erasmus' students from a forthcoming rule change. The EU is now requiring language proficiency at level B2 - upper intermediate - for all the 10,000 annual places on the well-funded Scholarship stream. But given that the most popular EU language course is English, this will largely restrict Erasmus scholars to spending their time in the UK and Ireland. 

This has not found favour with Eurostudents, who have come to see the Erasmus programme as a free travelling experience, and many of whom pick cheaper Euro nations such as Poland to eke out their Erasmus money. Very few actually study Polish, or Estonian, or Slovenian to B2 level.

Erasmus pays €375 a month to students visiting the UK, plus one-off sums of €250 and €300 respectively for finding accommodation and travel costs in addition to any higher education loans or grants the students already receive. Sites such as Erasmate allow them to swap cheap accommodation.

This is actually a good thing; the more Eurostudents who get to understand the British character, culture and way of life, the more friends we will have in Europe in the future. For once (and by accident) the EU has got something right.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Not all voters live in London

Something the ad agencies sometimes forget - not all of the UK's voters live in London.

It could be worse ....

It could be worse. Instead of not being able to cope with several inches of rain, we could instead not be able to cope with several inches of snow. Southern Austria has had a couple of feet so far with another 50cm forecast, disrupting rail services and making tyre-chains compulsory for the high alpine passes. Only the army, who get to play with their tracked snow-vehicles rescuing cows and clearing snow from flat roofs, are really enjoying it.